Question: The Bible makes it very simple as to what one must believe in order to be saved. The Ethiopian eunuch merely said, “I believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God” (Acts:8:37). Upon that confession, he was baptized. Romans:10:9 says, “if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.” From Paul’s delineation of the gospel, one need only believe that “Christ died for our sins...was buried, and rose again” (1 Corinthians:15:1-4). Yet I have heard you say that to be saved one must believe in His virgin birth, His deity, His sinlessness, etc. How can you justify this?
Response: I believe this is a serious matter. Let me explain why. That the virgin birth, deity of Christ, etc., are not mentioned every time the gospel is briefly summarized in Scripture doesn’t mean that they are not essential elements that anyone who is to be saved must believe. Every detail need not be specifically mentioned, because each would be understood from having been stated elsewhere.
Paul’s declaration in 1 Corinthians:15:1-4 is only a summary, and not the full gospel that he preached to the Philippian jailor or that Jesus explained to Nicodemus, to the woman at the well, or to others. Surely, to “preach Christ” necessarily means more than merely saying that someone called Jesus Christ died in our place, without explaining who He is!
The very scripture upon which you rely (1 Corinthians:15:1-4) contains the vital phrase “according to the scriptures”—which surely includes all that the scriptures have to say relating to the gospel. Certainly Paul and Silas preached the full gospel in “the word of the Lord” (Acts:16:32; 1 Peter:1:25). How can we ask someone to believe in Jesus without explaining fully who the biblical Jesus is? Would not this be “another Jesus” and “another gospel” (2 Corinthians:11:4; Galatians:1:6) against which Paul warns?
You suggest that if someone believes in an undefined “Jesus Christ” he is saved and will eventually discover that the Jesus he believed in was virgin born, was truly God come as a man, lived a sinless, perfect life, paid the full penalty for our sins upon the cross, etc. Suppose this person, upon being told that truth, doesn’t believe it! Jesus himself said very clearly, “I said therefore unto you, that ye shall die in your sins: for if ye believe not that I AM he, ye shall die in your sins” (John:8:24). Or suppose that this “convert” dies before he learns that Jesus is God?!
We are making false converts by not clearly preaching the full gospel according to the scriptures. This is a serious matter, because “the gospel...is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth” (Romans:1:16). This statement itself means that if someone believes something less than, or more than, or otherwise contrary to, the gospel, he is not saved.
Yes, many come to Christ with an imperfect understanding. Yes, God, who knows whether the heart is sincere, and who wants all to be saved, will reveal Himself to earnest seekers, but that is no excuse for being vague or inaccurate in our presentation of the gospel.