One of the unique features of the Gospel according to John is his use of the word “believe.” John uses it more than all the other gospel accounts combined, almost three more often. And without exception, every occurrence of the word is in the form of a verb. That is telling.
The point: believing is active, not passive. It is alive and dynamic, and it bears fruit. For John, belief is more than the affirmation of certain religious truths, it is an active, relational trust in Jesus Christ. And belief progressively grows as a person learns more about who Jesus is. If you remember from our study, the purpose of John’s gospel account is to persuade people to believe that “Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name” (John 20:30-31).
An appropriate question, then, is “what does it mean to believe in Jesus?”
For John, genuine belief is more than affirming a particular set of truths about Jesus. Belief means placing one’s faith in the person and work of Jesus Christ. Did you know that it is possible to have a superficial, spurious belief in Jesus that does not bring a change of life or eternal life (John 2:23-25)? To truly believe in Jesus is to trust Him as your Savior and Lord and walk in obedience to His commands. It is miraculously life-changing.
In his Book The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism, Dr. Tim Keller uses a wonderful illustration about what it means to believe in Jesus Christ. He writes:
“Imagine you are on a high cliff and you lose your footing and begin to fall. Just beside you is a branch sticking out of the edge of the cliff. It is your only hope and seems more than strong enough. How can it save you? If you’re certain the branch can support you, but you don’t actually reach out and grab it, you are lost. If instead your mind is filled with doubts and uncertainty that the branch can hold you, but you reach out and grab it anyway, you will be saved. Why? It is not the strength of your faith but the object of your faith that actually saves you. Strong faith in a weak branch is fatally inferior to weak faith in a strong branch.”
Affirming the historical facts about Jesus is important, but it is only part of the equation. To exhibit biblical faith in Jesus means to trust Him – simply, fully, completely, and without reservation. To believe in Jesus is to reject all other ways of salvation and all forms of self-justification. “And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). Do you believe in Jesus? Have you laid down your efforts to save and justify yourself? Have you unequivocally placed your trust in Christ alone? Life is found only in him, the Source of all life, and the one who gave his life for you.