Here is the gospel of salvation that Christians are said to believe:
Romans 10:9, “that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and
believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be
Romans 10:13 says it again, “for everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
What does it mean to believe in your heart that God has rasied Him from the dead? This belief, first, must be a mental one. I believe in gravity. When I drop an apple from my hand to the floor, I believe it will fall. I believe in the rotation of the earth. I believe that when the sun disappears at night that it will return in the morning. These things are based on objective fact: we have seen these truths with our eyes and therefore can bank on their reliability in our minds. This is a mental belief. It is a mental belief because it works with logic and evidence and changes the way a person thinks. But what does it mean to believe with the heart?
First, what is an example of a heart belief? A heart belief is often a belief in something that the eyes cannot see and something that cannot be scientifically tested (pacifying mental demands). For example, my heart believes that telling the truth is the right thing to do. This is an ethic – it can also express itself in emotions. If I received a test back and I got a 93 on it, but when I check through the incorrect answers and notice the professor missed a question, I believe in my heart that I must tell the truth and reveal that my true grade is an 89. My emotions enforce this because I will experience a somatosensory shift – a wrench in the stomach – when I am confronted with my conscience. Therefore, I believe that telling the truth is the right thing to do, and I believe it in my heart. This heart belief changes the way I behave.
Another example of heart belief: If I am married and my wife tells me that she loves me, I am supposed to believe her. You will know I believe her if I don’t worry when she goes out for drinks with friends. She loves me and wouldn’t make any decisions that would compromise that love. My belief in her words produces trust, and it calms my emotions. You will know I don’t believe her if I am periodically calling her to see where she is or if I am nervous about her late arrival or if I am doubting her fidelity. I can say I believe she loves me with my words, but it is quite another thing to believe her with my heart – it changes my behavior.
So what is belief? It is something that changes the way a person thinks and something that changes the way a person acts. And what does it mean to believe in the heart that God has raised Him from the dead? It is not only a belief that you hold in your head and confess with your mouth, but it is a heart belief that changes the way you make decisions and behave (emotions included).
Now, we know that those who confess with their mouth and believe in their heart that Christ has been raised will be saved, but we also know this:
Matt 7: 21“Not everyone who says to
me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who
does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22Many
will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your
name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ 23Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!'”
Is this cause for concern? Not everyone who confesses with the mouth will be saved. There is something else missing – a “being known” by the Lord – that he requires. Assuming my definition of heart belief is true, and that believing in the heart must affect the behavior, and that many who confess Christ with the mouth will not be saved but those who confess with the heart will be, “being known” by the Lord will mean that our hearts believe Christ is alive and our actions and emotions reflect it. Is it possible to believe in the heart without having your actions change? I don’t think so, but that is God’s business. He is the knower of hearts, not us.
So how do we ensure that we believe Christ with our hearts? Ah, this is the mysterious business of the spirit, and in my opinion, a business that we can trust he will perform when we ask him to.
Although as a sidenote, it is significant to point out here that we are not saved by these actions or works, but they are the litmus test by which we know the authenticity of the faith.
James 2:16-18 “What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him? Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If
one of you says to him, “Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,”
but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.”
If a person claims to be a believer, but has no good works in his life, then he likely does not have genuine faith in Christ. But we are justified by faith alone, not by works. It simply stands that faith does not equal words. Faith is only faith when it is accompanied by deeds.
And then on the other side of the coin, there is this command for believers to not look down on weaker brothers in faith:
Romans 14: “1Accept him whose faith is weak, without passing judgment on disputable matters. 2One man’s faith allows him to eat everything, but another man, whose faith is weak, eats only vegetables. 3The
man who eats everything must not look down on him who does not, and the
man who does not eat everything must not condemn the man who does, for
God has accepted him. 4Who
are you to judge someone else’s servant? To his own master he stands or
falls. And he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand.
13Therefore let us stop
passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put
any stumbling block or obstacle in your brother’s way.”
Although we have different measures of faith and different extents to which our faith changes our behavior, let us work together for peace and edification, not division in the church.
” 19Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification.”
In conclusion: Belief is belief when it exists in our heads, transmits through our mouths, influences our emotions and determines our actions. These are those individuals who will be saved. Next, we are saved by this belief, not by the actions that accompany it. But our belief is only belief when it has actions, and actions are the way we know it is belief. How can we ensure we have this sort of belief? We ask for it. And finally, we don’t pass judgment on those who are behind us in faith, whose faith does not necessarily produce fruit yet. It is not to say their faith will not produce fruit. Instead, we make every effort to live together peacefully and love others as we would prefer to be loved. If anything, that is one of the only ways I know how to spread this mysterious thing called belief – show other people yours.