Al asks some good questions:
I have been reading your articles and watching your YouTube videos for quite a while now. I understand that you believe that in order to be born again one has to believe in Jesus for everlasting life.
However recently I have been wondering what that actually means in detail. In particular I am wondering how much a person needs to understand about eternal life and about Jesus in order to be born again.
For example, does a person need to know about the new earth or the physical resurrection of the believer in order to be born again? Both of these, I suppose, would be a part of what it means to have eternal life.
I have heard you talk about John 11:25-27 in regard to the content of saving faith but that doesn’t seem to fully answer my question because this bible passage does not state specifically what one must believe about Jesus and everlasting life.
I realize that this might seem like a silly question. But picture a person who has no idea about who Jesus is and what eternal life means. If such a person happens to find a piece of paper with, for example John 3:16 on it, could he be saved without knowing about the new earth, physical resurrection of the believer or even without knowing the name of Jesus Christ. What is the minimum amount of information that one needs to know in order to be born again?
I really hope that you have the time to help me with this.
Let’s stick with Scripture. I can give some explanation of why the Scripture is correct. But the bottom line is that what God says is true.
Some verses in John’s Gospel give more details than others. But all evangelistic verses in John contain these three elements: 1) whoever believes 2) in Jesus 3) has everlasting life/will never perish. That is the minimum amount of information needed in order to be born again.
John 11:25 contains additional information: the promise of bodily resurrection. Since that is not found in some–indeed most–of the evangelistic verses in John, I conclude that is not an essential truth. Someone might wrongly believe in spiritual resurrection, yet still believe the promise of John 3:16.
Al asks about the new earth. I love this question.
If people had to believe that they would spend eternity on the new earth, that would exclude most born-again people. Most of the people I’ve met who believe the promise of life wrongly believe that they will spend eternity in heaven, floating on some cloud.
I find it challenging to convince believers that our eternal home is the new earth, not heaven. Understanding and believing this is not an additional condition of everlasting life.
Al wonders about a person who does not know what everlasting life is. I don’t think there is such a person.i See John 5:39. While the OT only mentions everlasting life once (Dan 12:2), the concept of living forever with the Messiah in His kingdom is well-understood. See Job 19:25-26.
Of course, many people do not understand that everlasting life begins when a person believes in Jesus for it. I’ve met people–and I was one for the first three months of my Christian life–who knew they were saved once and for all, but who thought everlasting life begins when you die. Such a person believes the promise of life even though he doesn’t fully understand it.
I doubt that most of Jesus’ Jewish listeners understood that Jesus was saying that everlasting life is the present possession of the believer. Yet in John 5:39 He says that His listeners searched the OT because they thought they had eternal life based on the commandments. Jesus corrected their understanding of the source of the life. It is Jesus, Himself. Not the OT commandments. But He did not press them on their understanding of everlasting life.
Finally, if a person did not know the name of Jesus, at least in his language (His name is not actually Jesus, but Yeshua), then he would need to know that this is the person who made the promise recorded in the Bible. The woman at the well probably did not know that His name is Yeshua. But she believed that He is the Messiah who guarantees everlasting life to all who believe in Him (John 4:10-26).
Most of these hypothetical questions are not ones asked by unbelievers. However, Al raises some questions that are asked by believers who are seeking to be clear in evangelism.
We want to be clear. That is a good thing. To do so, follow the Lord Jesus Christ. If He doesn’t seem to be clear enough for you, revise your thinking. He is right. He evangelizes clearly.
i Everyone either does or does not believe in life after death. Most do. When people hear you talk about everlasting life, they know you are talking about something that refers to life after death. They may not grasp that it is a present reality for some people or that the people who have the life are believers in Jesus Christ. The Holy Spirit convicts of world of sin, righteousness, and coming judgment (John 16:7-11).