Do Wrong Beliefs about Jesus Hinder or Affect Salvation?

Question: “My wife is a believer in Jesus Christ and on fire for the Lord, but she has difficulty believing that Jesus and the Holy Spirit are God. Will this hinder or affect her salvation in any way?”

I do not think it is the absence of knowledge that damns; rather, it is the despising of knowledge that damns.

One of the things that we know for certain as we read through the Scripture is this: there is only one God. The Scripture is very plain and clear about that. Look at the Old Testament, for example. There is the Hebrew Shema, “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one” (Deuteronomy 6:4 NIV).

Now, if you continue reading the Bible, you recognize that the Father is God. The Bible is explicit about that (see John 17:1–3; 1 Corinthians 8:6; 2 Corinthians 1:3–4; Ephesians 1:3;1 Peter 1:3–5).

You also realize that the Holy Spirit is God. One example in the New Testament is Acts 5, wherein Peter condemns Ananias, who lied about selling a piece of property and donating all the proceeds to the church. The Apostle said, “Ananias, how is it that Satan has so filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit and have kept for yourself some of the money you received for the land? Didn’t it belong to you before it was sold? And after it was sold, wasn’t the money at your disposal? What made you think of doing such a thing? You have not lied to men but to God” (vv. 3–4 NIV). In this case, lying to the Holy Spirit means lying to God.

Another example in which the Holy Spirit is equated with God is 2 Corinthians 3:17–18: “Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit” (NIV; cf. Romans 8:9–11). The Holy Spirit is omnipotent (Genesis 1:2; Luke 1:35), omnipresent (Psalm139:7–9), omniscient (1 Corinthians 2:10–11), eternal (John 14:16; Hebrews 9:14), and personal (John 14:26; 15:26; 16:13–14; Acts 8:29; 15:28; 16:6; Romans 5:5; 8:14–16, 26–27; 15:30; Ephesians 4:30; 1 Corinthians 12:11; 2 Corinthians 13:14).

The Bible is also very clear with respect to Jesus Christ being God—being of one essence with the Father. For example, Colossians 1, which declares Christ to be “the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy” (vv. 15–18 NIV). Another example is Hebrews 1, which declares, “About the Son [the Father] says, ‘Your throne, O God, will last for ever and ever, and righteousness will be the scepter of your kingdom. You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness; therefore God, your God, has set you above your companions by anointing you with the oil of joy’” (Hebrews 1:8–9 NIV; cf. Hebrews 1:3; Psalm 45:6–7). And, of course, John 1 declares “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (v. 1 NIV). Anyone reading through the Gospel of John with an open mind sees Christ repeatedly identified as God. After Jesus demonstrated the power to lay down his life and to take it up again, the disciple Thomas did not identify him as “a god” but as “my God” (John 20:28). The original Greek language of John 20:28 is unambiguous and definitive. Literally, Thomas said to the risen Christ, “the Lord of me and the God of me.”

Moreover, in Romans 10:13, Paul equates calling on Christ with calling on Yahweh (Joel 2:32). And in his letter to the Philippian Christians, Paul declares that Jesus, “being in very nature God [in the form of God], did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant [the form of a servant], being made in human likeness” (NIV). Paul goes on to conclude by equating bowing to and confessing the name of Jesus with bowing to and confessing the name of Yahweh, further demonstrating that Jesus is Himself Almighty God (see Philippians 2:6–11; Isaiah 45:22–25). I do not know how it could be any clearer.

The Bible is telling us that there is one God, that the Father is God, that the Son is God, and that the Holy Spirit is God. But also the Bible tells us that Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are eternally distinct (see Matthew 28:19; John 14:15–21, 26–27; 15:26–27; 16:5–15).

In other words, the Father does not become the Son, and the Son does not morph into the Holy Spirit. You have one God, subsisting in three persons, who are eternally distinct. That is what the Bible teaches.

Now, you say it is hard for your wife to get her head around that; I will tell you, it is hard for me to get my head around that, too. I oftentimes tell people, “If you can get your head around that, your God is too small.” This means that the God we serve can be apprehended but cannot be comprehended. He is beyond our ability to fully comprehend, and that is not only true for this present time but also it is true for all eternity. The Bible is clear that Jesus is God, that the Holy Spirit is God, and that the Father is God, but there is one God with Father, Son, and Holy Spirit being eternally distinct.

What I am talking about again is this: it is not the absence of truth that damns; rather, it is the despising of truth that damns. What I am suggesting is that there can be many professing Christians unable to communicate what I just communicated, but I am not looking at them and saying, “Those people are lost.” That is not my province; rather, that is in fact the province of the Holy Spirit. However, as you read about the Lord — doing what the Lord asks us to do, getting into God’s Word, and getting God’s Word into you (Deuteronomy 6:6–9; Joshua 1:8; Psalm 119) — as you learn more and more about God, you have to follow what God says, as opposed to recreating God in your own image.

— Hank Hanegraaff

For further related study, please see the following:

Who Is the “Us” in Genesis 1:26?  (Hank Hanegraaff)

If God Is One, Why Does the Bible Refer to Him in the Plural? (Hank Hanegraaff)

Is Oneness Pentecostalism Biblical? (Hank Hanegraaff)

Allah, the Trinity, and Divine Love (Jonah Haddad and Douglas Groothuis)

We also recommend the following book:

Muslim: What You Need to Know about the World’s Fastest-Growing Religion (Hank Hanegraaff)

This blog is adapted from the November 8, 2017, Bible Answer Man broadcast.

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