After a recent blog (see here) showing that faith in Christ is not a decision, a reader asks:
I’m confused. Is it believing in Jesus that saves, or is it believing in Jesus and knowing that believing in Jesus saves?
Though a bit complicated, that is a very good question. Read the question again until you understand what he is asking.
Option 1: belief in Jesus saves, whether you believe that belief in Jesus saves or not. Of course, in this view it is hard to decide what “belief in Jesus” is. Most who hold this view define believing in Jesus as believing that He is God and that He died on the cross for our sins and rose bodily from the dead are saved. If one believes those things, he has everlasting life whether he believes he does or not. So in this view Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, Church of Christ, Assembly of God, Calvinists, Arminians, Lordship Salvation advocates, and works salvation advocates are all born again. In this view most people who call themselves Christians are eternally secure, though they do not believe that they are.
Some say that all who’ve had a personal encounter with Jesus are saved. They define faith in Jesus as a personal encounter with Him.
I know one man who told me that all who believe that Jesus was sent from God are born again. For him believing in Jesus is believing that He (or he) was sent from God.
Option 2: belief in Jesus for everlasting life (or the equivalent) saves. In this view believing in Jesus means believing that all who believe in Him have everlasting life or the equivalent (justification which can’t be lost, guaranteed eternity with Jesus, an eternal relationship with Jesus, etc). In other words, the person believes that by simply believing in Jesus that he has an irrevocable salvation.
But isn’t that faith in faith? Absolutely. If you believe that those who believe in Jesus who have everlasting life, then you have faith in faith. That is, you believe that belief in Jesus is the sole condition of an irrevocable salvation. Whether you call that believism, easy believism, or hard believism, it is clear that in this view we believe that belief in Jesus is the only way.
Look at the words I’ve italicized in John 11:25-26:
“I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?”
What does this refer to in “Do you believe this?” Clearly it refers to two propositions: 1) he who believes in Me shall live, and 2) He who believes in Me shall never die. Thus if Martha believes that, she must be believing that all who believe in Jesus shall live and shall never die. That is clearly belief in belief. There is no way around it.
If you believe John 3:16 is true, you have belief in the power of believing in Jesus. If you believe Acts 16:31 or Eph 2:8-9, you believe that irrevocable salvation is given to all who believe in Jesus.
Now if the Lord had said in John 3:16 that “whoever sacrifices ten bulls shall not perish but has everlasting life,” then you would believe that irrevocable salvation is given to all who sacrifice ten bulls. That would be faith in sacrifice.
Here is another way to look at it: faith in Jesus in the Biblical sense is not faith that He existed. It is not faith that He was born of a virgin. It is not faith that He is God. It is not faith that He died on the cross for our sins. It is not faith that He rose from the dead. A person can believe those five things and not believe what Jesus said in John 11:25-26a. Saving faith is faith that all who believe in Him have everlasting life which can never be lost. Now believing those five things can and should lead to believing that all who simply believe in Jesus have everlasting life. But until one believes the saving message, he is not yet irrevocably saved.
For most of us even more beliefs are needed before we come to believe that all who believe in Jesus have everlasting life. Most of us need to believe that Jesus lived a sinless life, that He raised the dead, healed the sick, fed the 5,000, walked on water, that He appeared to many people over the course of 40 days after He rose from the dead, and that His words as recorded in the Bible are accurately reported.
But we must not confuse those beliefs which God used to get you to believe that all who believe in Jesus have everlasting life with belief in Jesus. Belief in Jesus is believing that all who believe in Him have everlasting life. Any other belief about Jesus is not that.
Now of course this changes our perspective on our friends and loved ones who do not believe that. It means that our “Christian” family and friends who have faith in works are not born again in spite of what they believe about Jesus, their good works, their love for Jesus, their church attendance, their giving, and so forth. No amount of works and good intentions can gain anyone everlasting life. Only believing in Jesus for that irrevocable salvation will do (1 Tim 1:16).
Those who call themselves Christians and who have faith in works still need to be born again (unless, of course, they believed in belief in Jesus in the past and then later fell away). Works salvation and Lordship Salvation will not save anyone.
If you are confused, read John’s Gospel prayerfully. God will show the truth to you. That is, He will persuade you that all who believe in Jesus have everlasting life which can’t be lost.