“Believe” is an interesting word. Sometimes we use it to indicate doubt. If we’re not entirely certain of something, we will say, “I believe so.” For instance, if someone asks, “Are your friends joining us for dinner?” We will say, “I believe so.” Meaning, I think they are, but I’m not quite sure.
Sometimes we use “believe” to indicate our agreement. If you point to an airplane and ask, “Do you believe this is an airplane?” I might say, “Yes, I believe that’s an airplane.”
At other times, we use the word “believe” to indicate our confidence in someone. We also could use this term with respect to the pilot of the airplane. We could believe in him, meaning we have confidence he can fly the airplane.
The word translated “believe” in the Bible actually means “faith.” We don’t have a verb form of “faith” in our language. We cannot say, “I faith you.” We’re left with our word “believe.” Faith kind of believing means we trust the airplane and the pilot to take us aloft thousands of feet in the air.
This “faith” meaning of the word changes how we understand key passages in the Bible. For instance, when Jesus says, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me shall never die,” he’s actually saying, “He who puts his trust and absolute faith in me shall never die.”
There are many who “believe” in Christ and “believe” they’re Christians. They use the term like the first example. They’re not quite sure, but they think it might be true, or they hope it is.
Then there are others who “believe” according to the second definition. They give mental assent believing that Jesus is the Son of God, but it doesn’t make much difference in their lives.
Still others fall into the third category. They believe in Jesus in the sense that they have confidence in who he claims to be. They think he’s a good person, that he would get their vote among the other religious leaders in history.
But moving into a faith relationship with Jesus Christ requires the New Testament kind of “believing.” We must trust him with our lives. In this case, we don’t have to understand or know everything, just like we don’t have to understand or know everything about flight and airplanes to fly. When the Bible says, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you shall be saved,” it means more than wishful thinking, mental assent or even having confidence in Christ. It means we must place our complete faith and trust in Jesus Christ. Like flying, we must follow his instructions and trust him. If we do this, he will save us.
We demonstrate this “faith” kind of believing by doing what he says (Matthew 7:24-27; John 14:15). If we believe, we live according to his kingdom that is ruled by kindness, gentleness, thoughtfulness, humility, hope and love (Colossians 3:5-17).