Hundreds of people send us questions about what it means to believe in Jesus. We answer these questions often in our blogs, podcasts, and videos.
John 3:16 says that “whoever believes in Him” will not perish but has everlasting life. Yet the simple words whoever believes in Him are incomprehensive to many, for some reason.
In Fiddler on the Roof, Tevye sings about tradition. “And how do we keep our balance? That I can tell you in one word: Tradition!… Because of our traditions, we’ve kept our balance for many, many years.”
One of the traditions passed down with Orthodox Judaism is works salvation. Those who persevere in faith and good works are the ones who will make it into Messiah’s kingdom.
That same tradition has been adopted by most within Christianity. Most think that whatever Jesus meant by “whoever believes in Him” in John 3:16, He could not have been talking about simple persuasion. Repentance, commitment, and a lifetime of obedience are surely required. That is the tradition of most in Christendom.
In other words, most Christian traditions reject what Jesus actually said. They replace what He said with a message that makes more sense to them.
If I asked you, “Do you believe that Joe Biden is President of the United States?” you would not struggle over the meaning of my question. The evidence is overwhelming that Joe Biden is President.
Similarly, if I asked you, “Do you believe that all who believe in Jesus will never perish and currently have everlasting life that cannot be lost?” you should not struggle over the meaning of my question. It is a simple question.
John 3:16 fails to mention good works. It does not say, “whoever behaves in Him.” It does not say anything about the need to persevere in faith, either. The Lord simply says that when you find someone who believes in Him, you’ve found someone who has everlasting life and will never perish.
I’ve found that it helps people if we point out that we are believing in Jesus for Him to give us something very specific. He promises everlasting life and no condemnation to those who believe in Him: whoever believes in Jesus for everlasting life has that life and is now secure forever.
You cannot be born again without believing in Jesus for your eternal destiny. In the NT that is typically called everlasting life. But it is also called salvation, justification, never hungering, never thirsting, never perishing, and never dying [spiritually]. The point is simple. We are born again when we believe that by faith in Jesus, we have a secure relationship with Him that will never end.
Some people don’t like having the word believe twice in the statement I just gave. They object that that is faith in faith. Well, of course it is faith in faith. It is not faith in any faith. It is faith in the Lord Jesus Christ as the One who guarantees our eternal destiny.
Note how this is evident in John 11:25-27:
Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?”
She said to Him, “Yes, Lord, I believe that You are the Christ, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.
Notice the words highlighted. Jesus makes two promises concerning the one who “believes in Me”: he will be raised from the dead (v 25), and he will never die spiritually (v 26a). Then He asks Martha if she believes this.
She says she does, and she explains why. She knows that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and as such He guarantees the eternal destiny of all who believe in Him.
If Martha had simply restated what Jesus said and expressed her belief in it, she would have said, “Yes, Lord, I believe that he who believes in You, though he may die, he shall live. And I believe that whoever lives and believes in You shall never die spiritually.” She believes in the power of believing in Jesus.
Most people within Christianity unintentionally reject what Jesus says. They think that they are correctly interpreting what He meant since the idea that everlasting life could be secure the moment one simply believes in Jesus for it is incomprehensible to them. Compare John 5:39-40.
But it should not be. We should accept the plain meaning of what Jesus said.
We are ambassadors for Christ. We bring the faith-alone message. Remember to use the KISS method: Keep It Simple, Saint. And when you get a question about what it means to believe in Jesus, rejoice in the opportunity to make the issue crystal clear.