About 400 AD, Satan attacked the Christian church through a man named Pelagius. Appalled by the lax morals of Roman Christians, Pelagius advocated strict moral teaching. He placed all the emphasis for improving human behavior on the human will. How could he do this, in light of the fact the Scripture says that we are sinful by nature and unable to produce any righteous living on our own?
Simple. Pelagius denied the existence of original sin. He denied the need for infant baptism. He argued that the corruption of the human race is not inborn, but is due to bad example and habit. He argued that mankind was not adversely affected by Adam’s Fall into sin.
These denials of Scriptural truth made it easy for Pelagius to assert that human beings can lead righteous lives and merit heaven by their own efforts. He taught that true grace lies in the natural gifts of humanity, including free will, reason, and conscience. For Pelagius, faith and doctrine hardly mattered because the essence of religion is moral action.
The above tends toward wonkishness and deep theological discussion. Is there a point? Again, the questions: Are you of the Pelagian persuasion? Do you have semi-Pelagian tendencies?
Our sinful nature has definite Pelagian tendencies. Why can’t I make it to heaven on my own efforts? I’m “better” than people on death row and just about everyone who lives on my block! Even after we come to faith, sin and Satan try to make semi-Pelagists out of us. Surely, I must do something to earn God’s favor! Surely, some of what I do and who I am counts toward my salvation!
A large segment of Christianity today still holds to semi-Pelagianism, that there can be righteousness within us that God accepts toward salvation, that is, we are saved by Christ plus works.
Except that Scripture says differently…This is the text that made Martin Luther and fueled the Reformation: “In the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: ‘The righteous will live by faith.’” (Romans 1:17)
Where does righteousness come from? Not from self. From God through Christ! Our salvation is all God’s doing. Thanks to God for his wondrous, complete grace! Thanks to God for his servant Martin Luther through whom He restored the truth of the Gospel at the time of the Reformation.
Live free, especially free of Pelagian ideas. Live at peace. Live confidently. Know that your salvation is complete…in Christ alone.
Live free in Christ!
Pastor Stephen Luchterhand