The musical performance was first-rate. Our hearts rejoiced at hearing the Gospel of Jesus Christ proclaimed so boldly through these youth. After the musical presentation, the Gospel was openly preached. The words coming out of the mouth of the one preaching were straightforward leaving no doubt, or wiggle room, that the only path to God was solely through faith in Jesus' shed blood on the cross.
"The Church will not save you...your good works will not save you...it is by grace that you are saved by faith...Jesus conquered death by his resurrection from the grave and today stands at the right hand of the Father...open your hearts to Jesus and receive him as your Savior and Lord..."
At the end of the evangelistic message an invitation was given for sinners to stand and publicly profess their faith in Jesus. Dozens stood. Tears were shed. Men and women fell to their knees crying out "Lord, forgive my sin." The youth gathered in small groups with those standing, leading them in the "sinner's prayer." I had a hard time believing the amazing things we were witnessing. Was spiritual awakening finally coming to our city? To this Latin American nation? PTL!
You might be wondering why this revival-like atmosphere would have so captivated me. The reason was that all of the above took place in a Roman Catholic cathedral in the capital city of a Latin American country. The one preaching the Gospel message was a fully-garbed RC bishop!
I was blown out of the water to say the least. Not a single word had been spoken in the two hour evangelistic service that I was not in full agreement with.
But then something very unexpected happened.
In the final two minutes of the service, the priest who had so effectively preached the Gospel of salvation in Christ alone, raised his hands in a benediction and said,
"Hallelujah! God has been so good to us tonight. Let us all stand and join our hands together and give thanks to MARY, THE BLESSED MOTHER OF OUR LORD JESUS, for all she did for us this evening!"
I nearly croaked. How could he possibly believe that Mary had anything at all to do with what the HOLY SPIRIT had done that evening?
That was one of the most memorable services I have ever participated in. And yet, with all due respect to our RC brothers, was marred at the very end by what I consider to be clear theological heresy.
Which of the following theological stances can be considered so false as to actually stand in the way of a person's salvation if adhered to?
-hell is a non-literal place
-Mary is the mother of God
-a person can lose their salvation
-evidence of the indwelling Spirit is speaking in tongues
-the practice of baptizing infants
-only ordained clergy can administer baptism/communion
-any one of dozens of other 2nd and 3rd tier Christian teachings
I like Paul's response to the Romans,
Now accept the one who is weak in faith, but not for the purpose of passing judgment on his opinions...Who are you to judge the servant of another? To his own master he stands or falls; and he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand. Rom. 14:1,4
It would seem from Paul's perspective that there are brothers (saved brothers) whose theology is "weak" and can even be flawed. But we are to accept these weak brothers and not pass judgment on their inaccurate opinions and beliefs. They do not answer to us for their false/misguided beliefs, but to their master.
Yes, another's theology might be wrong. But when does that bad theology stand in the way of their being saved? Can we still be saved and yet have bad theology on certain matters of faith?
What is the raw essence of the Gospel? The bare minimum that must be believed, or one is lost/condemned? This is something I have thought a lot about over the years. While I have strong evangelical convictions, it doesn't take long being around Christians of other faiths, traditions and denominations before one realizes there are some major theological differences between us!
Peter's response to the listening crowd was, Now when they heard this, they were pierced to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, "Brethren, what shall we do?" Peter said to them, "Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit."
Paul and Silas responded to the Philippian jailor's, "Sirs, what must I do to be saved?" They said, "Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household."
Again Paul writes, "that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved..."
Writing to the Corinthians Paul elaborates on what he considered of FIRST IMPORTANCE For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures... What is of first importance is Christ's death, burial, and resurrection.
So in summary, there can be a lot of bad/false/inaccurate theology out there, but if 1) a person repents and is baptized, 2) believes in the Lord Jesus, 3) confesses with their mouth Jesus as Lord, 4) believes in their heart that God raised Jesus from the dead, THEY WILL BE SAVED regardless of any bad theology they might adhere to.
Of course, for me, that is what "making disciples" is all about, "teaching them to observe all that Christ commanded"--making sure we correct any bad/false/inaccurate beliefs as we teach them about Christ. Good theology comes from knowing and obeying Christ and all that He taught us about the Father.
So what do you think is the essence of the Gospel--that which absolutely must be present for a person to be truly saved? I am open to hearing any of your thoughts on the matter.