What do you have to believe to be saved?
By Robin Schumacher
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The old joke goes like this:
Once there was a guy on a bridge about to jump. Another man saw him and cried out, "Don't do it!" The first man said, "Nobody loves me." The other man said, "God loves you. Do you believe in God?" The conversation then went proceeded like this:
First man: "Yes."
Second man: "Are you a Christian or a Jew?"
First man: "A Christian."
Second man: "Me, too! Protestant or Catholic?"
First man: "Protestant."
Second man: "Me, too! What franchise?"
First man: "Baptist."
Second man: "Me, too! Northern Baptist or Southern Baptist?"
First man: "Northern Baptist."
Second man: "Me, too! Northern Conservative Baptist or Northern Liberal Baptist?"
First man: "Northern Conservative Baptist."
Second man: "Me, too! Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region, or Northern Conservative Baptist Eastern Region?"
First man: "Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region."
Second man: "Me, too! Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region Council of 1879, or Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region Council of 1912?"
First man: "Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region Council of 1912."
There was then a slight pause, after which the second man shouted out, "Die, heretic!" and then pushed the first man over.
Maybe it's Pre-millennialism vs. Amillennialism. Or Arminianism vs. Calvinism. Or young earth vs. old earth. Or ransom theory of the atonement vs. penal-substitution.
Take your pick, debates and divisions occur all the time in Christianity over matters of doctrinal study and belief. But when it comes to true saving faith, is there a must-have set of things a person must believe and embrace to be saved?
The Bedrock of Belief
I'm asked this question a lot, and most recently it came from a very thoughtful person in the Reformed theology camp. How could a person be really saved, he asked, if they held strongly to the doctrines of Arminianism? Wouldn't a truly saved person be led by the Spirit to abandon incorrect beliefs such as those and instead acknowledge as true the teachings of Reformed theology?
Again, you could substitute almost any set of teachings or doctrine and pose the same question. Wouldn't a person possessing the Holy Spirit believe "A" and not "B"?
But, for now, let's return to the primary and ultimate question: what does a person have to believe to be saved? The answer?
A person must believe the gospel to be saved.
Young earth vs. old earth? That doesn't matter for salvation.
Pre-mill vs. post-mill vs. a-mill? That doesn't matter for salvation.
A person is saved by God when they believe the gospel. Period.
"Ah," you say, "but what beliefs constitute the gospel?"
My Favorite Story
When we look at the question of what beliefs make up the gospel, we open a number of other cans that are filled with worms. What did the people before Christ have to believe to be saved? Do you have to specifically know about Jesus to be saved today? And so onů
Let's take one thing at a time and first look at my favorite New Testament story that answers a lot of questions such as these:
Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. "The Pharisee stood and was praying this to himself: 'God, I thank You that I am not like other people: swindlers, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. 'I fast twice a week; I pay tithes of all that I get.' "But the tax collector, standing some distance away, was even unwilling to lift up his eyes to heaven, but was beating his breast, saying, 'God, be merciful to me, the sinner!' "I tell you, this man went to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted. (Luke 18:10-14)
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Image credit: Matthew McVickar; Some rights reserved
Tags: Biblical-Salvation | Biblical-Truth | Controversial-Issues | Theological-Beliefs
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