Rev Dr J Vernon McGee is an institution, I really do like hearing his broadcasts, he has a common sense Christianity that is down to earth, assuring, you know you are listening to someone who really has a grasp of genuine doctrine and Christian living.
I give him credit, most Reformed commentators don’t like to get into this question, they operate under the supposition that everyone can “make a decision” for Christ, and that’s the way it should be. The narrator for Dr McGee’s radio program reads a letter from a mother whose son is mentally retarded: “How can he make a decision for God?” she writes. Well Dr McGee does kind of a two-step, “well it’s about reaching the age of accountability, otherwise God will take the baby, because he wasn’t old enough to “choose” God. Well he never really answers in respect to someone who is over the age of “accountability” and is just not competent.
The Reformed position really tends to undermine the entire concept of Christianity. We are all born into sin, therefore how can we be anything but sinners when we are born. Reformed teachers always have a problem with this and I really don’t understand why it’s necessary to even get into it. Let’s remember Martin Luther is the one who started all of this. All of Protestant, as it were, Christianity traces its roots back to Luther. Luther’s original beef with the Roman Catholic Church was the Roman’s idea that “well ya, Jesus died for all of our sins, but we have to do something to augment that. For the Roman Church the over the top error was indulgences. Throw some money in the kettle and you or your relatives get a few thousand years off from purgatory. The Roman church says “ya, while we can die in a state of grace in Jesus, that’s not quite enough, we need to spend a little time in purgatory getting the rough edges burned off, or of course, a little sumpin/sumpin, and maybe we can spring you a little quicker.” Yea, I know a little cynical, but it all comes down to; we have to add to what Jesus did. Well either Jesus is perfect, totally Holy, almighty God and died for the complete redemption and remission of our sins, or He didn’t. It’s either all about Him or it isn’t.
That goes for all the other acts of contrition. Contrition isn’t an issue, if you feel you should do something that shows contrition, give to the poor, give to your church (my person favorite, First St Johns), help the handicapped, the elderly, great! Do it, but not thinking that somehow that is some kind of efficacious atonement, you are saved entirely by what Christ did, nothing you can do can add to that.
It doesn’t matter, if your son is intellectually handicapped, or your mother has Alzheimers, substance abuse, what matters is what Christ has done, what the Holy Spirit does through you. We are saved solely in Christ’s power. You hear, what if that person’s evil? Well that question is so obvious it doesn’t really even justify an answer, we are all evil, case closed. What if they aren’t sincere, really how high is exactly sufficiently sincere to justify being righteous enough to be saved that Christ hasn’t surpassed by infinity? If Christ has made the decision to save me, I’m saved, and there’s nothing I can add to that. In fact it would be incredibly arrogant to think that I could add one hundredth of one percent to what Jesus has done for me. He has saved me entirely and there isn’t one miniscule thing that I can add to that.
The Lutheran says that is why you take the baby to be baptized, we have the assurance in baptism that we are saved, “For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ.” (Gal 3:27) Only in His righteousness, are we saved, only through the baptism that He gives us are we saved. Only through His Body and Blood, through His Word are we saved. What is in there that you did? Yea, nothing. It’s not a question of our decision, it’s a question of what the Holy Spirit does, He moved our parents to take, well some of us, to be baptized, to be saved.
The woman who asked Dr McGee the question doesn’t have, she shouldn’t have to, agonize over the question, she has the assurance of her Son’s salvation entirely through the Acts of the Holy Spirit. It’s not a question of accountability, or sincerity, or works, indulgences, our works, works that can be tainted, do not save us. Nothing we can do will be sufficient, it will all be tainted by our sin. The only assurance is in what God does for us and He saves us in baptism. That does raise one more issue, if for some reason someone who is on the edge of death and hasn’t been baptized. As an ordained, duly called, authorized minister of the Lutheran Church, I authorize you to baptize that person, regardless of age or condition. Address the person by name and say “I baptize you in the Name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.” That person is baptized and we trust in the mercy and grace of God that person will be in the presence of the Lord. There are too many people who cannot make a “reasoned” choice for Jesus and even if they could, inevitably doubt arises and they question whether they did it right, right time, right place, were they really sincere, etc, etc. Were you baptized? You are saved. It’s the Holy Spirit bringing you to Jesus through baptism, it’s not about what you do, it’s about what God does to you. He saves you, not your decision to be saved.