Joe Schmo pulled his car into the parking lot expecting to pick up a few groceries at his favorite super market. What he didn’t expect was a tract he found in the shopping cart that he selected. Usually he doesn’t read those kind of “religious” things and tosses them aside. But the colorful pamphlet and the title, “Who Can You Trust?” attracted his attention so he stuffed it into his shirt pocket.
When he arrived home and put away his groceries, he sat down in his favorite chair. Remembering the tract, he pulled it out of his pocket. Joe began reading the tract. In big letters, it said “FAITH IS SIMPLY TRUST.” A few lines down it asked, “Who or What can you trust for your eternal destiny?” It went on to state four points with Bible verses and comments following each one:
(1) All men are sinners; (2) There is a penalty for sin; (3) Jesus paid our penalty when he died on the cross; and (4) Every individual must personally receive the gift of Heaven. The back of the tract gave detailed information about the church that printed it, with an invitation to attend, dates and times of services, and a map to locate the church.
The fourth point was particularly interesting to Joe because it gave a very simple way to receive eternal life. The tract quoted Romans 10:9 with some phrases underlined: “That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.” After citing what is often called “the sinner’s prayer,” the tract went on to read, “If you have placed your trust in Jesus alone to take you to Heaven, then God has (100%) given you eternal life. This is the greatest thing you could know and it gives you greater purpose in life.”
Even though Joe was sent to Sunday School when he was young and remembered a lot of the Bible stories his teachers told him, he had drifted away from church by the time he reached adulthood. Joe was a good man but he never felt the need to get involved in religion and never thought much about his need to be “saved.” But the tract started him to think about his own salvation.
One thing that raised a question in Joe’s mind was, Is this all I need to do, just say a simple prayer, confess that I am a sinner, ask for forgiveness, and trust God that I now have 100% eternal life? It seemed too good to be true. He wondered, Is salvation really that convenient? Does it truly mean that if I just pray and confess Christ I will instantly have eternal life and cannot die?
Joe thought about the Sunday School song he learned a long time ago as a child: The B-I-B-L-E; Yes, that’s the Book for me! I stand alone on the Word of God: The B-I-B-L-E! He decided the answer to his questions could only be found in the Bible.
So, he began to search the scriptures and see what they had to say about the issue of salvation. He looked at many verses on faith and found that trust is only part of it. Before trust one must believe according to the facts in God’s Word. “Faith cometh by hearing and hearing by the Word of God,” (Rom. 10:17). Belief is based on the truth that Jesus Christ, God’s only begotten Son, died for our sins, and that God raised him from the dead. Then, as one believes this truth, one puts confidence in God’s forgiveness.
The idea of having confidence was intriguing to Joe. He knew that if one didn’t have confidence, one could not truly feel certain about one’s beliefs. Having played sports, he understood that if athletes do not have confidence in themselves, and what they could achieve, they likely would not believe they could win. But what did this have to do with personal salvation?
Joe found some scriptures on confidence that answered this question (New American Standard Bible, NASB): Ephesians 3:12, “…in whom [Jesus Christ] we have boldness and confident access through faith in Him.” 2 Corinthians 3:4, “Such confidence we have through Christ toward God.” 1 Peter 3:18, For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God, having been put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit…” Joe realized that belief was something more than saying, “I believe in Jesus.” He must place his confidence in God through his Son, Jesus Christ, and trust him with all of his heart that Jesus died to provide forgiveness for our sins and rose again to give us hope.
One passage was especially intriguing to Joe: “And the testimony is this, that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He who has the Son has the life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have the life. These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life. This is the confidence which we have before Him, that, if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us,” (1 John 5:11-14). At first, this sounded that if God has given a believer eternal life through his Son, then he is already immortal and destined for a place called Heaven like that tract said. But then it became clear to him that although one has the Son now, this simply qualifies one to receive eternal life not in Heaven at death as some believe but at his coming when He comes in power and glory: 1 John 2:28, “Now, little children, abide in Him, so that when He appears, we may have confidence and not shrink away from Him in shame at His coming.” (cp. 1 Cor. 15:42-43)
Joe was beginning to see that the tract excluded a lot of factors when it comes to salvation. Even though it emphasized surrendering one’s life to Christ, it did not include the all-important truth that the believer’s hope is in the return of Christ and that our reward is eternal life in God’s kingdom on the earth. The return of Jesus is called, “our blessed hope” (Titus 2:13) because it entails the expectation of believers that God will complete his plan of salvation through his Son. It is through such hope that believers are purified (1 John 3:2-3) as they prepare for that kingdom age to come when Christ rules the world.
Joe noticed that another truth omitted in the tract was repentance and baptism. Even though the tract was correct that a person must confess his sin, it didn’t address some of the scriptures that talk about repentance. For example, it is one thing to say, “I am a sinner,” but Joe discovered it is quite another thing to truly repent of one’s sins as the Bible says. A person is not only sorry for his sins, but he wants to turn his entire life around by turning from his evil ways (Ezekiel 33:11); putting off the old man (Ephesians 4:18-32); putting to death the carnal flesh (Colossians 3:8-14; Galatians 5:24) and being crucified with Christ (Romans 6:6-11). To Joe, these verses emphasized that God is calling all of us to repent for he wants us to turn from our sinful ways. But at the same time it’s up to us to want to have him change our lives or else we’re not truly accepting his conditions of salvation (Acts 17:30-31).
Joe also observed that the tract left out baptism. He read the entire Book of Acts and saw how time and again whenever someone was converted, he or she was baptized in much water (Acts 3:28, 41; 8:12-13, 38-39; 9:18; 22:16; Acts 10:47-48; 16:14-15, 30-34; 18:8; 19:5). He figured that if baptism was that important to the early church, then it must be essential for accepting this condition of salvation. This was confirmed to him when he read that Jesus Christ, himself, was baptized not, of course, for his sins for he was without sin (2 Cor. 5:21) but as an example for fulfilling what is right (Matt. 3:13-17).
In the process of studying about baptism, Joe also realized that Biblical baptism is done by immersion—that is, under the water— not only according to the original meaning of the word but in the fact that it is the way believers were baptized by those like John the Baptist (John 3:23) and the early church (for example, Acts 8:38-39). Jesus was also immersed (Matt. 3:16). In Joe’s mind, these verses clearly did not support the idea that baptism is the same as sprinkling. He also reasoned that neither is infant baptism supported in scripture because infants cannot truly believe and repent of their sins.
Joe was beginning to see that Biblical baptism is essential for salvation. As the Apostle Peter stated, “it does save us,” (1 Peter 3:21). For baptism is the believer’s outward expression of inward faith that Jesus died, was buried, and rose again for our salvation (Romans 6:1-11).
Not only did the tract leave out a lot of these important truths, but it confused Joe, as well. In particular is the reference it made about Jesus and God. Joe read the third point about Jesus paying our penalty for sin when he died on the cross. Quoting Romans 5:8 where it says, “Christ died for us,” the pamphlet states, “Jesus, who is all God and all man – without sin, paid for our sins when He died on the cross.” Joe couldn’t figure out who the “He” was who died on the cross. He questioned, Was it “Christ” as the verse says or was it “all God” who died? Joe searched and searched the scriptures in both Old and New Testaments to see where it was that God died on the cross but could not find it anywhere. Instead, he found where the one and only God is eternal and cannot die (Deut. 6:4-5; Psalm 90:1-2; Isa. 40:28; 1 Tim. 1:17). So, it wasn’t God but the only begotten SON of God who died on the cross (John 3:16; 1 Cor. 15:3). So this cleared up his confusion. It also led him to conclude that this tract was not quite accurate in what it was telling him.
As Joe spent some time continuing to investigate what the Bible says about salvation and what it meant to him personally, he met a Christian who had studied the subject, too. To Joe’s amazement, this person revealed that he had a similar experience. He was astonished to learn that this Christian also questioned what some said about salvation. The two agreed that salvation was not merely saying a prayer of confession. Joe was delighted to hear that this Christian studied the same Bible passages he’d studied and came to the same conclusion as Joe. Naturally, these two guys quickly became good friends.
The new friend invited Joe to his church which taught this same Bible truth they had discovered. And then one Sunday at the end of the worship service, the invitation to come forward and accept Jesus Christ as Savior was given. And with the greatest joy that he ever felt in his heart, Joe immediately responded.
Joe’s conversion had begun. By faith, he believed the truth of scriptures. He responded by repenting of his sins and confessing Jesus Christ as his personal Lord and Savior. And he was immersed in the waters of baptism by the pastor in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission (forgiveness) of sins.
Joe Schmo came out of the water that day, putting Christ in his life. He was a new man in Christ with a new perspective of life (2 Cor. 5:17). For he knew that his act of faith, repentance, and baptism were not intended to merit salvation. Rather, he sincerely and humbly responded out of acceptance of God’s free gift of salvation through Christ (Rom. 6:23; Eph. 2:8).
Joe also knew that this wasn’t the end of his conversion but only the beginning. He was well aware that everyday would be a struggle between the carnal flesh and the spirit of Christ within him. Therefore, he must surrender to Christ everyday, seek God’s forgiveness, and walk in that newness of life through the Spirit or Power given by God through his love, holiness, and truth (2 Cor. 5:17-21). He was on his journey toward growing in the grace and knowledge of Christ and his Word each day of the rest of his life preparing for God’s coming kingdom.
And one more thing: Joe didn’t want the satisfaction of his conversion to be kept only to himself. He wanted others to know the joy of conversion, as well. For he was very concerned that those who read the kind of tract he’d found in that shopping cart may be misguided by it. He’d learned that faith is not simply trust but obedience to the truth in regard to what conversion was all about. In fact, he already began writing his own tract revealing what the Bible really says about receiving Christ. So, as Joe put all his effort in serving the Lord, he made sure that he didn’t miss every opportunity to share his conversion with others so they, too, would be prepared for the day when they would hear the words, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant: Thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy Lord,” (Matt. 25:21, King James Version).
By the way, how about YOUR conversion?
Here is Hillsong in “Beneath the Water (I Will Rise)” https://youtu.be/p61NjDuf8Wc
Good News to YOU!