John 6:29 says, “The work of God is to believe in the One He has sent.” As a child of 10 or 12, I used to ask God to make me more like Jesus, but I never specifically asked Him to “save” me. Even so, was my belief sufficient to save me during those childhood years? Can one be saved before reaching an age of accountability and knowledge of the concept of sin and its eternal consequences? Is it enough to believe, even if one never specifically asks for salvation?
In my opinion, believing that Jesus exists or even that He’s God in the flesh is not sufficient to save us. Paul said that we were included in Christ when we heard the word of truth, the gospel of our salvation, and believed it (Ephesians 1:13-14).
He said the gospel we have to believe is that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures; that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures (1 Cor. 15:3-4).
To “believe in the one He has sent” is to be persuaded that the purpose for which Jesus came to Earth was to die in our place in order to pay the penalty that was due us for our sins, canceling our debt to God.
The Greek word for believe comes from the same root as the one translated faith and indicates that we’re trusting our eternal destiny to Him. So it’s not just a matter of believing in Him. It’s believing in the sufficiency of what He did for us that saves us.
“He was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities, the punishment that brought us peace was upon Him, and by His wounds we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5).