”For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16 [emphasis mine]
“All you have to do to be saved is believe. All you have to do is acknowledge that Jesus existed – that He lived, died, and rose again, and you’ll be saved.”
I’ve heard that message a lot. I remember listening to the radio as I was driving in Tampa a few years ago, and the broadcaster (his name escapes me) said, “If you have ever believed in God – even if it was just for a split second – you will be saved even if you don’t believe in Him now! 2 Timothy 2:13 says that if we are faithless God will remain faithful, and John 3:16 says …”
I was a brand new Christian at the time. As soon as I got home, I looked up the Scripture the guy on the radio quoted, and was a little confused as to why he hadn’t quoted the verses immediately preceding it … check it out:
“Here is a trustworthy saying: If we died with him, we will also live with him; if we endure, we will also reign with him. If we disown him, he will also disown us; if we are faithless, he will remain faithful, for he cannot disown himself.” 2 Timothy 2:11-13 [emphasis mine]
Yikes – what that guy was saying verse 13 meant didn’t mesh at all with verse 12, yet he was sharing his version of the message with thousands of listeners. I wonder how many bought it?
I presented a lesson this past week on faith that works from James 1:21-25 and 2:14-26 (see also Hebrews 11; Matthew 7:21-29; John 14:15-24, 15:10; 2 John 1:6; Revelation 20:12)- something that broadcaster apparently hadn’t thought about much.
Did you know that Reformation leader Martin Luther hated the book of James? He called it an epistle of straw because he thought it contained a message of works-based salvation. In other words, Martin Luther thought the New Testament epistle of James taught people they had to earn their salvation – that they had to be ‘good enough’ for God to love them.
Luther did a whole lot of good for Christianity in general, but he completely missed the ball when it came to the book of James. That’s because Luther didn’t have the best understanding of what faith in Jesus really is.
So let’s ask the questions:
What is faith? Is faith simply a mental belief? Am I really saved if I mentally believe in God, mentally believe that Jesus is His Son, but neglect to follow His teachings? Do I really have faith if I refuse to obey?
I share what I think in the lesson – what do you think?