1 Corinthians 15, christian, christianity, Easter, gospel, Jesus, John 3:16, religion, resurrection, Romans 10, salvation, the gospel
Since it’s Easter week, I want to resurrect a discussion I participated in over at Evangelical Village a week or so ago (unfortunately, the site and the original discussion are no longer available.) It began when my friend Matt posed a simple but important question:
“What must a person know in order to be saved? What theological knowledge must a person know in order to become a believer?”
Let me say up front that I don’t want anyone to think I’m being critical of Matt here. I love my brother, I recommend his blog, and I know that he was doing what he always does very well–asking thought-provoking questions, and involving others in the discussion. I appreciate that.
The thrust of the post was that it probably isn’t necessary to “know” much to be saved, but you do have to “believe.” One commenter gave the example of the thief on the cross. He knew very little, but he believed in Jesus and was saved.
In the original post Matt had asked:
“If one would take the stance that a person must have a knowledge of personal sin and the sacrifice of Jesus, then would you say that God cannot save a person by merely reading John 3:16? … We need to separate the ideal from the necessary.”
God can do whatever He wants, but essentially I felt that this approach to faith set up a false dichotomy between what we know and what we believe. I think that what we believe (or who we trust) is necessarily built on a foundation of what we know.
I pointed out that Paul said we must believe in our heart that God raised Christ from the dead (which assumes we would have to first know that he was in fact raised) in order to be saved (Romans 10:9-11). That prompted Matt to ask:
“So Barry, does one have to know the Resurrection to be saved? Or could God save someone just by reading John 3:16?”
I replied (with a few edits included here):
I think that in Paul’s mind (which is the mind of the Spirit) understanding the resurrection falls into the category of “the necessary” rather than “the ideal.” In addition to the passage I quoted earlier (Romans 10:9-11), Paul considered the resurrection essential to the gospel:
“Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain.
For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures…” (1 Cor. 15:1-4)
Not only was the resurrection essential to the gospel, the gospel was essential to salvation. That’s evident in this passage from the tiny (but massively important) word “if” in the phrase: “by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you” (i.e., the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus).
It’s also evident in other passages. The gospel (again, the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus, according to 1 Cor. 15) is “the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes” (Rom. 1:16)
We’re saved by believing in Jesus, but what Jesus is that? One who was just a great moral teacher? One who was just a prophet? One who was willing to die for what he believed in? Or one who is defined by the content of the gospel? I believe it’s the latter. Which gospel and which Jesus one believes in really, really matters. That’s clear from the following passages:
“For if someone comes and proclaims another Jesus than the one we proclaimed, or if you receive a different spirit from the one you received, or if you accept a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it readily enough.” (2 Cor. 11:4)
“But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed. (Gal. 1:8-9)
I’ve continued to think about that discussion. It’s certainly possible that I’m wrong, but at this point, I stand by my conclusion. Our belief in Christ is not properly focused, and therefore unable to save, without a clear understanding of Christ’s death for our sins, and his resurrection on the third day.
So…what do you think? Is it necessary to believe in the resurrection of Jesus to be saved?
…if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. For the Scripture says, ‘Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.’ (Rom. 10:9-11)
And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins (1 Corinthians 15:17)
interesting post. in the NT we see followers of Christ verbally and orally proclaiming the gospel, with the result that some come to the saving knowledge of Christ. we must ask, “what is the content of that gospel?” it seems obvious from the book of Acts, as well as the gospels and epistles, but especially in Acts, that the resurrection is an essential part of the gospel.
so yes. if we adhere to the belief that salvation comes only through hearing the gospel, and the resurrection is an essential part of this gospel, then saving faith in Christ is faith in a resurrected Christ.
Michie DeBerry said:
I believe that it is absolutely necessary to believe in the resurrection for a person to be saved. If you do not believe in the resurrection, then there is no victory over death. You definitely hit the nail on the head, I believe, because we must believe in the true Jesus. The Jesus which is the Son of God, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, the Alpha and the Omega, the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sins of the world! How does He take away our sins? By making the payment that we would have to make otherwise: death, physical and spiritual. He made him to be sin who knew no sin. He literally became sin for us that we could have eternal life. All that is necessary is belief, which a person could learn from John 3:16, but then a person must find out who this “only begotten son” is in whom He must believe.
Matthew Svoboda said:
Mike, Michie, and Barry,
So my question is this, if someone has never heard anything about Jesus in their whole life and then they started reading the gospel of John: are you telling me they couldn’t be saved before they got to the end to know of the resurrection?
Barry, great post… I do not disagree that the resurrection is an essential part of the gospel. A preacher would fail miserably if he preached the gospel without mentioning the resurrection. My only point is I think God can and does save people in sermons that dont mention the resurrection and in reading Scripture before they ever get to the resurrection.
great question about John! i’ll answer with this: before this hypothetical reader gets to the resurrction, what would he or she putting their faith in? a Jesus who claimed to be God and died on a cross? or a Jesus who claimed to be God, died on a cross, and rose again!?! the latter. that’s what the apostles preach in Acts – Jesus made claims, did things, died, but rose again!
my answer is no, someone cannot be saved without trusting in the resurrection. i’m around a ton of people at TCU who claim to know Christ and be saved, but reject the idea of a resurrection. thus they are rejecting the real, saving Jesus and replacing him with an idol. that may be a non-comparison with your example, but it definitely belongs in the conversation.
i’m sympathetic with your argument, but i (respectfully) disagree.
If you do not believe in the resurrection, I think you are missing what Christ did in obedience to the Father’s will.
He died, knowing He was to be resurrected “in a little while you will see Me”, He was obedient to the will of the Father.
Our faith in Him mirrors His faith in the Father.
Thomas Twitchell said:
Without an object of affection the affection is dead. If Christ is not raised we are still dead in our sin: “And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins.” Faith, Hebrews tells us, is substance and surety. It has that which it seeks. One needs to ask from what one is saved and to what hope is one saved? As Paul says: “If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.” And someone might say, yeah but we only learn that later. To the contrary, by John 3 John is developing the eternal life theme with its comfort and eternal condemnation. The hope of life after death in heaven is granted in Christ. But, what hope, Paul is saying, is there in one who is dead? Resurrection then is essential knowledge (and knowledge is essential to faith), for only in it is hope founded. To claim to be born-again and not know Christ is impossible. He said: “Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him.” And just who reveals himself if Christ is not resurrected? Without the manifestation of the resurrected Christ, there is no salvation.
I do not claim to be as knowledgeable as you and certainly not Barry, but I would like to chime in on the discussion.
Could it be that you are all right in some partial way? Honestly, I have no answers only questions.
It could be easily understood that Matt is on to something, if you consider the thief on the cross. How much did he know about what was to happen. Did he hear and understand that when the temple was destroyed it would be raised on the third day? (John 2:19) Also, how did he understand Jesus’ response, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.” (Luke 23:43) Was the thief to meet Christ Jesus in Paradise or this earth? Was resurrection simply just not ceasing to exist, but being raised from death into heaven or paradise? I don’t really know, but I’m sure this fellow was saved, because of the Lamb of God’s response. This story gives great hope to people who’s loved one’s have a deathbed conversion. (Those stories leave me feeling a little uneasy, given that I know how deceptive the heart is and how desperately people fear death and the judgment of God when faced with certain death. After all, I think the saying goes, “There are no atheists in foxholes.”)
My next thought involves twelve men in Ephesus (see Acts 19:1-7). These did believe in the coming of the Messiah, but only had been baptized into John’s baptism of repentance. They had not heard how Jesus fulfilled all that John had taught (and more importantly the Old Testament prophesies) and that he died and was raised again and that the Holy Spirit had come. In fact they said, “we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit” (Acts 19:2). After talking with Paul, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. Then he laid hands on them and the Holy Spirit fell on them, followed by speaking in tongues and prophesying, an outward expression of what had happened inwardly. Now, these guys clearly believed in the teaching of John and that there would be a Messiah. I confess that I don’t know all of what John taught, other than what I have read in the Bible, so did he tell that there would be a resurrected Messiah? I don’t know. My big question is, where those guys saved when only believing what they knew before Paul set them straight? They clearly didn’t have the Holy Spirit before then. (A lot could be said about the role of the Holy Spirit in the life of a believer, but I’ll leave that alone at this time.)
Next, my thoughts go to a phrase that Paul used, namely “being saved” (1 Corinthians 1:18, 1 Cor. 15:2). I hear and have even said that someone “got saved,” yet Paul says “being saved.” Now, here is my simple understanding of Christ. His death on the cross accomplished all that the Father demanded that we could not do. He defeated sin, Satan and death and saved those who would believe in Him and accept this payment as a substitution. Later, He demonstrated the acceptance of His sacrifice by the Father and His victory over death, but rising from the grave. So the believer is “saved.” However, inspired by the Holy Spirit, Paul says we are “being saved.” So, is this a case of already and not yet? I think so. We have been saved and are being saved through Sanctification. So, with this in mind, Matt’s idea that someone reading the beginning of John’s gospel gets saved in the third chapter makes some sense to me. But is their heart stirred with the beginnings of salvation, but not the full knowledge of the gospel? If their faith is true, will they not keep reading and then get to full knowledge by finishing the book of John? I don’t know. I do know that every time Paul refers to the gospel, he breaks it down to include the death, burial and resurrection of Christ.
I don’t know; I should probably leave this discussion to you guys. I think when God touches someone’s heart and opens it to His truth it won’t end with John 3:16, unless that person doesn’t make it out of the foxhole.
My question is, why would you even care about Christ or God the Father, Himself, without the Resurrection? It is the pivotal act that shows us God’s Love, Grace, Sacrifice and Renewal, by which we are saved from the wages of sin. Without it, there is really nothing spectacular to believe in – which is what I think Christianity is unique from every other religion.
Thomas Twitchell said:
“if you consider the thief on the cross.”
The thief on the cross said: “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” He believed in the resurrection, that’s clear. Scripture tells us that faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God. But Jesus tells us that hearing with understanding comes from being born from above. While it is true that regeneration precedes faith, faith intails certain knowledge. That is what it means that faith, i.e., the understanding into which we trust, comes by hearing. We have an informed faith. Can one be saved in the sense of regeneration and not know anything? Ask John the Baptist who was filled with the Spirit in the womb before anyone had ever taught him the Gospel. No the biblical meaning of saved is almost as broad as the definition of faith and the two can be used interchangeably at times. And salvation as you mentioned is prosessional, glory to glory, transformation moving toward consummation in the resurrect. So again, there is the reality that regeneration precedes understanding, it cannot be otherwise, and all who are regenerated will make it out of the womb. The question that is being asked which presupposes understanding, is can someone be saved and not believe in the resurrection. The answer is no, because the faith that we trust into to be saved is in the death and resurrection of Christ. There is no subdividing it. That, “If you cnnfess with you mouth Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God has raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” There is no alternative.
Isaac Johnson said:
This is some great discussion. It really makes me question what are the absolute essentials to the gospel. Part of me hates that question because all of God is essential. We don’t want a stripped to the bones gospel, we want a gospel in as much fullness as our bodies and our minds can grasp without exploding!
Yet, it is an important question at the same time because it causes us to answer the most essential question, what is salvation? Some will say that you cannot be saved if you don’t believe in the Trinity. Without the Trinity, you can’t understand the cross or the Son bearing the Father’s wrath. Some will say you can’t be saved without a reformed understanding of the scriptures, because you ultimately place salvation in your own hands and thus believe in a false gospel.
One question I keep running into is how to answer this knowing my own flaws. I know I have my understanding of the perfect scriptures is not perfect. I try to work the best with the mind God’s given me and the things I come to wrong conclusions about, I know his grace covers me.
So, what can I be misunderstood about while still having a saving relationship with Jesus Christ? I think the scriptures you (Barry) use from 1 Corinthians to back up your point really help us in this. Here Paul is giving us the essentials of our faith.
Definitely good food for thought.
According to the scriptures, faith in Christ and his resurrection are essential to salvation. At the same time, for God to place most human on earth without any opportunity to hear the gospel, and then condemn them to eternal hell for not receiving that gospel is incompatible with him being just, merciful and perfect. Some resolve this with the belief that those without the opportunity to hear and accept the gospel will be provided opportunity to repent and do so after this life.
Good thread on that here: http://www.theologyweb.com/campus/showthread.php?t=44123
That said, procrastinating repentance after you’ve heard the gospel is a very very bad idea.
Barry Wallace said:
Thanks for visiting and taking time to comment. I would like to deal with your comment in detail, but I will probably have to wait and devote an entire post to a response. Until then, I would encourage you to read Romans 1 and Romans 9 and 10. I believe a plain reading of those passages proves your conclusion wrong. In the mean time, if you would like to read a simple exposition of Romans 1 and 10, go here.
Barry Wallace said:
Where to begin? First, I want to thank all of you for participating in this discussion. It’s important, and I hope it continues.
Many of you have affirmed what I believe to be true, and you have added some excellent insights of your own. I won’t try to reply individually to every comment, but I greatly appreciate them all.
Since I only have a few minutes, and then I’ll be gone again until late tonight, I’ll try to respond briefly to just a few comments.
Thanks for coming over and joining the discussion. What I’m saying is this–that according to the New Testament, no one will be saved apart from hearing and believing the gospel, which includes the death of Christ for our sins, and his resurrection on the third day.
Let me try to approach your objection from a slightly different angle. It seems to me that you’re saying that you believe the resurrection is essential to the gospel, but that believing in the resurrection is not essential to salvation. The only logical conclusion you can come to, then, is that believing the gospel (which includes believing in the resurrection) is not essential to salvation.
Based on Romans 10, 1 Corinthians 15, Romans 1, and other passages, if we remove either the death of Christ for our sins, or his resurrection from the dead, we have gutted the gospel and thereby robbed it of its saving power.
I should note that my wife threw a token of support your way (see Shari’s comment). That’s worth something!
You make an important point: “Without an object of affection the affection is dead.” If we place our faith in any Jesus other than the resurrected, reigning Lord Jesus Christ, we have placed our faith in a dead prophet (even if dead only in our thoughts) or some other Jesus who has no power to save.
I think you’re right to point out that a person with a partial understanding of who Christ is may be in the process of coming to the point of faith, but it won’t end there if God is drawing that person to himself.
You’re right. This is not just an academic discussion. The integrity of the gospel, and the salvation of souls are at stake.
To all first-time commenters,
I’m thankful for your participation. I hope you will continue to share your thoughts in future discussions.
Mauri Austria said:
Good discussion…enjoyed reading all the responses. Thought I had a pretty clear view point…until I kept reading…then I had to really ponder the question…
I do agree with Barry in that “if we remove either the death of Christ for our sins, or his resurrection from the dead, we have gutted the gospel and thereby robbed it of its saving power.”. Well said.
Barry Wallace said:
Thanks for stopping by and commenting. It has been a helpful and thought-provoking discussion. Hope you all are doing well!
Matthew Svoboda said:
Wives are always better than the husbands… 😉
First, I want to say thanks to everyone in the discussion. I did not have my mind made up on this topic, which is why I asked more questions than tried to give answers.
To be honest, I think Shari, was on to something. I don’t think Thomas is right that it is CLEAR that the thief believed in the resurrection. He could of merely believed Jesus was who he said he was and that he was dying for the sins of the world. And to say that implies the resurrection is OBVIOUS is wrong because the apostles didnt even get it until the resurrection was over!!!!
What a stretch Matt. Read it. “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom…You will be with me today in Paradise.” Now I will grant that Christ’s physical body would not arrive till later, but the fact is He is saying that there is a real place where at least there is existence of an individual nature with which He will commune. So it is not that the theif only knew that Jesus was dying for his sins. Now this:
“And to say that implies the resurrection is OBVIOUS is wrong because the apostles didnt even get it until the resurrection was over!!!!”
For one, I agree in part. We don’t know when the disciples were regenerated. And Peter has a revelation from the Father and three of them behold the Lord in his glory. Something which is not true of the unregenerate. Now the catch. This man was not going to see the physical resurrection three days later. His revelation was more to the likeness of ours (for the time being). Still, the whole passage needs to be considered and if we follow the reasoning of the prophets, they too believed in the resurrection as coincidental with faith, Hebrews 11, esp v 39-40. This man had faith, and believed Jesus was coming into his kingdom (we don’t know that he was not aware of the Prophets) and the Lord confirms his faith with an oath. That being said, the disciples are a different case, and you’re right they don’t understand everything until he is resurrected. But, that has to do with their particular position in history, not the normal knowledge of faith. John the Baptist was “saved” in the womb, filled with the Holy Spirit. But there again, that is not the norm and he did not learn who Christ was until the baptism and then needs to ask again. And in reference to the post, we are not speaking of regeneration but of the condition of salvation as an implied personal knowledge of it, “necessary to believe.” The disciples didn’t know, in Truth. That I will also grant. In fact they ran. So did his mother, though she knew the prophecy. There were none who stood by him. But that is the point, it is a peculiar and isolated case for a specific purpose.
Again, we are not speaking to how one is saved, but what constitutes the knowledge of being saved. At least that is the way I took it. The thief knows at least that he will be with Christ and his impression of that is not denied but confirmed by Jesus. And, I agree, there is very little that we must know to be saved.
No big deal. Unlike the disciples, however, the thief was comforted. The prospect of death will not do that if you don’t know what awaits. Now for what purpose were the disciples afraid? So that the Scripture might be fulfilled: “You will all fall away because of me this night. For it is written, ‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.’” Different situation and conditions, so the two cases cannot be compared.
Jim Vellenga said:
As for the thief on the cross, all we have are his words. We know that at least among those who followed the Pharisees there was a belief in a coming resurrection (the Sadducees denied that but AFAIK the majority of the Jews would have sided with the Pharisees on this). The thief on the cross was likely a fellow Jew, although again we are not told that, but he certainly had an expectation of the coming kingdom and saw Jesus as the Messiah based on his words to Jesus while on the cross. He was no ignorant of the teachings of scripture, and Paul is clear in 1 Corinthians 15 that the resurrection of Jesus is in keeping with scripture. Stating he was unaware of this is to rip him out of the 1st century Jewish context and make the thief a 21st century pagan who knows nothing of God or the Bible. He likely had knowledge, it just did not seem to have taken root in his heart up to that point.
Here the setting helps. Both Jesus and the thief are on crosses. They are both about to die. He is expressing his belief in Jesus even though Jesus and he are hanging there waiting to die. If he was merely expecting Jesus to come down off the cross and be the sort of Messiah that the people were expecting (That is, a Messiah who would get rid of the Romans and return Israel to the glory days of David) I highly doubt that Jesus would have responded the way he did. It would seem much more likely that this thief did believe in the resurrection, albeit, not in the fullness that comes following Christ’s resurrection.
As for reading John and having to wait until the end to hit the resurrection, that is to forget that as early as John 2, Jesus starts to speak of his resurrection,
“Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” The Jews then said, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will you raise it up in three days?” But he was speaking about the temple of his body. When therefore he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this, and they believed the Scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken. John 2:19-22 (ESV)
Well Barry, I’m late to this and don’t have much to add save that I agree with your position, and a couple of brief points.
As for John 3:16 pulled from it’s context being enough to save someone – I hardly think so. Listen to what it says: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son…” who is this Son (it could be any Tom, Dick, or Harry) and what does it mean “gave”? “That whosoever believes in Him might not perish but have everlasting life.” (believes what about him?…) As much as we love this verse, it does not stand on it’s own and is not meant to. It can however be a beginning. I’ve heard of people being converted from hearing a Psalm, but always in a context where the gospel is preached. The Lord is the Author and finisher of our faith. If He begins a good work He will complete it. I think sometimes we go to far with these hypothetical scenarios. The Scriptures you’ve provided are quite clear as to what is the content of the Gospel.
As for the thief on the cross, one could argue that Jesus preached the resurrection right there; or one could argue that the thief was saved in the same manner as the O.T. believers, by faith God’s promise of a Savior. I tend toward the latter, that He believed the word of God spoken to him and his belief was reckoned to him as righteousness.
Matthew Svoboda said:
Good response. I enjoy thinking..
but the thief on the cross had a knowledge base…so he did know something.
Good post, made me think. 🙂
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I’m glad you pointed me to this post. It’s definitely something that I’m still thinking through. I’m reading McLaren’s Secret Message of Jesus and he rarely (ever?) mentions the resurrection, so this is something I’m mulling over. That said, I think it’s pretty important one or the other, so I’ll keep on talking about it. After all, it was Paul himself who said that if Christ wasn’t raised from the dead, we’re to be pitied. It’s definitely important to our faith!
Barry Wallace said:
Glad it made you think. Believing in the resurrection seems indispensable to salvation, in my opinion, if we take 1 Corinthians 15:1-4 at face value.
I am new to this forum and by the looks of the dates very late. Maybe no one will read this but hear it goes.
1. Thanks be to God who has provided his son to live, die in obedience to a loving father and be RAISED again for our justification. By his grace we are saved!
2. I came across this site as I have been studying the resurection. Some things I have found: the resurection is an essential element of the “faith that was once delivered to the saints. to be ignorant of it is to be “without hope” (until of course one believes it. consider 1 Thes 4 “But i would not have you to be ignorant of ….the resurection” It was the hope of Abraham for which he is commended in Hebrews 11 in reference to offering up His son Isaac. In Hebrews6:2, 5:12 Paul considers it a foundation/ first principle of faith.
If we deny or are ignorant of, or don’t know about the resurection, how can we know the Gospel. – Jesus said know the TRUTH and the truth shall set you free. Faith has a substance Hebrews 11:1-3 – therefore it seems that a simple reading of John 3:16 leaves out so much of Gods message of love. John 17:3 – this is life eternal to know God and Jesus – how can you just by reading 1 verse. God has given us the whole counsel of scripture.
Also some things that seem to be missed on the topic of resurection. – 1 Corinthians 15 makes it quite clear that the resurrection of Christ is fundamental as others have mentioned and Romans 6 shows clearly that Christs resurection and the belief in it is the basis of OUR hope in being resurected from the dead at the appearing of Christ when he comes to set up his kingdom. The reference to “the gospel thru these posts seems to be missing the main part Jesus talked about- the KINGDOM of God. so if this is left out then we are going to be wrong on the real significance of the resurection and therefore lacking in having the “Truth as it is in Jesus”.
These are just a few observations to which I am interested in hearing any thoughts.
Matt Svoboda said:
I really like the discussion here:
Here is my overall thought:
Someone can only read John chapter 3 and get saved. We have to be careful to say a person must believe: This, This, This, This, This, and This to be saved. What we can trust is that if God saves someone he will guide them into believing: This, This, This, This, This, and This.
Barry Wallace said:
Hey, Matt. Thanks for stopping by and commenting again. I still think it’s too nebulous to say that you can be saved simply by believing in Jesus, without specifying which Jesus that is.
At the risk of sounding redundant, I stand firmly by my original conviction:
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Matt Svoboda said:
I did specify which Jesus… The Jesus as revealed in John 3!
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I believe I am a Christian, but have suffered from doubts for a while. I have been on a crazy assurance ride for the last 5-6 years. I too grew up in a Christian home with great Christian parents (the older I get, the more I appreciate them!). I thought I was a good person. I thought that being a Christian meant being a good person, nice to people, never getting angry, committing the Dirty Dozen or Filthly Five etc. I too went through a period where God rattled my world by allowing doubt to begin to fill my mind as to whether I really was a Christian or not. I have been led to Reformed Theology (which I do believe is closest to the truth in many respects, and especially in salvation-related respects). There seems to be some very good evidence that I am indeed a Christian (love personal testimonies, baptisms, worship of God (corporate and individual), His Word, His church etc.). Prayers to God my Father pour from my soul and I want more than anything (presumably in my new man, the regenerated man empowered by The Holy Spirit) to be conformed more and more into the image of Jesus Christ. I can’t see how that could possibly be true of me if I were not a true believer.
I asked Jesus “into my life” when I was 5 years old, not really knowing what I was doing or why. I just knew my parents knew and loved Jesus and I probably should too. I responded to an altar call at an event in Junior High and was even brought to tears in the follow-up room. Every time an offer of The Gospel was made in my high school youth group, I always felt like I should raise my hand, but felt I could not b/c everyone already thought I was a Christian. I was considered one of the role models of the group and was asked more than once to represent the men/boys of the youth group after a missions trip to the whole congregation.
It was not until some things went down with my best friend that my world as I knew it began to really change. I couldn’t trust anyone anymore and I began to pull away from everyone. First my friends, then my family and church family. I was so ashamed and did not know what to do with it. At the very same time, Satan opened up an opportunity to become addicted to pornography (not an unusual practice/method I have come to understand since). That brought on a whole new level of guilt and slavery to sin I had never known before. It grew worse and worse until finally my senior year in college, I confessed to my best friend there my struggles and then my family (mom and dad included – to appropriate levels of disclosure with each) when I returned home for Christmas break. While home on that break, I even ended up going to a strip club, and it was then that I think I hit rock bottom. I cried out to God from my bed at my parents house “God, I can’t do this anymore. Please help me.” At that very moment, a peace that I cannot describe other than divine, covered and filled my anxious heart and mind. It felt warm and I was at peace, even though there was no real good reason to be, other than I had just prayed to God.
Now, I think that might have been when I was truly saved, but I am not sure. A desire for God’s Word was immediately birthed. It has been a struggle and a process since then. That was 12 years ago (I am 34 now).
I came across this blog post b/c I typed “Is it necessary to believe in the resurrection of Jesus for salvation?” The reason I ask is b/c Romans 10:9 seems to certainly suggest it as well as (I thought before, now I am not so sure) Colossians 2:11-12 (I am not sure at this point what Paul is referring to when he says “in which you were also raised up with Him through faith in the working of God” – I am not sure what “working of God” he is referring to – the death of Christ on the cross, or His resurrection).
In any event, I believe the Bible to be God’s Word. I believe it is true. I trust it. But, there is a part of me that opposes every work of God in me, including belief. Every new truth that God plants in my heart as precious has to be fought for. It does not happen without a war. I think I believe in the resurrection of Jesus, but do I really? And if not, am I really even saved?
Just some Q’s I have. Your blog is a blessing.
Peace in Jesus
Barry Wallace said:
Kevin, before I attempt to answer your questions I want to thank you for taking the time to post such a sincere and personal comment. I found it very touching. The next thing I would like to say is that, based on what you’ve told me, I would agree with you that there is good evidence that Christ is at work in your heart, producing the kind of fruit that can only be a result of his grace.
The last (and, to my mind, most important) thing I have to say is that it doesn’t seem unusual, either in Scripture or in my own experience, for doubt and genuine faith to coexist in some measure. A couple of biblical examples come to mind. One is the man in Mark 9 who brought his demon possessed son to Jesus. Jesus told the man, “Everything is possible for one who believes.” Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” (v. 23-24). Clearly he both believed and struggled with unbelief simultaneously, and yet, despite his struggle, Jesus granted his request. The other example comes from a critical point in redemptive history, and may be more pertinent to your own struggle. Jesus had risen from the dead, and his disciples knew it. They had seen him, and believed. He was about to command them to go into all the world and make disciples. Yet, “as the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go… they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted.” (Matt 28:16-17). After all they’d seen and believed, even some of his closest followers struggled with doubt.
I’m not sure that’s a great answer, or if it’s much help to you, but it seems to me that your struggle is not much different than theirs, and not much different than the struggle I and others have had at one time or another. The struggle does not necessarily mean that genuine faith is missing. I think you made a simple yet profound observation near the end of your comment: “Every new truth that God plants in my heart as precious has to be fought for. It does not happen without a war.” That is probably just as it should be. I encourage you to continue to “fight the good fight of the faith.” (1 Tim. 6:12)
Thank you Barry for your gracious reply. It was definitely encouraging.
Thank you also for the Scripture passage you shared at the end of your blog entry (1 Tim. 6.12). That too was encouraging. I will keep pressing on until Christ calls me home or He comes back!
Peace in Jesus
Derek Ashton said:
I am a friend of Barry’s, and a longtime reader of this blog. I wanted to share a few thoughts . . .
What you describe is not uncommon. Most (if not all) believers struggle with assurance at times. Some great saints have struggled intensely and for long periods.
Peter, in his second letter, begins by admonishing us to make our “calling and election sure.” So your quest for assurance is a worthwhile and Biblical endeavor. Peter connects assurance to our spiritual growth (v. 5-9), but he sees that growth as rooted in God’s great and precious promises (v. 4), and dependent upon our having a clear sight of purification from past sins (v. 9). He sees our sharing in God’s promises as rooted in the fact that we know Christ and receive from Him “everything for life and godliness” (v. 3). Notably, he ends the letter by exhorting us to “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.” (3:18)
So I would encourage you to focus intently on the redemptive work of Christ (including the resurrection), and what Christ accomplished at the cross. Preach the Gospel to yourself daily! Remind your own heart of the grace of God in Christ. Then ask yourself, “Do I know I am a sinner? Do I know God is gracious to sinners? On what basis is He gracious to them? Am I standing in the place He has prescribed to receive this grace?” Ongoing repentance and faith are evidence of God’s work. Perfection (doctrinal or otherwise) is not. In fact, belief in one’s own perfection this side of eternity is a sign of deep trouble. That said, we must cling tenaciously to the truth of the Word of God – for it is our LIFE.
Does God ever prevail in your soul struggles? If He truly wins once, He will ultimately win forever! There may be losses in the meantime. You may find your heart cold and your mind unruly. You WILL find your flesh hates and resists Him. You will notice that you are still in some ways a sinner, and feel very uncomfortable about it. In fact, you’ll hate it. If your response to all of that is ongoing repentance and faith, there is much reason to rejoice! What will happen if you stop repenting and trusting? The same thing that will happen to any believer: stagnation, loss of joy, and a hardened heart. Keeping on persistently in that direction is evidence that one never believed. But there is no need for that to be you.
As far as the resurrection of Christ, it is wise to ask yourself if you truly believe in it. Settle the matter in your own heart, and move forward in faith.
I hope this is encouraging. My own testimony has some similarities to yours. I found much assurance and rest in Psalm 32, and I still turn there in times of doubt. In that connection, you might find the following articles encouraging: http://theoparadox.blogspot.com/search/label/Psalm%2032
Thanks for taking the time to listen to a brother who has, in some ways, been there.
Blessings in Christ,
Thank you Derek. I appreciate your help and insight as well. I needed the encouragement you both gave me today.
Thank you and Peace in Jesus!