Of all the questions we can ask in this world, one stands out as having utmost importance: What must I do to be saved? Today, Derek Thomas expresses the Bible’s answer and considers how Scripture directs us to tell others about the gospel of Jesus Christ.
NATHAN W. BINGHAM: This week, I’m joined by one of Ligonier’s Teaching Fellows and also the senior minister of the First Presbyterian Church in Columbia, South Carolina, Dr. Derek Thomas. Dr. Thomas, what must I do to be saved?
DR. DEREK THOMAS: Good to see you again, Nathan. Is this the most important question that you can ever ask? Yes, I guess it is. There are billions of questions, but this is a matter of life or death. This is a matter of heaven or hell. And it’s interesting that in the Bible, there isn’t one answer to this question. We all go, I mean, I would naturally go to Acts 16 and the Philippian jailer, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved.” What must I do to be saved? Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you’ll be saved, you and your household.
And in other parts of the Bible, there’s more of a stress on the need to repent. In other parts of the Bible, the emphasis is on faith. And then sometimes there’s a debate about does faith come first and repentance second? And it’s amazing that in Reformed theology in the seventeenth and eighteenth and nineteenth century especially, I mean, people took sides, and there were the “faith first followed by repentance” and, “no, repentance first followed by faith.” And the answer is, as John Murray said, it’s not an either/or, it’s both/and—that believing faith is a repenting faith and true repentance is a believing repentance.
It’s interesting to me that Jesus doesn’t have a cookie-cutter approach to evangelism. And if you were to look at how Jesus spoke to the rich young ruler, how Jesus spoke to the woman taken in adultery, how Jesus spoke to Nicodemus, how Jesus spoke to Zacchaeus up on a tree somewhere, and many more, His approach was very different. And I think that that means that as far as evangelism is concerned, you need to take into consideration what this person knows, what this person is completely ignorant of. For example, in the rich young ruler, I mean, Jesus cites the Ten Commandments, and what is that all about? And I think that what that is all about is that this man had no idea why he needed to be saved because he had no conception of sin. And in order for him to get a conception of sin, Jesus told him to go and obey the Ten Commandments.
But, if I only have two minutes, I think I’m going Acts 16. “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved.” Put your faith and trust wholly, cast yourself, entirely upon Jesus. But, if I’ve got time, and if the person is perhaps not ready to hear Acts 16—and now I’m going to be accused of preparationism. But I don’t mean preparationism. But I mean, people do need to be taught, and they do need to be taught what is sin and the extent of sin and the amount of sin that we would need to repent of—but to do that act of repentance in a gospel setting, in a setting of faith in Christ.
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