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Lesson 9: How to Relate to Non-Christians *

Introduction: "All roads lead to heaven." Is that true? The modern culture rejects the idea of absolute truth. Instead, the idea is that every person's opinion is equally valid and equally true. Spirituality of any stripe is good. When the singer Madonna forms a "prayer circle" before her performance, and then prays to herself, popular culture notes that she is indeed a "spiritual" person. What does the Bible say about the way to heaven? Let's dive into the Good Book and find out what the official map says!

  1. How Many Roads?

    1. Read Acts 4:1-4. Which do you think was most disturbing to the Sadducees: that Peter and John were preaching the resurrection of the dead or that thousands believed them?

    2. Read Acts 4:5-7. Do you think that the Jewish rulers really wanted to know the answer to their question?

      1. To fully understand the question, we need to go back to Acts 3:1-7 and read the story of the healing. Read Acts 3:1-7. This is what began the chain of events which lead to the arrest of Peter and John.

      2. Read Acts 3:11-16. Had Peter explained to the crowd in whose name this healing had been performed? (Yes. Verses 6 and 16 make the matter very plain.)

        1. How would you rate Peter's statement on the diplomacy scale? Is he avoiding hurt feelings?

      3. Let's go back to my prior question about whether the question the Jewish leaders asked in Acts 4:7 was genuine? (After looking at the context, it seems the question is not sincere. It is simply an attempt to intimidate the disciples from sticking with the story they told the crowds.)

    3. Read Acts 4:8-12. We hear a lot about "tolerance" these days. In His Sermon on the Mount, Jesus told us to ( Matthew 5:43-44) "love our enemies." Is that the same as tolerating them? (The "wisdom" of the world makes me shake my head. Who wants to be merely "tolerated?" Yet, that is the mantra of the day. What the world really means by "tolerance" is to be willing to accept as true what the other person believes.)

      1. When you consider Peter's statement in Acts 4:8-12, does he sound tolerant to you?

        1. Does he sound loving? (Yes. Telling people the truth when their eternal destiny is at stake is an act of love.)

      1. How many legitimate paths to heaven does Peter identify in verse 12? (One. "Salvation is found in no one else [than Jesus.]")

    1. Last week we spent a lot of time studying John 10. Read John 10:7-9. How many legitimate paths to heaven does Jesus identify? (One. Jesus says that He is "the gate.")

    2. Read John 14:6. We see Jesus again describing the way to truth and eternal life. How many ways does Jesus describe? (One.)

    3. Read Matthew 7:13-14. Here we find another discussion of the "road system" of life. How many roads lead to eternal life?

      1. Are the vast majority of the people on the right road?

      2. How about you? Are you among "the few" on the one road to life?

  1. How to Describe the One Road?

    1. As you think about what Peter said to the Jewish leaders in Acts 4:8-12, can you tell me why he didn't say, "I understand that we are all in the same business of saving souls. I applaud your efforts and want you to know how I appreciate what you have done in the past. We are helping to sharpen some of your doctrines. While we realize that this may cause some discomfort at the moment, I am sure we can all work comfortably together towards our mutual goal of helping the people." Anything wrong with saying that?

      1. Doesn't Peter have a reputation for being impulsive and inconsiderate?

      2. Is Peter's impulsiveness the problem here? (Notice Acts 4:8. Peter's words are being driven by God. The Holy Spirit chose those words!)

      3. Go back a minute and review what Peter said to the ordinary people in Acts 3:13-15. Is the nature of Peter's approach to getting people on the right road pretty clear?

        1. Is it the approach you use?

    2. I just returned from a vacation in the South. On a prominent billboard along the freeway in (I believe) Tennessee I recall seeing this: "Saturday is the True Sabbath. Sunday is the Mark of the Beast." I thought, "Wonder how many people are persuaded by that?" Would Peter agree to a controversial billboard like that?

    3. Let's skip down a bit in our story and read Acts 4:23-26. What kind of reaction does the world have towards the gospel? (The world is hostile.)

      1. If the world is hostile anyway, should we reply with hostility? Should we just speak plainly?

      2. A couple of weeks ago I mentioned the Temple Tax dispute - whether Jesus, the Son of God, should have to pay the taxes that went to support the Temple. The real issue in the story was "Who is Jesus - mere teacher or Son of God?" Read Matthew 17:27 to find one of Jesus' goals in working out a difficult issue. What is a high priority for Jesus? (Not to offend those who did not believe in Him.)

    4. Based on what we have studied so far, how would you describe the best way to approach non-believers? (Be plain about the truth, but try to avoid offending them.)

    5. How should we approach competing, yet wrong, religions? Should we compliment them? For example, our lesson (Tuesday) says "we must have great respect for Muhammad, who insisted [on monotheism]." Do you agree?

      1. Let's look at some facts about Muhammad. He was born A.D. 570 - hundreds of years after all of the books of the New Testament had been written. This means that both the Old and New Testament were available to him. Muhammad considered himself to be the latest in the Biblical line of prophets. "Muhammad initially took for granted the support of Jews and Christians and saw no reason to go on the offensive against them. With the passing of a few years, however, when the discrepancies between his revelations and the Judeo-Christian Scriptures became widely known, Jews and Christians doubted that Muhammad was a true prophet of God." (L. Spargamino, Religion of Peace or Refuge of Terror?, p. 18) It was at that point that Muhammad's relationship with Christians and Jews began to deteriorate.
        1. Either Muhammad is a true prophet or he is not. If he is not, then should we "have great respect" for him?

        2. If Muhammad is not a true prophet, and he is leading millions of people away from the one road and the "one gate" which allow us to enter eternal life, should we respect him?

        3. Is it possible that Muhammad is a true prophet? (The Koran teaches, "Admonish those who say that God has begotten a son." Surah 18:4-5. "God is but one God, forbid that He should have a son." Surah 4:172. Speaking of Jesus' crucifixion, Muhammad writes "They did not kill him, nor did they crucify him, but they thought they did." Surah 4:156-58. Since Muhammad denies the "one gate" this precludes him being a true prophet.)

      2. If we believe Muhammad is a false prophet, how do we convey this to Muslims without offending them? How do we get any Christians on the "one road?" Let's discuss this next.

  2. How to Get Others on the Road?

    1. So far we have seen some pretty plain language in describing the "one road." Jesus' adds that we should avoid offending people. Let's Read Acts 16:1-5. Why did Paul have Timothy circumcised? ("Because of the Jews.")

      1. What was the result of this decision and the joint work of Paul and Timothy? (Jews were converted to Christianity.)

    2. Read Galatians 5:2-6. How can you reconcile Paul telling Timothy to be circumcised when he told the Galatians that Jesus was of "no value" to them if they let themselves be circumcised?

      1. Does Paul have a double standard?

    3. Read 1 Corinthians 9:19-23. Would Peter and Paul be able to plan an evangelistic meeting together? Is Paul a wimp compared to Peter? How does Paul teach we should approach those whose beliefs we think are wrong? (We have to be careful here because the Holy Spirit inspired both men. Paul's explanation for his "double standard" is found here. He has a moral standard and a pragmatic standard. He does not compromise his moral beliefs, but he engages in all sorts of "compromises" to win others to Christ. Timothy gets circumcised even though Paul knows this is not required by God. Paul did this so that the Jews would be more receptive to Timothy.)

    4. How would you apply this advice today? How should we speak plainly, yet seek not to offend? What "compromises" should we make to reach unbelievers?

        1. Would those compromises have anything to do with our worship service?

        2. What compromises would you suggest to win Muslims to Christ? (Suggesting that you respect their false prophet?)

    5. Friend, there is but one narrow road and one small gate that leads to eternal life. We need to be plain in describing this, yet avoid unnecessary insult. We need to know what to compromise and what not to compromise. This takes wisdom from above. Will you pray that the Holy Spirit will guide you in knowing how to bring others to a saving knowledge of Jesus?

  3. Next Week: Loving Our Enemies?
* Copr. 2004, Bruce N. Cameron, J.D. All scripture references are to the New International Version (NIV), copr. 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society, unless otherwise noted. Quotations from the NIV are used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers. Suggested answers are found within parentheses. The lesson assumes the teacher uses a blackboard or some other visual aid.

© 2021 Bruce N. Cameron, J.D.
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