The most important Bible verse

Published 9:02 pm Monday, August 19, 2019

By Ross Reitz

The Bible is so big, with so many things to say that it can be overwhelming to figure out what is the most important information to know at first, or how to get started being a Christian.

Many Christians look to John 3:16 as the verse that starts their faith. John 3:16 lets us know that God sent His Son Jesus to die for our sins, and that if we believe on Him, God will give us eternal life.

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To early Protestants, who wanted to prove that we become Christians through having faith in Christ, not through completing rituals, one of the most important verses was Ephesians 2:8-9: “Because of his (God’s) kindness, you have been saved through trusting Christ. And even trusting is not of yourselves; it too is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good we have done, so none of us can take any credit for it” (TLB).

The problem is that often Christians focused on this verse that said we are not saved by what we do, and then figured that the Christian life is only about saying something like, “I’m sorry for my sins” one time and that if we have said those magic words, we have arm-wrestled God into saving us and doing what we want. These Christians forgot the verse that came next: “It is God himself who has made us what we are and given us new lives from Christ Jesus; and long ages ago he planned that we should spend these lives in helping others” (TLB).

Yes, it is true that no action or ritual can save us. A relationship with God only comes through believing that Jesus died to take away our sin, but the Bible also talks about us becoming new creations through Jesus (2 Corinthians 5:17). Jesus Himself never teaches about saying a prayer to become a Christian, for saying a prayer can become as much of a ritual as being sprinkled with water or taking a trip to a holy place. Jesus teaches us to repent, or to turn our back on our sin and walk a different way (Matthew 4:17). Jesus talks about us dying to our own desires to live for what God wants (Luke 9:17; Matthew 10:39).

But how do we repent? How do we die to our own desires so that we can have the new life that God promised? Often we think of a list of rules and do’s and don’ts. We think of having a whole list of fun things that we can’t do, and of making sure that we tell everyone else that they can’t do them either. But I don’t think that is what Christ is teaching us.

The most important verse for me is Galatians 5:6: “The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.” I like this verse because it doesn’t talk about faith and love being two different things. It calls them together “the only thing.” So often, Christians have missed either faith or love. One group of Christians has focused on serving those in need, but has forgotten the truth that we only have the power to love others because God’s love has made us new through Jesus Christ. Other Christians have focused on believing the right doctrine, but then have killed thousands, even up to millions, of people who believed differently, and felt justified because they said the words, “I’m sorry.”

But this verse says that faith and love are the “only thing” — one thing. When Jesus and Paul talk about dying to ourselves, I think they are talking about loving God and other people so much that we don’t have to focus on our own needs. That’s how we really show that we are children of God: when we have so much faith in Him and what He is doing in us through Christ that we can focus on helping others, not just ourselves.

Ross Reitz has been a Suffolk resident since 2009. Prior to that, he taught the Bible in Africa for two years and spent six years as a teacher at a Christian school in Philadelphia, Pa.