Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Do You Mean That if I Believe in Jesus for Eternal Life, I Can Go Out and Do Anything I Want and Still Go to Heaven?

The following is an excerpt from Part 2 of Professor Zane Hodges’ speech, How to Lead People to Christ:

Begin Excerpt

[E]xperience [in sharing the gospel] suggests that I will often get a question like this: "Do you mean that if I believe in Jesus for eternal life, that I can go out and do anything I want and still go to heaven?"

I am always pleased to hear this question, because it signals to me that the person is getting the idea that this is a gift and that it is not withdrawn if we behave badly.

My usual way of responding to the question is that being born again is like being born into a family. After that, we are always members of that family, even if we are scoundrels. But if we have good parents, they are not going to let us run wild. They will discipline and correct us and do their best to get us on the right path. Then I point out that, after we get eternal life, God is our heavenly Father and He is the best Parent we could imagine. He will not let us run wild. He will spank us, if need be, and may even take our physical lives away. But Jesus will never cast us out of God’s family.

So far as my own experience goes, I have never had anybody not find this an adequate answer. It seems to clear things up for people, while still maintaining the truth of a passage like John 6:35-40.

End Excerpt

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

● What Does it Mean to Believe that Jesus is the Christ?

[Note: editorial license has been taken to clarify this question from the audience.]
This is the final installment of the questions and answers that followed Professor Zane Hodges' Grace Evangelical Society speech in 2000. The speech is found in written form in two journal articles here and here.
Question from the Audience: I know that you’re right that assurance is of the essence of saving faith. You quoted a verse in First John, “Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God…” [1 John 5:1]. Is everlasting life a result of believing that Jesus is the Christ?

Answer from Professor Hodges: Yes.

Question from the Audience (continuing): Okay. What if a person believes that Jesus is the Son of God, that He is the Only Begotten, that He is the Christ, but they still have trouble with assurance? What if they believe that Jesus is the Christ, but they still have trouble with assurance? How do you explain that?

Answer from Professor Hodges: My answer to that has always been that when [the Apostle] John says that, “Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ,” we must believe that He is the Christ in the sense in which John means that.

So then we must ask the question: What does John mean by the term Christ? And the easiest place to go for the answer to that is John 11:25-26. Jesus saying to Martha, “I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he die, yet shall he live: Whoever lives and believes in me shall never die.” And then He says, “Do you believe this?” And her answer is a Johannine confession: “Yes, Lord: I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, which should come into the world.”

That’s John’s way of telling us that to believe that He is the Christ means to believe that He is the One who guarantees resurrection and eternal life to everyone who believes in Him.

Now if I walk out on the street and say, “Do you believe that Jesus is the Christ?” almost everybody is going to tell me, “Yes” because that [the term Christ] has become a personal name.

And so the key here is to understand the term Christ in the Johannine sense of the word. To believe that He is the Christ is to believe that He is the One who guarantees salvation. And, therefore, to believe that He is the Christ brings assurance.

What if a Person Believes in Christ for Justification Instead of Eternal Life?

Question from the Audience: Some verses in Scripture that talk about salvation by faith center on the result of eternal life and others focus more on the result of justification. What if someone on a deserted island only had Romans 5:1, “Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ”? It doesn’t say “eternal life” in that verse, but, of course, that’s the result of justification. Let’s say they understood that justification was God declaring them righteous, and they believed in Christ for that. Could they be saved in that way also?

Answer from Professor Hodges: Yes.