Many hold to the doctrine of salvation by faith only and readily espouse that anyone who believes in Jesus Christ will be saved. Jesus said, “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). This verse is probably the most well known verse in the entire Bible. It is also one that multitudes have embraced to the exclusion of all else that the New Testament has to say about salvation. In fact, the verse does not say that all that believe in the only begotten Son of God “will be saved”. It says that all that believe in the only begotten Son of God “should” be saved. There is a difference between “will be” and “should be”! However, we wish to show that there are indeed individuals that, even though they were believers, they were still headed straight for hell.
Let us start with the most obvious. James tells us, “Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble” (James 2:19). Satan knew exactly who Jesus was when immediately upon being baptized, the Spirit of God came upon Him in the form of a dove and the Father spoke from heaven saying, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased” (Matt. 3:16-17). Satan then led Jesus up into the wilderness and tempted Him (Matt. 4:1-11), but to no avail. In the country of the Gadarenes, the unclean spirit who said his name was Legion, for they were many, said to Jesus, “What have I to do with thee, Jesus, thou Son of the most high God?” (Mark 5:7). Earlier in Mark’s gospel account, he wrote, “And unclean spirits, when they saw him, fell down before him, and cried, saying, Thou art the Son of God” (Mark 3:11). There is really quite a list of examples showing Satan and his evil spirits believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. Did their believing assure that they would not perish, but have everlasting life? They had faith, but they did not have saving faith!
But, let us go on to people who believe in Jesus, but are still lost. After John speaks of Jesus teaching and many who still did not believe, he states, “Nevertheless among the chief rulers also many believed on him; but because of the Pharisees they did not confess him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue: For they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God” (John 12:42). Using the all who believe in Jesus shall not perish, but have eternal life view of John 3:16, these chief rulers would not perish, but have everlasting life. However, the text says that they “did not confess him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue.” It seems that Jesus also had something to say about confessing Him. He said, “Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven. But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven” (Matt. 10:32-33). They believed on Jesus, but the Lord would deny them because they refused to confess Him before men. They had faith, but they did not have saving faith!
Consider also the man in Samaria named Simon who heard the preaching of Philip. Luke writes, “Then Simon himself believed also: and when he was baptized, he continued with Philip, and wondered, beholding the miracles and signs which were done” (Acts 8:13). Later, upon learning that it was through the laying on of the apostles hands that the Holy Spirit was given, he sought to buy that apostolic ability (Acts 8:14-19). The apostle Peter then told him that his heart was not right in the sight of God, he needed to repent of his wickedness and pray for forgiveness because he was in the gall of bitterness and in the bond of iniquity (Acts 8:20-24). Some have argued that Simon didn’t really believe, but had only said that he believed. The inspired writer said, “Simon himself believed also.” Simon believed, but Simon didn’t have a saving faith!
One last brief consideration is those who are recognized as being saved people who are told that they have lost their eternal home in heaven. They evidently believed, otherwise they could not have been saved people. Peter says of some in this state, that they had escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, have known the way of righteousness and turned from the holy commandment (II Peter 2:2-21). Peter said, “The latter end is worse with them than the beginning.” Believers, but they will perish and they will not have everlasting life. They had faith, but not saving faith!
We certainly do not wish to take any importance from faith in Jesus Christ. He said if one did not believe in Him, he would die in his sins (John 8:24), but we do want to impress upon each to not cast the rest of what God has said aside and embrace a salvation by faith only concept. In fact, if one truly believes Jesus to be the Son of God, they certainly recognize the necessity of obeying His commands in order to receive His promises. He is the author of eternal salvation to all them who obey him (Heb. 5:8-9).
Robert Oliver is pastor of The Church of Christ and a long-time columnist for The Sampson Independent. Send any questions or comments to: [email protected]