Jesus claimed to be God. The New Testament claims Jesus is God. The early church believed Jesus is God. Jesus is God. The Deity of Jesus is one of several most important truths in all of Christianity. As important as the deity of Jesus is, does a person have to believe Jesus is God before he can be saved? Is the Deity of Jesus something the Christian can grow to believe after salvation?
The gospel message includes a series of significant facts which must be believed for salvation. These facts include the death of Jesus on the cross for sin, the guilt of the individual, the resurrection of Jesus and the willingness of God to give salvation to those who trust Him. The Bible also teaches a person must believe Jesus is God to be saved.
Romans 10:9 connects the confession of Jesus as God with salvation. “If thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.” Whenever the New Testament always uses the title Lord to refer to Jesus it is always a declaration of His Deity. The title hearkens back Jehovah, the name of God given in the Old Testament. To call Jesus Lord is to declare that He is God. Romans 10 promises you will be saved if you confess the Lord Jesus. Believing the Deity of Jesus is clearly a condition of salvation.
1 John 5 says that those who are born of God are those who believe Jesus is the Son of God. 1 John 4:15 says salvation is given to those who confess the Deity of Jesus. “Whosoever shall confess that Jesus is the Son of God, God dwelleth in him, and he in God.” John 20:31 says eternal life comes through believing Jesus is God the Son. “But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name.” These verses plainly declare that believing the Deity of Jesus is essential for salvation. No one can be saved without first acknowledging that Jesus is God.
Likewise, any one who denies the Deity of Jesus is not saved. First John is equally plain on this point. “Who is a liar but he that denieth that Jesus is the Christ? He is antichrist, that denieth the Father and the Son. Whosoever denieth the Son, the same hath not the Father.” Denying the Deity of Jesus is proof a person is not saved, and those who deny Jesus make themselves His enemies. They are antichrist.
The Bible claims Jesus is God. The New Testament gives an abundance of evidence that Jesus is God. If you believe He is God who died for your sin and rose to life again you can be saved.
In Revelation 3:5 Jesus promises Christians in Sardis that those who stand firm against unrighteousness He will “not blot his name out of the book of life.” This raises a few questions. What is the book of life? What is the significance of your name being in the book of life? What is the consequence of having your name blotted out of the book?
The Book of Life is the heavenly record of all who are saved. It is mentioned once in Philippians. All the other New Testament references to it are in the book of Revelation. These passages tell us that those who are in the book of life will be given access to the New Jerusalem. Those whose names are not written in the book of life will be cast into the Lake of Fire. To have your name in the book of life is to be on record in heaven as a Christian and a possessor of eternal life.
Can someone have their name taken out of the book of life? In other words, can a Christian lose their salvation? The Bible clearly teaches that a Christian cannot possibly lose his salvation. Passages like Romans 8:31-19, John 10:28-29, 1 Peter 1:5 and Hebrews 7:25 make it abundantly clear that the Christian cannot lose his salvation. Salvation is secured by Jesus and by God the Father. Because the Bible does not ever contradict itself the statement about blotting names out of the book of life cannot be a threat to take away someone’s salvation.
The promise that their names will not be blotted out of the book of life is not a warning that names of Christians can be erased from the book. The structure of the letters in Revelation 2 and 3 makes it clear the statement in question is not a warning about losing salvation but is instead a promise of God. The letters from Jesus to the seven churches in Revelation 2 and 3 all follow the same basic pattern. Each letter includes a declaration of the greatness of Jesus, an evaluation of the church, a call to obedience, a warning of judgment and a promise of reward. In each letter the warning of judgment is separated from the promise of reward. They are distinct sections that do not overlap at all. In the letter to the church in Sardis the warning is that Jesus will come suddenly upon them when they are not ready for Him. The promise is that the faithful will be clothed in white raiment, their name will not be blotted out of the book of life and they will have their name confessed before the Father and His angels. This statement about the book of life is a promise of a reward, not a hint at condemnation. The promise that their name will not be blotted out is similar to the promise of Revelation 2:11, “He that overcometh shall not be hurt of the second death.” Those who are faithful to the Lord show they are saved. The promise of God is that those who are saved will not suffer eternal death and they will not be taken out of the book of life. Instead of a threat that salvation can be lost, Revelation 3:5 is a promise that salvation will never be taken away.
Jesus said, “All sins shall be forgiven unto the sons of men, and blasphemies whatever they shall blaspheme: But he that shall blaspheme against the Holy Ghost hath never forgiveness, but is in danger of eternal damnation.” (Mark 3:28-29) This blasphemy of the Holy Spirit is described today as the unpardonable sin. What exactly does it mean to blaspheme the Holy Spirit?
Jesus’ words are a response to the accusation that Jesus was demon possessed and that He cast out demons by the power of Satan. The Pharisees accused Jesus of being in league with the Devil. Jesus first refuted their accusation by showing that if Satan was casting out demons he would be undermining his own work. Jesus was casting out demons by a power greater than that of the demons and of Satan. Jesus cast out demons by the power of God through the Holy Spirit. (John 14:10; Acts 2:22) Consequently, the Pharisees attack on the power of Jesus was an attack on God the Holy Spirit. Their words essentially called the Holy Spirit a demon.
The unpardonable sin is the utter rejection of Jesus that accuses God the Spirit of being evil. Mark 3:30 says that Jesus spoke of the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit because they accused Him of having an evil spirit. The blasphemy of the Holy Spirit treats God the Spirit like a demon. The unpardonable sin so utterly condemns the grace of that God it considers His good to be evil. The unpardonable sin is an intentional, willful and deliberate condemnation of the Holy Spirit. The unpardonable sin does not happen accidentally or unknowingly. This sin is the result of exposure to the truth and is the knowledgeable rejection of the power of God.
Can people today commit the unpardonable sin? People can so despise the things of God that they consider the Holy Spirit to be a demon and the work of God to be the work of devils. Hatred of the Spirit of God seems to be increasing in our world today. Those who venomously hate God will not be saved. They will not turn from their sin and call out to the God they despise. They will never be saved because they never seek God.
The unpardonable sin is similar to the apostasy of those who hear the gospel, know its power and are movingly compelled by the conviction of the Holy Spirit but reject Him. For example, there are those who grow up in gospel preaching churches, know the Bible, know the promises of God and see the power of God at work in the lives of those around them, but they refuse the promise of salvation. These ones willfully despise the grace of God and miss their opportunity to repent.
However, none need fear they have committed a sin God cannot forgive. He promises all who seek Him for salvation will have forgiveness. The unpardonable sin is unpardonable because the one who commits it will not turn to God and will not trust Him to forgive their sin. If you will turn to Jesus as your gracious God and Savior, and if you will trust Him alone to take away your sin, He will save you. Jesus gave Himself for us to redeem us from all iniquity. (Titus 2:14) He promises that where sin abounds, His grace is even more abundant. (Romans 5:20) No sin is so great God cannot forgive it. He will forgive your sin if you will ask Him to do so and will trust Him alone to take away your guilt.
Can a Christian commit the unpardonable sin? Absolutely not. Those who have the Spirit of God will bless Jesus. No one that has the Spirit can call Jesus accursed. (1 Corinthians 12:3) If the saved cannot curse Jesus, they will not despise the Holy Spirit, the gift of Jesus to His children. The Holy Spirit is the Christian’s Comforter, Seal and Assurance of eternal life. The Holy Spirit so changes the Christian that the Christian will never desire to despise the work of the Spirit. Therefore, a Christian cannot condemn Jesus or accuse the Spirit of working for Satan. A Christian cannot repudiate his Savior or reject His Spirit. He is now a new creature in Christ who does not turn back to destruction.
The Bible teaches that God is sovereign over all things, including salvation. God has mercy on whom He will have mercy. (Romans 9:16, 18) He loved Jacob and hated Esau so that the purposes of His divine election would be accomplished without the work of men but by His own will. (Romans 9:11-13) God is the potter who makes some vessels to honor and some to dishonor. (Romans 9:22) Passages like Romans 9 seem to indicate that God chooses who will be saved.
Jesus said that the way which leads to destruction is wide. The way that leads to life is narrow and only a few find it. (Matthew 7:13-14) This raises a troubling question. If people are saved by God’s choosing, then why are so few saved?
Passages like Romans 9 are only one side of the story. The Bible also teaches that man is fully responsible for his reception of the gospel. Esau made the choice to sell his birthright. He was the one who despised the promises of God. God in no way caused Esau to sin. God does not sin, does not cause men to sin and does not tempt men to sin. (James 1:13) God is the one who draws men to Himself, but none can say God is responsible for their unbelief. God’s sovereign working in salvation is such that it does not negate the responsibility of the individual to respond to the gracious working of God and to receive the legitimate offer of eternal life.
The Bible does not tell us how God does His choosing. Scripture does tell us some things His choosing is not based upon. God does not choose based upon some favoritism which selects people based upon personal qualities that may be advantageous to Him. God is not a respecter of persons. (Colossians 3:25) Nor can it be said that God chose based upon a knowledge of who would believe Him. That is just another form of salvation by works in which the saved merit salvation because God knew they were the only ones who would believe.
None can imagine that God is cruel or capricious in salvation. The Bible clearly says that God has no pleasure in the death of the wicked. Instead, God’s delight is in the repentance of the wicked so they can have life. (Ezekiel 33:11) God is not willing that any should perish. He desires the repentance of all. (2 Peter 3:9) God’s choosing is not evil in any way, but is the outworking of His compassion and grace.
These truths of Scripture are hard to understand. We will not have a full answer to this question until we reach heaven. Right now we cannot fathom the wisdom, grace and glory of God. We do not understand how God chooses or how His sovereignty works in man’s salvation. We know God is sovereign and man is responsible. God’s sovereignty is not limited by man’s responsibility, nor is man’s responsibility limited by God’s sovereignty. Both are true though we may not be able to explain how they can be true at the same time. Just like we cannot explain how the Father, Son and Spirit are each fully God and yet God is One God. Difficulty in understanding a truth should not cause us to refuse to believe it.
The proper response to this problem is to worship the God who is so wise His plan of salvation baffles the greatest of minds. The right response is to praise the God who is so gracious His salvation can be received by the simplest of children. Those who are saved must rejoice in their salvation. They ought to preach the gospel faithfully to all and pray earnestly for the salvation of the lost. Each Christian must glorify the God who chose to save him and who invited him to receive His salvation.
The Bible is clear that salvation is by grace, through faith alone. (Ephesians 2:9) The Bible is also clear that a person’s works no part in bringing salvation. “Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us.” (Titus 3:5) But many preachers talk about repentance when they preach the message of salvation. If salvation is only through faith what does repentance have to do with it?
The Bible preaches repentance as part of the gospel message. The end of Luke’s gospel records Jesus’ command to His disciples to take the gospel to all the world. In that commission Jesus connected repentance to forgiveness. “And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name among all nations.” (Luke 24:47) In Acts 2 when the Jews asked Peter what they must do to be saved, he said, “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins.” (Acts 2:38) The gospel Paul preached was a gospel of repentance. “Testifying both to the Jews, and also to the Greeks, repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Acts 20:21) Repentance is necessary for salvation.
How is repentance a part of salvation but not a work? Repentance is a change of mind or heart that results in a change in behavior. Repentance is not an action, or inaction. Repentance is a changed mind that recognizes sin and guilt. Repentance is a changed heart. A person can change behavior without true repentance. Many motives exist for a change in behavior. Fear of consequences or desire for a benefit may cause someone to change without ever recognizing he has sinned. A drunk may give up drinking because it affects his ability to get a promotion but never repent of the sin of drunkenness. On the other hand, a profession of sorrow or an acknowledgment of guilt is not necessarily repentance. Sorrow that does not transform the person is not repentance. Repentance produces a change in behavior. Changed behavior is not repentance, but it will be the fruit of repentance.
How does this relate to salvation? Repentance to salvation is not turning over a new leaf or becoming a better person. Repentance to salvation is a change of heart that turns away from false beliefs about God and salvation. Paul’s gospel message was a message of repentance towards God and faith towards Jesus. He preached to the Jews repentance of their rejection of Jesus. (Acts 13:39-41) Peter’s message to the Jews was the same as Paul’s- repentance from their rejection of Jesus. (Acts 2:36-38) Paul preached to the Greeks repentance from idolatry. (Acts 17:29-30) Repentance to salvation is a turning away from false gods and false methods of salvation and a turning “to God from idols to serve the living and true God.” (1 Thessalonians 1:9)
Repentance is necessary for salvation. No one can be saved unless he turns away from all false beliefs, all attempts at saving himself, all self-righteousness, all false saviors and all rejection of Jesus to trust in Him alone for forgiveness of sin. Repentance is the other side of faith. Repentance turns from false worship to faith that trusts Jesus alone.