What Does it Mean to Believe?
Belief is central to the Christian faith. After all Christ said in John 3:16, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. So if belief is a requirement to have eternal life, what does it mean to believe?
We can believe about something, without believing in something. For example, I can say that I believe that Abraham Lincoln existed. I acknowledge that Lincoln lived on this earth and was president of the United States. This is belief about something.
In the New Testament belief means more than that. Belief means to accept the truth about Jesus. It means to believe in Him. There are many people who believe that Jesus was a person that existed on the earth 2000 years ago. They might acknowledge that Jesus was a great teacher or moral leader. This does not mean, however, that they believe in Jesus as the son of God and the source of salvation.
To truly believe in Jesus means to personally accept the truth of Jesus. It means to accept Jesus as both human and divine, as the son of God. It means to accept that Jesus came to earth to die on the cross for our sins and was resurrected. And to believe in Jesus means to put your trust in Him as the only source of your salvation.
Let me give you an example of belief that leads to trust. When I was dating my wife, Jackie, I loved her for her intelligence, for her good looks, and for her personality. I believed these and many other things about her. But I did not yet put my trust in her as my life long partner. It was not until I really made the decision to have her as my wife in marriage that I truly put my trust in her and committed to her as my partner for life.
Belief does not mean that we do not have questions or doubts when we accept Christ. Faith is not the absence of doubt from time to time, but the decision based on the evidence at hand. (To see more on the subject of doubt, go to the FAQ, “Faith and Reason.”)
To believe in Him is to accept the free gift of salvation that Christ offers us. John 1:12 tells us that belief means to receive. “Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.”
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