No, we’re not headed to Missouri this day, just borrowing their fine motto for a few minutes. You know — in the sense of “Back up what you’re saying”, “Prove it”, “Give me an example”, and such like. These days you’d better have some back-up to what you’re agreeing to, or you could end up in a world of trouble and loss!
One picture’s worth a thousand words.
Even if it’s a word picture, a verbal or written play-by-play of something that occurred can go a long way toward explaining an idea or making it clear. If we can see an example of what someone’s talking about, their intentions in what they were trying to say become so much clearer. We can apply that same concept, by using the simple standard of “show me where that happened in the Bible”, to evaluate most any claim about something the Bible says.
Most people who study at all can show you some scriptures to support what they believe, or at least why they don’t believe something that contradicts what they’re familiar with. But one framework that often fails to support what someone is alleging to be true in scripture is asking them for an example of that particular thing happening in the Bible, particularly when it comes to the experience of becoming part of the kingdom of God.
The apostles said it
The apostles who wrote several New Testament books, Paul, James and Jude, referred to things that had happened in the scriptures that were available to them (what now makes up our Old Testament) as examples for the believers to whom they were writing to follow. 1 Corinthians 10, Hebrews 8, James 10, and Jude 1 all record references to examples from those who had served God before them. For us, the writings of the apostles, as well as those of the men who wrote the Old Testament, along with the documentation of their actions in the Book of Acts, provide us with examples of what they did and what they meant by the things they said.
I used Bing search engine to query “How to be saved”. You want to guess how many responses it turned up? 2.82 BILLION. Google lagged way behind with only 391 MILLION. Now, I have to say that I didn’t take time to read them all, but I can pretty much imagine they didn’t all agree with one another. I assure you the ones I did read briefly varied widely and even wildly. Is that a problem? If I’d landed here from another culture and wanted to know what I needed, would I be able to trust whatever might turn up on Bing, Google, or other search engines, or whoever I might cross paths with? How would I know what to trust?
How about, seeing whether there are examples of those things that are touted as ways to be saved actually occurring in the Word of God, the Bible? Wait; you’re saying there are examples in the Bible of people getting saved? Show me!
Where did all the examples of people getting saved in the Bible occur? They are recorded in the Book of Acts (the “Acts of the Apostles” is the full title, documenting what they did, including what they preached, and how people responded to it).
What examples are there?
Acts 2: The church is born on the Day of Pentecost; Peter preaches a 3-step plan: 1) Repent, 2) be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, 3) receive the gift of the Holy Ghost (v. 38). 3000 respond by gladly receiving his word and being baptized, thus being added unto the church (no reasonable person could assert that they were documented as being “added unto them” by doing anything other than what Peter had just preached).
Acts 8: Phillip preaches in Samaria; the people receive his teaching and are baptized in the name of Jesus. Peter and John come and lay hands on them and they receive the gift of the Holy Ghost with the evidence of speaking in other tongues.
Acts 10: Peter preaches to the household of the Cornelius, a Roman centurion an a gentile; while he’s preaching the Holy Ghost falls on all of them and they receive the Holy Ghost and speak with other tongues. Peter commands them to be baptized in the name of Jesus.
Acts 19: Paul finds believers who only knew about John’s baptism of repentance, and had not yet received the Holy Ghost. When Paul explained to them what they needed to do they were rebaptized by Paul in the name of Jesus, and they received the Holy Ghost and spoke with other tongues.
So there are various examples of people getting into the church, they body of Christ, by hearing the word preached, being baptized in Jesus name, and receiving the Holy Ghost. Repentance came in that they turned from what they had been believing and practicing, and received (agreed with) the word of the apostles preaching to them, but forming the basis for the rest of their obedience to the word, not the total experience.
OK, but where is…
Where is there evidence of someone being told they could get into the body of Christ, the church by “accepting Jesus as their personal Savior” or evidence of someone actually doing that? I’m not trying to be intentionally rude, but I can’t find an example of anyone getting saved that way in the Bible. Ok, but is the concept there? Well, I see the concept of our being accepted or chosen by him (“accepted in the beloved” Ephesians 1:6, “acceptable into God” (Romans 12:1), “You have not chosen me but I have chosen you” (John 15:16), “Many are called but few are chosen” (Matthew 22:14).
Is that all?
Other things you won’t find examples of people doing in the New Testament include: People actually being baptized in titles Father, Son and Holy Ghost. Surprised? Look for yourself — it simply didn’t occur in the historical record.
So, just think: if some of the things commonly accepted today don’t line up to the “Show me” test, maybe you need to re-look at where your own personal experience lines up with the examples.
I heard a song this week with a line that said: “there are 35,000 versions of Christianity” (my apologies to the songwriter/artist — I didn’t catch the name, but that line stood out to me). If that’s true (and I didn’t Google that one), how many of those “versions” do you think line up to the original? Where does your “version” stand in that regard?
I’d love to hear what you think. Feel free to comment, ask a question, or request more information.