[Click on this link to read the Believe verses in the Gospel of John.]
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 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 right direction. Abram’s decision to rightly trust (believe) God beyond his own understanding, not the actions themselves that accompanied the decision, made Abram righteous—a man rightly deciding to stand with God beyond his 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, each by their respective free will decisions, also remained in right standing with God, day by day, by faith. Until, that is, they both chose to accept the outright challenge that was issued by doubt: a challenge to go out on a limb in direct opposition to God’s right instruction.
Doubt of God is an opponent that no person can defeat by self-rationalization, as Adam and Eve tried so unsuccessfully to do in the Garden. 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. It points away from right dependence upon a right God to promote wrong confusion in asking “Are God’s words really (completely) right for me?”
The question itself should not exist, but there it is before us all. Brought into play by Satan in the Garden, the question must be answered by us each individually. “Do I live by faith in God or in doubt?”
The same research that revealed Genesis 15:6 as the verse containing the first use of a variation of 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.*
Interesting to note alongside of that information is that, despite the emphasis on believe, John’s Gospel never uses the word repent, as do the other three 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 afterwards” (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 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… 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)
Click on this link to read the Believe verses in the Gospel of John.
*Note: Young’s Literal Translation (YLT) lists 253 uses of variations of believe, 230 of them being in the New Testament, with 85 still occurring in John.