By Alfy Austin
The room was typical: two beds, some chairs, a privacy curtain between the beds, a TV, and some IV stands. The patient I had come to visit had been a devout Roman Catholic all of his seventy-seven years. He was dying and he knew it. Death could come at any moment. Fear and doubt led him to do something he’d never done before: talk with a Protestant minister.
When I saw him I doubted that he was capable of conversing or even listening. However, after some gentle prodding from his son, a member of my church, the dying man awoke and looked at me.
I spoke to him about God’s grace and Jesus’ finished work on the cross. At first, I could not tell if I was getting through to him. Gradually, however, this man with so little time left became more alert. I began to ask him questions to be sure that he was understanding. His answers indicated that for the first time in his life he understood that salvation is by faith in Christ alone and is completely apart from any works we might do. I probed further and discovered to the great joy of his son and me that he had come not only to understand, but also to believe the gospel. He indicated that he was now placing his trust solely in Jesus Christ to save him and give him eternal life.
We shared a prayer of thanks together, thanking God for saving him. As I left he shook my hand firmly and thanked me for sharing the way to heaven with him.
His son told me later that after I left his dad had said, “That was easy.”
My friend’s dad slipped into a coma a few hours after he placed his faith in Christ alone. Three days later, without ever regaining consciousness, he died.
Can salvation be received so easily? Can a man with no opportunity to bear fruit, persevere, or make a public confession of his faith have eternal life and be sure of it? Can his family take comfort in knowing that he is in heaven now? To all of these questions I would answer a confident yes.
The thief on the cross placed his faith in Christ only hours before his death. Jesus did not tell him that it was too late for him. Jesus did not keep his eternal destiny in doubt. He gave him immediate assurance of salvation saying, “Today you will be with me in Paradise” (Luke 23:43).
Jesus offered the woman at the well living water as a free gift (John 4:10). He did not demand proof of her faith or a promise of moral purity in the future. While this does not mean that Jesus was unconcerned about faithfulness and purity, it does mean that eternal salvation is free and is apart from personal reformation, promises, or works of any kind.
In Revelation 22:17 we read words very reminiscent of Jesus’ words to the woman at the well: “Let the one who wishes take of the water of life [which is] without cost.” If God offers eternal life as a gift, how can we but do likewise? What a joy it is to me to give away the greatest gifts there are: salvation and assurance.