October 23, 2017

Believers and Unbelievers

Warren Vanhetloo

Differences and distinctions are common throughout the world. An important division of the human race is male or female. A significant division in Scripture is believer or unbeliever. Though unisex adherents would tend to obliterate the male/ female distinction, it is normally evident and surely will persist. God’s great gulf between believers and nonbelievers is not always so evident, but in His Word, in His sight, the difference is both clearly seen and exceedingly important.

Believers are those who have accepted His deliverance through His Son, Jesus Christ, as set forth in His Word, the Bible. They have been born again. Unbelievers may know about the gospel, but they have not accepted the new-nature offer of the gospel.

Infidels and Apostates

Unbelievers, too, can be divided into two different groups, infidels and apostates.

An infidel is a person who rejects God’s way of salvation, follows another path of supposed deliverance, or denies any need of deliverance. Muslims are infidels. Buddhists are infidels. Atheists are infidels. Spiritual fellowship is impossible with infidels; they have no spiritual nature, and thus there is nothing in common other than things of the flesh and of the world.

An apostate is a person who denies the gospel while claiming to be a Christian. The difference between an apostate and an infidel is that an apostate names the name of Christ and often wants to be recognized as a Christian or to be accepted into Christian fellowship. Like infidels, however, apostates deny the gospel, and thus there is no basis for fellowship in a realm they neither comprehend nor understand. Apostates are not Christians; they are enemies of Christ. Apostates are as lost as infidels.

An apostate may deny just one fundamental doctrine of Christianity, but that one denial puts him outside the realm of Christian fellowship. Whether a certain one is a believer or not, only God can truly judge; it is possible that one may have actually trusted the Lord and was thereafter intellectually persuaded to depart from the true gospel. His present position, however, puts him outside the realm of permitted fellowship. We need to stand for and to uphold the whole counsel of God. The gospel as clearly revealed in the Bible cannot be cut up and discarded at will.

“Religious” or Saved

Satan does not care which religion a person has; they are all within his realm, under his control, and futile as a means to satisfy God. Religion is Satan’s counterfeit to God’s grace gift of salvation and continuance. Satan is not troubled by how religious any person might be.

Every works religion is contrary to the gospel of grace. Works plus grace is an impossible amalgamation. God’s grace is negated by any superimposed form of human endeavor. Religion involves some fleshly or outward accomplishment, man doing something to merit reward or gain favor with God.

Faith is an inward yielding to and acceptance of divine provision.

The payment for sin accomplished by the death of Jesus on the cross far exceeds what any man can do or what all men together might do. Redemption has been earned by that death; it is not something yet to be accomplished, only to be accepted. It is not by works of any sort. Religious striving, religious feelings, ritual endeavors, oral recitations—whatever might be used in an effort to gain the favor of Deity—is all a slap in the face of our loving Father! He wants us to be totally submitted to Him, not employing Satan’s tools in repeated disobedience.


The late Warren Vanhetloo, A.B., B.D., Th.M., Th.D., D.D., taught at Calvary Baptist Seminary in Lansdale, Pennsylvania.

(Originally published in FrontLine • January/February 2007. Click here to subscribe to the magazine.)


Although Proclaim & Defend is the blog of the FBFI, the articles we post are not an expression of the views of the FBFI as a whole, they are the views of the author under whose name they are published. The FBFI speaks either through position statements by its board or through its president. Here at Proclaim & Defend, we publish articles as matters of interest or edification to the wider world of fundamentalist Baptists and any others who might be interested.

Submit other comments here.