(By R.T Kendall) “I expect three surprises when I get to heaven.” So Martin Luther, the German Reformer who turned the world upside down in the sixteenth century by his rediscovery of justification by faith alone, is often quoted as saying. First, there will be people in heaven he did not expect to be there. Second, there will be people not present in heaven he was certain would be there. Third is the greatest surprise of all—that he is there himself!

I suspect Luther was right in his speculation. I think many of us may be surprised to see people in heaven we assumed were not fit for heaven. Could this be because we set a standard of fitness that is different from what the Lord Himself requires? One of the least-known but most important teachings of John Calvin (1509–1564) is what he calls “implicit faith.” It is faith that lacks a full knowledge of truth but that is nonetheless true faith. He cited the woman of Samaria as an example.

“Many of the Samaritans of that city believed in Him because of the word of the woman who testified, ‘He told me all that I ever did.’ … And many more believed because of His word. They said to the woman, ‘Now we believe, not because of what you said, for we have heard for ourselves and know that this Man is indeed the Christ, the Savior of the world” (John 4:39, 41-42). CONTINUE