In the previous blog we talked about what it takes to go to heaven. The short version is that we need to believe in Jesus Christ. But what qualifies as a saving belief? James, the brother of Christ, wrote in James 2:19, “You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that – and shudder! But we know that the demons do not have a saving faith. What then is the belief that brings us salvation that give us eternal life?
Turning to the scriptures for clarification is most always helpful. I Peter 1:21 tells us that “Through him [Christ] you believe in God, who raised him from the dead and glorified him, and so your faith and hope are in God.” An element of faith enters into the equation here. The demons believe but they refuse to put their faith and hope in God. This begins to paint a deeper picture of the word ‘believe’ for us. I can believe that it is warm outside because the local meteorologist says it is warm, but until I step outside without a jacket, my belief is an academic thought. Not only that but the weatherman’s definition of warm may not agree with my sense of heat and cold. Not until I go out to experience it for myself, do I learn to have a level of confidence (faith) in that person’s perception of hot and cold.
In the same way, we can believe there is a God. Then someone comes along and tells us that there is no God and that this world and life itself came about from a huge explosion and we evolved to the state in which we now exist. I am always fascinated by the number of people who ‘believe’ those theories, because to my way of thinking, such a belief system requires a greater leap of faith than to believe that our universe was created by the grand plan of God. But, I digress.
Hebrews 11:22 says that without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him. Here, again, we see that our belief is a confident faith that God (which includes Christ) is who he says he is and that he responds favorably to those who search him out.
It is interesting that as I watched the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, I noticed that the theme for this year’s parade is “Believe.” I am left to wonder what it is they want us to believe.
Romans 3 provides additional insight into this believing when it says beginning in verse 22, “This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.” Here we have a faith (belief) in Jesus Christ that brings a righteousness that comes from God through his grace or undeserved favor.The Greek word being translated here is pistueo which comes from the Greek word pistis which is translated faith. The breadth of the word pistueo includes: commit unto, commit to (one’s) trust, and be put in trust with. It should also be noted that the word pistueo is a verb, an action word as the other possible meanings imply.
The English words for pistueo align very closely then from the origin of believe which is pistis or faith. To put one’s faith and confidence into a person or object requires more than just acknowledging that the person or object exist. To acknowledge that a bridge exists and observe it is very different from beginning to walk across or drive across that bridge. By taking those steps you have put your faith in the fact that the bridge will sustain you. In the same way, believing in Christ and putting your faith in Christ require similar steps of putting the confidence of our salvation in Christ’s ability to redeem us from our sinful condition.
As a result, very often we’ll use the words believe and faith interchangeably. Belief that Christ is the Son of God emanates from our confidence (faith) that He is who both He and the Father say He is, and that faith / believing in Him is our only path to salvation. So when the Bible says that whoever believes in Jesus will have eternal life, it is talking about that confident faith and belief. A friend of mine, Russ Crosson, introduced me to the term ‘truth system.’ That is part of our belief and faith in Christ, because that belief becomes part of our truth system or world view.
One last word before I let you go on this point. At the point when we take on faith in Christ, it is not natural or normal that we will be theologically correct in every aspect of the faith. That is why Paul prayed for the church at Collosae so that they would be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to Him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God. (italics mine) The writer of Hebrews challenged the Jewish believers to grow by saying, “For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food.” So as with our relationships with people where we learn to know them, the journey with God is also that of getting to know Him and building our faith by growing our knowledge and familiarity of our Lord.
I trust this has been helpful in clarifying what God desires in our faith and in our believing in Jesus Christ His Son.