Hi, my name is Blake. I believe faith in Jesus is the only requirement for eternal life. I have some convictions about the teaching of eternal life being the object of our faith in Jesus (i.e., “Believe in Jesus for eternal life.”) That seems to be implied by some examples of faith, such as believing Jesus for healing. There is a teaching about general belief in His name or the power of His name. Should I think that everyone under that teaching is headed for condemnation? Does God show mercy to our imperfections?
Thanks for the excellent question, Blake.
If I understand you correctly, you’re asking whether we have to believe in Jesus for eternal life to be eternally saved, or is it enough to believe more generally in the power of His name?
Let me go to the first part of your question: do we need to believe in Jesus for eternal life?
You rightly point out that people believed in Jesus for other things, such as physical healing—a major focus of Jesus’ ministry. After all, when John the Baptist’s disciples asked if He was the Messiah, the Lord replied by pointing to His physical healings:
“Go and report to John what you hear and see: The blind receive their sight, the lame walk, those with leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor are told the good news, and blessed is the one who isn’t offended by me” (Matt 11:3-6).
Jesus referred to Isaiah 35:4-6, which promised the Messiah would heal, cleanse, and restore people. Hence, many people believed in Jesus for healing because they understood that is what the Messiah came to do and what they saw Jesus doing (cf. Matt 8:17). When people went to Jesus to be healed, they believed in Him for something specific, e.g., to see again, to be free of leprosy, or to be healed of their bleeding. They believed in Him for healing without anyone specifically using that language. And if they believed, they received. Hence, Jesus would praise people for their faith (“Your faith has made you well” Mark 5:34; by contrast see Mark 6:5-6).
The same thing occurs in salvation. Admittedly, Jesus did not explicitly say we had to believe in Him for salvation. The word “for” is neither in the English translation nor the original Greek. However, I think that’s what Jesus meant and what people understood.
From Daniel’s prophecies of an everlasting kingdom, and prophecies about the New Covenant in Isaiah, Ezekiel, and Jeremiah, and certainly from Jesus’ explicit offers of eternal life, I think it’s safe to conclude that people believed in Him for eternal salvation, even if we don’t see that exact condition stated (i.e., “You must believe in Him for everlasting life.”). After all, why do you believe in a Savior? For salvation. It would make no sense to say you believe in a Savior for nothing in particular.
Your second question is whether people can be saved through a “general belief in His name or the power of His name.” And you ask, “Should I believe all those under that teaching are headed for condemnation?”
You’re asking a hypothetical: Can someone believe that Jesus’ name is powerful and yet not believe in Him for salvation and still be saved?
Frankly, I don’t know of any verse that explicitly answers your question. I have to do my best to make inferences and draw conclusions.
On the one hand, Peter said, “There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to people by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12, emphasis added). Did you catch that? Yes, Peter proclaimed the power of Jesus’ name, but the context is that it is powerful for salvation. Any other context is not what Peter was discussing.
On the other hand, I also notice that in Galatians, Paul said that if someone preaches Jesus and yet says that salvation is partly by works, that is a false and cursed gospel (Gal 1:6-9; Gal 3:10). From that, I conclude that simply having the name “Jesus” in your message doesn’t stop it from being cursed. And while Paul doesn’t explicitly say the Judaizers are unsaved or that anyone who believed that version of the gospel would be condemned (please correct me on that), I think that’s a reasonable implication of Paul’s strong language. After all, how could anyone be saved by believing “another” gospel, especially one that is “cursed”? I don’t think so. (But admittedly, I’m making an inference.)
So, putting those two points together, no, I don’t think you can get eternal life by believing that Jesus’ name is powerful without believing in Him for eternal life. You need more information than that.
Having said that, I’d rather not emphasize hypothetical theology. I’d rather emphasize what I am certain is true because it is explicitly stated in Scripture: if you believe in Jesus for everlasting life, then you have it.
If anyone believes that Jesus’ name is mighty, why stop there? Why not believe that He is so powerful that He gives eternal life to believers? That’s what Jesus explicitly told people and invited them to believe. We should do the same.
Send your comments or questions to Shawn.