Book Review – Stanley, Salvation Is More Complicated than You Think: A Study on the Teachings of Jesus

Book Stanley Salvation Is More Complicated than You ThinkThis book is a very helpful understanding of the topic of salvation as seen primarily through the Gospel. I found it has a strong pastoral focus and counters very gracefully the easy believism which is rampant in many well-meaning churches today.

  • Link: Amazon
  • Length: 211
  • Difficulty: Medium-Easy
  • Topic: Future judgment and Salvation
  • Audience: Mainstream Christians
  • Published: 2007

The author Alan Stanley received his ThM and PhD in New Testament from Dallas Theological Seminary on this very topic. This book is an easy to read version of his thesis. In 2003, he moved to Sunshine Coast, Queensland, Australia where he is a pastor and teaches in Old and New Testament at Mueller College of Ministries.

Near the end of the book Stanley summarises his overview and purpose of the book.

I am hoping that this book has been somewhat like that sandstone cross. I am hoping that God has your attention one hundred percent. Salvation is more complicated than you think! I hope you see that now. I do not mean complicated as in hard to understand. I mean complicated in terms of there being more to salvation than simply being “converted.” The prevailing view amongst many Christians is that salvation is a moment in time faith decision, but that’s a simplistic view of salvation. Salvation is not over until we reach the shores of heaven. (196)

This post is one of my book reviews.



Main points

I’ve broken down my review by chapter with some representative quotes.

Chapter One: Just Who Will Be Saved?

Stanley begins with several examples of people who give the appearance of having left the faith. He mentions we often confuse the two questions ‘How do I know I am a Christian?’ with ‘How do I become a Christian?’ He then points us to the scriptures showing at face value scripture seems to affirm people go to heaven because of God’s grace and people go to heaven because of what they do.

I can think of no more important topic than salvation and eternity. These matters are not merely for the theologically educated or those Christians with a keen bent towards the “deeper things” of the Word. The very fact that God has given us his Word in the form that he has suggests that he wants us all to think about these passages. I can think of three reasons why this subject is seriously important. (11)

Stanley’s three reasons are: False converts do exist, there are serious warnings in scripture, people misunderstand the expression ‘once saved always saved’. Stanley is not deluded in thinking his message will be popular.

Chapter Two: Grace and Works: Are They Opposed?

Stanley introduces this chapter defining the key terms: works and grace. His definition of ‘works’ distinguishes between works produced by man (prior to belief) and God (after coming to faith).

The first clue as to why fruit/works play a role in salvation is to understand that there are two kinds of works. Man-made works are abhorrent to salvation, whereas God-produced works are indispensable. (25)

The following diagram might make the distinction easier to understand. He is differentiating between the works of sinners and the works of the righteous.

Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge

Rainbow (a Roman Catholic scholar) also makes the same distinction in his book ‘The Way of Salvation: The Role of Christian Obedience in Justification’ when explaining how he understands ‘works of law’ in Rom 3.20. I’m not sure I would make the distinction as Stanley does and I disagree with Rainbows interpretation.

Otherwise Stanley has a few quotes from Augustine, Luther and Calvin to support his understanding of works in the process of salvation.

Stanley then defines grace in terms of power.

The standard Greek lexicon says that grace, in certain passages, is “to be understood in a very concrete sense.” It is virtually synonymous with “power.” Thus, “Stephen, a man full of God’s grace and power, did great wonders and miraculous signs among the people” (Acts. 6:8). God’s grace provided Paul with power in his suffering (2 Cor. 12:9). What is remarkable is that this “incomparably great power” is within every Christian (Eph. 1:19). (29)

In light of Barclays book ‘Paul and the Gift’ Stanley’s understanding of grace could be sharpened up. However it’s not bad. Stanley rightly points out Grace affects us, Grace changes us and Grace testifies to our salvation. This leads him to talk about Grace-Produced works. Again this is very Catholic.

Chapter Three: Faith and Salvation: Do They Always Go Together?

Stanley begins this chapter distinguishing between two types of faith. Genuine and false faith. False faith does not save. He then outlines the characteristics of Genuine faith.

Genuine faith involves confession, is objective, has confidence, perseveres, can be seen, leads to relationship, and sees Jesus as glorious. These are wonderful points.

Then he moves on to salvation.

There is much we could say concerning salvation but I wish to confine myself to making two points.

The first is that salvation must be thought of holistically—that is, past, present, and future. Salvation has begun, but it has not yet finished.

The second point is that salvation is always two-sided. That is, we are always saved from something (sin, Satan, hell, etc.) to something (holiness, God, heaven, etc.). (47)

Afterwards Stanley equates salvation with the kingdom of God (‘Salvation=Kingdom’). I disagree with him here, so perhaps I might have misunderstood him. Salvation is equivalent to entering the Kingdom, not the kingdom itself.

He quotes a number of well known theologians to add support to his position regarding the process of salvation. One is John Calvin.

Calvin reformerThe efficient cause of our salvation is placed in the love of God the Father;

the material cause in the obedience of the Son;

the instrumental cause in the illumination of the Spirit, that is, in faith; and

the final cause in the praise of the divine goodness.

In this, however, there is nothing to prevent the Lord from embracing works as inferior causes [of our Salvation].

But how so? In this way: Those whom in mercy he has destined for the inheritance of eternal life, he, in his ordinary administration, introduces to the possession of it by means of good works … For this reason, he sometimes makes eternal life a consequence of works.… [Good works] is a kind of step to that which follows. (Institutes 3.14.21)

Near the end of the chapter he gives his opinion of what many in the evangelical church think about salvation.

Many today appear oblivious to the idea that salvation is a pilgrimage, a road to be traveled. We think of salvation as a “personal decision” occurring at a particular moment in time. Salvation then is all about “getting in” and “making the decision” rather than the life that follows. (This of course has massive implications for how we think through evangelism, doing church, the role of preaching, assurance, etc.). Please do not misunderstand me. I am not suggesting that there is no truth to the way we commonly think of salvation. If salvation is a pilgrimage there must be an entry point. The problem is not that this is not the truth but rather that it is not the whole truth. (56)

The same emphasis on salvation and personal decision is what Scot McKnight associates with the soterian gospel and it’s inability to disciple.

Chapter Four: Apart from Me You Can Do Nothing

Stanley begins this chapter on the commands of Jesus. He says we are not told how to obey them. (I think he addresses the how in later chapters). He argued from Mt 19.26 that Jesus’ commands are impossible to perform without God. At the end of the chapter Stanley summarises his whole intention for this chapter.

I have only wanted to communicate one point in this chapter—we can’t, we don’t have the ability, to enter God’s kingdom. In fact, not only do we lack the ability, we lack the desire and understanding (Rom. 3:11).

Left up to us it’s all impossible! Whether it’s justification, conversion, discipleship, sanctification, good works, heaven, glorification, salvation—it doesn’t matter, it’s all impossible, for apart from Jesus we can do nothing. …

I want you to remember this point. It needs to undergird our reading of the gospels, not to mention our entire lives. …

If we fail to keep in mind the things spoken of in this chapter we will wonder what Jesus is saying. Unless we are careful to remember Matthew 5:3 (“Blessed are the poor in spirit”) we may either succumb to an arduous type of legalism that takes Jesus’ commands seriously but fails to understand we are unable to obey them, or we may give in to a licentious type of Christianity that recognizes correctly that Jesus’ commands are impossible, so we fail to take them seriously.

For even though we can’t obey, we must. For it is only those who hear Jesus’ words and put them into practice who will avoid falling “with a great crash” (Matt. 7:24, 27). But remember—“Apart from me you can do nothing!” (83-84)

Just a little later he says.

Do you really believe that you are spiritually impoverished to the depth of your being and that you have no more right to call God your Father and heaven home than someone like Jeffrey Dahmer? If you don’t, then read Romans 3:10–12 again. (85)

I had a large amount of disagreement with this chapter. Sure I read Romans 3.10-12 (‘no one is righteous, no one seeks God), but then I kept on reading and Paul says,

23 for fall have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, (Rom 23-24)

Romans 3.10-12 applies to unbelievers. Then according to Paul believers are justified, or made righteous, by his grace as a gift through the redemption in Christ Jesus. Stanley falls into the standard reformed trap of assuming verses speaking about unbelievers also apply to believers. Consider this statement.

The rock-bottom of financial poverty is bankruptcy. When someone is bankrupt they are declared to be unable to pay all their outstanding debts. There is nothing in the bank. To be poor in spirit is to declare spiritually bankruptcy. It is a recognition that we are morally and spiritual impoverished. To borrow words from Paul, it is to acknowledge that deep down we are “hostile to God.” We recognize that we do “not submit to God’s law, nor can … [we] do so” (Rom. 8:7). Indeed we “cannot please God” (Rom. 8:8). (68)

The passage from Romans 8 he is quoting actually says;

5 For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. 6 For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. 7 For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. 8 Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.

9 You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. (Rom 8.5-9)

Notice Paul says in verse 9, ‘You however, are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit if the Spirit of God dwells in you’? What Paul says about hostility to God and inability to please God apply to those in the flesh. Yet Stanley applies them to his believing audience, whom we should assume have the Spirit. This is a blatant misrepresentation of the text serving his agenda.

I wonder if he is aware of what Jesus says about works, judgment and salvation and this is quite one sided. So in this chapter he seeks to balance it out before he tackles it. Seriously, has he read Stendhal’s ‘Introspective Conscience of the West’?

Through most of the chapter he discusses Jesus’ Beatitudes. He says they are all about repentance. I disagree. He says they are about entering the kingdom. I disagree. Using this as his foil he draws upon numerous passages in the Psalms about sin, repentance and forgiveness.

My Eerdmans commentary says about the Beatitudes;

The beatitudes set the tone and agenda for the Sermon on the Mount. Much effort has been expended in arguing whether they are ideals, ethical demands, eschatological promises, gifts of God’s grace, or entrance requirements for the kingdom. Many of these discussions derive more from later theological disputes than from Matthew’s message. (1015)

This is what I think Stanley has done. Stanley interprets the Beatitudes in light of repentance and reformed anthropology. He has done this in order to balance the eventual emphasis he will put on obeying Jesus’ commands. Eerdmans then says;

For the Matthean community the beatitudes simultaneously refer concretely to the difficulties faced by the author’s community, suggest attitudes and goals to guide the community, and contain promises of eschatological reward. They also serve to articulate the dimension of the rule (kingdom) of God in the world at large, especially vis-à-vis the needy and the just. (ibid)

This seems a much better reading of the Beatitudes.

Chapter Five: I Chose You to Bear Fruit

This chapter is one of several (5-8) in which Stanley goes about describing the kind of Christian lifestyle that results in salvation.

Stanley continues talking about repentance. This time he highlights true repentance brings about real change, good works and good fruit.

Repentance is a lot more than a change of mind. One who truly changes their mind about smoking, for example, will seriously attempt to stop smoking. There must be fruit in keeping with repentance. The change in direction must be concrete. The people in Jesus’ day knew this, so after John the Baptist told the crowd to produce fruit in keeping with repentance, they asked him, “What should we do then?” To which John replied, “The man with two tunics should share with him who has none, and the one who has food should do the same.… Don’t collect any more than you are required to.… Don’t extort money and don’t accuse people falsely—be content with your pay” (Luke 3:10–14). (89)

He covers a few instances in the gospel where people are urged to repent and bear fruit in keeping with repentance.

Near the end of the chapter he returns to the beatitudes. Speaking about the last beatitude he claims people will be persecuted because their repentant lifestyle will be opposed. With his whole take on the beatitudes, I’m not to sure about this interpretation.

Near the end he says something I strongly agree with in a section titled ‘Sinners become righteous’.

Jesus requires surpassing righteousness in order to enter heaven (Matt. 5:20). The seriousness behind these words can scarcely be avoided.

It is only the “righteous man” who will be rewarded (Matt. 10:41). At the end of the age “the angels will come and separate the wicked from the righteous” (Matt. 13:49) and “then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father” (Matt. 13:43). It is not the “resurrection of sinners” but the “resurrection of the righteous” (Luke 14:14). All these passages point to one thing; only “the righteous” will enter in “to eternal life” (Matt. 25:46).

Remember, however, who it is that Jesus calls to follow him. It is not the righteous but sinners. “I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners” (Matt. 9:13; Mark 2:17). Only sinners recognize their need to repent (Luke 5:32). It is only the sick who know they need a doctor. Those who are repentant recognize they have no righteousness of their own, therefore they “hunger and thirst for” what they don’t have (Matt. 5:6). “The way of righteousness” was shown to those who are righteous, but they would not believe it. “The tax collectors and the prostitutes” believed, however (Matt. 21:32). They are therefore “entering the kingdom of God ahead of” the Pharisees and the teachers of the law (Matt. 21:31). We might say that they are surpassing them.

So be sure to get the order right: sinners are called first. They are sick and need a doctor. However, over the course of time those who were called as sinners are transformed into righteous—not sinless—people. (98)

This is basically a description of my first understanding of justification in my New Perspective page. Sinners become righteous by the faithfulness of Jesus Christ.

Chapter Six: Can I Be Saved and Not Love Others?

This chapter is one of several (5-8) in which Stanley goes about describing the kind of Christian lifestyle that results in salvation.

This chapter is all about people, specifically how we get on with them and treat them. In Chapter Five we saw that love and mercy are central to surpassing righteousness (Matt. 5:20) and the Father’s will (Matt. 7:21). In this chapter we will look more closely at Jesus’ teaching on love and mercy and ask the question, “Can I be saved and not show love and mercy toward others?” (103)

Anger and relationships. Stanley gives helpful warnings and suggestions regarding how to deal with anger.

Lust and adultery. Stanley tries to argue lust is the same thing as adultery. I think he is mistaken. Adultery is a form of covenant breaking. In Matthew 5.27-30 Jesus is warning against lusting after another man’s wife, desiring to take her for himself and therefore break the marriage covenant. People can find single’s of the opposite sex attractive. This might even lead to dating and marriage. This is not adultery.

Continuing with his previous discussion on sexual ethics, Stanley addresses the seriousness of sin. He draws upon some helpful sayings of Jesus to reinforce his point. These sayings of course are directly linked to avoiding hell and punishment.

Stanley addresses the themes of loving enemies, judging others, and forgiveness.

Near the end he takes a close look at the parable of the good Samaritan. ‘What must I do to inherit eternal life?’. ‘Love the Lord with all your heart, strength and mind and love your neighbour as yourself’. ‘Do this and you will live’.

Lastly he argues love is the defining mark of a Christian. Good point!

Chapter Seven: Can I Be Saved and Be Wealthy?

This chapter is one of several (5-8) in which Stanley goes about describing the kind of Christian lifestyle that results in salvation.

Stanley addresses a number of passages from the gospels which impinge upon how we view wealth and money. A person cannot serve both God and money. It is difficult for rich people to go to heaven.

I found some things he said to be helpful reminders. For example how a contextual understanding of wealth affects my understanding of the Rich man asking what he should do to inherit eternal life.

Let’s try and put ourselves in the disciples’ minds. When they see a blind man, they automatically believe that he has been punished by God for sin. When they see a rich man, they conclude that his wealth is a sign of God’s blessing. So when Jesus tells them that “it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven,” they’re flabbergasted. “Who then can be saved?” (Matt. 19:25), they question. (148)

Towards the end he says a few things which summarise the whole chapter.

Is our belief that God is more concerned with our attitude toward wealth rather than our accumulation of it sometimes a way of justifying ourselves? We must always remember that whatever we might say to justify the money and possessions we have, God knows our hearts. “What is highly valued among men is detestable in God’s sight.” (150)

These are all good questions we need to ask ourselves from time to time.

Chapter Eight: Can I Be Saved and Not Persevere?

This chapter is the last of several (5-8) in which Stanley goes about describing the kind of Christian lifestyle that results in salvation. Here he speaks about perseverance.

What would Jesus say to someone who decided they no longer wanted to follow him? We don’t have to wonder; we know for sure. “He who stands firm (Greek = “perseveres”) to the end will be saved” (Matt. 10:22). … Rather than tell someone who wants to give up on Jesus, “Once saved, always saved,” we need to lovingly telling them, “He who stands firm to the end will be saved.” It couldn’t be clearer could it? Jesus is not talking in parables or riddles. His words are plain, so plain they hardly need explaining. Only those who persevere to the end will be saved. In other words, those who don’t persevere to the end will not be saved. (152)

Stable addresses a number of issues related to perseverance. What it involves and what the epistles say about it. For example Paul says;

But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation—if you continue in your faith, established and firm, not moved from the hope held out in the gospel (Col. 1:22–23).

One of the main issues is the question, ‘Can true Christians fall away from the faith and fail to persevere?’ Stanley weighs on the negative.

But what does it mean that a branch is cut off? I think what Jesus has in mind here is someone like Judas Iscariot who was by all appearances in the vine. In other words, someone who is cut off is someone that appeared to be in Jesus, but they never were. They called Jesus “Lord, Lord,” they believed, they were baptized, they did miracles and cast out demons and all sorts of wonderful Christian things, but in the end Jesus will say he never knew them. We’ve already seen plenty of examples where people looked like Christians but weren’t (e.g., Matt. 7:21–23; John 2:23–25; 6:60–66; 8:30–46; Acts 18:13). John himself dealt first hand with people who once appeared to be Christians but in hindsight proved they never were (1 John 2:19). To be “cut off” then is not, in my thinking anyway, to lose salvation but simply to demonstrate salvation was never present. (162)

This being said, Stanley does not interact with other passages which suggest believers can and have fallen away and thus failed to persevere (). This is an important topic to do with salvation and Stanley missed it.

I found this statement really helpful to better understand John 3.16;

The most well-known verse in the entire Bible is undoubtedly John 3:16:

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

Yet while it is well-known, it may well be the least understood. Most probably think this verse is expressing the need for a simple confession of faith in Jesus to receive eternal life, that thus we believe once and have eternal life.
Virtually all commentators on John’s gospel, though, would agree that in keeping with the Greek present tense and John’s theology, John 3:16 in fact means,

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever continues to believe in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (165)

I guess it occasionally helps to know the underlying Greek.

Chapter Nine: Will God’s Judgment Affect My Salvation?

This is probably the most important chapter in the book. Stanley’s penultimate chapter exhorts us to be prepared.

We like to be prepared for tests and exams and things like that, whether it be a driver’s license test or a football trial. No one likes to be caught off-guard, unless of course the test doesn’t count for anything.

Yet Jesus’ judgment will count for all eternity. So would we not want to be prepared? It will be the greatest test we have ever faced. So why is it that many Christians seem to have such a cavalier attitude toward the day of judgment? Could it have anything to do with the “once saved always saved” idea and the presumption that our salvation won’t be affected? What we have in our minds is a judgment that doesn’t count—not for Christians anyway—and so we all breathe a sigh of relief.
It is true that Christians do not need to fear the day of judgment; we can be confident, but our confidence does not stem from a belief in “once saved always saved” mentality.

It comes from the knowledge that “in this world we are like” Jesus (1 John 4:17).

We must be prepared. After all, there are going to be well-meaning and sincere people who, while acknowledging Jesus as “Lord, Lord” and accomplishing all sorts of impressive spiritual feats, will sadly hear the words, “I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!” (Matt. 7:21–23). Try telling them afterward that Jesus’ judgment didn’t count. We must be prepared. (181)

For Stanley, being prepared means being faithful. He runs us through a series of parables to prove his point (Mt 24-25).

He goes into some detail with Mt 25.31-46. Using this parable he argues what is critical is the way we treat other Christians. I’m not quite sure about his take on the parable. I think Jesus’ emphasis is on how we treat the poor and needy, that seems to take up most of the parable, not how we should interpret ‘brothers’.

He then moves to discuss the interrelationship between faith and works in judgment.

Rather than counting for nothing, faith in Jesus Christ counts for everything come judgment day. The sheep and goat judgment simply demonstrates what Paul taught in Galatians 5:6:

“The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.”

As we have seen, it is impossible to be a Christian and not love others (1 John 4:20–21). Similarly, goats cannot say they love God and yet not show love to Jesus’ brothers. (187)

As we can see from the above Stanley does not separate faith from works. He goes on to describe what most passages about the final judgment are about.

No one denies that believers will be judged on the basis of their works (e.g., 2 Cor. 5:10) although some suggest that what is at stake is not one’s eternal destiny but rewards. I do not have the space here to discuss rewards, so I will not even start. What is very clear is that Jesus teaches that all humanity will be judged on the basis of their works and what will be at stake is their eternal destiny.
Paul teaches that God will judge all people on the basis of their works (Rom. 2:3–6) (188)

Stanley doesn’t shy away from using ‘basis’ language. The key texts actually say ‘according’ (kata) to works, not on the ‘basis’ or ‘by’ works, but I don’t have too much of a problem with this.

Otherwise this following quote is great. I think it reflects what the scripture says.

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Click to enlarge

We must bear in mind that when the New Testament is discussing the beginning of salvation [C2], then things like grace, Jesus’ call, faith, sinners and so forth get emphasized,

but when the focus is on the end of salvation or eternity [C4,C5], things like works are the dominant focus.

Knowledge of this fact alone should put many of the so-called “hard passages” concerning works and salvation in a more understandable light (e.g., Gal. 5:19–21; James 2:14–26). (189) (Square brackets [] mine)

Stanley’s discussion is largely without mention of ‘justification by faith’ passages. This is telling. But he does draw upon Mt 12.36-37 (‘justification by our words’) to warn us about how we speak.

Chapter Ten: Some Pastoral Reflections

This last chapter deals with some important pastoral questions for how we should perceive what the scripture says on judgment according to works.

In the remaining pages I want to address some of the questions we typically ask on this whole subject. These mainly concern assurance, eternal security, and the level of righteousness required to enter heaven. Before getting to these questions, though, I want to stress what I believe to be the most significant point of all: being a Christian is about having a personal relationship with God through his Son Jesus Christ. (196)

I quite like this arrangement. Too often I see salvation given the highest importance in reformed teaching. No, this is false teaching. Jesus Christ is of highest importance.

Stanley answers a much asked question on judgment. How much is enough?

On the issue of works or a changed life or fruit—however we like to describe it—many ask, “How much is enough?” But this gets away from the issue of relationship. Some kind of standard or sinless perfection does not characterize the Christian life, progress does—“a hundred, sixty, or thirty times what was sown” (Matt. 13:23). There must be progress over the long haul. (198)

The scripture doesn’t say. But this is not a reason to abandon judgment according to works. He helpfully turns our attention to progress and growth.

There are three things to note about what Paul says here [Phil 3.10,1 2].

One: his ultimate desire is to have a relationship with Christ.

Two: he recognizes he’s not there yet. … He’s not perfect.

Three: he recognizes that the Christian life is about [grace produced] progress and direction. (199)

Regarding assurance Stanley says;

If salvation entails a relationship, then we cannot give someone assurance of their salvation the moment they profess faith. The faith that makes someone a Christian is not limited to a moment in time.
Quite simply, the task of granting assurance is not ours. None of the apostles or New Testament writers ever assured their readers concerning their salvation; that job is always left up to the Holy Spirit (Rom. 8:16). The best that we can do is offer confidence (cf. 2 Tim. 1:5; Heb. 6:9). (200)

I disagree. Paul on occasion assures his audiences of final salvation (e.g. Rom 5.8-10; Eph 1.13-14). However the assurance Paul gives is predicated on a good assessment of their daily walk and conduct (cf. Phil 1.6; compare Gal 1.6; 5.4,13-21). The apostles Peter and John do the same.

What about pretenders? Stanley answers the question ‘Can people lose their salvation?’ He argues no, quoting 1 Jn 2.19 and says they were never Christians to start with. So instead of fearing we might lose our Salvation, he puts us in the position of fearing if we are Christians to start with. The relevant passages in Paul and Hebrews are conspicuously absent from his argument.

The next question Stanley answers is ‘what about ‘sin?’ He encourages humility before God, constant repentance and requests for forgiveness.

He encourages his audience to depend on God’s grace. Grace in his promises and grace in his work in the believer.


I recommend this book for wide readership. It highlights we ought to be involved in our salvation.

The cross is clearly decisive for bringing in us into relationship with God, initial salvation and ongoing forgiveness. But it’s too easy to focus on this one aspect and ignore all others. The cross is necessary for salvation and is the only way we are forgiven. But it isn’t sufficient. We need a trinitarian understanding of salvation. Multiple parties are involved.

For us, we need to approach our final judgment with the right perspective. One which focuses on relationship with Christ, pursues progress in godly maturity and being prepared for the hard questions we will probably be asked by Jesus about how we have lived.

Stanley’s discourse is dominated by the Gospels. The book’s title is a fair indication. He does draw a lot upon other texts from the Old Testament and the Epistles, but these are used to clarify what he has already shown from the Gospel. I think this is good.

I didn’t agree with him on everything either. This being said, I am in strong agreement with his overall thrust and take on what scripture says about future salvation. Yes it is complicated, no it shouldn’t be dumbed down.

He displays a wide knowledge of Augustine, Luther, Calvin, the puritans and contemporary scholarship. I think his book would be readable to both Roman Catholics and those who protest against them. His emphasis and understanding on grace in particular.

Stanley closes his book including this recollection;

A student asked me a couple of years ago why there was such a lack of urgency in the Church today. “Could it be,” I contemplated, “that we don’t feel as though we have anything to be urgent about?” If that’s so, it’s not the opinion of the New Testament writers, and it’s certainly not the opinion of Jesus. We must be urgent. Eternity hinges on grace-produced, God-motivated, Spirit-saturated, Christ-centered urgency. “Make every effort to enter through the narrow door, because many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able to” (Luke 13:24). (210)

This pretty much highlights the reason he wrote the book and why you should read it.

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