By Jill Riley
In 1806, during their westward exploration, William Clark, half of the famous Lewis and Clark explorers, carved his name into a 200 foot high rock formation, named “Pompey’s Pillar.” Two years ago I stood just a few feet away from Clark’s signature. I enjoyed the beautiful expansive view, breathed in the fresh wind and reveled in the fact that I was standing inside a moment of history. Clark’s signature is tangible proof that something of significance happened here.
On May 8, 1980, I accepted Jesus Christ as my Savior and Lord. I made a commitment to serve God with my whole being, until my present meets eternity. The moment of my salvation is etched into my memory in no less tangible ways than Clark’s name on that stone pillar. I know that “event” is real and was the beginning of conversion.
However, it appears the salvation “event” has gone the way of poodle skirts and zipper neck ties; fading out of popularity and into obscurity. Is publicly declaring one’s salvation decision no longer the culturally agreed upon starting block of faith? It seems salvation has become a largely personal, independent, self-defined occurrence. There is no altar, no confession of sin and faith, or church celebration. What an odd disconnect from the historical precedence of the Church. To many, simply believing in God is enough. No other pomp necessary.
Since there is no membership card, special tattoo, or secret handshake that signifies whether a believer is REALLY a believer, how are we to know who’s “in” and who’s not? The book of Acts, specifically the story of the Ethiopian eunuch (Acts 8:26-40) gives us useful insight. The Ethiopian went to Jerusalem, worshiped in the temple and was reading the Words of the prophets of God when Phillip was sent to him. Clearly the Ethiopian believed in God but it was Phillip who introduced him to Jesus.
If simply acknowledging the power and supremacy of God the Father in worship and showing devotion to Him constituted salvation then obviously the Ethiopian was saved before he even met Philip. Baptism should have/could have been offered in that moment.
However, in Acts 16, when Paul and Silas’ jailers asked, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” they replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved.” There! A salvific mandate to believe in God the Son, Jesus. THE requirement. The Ethiopian did not receive salvation or begin conversion until the moment he believed in Jesus.
It is about Jesus. Plain and simple. Jesus: human, real, crucified, died, and rose again. Anything less is a Cliff notes version of the greatest love story ever written. At what particular moment a congregant chooses to believe in Jesus Christ is not my concern. I am simply content to extend invitation and serve them at the Lord’s table.