Monday, February 07, 2005

Pa-pa Becnel, Salvation and Theology

The letter below is written to a friend who wrote me an email with lots of theological questions. One of the questions, which I believe was rhetorical, I repeat in this letter and then respond to it. I hope you find this worth reading.

In Christ,

Dear Ben,

I woke up this afternoon (I am on graveyards) and checked my email to see what was there. While doing this I reread your last letter and I would like to respond to one particular question that you asked. You said: Do you think that God meant for salvation to be so complicated?

I don’t think salvation is now, nor has it ever been complicated. Salvation is by grace through faith in Jesus Christ:
Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house. (Acts 16:31)
... if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. (Romans 10:9)

I think the quotes from Scripture are simple and accurate enough on the issue of salvation, still that is not the whole of Scripture. As we both know there is much more to the Bible and to being a Christian than what is quoted above.

My great grandfather (Jean-David Becnel) was an old Frenchman (Cajun) who spoke very little English. He was from birth until the day he died, (in 1979) at the age of 95, a Roman Catholic. There are few people in this world that I have loved more than my "Pa-Pa Becnel." He was a very sweet godly man. He was also illiterate and never attended worship service where his native French was spoken, yet he knew Christ and his Gospel. He had heard the Gospel all his life, though it was usually presented to him encrusted with Roman Catholic errors, and yet he was still saved by the in working of the Holy Spirit.

My dad came to know Christ at the age of thirty. His dad (Pa-pa Becnel—my dad was raised by his grandparents) was then 83. When my dad understood the need for salvation he went to Pa-pa and very carefully, in French, explained that he needed to know Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour and that he need to repent of his sins and believe on Christ.

Pa-pa listened patiently and carefully as my dad went through the Gospel with him. After my dad finished speaking Pa-pa was amazed at what he had witnessed. He asked in surprise "Are you just now figuring that out? I’ve known these things for as long as I can remember." ( and he truly did know them)

My illiterate great grandfather, lived all his life in America, but never learned English, still he knew Christ. Even now he knows Christ and is with him. Pa-pa knew no fancy theologies. He had no theory about the ordo salutes. He never heard a theologically sound Reformed sermon expounding on great theological truths, but he knew in whom he believed, and he knew Jesus Christ was the Lord and Saviour of sinners like himself. I long to see and embrace Pa-pa Becnel, and some day I will.

Ben there is an important place for theological discussion and debate, but I think we have to keep it in perspective. I believe the Reformed Faith is the clearest and most accurate presentation of the Word of God that we have in the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ, and I defend it, promote it and teach it every day in one way or another. But knowledge of the Reformed faith is not the Gospel, must never be confused with the Gospel and must never be proclaimed as necessary to Salvation.

I believe there are true believers (like my great grandfather) in every Christian Church. Most of them will live and die ignorant of an ability to explain some of the simplest things of Scripture, but the Holy Spirit has changed their hearts of stone to hearts of Flesh. They have heard and believed the Gospel of Jesus Christ, perhaps not with pristine theological soundness, but enough to know that Jesus is Lord and He died to save them from their sins if they will repent and believe on Christ.

I believe theology is VERY, VERY important, but it is not the Gospel. Salvation is simple and it is the work of the Holy Spirit and not the work of men.

In the love of Christ,