When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, 'Brothers, what shall we do?" Peter replied, "Repent and be baptized every one of you… – Acts 2:37-38
The jailer called for lights, rushed in and fell trembling before Paul and Silas. He then brought them out and asked, "Sirs, what must I do to be saved?" They replied, "Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved…" – Acts 16:29-31
Last Sunday I asked for your prayers as I was going that afternoon to the Ephrata Hospital to present the gospel message to a woman (Carol) who is dying. When I arrived at the hospital I found the room quite full of people. Ideally, in my mind, I would be talking to Carol privately. But as that is what I found that is what I went with. I introduced myself and quickly learned that Larry Mellinger had let Carol's husband, Don (who was there) know that I would be coming. I said, "Did Larry tell you WHY he wanted me to come?" Don seemed somewhat unclear as to why that was so I said, "Larry is concerned, Carol, for your eternal soul and so he wanted to make certain that you heard God's message of salvation as presented in the Bible. Carol, would it be okay with you if I told you that message?" She said it would be okay. And so I gave a 15 minute or so overview of the Bible's story: creation, fall, law, redemption (salvation through Christ's death for sinners) and application. When I had finished (I somewhat rushed as it was clear Carol was having trouble staying with me: she was very groggy being drugged up for pain relief) I said, "Have you ever asked Jesus to come into your life, forgive you of your sin, and be your Savior?" She nodded no, she never had. I then said, "Is there any reason why you would not want to ask Jesus to save you today? Would you like to ask Jesus to save you?" It was then that Don spoke up and said, "Yes, I would!" Carol said the same. I asked if anyone else in the room desired to do so. No one responded. So I had us stand in a circle holding hands and I led in a time of prayer giving both Don and Carol the opportunity to pray out loud – which they both did.
Now do I believe the saying of mere words secures the salvation of a soul? No. You have often heard me quote C.S. Lewis with his brilliant statement: "Even a parrot can be taught to speak Greek." Just because words are spoken does not save anyone. Yet, as in the story told by Jesus in Luke 18, it was the contrite spirit and words of the tax collector (who would not look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, "God be merciful to me a sinner") that resulted in that man going home "justified before God" (18:13-14).
To use an analogy the way I see it is this: Does sitting in a car and turning on the engine get one to California? No. But can one get to California in that car without first sitting in it and turning on the engine?
In like manner, does the saying of a prayer of contrition and belief in Jesus get one to heaven? No. But can one get to heaven without saying a prayer of contrition and belief in Jesus? It would seem not.
And so the command in Acts 2 to repent and be baptized and the command in Acts 16 to believe. Salvation is of the Lord, from beginning to end. But these are the things we "DO" that get us on the road of salvation.
Thank you for your prayers last Sunday. It is good to know that Larry Mellinger will be following up with Don (a coworker) and by extension, his very, very ill wife, Carol.