I was watching the usual suspects (aka the Toronto street preachers I’ve now written about numerous times before) again yesterday, and one of them made a statement I was surprised to hear even one of them make. He suggested that his listening audience should “ask Jesus into their hearts” in order to be saved. This unscriptural suggestion is something that most evangelists I’ve heard in recent years know better than to make at this point, so it was a shock to hear.
Thinking about it some more today, though, I realized that this suggested method of salvation is the difference between most Christians and those of us in the body of Christ when it comes to our understanding of how one gets saved. I’ve written about the fact that most Christians make salvation out to be a transaction before, but hearing this old chestnut really drove that fact home.
Salvation, for most Christians, is based upon one having to do something, such as “accepting Christ as their saviour,” or “asking Jesus into their heart,” or some other form of transaction between themselves and Jesus (or God). Simply put, for most Christians, salvation is an offer they must accept.
For those of us in the body of Christ, on the other hand, salvation (from a relative perspective, anyway) comes when we simply believe the Good News that Christ died for our sins, and that He was entombed and roused on the third day. It isn’t about having to choose to believe something specific, or having to ask Jesus to do something for us, or even having to accept an offer, but is simply something that happens to us when God gives us the understanding of, and faith to believe, what the Good News that Paul proclaimed means (which includes the eventual experience of salvation by all humanity).
And this brings up a related point. The street preachers are basically begging their audience to do something, such as to choose to “come to Christ” or to “accept Christ’s offer of salvation” or to “ask Jesus into their hearts” or some other thing that one has to make a decision to do if they want to be saved (“make a decision for Christ,” is along the lines of what I’ve heard at least one of them say). They seem to think that their unbelieving audience members are rejecting an offer they know to be true rather than simply not being convinced that what it is they’re being told is true to begin with (which is fine, because it isn’t true, since the so-called “good news” being offered to them is an entirely false gospel anyway).
What they don’t quite get is that, first of all, the actual Gospel Paul taught is not a proposition at all, but rather is simply a proclamation of Good News, and that the only way to “reject” the Gospel is to not be convinced by the evangelist proclaiming it that it’s actually a true statement. Nobody rejects a belief they know to be true, and if it actually was something they believed was true yet was something they didn’t want to be true, it means they still ultimately believed it to be true first, which means they’ve already believed the Gospel, which would mean they have already been saved.
Bottom line, Paul’s Gospel isn’t something one has to choose to believe or disbelieve (or something one can either decide to accept or reject), but is simply something one is either convinced is true (which is what it means to believe something, and which would mean they’ve already been saved if they believe it to be true) or hasn’t yet been convinced is true (which means they haven’t believed it to be true, and hence haven’t been saved, at least not from a relative perspective).
Of course, from an absolute perspective, everyone has already been saved because of what Christ accomplished anyway, which is actually what the Good News that Paul taught is all about. Part of the Good News we believe when we’re given salvation from a relative perspective is ultimately the understanding that everyone’s sins were already taken care of through Christ’s cross, and that everyone has already been saved ontologically (and that everyone will also eventually experience that salvation eschatologically) because of what Christ accomplished.