To Anxious Inquirers.
(ACTS II. 27).
What Shall We do?
MANY preachers and tracts ask us to have simple faith, meaning
only believe, and they speak of the moment you believe and of the
instant you receive life. At the same time they suggest that you
can be saved, where you sit, by resolving to accept Christ. But
these are not Scriptural words nor New Testament ideas.
Moreover, to tell inquirers to only believe bewilders their mind
as they already believe that Jesus is the Son of God and the
Saviour of the world, and they accept as true what is taught in
the Bible. Their conviction as to the truth of the Gospel will
likely have been unwavering for years while they continued to
live for this world. They have no doubt as to the claims of Jesus
being genuine, but that belief in itself has not brought any
assurance of their salvation, and no person can tell them of
anything else that they should believe.
The trouble of inquirers arises not because of what they should
believe but because they only believe. Their strong feeling which
comes from their believing, and which cries out 'what shall we
do?' leads them in a correct way, but instructors often take them
astray from the path of duty, instead of bringing them to the
guidance of the Lord and his Apostles as given in Mark 16:16;
Luke 24:47; John 3:5: Acts 2:38. The anxious room, in our
country, provides many examples of the blind leading the blind.
If we try to avoid having a prejudice against the four passages
we above refer to and others with the same teaching, it is
difficult to understand how we can interpret John 3:16 so that it
contradicts the unavoidable teaching of so many passages, and the
pervading doctrine of the New Testament that we obtain and can
keep possession of eternal salvation by obedience to Christ in
addition to believing Heb. 5:9 etc. The word of God nowhere says
that belief in Christ is a momentary act and bold assertion by
man does not make it true. Paul says he had kept the faith and
that the just shall live by faith, and he speaks of them that
believe to the saving of the soul, and of them who through faith
and patience inherit the promises.
Paul was baptised and washed away his sins, yet he says he was
justified by faith (Acts 22:16, Romans 5:1). His believing
carried him on through confession and baptism to Jesus Christ and
forgiveness. He believed to the saving of his soul and entered
into everlasting life.
Believing on Christ implies the acceptance of His words. He said,
'he that heareth my word and believeth on him that sent me hath
everlasting life;' here heareth means more than to listen. Again
he saith, 'whosoever shall be ashamed of me and of my words, of
him shall the Son of Man be ashamed.' Now Jesus says, 'he that
believeth and is baptised shall be saved.' These are the words of
Christ; are we prepared to believe in Him? When Paul spoke the
word of the Lord to the Philippian jailor, he believed, and was
baptised the same hour of the night. Many who profess the name of
Christ refuse to accept his teaching that baptism is a condition
of pardon and of entrance into the Kingdom of God.
'Believe in Christ' is used in many passages with a comprehensive
special sense, and sometimes covers repentance, turning to the
Lord, and living for Him. James says that faith by itself is
dead. Noah built an ark by faith, but not by 'faith alone.' To
fear God means more than to reverence Him in your mind; it
includes living for God. And to believe in Christ means more than
having a conviction in the mind; it includes a change of heart
and will, and a submission of our life. The scriptures show that
not only a decision but a full conversion is necessary, and so
the inspired word calls for repentance, confession of Jesus as
your Lord, and baptism into Christ in order to an assurance of
pardon and adoption.
The present-day preachers often speak eloquently of what God,
through His Son, has done in the work of redemption, making a
full atonement, and thus they open the minds and influence the
hearts of their hearers toward the Saviour, but, as a rule, they
fail to lead their audience to a knowledge of scriptural
conversion, as it is exemplified in the Acts and explained in the
Gospels and Epistles. It is safe to bring all theories and
popular sayings to the test of the word of God. Let us pray that
our theories may not blind us to the truth or may not take away
our reasonableness and commonsense.
They who preach 'only believe' contradict their own teaching when
they insist on a decision. Certainly God commandeth all men
everywhere to repent, but His word is consistent and therefore
never says 'only believe.' Faith alone is only mentioned to be
condemned (James 2). Decision or repentance while an outcome of
faith is in addition to and not a part of belief. The devils
believe, although they have not repented. They only believe. The
chief rulers believed although they did not add to their faith
repentance and to their repentance confession (John 12:42).