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What Do You Mean, Believe?

by Sixto Yap
Many have been told that all they need to do is believe in God to be saved and to receive the benefit of all His promised blessings. “Believe” is a word that has puzzled many people in the Christian world today.  Does “believe” mean that all you have to do is just acknowledge God to be saved, as many people claim? Others assert you need to do works. Who is right? What does the Bible say about this matter? Let us extract the correct meaning of “believe” as stated in God’s word.

In the Old Testament

The Israelites who left Egypt with Moses must have believed God. They witnessed the miracles from God including the plagues that hit Egypt. They witnessed God’s power when the Red Sea was divided. They obtained victory over Amalekites, received bread – manna – from heaven, witnessed waters flow from the rock and saw other great signs and wonders. They even made a covenant with God saying, “…All that the LORD has spoken we will do” (Exodus 19:8).

But did the Israelites really believe God? “Then the LORD said to Moses: ‘How long will these people reject Me? And how long will they not believe Me, with all the signs which I have performed among them?’” (Number 14:11). They, except for Joshua and Caleb, failed to believe God by obeying His voice; by loving the LORD God; and, by clinging to Him.

In the New Testament

There are those who assert that believing in God is more than merely acknowledging Him, but requires following the instructions given by Jesus to His disciples. They will claim to be doing good works in God’s name. “Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’” (Matthew 7:21-23).

Why will God deny knowing them even though they are doing good works in His name? Because of sin, which is the transgression (or lawlessness) of the Law (1 John 3:4). They miss the point of God’s two great commandments: “You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets” (Matthew 22:37-40). The apostle John also stresses the importance of commandment keeping in John 5:2-3.

The conclusion is given to us by Jesus Christ: “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven” (Matthew 7:21). Belief is not merely acknowledging Jesus in order to be saved or doing good works in the name of God. But rather to believe in God is to do His will.

God’s will is for us to know Him, “Now by this we know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments.  He who says, ‘I know Him,’ and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But whoever keeps His word, truly the love of God is perfected in him. By this we know that we are in Him. He who says he abides in Him ought himself also to walk just as He walked” (1 John 2:3-6).

Therefore, to believe is to have confidence in the truth and in the existence of God. He is looking for people who purposely obey His commandments and live according to His way. With that in mind, do you believe God? It is now time for us to evaluate ourselves whether we really believe God according to His will.
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