Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and be saved...--Acts 16:31
All I have to do is to believe, to have faith in Christ and His saving work on the cross. I have to do nothing, bring nothing of myself to the party. I'm in.
Oh, but then, there's this:
Faith without works is dead.--James 2:26
Did I misunderstand? Maybe not.
Work out your salvation with fear and trembling.--Philippians 2:12
No, I didn't misunderstand. I need faith. I need to believe, and I need to do something about it. I need to work my faith out.
Is there anything else? Well, it turns out there is.
...this water symbolizes baptism that now saves you also--not the removal of dirt from the body, but the pledge of a clear conscience toward God--1 Peter 3:21
Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved...--Mark 16:16
So, I am to believe, and work, and be baptized.
I need to endure.
He who endures to the end will be saved.--Matthew 24:13
Whoever endures to the end will be saved--Matthew 10:22
Believe. Work. Be Baptized. Endure.
Well, which one is it?
Why does it have to be just one?
Why is the instruction to be baptized more important that the others? Or the requirement to believe? Can't they all go together? Don't they have to? And more importantly, why do we beat each other up about this? Is it really that important for us to be right so that we can make everyone else wrong?
You see, I think that the Bible is very deep. It's full of rich meaning and we could spend a lifetime unpeeling its layers of revelation, but it's also very simple. God never stutters. The simple answer is not to figure out which of these requirements for salvation apply, but to take them at face value, all of them, the plain way that God says them.
'Believe' is a verb, not just a mental exercise. Believing is not diminished by doing something about our belief.
Imagine a tightrope walker about to cross Niagra Falls. He asks the crowd, "Do you believe I can make it?" "We believe!" they answer and so he sets out. An hour later, he reaches the other side. Then he asks them, "Do you believe I can cross blindfolded?" "We believe!" they answer again. And again, he crosses successfully. The third time he asks the crowd, "Do you believe I can cross with a man on my back?" Again they answer, "We believe!" That's when he asks for a volunteer. The one not willing to go, of course, is the one who does not believe.
Belief and action go together. One is not better than the other. They all exist together. They have to.
Grammar. Semantics. We spend way too much time, as Christians, differentiating between ourselves, pointing fingers, so sure that we are right and the folks across the street are wrong. Christ died for us all. The least we can do is to show Him that we were worth it.
Belief lives not only in our brain or our emotions. It has arms and legs. It moves and testifies. It not only changes us. It helps change the world.