This is the fifth video of our Lesson 1 discipleship training. It will review the gospel by which we are saved from hell. It also addresses how to be more effective in evangelism by avoiding unclear gospel invitations.
“His parents said these things because they feared the Jews, for the Jews had agreed already that if anyone confessed that He was Christ, he would be put out of the synagogue. Therefore his parents said, ‘He is of age; ask him.’ ” John 9:22-23
As we continue to look at the man born blind whom Jesus healed (John 9:1-12), we will discover a third symptom of spiritual blindness. After the parents of this healed man testified that this was their son who was born blind (John 9:20), they would not tell the Pharisees how their blind son gained his sight. They said, “But by what means he now sees we do not know, or who opened his eyes we do not know. He is of age; ask him. He will speak for himself.” (John 9:21). They said nothing about how or by whom he received his sight because they were afraid of being excommunicated from the synagogue. They evade this issue by saying their son was an adult capable of answering for himself.
“22 His parents said these things because they feared the Jews, for the Jews had agreed already that if anyone confessed that He was Christ, he would be put out of the synagogue. 23 Therefore his parents said, ‘He is of age; ask him.’ ” (John 9:22-23). The parents say nothing of Jesus. If these parents allowed their son to beg, then it was unthinkable for them to confess Christ before the Pharisees. Because no one could conduct business with a person who was excommunicated from the synagogue.
The Jews had three types of excommunication:
1. The Nezifah (“reproof”), the mildest formwas applied “when someone had insulted a prominent or learned person. It lasted seven days and the offender could not appear before the one he displeased. He had to retire to his house, speak little, refrain from business and pleasure, and manifest his remorse.” 1
2. The Niddui (“separation), was imposed when “the offender was first publicly warned three times at the regular service in the synagogue. During the period of discipline … (30 days according to the Jerusalem Talmud) no one except the members of his immediate household were permitted to associate with the offender, or sit within four cubits of him, or eat in his company. He had to observe all the laws that pertained to a mourner and could not be counted among the number necessary for the performance of a public religious function.” 2
3. The Barem (“ban”), “was the most rigorous form of excommunication. This extended for an indefinite period during which no one was permitted to teach the offender, work for him, or benefit him in any way. It meant exclusion from the religious community and intercourse with Jewish society.” 3
Whatever form of excommunication was enforced then, the threat was serious enough to keep the parents quiet about the identity of their son’s Healer. This is the third symptom of spiritual blindness – DESIRE THE APPROVAL OF OTHERS AT THE EXPENSE OF THE TRUTH (John 9:21-23). The parents of the former blind man withheld the truth about Jesus as the Christ (Messiah) because they did not want to be excommunicated from the synagogue and lose the opportunity to do business with others. In other words, they wanted the approval of the religious leaders but not the approval of God.
How many people have avoided the truth to please others? Maybe you come from a strong religious background and if you embraced the truth about Jesus Christ, you would suffer persecution from your family and religious community. Believing in a generic God is safe, but confessing Jesus Christ as the Messiah-God will bring opposition ranging from ridicule and mockery, to possible torture and death.
The sad part of this is people can end up in hell because they sought to preserve their own lives and livelihood like the parents of the man born blind instead of seeking the truth about Jesus Christ. Let’s put this in perspective. Would you rather avoid temporary sufferings on earth by rejecting Jesus Christ and then experience eternal punishment and torment in the lake of fire after you die or would you rather endure temporary sufferings on earth now by believing in Jesus Christ for eternal life to possess eternal bliss and joy in heaven with Jesus after you die? Is your comfort now more important than your comfort in eternity? Many people will be separated from God forever in the lake of fire because they sought the approval of people instead of seeking the truth about Jesus Christ. What will you choose?
The Bible says, “He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.” (John 3:36). Heaven and hell are in the balance my friends. If you do not believe or trust in Christ alone as your only hope of heaven simply to avoid suffering on earth now, you will regret this forever as you suffer torment in the lake of fire. On the other hand, if you will transfer all your trust onto Jesus Christ, Who died for your sins and rose from the dead, for His gift of everlasting life now, you will enjoy Jesus’ presence forever in a perfect and problem-free place called heaven.
If you are a believer in Jesus, it is possible to have a reluctance to express that faith publicly for fear of persecution. For example, many of the ruling Pharisees had saving faith but were afraid to express that faith to others because they loved the approval of people more than God’s approval: “42 Nevertheless even among the rulers many believed in Him, but because of the Pharisees they did not confess Him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue; 43 for they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God.” (John 12:42-43).
Does this sound familiar to you? We do not want to speak up for Christ because we are afraid of what people will think or do to us. When we refuse to openly tell others about Jesus’ saving grace, we are no longer walking in the light. We are hiding in the darkness because we are ashamed of the precious cleansing blood of Jesus Christ (I John 1:7; 2:22-23; 4:15). When we turn away from God to please people, we are telling God, “I don’t want Your praise, Father. I don’t need it!” In other words, we are out of fellowship with God (I John 4:15).
It is important to understand that confessing Christ before others is not a condition for receiving eternal life. Only believing in Jesus is necessary for salvation from hell (John 3:14-16, 36; 5:24; Acts 16:31; Ephesians 2:8-9). God can see our faith in Christ alone apart from any good works or outward manifestation (Romans 3:21-4:5; Ephesians 2:8-9; Titus 3:4-7). But confessing Christ before others is necessary to grow in our Christian lives.
Romans 10:9-10 is referring to believing in your heart “unto righteousness” which is justification before God (Romans 3:21-5:9a) and confessing with your mouth for salvation from the present-day wrath of God (Rom. 1:16-32; 5:9-10) which is sanctification or growing in the Christian life (Rom. 5:9b-8:39). Failure to confess Christ before others now, will result in the loss of eternal rewards at the Judgment Seat of Christ, particularly, the loss of ruling with Christ in the world to come (Matthew 10:32-42; 2 Corinthians 5:8-11; 2 Timothy 2:12).
Let’s make every day count for eternity. As a Christian, live for the audience of One, Jesus Christ, and He will make your life eternally worthwhile (Colossians 3:23-24; Revelation 22:12).
Prayer: Lord Jesus, thank You for reminding me that my choices now will determine what my eternity will be like. The most important decision anyone can make is what they will do with You, Lord Jesus. Will they believe in You for Your gift of everlasting life and enjoy eternity with You in heaven or will they choose not to believe in You and suffer torment forever separated from You in the lake of fire!?! I beg of You, my Lord and my God, to remove the blinders from those who are more concerned about their comfort on earth than about their comfort for eternity. Help them to believe that You, Jesus, are the Christ, the Son of God, that believing they may have eternal life in Your name alone. For those of us who believe in You, Jesus, please enable us to live for Your approval and not the approval of people. In Your everlasting name I pray. Amen.
1. J. Carl Laney, Moody Gospel John Commentary (Chicago: Moody Press, 1992), pp. 177-178.
2. Ibid, p. 178.
“That if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.” Romans 10:9-10
Romans 10:9-10 is used by many sincere Christian workers to justify the use of this invitation in evangelism. By using these verses, believers are telling non-Christians they must believe in Christ plus confess He is Lord to go to heaven. Is this what these verses teach?
It is important to understand the argument of Romans before interpreting these verses. The key to understanding Romans is to look at the first use of the word “salvation” in 1:16-17: “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, ‘The just shall live by faith.’” The words “saved” (sōzō) or “salvation” (sōtēria) refer to some type of “deliverance.” The context determines what one is delivered from. Romans 1:18 says, “For the wrath of God is revealed [present tense] from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in righteousness.” The book of Romans is the good news (Gospel) of Jesus Christ which provides the power for deliverance (salvation) from the present-day wrath (displeasure) of God which is expressed in sinners being given over to the downward spiral of their own sinfulness (1:18b-32). This salvation from God’s present-day wrath is two-fold (“faith to faith,” 1:17):
1. Justification-salvation before God through faith alone in Christ alone who died for our sins and rose from the dead (Romans 1:20 – 5:9a). This is what delivers us from the penalty of sin and gets us to Heaven. God wants to bring those back who have been given over to their own sinfulness. God sees all people as unrighteous and in bondage to sin (1:20-3:20). God comes to people and gives them His righteousness on the basis of faith alone in Jesus Christ alone (3:21-5:9a). Twenty-six times Paul uses the words “believe” and “faith” as the only condition for justification (being declared righteous) before God in this section of Romans. Nowhere in this section does he mention the word “confession.”
2. Sanctification-salvation from God’s present-day wrath (degradation of sin) through Christ living in us by faith (Romans 5:9b-8:39). The next time the word “saved” is used in Romans is in 5:9-10: “Much more then, having now been justified [past tense] by His blood, we shall be saved [future tense] from wrath through Him. For if when we were enemies we were reconciled [past tense] to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled [past tense], we shall be saved [future tense] by His life.” The salvation being spoken of here is in the future tense and takes place after we are justified and reconciled to God. We were reconciled to God through faith in Christ’s death (3:21-5:9a). We can be saved from God’s present-wrath or the power of sin through faith in Christ’s life (5:9b – 8:39).
In Romans 9-11, Paul is addressing the need of Jews to be delivered from God’s present-day wrath through justification and sanctification. Paul talks about God’s sovereign use of Israel in the past and His temporary setting aside of Israel in the present due to her rejection of His righteousness through faith in the Messiah (Romans 9:1-10:4). After being redeemed from Egypt by faith, the nation of Israel sought to obtain a sanctifying-righteousness by keeping the Law (Romans 10: 5). In verses 6-7, Paul quotes Deuteronomy 30:12-13 when Moses was challenging the redeemed nation of Israel to believe and obey God’s revelation (the Law) as they prepared to enter the Promised Land. There was no excuse for disbelieving and disobeying God’s Law. The people of Israel did not need to ascend to Heaven nor descend to the abyss to obtain the Law because God had already revealed it to them through Moses. Paul applies this truth to God’s final revelation found in the Person of Christ who had descended to earth (Romans 10:6) and rose from the dead (10:7). There was no excuse for disbelieving and disobeying the Person of Jesus Christ. In Romans 10:8, Paul prepares the way for Romans 10:9-10 by quoting Deuteronomy 30:14. Just as God’s Old Testament revelation was “near” to the Israelites in the wilderness before entering the Promised Land (Deuteronomy 30:14), so God’s message of faith through Jesus Christ was “near” to deliver Paul’s readers from God’s present wrath when they believed in Christ (which takes place in the “heart”) and obey (which takes place in the “mouth”) His commands.
Paul explains the content of this “word of faith” (10:8) in Romans 10:9: “That if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.” Verse 9 refers to being “saved” from God’s present-day wrath (Romans 1:16-32; 5:9-10). This type of salvation requires confessing “with your mouth” and believing “with your heart.” God’s people could not ask for assistance (with the “mouth”) from Christ to obey God’s commands without first believing (with the “heart”) in Christ resulting in God’s righteousness. Verse 10 explains (“For”) this sequence: “For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.” We come to know Christ by believing in Him from the heart resulting in God’s righteousness (v.10a; cf. Romans 3:21 – 5:9a). We make Christ known to others by confessing Him with our mouths resulting both in salvation from God’s wrath on present-day sin (v. 10b; cf. Romans 1:16-32; 5:9-10) and victory in our Christian lives (Romans 5:98:39; cf. Matthew 10:32; Luke 12:8). To believe in the heart resulting in God’s righteousness is justification. To confess with the mouth resulting in salvation is sanctification. One does not have the power to acquire sanctifying-righteousness through public confession of Christ without first obtaining justification-righteousness through faith alone in Christ alone.
Paul quotes Isaiah 28:16, which took place during the Assyrian invasion, to assure his readers that they can openly confess Christ without being ashamed (Romans 10:11). One commentator suggests Paul may have quoted this verse to express “God’s desire to deliver the Jews from the wrath to come at the hand of Rome in A.D. 70.” Deliverance from this expression of God’s wrath begins with believing in Christ (10:11) and culminates in calling upon Him for divine assistance (10:12). The phrase “whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved” (10:13) is a quotation from Joel 2:32. In that verse, the prophet Joel asks God to deliver Israel from His coming temporal wrath (cf. Joel 2:30-31). To be delivered from God’s present-day wrath requires both faith in Christ resulting in justification, followed by calling upon the name of the Lord for divine assistance.
This sequence is confirmed by Romans 10:14-15a when the verbs in these verses are reversed – “sent …preach…hear…believe… call on Him.” We see that calling on the name of the Lord is done after believing in Christ and is therefore something Christians do after their conversion to obtain divine assistance in living the victorious Christian life (Romans 5:9-8:39; cf. Acts 9:21; I Cor. 1:2).
In Romans 11, Paul praises God’s wise plans in extending mercy to the Gentiles now and to Israel in the future. In view of God’s great mercy which Paul has declared in Romans 1-11, Paul urges his readers to live a life of surrender to the Lord (12:1-2), which includes serving God by serving others (12:3-16:27).
Conclusion: Going to heaven is based on believing in Christ alone for His gift of righteousness and eternal life (John 3:16; Romans 3:22 -5:10a), not believing in Christ plus confession. It is believing in Christ plus nothing. However, if we want to experience a victorious Christian life and deliverance from God’s wrath on present-day sin, we must openly confess Christ and call upon His name for divine assistance to overcome the power of sin in our lives.
When the apostle Paul instructed the Colossian believers to pray for his preaching of the gospel, he said, “that I may make it clear in the way I ought to speak” (Colossians 4:4; NASB). God wants Christians to be clear in the way they communicate the gospel of Christ to non-Christians.
God uses the words “believe” and “faith” more than any other words as conditions for salvation from hell in the New Testament (e.g. Matthew 9:22; Mark 1:15; 5:34; 10:52; Luke 8:12, 48; 17:19; 18:42; John 1:12; 3:15, 16, 18, 36; 4:10-14, 25-28; 5:24, 39-40; 6:35, 37, 39-40, 47; 7:38-39; 10:24-30; 11:25, 26; 12:36, 46-47; 20:31; Acts 10:43; 11:14; 11:17; 13:39; 15:9, 11; 16:31; 26:18. Romans 3:22, 24, 26, 27, 28, 30; 4:3, 5, 9, 11, 13, 16, 22, 24; 5:1; 9:30, 33; 10:4, 10; I Corinthians 1:21;2 Corinthians 5:1-5, 8; Galatians 3:2, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 11, 14, 22, 24, 26; Ephesians 1:13; 2:8-9; Philippians 3:9; I Timothy 1:16; 2 Timothy 1:12; 3:15; 1 John 5:1, 13; et. al). But instead of using the words that God uses the most in the New Testament to tell non-Christians how to respond to the gospel, many Christians have inserted other words or clichés to communicate the most important message given to humanity.
When inviting a non-Christian to respond to the gospel (I Corinthians 15:1-6), avoid invitations that do more to confuse a lost person than clarify what he or she must do to get to heaven. We will evaluate some common gospel invitations according to what the Bible teaches.
1. Accept Christ.
a. The one verse that alludes to this possible invitation is John 1:12: “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name.” This verse makes it clear that the way to receive or accept Christ is to “believe in His name.” Receiving Christ is the result of believing in Him.
b. The danger in asking people to accept Christ is that they may accept Christ as a Person (just as we may accept one another as a person) and still depend on their good works to get them to heaven without ever trusting in Jesus alone as their only hope of heaven.
c. This invitation can be very confusing especially for Roman Catholics who are more inclined to think of accepting or receiving Christ by partaking of the Eucharist. If you invite a Roman Catholic to receive Christ, he or she may think you are referring to receiving His body (bread) and blood (cup) in the Eucharist instead of believing in Jesus. In their minds, receiving or accepting Christ is done repeatedly.
2. Turn from or be sorry for your sins.
a. No human being, Christian or non-Christian, can stop sinning (I John 1:8, 10).
b. The word “repent” (μετανοέω) refers to a change of 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 (Hebrews 6:1; Revelation 16:11) before he can believe in Christ alone for the gift of salvation.
c. 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 turning from sin or sorrow for sin, then God would be a sinner.
d. The gospel of John which was written to tell non-Christians how to get to heaven (John 20:31), 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 is 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.
e. The issue is not how you feel about sin; it is how God feels about sin. God is completely holy and perfect (Isaiah 6:3; Revelation 4:8; 15:4). The Lord hates sin and demands that it be punished (Genesis 6:5-7; Deuteronomy 25:16; Proverbs 6:16-19; Romans 6:23; Hebrews 1:9). 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)?
f. This invitation 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).
3. Confess your sins.
a. Jesus never invited an unbeliever to do this (cf. John 3:15-16; 4:10-14; 6:35-40; 11:25-27).
b. This is what we do after we believe in Christ to restore fellowship or closeness with God after we sin (I John 1:3, 9).
c. The reference to people “confessing their sins” when they were baptized by John the Baptist in the Jordan River (Matthew 3:6) is referring to the self-righteous people of Israel recognizing their sin so they would see their need to believe in Christ. Acts 19:4 says, “John indeed baptized with a baptism of repentance, saying to the people that they should believe on Him who would come after him, that is, on Christ Jesus” (cf. John 1:6-7; 3:23, 36).
4. Pray the sinner’s prayer.
a. Nowhere in the Bible is anyone told to pray a prayer to be saved from eternal condemnation. Jesus never invited an unbeliever to do this nor did the apostles. For example, when the Philippian jailer asked Paul and Silas what he must do to be saved from sin’s penalty, they did not say, “Pray this prayer” or “Pray after me.” They simply said, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved” (Acts 16:31).
b. The danger of using this invitation is that people may end up trusting in a prayer instead of trusting in the Person of Christ alone.
c. Often times, people get saved before they ever pray the sinner’s prayer because they have already trusted in Christ’s promise of eternal life.
d. Before leading someone in a prayer, explain to them that praying this prayer does not get them to heaven; only trusting in Christ alone will get them to heaven. This prayer is a way of telling God they are now trusting in His Son.
5. Give your life or your heart to Jesus.
a. This is not what the Bible teaches.
b. The issue in salvation is not what we give to God, but what God gives to us. “And this is the testimony: that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son” (I John 5:11).
c. If we give God our life or heart to get to heaven, we will be very disappointed because our life stops at the grave. We need life that lasts beyond the grave. We need God’s everlasting life which we receive by believing in Jesus alone (John 11:25-26).
d. This invitation is disturbing to children who think in more literal terms.
6. Ask Jesus into your heart.
a. Nowhere does Jesus or the apostles tell non-Christians to ask Christ into their hearts to possess eternal life.
b. When a person believes in Christ alone for eternal life, Christ comes to live inside of him as a result (John 1:12; Romans 8:9; Galatians 2:20; Ephesians 1:13-14; Colossians 1:27), so there is no need to ask Christ into his or her heart
c. Some will use Revelation 3:20 to invite unbelievers to “open the door of their heart.” But in the context of this passage we see that the Lord is speaking to believers who are in need of fellowship with Christ (Revelation 3:14-22).
– The word “heart” is not mentioned in Revelation 3:14-22.
– The word “church” in Revelation is always used of believers (1:4, 11, 20; 2:1, 7-8, 11-12, 17-18, 23, 29; 3:1, 6-7, 13-14, 22; 22:16).
– Jesus is standing outside of the “church”at Laodicea which had grown lukewarm or half-hearted in their service to Christ due to self-sufficiency and deceit (Revelation 3:14-18). Christ spoke of “chastening” (paideuō) them (Revelation 3:19a). The word “chasten” literally means “child-training” and is therefore an activity of God toward His children (cf. Hebrews 12:5-11).
– Jesus also called them to repentance (3:19b). Then He says in verse 20, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in [eiserchomai] to [pros] him and dine with him, and he with Me.” The Greek verb (eiserchomai) accompanied by the preposition translated “to” (pros) means “to come or go to someone.”The verse is speaking of entrance into a building toward a person, not entrance into a person. Jesus is saying that He will come in the church toward the person who repents (hears His voice and opens the door of the church) and eat dinner with him i.e. have intimate fellowship with him.
d. Why would Christians turn to the book of Revelation which was written to Christians to help them prepare for future events, when God has given us so many evangelistic verses in the gospel of John which was written to tell non-Christians how to get to heaven (John 20:31)?
e. This invitation can be very confusing for children who tend to think in more literal terms and are easily confused or disturbed by the prospect of asking a literal Jesus to take up residence in their blood-pumping organ.
f. This invitation also gives people a false sense of security. They have sincerely asked Jesus into their heart, but they do not have assurance from the Holy Spirit that they have eternal life because they have missed the only requirement for it which is believe in Christ (I John 5:9-13).
7. Confess Jesus is Lord.
a. One passage that alludes to this possible invitation is Romans 10:9-10, “9 That if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will besaved. 10 For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.” But these verses are talking about being delivered from God’s present-day wrath (displeasure) which is expressed in sinners being given over to the downward spiral of their own sinfulness (1:16-32; 5:9-10). To be delivered from God’s present-day wrath requires both believing in Christ resulting in justification (10:9b, 10a; cf. 1:20-5:9a) followed by confessing Jesus as Lord or “calling on the name of the Lord” (10:13) resulting in victorious Christian living (10:9a, 10b; cf. 5:9b-8:39). This sequence is confirmed by Romans 10:14-15a when the verbs in these verses are reversed – “sent …preach…hear…believe…call on Him.” We see that calling on the name of the Lord is done after believing in Christ and is therefore something Christians do after their conversion to obtain divine assistance in living the victorious Christian life (Romans 5:9-8:39; cf. Acts 9:21; I Cor. 1:2).
b. Confession involves effort and possible persecution (cf. Matthew 10:32).
c. When false prophets (Matthew 7:15) stand before Christ on Judgment Day (Matthew 7:21-23), they will confess the Lordship of Jesus and appeal to the good works they have done in Jesus’ name for His glory (“Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?”) as the basis of their entrance into the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 7:22). But Jesus will say to them, “I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness” (Matthew 7:23). Why does He say this? Because they had failed to do “the will of the Father in heaven” as it relates to entering the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 7:21b). Jesus said, “And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have everlasting life; and I will raise him up at the last day” (John 6:40;cf. 3:5, 15-16). Until a person is rightly related to Jesus by believing in Him for everlasting life, all their good works and words, including confessing Jesus is Lord, are “lawlessness” before a holy God (Matthew 7:23; cf. Isaiah 64:6).
d. The Scriptures give examples of secret believers who refuse to confess Christ openly with their words and lifestyle for fear of persecution (John 7:13; 9:22; 12:42; 19:38). They still have eternal life, but they will lose rewards for not identifying with Christ openly because of their fear of persecution (cf. Matthew 10:32-42).
8. Follow or obey Jesus.
a. Some use John 10:27-28 to defend this invitation for salvation: “27 My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. 28 And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand.” But in this passage the word “follow” is a figure of speech referring to belief. In the context, Jesus addresses the unbelief of His Jewish audience, who questioned if He was the Messiah (10: 24). Jesus replied to them, “I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in My Father’s name, they bear witness of Me. But you do not believe because you are not of My sheep, as I said to you” (10:25- 26). People who are not of His sheep do not believe (10:26). What then do His sheep do? They believe He is the Christ – the One who gives eternal life to those who believe in Him. They hear His voice and respond in faith like sheep follow a shepherd. They trust Him.
b. Throughout the Gospel of John, figures of speech are used to illustrate saving faith: receiving (1:12), looking (3:14-15), asking (4:10), drinking (4:14), hearing (5:24; 10:16, 27), coming (6:35, 37), eating bread (6:54), entering (10:9) and following (10:27).
c. Following Christ through obedience is necessary to be a disciple of Christ (Mark 1:17-18; Luke 5:10-11; 9:23), not a possessor of Christ. For example, when you examine all four gospels, it becomes clear that the disciples whom Jesus called to follow Him in Mark 1:14-18 had already believed in Christ for about a year (John 1:35-4:35).
9. Commit your life to Christ.
a. Jesus never invited non-Christians to commit their life to Him to obtain the free gift of everlasting life. Many people have pledged to serve God in the hope that their commitment would persuade God to take them to heaven.
b. Promising to commit your life to Christ can actually become a stumbling block, for to be saved from the Lake of Fire one must believe in Christ alone, not Christ plus your commitment (Acts 16:31). Making promises is a form of works-salvation and is foreign to God’s way of salvation (Titus 3:5).
c. This cliché may be an appropriate challenge for Christians to follow Christ and to serve and suffer for Him as His disciple (Matthew 16:24- 27; Luke 9:23).
10. Submit to Jesus as your Lord and Master.
a. Submitting to the Lordship of Christ does not take anyone to heaven because it misses the object of saving faith – believing in Jesus alone for eternal life.
b. The term “Lord” in the name “Lord Jesus Christ” (Acts 16:31) refers to Christ’s deity and unique role in our salvation, not His control over every area of an individual’s life. Only Christ has the ability and authority to punish sin or pardon sinners.
c. Submitting to Christ’s Lordship is a challenge that Jesus gives to people after they are saved, who then have the supernatural resources to enable them to surrender to Christ’s control as a part of the life-long process of discipleship (cf. Luke 14:25-35). Failure to submit to Jesus’ Lordship results in the loss of rewards (cf. Colossians 3:23-24), not salvation.
Conclusion: We are not suggesting that no one has been born again when these clichés are included in a gospel presentation. Evangelist Larry Moyer has said, “God can still use a crooked arrow to hit a target.” God can still use our unclear gospel presentations to help people come to Christ by believing in Him. But why use an unclear phrase or cliché which will do more to confuse a lost person than clarify what he must do to obtain eternal life? Would it not be better to use the clearest presentation possible so that the unsaved person has the best opportunity to respond to the gospel the way God wants him to respond? Let’s keep the gospel clear by using the words God uses the most – “believe” and “faith” – when inviting non-Christians to respond to the gospel!