What exactly does it mean to believe in Jesus?

John 3:16,

“For God so loved the world, that He gave Him only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life.” The Greek word for believe in this verse is pisteuó. It means to believe, entrust.

4100 pisteúō (from 4102 /pístis, “faith,” derived from 3982 /peíthō, “persuade, be persuaded”) – believe (affirm, have confidence); used of persuading oneself (= human believing) and with the sacred significance of being persuaded by the Lord (= faith-believing). Only the context indicates whether 4100 /pisteúō (“believe”) is self-serving (without sacred meaning), or the believing that leads to/proceeds from God’s in-birthing of faith.

The context in John 3:16 is most certainly not that of persuading oneself (human believing), but rather being persuaded by the Lord (faith believing). 

This is verified by Jesus in John 6:37-40,

37 “All that the Father gives Me [that is, those who are persuaded by the Father] shall come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out. 

38 “For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me. 

39 “And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that of all that He has given Me I lose nothing, but raise it up on the last day. 

40 “For this is the will of My Father, that everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him, may have eternal life; and I Myself will raise him up on the last day.”

John 3:36,

36 “He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey* the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.”

From this verse we know that one who believes in Jesus, also obeys Him. 


Hebrews 5:8-9; 13-14,

8 Although He was a Son, He learned obedience from the things which He suffered.

9 And having been made perfect, He became to all those who obey** Him the source of eternal salvation…

13 For everyone who partakes only of milk is not accustomed to the word of righteousness, for he is a babe. 

14 But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil.

Hebrews 12:11,

11 All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness. Our Father disciplines us for our good for one reason, that we may share His holiness, Hebrews 12:10.

Obedience is learned from suffering. Adam and Eve were created as mature individuals, and given a commandment. “Do not eat from the tree…” Having not been trained in the way they should go and placed in a garden with no suffering, they had no opportunity to learn obedience, and they disobeyed God.

The last Adam, Jesus, appeared as an infant child and was trained up in the way He should go, learning obedience from the things which He suffered. So contrary to the first Adam, the last Adam obeyed God.

We are born into the kingdom of God as infant children and the Father disciplines us, training us up in the way we should go, in order that we may share His holiness. It is His will that we follow the example of Jesus and learn obedience from the things which  we suffer; to the end that we will grow to the point of attaining to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fulness of Christ.

1 Peter 4:1.

1 Therefore, since Christ has suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same purpose, because he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, 

2 so as to live the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for the lusts of men, but for the will of God.

The body of the risen Christ, the church, will be holy and without blemish when Jesus returns

Again, Jesus is the source of eternal salvation to all those who obey Him, and he who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.

Jon David Banks, God’s most unworthy servant

* The word ‘obey’ in John 3:36 is translated as ‘believe’ in a few versions of the Bible. However, it comes from a different Greek word than the word ‘believes’ in John 3:16. In 3:36 it comes from apeitheó which means to disobey.

544 apeithéō – literally, refuse to be persuaded (by the Lord). See 543 (apeitheia) — willful unbelief, obstinacy, disobedience.

** The word ‘obey’ in Hebrews 5:9 comes from the Greek word  

hupakouó, which means to listen, attend to, hearken to , obey, answer.

5219 hypakoúō (from 5259/hypó, “under” and 191/akoúō, “hear”) – properly, to obey what is heard (literally, “under hearing”). See 5218(hypakoē).

hypakoúō (“obey”) is acting under the authority of the one speaking, i.e. really listening to the one giving the charge (order). 

hypakoúō (“to hearken, obey”) suggests attentively listening, i.e. fully compliant (responsive).

The word ‘believe’ in John 3:36 is the same as ‘believe’ in John 3:16.

Scripture quotations taken from the (NASB®) New American Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1960, 1971, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. All rights reserved. www.lockman.org