Do Acts 17:28 and 1 Timothy 4:10 teach us that faith is not necessary for us to be saved?
I have been reading the writings of some grace believers who are now saying that it is not necessary for a believer to have faith in the finished work of Jesus in order to be saved and that humanity is already saved when Jesus died for the human race. Thereafter humanity will not suffer hell.
While this may upset many of my facebook friends, please note that this is done out of concern and out of love and these questions I raise is really part of the issues I struggle with such teachings.
I will just simply call it universalism. Here’s what I heard so far.
a) Belief is unnecessary as God has saved everyone. We need to be awaken to this fact;
b) Eventually all will be awaken to this fact;
c) There is no such thing as hell; and
d) If there is it is a place for eventual reconciliation and that at the end even Satan and its demons will be reconciled to God.
My friends who tell me such based their doctrine on 2 very succinct verses that being:
New International Version (NIV)
1 Tim 4:10
New International Version (NIV)
10 That is why we labor and strive, because we have put our hope in the living God, who is the Savior of all people, and especially of those who believe.
My friends argue that Act 17:28 speaks of pagans as God’s off spring and in him we (pagans) live and move and have our being.
They argue that Paul states that God is the Saviour of all people not limited to those who believe. Much of what they teach however, is whether you like it or not God has gone to the depths of the ocean and saved you from drowning whether you like it or not.
My aim here is not to shoot the doctrine or to insult the teaching or my friends. Like I said, I find it difficult to accept it for 2 reasons.
Firstly it attacks the one thing that is central to Christianity: Faith. While you may say that it is the faith of Jesus that saves us, we are also called to have not only the faith of Christ but faith in Jesus.
They argue that faith was only necessary when Jesus was around and the necessity for faith was there because Jesus had not died yet. After Jesus died and fulfilled the law, there was no necessity for faith as all are saved by the faith of Jesus. His faith was sufficient for all humanity.
Dear friends, as much as I believe the faith of Jesus did save humanity, it is necessary not only to have the faith of Christ but also to have faith in Christ.
16 By faith in the name of Jesus, this man whom you see and know was made strong. It is Jesus’ name and the faith that comes through him that has completely healed him, as you can all see.
The 2 are clearly there at the same time.
21 I have declared to both Jews and Greeks that they must turn to God in repentance and have faith in our Lord Jesus.
24 Several days later Felix came with his wife Drusilla, who was Jewish. He sent for Paul and listened to him as he spoke about faith in Christ Jesus.
8 First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is being reported all over the world.
Notice here Paul says your faith is being reported not Jesus’s faith!
Amplified Bible (AMP)
22 Namely, the righteousness of God which comes by believing with personal trust and confident reliance on Jesus Christ (the Messiah). [And it is meant] for all who believe. For there is no distinction,
Some of you may argue but you are quoting from the NIV, the KJV says it is the faith of Jesus… well here goes:
King James Version (KJV)
26 To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus.
Lets look at the passage in Acts 17.
16 While Paul was waiting for them in Athens, he was greatly distressed to see that the city was full of idols. 17 So he reasoned in the synagogue with both Jews and God-fearing Greeks, as well as in the marketplace day by day with those who happened to be there. 18 A group of Epicurean and Stoic philosophers began to debate with him. Some of them asked, “What is this babbler trying to say?” Others remarked, “He seems to be advocating foreign gods.” They said this because Paul was preaching the good news about Jesus and the resurrection. 19 Then they took him and brought him to a meeting of the Areopagus, where they said to him, “May we know what this new teaching is that you are presenting? 20 You are bringing some strange ideas to our ears, and we would like to know what they mean.” 21 (All the Athenians and the foreigners who lived there spent their time doing nothing but talking about and listening to the latest ideas.)
22 Paul then stood up in the meeting of the Areopagus and said: “People of Athens! I see that in every way you are very religious. 23 For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription:to an unknown god. So you are ignorant of the very thing you worship—and this is what I am going to proclaim to you.
24 “The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by human hands. 25 And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything. Rather, he himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else. 26 From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. 27 God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us. 28 ‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’[b] As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.’[c]
29 “Therefore since we are God’s offspring, we should not think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone—an image made by human design and skill. 30 In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent. 31 For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to everyone by raising him from the dead.”
32 When they heard about the resurrection of the dead, some of them sneered, but others said, “We want to hear you again on this subject.” 33 At that, Paul left the Council. 34 Some of the people became followers of Paul and believed. Among them was Dionysius, a member of the Areopagus, also a woman named Damaris, and a number of others.
Notice the context of the words. “we are his offsprings”. Paul does not quote this as Scripture but pagan teachings.
- Acts 17:28 From the Cretan philosopher Epimenides
- Acts 17:28 From the Cilician Stoic philosopher Aratus
So what is Paul trying to say? Paul is not saying all are saved. Rather he is saying that this God is the maker of all man and that he is distinguishable from idols!
29 “Therefore since we are God’s offspring, we should not think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone–an image made by man’s design and skill. 30 In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent. 31 For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to all men by raising him from the dead.”
If all men are saved, why the need to repent? If all the world is saved, why is there judgment?
Notice the emphasis on belief?
If all men are saved pray tell me why
a) Is Paul upset when they were worshipping idols?
b) Paul asks them to seek God?
c) Tell them that God is near them but not in them despite “‘For in him we live and move and have our being”.
Notice this is a quote from a pagan philosopher. It does not say God is in them, it says in God, we live. That is because God made us. It does not say God lives in them.
It is clear that the Holy Spirit made a distinction towards those who attained the resurrection and those who didn’t.
32 When they heard about the resurrection of the dead, some of them sneered, but others said, “We want to hear you again on this subject.” 33 At that, Paul left the Council. 34 A few men became followers of Paul and believed. Among them was Dionysius, a member of the Areopagus, also a woman named Damaris, and a number of others.
In fact if you look at Paul’s thrust in just chapter 17 alone, Paul keeps telling people to believe. Here goes…
11 Now the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true. 12 As a result, many of them believed, as did also a number of prominent Greek women and many Greek men.
This is preceding Athens. Notice they heard the message but they were not believers. They only became believers sometime later. There is a clear distinction who heard the message and those who believe.
Did Paul change his message after Athens?
7 Then Paul left the synagogue and went next door to the house of Titius Justus, a worshiper of God. 8 Crispus, the synagogue leader, and his entire household believed in the Lord; and many of the Corinthians who heard Paul believed and were baptized.
Well did Paul say that well now everyone is already saved because we are all his “off spring”?
No he didn’t. Believe.
1 Timothy 4:10
Now lets look at 1 Timothy 4.
My question here is this, why make the distinction here between those believe. My answer is this, the Saviour of all people is a title that Paul uses to call God. He is the Saviour of all people. But especially to those who believe.
It is imperative for us to know this is the title he uses to describe God to Timothy.
See chapter 1 verse 1: Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the command of God our Savior and of Christ Jesus our hope.
Does he mean God will save all men regardless whether they believe in Jesus? Do such people go through judgment?
If so, why did Paul makes the following remarks in through out 1 Timothy?
4:1 The Spirit clearly says that in later times abandon the faith and things taught by demons.
5:reaching the place of judgment 25 In the same way, good deeds are obvious, and even those that are not obvious cannot remain hidden forever.
6:10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.
6:20 which some have professed and in so doing have departed from the faith.
Notice in 2 Timothy Paul calls those who will be saved the elect.
“ 10 Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they too may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus, with eternal glory.”
If all men are saved, why call them the “elect”?
Also as he speaks of false teachers, he then states in chapter 2: “19 Nevertheless, God’s solid foundation stands firm, sealed with this inscription: “The Lord knows those who are his,” and, “Everyone who confesses the name of the Lord must turn away from wickedness.””
Doesn’t this imply there those who are NOT his?
Now look at chapter 4. Paul says “In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead”. Clearly Paul marks a distinction, the living and the dead. I don’t think he is referring to those who died and those who are still alive. I believe he is calling a distinction of those who had believe and those who don’t.
I must conclude then that I am faced with a situation I cannot agree with those who preach the message of universal reconciliation. I must end my note here and deal with the topic of “hell” and Satan in another note. This is already a long one.
What about those who never heard?
Now some of them may now argue, what about those who never heard, and those insane.
Let me just end by sharing with you some testimonies that I have heard, the first being from Joseph Prince himself.
He spoke about his aunt receiving Jesus when Jesus appeared to her sharing the Gospel to her in Hokkien.
Second, in my country where it is forbidden to share the Gospel to Moslems, we have reports that many Moslems are turning to the faith not because of the preaching of the Gospel but that Jesus has appeared personally to them. What makes you think that God cannot speak to an insane man and share the word personally to him. In one of my previous notes, I explained that they way God tells his gospel is very different from the events after the cross: https://hischarisisenough.wordpress.com/2013/01/31/can-a-christian-who-has-fallen-away-be-saved-a-new-look-at-hebrews-6/
We have also seen how God shares his Gospel in ancient China: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DA-AkJzpKmg
The people are saved in accordance to their revelation about God they have at that time. It doesn’t mean that just because they have not heard the Gospel the way it is preached now, they are not saved. The Scripture makes it very clear. The righteous live by faith. Faith according to what has been revealed. Abraham had that faith. We are his children because we have that same faith.
New Living Translation (NLT)
7 The real children of Abraham, then, are those who put their faith in God.
8 What’s more, the Scriptures looked forward to this time when God would declare the Gentiles to be righteous because of their faith. God proclaimed this good news to Abraham long ago when he said, “All nations will be blessed through you.”[a]9 So all who put their faith in Christ share the same blessing Abraham received because of his faith.
10 But those who depend on the law to make them right with God are under his curse, for the Scriptures say, “Cursed is everyone who does not observe and obey all the commands that are written in God’s Book of the Law.”[b] 11 So it is clear that no one can be made right with God by trying to keep the law. For the Scriptures say, “It is through faith that a righteous person has life.”[c] 12 This way of faith is very different from the way of law, which says, “It is through obeying the law that a person has life.”[d]
13 But Christ has rescued us from the curse pronounced by the law. When he was hung on the cross, he took upon himself the curse for our wrongdoing. For it is written in the Scriptures, “Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree.”[e] 14 Through Christ Jesus, God has blessed the Gentiles with the same blessing he promised to Abraham, so that we who are believers might receive the promised[f] Holy Spirit through faith.
So if we take away the requirement of faith in our Gospel what are we left with?
I think it is enough for now. I will continue on another note.
for further reading on this subject: