Josh writes in to ask this: “Pastor John, is it possible to intellectually believe the Bible and all the truths of Christianity, and accept them as one hundred percent truth — to want to love Jesus and to be saved from God’s wrath — and yet to not be one of the elect?” Is that possible, Pastor John?
I want to say no. But I want to make plain why I need to dig in for a minute to what it means to “accept all the Bible as one hundred percent true.” That is what Josh is saying. I have often said — and maybe this is why Josh is asking this — that the devil knows more truth than most theologians, and the reason he is not saved is that he hates it. James says, “the demons believe — and shudder!” (James 2:19) They believe many facts about God are true, but they are not saved, because they hate those facts.
Beliefs and Values Aligned
I am not sure I can really say that someone could affirm all the Bible as one hundred percent truth and be lost — not be saved. And here is the reason: The Bible is filled with statements, not just of facts, but also statements about the worth and the beauty and the desirability of those facts. So it doesn’t just say God is powerful, but that God is glorious and great in glory and beautiful, that he is infinitely, transcendently valuable, that Jesus not only exists, but that he has all these attributes that make him more precious than the greatest pearl and more valuable than the greatest treasure. And Paul himself, remember, said that he found more satisfaction in knowing Christ than he did in all other reality (see Philippians 3:8).
“The devil knows more truth than most theologians, and the reason he is not saved is that he hates it.”
So, what would it mean to say you believed that, but did not embrace him as beautiful or valuable or supremely pleasant? I think most people would say, “You don’t mean it. You say you believe he is infinitely valuable. You say you believe he is supremely precious. You say you believe he is all-satisfying, and you don’t embrace him as all-satisfying? You don’t mean that.” So I can’t bring myself to say that a person would really affirm all those value statements of the Bible and still be lost, because if they really affirm those value statements, they would embrace those values.
In fact, with the way the human mind works, when the heart prefers one thing over another thing, the mind inevitably joins the heart in finding ways to justify the heart’s preference. So, it would be doubly unlikely that anyone would or could honestly say, “I believe the whole Bible is one hundred percent true,” and yet go on rejecting Jesus as less precious, less valuable, and less beautiful than their earthly treasure. In other words, their mind wouldn’t be doing that. If they wanted to value the world over God — the creation over the Creator — if they want that bad enough, their mind is probably not going to go to the Bible and say, “Well, this is really true. You know, all these value statements are at least true.” No. The mind is going to wind up saying, “No, it is probably mythological, or it has probably got errors in it, or the text was corrupted, or there are contradictions everywhere.” That is what the mind is going to do in order to protect the heart’s treasure in man rather than in God.
So that is my main reason for saying no. You can’t believe the Bible is one hundred percent true and still be lost if what I am saying is on track. If you really believe that Jesus is the supreme value and beauty and truth in the universe, you are going to embrace him because that is what it means to believe him as supremely beautiful and satisfying.
Mouths of Hard Hearts
So maybe the last thing I should ask is, What about those folks in Matthew 7?
“Not everyone who says to me ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’” (Matthew 7:21–23)
So these folks say, “I believe Jesus is Lord.” That is what they are calling him — “Lord.” But they are not saved. Why aren’t they saved? And the answer Jesus gives is, they are hypocrites. They were workers of lawlessness. They called him “Lord,” but they were workers of lawlessness. They were like the Pharisees. It is amazing to me that in Luke 16:14 Jesus says, “the Pharisees, who were lovers of money.” I mean, they claimed to believe the whole Old Testament. God is more valuable than anything. We should love him with all our heart and soul and mind and strength. And Jesus just slips in: They were hypocrites, because they were really lovers of money.
So my conclusion is, sincere belief in what the Bible says about God and Christ and the way of salvation — sincere belief that is true — will lead to salvation. Because what the Bible says is, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” (Romans 10:13). And you believe that, and you do it, and you will find it to be true. It will be true of you. If you call upon the name of the Lord, you will be saved.