A-1 - Encouraged by What You Read?

Answering people’s questions is an important task in the apologetics enterprise. But defending the Christian faith often involves first explaining what historic Christianity teaches. This is why today’s Christian apologists need to recognize that the field of apologetics was seen historically as a branch of theology. Thus, skilled apologists must demonstrate a grasp of theology, doctrine, and history.

Recently I received a question from a Christian who was struggling with an aspect of Christian theology. His question focuses on the heart of Christianity. Many of us have asked this question, so I hope his query and my response will help you also.

The question:

Sorry for this simple question, but it really challenges my faith and I can’t find a satisfying answer anywhere. . . .From a Christian perspective: “Why would God save us just because we believe in Jesus as our Savior?” What makes a believer so special in the eyes of God that he grants them eternal life rather than eternal damnation?

My response:

I appreciated the reader’s question because it allows us to get to the heart of the gospel. We can begin by examining what the apostle Paul wrote in Titus 3:4-7:

4But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, 5he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, 6whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life.

The root of the New Testament Greek word for “faith” (pisteuo: verb; pistis: noun) is “trust.” A believer in Christ places his or her “confident trust” in Jesus as Lord and Savior. The nonbeliever has no faith in Christ and thus is not trusting in Jesus as Lord and Savior. Believing in Christ means that the person has been adopted into the family of God. The nonbeliever stands outside of God’s family because of his or her unbelief. The Christian believer is not special in himself or herself but is a sinner just like nonbelievers. The “specialness” is found in God’s loving grace and mercy extended to the person through the life, death, and resurrection of Christ.

What the believer does that the nonbeliever does not is merely to “trust” in God’s promises concerning the Gospel of Jesus Christ. With faith (trust) comes forgiveness, adoption, and eternal life via God’s amazing love. Without faith (trust) comes divine judgment, separation, and eternal damnation via God’s justice. Love isn’t possible without being conjoined with the attribute of justice.

So a person is saved by grace (unmerited favor), through faith (trust), in Jesus Christ (his life, death, and resurrection), but not by works (not by their own merit). Nobody earns salvation but instead receives it by trusting God who lovingly provides salvation by his grace and mercy.

Summary

So why would God save us? God saves people who confess their sin and ask for his forgiveness and trust that Jesus Christ’s life, death, and resurrection make them right with God. Salvation comes because of God’s loving grace and mercy and is received through faith (trust) in Jesus Christ. A Christian’s good works are the fruit, not the root, of salvation (Ephesians 2:8-10).

Resources

Reflections: Your Turn
Why is it important for the Christian to know that God loves them? Visit Reflections on WordPress to comment with your response.

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About The Author

Kenneth R. Samples

I believe deeply that "all truth is God’s truth." That historic affirmation means that when we discover and grasp truth in the world and in life we move closer to its divine Author. This approach relies on the Christian idea of God’s two revelatory books - the metaphorical book of nature and the literal book of Scripture. As an RTB scholar I have a great passion to help people understand and see the truth and relevance of Christianity's truth-claims. My writings and lectures at RTB focus on showing how the great doctrinal truths of the faith (the Trinity, the Incarnation, the Atonement, creation ex nihilo, salvation by grace, etc.) are uniquely compatible with reason. This approach reflects the historic Christian apologetics statement - "faith seeking understanding." I work to help myself and others fulfill Peter's words in 2 Peter 3:18: "But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever! Amen." As an RTB scholar I have a great passion to help people understand and see the truth and relevance of Christianity's truth-claims. • Biography • Resources • Upcoming Events • Promotional Items Kenneth Richard Samples began voraciously studying Christian philosophy and theology when his thirst for purpose found relief in the Bible. He earned his undergraduate degree in philosophy and social science from Concordia University and his MA in theological studies from Talbot School of Theology. For seven years, Kenneth worked as Senior Research Consultant and Correspondence Editor at the Christian Research Institute (CRI) and regularly cohosted the popular call-in radio program, The Bible Answer Man, with Dr. Walter Martin. As a youth, Kenneth wrestled with "unsettling feelings of meaninglessness and boredom," driving him to seek answers to life's big questions. An encounter with Christian philosophy in Mere Christianity by C. S. Lewis led Kenneth to examine the New Testament and "finally believe that Jesus Christ is the divine Son of God, the Lord and Savior of the world." From then on, he pursued an intellectually satisfying faith. Today, as senior research scholar at Reasons to Believe (RTB), Kenneth uses what he's learned to help others find the answers to life's questions. He encourages believers to develop a logically defensible faith and challenges skeptics to engage Christianity at a philosophical level. He is the author of Without a Doubt and A World of Difference, and has contributed to numerous other books, including: Lights in the Sky and Little Green Men, The Cult of the Virgin, and Prophets of the Apocalypse. He has written articles for Christianity Today and The Christian Research Journal, and regularly participates in RTB's podcasts, including Straight Thinking, a podcast dedicated to encouraging Christians to utilize sound reasoning in their apologetics. He also writes for the ministry's daily blog, Today’s New Reason to Believe. An avid speaker and debater, Kenneth has appeared on numerous radio programs such as Voice America Radio, Newsmakers, The Frank Pastore Show, Stand to Reason, White Horse Inn, Talk New York, and Issues Etc., as well as participated in debates and dialogues on topics relating to Christian doctrine and apologetics. He currently lectures for the Master of Arts program in Christian Apologetics at Biola University. Kenneth also teaches adult classes at Christ Reformed Church in Southern California. Over the years Kenneth has held memberships in the American Philosophical Association, the Evangelical Philosophical Society, the Evangelical Theological Society, and the Evangelical Press Association. The son of a decorated World War II veteran, Kenneth is an enthusiastic student of American history, particularly the Civil War and WWII. His favorite Christian thinkers include Athanasius, Augustine, Pascal, and C. S. Lewis. He greatly enjoys the music of the Beatles and is a die-hard Los Angeles Lakers fan. Kenneth lives in Southern California with his wife, Joan, and their three children.

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