Misconceptions can be costly. There are few areas they do more damage in than in the areas of salvation and evangelism. Misconceptions about what the Scripture teaches or does not teach can hinder our witness and outreach to those who so desperately need to hear the good news of Jesus Christ.
As I interact with believers about evangelism, there are six misconceptions that concern me the most.
“If you don’t know the date you were saved, then you are not saved.”
How can I witness to someone about their salvation if I’m not certain of my own? The reason some are not certain of their own salvation is because they do not know the exact date or time in which they “crossed the line”. Unfortunately, they may have been told that if they don’t know the date they were saved, then they are not saved. Nothing could be further from the truth.
There is an exact second a person crosses the line from darkness into light - an exact moment when an eternal transaction takes place and they are forever a child of God. God knows when that date, time, and place was. But just because you don’t know does not mean you are not saved. If you trust is in Christ alone as your only way to heaven, you are forever a child of God regardless of when you crossed the line.
When Scripture gives assurance of salvation it always goes back to a fact not to a date. We are told in John 6:47, “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me has everlasting life.”
“If you do not tell others about Christ, then you are not a Christian.”
It is important to tell others about the Lord and how you came to know him. But nowhere in Scripture is that a condition of salvation. John 3:16 tells us, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” It does not say, “whoever believes in him and tells others he is a Christian”.
Telling others about Christ is part of discipleship, not salvation. The first thing Christ ever taught His disciples was evangelism. In Matthew 4:19, He told His disciples, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.”
“If you miss an opportunity to share Christ with someone, it’s your fault if that person goes to hell.”
That misconception is often based on Ezekiel 3:17-19 where God speaks to Ezekiel about being a watchman and warning His people about the coming Babylonian destruction of Jerusalem. God told Ezekiel if he did not give the wicked such a warning, he’d be responsible for their deaths. That passage should never be used in evangelism because it is speaking of a physical destruction, not eternal damnation. That verse is not addressing evangelism.
The Scriptures make it clear that God holds us responsible for contact, not conversion. We can only bring Christ to people; only God can bring people to Christ. Christ testified in John 6:44, “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day.”
“You are saved even if you are trusting something in addition to Christ for your eternal salvation.”
We are not saved on the basis of Christ plus something—such as our good life, church attendance, keeping the commandments, or taking the sacraments. We are saved on the basis of Christ period. We must be satisfied with the thing that satisfies God. The only thing that satisfied God’s anger against our sin was His Son’s death on the cross. That’s why in John 19:30 as Christ hung on the cross, He proclaimed, “It is finished!” That word “finished” means “paid in full”.
If we are trusting Christ plus anything we have done, then we are not agreeing with God that His Son’s death is sufficient to pay for our sins. Our trust must be in Christ alone as our only way of salvation.
Furthermore, the Bible makes it clear that eternal life is a free gift. Ephesians 2:8-9 tells us, “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.” If a person is depending on anything in addition to Christ to get them to heaven, then they are not accepting salvation as a free gift.
“If you come to Me, I want either all of your life or none of it.”
God wants us to surrender our lives to Him and allow him to have complete control of what He does with them. That though is part of following after Christ as a disciple, not part of salvation. Christ said in Luke 14:26, “If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple.”
Our salvation is not a result of our surrendering our life to Him but instead Christ surrendering His life to the Father as a sacrifice for our sin. The agony Christ went through in doing so is explained by His words in the Garden of Gethsemane when He said, “Abba, Father, all things are possible for You. Take this cup away from Me; nevertheless, not what I will, but what You will.” (Mark 14:36)
“If you’re not willing to confess Christ publicly, you cannot be saved.”
As Christians we ought to be willing to confess our faith to others. However, one of the clearest proofs that confession is not part of salvation is John 12:42. “Nevertheless even among the rulers many believed in Him, but because of the Pharisees they did not confess Him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue”. Here were people who genuinely came to Christ but were afraid to confess him.
Furthermore, examine the story of the thief on the cross who in his final moments of life recognized Christ was the one He said He was. Jesus declared to him in Luke 23:43, “Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise.” There was no way he could confess Christ publicly as he died upon that cross – yet Christ welcomed him into His paradise.
Be careful that misconceptions about salvation don’t hold you back in evangelism. Believing something that is not taught in Scripture can hinder our witness to the lost to the point that we clam up instead of speak up.