TO BE SAVED YOU MUST BELIEVE IN JESUS….
If someone asks, “What must I do to be saved”, what is your first response?
I know what the Bible says about salvation and when someone is saved. But I think in our zeal to correct the errors of the denominations (means division and is unbiblical to support them, John 17) we fail to bring proper attention to what supports the biblical response to be saved by our failing to first preach Jesus. Hold on, don’t get your pants in a bunch.
Let me illustrate. When Paul and Silas were imprisoned and being heard singing and praying by the prisoners, clearly the jailer heard some too because he ran to Paul and asked the immortal words, “what must I do to be saved.” It’s telling that Paul didn’t say, “get baptized”, at least not at first. What Paul shows us what our initial and first message should be and that is to believe in Jesus. Preach Jesus. Preach then He’s the Savior and hope of eternal life. If we say like Paul, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household”, Acts 16:31, then a searching man is going to say, “And what else” or he’s going to ask, “Is that all?” In other words, preaching Jesus must also answer the question, “How should I respond to Jesus? Is “believing” in Him enough? “Does believing entail any change?” According to the narrative in Acts 16, clearly Paul quickly went to teaching the need for obedient faith (see Romans 1:5; 16:26; 1 Thess 1:3; James 2:14-26) which would include repentance and baptism.
If we preach for people to believe in Jesus and the people believe but aren’t baptized, then we failed them. Or they rejected the need to change.
What’s my point? Start with Jesus. A Gospel sermon that is a “five point” response, must include “response to what?” Baptism not framed in the context of the message of Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection is just a work. I don’t believe my brothers preach works, but we must be sure to be heard for preaching “believe in Jesus and you will be saved”. Belief alone isn’t’ the proper response. But believing is first and must precede anything else we do.
This brings me to the Jimmy Allen error again. When Jimmy Allen says baptized people in denominations (i.e. they learned not the preaching from the Bible but they learned a tradition of men that’s related to their denomination which says, “pray Jesus into your heart and there’s nothing you can do to be saved because salvation is by “faith alone”) are saved, you have to wonder if he believes that the preaching of the Biblical response to hearing Jesus is important. In Acts and the New Testament epistles, people were baptized in response to hearing Jesus (Acts 8 has two very good examples). They didn’t believe alone. And they didn’t just blindly obey baptism. They understood that baptism had a context AND a purpose. They understood both. But Jimmy Allen says what’s important for salvation is just preaching Jesus. It’s as if he and his followers (like my friend from South Dakota) have swung the pendulum to dismiss the need for understanding. Here’s how I analyze their position: believe in Jesus + do the work of baptism (no understanding is necessary) = salvation. It’s a subtle difference but it’s a clear error which I can’t abide with. They preach Jesus but they don’t clearly teach the need for the right response.
Let me close by saying we should avoid the temptation and pressure to jump straight to the filling in the missing points and holes in denominational doctrines. If our preaching is only viewed as carving out a niche for ourselves by preaching the differences between us an denominations, we will miss Jesus and our hearers will miss Jesus.
Let’s do a test. Q: When someone says, “What must I do to be saved?”, can we respond, “Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved?” If you can’t say that, then you have been conditioned to preach only the holes not covered by denominations. So let’s preach like Paul. Preach Jesus. And THEN preach the proper, biblical response. Then and only then will the repentance and baptism have a proper context. Only then will repentance and baptism be a faith response that’s pleasing to God.
If there’s something unclear in what I said here, dialogue with me. Said in love, Dan Mayfield