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What Does Believing In Jesus Really Mean?

Acts 16:31, after Paul and Silas are miraculously released from prison, the jailer obviously impressed with fantastic occurrences that freed them asks the simple question “what must I do to be saved?”  To which they gave an equally simple answer, “believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved”.  Simple.  And isn’t that in line with modern day prescriptions?  No need to break down the 10 theological points or the 4 spiritual laws or taking them down the Romans road.  For it is a simple belief in Jesus that will unite you to God and that’s all that’s needed.  Or is it?

I think we live in a day where it is easy to confess Christianity, to say that I believe in Jesus.   When asked “are you a Christian”?  Response…yes, I believe in Jesus.  One may even go so far as to claim the sinner’s prayer as their rite of passage into Christianity.  I believe in Jesus because he died on the cross for my sins and I’ve asked Him into my heart.  Well, then it’s a done deal.

But I think a further examination of what believing in Jesus entails and also what transpires in the Acts account of the jailer.  For it is interesting that, despite the simple prescription that Paul provides, vs. 32 indicates that they spoke the word of the Lord to him.  My Expositor’s Bible commentary indicates that speaking the word of the Lord to him was to explain the good news of redemption in Christ for them in terms they can understand.  It sounds like there was more to believing in Jesus than just saying, yes I believe in Him.  The had to break it down for him and unpack  what believing in Jesus meant.

I think this is significant.  It seems to me, and I could be wrong, that in an effort to accommodate seekers of Christianity and not make salvation invitations too burdensome, that we’ve lost this very important explanation process.   They just need to know that Jesus died for their sins.  Why bore them with details.  What is even worse are the “altar calls” that I have heard that doesn’t even include this basic point.  Your life is not going right?  You know something is missing?  You want to get right with God?  Come to the altar.  Now I am not saying that every situation is going to warrant a long diatribe, but if an offer of salvation goes forth, isn’t it fair for people to know what we are asking them to believe?  Are even professing Christians aware of the basis of their belief?  Does the simple message of  Jesus dying for sins really get the point across, especially to an unchurched, badly-churched or other world-view person? Will it really get to what is being asked of people to put their trust in?

And trust is a key factor in belief.  Now I am a lowly 2nd semester greek student, but I find it interesting that the root  is the same for both the verb “believe” and the noun “faith” (if would learn to type in unicode I could actually put the greek word here).   The BDAG Greek-English lexicon provides these explanations for the verb, believe as the following:

  • to consider something to be true and worthy of one’s trust
  • to entrust oneself to an entity in complete confidence

So believing in something means that there must also be trust.  I think many people are aware of the events concerning Christianity, especially those who have been grounded in church.  But giving something a intellectual assent is not the same as believing.  I can look at a chair and believe that it is a chair and that it is designed to hold me up when I sit down it.  But the use of the chair will not be activated if I don’t have faith in the chair that it will in fact do what it is designed to do.  It will not be valid for me unless I place my trust in it.  So belief in Jesus Christ must entail an element of trust.

But what are we trusting in?  Christianity has gone through 2,000 years of historical development through which many deviations from the central message has occurred.  What do you imagine they explained to this jailer of what believing in Jesus meant?  I believe the accounts in Acts clearly outline principles that incorporate this element of trust into what believing in Jesus really means.  And when reconciled with the whole counsel of Scripture  identifies key elements that incorporates a faith in Jesus Christ.

The Person of Christ

Christianity flowed through promises that God made to His covenant with Israel.  I think we gloss over that in 21st century from our Gentile perspective and maybe even consider it irrelevant today.   Going back to the day of Pentacost, I believe Peter sets the stage.  Speaking to a Jewish audience, Peter describes for them this Jesus in Acts 2:22-36. For a Jew this was significant because the Jewish hope for restoration and fulfillment of covenental promises was found in the messiah.  The messiah would not be just another king nor one of God’s prophets.  The messiah would be God’s anointed king, succeeding from the line of David embodying the spirit of YHWH.  The Jews were basically looking for God Himself to come through divine representation.

But Peter had understood this prior to that day.   When Jesus asked him, who do you say that I am?  You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.  He was saying, “you are the messiah, the one whom God has sent to fulfill these promises”.   Peter recognized Him as deity.  Also, consider Stephen’s rather lengthy recitation in Acts 7.  Christ was explained. John makes it a point in His gospel to get to this right away.  In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God…and the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us.  God among us, emptying Himself to become a sacrifice, but we’ll get to that in a minute.

In Acts 10, Peter recognizes that the covenental promises of God were not just meant for Israel but for all peoples who would believe in  Jesus, which he makes clear in vs. 36 “the word which He sent to the sons of Israel, preaching peace through Jesus Christ.  Thus, by appropriating faith in who Jesus was, Gentiles could now be the recipients of covenental promises.  So getting back to the Paul, Silas and the jailer, I have to imagine that this explanation was part of the redemption package explained to him, that he was once far off from these promises could not access them through Jesus Christ (Ephesians 11-13) and it starts with recognizing who He is.

I think its fascinating that so much doctrine developed through the work of councils due to heresies concerning the person of Christ.  The councils of Nicea, Constantinople and Chalcedon were critical answering the question of who is Christ.  He did not become God at birth nor was he never man, as some supposed, but fully God and fully man. Some thought other details were too nitpicky.  What does it matter regarding the substinence of Christ, whether He was 2 people in one, whether He was a whole new 3rd person or had one will instead of two?  This seems so trivial.  And doesn’t that resound today?  Why cause division with details or make much ado about too much.  But I think that Irenaeus, Athanasius, Flavin and Leo understood that we can’t put trust in someone who is not.  If we get Christ wrong regarding who He is, then the whole thing falls apart.

Would one need to immediately understand all of this to profess faith in Christ?  Absolutely not.  But if one professes Christ, and in turn is indwelt with the Holy Spirit who bears witness to Christ, would that person then refuse to acknowledge Christ on His terms?  How then can we profess faith in Christ and not believe in who He is?    So placing faith in Christ would necessitate understanding His person, that He is the Christ, Son of God who descended from heaven, born of a virgin,  becoming man, yet sinless to restore humanity to right relationship with God.

The Work of Christ

Paul and Silas had to explain to the jailer the purpose that God became flesh to dwell among people, the significance of His death, burial and resurrection.

What exactly did Jesus do on the cross?  Now here is where I think a breakdown can occur today given the diverse soteriological positions.  But I think these events have to be viewed in a Jewish context because that is what Christianity flowed out from.  And I further believe this is probably how things were explained to the jailer, that he could become part of the people of God, not through enjoining himself with Judiasm and following Torah, but because Christ gave himself as a final sacrifice.  He bore the penalty for sins, nailing them to the cross, so the promises of God are now available to those that believe in what He has done.  You Mr. Jailer can now be in right standing with God on the basis of what Christ has done.   To have access to the promises of God by merely becoming an example of obedience that we follow or that God would not require payment for sins, I believe would have been a foreign concept in a Jewish context.

[Note:  I am aware that there are many respected theologians who hold to a governmental theory of atonement.  While I do not believe this view adequately addresses the transactions on the cross, it is hard for me to question their salvation and refuting this position is not the purpose of the post anyway…so don’t go there]

Therefore, to believe in Jesus is to entrust in the what He accomplished.  I think that is why Paul got so miffed at the folks in Galatia because they were turning from a trust in Christ to a trust in circumcision in order to achieve right standing with God.  Paul was harsh and anathemizing the judaizers for preaching “another” gospel.  Did they believe in the events of Christ? Sure they did but they were no longer placing trust in what He did since their actions indicated something else was needed.  They were not believing in Jesus.

So what does all this mean for us?  It means that saying we believe in Jesus is packed with a complete understanding of who He is and what He has done.  And I think that at a time when Christianity was so new and not disturbed with 2,000 years of development and deviations, even then the message of salvation was explained.  It wasn’t given sound bytes or diluted with a pop-culture, have a better life message.  The fact that we can fast-forward to where we are now, and especially having so many deviations and distortions in the message, that an even fuller explanation that what would have occured then is probably even better for creating a real basis in what we are believing in and what we are asking others to believe in.  Again, I am not saying that a seeker or a newbie to the faith, needs to recite accurately the complete message of Christ but they at least should be aware of what it is.  I’ve heard some pastors reject this idea, that we need to make it as simple as possible.  But in that simplicity of one or 2 sentences are we really providing a reasonable basis for belief?  Just some stuff I think about.

32 Responses to “What Does Believing In Jesus Really Mean?”

  1. “it is hard for me to question their salvation and refuting this position is not the purpose of the post anyway…so don’t go there”

    I love it. Taking authority!

  2. Crisp. Concise. Coherent. Fantastic post, Lisa.

  3. Believe in Jesus and you will be saved = deliverance from the wrath to come when God destroys sinners in preparation for (or as part of) establishing His eternal Kingdom – or so Paul seems to say in Romans and Galatians and elsewhere (e.g., Thessalonians). The “John” who wrote the Apocalypse seems to have believed the same thing.

  4. Sorry, Lisa. My post was more about WHY believe in Jesus (i.e., what was the jailer asking – and being offered – to be saved for or from) than WHAT it means to tell someone to “believe in Jesus.”

  5. This is a good post. Allow me to also throw this into the mix …

    Too often today we are the perpetrators of what Bonhoeffer called “cheap grace.” While we affirm that salvation is only by God’s grace through faith in Christ, we often grab hold of that grace with little expectation that anything is actually required of us.

    Yet the call of Jesus to discipleship reveals a significant cost. In Mark 8:34 (and parallels) Jesus said: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves, take up their cross and follow me.” This comes right after Jesus’ statement that the road to resurrection and glory for Him was suffer, rejected, killed (Mk 8:31). Thus there was a tremendous cost to Jesus and for us!

    Jesus’ call to discipleship is not a picture of easy-believism or cheap grace. And it certainly entails a lot more than walking down an aisle and saying a “sinner’s prayer” or signing a commitment card.

  6. Wonderful Post, Lisa. Your heart’s commitment to the truth and fullness of the Gospel comes out in your writing with crystal clarity. You bless us all when you write here.
    I believe that there is a time coming when the soft, comfortable environment that has nurtured the easy form of Christianity we have come to know, will melt away. It is happening now as we’ve seen in recent accounts of the decline of Christianity in our own nation. As that process continues it will become more and more important for those of us who remain faithful to be able to give an account of the hope that is within us. And that accounting will no longer be sufficient if it is the shallow, untested profession you describe in the beginning of your posting. The truth of Jesus’ parable about the rocky soil is becoming more and profound every day and it would be easy to become discouraged with so much rocky soil in the church today. But, I still believe that people are hungry for the Gospel; hungry to know the God of creation even if they say they no longer believe in a creation. The difference is that these people, though hungry, have been sold so many cheap products through slick marketing and manipulative communication techniques that they are cynical toward ideas that are half-baked, poorly articulated, and that do not hold up under rational scrutiny.
    I also believe there is reason for hope. As Michael continues with programs like TTP, as you and he write here in P&P and as dozens of other church and para-church organizations work to reawaken a sense of urgency in knowing the Gospel, knowing it as the “Costly Grace” that Bonhoeffer talked about, we have reason for hope that at least some will remain faithful.
    Your writing is part of that reawakening. Don’t stop.

  7. Lisa,

    A well-written post. I’ve been longing to read a post such as this for a while now.

    My non-denominational Christian church does altar calls. Should someone come down to give their life to Christ, they are met by an elder who takes them in the back and I assume–since I was saved at a different church, I’m ignorant of what our church does–walks them through their decision one-on-one. This is important as Jesus commands us to make disciples of all nations, not just converts. This is a very important distinction. A convert can simply walk away. Raising and training up disciples is another matter. Surely our adversary will come to attack new believers and thus, they need much encouragement, support and prayer in their early days. The decision they made is not to be taken lightly as it has eternal ramifications.

    In any event, thank you for this post.

  8. Lisa,

    Good stuff.

    I definitely think an important passage of Scripture to remember is the parable of the seeds in Matt 13. Though I would say regeneration is an immediate act of the Spirit, the immediate evidence is not always available, nor is any supposed immediate evidence always authentic.

    For the believing community, it takes time to see things worked out in a person’s life. It takes time for seed to grow enough to produce fruit, if that seed is actually going to really blossom forth and produce fruit. And, if fruit is not produced after a while, or the supposed fruit that was there fades away, then we, in a wise and gracious manner and not stepping into being overtly judgmental, can use discernment in really knowing if someone was truly born again and ‘believed upon Christ’.

  9. Well done, Lisa!

    I think you helped answer a lot of the questions that I had been asking in CMP’s Mormonism post.

  10. I believe that the condition with the Galatians concerning
    the “judaizers” was the vehicle used by Paul to address
    the broader issue of people who were trying to make
    disciples for themselves rather than for Christ.

    How many pastors are pointing to the Bible as the only
    means by which one can receive instruction directly from
    Christ? Contrariwise, how many church leaders use subtle
    methods to make themselves the authority over church goers
    instead of the Bible?

    I have discovered many, holding prominent positions in churches,
    especially pastors, who use their position of leadership as a
    means of hiding that they have been proven wrong from
    scripture. If the people of a church allow a church leader to
    supersede the message they get from scripture, then they
    are placing their trust in flesh and blood rather than in Christ.
    Without Christ as the central authority, there cannot be unity.
    Doesn’t Matt. 20:25-28 teach that the governance of God’s
    people is very different than secular society?

    Believing in Jesus means placing our trust in Him alone.
    Other believers can help us take notice of teachings,
    but the Bible must be the final reference. Pretending
    to have achieved some “higher” theological concept,
    without having been led to that concept by scripture,
    is, as Paul tells the Corinthians (1Cor. 3:4), carnal
    behavior.

  11. Lisa,

    Great article. I wonder if the Jailer’s initial question was: “What must I do to escape the calamity that might fall on me?” (as in “how will I explain the destruction of the jail to my authorities?”) and Paul taking that opportunity to share the gospel with him.

  12. Pure gold Lisa!

    I’m not entirely against alter calls, but the problem for many people is that they put their trust in the alter call. It becomes their assurance of salvation. I’m sure that thousands of people have responded to alter calls who do not have the understanding of who Jesus is, as you have defined it here. So many of those individuals then go through life assured of their salvation because they remember the day they ‘went forward’ (my husband WAS one). It really struck my husband one day when he heard R.C. Sproul say, “You’re not saved just because you went forward to an alter call.”

    The other essential element of salvation is Repentance……. true contrition over sin, and turning from sinful patterns to follow Christ. This does not happen as an act of the human will. A person doesn’t come to the point of true sorrow and brokeness over sin until God’s Spirit brings that conviction. It’s the kindness of God that leads us to repentance. If a person walks forward….. or ‘prays the sinner’s prayer’, without a heart broken before God…. aware of their unworthiness before Him, then they are still like the Pharisee who stood at the temple thinking “I’m glad I’m not like that sinner”. It was the tax collector, who cried for mercy before God…. because he knew what a wretched sinner he was (as we ALL are), who was forgiven.

    Cheep Grace The thing to remember is that it cost Jesus SO MUCH. It was because of my sin that He suffered so…….. to remove it from me….. to spare me the penalty.

    Joe, I would say that a true convert IS a disciple. Once a person comes to a true point of conversion in Christ, they are instantly indwelt by God’s Spirit, and thus gain the title: “disciple of Christ”. Perhaps you are speaking of ‘false converts’ = ‘tares’, those who are self-deceived, or who are pretenders…… spoken of in Matt 7:15-28.

  13. Good post! I agree with you on the problems with “alter calls”. Many in evangelical circles today do not realize that these were not part of early reformed practice, but were actually started by Charles Finney, et al. I agree that people need “believe in Jesus” explained to them clearly. However, what I don’t agree with is the idea that discipleship and initial salvatioin are interchangable terms.
    “Jesus’ call to discipleship is not a picture of easy-believism or cheap grace. And it certainly entails a lot more than walking down an aisle and saying a “sinner’s prayer” or signing a commitment card.”

    rms.
    This type of failure to distinguish between initial salvation and discipleship is what I’m referring to. Better known as McArthurism.
    The gospel is and remains a simple message. It is diffficult to believe for that very reason. Only the Holy Spirit can convince someone of the message.
    Now, discipleship is another matter. Those who don’t follow Jesus with their “heart , soul , mind and stength” will suffer loss. But of reward not salvation. Is true salvation simply “bumping your head on an alter” and saying the sinners prayer. Give me a break! I think any solid Evangelical worth his salt knows the answer is no. A person must understand the message: we are sinners in need of a savior. Jesus paid the price, i.e. , took our punishment on the cross and offers eteranl life to all who will truly believe (have an inner conviction ) the message and the offer of eternal life. I’m sorry I get so passionate about this but I just don’t know how we can confuse initial salvation and discipleship and not begin to border on if not outright begin to preach a gospel of works.

  14. Chris, I’m assuming that your comments about confusing discipleship with initial salvation are in response to my post. Only thing is, I didn’t use the word discipleship. A disciple is a follower of Jesus, a true convert. Discipleship is the process of teaching and training a convert the essentials of the gospel, and how to walk with Christ etc.. As far as I know, ‘discipleship’ is more of a modern day term, rather than a biblical term. Jesus commanded us to make disciples (true converts– followers of Jesus). Because we are familiar with the modern-day term, discipleship, we sometimes assume Jesus was commanding that we get people into discipleship. There are many disciples who are not in ‘discipleship’.

  15. Andy,

    that is a great observation. I don’t think I’ve thought about the jailer’s initial plea in that way. And how many today are looking to Christianity or religion in general, with some hope of relief for their dilemmas. They are not necessarily looking for Jesus but must be pointed towards him.

    Chris,

    I tend to agree with you regarding differentiating between conversion and discipleship. One saying I use is grace is free but discipleship cost everything. Not to speak for Susan, but I don’t think she is saying that conversion and discipleship are the same but that once one is truly converted, their position as a child of God puts them in a place of beginning discipleship. But I think it is possible to have problems with the cost of discipleship and not properly submit to it and remain in infancy. Conversion is possible without growth. Isn’t that what the writer of Hebrews was getting at? Move it along in your walk; submit to discipleship or face judgment.

    Also, something Susan brought up, which I didn’t really touch on, are false converts. How do you know if one is converted and not submitted to discipleship or if one was never truly converted and just engaged in Christian activity? I do think that the more we relax our explanation of Christ and deter focus from Him making “Christianity” about everything other than Him, the more likely “altar calls” can draw multitudes of false converts. To be honest, the more that I have contemplated the “altar call” the more I am opposed to them for this reason.

  16. Susan, how funny. We were responding to Chris at the same time. Not that we’re ganging up on you Chris…lol :)

  17. Susan
    A quote from Jesus to Peter…”when thou art converted, strengthen the brethren”. This was spoken to Peter in the last days of Jesus ministry as a man on earth before his crucifixion.

    I would assume that as a disciple who just spent 3 years under the direct teaching of Jesus that he was ready…he got 3 years of discipleship training as a disciple under the greatest theological program ever…(and it was free, all he had to do was follow), that he would be there…but Jesus still said “when thou art converted”. This same Peter was called the devil at the Last Supper…so discipleship training does not make a disciple….true conversion is the key.

  18. Susan and Lisa,
    thank you both for your comments. Lisa, I think you are right on about the comment concerning the Hebrew epistle. I don’t think we can deny that scripture very clearly paints the picture of the possibility of the carnal believer. And the argument that the carnality will not persist if the conversion is real still leaves us with the “sin unto death” dilemma. I also tend to agree with the idea of getting away from “alter calls”. Old school theologians and pastors used to have “inquirers benches or rooms” I think the whole emotional scence that is connected to “coming foward” can cause someone to mistake emotion for believing the message. I was raised in a little country Missioinary Baptitist church and believer me we ( backwoods Baptists) are the Kings of the alter call. I just think we really need to rethink this practice.

  19. Susan, I looked back and just realized , my comments were in response to Sam’s comments ( sorry Sam), not your’s.

  20. Kara, I agree with this statement of yours: “discipleship training does not make a disciple….true conversion is the key.” That is, I agree that just being in discipleship does not make one a disciple, they must be a true convert.

    I don’t think that you can use Peter as an example of an ‘unconverted disciple’ however. You quoted from the KJV. In the NET that is translated as follows:

    Luke 22:31 “Simon, Simon, pay attention!” Satan has demanded to have you all, to sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. When you have turned back, strengthen your brothers”

    That which is translated ‘convert’ in your Bible means ‘turned back, or tuned around’….. as Jesus knew that Peter would deny Him, but that he would then turn back…..in repentance. Do note that Jesus prayed that Peter’s faith would not fail. Peter had faith already.

    At the last supper Jesus spoke of the one who would betray him….Judas (not Peter).

  21. I like this summary of the issue. I always am reminded to lace into such discussions Jesus’ words about the Spirit in John 3 too. Somehow, He moves where He wills. As I get older, I find myself becoming more absent-mindedly Calvinistic. When younger, I had to go around BEING a Calvinist. Now, after so many years of sharing the Gospel, absorbing people’s “No’s” or “whatevers,” and yet seeing some genuinely embrace Christ, I see no single formula or incantation that automatically produces born again people. It is ultimately the Spirit who must move, and of course, who does, with little authorization by us or not. He will do and move where He will. But your summary and thoughts are good, as were many of the comments. I liked Ochstein’s Provisio. And that is why we become so disappointed when some “professions” do not work out, or last the test of time.

  22. Neil,
    Wise words. I’m reminded of what my mom told me when she explained her conversion to her young yet wise pastor. She explained how haphazardly she was handled by the pastor when she “came forward” to recieve salvation . He said, “God saved you not because of what they did but in spite of it.” I thought this was great. Not that God saves outside of faith in Christ but it seems that some can butcher the message and botch the “procedure” ( for lack of a better word) when helping someone to Christ and yet He still transforms lives. It is indeed HIS work and not ours.

  23. I’m going to join in here alongside Chris.

    The issue of eternal life really does boil down to simple faith, not the complicated kind that involves a change of lifestyle, repentance, etc. This Puritanical view of faith is totally foreign to the gospel message. The grace view, contrasted with the Lordship view, is often mischaracterized as ‘easy believism’ or ‘cheap grace’. Susan presented this sentiment earlier when she said “It cost Jesus SO much”, which is correct. But it’s a mistake to conclude from this that Jesus requires anything from the believer other than simple trust.

    No one argues that fellowship with God doesn’t depend upon repentance. But eternal life is predicated upon simple faith, not upon perseverance. The real tragedy in all of this is that so many Christians are defrauded out of their assurance because they don’t think they show the right amount of fruit. They hear things like “If there’s no fruit, there’s no faith” and “The gospel is ‘Hard to Believe'”, etc. But, the foundation for godly living is knowing that we have eternal life that can never be lost. It breaks my heart to see the millions of Christians that have been confused by so many pushing a gospel that only masquerades to be by ‘grace alone’.

  24. It breaks my heart that there are many in the church who have a false assurance of salvation….. those who believe the right things, but have never come to a place of truly realizing what an unworthy sinner they are. Without that realization, a person doesn’t actually need a Savior. God gives grace to the humble. God resists the proud. This is repentance…. turning from sin, toward Jesus. It comes from a heart which has become deeply convicted of sin…. which is a work of God’s Spirit.

  25. George, I agree with you AND I agree with Susan. It is a simple trust in Christ that saves us. I don’t hold to a Lordship view so the idea that we have to show fruit as a basis of salvation is crazy. It is soley His work that creates a repentant heart and Him who grants repentance to one who truly believes. As I mentioned in my earlier comment, it is possible for one to believe but not grow. There has to be an intentionality on our part in response to a converted heart. Nothing captures this more for me than Philippians 2:12-13.

    But I think this is a different from those who make a confession of faith who never really believed in the first place. And this is the danger I think Susan is speaking of, not that all our ducks have to be in a row to show THAT we believe but assuring that our heart is aligned with a confession of faith by understanding WHAT we believe, that we are sinners in need of a savior. Only He can truly change us. Simply saying a prayer does not necessarily assure this reality in the heart of the person saying the prayer.

  26. “Simply saying a prayer does not necessarily assure this reality in the heart of the person saying the prayer.”

    No one really argues that this is the case, though. It seems to me that this is one of the common charges levied against those that reject the Calvinist view of perseverance, namely that ‘praying a prayer’ saves. Nowhere in Scripture do we see this nor does the grace position articulate this. It’s folly to point people towards a ‘moment of faith’ (or even a moment of great sorrow and repentance, as the Calvinist might) in order to verify their standing before God.

    Scripture never points us toward our works as proof that we have eternal life and we fail the Gospel if we try to force it to do so. The assurance that we have eternal life comes from the fact that His promises are true and that He can deliver upon what He claimed to. Each of us knows whether we have believed those things or not and, if we have, we know we have eternal life. This business of ‘fruit inspection’ which Christendom has become obsessed with needs to be firmly rejected.

  27. “The witness is this, that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His son. He who has the Son, has eternal life. He who does not have the Son of God, does not have life. These things I have written to you who believe on the Son of God in order that you may know that you have eternal life.” 1 John 5:11-13

    The one who is saved, is the one who has Jesus….. the one who is indwelt by God’s Spirit.

    You say: ” Each of us knows whether we have believed those things or not and, if we have, we know we have eternal life.”

    Indeed God tells us (Rom 8:16) “The Spirit Himself bears witness to our spirit that we are God’s children.” Some refer to this as the “inner witness of the Holy Spirit”…… by which we have internal assurance of our salvation.

    But, what about those who lack this…. who are fraught with doubts…. who find themselves lacking desire for God’s word? Many such persons will state emphatically that they are Christians… after all, they believe all the right things about Jesus…. they go to church… they may recall a ‘conversion experience’…. praying the sinner’s prayer, or responding to an alter call. It is possible to be self-deceived. 1John 1-2 help us to evaluate if we are truly in Christ or not. Jesus said, “Not everyone who says to me Lord, Lord, will enter the kingdom of heaven–only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven.”…. then He goes on to describe one who pleads before God that he’s done good works in His name, but ultimately God says “Depart from me I never knew you” Matt: 7:21-23

    In some cases Jesus advocates “fruit inspection” as a means of discerning whether one is of God or not. Matt 7:15-20 Sometimes a person needs to take stock of their own life Matt 7:24-27

  28. Susan,

    Just thinking about these 2 verses here:

    Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves! Or do you not recognize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you – unless you indeed fail the test? (2 Cor 13:5)

    Therefore, brethren, be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you…(2 Peter 1:10)

    The onus is on the one who claims Christ and not necessarily on the community of believers. Although I do hear what you are saying regarding 2 John but even then, this passage refers to not receiving those that say they believe in Christ but in fact, deny Him. But is the encouragement to point out fruit or the fact that they really don’t believe? The latter definitely, especially if one who doesn’t believe is trying to persuade believers on errors and distortions, which I think John is getting at. But it does seem to be a fine line requiring much discernment.

  29. True Lisa, it is not up to the community of believers to go around evaluating the fruit of others, and thus postulating as to who’s in and who’s out. Exceptions to this come in as we are instructed to evaluate teachers and prophets “Watch out for false prophets who come to you in sheep’s clothing….You will recognize them by their fruit…… every good tree bears good fruit, every bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree is not able to bear bad fruit, nor a bad tree to bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. So then, you will recognize them by their fruit.”

    And yes, we are to examine ourselves. You referred to 2 John (?)…. did you mean 1 John 2 ? I don’t think that the passage is talking about false teachers until 2:18, before that there are evidences of the heart condition which are mentioned. 2:3 “Now by this we know that we have come to know God: if we keep his commandments. The one who says ‘I have come to know God’ and yet does not keep His commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in such a person. But whoever obeys his word, truly in this person the love of God has been perfected. By this we know that we are in him”.

    2:15 Do not love the word or the things of the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him….

    So, as far as ‘pointing out fruit’ goes…. that isn’t the task. The call is to evaluate whether the one who is teaching or prophesying is truly of God, by evaluating the fruit…… not just asking if there is good fruit, but seeing if there is bad fruit. At times, I think that we need to exercise this discernment on a micro-level. It is certainly not outside of the realm of possibility that someone leading a small group, or teaching in some arena, might not be a true convert. Such a person should not be in a position of leadership in the church. We are limited, to be sure, in our ability to evaluate the heart condition of another. Sometimes we need to ask for God’s wisdom.

  30. It’s profound question, same as the question I like to ask anyone (in the pew, etc.) – what does it mean to believe in God? Esp. those who claim that they do and those who pretend (it seems to me at least) that they do.

    Everyone has a different answer.

    To many it means to get means to be ‘happy’ ‘blessed’ ‘prosperous’ ‘thinking-positive’ ‘purpose-driven’ ‘got Message (a la Eugene Peterson), ‘make me tongue-speaking’, ‘get healed’, ‘excited’, ‘entertained’, ‘to go to heaven when we die’ ‘claim the rewards for what we have been putting in heaven’, etc.

    To me, to believe in Yeshua means that I come to know Him and the One whom He revealed.

  31. Why can’t you be direct in saying that believing in Jesus is doing the work he called us to do?

    Jesus : If you have 2, give 1 to the needy. I assure you that if you are rich, you cannot enter the kingdom. The one who has 2 is richer than the one who has nothing(or even the one who has 1)

    Christians : Jesus, I believe in you. Your grace is enough for me. I am saved. I am going to heaven.

    Jesus : ?????? Won’t you do what I said?

    Christians : My works are not going to get me to heaven. Just my faith alone is enough.

    Jesus : Faith in what?

    Christians : That you delivered us from sins by being the perfect sacrifice on the cross.

    Jesus : But, on the judgment day, I will condemn you to hell because you didn’t do the work.

    Christians : How can you? You asked us to just to believe in the Good News and we will go to heaven.

    Jesus : And, what is that Good News?

    Christians : John 3:16

    Jesus : I said “Repent, the end days are near.” That is the Good news I preached.

    Christians : But billions of us believed in John 3:16

    Jesus : Did I not warn that broad is gate/easy is the path that many will go, but narrow is my gate and harder is my path and very few will come through it?

    Christians : Errrr

  32. Hi Lisa. Very nice post. I think the sentence “Christianity flowed through promises that God made to His covenant with Israel.” is the key which caught my attention.

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