Have I truly understood that true saving belief in Christ is evidenced by obedience to His words and not just intellectual belief in His name or person?
16 "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God's one and only Son. 19 This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. 20 Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. 21 But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God."
INSIGHT: John 3:16 is possibly the best and most dangerous verse in the entire Bible because people read it and believe it as a standalone doctrine of faith. As a stand-alone verse, it has caused many to think they can be saved by intellectual belief alone, apart from actually turning from sin (repenting) and turning to Christ in faith and obedience.
Even Muslims believe in Jesus, but to truly believe in Him is to also believe His teachings and His Lordship. Could we imagine getting paid at work simply by believing that our boss existed, apart from actually doing what he tells us to do? The boss would tell us that our belief was dead, and that we’ll be fired soon if we don’t add some action to it.
Tragically, based on this poor view of John 3:16, many Christians should even believe the demons will be saved. After all, they too believe in Jesus and regularly call Him by name when they encounter Him. So, what’s missing? Obedience, motivated by the love that comes from being forgiven by God, empowered by the Holy Spirit, and received upon true surrender to Jesus as the Lord of your life.
Think of this from heaven’s perspective. One man professes belief in Christ and gets very active in church and Christian activity. He tells everyone about his belief in Jesus, but feels no need to diligently learn and practice the teachings of Christ because after all he’s a “believer”. A second man professes belief in Christ, but rather than jumping into the world of church activity or professing his faith all over the place, he quietly sets out to learn and apply the teachings. Right away he reads Mat 6:14-16 and sees he needs to forgive some people and then he reads Mat 6:24 and realizes he needs to stop serving money, rather than God. He takes action immediately to comply with the teachings. From heaven’s perspective, which one is the true believer who will inherit eternal life?