“HOW TO BECOME A CHRISTIAN”
By Wayne S. Walker
Some years ago, I came across a small tract entitled “How to Become a Christian.” It was written by Carl Broughton of Glendale, OH, and published by the Old Paths Tract Society of Shoals, IN. The author begins, “Tonight the world is in great unrest. Death is abounding on every hand. Men’s hearts are failing them for fear in view of the awful atomic destruction that may soon sweep over the world. Now as never before it behooves all thoughtful men and women to prepare to meet God. Only to the Christian will God be a God of love. Prayerfully read the following words and see if you have the hope of eternal life.” There is much in this statement and in the entire tract with which we would agree.
In the first section the author says, “Not all are Christians. All will not eventually wind up in heaven. Hundreds of millions of earth’s population make no claim of being Christians. These of course will never enter heaven. More than one half of our own so-called Christian nation never darkens the door of any church.” Then he tells us that becoming a Christian is not done, among other things, in any of the following ways: coming from a “Christian home;” being born a Catholic, Baptist, Methodist, or any other faith; being “baptized” as an infant; living a “good life;” spending our lives in “good works;” attending Mass and Confession or Sunday School and Church from a child up; joining a church; taking Communion; or partaking of church ordinances. With all this we heartily agree.
The author continues in the second section, “The plan of Salvation is very simple. So simple the scripture says though a man be a fool he shall not err therein.” He points out that all small children are safe. “Regardless where a child may be born, though the child of an atheist or a heathen in a foreign land, if the child dies before reaching the age of accountability, he will enter Heaven.” Truly, there is no Biblical basis for the doctrine of total hereditary depravity. He goes on, “When we reach the place where we know right from wrong, when we know the consequences of choosing wrong and yet we choose wrong, then we are held responsible to God and not until then.” The conclusion to this section affirms that all of us have sinned, that God gave His only Son Jesus to come into this world, and that Jesus died on the cross for us. We assent, without doubt, to the truth of these words.
It is in the third section that we start to notice a lack of accord. The author opens the section, “God’s part has been done, the rest is up to us. We must first realize that we are lost. Until we realize we are sinful in God’s sight and have broken His law we can never be saved.” Of course, we acquiesce to this point. But look at the next point. “We must confess to God that we are a sinner. Romans 10:8-10.” While it is certainly true that people must understand that they are sinners before they can be saved, there is not a single passage of Scripture which tells an alien sinner to confess that he is a sinner, as is commonly practiced in “mourners bench” and “saved-at-the-altar” types of religion. The text cited speaks only of “confessing with thy mouth the Lord Jesus” and says nothing about confessing sinfulness. All passages which do talk of confessing sins are written of or to those who are already in covenant relationship with God (e.g., Luke 18:13, James 5:16, 1 John 1:9). The alien sinner is to confess his faith in Jesus Christ as Lord (cf. Matthew 16:16, Acts 8:37).
After he mentions repenting of our sins and believing that God gave His only Son for us, and the Bible certainly teaches the essentiality of faith and repentance in being saved, the author makes the following statement. “Believing all the above, we now accept Christ as our Saviour. To God and to man we are saying that from our heart we are depending on Christ as our only hope of Heaven. A miracle takes place then, the greatest miracle of all time. The burden of sin rolls away, the old sinful nature is cast down….We are ‘born again.’ A new life springs up within our heart. WE are saved—We now become a Christian.”
It is amazing to all true Bible students how that someone could write on the subject of how to be saved without mentioning one of the specific acts on man’s part to which the Scriptures clearly ascribe salvation. “The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God,) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 3:21; emphasis mine, WSW). In John 3:3-5, Jesus tells us that being “born again” necessarily involves not only Spirit but also water, and the only place where we come in contact with water in the process of salvation is in baptism (Acts 8:36, 10:47-48).
This brings us to the next item of contention. In section four the author writes, “Now that we are Christians, there are a few steps we should follow to obtain the most out our Christian experience. As soon as reasonable after your conversion you should be baptized as Christ was baptized. (By immersion). Matt. 3:16, Rom. 6:4.” We are in full accord with the fact that baptism is a burial, an immersion. But our author will search in vain for any indication in God’s word that a person who was already a Christian was ever told to be baptized after his conversion. In one of the very texts that he cites, Romans 6:4, the order of salvation is perfectly plain. We are buried in baptism, then we are raised to walk in newness of life. Newness of life, or salvation, comes after baptism, not before. In every example of conversion in the book of Acts, the individual is not saved, forgiven, redeemed, justified, or a Christian until after his baptism. Saul of Tarsus, later the apostle Paul, was told, “And now why tarriest thou? Arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord” (Acts 22:16). It was in baptism that his sins were washed away.
The author closes with the admonition, “Study your Bible and pray and you will grow to become a strong and worthwhile Christian.” We applaud any encouragement for people to study the Scriptures for themselves. Those of us who are associated with non-denominational, New Testament churches of Christ place a great deal of emphasis on the Bible as our only guide in religion. In fact, we would urge our friend who wrote this tract to spend more time studying the Bible, for it is evident that many of his concepts do not come from the word of God but from the doctrines and commandments of men (Matthew 15:7-9). Yes, the plan of salvation is simple. “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned” (Mark 16:16). We dare not add to that, take away from it, or change it in any way. “If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed” (Galatians 1:9).
—taken from Gospel Anchor; Nov., 1986; Vol. XIII, No. 3; pp. 20-21