“How long does a man or woman have to believe before they can be saved? How long had the thief on the cross believed before Jesus saved him? Not very long, a few hours at most maybe even less than an hour.” – jarvess
Based on some additional writings from jarvess in which he said that belief alone can save someone; I lovingly disagree and point out that scripture makes it clear that these questions are built on an incomplete and therefore incorrect premise that begs a loaded question. A false assumption can only lead to a false conclusion. It’s like having a faulty math equation that will never be true.
There are two categories of people who “believe” in God.
1. Those who believe in God, reject/deny and disobey God.
2. Those who believe in God, accept/acknowledge and obey God.
No matter how long the first group “believes” they will never be saved under those conditions.
How do we deny God?
“They profess that they know God; BUT IN WORKS THEY DENY HIM, being abominable, and disobedient, and unto every good work REPROBATE.”
So then scripture says we deny God not only by what we say but also by what we do or don’t do, it is by our works.
How do we acknowledge God?
“Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. IN ALL THY WAYS acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths. Be not wise in thine own eyes: fear the LORD, AND DEPART FROM EVIL.”
The thief on the cross is in the second category of those that believe. He believed and obeyed the gospel.
1. He heard the Father’s call.
2. He accepted the Father’s call and conditions of salvation.
3. He professed Jesus Christ was his Lord and Savior.
4. He professed Christ was sinless.
5. He confessed his past sins and acknowledged that it was because of those sins that he was worthy to die.
6. He repented and stopped sinning against Jesus and stopped sinning in his heart.
7. He even tried to save the other thief by saying, “Dost not thou fear God, seeing thou art in the same condemnation? And we indeed justly; for we receive the due reward of our deeds: but this man hath done nothing amiss.”
The thief on the cross who was saved did more than just “believe” he also fully and completely obeyed God from his heart. When we have complete faith and obey the whole gospel we are immediately accepted, forgiven and have salvation.
Examples of the first group:
“Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble.”
James said to believe is good but that is only doing part of what God requires for salvation. His example was that the devils also believe but they do not obey God. Cain believed in God and knew God existed because the LORD revealed Himself by speaking to Cain before and after he killed his brother Able. James was making this very important point that “faith without works is dead”. James was saying salvation takes more than just only believing we must also obey.
“Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.”
Again in this example these people are believing in God. They are also verbally professing Him calling Him Lord. They are believing He is their Savior. They are believing they are saved. They are also working and partially doing some of God’s will.
But did they believe unto the saving of their souls? No. Why not? Jesus’ example explains that we cannot practice unrepentant sinning with partial obedience and still have salvation, we will be rejected.
“Now the just shall live by faith: but if any man DRAW BACK, my soul shall have no pleasure in him. But we are not of them who draw back UNTO PERDITION; but of them that believe to the saving of the soul.”
“Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? SO RUN, THAT YE MAY OBTAIN. And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now THEY DO IT TO OBTAIN a corruptible crown; BUT WE AN INCORRUPTIBLE. I therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beateth the air: But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: LEST that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway.”
“WHEREFORE WE LABOUR, THAT, whether present or absent, WE MAY BE ACCEPTED OF HIM. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad.”
Even though we obtain salvation through complete faith which includes obeying the gospel, the New Covenant, it doesn’t mean we earned our own salvation to receive God’s free gift of eternal life.
Salvation could never be “of ourselves” because we could never earn or buy our own redemption, salvation by works is impossible.
When we labor to be accepted by God it means we cooperate with God by being in agreement with His covenant and being obedient, that’s the way He designed and established it. It is by God the Father’s grace and mercy that we are called and invited by Him to have eternal salvation. He calls us when we don’t deserve it (unmerited favor), He calls us to Him when we are completely unclean and dead in our own sins. He provides the only suitable substitute for our redemption, His sinless Son Jesus Christ with His perfect blood atonement. But if and when we accept His invitation, then we are required by His covenant of salvation to act. We must do several things in order to receive His free gift we could never earn.