Lost Believers

Man at Sunset

Some passages in the Bible are lifted out of context, isolated, oversimplified, and misinterpreted in order to make a point that is not at all what the passage is teaching. At times this may be done by sincere individuals, but that does not change the fact that they are not accurately representing what the Scriptures teach.

The following passage is a common example of one that is used to make a point that does not accurately represent what the Bible teaches:

For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life” (John 3:16).

Many use this passage to make the point that if we will simply believe in Jesus, we will have eternal life. In other words, one can be saved on the basis of a simple mental assent to the fact that Jesus is the Son of God without any actions of obedience to the Lord.

This doctrine, sometimes referred to as “faith only,” is read into any passage that talks about faith. Those who hold to this doctrine believe that we will be saved by faith apart from any works.

The problem with this idea is that it is contrary to what the New Testament teaches. Yes, we are “justified by faith” (Romans 5:1); but we are also “justified by works and not by faith alone” (James 2:24). How can this be? Saving faith is more than a mere mental assent to the fact that Jesus is the Son of God. Saving faith is an obedient trust in God and submission to Jesus as Lord.

Understanding this, it should not be surprising to read about various ones in the New Testament who believed in Jesus, but were still lost. Notice the following passages:

You believe that God is one. You do well; the demons also believe, and shudder” (James 2:19).

Nevertheless many even of the rulers believed in Him, but because of the Pharisees they were not confessing Him, for fear that they would be put out of the synagogue; for they loved the approval of men rather than the approval of God” (John 12:42-43).

Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness’” (Matthew 7:22-23).

If our belief in Jesus is nothing more than an acknowledgement of Him being the Son of God, then we have no more faith than the demons (Matthew 8:28-29). As a result, we might believe but will still be lost since we are “justified by works and not by faith alone” (James 2:24).

If our belief in Jesus is not one we are willing to confess, then we are no better than the rulers who feared the Pharisees. This will cause us to be lost, despite our belief, since we must “confess” in order to “be saved” (Romans 10:9).

If our belief in Jesus does not lead us to submit to His authority, but instead we do whatever we choose to do in religion, we will told to depart in the day of judgment. We may believe in Jesus to the point that we do various works for Him; but if those works are not what He has authorized us to do, we will be lost since He is “the source of salvation” to those who “obey Him” (Hebrews 5:9).

Furthermore, if our belief does not lead to us be baptized, we will be lost since Jesus said, “He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved” (Mark 16:16). Peter wrote, “Baptism now saves you” (1 Peter 3:21). Therefore, though we may claim to believe in Jesus, if we do not submit to His will in baptism, we will not be saved.

It is essential that we believe in Jesus to be saved. However, this belief cannot merely be a mental acknowledgement of the fact that Jesus is the Son of God. Saving faith is an obedient faith. If we want to be saved, we must believe in Jesus to the point that we will fully and faithfully obey His will.