Now before we start, I must direct the reader to the article on the use in the Scriptures of the terms believer and unbeliever entitled Identity Problems in the Bible. It is that understanding that I mean to perpetuate here in the use of the term believer.
Because I am trying to tweak our old way of thinking, I must use the old paradigm to set the stage for our discussion. In our old way of thinking, we were taught that at the moment a person believed in God in the OT (and most people were taught to add to this a belief in God’s coming Messiah as well) or in Jesus in the NT, he was saved and guaranteed a place in heaven. So my question is simple: “At what point did the Ethiopian Eunuch, as far as we know from the information given to us in the Scriptures, become a believer, one that would have been saved, using the old paradigm’s terminology, and guaranteed a place in heaven?” If you’re not familiar with Acts 8:26-40, go back and meditate on it.
A scene in the movie Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid comes to mind. Butch and the Kid had just robbed a train. The owner of the rail road had finally taken steps to stop all the easy robberies taking place. He had a team of lawmen riding in a second train that was following the one with the money in it. When the first train was stopped for a robbery, the lawmen could mount their horses and ride out of the second train, chase down and arrest (or kill) the robbers.
When Butch and the Kid realize what was happening, they leave most of the money, mount up and try to outrun the lawmen who are now hot on their trail. Even when Butch and the Kid split up from two other robbers, the lawmen just ignored the two other two robbers who were going in a different direction than Butch and the Kid. Instead of splitting up their forces, all the lawmen came after Butch and the Kid.
In God’s faithfulness, He providentially brought to my attention some Scriptural details that I had completely forgotten. I regret my forgetfulness because the details in question are important and help to confirm the direction the Lord has been taking me for the last ten years or so. These details ought to be set before each student of God’s Word just as they stand in the text without any theological manipulation or cover-up.
You remember the story I’m sure. It is one of those Bible stories that is repeated so often that every child can basically tell the story. Three men see a badly hurt man beside the road. They are a Priest, a Levite, and a Samaritan. The Priest and Levite crossed over to the other side of the road so they could avoid the man entirely. The Samaritan was the only one who felt compassion for the injured man and helped him. Then at that point, the preacher or teacher expounding upon Jesus’ story shows the need to reach out and meet the needs of others (even if they are hard to like or are our enemies). And while that is absolutely correct, it misses the main point of Jesus’ interaction with the self-defensive Lawyer who came to Jesus about a very important issue, one that he had analyzed correctly.
I have found it nearly impossible, and that is probably an understatement, to engage anyone today in a discussion on the teachings of the Bible without being asked, sooner rather than later, what I believe it takes to get to heaven. Most simply ask straightforwardly, “What must a person do to get to heaven?”
Not much has changed in the past thirty-five to forty years. I remember trying to raise support for my ministry in Portland, Oregon. I was following through with a contact that had been given to me from another Christian who had decided to support my ministry. He felt that this friend of his would respond also. So I entered this man’s business and told him of my ministry with college students and of my need for monthly support. At the end of my presentation, he turned around and grabbed a note pad and pen off his supply shelf and wrote a question for me to answer. He said, “Before I’d consider helping you, you have to answer this question: ‘What must a person do to go to heaven?’”
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