by Joe Slater Church of Christ in Justin, TX
Does having a “religious experience” save you (or prove that you are saved)? Some religious groups require one to relate a religious experience; then they decide whether that experience shows the person is saved and should be granted membership. How does this compare to the New Testament record?
In Acts 2, the Jews in Jerusalem definitely had a religious experience! “And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they (the 120) were sitting … And when this sound occurred, the multitude came together, and were confused, because everyone heard them speak in his own language” (2:2, 6). But even though it was supernatural, that “experience didn’t save anyone! When the apostles preached the gospel, 3000 believed and responded in repentance and immersion, thus receiving salvation.
Who can deny that Saul of Tarsus had a religious experience in Acts 9? “Suddenly a light shone around him from heaven. Then he fell to the ground, and heard a voice saying to him, ‘Saul, ‘Saul, why are you persecuting Me?’” (9:3-4). Contrary to popular belief, this experience didn’t save Saul. God sent Ananias to tell him what to do; Saul “arose and was baptized” (9:18).
Cornelius certainly could lay claim to having a religious experience. An angel of God appeared, telling him to send for Peter (Acts 10:1-6). But that experience didn’t save him! Peter told him “words by which you and all your household will be saved” (Acts 11:14). Cornelius and his household obeyed the 10:47-48).gospel just like all the others (Acts 10:47-48)
Even if you had a supernatural experience today (which you won’t), that wouldn’t save you! “Arise and be baptized and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord!” (Acts 22:16)