Is believing in Jesus enough for salvation?
One of the most commonly tossed around phrases when discussing religion, and especially Christianity, is 'I believe in Jesus.' You might be sharing your Christian convictions with a coworker, and they're like, "Oh yeah, I believe in Jesus!"
Or, you might be talking with a Muslim, and they'll say, "Well, we believe in Jesus." Or, the same thing with a Jehovah's Witness, or a Mormon. I've had all of these sorts of conversations. I remember being in college, and going to a culture night, and hearing an imam talk about Islam, and how Judaism, Islam, Christianity, we're all just forks off the same tree. “We believe in Jesus, too.” Now, I wasn't buying it, but many people were quite intrigued because that didn't sound like the Islam they had heard about growing up.
I remember a conversation with a friend who said "Well, I'm a Jehovah's Witness, and we believe in Jesus." The list goes on, but the real question is, how should we respond to this type of statement?
Is simply saying "I believe in Jesus" and believing that Jesus was a real person, or a real figure in history, is that enough for salvation? Well, no. The problem is is there are many different things one can believe about Jesus or mean by "I believe in Jesus."
We need to use our first question from Greg Koukl's book, 'Tactics,' and say, "What do you mean by that? What do you mean by 'believe in Jesus?'" Because when the Muslim says it and the Mormon says it, and the Jehovah's Witness says it, and the Christian says it, we all mean different things. We all can't be right. We all could be wrong, but we all can't be right.
It really matters what you mean by, "I believe in Jesus."
For instance, when the Muslim says "I believe in Jesus." He probably believes Jesus was a real figure in history was born of a virgin, who did wonderful acts and miracles. He probably believes he ascended to heaven, and is coming back one day to usher in judgement. That's a lot of similar stuff to Christianity.
Where he's going to diverge is he doesn't believe Jesus is God. He doesn't believe he's the second person in the Trinity. He doesn't believe he even died on the cross. Muslims think Jesus didn't die on the cross, that it was only, "made to appear that he did." Not dying on the cross means not paying for sin, which means we're not saved by believing in that Jesus. Additionally, a Jesus who is not God cannot save us, either. Believing in Jesus, that phrase, or believing things about Jesus, that's not enough. It matters what you believe about Jesus.
What about the Jehovah's Witnesses? Okay, so "We believe in Jesus," they say, and they do! But, they believe different things than Christianity teaches about Jesus. A Jesus who is a created being, who is not the same God as the God of the Old Testament is not a Jesus who can save. It's not the same Jesus Christians are talking about. A Jesus who is not fully God, and a Jesus who is not fully man-both of those in the one person of Christ-that is a Jesus that cannot save. That is why Christians reject the idea of the Jehovah's Witness Jesus, because he is a Jesus that cannot save. He is a Jesus who is not supported by scripture.
Now yes, they believe in Jesus. Yes, the Muslim believes in Jesus, but they don't believe the right things about Jesus. The Jesus they're actually believing in is not the Jesus of the Bible. It's the same with Mormonism. Mormonism teaches that Jesus is a created being, he's the literal son of God and his Goddess wife, who was created. The Jesus in Mormonism is actually one of three gods in the god head. Not one god, in three persons, but three gods. That's a different God. That's a different Jesus.
Mormons also believe that Jesus atoned for sin on the cross and in the Garden of Gethsemane, and that is not what scripture teaches. That's not what Christians believe, so if Mormons are right, Christians are wrong. Yes, they believe in Jesus, but they believe in a different Jesus.
What about those who believe that Jesus is their means to prosperity on earth today, to a better life? That simply having more and more faith in this Jesus results in a materialistic blessing in the world today? That's a different Jesus, too. What we see is that, "I believe in Jesus," doesn’t necessarily mean very much.
What you have to do when someone says that is say, "Well, what do you believe about him? Who is this Jesus? Tell me about him," because we could very well be believing in different Jesuses. Not believing the right things about Jesus can very well lead to that person dying in their sin and going to hell.
If we believe that Jesus is the son of God ... God incarnate, not a separate God, not a created being, but as Paul said in Philippians 2, "Where the fullness of God was pleased to dwell in bodily form in the person of Christ”, that Christ was the God-man. 100% God, 100% man. If we believe in that Jesus, and we trust him for the forgiveness of our sins, we submit to his lordship, well that's a Jesus that can save. That's a faith that can save, not because of the strength of the faith. The strength of your faith is not what matters when it comes to salvation because a strong faith in a weak object, in an ineffective object or person, is not going to save you. A weak faith in a strong object, like the person of Christ-God incarnate-that faith saves.
It really matters who your faith, who your trust is placed in. Is it the Jesus of the Bible, fully God, fully man, who atoned for sin on the cross so that everyone who comes to him, bows the knee, submits, and trusts in him for salvation will find him to be a perfect savior? That Jesus saves. The Jesus who's a created being does not save. The Jesus who is not God does not save. The Jesus who didn't die on the cross, he doesn't save, either. Simply saying and believing “in Jesus” is not necessarily enough. It matters what you believe about him. It matters which Jesus we're talking about.
I would encourage you in conversations, when someone says, "I believe in Jesus," to say "That's great! I do, too. What do you believe about him?" Because for instance, Barack Obama could walk into a room and two people could say "I believe in Barack Obama." One might think he's a senator, and one might think he's a president. One of them is right, and one of them is wrong. How they address him is going to be important. It's the same way, only much more important for us when it comes to our Christian convictions and who people are actually believing in, and what they're believing about him, when it comes to salvation.
Well, I hope this short episode has equipped you to talk a little more clearly about who Jesus is when people claim that they believe in Jesus.
I'll talk with you next week on Unapologetic.