Becoming a Christian

(What  One Needs To Know)

 

 

Introduction  Text Ύ Romans 10:12-17  

 

The question how much one needs to know in order to be saved has at one time and another troubled many hearts. I have known mothers,  fathers, who say to me, "Bro. Cope, my son, my daughter wants to be baptized, do you think he is old enough, does he know enough?"

 

There are also Christians who have grown in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior, since their baptism  and now fear that there is something amiss now in their coming to Christ, because they knew so little when they came.

 

Possibly some confessed the Lord in tender childhood days or in early youth, and looking back upon their ignorance at that time of what it really meant they are inclined to discount it all and to doubt the validity of their obedience..

 

 Again there are those who desired to become Christians  even now, but feel  that they don't know enough, and they must study a lot before they could intelligently come to obedience  to Christ.

It is good therefore that we should look carefully into this matter.

 

That there must be some preceding knowledge before one can come to the Lord in obedience is certain. The "Great Commission of our Lord  demands first of all that men should be taught

     "Go ye therefore and teach all nations, baptizing them . . . ,"  Matthew 28:18-20…   And that the gospel should be preached to men "Go ye into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature" he that believeth and is baptized shall be saved."  Mark 16:15-16…   But how much preliminary teaching does the sinner need before he can properly be baptized? How much of the gospel does he need to know and believe before he can truly become a child of God?

 

Clearly one doesn't need to know all there is to know. There are lengths and breadths, and heights and depths to that gospel which may occupy our minds a lifetime, yea, and for all eternity, and we are constantly growing in these truths. New light comes to us every time we prayerfully study God's word.

 

Every now and then the young Christian, growing, learns some new truth, gets a new and better view of salvation than he had before. He may now wonder and doubt whether he had ever really is a Christian, a child of God, or whether he shouldn't go back and start all over again. The great question, therefore, how much one needs to know before he can be saved, is a very important and pertinent one, for both saint and sinner. But instead of laying down what in human judgment we might consider needful, let us simply take the examples of salvation as found in the word of God;

 

From the book of Acts, where the original preaching of the gospel to the lost  by inspired messengers of Christ, is most specifically set forth; and from those instances we shall be able to see how much men knew and needed to know in order to be saved.  Our first example is that of Pentecost, and Acts chapter 2…. After the risen Lord had given the Great Commission to His apostles   He charged them not to depart from Jerusalem, nor to attempt to preach His gospel until the Holy Spirit had been given them. This preaching had to be right,  perfect, without error, that it might for ever serve as the standard of the truth of the gospel.   And only the Spirit who brought all things to their remembrance and guided them into all the truth could enable the apostles to set forth the doctrine of Christ perfectly and in errantly.

 

On the day of Pentecost this promise was fulfilled;   The Spirit came upon the apostles; they spake "as the Spirit gave them utterance," Acts 2:4   The preacher for this occasion was Peter, the man who had the keys and whose privilege it was to open the door of salvation for the first time.  His sermon, as given in Acts 2, was brief. First, by a quotation from the Old Testament, he explained the strange things that had taken place on that day. After this introduction he took up his theme, which runs fifteen verses,  from  verse 22 to 36.

 

 But though short, his speech pierced the hearts of his hearers, and with anguish of soul they asked Peter and the rest of the apostles what they should do. Then Peter gave them the following clean-cut answer:  Acts 2:37

 

38Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.

 

 Then we read in verse 41:

41Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls. In order to find to what they were added it is necessary to continue reading. Notice verse 47

47Praising God, and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved

 

 Now quickly allow me to ask, after being added to the church that day, what did they then know that they had not known before they heard this brief sermon?  How much have they learned and what do they now believe?

 

 Jesus as a man approved of God in the midst of them;   Jesus crucified and slain;    Jesus raised from the dead, as foretold in the scriptures and as witnessed to by the apostles;  Jesus exalted to God's right hand, as foreshown in Ps. 110; and   the final statement and appeal: "Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God has made that same Jesus, whom ye crucified, both Lord and Christ."

 

Clearly what they learned they needed to know. It was enough to crush their hearts when, believing the truth concerning Jesus Christ they saw their awful wickedness and guilt in thus rejecting and crucifying the Lord's Christ. And now they needed to know only this thing more--namely how to find forgiveness and salvation.

 

Peter's words were perfectly plain: they must repent and in the name of this Jesus,  the Christ, be baptized; and the remission of sins.  That was enough. Upon this they obeyed and were added to the church. They certainly learned much afterward, for they "continued steadfastly in the apostles' teaching," no doubt all the rest of their lives.

 

 If people could be saved upon the knowledge and acceptance of these few fundamental truths,  learned by hearing one brief sermon (a sermon which is recorded and preserved for us, so that we too can hear and believe it—

WOULD WE HAVE TO KNOW MORE TODAY?

 

 It may be objected, that these hearers had a great background of knowledge from the Old Testament scriptures being Jews and besides some, perhaps, most of them had seen and heard Jesus personally.   What of those who have no such background? So let us take up another example.

This is the case of the Eunuch to whom Philip, the evangelist, preached (Acts 8:26-39).    This man was an Ethiopian, — Either a Jew or of the Jewish faith, for he had been to Jerusalem to worship. He was a Bible reader, and had been pondering and wondering about the great Messianic prophecy in Isaiah chapter 53—

 

Turning to Acts 8 and verse 32 we take up the account

 

32 The place of the scripture which he read was this, He was led as a sheep to the slaughter; and like a lamb dumb before his shearer, so opened he not his mouth: 33In his humiliation his judgment was taken away: and who shall declare his generation? for his life is taken from the earth.  34And the eunuch answered Philip, and said, I pray thee, of whom speaketh the prophet this? of himself, or of some other man?

 

 And Philip, taking this scripture for his text, "preached unto him Jesus." Acts 8:35….  The sermon is not recorded; but I would have loved to have heard this inspired man, begin in Isaiah, and preach Jesus.   It certainly must have included all the facts and testimony concerning Jesus which Peter gave on Pentecost, the fundamental truths of the gospel, namely "that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; that he was buried; and that he hath been raised on the third day according to the scriptures" 1 Cor. 15:1-4.

 

 It would have included baptism and perhaps the very words of Jesus in the great commission, for when they came to a certain water the Eunuch said, "See, here is water, what doth hinder me to be baptized?" Acts 8:36

 

Again let us take up the account in verse 37

 

7And Philip said, If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest. And he answered and said, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. 38And he commanded the chariot to stand still: and they went down both into the water, both Philip and the eunuch; and he baptized him. 39And when they were come up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord caught away Philip,  that the eunuch saw him no more: and he went on his way rejoicing. 40But Philip was found at Azotus: and passing through he preached in all the cities, till he came to Caesarea.

 

For only  short period of time, while traveling down the road in a chariot, these two people had been brought together, and through this brief interval of time this Ethiopian man was saved.  The evangelist's work is done,  He has preached Christ,  the convert is baptized . Again I ask what did he now know that he didn't know before the met Philip the evangelist?   I believe that the scriptures help us in this area. In Romans chapter 6 beginning in verse three and reading through verse 5  we read:

 

3 Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death?  4Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. 5For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection:

 

 And then in verse 8:

6Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin. 7For he that is dead is freed from sin.8Now if we be dead with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him: 9Knowing that Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more; death hath no more dominion over him. 10For in that he died, he died unto sin once: but in that he liveth, he liveth unto God. 11Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord.

    

Paul tells us that there are certain things we know concerning baptism. namely that we are crucified with Christ, buried, and raised to newness of life.

 

In this we view the very facts of the gospel, the death, burial and resurrection of Christ.  We join or share with Him in this act.  This the Eunuch would have learned from the brief study with Philip on the road  

It may be thought, however, that even this Eunuch, being a Bible reader and of Jewish descent, had more background of knowledge than the average man has today.  So we will take up another case.

 

In Acts chapter 10 we read of the conversion of the man Cornelius.  This man is a Gentile--the first Gentile convert  to come into Christ's fold—  We cannot look into  the wonderful story how God carefully cleared the way for this conversion of the Gentiles by a Jew. We have time only to notice Peter's sermon for it was Peter again, who must open the door for the Gentile, as at first he had done for Jews.

 

 It is a very short sermon--only ten verses   Acts 10:36-43,

and two of those are introductory. The remaining eight are wholly taken up speaking of  Christ--His life, His death, His resurrection, His exaltation, and then this concluding word,  verses 42-43

 

42And he commanded us to preach unto the people, and to testify that it is he which was ordained of God to be the Judge of quick and dead. 43To him give all the prophets witness, that through his name whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission of sins.

 

It was enough: God Himself by miraculous intervention testified to the acceptableness of these believers by a special outpouring of the Holy Spirit; and again, as in the other instances, Cornelius and his household and his Gentile friends who had heard Peter's words, were promptly baptized.

 

But even this may not wholly have answered the question of one who doubts whether he knew enough to become a Christian. For these Gentiles had long been in touch with Israel, and also had known the story of Christ's work . (i.e Acts 10:37).

 

So briefly we take up  one more case of conversion- The conversion of the Philippian jailer  Acts 16.   This time we see a man who most likely knew absolutely nothing to begin with; and let us see how much he had to learn and know in order to be saved. 

 

Most of us are familiar with the story of Paul's experience in that Gentile city--how he and Silas, his companion, were publicly whipped, and why; and how they were turned over to the jailor, who was cautioned to keep them safely;

 

Therefore he cast them into the inner prison and made their feet fast in the stocks; and at  midnight these two were heard praying and singing hymns; "and the prisoners were listening to them"; of the earthquake that shook the prison and threw the doors open and broke the prisoners' chains;  the jailor, aroused from his sleep, and seeing the prison-doors open, despairing of his life (for under Roman law a jailor who lost a prisoner must die) drew his sword and was about to kill himself.

 

At this point begins the account of his salvation.  We take up this account in Acts 16:29

 

     28But Paul cried with a loud voice, saying, Do thyself no harm: for we are all here. 29Then he called for a light, and sprang in, and came trembling, and fell down before Paul and Silas, 30And brought them out, and said, Sirs, what must I do to be saved?

 

Quickly the answer came:

31And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house.

 

It would do well to remember that it was impossible for the jailor to comply with this, for he had not heard about this Lord Jesus Christ.   And remembering the words of the apostle Paul to the Romans in Romans 10:

 

9That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. 10For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. 11For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed.

 

But our passage doesn't stop there hear it as we continue reading verse 14

 

14How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher? 15And how shall they preach, except they be sent? as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things! 16But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Esaias saith, Lord, who hath believed our report?   17So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.

 

This jailor was told to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, he needs to be told about Christ, else how can he? Listen as we return to our story of the conversion of this jailor.   Acts 8:32

 

32And they spake unto him the word of the Lord, and to all that were in his house.

 

Now he heard; now he could believe.  Verse 33-34

 

 33And he took them the same hour of the night, and washed their stripes; and was baptized, he and all his, straightway. 34And when he had brought them into his house, he set meat before them, and rejoiced, believing in God with all his house

    

 What did he know concerning Christ?  No more than he could learn between midnight and dawn; no more than enough to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, to put his trust in that Savior, the Son of God, whom God sent into the world that through His death for us and His resurrection we might be saved; and enough to express his acceptance of this truth in the "obedience of faith by baptism, that same hour of the night.

 

He could not have known much;  but his faith in this first exposure to  the  truth,  as ours when we  first believe,  was like the grain of mustard seed which, though small indeed, is destined to grow into a great tree.

 

From all this we may see that no long course of study was required of those who wanted to be saved.  No deep knowledge of the scriptures.  But sufficient to know and believe that Jesus was the Christ the Son of God, the Lord and Savior; that He died for our sins and rose from the dead, and is in heaven, seated on God's right hand, as Lord of all; and that such faith is to be avowed in confession of Him and by baptism in His name.

 

One word however remains to be added: in each of these instances the ones who were saved came sincerely, and of conviction. They "obeyed from the heart" the form of doctrine delivered to them.  The same day, the same hour of the night.

 

What does one need to know?  That we all have transgressed God's law, transgression is sin.  The wages of sin is death, but Christ died in our stead, and will forgive and restore us upon your obedience to His call, will you respond now?

 

Obey from the heart that form of doctrine delivered unto you!

 

contact:: Ron Cope minister

email:  RonCope@chestnutmtchurchofchrist.com

phone:  (678)617-9658