What does it truly mean to “believe” in Jesus? If we look to the Gospel of John and the scripture verse that is so familiar to not only Christians, but even non-Christians, we are asked to believe in Jesus in order to have eternal life; “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life ( John 3:16).”
To believe means to have faith in something. When we speak of faith in regards to God, we are asked to make a commitment to Him. But, what does a commitment in Jesus mean? Well, for some Christians, it means to believe and except Jesus as our Lord and Savior. Some will tell you that they have been guaranteed an eternal life in heaven with our loving Father for the sole reason that they believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. These are Christians who believe that they are fulfilling scripture and everything required of them for salvation simply because they “believe” in Jesus Christ.
But, for the person who believes, they must first be baptized. Jesus said, “Very truly, I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit ( John 3:5).” Jesus says in the Gospel of Mark, “Go into all the world and proclaim the good news to the whole creation. The one who believes and is baptized will be saved; but the one who does not believe will be condemned (Mark 16:16-17).”
Many people fall into the trap of only believing in the historical facts of Christ’s death and resurrection. Even for those persons who have been baptized into the “body of Christ,”some think that if they believe of Him and what he did, then that is all that is required. In other words, I only have to acknowledge it with my intellect. But, there is a big difference between believing about Jesus and believing in Jesus Christ for salvation. General belief in God without committing your faith to doing the will of God does not result in salvation.
“Faith is the theological virtue by which we believe in God and believe all that he has said and revealed to us, and that Holy Church proposes for our belief, because he is truth itself. By faith ‘man freely commits his entire self to God.’ For this reason the believer seeks to know and do God’s will. ‘The righteous shall live by faith.’ Living faith ‘work[s] through charity’ (Catechism of the Catholic Church #1814).”
If we look to the book of James, he says this about belief, “What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but do not have works? Can faith save you? If a brother or sister is naked and lacks daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace; keep warm and eat your fill,’ and yet you. But someone will say, ‘You have faith and I have works.’ Show me your faith apart from your works, and I by my works will show you my faith. You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder (James 2:14-19).” So, even Satan and his demons believe that there is one God, and that Jesus is the Son of God, but they are not going to heaven.
The Catechism also states; “The gift of faith remains in one who has not sinned against it. But ‘faith apart from works is dead’: when it is deprived of hope and love, faith does not fully unite the believer to Christ and does not make him a living member of his Body (CCC #1815).”
St. Paul talks about the obedience of faith, “Now to God who is able to strengthen you according to my gospel and the proclamation of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery that was kept secret for long ages but is now disclosed, and through the prophetic writings is made known to all the Gentiles, according to the command of the eternal God, to bring about the obedience of faith— to the only wise God, through Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory forever! Amen (Romans 16:25-27).”
The Catechism states, “Our moral life has its source in faith in God who reveals his love to us. St. Paul speaks of the ‘obedience of faith’ as our first obligation. He shows that ‘ignorance of God’ is the principle and explanation of all moral deviations. Our duty toward God is to believe in him and to bear witness to him (CCC #2087).”
As we can see, it is one thing for a Christian to say that they believe in Jesus Christ. But, as Scripture points out, it is more than just an intellectual pursuit. Salvation is promised to the believer who actually seeks to do the will of God through his “obedience of faith” in Jesus. We are to actually seek to be conformed to the image of Christ.
Until next time, God bless.