What must you believe to be saved? It is not enough to simply have faith. We must have an informed faith. It is not the strength of your faith that is paramount. It is the object of your faith which is truly important. Theology matters. Faith is only as good as it is in whom it is placed.
In Christianity, there are plenty of doctrines that are held in dispute. The question that this article is seeking to answer is this: what are the absolute necessary things that I need to believe to be saved from God's judgment in hell?
Additionally, how do we know which doctrines are essential and which are not? The answer to that question is Scripture declares for us what is essential and what isn't. For example, the Bible will say "Unless you believe this...", you cannot be saved. That is the standard that I will use as we go forward laying out what is essential and what isn't.
1. God - Who is God?
There is only one God who exists in three persons: The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. This is known as the Trinity, and it is an essential doctrine. If we aren't worshipping the one, true and living God, we are by definition, idolaters.
The deity of Christ. The Bible teaches that Jesus is God.
- In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
- And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.
- For this reason, therefore the Jews were seeking all the more to kill Him, because He not only was breaking the Sabbath, but also was calling God His own Father, making Himself equal with God.
- I and the Father are one. The Jews picked up stones again to stone Him. Jesus answered them, "I showed you many good works from the Father; for which of them are you stoning Me?" The Jews answered Him, "For a good work we do not stone You, but for blasphemy; and because You, being a man, make Yourself out to be God."
- Thomas answered and said to Him, "My Lord and my God!"
- "Return to your house and describe what great things God has done for you." So he went away, proclaiming throughout the whole city what great things Jesus had done for him.
- For in Him (Jesus) all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form,
- And we know that the Son of God has come, and has given us understanding so that we may know Him who is true; and we are in Him who is true, in His Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God and eternal life.
1 John 5:20
The apostle John shows us just how important it is to believe that Jesus is God in the flesh. John 8:24 says this, "Therefore I (Jesus) said to you that you will die in your sins; for unless you believe that I am He, you will die in your sins." Jesus said that if you do not believe "that I am," you will die in your sins. In Greek I am is 'ego eimi,' which means 'I am.' These are the same words used in John 8:58, where Jesus says " . . . before Abraham was, I am." He was claiming the divine title by quoting Exodus 3:14.
To quote Dr. James White from Alpha and Omega Ministries, "Jesus here gives us the content and object of saving faith - the Jews standing about Him during this conversation most assuredly would not have denied that He was a man - but that was not sufficient for faith. Some had just recently proclaimed Him as Messiah - but that was not sufficient for faith. Some might hail Him as a prophet or a miracle worker, blessed by God - but that was not sufficient for faith. Some today say He was a great moral teacher and philosopher - but that is not sufficient for faith. Some call Him "a god" or a great angel - but that is not sufficient for faith. No, Jesus Himself laid down the line - unless one believes Him for whom He says He is - the ego eimi - one will die in one's sins. There is no salvation in a false Christ. If we are to be united with Christ to have eternal life, then we must be united with the true Christ, not a false representation. It is out of love that Christ uttered John 8:24. We would do well to heed His words."
Furthermore, John also states: Who is the liar but the one who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist, the one who denies the Father and the Son. Whoever denies the Son does not have the Father; the one who confesses the Son has the Father also. 1 John 2:22,23
And 2 John 7 reads: For many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh. This is the deceiver and the antichrist.
According to the Apostle John who wrote under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, we must have the "correct Jesus". We must believe in Him rightly.
2. Salvation - How are we saved?
We are saved by grace through faith.
For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.
He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit,
Ok. So what if someone believes that they are saved by some combination of faith and works? Is that just heretical teaching (false teaching), or is it damnable heresy (false teaching that if believed, condemns an individual)? Listen to the apostle Paul on this matter:
You have been severed from Christ, you who are seeking to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace.
3. The Resurrection - Did Jesus rise from the grave?
Belief in the resurrection of Christ is an essential.
1 Corinthians 15:1-4, 12-19
1 Now I make known to you, brethren, the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received, in which also you stand, 2 by which also you are saved, if you hold fast the word which I preached to you, unless you believed in vain.
3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures,
12 Now if Christ is preached, that He has been raised from the dead, how do some among you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? 13 But if there is no resurrection of the dead, not even Christ has been raised;14 and if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is vain, your faith also is vain. 15 Moreover we are even found to be false witnesses of God, because we testified against God that He raised Christ, whom He did not raise, if in fact the dead are not raised. 16 For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised; 17 and if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. 19 If we have hoped in Christ in this life only, we are of all men most to be pitied.
Belief in the resurrection is Christ is an essential.
4. The Gospel - What is the gospel?
The gospel is laid out for us by the Apostle Paul in the above verses (1 Corinthians 15:1-4).
If someone believes, or preaches, another gospel, he cannot be saved.
6 I am amazed that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you by the grace of Christ, for a different gospel; 7 which is really not another; only there are some who are disturbing you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. 8 But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to be accursed! 9 As we have said before, so I say again now, if any man is preaching to you a gospel contrary to what you received, he is to be accursed!