“No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day. It is written in the Prophets, ‘And they will all be taught by God.’ Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me— not that anyone has seen the Father except he who is from God; he has seen the Father. Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life.”John 6:44-47 ESV
To believe God concerning what He said about Christ means you understand AND agree with God concerning what He has said about Christ. You CANNOT believe falsehood about Christ (i.e. disagree with God) and believe God. This passage in no way allows for the conclusion that you can believe whatever you want about Christ and still be considered someone who believes God.
This seems to be the underlying implication of those who teach that false gospels can be evidence of conversion. They will viciously contend that, as long as you believe that Jesus died on a cross and rose again, that you are saved. They also viciously contend that it doesn’t matter what you believe the cross accomplished as long as you believe it was for you. In essence, as long as you think (rightly or wrongly) that Jesus died for you, then you can have assurance of salvation. This is falsehood, because “believing” as used in scripture means you believe the truth. It also means you understand what the truth is. You can’t believe the truth if you don’t know the truth.
When Christ says “whoever believes has eternal life” He means “whoever believes the truth taught by God has eternal life.” Look at the verses preceding the statement about eternal life-“‘And they will all be taught by God.’ Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me.” Heard and learned imply understanding and agreement-God teaches the elect sinner through the gospel “this is the truth concerning my Son,” the elect sinner, upon receiving repentance and faith, says “amen, that (what God has said alone) is the truth about the Son of God.”
The only people who truly agree with God, and thus possess eternal life, are the regenerated elect-those whom God purposed to save from eternity past and has granted repentance and faith to believe the gospel. Only the regenerated elect now agree with God, and only the elect as a collective group (including the unregenerate elect) will be brought to agree with God. Agreement with God concerning Christ is the evidence that He has saved you. It is the evidence that you are an elect sinner for whom Christ died.
Believing is not what saves. Rather, believing the truth is what tells you that you have been saved. There is nothing that any sinner can do to be saved-NOTHING. Sinners are hopeless apart from the death of Christ on their behalf. I cannot stress this enough-there is NOTHING, including believing the truth that you can DO in order to be saved. Rather, it is God who saves, and the evidence of salvation is belief of the truth.
Not everyone can believe God. In fact, no one can believe God unless He teaches them the truth. Only those whom God teaches the truth agree with Him. As a result of being taught by God, they are drawn by the Father to Christ.
Who are those who are taught the truth by God? Those to whom the righteousness of Christ has been imputed and as a result have been regenerated by the Holy Spirit-“But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life BECAUSE OF righteousness.” Romans 8:10 ESV. This verse tells us that the reason the Holy Spirit is life for the elect sinner is BECAUSE of the righteousness established by Christ having been imputed to that sinner.
Who are those to whom the righteousness of Christ has been and, if not yet imputed, will be imputed? Those whose sins were imputed to Christ at the cross. “And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross.”Colossians 2:13-14 ESV. The record of debt that stood against US (the elect of God alone) was the entire record of sin of all of the elect of God, justly requiring their death. That record of debt was nailed to cross-it has been set aside because propitiation (satisfaction of debt) has been made by Christ on behalf of His people.
Who are those whose sins were imputed to Christ? The elect of God-“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth. In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.”Ephesians 1:3-14 ESV
It is those who have been predestined to adoption as sons and daughters that have redemption in Christ. Only them. No one else has redemption in Christ. Look at what the end of the passage says-in Him (Christ) you also (the elect), WHEN YOU HEARD THE WORD OF TRUTH, THE GOSPEL OF YOUR SALVATION (that is, in the case of the elect hearer, to be taught by God concerning the truth of Christ), and BELIEVED IN HIM (that is, to be brought into agreement with God concerning Christ), were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit who is the guarantee of our inheritance, until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of God’s glory. We who have been regenerated possess the Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee/earnest/deposit of the inheritance we have in Christ (glorification and eternal life) until we actually take possession of it.
What is the role of the Holy Spirit? To lead the elect sinner in all truth concerning Christ-“When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you.”John 16:13-14 ESV
So let’s be clear. The only way that you can be brought to believe God is if you were predestined to salvation before creation. If you were, a time will come when God will impute the righteousness of Christ to you, causing the Spirit of God to regenerate you and cause you to believe the gospel. Another way this idea of coming to believe the gospel is expressed is to “call on the name of the Lord.” Romans 10:13 ESV.
Everyone else (the reprobate) believes false gospels, or no gospels at all, so that they will be deceived and be kept in darkness until the judgment. The Bible makes no apology for either of these truths. The reprobate will never be brought to believe the truth. They can seek, but they will never find. Instead they will, perpetually, believe lies. Therefore, it cannot be said of them that they “believe.” It doesn’t matter if they believe that Christ died on a cross for sin. According to scripture, that naked belief is not the evidence of conversion. The evidence of conversion is believing the righteousness of God revealed-the gospel-a clear and definitive message which can in no way be altered, changed or compromised on.
Jesus actually thanks God in the gospel of Matthew for hiding the truth of who He is to some and revealing to others-“At that time Jesus declared, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will.” Matthew 11:25-26 ESV(cf Luke 10:21-22 ESV).
Christ Himself taught election and effectual atonement. He calls the revelation of the truth to some and the nonrevelation of truth to others the “gracious will” of the Father. This is a stunning statement. It tells us that Christ is in 100% agreement with God concerning His purpose to save His elect and to condem the reprobate. Christ and the Father are of one mind concerning all things, but particularly here, the salvation of the elect and to whom the truth is revealed. Christ Himself decimates the idea that the knowledge of the truth is for everyone. He praises His Father for His discretion in who He reveals the truth to-to His people-the little children. This title “little children” is actually used by John in his first epistle when writing to the elect Jews for which he had a ministry. It is a term of endearment for family members. The elect are the “little children” of God who know and believe His testimony concerning Christ. That is how they know they are His children.
So based on the word of Christ and the apostle Paul, it is God who reveals the truth to whomever He pleases (His elect) and teaches it to them so that they will understand it and agree with Him concerning it. He does this to glorify Himself and to inform His people that they have been forgiven of their sins and freely imputed with the righteousness of His Son because His Son paid for their debt. All of this is based on His good pleasure.
So…how do you know if you have been saved? The answer should be obvious at this point. The biblical answer is you believe what God has said concerning Christ. If you don’t, then you call God a liar and are not saved. 1 John 5:10-11 ESV.
We need to stop and dwell for a moment on what this means. There is only one set of propositions that God had given concerning Christ. You either believe those because you have been caused to believe it by Himself, or you believe a false gospel. There s no in between. You either believe God or you don’t. If you do, it is because He taught you the truth and made you to believe it. If you don’t, it is because He has not yet converted you. If you don’t yet believe the truth, then you haven’t been converted.
Do not deceived-you cannot believe a false gospel and rightly think that God has converted you, because God does not leave those whom He loves in falsehood-He teaches them the truth, because the truth is about His glory. You can only know He has converted you by believing His gospel-the one truth concerning Christ. Do you believe this truth? The answer is either yes or no. There is no in-between.
There are many deceivers out there who claim that it doesn’t matter if you believe the truth as long as you believe in Christ and that He died for your sins. First of all, this is complete hogwash. This is not even sort of true. You can’t believe in Christ if you don’t believe the truth. There is no separation between Christ and the truth. He says so in John 14:6- “I am the way, the truth and the life, no one comes to the Father but by me.” It is impossible to believe in Christ if you don’t know/believe the truth. It’s impossible to believe the truth if you haven’t been regenerated. It is impossible to be regenerated if you havent been elected to salvation. This is why the gospel you believe matters…it matters from an ASSURANCE standpoint.
See, there is nothing you can DO to be saved, including believe. You’re a hopeless sinner completely dependent on the mercy of God for salvation. The only way you can KNOW that GOD has purposed to save you is by believing His truth. Don’t believe His truth? Then you have no reason to assume you’re saved. Believe His gospel? Then you should have every boldness and confidence to call Him your Father and celebrate your adoption into His family. Praise God for the assurance of salvation which comes from believing His gospel.
Here’s a question I have for those who claim to be saved in spite of not believing the gospel-If God has truly saved you, why do you still believe a lie? Does He not love you enough to teach you the truth? He sent His Son to die for you, but He leaves you to think that you need to finish the job somehow? This is blasphemy. False gospels are blasphemy because they call God a liar and tell the sinner that the difference between life and death is something they do, or did, or need to continue doing.
Jesus said it is the truth that sets one free. If you still believe a lie, then you haven’t been set free because lies have no power to set one free. Rather, lies are traps set by the devil to ensnare one to do his will. If you still believe a lie, then you’re still trapped by the devil, and your assumption that you’re saved is a product of deception. You have no options to free yourself from the devil. You cannot do this of your own ability. It is Christ who must set you free, and the only way that will happen is if He is your savior by the appointment of the Father.
Even the natural man knows it is bad to be deceived-no one assumes they are deceived and will naturally resist any suggestion that they or others are deceived. It is offensive to them to suggest that they or anyone else is deceived. This is because the natural man knows that it is bad thing to be deceived. However, the power of deception lies in not knowing you’re deceived. While the natural man knows that it is bad to be deceived, he never assumes that he is deceived. He may reluctantly concede that for some, but even then he believes that the power to discern the truth lies within the person rather than the divine power of God. If you have been set free by the Son, then you believe the truth. If you don’t believe the truth, then you haven’t been set free by the Son…it’s really that simple.
Remember what Christ said-whoever believes has eternal life. He was talking about the truth of the gospel. Whoever believes the gospel has eternal life. Everyone is deceived unless and until they are taught the truth by God.