Sayings of Jesus

'Except a man be born again'

'He that believeth..'
'I am the Bread of Life'
'I am the resurrection and the life'
'I am the true vine'
'Salvation is of the Jews'
'You are my friends if..'
 

'He that believeth ..'

As we continue to look at the sayings of Jesus we now find ourselves considering the well known phrase ‘He that believeth ...‘ This phrase occurs some seventeen times in thirteen different verses in the New Testament. Of the thirteen verses eight occurrences are the words of Christ himself Before we look in detail at some of these verses we would benefit from gaining a clearer understanding of the meaning of this phrase and in particular the word ‘believeth'. The Greek noun, ‘pistis' (faith), is related to the verb ‘pisteuo' (to have faith, trust, believe). Classical Greek used ‘pistis' and ‘pisteuo' to mean ‘trust' or ‘confidence'.

BELIEF IN ACTION

Rarely if ever do we use the word ‘believe' in isolation. It is normally linked in some way to that which is believed. This could be as simple as ‘I believe that what you have said is correct'. This leads us to ask what is the title phrase of our study here linked to? One example can be found in John's Gospel: ‘He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life'. (John 3:36) However, this poses yet another question in that we now have to decide what believing on the Son really means. As always there is an answer in the pages of Scripture. We read ‘Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father'. (John 14:12) This suggests that belief, or as we discovered earlier, faith, is accompanied by action of some kind. As we move through the verses containing the words we are studying we see several references to believing ‘on' or ‘in' Jesus. ‘He that believeth on him is not condemned' (John 3:18) or ‘He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life'. (John 3:36)

These are references to Jesus, reinforcing the importance of believing in him. Many churches and religious groups teach that all that is necessary to be saved is to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ.

They quote the two verses above along with others such as ‘He that believeth on him is not condemned; but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God' (John 3:18)

As such, these are encouraging words especially in such times of global distress and strife as we are now experiencing all around us. But is that all we have to do? Is simply believing in Jesus sufficient? We find the answer in some words from Jesus himself. ‘He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned'. (Mark 16:16) In this verse Jesus is making a clear and specific statement that action has to accompany belief if we are to be saved. It is most definitely true that God wishes to provide a means of escape from the clutches of death. In order for this to happen He has set some simple and straightforward requirements for us to comply with. The first is that we must believe in him and then, following belief we must be baptized. This tells us that both belief and baptism are interconnected and that either one alone is not enough. Belief, coming from study and knowledge of the Scriptures is needed. This is then followed by the act of baptism.

This is clearly reinforced in the Acts where Philip is told to approach the chariot of a eunuch who was reading the Scriptures:

‘And Philip ran thither to him, and heard him read the prophet Esaias, and said, Understandest thou what thou readest? and he said, How can I, except some man should guide me? And he desired Philip that he would come up and sit with him. The place of the scripture which he read was this, He was led as a sheep to the slaughter; and like a lamb dumb before his shearer, so opened he not his mouth: in his humiliation his judgment was taken away: and who shall declare his generation? for his life is taken from the earth. And the eunuch answered Philip, and said, I pray thee, of whom speaketh the prophet this? of himself, or of some other man? Then Philip opened his mouth, and began at the same scripture, and preached unto him Jesus.' (Here we are reminded of the learning process that is the first step toward belief), ‘And as they went on their way, they came unto a certain water; and the eunuch said, See, here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptized?" (Acts 8:30-38)

THE IMPORTANCE OF BAPTISM

Having been shown from the pages of Scripture, the eunuch recognised the next step and demonstrated both an appreciation and a willingness to take action based on the teachings of God's Word which he now believed:

‘And Philip said, If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest. And he answered and said, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God." (Acts 8:37)

Philip reminded the eunuch that belief has to be deep and sincere - Not a mere intellectual understanding but a complete deep seated belief that comes from the heart. Just as an aside it is interesting to note that the passage the eunuch was reading was about the sacrifice of Jesus. This would have given Philip an excellent means of introducing the things relating to Christ and his teaching.

Whilst this is a rather lengthy consideration of this passage in Acts it does paint a very clear picture of the sequence of events which we can summarise as follows:

  • Reading of the Scriptures

  • Coming to an understanding of their meaning

  • Believing with all one's heart

  • Baptism

Each is an essential element that cannot be overlooked. Philip did not simply ask the eunuch if he believed and then left it at that. He explained the words of Scripture that he was reading and then moved on and ‘...preached unto him Jesus...' What happened next is very interesting. The scripture tells us that it was the eunuch rather than Philip who said ‘See, here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptized?' Clearly he recognised that belief had to be followed by baptism.

Other pages of Scripture are reminders that the act of baptism took place, sometimes on a very large scale. The Apostle Peter, having told a very large group of people about the coming kingdom of God, was asked by the people what they should do:

‘Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.' (Acts 2:38)

We learn that the people:

"that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls.' (Acts 2:38)

The message of Scripture is simple, but we must be cautious not to oversimplify and remove its main teaching. To just say that we need only to believe in order to be saved is to remove an important element, that of baptism. On the other hand, to add unnecessary conditions, is to place a barrier before those who seek a place in God's kingdom. Peter, Philip and of course Jesus himself wanted to bring the message to as many people as would listen. They made it very plain as to what was required - belief and baptism. There is little doubt that Peter would not have told, and then baptized, several thousand people were it not necessary or just optional. In the same way, had belief been sufficient on its own Philip would not have led the Eunuch into the waters of baptism.

A REWARDING JOURNEY

Human nature is such that there is a degree of reluctance to accept what is put before us. However if we seek a place at the side of Christ when he returns to establish peace in this troubled world we have to put aside our personal preferences and simply do as the Scripture states, to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and all that he represents and then show the required humility and step into the waters of baptism. Having done so we will be embarking on the most rewarding journey of our lives, filled with both challenges and joys that shall, as God has promised, result in the most wonderful gift of all, everlasting life and a place in his glorious kingdom. We encourage you to open your pages of Scripture and, with an open mind, read it, accept and believe its teaching of hope and salvation, and then follow in the footsteps of those of whom we have read and step into the waters of baptism. Let us not lose sight of the fact that Jesus said clearly ‘He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned'. (Mark 16:16)

So now we see that we have a thread linking thought with action. We have belief followed by baptism which results in ‘being saved'. This takes our thinking into the next part, that of clarifying what ‘being saved' actually means. There can be little doubt that if there is one thing mankind wants to be saved from, it is the clutches of death.

It is the certainty of death that ‘being saved' in this context refers to. Baptism ‘in Christ' associates us with the death of Christ. In Colossians we read that we are:

‘Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead. And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses; Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross.' (Colossians 2:12-14)

So here we can see the connection with Christ in his death, the removal or washing away of sin through the waters of baptism and the new start that we have when rising from the waters.

Paul in his letter to the Romans has some words to strengthen this point: ‘For sin shall not have dominion over you ... Being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness'. (Romans 6:14.18)

THE PROMISE OF SALVATION

We need also to understand that entering into the waters of baptism is the first, and vital, step in our new life. Having been cleansed from our sins we need to constantly work hard to avoid repeating our sins. We are frail human beings and, unlike Christ, we shall give in to temptation. In fact the Greek verb that we translate as ‘saved' is often used to suggest an ongoing action. We have to continually strive to resist the many temptations that are before us. We can take comfort from the fact that we have a loving and caring God who is aware of our weaknesses and is willing to forgive us. After all, He gave His only Son that we might be saved, a very clear indication of the depth of His love for us. If only we will acknowledge our sins and genuinely repent we will be forgiven and be able to enjoy the salvation promised to us. Salvation, whilst promised at baptism, does not occur immediately, but rather at the time of Christ's coming when we face his judgment seat. Our salvation is conditional. We have to hold on to the true faith as mentioned in the letter to the Hebrews: ‘For we are made partakers of Christ, if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast unto the end'. (Hebrews 3:14)

In other words, we must not give up but be diligent and never ending in our efforts to resist temptation, holding on to the teaching of the Scriptures concerning our behaviour and way of life in Christ.

In summary, in order to be saved, we must:

  • Read the Bible and understand its vital message

  • Believe in the teachings of Christ and the hope of salvation offered through him

  • Enter the waters of baptism to wash away our sins and ‘die with Christ'

  • Commit ourselves wholeheartedly to leading a life in accordance with scriptural principles.

Are you saved according to these principles?

 

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