There are many who would answer “No” to this question and, proceeding to do that which they consider to be right, either renounce religion altogether or embrace a false hope. A hope which, though taught in all the established churches (and also in all pagan religions) is totally opposed to the teaching of the Bible which is the word of God to his creation. How often do we hear expressions like this - “You believe what you like and I’ll believe what I like and both of us will get to heaven in the end by different ways”?. Whereas the hope of a believer in what the Bible teaches is to live for ever in God’s kingdom to be set up on the earth at the return of the Lord Jesus Christ. Nowhere does the Bible promise heaven as the reward of the righteous - in fact it is explicit in its statement that “no man hath ascended up to heaven” except Jesus (John 3:13).
TRUE BELIEF ESSENTIAL
The Word of God offers no middle position between obedience to its conditions for salvation and outright rejection. Yet there are very many people who claim to be Christians, and hope to partake of eternal life on the strength of a formal acknowledgement of belief in Jesus Christ, while holding ideas which are out of harmony with the teaching of the Bible. The Lord Jesus insists upon TRUE belief as the first and essential act -
“This is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent” (John 17:3)
We are told in the Bible that the only way we can “know God” is by “searching the scriptures daily” (Acts 17:11). If we do not read God’s word for ourselves, how can we know him or his son the Lord Jesus? Though we believe in Christ we could be holding on to erroneous ideas which will avail us nothing, for error is, beyond question, no better than unbelief. Solomon informs us of this in the book of Proverbs -
“The man that wandereth out of the way of understanding shall remain in the congregation of the dead” (Proverbs 21:16)
This is, after all, only fair and just for the living God who has given us his Word, is the Almighty Creator of all things. He is a great King and expects us to honour him by interesting ourselves in what he purposes to do with this earth and with mankind, and to fulfil the terms and conditions he has laid down in order that HE may honour us. This principle we would accept applies even to earthly kings. Suppose the Queen has summoned one of her subjects to the court of St James that he may receive honour at her hands - perhaps a medal or even a knighthood. Would she be pleased if, wilfully or in carelessness, he proceeded to Buckingham Palace instead of St James? Or again, would any loyal subject of the Queen, being in his right senses, expect to receive an honour which the Queen had not offered, merely because he himself desired that particular honour? The futility of both these courses is obvious. How much more when the hope is the gift of everlasting life from the Lord of heaven and earth?
OF COURSE IT MATTERS WHAT WE BELIEVE!
Jesus made this abundantly clear when he criticised the religious leaders of his day. He told them that the words of the prophet Isaiah applied to them - just as they must apply to others today who adopt the same attitude towards religion.
“This people honoureth me with their lips, but their heart is far from me. Howbeit in vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men” (Mark 7:6-7)
How serious this is! What matters most in religious belief and worship is what God says! What is certain to lead us astray are the doctrines taught by men who disregard the clear teaching of the Bible, thus “making the word of God of none effect through their tradition” (Mark 7:13). The tragedy highlighted here by Jesus is that men and women can sincerely (in their own way) affect to worship and honour God, yet to no avail. Jesus said that, unless such worship is based on the word of God, it is “vain” - that is, it is valueless. What a sad state of affairs; yet men and women generally are so complacent that they do not want to be disturbed from their kind of religion! A prominent theologian once said -
“The Christian doctrine of the immortality of the soul is a curious example of an opinion destitute of any foundation in the Bible… derived only from Greek philosophy, yet held formerly by large numbers of intelligent Christians… on the mistaken supposition that it is taught in the Bible”.
SEARCH THE SCRIPTURES
We must believe and obey the TRUTH. That can only be found in the Bible. Jesus said as much in the gospel of John.
“Sanctify them (the apostles) through thy truth: THY WORD IS TRUTH.” (John 17:17)
He was speaking in prayer to God his Father. The prophet Isaiah wrote similar words.
“To the law and the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them” (Isaiah 8:20)
Let us then go back to the Bible to find the Truth and to find out what God has promised to those who honour and obey him. Let us believe no doctrine without testing it against God’s word, remembering that Jesus has said -
“He that believeth (the Gospel) and is baptised shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned” (Mark 16:16)
Let us also believe the words of Paul when he wrote,
“The wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 6:23)
Read the Bible and discover for yourself how you may obtain the gift of God.