Suppose an earthquake seriously damaged a high-rise building your were in. But a friend from that building who’d made it out safely called to check on you, and guided you to a stairwell in a particular corner of the building from which he had escaped.
After emerging into the light and open air, you become concerned for another friend in the building. You call him and he’s made his way to the same place you were when you received the message of escape. Having heard, believed, and followed the message that led to your deliverance, don’t you think you’d be able to convey that same message to your still-trapped friend?
If you understand it, you can express it
Anyone—regardless of age, church experience, or Bible knowledge—who has understood the Gospel well enough to believe it should be able to communicate the Gospel to others.
To put it another way, if a person cannot communicate the Gospel—at least its most basic elements, in a way commensurate with their age and mental ability—how can we be assured they have understood it well enough to believe it themselves?
Let me say it yet another way. To be saved, a person must believe the Gospel of Jesus Christ. To believe the Gospel a person must have at least a minimal understanding of it, whether it comes to them by ear or eye. In normal situations, one indication whether a person has understood the message of God’s salvation through Christ is whether they can express what they’ve understood.
Does this apply to children too?
“But what about children?,” someone may ask. “Can a child believe the Gospel and be saved?”
Yes, of course, but even a child should be able to express in childlike ways what they are believing. This is more than merely nodding one’s head at an assertion of the Gospel by someone else or affirming that you believe what another has explained. These are not wrong at the appropriate time. But such responses fall short of the believer expressing the content of what he or she believes.
If a person cannot say (or write) to someone else what they believe, how can we be assured they have believed the Gospel that saves?
Having gone through the experience of hearing the Gospel, comprehending some degree of its implications, and responding to it in repentance and faith, they should be able to describe that message and their response (on their own age and theological level, of course) to someone else.
Ever changed a tire?
For example, if someone explains to me “the message” of changing a tire, and I personally go through the experience of changing a tire, I should be able to relate the essence of that message to you when you have a flat. Even if I don’t know some the specific terms of the message like “jack,” “wheel cover,” and “lug nut,” I can still relate the basic message, albeit with synonyms or descriptions of some of the terms I can’t remember precisely. Conversely, if I am unable to tell you the basics of changing a tire, you have a right to question whether I’ve really been through the experience.
That’s why it raises doubts about the authenticity of the experience of any professing Christian who maintains that he does not know enough to speak to someone about the salvation of their soul.
The second part of this article will be in the next post.