A regular blog reader sent me a story that is making the rounds on the internet. I doubt it is a true story. It sounds made up.
In any case, the story tells of an Evangelical woman who used to be a Roman Catholic; she was sharing her faith with a Roman Catholic man in a parking lot.
She told the man that she been a Catholic for many years, but that she then became a Christian. She handed the man a gospel tract and told him that he too could become a Christian if he read the tract and completed the four steps it lists.
Another man overheard this conversation. It turns out that he was not only a practicing Catholic, but one who leads a weekly study group which promotes Catholic doctrine.
He took the opportunity to challenge the woman on her suggestion that Roman Catholics are not born again.
She told him that he had to take four steps: admit he was a sinner, recognize that only God can save him, believe that Jesus Christ died on the cross for his sins, and then accept Jesus Christ as his personal Savior.
In response to her claim that she had never heard the gospel in over thirty years as a Roman Catholic (including graduating from a Catholic school), he quoted from various prayers said during mass. One of those prayers is a confession of one’s own sinfulness. Step one. Check.
Regarding step two and belief that only God can save us, the man cited from the Eucharistic prayers read during the mass in order to prove that Catholics believe that only God can save us through Christ. Step two. Check.
It is widely known that Catholics believe that Jesus died on the cross for our sins. Indeed, according to Catholicism He keeps on dying for our sins every time mass is celebrated. In any case, the man pointed to the fourth Eucharistic prayer to prove that Catholics believe that Jesus is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. Step three. Check.
At this point the woman objected that Catholicism does not teach the need to receive Christ as one’s personal Savior. Here her Catholic interlocutor responded that every time a Catholic partakes of the consecrated wafer, he is literally receiving Christ as his personal Savior. The woman had no answer. Step four. Check mate.
So, what went wrong in this real or fictitious story? Where did the woman err?
The problem is that she never quoted Scripture, and she never stated the promise of life. Her first three points are points which can and should lead to faith in Christ for everlasting life. But it is quite possible to follow those three steps and yet not believe the promise of life.
And her fourth step is unbiblical. The expression personal Savior is not found in the Bible and is indeed an unbiblical idea. He is the Savior of the world (John 4:42). He doesn’t become our Savior when we “accept” Him. He is our Savior whether we accept Him or not.
It is true that we don’t gain everlasting life until we believe in Him for that life. But that is not at all the same thing as accepting Him as one’s personal Savior, whatever that means.
At the start of my senior year in college, I came to faith in Christ through the ministry of Campus Crusade for Christ. I started sharing my faith soon thereafter. I remember talking with a friend who was Roman Catholic. When I told her that she needed to pray a prayer to receive Christ into her life to be born again, she said, “But I literally receive Jesus into my body every time I take communion. Obviously, I am inviting Him in and believe He is coming in.”
That was late 1972 or early 1973, nearly 50 years ago now. The objection in this internet story is certainly nothing new.
From that point forward, I stopped telling people to ask Jesus to come into their lives. I had no verse in the Bible to support such an idea. And it could be easily refuted.
The Lord said, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). Notice that steps 1-4 are all missing from John 3:16. And the woman’s tract says nothing about believing in Him for everlasting life.
Jesus died on the cross so that whoever believes in Him will not perish but has everlasting life which will never be lost (cf. John 5:24; 6:35, 47; 11:25-26; 20:31; Acts 16:30-31; Eph 2:8-9).
The KISS method is Keep It Simple, Saint. We don’t need to share some convoluted four step plan that hops all around the NT. We should share the glorious good news that because of Jesus’ finished work on the cross, all who simply believe in Him have everlasting life and will never perish.
I’m glad this story is circulating on the internet. Maybe it will cause Evangelicals to rethink the way in which they share their faith.