•••by Russell Young
There are eleven occasions where “everlasting life” is used in the Word of God; most are found in the book of John and teach that it comes through believing in Christ. “For God gave his one and only Son that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal [everlasting] life.” (John 3:16, NIV)
Since “belief” is the means of gaining everlasting life one should be sure of its meaning. “Believe” is translated from the Greek pisteuo which is defined as “to have faith (in, upon, or with respect to, a person or thing), i.e. credit; by implication, to entrust (especially one’s spiritual well-being to Christ): -believe (-r), commit (to trust), put in trust with.” (Strong’s Greek Dictionary #4100)
Belief in the context of salvation goes beyond understanding that something is true; it means that one has sufficient faith in Christ or is sufficiently persuaded concerning the being and mission of Christ that he is willing to entrust his well-being to the Lord. One’s conception of “belief” should not be limited to the understanding that his well-being can be assured by absenting himself of all responsibility for it by allowing Christ to do all that is necessary. He cannot abrogate his obligations unless the Lord has allowed him to do so, and He hasn’t. The writer of Hebrews has recorded that eternal salvation comes through obedience. (Hebrews 5:9) “Belief” means accepting the Lord’s teachings in the gospel with the commitment to honouring them with his total being…all his mind, soul, and heart. (Matthew 22:37, Mark 12:30, Luke 10:27)
In Biblical times “to believe” was synonymous with obedience. “And to whom did God swear that they would never enter his rest if not to those who disobeyed? Se we can see that they were not able to enter, because of their unbelief.” (Hebrews 3:18, 19, NIV) One acts according to what he believes. He cannot truly believe something and act contrary to that belief; his actions are to be congruent with his beliefs and his belief are to be in accordance with the Word of God.
The most commonly presented view of the means of salvation seems to be mental assent or conviction that Christ will deliver the confessor into His eternal presence if he acknowledges that Christ is God, acknowledges that he is a sinner, and voices repentance for his sin. To accept the position that salvation comes through mental assent followed by confession of faith without requiring obedience, however, is contrary to much of the teaching of the New Testament. Belief is to be ‘in the heart” (Romans 10:9) which is the motivator of one’s actions. Jesus said, “Not everyone who says to me ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 7:21, NIV)
Paul reported to King Agrippa that he had preached that people should repent and turn to God and prove their repentance by their deeds. (Acts 26:20)
There are many references to the need to obey Christ throughout the New Testament. (John 10:27, 8:51; Ephesians 5:3-7; Romans 6:16; 8:48:14) The understanding of the need for obedience should give cause for thought because many accept that they will be in the kingdom of heaven without any need for obedience or for doing God’s will. The book of Hebrews presents: “Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will fall by following their example of disobedience.” (4:11, NIV)
Whatever one claims “belief” to mean, it must incorporate the necessity for obedience to Christ over one’s lifetime; otherwise his belief will be “in vain.” (1 Corinthians 15:2) He is to be lord and He is to be honoured as Lord. It is through belief that one relents of his own lordship and allows Christ to direct his life in order that his heart might be transformed into that of the likeness of Christ, (Romans 8:29) and become an offering acceptable to the Lord. (Romans 15:16)
Belief does not save anyone since every person believes in something. What results in everlasting life is what one believes and how he proves that belief by his actions. Belief produces faith and faith unless it produces works is meaningless. (James 2:17) One’s belief/faith is better measured by his actions than by his profession. Everlasting life comes through belief that is evidenced through obedience to his Lord and Saviour.