But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in His name. John 20:31 (NRSV)
Is belief in the Bible essential for salvation? Crucial to that debate is a consideration of just what is meant by salvation. Biblical salvation is reconciliation with God the Father who created us so that we can attain life eternal with Him in His heavenly house. Reconciliation is necessary because we have distanced ourselves from Him. In other words, we are sinners.
As a young student at Asbury College, a Wesleyan holiness school located in the heart of Kentucky, I used to think about what I supposed could be all of the ways one could come to know God apart from the Bible. I ruminated on the usual rationalization available to my ‘60’s generation. A favorite theme of mine had to do with deciding the eternal destiny of the “heathen”—those who had never ever heard of God nor ever had an opportunity to read the Bible. The apostle Paul wrote that persons would be judged by how well they obeyed their consciences. The best answer that I eventually came up with at that time was universalism, whereby everyone eventually obtained grace with God automatically.
In January 1998, I started to read the New Testament. I had read the entire Bible through on several previous occasions, the last time being 21 years earlier. But the dynamics were different this time. I had just learned that there was no cure for my chemical imbalance and for the first time I was reading with a searching heart. Before this, I had been reading books by authors who rejected any belief in a literal resurrection, and I was deeply disturbed by their interpretations of scripture.
The promise of life eternal as told in the Bible came home to me on January 25, 1999. It was then that I truly believed and believed without fear. The day before, during a routine visit to my cardiologist, the doctor discovered a pattern in my electrocardiogram that he thought pointed to an imminent heart attack. I scheduled a heart catheterization for the next day and went home prepared to die. During that very restless night, I discovered that I was no longer afraid of dying.
My prayer: “Dear Jesus, thank you for the Bible and its message of hope. When I had no hope of a cure, I had the Bible’s promise of eternal life. Help me now to share this faith to others, so that they too, by reading these Patterns, may come to believe that they have life in your name. Amen.”