The Answering of Many a Canard
Not a single passage in the Bible supplies convincing evidence that identifies the necessary and conscious objects/content of saving faith as: 1)the deity of Christ, 2) and the cross of Christ for sin. When we make our appeal and invitation at the end of our full gospel message, why are we entreating men to assent to doctrine rather than inviting them to trust in Jesus for eternal life? Is there something at all to be said about biblical language in our invitations?
There is no passage which states that there are steps to salvation, that we have to spirally ascend a doctrinal tier which in the end we are to put our trust in. Don't get me wrong. People have been saved by confusing gospel invitations. But, I ask, we grace people ought to know better! We don't read: "Believe that Jesus died on the cross for your sins and you will be saved, justified, eternally forgiven, receive eternal life, etc." We read, "I am the Resurrection and the Life. The one who believes in Me, though he may die, yet shall he live. And the one who lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?"
Preparatory faith in the death, deity, and resurrection of Christ may be psychologically helpful (even essential to certain persons) as precursors to specific faith into Christ for eternal life. But this is far from being a universal theological requirement. A man may need to prepare himself in several ways to buy a Twix bar. But the fact remains that the store attendant only requires 75 cents for the candy. For a short article on the difference between psychological and theological necessities, please refer to:
The disciples were saved:
1) Not understanding or believing the significance or need of the cross of Christ for sin
2) Not understanding His deity
3) Not understanding the Scripture that says that Christ must rise from the dead (in fact, when they heard that Jesus rose from the dead they did not believe it!)
Does this mean that we don't preach these things? NO. But what that does mean is that these items are not the "trip wire" that receives eternal life! And if they are not, we shouldn't state to men and women that belief in them brings eternal life, or confusedly tell them that they need to believe these things and then trust them for salvation. This is not clear!
Out of all things, our invitation for men to believe in Christ should be crystal clear. The one who believes Jesus through His promise has eternal life. What are we all so scared about? Preach the death, burial, resurrection, and deity of Christ. I do! Preach the teachings and miracles of Christ, I do! Preach other things that are contained in the gospel. I do. But when we get to the time of invitation, let us be clear and specific, entreating men to believe specifically that they have eternal life by simply taking Christ at His word. This guards against confusion and ambiguity in our invitations, and give men and women the essential basis for certain assurance of eternal life.
It was because of the grand and unique nature of the miracles that Jesus did that the disciples believed in Him as the Christ, the Guarantor of eternal life to the believer (see John 2:11).
The teaching ministry of Jesus was one of authority; He did not speak as the scribes did. His messages were unlike any that the crowds had heard. Coupled with His miracles, men and women were persuaded as to Christ's claim that the believer in Christ has eternal life.
Then Jesus said to the twelve, "Do you also want to go away?" But Simon Peter answered Him, "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life."
Readers of Unashamed of Grace, Jesus has the words of eternal life! He did from His very anointing as the Messiah at His baptism, and He still does. The content of His saving message has not changed, though how He may be presented has.
He is not only the authoritative teacher and miracle worker who, as the Christ, offers eternal life to all who simply take Him at His word in His promise.
He is the authoritative teacher, miracle worker, and the crucified and risen Lord who, as the Christ, offers eternal life to all who simply take Him at His word in His promise.
Jesus is the one who has the words of eternal life. The core of this message has never changed. The one who believes into Him for eternal life has it, regardless, as in the case of the disciples, if they understand Him as God or not, as crucified for their sins or not, or as risen, and/or what level of understanding they have in each of these areas.
It is efforts as Tom Stegall, Duluth, and Lou Martuneac that seek to invalidate the simple exercise of faith into Christ that really does bring eternal life. Unless one initials at each successive step of their "checklist evangelism" and understands each of those doctrinal bullets in the full understanding that they would require of them, they would relegate them to the Lake of Fire.
How is Jesus shown as presenting the terms of salvation and eternal life in the gospel of John? He is the one who "has the words of everlasting life." He is the one who promises, yea, guarantees everlasting life to the one who merely takes Him at His word in this promise. Nothing more. It is simple.
GES members focus very clearly on much information about Christ so as to illicit faith into Him for eternal life. We speak of His words, works, miracles, glory, love, and compassion. We show that Jesus is sufficient, authoritative, able, willing, authorized, and uniquely qualified to impart eternal life to all who believe in Him for it. As we give all the information on Christ, focusing on these qualities and attributes of Him, we specifically target our hearers to faith in Christ through His promise.
Let us let Jesus, who has the words of eternal life, dictate the terms by which He will impart eternal life.
The simplicity remains, all who believe into Jesus have eternal life.
And as we have shown in the case of the disciples, appropriation can be apart from any detailed understanding or belief in the deity of Christ, His death and resurrection. This proves that such considerations are not the conscious content/objects of saving faith that God requires.
Does this inevitably lead to disparagement of Christ's deity, cross, and resurrection? God forbid. We herald them, we passionately preach them, we regard them true, and hold them dear. We present them to lost men, lifting up Jesus by preaching these things as true, which in turn persuasively points them to Christ and His promise.
Our gospel presentations are to lift up Christ, by preaching fully the attributes, works, and Person of Jesus. Let us not hide anything from those who hear us.
But our gospel invitations ought not to be confusing and ofuscate what is the single issue between God and man: the matter of life. Jesus has the words of everlasting life. The condition for receiving that life is to believe in Him for it. Let us be clear and point men and women to that which fundamentally brings eternal life.
Let us get rid of:
the doctrinal checklist
the chair illustration
decisionism, asking men and women to decide
praying a prayer
Let us point men and women specifically to the promise of the One who we have already lifted high up in our gospel message. Let us present the terms of salvation in their simplicity, as Christ preached.
I will die on the hill of gospel invitation clarity. We must not confuse, but clarify. We must not complicate, but reveal Christ's promise in its simplicity.