I would like to say up front, that the ‘anonymous christian’ which is the teaching that I am addressing and will describe in more detail in the second paragraph, is un-biblical and dangerous. The idea of an anonymous christian is contrary to what the Bible teaches and destroys any motivation for missions and evangelism. I do not write this to bash or hate on any person or any denomination including the Catholic Church but merely to point out a false teaching that is present in many churches including the Catholic Church. The Bible teaches us that Jesus is the only way to God. He says himself, “No one comes to the Father except through me. If you had known me, you would have known my Father also” (John 14:6). In the text I preached on this morning Jesus says, “This is eternal life; that they know you the only true God and Jesus Christ whom you have sent” (John 17:3). This is the fact of the matter; there is no true God honoring, eternal life bringing ‘religion’ accept that which is centered on repentance towards the God of the Bible and faith in Jesus Christ.
Yet in our day there has surfaced a false teaching that says that there are many ways to God besides Jesus and that one can be an ‘anonymous’ (unknowing) Christian who does not have a relationship with Jesus. In other words, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, and even Atheists with a ‘good heart’ who are ‘seeking moral goodness’ can be seeking God unknowingly and be a Christian unknowingly. This does not line up with Jesus’ words that eternal life has at its center, knowing the one true God and Jesus Christ as well as accepting Him in faith. Romans 10:13-15 puts it this way, “all who call upon the name of the Lord will be saved. How will they call upon him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard?” This is the heart of our mission work. Jesus is the only hope of eternal life for the world, therefore we preaching Jesus to all people in view of eternal life for all who turn to him and eternal damnation for all who reject him.
Here is what the official Catholic Catechism says in relation to Muslims being ‘anonymous’ Christians:
“841 The Church’s relationship with the Muslims: The plan of salvation also includes those who acknowledge the Creator, in the first place amongst whom are the Muslims; these profess to hold the faith of Abraham, and together with us they adore the one, merciful God, mankind’s judge on the last day.”¹
This teaching is dangerous and un-biblical. We must recognize the need to share Jesus will all people of every religious for apart from Jesus there is no salvation.
There is one message that is going to bring real change to our broken community and this message has to start with you. The message is the Gospel. What is the Gospel? The Gospel is the good news that Jesus became flesh, fulfilled the law, died on the cross for us, and was raised to assure us that those who repent and believe in him have freedom from sin and eternal life. Do you believe this message? Have you experienced this message? When I say “experienced”, I don’t mean have you said some prayer and asked Jesus for forgiveness. What I mean is have you recognized you utter sinfulness to the point where you realize the only place you can go is to Jesus and when you get to him, you lay your entire life down before his feet and cry out “it is all yours Jesus!” This is what I mean by have you experienced the gospel. If you have not experienced it, then you don’t understand it and you need to run you God’s word and cry out to him that he would open your eyes and help you see his beauty and your need for him (Start with Romans 3:21-31).
The gospel is the power of God that will change our community and it has to start with you. You may be thinking, “why does this guy have so much confidence in this story about a man who lived over 2,000 years ago?” My answer to you: It’s what the bible says, Romans 1:16, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes.” Paul here says that this gospel, this good news, leads to salvation and is the power of God. We can’t save people, we don’t have the power to. We can only present the gospel to those in bondage to sin around us and pray that they believe, because if they do, they will be free from sin.
As you go about your day, think about the people in need in our community. Think about those who are entrapped in sin blind to the reality of eternity (It may be you). Think about those who are trusting in their good works to save them yet inevitably, have no freedom from sin because they have not turned to Jesus (it may be you). You have the answer that they need. The gospel that you have is the only hope they or you have of a better day and an eternity with Jesus. Freedom from sin in our community is not going to come merely through hard work and determination. It is only going to come when the gospel of Jesus Christ becomes our focus, our song, and our message.
By: John Piper
Does God Desire All to Be Saved? The answer to this question clearly yes. It is in the Bible (1 Timothy 2:4) and therefore it is true. But after preaching John 6:44 which says, “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day”, I received a very important question from a Godly Christian who was struggling, (as most of us do) to understand the issue of God’s election. How is it that God “chose us in him before the foundation of the world” and how is it that he “predestined us” (Ephesians 1:4,5 cf. Romans 9) yet did not “choose” those who perish How does this fit with the truth that God “desires that all people would be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth”? (1 Timothy 2:4 cf. 2 Peter 3:9, Ezekiel 18:23, Matthew 23:37) If God desires that all people would be saved, why are there so many who are still resistant to the good news of Christ?
This is the great question that John Piper seeks to address in this book. He states, “My purpose in this book has simply been to show that God’s will for all people to be saved is not at odds with the sovereignty of his grace in election.” (54) The book is free and is only 55 pages (you could read it in one sitting) yet is packed full of scripture and clear biblical truth. I must warn you though not to be fooled by the shortness of the book. This book is not a picture book and will require some careful reading and some real contemplation. As John Piper says in the introduction, “I admit that some of the paths in this book are steep. And some of the steepest places are through the thickest clouds. The climb is not for everyone. We all have different gifts, and not everyone is called to this kind of intellectual climb. Nevertheless, some of us are wired to make this climb.” (9)
I am thankful for Piper’s clarity and emphasis on the reality that all who come to Jesus are saved and will be raised to be with Christ. He says “God’s plan from all eternity was to magnify his glory in creation and redemption. He aimed to make the glory of his grace the highest revelation of himself (Eph. 1:6). To that end, he sent his Son into this creation and made Christ—crucified for sinners and conquering death—the climax of the display of the glory of his grace…Christ invites everyone to come. And everyone who comes is saved. Everyone who receives Christ has been chosen from the foundation of the world and is an heir of an infinite inheritance.” (52)
Piper closes the book by saying this: “I affirm with John 3:16 and 1 Timothy 2:4 that God loves the world with a real and sincere compassion that desires the salvation of all men. Yet I also affirm that God has chosen from before the foundation of the world those whom he will save from sin [Eph 1:3]. Since not all people are saved, we must choose whether we believe (with the Arminians) that God’s will to save all people is restrained by his commitment to ultimate human self-determination or whether we believe (with the Reformed) that God’s will to save all people is restrained by his commitment to the glorification of the full range of his perfections in exalting his sovereign grace (Eph. 1:6, 12, 14; Rom. 9:22–23).This decision should not be made on the basis of philosophical assumptions about what we think human accountability requires. It should be made on the basis of what the Scriptures teach.” (53)
I pray that this is book helpful for you in your mission to understand the Glory’s of God and your desire to be faithful to God’s word.
Book Review by Pastor Jonathan Ahlgren
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John 6:44 says “No one can come to me (Jesus) unless the Father who sent me draws him.” In other words, apart from God drawing us, we would reject Jesus eternally and would be without hope. What effect should this reality of God’s adoption and election have on us?
- It should humble us. Titus 3:5 says “he saved us not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit”. You did nothing to earn a right standing with God. You can do nothing. This reality aught to lead us to the throne of God in humility.
- It should cause Thankfulness. When you realize that you did not save yourself, that God did all the work, you will be thankful. I think of Ephesians 1:4-5, “God chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ according to the purpose of his will to the praise of his glorious grace.”
- It should bring Hope. Because of that fact that salvation does not depend on man’s ability, because of that fact that it is God who is in charge of salvation, you can have hope for those who are lost. No matter how dead in sin they are, no matter how resistant they are to the gospel, all it takes for them to come to Jesus is God drawing them to himself by opening their eyes to the beauty of the gospel. Salvation is rooted in God’s mercy and God’s power, not man’s ability.
- It should lead to Prayer. If no one can come to Jesus apart from the father drawing them, then praying is the most powerful tool in evangelism. You can prepare all you want. You can have all the right bible passages memorized. You have all of the most “effective” evangelism techniques. But if you are not falling on your face before God asking him to open the eyes of your lost neighbor, asking him to change the heart of you family member or coworker, you will be working with your own ability, witch is useless without the power of God.
- All glory goes to God. Biblical texts that deal with God’s choosing, election, and predestination say that it is all for the sake of God’s praise and Glory: “Chose…Predestined…to the praise of his glorious grace” (Eph. 1:6), “Predestined…to the praise of his glory” (Eph. 1:12), “God’s purpose of election…to show my (God’s) power… and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth” (Rom. 9:17 & Ex. 9:6) “to make known the riches of his glory…which he has prepared beforehand for glory– even us whom he has called” (Rom. 9:23)
1 Timothy 3:14 says that the scriptures make you, “Wise unto salvation through faith in Christ Jesus”. Does that mean that when I receive salvation I don’t need the Bible anymore? The answer to that question is no. In this text, Paul is not only telling Timothy that the scriptures are what led him to salvation. Paul is saying more than that. He is saying that the scriptures currently make you wise unto salvation. The bible not only saves you by making you born again, but it continues to save you by sanctifying you. Being in the Bible regularly is one of the most important things you can do. If you are not in the Scriptures regularly, you are in danger. Let me give you two truths to show you what I mean.
- Perseverance is necessary for Salvation. Matthew 10:21-22, “Brother will deliver brother over to death, and the father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death, and you will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved.” (Also see Romans 8:13, 8:17, Col. 1:22-23, Heb. 2:1-3, 3:12, 6:4, 1 John 2:19 Rev. 2:5-7, 2:17, 2:25-27, 3:5, 3:11-12, 3:21-22 and many more)
- God gave us his Word as a means of our perseverance. Jesus prays for our perseverance in John 17. He prays of us “keep them in your name” (v. 11) and “Keep them from the evil one” (v. 16). Then he gives us the way he is going to do it in v. 17, “Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth”. As Christians who have received the Holy Spirit as a guarantee of our inheritance, and as a provider of Joy in Christ, we will continue in the faith to the end through being sanctified by reading and enjoying the Word of God. (Read Psalm 119).
Application: Be in the word. If you are not in the scriptures daily, you will soon find yourself walking away from the faith. I would like to challenge you to read four chapters of the bible a day. Use a bible reading plan if that helps you. Or you can simply read one book of the bible at a time and soak in the riches of God’s wisdom and knowledge. No other book can claim to make you “wise unto salvation through faith in Christ Jesus”, and “complete, equipped for every good work” (1 Tim. 3:15-)
“And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” – Philippians 1:6