What Does it Mean to Believe (Acts 2:38) | Shaun Doyle

When Jared initially asked me to speak, sure it was a surprise to me. More than my nerves was the instant conviction that I have the responsibility to share the Good News.

I thought of Ezra 7:10, that he “devoted himself to the study and observance of the Law of the Lord, and to teaching its decrees and laws.” I thought of 2 Timothy 2:2, to be a faithful man able to teach others, and in verse 24, it states “the Lord’s servant must be kind to everyone, able to teach.” While not all are called to pastor, we are still called to teach others.

It really is an honor and privilege to speak the Good News publicly, its sad that some would be fined or imprisoned as we have seen in Canada, China, North Korea, and more.

As Jared and I discussed, we thought it was important to thoroughly explain what it means to believe. My unsaved previous supervisor once told me that all you have to do is believe and you will be saved. He saw the profession of faith in some without obedience and the fruitful works that should follow. he saw their sin and it’s truest destruction, he saw false teachers and wolves in sheep’s clothing, leaving him to forsake the importance of believing in Jesus because his good works were better than those who claimed to believe. In no way will good works save us, it is truly the gift of God.

In the list of verses printed out, I found at least 13 verses calling on mankind to believe, while 6 of those made references to address Him as Lord. To become saved,

Paul says in Acts 16:31 to “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved.”

Furthermore, Romans 10:9 says “If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”

Lastly, If we confess and repent of our sins, “He is faithful and just to forgive” 1 John 1:9

Thank God.

This begs the question, what does it mean to believe? To find out what belief means, we look at the complete and authoritative Word of God. To understand belief, we will cover 6 points.

The first is that we realize our initial spiritual condition – dead! We were spiritually dead, unresponsive, and naturally deserving of God’s wrath.

Ephesians 2:1 makes it absolutely clear – you were dead in your transgressions and sins.  

Romans 3:11, no one understands, no one seeks for God

1 Corinthians 2:14, The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them

For our second point, true belief is more than a man-initiated act, for it is a sovereign work of God, it begins and ends with God. There are many terms for this: Predestined/Predetermined/Foreknowledge/Called/Chosen/Appointed/Drawn/Elected. If we are dead, we do not choose to become alive, He revives us, He causes us to be born again. He opens our eyes, opens our ears, and gives us a heart of flesh to understand, seek, and accept God.

Ephesians 1:4-5 states that “He chose us in Him [Christ] before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before Him. In love He predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ.”

In Ezekiel 11:19, God said “And I will give them one heart, and a new spirit I will put within them. I will remove the heart of stone from their flesh and give them a heart of flesh.”

This new spiritual resurrection is what we call being born again, which then we have the ability to repent of our sin and believe. John 3:3 states that “Unless one is BORN AGAIN he can not see the kingdom of God.” We can not believe and repent if we are spiritually dead, a new birth must occur first which can only be initiated by God Himself.

For our third point, Jesus is not a Rabbi, a Teacher, a Prophet, He is our Lord, which has special significance. Lord is more than just a title of respect, it affirms that Jesus is the one true and living God. Lord has a special meaning of love, dependence, trust, reverence, obedience, and acknowledgment of sovereign authority and power. Mere acknowledgment that Jesus simply existed and did miracles does not mean Jesus is your “Lord” (e.g., Judas, Jewish Pharisees, the multitudes who were fed and healed by Jesus). However, Matthew 7:21 warns that “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.”

To become saved, one must make Jesus their Lord and wholeheartedly repent of their sin.

An amazing example of what belief and repentance looks like is the thief on the cross. Luke 23:40-43 states “But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this Man has done nothing wrong.” And he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” And he said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.”

This man on the cross appeared to acknowledge God’s existence, demonstrating his newfound fear of God, admitting his guilt and awareness of his deserved punishment, indicating a true change of heart (aka repentance). He believed Jesus was not worthy of his death on the cross. He believed Jesus was the Son of God to be raised up back to God the Father. This Biblical account eliminates the claim of purgatory, baptism, and any works-based systems needed for salvation. However, baptism and good works are necessary fruit/evidence of a genuine and saving faith if given the opportunity to do so.

The 4th point is that Repentance is absolutely important to salvation. As I mentioned earlier, If we confess and repent of our sins, “He is faithful and just to forgive” 1 John 1:9. To help understand this, I highly recommend reading Thomas Watson’s Doctrine of Repentance book that we have in the front, The small puritan paperback. I wanted to share several important lessons mentioned:

Repentance is a complete change and humbling of the heart by God, leading to a new attitude and behavior against sin (Romans 12:9 says we are to hate what is evil), not like it, be indifferent about it, or tolerate it, we are to hate sin.

A repentant heart does not avoid some sins while choosing to still engage in other ones. How can one be against some sins (murder and adultery), but sees no error in with lust in the mind or using the Lord’s name in vain? There should be a disgust and hate for ALL sin, for Ephesians 5:11 says “have NOTHING to do with the unfruitful works of darkness.”

Through blinding by the ruler of this world, pride, ignorance, self-love, and a good-person mentality, one is veiled from understanding how wretched and deformed we are in the eyes of God, how much we have sinned against our Holy Creator – all of this is the beginning of a repentant heart.

If you say you have repented, but are not broken and sorrowful over you sin, suspect your repentance. Luke 7:38 shows a woman weeping at the feet of Jesus over her sins, not merely apologizing. If you do not feel such sorrow, pray that God may open your eyes and ears and heart to see the sin and spiritual death that it brings.

An unrepentant heart proclaims the love and grace of God, yet does not have a concern for obedience and addressing sin. This made-up version of God is an idol.

The hypocrite confesses sin yet: 1) secretly loves it, 2) does not specifically know what sins he is even confessing, blind to the commandments of God, 3) continues to engage in it after repenting.

Make no defenses or excuses for sinning, for Adam blamed God for giving him Eve in the first place, instead of taking accountability for their own actions

For Christ shed His blood for our sins, so how can we spit in the face of Christ by choosing to still love and habitually practice sin? 1 John 3:9 says that no one born of God makes a practice of sinning.

When trials and temptation arrive, evidence of a repentant heart is the Holy Spirit’s voice within our heart, reminding us of God’s Word. John 14:16 states that the Father will give us another advocate to help us and be with us forever – the Spirit of Truth.

Repentance should be so notable that others are clearly aware of your change of heart, hatred for sin, and love of God – suspect your repentance if no one can tell, for you may fool others, but you cant fool God.

Repentance is not once as is baptism, but a continual habit, especially before taking Communion. If you are distant from love and obedience to Christ, repent that you left your first love (Christ)(see Revelations 2:4).

Fifth, it is important to understand the importance of zealous obedience to God’s commands. Salvation and obedience (although imperfect) are ultimately inseparable. Similarly, John 14:15 confirms this simplicity, that those who love Him therefore obey Him. Those who enter the kingdom of God will not be those who merely professed the name of Jesus but those whose actions (obedience / service) to Him proved their profession of faith, they made Jesus their “Lord.”

Acts 5:32 states that The Holy Spirit is “given to those who obey Him.”

With this indwelling, we display the fruit of the Spirit, which is “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” Galatians 5:22-23

One of the most notable verses is In Matthew 25:21 where God said “well done, my good and faithful servant”  – what a blessing it will be to hear these words.

James 2:17, So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.

Titus 1:16, “They profess to know God, but they deny him by their WORKS.

Titus 3:8, those who have believed in God may be careful to devote themselves to good works.

Good works follow obedience, they are a necessary fruit/evidence of a genuine and saving faith.

Matthew 7:19-20, Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will recognize them by their fruits.

John 15:2, Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit.

2 Corinthians 9:13, Because of the service by which you have proved yourselves, others will praise God for the obedience that accompanies your confession of the gospel of Christ, and for your generosity in sharing with them and with everyone else.

Matthew 5:13, You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet.

My Pastor and John Macarthur say genuine Christians can never lose their salvation, but we lose our value and effectiveness when sin and the world contaminate us, just as pure salt loses its flavor when contaminated by other minerals. Christians pure at heart do not become tasteless, ineffective, or useless in the kingdom of God.

The sixth and final point is the blessed assurance of salvation that we have, for the phrase ‘once saved always saved’ is true and is a peaceful hope for our soul. A Genuine question most people ask themselves at some point is if a genuine believer can lose their salvation?

John 6:37, “All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out.”

John 10:27-28, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.”

1 Cor 1:8, “He will also keep you firm to the end, so that you will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Ephesians 1:13, “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”

The Bible clearly says No. Genuine Christians who repent and believe in Christ can never lose their salvation, but some do stumble in sin and drift away, losing their value and effectiveness as servants for God, just as pure salt loses its flavor when contaminated by other minerals. Christians pure at heart and a love for Christ do not become tasteless, ineffective, or useless in the kingdom of God – we fully believe, serve, and obey Him. When we repent and truly believe in Christ, with Him as our *Lord*, nothing can then separate/snatch us away from Him.

We may stumble, but we should repent and turn from that sin each time. Why knowingly entangle ourselves in sin? 2 Timothy 2:4 states that “No soldier gets entangled in civilian pursuits, since his aim is to please the one who enlisted him.” God has chose us and forgiven us, and out of this great abundance of mercy we should strive our best to love and obey Him. We as Christians lead lives of progressive sanctification, of increasing holiness towards Christ, our Lord and Savior.

I warn you, do not meet the Lord without repenting and believing in Him. Without repentance and faith in Christ, the Bible tells that one will experience a second death (Rev. 2:18) where a soul will be eternally separated from God, they will hear the horrifying words: “I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness” Matthew 7:23.

I honestly ask, What is stopping you from believing and repenting? We all sin and fall short of the glory of God, and Godly sorrow is good, but do not drown in it – have hope: “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins” 1 John 1:9. God promises in Jeremiah 29:13, “You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.”


Lord, I deserve eternal separation from you for I have sinned against you, change my heart that I may be broke over and hate all sin, love righteousness, and strive to obey, trust, and serve You all the days of my life, until you call me home. Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, for In him we have redemption through his blood. Thank you for loving us, thank you for undeserved mercy poured out on us. You alone are good, and deserve all the praise. This is the Good News. Praise God. In your name I pray, Amen.

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