Err on the Side of Simplicity

salvation Feb 03, 2021

“But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ” (2 Corinthians 11:3).

There is a great principle here: in Christ, there is simplicity, but Satan traffics in complexity. He uses subtlety to hide simplicity and instead makes things complex and complicated. For a majority of people, complexity leads to confusion.

“For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints” (1 Corinthians 14:33).

It is clear that God is not the author of confusion, so who is behind it? If Satan's goal is to corrupt the simplicity that is in Christ, then if follows that he would promote confusion and complexity. And his primary way of doing this is through religion.

Does this surprise you? It really shouldn’t because Christ’s biggest enemies during His time on earth were the religious people of the day. And it is certainly subtil to corrupt through something “good” like religion. Here is a passage that emphasizes the point:

“For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ. And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works” (2 Corinthians 11:13–15, emphasis added).

No talk here of drugs, alcohol, fornication, rebellion, or any kind of blatant immorality. Just apostles, workers, angels, and ministers. Religious stuff. Complex and confusing stuff.

If you are confused, let me break it down and make it personal: you are a sinner, separated from God because of sin. Jesus Christ died for your sins, was buried, and rose again. You can be saved “through repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ” (Acts 20:21). Simple.

For religious people, this is too simple. “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved” is too easy. There must be more to it than that. But why? If God keeps things simple, then who makes things complicated? Let me ask it another way: if religion makes salvation complicated, then who is the author of religion?

Here is how I am defining religion: a system of works and rituals that people follow to obtain favor, and ultimately salvation, from God. It usually involves membership and participation in a particular organization or church.

Religions are complicated, but most of them have these common beliefs: you earn salvation by being “one of us” and by following the rules. Of course the rules can be quite complex and confusing.

“For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 6:23, emphasis added).

Sin earns me death (wages), but salvation is a gift to be received. Simple. Not complicated at all.

“For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast” (Ephesians 2:8, 9, emphasis added).

Religion says I have to work for salvation. Complex. The Bible says it is not of works. Salvation is a gift. Simple.

The benefits of simplicity

Simplicity promotes accessibility. When Paul and Silas were in prison and an earthquake caused all of the doors to open, the jailer knew that his life was in jeopardy, so much so that he was ready to kill himself.

“And the keeper of the prison awaking out of his sleep, and seeing the prison doors open, he drew out his sword, and would have killed himself, supposing that the prisoners had been fled” (Acts 8:27).

When facing certain death, the issues of life and death were reduced to a single, desperate question: “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”

Paul did not give him a religious answer, but an answer that fit the need of the moment: “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house” (Acts 8:37). Simple and effective. Accessible.

In general, religious people will need more explanation to get back to the simplicity in Christ. When Philip dealt with the (very religious) Ethiopian eunuch in Acts 8, he showed him Jesus Christ in the scriptures. As Philip explained the scriptures to him, the subject of baptism came up: “And as they went on their way, they came unto a certain water: and the eunuch said, See, here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptized?” A religious question for sure, but Philip quickly took the religious element out of it:

“And Philip said, If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest. And he answered and said, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God (Acts 8:37, emphasis added).

Simple. Accessible. Believe first, then participate in the “ritual” afterwards. If you don’t believe with all your heart then the baptism will just be an empty religious exercise. The eunuch already had religion; he needed salvation, not more (or a different) religion.

In some religions, pilgrimages are a big deal. You have to go someplace to find God or to know Him better. Complicated and dangerous, especially if there is a chance you will get trampled to death. Contrast this with the simplicity in Christ:

“But the righteousness which is of faith speaketh on this wise, Say not in thine heart, Who shall ascend into heaven? (that is, to bring Christ down from above:) Or, Who shall descend into the deep? (that is, to bring up Christ again from the dead.) But what saith it? The word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth, and in thy heart: that is, the word of faith, which we preach; That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation” (Romans 10:6–10, emphasis added).

Remarkable in its simplicity. So easy that I don’t have to go anywhere. Salvation is as close as my mouth and heart.

Someone recently told me that I have to keep the law. I know that there are over 600 laws in the Old Testament so which ones do I have to keep? What are the penalties when I break them? How complicated will it be to figure it all out? Which religion or human teacher will guide me?

“For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth” (Romans 10:4).

Profoundly simple. “For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace.” No need for religion systems that promote the law as a means to become righteous before God.

People have told me that I have to keep the Sabbath. But then questions immediately arose: Is it our Saturday? What exactly can I do or not do that day? Can I travel and how far? Do I have to attend services? What are the penalties if I violate it? I got a lot of conflicting and confusing answers.

“Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days: Which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ” (Colossians 2:16, 17).

“One man esteemeth one day above another: another esteemeth every day alike. Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind” (Romans 14:5).

So simple. I can decide which days to honor, if any. I acknowledge that God established the law and that it fulfilled His designated purposes. I understand that there are many religious people that are kind, generous, and good neighbors. But I am leary of being drawn back into religion and religious teachings that corrupt the simplicity that is in Christ.

The benefits of religion

Religion the way I am defining it does have its “benefits.” It allows its adherents to avoid the critical questions of death and what happens after we die. Since religion is usually vague about the eternal destination of an individual’s soul, it is easy to hide the uncomfortable questions as being too complicated and confusing.

In fact, there are so many religions, churches, and conflicting ideas about salvation, that many people give up on God altogether. That is certainly a benefit in Satan’s eyes.

So many versions of the Bible, why bother reading any of them? Even the preachers speak of verses that are “unfortunate translations” and freely correct the Bible in their teachings, so who knows what to believe or who to believe? Why bother with any of them? Religion likes to say that all of them are right, but then where are the corruptions that the Bible talks about?

“For we are not as many, which corrupt the word of God: but as of sincerity, but as of God, in the sight of God speak we in Christ” (2 Corinthians 2:17).

How can all Bibles contain the words of God, when there are major differences between them? 

I choose to believe that one Bible version is the word of God for English speaking people. So simple and not confusing at all. And so consistent with the internal teaching of the Bible about the scriptures.

Another benefit is to delegate questions of life and death to “spiritual authorities.” Let them wrestle with the tough questions and I will just follow them and their teachings. Then they will somehow become responsible for my fate. I will trust my church and my teachers and it will be their fault if I am wrong.

No thank you. That is not for me. My eternal soul is too precious to put into the hands of fallible, sinful men. Frankly, I don't have much trust in religion or religious men at all, especially where they contradict the plain words of my Bible.

The bottom line for me: when it comes to salvation, simple is God’s way. Confusion is Satan’s way. This is a good principle to consider in spiritual matters.

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