In the Gospel of John believe or belief appears more than 90 times. In Acts, it occurs about 40 times. Yet, the modern understanding of our English word “believe” is often misunderstood.

A definition of believe that is becoming more and more popular is that believing is what you do when you want something that is not real to be real. We all have faith in some form or another. The shallow understanding of the modern use creates a misunderstanding of what it means to believe on the Lord Jesus. It is much more than intellectual assent to a set of facts.

The Online Etymology Dictionary says about belief – “Belief used to mean ‘trust in God ….’  But it became limited to ‘mental acceptance of something as true.’”

“You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe—and tremble!” (James 2: 19) Theirs was intellectual assent. That unfortunately is the extent of some contemporaries. 

In 1395 when the first English Bible was initially translated from Greek to English the word meant to trust and was so translated in some translations. Prior to that a better understanding of what it meant is to go back to the time it was used in the Greek text. That understanding is made more clear in Greek mythology. As used, Pistis (Ancient Greek) was the personification of good faith, trust, and reliability. 

The New Testament Greek word pisteuo (believe) means to “be convinced of something” or “give credence to.” It is to entrust (especially one’s spiritual well-being to Christ, to commit (to trust), put in trust with. Being convinced of those facts, however, is not enough. One must accept or personally appropriate them as being true. 

Armed with this insight into what is meant in passages such as John 3:16 a better understanding is gained.

A distillation of all these insights leads to the understanding that it means to believe the facts and trust the person so genuinely as to make a willful commitment to Him as Savior. An extended explanation to a person of no faith is advantageous.

A person might believe all the vita regarding a physician, but that does not heal the person of appendicitis. The healing only comes after they trust the surgeon by consenting to surgery.

To be saved a person must believe the facts about who Jesus is and then trust Him for the forgiveness of sin and the gift of everlasting life. Thus, starts a new life.