Question: We often hear it said that it does not matter what people believe if they are sincere in it. Is this so? Would you give some comments on this?
Answer: No, it is not true, and it is possible for people to be just as sincere in error as to be sincere in truth. God’s Word says, “…God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth.” II Thessalonians 2:13. We see here that “belief of the truth” is an essential part of the way and plan God has for us obtaining salvation. II Thessalonians 2:9-12 says, “Even him, whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders, and with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved. And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie: That they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness.” Note: In this passage we see a class of people who did not love the truth, and consequently did not believe it. Because they did not love and believe the truth, God permitted them to believe a lie and be damned. This passage also makes it clear that the reason these people did not love and believe the truth was because they had “pleasure in unrighteousness.” Now if a person loves unrighteousness, it is easy for him not to believe the truth which is contrary to that particular kind of unrighteousness which he loves and to believe a lie that will support it. II Timothy 4:3-4 says, “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.” We are certainly in that time now when sound doctrine is not countenanced among the masses of modern Christendom, but they are listening to fables and doctrines of men in which is no salvation, spiritual blessings nor strength. Some of these people are just as sincere and zealous and devoted to their belief as people who are believing the truth are.
We have a clear example of this in II Corinthians 11:1 and 4. In verse 1 Paul is pleading for them to bear with him in his teaching them the way of salvation, and said, “Would to God ye could bear with me a little in my folly: and indeed bear with me.” Then in verse 4 he said, “For if he that cometh preacheth another Jesus, whom we have not preached, or if ye receive another spirit, which ye have not received, or another gospel, which ye have not accepted, ye might well bear with him.” Again Paul said in Galatians 1:8-9, “But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed.” This is certainly strong language, and whatever else it may teach, it certainly teaches that what the Christian believes must be well based and rooted in truth, and that it must be circumscribed by truth and must never go beyond truth nor accept any false thing.
In II Corinthians 1:12 Paul speaks of his “…simplicity and godly sincerity,…” A person may be as sincere as he will in any belief or project or undertaking; but it is only godly sincerity that is going to bring him salvation and establish him in God. Paul himself was an outstanding example of this. He mentions as one of the things that he has in which to glory in the flesh was that in the Jewish religion he was very zealous for the traditions of the Jewish fathers, and being so, he persecuted the Church of God and wasted it. Philippians 3:4,6; Galatians 1:13-14. In Acts 26:9-10, Paul said, “I verily thought with myself, that I ought to do many things contrary to the name of Jesus of Nazareth. Which thing I also did…” Surely, no one could possibly question Paul’s sincerity in doing this, but with all of his sincerity he would surely have missed salvation if he had not submitted to Christ and believed in Him when he met Him face to face on the Damascus road. I do not consider Paul to have been one bit more sincere for the truth and his Christian faith than he had formerly been in his Jewish religion and for the traditions of his fathers. It was the same Paul with his characteristic zeal and sincerity, but it was a change of allegiance. Without question, there are some people today who are just as sincere and zealous and would make just as great sacrifices in gross errors which actually deny some of the basic essentials of salvation, as true Christians are for Christ and truth. Remember, it is not just sincerity, but godly sincerity that counts.
Also let us consider that if every man’s belief of whatever kind or in whatever thing was valid and acceptable for him just as long as he was sincere in it, this would set up any number of standards to live by, but God only has one standard and calls all men to come to it. Ephesians 4:5 says there is “…one faith,…” God is calling all believers to the “unity of the Faith” and has made provision for bringing us all to this if we will all believe the faithful teaching of God’s Word. Ephesians 4:11-13. Also read I Corinthians 1:10.
There are some things a person MUST believe in order to be saved at all. There are other things that a person might be saved without knowing and believing, but which would certainly be a great enrichment to his life if he did know and believe them. One cannot possibly be saved if he does not believe in the virgin birth of Christ. Why? First, because the Bible declares it to be true, and we must believe God’s Word to receive the benefits of it. Second, because if Jesus were born by natural means and had an earthly father, He would have been a partaker of the sinful nature which all of Adam’s posterity received from him. In such a case, He could never have made an acceptable sacrifice for sin because it was required that the sin offering be perfect without spot or blemish. A large percentage in modern Christendom does not believe this. Consequently, they have no salvation, no matter how sincere they may be.
One must believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, the Saviour of the world, the Redeemer and “that prophet” in order to be saved at all. In John 8:24 Jesus said, “…if ye believe not that I am he, ye shall die in your sins.” In order for a person to be saved he must believe that he is a sinner and needs to be saved and that Jesus Christ can save him and He is the only One who can save him. Acts 4:12 says there is salvation in no other. We must believe that Christ became our substitute at Calvary, dying in our stead, and died for our sins according to the gospel I Corinthians 15:3; Romans 10:9; Romans 4:25. We must also believe that Christ arose from the dead. I Corinthians 15:17. Many do not believe this today, and consequently cannot be saved.