Who Will Be Saved?
An Awkward Situation
Have you ever been asked, "Do you think you have to be a member of the Church of Christ to be saved?" Or perhaps it was put to you this way, "You think you are the only ones go ing to heaven-don't you?" I know I have been asked such questions a few times and have found myself struggling for an answer that would be true to God's word and, at the same time, not close the door to the possibility of converting the one ask ing the question. I have not always done a good job in answer ing such questions, but I would like to offer for your considera tion an an swer suggested to me by another gospel preacher.
Defuse the Situation
When asked questions that put you on the defensive, why not try to give an answer that may help you find common ground, while still leading them toward the truth of God's word? "That's a good question and it might surprise you to learn that I believe the same thing you do about salva tion." That will probably produce a rather puz zled look, and then you go on, "I believe that as Matthew 7:21 teaches, only those who do the will of the Father will go to heaven-don't you?" You will not find many who would disagree with you on this point, but you are not finished yet.
Consider what you have at this point. Hopefully, you have changed their attitude from hostility to curiosity. You hope that you have piqued their interest enough by your truthfulanswer that they are no longer an adversary wanting to argue, but a friend who is willing to listen to what you believe. If you have succeeded in that, you can move on to the next step.
Doing the Father's Will
"Since we agree that we can't be saved unless we do the Father's will, why don't we open our Bibles together and see if we can understand and agree on what the will of God is?" Not ev eryone will consent to study with you, but if they refuse, it will not be because you were offensive or unconcerned. But suppose the questioner is will ing to study the will of the Father. Where do you begin? What do you say next?
The answer to that question will depend on what you are most comfortable doing and to some extent on the prior knowl edge of the one with whom you are studying. As you read through the various sermons and conversion ac counts in the book of Acts you will see that different teachers began at dif ferent points with different audiences.
If you are talking with someone who knows nothing at all about the Bible, you will need to be able to go back to the be ginning and give a brief overview of the Bible, man's need for salvation, and show how the cross was intended to take away sin, before you can get into the question of how an individual can be saved.
If this person is already familiar with the story of the cross, you still have several options. If they do not seem to have a lot of preconceived ideas regarding "salvation by faith only" or bap tism, you can simply take them through the three accounts of the Great Commission in Matthew 28:18-20; Mark 16:15, 16 and Luke 24:44-47. Have them write down what they learn from each and then turn to the book of Acts and go through the book considering the different conversion ac counts beginning at Acts 2 and going through Paul's account of his own conver sion in Acts 22.
But what about those who have heard so much about "salvation by faith only" and have been led to believe that insis tence on baptism as necessary for the remission of sins (as seems clearly taught in Acts 2:38) is to contend for the kind of works that would nullify grace (as they un derstand Ephesians 2:8, 9). In these situations, it can be helpful to begin by looking at some pas sages showing that God only promises salvation to those whose faith leads them to obey. Hebrews 5:8, 9 pro claims Jesus to be the author of eternal salvation to those whoobey Him. Our beginning text (Matthew 7:21) spoke of doing the will of the Father. Both James 2 and Hebrews 11 are excel lent chapters to read together for the purpose of establishing that saving faith has always been obedient, active faith.
The purpose of this article is not to assert that there can only be one approach to teaching and I have not sought to cover all that needs to be said in teaching the lost. But I do hope that this will help you better deal with those questions that put you on the defensive and even turn them into opportu nities to tell others the story of Jesus.
"Therefore those who were scattered went everywhere preaching the word." Acts 8:4