What does it mean to believe?

Scripture Reading

And said unto the woman, Now we believe, not because of thy saying: for we have heard him ourselves, and know that this is indeed the Christ, the Saviour of the world.

John 4:42

Believing is receiving

In this study, there is a phrase that will be explored and expounded upon due to its importance to the Christian faith. This is the phrase, now we believe, because unless seekers of faith turn their seeking into believing their faith will be hindered from materializing into a new spiritual birth in Christ Jesus. The word believe occurs some 143 times in the scriptures and many instances are simply used in reference to typical everyday circumstances. In this case however from the scripture reading above, the word belief is referenced as a determining factor in knowing the truth about Jesus Christ.

Is not this the Christ

Consider how the woman of Samaria from last week’s scripture reading was involved in an intriguing, informative and inspiring discussion with Jesus at Jacob’s well. It was in this situation, where Jesus spoke to the woman about everlasting life, that he was the giver of this life and that he was the Christ, or as was commonly known, the Messiah. After this discourse, the woman quickly left the well, even leaving her water pot behind, and went back to the city to tell the men that she had encountered someone who “told me all things that ever I did”. From there, she proceeded to exclaim to them, “Is not this the Christ?” Well these comments from the woman were enough to capture the attention of the men of that city who went out to meet Jesus.

He told me all that ever I did.

John 4:39b

Faith of the Samaritans

The scriptures then record the fact that many of the Samaritans believed in Jesus simply based on the words of the woman who encountered him at the well, “And many of the Samaritans of that city believed on him for the saying of the woman, which testified, He told me all that ever I did.” [John 4:39] But this was not enough for the rest of the men of Samaria, they needed to speak to Jesus first hand and hear his words of teaching and preaching. After they met him, they urged him to stay with them and he decided to stay there for two more days. We now arrive at the point of this week’s scripture reading on what does it mean to believe for it was at this time the Samaritans proclaimed, “Now we believe”.

The remarkable point in their encounter with Jesus is phrased in their statement to the woman, “…for we have heard him ourselves, and know that this is indeed the Christ, the Saviour of the world.” We have heard him ourselves, what words of hope from people who sought out Jesus, listened to his preaching and teaching for two days and made the decision of faith to believe in Jesus. This belief was premised upon the fact that Jesus was indeed the Christ, the Saviour of the world. This harmonizes completely with the apostle John’s statement in writing his gospel account near the end of his writings, “But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name.” [John 20:31]

But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God.

John 20:31b

Faith is believing

With this context, let us explore the question of what does it mean to believe? Perhaps a good way to start out is to look at what believing does not mean to remove certain things that do not belong in the equation. For example, merely having an awareness or knowledge that Jesus is the Christ is not the same as believing in him. Even the demons know this and tremble, “And devils also came out of many, crying out, and saying, Thou art Christ the Son of God.” [Luke 4:41] But this clearly did not lead to their salvation! Even some of the Roman leaders like Pontius Pilate knew that Jesus was  just man who had no fault in him {John 19:4) but again this did not lead to salvation. To believe is to have faith in Jesus for who he is and what he has already done for you. It really comes down to entrusting that what you know is true and while you may not have concrete evidence of this today it is believing by faith.

An interesting acronym of faith is forsaking all I trust him. This does mean having blind faith, but it means that you must have faith in believing that Jesus is the Christ, the Saviour of the world. Why is this so important to the Christian faith? This starts with one of the most popular Bible verses in scripture from the apostle John’s gospel account as he documented the discourse between Jesus and Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. For it was in this dialogue when Jesus made the memorable statement of God’s love upon mankind, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” [John 3:16] People have no doubt seen this verse which is often on billboards, or sporting event signs by fans and this is because it encompasses the gospel message.

God’s love and mercy

First it highlights the foundational premise of God the Father sending his only begotten Son into the world and that is based on his love and mercy upon all of us. Secondly, it posits the importance and condition “that whosoever believeth in him” as being foundational to saving faith in Christ the Lord. People may have doctoral degrees from notable seminaries, people may be baptized, people may be long standing members of reputable churches but none of these measure against believing in Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour.

The apostle Paul encapsulated the importance of this premise by noting it in his letter to the early Roman church, “That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.’ [Rom. 10:9-10] There is that very important word again, believe and in this case the stress is placed on believe in your heart, meaning not just mental acknowledgement of Jesus but truly believing in him for saving faith. You may be asking, what does all this mean to believe in Jesus, what did he do for us that is so important.

That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.

Rom. 10:9

The gospel message

Well, Paul also recorded a notable statement in one of his other letters to the early church in Corinth and it is here that he  outlines just exactly what the gospel message is all about. Consider his words as he describes the gospel of Christ in this short but all encompassing summary, “For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures:” [1 Cor. 15:3-4] This dear seekers of faith is what the gospel is all about, Christ died for your sins. This he did out of God’s love and mercy upon you since the atonement for sins before God required a perfect, sinless sacrifice. This is something in and of ourselves that would be impossible to do since we inherited sin from Adam and nothing will atone for this but Christ and Christ alone because he was without sin (Heb, 4:15).

This brings us to the great miraculous exchange through believing in Jesus Christ as the atonement for our sins. Not only did he take our sins away as far as the east is to the west (Ps. 103:12) but he also gave us or cloaked us in his own righteousness, “For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.” [2 Cor. 5:21] This is the most wonderful blessing for seekers of faith, to believe in Jesus Christ, to know that he has forgiven you of your sins, to know that he has given you his righteousness and to know that you have eternal life in him. Give prayer and contemplation to the words expressed by Jesus as he spoke to the people, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me hath everlasting life.” [John 6:47] Will you take this opportunity right here, right now, and believe in him, for it is his promise of everlasting life to all who believe in him!

Bible Study Questions

  1. In this study in what does it mean to believe, why is it so important to believe in what Jesus did for us on the cross?
  2. Fill in the blanks from this verse, “…for we have heard him ourselves, and know that this is indeed the _________, the ____________ of the world.” [John 4:42]
  3. True or false, did the devils believe that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of God? Hint Luke 4:41.
  4. Can you recall the acronym for the word faith from this Bible study? Hint, it is in the section, Faith is believing.
  5. For a faith inspiring exercise, memorize John 3:16 over the next week.
  6. In Romans 10:9-10, there are two very important words in reference to becoming a Christian, what are they? Hint, they start with the letters C and B.
  7. In your own words, how would you define the gospel message of saving faith in Jesus Christ?

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