The most response we ever receive from the material on our Website are
from those who do not appreciate our comments on Max Lucado. Most of
these do not deal with the Scriptures; they seek merely to vent
frustration with their man being "attacked," as they perceive it.
Occasionally, however, someone seeks to know more information, and we
are happy to use the reply as a teaching opportunity. Following is one
such e-mail exchange.
Dear M. H.,
We genuinely thought that she would be considering some of this
material for the very first time and prayed that it might have a
profound effect on her. Alas! she wrote back, citing the thief on the
cross, as if that one incident negated the accounts of conversion in
Thank you for your inquiry.
Since you asked, I pray that you will not be offended by the reply. God
could have written the Scriptures in such a fashion as this: "If you
want to please Me, do the following things: 1., 2., 3., etc."
Instead, things are discussed in several passages, and the thoughtful
student must study to get the whole picture, which constitutes
diligently seeking Him (Heb. 11:6). There is no one verse that tells us
how to attain initial salvation. Many verses emphasize the grace of
God, which we must understand. God does not owe us salvation. But
there are terms He has set forth for us to obtain this salvation;
otherwise everyone would receive it, and you know that is not the case
Faith is emphasized in many passages because it is the starting point of
coming to God. Usually, it implies obedience to God, as in Hebrews 11.
Faith cannot be defined apart from man's actions. This is James'
thesis, also: Faith without works (obedience) is dead (James 2:14-26).
[James is not referring to works of merit or the works of the Law of
Moses; he means compliance with God's will.]
Repentance is also necessary (Luke 13:3). We cannot continue to love
sin and hope to be saved; we must give it up. There must also be a
love of the truth, without which we cannot be saved (2 Thess. 2:10). We
must possess a love of God as well; these are the two greatest
commandments (Matt. 22:37-40). Do you see what I mean about there not
being one passage that lists these things in order?
Faith is listed as the first response of man leading to his salvation;
baptism is the culmination of the process. Jesus listed the first and
last steps together in Mark 16:16. Salvation is promised to those who
believe (the first essential) AND are baptized (the last essential)--not
to those who believe only. He does not mention repentance or the love
of God and truth, but other passages teach us of their necessity.
On the day of Pentecost, Peter was privileged to preach the first public
sermon after Jesus' death, burial, and resurrection. Through the use of
Old Testament Scriptures he convinced them that what had happened had
been prophesied. Furthermore, the apostles were all eyewitnesses of the
Lord's resurrection (Acts 2:32). Peter went on to affirm that God had
made the same Jesus whom they had crucified both Lord and Christ (Acts
2:36). The people asked him what they should do?
As you study verse 38, consider what Peter did not say. He did not say,
"Well, if you believe, that's all that is necessary." He did not say,
"Do? Why, there's nothing you can do. That would be earning
salvation." Instead, he told them the proper way to respond to their
sins: "Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus
Christ for the remission of your sins, and you shall receive the gift of
the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38).
Baptism is neither a ritual nor a work of man. It is the operation or
working of God (Col. 2:12); it is the answer of a good conscience toward
God (1 Peter 3:21); it is the means of being joined together with Christ
in His death (Rom. 6:3-5); and it is to be obeyed from the heart (Rom.
Has Max ever told you, in all the books you have read, what Peter said?
He will occasionally mention baptism, but not to be saved. Peter, the
inspired apostle, said it was in order to be saved.
Does it trouble you that you have not been told to do what the Bible
says concerning salvation? It should. Have you been told that the way
of salvation is "faith only"? If so, that excludes repentance and does
not mention the love of the truth, love for God, or baptism for the
remission of sins. How can these verses that only mention one or two
components of salvation be reconciled? You know that the Bible does not
contradict itself. All of these are elements of salvation. They are
I am confident that you will give careful consideration to these
matters. Please write back and let me know how your study is
I do not mean anything other than what the Scriptures mean in my choice
of terminology. Baptism is being placed beneath the water (any Greek
lexicon will define this term for you). If you read the passage I cited
in Romans 6:3-5, you saw that baptism is a burial in water, and it is
the means of participating in Christ's death. It is also the point at
which the blood of Christ washes away sins. Please compare Revelation
1:5 with Acts 22:16. The blood of Christ washes away our sins WHEN we
are baptized. So it is not just a declaration of our choice. You
received that notion from men--not the Scriptures. If a person is not
baptized in water FOR the remission of sins, then he/she has not
contacted the blood of Christ and therefore has no forgiveness. For that
reason Jesus said, "He who believes AND is baptized shall be saved."
That is not my thought on the subject; Jesus said it. The promise of
salvation is not, "He who believes shall be saved." Fear not, you do
not need to be a theologian in order to understand this simple sentence.
Obviously, if a person does not believe, he will not be baptized; there
was no need to say, "He who does not believe and is not baptized."
How do you know the thief had not already been baptized, since all Judea
went out unto John to be baptized of him? But whether he was or not is
irrelevant because, although the New Testament principles could be
obeyed in advance, a person could still be saved as an Israelite in
compliance with the Law of Moses. Therefore, the thief's repentance was
sufficient. The New Testament does not take effect until after the
death of Christ (Heb. 9:16-17). For that reason I referred you to
Peter's sermon on the day of Pentecost, since the New Testament plan of
salvation was first preached on that day. You were strangely silent
concerning that. I pray that you are carefully considering all these
*Send comments or questions concerning this article to Gary Summers. Please
refer to this article as: "INQUIRIES INTO TRUTH (10/14/01)."