“For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: ‘The righteous will live by faith.’ ” Romans 1:17
I was doing some thinking this morning. There are a couple of things which all major religions share in common, for example, a deity, and a destination, or heaven, nirvana, Shangri-La… But the one thing that sets Christianity apart, other than our Savior dying for us, is that salvation is achieved not through any action of our own, but through faith in Christ alone.
Take a few minutes to really chew on that… Nothing we do, however spiritually impressive could ever get us in to Heaven on our own, without faith and submission to God.
As I thought about how freeing and wonderful this statement is, that we’ve been ransomed as sinners so that we might BECOME righteous, I started thinking about how I would convey this message to a non-Christian. And I have to admit, other than quoting exactly what the Bible says in Romans 1:17, Habakkuk 2:4, or Hebrews chapter 11, I am seriously having difficulty in describing how this concept actually works. My biggest “hang-up” is how I would explain things such as baptism to someone without it sounding contradictory to “by faith alone.” If salvation is achieved through faith alone, then why must a Christian be baptized? It’s not that I don’t understand the significance, it’s simply that I’m having difficulty breaking it down into its simplest parts to explain it to someone who has virtually zero background in the faith.
Maybe my brain is over-thinking what “by faith alone” actually means. Does it mean by intellectually believing that Jesus is the Christ, who died once for the sins of all? Is it more than that? Is it the relationship? Or does it mean that because of your faith, here are the next steps you need to follow?
I guess the confusing bit to explain is the whole, It’s not about what you DO to receive salvation, except that you must repent and be baptized, or take communion, or adhere to Jesus’ teachings, or go to church, or be in fellowship with other believers… How would you reconcile those things to a non-Christian?
The best explanation I’m coming up with is as follows: that when you believe in God, and you profess your faith in Christ, your life will change. You will WANT to be closer to God, and in being closer to God, you are innately moving farther away from sin. The symbolism of the things Christians do, such as baptism and communion are things that help us turn from our old lives of sin, and turn toward our new lives in Christ. By being baptized, you are acknowledging your sin, and dying to the old you, and raising up again in the new you that is redeemed by Christ. By taking communion, you are observing and commemorating the Last Supper, and there by bringing Christ and the Holy Spirit to dwell within you. When your life becomes centered around God, you will begin to do things out of love. That love is the source of the transformation that will take place within you as you move from sin to righteousness. Because you feel the love of God when you turn toward Him and the teachings of Christ, you will inevitably leave behind sin as you progress toward the Lord. That’s not to say that you’ll be a perfectly righteous person from the moment you’re baptized, or that you won’t make mistakes. It’s just that you will now feel convicted by the Holy Spirit, who dwells within you, to repent of your sin when you DO inevitably fall short, and God’s forgiveness will be waiting for you.
That’s the best way I can come up with to describe it… Please, I encourage all of you to leave feedback, and input. The clearer we make Christianity, the easier it will be for people to fall in love with God. I believe it is our job as “amateur apologists” to remove as much doubt and mystery as we can and present the Gospel to non-believers in such a way that is true to God’s word and win over non-believers with the TRUTH, not fancy words or speeches.