Who are the Believers?
To hear the denominational world speak of "believers," one would think they grew on every bush and in every garden. There are over 300 groups of religious people in the U. S. all speaking of themselves as "Christians." Can this be right? Do all paths lead to Heaven and man is left to choose any one of those that he chooses? Can he be just any kind of "believer" and go to Heaven?
Emphatically not--and that's not just the opinion of this speaker. The Apostle Paul said in I Corinthians 1: 10-16 "I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment. For it has been reported to me by Chloe's people that there is quarreling among you, my brothers. What I mean is that each one of you says, "I follow Paul," or "I follow Apollos," or "I follow Cephas," or "I follow Christ." Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? I thank God that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius, so that no one may say that you were baptized in my name." What 21st century man seems to think is okay as diversity appeared to Paul as division, ungodly division, and he condemned it. "I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them." (Romans 16: 17). 1Timothy 6:3 "If anyone teaches a different doctrine and does not agree with the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ and the teaching that accords with godliness, he is puffed up with conceit and understands nothing. He has an unhealthy craving for controversy and for quarrels about words, which produce envy, dissension, slander, evil suspicions, and constant friction among people who are depraved in mind and deprived of the truth, imagining that godliness is a means of gain." While there may be slight variations in the ways that people show their beliefs by the actions, when the beliefs themselves are different from those taught in the Bible, these kinds of diversity are clearly not acceptable. Much of the source of this discord comes from the issue about who is or who isn't a believer.
Believers--the true and Godly kind--what kind of people were they and where do we find them in the Bible? A key-word search of the Old and New Testaments in the American Standard Version, the English Standard Version, the ISV, the New King James, and the Revised Standard Version showed that the terms "believer" and "believers" are New Testament in origin only. There were people in the Old Testament who did God's will, but they were not referred to as believers until New Testament times.
What were their characteristics? They followed the doctrine that had been set down by Jesus and by His Apostles. In one instance in Acts 15 where the homogeneity of doctrine might at first be in question (Act 15:5 But some believers who belonged to the party of the Pharisees rose up and said, "It is necessary to circumcise them and to order them to keep the law of Moses.") the party of the Pharisees was rebuked and set straight by the apostles (see verses 6-30, same opening of your New Testament). The doctrine of Jesus Christ was the doctrine to be followed.
What kind of people did this doctrine produce? People who did what they were commanded to do, not just people who heard about it and had a "mental assent." In fact when we look at Hebrews 11, sometimes called The Honor Roll of the Faithful, we see the characteristic of them being "doers of the word and not hearers only" (James 1: 22). Consider:
We could argue back and forth about the English construction of the heroes of the Honor Roll of the Faithful, but an honest reading of the eleventh chapter of Hebrews shows overwhelmingly that those who were acceptable to God--though not called "believers" in the Old Testament--were those who translated their internal belief into a lot of spectacular outward action.
Acts 2: 37-47 is instructive about the nature of New Testament believers. They didn't quibble or expect God to work out their salvation for them when they were told to repent and be baptized (verse 38). In fact their actions were reminencent of the commandment of Paul in Philippians 2: 12 to "work out your own salvation in fear and trembling." James' description of real, saving faith in James 2: 14-26 is too plainspoken to be dismissed. So was Jesus' plaintive cry in Luke 6: 46 "And why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?" Jesus' urging to take action and to do what He said to do in Matthew 7: 21-27 is self-explanatory.
In every instance of conversion in the New Testament, faith (belief) is accompanied by action on the part of the believer. So what should we do if we would be considered believers? Do what the Bible says to do. Being a believer is far more than just acquiring some state of "mental assent" that God exists. "Even the demons believe and tremble" James 2: 19. Act on it. If you really believe that "God exists and is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him," heed his warnings and his commands. "If you love me, you will keep my commandments" Jesus said in John 14: 14.