My son has been talking about Jesus to his friends. Now a guy who used to come around a lot—someone you might consider to be in the “hood,” if you were so inclined to stereotype—has been bugging Calvin that he wants to go to church and be baptized. The first couple of times he brought it up, Calvin was noncommittal. But how long are you going to ignore a fella’s plea for baptism? As I recall, it only took one request for Philip to baptize the Ethiopian eunuch (Acts 8:36-37).
So my son is meeting the 18-year-old today to talk more with him. He wants to probe him for his understanding of what he is getting himself into: This means no more trouble with the police, no more fraternizing with the wrong sort, and absolutely no more recreational drugs.
I remember Dr. Clair Davis in a seminary history class discussing the subject of salvation by grace alone through faith, and some of the tussles Christians sometimes find themselves in over this doctrine. In order to illustrate the point of the writer James that while salvation is by faith alone, and yet a lack of works will show a faith to be meaningless, he offered this illustration:
A mafia guy walks into a church and asks to see the pastor. “Pastor,” he says, “I want to be baptized.” “That’s great!” the pastor replies. “Do you believe in Jesus Christ as your personal Savior?” “Oh yes, Pastor, I do. I have had an encounter with Him and have come to see that He is the Christ, the Son of the living God and the only way to salvation.” “Great!” says the pastor. We’ll schedule you a time to come in.”
The next week it comes to the pastor’s attention that the mafia guy has done a hit job, and he calls the man into the office: “I thought you were a Christian now!” “I am,” says the new convert. “I heard you just killed a man last week.” “You didn’t say anything about changing my job.”
And so the point of this ramble, and of my son’s meeting with the young aspirant today, is that the one who decides to follow Christ must forsake evil deeds and do good. This is because although good works are not the grounds of faith, they are the implications.