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Question #111

What is a Christian's responsibility to illegal aliens?

What do you believe is our responsibility to those who want to obey the gospel, but are illegal immigrants? Do we “allow” them to be baptized? Do we refuse based on their current illegal status? What is your take on the case of Onesimus in the book of Philemon in regards to a situation like this?

The Answer:

Whether to baptize illegal aliens is not a decision left to our discretion. It is made for us in the great commission where we are commanded to teach all nations and preach the gospel to every creature. The question might have been asked about Roman slaves. Onesimus. Onesimus was “illegal” in two senses -- he was both a slave and a lawbreaker (assuming that it was not his status as a runaway slave that landed him in prison. Paul preached to him, converted him, and then sent him home as a slave. Paul apparently used persuasive power on Onesimus to cause him to return to Philemon, assuming that the Romans did not take him back in chains and there is nothing recorded to that effect. Today no individual has the official power to send “illegal” immigrants back to Mexico. In fact, in the last few days a U.S. District Court judge in North Texas determined in connection with a measure approved by the voters in Farmer’s Branch, Texas that no citizen can even determine whether an individual is illegal, but that only the United States Government can so declare. (That statement is based on news reports of the ruling and not a reading of the opinion.) All we can do is preach the gospel to every creature and encourage them then to follow all things that the Lord has taught, including being subject to the government that is ordained of God. Titus 3:1; Rom. 13:1.

God's Plan of Salvation

You must hear the gospel and then understand and recognize that you are lost without Jesus Christ no matter who you are and no matter what your background is. The Bible tells us that “all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23) Before you can be saved, you must understand that you are lost and that the only way to be saved is by obedience to the gospel of Jesus Christ. (2 Thessalonians 1:8) Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” (John 14:6) “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12) "So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God." (Romans 10:17)

You must believe and have faith in God because “without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.” (Hebrews 11:6) But neither belief alone nor faith alone is sufficient to save. (James 2:19; James 2:24; Matthew 7:21)

You must repent of your sins. (Acts 3:19) But repentance alone is not enough. The so-called “Sinner’s Prayer” that you hear so much about today from denominational preachers does not appear anywhere in the Bible. Indeed, nowhere in the Bible was anyone ever told to pray the “Sinner’s Prayer” to be saved. By contrast, there are numerous examples showing that prayer alone does not save. Saul, for example, prayed following his meeting with Jesus on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:11), but Saul was still in his sins when Ananias met him three days later (Acts 22:16). Cornelius prayed to God always, and yet there was something else he needed to do to be saved (Acts 10:2, 6, 33, 48). If prayer alone did not save Saul or Cornelius, prayer alone will not save you. You must obey the gospel. (2 Thess. 1:8)

You must confess that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. (Romans 10:9-10) Note that you do NOT need to make Jesus “Lord of your life.” Why? Because Jesus is already Lord of your life whether or not you have obeyed his gospel. Indeed, we obey him, not to make him Lord, but because he already is Lord. (Acts 2:36) Also, no one in the Bible was ever told to just “accept Jesus as your personal savior.” We must confess that Jesus is the Son of God, but, as with faith and repentance, confession alone does not save. (Matthew 7:21)

Having believed, repented, and confessed that Jesus is the Son of God, you must be baptized for the remission of your sins. (Acts 2:38) It is at this point (and not before) that your sins are forgiven. (Acts 22:16) It is impossible to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ without teaching the absolute necessity of baptism for salvation. (Acts 8:35-36; Romans 6:3-4; 1 Peter 3:21) Anyone who responds to the question in Acts 2:37 with an answer that contradicts Acts 2:38 is NOT proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ!

Once you are saved, God adds you to his church and writes your name in the Book of Life. (Acts 2:47; Philippians 4:3) To continue in God’s grace, you must continue to serve God faithfully until death. Unless they remain faithful, those who are in God’s grace will fall from grace, and those whose names are in the Book of Life will have their names blotted out of that book. (Revelation 2:10; Revelation 3:5; Galatians 5:4)