Saturday, March 3, 2012

What you must believe in order to be a Christian

Romans 10:9-10 that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; 10for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation.

What are the fundamental contents of true saving faith?
Yesterday we looked at saving faith in slow motion, noting that the bare minimum for belief had so far involved two essential truths:
1. That I am a sinner, incapable of gaining favor with God (that is, making my own salvation)
2. That what God says in the Bible about me is true (that is, the Bible is God's word)

We looked also at how saving faith convinces me that these contents of the faith (notitia) are truly true.  Knowing that they are true leads to a growing comprehension of their significance following conversion.  Saving faith entails the contents (notitia), my mental agreement with those facts (ascensus) and the Spirit's work of grace whereby I embrace Christ by faith and thus believe (fiducia).  In today's blog we are going to look at three more essential contents (notita) that are made known to the sinner at the event of saving faith.

Confessing Christ's Deity is essential to salvation
To confess "Jesus as Lord" is equivalent to confessing "Jesus as God".  The title "Lord" refers back to the name revealed to Moses back in Exodus 3 (the name Jehovah or Yahweh, translated "LORD").  The Old Testament makes it clear that salvation is of the Lord. (Jonah 2:9).  Furthermore, the Lord God of Israel is God alone and that there is no other Savior. (Isaiah 43:10-11)  As we saw yesterday, "knowing" is different from "comprehension".  Saving faith will readily agree that salvation is in Jesus Christ alone, even if it does not "comprehend" the details that stem from that confession.  This is why any message that presents Jesus Christ as less than God is not the Gospel. 

Confessing the necessity of Christ's work in His death and resurrection
Romans 10:9 continues on by revealing another content of "The Faith", namely "God raising Him from the dead".  To believe that Jesus Christ raised from the dead automatically includes the cause of His death - the crucifixion.  Saving faith agrees (ascensus) that the events of Christ's death and ressurection (contents or notitia) are to be experiences in my life (saving faith or fiducia).  What He did is recorded in the Gospels and what He accomplished is being described here in Romans 10:9.  What He accomplished in His death readily points to the fact that He was truly a man.  What He accomplished in His resurrection readily demonstrates His Divine identity. 

Confessing that there is One God
This next content or truth of saving faith affirms the Biblical concept of there being only One God.  The question is: why is this so important, since we just saw the need to affirm the Deity of Christ?  Because Christianity affirms what God is: One God, as well as who that One God is.  Saving faith brings me to know and acknowledge that God is One God and that Christ is God.  As the Holy Spirit through Paul states in 1 Corinthians 8:6 "yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom are all things and we exist for Him; and one Lord, Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we exist through Him."

Knowing the truth will lead me to embrace further details of that truth comprehended after saving faith
The three truths above are true and affirmed at saving faith.  By implication all three point to the biblical doctrine of the Trinity.  This is where our distinction of "what I know at saving faith" versus "what I comprehend following saving faith" aids in understanding what a person must believe in order to become a Christian. 

A little child for example, may not fully comprehend the biblical doctrine of the Trinity.  However, acknowledgment of Christ's Deity, the effectiveness of His death / resurrection  and that God is One God are doctrines that only make sense if the doctrine of Trinity is understood as the Biblical teaching of God's identity.  As that little child grows in his or her faith, when presented the doctrine of the Trinity, they will acknowledge that doctrine as true.  As Jesus states in John 7:16-17 "....My teaching is not Mine, but His who sent Me. If anyone is willing to do His will, he will know of the teaching, whether it is of God or whether I speak from Myself."


  1. I truly enjoy reading and studing your blog Brother Mahlon, Thanks for taking the time to share!

    Mike M.

  2. Dear Mike:

    It is my pleasure and privilege. I praise the Lord for whatever benefits may come to those who read this blog. Thanks for taking the time to read the posts. Use whatever material you deem useful. Have a Jesus filled day dear friend!

    For His Glory
    Bro. Mahlon

  3. No, God doesn't need your help to save you.

    Baptists and evangelicals are correct: sinners MUST believe to be saved. But you will not find one passage of Scripture that states that the sinner must make a “decision” to believe. The sinner must believe, but it is God who makes the decision for him to believe.

    Acts 13:48 (ESV)
    48 And when the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord, and as many as were appointed to eternal life believed.

    This passage of Scripture points out the great fallacy of (Arminian/Free Will) Baptist and evangelical theology: The sinner does not assist or even cooperate in his salvation. The sinner is a passive participant in his salvation. Yes, he believes, but he believes because he was appointed before the world existed to believe, not because HE makes a free will decision to do so.

    God chooses who will believe…the sinner chooses to reject Christ and send himself to hell. Christ died for all and desires all to be saved. God has predestined NO ONE to hell.

    The Arminians and the Calvinists are both wrong.

    1. Glad to see your response. You raise a very important point in the ongoing discussion of who ultimately is decisive in the manner of Christian salvation. You are correct in establishing that "God's elective purpose of grace" (a phrase used by the Baptist Faith & Message 2000) is the decision that explains why anyone believes.

      However your point of there not being any place in the Bible that describes saving faith in a volitional sense is not correct. Deuteronomy 30:15 & 19, the Israelites are told to "choose" life and not the way of death. Joshua 24:15 states that the people were to choose whom they were going to serve. Job 34:4 talks about us "choosing for ourselves what is right". And then when you arrive at the New Testament, the idea of "choosing" is implied in the supernatural work of faith that comes forth in the believer's heart. Acts 15:22 depicts the church "choosing".

      Now let me hasten to add that the "choice" made for God in the Old Testament and Jesus in the New occurs because of God's choice for that person. On that point you are correct. However to say that there is not a legitimate choice made for Jesus as a result of the Spirit's saving work is not correct. In the NASB, I count nearly 70 occasions where we find this word "choose".

      Of those occurrences, nearly 50 of them refer to God's Sovereign choice, with roughly half the remainder referring to choices made by believers operating in God's Sovereign purpose. The rest of scripture that records choices made by unbelievers against God is due to their own doing. Only God can design a salvation wherein there is no conflict between human responsibility and the Sovereign purposes of God.

      To illustrate, God's use of "choice" in human salvation can be likened unto a water current that runs in confluence with the ocean. The maritime rivers that run through our world's oceans can affect the temperature and climate of our weather - much like the decisions of human beings affect the climate of history and the world. Yet those maritime rivers operate in set patterns determined by the much larger ocean. So even though the weather is "directly affected" by those rivers, those maritime rivers would not be able to function without the much larger ocean in which they function. Such a phenomena is what we term "confluence". Theologians use the term "concurrence" to describe how God in His Providence utilizes the choices of people to affect the outcomes of His purposes - both in salvation and history.

      In conclusion, I do agree with you that anyone who believes does so because of God's Sovereign working. People who reject Christ and die and go to hell do so because of their own doing. However, I would disagree that the Bible does not use the language of "choice" or "volition" to describe saving faith.