What Must I Believe?
Everybody I've ever met who claims to be a Christian agrees that we must believe in order to be saved, but over the years I have also seen that very few of those same people agree on what it is that one must believe, and even fewer who could tell me what they believe or why they believe. This is indeed a strange situation for many who claim to be "believers" for we are commanded to "always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you." (1 Pet. 3:15) The believer's responsibility is to be ready to answer when people ask us about our faith and hope; We must be able to give them an answer!
Faith, or belief, is an important thing. When we read such statements as "without faith it is impossible to please" God, and "he that comes to God must believe" (Heb. 11:6), or "we conclude that a man is justified by faith" (Rom. 3:28), we understand the importance faith has when considering our standing before God. Though many will disagree about whether or not we are saved by faith alone or faith and something else, before we can even enter into a discussion about which is right we must agree what it is we must believe. Unless we go to the Scriptures and find out what God says about faith, everything else is pointless.
So, what must we believe?
The Gospel. [Mark 16:15, 16] Jesus said to His disciples, "Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature." He further told them that the one "who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned." Believe — or not believe — what? The gospel! Those who believed the gospel message would have forgiveness of sins; those who did not believe it would be condemned. Here, we are clearly told what we must believe: the gospel!
What we should note at this time is what Jesus did not say one must believe in order to be saved: He did not say one must believe in the creeds of men. This is significant! I have, in my study, a shelf and a half of creed books, written by uninspired men and for the purpose of identifying what each of the representative denominations believe. I repeat, it is what they believe.
It is also significant to know that there is not one of the major denominations in this country that does not abide by some form of a written creed — either standing alone or in addition to the Bible. (I even have a creed statement for the erroneously-named "Independent Churches of America.") But do you know what? The denominational idea of salvation tells us that it doesn't matter if you believe their creed or not regarding your salvation! If I can believe something else and still be saved, then it would logically follow that since I must believe the gospel to be saved, then these creeds are not the gospel! And, friend, if the creeds of these denominations are not the gospel, then they are useless to your soul's salvation. And if those creeds are useless, then please explain to me why they exist at all?
Jesus Is The Christ. [John 20:30, 31] As John concluded his writings, he told us that the record of Jesus' miracles was "written that you may believe." Believe what? "That Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name." John recorded these things for us that we might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing we might have life. John wrote that we might believe that which leads to eternal life in Jesus Christ! As we read, we may accept the evidence that leads us to believe, receiving the benefits of that belief (life), or we may reject it and remain an unbeliever, receiving the punishment for having done so (eternal condemnation).
This agrees with what Paul told the Roman brethren in Romans 10:9, 10 when he said that "if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation." We confess what we believe, and that belief must include an acknowledgment that Jesus is Lord and that God raised Him from the dead, what Paul had earlier said was the declaration that He was whom He claimed to be (Rom. 1:4). That confession that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, is the very foundation of the church; One cannot be a part of the church not having believed this very thing.
So, we see that at the center of our belief, or faith, stands Jesus as the Christ, the Son of God. That faith, or belief, is the determining factor in whether or not we become a part of the church, whether or not our sins are forgiven, whether or not we are saved. The gospel must be believed, and it is the story of God's plan for saving man, manifested in Jesus Christ coming to this earth and dying on the cross for our sins. Jesus, again, stands at the center of our faith. We must believe that He is the Son of God, and we must believe that He is Lord. It's not that we simply believe in the commandments of Jesus; we believe in Jesus. We do not simply obey the commands, we obey Jesus. And if we should disobey or cease believing, it is not that we have simply ceased believing the commands and simply ceased obeying them; we have ceased believing and we have ceased obeying Jesus.
Please do not misunderstand what I am saying here! I am not saying, as many are today, that we just need to believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and then disagree on everything else. ABSOLUTELY NOT! Faith that Jesus is the Christ, faith that He is the Son of God, faith that we believe God raised Him from the dead and declared Him to be whom He claimed to be — all of this demands we manifest it through our actions. Simple acknowledgment of these things is not enough! Jesus Himself said, "Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven." (Matt. 7:21)
Faith is more than simple belief. Faith is seen through our obedience to the commands of Jesus Christ because we believe. The faith that saves us is the faith that obeys the commands that bring forgiveness of sins. Have you done that? Have you repented of your sins? (Acts 17:30) Have you confessed your belief? (Rom. 10:9, 10) Have you been baptized that your sins may be forgiven? (Acts 2:38) Do you really believe in Jesus?
Written by Steven Harper
Glenview Church of Christ