Believing God is not necessarily the same as salvation. Depending on what we really mean by “believing God,” we might come to different conclusions.
First, this interpretation has to do with the way we contrast faith and belief. These two words have similar meanings and are often used interchangeably.
Distinction Between Belief and Faith
The word faith (Greek: pistis) means “belief, firm persuasion, firm conviction, assurance, trust, loyalty.” Even so, the Bible recognizes that people might have false faith or incomplete belief, which obviously does not lead to salvation.
The distinction between the two can be attributed to the concept of mental agreement (belief) and wholehearted commitment (faith).
Hence, it is possible for a man to simply accept fact or truth without a willingness to commit to it. As a simple illustration: A man can believe the plane can fly but does not get on and fly.
Simply believing God exists, with all His divine nature, such as holy, omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent, does not necessarily lead to salvation.
James wrote, “You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe — and tremble! But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead?” (James 2:19-20).
Faith Without Works Does Not Save
So, the core issue is that faith without works is dead. Paul clearly teaches that salvation is the gift of God by grace to be received through faith, not works (Ephesians 2:8-9).
Faith that works is produced by God himself, through His Spirit in us, who enables us to will and to do what is pleasing to God (Philippians 2:13).
This kind of faith not only brings pleasure to God but also brings reward to us as we diligently seek Him (Hebrews 11:6). So, it is clear: Faith that does not work simply does not lead to salvation.
Good Works in Christ Jesus Empowered by the Holy Spirit
Then, how about the repentant thief on the cross who was saved just a moment before his death? (Luke 23:42-43). Yes, he was saved by God’s grace, but what “good works” did he do that granted him salvation? He simply believed in Christ’s righteousness and His saving power (Luke 23:41).
And this is consistent with what Jesus teaches concerning what “good works” mean to Him: “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent.” (John 6:29).
Therefore, doing good works acceptable to God is rooted in faith in Jesus Christ, which certainly leads to everlasting life (John 3:16).
And this saving faith is manifested in fruit-bearing life (John 15:4; Matthew 3:8), shown by transformed character and conduct (Galatians 5:22-23), which can be really “tasted and seen” by others, so that God is glorified (Matthew 5:16).
Faith in God That Saves
The true, saving faith means trusting the Lord Jesus Christ and entrusting our lives to Him. As we trust in Him, we put or faith in His deity and in His death, burial, and resurrection, allowing Christ to live in us (i.e., to take control of our lives through the work of the Holy Spirit), so that we may die to sin and live for God (Galatians 2:20), following the path that our Savior Himself went through (Romans 6:10).
Salvation is God’s gift, which everyone can receive upon believing in the Son of God. True faith in Jesus Christ always manifests in good works and results in salvation.
This “good works” is the work of God in the life wholly committed to Him with the faith that is authored and perfected by Jesus (Hebrews 12:2). A mere mental or intellectual acceptance of God’s truth apart from Christ does not lead to salvation.
Salvation in the Bible
You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe — and tremble! But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead? (James 2:19-20).
For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast (Ephesians 2:8-9).
And he brought them out and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” So they said, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household” (Acts 16:30-31).
For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them (Ephesians 2:10).
For it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure (Philippians 2:13).
But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him (Hebrews 11:6).
Then he said to Jesus, “Lord, remember me when You come into Your kingdom.” And Jesus said to him, “Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise” (Luke 23:42).
And we indeed justly, for we receive the due reward of our deeds; but this Man has done nothing wrong” (Luke 23:41).
Jesus answered and said to them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent” (John 6:29).
For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life (John 3:16).
Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me (John 15:4).
Prove by the way you live that you have repented of your sins and turned to God (Matthew 3:8, NLT).
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law (Galatians 5:22-23).
Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven (Matthew 5:16).
I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me (Galatians 2:20).
For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God (Romans 6:10).
Looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God (Hebrews 12:2).
For further reading:
Photo Credit: ©SparrowStock
Philip Wijaya is presently a graduate research student at the University of British Columbia living in Vancouver, Canada with his wife, Sandra. His interest in science and faith in God has encouraged him to write in a blog (philipwijaya.com), with a hope of better understanding the truths in the Bible in relation to scientific views and discoveries. Besides research and study, he also enjoys sports, music, and traveling.