BIOLOGICALLY, NO ONE IS BORN A CHRISTIAN
A person may be born into a Christian culture, a Christian family, or the Christian religion, but no one is ever born a ‘Christian.’
A person becomes a Christian (using God’s definition) by personal decision, never by biological birth.
No one can chose the circumstances of his birth or upbringing, but everyone who has heard about God’s offer of new life must choose whether or not to accept the offer.
When a person accepts it, he becomes a Christian. As long as he rejects (or ignores) the offer, he’s not a Christian, even though he may espouse Christian principles, exhibit Christian virtues and may even call himself a Christian and be a baptized member of a Christian church.
CHURCH CANʼT MAKE ANYONE A CHRISTIAN
A church can give valuable instruction, but it can never make anyone a Christian by declaration or rite. Becoming a Christian is an individual decision, not a group decision.
New life can never be bestowed by an organization as a privilege of membership or as an award for compliance. Faithfulness in church attendance and performance of religious rituals can never make anyone a Christian.
GOOD WORKS CANʼT MAKE ANYONE A CHRISTIAN
A person’s good works can never make him a Christian, regardless of the degree of sincerity and diligence.
Good works are part of the Christian life, but they are by-products of the life, not the causes or prerequisites of it.
PAYMENT CANʼT MAKE ANYONE A CHRISTIAN
A person can never become a Christian by paying a price. A Christian has a position with God, and a relationship with God, which can’t be acquired like a product or service. Rich and poor receive it the same way, as a free gift.
PRAYERS OF OTHERS CANʼT MAKE ANYONE A CHRISTIAN
The prayers or actions of others can’t make anyone a Christian, either now or after death.
In this lifetime, each person must make his own personal decision regarding Jesus Christ, to either accept him as Savior or reject him as Savior. There’s no way around this personal encounter.
Others may pray that a loved one will accept Christ, and these prayers may heighten the Holy Spirit’s call to that person. In this way, a person may experience the effect of other people’s prayers and thus have greater spiritual sensitivity, but the person must make his or her own decision to accept or reject Jesus Christ.
TO REJECT JESUS CHRIST IS TO REJECT GOD
In dealing with us, God has vested himself completely in Jesus Christ, who he’s put in charge of all divine-human relationships on planet earth (see Topic 43). For us who know about Christ, it’s not possible to take God without taking Christ. A person’s response to Christ is his response to God, and his rejection of Christ is his rejection of God.
What about other religions? What about people who have never heard of Jesus Christ? (Answers are in Topics 10-18, 27-28, 32, 58, 61) These questions are often a smoke screen for people who don’t want to face the fact that they must personally decide either to accept or reject Jesus Christ, and their indecision is a form of rejection.
Is Jesus Christ the Only Way?
Topics 18-26 show that the Bible is our highest source of spiritual authority and is in fact Godʼs message to us for this period in time.
The Bible says the only way a person who knows about this message can escape Godʼs punishment for sin and spend eternity with God in heaven is by personally accepting Jesus Christ as savior before the personʼs life on earth ends. The alternative is hell. Period. The Bible is very clear about it.
But the Bible is not clear about what happens to people who have never heard this message. For that issue, we need to consider the two concepts – ʻaudienceʼ and ʻimputeʼ – discussed below:
Audience – Messages are intended for the persons to whom they are addressed and delivered. The New Testament is clearly addressed and delivered to us who now have copies of the Bible. But what about people who lived before the Bible was written? Or people who live in places where the Bible is unknown? Are these people held accountable for responding to the Bible message, or are they subject to other messages we may not know about?
God apparently has other ways to heaven for people outside the New Testament audience. For example, the Old Testament says that Enoch pleased God and is in heaven, even though itʼs unlikely he ever prayed to accept Jesus Christ as his savior. The Bible speaks similarly of Abel, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Rahab, David and many others.
But Jesus said: ʻI am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.ʼ
There are two explanations for reconciling these Bible statements: (1) Jesus was not referring to all humanity, but only to people in the New Testament audience, or (2) Jesus was referring to all humanity, but the benefits of his sacrifice are sometimes ʻimputedʻ to people who donʼt even know about him if these people are seeking God in the best way they know with their limited knowledge.
Impute – The word ʻimputeʼ is a theological term which means ʻto ascribe (righteousness or guilt) to a person as coming from another.ʼ For example, Jesusʼ righteousness was imputed to the thief on the adjacent cross. The thief had lived a life so bad that civil authorities sentenced him to death. He understood very little about Jesus, and apparently he was never baptized. But because of the thiefʼs last minute positive response to what little spiritual knowledge he was given, Jesus said he will be in heaven, in contrast to the unresponsive thief on the other cross.
We donʼt know how many people throughout world history may have had the benefits of Christʼs death imputed to them because they lacked spiritual information or capacity to understand. But we do know that today weʼre individually responsible for responding to the degree of revelation God has chosen to give us. We have the highest degree of revelation so far – the New Testament – and it explains why we must personally accept Jesus Christ in order to be worthy of heaven, regardless of how God may deal with other people at other times or in other places. Clearly for us, Jesus Christ is the only way.
Hereʼs a sampling of what the Bible says on this subject.
Indecision about Christ is a decision against him
Acts 4:12 Jesus Christ is the only way
John 3:16, John 3:36, John 6:40
ʻWhoever believesʻ are key words for eternal life
Jesusʼ conversation with thief on the cross; gift of grace is not a reward for good works
Not saved by good things we do
Genesis 5:21-24, Hebrews 11:5-6
Enoch pleased God and is in heaven even though he didnʼt know about Jesus
Genesis 15:6, Hebrews 11:8-16
Righteousness ʻcrditedʼ to Abraham even though he didnʼt know about Jesus
John 3:35, I Corinthians 15:27-28
God has now placed everything in Jesusʼ hands
For help, see Topic 29.