Believing in Jesus: A Deeper Meaning
Fifty days had passed after the Jewish religious leaders had secured Jesus’ death. It was rumored that God had raised Jesus from the dead, but only his disciples were witnesses to this fact. Jesus had been the talk of Israel while he lived with them and performed miracles, so his death remained a subject of much discussion. Many with sincere hearts felt a sense of shame and guilt about the fact that such a good person had been so badly treated. Some blamed the religious leaders, some the Roman government, and perhaps others felt, after the fact, that they might have done more to save Jesus.
When the day of Pentecost came, and after the Spirit descended on the disciples in the form of “cloven tongues” bestowing the gift of languages upon those assembled, the Apostle Peter addressed the crowds. They were amazed to hear their own languages spoken, even though the assembled Jews came from fifteen different nations and languages (Acts 2:2-12). The Lord, who had confused the tongues at Babel, was not going to allow language barriers to hinder the spread of the Gospel. With the gift of tongues or languages the apostles were able to bridge the translation barriers. The assembled Jews were each able to hear the Gospel in a language they understood.
Peter’s Pentecostal Sermon
Acts 2:36-38, “Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ. Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we 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.”
Peter had laid the matter clearly before them. They were a part of a nation that had “crucified” Jesus. Those standing there were not personally responsible for Jesus’ death, yet they could not help but feel some shame and guilt. They wished to be relieved of this burden as well as for their own personal sins. They did not ask for “eternal life,” nor did they ask that they might go to heaven. Peter had told them to “Save yourselves from this untoward generation” (Acts 2:40). This is what they wished to do. Three thousand repented and received exactly what they were promised: “remission of sins” and the “gift of the Holy Spirit.”
It is conceded that everyone who is begotten of the holy Spirit is imbued with the hope of a Heavenly birth. We are called in the “one hope of our calling” (Eph. 4:4). In the natural realm, all begotten do not come to birth. Miscarriages are very common. Some fetuses may be carried to birth and then be stillborn. Hence, everyone who received the begettal of the holy Spirit had a legitimate hope of a spiritual birth, but not a guarantee.
The logical question is, has anyone ever received more than the Pentecostal converts did? There is no reason to believe so. Anything more is not possible. To receive the free gift of “justification” and to be imbued with God’s Spirit of sonship is unspeakable grace. This is the starting place where disciples are enrolled in the Christian racecourse. Paul says, “Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain. And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible. I therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beateth the air: but I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway” (1 Cor. 9:24-27). “Many are called, but few are chosen” and fewer still remain “faithful” (Matt. 22:14; Rev. 17:14).
The Philippian Jailer
When the Philippian jailer received Paul and Silas under his guard, his life depended on securing them so they could not escape. Had they escaped, according to Roman law, the jailer would be put to death. When an earthquake freed Paul and Silas, the jailer thought his prisoners had escaped. He was prepared to take his own life rather than submit to a Roman execution. So Paul and Silas actually saved his life by telling the guard, “Do thyself no harm: for we are all here.” The jailer found Paul and Silas and led them out of the prison. He then asked them, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” The answer was, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved [Gk., sozo], and thy house” (Acts 16: 28-31).
These fourteen words did not represent the full conversation that took place that night. We believe much more was said, but the jailer whose literal life had already been saved that night, was seeking salvation from the sin and judgment standing against him. The jailer and his household received the same blessing as the Pentecostal believers, “remission of sins” and the “gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 3:37, 2:38). This placed them on the path leading to eternal life, but did not instantly provide them the character attainments that are also necessary.
“Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and Thou Shalt be Saved”
This phrase has become the stock and trade keynote of many evangelical preachers. They have shouted these words outside taverns, on the street corners or wherever they can capture an audience. In contrast, never did Jesus cry aloud for people to believe on him. He spoke in parables and dark sayings, so that the people could not grasp the full weight of his ministry. His disciples later asked him why. Jesus told them, “Unto you it is given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God; but unto them that are without, all these things are done in parables: that seeing they may see, and not perceive; and hearing they may hear, and not understand; lest at any time they should be converted, and their sins should be forgiven them” (Mark 4:11, 12). Jesus invited only believers to enter the “strait [difficult] gate” and the “narrow” way that leads unto life (Matt. 7:14). It seems evident that Jesus’ ministry was very focused, as compared with many of today’s frenzied efforts to save everyone in sight.
Consider again the words of Paul and Silas in Acts 16:31, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved.” The most overlooked part of this formula for salvation is the true meaning of the word “believe.” In the Greek, this is “pisteuo.” It is defined as “to adhere to, [to] trust, [to] rely on” (Young’s Concordance, p. 86). If one really relies upon Jesus as his Savior, trusts in him fully, clings to him, and is convinced that he is the redeemer of the world, what a change will be wrought in his life! Such a believer no longer lives to self, but renounces self will and gladly dedicates his life to doing the will of God. Jesus’ words become the keynote of his life: “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me” (Matt. 16:24).
Thus, the seemingly simple scriptural declaration that belief in Christ leads directly to assurance of salvation takes on added meaning. The account of Paul and Silas in Acts 16:30, 31 as rendered in the Amplified Version seems especially incisive: “Men, what is it necessary for me to do that I may be saved? And they answered, Believe in and on the Lord Jesus Christ [that is, give yourself up to Him, take yourself out of your own keeping and entrust yourself into His keeping], and you will be saved. … And they declared the Word of the Lord [that is, the doctrine concerning the attainment through Christ of eternal salvation in the kingdom of God] to him.”
John 3:16, perhaps the most beloved verse in the Bible, is rendered thus in the Amplified Version: “For God so greatly loved and dearly prized the world that He (even) gave up His only begotten Son, so that whoever believes in (trusts, clings to, relies on) Him may not perish-come to destruction, be lost-but have eternal (everlasting) life.” Be it noted that this is the kind of belief spoken of and required in the Bible-relying intimately upon the Savior and laying down life itself in his service. This is the mature belief that leads to justification of life, full salvation and peace with God. We trust that all can see that this is quite different from a mere nominal expression of belief or glib utterance of words.
Believing in Jesus: A Deeper Meaning
Believing in Jesus: A Deeper Meaning