Can I Be Saved Without Being A Christian? (Acts 11:19-26)
Jan 10, 2011 by Craig Blomberg | 0 Comments
CAN I BE SAVED WITHOUT BEING A CHRISTIAN? (Acts 11:19-26)
“The disciples were called Christians first at Antioch.“ (11:26b; updated NIV)
When it fits into the conversation, I sometimes like to ask students, “Do you think any person has ever been saved who has not heard of Jesus?” Usually, someone will say, “No,” perhaps even with some passion. Upon further thought, someone else will typically chime in, “Sure--all believing Jews in Old Testament times.” Of course the second comment is the correct one.
A more pressing question in today’s world is “Do you think it is possible for someone to be saved if they don’t call themselves a Christian?” I’m not thinking here of the fate of the unevangelized. Rather I’m remembering that for the first ten or twenty years of the Jesus-movement, nobody had even invented the word. That takes place here in Antioch, when Jewish Christians evangelize full-fledged Gentiles with no attachment even to Judaism. Outsiders to the new movement, it appears, coined the Greek term Christianoi or “Christ-ones.”
In some parts of the world, especially the Muslim world, it is virtually impossible to use “Christian” without it being taken as “Western, wealthy and/or hedonistic.” Muslim-background believers in such setting should feel perfectly free to call themselves “followers of ‘Issa” (the Arabic for Jesus) rather than Christians if that enables them both to stay alive and to communicate their beliefs more accurately. It also reminds us that we who do not face such life-threatening challenges had better be willing to identify ourselves publicly as Jesus’ followers, whatever specific labels we may choose.