In the Great Commission, Jesus said, “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen” (Mat 28:19-20). In this Jesus showed the process is: teach, convert, and teach all things. So, after one becomes convicted and is Born Again in Jesus’ name, he or she is then to begin the process of becoming more Christlike. Simply said, Jesus taught salvation is instantaneous, but sanctification is a lifelong process. The former saves a man from his past sins; the latter matures a saved man into one who no longer sins.
With that said, the questions then become, what is it that leads a person to such conviction, and, what, if anything, should be said before they are converted? I believe the answer to this is found in various accounts we have of men and women being Born Again in Jesus’ name in Acts 2, Acts 8, Acts 10, and Acts 19. In each of these we find a preacher giving instruction before the people were baptized. Paul’s testimony shows that this type instruction was also his norm (See Act 19:9, Act 1:3, Act 9:20-22, Act 17:1-3, Act 17:17, Act 18:4, Act 18:19, Act 28:23).
As far as how much a person should know before being Born Again, I would think the minimum would be what’s found in these accounts in Acts. These teachings include…
1. Jesus is both Lord and Christ.
2. the things concerning the kingdom of God
3. the name of Jesus Christ
4. (Jesus) is Lord of all
5. God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost and with power
6. (Jesus) went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of the devil for God was with him
7. (Jesus was) hanged on a tree
8. He arose the third day
9. His resurrection was shown openly
10. witnesses did eat and drink with him after he rose from the dead
11. he was ordained of God to be the Judge of quick and dead
12. all the prophets gave witness that through his name whosoever believes in him shall receive remission of sins
13. baptism is important
14. the way baptism is administered is important
15. people should believe on Christ Jesus
I have talked with preachers who act as if the main goal is getting people baptized in Jesus’ name. One of these men even created a newspaper advertising program where once a week anybody who wants to “be saved” can stop by for baptism. He doesn’t go into the reasons for them being Born Again before their baptism. This is due to him feeling the main issue is calling the name Jesus over them in the water. He does get a certain amount of response, but is such a program really doing the convert any good? How can a person truly be Born Again if they can’t even explain what it means? Is salvation simply a ticket to escape hell, or is it more a way to live? I believe the latter is more aligned with how salvation is described in the Bible.
I do not think a person must become a theologian before conversion, but I also do not think they should be immersed totally ignorant of God’s Kingdom either. Jesus said that a person not yet Born Again would not “see the Kingdom of God” (Joh 3:3). As a result, some things of the Kingdom are impossible to comprehend until a person is actually in God’s Kingdom. But as the afore mentioned passages in Acts attest, there are aspects of Jesus and His Kingdom that can and should be understood before one’s conversion.
I believe the question at hand is why Paul wrote: For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher (Rom 10:13-14)?
Copyright © 2009 TK Burk. All Rights Reserved.