A little while ago, I was teaching a class in a Bible institute in a foreign country. The students were young, between the ages of 18 and 20. As the class progressed, it was clear that they had some issues with the gospel of eternal life. I decided to stop the planned instruction and address the issue. I asked the students what they thought an unbeliever was required to do before he was spiritually saved.
Almost all of the answers revolved around sin. “You must feel sorrow for your sins.” “You must acknowledge before God that you are a sinner.” “You must confess your sins.” “You must repent of your sins.” “You must be willing to turn from your sins.” “You must state that Christ died for your sins.”
For about an hour we waded through these responses. The students were asked where in the Bible it says these things. Most of the time, they admitted that they couldn’t find verses to support their answers. A few times they offered a verse for support, but when they looked at the context of such a verse, they saw that it did not say what they thought.
We looked at the Gospel of John, a book telling the reader how to receive eternal life, and concluded that John never mentions any of these things. We looked at the case of Cornelius and his household in Acts 10. They all were spiritually saved from the lake of fire, and none of them confessed anything to God. They did not promise to turn from their sins. We then discussed how many of the students’ answers involved works of some kind, and all the students recognized that eternal life is not obtained by works.
It was hard to measure how the class responded. Some said that they had never considered such things. They admitted that their gospel presentations which concentrated on dealing with sin were the product of their denominational traditions. Some said they didn’t know what to think, but they definitely now had to think these things over.
There was one student, however, who left no doubt about what she was thinking. During a time of questions and answers, she stepped forward. She didn’t have a question. She had a statement. She commented, “You do not take sin seriously. You should not be teaching this class!”
My guess is that at least some of the other students were uncomfortable with such a blunt and honest statement. I was a guest speaker and much older than the students. I also can imagine that some of the readers of this blog would say that they would never say something that bold, even if they thought it was true. We might say it was not polite.
I have to admit, I didn’t feel that way. I appreciated her honesty. I am not a masochist, but I enjoyed her answer.
The reason I enjoyed it was because I knew I was clearly presenting what I wanted to say. Sometimes, when we teach, we don’t know if the students are understanding what we are teaching. Her statement left me with no doubt. She knew exactly the ramifications of what I was saying. Eternal salvation is a free gift, given by faith in Christ alone for that gift. Works play no part in the reception of that gift. All their requirements about sin added works to the offer. She admitted she could not answer my objections; she only knew I was wrong because I had a laid-back attitude towards sin.
The biggest reason I enjoyed her statement, however, is because Paul said people said that to him. In Rom 3:8, where he is talking about justification by faith alone, he says that some say to him that he should stop teaching. The reason is that some say he teaches that people should commit sin so that good things can come. Paul, it was maintained, did not see how serious sin was.
Any time we accurately teach about the message of eternal life, some will accuse us of this very thing. When they do, we know we are speaking the truth. We know they understand what we are saying.
As the class went on, I explained to this young lady that I do indeed consider sin as serious business. Sin brings many horrible consequences in this life. Sin causes us to lose eternal rewards in the life to come. However, dealing with our sins is not a requirement for eternal life. Faith in Christ is what God demands of the unbeliever. Nothing more, nothing less.
I don’t know if I convinced her or not. She did seem to warm up to the instruction she received in the remainder of the class. I hope she saw how seriously the Biblical gospel looks at sin. Christ paid for every sin on the cross. Look at the cross to see how serious sin is. Sin is so serious, there was nothing we could contribute to what the Lord Jesus did for us. And because of what He did, He is able to give to us eternal life as a free gift through faith alone.