AF wrote to me wondering if I present two different and contradictory understandings of what it means to believe in Jesus:
So, what does it mean to “believe in Jesus”? Does it mean to believe that He existed? That He was born in Bethlehem? That He lives a sinless life? That He is God in the flesh? That He died on the cross for our sins? That He ROSE bodily from the dead? That He is coming again to set up His kingdom? All of the above?
Clearly, none of that is what the Lord Jesus was talking about in John 11:25-26. Those truths could and should lead to believing His promise of everlasting life to the believer. But in John’s Gospel and in the entire Bible, to believe in Jesus is to believe in Him for what He promises, everlasting life (see John 5:39-40).
In your other definition of what it means in the Bible to believe in Jesus, you say just the opposite. You include Jesus’ death and resurrection. [You say that] to believe in Jesus is to be convinced that “He who died and rose again guarantees eternal life to all who simply believe in Him.”
If those two things in the first [I think he means second] definition have nothing to do with the definition of what it means in the Bible to believe in Jesus, why do you add them in your other definition of what it means in the Bible to believe in Jesus?
AF is confused. He thinks that when I wrote, “He who died and rose again guarantees eternal life to all who simply believe in Him,” I am giving “[an]other definition of what it means in the Bible to believe in Jesus.” I am not.
Look at that sentence again: “He who died and rose again guarantees eternal life to all who simply believe in Him.” What I said is that the Lord Jesus Christ “guarantees eternal life to all who simply believe in Him.”
What I am doing in that statement is identifying who it is that we believe in for everlasting life. I am not saying that if someone believes that Jesus died on the cross for our sins and rose bodily from the dead, he necessarily believes in Jesus’ promise of everlasting life. I have written and said repeatedly that most who believe those things believe in works salvation and are not born again. I have been widely criticized for saying that assurance is of the essence of saving faith.
I might identify Jesus in any number of ways. I could call Him the Lord, the Son of God, the Christ, the Savior, the Alpha and Omega, the King of kings, He who stilled the storm and walked on water, He who raised the dead, etc.
If I identify Jesus as the one who died on the cross for our sins and rose bodily from the dead, those are facts which show why Jesus does guarantee everlasting life to all who believe in Him. To identify Him by saying what He has done—His provision for us—does not mean that I am creating some new definition of what it means to believe in Jesus. Biblically, to believe in Jesus is to believe that He guarantees everlasting life to all who believe in Him for that life (e.g., John 3:16).
In another email AF closed by expressing his concern for me in regard to what he considers my two conflicting definitions of what it means to believe in Jesus: “I pretty much felt this would be a waste of time again [emailing you]. It would be a shame this close to Christ’s return for you to lose the race.”
Of course, I do not want to fail to win Christ’s approval (1 Cor 9:24-27; 1 John 2:28). I take Jas 3:1 very seriously. In all my speaking and writing I take great care because I know I will give an account of my teachings (and other works) at the Bema. The One I wish to please in all I write (and say) is the Lord Jesus Christ.