Leaning Against the Gates of Hell

How "Jesus-Only" makes Converts but not Disciples

By Evan Plante

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Continued from Page One

Another problem is that we present theoretical extremes as practical norms — that is, we fail to separate our disciplines adequately. You see, soul-winners and philosophers often have overlapping data, methods and goals — but they also have different sub-purposes in the kingdom of God. The soul-winner communicates the Gospel, while the philosopher ex-plores its philosophical and theological limits. As such, the philosopher must ask questions like, What are the edges of salvation? How "bad" of a person can exist and still be saved? How "good" of a person can exist and not be saved?

As important as those questions are (and as astonishing their answers can be!) the soul-winner should never even infer that these philosophical or theological extremes are normal (let alone desirable), so we should exercise extreme caution — traveling to the Savior-only edge only when necessary, and perhaps in the same proportion as does the Scripture. To illustrate, let us explore salvation's edges by running a few scenarios.

Charles Manson (still imprisoned for the Tate murders) and the late Mother Teresa (on the fast-track to Roman Catholic sainthood) represent the opposite edges of moral behavior — indeed, they are icons for evil and for good — and our world seems balanced between them. But if Mother Teresa — in spite of her many good works done on this earth, all done in the name of God — was never truly converted, then all her good works would count for naught, and she would be disqualified from entering heaven.

This shocks some people, but the Bible is very explicit: first, you must be "born again" to get into heaven — and if you are not thus converted you can't even see the kingdom of God, let alone participate in it.
Jesus replied, "Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again." John 3:3 (NIV)
The Bible is also clear that there are plenty of people doing great-looking things in the name of God, but who do not belong to him. These souls are not just wasting their time, they are perishing, and furthermore, Jesus disavows them even though they evoke his name!
"Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?' Then I will tell them plainly, 'I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!'" Matthew 7:2123 (NIV)
Now let us examine the other extreme: what if Charles Manson had a death-bed conversion? That is, with only minutes to live, Manson truly repents, truly relies on Christ, and then dies. Would he wind up in heaven? Sure he would, and this should cause you a visceral reaction.

But how would Manson be any different from the thief on the cross whose deference to the Savior eclipsed the evil of his fully horrible life, but who in his final minutes garnered the assurance of his salvation from Jesus' own lips? If this shocks you — that Charlie Manson could be saved — you probably think too much of yourself, too little of your sin, and too little of the Savior. Because before salvation, we all failed the litmus test as sinners. Yet people cling to a vain notion that their pre-regenerate selves were somehow better than some other persons' pre-regenerate selves, and that's just not so.

But the Manson scenario (as well as the account of the thief on the cross) represents the practical limits of salvation, because such late-hour converts would have no lives left to live. That is their loss, and perhaps that would have been our loss, too, but that is not the norm. So, when soul-winning, why focus on a minimal scenario to demonstrate maximal power? Instead, why not raise the eyes of the lost, or at the very least let us discourage their looking back (Genesis 11:26).

It is the philosopher's job to explore the edges of salvation, but it is not the soul-winner's job to sell Charlie Manson's edge as normative, and that is what a savior-only witnessing method does. If a person is promised that he can become a Christian by committing to the least, then it will be okay if he performs to the least — after all, he only signed up for salvation, right? — and none of that take-my-yoke-upon-you stuff.

Although the saving aspects of Jesus Christ can and should be considered discretely for analysis and study, they should never be used to spearhead methodology. Jesus Christ is a package — and he is best understood as Jesus, the Christ, and all that implies through both Testaments.

So, is Jesus the Savior? You bet! Is Jesus the only Savior? You bet! Is Jesus the Savior-only? You decide.

Image Credit: Name; untitled; Creative Commons

TagsBiblical-Truth  | Controversial-Issues  | Eternity-Forever  | False-Teaching  | Jesus-Christ  | Witnessing-Evangelism

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Published 6-7-16