Setting Up Hurdles

A Hurdle Too High

Acts 16:31 – They replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved–you and your household.”

Dancing Angels

A few years ago, I followed an intramural theological debate in print that, in my humble opinion, bordered dangerously close to the question of how many angels can dance on the head of a pin. Of course, both sides would no doubt pound their fists and declare that nothing less than the very truth of God was at stake and must, therefore, be defended. Fair enough. But as someone who has read a theological book or two, all the debate did for me was bring on despair.

The debate gave me the sinking feeling, even in the midst of protestations by both sides to the contrary, that in the end, a person will be saved – not by grace – but by passing a theological examination, where “passing” is a 100%. I’ve never seen so many “i’s” dotted and “t’s” crossed. Precision is appreciated, and even desired, but how far is too far? I’m still thinking on that.

It was therefore a precious balm to my soul to read this morning about the gospel message given to the Philippian jailer in Acts 16. Finding himself in dire straits, the jailer cried out, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?’ (v. 30). The response to his plea was, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved – you and your household.”

Table to Contents

What a simple and concise message. To be fair, the following verse does say, “Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all the others in his house (v. 32). I take that to mean Paul and Silas explained what, “believe in the Lord Jesus,” meant. I’m sure they carefully instructed the family on who Jesus was, what he did on the cross, the power of the resurrection, what it means to submit to him as Lord, the call to trust in him alone for salvation, the need to turn away from sin and self-dependence and lean on the power of his Spirit, and more. There are details to our faith to be sure. It is not a “contentless” faith.

And yet, there is still a simplicity about it that contains great power. I want to get the gospel right as much as anyone, but I fear that so much in-house fighting will sometimes bring forth more damage than what may or may not be gained.

A Hurdle Too High

I want to be able to say to an unbeliever, “believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved.” I want to help clarify some of the details of that statement. I want to encourage that person to respond in faith to Jesus Christ and then go deeper with him in a life of discipleship. But what I do not want to do is construct a hurdle so high at the beginning that no one will be able to jump over it. Nor do I want to dumb down the gospel so low that the ignorant can begin their walk with Christ and remain ignorant.

Sanctification is about continually growing in grace and knowledge. A disciple is a learner and a follower. Both of those concepts imply a life-long, progressive pursuit of growth – intellectually, morally, spiritually, and so on. By God’s grace I am not now where I once was when I began my journey on the narrow way. Yet I hope and pray that 20 years from now, I won’t be where I presently am.

Praise God for discerning theologians who clarify and defend God’s truth. But let’s not place unnecessary obstacles before the people we’re called to bear witness to, disciple, and serve.

Walking Points

  • Gather some friends and/or family and share with one another your answers to the following questions.
  • When and how did you come to place your trust in Jesus Christ as your Savior and Lord? What do you understand that “act of trust” or commitment to mean?
  • What difference has your faith in Jesus Christ made in your life?
  • Who are you sharing your faith with presently? What are some ways you are helping that person place their trust in Jesus Christ?
  • After everyone has shared their answers and you’ve had a chance for discussion about these topics, spend some time in prayer together. Ask the Lord to help you continue growing in your own faith. Call on his Spirit to enable you to better share your faith with others and to help you bless them on their journey with Jesus.

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