Salvation and Continual Belief

Question
Can you please provide verses from the Bible that show that continual belief is a necessary condition of salvation?
Answer
A continual or persevering faith is the only kind of faith God gives in salvation (Eph. 2:8-10; cf. Rom. 8:30, 35-39; 1 Cor. 1:8; 2 Cor. 1:22; 1 Thess. 5:23-24). Believing is an ongoing condition of the heart and mind, not just a one-time act. As Jesus said, “But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved” (Matt. 24:13; cf. 1 Cor. 15:1-2; Heb. 3:12-14; 10:26). And this continuous, standing-firm faith is the genuine gift given to all true believers in their conversion. The Bible reveals God also continues to work in genuine believers both to will and do of his good pleasure (Phil. 2:13; cf. Phil. 1:6).

In the Greek we’re talking about the present tense, meaning ongoing continuous action. John 3:16 speaks of a continual faith: "… that whoever believes [not believed] on him might not perish.” John 20:31 tells us why John wrote his entire gospel: "These have been written that you may believe [aorist tense: come to believe – some manuscripts have the present tense] that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing [present tense: ongoing believing] you may have life in His name." Saving faith is an ongoing act as biblically we are saved (justification, Rom. 5:18-19), are being saved (sanctification, Rom. 6), and will be saved (glorification, Rom. 8:30). So, a Christian continues to believe throughout his entire life.

This doesn’t mean that believers will always act faithfully (i.e. Samson, David, Peter, etc.). We are supposed to “go and sin no more” (John 8:11), but in practice we don’t. Christians demonstrate perseverance and persistence in faith rather than a demonstration of perfect faith. Consequently, when the Bible speaks about the ongoing act of asking for forgiveness, it implies an ongoing faith (2 Tim. 2:24-26). When we sin, we must ask for forgiveness: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). So, asking for forgiveness is not a one-time act, but an ongoing action of a truly converted heart that keeps on believing.

The process of sanctification throughout the Christian life implies an ongoing belief as well. One can’t be continually conformed into the image of Christ (Rom. 8:29) without faith, because without faith it is impossible to please God (Heb. 11:6).

An ongoing faith is also accompanied by ongoing works in Christ too (Jas. 2:14-16; cf. Matt. 25:31-46). Consider how John 2:19 confirms this: “They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us” (1 John 2:19).

Answer by Dr. Joseph R. Nally, Jr.

Dr. Joseph R. Nally, Jr., D.D., M.Div. is the Theological Editor at Third Millennium Ministries (IIIM).