Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
December 5, 1963
NUMBER 31, PAGE 1,11-13

What Does It Mean To Believe In Christ?

Jack L. Holt

That one must believe in Christ to be saved is a truth generally accepted.

Many passages of scripture could be presented to sustain this but two of the more familiar ones will suffice: "For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish but have everlasting life." (John 3:16), and "Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ." (Rom. 5:1) There is rather general agreement in so-called "Christendom" to the fact that men are justified or saved by faith but this agreement does not extend to what is involved in salvation by faith. The majority of people do not know what it means to believe in Christ.

Many contend for salvation by faith alone, thus do not accept the plain teaching of other passages. To contend for salvation by faith alone, one can not accept such statements as: "Ye see then how that by works a man is justified and not by faith only" (James 2:24); "....though he were a son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered; and being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey Him." (Hcb. 5:8, 9)

When the full teaching of God on the subject is considered, it is evident that while we are saved or justified by faith, we are not saved or justified by faith alone. We are saved when we believe, but believing alone is not the belief that saves. In the interest of our souls, we need to know what it means to believe in Christ.

To Believe Christ Means To Believe His Word

In Mark 16:15, 16, Jesus said, ".... 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." These verses teach that the gospel must be preached, and that gospel which is preached must be believed. Paul declared, "I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ; for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth to the Jew first and also to the Greek." (Rom. 1:16) Hence, one is saved by believing in Christ; but to believe in Christ one must believe the word of Christ. To believe Christ is to believe His word, and to reject Christ is to reject His word. (John 12:48)

Belief in Christ is not merely believing something about Christ, but believing what Christ has said. Belief in Christ will lead the believer to obey Christ even though he may see no connection between the acts performed and the end to be accomplished. There was no apparent connection between God's instruction to Israel to march around Jericho for seven days, and the walls falling; but when they walked and fulfilled the commands of God the walls fell. (See Joshua 6.) When Naaman was told (2 Kings 5:10) to go dip seven times in the river Jordan to be healed of his leprosy, there was no connection between the act to be performed and the end to be reached that appealed to human reason; but he was not healed until he dipped. The blind man (John 9:6, 7) could not see any connection between the clay, the washing, and the healing. But after he washed he stated: "....One thing I know, that whereas I was blind, Now I see." (John 9:25)

To Believe In Christ Means To Trust In Christ

True belief in God will always lead one to trust in God. Joshua believed in God and thus trusted his arrangements for the fall of Jericho. When Naaman was led to rely on God's way rather than in his own thoughts he was healed. When the blind man demonstrated his trust in Christ he came away seeing. Until one will completely trust in God and allow God to direct his steps he does not have faith in God. Our faith is often tried when it is brought face to face with the plain statements of the Lord. Jesus said, "He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; he that believeth not shall he damned." (Mark 16:16) If we really believe in Christ and trust Him, will we believe what this passage teaches or will we believe something else? How can we believe Christ and refuse to believe what He said? Let us put it like this:

Jesus said, "He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved."

Men say, "He that believeth and is not baptized shall be saved."

Now a question: "Which of the foregoing will we believe if we believe Christ?" Remember in John 3:16, we read: "....Whosoever believeth on Him shall not perish but have eternal life." But how can we believe on Him and refuse to believe what He said? Do we really believe and trust Christ when we reject his teaching for the teaching of man?

Could Naaman have been cleansed without dipping? Would the walls of Jericho have fallen without the marching? Would the blind man have been healed without the washing? Then why contend that one can obtain the life that is in Christ without believing and obeying Christ?

But it may be said, "If we must be baptized to be saved then we look to the water for salvation; our trust is in the water, not Christ." This is strange reasoning. When Israel marched around Jericho, did they trust in the marching or in the one who commanded it? When Naaman dipped in Jordan did he trust in Jordan or in God? After his dipping and cleansing Naaman said, "Now I know that there is no God in all the earth but in Israel." (2 Kings 5:15) Whenever one believes in Christ, and trusts His word, and is baptized in obedience to the Lord's teaching, does he trust in water or in Christ?

The issue is not can God save without water, but does He? It is not a question of God's power but of God's plan. God's power to save is revealed in God's plan to save. This plan is the Gospel. (Rom. 1:16) The Gospel saves the one who believes it. Could Jesus have healed the blind man without water? But since he put water between him and his healing, could he have been healed without it? Since Jesus put water between the sinner and his salvation, can the sinner have salvation without it? As the blind man did not see until he complied with the conditions of cleansing, so we are not saved until we meet the conditions of salvation. In Mark 16:16, Jesus conditions salvation on belief and baptism. The belief of His statement will lead us to obey and this belief will save. The disbelief of the statement will condemn us — for "he that believeth not shall be damned." Do we believe Jesus when he said, "He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved," or do we disbelieve Him?

To Believe In Christ Is To Be Baptized Into Christ

We may learn from a number of passages that belief in Christ leads to baptism into Christ. In Acts 19:5, Paul said to some in Ephesus, "that they should believe on him which should come after him, that is on Christ Jesus." Paul preached the necessity of belief in Christ. This is preaching John 3:16. But what did they do when they heard this preaching? Did they believe? If so, what was involved in their believing? The next verse states, "when they heard this they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus." The preaching of the belief of John 3:16, led those who believed, to the baptism of Mark 16:16. When they believed on the Christ of John 3:16, they were baptized as taught by Christ in Mark 16:16. This is belief in Christ. Hence, when true preachers preach Christ they will preach baptism, and when one truly believes Christ he will be baptized into Christ. If Paul did not preach baptism into Christ when he preached Christ, how do we explain the fact that when these men at Ephesus believed Christ they were baptized? Now does one believe in Christ if he rejects the baptism of Christ?

Another example is found in Acts 8:12. "But when they believed Philip preaching the things concerning the kingdom of God, and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized both men and women." The Bible very expressly states that when they believed they were baptized. Friends, can we believe in Christ and refuse to he baptized? In Acts 18:8 we read: "And Crispus, the chief ruler of the synagogue, believed on the Lord with all his house; and many of the Corinthians hearing, believed and were baptized." Thus the word of God emphasizes the truth that when one believes in Christ he will be baptized into Christ.

To Believe In Christ Is To Accept Christ

It is often said that all one needs to do to be saved is accept Christ as his personal savior. But what does it mean to accept Christ? Is this just some acceptance of His person? A mere belief in Him as God's Son? One receives Christ when he receives the word of Christ and obeys it. Christ saves when we receive Him, but James said: "Receive with meekness the engrafted word, which is able to save your souls." (James 1:21) Have we accepted the word of Christ? Notice a contrast:

Christ — "....baptism doth also now save us." (1 Peter 3:21)

Christ — "He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved." (Mark 16:16)

Men — "....baptism doth not save us."

Men — "He that believeth and is not baptized shall be saved."

In view of the foregoing contrast, which statement will we accept if we accept Christ? Can one accept Christ as His Savior while rejecting the conditions of salvation offered by the Savior?

To Believe In Christ Is To Obey Christ

To obey Christ simply means to do what Christ has authorized. It is a mistake to assume that every one who claims to act in the name of Christ is obeying Christ. Nothing can be done for Christ that He has not authorized. The only way to believe Christ is to believe what He has said, and the only way to obey Him is to do what He commands. This truth is set forth by the Lord in Matthew 7:21-23, "Not everyone that saith unto me Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? And in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you; depart from me, ye that work iniquity." The Lord speaks here of some who did something in religion. They claimed to work in the name of Christ, yet Jesus rejected the works and the workers! Truly "we ought to obey God rather than men." (Acts 5:29)

To further see that belief in Christ means obedience to Christ, let us read John 3:36 in the ASV. "He that believeth on the Son hath eternal life; but he that obeyeth not the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abideth on Him." In order to have eternal life we must obey the Son, and if we obey the Son, we must do what the Son teaches. "Why call ye me Lord, Lord, and do not the things I say?" (Luke 6:46)

Disobedience Is Unbelief To disobey Christ is to disbelieve Christ. The Old Testament reveals that disobedience to God is disbelief of God. God said to Moses, "take the rod, and gather thou the assembly together, thou, and Aaron thy brother and speak ye to the rock before their eyes; and it shall give forth his water and thou shalt bring forth to them water out of the rock." (Num. 20:8) But Moses took the rod and smote the rock twice. As a result of this act God said: "Because ye believed me not to sanctify me in the eyes of Israel, therefore, ye shall not bring this congregation into the land which I have given unto them." (v. 12) Moses was guilty of the sin of unbelief. Why? Did He not believe in God? and that He rewards those who seek Him? Surely Moses believed this. He was guilty of unbelief on this occasion because he failed to do what God commanded him to do. Moses acted; he acted in behalf of the people, but all was vain because what he did was not what God told him to do. In this case Moses did not trust in God but in his own way. As a result his act did not bring him any blessing from God, nor make him acceptable to God. God blesses and accepts the faith that obeys.

To Believe In Christ Is To Work The Works Of Christ

James said: "Ye see then how that by works a man is justified and not by faith only." (James 2:24) What does it mean to be justified by works? It does not mean that one is saved by a faith in works, but by a faith that works. This is the only faith that avails. In Gal. 5:6, Paul said: "For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth anything, nor uncircumcision; but faith which worketh by love." A faith that works by love will keep God's commandments. Jesus declared, "if ye love me ye will keep my commandments." (John 14:15, ASV) To keep the commandments of God is to work the righteousness of God and this makes one acceptable with God. Peter stated, "Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons: but in every nation he that feareth him and worketh righteousness is accepted with him." (Acts 10:34-35) One who really believes is accepted with Christ. But those who work righteousness are accepted with Him, Hence, those who work righteousness are the ones who really believe.

It is often asserted that in being saved man is to be wholly passive. The theory is that if a sinner performs any works at all in being saved then his salvation is by works rather than by faith. Eph. 2:8-9, is often cited in proof of this. This passage reads, "For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God; Not of works, lest any man should boast." It is freely admitted that salvation is not obtained by the works mentioned in this passage. The works excluded here are the works whereof one may boast. But let it be noted that if the sinner is saved without any works at all he is saved without faith for faith itself is a work. In answer to the question of the Jews, "What shall we do, that we might work the works of God?" Jesus replied, "This is the work of God that ye believe on Him whom he bath sent." (John 6: 28-29) These passages clearly teach that faith is a work of God. A work that He has assigned to man. God assigns it; man is to perform it. Can a man be saved without faith? Then he cannot be saved without works for faith is a work.

The whole idea in Eph. 2:8-9 is that while we are saved by grace through faith, we are not saved by works whereof one may boast, If one could live a perfect life, then God owes him salvation as a debt. His salvation would then be of works, not of grace, and he would have room to boast. But the Bible teaches, "all have sinned and come short of the glory of God." (Rom, 3:23) As sinners we all need God's grace. But God's grace is reached only through the exercise of our faith. (Rom. 5:2) Grace is God's part, faith is our part. Salvation is a divine-human contract. On God's part it is grace, He provides the salvation and reveals how to obtain it. On our part it is faith, and our faith must appropriate it. When a sinner comes to God and in humble penitence submits to His will and upon the basis of his obedience is cleansed from his sins by the blood of Christ, he has no grounds for boasting, but grounds for thanking God for being merciful to him.

We are saved by our belief when our belief leads us to work the works of God. Baptism originated with God, and when we obey Him in baptism we perform His works, The works of faith always correspond to the nature of faith. Since the faith that saves comes by hearing the word of God, the works of faith that justify us before God also comes by that word. The works of faith are those works God has revealed in the rule of faith, the Gospel. Only when we do what God says do we do a work of faith. Thus to go beyond the bounds of faith is to go beyond God. (2 John 9)

To Believe In Christ Means To Be Justified By Faith In Romans 5:1, Paul teaches, "Therefore being justified by faith we have peace with God." What is involved in the expression, "by faith"? Does it merely mean to believe that God is? It certainly does not mean, "faith only," for James teaches, "Ye see then how that by works a man is justified and not by faith only." (Jas. 2:24) In Hebrews 11, Paul shows what is involved in the expression. Note the following passages: "By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance obeyed; and he went out not knowing whither he went." (v 8) "By faith Noah, being warned of God of things not seen as yet, moved with fear prepared an ark...." (v 7). "By faith the walls of Jericho fell after they were compassed about seven days." (v 30) In every example we see that faith was blessed when it was demonstrated. God blessed them when they obeyed.

Just as all the acts these men performed in being justified by faith inheres in the expression, "by faith," even so, all the acts we perform in obedience to Christ, inhere in the expression. Those on the day of Pentecost who gladly received His word (Acts 2:41) were justified by faith when they "repented and were baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins." (Acts 2:38)

All that we have written thus far and what we shall write is in harmony with the definition of the word "faith." Thayer defines the word "pistis," from which we get our word faith, as follows: "Used especially of the faith by which a man embraces Jesus, i.e., A conviction, full of joyful trust that Jesus is the Messiah — the divinely appointed author of eternal salvation in the kingdom of God, conjoined with obedience to Christ." (1886 Edition, Pg. 511) The faith that saves is not only a faith that accepts the person of God's Son, but it must be demonstrated by being joined to obedience to His words.

A faith that will not do what God commands is dead. "Cross the sea," "Get out of thy country," "Build an ark," and "Repent and be baptized everyone of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins." If Israel was not saved by faith until the Red Sea was crossed, and Noah was not blessed until his faith moved him to build the ark, and Abraham was not blessed until he obeyed, why should we expect our faith to be blessed of God until we obey?

An Example Showing What It Means To Believe In Christ The Philippian Jailor asked Paul and Silas, "Sirs, what must I do to be saved? And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved and thy house." (Acts 16:3031) Here many conclude their account of the jailor's conversion. Some think that Paul's answer to the jailor's question is evidence that the jailor at that moment believed and was saved at the very moment his question was answered. But the jailor did not believe at that moment, hence he was not saved at that moment. If it be asked how we may know the jailor did not believe then, we reply that he could not believe at that moment for he had not heard the word that produces faith. The Word of God plainly declares, "Faith cometh by hearing and hearing by the word of God." (Romans 10:17) The next verse states, "And they spake unto him the word of the Lord, and to all that were in his house." (Acts 16:32) What was preached? The word of the Lord. Faith was produced by this preaching, and after the preaching. When the jailor believed the preaching, "he took them the same hour of the night, and washed their stripes and was baptized, he and all his straightway." From the word of the Lord the jailor learned he had to be baptized. The word of the Lord states: "He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved, he that believeth not shall be damned." (Mark 16:16) The jailor obeyed the word of the Lord, and after his baptism the Bible states, "he rejoiced, having believed in God with all his house." The Bible says he believed after his baptism. It was then that Paul's statement, "believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved," was fulfilled. The jailor did not believe in baptism but in the Lord. Could he have refused to obey the "Word of the Lord," and still be saved?

We need to recognize that in the heart of the true believer there can be no partiality toward the commands of God. We have no right to say that we should believe some commands, but we need not believe others. In Prov. 3:5-6, we read, "Trust in the Lord thy God with all thy heart and lean not upon thy own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him and he will direct thy paths." James teaches, "Whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all." (James 2:10) This passage teaches that the same authority that is behind one point is behind every point. The same authority that is behind the command to repent stands behind the command to be baptized. If we trust in God any of the way we will trust him all the way. If we do not trust Him all the way, do we really trust Him any of the way? Belief in God will lead us to obey every command. The responsibility to believe any part of God's word is the responsibility to believe every part, and the rejection of any part is in reality the rejection of every part. What part of Mark 16:16 can we reject and still believe in God?

John 3:16 It is often asserted that John 3:16 shows that one may be saved by faith only. This very familiar passage teaches: "God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life." It is argued that as belief is the only item mentioned in this passage, all we must do to be saved is only believe. But this argument limits the belief of this passage. Does it mean that we must not believe other matters, or does it not include them? Does it mean we are saved without repentance? Repentance is not mentioned in this passage, is it not essential to salvation? It is a strange method of reasoning to affirm that because a passage of Scripture does not mention a certain item that that item is not essential to salvation. John 3:16 merely tells us that to be saved one must believe in Christ. But can one believe in Christ and refuse to believe what Christ said? This question is clearly answered in this tract.


To believe in Christ involves complete surrender of our will to the Will of God. It means to have faith and confidence in Him as our guide. It means we will believe His word, obey His commands and trust in His promises. Does our faith stand in the "wisdom of men, or in the power of God"? Jesus said, "I am the way the truth and the life; no man cometh unto the Father but by me." (John 14:6) Let us walk in His way, and believe His word or truth so that we may live eternally with Him. This is the reward of those who really believe in Christ.

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