To Anxious Inquirers.
What Shall We do?
(ACTS II. 27).
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).