Making the Bible and Christianity easier to understand for Christians and non-Christians is certainly a noble aspiration. Douglas Connelly and Martin Manser have attempted to do this very thing in their new book Christianity for Blockheads. There are many things this book gets right (e.g., God’s existence, Jesus’ divinity, the Bible’s inspiration, salvation being a free gift from God, etc.). Like so many denominational writers, however, Connelly and Manser have misled their readers regarding the Bible’s teaching on how to receive the gift of salvation.
In chapter eight, titled “Your Life’s Greatest Change: Salvation,” Connelly and Manser claim that the Bible associates faith and repentance with “the act of becoming a Christian” (p. 150), but “you are not delivered from sin’s penalty...because you were baptized” (p. 149). Non-Christians are instructed simply to say the “sinner’s prayer” in order to become a Christian (p. 151). But, the fact of the matter is, a non-Christian does not become a Christian merely by praying. Jesus made this clear in Mark 16:16 (cf. Matthew 7:21). Peter made this clear in Acts 2:38. Ananias made this clear in Acts 22:16. And Paul made this clear in Galatians 3:27. [NOTE: Ananias did not tell Paul that his sins were washed away when he spoke to Jesus on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:4-6), or when he fasted for three days (9:9), or when he prayed (9:11), but when he was baptized (22:16).]
In addition to faith and repentance, the New Testament teaches that one’s immersion in water also precedes salvation (not that H20 saves us, but that the blood of Jesus saves us [Revelation 1:5], when we are baptized). It is mentioned numerous times throughout the New Testament, and both Jesus and His disciples taught that it precedes salvation (Mark 16:16; Matthew 28:19-20; Acts 2:38). The apostle Paul’s sins were washed away only after he was immersed in water (Acts 22:16; cf. Acts 9:18). [NOTE: Even though it was on the road to Damascus that Paul heard the Lord, spoke to Him, and believed on Him (Acts 9), Paul did not receive salvation until he went into Damascus and was baptized.] The book of Acts is replete with examples of those who did not receive the gift of salvation until after they professed faith in Christ, repented of their sins, and were baptized (Acts 2:38-41; 8:12; 8:26-40; 10:34-48; 16:14-15; 16:30-34; 18:8). Furthermore, the epistles of Peter and Paul also call attention to the necessity of baptism (1 Peter 3:21; Colossians 2:12; Romans 6:1-4). If a person wants the multitude of spiritual blessings found “in Christ” (e.g., salvation—2 Timothy 2:10; forgiveness—Ephesians 1:7; cf. Ephesians 2:12; etc.), he must not stop after confessing faith in the Lord Jesus, or after resolving within himself to turn from a sinful lifestyle. He also must be “baptized into Christ” (Galatians 3:27; Romans 6:3) “for the remission of sins” (Acts 2:38).
Sadly, Christianity for Blockheads builds a roadblock to heaven. Unless readers of this cliff-note version of the New Testament return to the New Testament itself and let the Bible writings speak for themselves, those who read this book will remain ignorant of the final step one must take in order to have his or her sins forgiven. This is the final step Peter told the thousands on Pentecost to take (Acts 2:28), the final step that Ananias told Paul to take (Acts 22:16), and the step that saturates Luke’s account of the first 30 years of the church.
Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Men and brethren, what shall we do?” Then Peter said to them, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins” (Acts 2:37-38, emp. added).
*For more information on what a non-Christian must do to become a Christian, please read our free e-book, Receiving the Gift of Salvation.
Connelly, Douglas and Martin Manser (2009), Christianity for Blockheads (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan).
Lyons, Eric and Kyle Butt (no date), Receiving the Gift of Salvation (Montgomery, AL: Apologetics Press).
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