Will Belief Alone Save?
And they said, “Believe on the Lord Jesus, and thou shalt be saved, thou and thy house” (Acts 16:31).
The Bible teaches us very clearly that belief is a very important and foundational aspect of our walk with God. There are many, however, who hold to the position that all one needs to do is believe and they will be saved. Maybe you hold to this, or perhaps you have heard it spoken at a church you’ve attended or from your friends. But is it true? Does one need only to believe to be saved?
It is important to first consider what is meant by “belief”. To many, belief is simply giving mental approval to a statement being true. To many people, saying “I believe in Jesus Christ” means as much to them as saying “I believe that 2+2=4”. They accept that the statement is true, but go no further than that.
According to the Bible, even demons believe, and shudder (James 2:19). Demons surely know that Jesus is the Christ, and yet no one believes that they will be saved by that belief!
Be not deceived: Jesus demands more than simple mental agreement to the proposition that He is the Christ.
Another definition of belief is to have confidence in the object of the belief. We use this idea frequently: “I believe in his ability,” for instance. Our belief in Jesus as the Christ requires us to have confidence in the person of Jesus and His claim of being the Savior of mankind (John 3:16). Therefore, we are to not only accept the proposition that Jesus is the Christ, but also have full confidence in Him.
But is that all that is necessary to be saved? As we explore the New Testament, we can see quickly that this is not the case. People who come to faith–to have belief–in Jesus Christ change their lives. This is the demand of repentance (Acts 2:38): to make a change of mind and to act upon it. In Romans 6:17-18, we see that those who believe in Jesus Christ by necessity become obedient to His standard of teaching. We see the changes in people like Peter, Paul, Apollos, and many others, and the changes begin with believing and then acting on that belief.
Indeed, we must believe that Jesus is the Christ, and place our confidence in Him. Without that belief we cannot be saved. Nevertheless, there is more to belief than simple acceptance of a proposition and confidence in the one believed upon; Christ calls upon those who believe in Him to change their lives. Those who believe are called upon to be obedient servants of God (cf. Romans 1:5, 6:17-18), and that obedience begins with confessing Jesus as Christ, repenting of sin, and being immersed in water for the remission of past sin (Romans 10:9-10, Acts 2:38, 1 Peter 3:21). Obedience continues through life, growing and developing in the grace and knowledge of Jesus (2 Peter 3:18).
What does God say about the fate of those who believe but do not obey? 2 Thessalonians 1:6-9 characterizes those who do not obey the Gospel of Jesus in the same category as those who do not even know God! Furthermore, Jesus says that He does not know such people, and that on the last day they will be cast out (Matthew 7:21-23). We do not want that fate for anyone, and we especially do not want that fate for you. We encourage you to consider becoming obedient to Christ Jesus and to gain the salvation that flows from Him!
Ethan R. Longhenry