Summary: Are you a believer or do you just "believe"
God’s word for this evening is quite possibly one of the most well known bible verses in America today. It seems as though both churched and un-churched people alike are familiar with it and this evening we are going to take a closer look at it and hopefully deal with some of the mislead theologies that are sometimes attached to it. The verse is John 3:16-18 and it reads:
“For God so loved the world that He gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. He who believes in Him is not condemned; but He who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of the Father.”
I think that it is worth mentioning that some form of the word “believe” appears 4 times in the three verses that I read to you . In fact, some form of the word “believe” appears over 320 times in the bible. Even with limited understanding of the Scriptures, we can conclude that believing in God is an obvious necessity within the Christian faith. It’s kind of a no-brainer.
“Without faith it is impossible to please God, for he who comes to God must believe the He is . . .”
And that makes perfect sense doesn’t it? You cannot come to God when you don’t believe that there is a God to come to. That’s common sense. So belief is a prerequisite for dealing with things that pertain to God. More specifically, belief is a prerequisite for salvation.
“He who believes and is baptized will be saved . . .”
The Phillipian jailer asks, “ ‘Sirs, what must I do to be saved?’ So they said, ‘Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household.”
“Believe in the Lord your God, and you shall be established.”
Now before we go any further, I want to clarify a couple things so that all of us can be on the same page. This evening, we are going to talk a little bit about this word, “belief, or believe.” But in the context of talking about it I am going to talk about two different types of belief. There are over a dozen Hebrew and Greek words that are translated into the English word for ‘believe’ in the bible but they all fall under one of two definitions.
The first type of belief or believing that I want to talk about his evening is the type that most resembles Webster’s dictionary definition for the word ‘belief’ which is defined as, “assent of the mind, or in the opinion of.”
Now I want to immediately point out to you that this definition for the word “believe” is not the definition for the word “believe” in John 3:16.
If that were the case, then it could be reworded as, “For God so loved the world that He gave his only begotten Son that whosoever is of the opinion that Jesus is in fact God’s Son, will not perish but have everlasting life.”
Now if we really think about this and compare it to other scriptures, we would come to the conclusion that it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to think that the only requirement for salvation is an intellectual opinion that Jesus was the Son of God. So it is obvious to us that the word ‘believe’ in this verse means something entirely different. But before we get into what it does mean, I want to look a little bit closer at the type of belief that Webster describes as, “an assent of the mind or, of the opinion of.”
We read this in John 2:23-24
“Now when He (Jesus) was in Jerusalem at the Passover, during the feast, many believed in His name when they saw the signs which He did. But Jesus did not commit Himself to them, because He knew all men.”
Did you notice that it said many believed in His name?
If we read the paraphrased version of this verse in the Living Bible we would read this:
“Because of the miracles Jesus did in Jerusalem at the Passover celebration, many people were convinced that he was indeed the Messiah.”
The people in this passage are those that have adopted the Webster’s dictionary version of the word ‘believe.’ They have intellectually come to hold the opinion that, because of the miraculous things that He did, Jesus had been sent from God.
Notice what Jesus did in spite of their “‘belief.’” Verse 24 says that, “He did not commit Himself to them.” In other words, Christ didn’t reckon them to be genuine disciples.