Do you have a category in your mind for a person who professes to be a Christian, but actually possesses no genuine faith in Christ? Is there such a thing as a false convert? In Matthew Chapter 13, Jesus gives two parables that clearly illustrate the fact there are indeed those who may appear to be a follower of Christ, but in reality, have not been soundly saved.
In Matthew 13:18-23, Jesus tells the story of four types of soil which represent four types of people who all hear the word of the gospel. The first three soils hear the word, but it never takes root and therefore produces no fruit. These are people who may appear to receive Christ for salvation or make a public profession of faith, but in actuality, have never been saved. They may have gone through a religious exercise or undergone some type of ritual, but did not experience the transformational power of the gospel deep within their hearts.
Explanatory Note: In the February, 1989 issue of The Standard, the journal for news and comment of the Baptist General Conference, I published a very affirming review of John MacArthur’s book, The Gospel According to Jesus (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1988). One respected and effective minister of our fellowship responded to me with serious concern about what I was saying. The gist of his concern is seen in a few excerpts from his letter. I am going to change a few details so as not to draw attention to any one individual, because my friend speaks for many.
He said, “Near the age of fifteen I accepted Christ as my Savior. As I look back on my life, I can see He had powerful influence during my late teen years and early twenties. In my late twenties I began to be aware of the concept of Christ as Lord. As I investigated that concept and struggled with it, I realized that for Christ to be Lord, I had to submit everything to Him. In my early thirties I did just that. The concept of ‘lordship salvation’ that you support would mean that had I died at age twenty-two, that is, before Christ was Lord, I would not have gone to Heaven.”
Thank you for taking time and interest to respond to my review of John MacArthur’s book, The Gospel According to Jesus. I have heard of your love for Christ and your faithfulness in evangelism and discipling. This is plain also from your response. And I thank God for it. I hope these things can be discussed in a way that will minimize widespread misunderstanding. If you see any misrepresentations of your thinking please let me know.