John’s Definition of Believe

[Jhn 20:30-31 ESV] 30 Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; 31 but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.

Naturally, when signs are present, two reactions are possible: acceptance, or rejection. The entire Gospel of John is an attempt to swing the reader to the side of acceptance or to remain on the side of acceptance. Acceptance of these signs are embodied in the word believe

The Greek word for “believe” (pisteuō) is used 100 times in the book of John. The word is usually translated as believe, though in a few instances it is translated as trust or commit. The word never means mere assent to a proposition. It usually means acknowledgement of some personal claim, or even a complete personal commitment to some ideal or person. This word is more than accepting a fact as true. 

An interesting note about the book of John: the word faith is never used. The verb form is always used, believe. Faith is a dynamic activity. It is not something you have–it is something you do. 

Those who believe have everlasting life (3:16) and will never die (11:26); they are the children of God (l:12). Those who do not believe are condemned (3:18) and will not see life, but

will experience the wrath of God (3:36).

Sometimes John uses the simple term “believe” as the expression to define what God

desires (4:53; 9:38), and Jesus’s followers are called “believers” (4:41). But more often John defines what Christ calls people to believe in. It is an impressive list. John’s readers are to believe in:  God (14:1); God as the one who sent Jesus (12:44); what the Old Testament says (2:22; 5:46-47); Jesus as the one sent by God (6:29); Jesus’s name (2:23); Jesus himself (3:18; 4:39; 10:42; 12:42, etc.); Jesus as the Son of Man (9:35-38); Jesus’s miracles (10:38);  Jesus as the Messiah (11:27; 20:31); what Jesus says (8:45-46; 14:11); that Jesus is in the Father and the Father is in Jesus (14:10; 17:21).

Three elements in John’s use of the word for “believe.”

  • Conviction – that Jesus is the Messiah, the divinely appointed author of salvation.

[Jhn 11:27 ESV] She said to him, “Yes, Lord; I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world.”

  • Truth – this means full commitment to him rather than trust in myself and in my own righteousness.

[Jhn 5:24 ESV] 24 Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.

  • Obedience – saving faith in the Bible must always be obedient faith. It is that way in the Old Testament as well.

[Jhn 3:36 ESV] Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.

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