God in His wisdom has decreed that a person must have faith that He exists. He is looking for a people who will, on the basis of evidence all around them, believe that there is a Creator and seek to know Him. We’re told in John 4:24 that God is spirit. But He has provided Mankind ample material objects as well as the life principle in living things that demonstrate that He is there. The writer to the Hebrews cautioned that apart from believing that God is, a person cannot please Him. John, the beloved disciple, wrote his gospel, epistles, and the book of Revelation after all other books in the canon of scripture had been penned. In his gospel, he made belief a main theme. It seems the Holy Spirit deemed it necessary to have John major on the theme of belief to underscore the topic, though belief is not limited to the fourth gospel.
The word believe in the Greek language shares the same root as the word for faith. The Greek is pisteo and pistis, respectively. Obviously, to believe is to have faith. John used the word pisteo more than any other writer in the bible. The word is found nearly one hundred times in John’s gospel. One might assume that by the latter part of the first century, John penned all his works, the need for faith was emphasized all the more. Due to the increasing length of time since Jesus was on the earth. John broached the subject of belief early on. John 1:7 and 12. And he said toward the gospel that it was the main reason that he wrote the book. The Spirit, through John was intent in setting forth strongly the need to believe initially in Jesus the Christ, and then to go on believing.
Paul wrote earlier than John, but he also set forth the need of people to live by faith. What does the bible mean when it commands us to believe? Is it merely to assent to what the scriptures teach? Is it enough to nod the head and say one has faith? Hardly. There’s a particular verse in which we find the word believe twice and it is to that verse we turn to define what saving faith is all about. The last verse of the third chapter of John’s gospel is where we want to look to uncover an important truth. It is not so evident at first glance. It’s verse 36 of the third chapter of John. “He that believeth on the son hath everlasting life and he that believeth not the son shall not see life, the wrath of God abideth on him.”
The English word believeth, found twice here, translate two different Greek words. When we discover their differences, we will get a better grasp on what it means to believe. The first word is the extremely common word for believe: pisteo. It’s Johns favorite word in this book. It means to believe and rely on. That second time we see the word believeth, it translates the Greek word apeitheo. It means to obey. This is obedient faith. It is to act on what one believes. It is faith in action. Therefore, we might translate the verse “he that believeth on the son hath everlasting life, and he that does not obey the son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abideth on him”. This word is not used nearly as many times in the New Testament as the former; just this once in the gospel of John. Yet it sheds an eternity of life on the matter of belief. It is a truth we need to get a firm grip on as well as to be able to explain to others. Too many have paid mere lip service to Jesus without showing any dedication or inclination to obey Christ in daily life. It may have been this verse, John 3:36, that moved Jonathan Edwards to preach his famous sermon, “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God”. May the truth of this verse move many to escape the wrath that is to come.