[Click this link for the Believe verses in John’s Gospel.]
An online Bible word search reveals that the Bible’s first use of any form of the word believe is in Genesis 15:6.
Abram believed the LORD, and he credited to him as righteousness.
. [NIV ©1984, unless stated]
Amazing, isn’t it? Being righteous—right (something that most everyone wants to be, whether they admit so or not)—was attained by Abram (Abraham) solely by believing God. This righteousness (rightness), though, wasn’t the kind with which mankind is most familiar, the kind that proves itself to be fleeting with time and has just cause for debate. But rather, this rightness is the one and only kind that proves itself over and over again as never wrong or incomplete in any way, shape or manner.
Though the words of Genesis 15:6 may sound astounding, they make perfect sense. Since God knows all things and is never lacking in understanding or judgment, He is always perfectly right (righteous, just, virtuous) in everything that He thinks, says and does. God cannot help but be righteous, for righteousness is who God is. He is eternal perfection, eternally without error.
Accordingly then (think about this for a moment), everyone who agrees in thought, word and deed with God, aligning themselves with His position on any given matter, whether they understand the reasoning behind His position or not, can’t help but also be right. True righteousness—right being—is not an earned outcome of performance, but is gained in association with God through agreement with God that then produces right action. Unrighteousness, on the other hand, is opposite. It is an ungodly product that has derivation in ungodly association. It is a result of disassociation from God.
For a period of time in the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve were perfectly righteous—right with God. Though little is known about what they did during those perfect days, we know one thing for certain. We know that they lived in continual association with God by choosing not to disassociate themselves from Him in death. Even though Adam and Eve may have understood little if anything about the concept of death itself, they trusted (believed) that God knew more than they. In rightly believing so, they regularly chose to rightly align their actions with His right words of instruction.
Abram did no less. He complied (aligned his actions) with the words that God had spoken in giving righteous direction. Abram’s decision to rightly trust (believe) God, as well as his actions that accompanied that decision, made Abram righteous—a man rightly deciding to stand with God beyond his own comprehension. Right decision-making, based on right believing, enacted faith that trusted God, leading Abram to literally “amen” God in agreement with Him. [Note: the Hebrew word in Genesis 15:6 translating as “believed” is a form of aman, the root word of amen, meaning “so be it; truth” —Strong’s Concordance.]
Adam and Eve, likewise, had each continued to remain (keep) in right standing with God by believing and adhering to the words that God had rightly spoken to Adam. That is, they did until each of them decided to go out on a limb by choosing to believe the words of the serpent that were in direct opposition to God’s right instruction.
Doubt of God is an opponent that no one can defeat by self-rationalization, as Adam and Eve tried so unsuccessfully to do in the Garden of Eden. The doubt itself is illogical. It fosters trust in mere mortal above eternal, creation above Creator, natural limitation above supernatural ability. How? It does so simply by directly questioning the rightness of God’s words. Doubt turns us away from right dependence upon a right God to promote wrong confusion in asking “Are God’s words really (completely) always right for me?”
The question itself should not exist, but there it is before us all. Brought into play by Satan in the Garden of Eden, the question must be answered by us each individually. “Do I live by faith in God or in doubt of Him?”
The same research that revealed Genesis 15:6 as the verse containing the first use of a variation of the word believe in the Bible revealed more. Of the 297 times that the variations occur throughout the Bible, 270 of them are found in the New Testament, and 85 of those are contained in the Gospel of John.*
Interestingly, despite the emphasis that John has placed on believing, John never uses the word repent in his Gospel, as do the other three Gospel writers do in their own Gospel accounts. In fact, the first recorded words of Jesus in Mark’s Gospel are in Mark 1:14-15, where both repent and believe are recorded as having been spoken by Jesus in conjunction with one another.
“The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news!”
The New Testament Greek word from which repent is translated is metanoeo. The word is well known within Christian circles and is often defined as “change of mind,” literally “think differently afterward” (HELPS-Word Studies). That poses a two-part question: What is the specific change of thinking to which Jesus refers, and what then does it follow?
The change is one from thinking wrongly in confusion about the grace and Truth of God to thinking rightly in agreement with God’s every word, all of which are wrapped up in the Good News of Jesus. It is a metaphorical about-face that turns a back on doubt and fully accepts (lives by) God’s Word.
Choosing to believe (trust, align with) God is repenting. John’s Gospel doesn’t omit repentance. It emphasizes how to do so: believe the grace and Truth of God that Jesus manifests for all to clearly see.
The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father full of grace and truth. (John 1:14)
After the Apostles had been living with Jesus day and night, miraculously experiencing the righteous grace and Truth of God in Jesus for three and a half years, they made a statement of belief in Him following the Last Supper that caused Jesus to make an exclamation that some translations pose as a question.
“You believe at last!” Jesus answered. (John 16:31) –
“‘Do you believe at last?” Jesus asked. (YLT)
God’s timing, as is everything about God, was impeccable. The Apostles’ preparation by God was perfect, enabling each to accept the greatest Truth of God’s grace that was yet to be revealed. And as Jesus did for them, He continues doing for us today: He reveals the grace and Truth of God in ways that give each person opportunity to “see and believe” in the risen Christ, removing all doubt.
John, too, was led in the writing of his Gospel to leave no room for doubt regarding the purpose of the inclusion of so many miraculous signs in his testimony.
But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name. (John 20:31)
Know this: Jesus said, “…blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” (John 20:29)
The blessing is in the believing. See for yourself: “Repent (turn around)… believe.”
Jesus is talking to you and to me.
“Who has believed our message,
and to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed?”
(Isaiah 53:1; see also John 12:38)
*Note: Young’s Literal Translation (YLT) lists 253 uses of variations of believe, 230 of them being in the New Testament, with 85 occurring in John.
Click on this link to read the Believe verses in the Gospel of John.