About Jesus Steve Sweetman
If I tell
you “I believe the world is round”, there’s a good chance that you’d
reply by saying that you believe that the world is round too.
Can you believe that? I’ve
finally come up with something that you can agree with me on, and it’s due to
the fact that we both give “mental assent” to something that is true.
By this I mean that in our minds we’ve come to understand that the
world is really round.
mental assent to something that is true is the most common and simplest
definition of the word “believe” in
modern North American culture. We
use the word in all sorts of ways. We
may ask, “do you believe in evolution”?
Or, “I believe the Toronto Blue Jays won’t win the World Series again
this year”. Or,
“I believe that one plus one equals two”.
also ask, “do you believe in God”? Or
to be more specific, “do you believe in Jesus”?
Some people may answer, “yes I believe in Jesus”.
If their answer is based on the understanding that the word believe means
mental agreement or assent to the truth about Jesus, then we may have a serious
done some research concerning the words faith and believe over the years and
I’ve found that there has been an evolution in these words throughout the
centuries, especially between 1150 and 1400 AD.
For example, during this time period the word believe came to mean mental
assent, whereas prior to this evolution it meant a commitment or loyalty to
something or someone who is true, something more meaningful and different than
mere mental assent to the truth.
no matter how these words have evolved in our English language we need to
understand how Jesus and the New Testament writers understood the words believe
and faith. Did they understand
believing as giving mental assent to
the truth about Jesus and then you’d be saved”?
Was Jesus asking people to agree with what he was saying in order for
them to be saved, or was He asking something else?
word “pistis” is the word that is commonly translated as faith and believe in
the New Testament. “Pistis”
means “to be fully persuaded that something or someone is true and once
being persuaded, you give yourself to that truth.
There is an emphases on the word “persuade”.
It’s not a quick, off the top of your head decision.
Once you’ve been
persuaded of a truth, you then give
yourself to that truth with all of your heart.
That’s a lot different than mere mental assent to the truth.
we ask someone if they believe in Jesus, depending how they understand the word
believe will determine whether their answer is Scripturally acceptable for the
purpose of salvation. If they
understand believe to mean mere mental assent to the facts of salvation, then
there’s a problem because I don’t think Jesus understands the word believe
this way. We thus have a serious
communication problem between the way Jesus understands believe and the way our
modern culture understands believe.
our gospel message should be to
explain that the word believe does not mean mental assent to the truth.
It means to give ones self to the truth.
Of course agreeing with the
gospel message must precede giving yourself to the truth of the gospel,
but they’re not the same.
we as Evangelicals have done a disservice to the gospel at times when we fail to
make this distinction in our preaching. You
may understand the Biblical concept of the word believe, but if those you preach
to don’t understand this, you’ll have a communication gap.
They’ll respond according
to their understanding of the word believe which is simple
agreement with what you’re saying. This understanding falls short of true
faith. I hope I’m wrong on
this point, but mere mental assent to the truth doesn’t save you.
I think there’s many people who think they’re saved because they’ve
given mental assent to the truth of the gospel but actually haven’t given
themselves to the Lord of the gospel. If
this is the case, then they’re deceived into thinking they’ve been saved,
and it’s all because we haven’t explained things properly.
They think of the word believe from a 21st century
understanding, when in fact they should understand the word believe from a 1st
century Biblical understanding.
we’d do the gospel, the Lord and those we preach to a great service by
preaching John 3:16 in the way 1st
century people understood it. This
is my paraphrase of John 3:16, “for God so loved the world that He gave His
only Son, that whosoever should give his life in return to Jesus in true faith
will receive eternal life”.
recently watched the movie entitled “Luther”.
In the movie Martin Luther is tired and exhausted with his sinful
condition. With deep conviction he
cries out to Jesus His Saviour by saying, “I am yours, save me.
I am yours, save me. I am
yours, save me”. These
heart felt words of conviction demonstrate true faith and not mere mental assent
to the truth.
believe or to have faith in Jesus means to give yourself to Jesus in a trusting