Can we believe in God in vain?
There is a wonderful comfort in scripture that we are justified before God based on absolutely nothing that results from our effort, but all on the effort of God. We are justified based on our believing the promises of God to us, through the work of Jesus Christ.
For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from observing the law.
But does this simply mean we can confess a belief in God or is there more? Is this justification by faith to all men who confess a belief in God or is it more than just a mental recognition of Christ and His sacrifice for us? In many circles of Christianity it is preached at the end of sermons, that a person can know for certain right now they will go to heaven if they confess Jesus is Lord. Then with a simple confession they are pronounced saved and on their way to heaven. But does scripture support this type of conversion practiced by many in the church?
There are examples of faith that do not lead to salvation. There are even examples of true praise and worship to the one living God that comes from those who do not walk in the hope of salvation held out in the gospel. For instance we can believe all we want in the one true God, but what more do we do with this information the demons do?
Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble. But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?
Do we believe it is possible for a “believer” to have a belief in God but it still only leads them to death? Or is all belief in God valid before God? I would venture to say there is only one belief in God that is valid and any other belief in God is not valid. We are taught we need to remain in what we have been taught in the whole of scripture concerning our gospel, or our faith in what we do believe concerning God is in vain.
By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain.
So what is it that happens to men when they do not remain in what they are taught in the whole of scripture concerning our gospel? Well we still praise and worship the Lord don’t we. We feel free to do this because we think our belief in Him has saved us. We also honor the Lord God and say all kinds of honoring things about Him and what He has done for us and will do for other people, don’t we? But in doing these things, if we do not remain in what we have presented to us in scripture but have somehow turned to the teachings of men, do we have a faith that saves? Here is a verse that adequately describes a people of God who have not remained in what was taught concerning our gospel as we find in scripture.
This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me. But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.
So what is left when a people of God who confess a belief in the Lord and His work on the cross yet, do not stay in what was preached? What more do they have over the demonic realm? What is left for these people to become? Scripture teaches they will have what looks like godliness in their lives which would be assumed by many as a testimony of the faith they have. Yet they will not have the power of God in their lives. They will have become an empty shell of a form of godliness like the religious leaders of Jesus day, but it will powerless to save them. They will have had a faith and the activities of a lifetime that lead only to despair and all of this they do in the name of faith in God.
Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away. For of this sort are they which creep into houses, and lead captive silly women laden with sins, led away with divers lusts, Ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.
How does one keep from ever learning about God, yet never come to the saving knowledge of the truth? Is it more study? Is it more learning? It is found in letting the power of God go from head knowledge to a knowledge that transforms us a people and makes us new creations in Christ Jesus. Now that is the trick isn’t it? Letting the power of God remake us in His image and rid us of all sins that so easily entangles us. At least at this point we would be doing more with our faith than simply believing as do the demons. Or we could go on living in our sins and look like we are godly in our belief and service to God yet deny in our lives the power of God to change us.
Simply put, to have saving faith, we need to live in belief of the gospel given to us in the whole of scripture and the power of this gospel to transform our lives or we will have believed in vain.
 Romans 3:28
 James 2:19-20
 1 Corinthians 15:2
 Matthew 15:8-9
 2 Timothy 3:5-7