A theologian who does short-term missionary teaching made an interesting suggestion in a 2018 article. He wrote:
If eternal security must be the object of one’s belief, why is it spoken of as a result in passages designed to assure those who believe? In John 5:24 the object of belief is “Him who sent Me” and the result is “eternal life.” But after saying that, Jesus adds, “he [the one who believes in Him for eternal life] [brackets his] shall not come into judgment but has passed from death into life.” This is an assurance about the result of eternal life, not the requirement for eternal life. Likewise, in John 6:35, Jesus says belief in Him as the Bread of Life results in never hungering or thirsting (which could be taken as satisfaction in this life and into eternity), but then states in verse 37 the assurance that He will never cast out those who come to Him, and again in verse 39 that He will lose none the Father gives Him. Yet again, in John 10:27-30, Jesus gives assurance that those who hear Him (believe in Him) have eternal life, shall never perish, and no one shall snatch them out of His hand or His Father’s hand…
While we might argue that someone who believes in Jesus Christ for eternal life should understand that eternal demands or implies irrevocability, this may not be initially or explicitly understood; it may not even be on their radar. Neither is it the exclusive way that John and Jesus presented the gospel message (or Luke or Paul, for that matter) (see here for the quote and full article).
This theologian raises two important issues that are exceedingly practical. Everyone who is a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ should understand and be able to explain both issues.
Issue number one is whether someone can believe in something of which he is not aware. Can someone believe in the promise of everlasting life if he is not thinking about everlasting life? How would that be possible?
What this theologian suggests is that a person can believe in Jesus for everlasting life without thinking about everlasting life.
That is impossible. You can’t believe in someone for something unless you are thinking about that something.
During the pandemic, President Biden guaranteed to give every American $600. Would it be possible to believe President Biden for that $600 without knowing that he was promising $600? If $600 was not on your radar, then you could not believe his promise for $600.
In the same way, a person can only believe in Jesus for everlasting life if he is thinking about everlasting life. See John 3:16; 5:24; 1 Tim 1:16.
Issue number two is his suggestion that there are different saving messages in the NT. Believing in Jesus for everlasting life, according to this theologian, was one saving message that John and Jesus presented. But they had other saving messages. And Luke and Paul had other saving messages as well.
Are we to understand that there is more than one saving message in the NT?
I remember that during my doctoral studies at DTS, I was reading a chapter in Unity and Diversity in the New Testament by James Dunn. The chapter was entitled, “Kerugma or Kerugmata?” He argued in the chapter that there were different saving messages in the NT. I found that suggestion to be inconsistent with the NT. I was surprised that nearly all the other doctoral students in the class had no difficulty with that idea.
There is only one saving message. There are not multiple saving messages.
One must believe in both the gift of God (everlasting life) and the Giver of the gift, the Lord Jesus Christ (John 4:10, 14, 25-26). One cannot believe in Jesus for the gift of God without having in mind what that gift is. That is why the Lord Jesus was always careful to make sure His listeners understood what it was that He was promising. He put it on their radar, so to speak. So should we.