Two Relevant Hermeneutical Principles
Post 4 discussed the fundamental principle set forth in ARTICLE XVII (Chicago Statement on Biblical Hermeneutics), which reads:
We affirm the unity, harmony and consistency of Scripture and declare that it is its own best interpreter.
In other words, Scripture will not contradict Scripture. Further, ARTICLE XXIII reads:
We affirm the clarity of Scripture and specifically of its message about salvation from sin.
One website (link: The Clarity of Scripture (theologyforyou.com)) explains the concept of clarity of Scripture:
A fuller definition from one Confession of Faith carefully states:
All things in Scripture are not alike plain in themselves, nor alike clear unto all; yet those things which are necessary to be known, believed and observed for salvation, are so clearly propounded and opened in some place of Scripture or other, that not only the learned, but the unlearned, in a due use of ordinary means, may attain to a sufficient understanding of them. (The 1689 Confession of Faith, 1.7, see also WCF 1.7)
Kevin DeYoung in his book, Taking God at His Word, notes five helpful nuances in this definition:
Some portions of scripture are clearer than others. Not every passage has a simple or obvious meaning.
The main things we need to know, believe, and do can be clearly seen in the Bible.
Though the most essential doctrines are not equally clear in every passage, they are all made clear somewhere in Scripture.
That which is necessary for our Salvation can be understood even by the uneducated, provided that they make use of the ordinary means of study and learning.
The most important points in the scriptures may not be understood perfectly but they can be understood sufficiently (DeYoung, p.59).
The Passages Under Study
Posts 13 through 16 look at two passages that clearly teach that a person who believes [pisteuō] in Jesus Christ alone has eternal life. Posts 13 and 14 address the text of John 20:30–31 (NASB95), which reads:
30 Therefore many other signs Jesus also performed in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; 31 but these have been written so that you may believe [pisteuō] that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing [pisteuō] you may have life in His name.
Posts 15 and 16 look at the second text of 1 John 5:1, 13 (NASB95), which read:
1 Whoever believes [pisteuō] that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and whoever loves the Father loves the child born of Him. … 13 These things I have written to you who believe [pisteuō] in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life.
BACKGROUND OF JOHN 20:30-31
The Purpose Statement
Scholars agree that John 20:30-31 comprises a “purpose statement” of the Fourth Gospel. However, there is a disagreement about the specific purpose. Some scholars opine that the purpose statement of the Fourth Gospel shows that it was directed at Christians to encourage them in their faith. Other scholars argue that John’s purpose in writing was to bring unbelievers to faith. A more detailed discussion is at APPENDIX A at the very end of this article.
For my analysis, either purpose, i.e., encourage the faith of believers or call unbelievers to faith, establishes that belief [pisteuo] alone is what is necessary for salvation. Water baptism is not a requirement for salvation according to John 20:30-31.
Uses of Pisteuō in John
The fourth gospel contains many usages of the Greek verb pisteuō. At a minimum, the following nineteen salvation-oriented uses teach that one must only believe to experience salvation.
John 1:7 (NASB95) – 7 He came as a witness, to testify about the Light, so that all might believe through him.
John 1:12 (NASB95) – 12 But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name,
John 3:15–18 (NASB95) – 15 so that whoever believes will in Him have eternal life. 16 “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. 17 “For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him. 18 “He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.
John 3:36 (NASB95) – 36 “He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.”
John 5:24 (NASB95) – 24 “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life.
John 6:35 (NASB95) – 35 Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me will not hunger, and he who believes in Me will never thirst.
John 6:40 (NASB95) – 40 “For this is the will of My Father, that everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him will have eternal life, and I Myself will raise him up on the last day.”
John 6:47 (NASB95) – 47 “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes has eternal life.
John 7:38–39 (NASB95) – 38 “He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, ‘From his innermost being will flow rivers of living water.’ ” 39 But this He spoke of the Spirit, whom those who believed in Him were to receive; for the Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.
John 8:24 (NASB95) – 24 “Therefore I said to you that you will die in your sins; for unless you believe that I am He, you will die in your sins.”
John 11:25–26 (NASB95) – 25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies, 26 and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die. Do you believe this?”
John 11:40 (NASB95) – 40 Jesus said to her, “Did I not say to you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?”
John does not connect, even remotely, any of the above nineteen usages of pisteuō with water baptism. The same holds true of the other seventy-nine usages of pisteuō in the Fourth Gospel in any context including salvation. These many usages of pisteuō establish that an unbeliever must only believe in Jesus Christ to gain eternal life with NO requirement of water baptism.
One well-respected lexicon (Arndt et al.) lists five broad definitions of pisteuō. The first is to consider something to be true and therefore worthy of one’s trust, believe. The second definition is to entrust oneself to an entity in complete confidence, believe (in), trust. The third is to entrust. The fourth is to be confident about. The fifth is to think/consider (possible). The Greek verb pisteuō focuses on mental activity and does not infer or imply any ergon, i.e., physical action.
No matter the purpose of the Fourth Gospel, according to John 20:31, the sole step necessary for salvation is the unbeliever believes (pisteuō) in Jesus Christ. Verse 31 does not imply or infer that water baptism is any way, shape or form a requirement for salvation.
Next, Post 14 looks at John 20:31 in more detail.
Arndt, W., Danker, F. W., Bauer, W., & Gingrich, F. W. (2000). In A Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament and other early Christian literature (3rd ed., p. 818). University of Chicago Press.
Brannan, R., & Loken, I. (2014). The Lexham Textual Notes on the Bible (Jn 20:31). Lexham Press.
Carson, D. A. (1991). The Gospel according to John, Inter-Varsity Press; W.B. Eerdmans.
IF YOU ARE UNSURE ABOUT YOUR SALVATION
If you are unsure about your salvation, you need to check out my book The Salvation Meter: Biblical Self-Diagnostic Tests to Examine Your Salvation and Spiritual Growth (book link at Xulon Press: https://www.xulonpress.com/bookstore/bookdetail.php?PB_ISBN=9781662828638 ). At Amazon the book link is https://www.amazon.com/Salavation-Meter-Biblical-Self-Diagnostic-Spiritual/dp/1662828632 . I also have a website in which I am updating the content in the book. The link to my website for the book is https://thesalvationmeter.com .
IF YOU ARE NOT A CHRISTIAN
… please (1) read through “God’s Plan of Salvation” so you can understand what God did for you through His only unique Son, Jesus Christ, and (2), from the bottom of your heart, pray the “Sinner’s Prayer” meaning every word. If you do, you will be reconciled to God – saved – through Jesus Christ.
God’s Plan of Salvation
In the beginning, God, who is holy, created the entire universe. As a part of His creative actions, He made humans in His image to know Him. For a while, everything was right between God and our ancestors, Adam and Eve. But Adam sinned, and his sin was passed down to all of humankind whereby we became separated from God. Nothing we could do on our own could bridge that separation so that without God’s intervention, hell would be our eternal destination.
Fortunately for us, in His great love and mercy God provided humankind with the only means of salvation, which is through Jesus Christ who is God’s only unique Son. While retaining His deity, God the Son became a man in Jesus, lived a perfect life, and died on the cross, thus fulfilling the law Himself and taking on Himself the punishment for the sins of all those who would ever repent and trust in Him for their salvation. Jesus rose from the dead, showing that God the Father accepted Christ’s sacrifice and that God’s wrath against us has been exhausted. He now calls us to repent of our sins and trust alone in what Christ did to save us.
If we repent of our sins and completely trust in Christ alone that He died for our sins and rose to life from the dead, we are born again into a new life, an eternal life with God.
Scripture References: Genesis 1:1, 27, 31; Habakkuk 1:13; Genesis 2:7, 18, 21-25; Genesis 3:1-7, 23-24; Isaiah 59:2; Romans 3:19-20, 23; 5:17-19; Ephesians 2:8-9; Romans 6:23; John 14:6; Acts 4:12; 1 Corinthians 15:3; 1 John 4:10; John 3:16-18; Mark 1:15; Romans 1:4; 4:25; John 3:5-8; 1 Peter 1:3.
Lord, Jesus Christ, the only unique Son of God, thank You for Your free gift of eternal life. I know I’m a sinner who cannot save myself no matter what I do, and I deserve to spend eternity in hell. But, I know that because You loved me so much, You voluntarily died on the cross for me taking my sins upon Yourself, and You physically bodily rose from the grave showing that Your sacrificial death was sufficient payment to give me eternal life in Heaven. I now repent of my sins and trust alone in what You did for my eternal salvation. Please take control of my life as I now receive You as my Lord and Savior. Thank You so much for saving me. I am now Yours forever! (Scripture references: John 1:1-4, 11-14; John 3:16; Romans 6:23; Ephesians 2:8-9; Romans 3:21-26; Isaiah 53:4-6; Mark 1:15; Acts 16:31; Acts 4:12; Romans 10:9-10, 13; 1 Corinthians 15:3-4; John 10:27-29).
Upon your salvation, you must find a spiritually solid Bible-believing church that (1) teaches that the sixty-six books of the Bible are the inspired, inerrant, and infallible Word of God, (2) believes in the doctrine of the Trinity, which means that there is one God who eternally exists as three distinct Persons — the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – and each Person is fully God, and (3) teaches that salvation is by grace through faith and not by works (e.g., water baptism by immersion).
ONE CAUTIONARY POINT. Please do not make the mistake of thinking that once you become a Christian, your life will become easy. Most likely, it will become more difficult. God’s blessing of salvation and life’s difficulties are not mutually exclusive. Jesus told His disciples, “If the world hates you, remember that it hated me first.” John 15:18 (NLT). Always keep in mind that you have an eternal home in heaven waiting for you per John 14:2–4 (NLT):
2 There is more than enough room in my Father’s home. If this were not so, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? 3 When everything is ready, I will come and get you, so that you will always be with me where I am. 4 And you know the way to where I am going.”
. APPENDIX A
At p. 661, Carson explains the difference:
What he chose to write, John tells his readers, was written that you may believe. This not only expresses the purpose of the book, but is ‘the shortest summary of Johannine theology’ (Blank, p. 191). … In recent years, most commentators have adopted the view, based primarily on their reconstruction of the setting of the Fourth Gospel as a whole rather than on particular details in this verse, that this Gospel was written to be read by Christians, by the Johannine community (e.g. Whitacre, pp. 6ff.). The stated goal, that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, is interpreted to mean that the Evangelist intends by his book to establish the faith of Christians, rather than to bring non-Christians to faith. Some commentaries, including this one, argue that John’s primary purpose is evangelism (cf. Introduction, § VI).
At p. 90, Carson provides reasons to support the evangelistic purpose:
The proper place to begin is with John’s own statement of his purpose: ‘Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name’ (20:30–31). The words rendered ‘that you may believe’ hide a textual variant: either hina pisteuēte (present subjunctive) or hina pisteusēte (aorist subjunctive). Some have argued that the latter expression supports an evangelistic purpose: that you may come to faith, come to believe. The former, then, supports an edificatory purpose: that you may continue in faith, continue to believe. In fact, it can easily be shown that both expressions are used for both initial faith and continuing in faith (cf. Carson, ‘Purpose’, pp. 640–641), so that nothing can be resolved by the appeal to one textual variant or the other.
It is worth comparing these verses with the stated purpose of 1 John: ‘I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life’ (1 Jn. 5:13). This verse was clearly written to encourage Christians; by the contrasting form of its expression, John 20:30–31 sounds evangelistic.
This impression is confirmed by the firm syntactical evidence that the first purpose clause in 20:31 must be rendered ‘that you may believe that the Christ, the Son of God, is Jesus’. Thus the fundamental question the Fourth Gospel addresses is not ‘Who is Jesus?’ but ‘Who is the Messiah? Who is the Christ? Who is the Son of God?’ In their context, these are questions of identity, not of kind: i.e. the question ‘Who is the Christ?’ should not here be taken to mean ‘What kind of “Christ” are you talking about?’ but ‘So you claim that you know who the Christ is. Prove it, then: Who is he?’
Brannan et al. points out two variants:
but these things are recorded in order that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.
Some early manuscripts have “you may continue to believe,” but other early manuscripts and related later witnesses have “you may believe.” The difference is one letter in the verb translated “believe.” With the former, the verb is in the present tense and is translated “continue to believe,” with the latter, the verb is in the aorist tense and is translated “may believe.” See also John 19:35 where a similar variation occurs.
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