Salvation is a mystery. Pretty much everyone would admit that the story of Jesus, being fully God and fully man, living a perfect life and dying to save the world, then raising from the dead and returning to Heaven sounds pretty fantastical. Like a fairy tale. Absurd perhaps? C.S. Lewis called it the “true myth”, because of its moral affect on our lives like myths – however having the glorious aspect of being true. Almost too good to be true. Most people at some point in their Spiritual journey will doubt the faith – either in light of life circumstances or because the story just sounds too story-like.
In spite of the mystical nature of the Gospel story, the historical reliability of the Bible has been proven throughout the ages. Nothing in Scripture has ever been disproven, and continued research such as archaeological digs and finds have regularly confirmed facts about the Bible that were doubted as truth beforehand. Thus we have disciplines like apologetics – studying logic and fact to systematically answer questions of those who would doubt the reliability of Scripture and the truth of the Gospel.
Apologetics are extremely helpful. They can offer logical explanations to normal doubts, they can silence critics, and then can explain truths that are interwoven. Logic, fact and reasoning, however, are not enough to lead someone to salvation. The simple fact is,
Anything you can be talked into, you can be talked out of.
We might bow up at the idea, thinking our scientific fact and experience will never change our perception of reality. But philosophy, our interest in the unexplained supernatural world and experience have taught us that even those things we believed unalterable at times are disproven, i.e. the world is not flat, the smallest particle is not the atom, and the sun does not rotate around the world.
So what is it, then, that sets Christianity and salvation apart? Is the evangelist not trying to convince people that we are all sinful, we all are condemned to Hell, but we can be saved by the grace of Jesus?
Yes. And no. The evangelist (all Christians) do in fact believe all of those things and [should] set out to proclaim the Gospel to all people and make disciples. Jesus has commanded us to make disciples of all nations (Matt 128.18-20), Paul shows us by example the proclamation of the Gospel and tells us to share at all times (2 Tim 4.2), and Peter tells us to be ready in every circumstance to talk about and explain our faith (1 Peter 3.15). However, while we are proclaiming the Gospel to every person we meet, we recognize the fact that God alone causes growth. He softens hearts, he awakens the dead, He gives “New Birth”.
Salvation happens fundamentally when we are born Spiritually. Before we meet Jesus, before we recognize our sin and confess it and repent from it, we are Spiritually dead (Eph 2.1). We, as Christians, cannot look at a dead person and tell them to come to life – try though we might. We, as Christians, cannot breathe life into a skeleton. We, as Christians, cannot change the nature of a being. Spiritually dead people are physically alive, but have no Spiritual life. Thus, Jesus teaches us that in order to be saved we must be born again (John 3): the first birth is physical and the second birth is Spiritual.
We have no say in our birth. It just happens.
Before we meet Jesus, and before we are born again, we are enemies of God and we hate the things of God (Rom 8.7, James 4.4). We, as Christians, cannot convince God’s enemies to love Him. We, as Christians, cannot convince God’s enemies to submit to Him. We, as Christians, cannot convince God’s enemies to turn to Him. There are none righteous, there are none who seek after God, and there are none who will turn to Him unless God breathes Spiritual life into them and transforms the desires of their hearts (Rom 3.10-12).
In order to be born Spiritually, however, we must hear the Gospel of Jesus Christ. God has decided to utilize Christians in His plan to bring salvation and new life to the world. He does not need us, but has decided to allow us the blessing and honor of serving Him. Thus He commands us to share, and through that obedience He gives the gift of faith:
– Rom 10.17
– Eph 2.8-9
God gods us the gift of faith after we hear the Gospel. We get to play a beautiful part in the salvation experience, but we neither affect someone else nor ourselves. Thus Paul clearly says,
“I planted, Apollos watered, but God was causing the growth. So then neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but God who causes the growth.”
– 1 Cor 3.6-7
It has been said that our role as Christians and evangelists and even apologists is to get out there and find the Corneliuses. Cornelius was the first non-Jew that God started drawing and had Peter lead to faith. Cornelius was a Roman who had taken on many of the Jewish teachings, and God was stirring in his heart such that he was giving alms (money) to the Jews and prayed to the Jewish God. He was not yet saved, however, because he had not heard the Gospel – so God revealed his intention to save Cornelius and his family to both Cornelius and Peter. Thus Peter went with Cornelius’ servants to meet him, he preached the Gospel to the entire household, and they all believed (Acts 10).
God does not always tell us who He is planning on saving, or in whom He is already working, so we must obey His command to preach the Gospel boldly and at all times, and trust Him for the Spiritual birth, transformation and growth. We go out and look for those people in whom God is working, and we do that by sharing with everyone.
This should give us the highest of hopes. No matter how good of an apologist we are, not matter how good a preacher, friend, evangelist, or debater, the results are ultimately no in our hands. If the results were in our hands, a better friend, debater, or speaker would be able to talk that person right out of the faith. Because there will always be someone smarter, someone more clever, or facts (or theories) twisted in such a way as to change someone’s mind. But God transforms us from the very nature of our being, and once we have been born Spiritually, we cannot be UNborn. The growth, the fruit, the results are all in God’s sovereign hand, and of those He has chosen and given birth, He will loose none.
“This is the will of Him who sent Me, that of all that He has given Me I lose nothing, but raise it up on the last day.”
– John 6.39
Therefore, we have no reason to fear. God will keep secure those to whom He has given life. If you are alive Spiritually, you cannot die Spiritually. And when we share the Gospel with our friends, our neighbors, our coworkers or whomever, it is not our responsibility to save them and cause growth – it is only our responsibility to share and follow up with discipleship after God brings new life!