John 3:16-18 16For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. 18Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God's one and only Son. (NIV)
John 3:16 - 21
ESV - 16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.
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The Greek word translated as "believe" in this verse (anglicized as "pisteuo") appears 244 times in the New Testament, according to Strong's concordance (https://biblehub.com/greek/strongs_4100.htm). I would say that it does not carry a connotation of mere acceptance of a fact (historical or otherwise), or indicate a reasoned speculation (as in "I believe it will rain tomorrow", for example), but expresses a conviction or degree of certainty that serves as a basis for concrete action. As applied to the use of the word in the verses cited in the question, the idea being expressed encompasses not only acknowledging the fact of Jesus' historical existence, but also the purpose for which He came -- to offer Himself as an atoning sacrifice for the sins of all humanity -- and applying it on a personal level by each individual as being necessary to the accomplishment of a goal (reconciliation of a sinful individual to a holy God) that cannot be achieved in any other way -- and specifically not by any action that the individual could perform (although, as stated in James 2:14-16, placement of that faith should then also serve as a basis for works that reflect it).
It means to believe. Trust that what is said is true. My car is red. I believe it is red because it is red. Jesus said, John 6:47 Verily, verily, I say unto you, he that believeth on me HATH EVERLASTING LIFE. We either believe it because Jesus said it, or we can call Jesus a liar and not believe it. First John 5:13, These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God that ye may KNOW YE HAVE ETERNAL LIFE. Gods word. I believe what He said. John 6:40 And this is the will of Him who sent me, that ALL that seeth the Son and believeth on Him, may have everlasting life, and I will raise him up on the last day. Gods word. John 6:29. Jesus, answered, and said unto them, this is the work of God, that ye believe on the one He has sent. Romans 4:5 But to him that worketh not, but believeth on Him who justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness. It is our faith that is accounted for His righteousness. That faith has to come from us. We have to believe it of our own free will. We have been given His perfect righteousness and our sin debt is paid in full, past, present, and future sins. John 3:18 No longer condemned. That means we have been set free from the law, and can no longer be judged by the law. Galatians 2:21. And Romans 3:28. John 5:24 Verily, verily, I say unto you, he that heareth my word, and believeth on Him who sent me, HATH EVERLASTING LIFE. Present tense. Romans 11:29 For the gifts and calling of God are without repentance. Irrevocable, can not be changed back. Faith alone apart from works. Why is it apart from works? Because our works can not save us. Only Jesus finished work on the cross plus nothing. Nothing we do or do no do can save a sinner, which we all are. First John 1:8 If we say we have no sin we deceive our selves and the TRUTH is not in us. We repent. Change our mind from trusting in what we do to save us, to trusting in what He did to save us apart from any thing we do or do not do. Our works. Since I believe Gods word I believe there will be many who believe they are saved by works, and are told, depart from me, I never knew you. Matthew 7:21-23 Not by faith alone in Christ alone apart from any works. Romans 4:5 Romans 11:6 All grace no works. Romans 3:26-28. You can not boast in free. They never did the will of God, John 6:40, and John 6:29, and trusted in what they did to save themselves.
"To believe" in John 3:16-18, especially John 3:18, means no condemnation for the true believer. "No condemnation now I dread; Jesus, and all in him, is mine; alive in him, my living Head, and clothed in righteousness divine,..." The source of faith is crucial here: it must be solely "in the name of the only begotten Son of God." "God gave Him, a ransom, Our souls to recover; Jesus the Son of God. His blood made us worthy His Spirit to hover; Jesus the Son of God." It is trusting Christ alone for my eternal salvation, something I did when I was 16 years old, living in Scottsdale, Arizona, when my Grandma took me to a Billy Graham Crusade at Sun Devil Stadium (football stadium) on the campus of Arizona State University. Also, it means being an heir to "everlasting life." "...whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life." (John 3:16) "’Tis a sweet and glorious tho’t that comes to me, I’ll live on, yes, I’ll live on; Jesus saved my soul from death, and now I’m free, I’ll live on, yes, I’ll live on."
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