by Shaun Caudill
I was having a discussion with someone when they bluntly told me that Christians needed to stop trying to convert people of other religions to Christianity, especially the Jews. They emphatically implied that if people have sincere religious beliefs then they were on their way to heaven. How does the Bible answer this statement?
In Acts chapter 10, the Bible introduces us to Cornelius. Cornelius is a God-fearer, which means he is a follower of the Jewish faith even though he is not a Jew by birth. He has made a choice to leave whatever Gentile beliefs he has and to follow God through the Jewish faith. And how does he practice his faith? He faithfully prays, gives alms, and fears God. Not only that, but the Bible even states that God communicates a vision of an angel giving him a message. By most standards, we would state that Cornelius was Christian…and we would be wrong. Even though Cornelius was seeking after God, he did not have the complete revelation. The vision of the angel told him that he needed to hear a message from the apostle Peter. Why? We must remember that giving of our money to causes, praying faithfully, or having a fear of God is not what saves us from our sins. In addition, I can have a vision from God, but even that doesn’t give me salvation. In fact, there are several stories from current missionaries that reveal that people are having visions of Jesus Christ, but in all those testimonies the people having the vision are led to someone who shares the Gospel message with them in order to receive Christ for salvation. This is exactly what happens here in Acts 10. When Cornelius and his household hear Peter state, ‘To him all the prophets bear witness that everyone who believes in him (Jesus) receives forgiveness of sins through his name’ (Acts 10:43), the Holy Spirit comes, and then they are baptized in the name of Jesus. It is faith in Jesus and His death, burial, and resurrection that saves us. There are times when we will encounter others who tell us they pray, give generously, and even go to church, but we don’t need to make assumptions. Let’s find ways to talk with others about Christ because regardless how we think or feel about a person’s religious conviction, the Bible reminds us in Acts 4:12, “And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”