Thursday, October 1, 2020 -
As I am reading the New Testament once again, particularly the gospels and Acts, I am continuing to check the tenses of the Greek verbs which indicate salvation or eternal life.
This is a fascinating exercise, as several weeks ago I shared with you about the word Jesus used continually in the Gospel of John, “to believe.” The Greek language, unlike in English, has verb tenses that indicate continuous action, as opposed to something that happens at one point in time. This latter tense is the tense that is used in James 2:19, where the Lord’s brother states, “the demons also believe, and shudder.” The word “believe” is used 49 times in John’s gospel, verses seven times in Matthew’s, 11 times in Mark’s, and five times in the Gospel of Luke. On most occasions in John’s gospel where we see the word “believe”, Jesus is speaking. And in every place where Jesus uses it, in the context of being a requirement or pre-requisite to eternal life (John 3:16, for example), it is used in the tense that connotes continuous action. In other words, our salvation depends on our continuing to believe throughout our lifetime, regardless of circumstances, that Jesus Christ is Lord. He knows what is best for us, and He allows every circumstance for a reason, perhaps to test our belief, to refine us, or to glorify Himself. When Jesus Christ truly reigns in our hearts nothing should be able to shake our faith to the point of disbelief.
No doubt that the initial point where one says, “I believe” is essential. But many who claim to believe do not turn to the Lord or have eternal life. For example, in the early days of the church, in Acts 11:21, we read, “And the hand of the Lord was with them, and a large number who believed turned to the Lord.” In this case, we clearly see demonstrated that not all who believed turned to the Lord for the tense here for believe is a one-time event. Eternal life requires a “turning to the Lord” or continually believing in Him. Merely saying we believe in Him or in His death or atonement doesn’t quite cut it.
Salvation requires denying one’s self and surrendering our lives to Him, losing our life for Him (Matthew 10:37-39; 16: 24-26). This is very clear.
Denying oneself also requires repentance. For Christ’s death provided atonement for our sin, bridging the gap between us and our Creator, as our iniquities have made a separation between us and God (Isaiah 59:2). Yet how can there be forgiveness without repentance (I John 1:9-10)? And so I encourage you, if you have merely prayed a prayer, but haven’t fully repented (this word literally means to turn around and head in the opposite direction), denying yourself and surrendering your life to Jesus Christ, that you do so now. You will embark on a new life of continual belief in His redemptive work in your life, making Him Lord of all. In that is eternal life, as we are promised by Jesus Himself.