BELIEVING ABOUT JESUS OR BELIEVING IN JESUS?
Copyright © 2006 Trumpet Ministries, Inc. All Rights Reserved
Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers.
Christian preachers and teachers maintain that Christians do not have to worry about righteous behavior as long as they believe in Jesus. In this essay we will attempt to show that even though numerous Christians do believe such error, the New Testament does not agree with them. They are blindly following their traditions, not perceiving what the Bible teaches.
The problem is, they are not making a clear distinction between believing about Jesus and believing in Jesus.
Table of Contents
BELIEVING ABOUT JESUS OR BELIEVING IN JESUS?
But these are written that you may believe Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name. (John 20:31—NIV)
I will tell you what got me started on this essay. I received a phone call from a friend in New York where she is visiting her relatives. My friend is Jewish. As a little girl she was hidden by some Gentiles during the Holocaust and escaped being sent to a concentration camp.
So whenever she is with her Orthodox relatives she is received warmly. However they think she is crazy for being a Christian.
We go through this every time she goes to New York for a visit. She talks to the rabbis. (She knows many of the leading Orthodox rabbis.) They do not convince her and she does not convince them. Some of the Jews believe the Gentiles are out to kill them (can you blame them?). My friend tries to tell them that numerous Christian Christians of our day are willing to assist the Jews and support such endeavors as the International Christian Embassy in Jerusalem.
Yet the Jews remain suspicious that the Christians are trying to convert them; and, of course, some are—but not all, by any means. Some are quite willing to allow God to do the converting. They just want to show kindness and respect to God’s original chosen people—no more than this.
A sincere Christian would exhibit the same kindly attitude toward Arabs or any other race. But the Christians and Jews are bound together in a special manner because they share the same Tenach, the book we call the Old Testament.
My friend was quite upset when she called this time. It seems her Orthodox relatives and friends are studying about Christianity. They have a book that says Christians believe there are no righteous individuals. The Christians maintain also that if someone believes in Jesus he or she does not have to worry about living righteously. The Lord waives the need for righteous behavior when we believe in Jesus.
I told her this is what most Christians do believe, unfortunately. I told her also to eat her New York bagels, cream cheese, lox, gefilte fish, and matzo balls, enjoy herself, and quit worrying. She will only make herself sick arguing with people who have been given false information.
It is true that Christians believe no one except Jesus has ever been righteous. I am going to deal with that in another essay titled “Doing Good, and the Resurrection.”
Numerous people attend Christian churches and yet do not behave righteously. There is no factor in their belief or their experience that produces enduring moral change. They may call themselves Christians but they are not. They believe the things about Jesus but they do not really believe in Jesus. True belief in Jesus brings forth a new creation, a morally transformed personality.
If any individual abides in Christ the fruit of righteous behavior is borne. How could it be otherwise? The fruit of the Spirit is borne wherever the Spirit is present.
But the distinction between knowing about Jesus and knowing Jesus, believing the things about Jesus and believing in Jesus, is not always made clear. Thus we have many, many people who term themselves Christian who are not Christians at all. They do not know the Lord and the Lord does not know them.
For the present let’s think about what is involved in believing in Jesus. Is it the same as believing about Jesus? Is there any real difference?
Believing About and Believing In
A person can believe Jesus was born of a virgin, worked miracles, was in fact the Son of God, made an atonement for our sins, was literally raised from the dead, sent forth the Holy Spirit from Heaven, and is coming again in the clouds of glory. We can believe all this and yet not have one drop of eternal life.
The demons know all these things better than we and they have no eternal life!
But isn’t this faith? No, it is not. It is belief about Jesus. Faith occurs when you lay down your life, take up your cross, and follow Jesus.
A demon spirit saw Paul and his companion and cried out: “These men are servants of the most high God who show us the way of salvation.” Was the demon saved? Did the fortune teller have eternal life? Apparently Paul did not think so.
We have believing about Jesus confused with believing in Jesus.
We have our head mixed up with our heart.
Believing the truth about Jesus saves no one unless the individual then comes to the Man, Christ, and makes the Man both his personal Savior and personal Lord; not just personal Savior, as in today’s weak preaching, but personal Lord as well.
By teaching that belief about the things of Christ does not save us, does not bring eternal life, I am going against two thousand years of Christian tradition. Not only that, I appear to be denying such passages as the following:
That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved. (Romans 10:9,10—NIV)
The above passage seems to be saying believing and confessing are all there is to being saved. The problem here is that we Christians seize upon particular verses and from these build a pattern for “getting people saved.”
We forget that the “Book of Romans” was not viewed, by the Apostle Paul, as a book or an epistle. It was seen by him as nothing more than a letter that he wrote to the believers in the city of Rome. Paul would never approve of someone taking a few lines from his letter and treating them as a ticket to Heaven.
It is impossible to correctly interpret Romans 8:9,10 without reading the entire letter. One need look no further than Romans 8:13 to see it is not enough to “believe” and “confess.” There must follow a lifelong battle of resisting sin through the Holy Spirit if the Christian is not to slay his own resurrection.
For if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live, (Romans 8:13—NIV)
- To be saved it is absolutely necessary to confess with our mouth that Jesus is Lord.
- To be saved it is absolutely necessary to believe in our heart that God has raised Him from the dead.
- To attain to the resurrection unto life it is absolutely necessary we put to death the misdeeds of our body.
In our haste to make proselytes to our religion we have taken a few verses, have the seeker embrace these, and declare him or her “saved.” But the Lord Jesus said “he who endures to the end shall be saved.”
Are we to maintain our concocted formula or are we to hold forth the whole counsel of God? Today we are by no means holding forth the whole counsel of God. We have our religious formula and churches full of proselytes who would flee for their lives if the demands of discipleship were placed on them.
We must get back to the Bible, the New Testament in particular, and start perceiving what it actually is stating. We may discover the text is quite different from what is being preached and taught today.
Let’s turn now to the Gospel of John and let the Lord define what He meant by believing in Him.
What It Means to Believe In Jesus
Then they asked him, “What must we do to do the works God requires?” Jesus answered, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.” (John 6:28,29—NIV)
The above two verses are sometimes used to “prove” that the only work God requires of us is that we believe in Jesus. Actually such teachers really mean believe about Jesus, that He is God’s Son. But Jesus goes on to explain what is involved in believing in Him.
Jesus said to them, “I tell you the truth, it is not Moses who has given you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” (John 6:32,33—NIV)
The Lord proceeds to compare believing in Him with eating Him. Here is a vast distinction. Believing in Jesus, as we use the term today, has to do with our mind, our philosophy of life. But eating Jesus, gaining life by eating Him, is totally different from taking a mental position concerning His Deity and work of redemption.
This is why theology can be a dangerous discipline if not employed properly. Theology attempts to systematize that which is not systematizable. Eternal Life and the Resurrection from the dead are a Person, not knowledge no matter how accurate or refined. God cannot be understood by mental analysis. God draws near to those who love Him and gives them His flesh to eat. This is the new covenant.
We have churches full of people who have learned about Christ with their mind but have never met the Man! They know about the house of God but they do not know God—that is, not until they go through a crisis and learn to trust Him, to lean on Him.
No, salvation is not a matter of learning about Jesus but of eating Jesus. Can you say Amen?
Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty. But as I told you, you have seen me and still you do not believe.” (John 6:35,36—NIV)
We may be thirsty and hungry, partly in our mind but primarily in our heart. We need Jesus. We need to eat His flesh and drink His blood. First we must believe, and then the belief must move us to eat Him and drink Him. If it does not, it is not true belief but a head knowledge, a mental assent, a philosophy. In this case there is no salvation in it, no eternal life.
“All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away. For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me.” (John 6:37,38—NIV)
The above passage has a great deal to say about evangelism and missionary work.
In the first place, the Lord Jesus stated that all whom the Father gives Him will come to Him. This tells us that evangelism is not to proceed blindly. If a person’s coming to Jesus depends on the gift of the Father, should we not then go to the Father to find out whom He is giving to Jesus?
Is it common today for the work of evangelism to proceed without anyone hearing from the Father? Isn’t it true that no verse of the Scriptures can be applied correctly except as the Holy Spirit guides us, whether the verse has to do with our own moral correction or with the work of the ministry?
I think the blind are following the blind today. I think the churches are filled with people who have been proselyted to a religion—people whom the Father has never given to Jesus.
If I am correct in this, when the Holy Spirit restores the message of righteousness and holiness to the ministers of our country, the “mixed multitude” will flee. They may profess faith in the blood. They may claim to be born again. They may speak in tongues. They may serve in the ministry. But the Lord never knew them. They will not accept the demands of discipleship. They are “religious Christians” and do not know Christ nor does He know them.
It is scriptural for us to preach the Gospel to every creature. If we do this faithfully the Father will give to Jesus those whom God has appointed to eternal life. But if we use all kinds of marketing techniques and talents to “draw them in” we may build a large church but many of the members may be more of a liability than an asset to the actual Kingdom of God.
It seems to me that a pastor whose primary goal is to increase the numbers in attendance could be led away from what Christ desires for the locality. Perhaps I am incorrect in this.
In the second place, it may be noted that Christ came down from Heaven to do the will of the Father, not His own will but the will of the Father.
Christ did not come down from Heaven because He saw how miserable we are. He came down to do God’s will.
How many times do we hear about the need here and the need there? We must meet this need and that need? This is not a scriptural approach. We should be more concerned with the will of God than with the needs of people. We must wait on God to find out what God wants. Otherwise we are the blind leading the blind, just as was true of the Pharisees.
A carpenter who has never talked with the job supervisor could be building a house where there is supposed to be a playground. Is this true? If we do not know what Christ wants, how can we know whether what we are doing is helpful or harmful?
Every sensitive personal worker knows there are times to tell someone about the Lord and there are times to just be a friend. Otherwise we are merely another religious worker, trying to get people to join our group. We have no idea whether we are bringing people in or driving them away.
Jesus never acted in terms of the needs He saw around Him. He spent so much time in prayer hearing from the Father, seeing what the Father was doing, that He moved in the will of the Father. All who came to Him were sent by the Father.
Can we trust Jesus to direct us in this manner? Of course! But we have to cease from our own works and enter the rest that is found in the Presence and will of God.
Jesus never told us to build His Church. He told us He will build His own Church. And He will when we are ready to listen to Him and cease running about in our own wisdom and energy. He asked us to feed His sheep and His Lambs, and even in this we have to go to Him constantly for guidance and help so His perfect will shall be done.
This is all part of what it means to believe in Jesus.
“And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all that he has given me, but raise them up at the last day. For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.” (John 6:39,40—NIV)
Here we see that Jesus, at the close of the Church Age, will raise from the dead those whom God has given to Him. Thus we see that the resurrection from the dead is an important part of believing in Jesus.
Since the Lord told us all shall be raised from the dead, we understand the believers to whom Jesus is referring will participate in a unique kind of resurrection.
“Do not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice and come out—those who have done good will rise to live, and those who have done evil will rise to be condemned.” (John 5:28,29—NIV)
Thinking carefully about John 6:40 (above) and John 5:28 (above) we note that on the one hand those who look to the Son and believe in Him will be raised by Christ at the last day. On the other hand everyone who is in the grave will hear the voice of Christ and rise to stand once again on the earth.
Those who look to the Son and believe in Him will be raised by Him; then everyone who is in the grave will hear His voice and come forth. Probably not the same event!
The extremely important doctrine of the resurrection has been successfully diverted in our day by the unscriptural emphasis on the catching up, the so-called “rapture.” The Scriptures emphasize the resurrection because it is the crowning act of redemption, the restoration of what was lost in Eden. Self-seeking man emphasizes the “rapture” because he wants to escape trouble. It is as simple as that.
The resurrection is victory over the last enemy. The “rapture” is an unscriptural escape from the battle. The fourth chapter of the Book of First Thessalonians knows nothing of a type of “rapture” that today has become the focus of Christian preaching. Rather Paul was speaking to the relatives and friends of deceased believers to comfort them by the fact their dead loved ones would return with Jesus.
We could surmise that those who have done good and are raised to life are the Christians, and the rest hear His voice but will be condemned because they have done evil. This would be the simple Christian interpretation.
However, there are other passages of the Scripture that lead me to believe this is not the explanation.
I think rather that those who keep on looking to the Lord and believing in Him, who learn to live by His body and blood, are the royal priesthood, those who participate in the first resurrection.
Blessed and holy are those who have part in the first resurrection. The second death has no power over them, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with him for a thousand years. (Revelation 20:6—NIV)
However, when we come to John 5:28,29 (above) we see that the accent is on doing good and doing evil; not on looking to Jesus but on doing good and doing evil.
Since our Christian belief does not allow us to perceive that God would reward doing good, only belief in Christ, we may find these thoughts difficult to accept. But we are incorrect in this. God indeed does reward doing good.
My thinking is that the members of the royal priesthood will be raised from among the dead at the beginning of the thousand-year Kingdom Age, and then there will be a general resurrection of the dead at the end of the thousand-year Kingdom Age. It is at the general resurrection that those who have done good rise to live and those who have done evil rise to be condemned.
An example of such a resurrection is given in the twenty-fifth chapter of the Book of Matthew where the sheep nations are ushered into eternal life, not because they had kept looking to Jesus and believing in Him but because they had done good by aiding the brothers of Jesus in their distress.
The concept I am presenting also fits the Apostle Paul’s determined effort to attain to the resurrection from the dead, which seems to indicate more than just doing good and rising to eternal life. If Paul had not attained to the general resurrection by the time he wrote Philippians, then there are going to be very few people raised to life!
However, all people shall be raised in the general resurrection, as Jesus said. But not all shall be raised in the first resurrection, the resurrection of the holy priesthood. It is to this resurrection, we believe, Paul was seeking to attain.
We think that the resurrection being discussed in the sixth chapter of the Gospel of John has to do with the resurrection of the priesthood, and this advance resurrection must be attained to by looking constantly to Jesus and believing constantly in Him.
As the plan of salvation is presented today one gets the impression that the seeker is required only to make a profession of belief in Christ and now possesses a ticket to Heaven. This is not what Jesus is referring to. He means to keep looking constantly to Him for every decision, in every situation, throughout our lifetime. This is how the righteous are to live—by looking to Jesus and believing Him in all matters, great and small. We must eat the flesh of Christ and drink His blood constantly, and learn to live by His flesh and blood just as He lives by the Life and Virtue of God His Father.
How widely we have missed the mark with our simplistic “four steps of salvation”!
“I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.” (John 6:52—NIV)
Jesus Christ is the Resurrection. He Himself is eternal Life. The Resurrection is a Person! Eternal Life is a Person!
We think of the resurrection as a glorious event that will include all professing Christians, whether or not they are serving the Lord. This is far from the truth. The kind of resurrection we experience depends directly on our behavior today. We are forming our resurrection at this time.
Christ is the Resurrection. As we eat His flesh and drink His blood we are partaking of the resurrection. Our inward spiritual nature is experiencing resurrection today if we are living in Jesus. It is a small matter for resurrection life to spread outward to our body, at His coming, if our inward nature already is full of resurrection life.
But if we are not living by His body and blood today, are not being resurrected in our inward nature, then our body will not experience life at the coming of the Lord. Rather we will be held over to the White Throne Judgment, there to be raised to life on the new earth, if we have done good, or raised to condemnation, if we have practiced evil.
How do we eat His flesh and drink His blood? Every day we are presented with a portion of evil, of death. If we deny ourselves, turning to Christ in order to overcome the temptation to evil, we are given the body and blood of Christ in our inward nature.
If, on the other hand, we choose to yield to the evil, the spiritual death being presented to us, we are not given the body and blood of Christ in our inward nature. We remain a corrupt adamic creature.
If we will pray, God will help us make the right decision. Our part is to wait on the Lord every day, meditate in the Scriptures, assemble with fervent believers (if possible), serve, give, and do all else that is part of normal Christian living.
Above all we must reckon ourselves dead on the cross with Jesus and alive with Him at the right hand of God.
The Christian life is a protracted fight against evil. Christ gives His own body and blood, the hidden manna, to those who are willing to fight the good fight of faith. Those who overcome are given to eat of the Tree of Life.
We are seeking to attain to the first resurrection, the resurrection out from among the dead. We are passing before the Judgment Seat of Christ right now as we confess our sins and turn away from them.
If we would be ready to be changed into immortality when the Lord appears, we must have been judged previously. It is not possible to be changed into immortality and after that pass before the Judgment Seat of Christ. The change into immortality is the sentence of the court that occurs after we have been judged worthy of life in the Presence of Christ.
Jesus said to them, “I tell you the truth, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.” (John 6:53—NIV)
We humans are only dust. When we first receive Jesus we receive a touch of eternal life. We still are dust but now we have a portion of God in us.
Now we must lay hold on eternal life. Now the struggle each day is to choose life. It is a fight because evil and death want to maintain control over us. This is why the second and third chapters of the Book of Revelation are devoted to “overcoming.” Either we are overcome by evil and death, or else through the Lord Jesus Christ we overcome the evil and death that come against us each day.
We are in a fight for the crown of eternal life!
To believe in Jesus is to persevere each day in the fight against evil; to eat His flesh and drink His blood each day so His Life in us may overcome the spiritual death that continually presses on us.
Can you see the difference between believing the things about Jesus and believing in Jesus? There is no eternal life in believing the things about Jesus. The life comes when our belief in Him leads us to press into Him each day, just as did the Apostle Paul, as we strive to attain to the resurrection which is out from among the dead.
And so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead. (Philippians 3:11—NIV)
Can you imagine the aged apostle saying this? Compare the cry of the imprisoned Paul, the man of God, with our cute little “four steps of salvation”!
We are dust until the Divine Life of Jesus Christ is formed in us, and this takes a lifetime of looking to Jesus and believing in Jesus.
Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. (John 6:54—NIV)
No person ever will be raised by Jesus on the basis of doctrine. What will raise us is His flesh and blood. Where the carcass is, there the eagles gather. When the slain Lamb appears in the sky, those who live by feeding on the Lamb will be caught up. It is His body and blood in them that will bring them to Him.
Here is the oil that the virgins must have if they are to go in to the wedding.
We have eternal life now, if we are living in Jesus, and at the last day that life will bring us to Him and we will be unveiled before the world. This is the marriage of the Lamb and the revealing of the sons of God.
For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. (John 6:55—NIV)
The natural man lives on natural food. The spiritual man who lives in Jesus at the right hand of God must have spiritual food. Jesus’ flesh is real spiritual food. Jesus’ blood is real spiritual drink.
Today the Lord stands before the hearts of His people. He is knocking. If we will open the door He will enter. Then we will dine on His body and His blood. In this manner the throne of God is established in us. The Father and the Son make Their eternal abode in us.
Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in him. Just as the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on me will live because of me. (John 6:56,57—NIV)
We sometimes use the expression “in Christ” or “abiding in Christ.” In First Thessalonians, Chapter Four, we notice the expression “the dead in Christ shall rise.”
To be “in Christ” means infinitely more than making an initial profession, unless that first experience is much, much more than currently is required. We must come to Jesus Himself, not just make a profession of belief.
We must keep coming to Jesus every day, every night. Our whole life must evolve into one continual coming to Jesus.
We must remain in Him and He in us.
Then the Lord tells us to what extent we must become one with Him. We must live by Him as He lives by the Father. Jesus and the Father share one Life, one Mind, one Soul, one Spirit, one hope, one goal, one way. He who has seen Jesus has seen the Father because Jesus lives by the Father and all He does is of the Father.
So it must come to be with us. We must share one life, one mind, one soul, one spirit, one hope, one goal, one way with the Lord. Eventually it will be true that the person who sees us will really be seeing the Lord because we will be living by the Lord and all we do will be of the Lord. This is the mark toward which we are pressing: to be crucified with Christ, to live by Christ, to live by the power of His resurrection, to share His sufferings.
We see, therefore, that there is a world of difference between believing the facts about Jesus and believing in Jesus. There is no life in the former, it is only dead religion, dead theology. The life is in Jesus. As we look constantly to Him, every day and every night of our life, we are healed. Every time we look to Him we are healed.
Our American culture is becoming a cesspool of moral debauchery. It is only by looking always to Jesus that we can cease fretting about the darkness and rise to walk with Him who always is Victory, Peace, and Joy.
The Christian churches, because of their doctrine, are not bearing witness of Christ. The witness of Christ is composed of the good works of the believers. Where there are no good works there is no moral light, no lampstand, no testimony.
The Jews are not the only ones who remain in darkness because the Christians are not righteous in behavior. The Arab world, for example, despises the moral behavior they see in us. We cannot blame them. It is true. Who knows what effect we would have on the Arabs if we began to act like we feared God and believed in Him!
But the fear of God has departed from America to a great extent. Therefore we are due for terrible calamities as God calls us back to Himself.
If trouble comes knocking on your door, look to Jesus. Maybe He is the One who is responsible for your misfortune. Perhaps He is calling you to a closer walk with Himself.
Hopefully the day will come when my Jewish friend can hold up her head among her Orthodox relatives and friends and boast that the Christians indeed are walking in righteousness, just as has been true of so many of the Jewish heroes of faith described in the Tenach.
If we want Jesus Christ to know us we must depart from iniquity at once and begin to serve God in righteousness, holiness, and obedience. Then the world will see our good works and glorify our Father who is in Heaven. The Jews, the Arabs, and all others will recognize that God indeed was the One who sent Jesus Christ.
But as long as we persist in our delusion that a mere pronouncement of belief about the things of Christ is our ticket to Heaven, and that we are about to take off to Heaven in an unscriptural “rapture” and leave the Jews, the Arabs, and everyone else to the tender mercies of Satan and the Antichrist, while we continue in our worldliness, lust, and self-will, then we can be sure that the blood of the unsaved will be on our hands and we ourselves will be thrown into the outer darkness because we have buried the Kingdom talent that has been given to us.
(“Believing About Jesus or Believing In Jesus?”, 3616-1)