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For much too long in my Christian life, I was somewhat asleep to many spiritual truths. For the last two decades or so, the Lord has been trying to wake me up to them.

In the mid-1960s, Bill Bright introduced what is called the Four Spiritual Laws.

  1. God loves you and offers a wonderful plan for your life (John 3:16; 10:10).
  2. Man is sinful and separated from God. Therefore, he cannot know and experience God’s love and plan for his life (Romans 3:23; 6:23).
  3. Jesus Christ is God’s only provision for man’s sin. Through him you can know and experience God’s love and plan for your life (Romans 5:8; 1 Corinthians. 15:3-6; John 14:6).
  4. We must individually receive Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord; then we can know and experience God’s love and plan for our lives (John 1:12; 3:1-8; Ephesians 2:8-9; Revelation 3:20).

The Four Spiritual Laws is based on the truth of Scripture (except for Revelation 3:20, which is problematic—it was spoken to a church), and if one reads these verses, they will discover the truth of man’s condition and God’s redemptive plan to save us from sin by grace and faith. It is true that the Lord requires belief in Jesus and repentance from our sinful way of life. It is a tight, orderly way of explaining God’s saving work, and it appeals to our logical, Western way of thinking. The problem is, I cannot think of any biblical examples where anyone came to know Jesus or the love of God using these organized 1-2-3-4 laws.

I am willing to be corrected.

It appears to me, as I read the New Testament, that people coming to know Jesus and His salvation is not so structured and methodical.

Consider the case of the tax collector Zacchaeus. Jesus invited Himself over to his house, and Zacchaeus said, “Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor. And if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I restore it fourfold” (Luke 19:8).1

To which Jesus replied, “Today salvation has come to this house, since he also is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost” (Luke 19:9–10).

Did Jesus tell this man to repent? It’s not in the text, but it’s implied because Zacchaeus’ encounter with God Incarnate convinced the traitorous, greedy man to give up his avarice. Thus, Jesus said that salvation came “to this house.” Do you see any 1-2-3-4 steps there? Do you see any well-organized way that the Lord led this man to come to salvation?

How about the woman at the well? Please read the account of this adulteress in the fourth chapter of John and tell me where Jesus tells her directly to repent of her sins. After a brief discussion about her life, the details of which Jesus knew intimately, and her religion in contrast to His, she said, “I know that Messiah is coming (he who is called Christ). When he comes, he will tell us all things” (John 4:25).

To which Jesus replied, stunningly and beautifully, “I who speak to you am he” (John 4:26).

The result? “Many Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, ‘He told me all that I ever did.’ So when the Samaritans came to him, they asked him to stay with them, and he stayed there two days. And many more believed because of his word” (John 4:39–41).

Did this woman repent? Yes. It is clearly implied. Was she convicted of her sin? That is implied, was well.

How about Peter’s message at Pentecost? After a crowd gathered because people were filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke with tongues, Peter preached a message about Jesus, which included repentance. Then, when the men were “cut to the heart,” they asked Peter what they should do. “Peter said to them, ‘Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.’ And with many other words he bore witness and continued to exhort them, saying, ‘Save yourselves from this crooked generation.’ So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls” (Acts 2:38–41).

Some may argue that the gospel was not fully organized at the time of these events. Point taken. Nevertheless, people did come to know the Lord Jesus as Savior without that organization. And what shall we do with Paul before King Agrippa? Was the gospel not organized then? After Paul told the king the account of his conversion, he did not then offer Four Spiritual Laws in a last hopeful attempt to bring this man to the saving knowledge of Jesus:

“Therefore, O King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision, but declared first to those in Damascus, then in Jerusalem and throughout all the region of Judea, and also to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, performing deeds in keeping with their repentance. For this reason the Jews seized me in the temple and tried to kill me. To this day I have had the help that comes from God, and so I stand here testifying both to small and great, saying nothing but what the prophets and Moses said would come to pass: that the Christ must suffer and that, by being the first to rise from the dead, he would proclaim light both to our people and to the Gentiles” (Acts 26:19–23).

People coming to know the Lord Jesus, according to Scripture, is not orderly, neat, and tidy. I urge you to reject plans and prayers that attempt to make it that way. More on the dangers of this systematic system of salvation next week.


1All Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.




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