[We are] not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. (Romans 1:16)

Friday, March 09, 2007

How many steps are there to heaven?

by Antonio da Rosa

The following is a beginning of a gospel discussion that I am having via email with the Pastor of Evangelism at my church, Shadow Mountain Community Church

From: Antonio da Rosa [mailto:agdarosa@cox.net]
Sent: Thursday, March 08, 2007 4:10 PM
To: Dean Osuch
Subject: The gospel

Hello Dean.

My name is Antonio da Rosa. I have been a member at Shadow Mountain Community Church for about 14 years. I am a graduate from Southern California Bible College and Seminary.

I have seen your name around in the bulletin and on the website, and heard it here and there.

I am just going to get to the point. I have a problem with this page on the Shadow Mountain Community Church website:

Shadow Mountain Community Church

I would like to discuss it with you either in person or if you would prefer by email.

I have seen all of the emphasis that you have been putting on evangelism and the ministry outreaches you have headed up. It is very encouraging. I would appreciate the opportunity to discuss this very important, and often sensitive, subject with you.

Every blessing in Christ,

Antonio da Rosa

----- Original Message -----
From: Dean Osuch
To: Antonio da Rosa
Sent: Thursday, March 08, 2007 4:13 PM
Subject: RE: The gospel

I would be more than happy to discuss this with you. What is your concern?

Dean Osuch
Pastor of Evangelism
Shadow Mountain Community Church

From: Antonio da Rosa [mailto:agdarosa@cox.net]
Sent: Thursday, March 08, 2007 7:46 PM
To: Dean Osuch
Subject: Re: The gospel


Thank you for your response.

I have problems with the "ABC" approach of the webpage and a couple elements of the Romans Road java presentation.

Would you prefer to have an email dialogue with me?

Thank you for your time, as I know that you are a very busy man, as are all the Shadow Mountain pastors. Anything that I would say to you would be by the way of a kindly discussion, and for food for your thoughts. I have a great love for my church and for evangelism. Soteriology, the gospel, and its presentation have been a main focus of my study for nearly 10 years.

As the Pastor of Evangelism at SMCC, I am sure that you would appreciate the opportunity to listen to another angle, another perspective to the truths that we both hold so dear.


Antonio da Rosa

----- Original Message -----
From: Dean Osuch
To: Antonio da Rosa
Sent: Friday, March 09, 2007 10:01 AM
Subject: RE: The gospel
Thanks so much for you kind response. I prefer email discussion because it gives me time to reflect on what you have to say and prayerfully respond to your suggestions and ideas. I look forward to our discussion together.

Dean Osuch
Pastor of Evangelism
Shadow Mountain Community Church

Here is my latest response:

Hi Dean, I will take these things a few steps at a time. I will, upon your interest, go into greater detail with any and all points, and make valid, biblical arguments to support my position.

Dealing with the web page, first. I will get to the Romans road in another email. Here is the "ABC" page pasted:

If you would like to begin a relationship with Jesus Christ and be sure that you are going to heaven, it's as easy as ABC. Pray to God and:

· Admit that you have wronged God.
· Believe that Jesus died on the cross for you and rose again from the grave.
· Confess Him to be the leader of your life.

Let me first note that I am all for someone being sure that they are going to heaven. In theology, this is called "assurance". Certain assurance, I believe, is absolutely necessary at the moment one believes the gospel. (We will return to this). For the time being, assurance is what God wants all His children to have, and Jesus makes a point to share that assurance is inexorably linked with His gospel promise (John 3:16; 5:27, 6:35-40; 6:47; 11:25-26). This doctrine is described with the phrase "assurance is of the essence of saving faith". This means at the moment one believes Christ in His gospel promise, he has certain assurance of his eternal destiny. (This does not mean that this assurance cannot be counfounded, or that it is never doubted.) Assurance is the bedrock on which Christians strike out in their Christian walk. We can get into this more later.

I have problems with this "three step" approach to evangelism.

1) Admit that you have wronged God.

In evangelism, there is a difference between something that is psychologically necessary to receive eternal life and something that is theologically necessary to receive eternal life. For instance, it would be a psychological necessity in order to believe the gospel for one to believe that there is a God and that there is a heaven and hell. These are just two examples.

This can be illustrated thus: in order to go to the ballgame, one must present a ticket to the collector at the stadium's gate. This can be likened to the theological necessity/requirement to receive eternal life. All that the man in charge at the gate requires is the ticket, period. But for the guest, many more logical requirements may be necessary. He needs to purchase the ticket, have proper attire, and have transportation arrangements. He needs to acquire the money necessary for the purchase price. These necessities can be likened to the psychological necessities/requirements to put one in the correct state and frame of mind conducive for faith.

The theological necessity is only one step: Believe that Jesus guarantees your eternal destiny, well-being, by merely taking Him at His word, apart from any personal works whatsoever. You believe that you are eternal secure simply through faith in the promise of Jesus Christ alone.

The psychological requirements may be few or great in number depending upon the subjective nature of the mind of the person to which the gospel is addressed. The usual context by which one will be prepared for faith into Jesus Christ in His promise is through conviction of sin. Why would one need Christ to guarantee his/her eternal well-being? Precisely because our sin caused a breach between God and man, that is humanly impossible to repair.

This has been quite the roundabout way to say that the "A" in the webpages "ABC" steps to God, is not a theological requirement for the basic relationship with God that comes the moment one believes Christ in His gospel promise.

The bottom line in evangelism is precision when we declare the truth of God. What is foggy in the pulpit is blackness in the pew. Ambiguity is the enemy of good evangelism. (We will get into this more later).

All that we say, all that we give to the sinner in need of Christ is for the express purpose of pointing the potential convert to faith into Christ by way of His gospel promise. When we say that Jesus is God, that He was born of a virgin, that He died on a cross for the sins of the world, that He rose bodily from the dead, and any other information about Him, it is to encourage faith into Christ in His promise. It is to persuade the sinner that Christ is able to give eternal life, that He has the authority and desire to do so, and that He can be trusted.

Let me reiterate. The normal context by which a sinner is prepared for faith into Christ is a conviction of his/her sins. Does God demand this conviction as a theological requirement for entrance into the kingdom, as the man at the stadium requires only a ticket? No. It is conceivable that someone can be saved without giving much consideration to his sin. Imagine a plane crashing and you only have a few minutes to give a gospel presentation. Something like Acts 16:31 could suffice, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved!". The moment that one believes Christ guarantees his/her eternal destiny, he is born again.

2. Believe that Jesus died on the cross for you and rose again from the grave.

This belief, as important as it is, falls short from receiving eternal life. Let me explain how. I was a Catholic before I came to faith in Christ. I believed, was persuaded, was convinced that Jesus died on the cross for my sins and rose again bodily from the dead. Was I saved? No. Let me tell you why. I didn't trust Jesus' promise to give eternal life to all who merely believe in Him for it. A person can believe that Jesus died on the cross for their sins and rose again from the dead but still not take Jesus at His word in His gospel promise. They may still be clinging to their works, their church, their sacraments, their rituals, etc.

Jesus' gospel promise is precisely this: He alone is the Guarantor of eternal life to all who merely believe in Him FOR it. Said another way, Jesus guarantees eternal life to the one who takes Him at His word when He says:

"Most assuredly I say to you, he who believes in Me has everlasting life" (John 6:47).

Sharing that Jesus Christ died on the cross for one's sins and rose again from the dead falls short. Of course it is the heart of what one tells the sinner who needs to be saved. It shows why Jesus can be trusted in for eternal life, it shows how God provided our salvation. But, one must be told that eternal life is received by believing in Jesus' in His promise whereby He will give anyone eternal life who simply believes in Him for the express purpose of receiving it.

Christ's passion and subsequent resurrection has given Jesus Christ the authority to dispense eternal life as He pleases. And it pleases God to give eternal life to all who believe Jesus in His promise. Jesus put it this way:

John 11:25-26
25 Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. 26 And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?"
Notice the "Do you believe this?" What is the "this"? It is precisely that Jesus Christ guarantees eternal life to the one who believes in Him for it. One can believe that Jesus Christ died on the cross for one's sins and rose again from the dead and still not believe "this".

3) Confess Him to be the leader of your life.

I am going to be brief here, but I am very concerned about this last "step".

First, nowhere in the Bible are we told that we need to confess Jesus Christ to be the leader of our lives in order to be justified or to receive eternal life. Nowhere.

Second, this is quite an ambiguous requirement anyway. What does it mean to confess Jesus to be the leader of your life? Who do you "confess Him to be the leader of your life" to?

The invitation to believe in Jesus for eternal life is a simple and beautiful promise, unencumbered by demands of any kind, beside believing Christ to receive an absolutely free gift.

Discipleship, on the other hand, involves rigorous and hard works, and the losing of one's life.

The call to salvation and the call to discipleship are two distinct calls that only the theologian can confuse.

There are many who equate the call to self-denial, self-mortification, giving up one's life, and doing all other kinds of hard works, with conversion, but by so doing they either explicitly or implicitly deny the freeness of the gospel. By no stretch of the imagination is the demand for self-denial and self-sacrifice an invitation to receive a free gift. The attempt to harmonize these polarities always ends either in hopeless absurdity or in theological sophistry.

In this respect the man on the street is often more perceptive than the theologian. If someone were to offer him a gift in return for self-denying obedience, he would readily recognize that offer as grotesquely misrepresented!

The Son of God never engaged in such contradictions. What was free, He represented as free. What was costly, He presented as costly.

This is a main area in which I would like to dialogue. You may have some passages in mind, and I surely want to discuss this more.

The Reformation mantra was "sola fide". If one must "confess" something, can it be still regarded as "only by faith"?


I hope that you take my comments in the spirit in which they were given. They are intended as food for thought in order for you to consider prayerfully. I would be happy to go into greater detail with any of my above points, and field any questions that you may have. I would be more than happy to review and discuss any pertinent scriptures.

thank you for your time in reading this!

Your forever brother in Christ,

Antonio da Rosa


  • Bro. Antonio, I don't know if I've said this publicly or not, but I appreciate you as my brother in Christ.

    I look forward to this man's response. Also, I appreciate something else you said, & that is that our assurance is not beyond being doubted or confounded from time to time. I tell you, spiritual warfare is real, & there are times I fall in the battle. Of course, it is always due to my own stupidity or sin, or looking away from Christ. Thanks again for your diligence. God Bless.

    By Blogger David Wyatt, at Saturday, March 10, 2007 8:04:00 AM  

  • Interesting they use the word "leader". Unless they are trying to find a way to combine Ken Blanchards "Situational Leadership" with the gospel and the implimentation of biblical principles along with Buddhism.

    Could just be a coincidence. There is a tendencey to read into things with all of us, but Shadow Mountain is clearly moving in that direction.

    By Anonymous bhedr, at Saturday, March 10, 2007 8:40:00 AM  

  • Antonio,

    Great post. It is a brilliant and incisive analysis of the error of SMCC's ABC plan. I too await Dean's answer.

    I think, had I been Dean, I would have asked for a face-to-face discussion rather than email. Such a meeting would have given Dean an evangelism opportunity ... or, on the other hand, an opportunity to be evangelized by someone (Antonio) with Biblical discernment and wisdom.

    I recall a Pastor occasionally preaching that one must "receive the payment Christ made for us" to be saved. Of course that is inaccurate. We receive Christ (as Savior) to be saved. Pastor's intentions were good but the language was confusing. We need to understand the precious payment Christ made for us, but the payment is not the object of our faith, Christ is.

    Likewise, and not to diminish your great response in any way, I would suggest a change in a word in your email. You mention several times that we believe "Jesus' promise" or "Christ's Gospel promise."

    You said, "You believe that you are eternal secure simply through faith in THE PROMISE OF Jesus Christ alone.[my emphasis]." In some way, this is similar to saying "receive the payment," as I illustrate above. It could be clearer. Personally I would simply say "faith in Jesus Christ alone."

    Antonio, I pray I'm not being too picky here, but do we believe in the gospel "promise" of Christ alone? Or do we believe in Christ alone? 1 John 2:25 "And this is the promise that he hath promised us, even eternal life." Jesus' promise is not the object of our faith, but it is the assurance upon which our expectation is based.

    Believe, have faith, trust in Jesus alone.. The result? God's precious promise of Heaven and eternal life inexorably become ours.

    Picky? I know... but accurate I think.

    In Christ eternally, Jack

    By Anonymous ExPreacherMan, at Saturday, March 10, 2007 11:59:00 AM  

  • Amen, Antonio. You’re right on with every issue you’ve mentioned to your Pastor, especially addressing assurance of salvation, which is an essential doctrine.

    Christianity today desperately needs more people like you, I really mean it!!!

    Also looking forward to your Pastor's response.

    By Blogger Redeemed, at Saturday, March 10, 2007 4:56:00 PM  

  • Hi Antonio, go easy on this brother as I would hate to see you create needless discord in your home church.

    Also, I trust you have his permission to post his responses on your blog?

    I think it is a good thing to confront our notions of what constitutes salvation and what the requirements are. I too look forward to a fruitful dialogue here.

    God bless,

    By Blogger Jim, at Monday, March 12, 2007 9:45:00 AM  

  • Thank you David!

    Thanks for the comment Brian.


    you are so kind.

    In a nutshell, let me put it to you this way.

    "To believe in Jesus Christ" is the short-hand way to say:

    "Believe what Jesus says concerning everlasting life"; in other words "To believe the gospel promise".

    Faith/trust in a person invariably boils down to believing in certain propositions about the person.

    When I say, "I trust the airline pilot" I mean:

    I believe certain propositions concerning him:

    1) He is qualified
    2) He will get me to my destination safely
    3) etc.

    When I say I believe in Jesus Christ, or that I trust Jesus Christ it boils down to believing certain propositions about Him:

    1) Jesus, according to John 11:25, 26, guarantees eternal life to all who merely take Him at His word in His gospel promise.

    If you notice, I did not exclusively use "believe the promise" in my email correspondence, but used that interchangeably with "believing in Jesus".

    "To believe in Jesus for eternal life"


    "Believe Christ in His promise that guarantees eternal life to all who simply trust Him to do so."

    I hope this helps.


    By Blogger Antonio, at Wednesday, March 14, 2007 1:51:00 PM  

  • Sarah, thanks for you comments. They are greatly appreciated. My prayer for you is that you continue to grow in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

    The doctrine of salvation (soteriology) is a study that all Christians must be diligent to get right.

    Precision in our gospel preaching needs to be foremost in our thoughts.

    Ambiguity is the killer of real evangelism.


    I did not receive permission from him. The webpage to which I am addressing with him is a public page open to all. I am asking him to clarify what he wrote on this public page.

    I suppose I ought to tell him that I have quoted him on my blog.

    Thank you for your contributions.


    By Blogger Antonio, at Wednesday, March 14, 2007 1:55:00 PM  

  • I think this engagement is really excellent and valuable, Antonio.

    By Blogger Dyspraxic Fundamentalist, at Wednesday, March 14, 2007 3:05:00 PM  

  • Antonio, I greatly admire you in challenging your pastor/church leadership/author of the ABC prayer, etc, on what they have put forth. Too many times people in a church body are 'sheep,' never questioning, never holding its leaders accountable, just blindly following.

    Though we don't necessarily agree on all points, I really commend you for doing what you did.

    By Blogger Gayla, at Thursday, March 15, 2007 10:57:00 AM  

  • There are SO MANY bogus methodologies by kind-hearted people who are trying to convey the Gospel message.

    The ABC method falls into the category of Compact, but Confused.

    That being said, I would suggest you be careful with how you converse with him so as to not come across as arrogant.

    This is often why face to face interactions are better, but you have to know that he's already going to be on the defensive and the tone of some of your comments won't make you more persuasive with him.

    For example:
    "Let me first note that I am all for someone being sure that they are going to heaven. In theology, this is called "assurance"."

    If his intelligence is not insulted, then either (a) you're dealing with an extremely gracious individual or (b) he's learning that for the first time and it's scary to have him on a pastoral staff.

    ; )

    My hope is that he will realize that just because it's a catchy way to present things doesn't make it a good way to do so.

    Also, I would mention and probably get his permission to post the dialogue on his blog. He really can't say "No" without looking bad, but he would probably get tender if someone at church came up to him and said, "Hey, I sure am enjoying you getting schooled on Antonio's blog."

    By Blogger GUNNY, at Tuesday, March 20, 2007 10:30:00 PM  

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