2001-08-27 - Coming to Christ
Matthew 18:2,3 And He called a child to Himself and set him before them, and said, 'Truly I say to you, unless you are converted and become like children, you shall not enter the kingdom of heaven.
The Question, "I am a Christian but my husband is not. Recently we had a discussion regarding forgiveness. He just cannot accept that by repenting our sins and believing in Jesus as our Lord and Savior we can be forgiven. He gave me this question. If a person who is not a believer in Jesus, commits a crime, ex., kills a person, and he/she didn't have the opportunity to repent/believe in Jesus, and then dies, what happens to his soul? He asks, why couldn't this person's soul be forgiven? Can you help me answer this question. The answer that I give doesn't satisfy to his satisfaction."
I would like to say first that I intend, eventually, to handle some of the "unbelieving spouse" questions I received. I got quite a few and I am still thinking about them. But the question here is, "Will we have a chance to repent and be forgiven after we die?" This is a topic that I have covered before and is buried somewhere in our devotional archives. It is true that some, including C. S. Lewis, have believed that those who never get a chance to hear the Gospel will get a chance after death to hear, repent, and believe. As I have said before, I not only hope this is true, I also think the weight of the evidence in the Bible does not support this view. I wish it were true, but I also think it is only wishful thinking.
You say of your husband, "He just cannot accept that by repenting our sins and believing in Jesus as our Lord and Savior we can be forgiven." This is where I would like to focus on your question, because to think about forgiveness after death without repentance before death really is speculation. We need to see our need to repent right now and I would like to adapt some of the thoughts Charles Hodge had on coming to Christ in a lecture he gave on December 7, 1856 in Princeton, New Jersey.
He starts out this topic with some verses in the Bible that encourage us to come to Christ: Matthew 11:28, John 5:40, John 6:37, John 5:44, John 7:37, Hebrews 7:25, Revelation 22:17, and Hebrews 11:6. He points out the need to understand what it means to come to Christ and then examines those in the New Testament who did come to Christ, namely; the blind, deaf, leprous, sick, and so on. He first points out what they did not do and then what they did do.
They did not:
In seeing how Christ healed people in the New Testament, Hodge then applies
this to the sinner coming to Christ for healing from sin. He points out that
in coming to Christ it is necessary that the person:
The person that comes to Christ must:
Lastly, Hodge says that the Bible teaches that:
This is obviously quite a different format then I usually use, but I am not afraid to break with normality. I would say that while your husband can't accept, intellectually I guess, that, "by repenting our sins and believing in Jesus as our Lord and Savior we can be forgiven," the Bible tells him to take his doubts and unbelief and come to Christ anyway. I would encourage him to come to Christ like the father of the boy who needed healing in Mark 9, saying, "I do believe, help my unbelief." Mark 9:24
This is a hard thing to ask anyone to do and, as Hodge says, divine assistance is necessary, but the Bible is clear that forgiveness is for, "...whosoever believes in Him will not parish, but have eternal life." John 3:16 The hard part for anyone is to actually come to Christ as the blind man and others did and ask for help. But the call is to come to Christ, even with our doubts, and begin to seek refuge and healing from our sin. We can never experience this healing if we fail to actually come to Christ and ask for help. And I would encourage everyone to gently seek to persuade those who have not come to Christ and tell their unbelieving friends and family, "You have tried your way for a long time, why not come to Christ and try my way for a while? I have found coming to Christ has enriched my life more than I ever could have imagined."
Soli Deo Gloria,