I had a wonderful opportunity to go visit family in Tennessee last week and, as is often the case, I quickly saw how God's hand was even in who I sat next to on my various flights. Between Chicago and Nashville, I had the opportunity to talk with a man who had a number of questions about the Bible. As is the case any time I witness, I definitely don't have all the perfect answers, and - I'll be honest - sometimes I stumble and pause and blush and wish I could crawl in a hole and die while I try to remember what reference backs up the point I was trying to make! If witnessing sometimes makes you nervous, know that you are not alone. However, we don't get good at doing anything - music, sports, art, you name it! - without practicing. The same is true of witnessing. We will never be able to get better at sharing the truth if we don't practice. I always walk away from a witnessing conversation with an unbeatable feeling of fulfillment! After talking to others about Salvation, I not only get a little better at explaining what I do understand about the Scriptures, but also get a heads up for what I don't understand, and therefore what I need to study for next time.
Here are some of the questions and comments this inquisitive man had, and some of my replies:
“What about those who have only known one religion? Say those in the Middle East who are Hindu or something, and maybe never even heard of Jesus? Do they burn in hell for eternity because no one ever told them?!”
"Titus 2:11 says, 'For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men.' Even a man who hasn’t read a word of Scripture can look at a building, and know there was a builder. He can look at an airplane, and know there was a designer. If he was stranded on an island and had never heard of Jesus Christ, he could still look at the creation around him and conclude there is a Creator. Logic would then lead him to reason that the creation belongs to the Creator, which means he (being created, thus having a Creator) is accountable to the Creator. If he chooses to believe in the existence of this Creator and proceeds in obedience to what is reasonably true about his accountability to Him, he will repent of his sins – granting him Eternal Life whether he realizes it or not. Romans 1:20 says, 'For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and and Godhead; so that they are without excuse:"
Note: it is not unjust
that one would go to hell, for the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23).
“Well, I think everyone just needs to figure out what works for himself.”
"Acts 4:12 says, 'Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved .'
"John 14:6, 'I am the way the truth and the life, no man cometh unto the Father but by me.'"
"But even the Bible contradicts itself!”
“Well in the Old Testament, we’re told, ‘eye for eye, tooth for tooth!’ but in the New Testament, Jesus says, ‘turn the other cheek.’”
"The law that teaches 'eye for eye, tooth for tooth' was a Jewish law specifically for the nation of Israel. In the NT, Jesus is teaching the way of grace, which is a personal application of a standard higher than the law. What Jesus urges is a personal assumption of values which ascends higher than the harsh requirements of law. What He was presenting was not the abolishing of the law to be carried out by the government, but the embracing of a love-based personal standard, which exceeds the requirements of civil law."
“Didn’t Jesus burn in hell after He died on the cross but before He rose again?”
“No. Remember – Jesus said to one of the two men being crucified beside Him, 'Verily I say unto thee, To day shalt thou be with me in paradise.' [Luke 23:43]"
“Aren’t there several levels/categories of hell?”
That is a concept not specifically declared in the Scriptures, but popularized by writers such as Dante. The Scriptures do teach severer degrees of punishment based on the measure of opportunity afforded to, but rejected by an individual. Ex.: Matthew 11:21-24 and Luke 12:42-48.
"I've read some of the Bible, but it doesn't make any sense!"
I've noted that this seems to be a common 'delima' to those who have not yet received Christ: that when they do actually decide to read
the Bible, they don't really know
where to read, they don't know what it means, and find it confusing and complicated, leading them to simply shrug their shoulders and walk away, leaving priceless knowledge to gather dust on their shelf.
Two things came to my mind on this subject. First, I think of the Ethiopian eunuch
who read the Scriptures but did not understand them, until Philip ran and taught him. We, too, should run to help others when the Lord prompts us, and be equipped to teach others what the Bible is saying.
Secondly, I thought of how Jesus spoke in parables so often. Why did He do that, do you think? Wouldn't it have been much simpler to say things straight? He did speak very plainly on occasion, but it seems like the majority of the time, He spoke cryptically. Jesus did not cast His pearls before swine; His parables filtered out those who did not sincerely desire truth. If those that heard Him had a sincere hunger for the Word of God, they would search out what Jesus was saying, asking, "What do you mean?" but those who had no heart for the Lord were confused by what He said and walked away, learning nothing. A reminder to ask, seek,
I shared these thoughts with the man sitting next to me and emphasized the importance of studying
the Scriptures, not just skimming the pages. Seek
, and ye shall
find. This is a promise.
One would also be wise to pray for God to open their eyes as they read the Bible, because ultimately, Salvation is a work of the Holy Spirit, not a product of our intellectual understanding.
Our family recently had dinner with some friends of ours and one of the topics that came up through the course of the evening was how the core of successful evangelism is a disciplined personal walk with Christ. It all starts in our shoes, behind our closed doors, in our small decisions: to read the Bible today or not, to pray long or not, to submit to parents or not, to obey the promptings of the Spirit or not. All of these choices will play into our ability to successfully, powerfully influence others to the Kingdom.
This concept was confirmed when the man I talked with began to enquire after my own personal decisions, possibly to determine if I truly believed what I was telling him:
"Have you read the Bible from cover to cover? How many times?"
"How often do you read the Bible? How much do you read a day?"
"What are you currently doing with your life?"
We discussed how Christianity must be more than just belief
in Christ because James 2:19 says, "Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble," and certainly it is more than just attending Church and following the "golden rule". But rather, salvation involves repentance and a transfer of our faith in our own ability to earn Salvation through our good works, to the Savior's ability to cover our sins with His substitutionary death on Calvary.
The man I talked with seemed genuinely curious, intellectually honest and open to truth, and so towards the end of our conversation, I left him with some tracts to read, as well as my dad's email address, should he have any more questions.
Now it's your turn to practice! :)