Gospel Guidebook: Getting and Keeping It Right  




Explanation and Refutation of “Justification by Experientially Participating in Christ’s Death and Resurrection”

*In this article, I use the words “justification,” “salvation,” “reception of eternal life,” and “being born again” colloquially and as synonyms.

Explanation

“Justification by experientially participating in Christ’s death and resurrection life” (hereinafter referred to as “Participation Theory”) is a teaching that generally says that people are saved by ongoing participation in the death and resurrection of Christ on the basis of what Christ does in them through impartation of righteousness.

Proponents of Participation Theory emphasize the cross and faith, but the cross for them does not represent the place of substitutionary atonement, and saving faith for them does not represent a singular and passive act of accepting God’s testimony about His Son as truth (see 1 John 5:9-11, John 3:32-33, etc.). Rather, the cross represents the place of “setting free” whereby humanity is emancipated from the old creation, characterized by death and sin, and transferred into the new creation, characterized by life and godliness. Saving faith is Christ’s faith in them working in their lives to produce a life characterized by faithfulness and righteous behavior.

Soteriological systems that emphasize impartation and infusion have always been popular in Catholicism and Orthodoxy, but in recent years, this type of soteriology has also been gaining ground in mainstream Protestantism, especially among proponents of “New Perspective on Paul” theology and Christian Universalists.

I will now provide some excerpts from the writings of proponents of Participation Theory. The first two excerpts are from Pauline scholars whose writings have advanced “New Perspective on Paul” research. The last three excerpts are from Universalists whose writings have been influential in their circles.

Michael J. Gorman (Raymond E. Brown Chair in Biblical Studies and Theology at St. Mary's Seminary & University) says the following when summarizing Chapter 2 and Chapter 3 of his book “Inhabiting the Cruciform God”:

“Chapter two looks at several key texts in Paul, especially Gal 2:15-21 and Rom 6:1–7:6, demonstrating that justification is life with God by means of co-crucifixion with Christ, and is therefore a death-and-resurrection experience. It is participation in the covenantal and cruciform narrative identity of Christ, which is in turn the character of God, and thus justification is itself theosis.”

“Paul redefines holiness as countercultural participation in and conformity to the cruciform character of the triune God, Father, Son, and Spirit. Holiness is not a supplement to justification but the actualization of justification, and may be more appropriately termed theosis.”

Douglas Campbell (professor of New Testament at Duke Divinity School and author of several influential books) said the following in one of his debates:

“Fortunately, this gospel will be quite familiar to many of you already as sanctification. Now as a good Methodist, I emphasize this rather strongly. And when it is prefaced with the appropriate doctrine of election, as it is in Ephesians, I would suggest that sanctification basically is Paul's gospel; that is, his account of how we all get saved in the senses of being healed from sin and ultimately delivered from death. Now Paul lays this gospel out most clearly in Romans 5 through 8. In those chapters we learn that we are saved as the Holy Spirit grafts us onto the journey of Christ, so that in a very real concrete sense we participate in Him. However, this journey has two rather different stages. We participate first in Christ's obedient journey downward into death where we enter into the extinction of our current sinful condition. Because Christ assumed our corrupt earthly existence in the incarnation, and then went on to terminate it in His execution, we too participate in this termination and the power of sin has thereby been broken. Hallelujah. However, Christ, of course, was raised from the dead and enthroned on high where He is acclaimed as Lord, and so we too in Him are resurrected and enthroned on high, the second stage in our shared journey. And this resurrected ground is the location, is the ground of our current Christian behavior. We enter here into a new situation, free from evil powers, like sin and death, and are able to respond to God with a full and joyful obedience, which is good news. Indeed, this is the good news.”

J. Preston Eby (Pastor, prominent Universalist, and author of many Christian books) in his article “The Lake of Fire” from his “Savior of the World Series” cited another prominent Universalist Ray Prinzing as follows:

“All the Crucifixion, our identification with the cross of Christ, must first be accepted by faith as a fact, and then the working of it in and through us is a process. If it is done now, through our yieldedness to the call and the claims of Christ upon us, we won't have to face it later, in what is called 'the lake of fire,' which is the second death. The passing through that lake of divine purification will thoroughly purge out the last remaining fragments of the rebellion and waywardness of man, till the mystery of iniquity is no more, and then the carnal mind being abolished, death is no more.”

Jonathan Mitchell (translator of the Jonathan Mitchell New Testament and author of many New Testament commentaries) said the following in his commentary on Revelation 3:5 and Revelation 20:15:

“To have one's name in the book of the Lamb's life, is to actively, existentially participate in the Christ life – the upward invitation – and to be a part of the first-fruits, and thus, live in the anointing.

“Having one’s name in the scroll of the Lamb’s Life symbolizes existentially and presently living the cruciform life, following Christ as a disciple (Mat. 16:24-27). Not all believers live this kind of life. One must ‘walk worthy of our calling’ (Eph. 4:1) to be assessed as ‘living the Life of the Lamb.’

“For a person to be not found written within the scroll of (or: which is) The Life means that this one has not been ‘abiding in the Vine’ (Jn. 15:1ff) and still has the influence and identity (mark) of the little animal nature controlling his or her mind and actions (14:10, above). This verse is a promise that all mankind will at some point be purged of the fleshly disposition (the carnal mindset) and cleansed from the effect of listening to the adversarial spirit that came from partaking in legalism (law) and dualistic, tribal thinking (us versus them). They will be ‘salted with Fire’ (Mk. 9:49) and baptized (Lu. 3:16) in Holy Spirit, or a set- apart Attitude, and Fire (God).”

John Gavazzoni (main contributor at Greater Emmanuel International Ministries) said the following in his short article “Legalisms Persistence”:

“As the discussion weaved its way forward and the difference between the atonement being forensic-based (law-based), i.e., legal justification.... which amounts to God reckoning man to be righteous on the basis of ‘the merits of Jesus Christ’ (Christ gained points with God for us by His suffering and death allowing God to legally IMPUTE righteousness to us)... that theory of atonement stood out very apparently in stark contrast to the truth of God, which is our Father MAKING us right with Himself by IMPARTING Himself into us in the Person of His Son and reckoning the faith of Christ at work in us as righteousness.” (emphasis his)

(As a side note, opponents of Christian Universalism usually complain that Universalists give everyone, even non-Christians, a free and automatic pass into heaven. However, for Universalists who believe in Participation Theory the exact opposite is true. They believe that even believers in Jesus Christ can be condemned and cast into the lake of fire if they have not been sufficiently transformed and cleansed from sin during this life. For them, only people who are consistently participating in the Christ life will attain instant access to glory in the afterlife.)

As can be seen from the above citations, proponents of Participation Theory may describe things somewhat differently, but their viewpoint converges on common ground, namely, that God makes people righteous and saves them when they participate in the Christ life on the basis of what Christ does in them through the emancipation achieved at the cross and through imparted righteousness.

Refutation

In contrast, I believe that God declares people righteous and saves them when they exercise a singular and passive act of accepting God’s testimony about Christ as truth on the basis of what Christ did for them through substitutionary atonement at the cross and through imputed righteousness. Please see my short article “Evidence and Comments on Substitutionary Atonement”.

I believe that Participation Theory is refuted decisively by the Gospel of John, in particular the first six chapters, wherein there is much content regarding how unbelievers receive eternal life. Rather than go into detail here, I refer the reader to my article “What is the Good News of the Bible?” I highly recommend this article as it is very pertinent to the present discussion. Most discussions on soteriological topics don’t give enough attention to the Gospel of John, but place most emphasis on various interpretations from Paul’s letters. Now, this is partially understandable because Paul’s letters provide the details underlying the plain teachings that are presented in the Gospel of John. And it is these details that people are interested in. However, I believe that the details provided in Paul’s letters must be read through the lens of the Gospel of John. This means that we can only understand Paul’s letters after we have already mastered the content from the Gospel of John. I say this because the Gospel of John is the only book in the entire Bible that was written from the viewpoint of evangelism with the purpose of teaching people how to have life (John 20:30-31). So, essentially, John wrote his gospel with the unbeliever in mind. In contrast, Paul’s letters, the general epistles, and Revelation were all written with the believer in mind, that is, for people already assumed to be saved. Therefore, the Gospel of John must be the starting point of discussions that deal with how a person gets saved, existentially speaking.

In addition to my comments in my article “What is the Good News of the Bible?”, I will also consider Participation Theory on the basis of what we find in Paul’s letters and other New Testament writings, since this also seems like a reasonable thing to do.

To start, I want to make a few comments on Romans 4:1-8, especially verses 2, 3, and 5. In verse 2, Paul draws our attention to the works of Abraham. According to Hebrews 11:8, Abraham had been walking with God in faith and obedience as far back as Genesis 12. Certainly, Abraham’s works were not “works of the flesh,” “works borne out of legalism,” or “human produced works,” for we are told in Isaiah 51:2 that God had exclusively “called him, blessed him, and multiplied him.” Now, Abraham had been producing these “God produced works” long before “he believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness” (Romans 4:3, cf. Genesis 15:6). This is highly significant because this means that Paul in verse 2 is telling us that Abraham’s “God-produced works” did not contribute to his justification. Rather, Paul insists that it was “ungodly” Abraham (Romans 4:5, cf. Joshua 24:2-3) who was justified apart from works, including his “God-produced works” (i.e., those mentioned in Hebrews 11:8), on the basis of believing God with respect to the gospel that was preached to him beforehand concerning Christ coming through his seed line (Galatians 3:6-8, 3:16, John 8:56).

Therefore, based on Paul’s argument in Romans 4:1-8, we see that the Participation Theory and impartation are impossible. People are not saved because of what Christ does in them to change and transform them into righteous people. Rather, God justifies “the ungodly” as “being without strength,” as “being sinners,” as “being enemies,” and as “being dead in trespasses” (all present participles) (Romans 4:5, 5:6, 5:8, 5:10, and Ephesians 2:5). These “ungodly” ones are the “blessed” ones “unto whom God imputeth righteousness without works” (Romans 4:6). These “ungodly” ones are the “blessed” ones “whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered, and to whom the Lord will not impute sin” (Romans 4:7-8).

Opponents of imputation of Christ’s righteousness to the ungodly often complain that such a theology creates nothing more than a “legal fiction.” But such a complaint could equally apply to the “forgiveness of sins” (Romans 4:7-8), the “imputation of our sin to Christ” (2 Corinthians 5:21), and our resurrection with Christ where we are currently seated with Him in the heavenlies and hidden with Him in God (Ephesians 2:5-6, Colossians 3:3), all of which are positional and forensic (i.e., what our opponents call a “legal fiction”). The Apostle Paul himself intricately and inseparably connects justification with the “forgiveness of sins” in Romans 4, so when our opponents complain about “legal fiction,” they are really complaining against the Apostle Paul. For my part, I will just accept what the Apostle Paul says as true and continue to walk by faith, not by sight (2 Corinthians 5:6).

It seems to me that proponents of Participation Theory are confusing a possible result of justification for the cause of justification. To see what I mean, let’s look at 1 Corinthians 5:7-8 (NKJV): “Therefore purge out the old leaven, that you may be a new lump, since you truly are unleavened. For indeed Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us. Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.” The Corinthian church had lots of problems because of sectarianism and sexual immorality. Even though they had been Christians for quite a while, they were still “carnal.” In the verses cited above, Paul basically gives them some simple advice: “You are truly unleavened (i.e., positionally and forensically washed, sanctified, and justified despite their carnality — 1 Corinthians 6:11) because Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us (i.e., died a substitutionary death for them — 2 Corinthians 5:14). Therefore, purge out the old leaven and keep the feast in sincerity and truth (i.e., walk worthy of their calling — Ephesians 4:1)”. From these verses, we can see that participation in the Christ life becomes a possibility and an expectation (but not a necessity) because of their being justified by Christ who died for them. If they failed to participate in the Christ life, God would bring chastisement to them. For example, one of them was excommunicated from their assembly (1 Corinthians 5:13), while others were inflicted with illnesses and premature death (1 Corinthians 11:30). However, God’s chastisement represents the care of a heavenly Father (Hebrews 12:5-8), for even the excommunicated man was guaranteed salvation on the day of the Lord Jesus (1 Corinthians 3:15, 5:5) and those who were stricken with illness and premature death were thus chastised so that they would not be condemned with the world (1 Corinthians 11:32). In none of these cases were any of “carnal Corinthians” in danger of being condemned and cast into the lake of fire for their failure to participate in the Christ life and lack of experiencing ongoing existential transformation and cleansing from sin. Rather, the Apostle Paul insisted that they would be instantly transformed into glorious, incorruptible, and immortal bodies at the resurrection of the dead (1 Corinthians 15:50-56, Philippians 3:20-21). Their lack of existential transformation, failure to participate in the Christ life, and downright refusal to repent of sins (2 Corinthians 12:21) was no impediment to the future glory they were guaranteed as plain-old believers in Jesus Christ, for despite their carnality, they were dearly beloved (2 Corinthians 12:19) and destined for praise from God (1 Corinthians 4:5). At the same time, if they did pursue existential transformation, participation in the Christ life, and a worthy walk, they could expect great rewards from God on the day of Christ (1 Corinthians 3:10-15, 9:24-27, 15:58, 2 Timothy 2:10-13, the “overcomer” passages in Revelation 2 and 3, etc.). Everyone who receives the testimony about Jesus Christ as being true has eternal life and is free from condemnation (John 5:24). However, everyone who believes and pursues a life of abiding in Christ and bearing fruit unto eternal life (John 4:36, 12:25) will not only experience life, but experience it more abundantly (John 10:10). There are varying degrees of eternal life, all of which are glorious, but the “overcomers” (Revelation 21:7) and “abiders” (John 15:1ff) are promised a special and overflowing degree of eternal life. Proponents of Participation Theory do not properly understand this, and as a result, they confuse a possible result of justification for the cause of it.

If Participation Theory were true, we would not expect to find any carnal Christians among those “that are sanctified in Christ Jesus and called to be saints” (1 Corinthians 1:2). We would expect to find all Christians in the New Testament walking as exemplary role models to a lost world, habitually exhibiting the transforming power of the resurrection life in themselves. But alas! what we find is often the exact opposite. There are countless examples of carnal Christians throughout the New Testament, who despite their carnality are consistently reassured that they are saints and brothers and beloved in Jesus Christ. Let’s look at some more examples.

In addition to the Corinthians, we have the recipient of James’ letter. James assumes that he is writing to genuinely saved people when he says, “Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures” (James 1:18). Notice that James includes himself among them as people who have been born of God and who hold a special position among God’s creatures. In addition, he calls them “brothers” 17 times in his letter. Surely, we would expect that the Christian recipients of such gracious words from an apostle of the stature of James would be the cream of the crop among Christians. After all, it was to these very people that James taught the great truth of “faith without works being dead” (James 2:14-26). But to our surprise, we find that these Christians are the exact opposite of our expectation. Not only are they not the cream of the crop, but they are the bottom of the barrel. James repeatedly has to rebuke them throughout the letter for being slanderous, greedy of money, adulterers and adulteresses, and even murderers. Just read James 4:1-10 and get new insight on what manner of people the Christian recipients of James’ letter were. And yet, James continues to call these “born again” people “brothers” throughout his letter, including 5 times in Chapter 5 alone. In light of this, it should be obvious that when James says, “faith without works is dead,” he wasn’t doubting the eternal salvation of his recipients. They were “justified by faith [alone]” before God, for they were “born of Him” and believed just like Abraham (James 1:18, 2:1, 2:23). Rather, what James was doubting was their “justification by [faith-based] works” before men (James 2:14-16) and the fearful fate of losing rewards and feeling shame at the judgment of believers when they are judged according to the “law of liberty” (James 2:12-13). It is not coincidental that James speaks of this judgment of believers immediately before his famous words regarding “faith without works being dead” (James 2:14-26). The distinction that James is making between “justification by faith [alone]” and “justification by [faith-based] works” is not very clear in our English translations, but he says this very thing in James 2:24. The key to understanding all of this is to recognize that the word translated “alone” (or depending on the translation, “only”) in verse 24 is not an adjective, but an adverb. It does not modify “faith” but the omitted verb “justify.” The American Standard Version is a pretty literal translation: “Ye see that by works a man is justified, and not only by faith.” (James 2:24 ASV). The verb in the second clause is omitted, but if we were to supplement it, we would have the following translation “Ye see that by works a man is justified, and not only [justified] by faith.” An even more literal translation would be, “You see then that a man is justified by works and not only [justified] by faith.” (I translated this out of the Textus Receptus, and in my opinion, the addition of the conjunctive adverb “then” strengthens the force of James’ argument). At any rate, these more literal translations make it clear that James is, in fact, talking about two types of justification, namely, those I mentioned above: “justification by faith [alone]” and “justification by [faith-based] works.”

In addition to the Corinthians and the Christian recipients of James’ letter, we still have many more examples of carnal Christians in the New Testament. Without going into great detail here, I will just point out that there were many genuine Christians among the Hebrews (Hebrews 3:1) who were dull of hearing and unable to discern between good and evil, despite being Christians long enough that they should have been teachers (Hebrews 5:11-12). Furthermore, we have many carnal Christians among seven churches in Asia who received some harsh words from the Lord Jesus himself (Revelation 2-3), and yet we find that it was these very same people who Jesus loved and found worthy of His rebukes and chastisement (Revelation 3:19). The reason for this was that, despite their problems, they were loved, washed, and destined for great things because of what Jesus did for them (Revelation 1:4-6). Moreover, we have the testimony of Jesus himself in Luke 8:11-15 that not all genuinely saved believers bear fruit (see 8:12 in particular). And there are several more examples that I could give, but these should suffice to prove my point to any reasonable person.

Now, I don’t mention these things in order to condone carnal living. All believers should strive to become faithful disciples of Jesus Christ. But the very fact that the New Testament abounds with carnal Christians is proof that my understanding of Romans 4 given above is the correct one. More specifically, this means that God-produced works in the life of believers do not contribute anything to their justification, and this means that all theories of justification via impartation are wrong. Jesus himself said that there are many saved believers who do not produce fruit (Luke 8:11-15). This type of person coincides perfectly with the “non-working ungodly man who believes” in Romans 4:5. Of course, remaining an “non-working ungodly man who believes” is not an ideal state of being, but reception of eternal life and instant access to paradise upon death is not hindered by such a lifestyle (cf. Luke 23:43).

The fact that these types of carnal Christians abound throughout the New Testament is a death blow to all works-based soteriological systems, including Participation Theory. In addition to the facts of the New Testament, we also have the testimony of reality itself, namely, that none of us are as good as we would like others to believe. We always need to keep in mind that God “puts no trust in His servants and charges His angels with folly” (Job 4:18) and that He “puts no trust in His saints and views the heavens as unclean in His sight” (Job 15:15). The facts and reality just don’t bode well for Participation Theory. This side of heaven, nobody is really that good. Even the Apostle Paul, after years of serving the Lord faithfully, continued to call himself the chief of sinners (present tense) (1 Timothy 1:15).

Next, let’s consider some individual cases in the New Testament. Jesus himself told us that He “doesn’t receive testimony from man,” (John 5:34), even from believers, for He knows “what is in man” (John 2:23-25). Jesus is telling us a couple things here. First, He is telling us that He doesn’t have any expectation of us. He’ll bear the burdens Himself. Second, it should cause us to think moderately and soberly regarding our own spirituality and walk in the Lord. Jesus was, after all, talking about believers when He said this. In other words, none of us should ever get puffed up with pride, thinking that we are better than others.

In the context of John 5, Jesus was talking about John the Baptist. Now, I don’t think any of us would dare say that we are better than John the Baptist, for he was the greatest man born among women (Matthew 11:11) and a man who was filled with the Holy Spirit from his mother’s womb (Luke 1:15). And yet, we find that even John the Baptist stopped believing (Matthew 11:2-6, cf. John 2:23-25). We assume that he was restored to faith, but we are never told that explicitly. Now, for the sake of discussion, what if he wasn’t restored to faith? According to Participation Theory, he would be in danger of being cast into the lake of fire because he didn’t endure to the end and didn’t continue abiding in the Vine. Now, I assume that many proponents of that theory would object fiercely to me saying that, but that is the logical conclusion of their theory. Their fierce objections would do nothing but simply reveal the inconsistencies of their own position. Their theory states that it is necessary to continuously live a cruciform life and participate in the Christ life, and since they regard Revelation 3:5 as a veiled threat to non-overcomers (as opposed to a promise of reward to overcomers using the common figure of speech called litotes — see Matthew 10:42 for another example), their theory stipulates that John the Baptist would be in danger of being blotted out of the book of life, and as a result, end up in the lake of fire (Revelation 20:15), assuming, of course, that he was never restored to faith.

At the other extreme, we have the thief on the cross, who simply prayed one selfish prayer to the Lord (i.e., he prayed “Remember me” when he could have easily prayed “Remember us”) and was promised instant entry into paradise that very day (Luke 23:43), despite undergoing no transformation of character. This would create another inconsistency for their theory. According to their theory, everyone needs to undergo a transformation of character, but in the case of the thief on the cross, he is simply given an immediate free pass into the pleasures of heaven.

Similar to John the Baptist, we also have the case of Demas. He was a man who lived, traveled, and worked with Paul, yet later abandoned Paul because he “loved the present world” (Colossians 4:14, Philemon 1:24, 2 Timothy 4:10). If Demas was susceptible to falling away, then that means that all of us are susceptible to it. But if Participation Theory is true, this would also mean that none of us could have assurance of salvation in this life. It would always be possible that we could fall away (i.e., stop participating in the Christ life, stop living the cruciform life, stop making the journey with Christ, etc.) even after many years of walking with the Lord. According to Participation Theory, Demas was destined for trouble on the other side of the grave, assuming that he wasn’t restored to the cruciform life later on. But how well does this theory coincide with the promises given to believers? Jesus said, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me hath everlasting life” (John 6:47). And, although it wasn’t necessary, the Apostle Paul kindly confirmed the promise for us when he said, “If we believe not (or are faithless — NKJV), yet he abideth faithful: he cannot deny himself” (2 Timothy 2:13). This means that once a person receives everlasting life by believing, he can never lose it. Even if the person stops believing or behaves unfaithfully, the Lord remains faithful to him. And this should be obvious, for everlasting life is indeed everlasting, meaning that it cannot be lost; otherwise it wouldn’t have been everlasting to begin with. Jesus said several times in the Gospel of John that eternal life is characterized by “not dying” (see for example John 6:47-51). He wasn’t speaking of physical death, but spiritual death and condemnation (John 5:24 — “does not come into condemnation” and “has passed from death into life” — notice the past tense). This means that a person who has everlasting life cannot be condemned and cast into the lake of fire (i.e., the second death). So, according to these promises, Demas was still secure in the hand of Jesus (John 10:28) as one of His beloved ones, despite the fact that he ended up “loving this present world.” So, again, we see that Participation Theory just doesn’t coincide well with Scripture.

Now, I would like to say a little more about Demas in regard to assurance, because assurance really is a big deal. If we can’t have assurance, how can we serve the Lord from our hearts? If the cruciform life must be lived until the end of one’s life, then it would be impossible to have assurance of salvation regarding whether one’s name will be written in and remain in the book of life. It would always be possible to fall away, just like Demas did. Yet, on the other hand, if we believe John 6:47, we accept Jesus’ promise as being true, and assurance becomes the essence of our faith, meaning that we can know with complete certainty that we are saved, despite the real possibility of us failing to live the cruciform life. However, this too has a flip side, because if we think it is necessary to continuously live the cruciform life and abide in the Vine in order to get written in and remain in the book of life, then this means that we do not believe Jesus’ promise in John 6:47. In fact, proponents of Participation Theory are actually calling Jesus a liar. This is the cold hard truth of 1 John 5:9-12. So, we see that there is really much at stake here.

I have a question for my readers. Have you ever believed John 3:16 in the same manner a young child would? Jesus said in Luke 18:17, “Verily I say unto you, Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child shall in no wise enter therein.” So, my question is whether or not you have ever believed John 3:16 in the same manner as a young child would? There are some people who believe in impartation and Participation Theory who are working hard to redefine what it means to believe, despite the clear testimony of 1 John 5:9-11 and John 3:32-33 that “believing” simply means accepting the testimony of God about Jesus as truth. The Greek verb translated “believe” does not mean to be faithful, keep faith, pledge allegiance, or be loyal to. People who are trying to redefine “believe” like this are calling God a liar. So, again, I ask: Have you ever believed John 3:16 in the same manner a young child would?

To conclude, I would like to tell a personal story of mine. About 15 years ago, I was a very zealous Christian. I was involved in street preaching like 3 to 4 days a week. One day on my way home, I was taking a bus and three Filipino women started talking to me. They were giggling and acting childish. I didn’t want to talk with them. I felt tired and just wanted to get home. But I figured it was a good opportunity to tell a few more people about Jesus, so I immediately shared my faith with them. When I did this, one of the women responded, “Oh, I love John 3:16. It is my favorite verse.” I said, “Oh, that’s good,” but in my heart, I hated her. I said to myself, “Do you really think being a Christian is that easy?” In my eyes, she was an immature child. I didn’t like the way she dressed. I didn’t like the way she talked. And I didn’t like the way she and her friends engaged conversation with me. It wasn’t until about 3 years later that I had realized that this woman who had professed a child-like faith in John 3:16 was a genuinely saved Christian, whereas I was lost. If I had known that beforehand, I think I might have been instantly struck with a heart attack. I was grateful that God didn’t reveal it to me at the time. I was religious. I said and did the right things, but I had not yet believed in Jesus for everlasting life. I didn’t understand that God’s salvation was a gift. So, it took another 3 years and lots of personal hardship before I finally saw the light. I was at the end of my rope. I had quit my job because of mental health issues and was living in a cheap hotel on what was left of my savings. The only things I owned were in two duffle bags. I had zero friends or family who could help me. However, it was in the midst of those dire straights that I remembered John 6:47: “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me hath everlasting life.” For the first time in my life, I believed it, and I received the gift of eternal life, and I knew it for certain. After about two more months, I was working full time again. And about a year after that, I had met the woman I was about to marry. And I often tell my wife this story about the Filipino woman.