Must I Hold Fast to the Gospel to be Saved from Hell?

“Moreover, brethren, I declare to you the gospel … by which also you are saved, if you hold fast that word which I preached to you – unless you believed in vain.” I Corinthians 15:1a, 2

I was reading in I Corinthians 15 today and was drawn to verses 1 and 2 which say, “Moreover, brethren, I declare to you the gospel … by which also you are saved, if you hold fast that word which I preached to you – unless you believed in vain.” A cursory reading of that verse can lead one to conclude that being saved from hell is conditioned upon holding fast to the gospel message. But that understanding would be contrary to the many verses that say only believing in Jesus for eternal life or salvation is all that is necessary to be saved from hell (cf. John 3:15-16, 36; 5:24; 6:40, 47; 11:25-26; 20:31; Acts 16:31; Romans 4:5; Galatians 2:16; Ephesians 2:8-9; I Timothy 1:16; I John 5:13; et al.). 

To resolve this apparent contradiction, it is important to understand the argument of the entire book of I Corinthians. This will help us to properly understand I Corinthians 15:2. All of the failings of the Corinthians – their divisiveness, pride, insensitivity to immorality, idolatry, taking each other to court (1:11; 3:1-3; 5:9-6:20; 11:21-32) – each expressed a tendency to pollute God’s truth with human wisdom. This tendency is again evidenced in I Corinthians 15 by some in the Corinthian fellowship who were doubting the future resurrection of believers from the dead (15:12). 

It is no mistake that Paul both begins and ends this epistle with arguments concerning the content of the gospel. In 1:18-25, he showed that their divisions were caused by a misunderstanding of the gospel. Human wisdom said that the message of Christ crucified was foolishness; Paul countered that while the gospel is foolishness to those who are perishing, it was God’s power for those being saved (1:18). At that point in his letter, he only focused on Christ’s crucifixion (1:17, 18, 23; 2:2). 

Now, he addresses the questions of some concerning the bodily resurrection of believers, again pointing to the gospel message, focusing here on the resurrection of Christ – to show the error of their thinking (15:1-19). Again, Paul points out that mixing human wisdom with the gospel message, does not result in clarity, but in confusion. In this case, it is the blessed future hope of resurrection that is sacrificed on the altar of human wisdom. The historical bodily resurrection of Christ was central to the gospel message the Corinthians believed. The Corinthians knew the gospel; in fact, they received it, and were standing firm in it (15:1). What Paul really wants to make known to them is that by denying the doctrine of the bodily resurrection of all believers, they are actually denying the resurrection of Christ, and thus the gospel! This had escaped their notice. 

To do this Paul must first remind them of “the gospel which I preached to you…by which also you are saved, if you hold fast that word which I preached to you—unless you believed in vain” (15:1b-2).  When Paul says “by which also you are saved, if you hold fast that word which I preached to you” he was not doubting the salvation of his readers because they “received” the gospel message he preached as truth to them (15:1b). Several times he affirms his readers had faith in Christ ( 2:5; 3:5; 15:11, 14, 17; 16:13). Nor does he doubt that they “hold fast” to that gospel because they are “standing” in it (15:1c).

Neither is Paul seeking to raise doubts concerning the future assurance of his readers’ salvation because eternal life, once gained, can never be lost, or it is not “eternal” life (cf. John 3:16; 5:24; 6:35, 39-40, 47; 10:28-29). Even though they were plagued with divisions, envy, drunkenness, and immorality (1:11; 3:1-3; 5:9-6:20; 11:21, 30), Paul did not question their salvation from Hell. He refers to them as “the church of God which is at Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus” (1:2). They “were washed…sanctified…justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God” (6:11). He called them “babes in Christ” (3:1) whose “body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you” (6:19). In 15:2, Paul wants these born-again believers to “hold fast” to and not be moved away from the gospel which he preached to them. 

The good news (euangellion) of Jesus’ death and resurrection (15:3-4) is foundational to healthy Christian living. Christians cannot live a victorious life for Christ if they stop believing in any aspect of the good news, especially Jesus’ substitutionary death, His bodily resurrection, His soon return, and their own bodily resurrection and acquisition of glorified bodies. In 15:2, Paul says that the present salvation of the believers in Corinth was conditioned on their “holding fast” to his gospel. Note in 15:2 that Paul said they already “believed.” The reason he says “unless you believed in vain” is because their faith in Christ would be “empty” or worthless if there is no resurrection from the dead (15:14, 19). Unlike Ephesians 2:8-9 where Paul uses the perfect tense, “you have been saved,” in I Corinthians 15:2 he uses the present tense, “you are [being] saved.” 

The salvation in I Corinthians 15:2 is not new birth because new birth is not conditioned upon holding fast to the gospel. It is conditioned upon believing in Jesus Christ for eternal life (I Corinthians 1:21; 3:5; cf. John 3:15-16, 36; 5:24; 6:40; Acts 16:31; Ephesians 2:8-9; I Timothy 1:16). In light of Paul’s use of the word “save” in I Corinthians 5:5, this salvation is being saved from further judgment by the Lord Jesus Christ at the Judgment Seat of Christ (I Corinthians 3:15; 4:5; 9:24-27). It has to do with being spiritually healthy at the Judgment Seat of Christ. Believers can only be spiritually healthy now if they hold fast to Paul’s gospel. They will only be spiritually healthy at the Judgment Seat of Christ if they were holding fast to the gospel when they died or were raptured by the Lord Jesus. 

The Lord Jesus never said that once a person comes to Him in faith that he is forever “approved” by Christ. Jesus said we are only His friends if we do what He commands us (John 15:14). In the Parable of the Minas (Luke 19:11-27), Jesus revealed that at the Judgment Seat, He will tell the believer who served Him wholeheartedly to the end of his life, “Well done, good servant,” and will give him authority over ten cities (Luke 19:16-17). But to the believer who was half-hearted in his service, yet persevered to the end, He will only say, “You also be over five cities” (Luke 19:19). To such a believer He doesn’t say, “Well done,” and He doesn’t call him “good servant.”  However, to the believer (this is a Christian because he is a “servant” with the same “master” as the other two servants) who does not persevere in his service for Christ to the end, to the one who buries what He gave him, He will say, “Out of your own mouth I will judge you, you wicked servant” (Luke 19:22). This type of believer receives no cities to rule over and no commendation. He is rebuked by the Lord and called a wicked servant. But he is still a servant of his master. 

So Paul’s words in I Corinthians 15:2 should not surprise us. They are consistent with Jesus’ teachings. Only if a believer holds fast to the good news message can he be spiritually healthy at the Judgment Seat. Only a persevering believer will be found “holy… blameless, and above reproach” at the Judgment Seat of Christ (cf. Colossians 1:22-23, 28-29). No wonder Paul concludes I Corinthians 15 by saying, “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord” (15:58). Jesus will reward the faithful believer who holds fast to the gospel. 

Do All Religions Lead to God?

“I, even I, am the Lord, and besides Me there is no savior.” Isaiah 43:11

God created Israel to worship and serve Him alone. He said, “Before Me there was no God formed, nor shall there be after Me. I even I, am the Lord, and besides Me there is no savior” (43:10-11). Among “all the nations” of the world (43:9), only Israel’s God could deliver His people and know their future and be in control of all things.

We live in a world today that teaches there are many different ways to God. Many people insist that all religions lead to the same God (Universalism). Is this true? The God of the Bible has told us Himself  that “besides Me there is no savior” (43:11). If God had said there are many ways to Himself, then, yes, there are many ways to Him. But He has not said that. He says that He alone is the “savior.” 

In addition, God became a human being in the Person of Jesus Christ (John 1:1, 14, 18), so we can believe what Jesus says about this issue. Christ said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6).Jesus did not say that He is “a way…to the Father,” implying that there are many different paths to God. No, He said He is “the way” to the Father. According to Jesus Christ, there are no other ways to God the Father.

You may ask, “What right does Jesus have to make such an exclusive claim?” The Bible affirms that Jesus was “declared to be the Son of God with power… by the resurrection from the dead”(Romans 1:4). The proof that Jesus rose from the dead was that He was seen alive after His death by over five hundred eyewitnesses (I Corinthians 15:5-8).

The resurrection of Christ is the most attested fact of history. Thomas Arnold authored a three-volume history of Rome and was appointed to Oxford’s Chair of Modern History. Concerning the evidence behind the resurrection of Jesus Christ, he said, “I have been used for years to study the histories of other times, and to examine and weigh the evidence of those who have written about them, and I know of no one fact in the history of mankind which is proved by better and fuller evidence of every sort, to the understanding of a fair inquirer, than that Christ died and rose from the dead” (see EvanTell’s tract, “How Can I Believe in Christ, When I Don’t Even Believe The Bible”)

The early followers of Jesus made it clear that there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved”(Acts 4:12)other than Jesus Christ (cf. Acts 4:10-11). The Bible, God Himself, and His followers teach that there is only one way to God and that is through the Lord Jesus Christ. To believe or teach something else means you must deal with the authority of the Bible and the credibility of Jesus Christ (see EvanTell’s 2014The Evangelism Study Bible, p. 776).  

If you have never understood and believed this, listen to what God says in Isaiah 45:22: “Look to Me, and be saved, all you ends of the earth! For I am God, and there is no other.” God the Son, Jesus Christ, now invites you to believe or trust in Him alone to save you from eternal death and give you His free gift of everlasting life.  Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die” (John 11:25-26). When you believed in Jesus, the Bible says you can “know” you have eternal life. “These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life”(I John 5:13).

Must I Repent to Go to Heaven?

“Jesus came to Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.'” Mark 1:14-15

When Jesus came to Galilee, His message challenged the Galileans to “repent and believe the gospel” of the kingdom of God. In evangelism contexts of the Bible, the word “repent” means to change one’s mind about whatever is keeping an unbeliever from believing in Jesus, and then believing in Him for everlasting life (Mark 1:15). The non-Christian may need to change his mind about the Person of Christ (Mark 1:15; Acts 2:38), God (Acts 20:21), idols (Revelation 9:20), sin (Revelation 9:21), or his works (Revelation 16:11; Hebrews 6:1) before he or she can believe in Christ for the gift of salvation.

Repentance cannot refer to sorrow for sin or turning from sin because in the Old Testament God repents (e.g. Genesis 6:6-7; Exodus 32:14; Jeremiah 26:19; Jonah 3:9-10; et. al.). If repentance meant sorrow for sin, God would be a sinner.

The gospel of John was written to tell non-Christians how to get to heaven (John 20:31),  yet John never uses the words “repent” or “repentance” as a condition for everlasting life because when one changes from unbelief to belief, he or she has repented. Another possible reason for the absence of these words in John’s gospel is because they are easily misunderstood to mean something like “turning from sins” or “penance” which involve works. The word “believe,” however, communicates such simplicity that it is less likely to be misconstrued to include a works-oriented response.

The issue is are you willing to agree with God that you are a sinner in His sight, who deserves to be separated from Him forever in a terrible place of suffering called the Lake of Fire (Romans 3:23; 6:23; Revelation 20:15)?

The invitation to repent can confuse people into trusting in their own efforts (turning from sin) or feelings (sorrow for sin) instead of the finished work of Christ on the cross (John 19:30).

In the context of Mark 1:15, Christ was offering His Messianic Kingdom to His self-righteous audience. But they needed to stop trusting in their own righteousness (“repent”) and “believe” in Jesus alone as their Messianic King so they could enter His Kingdom (Mark 10:15).

When we share the gospel of Jesus’ death and resurrection today (I Cor. 15:3-6), we must invite non-Christians to believe or trust in Christ alone to enter the Kingdom of God (John 3:5, 16). When they believe in Christ they have repented or changed their mind from unbelief to belief. This is so simple that children often understand and believe it before adults do. Let’s keep the gospel clear as we reach out to a lost world!

How can We Overcome Satan’s Lies?

The Bible tells us that Satan is the father of lies (John 8:44). His goal is to make believers focus on their sin and shame so they will forget their true identity in Christ and behave in a way that is inconsistent with who they really are. As a deceiver Satan seeks to trick believers into believing his lies in order to rob them of the abundant life that Christ wants them to have. But God has provided a way for His children to overcome Satan’s lies. 

 “3 For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. 4 For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, 5 casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ.”   2 Corinthians 10:3-5

1. Realize you cannot overcome Satan’s lies in your own strength. This battle is not “according to the flesh (v. 3). Nothing in our own flesh will help us to live victoriously or draw us closer to the Lord. Since the weapons of our warfare are “mighty in God,” then we must rely upon the power of the Holy Spirit to overcome Satan’s lies (v. 4).

2. Recognize the erroneous thoughts.This battle is located in our minds because it involves “strongholds,” “arguments,” “knowledge,” and “every thought” (vv. 4-5). The word “strongholds” pictures a fortress with high walls and towers surrounded by a moat. God says these strongholds must be destroyed which means that God did not build them. A “stronghold” then, is a negative, destructive pattern of thinking that Satan has built in our minds through repetition, trauma, or circumstances. Satan does not put thoughts in our minds. He uses other people’s voices to insert thoughts in our mind. Ungodly thoughts come from us. Christ lives inside us and He does not give us these ungodly thoughts. We will not get very far in this battle for our minds until we acknowledge these satanic strongholds. 

For example, a person who is addicted to drugs or alcohol has believed Satan’s lie that he is a drug addict or an alcoholic by nature and will never be anything else. When a person begins to believe that lie, he will act in a way that is consistent with who he believes he is. Often times Satan uses hopelessness to build his strongholds in our minds. When you come to the point of believing the battle is hopeless, you will stop trying to overcome the wrong way of thinking. But as long as you believe there is hope to overcome the stronghold in your mind, you will keep fighting to overcome it. 

You can tell when an individual is being ruled by a satanic stronghold. He or she says things like, “I can’t help myself,” “It’s not my fault,” “I was born this way,” “I’m just a victim,” or “This is hopeless.” When these intrusive thoughts occur acknowledge them and say, “This is what I am telling myself and I do not need these thoughts.”

3. Release the lie.“casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God” (v. 5a). Dismiss the lie and say, “This is not true, therefore, it is a lie and I am not going to pay attention to this. I am not going to entertain these thoughts.” 

4. Reprogram your mind with the truth.“bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ”(v. 5b). How do we bring every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ? Jesus told us: “And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:32). The devil is a liar by nature and he cannot handle the truth. This is why the devil tries to distract us from the truth so that it never gets deep down into the areas where he has a stronghold in our lives. True reality for us is located in the heavenly places, not on the earth. This is why the Bible says, “If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God” (Colossians 3:1). 

The solution to our problems is not on this earth, but in heaven. Once we change the location of our thinking from earth to heaven, we will start experiencing freedom from Satan’s lies which have enslaved us to sin.

For example, you may battle a lie that says, “You are an angry person who cannot help exploding when someone crosses you.” The first thing you do is realize you cannot overcome this lie in your own strength. Ask the Lord to help you overcome this. Secondly, admit that you are struggling with this lie. Do not fight it or deny it. Acknowledge this stronghold in your life, and then release it. Tell your subconscious the truth, “This is not true, therefore, it is a lie and I am not going to pay attention to this.” Then reprogram your mind with the truth: “As a child of God I no longer have to be enslaved by my anger.”

Dr. Don Gilbert has observed that it takes six weeks to develop a new habit. But it takes three years for the brain to create a new pathway physiologically (see diagram above).  Old physiological pathways in our brain were established by childhood teachings. The more we told ourselves lies, the stronger the pathway became between brain cells. But, now as believers, we can block the old pathways by telling ourselves, “This is not true. I am not going to pay attention to these lies.” We can then build a new pathway by telling ourselves the truth. This process of building a new pathway in the brain takes about three years. So even if we do not believe or feel the truth, we are to keep persevering in the truth. Keep telling yourself the truth even when you don’t feel or see it so you can create and strengthen the new pathway in your brain. Our bodies create new brain cells the more we tell ourselves the truth. The more we tell ourselves the truth, the stronger the pathway becomes between brain cells. When we ignore the lie, the old pathway weakens – those brain cells containing Satan’s lies have less power and strength. You can continue to create new brain cells throughout your life by speaking the truth to yourself. When Paul said, “do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind” (Romans 12:2), perhaps he not only had a spiritual transformation in mind, but a physiological transformation in mind as well. 

Consider these observations:

1.  Christ spent over three years preparing His disciples to carry on His mission. 

2.  The Apostle Paul spent three years in Arabia and Damascus alone with the Lord before beginning his ministry (Galatians 1:17-18). 

3.  The king of Babylon, Nebuchadnezzar, reeducated Daniel and his friends for three years before they could serve in his kingdom (Daniel 1:4-5). 

Could it be that these observations confirm that it takes approximately three years to create new physiological pathways in the brain to replace deeply seeded patterns of thinking with new ones?

The church would be wise to train new believers for three years to overcome deeply ingrained lies so they can be all that God created them to be. Is it any wonder that Jesus says, “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. 32 And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” (John 8:31-32)?!!

How to Reach those Steeped in Tradition

“Then all the men who knew that their wives had burned incense to other gods… answered Jeremiah, saying: ‘As for the word that you have spoken to us in the name of the Lord, we will not listen to you!’” Jeremiah 44:15-16

After God declared through Jeremiah that He would punish the Jews who fled to Egypt for refuge instead of to God (44:1-14), those Jews defiantly declared, “We will not listen to you!” (44:16). These men listened to “their wives” who “had burned incense to other gods” in Egypt (44:15) instead of to God. Their idolatrous traditions kept them from hearing and seeing the truth of God’s Word.

How can we effectively reach people with the gospel who are deeply entrenched in religious traditions whose customs and practices keep them from hearing and interpreting the gospel in the way God intended?

1. Take them to the Lord in prayer because only the Holy Spirit can convict them of their sinfulness and their need to believe in Jesus Christ alone for eternal life (John 16:7-11). 
2. Express appreciation for their commitment to glorify God by following traditions. Although their traditions may be wrong or unnecessary, they may be very sincere about doing what they think is right. 
3. Encourage them to study the Bible for themselves, reading out of the text what it says in comparison to what they were taught about their traditions (cf. John 5:39). 
4. Ask the Lord to bring one or two people who were saved out of the same tradition who can effectively share their testimonies with them (cf. Acts 18:24-28). 
5. Build them up with the hope that God could use them to reach others from the same tradition. They do not have to abandon their loved ones, but they can return to them with the life-changing message of the gospel of grace (cf. John 1:40-51)! 

(Adapted from EvanTell’s 2014 The Evangelism Study Bible, p. 864).

How can a Loving God Allow Pain and Suffering?

This is a question asked by many in the wake of Hurricane Florence in the USA and Typhoon Ompong in the Philippines as they see innocent children swept away in a landslide or drowned during a hurricane. While I cannot claim to know all of God’s reasons for allowing tragedies to take place in our world, I do want to provide some biblical answers to some basic questions about the topic of pain and suffering. 

Q1: Did God create the world with sin and suffering in it?

A1: No, God created the heavens (universe) and earth without sin as He concluded that what He originally made was “good” and “very good” (Genesis 1:3, 10, 12, 18, 21, 25, 31). This includes all the angels created by God (Colossians 1:16). However, Lucifer, God’s highest-ranking angel, rebelled and sinned against God (Isaiah 14:12-15; Ezekiel 28:11-19) prior to tempting Adam and Eve (Genesis 3:1-6). Lucifer, or Satan, also led one third of God’s angels to join him in his rebellion so that they (fallen angels and/or demons) now oppose God and His people (Ezekiel 28:16, 18; Revelation 12:4, 7-10).

Q2: When did sin and suffering begin on the earth?

A2: When Adam and Eve sinned against God in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3:1-6; Romans 5:12). Their decision to sin also adversely effected creation (Genesis 3:14-19) which now “groans  and labors with birth pangs together until now” (Romans 8:18-22).

Q3: Does God cause sin and suffering in the world today?

A3: No, the Bible says, “Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am tempted by God’; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone” (James 1:13). Temptations come from our own sinful flesh, the world, or from Satan (cf. Matthew 4:1-11; James 1:14; I John 2:16). God’s love gives each human being the ability to choose. If people could not choose between good and evil, that would not be love. Much suffering takes place in the world today because of circumstances beyond our control. Some suffering is because of our own sinful decisions or the decisions of others.

Q4: When people suffer, how do they know that God is in control?

A4: When Job suffered greatly, he asked God why He had even allowed him to be born (Job 3:11). Job cried out to God. “For the thing I greatly feared has come upon me, and what I dreaded has happened to me. I am not at ease, nor am I quiet, I have no rest, for trouble comes”(Job 3:25-26). God chose not to reveal His motives for allowing Job to suffer. He never told him why, but He did answer him. He answered Job by describing Himself as all powerful and in control (Job 38:1-41:34). So, we know that God is in control in the midst of suffering because He has told us in His Word (cf. Romans 8:28). 

Q5: How does God feel about those who do suffer?

A5: When people suffer, God wants them to know that He cares. He is concerned about every pain and tear. He encourages us to “cast all your care upon Him, for He cares for you”(I Peter 5:7). Sometimes God demonstrates His care by not removing our suffering but by comforting us in the midst of it (2 Corinthians 1:3-11). God will help us through whatever suffering we face, if we look to Him. It is with this kind of suffering that God helps us through but He does not necessarily remove it.  However, there is a kind of suffering that God wants to eliminate which is eternal. 

Q6: How can God love people if He sends them to hell to suffer forever?

A6: First of all, God does not send anyone to hell. People send themselves to hell when they refuse to believe in God’s Son, Jesus Christ (John 3:16-19; Revelation 20:15) who suffered and died in our place on the cross and rose from the dead (I Corinthians 15:1-6). After all, God is holy and hates sin, and must punish it (Psalm 5:4; Isaiah 6:1-5; 59:2; Romans 3:23; 6:23b). The Bible tells us that all people must face God as their Judge – “And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment”(Hebrews 9:27). So, whether we have sinned once or a thousand times, sin’s consequences are forever. 

Q7: How can people escape eternal suffering?

A7: Their eternal suffering can be removed, not by any works or words they do or speak (Ephesians 2:8-9; Titus 3:5), but by accepting what God did for them on the cross. “But God demonstrates His own love toward us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us”(Romans 5:8). God now invites all people to believe or trust in His perfect Son, Jesus Christ, for His free gift of everlasting life. Jesus said, “Whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). Our good works and religious efforts will not save us because they are all like “filthy garments”in the sight of a holy God (Isaiah 64:6). We must trust in Christ alone as our only way to heaven. The moment we do, God gives us eternal life as a gift and we are His forever (John 10:28-29). 

A day is coming when all those who have believed or trusted in Jesus alone for His gift of everlasting life will be with Him in heaven where there will be no more suffering. The Bible says, “And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying…”(Revelation 21:4). Those who have believed in Christ recognize that there is suffering in this life, but they take comfort in God’s promise that one day all suffering will be gone forever. Those people will not suffer eternally. 

If you have never understood and believed this, why not trust in Jesus Christ alone right now as your only way to heaven? Here is how you could tell God in prayer what you are doing.

Dear God, I come to you now as a sinner. I know my sins deserve to be punished forever. But I now understand that Jesus Christ died for me and rose from the dead. I am now placing my trust in Christ alone as my only way to heaven. Thank You for the gift of forgiveness and eternal life I just received. In Jesus’ name. Amen. 

When you believed in Jesus, the Bible says you now have everlasting life (John 3:16) and you can “know” it. “These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life”(I John 5:13). God now wants to use you to tell others this good news. As you learn to follow Jesus, He can show you how to tell others how to escape eternal suffering before it is too late for them (Matthew 4:19).

How to Witness to those who do not Believe the Bible

I was recently asked the question, “How do you tell a person about Jesus if he/she does not believe in the Bible?”

A mentor of mine, Larry Moyer, has effectively witnessed to many non-Christians who did not believe the Bible. He taught me the following: 

I would recommend you start with the resurrection of Jesus Christ. The truth about Jesus does not stand or fall with the Bible. It stands or falls with Jesus’ resurrection. Even if there was no Bible, every person on earth would still have to deal with the Person of Jesus Christ because of His empty tomb. So challenge the non-Christian by asking, “Has anyone disproved Jesus’ empty tomb?” The empty tomb is based upon well documented historical facts apart from the Bible. Challenge them to read former skeptics’ books containing evidence that persuaded them to believe in Jesus such as Josh McDowell’s “Evidence That Demands A Verdict,” or “The Resurrection Factor,” and Lee Strobel’s “The Case For Christ,” or “The Case For Easter.” No one has succeeded in proving that Jesus did not rise from the dead. If Jesus did rise from the dead (and He did), then they must deal with what Jesus said in the Bible. 

For example, many skeptics have a difficult time believing the supernatural events of the Old Testament such as the creation of the first man and woman, Noah and the worldwide flood, or Jonah and the great fish. Jesus taught that such events were historically true (Matthew 12:39-41; 19:4-5; 24:37-38; Mark 10:6-7; Luke 11:29-32; 17:26-27).  Have them start with the Gospel of John which is written to non-Christians to tell them how to get to heaven (John 20:31). When they eventually believe in Christ for everlasting life (John 3:15-16), His Holy Spirit will help them understand and apply the Bible to their life (John 14:26; 16:7-14; I John 2:20-21, 27).

What happens when you believe in Jesus for everlasting life?

Every month thousands of Filipinos are coming to faith in Christ. What happens the moment you believe in Jesus for everlasting life?

1. God became your Father in Heaven and you became His child forever (John 1:12).

2. You were saved forever from Hell (John 3:16; Acts 16:31; Ephesians 2:8-9).

3. Jesus gave you everlasting life which can never be lost (John 3:16; 10:28-29).

4. You are guaranteed never to be judged for your sins in the future (John 5:24).

5. Rivers of living water (the Holy Spirit) now flow out of your heart to be a blessing to others (John 7:38-39).

6. Jesus and God the Father now hold you in their hands and no one is strong enough to snatch you out of their hands (John 10:28-29).

7. You now have never ending life and are guaranteed a future resurrection when you will receive a glorified body that is free from sin and death (John 11:25-26; I Corinthians 15:35-57). 

8. God forgave all of your sins – past, present, and future sins (Acts 10:43; Colossians 2:13-14).

9. You were declared totally righteous before a holy God (Romans 3:22-26; 4:5).

10. You now have peace with God (Romans 5:1).

11. You are now under grace, not the Old Testament Law, so that you can trust Christ to give you victory over sin (Romans 6:14).

12. You are Christ’s bride, not His hostage (Romans 7:4; 2 Corinthians 11:2). 

13. Jesus now lives inside of you through His Holy Spirit and He promises never to leave you (Romans 8:11; Hebrews 13:5).

14. Your physical body is now a temple of the Holy Spirit and is to be used to glorify God (I Corinthians 6:19-20).

15. God gave you one or more spiritual gifts to be used to serve Him and others in His body, the Church (Romans 12:4-8; I Corinthians 12:1-14:40; Ephesians 4:11-13; I Peter 4:7-11).

16. You were placed in the Body of Christ, the Church, by the Holy Spirit (I Corinthians 12:13).

17. You have a new motivation to live for Christ now, not for yourself (2 Corinthians 5:15).

18. You have a new mindset now to see others as Christ see them – as people whom Jesus loves and wants to save (2 Corinthians 5:16; cf. I Timothy 2:3-5).

19. You have a new ministry now to preach the gospel of Christ to the lost so they can be reconciled to God (2 Corinthians 5:18-19).

20. You are now an ambassador for Christ (2 Corinthians 5:20).

21. You were crucified with Christ so that He can live His life through you (Galatians 2:20).

22. You are now a “saint” (set apart from your sin and shame to serve God) at the core of your being, not a sinner (Ephesians 1:1; cf. Romans 1:7; 8:27; I Corinthians 1:2; 14:33; Ephesians 1:15; 3:8, 18; 4:12; 5:3, 6:18; Philippians 1:1; Colossians 1:2; I Thessalonians 3:13).

23. You are totally accepted by God in Christ (Ephesians 1:6).

24. You were “redeemed” or “purchased” off the slave market of sin so that now you do not have to sin (Ephesians 1:7).

25. You were “sealed” by the Holy Spirit who will safely and securely deliver you to heaven when you die or when Jesus removes the church from the earth (Ephesians 1:13-14).

26. You are now the “inheritance” of God the Father (Ephesians 1:18).

27. You are seated next to the exalted Lord Jesus Christ in the heavenly places above all enemies of God, including the devil (Ephesians 1:20-21; 2:5-6).

28. You are now God’s masterpiece, not a mistake (Ephesians 2:10). 

29. You now have direct access to God’s throne of grace (Ephesians 3:12; Hebrews 4:15-16).

30. You are now a citizen of Heaven (Philippians 3:20). 

31. You have been delivered from the power of darkness to one day reside in the future kingdom of God’s Son on earth (Colossians 1:13; Revelation 20:4-6).

32. You have been reconciled to God through Christ (Colossians 1:20).

33. You are now complete in Christ, lacking nothing before God (Colossians 2:9-10).

34. You have been made perfect forever in the sight of a holy God according to Jesus’ perfect sacrifice on the Cross, not your own performance (Hebrews 10:14). 

How do you know when you have a true mission from God?

7And the Lord said: ‘I have surely seen the oppression of My people who are in Egypt, and have heard their cry because of their taskmasters, for I know their sorrows… 10Come now, therefore, and I will send you to Pharaoh that you may bring My people, the children of Israel, out of Egypt.’ ” Exodus 3, 7, 10 

While Moses is shepherding his father-in-law’s sheep in the back of the Midian desert at Mount Horeb, God gets Moses’ attention through a burning bush (3:1-2). Then God tells Moses that He has a mission for him: “Come now, therefore, and I will send you to Pharaoh that you may bring My people, the children of Israel, out of Egypt” (3:10).

How do we know when we have a true mission from God? There are three marks of a true mission from God in these verses:

1. A TRUE MISSION FROM GOD IS PASSIONATE. When you want to know God’s mission for your life it is based on God’s love. It’s not motivated by more money, fame, or pleasure. A true mission from God is motivated by God’s love for other people. God told Moses, “I have surely seen the oppression of My people who are in Egypt, and have heard their cry because of their taskmasters, for I know their sorrows” (3:7). God’s love for His people motivated Him to send Moses to deliver them from their “oppression” and “sorrows.” When God gives you a mission it is going to involve caring about other people. It is passionate.  

2. A TRUE MISSION FROM GOD IS PERSONAL. God told Moses, “Come now, therefore, and I will send you to Pharaoh…” (3:10a). A true mission from God is specifically for you. God did not say “I hope somebody will go set them free.” He didn’t say “I’m sending a group.” He said, “I want you to go, Moses.” It is a personal mission.

3. A TRUE MISSION FROM GOD IS PRACTICAL. God said to Moses, “I will send you to Pharaoh that you may bring My people, the children of Israel, out of Egypt” (3:10b). He said you are going to go set them free. You are going to relieve their suffering. A true mission from God benefits other people. 

That is what our ministry in the Philippines is all about. It is about being concerned about people not having a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. It is being concerned about new believers growing in their relationship with Christ through discipleship.  

God’s mission is about hearing the needs of other people, and then saying let us do something about it. It is based on the love of God for others. What is God’s mission for your life? Based on Exodus 3:7 and 10, it is passionate, personal, and practical. Will you join God on His mission to reach a lost world with the gospel of grace (Matt. 28:19-20; Mark 16:15; Acts 20:24)? He is waiting for you to respond.

God’s Only Plan to Reach the World

After Jesus’ death and resurrection, He gave His followers His one and only plan to reach the world for God’s glory (Matthew 28:19-20). The central command is to “make disciples” of Christ. A “disciple” is a learner or pupil of Jesus Christ. Jesus gives us three steps to make a disciple. 

1. “Go.” Before we can make a disciple, we need first a believer in Jesus. Jesus commands us to “go” to “all the nations” (Matt. 28:19a), and as we go, we are to “preach the gospel” of His death and resurrection to a lost world (Mark 16:15; I Cor. 15:1-6) and invite our listeners to believe in Christ alone for His gift of salvation (John 3:16; Rom. 1:16). 

2. “Baptizing them…” After a person believes the gospel, we are to baptize him or her in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit (28:19b). Water baptism initiates the new believer into the discipleship process and expresses their desire to follow Jesus and never turn back. 

3. “Teaching them…” Baptized believers are to be taught more than the commands of Christ. They are to be taught to “observe” or obey all of Christ’s commands (28:20a). God wants His disciples to be “doers of His word, and not hearers only” (James 1:22). 

The command to “make disciples of all the nations” may seem overwhelming. However, as we go to make disciples, baptizing them and striving to teach them to obey all that Jesus commanded, we can go with confidence. We are assured of our ultimate success, because Christ now has “all authority” (28:18) and has promised to be with us in a special way (“lo, I am with you always”) to the end of the age if we obey Him (28:20b). This is referring to more than Jesus’ personal presence which is guaranteed for all believers (Heb. 13:5). Christ guarantees to back us up with everything we need to make disciples (i.e. boldness, people, protection, strength, resources, wisdom, etc.) as we learn to trust and obey Him.