Question from a Site Viewer
I want to know — am I saved?
I was raised in the Baptist church, my father was a pastor at one time. I made a public confession of my faith when I was young and was baptized. I became a missionary and did that work for nearly 20 years.
I no longer believe in the Trinity, the virgin birth, or that Jesus was God. I no longer believe that salvation is by faith nor do I believe in the inerrancy of the Bible.
But I do firmly believe in God and what Jesus actually said (not what they say he said). I pray every day and read and study the scriptures. I love God and Jesus. I see miracles happening all the time because of my faith and prayer.
Am I saved or not?
Thank you for your question. You say that you do not believe in the Trinity, the virgin birth, that Jesus was God, salvation by faith, or the inerrancy of the Bible. You also say that you believe in God, what Jesus actually said, that you pray and study the scriptures, that you love God and Jesus, and that you see miracles happening all of the time linked to your faith and prayer.
I am sure that you understand the logical dilemma that you face. If Scripture is fallible, then it cannot be the basis for what you believe. You are the basis for what you believe. You are the one who decides which parts of Scripture are true and which are not. If you accept some aspects of the revealed God and reject others, on what basis do you conclude that the god in whom you believe is the God who is real?
You hint that you may form this belief because of answers to prayer and miracles. Miracles, however, are not a good judge, as even Pharaoh’s servants could perform miracles (Exodus 7:22; 8:7). And, as Jesus said in the sermon on the mount, there will be those who cast out demons in the name of Christ and Christ will say that He never knew them (Matthew 7:21-23). Of course, I understand the problem of citing to Scripture, as it may be that these passages hold little weight with you. I also do not think that answers to prayer are necessarily a source of assurance. After all, God has allowed the unsaved to inquire of Him (1 Kings 13:6; 14:1-16; 20:14; 2 Kings 13:4-6). Though God binds Himself to hear the prayers of His children, this does not mean that God is ignorant of the prayers of all others. God is kind to both the just and the unjust.
I am encouraged, however, in that you say that you study the Scriptures. That tells me that you find something in them that resonates of truth. In your studies, you must have noted that the concept of blessing by faith repeatedly arises in the Old Testament Scriptures as well as in the New. For instance, in Genesis 15:6, the Scriptures writers record that Abraham believed God and God counted it to him for righteousness. In Exodus 14:31, after the Red Sea, Scripture tells us the culmination of that event was that the Israelites believed the LORD. In Numbers 14:11, God asks Moses how long it would be before Israel would believe in Him. In Psalm 78:22, Asaph states that God’s anger rose against Israel because they did not believe in Him nor trust in His salvation. Of course, this is what the author of the book of Hebrews picks up in Hebrews 3 and 4. In Deuteronomy 32:20, God’s prophetic indictment of Israel was that they would be a children in whom is no faith. In Ruth 2:12, Boaz commends Ruth for having come to trust in God. In 2 Kings 17:14, God speaks of previous generations as those who did not believe in the LORD their God. In 2 Chronicles 20:20, Jehoshaphat exhorted the Israelites to believe in the LORD their God and they would be established. God delivered the sons of Reuben, the sons of Gad, and the half-tribe of Manasseh because they trusted in Him (1 Chronicles 5:20). In Psalm 2:12, we are told that those who place their trust in the Son will be blessed. In Psalm 4:5 we are told to put our trust in the LORD. In Psalm 18:30, God is a protector for all who place their trust in Him. In Psalm 25:2, 20, David says that he trusts in the LORD. In Psalm 34:22, David tells us that no one who trusts in God will be desolate. In fact, the concept of trusting in God is one of the constant themes in the Psalms. Proverbs 3:5 tells us to trust in the LORD with all of our heart. Proverbs 28:25 tells us that those who trust in the LORD will be made fat (a picture of blessing). Isaiah 26:4 tells us to trust in the LORD forever, for He is our strength. In Isaiah 43:10, God speaks through the prophet so that they would know and believe God. God tells Jeremiah that he will be delivered because “you have trusted in Me” (Jeremiah 39:18). The author of Daniel would have us believe that Daniel was saved in the lion’s den because he believed in his God (Daniel 6:23). The people of Nineveh believed God and God saved them from the judgment He had pronounced (Jonah 3:5). Nahum 1:7 tells us that God knows those who trust in Him. And there are many other passages, including perhaps the most famous one in Habakkuk 2:4 where we are told that the righteous will live by his faith.
Whether one believes what these verses are saying, one must believe that the authors of these passages put a premium on faith in God as the source of God’s blessing. Further, if one accepts Psalm 1:12, there is a promise of blessing for those who place their trust in the Son, a concept that the Psalmist uses elsewhere only in relation to trust in God Himself.
As for the deity of Christ, you undoubtedly have read the verses, both Old Testament and New, that both speak to and allude to the deity of Christ. We elsewhere on our site address some of them. Other works have done a more thorough job. And in your studies, you no doubt have had to wrestle with those texts. I doubt if I can bring any new understanding to you. I simply note that Isaiah 48:16, Zechariah 2:8-11, and 12:11 are hard to square with a concept that the One sent was not God Himself. Isaiah 43:11 and Hosea 13:4 make little sense in relation to Matthew 1:21 if Jesus was not God Himself. And of course we have the Apostle Paul writing around 20 years after Jesus’ death stating that Jesus is the eternal God (Romans 9:5) (almost all theologians, conservative and liberal, accept Romans as being one of the books that are authentic to Paul). And even before that, about 18 years after the death and resurrection of Jesus (I do not know if you believe in the resurrection) we have Paul in another book almost universally accepted by the most staunch critics as being authentic in equating Jesus with God in 1 Thessalonians 4:14 (note: “God will bring with Him” indicating that God is the one who is coming and then verse 15 that it is the Lord who is coming). And you know about Paul’s later letters that equate Jesus with God. And of course, you have read John’s frequent references to the same truth in the gospel attributed to Him (John 1:1-3, 18; John 8:19 and 14:7-9; John 8:56-58; 10:30; 20:28-29) and in the Revelation of Christ. These things are not new to you.
I suspect you understand that one cannot be a Christian and reject the Scriptures. The Word is what is able to save our souls (James 1:21; Romans 10:8-17; John 17:17), if we accept Scriptures. God has exalted His Word (Psalm 137:2). I am no doubt sure that you understand the close connection the Scriptures make between the Spirit of God, the Word of God, and the truth of God.
I also note that what you believe is not what the saints of old have believed. (Check out this article.) Objectively, a view that rejects the view of God held by godly men and women of old, the saints of the ages, does not seem to me to have a strong claim for truth. Although truth is not majority rule, it seems unlikely to me that people like Ignatius, Polycarp, Ireneus, Clement, and Papias, at the time of the very beginning of the church, and in more modern times the Wesleys, the Moravians, Hudson Taylor, George Mueller, D.L. Moody, Amy Carmichael, and many others were simply wrong in their view of God and Jesus. These are people who moved mountains of people for God, sold themselves as slaves to reach slaves for Christ, gave up their homes and families to establish thriving churches in other lands, changed cultures and countries, and all held a consistent view of Christ. I do not know of a similar legacy left by those who hold the view you espouse. It seems to me that the movement of God has always been with those who hold to the historic faith. To the extent that the Spirit of God has communicated truth throughout the ages, the evidence of the movement of God among those who held firmly to the historic truths provides a compelling argument for me to stay in that faith.
You ask whether you are saved. For the Apostle Paul and the Apostle John (if you take 1 John to be written by the Apostle John), they thought it was important to believe the right things about Christ to be saved. John tells us that those who deny that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh are not of God (1 John 4:2-3). Paul expresses concern about those who preach another Jesus than what the apostles proclaimed (2 Corinthians 11:4). And Christ Himself spoke to people who saw Him and heard Him and knew He existed and said to them that they would die in their sins unless they believed that He was (John 8:24). If we accept these as His words, we must read Jesus as speaking of something more than the fact that He was a man, as all could plainly see that. In the days of the early church, there were gnostics who believe in a “Jesus” and attempted to link their “Jesus” back to the Jesus who lived. But their views of Jesus resembled little of the person the gospel writers disclose, or the prophetic Scriptures foretold. Ireneus stated that such people used “the name of Christ Jesus as a sort of lure.” I do not believe there is salvation in a Jesus we make up, or a God whom we create in our minds. Either God is real or He is not. If there is a God and He has revealed Himself, then I have some chance of getting to know Him. If there is no God, or if there is a God but He has not revealed Himself, then I have no chance of getting to know Him.
Scriptures tell us of a God who exists and describes Him in great detail through 66 books. Over 10,000 times in the Old Testament alone He is named. The book gives evidence of His working. In many ways, the truths of Scripture are testable in history. If we accept the gospel accounts of Jesus, we know that Jesus held the Old Testament Scriptures in the highest view, stating that the Scriptures cannot be broken (John 10:35), saying that the Scriptures revealed Him (Luke 24:25-27; John 5:39-47), stating that even the smallest parts of the letters of the law were of God (Matthew 5:18), stating that men were to live by the Word of God (Matthew 4:4), and stating that the Sadducees erred in not knowing the Scriptures because they interpreted the Scriptures to not support a resurrection (Matthew 22:29-32). If we follow Jesus, we will hold a similar view of Scriptures.
In my reading of Scripture, I have come to the firm conviction that God has revealed Himself, supremely in the person of Jesus. He is the only begotten God who exegetes God to us (John 1:18). I find in Jesus the supreme life of God, in compassion towards those who are lost, in grief towards those who are blind, in sympathy with our weaknesses, in love for our souls, in a desire to be our brother, and a drive to save us from our sins and redeem us to God. He is the One those around Him worshiped.
I cannot answer the question of whether you are saved. I am not even sure what you mean by the question, since I am not sure whether you believe there is something to be saved from or something to be saved to. And if you do believe this, what is the basis for that belief? Ultimately, if we only believe what we want to believe, then there is little basis in logical thought for thinking that our belief will be good for anything past the point of our own death. It is only if God is real, and what He has said is true, that there is any hope of coming to a knowledge of salvation and any hope that we might actually attain to salvation.
I have compassion for you, since apparently you spent a good portion of your life trying to guide people into “truth” that you now believe to be error. I do not know what brought about your journey to your present beliefs, but there must have been something that seemed inauthentic in your ministry or life for you to make such a change. Perhaps you did not experience the sustaining power of the Spirit in your endeavors. Perhaps you found your faith tested and not well-grounded. Perhaps you simply became convinced that the life of Christ you had experienced was simply not based on truth. Or perhaps you never experienced the life of Christ. I do not know. But I do believe that you have moved in the wrong direction in relation to God, as you may well suspect I would believe. I find no historical support for a faith that affirms the things you affirm in your email, nor do I see the evidence of the working of God in a community of people who have held similar beliefs. But I find both historical support and the evidence of the hand of God on communities who have held to the faith handed down from the earliest days of the church.
May the Lord Jesus guide you into truth.