What is Salvation? A Debate
By: Deji Yesufu
COVID-19 has changed our lives forever. What started in a relatively unknown city in China has spread to every part of the globe and all in a space of about two months. The death toll worldwide is closing on half a million people and still counting. No one knows who is next. It was this stark reality that stared me in the face and led me to write a little booklet (which I hope can be published someday) called “The Gospel”. I thought to myself: if this disease kills me, what is one final message I would want the world to hear from me? It occurred to me that while I might have written on a lot of things, I have not always articulated what I regarded as the gospel message. I have lampooned many for preaching a false gospel but I have not always stated what the true gospel was. Thus I wrote the book. You can download a copy from this Google link https://drive.google.com/file/d/1Y82nUWg-Ng2kyLwpTRWYautAsWWdQdR5/view?usp=drivesdk.
Segun Abati read the book and invited me to a discussion on the gospel. He felt that the discussion would be richer if we invited friends to join and held it as a Zoom conference rather than on Facebook. Our discussion which took place on 23rd May, 2020, was meant to center on four themes: The Heart and Basis of Christianity, What is Salvation? Predestination, and How to Interpret the Bible.
The discussion took this format: I explained these themes one after the other while Segun and others on the forum responded to what I said. I began by explaining that Jesus Christ was the heart and basis of Christianity. However, I further distinguished my point by saying that the message a person proclaims about Jesus reveals whether or not he is espousing the biblical Christ. We were all largely agreed on this and we proceeded almost immediately to the next theme.
I defined salvation as God’s redemptive works through Jesus Christ by which sinners are saved from God’s wrath which is coming upon a world of sin. I explained that “…salvation is not redemption from sin, sickness and poverty.” Salvation is redemption from sin alone. The word “alone” became the point of contention in our discussion. Whereas we had used barely twenty minutes on the first theme, we spent the remaining three hours discussing this second theme. I stood my grounds, insisting that salvation was from sin alone. I clarified that while the word “alone” may not have been attached to any biblical texts on redemption, the 16th century reformation had popularized that word and had made it a point of distinction between Protestantism and Roman Catholicism. Like the Reformers of old, Christians of today needed to also employ that word to make a point of distinction between orthodox Christianity and the Prosperity Gospel that has pervaded much of Christendom in our day.
By the time we were done at 10:00pm that day, everyone was exhausted but we felt that there was a need for another conference to discuss this theme of what exactly salvation was all about. We set up a WhatsApp group to discuss preparation towards another conference. Ten persons volunteered to work out modalities on the forum and after much deliberation we agreed that a structured debate, and not an unstructured discussion, was the best way of going about this. All the ten persons on this group were from the conference of 23rd May. We chose two persons, Segun Abati and John Nova, to support the view that Salvation is redemption from sin and it includes health and wealth. Felix Odofin and I would oppose this view, stating that salvation is from sin alone. We also chose a moderator and a time keeper from the group.
It should be noted, and I think Abati and Nova made this very clear, that those defending the position that salvation is redemption from sin, including freedom from sickness and poverty, are not supporters of the popular Prosperity Gospel or Word of Faith movement. They have vehemently rejected those labels and every other label that some of us have tried to pin on them; they believe that the name “Christian” is enough for them. Felix Odofin and myself are, however, not afraid to profess our allegiance to the reformed tradition while at the same time affirming that we are Christians also. We have all decided that we would be relying on the Bible alone to reach our conclusions.
I think this debate is important and that it might actually be the first Zoom conferencing debate anywhere in the world. I am happy that this debate would be centering on the vital subject of the Christian gospel. Neither of the two sides is entering this debate to show off their intellectual prowess or to win an argument; we are all earnest about our convictions and genuinely want people to understand the gospel of Jesus Christ and become born-again in the process. Odofin and I think that the addition of health and wealth to the gospel is a major hindrance to gospel preaching. Abati and Nova do not agree to this. We hope that by the end of the debate, God’s counsel–the Holy Scriptures–will prevail among us.
We hereby invite everyone to the debate holding via Zoom on Saturday, 13th June, 2020, at 6:00pm (Nigerian time). The Meeting ID is 857 9936 2690; there is no password attached. Join us at this time and we trust God that you will be blessed doing so.