It is written:
Acts 16:31-So they said, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household.”
It is often claimed that faith only is needed to be saved since people are sometimes told in the New Testament that they need to ‘believe” to be forgiven, and that is claimed is the entirety of the plan of redemption.
First, it is true that we are told that people need to believe in order to be saved. Yet what does the word “believe” actually mean?
“Thayer’s Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament gives this definition of pisteuo when used of the faith by which a man embraces Jesus: “A conviction, full of joyful trust, that Jesus is the Messiah-the divinely appointed author of eternal salvation in the kingdom of God, CONJOINED WITH OBEDIENCE to Christ.”… James M. Whiton abridged Liddell and Scott’s Greek-English Lexicon, and under pisteuo gives these possible meanings: “To believe, trust in, put faith in, confide in, rely on a person or thing.-2. To believe, COMPLY, OBEY.” Bultmann has the article on pisteuo in Kittel’s Theological Dictionary Of The New Testament. After giving a history of the use of the word in the Old Testament, he outlines its use in the New Testament. “II. General Usage: 1. The Continuation of the Old Testament and Jewish Tradition: a. pisteuo as to Believe; b. as to OBEY; C. as to Trust; d. as to Hope; e. as Faithfulness.”… The Lexicons reflect the idea advanced earlier in this study that any of the elements of pisteuo (knowledge, assent, confidence, obedience) may be emphasized, and that the context or the construction (certain prepositional phrases) in which it appears will often determine the exact meaning.” (Gareth Reese, Acts: New Testament History, 600-601 (emphasis added, M.T.); Joplin, Missouri; College Press)
The famous word scholar, William Barclay, further elaborates upon this:
“If we wish to put this very simply, we may say that through Jesus there is possible a relationship, an intimacy, a unity with God which are possible in no other way. Through what he is and does men may enter into the very life of God himself. (iv) This eternal life comes through what the NT calls belief in Jesus Christ (John 3.15, 16, 36; 5.24; 6.40, 47; I John 5.13; I Tim. 1.16). What does this belief mean? Clearly it is not simply intellectual belief. Belief in Jesus means that we believe absolutely and implicitly that what Jesus says about God is true…..But belief goes even further than that. We believe that God is Father and that God is love, because we believe that Jesus, being the Son of God, has told us the truth about God—and then we act on the belief. We live life in the certainty that we can do nothing other than render a perfect trust and a perfect obedience to God….That belief involves three elements. (i) It involves believing that God is the kind of God Jesus told men about. (ii) It involves the certainty that Jesus is the Son of God, and therefore has the right to speak about God in a way that no one else ever could or ever will be able to speak. (iii) It involves living all life on the assumption that these things are true. When we do that, we share nothing less than the life of God, the power and the peace which God alone can give….(ii) Eternal life demands obedience to God. God’s commandment is eternal life (John 12.50). Jesus is the author of eternal salvation to all that obey him (Heb. 5.9). Only in doing his will is our peace.” (William Barclay, New Testament Words, 534-565 (Kindle Edition); Louisville, KY; Westminster John Knox Press)
When people in the first century heard that they needed to “believe” in Jesus, they would have immediately understood that this means: trust and obey!
Second, the Bible is clear that belief divorced from obedience does not save.
James 2:17-26-Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. 18 But someone will say, “You have faith, and I have works.” Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. 19 You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe—and tremble! 20 But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead? 21 Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered Isaac his son on the altar? 22 Do you see that faith was working together with his works, and by works faith was made perfect? 23 And the Scripture was fulfilled which says, “ABRAHAM BELIEVED GOD, AND IT WAS ACCOUNTED TO HIM FOR RIGHTEOUSNESS.” And he was called the friend of God. 24 You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only. 25 Likewise, was not Rahab the harlot also justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out another way? 26 For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.
Words could not be more clear!
Third, notice that in the plan of salvation in Acts 16:31, Paul and Silas were speaking to a person who had never heard the Word of God (cf. Acts 16:32). As such, he needed to believe-to trust and obey-what God’s Word said to do. When he did, what happened?
Acts 16:32-34-Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house. 33 And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their stripes. And immediately he and all his family were baptized. 34 Now when he had brought them into his house, he set food before them; and he rejoiced, having believed in God with all his household.
The jailor-hearing the Word of God-repented of his sins (as evidenced by his taking Paul and Silas out of the prison and washing their stripes) and then was baptized the same hour of the night. He trusted and obeyed! Indeed, we are told after his obedience to Jesus that he rejoiced, “having believed in God with all his household.” Notice that the jailor’s trust and obedience are summarized as his having “believed.”
In fact, this is in harmony with the other accounts in Acts. We are told in Acts 2 that believers in Jesus needed to repent and be baptized (Acts 2:38); a believer in Jesus who had repented (and who had been praying for three days and nights after this) was told to be baptized into Christ (Acts 22:16); and in 16, an unbeliever is told to believe and then repents and is baptized.
My friends, this is not rocket science.
Faith alone will not save anyone.
Hebrews 5:9-And having been perfected, He became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him,
The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit, be with you all. Amen.