What’s Worse: Unbelief or False Belief?

The plight of man — his total depravity — is well documented in the Bible (Gen 6:5; Jer 17:9; Rom 3:10–12; Eph 2:1–3, 12; 4:17–19). Warnings abound to unbelievers of the consequences of unbelief. Warnings also abound for the pervasive and persuasive machinations of false teachers. These blind leaders lead the blind into the pit (Mt 15:14).

The Bible clearly teaches that grace is the only answer to unbelief and false belief. Grace is God’s work on behalf of His elect people. God causes all things to work together for good, for those who love Him and who are called according to His purposes (Rom 8:28). Christians love God because He first loved us (1 Jn 4:19). His love is eternal (Jer 31:3).

The motive of God, toward His chosen people, is love. Therefore, God’s will and work, for the benefit of His people, is for their salvation (Ps 3:8; Jon 2:9; Rev 19:1). This is true in election, before the foundation of the world. He loved us before time and space (Eph 1:4–5). He also loved us at the cross (Rom 5:8; Eph 5:25). His love manifests to us, even in us, by the regeneration and indwelling of the Holy Spirit (Rom 5:5).

When God reveals the truth to people He first shows them His creation (Gen 1–2). Next, there is the preaching of the Bible, the special revelation of God (1 Cor 1:23; 2:2, 4; 2 Tim 4:2). He makes Jesus Christ known. Through the preaching event, God calls every man, everywhere to repent (Acts 17:30). Some do turn from their unbelief (Acts 5:31; 16:31), and they submit to Christ as Lord. Others hear the good news, but they continue on in their unbelief (Jn 10:26).

Unbelievers lack the Holy Spirit (Jn 14:17; Rom 8:9), the Lord, the Giver of life (Jn 6:63; 2 Cor 3:6). Only the Holy Spirit, the One who brings faith with Him to the elect unbeliever, has what it takes to transform the unbeliever into a believer (Jn 3:1–8; Eph 2:5; Col 2:13; 1 Pet 1:3)

When the Spirit of Christ causes a person to be in the right place to hear the Gospel, then, to know the truth of what is written, it is an act of grace. Christians are saved from sin (1 Cor 15:3), Satan (1 Jn 4:4), and the world by this grace. They are also given hope for the ensuing deliverance from eternal hell in the second death (Mt 25:46; Jude 7; Rev 20:14–15).

Thus, we see the difference between the believer and the unbeliever is God Himself. One either has the Son of God and eternal life, or he does not have Jesus Christ (Jn 3:36; 1 Jn 5:12). The Holy Spirit has either baptized him or not (Jn 1:33; Acts 2:38; 11:16; 1 Cor 12:13). God’s good work in him has either begun or not (Phil 1:6). The man in question has either received grace unto salvation from God, or he has not received it (Eph 2:8–9). He belongs to Christ (1 Cor 3:23), or he does not belong to Christ (Jn 10:26).

God is perfectly consistent in this work. The same people who have their names in the Lamb’s book of life (Rev 13:8; 17:8; 21:27), from eternity, are exactly the same people for whom Christ came and died for on the cross (Jn 10:11, 15; Rom 5:8; 1 Cor 15:3; Eph 5:25; 1 Pet 2:24). These same people know the grace of God and believe in Jesus Christ because of the Holy Spirit.

The Bible also teaches us of the devil’s work in deceiving men (Jn 8:44). The doctrine of demons, aligned with Satan, is false doctrine. False teachers of false doctrine are motivated by devils, who trick people into believing a false gospel that they themselves have been tricked into believing.

False teaching is a distraction, a deviation from the truth. It is designed to keep people from knowing the truth (2 Tim 3:7). False teachers are often studied philosophers, psychologists, entertainers, or salesmen. They keep people focused on themselves and on the world. They teach people that God blesses the faithful with more of the world.

The gross error of the deceived is their failure to read and know the Scriptures (Rom 16:26). God’s Word is truth (Ps 119:160; Jn 17:17), and only the truth of God can set a man free from false teaching (Jn 8:32). The natural man walks in the futility of his mind, however (1 Cor 2:14; Eph 4:17). He has no hope because he is without God in the world (Eph 2:12). He does not seek after God (Rom 3:10–12), nor can he, “because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so (Rom 8:7; c/f Gal 5:17).”

Thus, we begin to see that unbelief is akin to false belief. In fact, it is reasonable to see that if one believes not the truth, him being deceived, then he is in the state of unbelief. Therefore, our first conclusion is that there is unbelief, and even if one claims no belief except, “There is no God (Atheism),” he is deceived. All other false beliefs only aid the unbeliever in his unbelief.

Who can deliver the deceived unbeliever from his current and future plight? There is only one Savior of unbelievers, whom God has chosen to be believers (Titus 1:4; 2:13; 3:6). Our Lord Jesus Christ is the Light of the world (Jn 8:12), who is Himself the truth (Jn 14:6; Rom 3:4), who is God (Jn 1:1; 10:30; Phil 2:6). The Light shines on the Truth, but most remain in the domain of darkness (Col 1:13), in the dominion of Satan (Acts 26:18). Is God in Christ too weak or too ignorant to save everyone?

God forbid that we should ever believe that anything apart from the perfect outworking of God’s predetermined plan is happening (Acts 2:23). God has willed and decreed that some should receive the Holy Spirit, the grace of God, the knowledge of the truth, and the gift of faith to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and to be saved (Jn 1:12–13). God has also willed and decreed that some should remain dead in their trespasses and sins, guilty Lawbreakers, under judgment and storing up wrath for the day of wrath (Rom 2:5; 9:22).

The big picture reveals the Person and work of our great God that we might know His love and mercy, along with His hatred and wrath (Ps 5:5; 11:5; Rom 1:18). May God grant you to know these matters that you might say, “God has had mercy on me, a sinner.”

We end with the truth that unbelief and false belief are one and the same. We also rejoice in our God, who is true, in that He has opened our blind eyes to see Jesus, who is the truth we believe in.

David Norczyk

Spokane Valley, Washington

September 12, 2022

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David Norczyk

Some random theologian out West somewhere, Christian writer, preacher