Summary: So often when one seeks to discuss a person’s faith they hear in response “I believe that is a personal matter between me and God.” While it is true that salvation is a personal matter, it is not nor was ever meant to be private.
Personal… But Not Private
So often when one seeks to discuss a person’s faith they hear in response “I believe that is a personal matter between me and God.” Our society has gotten to the place where it generally regards religion as a completely private matter. You can believe what you want to believe as long as you do not impose your beliefs or talk about them to others. We say that one’s religious beliefs and affairs are private, and no one else has the right to meddle in them. As we consider the state of man and his relationship to God in light of the Word of God we shall see that it is true that salvation is a personal matter but it is not nor was ever meant to be private.
I. Salvation is a Personal Matter
A. Salvation is a matter of personal belief
1. Jonathan Whitfield was preaching to coal miners in England. He asked one man, "What do you believe?" "Well, I believe the same as the church." "And what does the church believe?" "Well, they believe the same as me." Seeing he was getting nowhere, Whitfield said, "And what is it that you both believe?" "Well, I suppose the same thing."
2. Ephesians 2:8 “For by grace are you saved through faith...” – The Amplified Bible renders this, “For it is by free grace (God’s unmerited favor) that you are saved (delivered from judgment and made partakers of Christ’s salvation) through [your] faith. And this [salvation] is not of yourselves [of your own doing, it came not through your own striving], but it is the gift of God.”
3. S Lewis Johnson writes that to... “Believe is our responsibility. There is human responsibility. We are responsible to believe. And even though that is the gift of God we are responsible to believe. And so I call upon you, believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shall be saved if you are not.” (Ephesians 2:1-10 His Power and Our Salvation)
4. “Saving faith is trust in Jesus Christ as a living person for forgiveness of sins and for eternal life with God. This definition emphasizes that saving faith is not just a belief in facts but personal trust in Jesus to save me... Because saving faith in Scripture involves this personal trust, the word “trust” is a better word to use in contemporary culture than the word “faith” or “belief.” The reason is that we can “believe” something to be true with no personal commitment or dependence involved in it...” – Wayne Grudem
5. Romans 10:9 “That if THOU shalt confess with THY mouth the Lord Jesus, and SHALT BELIEVE IN THINE HEART that God hath raised him from the dead, THOU shalt be saved.”
6. Only YOU can believe for YOU. You cannot believe for someone else and someone else cannot believe for you. That is why the question is so personal. Your status is not based on the belief of your church, your family, friends, spouse, or anyone else - it is based on your personal belief in Jesus.
B. Salvation is a matter of personal repentance
1. In his book I Surrender, Patrick Morley writes that the church’s integrity problem is in the misconception “that we can add Christ to our lives, but not subtract sin. It is a change in belief without a change in behavior.” He goes on to say, “It is revival without reformation, without repentance.” Chuck Swindoll, John The Baptizer, Bible Study Guide
2. Mark 1:14-15 “Now after that John was put in prison, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, 15 And saying, The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel.”
3. Repentance is included in believing. Faith and repentance are like two sides of a coin. Genuine faith includes repentance, and genuine repentance includes faith. The Greek word for repentance (metanoia) means to change one’s mind. But to change one’s mind about what? About sin, about one’s adequacy to save himself, about Christ as the only way of salvation, the only One who can make a person righteous. – Kindred Spirit, a quarterly publication of Dallas Seminary, Summer 1989, p. 5
4. There is no salvation apart from personal repentance and personal faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour.
5. 1 John 1:8-10 “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us”
6. 2 Peter 3:9 tells us that God is “not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance”.