Encompassing Belief, Part 1

What does the word believe mean? Well, it all depends on the context. Throughout the book of Acts, believe is an encompassing term that describes converts to Christ. However, James will use the word believe to mean a fruitless understanding that God is real, or God is all powerful. In this article we will cover two passages in which Luke uses the word to describe the action of being converted.

In Acts 2, Peter delivers a sermon on Pentecost proving that Jesus is the Lord and Christ, the Messiah. The people are cut to the heart. They asked Peter what they should do with their guilt. Peter responds: “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (v,38). Luke then says that many of the people obeyed: “Then those who gladly received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them” (v.41). Luke goes on to describe these people as “all who believed.”

“Now all who believed were together, and had all things in common, and sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need…And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved.” (Acts 2:44-47)

Here you have three different terms: those who were baptized, those who believed, and those who were being saved. Is this the same group of people? Or did Luke mean that there was a group of people that were baptized, a different group that believed, and a different group that was saved? A simple reading of Acts 2 would help us understand that those who were baptized, believed, and saved were all the same group of people! This Philippian jailor’s family can be used as a similar example.

“So they said, ‘Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household.’ Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house. And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their stripes. And immediately he and all his family were baptized. Now when he had brought them into his house, he set food before them; and he rejoiced, having believed in God with all his household.” (Acts 16:31-34)

When the jailor was told to believe to be saved, he did not just say, “Okay, I believe” and then was struck with salvation. He did not have the feeling of belief and was saved. His belief drove him to act the same as the converts did in Acts 2. He heard the word of the Lord. He took Paul and Silas and washed their stripes. Clearly he had a change of heart– repentance. Then immediately he was baptized. Afterward, they went home and ate, rejoicing because he had believed. Luke used the word believe to encompass the appeal to God for salvation. If one truly believes that Jesus is the Christ, then he will be baptized into Christ, being added to the church by Christ, entering the saved body of Christ.

— Andrew Smith

The God Of All Comfort

We have and will suffer on this earth. God has never promised us anything different than that fact. From Elijah to Jeremiah, from Stephen to Paul, all of God’s people have suffered. Paul wrote to the Corinthians about the state of his suffering. Something was happening to him in Asia. Paul said, “we were burdened beyond measure, above strength, so that we despaired even of life. Yes, we had the sentence of death in ourselves” (2nd Cor. 1:9). Have you ever felt that you were burdened beyond measure? Have you felt like the world has sentenced you to death? You probably have.

Thankfully, Paul shares his outlook on his suffering. Paul says that he might be sentenced to death, but he has put his trust “in God who raises the dead, who delivered us from so great a death, and does deliver us; in whom we trust that He will still deliver us” (2 Cor. 1:9-10). God has the power to raise the dead. Even if our suffering leads to death, who better to put our trust in than He who has conquered death?

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The Power Of God

The Lord did many incredible things in the Bible. He caused the Red Sea to part for the Israelites, sets large hailstones from heaven on those that tried to harm His people, and He even stopped the sun’s movement from horizon to horizon. The Lord did big powerful things, like raising Jesus from the dead, to smaller things like causing an ax head to float on the water.

These miraculous powers were always used by God to endorse the prophets. By giving them miraculous power, God was endorsing their message. It was a clear and easy way for God’s people to know that these prophets were telling the truth.

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A Strong Finish

Several of us might have received and read these articles all year. I hope they have been encouraging to us all. There are some that probably started reading these at the beginning of the year, yet they quit reading some time ago. They may have purposely quit reading, or maybe they just forgot. That is often how our plans turn out. We will make big plans early to get reconnected with God or do something for God, and then we slowly forget about those plans till they are non-existent.

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Keeping It Simple

Many have a poor view of Christianity because they see it as complicated. Understandably so because in one small town, you have over 50 churches all having different beliefs, different practices, different paths to salvation; yet, all churches claim they are following the Way, the Truth, and the Life. Are their 50 different ways to enter Christ’s Kingdom? Jesus says no. “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door, but climbs up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber… Then Jesus said to them again, ‘Most assuredly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. All who ever came before Me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not hear them’” (John 10:1,7-8). The Lord says that He is the only door that leads to salvation. There are other doors available, but they are like thieves and robbers. These doors deceive you into believing they lead to Jesus when they actually lead to something else.

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Thomas’ Doubt

Many give Thomas a hard time for wanting to see the resurrected Jesus before he believed. Some even call him “Doubting Thomas” to illustrate his skepticism. However, Thomas’ doubt is powerful evidence for the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Paul explains to the Corinthians that the whole gospel hangs on the resurrection of Jesus. If the resurrection did not happen, then Jesus was not the Son of God and His sacrifice was void.

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Time To Come Back Home

Jesus, our Lord, knew that many would follow Him. He also knew that of those that followed many would eventually turn back to the world. So, Jesus set up provisions for them so they could repent again and return. He spent time teaching directly to His fallen followers and helped them understand that He was merciful, longsuffering, and greatly wished for them to return home to Him. In Luke 15, Jesus speaks directly to the fallen and give three parables of those returning home.

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What Is Truth?

Pilate asked Jesus that question at the Lord’s trial. Jesus had already given the answer in the previous verse: “For this cause I was born, and for this cause I have come into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice” (John 18:37). Beforehand, Jesus made arguably His most famous statement that also was about truth: “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6). There are two inferences we can make from Jesus’ words.

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