A fan of the GES blogs and daily radio program writes:
Thank you so much for the work you do, for the GES website, the blog, and the radio program. It has meant a great deal to me.
I’m hoping you can help put my mind at ease as I have really been struggling with salvation and/or assurance. And yes, I am one of those OCD people you talk about! I was diagnosed with this anxiety disorder over two decades ago, and it is a struggle.
Concerning salvation, I was concerned that maybe it wasn’t enough to believe in Jesus to be saved but that you must believe plus tell God that you believe in order to be saved (even though He would already know it). You addressed this in a blog post and podcast. Thank you! I am now over this hurdle.
However, my OCD brain has now fixated on another issue that has really been troubling me. That is, what does “believe in Jesus” mean? Does it mean to believe that 1) He is the Christ AND 2) that He is the Son of God?
Of course, John 20:31 says “…that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name.” But then 1 John 5:1a says, “Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God:” And other verses such as John 6:47 don’t say that you have to believe He is the Christ or the Son of God; they just say to believe in or on Jesus.
So, what is it? Simply believe in/on Him? Or believe that He is the Christ? Or believe that He is the Christ AND believe that He is the Son of God?
Also, is Christ synonymous with Savior? Is believing that Jesus is the Christ the same thing as believing that Jesus is the Savior?
I am familiar with Jesus and Martha’s exchange in John 11, and I’ve heard your illustration about someone believing that Trump is the commander in chief and believing he is the President, but I’m still struggling with the things I’ve mentioned above.
Does one of you or someone at GES have time to email me and help me with this?
It seems I used to be so sure of my salvation/eternal destiny, but now I really struggle.
The expression “the Christ, the Son of God” means one thing, not two. It does not mean that Jesus is the Messiah and that He is the second member of the Trinity. It means that He is the Messiah. The Greek word Christos translates the Hebrew word that translates into English as Messiah.
Notice the comma between “the Christ” and “the Son of God” in John 20:31. The words “the Son of God” are appositional to “the Christ.” That is, the Son of God is another way of saying the Messiah.
The expression the Son of God is used in John’s Gospel and in the Synoptic Gospels as a Messianic title. See, for example Matt 14:33; 16:16; 26:63; Luke 22:69-70; John 1:49; 3:18, 36; 11:27; 20:31.
The exact expression “the Christ, the Son of God” only occurs twice in John’s Gospel, John 11:27 and John 20:31. John 11:27 explains what “the Christ, the Son of God” means.
Jesus had just asked, “Do you believe this?” He had not said, “I am the Christ, the Son of God.” He had said, “I am the resurrection and the life.” Then He went on to say that whoever believes in Him will be raised from the dead (i.e., they will gain glorified bodies), and whoever believes in Him will never die spiritually (i.e., they have everlasting life that cannot be lost).
Martha was equating “the Christ, the Son of God” with Jesus’ guarantee that whoever believers in Him has everlasting life that cannot be lost.
Therefore, it is correct to say that to believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, is equivalent to believing that He is my Savior, as long as I understand by the words “my Savior” that He has saved me once and for all because I have believed in Him for everlasting life. (Believing that He is the Savior of the world, John 4:42, means that He has made everyone savable by His shed blood on the cross [John 1:29]. That is foundational to, but not the same as, believing that He has saved me, that is, that He has given me everlasting life that cannot be lost.)
The reason why the questioner seems to be struggling with assurance, even though she was certain of her salvation before, is because OCD, obsessive compulsive disorder, can cause a person to think irrational thoughts. If somehow the medication for OCD is out of whack, so is the thinking.
OCD thinking can impact not only assurance of salvation, but assurance about anything. Did I close the garage door? Did I lock the front door? Did I take my medication? Did I put in the sweetener? Do I have my passport?
Now if you are like me, someone who is near OCD, but not quite (I don’t think), you have lots of those questions. Of course, as we pass age sixty-five, those kinds of questions become more prevalent anyway. But I’ve been struggling with questions like that at least since college.
It is possible to be sure that you closed the garage and yet still drive back just to make absolutely sure. I’ve done that countless times, and the garage is always closed. The same with assurance of everlasting life. A person who is sure that he has everlasting life by faith in Christ may think, “But am I really sure? What if I don’t exist? What if what I think is reality is just a dream world?”
I’d encourage anyone to look to the promise of everlasting life that the Lord Jesus makes whenever he or she experiences any confusion about his or her eternal destiny. The thinking goes like this:
Jesus said, “he who believes in Me has everlasting life” (John 3:16; 6:47).
I believe in Jesus.
Therefore, I have everlasting life.
Don’t look for some confirming feeling.
Don’t look for some confirming good works.
Don’t look for some confirming detail, like a note in your Bible.
Look to Jesus. He is trustworthy! Right? And He said, “he who lives and believes in Me shall never die” (John 11:26a). I believe in Him. So I know I will never die spiritually. My salvation is sure and secure because Jesus guarantees it.