What if I told you that the gospel of “believe in your heart and confess with your mouth” preached by so many in the ‘church’ today was not the gospel Jesus preached and died for?
In this post I hope to show you that the gospel (or good news) is that a person can be saved from sin and death if they: (1) Repent (confess their sins to God), are (2) Baptised (in water into the body of Jesus Christ), and they (3) Receive the Holy Spirit.
More than believing in your heart
For years, many professing Christians have believed the ‘altar call’ gospel. The gospel that simply requires you to say a ‘sinners prayer’ and ‘confess’ the Lordship of Jesus. We Christians have believed this based on a few scriptures, chief amongst them being:
“If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved” – Romans 10:9 (NIV)
However, many of these scriptures are preached out of context and do not describe the FULL gospel. Let me put it this way, to say that “believing in your heart and confessing with your mouth that Jesus is Lord” is the FULL gospel is like telling university graduates “if you go to university for a number of years – you will be a graduate” – true, yes: but not the FULL picture. All university graduates know that in making that simple statement you’ve said nothing about writing an application, attending classes and passing qualifying exams – all of which are necessary to graduate.
What many preachers fail to point out is that the Romans 10:9 scripture quoted above was written in a letter: the letter from a certain disciple named Paul to the fellowship of believers in Rome.
(Bible Reading Tip: the 'epistles' in the bible - namely Romans, 1st and 2nd Corinthians, Galatians, Ephisians, Phillippians, Colossians, 1st & 2nd Thessalonians, 1st & 2nd Timothy, Philemon, Hebrews, James, 1st & 2nd Peter, 1st, 2nd & 3rd John and Jude - are letters written by disciples to disciples. To really get them, try not to cherry-pick verses - think of them as really long emails.)
If you scroll back in Paul’s letter – back to Romans 6:3 – Paul says “… Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptised into Christ Jesus were baptised into his death?…” –
When Paul wrote about ‘believing in your heart and confessing with your mouth’ in Romans 10:9 – he was making a point to people that had already been baptised!
We have to ask ourselves- why were they ALL baptised if all they had to do was believe to be saved?
In the same letter, in Romans 8:15, Paul writes: “The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship.“
So we see that these same believers that Paul wrote to – had been baptised (Romans 6:3) AND had all received the Holy Spirit!
So where do we find the FULL gospel?
In the Old Testament? No – while these books tell us about who God is – and show us how seriously He takes sin – they don’t describe the FULL gospel we can experience in Jesus Christ – for the simple reason that Jesus had not come yet.
In the Gospels? the books of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John? No! Jesus said many things about salvation – giving His followers bits and pieces of the FULL picture. But we won’t find the FULL gospel in these books because Jesus had not died yet! The price for our sins had not been paid yet.
In the Epistles? No – these letters were written to believers that had already experienced the salvation of the FULL gospel. While they allude to the FULL gospel, they spend more time discussing the meaning and significance of the salvation they had ALL already experienced. The misinterpretation of Roman’s 10:9 is an example of what can happen when we try to understand how to be saved from these books.
So where then? The Answer: the book of Acts
The book of Acts is unique: it is an account of what happened just after Jesus had died and is the only book in the bible where we read about both Jews and non-Jews experiencing the FULL gospel (secured in Jesus’ death and resurrection). In Acts 2, the disciples of Jesus – scared and in hiding – received the Holy Spirit – and this marked the beginning of the FULL gospel. When people saw the disciples speaking in new tongues and heard Peter proclaim Jesus as the Messiah – the bible says the people were cut to the heart and asked Peter: what shall we do?
Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. – Acts 2:37-38
Be Baptised, and
Receive the Holy Spirit.
The FULL Gospel.
In the book of Acts – we never see disciples leading people through a sinner’s prayer, or taking an altar call. Instead – we see time and time again that the response to the gospel was a decision to follow Christ (repentance), followed by baptism in water and the receiving the Holy Spirit (or vice versa).
What does Jesus say about the gospel?
In speaking to many Jesus’ first commandment was to repent of sin. Matthew 4:17 records that “From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, “repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand…”. In Luke 13:3 Jesus says to a crowd: “…unless you repent, you too will all perish.” There are many, many examples of Jesus commanding people to repent of their sins.
It is clear that repentance was important; but what else did Jesus say about salvation?
When the religious leader Nicodamus came to Jesus at night to ask about salvation, Jesus said:
“…Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit…” – John 3:5
In sending his disciples out to spread the good news Jesus said to them:
“Whoever believes and is baptised will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.” – Mark 16:16
Jesus was giving His followers pieces of the truth that would become clear after He was crucified – to be saved we must be baptised – in water and of the Holy Spirit.
Belief over works?
I have heard it said that to believe that baptism (in water or of the Holy Spirit) saves is to believe we are saved by works; but what does it mean to believe?
If you were standing in the middle of the road and I yelled at you: “GET OUT OF THE WAY! THERE’S A CAR COMING AT FULL SPEED” – and you said: “thank you – yes I believe you” but you did not move – then did you really believe me?
If we really believe Jesus is our Lord (master) then we would always do what He says.
If you have never experienced repentance or baptism in water or receiving the Holy Spirit – we can talk about it more. You can reach out to me here.
Tell next time. Stay Blessed. x