The following has been excerpted from the article, How to Lead People to Christ, Part 1. The article in its entirety is located at the following url:
The article is written by Zane Hodges.
Let me begin with a strange scenario. Try to imagine an unsaved person marooned on a tiny, uninhabited island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. He has never heard about Christianity in his life. One day a wave washes a fragment of paper up onto the beach. It is wet but still partly readable.
On that paper are the words of John 6:43-47. But the only readable portions are: “Jesus therefore answered and said to them” (v 43) and “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me has everlasting life” (v 47).
Now suppose that our unsaved man somehow becomes convinced that this person called Jesus can guarantee his eternal future, since He promises everlasting life. In other words, he believes Jesus’ words in John 6:47. Is he saved?
I suspect that there are some grace people who would say that this man is not saved because he doesn’t know enough. For example, he doesn’t know that Jesus died for his sins on the cross and rose again the third day. Needless to say, there is a lot more he doesn’t know either, such as the doctrine of the Trinity, the eternal Sonship of Jesus or the doctrine of the virgin birth.
But why is he not saved if he believes the promise of Jesus’ words? It is precisely the ability of Jesus to guarantee eternal life that makes Him the Christ in the Johannine sense of that term. Our Lord’s exchange with Martha in John 11:25-27 demonstrates this clearly.
You remember it, don’t you? “Jesus said to her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?’” (John 11:25-26). Her reply is a declaration that she believes Him to be the Christ. Martha said, “Yes, Lord, I believe that You are the Christ, the Son of God, who is to come into the world” (11:27).
Notice here that to believe that Jesus is the Christ means to believe that He guarantees resurrection and eternal life to every believer. But now let us look at John 4. In that famous passage we have the Samaritans saying to the woman who had encountered Jesus, “Now we believe, not because of what you said, for we ourselves have heard Him and we know that this is indeed the Christ, the Savior of the world” (John 4:42).
Observe that the common denominator to both passages is the term “Christ.” On Martha’s lips He is “the Christ, the Son of God,” and on the lips of the Samaritans He is “the Christ, the Savior of the world.” This is not an accidental or insignificant difference.
In Jewish prophecy and theology the promised Christ was also the Son of God—that is, He was to be a divine person. Recall the words of Isaiah: “For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given…and His name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” (9:6-7). But in Samaritan theology, the Messiah was thought of as a prophet and the woman at the well is led to faith through our Lord’s prophetic ability to know her life. Her words, “Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet” (4:19) are a first step in the direction of recognizing Him as the Christ. There is no evidence that she or the other Samaritans understood the deity of our Lord.
But they did believe that he was the Christ. And John tells us in his first epistle that “whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God” (5:1)! A full theology of His person is not necessary to salvation. If we believe that Jesus is the One who guarantees our eternal destiny, we have believed all we absolutely have to believe in order to be saved.
Years ago, as a student at Dallas Theological Seminary, I washed dishes in the dining hall to pay for my meals. Often after I had finished this chore I hung around and talked theology with another student who swept up the kitchen every night. One night this student made a statement to me that I have never forgotten. He said something like this, “I know that I trusted Christ for salvation before I realized that Jesus was the Son of God.” I was surprised because I had never heard anyone say this before.
But I did not quarrel with that statement then, nor would I quarrel with it now. It is the name of Jesus that brings salvation whenever anyone believes in that name as his or her sure hope of eternal well-being. We are not saved by believing a series of theological propositions, however true and important they may be. We are saved by believing in Jesus.
That’s why the man on the deserted island can get saved with only the barest minimum of information. When he believes John 6:47 he is believing in Jesus as the Christ.
Question for discussion: Can a person who has never heard about Christianity in his or her life come to a saving faith in Christ simply by reading and believing the following section of John 6:43-47? Why or why not?
Jesus therefore answered and said to them,... "Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me has everlasting life."