When it comes to “Receiving Christ” is there a difference between Ignorance and Denial?
With all the discussions over the Refined Free Grace Movement, the Crossless Gospel (hate that term) or the Consistent Free Grace view or whatever other label one might attach to the particulars of one area of soteriology of my blog mates, Antonio and Matthew, I have had two scenarios battling in my head.
Let’s talk about Jeff. Jeff is a guy that has heard the doctrines of Christianity here and there all his life. He doesn’t believe any of it. He thinks that the Bible is a fairy tale. He does not believe in miracles. One day, his brother is tragically killed. He begins to fear death and the hereafter in the weeks to follow. He knows a Christian at work named Leonard. He asks Leonard to tell him how to avoid hell. Leonard shares the gospel with Jeff. He tells him the whole entire story, using the gospel of John as an outline. Leonard tells Jeff about the eternality of Christ. He tells him about Christ’s miracles and His exchanges with people. He tells him about the death and resurrection and that He was seen by over 500 witnesses. Jeff, in his mind, is saying, “This is all that fundamentalist stuff.” However, something about the conversations that Jesus had with individuals in the Bible catches Jeff's ear. In an irrational turn-of-mind (which I honestly think is impossible) he believes that he can trust Christ with his eternal welfare… even though he hates all this “fundamentalist stuff” (which is actually great truth about Christ – His deity, His death for sin, and His resurrection.) Leonard doesn’t know that Jeff is dismissing all the great truths about Christ, but he sees Jeff’s interest in the promise of Christ to these souls in the Gospel of John. Leonard asks Jeff if He trusts Christ for that promise. Jeff says “yes” and in an unreasonable way, he does, even though he rejects the other great truths about Christ, secretly, in his mind. Leonard says, “Welcome to the family” …and the encounter ends. In my understanding, Jeff is not “receiving” Christ. I don’t know that it is Leonard’s fault… because Jeff did not reveal all that was in his mind at the time. Jeff has clearly closed his throat to Christ, even though he liked Christ’s promise in a somewhat bizarre and irrational way. The over-riding truth here is that Jeff has rejected the Person of Christ from who comes that great promise. How can that be saving faith?
A person named Tio, in a far-off land, is given the gospel of John and his friend, who had gotten it from a missionary, just tells him, “They say that this man Jesus can save us from punishment of the Great One after we die.” So Tio begins to read about the Word becoming flesh and dwelling among people. He gets it – this man Jesus... was the Great One. He reads of the miracles that Jesus did. He begins to get a wonderful revelation in his mind that this Jesus is the answer to his – and all others’ - eternal needs. He reads of how Jesus interacted with the Samaritan woman. He is overcome with enthusiasm about receiving this Person in the same way as she did. He calls out to Jesus and places his faith in Him. He believes and trusts the God-man. The next day, officials from his country come in and confiscate the Gospel of John. He has no way of reading the rest of it and now has no knowledge of the cross and resurrection. If Tio heard about the cross and resurrection, he would of course receive it as it is – truth about his Savior. In my mind, I cannot bring myself to say that Tio is not saved eternally. He has trusted and received Christ. His knowledge is limited, but he has not rejected any great truth about his Savior and he placed his faith in Christ for the long haul. He has received all that he heard of Christ and has entrusted himself to Him eternally.
Jeff denies. Tio is ignorant. To me, there is a huge difference. I believe that Christ gives the right to become “children of God to as many as believe on His name.” Believing on His name and receiving great truths about Him as they come… are one and the same. Rejecting great truths about who Jesus has so far proven Himself to be... and what He has done... is antithetical to "receiving Him."