Not Called to Save People
If you’re like me, over the years you’ve heard about people “being saved.” When that phrase is used it references the person who is “being saved” placing faith in Christ. And obviously those of us who are Christian want as many as possible added to that number, just as God does (2 Peter 3:9). There are certain gifted Christians who use their gift of being an evangelist to communicate and spread the good news of Jesus as the Messiah. Praise the Lord for such people! All Christians hopefully add to what they accomplish by telling friends and family what the Lord means to them, inviting these people to church or a small group, encouraging them to consider God’s offer of forgiveness through Jesus.
All of that said, I do not believe any of us are called to save people, not even the evangelist. Why would I say this? Because God does the saving. “That’s pretty obvious,” you might say, “but we are the ones explaining how it works, right?” Yes, and a good point. How does it work?
I remember when I was in college back in the 1970’s at MO State (then SMSU). Several of us would go to the mall on weekends just to walk around and check things out, something to do. At that time the Baptist college in town was notorious for sending students to the mall to save people. They would approach you, ask if they could take a moment of your time, and if you didn’t object, they’d launch into their “Would you go to heaven if you died tonight?” routine. Most people are caught off guard with this question, and many will reply, “Well, I’m not sure, I hope so.” Fuel to the fire. They then explained that if you’d just invite Jesus into your heart and pray the little prayer (they even provided the words), you’d be saved and could know it. You might try to explain that you are already a Christian, but your “I’m not sure, I hope so” response previously was all they heard. They’d pressure you to repeat their prayer. You had a choice: either be rude to them and walk away or say the prayer and make them feel good (and get rid of them). If you did say the prayer, they’d assure you that salvation had taken place, they’d maybe give you a pamphlet, and they’d leave, another person saved, another notch on their belt.
Is that the way it works? The fact is, Jesus never told his followers to “go save people.” What did he tell them to do? Let’s look. He gave what’s called the Great Commission just before ascending back to heaven, recorded in Matthew 28:18-20. Jesus said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching the to observe all that I have commanded you.”
Our call is not to “save” people, rather the call is to make disciples. We explain to the person that what saves them is Jesus through his death, burial, and resurrection, and how they can attach themselves to him by making him Lord, in faith, and being baptized. Baptism is the new birth, the link to the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus since it represents that; the door to discipleship. Once they are baptized (where God saves them, just like he did Noah through water during the time of the flood: see I Peter 3:21), then they continue in faith, being taught and learning to obey. All of that is wrapped up in the word disciple. God does not hurl us into heaven just because we said a prayer, but rather, he leads us into heaven as we follow Jesus. We are not called to save people, we are called to make disciples.
Cross Point: “For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ,” (Gal. 3:27). As a disciple we learn from God’s Word, we are encouraged (and provide encouragement) within the church, we find places of service, we mature, and we make “faith” more than a mysterious word, it is defined with another word: disciple. Are you a disciple of Christ?