Saved by Identification or by Transaction?

file000704919536(With guest author: Jean Luc Sprunger)

Is Salvation through identification or through transaction?

It’s an unusual title, you’re right, I thought the same when God first challenged me to write this.  Stay with me on this it’s important.

As time passes, true Christianity has always been under attack and will be until Christ returns. For each century, each epoch and in different locations, some truths were more under attack than others. Sometimes the persecution was more physical and open, and sometimes more subtle and spiritual.

 Today, there is a great deal of misunderstanding around salvation, and how it is received or appropriated. There are many non-essential truths that a man might be unaware of yet still please God and be saved. Sadly though, some truths of greatest importance, are not grasped.  These truths bring life or death; a smell of self which leads to death or a fragrant aroma of Christ which leads to life.

In your opinion, which truths would Satan, as the great deceiver attack the most?  Which lie would a wise and subtle deceiver cherish the most? Which one would be of the greatest efficiency to deceive the greatest number of people into hell?

What about taking the truth of salvation and twisting it so that it seems so close to the real thing, that it would deceive multitudes into a false sense of security. Furthermore, if Satan could use unwitting churches and pastors to lead people into this error, it would make Satan’s job even easier.


Ingredients in rat poison

You see, Satan is under no obligation to stick with overt and plain tactics like violence, murder, outright lies, sex, occult practices and corruption to bind people and send them to hell. These are only his unrefined tools.  He has a vast array of more subtle and refined weapons. The Devil can even use good things to do his work, yes even a church. Take rat poison for example.  99.995% is good food. Its the .005% that kills.   Satan relishes it, when he finds a naive and unaware pastor, an undiscerning elder, or a gullible flock.  

He doesn’t fight fair. He can come as an angel of light “bringing another gospel,” as the apostle Paul worded it. Another gospel….would you recognize it?  

I call it the fatal weapon.  It is the most insidious and deceptive satanic tactic of all. So many  fall for it.  If he could do it 2000 years ago, he can do it even more now . We are constantly warned in Scripture of godlessness and false teachers in the last days. So please follow me, let’s be wise and unbiased. With God’s help and favour we will uncover this lie.

 Firstly lets define terms. What do I mean by the two terms Salvation by Identification vs. Salvation by Transaction?

Here are two examples to clearly define those words:


During the civil War, George Wyatt was drawn by lot to go to the front. He had a wife and six children. A young man named Richard Pratt offered to go in his stead. He was accepted and joined the ranks, bearing the name and number of George Wyatt. Before long Pratt was killed in action. The authorities later sought again to draft George Wyatt into service. He protested entering the plea that he had died in the person of Pratt. He insisted that the authorities consult their own records as to the fact of his having died in identification with Pratt, his substitute. Wyatt was thereby exempted as beyond the claims of the law and further service. He had died in the person of his representative. There we have the truth of identification in a nutshell. (p11 Embraced by the cross, L.E. Maxwell)


Transaction is simply an exchange of goods, or an exchange of a service for something else of a value deemed to be agreeable to both parties.  In exchange for some work, goods or money I get something. Once the transaction is done, the contract is fulfilled. With the business being finished, people can go their separate ways, and may never see each other again, because both fulfilled their duties.

 Let’s be honest now,  and think about the typical content of a gospel presentation in North American churches today.  There are always exceptions I know, but I am asking about the mainstream Gospel presentations in most evangelical churches, camps, or evangelistic campaigns.

The predominant pitch heard when someone shares the gospel goes something like this…maybe with a little less of my sarcasm mixed in.

“Your are a sinner and have a miserable life, God loves you and cares for you, if you have a grain of wisdom please accept Jesus in your heart tonight, so you don’t have to go to hell. Its very simple, you have nothing to do because it is a free gift. You cannot work for it.  The standards of God are so high, but you can accept His Son who died for you, please come forward, please.”

sorrow bwAnd then we say, “If you confess with your mouth, Jesus is Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised them from the dead you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved. So if you come forward and repeat the sinner‘s prayer and are sincere in your heart. You will be saved.”

Then soon after we make sure to tell them that they will sin again, but not too worry whatever happens, “Jesus will never leave you nor forsake you and you cannot lose your salvation if you were sincere when you prayed.

Then we make sure that they write the date in the Bible we just gave them so that when in doubt about their salvation they can open it and remember what they had done on that day, and remember that their salvation is forever secure because it rest on God’s power and not on the self effort of the believer.

I know and understand that we must preached in a way that is understandable to our audience, like Paul in Athens. But is there anywhere in the Bible or in the NT that we find a hint about such presentation of the Gospel or such a call to salvation?

Now in your opinion is there not a lot of truth in this presentation?

I agree there is so much truth, in fact it is almost entirely true.  So much as too almost make it the real thing, but something does not sound right. What is it that seems to ring a wrong tone?

Was this salvation message more like a transaction or more an identification?

This presentation reflects a salvation of transaction, without a shadow of a doubt. In order to get salvation and a better life, the man accepted to work for it(be it even a very small work…it was a work none the less.  He had to come forward and repeat a prayer while being sincere.  In exchange for this, he would get Jesus, an eternal life deliverance from hell and would never lose any of it, as long as he believed he was sincere in his heart while repeating the prayer.

If he started to doubt if he really got what he was promised, he was taught to go back and check the date and remember what he did that day and his sincerity. I see this as a plain transaction, or in other words, plain legalism (salvation by works). We are worse than the Galatians, we have accepted a work based salvation which rests on the sincerity of the believer and his prayer. Where is faith? Sincerity,and a mabye few hot tears, is not faith.  Still, this gospel presentation had a ton of truth in it.

 95thesisCan we be saved when our salvation is based on something we did, on our work, on a transaction? This is what Martin Luther fought so hard against  in the church of his day. The Roman Catholic Church was telling the masses that if they got baptized and payed the indulgences they would be saved. Martin Luther came through all of this, telling the world that salavation was by FAITH alone, according to Scripture alone, through Christ alone.

Those who have been deceived, see the final end of the Gospel as bringing poor sinners into paradise so they can enjoy goods, gold and God forever, with very little care for anything else. It is a very selfish Gospel, and caters to a selfish world.   Its no longer about submitting to Christ out of love and contrition over our immeasurable sin and offence against God’s inexpressible glory and holiness. Rather, Jesus is peddled as a simple way to escape a deserved punishment and enjoy happy days forever.

Those who understand the biblical Gospel see it in a different light: “Mission exists because worship does not.”in the words of John Piper. The purpose of Salvation is to bring all people to obedience and worship of God in this present life and later in glory. To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, He will give eternal life.  To bring all creation under his good governance and control. True Christianity, is true faith which works by love, consisting in obedience of the heart. (Gal 5:6)

This kind of Gospel transaction or legalism coupled with eternal security brings a license to sin in its trail.  The so-called Christian did not experience a change of heart operated by the Holy Spirit on the principle of faith alone.  His heart still loves and enjoys sin and and isn’t especially grieved by it that much.

Logically,  with a promise of eternal security at so cheap a cost, it would not take long before a person begins to license their sin like a rich and spoiled son of an emperor who reckons himself “above the law.”  Deep and  most grievous sins are their prison…and the church is full of these.  So then Jesus is reduced to a minister of sin, or a sort of “car wash”  After sinning and enjoying it with all impunity they stagger in from their frolic and sooth their conscience with a little confession.

Efforts in discipleship often fail because the “disciple” goes back to his sin which actually he never ceased to love. He only temporally abstained from it while in the excitement of his new or renewed commitment or experience.

heart_of_stoneNo heart of stone has ever been transformed on the principle of transaction or legalism and it will certainly never happen. For those who stay in this deception in the church long enough they would learn the Chameleon way.  Its the ability to be comfortable in both settings; in the world and in the Church.  Truth be told, they are actually more at ease in the bar than in the prayer meeting and more at ease talking about the latest game or Hollywood movie than about their christian walk.  Usually they get irritated when preaching goes to long, but have no problem sitting in front of the TV for hours.  

They are neither in Egypt nor in Canaan. Busy in the outer courts of religiosity, but never entering the Holy of Holies. Content to attend the services regularly, pay tithe or maybe even help in the kitchen or some other voluntary duties. Do not think a man must be born again to do those actions, they are simple outward actions, the Pharisees where doing much more and were hell-bound.

Zac Poonen once explained it this way: The mind of these people are like a rubber band which is tightly fasten to the world.  Any spiritual or unselfish exercise requires great effort to stretch it toward heaven for an hour on Sunday.  As soon as the preaching or prayer ends, they snap back to earthly and fleshly interests with lightnings speed and turn to their neighbor to talk about sports or what have you.  With the tension eased, they carry on their merry way.

Spiritual exercise is more a duty than done out of love and kindred spirit with their supposed Savior, but why be surprised? The heart has never actually been changed. The idols are still hidden in the house!  The heart of stone was never been replaced by a soft humble heart indwelt by the Holy Spirit(Eze 36).

abc04“But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people”   -2 Tim 3:1-5

No transaction and no legalistic experience will ever change a heart let alone save it. Only what is born by faith and by the mighty resurrecting power of the Holy Spirit, who breaths on our dry dead bones, can save us. There is no short cut for Salvation, either God’s way or no way at all.

An excellent work on this is  “Born Crucified” by L. E. Maxwell

5 responses to “Saved by Identification or by Transaction?

  1. Once we take seriously the new birth, a lot of problems can be avoided in the church. I see that here in Brazil (about here i can speak)a lot of dicussion about be a christan, is desnecessary when we believed that realy exist the new creature.

    • completely right Caio. the pathetic and powerless state of the evangelical church today, being not even a shadow of what it was during Acts or at time of revival, is not for a lack of resources, preachers, books, ministries, or a stronger devil and more wicked world or a different Holy Spirit. The main reason is the preaching of a humanists or men centered Gospel, wich never change the heart of men. And of course if the heart is not changed, there is no power over sin when the emotion or the high is gone they go back to their former love maybe slighty polished and christianized. But it give men a false insurance of salvation. Having a form of godliness but denying its power. Even a 1000 person witnnessing your confession of faith in Christ or your sinner’s prayer is not a certainty of your salvation for it would be through work. But do i have the inner witness, does the Holy Spirit witness to my Spirit that i am a child of God (as the Bible say so clearly)
      May God bless you

  2. Good stuff JL. This message seems to be a real passion of yours. I am not clear on John Piper’s quote: ‘Mission exists because worship does not.” I see Worship as in our relationship to God and Mission as in our relationship to the world. Both are commands of our Lord. I am unclear how (as inverse reasoning seems to dictate) if we worshiped more, we would need to evangelize (do mission) less? Both are imperatives of the believer’s identification in Christ.,

  3. yes great question John. Maybe i will introduce it through a quote from C.S.Lewis “if we put first things first and second things second, we get both the 1st and the 2nd things, but if we put the second first, we lose both. In the same way we must understand the supreme motive behind all God’s actions. It may be shoking at first in our modern time but mankind does not deserve to be saved from the righteous judgment of God, but on the contrary God deserve praise and adoration from all people.
    John3;16/John17.3-5/John17.24 together give us something like ” God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but increasingly get to know God and Jesus in all Their Glory and make Their Glory known to others” (From Hijacked by Glory)
    Mission exist, (the proclamation of God’s Glory and glorious redemption through Christ) because worship is not present everywhere yet, and most people neither glorify Him as God, nor gave thanks to Him, although they claim to be wise they became fools and exchanged the Glory of the immortal God for….etc..
    If mission exist for the sake of men’s destiny it is doomed to fail, the 2nd things is first and we lose both!
    Every revival, every move of God in mission was preceded by a hunger for God’s glory and a desire to make His Name Great among the nations, and not love for the lost.
    Every bleeding step of Jesus toward Calvary was not a proclamation that men deserve to be saved, but that God supremely deserve praise from every living breath. It was for this very reason I came to this hour. Father Glorify Your Name (John 12:27-28)
    Good stuff;-)

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