I was reading through John 6 this morning. I couldn’t help but notice how many times the word “believe” appeared in the text as Jesus spoke to the people.

So, I did a quick search on the word “believe.” I discovered that the Greek word often translated “faith” or “believe” in the New Testament is used about 250 times. In the Gospel of John, it appears about 100 times.

Did you get that? The person who reads the Gospel of John will encounter almost half of the instances where “believe” is used in the entire New Testament!

When we are told that belief is required to get to Heaven, we realize just how important it is that we understand what it means.

John 3:16 (CSB): “For God loved the world in this way: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.”

So, what does “believe” mean?

The biblical understanding of belief has three components:

  1. A message that is presented as truth.
  2. A determination that we believe (with our mind) that the message is truth.
  3. A determination that we trust (with our heart) that we will rest in that truth and act on it.

For instance, imagine walking on a trail through the woods with a friend. After a while, you come to a clearing. In front of you is a vast ravine with a suspension bridge to the other side.

Photo by Jonathan Klok on Unsplash

Your friend steps onto the suspension bridge while your feet stay firmly planted on the safety of the trail. Your friend looks back at you and sees the reluctance in your eyes. So, he begins the three-step process I just mentioned.

First, he presents what he believes to be truth to you. He shows you that he is standing on the suspension bridge and feels perfectly safe. He then proceeds to walk farther away from you as he jumps up and down on the bridge. “It’s completely safe!” he says.

But that takes you to step two: Do you believe in your mind that the bridge will hold you up? You observe what your friend has presented as true but you have to determine for yourself if you believe what you are seeing.

Let’s say your friend asks you, “Come on! This bridge is perfectly safe! You believe it will hold you up, don’t you?” You pass step two by saying, “Yes, I believe it will hold me up.”

But you are still standing on the safety of the dirt path.

You have passed step two. Your mind believes that the suspension bridge is safe but you haven’t acted on it. What your mind believes is doing you absolutely no good. That’s where step three comes into play.

Step three only occurs when you take that first step onto the bridge and rest your weight upon it. Step three moves from believing (with your mind) something is true to trusting (with your heart and by your actions) that something is true. Trust means that you are taking action based upon what you believe.

This is how we are to understand the word “believe” in Scripture. So many people think that if they read the Bible and believe what it says in their minds, then they have done enough. But that’s not true! If all they are doing is believing the truths in their mind, then they have only gotten to step two. Biblical belief only occurs when they move to step three and trust.

I could ask you, “Do you believe in Jesus?” It’s quite possible that you could say, “Yes, I believe in Jesus” and still not be saved. If you’ve only arrived at step two, and believe the facts about Jesus, you are not yet saved.

In order to be saved, you have to make it to step three and “trust” in Jesus. You have to take that step of faith and rest completely in what you believe to be true, trusting in Jesus and in Jesus alone to save you from your sins and God’s wrath.

I want to encourage you to think about these three aspects of belief when you see the word “believe” in the Bible. Take time to do a personal assessment to see if you are truly living in step three in regard to your relationship with Jesus and what you say you believe in the Bible. Remember that biblical belief requires all three steps:

  1. You are presented with what is claimed to be true.
  2. You make a determination that you believe (with your mind) that the claims are true.
  3. You take a step of faith and trust (with your heart and by your actions) that you will rest in that truth.