The Non-Negotiables of Salvation
Beloved, while I was very diligent to write to you concerning our common salvation,
I found it necessary to write to you exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith
which was once for all delivered to the saints.
Jude’s intention was to write about their common salvation— the salvation believers share together. One of the definitions of the word common (koinós) means “belonging to several, of which several are partakers.”1 Jude’s letter was originally designed to talk about the salvation they shared and what it all means.
But something changed. Now the Holy Spirit has moved Jude on to a related, yet new topic. He finds it now necessary to encourage those who share this common salvation to learn how to contend or strive or fight earnestly for the faith on which their salvation was built. It’s as if the object of their faith was under attack, which it was. To “contend earnestly for the faith” implies it’s a single, finite faith. It’s a faith that isn’t fluid or breathing, or doesn’t change with the whims of each generation. This is the faith “which was once for all (final) delivered to the saints” (Jude 1:3).
And the faith that undergirds their common salvation is what we call the gospel.
Look What We Done With the Gospel
If the faith, the gospel, is unchanging and finite, why do we see so many interpretations of the gospel within the Christian church? At last count, it has been reported there were over 33,000 Christian denominations worldwide, which reeks of chaos. No single entity now speaks authoritatively for the church at large. If the world, for example, wants to know the Christian view on homosexuality, they can ask ten different pastors and get seven different answers. But our faith, like prophecy, is not open to private interpretation (2 Peter 1:2). It’s a faith that was delivered from Jesus Christ based on His rules and standards, and accountable only to Him. We didn’t secure the way to salvation through consensus. He paid for it with His own blood.
What we’ve done to His church is splinter it into a million different fragments all separated by personal nuances that seem to work with our personalities. If someone preaches holiness too much for our taste, they’re legalistic. If someone is more licentious than we feel comfortable with, then they’re liberal. We judge everything by ourselves, creating God in our image and according to our personal likes and dislikes. Assuming, of course, that God feels like we feel and thinks like we think. Which He doesn’t (Isa. 55:8-9).
Otherwise, how can you have one Bible and so many interpretations? How can some churches teach homosexuality is not a sin and hold to the same Scriptures that clearly teach it is? You have some churches teaching you can lose your salvation because your salvation is based on your obedience to Him. And other churches teach one’s salvation is secure because it’s a sovereign act of God He determined “before the foundation of the world” (Eph. 1:4). How can they both be right?
Jude was writing about their common salvation, something they shared together. It’s not how they got saved, the when and where, but the basis of their salvation. One person may have been saved in a one-on-one encounter with a Christian at a local Wal-Mart. And another person may have received salvation by reading the Bible, alone, late one evening in their hotel room. The way salvation takes place, or the means by which it takes place are as infinite and as varied as there are individual Christians.
But the basis, the faith of that salvation must be the same. Are you saved by grace, through faith, plus works and obedience and faithfulness in tithing to your local church or by receiving the approved religious sacraments? Or are you saved by grace, through faith, plus nothing?
Stuff On Which We Must Agree
For centuries, the church has tried to come up with an agreed upon set of non-negotiable, basic standards that must be believed before one can declare themselves a Christian. We may disagree on modes of baptism, gifts of the Spirit, or Bible translations. But the one thing the church can never disagree on is salvation. How does someone come to faith in Jesus Christ? What must they believe to be saved?
Let me close by listing for you a few of the agreed-upon, non-negotiables of salvation. These are the common truths of our common salvation. These truths must be understood, embraced, and fully believed for someone to have true salvation.
- You must believe that Jesus is God. Now, it may take some time to understand the doctrine of the Trinity, but this core belief undergirds all the rest. It’s a non-negotiable.
- You must believe you are saved by grace and not on your own merits (Eph. 2:8-9). Salvation is a gift paid for by the sacrifice of Jesus. There is nothing more you can do except receive the gift of salvation on His terms, which is by faith.
- You must believe salvation comes through Jesus alone. He is the only way to God, not one of many ways (John 14:6).
- You must believe Jesus died to pay the penalty for your sins. That’s you. Your sins. It’s a personal, one-on-one sacrifice He made for you.
- You must believe in the bodily resurrection of Jesus (1 Cor. 15:14). If not, everything else is pointless.
- You must receive Him into your life as Lord (Rom. 10:9-10). Not just savior, or friend, or something less than the sovereign God and Lord of all creation. Because that’s who He is.
This is our common salvation. This is what we have in common with all those who we disagree with on subjects that divide rather than bring us together in unity as one.
So remember, when you come upon a believer who views baptism different than you do, focus on what you can agree on, your common salvation, and don’t sweat the small stuff.
After all, the final prayer of our Lord was for unity in His church (John 17:23). So let that unity begin with you and me.
1. Zodhiates, S. (2000). The complete word study dictionary: New Testament (p. 872). Chattanooga, TN: AMG.