Genesis 24:12 Then he prayed, “O Lord, God of my master Abraham, give me success today, and show kindness to my master Abraham.”
We know very little about this servant (probably slave) of Abraham. He was quite possibly Eliezer of Damascus, mentioned in Genesis 15:2 as a potential heir for Abraham before either Ishmael or Isaac was born, but that is far from certain. What we do know is that he had seen enough of Abraham’s relationship with God to acquire faith himself, as is clear from the story in this chapter. His theological foundation was certainly no better than Abraham’s, which is to say he quite possibly thought other gods were just as valid as Yahweh, but at the very least he had seen enough to know that the God to whom Abraham prayed was real, and He answered prayer in miraculous ways. In this story he not only prays, he gives God thanks and praise, recognizing His answers to prayer. Theology is important, but it must never get in the way of simple trust and obedience. I think it is probable this man is in heaven right now, even though he knew only a small fraction of what the Bible tells us about God, because he acted on what he did know about God, in obedient sincerity.
As a pastor in Japan, where the average person in the street knows less about God than this man did, the issue of what to teach when, and what constitutes saving faith, is a very real and pressing one. As I read the New Testament I see people being baptized after only a few hours of instruction at most, including complete pagans such as the jailer in Phillipi. (Acts 16) At the same time, I have baptized a few people who fell away rather quickly, betraying their lack of understanding and repentance. I find I understand and empathize with those churches that require preparation classes before baptism, but I can’t bring myself to require them because I don’t see them in the Bible. I need to apply myself fully to teaching and training new believers, because I have certainly slipped up there, too. I think it all comes down to trusting the Holy Spirit to do His work, but keeping myself available as His instrument.
Father, I cannot make judgments as to who is saved and who is not most of the time. Some people’s lifestyles make it clear they are spitting in the face of God, but most of the time it is not so obvious. As far as externals are concerned, there are many whom the world would consider Christians who are trusting in the system rather than in You, and You make it clear that doesn’t cut it. (Matthew 7:21-23) Help me see people with Your eyes and speak the truth to them in love, even when that means being as blunt as Jesus was to the Pharisees in Matthew 23. May I be Your agent indeed so that as many as possible may come to saving faith, for Your glory. Thank You. Hallelujah!