Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
NUMBER 44, PAGE 3a-5b

What Must Men Believe To Be Saved?


The question that heads this article may seem like a very foolish and needless one to many, but I am sure that the importance of and need for studying it will appear as we seek the answer. If this question should be correctly answered and accepted by all religious people it would mean the end of religious divisions. Would that not be a grand objective?

In Mark 16:16, Jesus said: ". . . . he that believeth not shall be damned." Here we see the absolute necessity of believing. Jesus plainly says that one who does not believe will be damned. In fact, in another place (John 3:18.) Jesus said: ". . . . he that believeth not is condemned already." There can be no question about this — one must believe in order to be saved and one who does not believe is already under condemnation. There are many other passages which also set forth this truth. For example these: "Without faith it is impossible to please God .. ." (Heb. 11:6.) "For if ye believe not that I am he, ye shall die in your sins." (John 8:24.) These scriptures abundantly teach that one cannot be saved without faith, and this fact is almost universally accepted by religious people. Nothing is taught any clearer and no one believes it any more than I.

Since we have seen the necessity of believing to be saved, the question heading this article naturally follows: "What must men believe to be saved?" This is a very important matter and here is where many are confused. It is not a question of whether or not one must believe, this has already been established; but what is it that they must believe? This is an entirely different matter and needs the most careful and honest study. Jesus said: "He that believeth not shall be damned," and since I do not want to be condemned I am most anxious to determine exactly what it is that Jesus requires that I believe.

The need for this study is evident to everyone who is familiar with the religious condition of the world. That there are thousands of people in churches today who, as members of the various churches, cannot for their very life tell what they believe. This is evident to all. Usually the reason is that they do not believe anything definitely or positively. They have just joined some church and committed themselves to it without the slightest idea as to when it started, who started it or what it teaches. Of course, real faith does not govern the action of such people. They cannot tell you why they are what they are religiously. Many are members of this church or that church because their parents belonged to it, and they have just blindly followed them. Others may join some church because it is the most popular and prominent in town. They think that it will lift them up socially or that perhaps it will be good for business. Certainly people who act from these motives do not know what the church teaches and seemingly do not care. One may join a church because his wife is a member; or, for any other of a dozen reasons except the one and only reason that should prompt a person in such action — faith. One cannot have faith in that for which a church stands until he knows what it teaches and practices. This in brief describes the general condition of the religious world and shows why such a multiplicity of contrary doctrines and practices have been accepted by people today. Many different answers would be given if the question heading this article should be asked among religious people today. That is neither the place nor the way to find the answer to this paramount question.

Let us turn to the New Testament and seek the answer. The answer is made abundantly clear by the great commission given by Christ to his apostles, as recorded in Mark 16:15-16. "And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned." Jesus here charged his apostles to "preach the gospel." Then he said: "He that believeth . ." He that believeth what? Why he that believeth the gospel, of course. The gospel is what Jesus commanded his apostles to preach, and it is what men are required to believe. Can anyone doubt this obvious truth? That is the reason Jesus wanted it preached to all the world — so men could hear it and believe it, for "faith cometh by hearing and hearing by the word of God." Keep this fact in mind while we advance a step further.

It is true that men must believe the gospel to be saved and he that believeth not shall be damned, but now we find another problem; namely this: Do not all preachers of all religious groups profess to preach the gospel and yet they all preach and practice things contradictory one to the other? Everyone knows this is true. One preacher will preach one thing and another preacher will preach something different, yet they both claim that they are preaching the gospel. In view of all the different and contradictory doctrines taught in the religious world, how can one know just what the gospel is and who is preaching it? This a real and perplexing problem for many people. They do not know how to go about finding out. They just cannot tell and some even refuse to make a try at it. Common sense tells them that all cannot be right, but not knowing which nor how to tell, they have just accepted the easy way out with the philosophy that it does not matter anyway. With such an attitude one will never find the answer to the question and upon a true answer rests the destiny of our souls. Look at the situation: One must believe the gospel to be saved, but with all the different doctrines which are being advanced as the gospel, how can one tell what the gospel is and who is teaching it?

Just here it might be well to observe that the Lord will not approve or accept any kind of change in the gospel, either by preacher or hearer, nor will he accept any other gospel. Paul severely condemned some at Galatia (Gal. 1:6-9.)' for having accepted a perverted gospel. The curse of God rests upon anyone who preaches a perverted gospel and the one deceived into accepting such cannot be saved by it. It behooves us, therefore, to be certain that we have not become the victims of a perverted gospel. We must study and investigate with earnest, honest care. (1 Thess. 5:21; 1 John 4:1.)

In view of the confusion in the religious world, let us see if we can find a standard by which the test may be made to see what the gospel is and who is preaching it. Some pointed questions dealing with the heart of the matter should help us to learn what is the truth about this.

Does a man claim to be preaching the gavel when he is preaching Baptist doctrine? If he is, then the Lord says: "He that believeth not shall be damned." Everyone, therefore, would have to believe Baptist doctrine to be saved. Are the peculiar and distinctive doctrines and practices of the Baptist church a part of the gospel? Let us find out by asking the Baptists themselves. Ask the Baptist preacher if one must believe Baptist doctrine to be saved. He will frankly admit that one does not have to believe Baptist doctrine or be a member of the Baptist church to be saved; at least, all Baptists I have ever known admit this. They believe that there are Christians in all churches and whether one believes or does not believe Baptist doctrine will not effect his salvation. So here is a necessary conclusion: A man cannot be a Christian (be saved) and not believe the gospel. But Baptists themselves freely admit that a man can be a Christian and not believe Baptist doctrine for they say there are saved people in all churches. Therefore, Baptist doctrine is not the gospel or any part thereof. Let us put it in another form:

(1) A man cannot be saved who does not believe the gospel of Christ.

(2) But one can be saved without believing Baptist doctrine.

(3) Therefore, Baptist doctrine is not the gospel nor any part of that which one must believe to be saved! That conclusion is inevitable. Baptist doctrine is not the gospel of Christ, and must be a perverted gospel. What else can one make of it? They admit that one doe; not have to believe what they preach (Baptist doctrine) or be a member of the Baptist church. Yet they insist with the rest of us that one must believe the gospel. It looks like anyone could tell that there is a distinct difference between the two. Baptist doctrine is not Bible doctrine — the gospel. It takes something other than the gospel of Christ to make a Baptist. Obedience to the gospel of Christ never made anyone a Baptist. Before judging that conclusion to be harsh and untrue, it would be well to give it some serious thought.

The same standard may be used to test the peculiar teaching of any religious group. It proves the same thing regarding the doctrine of the Methodist, Presbyterian, Nazarene, Lutheran and other denominations. Take as a further example, the Methodist church. Methodists freely admit that one does not have to believe Methodist doctrine in order to be saved; but they do acknowledge that one must believe the gospel to be saved. What other conclusion can be reached but that the gospel and Methodist doctrine are two distinct things; one of which must be believed to be saved, but belief in the other is not necessary. Methodist doctrine is not the gospel. Obedience to the gospel, therefore, does not make one a Methodist; it taks the peculiar, unnecessary doctrine of that church to make Methodists. In the New Testament we read of people believing and obeying the gospel of Christ and that was long before there was any such thing as a denomination of the modern kind upon this earth. In the New Testament we do not read of anyone ever becoming a member of the Baptist, Methodist, Presbyterian, Catholic, Lutheran or any other such church or denomination. Yet we do find that they believed and obeyed the gospel of Christ. Hence, we should see that believing and obeying the gospel never made anyone a member of any denomination. Those who believed and obeyed the gospel of Christ were members of a church to be sure, but they were members of the church of Christ — the one he built; the one of which he is the head; the one of which he is the savior; the one he purchased with his own blood; and the one we read about in the New Testament. (Matt. 16:18; Eph. 1:22-23; 5:23-25; Acts 20:28.) All the saved were in that church; in fact, that is what the church is. (Acts 2:47.)

"But," says someone, "what about the church of Christ, doesn't it prove the same thing regarding them?" Now that is a reasonable question and demands a fair answer. Let it be observed first, that every item of the fundamental faith of that church can be read upon the pages of the New Testament, and must, therefore, be believed. Now before one says that this is a broad statement and not true, let him be sure that he has really investigated. Do not go by "hear-say" or what you may think of the church of Christ. Let someone point out any item of faith and practice of the New Testament which the church of Christ fails to observe. In short, show where the church of Christ is at variance with God's word in any matter of faith and practice. Our desire is above all things to follow the word of the Lord without addition or substraction. If one should point out wherein we fail to do this, he would be a friend indeed. Our aim is to speak where the Bible speaks and be silent where it is silent; to call Bible things by Bible names and do Bible things in the Bible way. Surely following such a rule can but lead us into believing and obeying the gospel of Christ only. If it is true, and we verily believe that it is, that every item of faith and practice of churches of Christ is authorized by the New Testament, then it follows that the church of Christ preaches the gospel of Christ — the thing all men must believe to be saved.

Christ commanded his disciples to go into all the world and preach the gospel, the good news that he, the risen Christ, is ready and willing to save all men from their sins. Although the salvation which Christ gives is offered to all men, only those who believe and obey his gospel will receive it. Man must not only believe the gospel, he must also obey the commands given therein. Obedience is essential. Christ is the author of, eternal salvation unto "all them that obey him." (Heb. 5:8-9.) The work of preaching the gospel was to begin in Jerusalem (Luke 24:46-57.) and it is there that we may learn from him who had the keys of the kingdom (Matt. 16:19.) just what the Lord expected of men. (Acts 2:1-41.) These people heard Jesus proclaimed as both Lord and Christ and it produced faith in them that he was the Son of God. Because of this they said: "what shall we do?" They were not saved by "faith only" for they realized that there was something they "must do." Peter answered them as follows: "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 Ghost." (V. 38.) That is a plain answer and not hard to be understood. From all of this we learn that men must believe in Christ, repent of their sins, and be baptized in order to have their sins remitted. Remission of sins follows baptism in God's plan. The record saps: "They that gladly received the word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls." (V. 41.) Here is the New Testament plan of salvation set out for us in a plain example. This is the plan of salvation for people today. Since God is no respecter of persons, if one today believes and obeys the same as they did, such will make him just exactly what it made them then; he can have today what they had then; be a member of the same church of which they were a member then. That is God's way — and there is no other. For this alone we plead and this alone we preach. Have you obeyed God or men?