Church Won’t Save You


Audio Transcript

“Beware lest there be among you a root bearing poisonous and bitter fruit, one who, when he hears the words of this sworn covenant, blesses himself in his heart, saying, ‘I shall be safe, though I walk in the stubbornness of my heart’” (Deuteronomy 29:18–19). One is a very important word here: one single person, woman, man. That’s an important verse.

God deals with individuals in Israel. So many scholar-types say that we “TGC-types” are way too individualistic in our thinking about salvation. They say, “You don’t grasp corporate realities, corporate categories in the Bible, which are everywhere and all-important. You make salvation way too much a matter of the individual heart, and that heart’s relation to the Almighty.” Well, verses 18–21 in Deuteronomy 29 are pretty clear.

“Nobody is saved by belonging to a group — any group — when their individual heart is hard toward God.”

Just be Bible women. Would you please? Just be Bible women. This text is radically focused on the individual, over against the corporate, pointing out the danger of corporate thinking: “There’s safety in my corporateness.” That’s the danger. This is not in the text, but I would venture to say there are vastly more people in hell today because of the false securities of corporate thinking than there are in hell today because of over-individualizing the doctrine of salvation. There’s no question in my mind about that — millions upon millions of people led to destruction because they “belong” to some institution.

Deuteronomy 29:21, “The Lord will single him out from all the tribes of Israel for calamity.” In fact, this person’s horrific mistake is to think he is safe in his stubbornness because he belongs to Israel. Oh, how many people have perished because they think, “My family, my tradition, my trial, my church, my nation will save me.” In fact, nobody is saved by belonging to a group — any group — when their individual heart is hard toward God. So, the first thing to notice here is: Don’t let anybody give you mumbo jumbo about the Bible, not prioritizing the individual when it comes to getting saved.

The second thing to observe from Deuteronomy 29:18 is that it’s quoted in Hebrews 12:15, and it is exactly the same issue, of course. They’re inspired. The New Testament gets the Old Testament right. And the issue is: an individual in the community to which Hebrews is written thinks he’s safe with no heart for holiness. He might be saying, “I’m in the new-covenant community. You don’t need holiness; we’re justified by faith,” to which the writer in Hebrews says in 12:14, “Strive . . . for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.” That’s theology straight out of Deuteronomy.

That’s a warning to the whole church: Don’t play fast and loose with grace in God’s new-covenant community. Don’t think you are safe because of baptism, church membership, or eating the Lord’s Supper every Sunday.

You’re not safe if you don’t keep the covenant.


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