Summary: ‘We believe that salvation is for everyone who calls on the name of the Lord.’
Earlier, I preached a sermon on calling on the name of the Lord for conversion without the ‘means’ of water baptism. Then, I preached another sermon on calling on the name of the Lord without a specific required sign of evidence for salvation. Much earlier in ministry, I thought that I would never come to place where I would preach: I believe that conversion is by calling on the name of the Lord but without legalism. Some teach that ‘standards of holiness’ are required in order to be saved, to be accepted by God, and in order to participate in the local church. Some teach a form of legalism in addition to being saved by grace through faith by complementing conversion with extra rules, practices, and forcing compliance to many standards. I used to be ordained in one of these organizations that preached legalism and required ‘standards of holiness’ in order to be saved, to enter heaven, and to be holy. As Methodists, we have always believed very strongly in conversion without legalism and ‘standards of holiness.’ We are not saved because of our own human volition, not our human work, and not our human initiation rites. Yet, we are absolutely convinced that we are saved by grace through faith without legalism. You must confess that Jesus is Lord. You must believe that God raised him [Christ] from the dead. And, a real Methodist will call on the name of the Lord and will do it without legalism. Therefore, ‘we believe that salvation is for everyone who calls on the name of the Lord.’
In her work, False Holiness Standards, Linda S. Hopper is a spouse of a pastor who was also part of the same rigid legalistic organization of your pastor. Linda explains the uses of certain Scriptures in how some misinterpret, leading to a practice of legalism. Some give lip service to being saved by grace through faith, but unfortunately, they cannot agree with God or anyone that they are saved unless everybody adopts and conforms to their set of man-made rules. Even more unfortunate, these man-made rules are revised, changed, and lengthened to fulfill the needs of some leaders. Linda Hopper communicates: “Your family and friends may feel threatened by your confession of faith; it may take them out of their comfort zone.” Yet, Linda Hopper and her spouse used to be in an organization that teaches one has to be water baptized a certain way in the name of Jesus Christ, receive baptism of the Holy Spirit with the evidence of speaking in tongues, and live a holy life (by adhering to lots of man-made rules). Now, she articulates: For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord [emphasizing] “Shall be saved.” It is the calling on the name of the Lord without legalism that gets the assurance, “Shall be saved.”
It has been revealed to me through much study that legalism is more than false holiness standards. Legalism can be any strict conformity to rules, behavior, specific rituals (e.g., water baptism, tongues), and doctrine. For instance, Paul mentioned that the Jews had a zeal, but the zeal was not according to knowledge. The application was of first of all about the Jews. The word “ignorant” connects with the phrase “not according to knowledge.” They were ignorant of God’s method of justification based on grace through faith. They were trying their own method of justification based on law/flesh/legalism. The emphasis is upon the words: “Their own.” They were trying to form their own method of righteousness, and they rejected the gospel, thought they could justify themselves, they had substituted their own standards, and their own interpretations of Scripture for their doctrinal conformity. The zeal was a form of righteousness that the Jews were producing to satisfy God. The Jew’s zeal was not driven because of their knowledge of the work Christ did for them, but their zeal was driven by the theological distinctions and conformity maintained by their group. The Jews were trusting in their theological distinctions, conformity, and adhering to certain rites to be saved, but they did not call upon the name of the Lord for conversion. Likewise, we have some who are looking to their theological conformity, man-made rules, and even legalism to obtain their assurance/false assurance in the place of God’s method: by grace through faith alone. Therefore, people are saved with just the faith statement, calling on the name of the Lord.
The Scriptural witness proclaims that just the faith statement, calling on the name of the Lord, is the only required necessity for conversion. Everyone needs to hear that justification is the regenerating act that God does in your life. Justification is not a human-centric initiated event. If this was the case, people would not need Jesus, a Savior, the cross, or a preacher to bring the gospel. Yet, the questions need to be asked. At one point is someone justified? At what moment does someone experience conversion, justification, salvation, and assurance? Another way to say it, which point is one justified, receive the promise “shall be saved,” and receive the promise “will not be put to shame?” At one point is someone confirmed of their salvation? And, what does it mean to call upon the name of the Lord?