Q: I heard you say once, “Your theology cannot save you.” Can you please explain what you mean by that?
A: There are Christians who believe that salvation comes down to what one believes, but the Bible tells us that beliefs will not save a person; rather, salvation solely finds its source in the person of Jesus Christ. Jesus said it best in John 5:39, “Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me.”
Many religious people mistakenly associate their salvation to theology, denominations, creeds, and doctrines. They think if they believe something that it must make it so, but for many believing is an intellectual acceptance of something being true instead of a heart revelation that results in inward transformation. Before talking about the transformed mind in Romans 12:2, the Apostle Paul made this declaration in Romans 10:9-10, “That 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. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.” Clearly salvation is a heart revelation and not an intellectual understanding.
In John 8 a very interesting discussion takes place. In John 8:30 we are told, “Many believed on him.” Jesus went on to challenge those who believed on Him that if they continue in His Word they would be His disciples. He made this infamous statement after exhorting them to continue on in His Word, “And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:32). It is after Jesus’ statement about truth that these people declared, “We be Abraham’s seed, and were never in bondage to any man: how sayest thou, Ye shall be made free?”
These people believed on Jesus based on the teachings they could intellectually agree with, but Jesus’ statement went contrary to their understanding. Jesus later stated that their father was the devil in John 8:44 because they did not believe Him. We can believe on Jesus as long as His words fit into our narrative, but the real question is whether we believe Him because of who He is. It is only after we believe Him that we are able to believe in Him as the only way to truth and life.
As you can see, “believing” entails a short journey that requires genuine faith in order to take it. We must not just come to terms with what we believe (theology), but we must discern who is the true source or foundation of our belief, and whether we are going to choose to believe that all matters originating with our source are true and liberating. Believing is the same as saying, “Amen, so be it, for it is so.” In other words, it is a matter that has already been established as truth, thereby, we must not only receive is as so by faith, but we apply it as if it always has been and act on it because we know that it will be so in the end.
It is clear in John 8 that people’s beliefs can prove to be fickle because if such beliefs are not directed towards the person of Jesus, they can easily be taken into the arena of unbelief, not towards personal theology, but towards Jesus.
Most people confuse theology and doctrine, but theology is based on a person’s adopted theories about God. These theories may be based on fact and truth, but the real crux is they are one-dimensional and often lack life and authority. Most theology is kept on an intellectual level so that it can be debated to death, but Jesus made clear in John 6:63 that His words are, “spirit and life.”
The Bible speaks much of doctrine, but what is doctrine and how do you know it is the correct doctrine? Doctrine comes down to how a person is supposed to conduct him or herself in a situation. For example, marriage is a doctrine, and in that doctrine husbands are told what is to motivate their attitudes and actions towards their wives and wives are told how to properly honor their husbands in submission.
The Sermon on the Mount is loaded with doctrine (Matthew 7:28-29). This sermon clearly reveals that pure doctrine is not just a matter of knowledge alone about Scriptural responsibilities, but of possessing a right heart attitude that will produce honorable actions towards others. In other words, pure doctrine will become a visible expression of Christ.
Scripturally based theology, like the Law, may point you in the right direction, but it cannot save you (Galatians 3:24). After all, our theology was not crucified on a cross for us and the Law did not die on the cross in our place to obtain our redemption. This is why the Bible is clear that Jesus offers the only way to salvation, “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).