In the “religious” community’s attempt to please everyone and draw the largest crowd on Sunday, the truth of the New Testament has been ruthlessly butchered until only the less offensive (and politically correct) philosophies remain. Unfortunately, droves of evangelists are pushing the gospel aside to avoid ruffling anyone’s tail feathers. Either that, or churches attempt to bury the less convenient messages of the Bible with flashy, unbiblical doctrine such as the prosperity gospel.
All too often, the message being conveyed is “Just Believe!”
“Hey, it doesn’t matter what traditions you observe, the way you treat your spouse, or how you spend your money. It doesn’t matter if you attend church regularly or participate in the Lord’s Supper. As long as you believe, all is well with your soul! So cut loose and live your life as you please! That’s what God wants for you! All the other stuff in the New Testament is just fluff. Those things are just recommendations for some people. All you have to do is believe; After all, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” (Romans 10:13).”
My goal in this post is to show you that the “Just Believe” method of salvation is not a Biblical practice. I will reveal this truth without saying “I think that…” or “I just feel like…” All evidence comes straight from scripture, as it should.
To begin, I’ll start with a conversation between Jesus and a very influential and respected Pharisee.
There was a man named Nicodemus, a Jewish religious leader who was a Pharisee. After dark one evening, he came to speak with Jesus. “Rabbi,” he said, “we all know that God has sent you to teach us. Your miraculous signs are evidence that God is with you.” Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, unless you are born again, you cannot see the Kingdom of God.” “What do you mean?” exclaimed Nicodemus. “How can an old man go back into his mother’s womb and be born again?” Jesus replied, “I assure you, no one can enter the Kingdom of God without being born of water and the Spirit.” – John 3:1-5 (NLT)
There are a couple of things I would like to point out about this conversation. Clearly, Nicodemus had witnessed, or at least heard about, the miraculous signs that Jesus had performed. Nicodemus confessed that he believed God was with Jesus. While Nicodemus doesn’t verbally profess that Jesus is the Messiah, he would’ve recognized the parallels between the life of Jesus and the prophecies from history. In order to be a highly respected religious authority, Nicodemus would’ve thoroughly studied the Old Testament prior to this point. Chances are, Nicodemus believed that Jesus was the Son of God, in which case… uh… he believed in Jesus. Even if Nicodemus didn’t believe that Jesus was the Messiah, and that he was simply a prophet, he still believed in God. We have a bit of insight into this Pharisee’s heart based on the instructions given by Jesus; you must be born again. If Nicodemus was already saved because of his belief, then there would have been no point in Jesus instructing Him to be born again. Notice, in verse three, the word “unless” indicates a condition to salvation.
“Unless you are born again, you cannot see the Kingdom of God.”
At this point, I would like to direct your attention to James 2:19.
You say you have faith, for you believe that there is one God. Good for you! Even the demons believe this, and they tremble in terror.
Read this verse in context and you’ll find that it is amongst several other passages which also contradict the belief-only approach… but don’t take my word for it; check it out.
After searching the scriptures for a while, you will probably reach the conclusion that faith and belief are not often synonymous in the New Testament. Well, how can that be so? Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines faith as a strong belief or trust in someone or something. I like the way this is explained in my Bible’s commentary with regards to John’s Gospel. I don’t believe that I could say it better.
“John prefers the verb believe to underscore that faith is not static like a doctrine or a dogma, but dynamic, requiring action . . . For John, faith is not a status, but an investment of the person of Jesus. Faith means accepting who Jesus is and what he claims to be. Faith constitutes a commitment to let his call change the way we live. Faith is the work God wants from us as we abide in Jesus’ word, as we love him, and as we obey his commands” (NLT Study Bible Commentary)
If you still have your Bible flipped open to James, take a look at verse 17 through 20. James is saying here that one cannot have faith without works. So, even though we established that faith and belief are used in different ways, neither one of them are enough, according to James… That is, unless, we recognize faith as an act of submission and obedience. When faith is defined as surrender to Christ, it implies that certain actions will accompany it.
The verse that is used the most by folks who hope to “just believe” their way into the Kingdom of God is probably Romans 10:13, which I used as our introduction verse. Let’s head back to Romans and read it again in context. If you only read the first half of Chapter 10, one might be convinced that there is no path to salvation, other than belief.
And that message is the very message about faith that we preach: If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is by believing in your heart that you are made right with God, and it is by confessing with your mouth that you are saved. -Romans 10:8-10
Wait a minute, wait a minute.. Is Paul (The writer of Romans) disagreeing with James, here? Paul says “faith only” and James says “You must have works.” Is this a contradiction in the Bible? And why would Paul mention believing in your heart? We already know that even demons can believe… we also know that the heart is deceitful and that we shouldn’t trust it (Jeremiah 17:9). Paul also says you have to confess with your mouth, which sounds a whole lot like work to me!
But how can they call on him to save them unless they believe in him? And how can they believe in him if they have never heard about him? And how can they hear about him unless someone tells them? And how will anyone go and tell them without being sent?-Romans 10:14-15
Do some of the items in that list seem like works? In Acts 6:7 and Romans 1:5, it is written that people were becoming obedient to the faith. How can someone become obedient to faith if faith is just a belief in your heart? This implies that there must be active component. It almost seems like Paul is giving a guideline for faith here. First, you must hear. This is where the great commission, the duty of Christians, comes into play; Christians are instructed to spread the word, make disciples, and baptize them (Matthew 28:19-20). The reason spreading the gospel is so important is because only after you hear, can you believe. Only after you believe can you confess and call on the Lord to save you. We are saved when we are united with Christ, or made one with Christ. To learn how this happens, check out Romans 6:3-4, Galatians 3:26-27, Colossians 2:12, 1 Peter 3:21.
We give thanks to God always for all of you, making mention of you in our prayers; constantly bearing in mind your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ in the presence of our God and Father . . . 1 Thessalonians 1:2-3
Source: John. NLT Study Bible. 2nd Vers. Carol Stream: Tyndale House, 2008. Print.