Believing In Jesus
The Bible says salvation comes from "believing" in Jesus (e.g. John 3:16). How does that relate to lordship? How does it relate to "receiving Christ as your personal Lord and Savior"? What does "believe" mean in these instances? John
Before directly answering your question, let me first make an introduction. Part of the problem in today's society is that we keep changing the meaning of words to obscure truth and justify wickedness. Example: The word gay used to refer to a person being cheerful, lighthearted, happy, overflowing with joy and today it almost entirely is used to represent homosexuality. The other trick of deception is to exchange words so an unborn baby is not a baby or a child but only a fetus or a pile of tissue that is not a real person. That is to make abortion and murder easier to refer to because now it isn't murdering an unborn child but only abortion of an unwanted fetus. So many terms have either been changed, watered down or exchanged to cover moral truth and reality and God's Word in particular because man is trying to justify himself and makes himself the standard rather than God's Word. Therefore, man has also worked to make God’s Word fit his life and lifestyle instead of looking at himself against the unchangeable standard of God as a mirror and looking to see how he measures up to that standard. For the most part today men worship themselves and are their own god. They make god after their own image, they make god what they want him to be rather than being willing to accept Him as He is and for Who He is. Why? Because that would mean that they have to make changes in their life and lifestyle that they don’t want to make and have to accept that because their really is a God who sets the standard and will judge all men according to His standard and not man’s that they will have to give an account for their lives and their rebellion and sin against a Holy God. This is all to make the point that the true meaning of a word is important and that the correct word is used to describe the correct situation.
Now to directly answer your question. What does the word “believe” mean in scriptures like John 3:16 and Acts 16:31 and 1 John 5:13. The Greek word translated ‘believe’ in the above verses ‘pisteuo’ (pist-yoo’-o) means to have faith in, to trust implicitly, to commit or put your trust in and to entrust your spiritual well-being to. It is not merely what many today make it, a mental assent to historical realities or truths. Many say, “I believe on the Lord Jesus Christ” but they do not put their faith and trust in Him for their salvation and they do not commit their lives to Him and entrust their lives to Him as Lord and Savior. It means nothing to say, “Jesus is Lord”. Any devil in hell can say that, even Lucifer in person would admit to that. But what they cannot say and will not say is “Jesus is my personal Lord and Savior”. It is nothing to merely ‘believe in’ Jesus. The Bible tells us even the devils in hell believe in him, but they still perish because they have not served Him. James 2:19 “Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble.” They believe and know that He is Lord and God but they do not serve Him as those who love Him and give themselves to Him, although they do in a manner of speaking serve Him, for Jesus is “Lord of Hosts” both angelic and demonic and they all obey His commands and can clearly be seen in scripture. They just have a different place and purpose in this world. The devils are used bring God’s judgment and curse upon those who break His commandments. Satan is God’s whipping boy and can only do what God allows and that can clearly be seen in the story of Job. But that is another subject.
To believe God is to agree with Him, to see the matter as God sees it and act on it. “To believe” in scripture is synonymous with “to obey”. From God’s viewpoint the one who truly believes what He says will act upon it and obey Him. To disobey God is synonymous with unbelief. God says that if you don’t obey Him, then you don’t truly believe Him. A good example is Hebrews 3:18-19 speaking of the Hebrew children that came out of Egypt. “And to whom sware he that they should not enter into his rest, but to them that believed not? So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief.” In verse 18 the Greek word for “believed not” is apeitheo, (ap-i-theh'-o) and is translated as: not believe, disobedient, obey not, unbelieving. You see how the word is used and translated interchangeably and that being disobedient is to be unbelieving and vice-versa. Most translations actually translate this passage as disobedient or disobeyed. Then in verse 19 the Greek word for “unbelief” is apistia, (ap-is-tee'-ah) which comes from a root word meaning faithlessness or unfaithfulness. The real message is that they did not obey or they were disobedient because they really didn’t believe God. If you read the story of Exodus you will see that was the constant problem. The people didn’t believe God’s promises. Ultimately they were not allowed to enter into the promised land because of their unbelief which translated into disobedience. So God allowed them to wander in the wilderness for 40 years until they all died. In fact verse 17 of Hebrews 3, the verse above the two I quoted above says, “But with whom was he grieved forty years? Was it not with them that had sinned, whose carcases fell in the wilderness?” In Deuteronomy chapter 1, Moses was rehearsing the history of their past in the wilderness to the children of those who had sinned against God by unbelief and disobedience before they are to enter into the promised land. Here you can clearly see that their unbelief was the cause of their disobedience.
Deut. 1:19-36 “And when we departed from Horeb, we went through all that great and terrible wilderness, which ye saw by the way of the mountain of the Amorites, as the Lord our God commanded us; and we came to Kadesh-barnea. And I said unto you, Ye are come unto the mountain of the Amorites, which the Lord our God doth give unto us. Behold, the Lord thy God hath set the land before thee: go up and possess it, as the Lord God of thy fathers hath said unto thee; fear not, neither be discouraged. And ye came near unto me every one of you, and said, We will send men before us, and they shall search us out the land, and bring us word again by what way we must go up, and into what cities we shall come. and the saying pleased me well: and I took twelve men of you, one of a tribe: And they turned and went up into the mountain, and came unto the valley of Eshcol, and searched it out. And they took of the fruit of the land in their hands, and brought it down unto us, and brought us word again, and said, It is a good land which the Lord our God doth give us. Notwithstanding ye would not go up, but rebelled against the commandment of the Lord your God: And ye murmured in your tents, and said, Because the Lord hated us, he hath brought us forth out of the land of Egypt, to deliver us into the hand of the Amorites, to destroy us. Whither shall we go up? our brethren have discouraged our heart, saying, The people is greater and taller than we; the cities are great and walled up to heaven; and moreover we have seen the sons of the Anakims there. Then I said unto you, Dread not, neither be afraid of them. The Lord your God which goeth before you, he shall fight for you, according to all that he did for you in Egypt before your eyes; And in the wilderness, where thou hast seen how that the Lord thy God bare thee, as a man doth bear his son, in all the way that ye went, until ye came into this place. Yet in this thing ye did not believe the Lord your God, Who went in the way before you, to search you out a place to pitch your tents in, in fire by night, to shew you by what way ye should go, and in a cloud by day. And the Lord heard the voice of your words, and was wroth, and sware, saying, Surely there shall not one of these men of this evil generation see that good land, which I sware to give unto your fathers, Save Caleb the son of Jephunneh; he shall see it, and to him will I give the land that he hath trodden upon, and to his children, because he hath wholly followed the Lord.” Deut. 1:39-45 “Moreover your little ones, which ye said should be a prey, and your children, which in that day had no knowledge between good and evil, they shall go in thither, and unto them will I give it, and they shall possess it. But as for you, turn you, and take your journey into the wilderness by the way of the Red sea. Then ye answered and said unto me, We have sinned against the Lord, we will go up and fight, according to all that the Lord our God commanded us. And when ye had girded on every man his weapons of war, ye were ready to go up into the hill. And the Lord said unto me, Say unto them, Go not up, neither fight; for I am not among you; lest ye be smitten before your enemies. So I spake unto you; and ye would not hear, but rebelled against the commandment of the Lord, and went presumptuously up into the hill. And the Amorites, which dwelt in that mountain, came out against you, and chased you, as bees do, and destroyed you in Seir, even unto Hormah. And ye returned and wept before the Lord; but the Lord would not hearken to your voice, nor give ear unto you.”
Back to what it means to ‘believe’. So when you truly “believe” in Jesus or “believe on the Lord Jesus Christ” you are putting you faith and trust in Him and His Word and acting accordingly. You act upon what you truly believe and trust. If I tell you to go invest in such and such and you will make money, if you believe it you will do it, if you don’t, you won’t. Let me use another verse now to add to this point. Romans 10:8-11 “But what saith it? The word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth, and in thy heart: that is, the word of faith, which we preach; 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. For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed.”
So as you know already from my message on ‘What it means to Be a True Christian’ or ‘The Lordship of Jesus Christ’, to “confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus” is not to merely confess that He is Lord, but that He is Your Lord, you confess Him as Lord to You! As the chorus goes: “Jesus, Jesus, Lord to ME. Master, Savior, Prince of Peace, Ruler of MY heart today, Jesus, Lord to ME.” It is when you confess Him as Lord to you and believe the truth of what Jesus did for you, that He died for your sins and was raised for your justification, and because He lives you can live, that He gave His life as the propitiation for your sins that He will save you. It is then, when you put your faith and trust in Him and make confession with your mouth, what He did for you at Calvary, that He responds to your faith and comes by His spirit into your life and begins a change in you which will only be complete and culminated after Jesus returns to earth and you receive your glorified body and are like Him. 1 John 3:2 “Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is.”
John 1:11-13 “He came unto his own, and his own received him not. But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.” That is what Jesus told Nicodemus in John chapter 3, You must be born again to see the kingdom of heaven. How are you born again? By receiving Jesus as your own personal Lord and Savior. When you accept His Lordship, He becomes you Savior. Titus 3:5 “Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost;” We have to be regenerated, born again of the Spirit of God and it happens when we put our faith in trust in Jesus and confess His Lordship and ask Him to forgive our sins and come into our life as Lord and Savior. You understand anything scriptural you have to put relative verses together and not just take one verse by itself. That is where much doctrinal error comes from. No verse was written to stand alone but within the context of the entirety of God’s Word. Isaiah 28:10 “For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little:”
Romans 10:11 “For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed.” And it also says, John 14:21 “He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him.” John 14:23 “Jesus answered and said unto him, If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him.” Jesus comes to live in the one who truly believes Him, who accepts His Lordship and obeys His commandments. To believe Him is to Love Him and to believe and Love Him is to obey Him. The disobedient rebellious people today are no different than those in Moses day that would not obey God’s command to take the land He had promised them. They do not obey because they do not truly believe and have only given mental ascent to His Lordship and scriptural truth and are not true believers by God’s definition.
Can you now see how “believing” in Christ relates to receiving Him as your personal Lord and Savior?