I recently received the following letter from a reader:
In regard to your article in the Sept. 89 issue, “Evangelism: You Make the Call,” it is one thing to say that Christ alone saves; it is quite another to say that Christ plus does not save. Is not poor theology also forgiven if a person truly trusts in Christ as Savior, but mistakenly adds confession, etc.? Or, are you saying that to add anything proves that a person does not truly trust in Christ?
I appreciate your newsletter Keep up the good work.
ST – Colorado
Here is my response.
Thank you for raising an important issue.
This area of evangelism is difficult to address. Have you ever tried to push your finger down on a slippery watermelon seed? It almost always squirts out before you can pin it. This issue is much like that.
On the one hand, the Scriptures are clear that the one and only condition of salvation is faith in Christ alone (John 3:16; 5:24; 6:47; 8:24; Eph. 2:8-9). The question, then, is this: Can a person trust in Christ alone and yet also be trusting in something else? Logically the answer is no.
On the other hand, I am not saying that if someone is trusting in Christ plus something else then they are surely unsaved. A person could come to simple trust in Christ alone and later become confused and begin to trust in Christ plus something else (e.g.,daily confession of sins, faithful church attendance and giving, confession of faith in Christ, turning from sins, doing good deeds, etc.). The Book of Galatians addresses this very problem.
Unless someone straightens out a confused believer he will continue to think that he is saved by Christ plus something else. Yet such a person is indeed saved since at one point he did trust in Christ alone. The Scriptures are clear that anyone who has placed their faith in Christ alone has eternal life.
When I meet a person who indicates that he is trusting in Christ plus, I know that he may be a confused believer or an unbeliever. In any case, I explain the gospel clearly to him. If he comes to understand and accept that Christ alone saves him, I rejoice. In many cases we won’t know till we get to glory whether we have led an unbeliever to faith in Christ or have straightened out a confused believer.
The person I referred to in my article “Evangelism: You Make the Call” gave no evidence of ever having believed in Christ alone. That is why I suggested he was unsaved. I didn’t say that he “seemed” to be unsaved since to do so would have required all of the discussion I have given above. However, in hindsight, I should have included this discussion.
Thanks so much for raising this important question and giving me a chance to clarify my position.
We need to make the Gospel clear when we share our faith with unbelievers and when we disciple other believers. A clear understanding and acceptance of the Gospel is essential to a vital Christian life and testimony.
May the Lord use us to persuade a host of people who are trusting in Christ plus–whether they are unbelievers or confused believers–to trust in Christ alone.