The Bare Necessities
Since the majority of our congregation has been Christians for quite some time, I usually focus most of my lessons on Christian growth, but every so often it is important to have a lesson on what the Bible calls the elementary principles of Christ. In todayís lesson, I want to deal with what the N.T teaches about becoming a Christian. More specifically, I want to talk about the least a person must know in order to become a Christian. Sometimes we like to fill the lost person full of knowledge before we teach them what they need to do to be saved, but the amount a person needs to actually know to be saved is pretty basic.
Before I move on from this point, I want to make it clear that I am not suggesting that a person should not be taught more than the bare necessities about Christianity because the more they know of what is involved about living the Christian life the more prepared they will be to count the cost of Christianity. As Jesus illustrated;
Luke 14:28 "For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not sit down first and count the cost, whether he has enough to finish it -- ††29 "lest, after he has laid the foundation, and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him,† 30 "saying, 'This man began to build and was not able to finish.'† 31 "Or what king, going to make war against another king, does not sit down first and consider whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand?† 32 "Or else, while the other is still a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks conditions of peace.† 33 "So likewise, whoever of you does not forsake all that he has cannot be My disciple.
While the more knowledge a person gains of what it means to put God first in their life, Again for our time this morning, I will be focusing on the least a person needs to know to become a Christian.
Romans 10:17 So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.
At the minimal, a person needs to be taught that there is a God and what He did for us through His Son. Now this does not mean that they have to know every detail of what Jesus did while on the earth, but they need to understand His death, burial, resurrection, that He is the Son of God, that He died for our sins and has made it possible for us have our sins taken care of. While not an exhaustive list, basics like these need to be taught and understood. In teaching people these things, we are following the command of the great commission, hence we are following a pattern found in the N.T.
John 3:16 "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.†
John 8:24 "Therefore I said to you that you will die in your sins; for if you do not believe that I am He, you will die in your sins."†
These two Scriptures show both sides of belief. One must believe to be saved and if he does not he will be lost. Some like to stop here and say belief alone or faith only saves, but as we follow the pattern of the N.T., we have to look at the entire pattern to find out what else the Bible says is necessary to be saved. Besides, James makes its clear that we are not saved by faith alone.
James 2:24 You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only.
From this verse, it would be good to point out we are not saved by works of merit, but we are saved by work of obedience. We point out that works of merit means you deserve something for what you have done, but works of obedience is simply doing what God has asked us to do and these works cannot a do not make us earn our salvation. In fact the best way to explain this is to let Jesus explain it:
Luke 17:7 "And which of you, having a servant plowing or tending sheep, will say to him when he has come in from the field, 'Come at once and sit down to eat'?† 8 "But will he not rather say to him, 'Prepare something for my supper, and gird yourself and serve me till I have eaten and drunk, and afterward you will eat and drink'?† 9 "Does he thank that servant because he did the things that were commanded him? I think not.† 10 "So likewise you, when you have done all those things which you are commanded, say, 'We are unprofitable servants. We have done what was our duty to do.' "
Acts 17:30 "Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent,†
2 Corinthians 7:9 Now I rejoice, not that you were made sorry, but that your sorrow led to repentance. For you were made sorry in a godly manner, that you might suffer loss from us in nothing.† 10 For godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation, not to be regretted; but the sorrow of the world produces death.
Luke 13:3 "I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish.
Repentance is a change of attitude that says, I am going to stop living my life for myself and I am going to start living my life for God. Repentance means that we are going get the sinful things out of our life, which requires action on our part. If we are thief, we will stop being and thief and if it possible, we need to return whatever we have stolen. Of course there are some things that cannot be undone such a murder. One cannot bring back the life he has taken, but he can make sure he never takes another life, and he can do what he can to reconcile matters with the loved ones of the life he took.
While repentance is necessary before one can be saved, repentance is not one time event. It is a lifetime event because a new convert is not going to know everything he needs to repent of in his life before he becomes a Christian. Whatever limited knowledge he has of the things wrong in his life he needs to repent of them. He needs to be taught that he must continue to be the kind of person that will repent and change the things in his life as he learns about them from personal study, Bible class, or sermons. †
From our verses on repentance we learn that repentance is necessary for salvation. If we do not repent, we cannot be saved. We can say with no doubt in our minds because Godís Word states this fact clearly. Belief and repentance must be done, but they do not save a person by themselves.
Romans 10:9 that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.
Matthew 10:32 " Therefore whoever confesses Me before men, him I will also confess before My Father who is in heaven.† 33 "But whoever denies Me before men, him I will also deny before My Father who is in heaven.
Following the pattern in the N.T., we learn that confessing Jesus as Lord is necessary to be saved. If we do not confess Him as Lord, He will not confess us before the Father. We can know this is true because the Scriptures are clear on this matter. When we teach someone that he needs to confess Jesus as Lord, we need to explain to him that is not a one time event, but continues throughout our lifetime. While this confession can be made verbally, it also made by how we conduct ourselves and live our lives based on the pattern found in the N.T., which teaches us how to follow in the footsteps of Jesus:
2 Timothy 3:16 All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness,† 17 that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.
Belief, repentance, and confessing Jesus as Lord must take place for salvation to occur, but these three things do not save a person by themselves because there is one more part to Godís plan of salvation.
1 Peter 3:21 There is also an antitype which now saves us -- baptism (not the removal of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God), through the resurrection of Jesus Christ,
Mark 16:16 "He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned.†
Acts 2:38 Then Peter said to them, "Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
The pattern tells us that baptism is necessary to be saved. Since baptism is for the forgiveness of sins, if we are not baptized for the forgiveness of our sins, then we are still in our sins. Saul is great example of this because he believed in Jesus, confessed Jesus as Lord, †and showed his repentance by his 3 days of fasting and prayer (Acts 9, 22, 26). If anyone could have been saved by the manmade sinnerís prayer it would have been Saul, but we learn that he was still in his sins until he obeyed Godís entire plan of salvation. Ananias told him:
Acts 22:16 'And now why are you waiting? Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord.'†
When we teach a person about water baptism, he needs to understand the basics of what baptism is for and what it is about. While one does not need to have in-depth knowledge of everything that happens at baptism and what it means, he does need to understand that it is for the forgiveness of his sins, that he is being buried with Christ and raised as a new creature in Christ that has been added to the church by God (Acts 2:47).
Personally, I like to use Romans 6 and Colossians 2 to show what happens during our baptism. For example, let me just read what Paul says about our baptism in Romans 6
Romans 6:3 Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death?† 4 Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.† 5 For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection,† 6 knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin.† 7 For he who has died has been freed from sin.† 8 Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him,† 9 knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, dies no more. Death no longer has dominion over Him.† 10 For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God.† 11 Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
We can know that a person needs to understand the basics of baptism because we must put our faith in the working of God knowing that He is making everything that is said about baptism happen. For example:
Colossians 2:12 buried with Him in baptism, in which you also were raised with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead.† 13 And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses,
Putting it all together as we follow the pattern of Godís plan of salvation, we can know that a person must hear the Word of God, believe in Jesus, repent, confess, and be baptized into Christ for the forgiveness of their sins to be saved. Following this pattern makes one a disciple of Christ/Christian/saint. Until one obeys Godís plan of salvation as outlined in this lesson, he cannot even begin to make it to heaven.
Of course, I need to mention that without Godís grace salvation would not be possible in the first place, but if we want to accept Godís saving grace, then we need to follow the pattern of Godís plan of salvation.
Becoming a Christian is the easy part. The challenging part is remaining faithful until the day you die (Rev. 2;10). Please notice the great commission:
Matthew 28:19 "Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,† 20 "teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you;
We see two parts to The Great commission. The first part is teaching someone how to become a Christian, which ends with being baptized, just as I have pointed out in this lesson. Once a person obeys the simple plan of salvation, the Great Commission tells us what our next responsibility is, which is teaching them to observe all things that Jesus has commanded, which includes the entire N.T. because it is the inspired Word of God.
Hopefully from this lesson you can see just how little a person needs to know to become a Christian, but the real test comes from living the Christian life. So, the second part of The Great Commission is much more challenging, but we must do what we can to encourage those who become Christians with little knowledge or great knowledge to continue to grow and knowledge and grace of our Lord just as Peter said:
2 Peter 3:17† You therefore, beloved, since you know this beforehand, beware lest you also fall from your own steadfastness, being led away with the error of the wicked;† 18 but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory both now and forever. Amen.
As far as that goes none of us in the room should ever think that we have no room left to grow because there is always room for improvement, and there is always room for a deeper understanding of Scripture. While living the Christian life can be difficult at times, we can know that it is worth it all in the end. I would like to close this lesson with the words of Peter that teaches us exactly how we should grow after we become Christians:
2 Peter 1:2 Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord,† 3 as His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue,† 4 by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.† 5 But also for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge,† 6 to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness,† 7 to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love.† 8 For if these things are yours and abound, you will be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.† 9 For he who lacks these things is shortsighted, even to blindness, and has forgotten that he was cleansed from his old sins.† 10 Therefore, brethren, be even more diligent to make your call and election sure, for if you do these things you will never stumble;† 11 for so an entrance will be supplied to you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.† 12 For this reason I will not be negligent to remind you always of these things, though you know and are established in the present truth.† 13 Yes, I think it is right, as long as I am in this tent, to stir you up by reminding you,† 14 knowing that shortly I must put off my tent, just as our Lord Jesus Christ showed me.† 15 Moreover I will be careful to ensure that you always have a reminder of these things after my decease.