Paul’s Words to the Philippian Jailer
The other day I came across an article in The Trinity Review—a 5-point Calvinist publication that is essentially arguing for the Free Grace message on the meaning of saving faith—entitled, “What Is It to Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ?” Great title. And the article is helpful too. More on that below.
The words “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ” are found in Paul’s famous answer to the Philippian jailer’s question, “What must I do to be saved?” (Acts 16:30). Paul’s answer is simple: “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you shall be saved.”
Some wrongly read into this a call by Paul for the jailer to commit his life to the Lordship of Christ. But that is not what Paul said. He called for belief in the Lord Jesus Christ. He did not say, “Commit your life to the Lord Jesus Christ” or “follow the Lord Jesus Christ.”
The person we are to believe in is the Lord Jesus Christ. And we are to believe in Him for what the jailer asked, salvation (i.e., everlasting life).
Jesus’ Words to the Jewish People
Paul received his gospel from the Lord Jesus Christ (Gal 1:10-12). The Lord taught Paul that all who believe in Him have everlasting life. The Lord Jesus said that to Nicodemus (John 3:14-18), to the woman at the well (John 4:10-26), to Martha (John 11:25-27), and repeatedly to crowds in Israel (John 5:24, 39-40; 6:35-47). Whoever believes in Jesus has everlasting life.
Luke Miner’s Take in His Trinity Review Article
In some way Miner’s article is absolutely priceless. He notes that some say we need to believe certain doctrines about Christ to be born again. Then he says,
Interestingly, when one finds creedal lists in Scripture (1 Corinthians 15:3-8 and Romans 10:9 for example) they seem to lack some important fundamentals of what is normally called “the Gospel” and, again, even the Biblical lists often consist of different sets of Biblical propositions. All this seems much too complicated (p. 1).
He then asks,
Are we to think that when Jesus used the phrase “whoever believes in Me has eternal life,” He really meant to communicate that “whoever believers this 10-point list of statements has eternal life”? If so, where is the list in Scripture? Would God bury the answer to such an important question so deep in the Scriptures that few can uncover it? Probably not (p. 1).
This discussion is very helpful in my opinion. However, after a discussion of how church history explained the meaning of faith, which is helpful, Miner loses his way a bit as he discusses the object of saving faith.
Miner rightly says that believing in Jesus means “belief that what He says is true and that He will fulfill His promises.” But then He asks, “Which ones?” (p. 9). Miner does not know.
He actually says,
We must declare as much of the counsel of God as possible, because we do not know exactly how many or which details the Spirit will cause a person to believe at the time of salvation…The Scriptures do not tell us which of God’s words a given person must believe before justification [occurs]” (p. 9).[Some will object to Miner’s suggestion, right after this quote, that not all understand or believe in the Trinity at the time of the new birth. I urge everyone to read his article so that you can evaluate his discussion on that point and on all the points he makes. You can find his article here ].
In fairness, it should be noted that Miner ends with the words of “The Gospel Song.” He calls these words “a wonderful reminder and a useful guide” and “a summary of God’s glorious Word” (p. 10). The last line of the song reads, “By His death I live again.” So it sounds like Miner is hinting at the very end of the article that the promise which we must believe to be born again is Jesus’ promise of life everlasting. That promise is only true because “On the cross he took my sin” (the 2nd to last line).
Miner is following the viewpoint of Gordon Clark in his book Faith and Saving Faith. I, like Miner, love that book. However, while Clark is clear that saving faith is simply being convinced that the saving proposition is true, Clark never says what the saving proposition is. Neither does Miner, unless “The Gospel Song” is his answer.
Even with Clarity, There Can Still Be Some Confusion
I commend Miner and The Trinity Foundation for the clarity found in this article regarding what faith and saving faith are. The discussion is fantastic.
However, I would encourage Miner and The Trinity Foundation to come up with a clear answer to what promise specifically must be believed in order for one to be born again. Acts 16:31 says that it is the promise of salvation to all who believe in Jesus for the promise. So does John 3:16 and a host of other passages in John and in the New Testament. Lewis Sperry Chafer found over 150 such passages in Scripture.