And this is His commandment:
that we should believe on the name of His Son Jesus Christ
and love one another,
and love one another,
as He gave us[e] commandment.
I John 3:23
In order to do, one must first believe..............SOMETHING!
That is an undeniable fact; in order for one to accomplish anything, that one must first make a judgement ( however quickly or rightly ) & THEN act upon that judgement, or belief! While some people act more or less like animals & act upon instinct, they’ve still made a judgement, even a split-second one, about how they're going to react to a given situation. Everyone believes something; that's a fact of life!
Some claim to be irreligious, but the fact of the matter is, to whatever extent, everyone is by nature religious! They may not act according to their stated belief, or they may not even do much in any way, but everyone believes something & if one does do nothing at all, that one believes they should do nothing. If one does not act according to their stated belief, then we can know they're acting according to their true belief!
Scripture tells us in quite a few different places that one must believe in order to be saved; this is not to say that belief is no longer necessary, but we must realize that these words were spoken to a certain audience at a certain point in time! The necessity was for those Jews in the first century to accept Jesus as their Messiah. The haunting question here could be, 'is it not still necessary for people to accept Jesus as their Messiah, their Savior?' In some sense, one might say that it is necessary for one to realize that Jesus was the Messiah & accept His Atonement, but the fact of the matter is, He was the Jewish Messiah, He came to atone for their sin ( s ) & it is only as we identify with them, as the Body of Christ that we partake in their salvation!
Belief is a funny thing; there is a right way of believing & a wrong way of believing! As we have seen, everyone believes something; those who ( truly ) believe wrongly usually do wrongly & those who ( truly ) believe rightly will most often act rightly. Such is not always the case though, when it comes to stated beliefs; some people say one thing & do almost the exact opposite! One might say they believe everything written concerning the Gospel of the Son of God & yet not practice the example He gave us. On the other hand, one might claim not to believe that Gospel ( or even be ignorant of it ) & yet live according to many of the principles we find in the Gospel!
While it is true that one must believe in order to act upon those beliefs, is it of absolute necessity for one to believe according to the accepted orthodoxy in order for one to act correctly? Pretty obviously not! On the other side of the coin, it is plain that just because one states their orthodoxy doesn't mean they act correctly.
The problem that most people have with religion is not so much with religion itself, but with organized religion; a religion that says of itself that is the only correct way to believe & that if one doesn't profess its orthodox principles, that one is heretic & not on the highway to hell! Organized Religion usually teaches that their orthodox principles are the way, the truth & the life; if one doesn't adhere to their stated principles, that one is consigned to outer darkness, at least until they repent!
Thus, it is of utmost importance to believe, to truly believe what is right! In order to act rightly, one must first be able to make a right judgement. Again, in order to make a right judgement, one must have at least a basic knowledge of what IS right! With the In-dwelling Spirit & the Cleansed Conscience, one can make a right judgement even though that one may not have explored the intimacy & intricacy of one's faith, or belief! That one might understand that Jesus was/is the Son of God ( Very God of Very God ), but yet not aver the trinitarian principle of Father, Son & Holy Spirit! One may simply believe that Jesus, as the Son of God, God Himself, is One that we should emulate!
This is how we should then live; we should live religiously, according to our beliefs! We have seen that it is possible that even though one doesn't necessarily profess orthodoxy, they may act correctly. Then again, just because one does confess orthodox doctrine doesn't mean that one will practice it religiously! One may not have any certain stated belief ( religion ) & yet practice the principles that we find in the words of Jesus; 'just as you want men to do to you, you also do to them likewise' ( Luke 6:31 ) & 'you shall love your neighbor as yourself' ( Leviticus 19:18 ). One might ask at this juncture whether it is even possible to love one's neighbor without first loving the Creator; good question: here's another, 'what does it mean to love God?'
Charles Haddon Shank