His name was Rollen Stewart. I didn’t know him personally but he was a ever present character in my home when I grew up in the late 70’s and early 80’s. Being reared in a conservative, religious family, we attended Bible class on Sunday mornings and Wednesday evenings and every worship service, without fail. I grew in my knowledge of the Bible and certain inspired truths were deeply seated within my heart at a very young age. I remember well that Sunday morning, as we stood to sing the “Invitation Song,” when I felt once again the turmoil deep within my soul that manifested itself in the form of a Ali/Frazier title fight taking place in my stomach. That morning I was baptized into Christ for the remission of my sins by our preacher, Jim Harbin.
It was about this same time that I really became aware of Mr. Stewart, better known by many as “Rainbow Man.” He would appear at seemingly ever sporting event that was televised wearing a rainbow colored Afro wig and wearing a shirt (or holding a sign) with the message “Believe in Jesus” or simply “John 3:16.” Well I certainly knew that verse, it was one of the first memory verses I ever learned in Sunday School. But this was my first real encounter with what I later learned to be the “faith only” doctrine.
As I grew older and began to question the validity of what I believed to be true (it happens to all of us eventually) I started to see the fallacies and inconsistencies in the denominational doctrines that permeated society. The “faith only” crowd didn’t really believe what they said and contradicted themselves frequently. For example, they would contend that all one had to do was believe that Jesus was the Son of God, but then they would say that it was necessary to repent of your sins. They would say that all you had to do was believe but then say you needed to say the “Sinner’s Prayer” (which isn’t even found in the Bible).
So I began to cement my faith in what the Bible actually said about salvation and the gift of God’s mercy and grace. And this is what I found:
True Faith. It is not merely a mental assent combined with a disposition to truth. It embraces obedience. Faith only, without works (works of righteousness, not merit), is dead (James 2:14–26).
Obedience To Christ Is What God Wants. To take a single, beautiful verse like John 3:16 out of context and distort it is blasphemy! When examined against the remote context of the Bible we can only come to the conclusion that those who refuse to do what Christ has commanded will be lost for eternity. Jesus said, “If you love me, keep my commandments” (John 14:15). The Hebrew writer said that Jesus was the, “…author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him” (5:8–9). And the inspired Paul said that those who do not obey the gospel of Jesus are subject to the wrath of God (1 Thessalonians 1:8).
Repentance Is Necessary. No one can deny that repentance was a main emphasis of apostolic teaching (Luke 24:47; Acts 5:31; 20:21; 26:20; 2 Corinthians 7:9; 2 Peter 3:9). In fact God “now commands all men everywhere to repent” (Acts 17:30). Could one honestly conclude that a soul could go to heaven while openly defying a direct command from God?
Confession Is Required. In His own words we find out that the only way to be confessed by Christ before the Judgment throne of the Father is to confess Him here on earth with our words and with our lives (Matthew 10:32–33). A thoughtful reflection on the gospel of Jesus concludes that confession is fundamental to our salvation. But notice that confession itself doesn’t save us. Romans 10:10 tells us that belief leads to righteousness (it is not righteousness to simply admit to the fact that Jesus is the Son) and that confession leads to salvation.
Baptism For The Remission of Sins Is Essential! Up to this point you get little argument from most but they then bristle at this thought and I honestly do not understand why. The Bible is clear! Baptism is “for the remission of sins (Acts 2:38), baptism puts you into Christ (Galatians 3:27), baptism is where we put off the old man and put on the new man as we submit to the likeness of His death, burial, and resurrection (Romans 6:3–6), baptism saves us (1 Peter 3:21). No honest appraisal of the Scriptures can lead to any other conclusion.
Rollen Stewart “The Rainbow Man” is currently serving three consecutive life sentences in prison. I hope and pray the he, and everyone else, will come to a true understanding of what God wants before it is too late. What about you? Have you been obedient to God? If you have not; why not today? Do it and then remember, be faithful!