Friday, November 9, 2012

What does "believes" in (John 3:16) mean?

One of the most beautiful verses of scripture is John 3:16. It states “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life” (NASB). The beauty of this verse is seen in the wonderful promise of eternal life that is offered to all. It is sad, however, that in the religious world this beautiful verse is used to promote an idea that is foreign to scripture. That idea being it does not matter how one lives or responds to Christ, as long as they just believe they will find eternal life. The aforementioned teaching is nowhere condoned in scripture, the Gospel of John, or in this verse.

What does it mean to believe in Jesus? The entire Gospel of John is written to answer this question. The Gospel of John is written to evoke a response from the reader. The signs are recorded, “that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, and that believing, ye may have life,” (20:31). The word “believe” in the Gospel of John is descriptive of man’s total response to Jesus. Notice the following important concepts in regard to “believing” in John’s gospel.

First, all that is involved in receiving Jesus is included in “believing”. In John 1:12 “as many as received him” are the same group as “those who believe on His name”. Believing, then, is that which man does in receiving Jesus.

Next, it is clear that believing includes obedience. In John 3:36 “he that believes on the Son has eternal life” while “he who disobeys the Son shall not see life”. Clearly the opposite of “believes” in this verse is “disobeys”. Thus, the concept of “believing” in Johns gospel includes obedience.

It is also important to understand that “believing” is viewed as a continuous lifestyle in the writings of John. In John 20:31, the last segment of the sentence says, “and that believing, you may have life in His name.”  

Cliff Sabroe