The average Bible reader with just the slightest bit of study understands that "saved doesn’t always mean eternal salvation". Here, however, is where many of those within the Primitive Baptists seek to capitalize on this very fundamental observation. Having understood that saved can be expressive of deliverance from something of a temporal nature, a move is then made to a gospel means (e.g. Acts 16:31; Romans 1:16) or perseverance (e.g. 1 Cor. 15:1-2) passage. The explanation is then given that the same holds true in these places. Where practically all of the Christian community correctly sees these passages as descriptive of eternal salvation, our moderns say differently. Just as the Hebrews were saved temporally from the Midianites (Judges 7), for instance, perhaps the same "kind" of salvation is received when one hears the gospel! That's the sort of thinking often found where this doctrine is upheld. It is in this manner that the modern novelty of conditional time salvation is used as an alternate explanation to passages which place emphasis on human responsibility in salvation, and an escape can be made from “dreaded” Calvinism.
I can only wonder how many unfortunate souls have been duped by this deceitful bait-and-switch tactic. I have personally sat in on one of these proselyting sessions where a potential “convert” was being told that he need not believe in Jesus Christ for salvation. The first thing done was fill his mind with modest examples of temporal deliverances (e.g. the Hebrews’ deliverance from Egypt, Daniel being saved from the lion’s den, etc.). After planting this seed, reference was then made to the case of the trembling jailor (Acts 16: 25-31). Having been shown that "saved doesn’t always refer to eternal salvation" this young man was being persuaded into now pondering the idea that the jailor was inquiring, not how to be reconciled to God, but how to be saved from the earthquake or delivered from Roman punishment!
Now I have no doubt that some honestly feel this extrapolation from modest to extreme is warranted and are very sincere in their endeavor to promote what they feel is rightly dividing the word of truth. Nevertheless, the one being taught this is being woefully deceived!
A prime example of this can be found in the current issue of The Banner of Love, May 2012. In an article simply entitled ‘Time Salvation’, Elder Adam Green writes:
“That is our favorite salvation (eternal - KF) to talk about, for sure! However, it is not always what the Bible is referring to when the words “saved” or “salvation” are being used. Sometimes it is talking about being saved from some danger or harm here in time (which is why we call it “time” salvation).
For example, when Peter stepped out of the boat and began to walk on the water toward Christ, you will recall that he looked at the waves and became afraid and began to sink. What did he do then? He cried, “Lord, save me!”
By the context of the story we know instantly when reading that Peter was not asking to be saved (delivered) from his sins. He was asking to be kept from going down into Davy Jones’ locker, way down there among the sharks and other fishes! He was afraid he was going to drown and was asking Jesus to rescue him, to save him from that awful fate.
When we see the concept of salvation mentioned in our Bible reading, we need to make sure we know if it is talking about eternal salvation (from Hell) or timely salvation (from some danger here in time). It often is not as easy to determine as in the passage regarding Peter walking on the water, but it is important that we try t understand.
Let us look at a couple of examples. Romans 11:14: “If by any means I may provoke emulation them which are my flesh, and might save some of them.” Paul is talking in this chapter to Romans (who were Gentiles), and he is talking about his kinfolk – the Jews.
He says very plainly that he wants to save some of them, and if they will emulate (copy, follow) him, then he will be able to save some. What does he want them to be saved from? When he started talking about the Jewish countrymen and relatives back in the first part of Chapter Ten, he said that they were in a sad condition. That condition was legalism.
The Jews had the idea that they had to work their way to Heaven and constantly were trying to prove that they were good enough to go there because of their good works, day after day. Paul said that he wanted to save them from that by showing them that Christ has fulfilled the law for them and paid for their sins.
He wanted to save them from trying to accomplish something that they could not do something that had already been done for them. That was a timely salvation. It did not affect their home in Heaven. Another way we can know this is a timely salvation is to consider who is doing the saving: Paul is. He said he wanted to save them. If Paul saved them, then it was not Christ who saved them. We can see that it is NOT referring to the saving work of Christ on the cross.”
In reading this I can’t help but sympathize with what is probably a sincere young elder with good intentions. I used to wear the same shoes and make similar such arguments to circumvent certain Bible passages, all under the pretense of rightly dividing the word of truth. You will notice that the argument begins by relating the story of how Peter was rescued when he began to sink into the sea, and that this was a temporal deliverance. With the foundation having now being laid in the reader’s mind that the word "saved doesn’t always mean eternal", migration is made to a passage in scripture where gospel and human instrumentality are involved. The reader is now asked to accept that Romans 11:14 is referring to the same "kind" of salvation that Peter desired. Thus, in the short span it takes to read these words, a soul is baited with something elementary which no one will deny (Peter was delivered temporally) but is ultimately asked to swallow something much more substantial (the gospel only saves temporally).
This is a serious error, as Romans 11:14 is clearly speaking of eternal salvation, and one unto which I have previously posed a challenge. The error that the young man makes, just like many of those of like mind, is in equating instrumental with efficient causation. Paul does not mean, as he thinks, that HE would literally be the one who saves his brethren. He would simply be the tool that God used in doing so. By failing to see this though, he attributes efficiently to Paul what he should have attributed to Christ. Consequently, he ends up removing the Lord from His throne (“it was not Christ who saved them”), and puts Paul in his place for this particular "kind" of salvation. By such argumentation, MAN becomes the savior in time salvation, and not Jesus! Though probably unaware of where this has landed him, the young man is advocating Arminianism from a temporal perspective.
This same strategy is often seen in sermons. I should know, because I used to do it myself and have heard many do the same. If proceeding to discourse on or to prove the existence of time salvation, a common thing done by elders is to first lay a foundation by referring to some random passage(s) wherein "saved" treats of some temporal deliverance. This is done in order to provide justification for what follows. The thought is then carried in the direction of some crucial passage or doctrine central in the controversy of Calvinistic vs. Hardshell soteriology, and an attempt is made to place it as well into a temporal framework. The sad thing is the victims of this heretical product seated in the congregation, who are persuaded to believe that this extension of thought is valid.
The manner in which this leap of argument is performed is similar to how materialists make certain leaps in their theory of evolution. The leaders who now dominate the scientific community seek to convince everyone of macroevolution (i.e. large scale change), yet the evidence they produce is repeatedly that of microevolution (i.e. small scale change) such as the variation of the size of finch beaks. Gullible souls who can't see the difference between the modest examples of species' variation as opposed to the actual origin of new ones take the bait and accept the extreme notion that we all came from a single-celled organism. This is the same sort of thing employed by those who are out to spread the time salvation gospel. The ultimate intent is to convince people that gospel/human instrumentality, perseverance, and absolute predestination are wrong. To this end, as we’ve demonstrated both above and in prior postings, a presentation of modest examples of temporal deliverances is often provided. The hope, however, is that the individual will see this as credible evidence that those passages teaching the above doctrines can be considered in the same light, and make the mental leap of accepting this heresy in its extreme form. Thus, he will have an alternate explanation for those passages which tend towards Calvinism, and be converted to, or further indoctrinated into Hardshellism.
In light of this error, it needs to be pointed out that no one denies the fact that “saved doesn’t always refer to eternal salvation”. Not everyone, however, believes in conditional time salvation. The difference lies when the concept is extrapolated. Where the average bible reader, for example, sees Peter being saved from drowning as a mere anecdote, the Primitive Baptist mind seeks to capitalize on it and proceeds to make a mountain out a mole hill. It infers from the narrative the existence of temporal deliverances, and uses it as a rule whereby he can then explain away weightier doctrines he refuses to acknowledge.
This is unjustifiable procedure. It must be remembered that these are two completely different levels of thought. It is one thing to say that the Hebrews got a time salvation when they were rescued from Egyptian bondage; it is quite another to say that the application of biblical truth to the mind is to effect the same thing. We can certainly say that Peter was not saved from his sins when he was rescued from drowning, but it is wrong to extend a derived thought from this in order to claim that 3,000 souls got only a time salvation when they repented under his preaching (Acts 2:37-40)! Right or wrong, the one who believes in this teaching ought to at least admit that this is quite a leap. The fact that other writers---yea, Christians in general---know that there are temporal deliverances experienced in life, but do not strive to make this inference from modest to extreme proves a bias within the Hardshell mind to do so. That bias consists of a refusal to allow instrumentality in the outworking of God’s redemptive plan due to a misunderstanding of what it would suggest. As long as the teaching of time salvation remains on the level of claiming that the term saved sometimes has reference to deliverance from temporal dangers, it speaks a truth. We would only question the felt need to continually harp on something which is common knowledge and produces no tension between the means vs. anti-means controversy. It is when the thought is extrapolated that it ceases to be a simple lesson in word usage and escalates to the point of outright heresy.