Monday, January 21, 2013

Belief in God is more than Believing God Exists

These days people often use the phrase "believe in X" to mean, basically, "believe that X is real" or "believe that X exists." That's one reason I sometimes find it helpful to use "believe on Jesus Christ," when explaining the gospel to people, rather than "believe in Jesus Christ": it is one thing to believe that Jesus exists and another thing to trust in Jesus Christ.

One great verse to evidence this difference can be found in the following passage:
John 14:1-14
"Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also. And whither I go ye know, and the way ye know."
Thomas saith unto him, "Lord, we know not whither thou goest; and how can we know the way?"
Jesus saith unto him, "I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me. If ye had known me, ye should have known my Father also: and from henceforth ye know him, and have seen him."
Philip saith unto him, "Lord, show us the Father, and it sufficeth us."
Jesus saith unto him, "Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known me, Philip? he that hath seen me hath seen the Father; and how sayest thou then, Show us the Father? Believest thou not that I am in the Father, and the Father in me? the words that I speak unto you I speak not of myself: but the Father that dwelleth in me, he doeth the works. Believe me that I am in the Father, and the Father in me: or else believe me for the very works' sake. Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father. And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If ye shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it."
It is easy for us to read this simply as readers of the gospel - as if Jesus were addressing us as his primary audience through the text itself.

These words of Jesus, however, were addressed to his first century audience - particularly the apostles that were right in front of him. The first apostle to interject a question is doubting Thomas. The second is Philip. Both of these men knew full well that Jesus existed. That wasn't the question for them.

The question for them was one of trusting in Jesus as they trusted in God the Father.

Of course, it would be totally inappropriate for the apostles to trust in Jesus as though would trust in God, unless Jesus was also God.

Moreover, notice that Jesus says that if we ask anything in His name, He will do it. This demonstrates for us the foolishness of offering prayers in any other name but the name of Jesus.

Is there any reason to think if we ask anything in Mary's name, Mary will do it? If we ask anything in Jude's name, will Jude do it? We have no reason to suppose so from Scripture. Indeed, such a view undermines Jesus' point that he fulfills prayers offered to him.

We are often encouraged to believe in Jesus, but never to believe in Mary, the angels, or any of the saints. On the contrary:

Psalm 146:3
Put not your trust in princes, nor in the son of man, in whom there is no help.
Psalm 118:8-9
It is better to trust in the Lord
  than to put confidence in man.
It is better to trust in the Lord
  than to put confidence in princes.
So, if you do not already do so, put all your trust and confidence only in the one Lord, Jesus Christ.


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