Belief is certainly essential for salvation, but it does not bring salvation when left alone. To believe in Jesus as the only Son of God is the beginning, but it does not reflect the totality of salvation. In some circles, it is anathema to suggest that man has any part whatsoever in his own salvation, but Scriptures loudly teach that man, while unable to be saved by his own works, is, in fact, a participant in his own salvation.
Isaiah declared that we are separated from God by our own sins: ”Your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, your sins have hidden his face from you so that he does not hear” (Isaiah 59:2). The Weeping Prophet, Jeremiah, cried: “Your iniquities have turned these away, and your sins have kept good from you” (Jeremiah 5:25). The Psalmist wrote that a beautiful land had been turned into a “salty waste because of the evil of its inhabitants” (Psalm 107:34). Sin is man’s problem. It is caused by each man and plagues us all (Romans 3:23). Without God, I am justly condemned. Only the God of the Bible has the solution for sin. Without the grace of God; I cannot be saved. Without the mercy of God; I cannot be saved. Without the love of God; I cannot be saved, etc.
But is there anything I must do to be saved? Is there any human action required for salvation? All but the most dedicated disciple of Calvin will acknowledge that man must believe that Jesus is the son of God. To believe is a human act. That hardcore Calvinist, to be consistent, will demand that human belief is only caused by God in those he has chosen. He would say that such an urging from God is irresistible and there is no free will. The depravity of that teaching is probably best seen in Adam and Eve where he would say that God willed the sin of Adam and Eve thus spoiling his own spotless creation. But, most would accept that belief is a necessary contribution of man towards his own salvation.
The Scriptures teach more. Paul sets a contrast between those who do not obey the truth but instead obey unrighteousness (Romans 2:8). If belief alone is necessary to please God then how, we pled, is it possible to obey unrighteousness? We all believe that unrighteousness exists. Does such a belief make us unrighteous? No, it does not; no more than believing in Jesus makes us righteous! Biblical belief always produces action (James 2:14-26).
To be pleasing to God and to ensure his own survival, Noah not only believed God but worked to build an ark of safety. Abraham believed God and repeatedly acted upon God’s instructions. Lott believed God but also fled Sodom to avoid destruction. The people of Acts 2 obviously believed God but were obedient to Peter’s command to “repent and be baptized” (Acts 2:38) and then continued to live righteously.
More directly we note four important Bible passages, John 3:36; Romans 10:16; 2 Thessalonians 1:8 and 1 Peter 4:17. All four verses are cast in the negative. Each asks the same question: What is the condition of those who do not obey the gospel? We ask the reader to observe the word “obey.” It means to comply with some directive or command. Paul and Peter ask what happens to the one who does not comply with the commands of the gospel?
Other passages are set in a positive tone. For example, in Acts 5:32 Peter says the Holy Spirit is given to those who obey God. The Hebrew writer says that salvation comes to those who obey Jesus (Hebrews 5:25. John says we can know that we please God when we “obey his commandments” (1 John 5:2).
We beg our readers to consider that there is more to salvation than a one-time acknowledgment that Jesus is the son of God. We remain totally dependent upon God for our salvation, but we must comply with the truths he has revealed to us in his Scriptures.