The One Condition for Salvation (Acts 16:30-31)
Soteriology 05, Acts 16:30-31
February 3, 2016
Good evening everybody. We have notes for tonight, does anybody need a copy of the notes? We are in the midst of a series of studies on the doctrine of salvation. And tonight we’re going to start a section that I think’s very important, the section that we’re doing here is God’s one condition of salvation. I have a picture of Lewis Sperry Chafer there, the founder of Dallas Seminary, one of my theological heroes, and that’s what he entitled this section, God’s one condition of salvation.
So you see the other things we’ve covered so far; last week we talked about salvation words. And now we’re in Roman numeral V on our outline, God’s one condition of salvation. Here’s kind of a lesson overview that we’re going to go through tonight. We are going to look at some misconceptions regarding how to share the gospel. There’s a lot of bad verbiage out there. And then I’ll show you what the Bible teaches very clearly, it says it almost 200 times.
And then we’ll take a look at why God has set salvation up in this way, why has God conditioned salvation on faith alone. And then we’ll talk very briefly about what does it mean to believe in Christ. I’ll give you some synonyms for the word believe. And then we’re going to look at what saving faith is not. And then I’ll show you what you have to believe in, exactly, to be saved. And then I won’t just leave you with a bunch of theory, I’m going to give you an evangelistic model that mirrors or replicas the theology that we’re talking about in this lecture. And then on the last part of that outline I’ll sort of hint at what we’re going to be talking about next time, because we’re going to have some questions as I present the material. You’re going to say well, that’s not right because of this passage over here or that passage over there. And I’ll tell you, do not fear, I will be covering those passages in detail, just not tonight.
One of the things I do when I teach soteriology, the doctrine of salvation, at the College of Biblical Studies, in a classroom of maybe twenty people, is I say okay, pretend somebody is in the back of your car and they’re dying of a heart attack, and you’re rushing them to the hospital. You don’t have the opportunity to teach the whole Man, Sin, Salvation class to them, they are going to die at any moment. And you’re really not sure if the person that’s in the back of your car dying of a heart attack, being rushed to the emergency room, is a Christian. And I say some of you may be in this circumstance someday so you need to think about this. How would you lead that person to Christ? What would you tell this lost person to do?
And what I do is I spend almost half an hour on this; students will raise their hand and offer up suggestions and I’ll write it on the board and I’ll have a long list of things that people come up with. And I basically do that to show them that all the answers that they’ve given, me except for one, are incorrect. And you’ll find in the evangelical world today there’s a lot of misunderstanding what is necessary to be saved.
If you get the opportunity to share the gospel with someone what exactly do you focus on in terms of what they need to do to be saved? There is something floating around out there, these are poor word choices by the say, called the ABC method, and that method advocates three steps: the A stands for admit you’re a sinner, the B stands for believe in Jesus, and the C stands for confess. You hear that from a lot from people. Other very poor word choices that are out there are confess Christ, deny yourself, yield to Christ, surrender to Christ, sorrow, you’ve got to shed a few tears, people need to cry a little bit, make Jesus Lord of your life, ask Jesus into your heart, forsake all and follow Christ, receive Christ, accept Christ, invite Christ into your heart. And these are just buzzwords that we toss around but as we start studying this today you’ll see that these buzzwords have almost no, let me rephrase that, they have no support in the Scripture.
So before I get to the right answer, why do we think this way? Well, we think this way largely because of the influence of Charles Finney. Charles Finney is the man who is credited with leading the Second Great Awakening in America. And Charles Finney is what was called a revivalist. And Charles Finney did a lot of good but he brought in some baggage, I think, to the way we do evangelism. He says you do whatever you have to do to induce people to convert. So if that means you use guilt, then you use guilt. That means if you want to darken the lights then you darken the lights. If you want to use dry ice, I don’t know what special effect you want to use, you use that, but you induce conversions through human means. And that’s basically what Charles Finney taught. He had a huge impact in America because of the Second Great Awakening.
So in the 20th century and the 21st century we find ourselves today using all of these word choices, that really aren’t found in the Bible at all, in terms of leading people to Christ. And the reason we use things is we’ve heard other people use them and the reason other people use them is they’ve heard others use them, and the reason they themselves use them is we’re all living in the wake of Charles Finney.
So what I’m trying to do and what Dr. Chafer is so good at with this one condition of salvation is he’s getting us back to the biblical text, because the Bible actually answers this question. What does the Bible say? What is necessary for an unsaved person to do in order to enter into a relationship with God?
Those are the wrong answers, the correct answer is you focus on the word “believe.” There are, as I’ll show you, close to 200 passages,(not a small number, right) that teach that justification before God is conditioned on faith by itself, faith along. And this is what the Protestant Reformers called Sola Fide. The whole Protestant Reformation really was fought over this issue and a few other issues. “Sola” means alone, it’s a Latin word, Fide means faith, faith alone.
And the Bible from cover to cover teaches this, it’s very clear when you actually start studying the text instead of listening to all the evangelical babble out there, that salvation is conditioned on faith alone. Now let me give you some very well-known passages. Probably one of the most well-known is Genesis 15:6, I have it there at the top of the screen, this is how Abraham, whose name at that time was Abram, entered into a saving relationship with God. Paul, of course, quotes this in Romans 4 and many other places. But it says, “Then he” that’s Abram, “believed in the LORD; and He reckoned it to him as righteousness.”
So when you look at that verse you ask yourself well, what did Abram do, what was the one condition that he had to meet, and it’s very clear—he did one thing, “believed in” the object of faith that was revealed to him at that point in time. So faith is God’s one condition of salvation.
Now the Gospel of John says this 99 times, I hope you know that by now, we spent three years in John at this church, hopefully we at least learned this, that 99 times John’s Gospel holds out the word “believe” as the one thing the lost sinner must to do enter into a relationship with God.
John’s Gospel is very significant because John’s Gospel is the only gospel… let me rephrase that, it’s the only book in the New Testament written to unbelievers. We know that from John 20:30-31, which says these things are written that Jesus, through these various signs that Christ is the Son of God, I’ll show you the verse a little later, and that by believing you may have life in His name. That’s John’s purpose statement. So when John uses that terminology it’s very clear that he’s writing, primarily, to people who don’t know Christ; he is writing to people who have not received the gift of life and he’s weaving his material together to teach them how to be saved.
It’s different than Romans, obviously great salvation truths are found in Romans but Romans was written to the church at Rome, a believing church. It’s different than Corinthians, Corinthians was written to the church at Corinth, they’re called saints. And as you go through the New Testament you’ll see that every book, as far as I can tell, is written to believers, John’s Gospel being the exception, it’s written to unbelievers. So that’s why we really need to start taking our evangelistic ques from John. And John, 99 times, holds out faith by itself as the one condition that the lost sinner must satisfy.
You all know John 3:16, right, and as I read some of these verses ask yourself what’s the one condition for the lost person. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever…” what? “believes in Him shall not perish, but have everlasting life.” There’s one condition there for the lost sinner, which is to believe.
John 5:24, “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and … has passed out of death into life.” What causes a person to receive eternal life? What moves a person from spiritual death to spiritual life? You’ll notice again it’s one verb, one condition, which is to believe.
If you’ve got your Bible with you let’s look at a few more; take a look at John 6:28-29, “ Therefore they said to Him, ‘What shall we do, so that we may work the works of God?” That’s what lost people always want to know, what do we have to do. And Jesus, in verse 29 “answered and said to them, ‘This is the work of God, that you” what? “believe in Him whom He has sent.” End of story! One verb again, to believe.
Notice, and we’re not going to go through all 99 verses but I just want to give you a flavor of this biblical reality. Notice John 6:47, Jesus says, “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes,” one condition, one verb for the lost sinner, “believes has eternal life.” It’s pretty simple.
Notice John 16:8-9, which is a description of what the Holy Spirit is doing in the world right now. Do you know the Holy Spirit is active in the world doing something in the hearts of unbelievers? He’s not trying to fix them of drug addiction, He’s not trying to stop them from using swear words, He’s snot trying to stop them from gambling or looking at pornography, or spousal abuse. What He is doing… now does he do that with the believer? Of course He does, that’s called progressive sanctification, I’m talking about with the unbeliever. He’s not interested in that, He’s not interested in morally reforming an unbeliever. What He’s interested in is convicting the unbeliever to the point where they will exercise their volition to believe in Christ. John 16 has a wonderful verse on that, I wish we had time to go into these verses in detail. We did in our John series, by the way, that you can find on our website.
But it says there in John 16:8, “And He, when He comes,” that’s the Holy Spirit, Jesus in the Upper Room speaking, He “will convict the world concerning sin, righteousness, and judgment.” And then it goes on and it defines what sin, righteousness and judgment are.  “concerning sin,” now does it says “sins”? No it doesn’t it says “sin,” hamartia is a singular noun, “concerning sin because they do not believe in Me,”  “and concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father;” verse 11, “ and concern judgment because the ruler of this world has been judged.”
What is the Holy Spirit trying to convince (that’s what convict means) convince the unsaved world of? “to believe” in Jesus. And once they believe in Jesus they will experience, positionally, the righteousness of God, and they won’t be judged with Satan, who’s the prince of this world that’s going down.
Other than that the Holy Spirit is not trying to do anything in an unbeliever, other than to convict them to the point where they trust in Christ. So if you are being used by the Holy Spirit to evangelize and you start talking about a bunch of other stuff you’re lingo is not consistent with the agenda of the Holy Spirit. We need to cooperate with what the Holy Spirit is already doing in their hearts, which is to get them to believe so when you evangelize, as I’ll show you in just a minute, we focus on that word “believe.”
Of course, the purpose statement of John’s Gospel is very clear on this, John 20:30-31, it explains why John wrote this whole book. “Therefore many other signs Jesus also performed in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book;  but these have been written so that you may” what? “believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that by believing you may have life in His name.”
So one of the things you’ll run into is you’ll run into honest seekers and they’ll say this: you know, I’m interested in investigating the claims of Christianity, I’ve never read the Bible before, what book of the Bible do you recommend I start with? Now where are you going to send them? Numbers? Leviticus? You send them to John because John is tailor-made for the unbeliever. It’s a record of Christ’s signs, about seven of them are recorded, which reveals Christ’s identity as THE Christ. By the way, “Christ” is not Jesus’ last name; we don’t refer to Him as Mr. Christ. “Christ” means the anointed one, the Messiah, the Meshach in Hebrew.
So these signs reveal that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and he’s not just giving us a theology lesson, he wants the unbeliever to respond to the message of Christ’s teaching, by believing in Christ. So once again you see the focus just on this word “believe.”
Leaving John for just a moment, Acts 16:30-31, I have it there at the bottom of the screen, this is the Philippian jailor, he’s speaking to Paul and Silas, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” Don’t you wish your evangelistic opportunities were that easy, I mean, he just asked the question which is life’s most important question, by the way, because how you answer it depends on where you spend eternity, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved? They said,” that would be Paul and Silas, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved.” So once again when evangelistic opportunities are recorded in the book of Acts, just like John’s Gospel, the focus is always on “believe.”
Take a look very quickly at Romans 1:16, Paul says, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who” what? “believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.” Notice Ephesians 2:8-9, this is another one of those verses that we commit to memory very early in our walk with Christ, Ephesians 2:8-9,“For by grace you have been saved through” what? “faith” one verb, “through faith;” and then it goes on, “and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God;  not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.”
And you might be familiar with the book of Hebrews, chapter 11, verse 6, which says, “And without faith it is” what, it doesn’t even say difficult, “And without faith it is impossible to please Him,” [for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him]. So faith in the object of faith, which I’ll talk about in just a moment, is the only condition that must be satisfied by the lost sinner.
Now how frequently does the Bible say this? Lewis Sperry Chafer writes “…because upwards of 150” now I think his number is very conservative there, I think it’s more, closer to 200, “because upwards of 150 passages of Scripture condition salvation upon believing only.” [Lewis Sperry Chafer, vol. 7, Systematic Theology, (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 1993), 265-66.]
And what we have done, because of the influence of Finney, in our evangelistic methods and tracts, we want to put aside the 150-200 passages and we want to find the one remote obscure passage and build evangelism around that. And that’s kind of a silly way of doing things, if we want to be biblical.
So that basically is what I mean by “believe,” or “faith,” God’s one condition of salvation. Now you have to start to try to think the way God thinks, and you have to ask yourself: why has God done it this way? Why has He conditioned salvation on this one verb? Why has He designed it in such a way that the lost sinner can only come into a relationship with Him through faith by itself? And I think there are at least five reasons why God has orchestrated the plan of salvation this way.
So here they are: Faith is non-meritorious. Now what do I mean by meritorious? Meritorious means I can merit something from God through a work. Now if we know anything about God at all we know that He is not interested in our good works by which we curry His favor, or try to curry His favor. God has no interest in that. In fact, Isaiah 64:6 refers to our good works as what? Filthy rags. [Isaiah 6:4, “For all of us have become like one who is unclean, And all our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment; And all of us wither like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away.”]
So any work that’s inserted into evangelism, other than to believe, is to God a “filthy rag.” Faith, on the other hand, is the one thing a person can do (which is not a good work) in the eyes of God. And I get this from Romans 4:4-5, look at this, it says, “Now to the one who works, his wage is not credited as a favor, but as what is due.” So if you log in two weeks on your job and you get a pay check for it, you don’t say to your boss, thank you for the gift because you put in sweat to get that paycheck, right? So “Now to the one who works, his wage is not credited as a favor, but as what is due.  But to the one who does not work, but” what? “believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited as righteousness” In other words, what Romans 4:4-5 is saying is in the mind of God the only thing a lost sinner can do which is not a work, non-meritorious, is to believe. That’s the only thing that God will accept.
So reason number 1, faith by itself is non-meritorious. Reason number 2 is faith gives us grace and not works. Notice Romans 11:6, Paul says, “But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works, otherwise grace is no longer grace.” So what is grace? Grace is unmerited favor, and the only thing that gives us that grace is faith alone in Christ alone, and if we teach some other message then it’s no longer grace, because grace is unmerited favor, and if I insert anything into the equation other than faith as far as what we must do, then I’ve just unintentionally created a merit system. And if I’ve created a merit system grace (unmerited favor) is no longer grace.
So number 2, faith is by grace and not by works.
Number 3, why has God set up salvation in such a way that the only thing He will accept is faith. Number 3, faith alone maintains God’s glory. In the book of Isaiah, chapter 42 and verse 8 you’ll see a very strong statement there concerning the zeal of God for His own glory. Isaiah 42:8, God says, “I am the LORD, that is My name; I will not give My glory to another, Nor My praise to graven images.”
God certainly shares a lot of things with us but one thing He’s not going to share and that’s His glory. That’s what Isaiah 42:8 says. Now think about this for a minute. If my salvation is based on what I do, then who gets part of the credit? I do! Look at what I did, look at what I accomplished, look at what I achieved. See, you can teach the gospel 99% accurately but insert one single word in it, you’ve just created a merit system which is no longer grace and it gives man part of the bragging rights.
And this is why the gospel is always challenged by people, because they want to do something to earn favor from God. Lost man always thinks that way because of pride. If I can insert myself some way, some form or substance, then I get part of the glory. But you see, God has set up the whole thing in such a way that man gets no glory because the only thing that’s non-meritorious is faith. That’s the only thing God will accept.
And there’s a fourth reason God has set it up this way; I just made reference to it, faith eliminates boasting. Take a look, if you could, at Romans 3:27 just for a moment, the book of Romans, chapter 3, verse 27, one of the things we learn is that when we all get to heaven no one is going to be bragging, no one is going to be singing Frank Sinatra’s I Did it My Way kind of thing. And God has designed it this way, Romans 3:27, “Where then is boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? Of works? No, but by a law of faith.”
So God has set up salvation in such a way that all of the glory goes to Him; man gets none of the credit. Man has no bragging rights and this is why God won’t accept anything other than faith alone.
Ephesians 2:8-9 passage that we read just a moment ago, “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God;  not as a result of works,” look at that last clause, “so that no one may” what “boast” or brag. Why has God set up salvation this way? Because it eliminates boasting.
And then the fifth reason that God has set up salvation by faith alone is God is interested in maintaining the offense of the gospel. God has designed the gospel in such a way that it is an offense to sinful men. God wants it to be an offense. The reason it’s an offense is because the lost sinner, who always wants to (because of pride) contribute to his salvation, learns that he can contribute nothing. And that’s a blow to the ego; that’s a blow to pride. And God has designed salvation in such a way so as to wound, He’s intentionally wounding the pride of lost humanity.
This is what Paul is teaching in Galatians 5:11, now remember the Galatians were mixing works, circumcision, with faith and Paul confronts them, and Paul says, “But I, brethren, if I sill preach circumcision, why am I still persecuted? Then the stumbling block” that’s the translation of offense, “the stumbling block of the cross has been abolished.” Paul says if I make the gospel this way, faith plus a work (like circumcision), then the offense of the gospel has been removed, because now you have a gospel that appeals to man’s pride. God doesn’t want that, God wants to wound man’s pride. And so that’s why He’s designed it in such a way that the only thing we can do is the one non-meritorious thing available to us, which is to believe.
So you look at these reasons here, about five of them, and you start to understand why God has set up salvation on the basis of faith by itself. Faith is non-meritorious, if you insert a work it’s no longer grace, faith maintains God’s glory, faith alone eliminates boasting, faith alone maintains the offense of the gospel.
Now moving on in our outline here let’s move to the next issue, what is saving faith? I mean, we’ve used the word “believe” and “faith” and seen how dominate this subject is in the Scripture, what do we mean by “believe” exactly? Well, to believe, the Greek verb pisteuō, believe, the noun form, pistis, faith, means basically one thing; it means to trust.
Here is Vine’s Bible Dictionary of Greek Words and it says this: “ pisteuō…“to believe,” also “to be persuaded of,” and hence, “to place confidence in, to trust,” signifies, in this sense of the word, reliance upon, not mere credence. It is most frequent in the writings of the apostle John, especially the Gospel. He does not use the noun…[pistis]. Of the writers of the Gospels he uses of the verb, John does, “ninety nine times.” [W. E. Vine, Merrill F. Unger, and William White, Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary of the Old and New Testament Words (Nashville: Nelson, 1996), 61]
So when we say “faith” or “believe” what are we talking about here? To be persuaded of something to the point where you place your trust in that object. So synonyms for the word “believe” or “faith,” remember what a synonym is, it’s a same meaning, different word, here are some synonyms: to trust, to have confidence in, to depend upon, or to rely. So synonyms of believe are: trust, confidence, dependence upon, reliance in, Jesus alone for one’s eternal destiny or the safekeeping of the soul. Let me say that again: What is saving faith? Trust or confidence or dependence or reliance in Jesus alone for one’s eternal destiny or the safekeeping of the soul.
That’s basically what believe means. See, that’s the type of thing to communicate to the unsaved person because you’re going to throw the word “believe” at them and your unsaved person doesn’t know anything about the Greek language or most of them have no biblical teaching at all. They don’t know what it means to believe, and that’s where you can take the word “believe” and put it into words they can understand, like to trust, to rely upon, to depend upon.
Now we all trust and rely upon a lot of different things, don’t we? The fact that you sat down in that chair was an act of faith, was it not; you were trusting that that chair was manufactured properly and it was going to hold you up and you sat on it. So what I’m saying is we use trust in all areas of life. And God has designed it so simply that all the lost sinner must do is rely, depend, trust, place their confidence in, which are synonyms for believe, in the promises of Christ and Christ alone for their salvation. That’s what the Holy Spirit is convicting them of as I speak; He is convicting them to trust in Christ alone.
So if you come at the unbeliever with the message of don’t smoke, don’t chew, don’t go with girls who do, get rid of your tattoos, cut your hair, get a job, you know, all of these kinds of things, you’re coming at them with the wrong message. You’re not cooperating with the message of the Spirit; the message of the Spirit is to get them to believe in Christ. So that’s what saving faith is.
Now what is saving faith not? If saving faith is trust in Christ and Christ alone, what is saving faith not? Saving faith is not mere intellectual assent. There’s a lot of people walking around Houston and walking around the world for that matter, and I know this for a fact because I was one of them; for the first 16 years of my life I was one of these people. I knew stuff about Jesus, in fact, if you questioned me about Jesus I could probably give you right answers about a lot of things. I knew He was Jewish, I knew He was born in Bethlehem, I even knew that he was born of a virgin, I even knew that He died on a cross and rose from the dead. But you see, at that point in my life, prior to the age of 16 it was all data, facts, information. It wasn’t until I heard a presentation of the gospel and was invited to believe or trust in that message, not until that occurred did I actually get saved.
So knowing things about Jesus… you know, atheists know things about Jesus; knowing things about Jesus doesn’t save anybody. A couple of verses on this, you may know James 2:19, it talks about the demons, James says, “You believe that there is one God,” he’s being kind of sarcastic here, “You do well; the demons also believe, and shudder.” And right now in the ranks of the demons they know all kinds of things about Jesus. In fact, if you gave them a quiz (the demons) they could pass the test with flying colors. But they are not trusting in Christ for anything; their belief, the way it’s defined here, not the way it’s defined in John, but the way it’s defined here is just intellectual assent.
Here is Matthew 8:28-29, it says, “When He came to the other side into the country of the Gadarenes, two men who were demonically possessed met Him [as they were coming out of the tombs. They were so extremely violent that no one could pass by that way.” And then dropping down to verse 29 it talks about what this man was saying, these men were saying as the demons inside of these demon possessed individuals was prompting them, “And they” that’s the demons, “cried out, saying, ‘What business do we have with each other, Son of God? Have You come here to torment us before the appointed time?’”
You’ll notice that the demons understood that Jesus was the Son of God, so their Christology, doctrine of Christ, was very good. You notice that they had a pretty good eschatology, doctrine of the end, they knew that there was a final judgment coming. They knew that they were on the losing side of history, but you see, it’s all facts and information in the mind. There is no volition of the will to trust in what Christ has done. And see, this is what you have to get across to the unbeliever. You can know a lot of stuff, like an encyclopedia, and spit out all kinds of facts but that doesn’t save. It’s not until knowledge moves into trust in the message that a person can actually get saved.
This is in Ephesus, in Acts 19, Paul had a huge ministry there in Ephesus, on his third missionary journey he started performing miracles. And the seven sons of Sceva said hey, that looks like fun, we want to do some miracles. We saw Paul cast out demons so we want to do that. So these seven sons of Sceva, who were unbelievers, cornered a demon in a house, which is not the smartest thing to do, and they tried to exorcise or cast out this demon, and the man in whom these demons resided arose and gave the seven sons of Sceva such a beating that they ran out of the house bloody and naked. But what’s interesting is what this demon, through this individual, this demonized person, says. Notice what the demon says: “The evil spirit answered and said to them, I recognize” or “know Jesus, and I know about Paul, but who are you guys.” [Acts 19:16] So notice that this demon knew who Jesus was, this demon knew who Paul was, and obviously these demons aren’t saved, it’s just facts and information in the intellect.
So all of this to say that faith is more than filling one’s head with data. There’s nothing wrong with data, but data is only a first step. Data has to move into trust or a person is never actually saved.
A few illustrations on this, you may have heard of Charles Blondin, according to this report he is the one that could wow the crowds because he would walk across a tightrope suspended over Niagara Falls; he would do it holding things, he would do it with people on his back sometimes, according to the legend he actually was able to push a wheelbarrow across this tight rope suspended over Niagara Falls, and the crowds would gather there on the banks of the shore and were amazed at his ability to do this. And one day he calls out to the crowd and he says do you all think I can push this wheelbarrow across this tightrope suspended across Niagara Falls? And they all said yeah, you can do it, we’ve seen you do it. And Blondin says okay, which one of you wants to get into the wheel barrow. See, once you get into the wheel barrow it’s no longer just intellect, right? Now you’re actually trusting your life to Charles Blondin. And people, to be a Christian, to be saved, they have to move away from intellectual knowledge into trust.
I like to talk about George Washington, one of my favorite characters in history, I can tell you a ton of stuff about George Washington. I can tell you about his farewell address, I can tell you about his favorite verse of Scripture, I can tell you about his Mt. Vernon estate, his wife, Martha, I could tell you about how he was almost killed and he got home from battle and there were bullet holes through his coat, he was miraculously spared. I could just go on and on with information about George Washington, but you see, I’m not trusting George Washington for anything. He’s just a man of history. And a lot of people have this attitude about Jesus, He’s just a man of history in their minds. It’s not until you’re actually trusting Jesus with your soul that you become a believer.
Another illustration I like to use is the airplane. When you get on an airplane it’s no longer just information and facts, right? You’re trusting that that pilot knows what they’re doing, that they’ve been trained properly, that they’ve put enough gas in the tank, that they know how to read a compass, and know how to fly an airplane. So boarding that plane… now people like to say well, there’s just a little bit of faith and then there’s the real faith. But you see, the Bible never makes that distinction. You’re either on the plane or you’re not. I mean, you could be on the plane with sweaty palms, as I am many times, nervous, but the fact of the matter is, I’m on the plane. And you’ve got to at some point trust in Christ just like you would an airplane. So that’s what saving faith is.
Now one of the hotly debated issues is what is the content of saving faith. What exactly do you have to believe about Christ? And there’s a movement in what’s called the free grace circles, where they are shrinking what has to be understood by the unbeliever. Some will say you don’t even have to believe Jesus is God. We had a fellow, even at our house in Dallas who tried to convince us that all you have to do is believe Jesus, you can even believe Jesus is Michael the Archangel. And may I just say that I don’t think any of these new views that are coming out that are shrinking the content of saving faith are accurate. I think there are certain things you have to believe about Jesus.
Obviously you, as an unbeliever, don’t have a fully orbed Christology yet but you have to believe that Jesus has the power to do what you’re trusting Him for, right? I mean, if you’re trusting Him for your eternal destiny you have to believe that Jesus has the power over your soul if you entrust it to Him. So you have to in some way, shape or form, understand that Jesus is deity, or God.
Now there are three verses I like to use when we get into this discussion of the content of faith. One of them is John 8:24, it’s very clear, Jesus says this: “Therefore I said to you that you will die in your sins; for unless you believe that I am He, you will die in your sins.” See the word “believe.” Okay, so far so good. What do they have to believe in? This audience had to believe that Jesus was the “I AM.” What is the “I AM”? The “I AM” egō eimi in Greek goes right back to Exodus 3:14 which is a divine name that God disclosed Himself through to Moses. Who shall I say sent me? Moses says to God, “God said to Moses,” you tell them “I AM” sent you. [Exodus 3:14, “God said to Moses, ‘I AM WHO I AM’; and He said, “Thus you shall say to the sons of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you.’”]
That’s why at the end of that chapter, John 8:58, Jesus claims the title “I AM” again. [John 8:58, “Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was born, I am.”] And the Pharisees, who knew the Old Testament backwards and forwards, knew exactly what He was doing; He was claiming to be God. And because they were unbelievers, to them that was idolatry, and so the end of the chapter is very clear, John 8:59, they picked up stones to stone Him because Leviticus 24:16 says if a mere man claims to be God he is to be stoned to death. [John 8:59, “Therefore they picked up stones to throw at Him, but Jesus hid Himself and went out of the temple.” Leviticus 24:16, “’Moreover, the one who blasphemes the name of the LORD shall surely be put to death; all the congregation shall certainly stone him. The alien as well as the native, when he blasphemes the Name, shall be put to death.”]
The Pharisees thought that Jesus, because they didn’t believe He was God, was blaspheming. So there was no doubt in their minds what He meant when He used the expression “I AM.” So the lost sinner must understand something about the deity of Christ. You have to believe that Jesus has the power to do what He is claiming to do for our salvation.
Of course, the end of John’s Gospel reveals, answers this question, the content of saving faith. It says, “Therefore many other signs Jesus also performed in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book;  But these are written so that you may believe” believe what, “that Jesus is the Christ,” the Messiah, “the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in His name.”
So what do you have to believe? You have to believe Jesus is the Messiah. If I’m reading this right you have to believe He’s the Son of God. Do you fully understand the doctrine of the Trinity when you get saved? Probably not, but you have to believe that Jesus has the power to do what He says he will do for you. So you have to have some kind of an awareness, knowledge, understanding of the deity of Christ. And then another verse to me that’s very helpful when we talk about the content of saving faith is 1 Corinthians 15:1, Paul writes: “Now I make known to you, brethren, the gospel which I preach to you, which you also received in which you stand.”
So he’s dialing back to how he was with them, originally when they were unbelievers and he led them to Christ.  “by which also you are saved, if you hold fast the word which I preached to you, unless you believed in vain.” And then he’s rehearsing what he shared with them,  “For I delivered to you as of first importance,” “first importance” means the basics I gave to you so that you could be saved. “For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received,” from the Lord, that is what? “that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures,  and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures.”
So what were the things of first importance that Paul delivered to them so these people could be saved. He taught them that man is a sinner, because he says “our sins.” He taught them that Jesus is the Savior to their dilemma. He taught them that Jesus died as their substitute on the cross. And he taught them that Jesus was raised from the dead. He also taught them that these things happened in accordance with Old Testament prophecy.
So when you’re dealing with an unbeliever and they’re confused about who Jesus Christ is, these are the sort of things you want to focus on. Man is a sinner, Jesus is the Savior. Jesus died as your substitute, Jesus rose from the dead according to Old Testament prophecy. And then as you’re sharing with them you’re praying that the Spirit of God, as you’re talking, is exercising His ministry of convicting them of their need to believe in Christ.
And beyond that you would focus on things like He is the Messiah, He is the Son of God, if you have time you might even focus on the fact that He is the great I AM, He is deity. In other words, He has the power to do what He claims He will do, which is take you to heaven, give you the gift of life and take you to heaven when you die. No one can do that other than God.
So having said all that, let’s come up with an evangelistic model that I think incorporates all of this theology that we have been talking about. At Sugar Land Bible Church we emphasize a five-pronged approach, five things that we focus on and they’re designed like a hand, you can see this in all of our Sunday School rooms. Points 1, 2, 3, and 5 are just education; you’re educating unbelievers about things. Point 4 is you tell them what they have to do once they have the knowledge. So you’ll notice that what they have to do is one thing, after you have explained to them points 1, 2, 3, and 5.
So the first two points are bad news; the last three points are good news. You talk to an unbeliever about the bad news, which is you are a sinner before a holy God. You focus on sin. Now do you have to get them to admit that they’re a sinner, you have to put them through all these extra steps? No, what you have to do is ask the Lord to use you as His vehicle to communicate this truth to them. You’re not asking them to do anything, you’re educating at this point.
And if you want a verse on it, Romans 3:23 is very, very good, it says, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Then you focus on a second piece of bad news, see, you’ve got to get a man lost before you can get him saved, right. The first two points as the Spirit of God uses you gets them lost, helps them recognize they are lost because your average person out there in America doesn’t think they are lost, because they are successful and they’ve got 2.5 kids and they’ve two cars in the driveway, and their house mortgage is almost paid off. They don’t see themselves as lost. You have to, as the Lord uses you, convince them that they’re lost.
So then you focus on the penalty for your sin is death. Good verses on that are Genesis 2:17, what God told Adam, “the day you eat thereof, of the forbidden tree, you shall surely” what? Die. [Genesis 2:17, “but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you will surely die.”] Another excellent verse is Romans 6:23, which says, “For the wages of sin is” what? “death, [Romans 6:23, For the wages of sin is death but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”] So here you can use the criminal illustration, if you don’t want to the time don’t do the crime.
Now the unbelievers will say well, I don’t do bad things every day. Well guess what, there are people on death row right now that don’t do bad things every day. The reason they’re on death row is they did bad things one day, so all it takes is one infraction. One murder makes you a murderer. Right? One lie makes you a what? A liar.
So now you move into the good news, and the good news is that God, in His infinite love provided His Son, Jesus Christ, who died for you and paid your sin penalty. An excellent verse on this is Romans 5:8, which says, “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” So here you’re communicating to them what Jesus did in their place to remedy their dilemma.
And now you move into the one thing they’re supposed to do, after they get the information. Piece of good news number 2 you can be saved from hell by believing… now when you use the word “believe” they won’t know what you mean unless you define it for them. To believe means to be flushed out for them so they understand the concept of dependence. You can be saved from hell by depending on Christ alone to save you. Excellent verses on this, we won’t read them again, we read them earlier, are Ephesians 2:8-9, “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God;  it is not of yourselves lest any man should boast.”
Now if you have time you can explain to them what grace means, unmerited favor; what faith means, to depend; with it means to receive a gift, if it’s coming to you as a gift… see, if you tell your kid who’s 16 hey, I’ve got a gift for you in the driveway, it’s a brand new car, it’s a free gift, when are you going to start making payments on it—it’s not a gift any more. Right? We understand what a gift is; a gift is a gift, it’s free. That’s the nature of a gift. You communicate to them the nature of the gift, and you don’t attain it by works. And I used the chair illustration a little earlier to talk about what it means to believe, you’re depending on something. You could use the Charles Blondin tight rope example.
And then once you’re confident that they’ve trusted in Christ, now people always say well, don’t you have to make them say a prayer of some kind? We’ll be covering this in our next session but prayer, a prayer doesn’t save anybody. It’s faith alone in Christ alone that saves. There are no biblical examples of people with “every head bowed and every eye closed” as we like to say, praying a saving prayer of faith. Now is it wrong to pray a prayer? No it’s not wrong, as long as they understand that the prayer doesn’t save. That’s where people get confused. I said the prayer, I’m saved. That’s not what saves. What saves is dependence on Christ, that’s what saved.
Now if you want to express your faith through a prayer, then go for it, but the prayer is optional. It’s not required. And the moment you put on them they have to pray is the moment you’ve inserted something into evangelism that God never requires. And we do this because we’ve heard other people do it this way. And I showed you the source of this, it was Finney that taught all these types of things but they’re not found in the Bible.
So after you’re convinced that they have trusted in Christ then you move to the last piece of good news, and you want to assure them that they are saved and have eternal life. And this is where you teach the assurance of salvation because if salvation came to them as a gift, what could they do to undo the gift? Nothing, because their salvation depends upon whose promises? God’s! Can God lie? No He can’t. And God, many times in His Word, some of these verses we’ve gone over, John 5:24, John 6:47, assures the lost sinner that they have the gift of eternal life at the point of faith. [John 5:24, “”Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life.
John 6:47, “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes has eternal life.”]
If nothing else you could quote to them 1 John 5:13, which says, “These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may” what, “know that you have eternal life.” And if you don’t educate them in this realm right off the bat, what is going to happen to them is they’re going to go home, they’re going to be on a euphoria, probably, of some kind, and then the sin nature is going to crop up and they’re going to sin. They’re going to go back to taking a drink of the alcohol or smoking a cigarette or having a lustful thought or whatever, and they’re going to think I’m not saved.
And they have such little doctrine under their belt they don’t understand the assurance of salvation and eternal security, and the devil is going to work overtime in their minds convincing them they’re not a Christian. But you see, if you take the time to explain to them that their salvation depends upon Christ and not your performance, therefore you can be assured of your salvation at this very moment, you’re going to head the devil off. You’re going to minimize the negative influence that the devil has in their minds.
When I first got saved I went through the euphoria and I had such a poor doctrinal understanding because I was basically a new Christian, I went home, I woke up the next day, I moved off into sin and I said I just undid the whole thing, when in reality there’s nothing I can do to undo it because it’s not my performance that got me in the door. If it’s not my performance that got me in the door then how can my lack of performance kick me out of the door. Do you follow? So that’s why this last step of giving them some kind of assurance of salvation is important.
Do hopefully that’s a model you can use, and next week, or the next time we’re together we’re going to go through those passages you’re all thinking of—don’t you have to pray a prayer to receive Christ, don’t you have to confess Christ, don’t you have to experience emotional sorrow, and I’ll show you the passages that people use to teach these kind of ideas and that they’re not really understood in proper context. So that’s what I mean by response to problem passages.
All right, we’re done.