posted on Oct, 19 2018 @ 05:01 PM
“Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved, you and your household”- Acts ch16 v31
The message of the New Testament centres upon what God achieved in Christ, through his death on the Cross and his Resurrection.
Our part in the work therefore rests on our trust in what was achieved. In other words, it follows on from our faith.
That is made clear even in the gospels, where faith is the first thing that Jesus demands and receives from his followers. At the very least, they are
trusting in his authority, believing in him as the one sent from God.
Jesus praises their faith and complains about the weakness of their faith. Neither his words nor his deeds can have any effect where faith is
So when the repentant woman washes his feet, rejoicing in his promise that her sins have been forgiven, he gives her the assurance that “your faith
has saved you” (Luke ch7 v50).
He describes his followers as “these little ones who believe in me” (Matthew ch18 vv5-6).
And he looks for this faith in himself to continue even after his death. For he says to Peter at the Last Supper; “I have prayed for you that your
faith may not fail” (Luke 22 v32).
The language of John’s gospel offers a distinction between different aspects of belief.
There is the simple acceptance that something is true - “believing THAT”.
Then there is the more fundamental trust in a person - “believing IN”.
The function of “believing THAT” is to prepare the ground for “believing IN”, which is the real key to New Testament faith.
We see how this works from the stories in Acts.
People believe because of the information they are receiving from the apostles- “Many of those who heard the word believed” (ch4 v4).
That is the pattern we find in many episodes, outlined in speech after speech.
But the most important consequence of this teaching is that they believe IN the Lord (ch9 v42), or IN Christ Jesus (ch24 v24).
Everything else follows on from that. For “everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sin through his name” (ch10 v43).
Therefore those who join the new church are identified, primarily, as “believers”- “all who believed” (ch2 v44).
Romans explains how the power of God is available for salvation “to everyone who believes” (ch1 v16).
Salvation is identified as “righteousness”- that is, a right relationship with God, or “peace with God” (ch5 v1). And the righteousness of God
is available “through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe” (ch3 v22).
In other words, this depends, once more, on the belief “IN”, the response of trust.
Again, a man’s faith is reckoned as righteousness if he “trusts him who justifies the ungodly” (ch4 v5).
A little later, it is reckoned to us “who believe in him who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord” (ch4 v24).
Only in that sense is it possible to derive salvation from belief “THAT”; we believe that God has done something, in order to place our trust in
what he has done.
“If you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved” (ch10 v9).
The rest of the New Testament tells the same story;
“You have confidence in [more literally, “you are believers in”] God who raised him from the dead and gave him glory” (1 Peter ch1 v21).
“We who have believed” will enter the rest which God has prepared (Hebrews ch4 v13).
This “rest” is also described as “life”;
“I write this to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life” (1 John ch5 v13).
That is why John’s epistle makes belief one of the primary commands of God;
“This is his commandment, that we should believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another” (ch3 v23).
The connection between the two halves of the command is that “everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is a child of God” (ch5 v1), which
means that our fellow-believers are also our brethren.
This virtue in faith follows on from the fact that Christ himself has already done what needs to be done.
We benefit from what he has done by accepting what he has done (believing THAT) and putting our trust in what he has done (believing IN).
Of course James criticises those who merely say that they have faith (which is not the same thing), but even James does not suggest that a man
can be saved without any faith at all. Works are commended as the evidence of faith, which means that faith must have come first in order of time.
His remarks about those who “believe that God is one” only illustrate the distinction found in John; their fault is not going beyond the belief
THAT. The demons have the same knowledge, as he says, but they don’t have the necessary relationship of trust with God. They don’t have belief IN
In fact the principle of “trusting in God” is a thread which runs through the whole of the Bible.
Thus it is Abram’s trust which carries him, in obedience, from Ur to Canaan.
It must have been David’s trust in the Lord that made the Lord seek him out as “a man after his own heart”. At least his life-story shows that
it wasn’t his obedience to the laws of Moses.
It was faith in God’s power that carried his people through times of trouble from Egypt to Babylon. That kind of trouble brought out the prophet’s
declaration that “the righteous shall live by his faith” (Habakkuk ch2 v4).
For that matter, only faith could have preserved the faithfulness of Job and saved him from despair in the face of circumstances which he could not
Faith is a natural, almost inevitable, element in the relationship between God and man, when God is what he is, and man has little else to offer than
It should not be surprising, therefore, that faith is essential to the restoration of the relationship, as achieved through Christ.
This personal trust is the real key to the New Testament understanding of salvation.