Click here for the previous post in which we discussed the need for repentance in the conversion process:
36 “Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.” 37 Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Men and brethren, what shall we do?” 38 Then Peter said to them, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
– Acts 2:36-38 NKJV
The Nature of Biblical Faith
Peter told the conscience stricken crowd that they must repent. That is, they must determine to turn from rebellion and submit to God. He then tells them that they must place their trust in Jesus Christ. But he doesn’t tell them this in so many words. Instead he instructs them to “be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ.” He connects faith with the act of receiving baptism. This fact helps give us a better idea about the nature of saving faith. Saving faith is not merely a mental assent to some concept. But it is trust in a Person which moves us to action.
In Hebrews chapter 11 we see a list of Old Testament believers who were moved by their faith into action. By faith Abel offered a better sacrifice (11:4). By faith Noah prepared an ark (11:7). By faith Abraham obeyed and went out of his home country to a land he didn’t know (11:8). The nature of their faith compelled them to obey God.
24 By faith Moses, when he became of age, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, 25 choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin, 26 esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt; for he looked to the reward. 27 By faith he forsook Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king; for he endured as seeing Him who is invisible.
– Hebrews 11:24-27 NKJV
The example of Moses brings even more clarity. By faith he knew the pleasures of sin were temporary, but suffering with God’s people and for the truth of Christ would bring an eternal reward. And he did not merely believe God existed, but God was so real to him that he feared God Whom he could not see more than pharaoh whom he could see. He believed God existed, but also that God would reward those who followed Him and punish those who did not. We see this spelled out in the definition of faith given earlier in the same chapter.
6 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 NKJV
This verse shows that people must have a belief in the existence of God. But something more is needed for it to be called biblical faith. They also must believe that God is alive and active. That is, that God will act on behalf of those that are committed to Him. As 2 Chronicles 16:9 states: “For the eyes of the LORD run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show Himself strong on behalf of those whose heart is loyal to Him…” And Noah’s example in Hebrews 11:7 shows us that faith, as described in Scripture, does not only trust that God will bless the godly, but it believes all of God’s words, even His warnings: “By faith Noah, being divinely warned of things not yet seen, moved with godly fear, prepared an ark…” Simply put, faith believes that God exists and that He will do what He says!
We Believe in Jesus
21 …testifying to Jews, and also to Greeks, repentance toward God and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ.
– Acts 20:21 NKJV
1 “Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me.
– John 14:1 NKJV
Paul declares to the Ephesian elders in Acts chapter 20 that he had called all men to repent of their rebellion before God. This means that since all men have rebelled against God they must cease their rebellion and submit to God. But Paul also called on all men to place their faith in Jesus Christ. They are not merely to believe that God exists and that He rewards those who diligently seek Him, but we are also commanded to believe that Jesus Christ is Lord! The Christian does not only believe in God, but also in His Son, Jesus Christ. They believe that Jesus Christ is Lord and that He rewards those that diligently seek Him just as His Father does.
We Believe Jesus is Lord
We know clearly from the testimony of Scripture that Jesus Christ died for the sins of mankind. But it is interesting to note that in the divinely inspired evangelistic sermon in Acts chapter 2, and every other evangelistic sermon in the book of Acts, Peter did not convey that Jesus died for sins. It is possible that Peter mentioned this fact on that day. Nevertheless, the Holy Spirit did not include that aspect of Christ’s work in the summary of the evangelistic sermons in the book of Acts. What could this mean?! What self-respecting evangelical in our day would summarize the Gospel message without including the fact that Jesus died for our sins?! Consider the following verse:
9 that if you confess with your mouth Jesus is the Savior and believe in your heart that he died for your sins, you will be saved.
– Romans 10:9 NKJV
Now, if you are an astute reader you will notice what I just did; I just twisted Scripture. And yet some of you did not even notice that the above verse does not exist in the Bible! So let’s try again:
9 that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.
– Romans 10:9 NKJV
Note the difference. Paul in Romans 10 tells us that we must confess that Jesus Christ is Lord and believe that God raised Him from the dead. Just as Peter concluded his sermon in Acts 2 by saying that God has made Jesus Lord by raising Him from the dead, so Paul has summed up the Gospel message with the lordship of Christ and His resurrection from the dead. Why wouldn’t Paul use the “New Evangelical Version” which I used above, instead of writing what he did? The reason Paul, and Luke the writer of Acts, did not include the sacrificial death in their Gospel summary is because it is not the primary emphasis of the Gospel message. The primary emphasis of the biblical message is not that Jesus is the Savior who died for our sins, but that Jesus Christ is the risen Lord of all.
To be very clear, Jesus dying for the sins of mankind is indeed a core tenet of the Gospel, but it is not the very core tenet! I am not emphasizing this to suggest that the sacrificial death of Christ is not part of the Gospel message which we should proclaim, indeed it is a core part of the message, and we should proclaim it far and wide. I mention it here only to help us see that our modern day evangelical message does not have the same emphasis that the biblical message does. This seems to be a slight difference, but the wrong emphasis often leads to the wrong results. So whatever else the Gospel of Jesus Christ includes, it must start with and emphasize that Jesus Christ is the risen Lord of all! This is the biblical emphasis, and it should be ours as well.
So we must believe that Jesus Christ is Lord. And we must believe that God raised Him from the dead. In this way, even when we are placing our faith in Christ we are at the same moment trusting in God the Father. As Peter teaches us in his first epistle: “…who through Him believe in God, who raised Him from the dead and gave Him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God” (1 Pet. 1:21). We honor God when we honor the Son (John 5:23).
Jesus has been given all authority in heaven and earth. If we believe this we will submit to His authority. If we do not believe this, we will continue to rebel against God and His anointed King. Jesus told His apostles to go and make disciples and teach those disciples to obey all that He had commanded them (Matthew 28:20). This is the first point of biblical saving faith: Jesus Christ is risen from the dead and has all authority in heaven and earth, therefore He must be honored and obeyed. This is summed up in the phrase, Jesus is Lord.
We Believe Jesus is Judge
31 “because He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead.”
– Acts 17:31 NKJV
Here we have the conclusion of one of Paul’s evangelistic sermons. He was speaking to philosophers gathered in Athens. In this conclusion Paul emphasizes one of the aspects of Christ’s lordship. As Lord He has all authority in heaven and on earth. And this “all” authority includes the authority to judge all people. This is to say, that Jesus’ lordship assumes that He is also the Judge of the living and the dead. When we confess that Jesus is Lord, we are simultaneously confessing that Jesus is God’s appointed Judge.
26 “For as the Father has life in Himself, so He has granted the Son to have life in Himself, 27 “and has given Him authority to execute judgment also, because He is the Son of Man. 28 “Do not marvel at this; for the hour is coming in which all who are in the graves will hear His voice 29 “and come forth–those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation.
– John 5:26-29 NKJV
12 “And behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to give to every one according to his work.
– Revelation 22:12 NKJV
17 And if you call on the Father, who without partiality judges according to each one’s work, conduct yourselves throughout the time of your stay here in fear;
– 1 Peter 1:17 NKJV
9 Therefore we make it our aim, whether present or absent, to be well pleasing to Him. 10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad. 11 Knowing, therefore, the terror of the Lord, we persuade men; but we are well known to God, and I also trust are well known in your consciences.
– 2 Corinthians 5:9-11 NKJV
God is going to judge all people according to what they have done. He is going to judge according to the standard of righteousness. And He is going to perform this judgment through His Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. Believing this is part of what it means to believe in Jesus Christ as Lord. He has been given authority to judge the living and the dead, and in light of this we must walk in godly fear. And in light of this fearful truth we must seek to persuade others to turn away from sin and trust in Jesus Christ the Lord.
What evidence is given that Jesus Christ has all authority in heaven and on earth? God raised Him from the dead! What does Paul appeal to as evidence that Jesus Christ has been given the authority to judge all people? In Acts 17:31 Paul states, “He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead.”
7 “I will declare the decree: The LORD has said to Me, ‘You are My Son, Today I have begotten You. 8 Ask of Me, and I will give You The nations for Your inheritance, And the ends of the earth for Your possession. 9 You shall break them with a rod of iron; You shall dash them to pieces like a potter’s vessel.‘ ” 10 Now therefore, be wise, O kings; Be instructed, you judges of the earth. 11 Serve the LORD with fear, And rejoice with trembling. 12 Kiss the Son, lest He be angry, And you perish in the way, When His wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed are all those who put their trust in Him.
– Psalm 2:7-12 NKJV
Psalm 2 is one of the clearest Messianic prophecies in the Old Testament. It teaches us that God has exalted and anointed His Son as King. And it clearly tells us that men should fear this holy Judge whose anger can flare up in a moment. The psalm counsels men to come with trembling to the throne of the great King and bow at His feet in submission. It assures those that will make peace with the Judge by joyful surrender will find a safe refuge under His wings.
We Believe Jesus is Savior
30 “The God of our fathers raised up Jesus whom you murdered by hanging on a tree. 31 “Him God has exalted to His right hand to be Prince and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins.
– Acts 5:30-31 NKJV
The Lord Jesus Christ calls all men to repentance in light of His coming judgment. Those that recognize His lordship, tremble at His righteous judgment and seek refuge in Him will find that He does not only have authority to judge, but also to forgive. The conclusion of Peter’s sermon in Acts chapter 5 quoted above teaches us that Jesus was not only exalted to be Prince (i.e. Lord), but also to be the Savior of all that trust in Him.
23 Also there were many priests, because they were prevented by death from continuing. 24 But He, because He continues forever, has an unchangeable priesthood. 25 Therefore He is also able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them.
– Hebrews 7:23-25 NKJV
Jesus was raised to the right hand of God, not only to rule, not only to judge, but also to save. He is not only the judge, but also our great Savior who lives forever to save those who come to Him. People do not need to understand how this all works in order to be saved. They don’t need to understand how Jesus’ red blood can wash us white as snow. They don’t need to understand all the activities of the Old Covenant priesthood. And they don’t need to understand how the death of God’s Son can make us into God’s children. What they need to know, and what they need to trust, is that Jesus has been exalted as Lord and He has the authority to save all who come to Him. All that come to Him, trusting in Him for the forgiveness of sins, will never be pushed away. God does not take pleasure in the death of the wicked, so He has sent His Son as the Savior of all men, especially those who believe.
19 Then Jesus answered and said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He sees the Father do; for whatever He does, the Son also does in like manner. 20 “For the Father loves the Son, and shows Him all things that He Himself does; and He will show Him greater works than these, that you may marvel. 21 “For as the Father raises the dead and gives life to them, even so the Son gives life to whom He will. 22 “For the Father judges no one, but has committed all judgment to the Son, 23 “that all should honor the Son just as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent Him.
– John 5:19-23 NKJV
Hebrews 11:6 teaches us that those who come to God must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who diligently seek Him. In John 14:1 Jesus teaches that in the same way we have believed in God, we must also believe in His Son. If a person hears the good news that Jesus though murdered, has now been raised from the dead and seated at the right hand of God as Lord, and trusts that this Lord exists, and that He is the rewarder of those who diligently seek Him, they will be moved to come take refuge under His wings.
Jesus has been given all authority to rule over heaven and earth. This is the good news, Jesus is Lord of all! This lordship has been granted by His Father who raised Him from the dead and seated Him at the highest place above all other rule and dominion. This One Who is seated at the right hand of God is the Son of God, the exact representation of the Father. We are called to repent before God and place our trust in His Son, Jesus Christ. This Lord has the authority to give life to whom He wills, and to pour out wrath on whom He wills. He has received this power from His Father. We must flee to Jesus Christ for refuge.