It’s common knowledge that the heart and soul of Christianity is belief in Jesus. But, what does it mean to believe in Jesus? That question is the basis of Paul’s teaching about the resurrection in 1 Corinthians 15. And it is apparent from Paul’s comment in verse 2 that belief in Jesus can be “in vain”, meaning simply, that belief in Jesus can be invalid; it can be wrong. As I thought about this, I wrote down what I understand the Bible to teach about what it means to believe in Jesus. A biblical belief in Jesus means…
❯ First, that I believe the first-hand reports of Jesus’s life, death, and resurrection are historically factual.
⟩ His virgin birth
⟩ His ministry and teaching attendant by miracles, verifiable by eye-witnesses
⟩ His unjust betrayal and condemnation by Jewish religious leaders, and His torture and death by Romans under Pontius Pilate’s authority
⟩ His burial in a rich man’s tomb
⟩ His resurrection and ascension witnessed publicly by his followers
❯ Second, that I believe the meaning and import of these facts as taught by Jesus himself, and later by his apostles.
⟩ That his birth was the prophesied incarnation of God; “God with us,” Immanuel, fully God, and fully man
⟩ That his was the perfect life of a man living in perfect obedience to God
⟩ That his ministry and message was from God and is the only means of access to God
⟩ That he freely surrendered his perfect life to a brutal death as a substitute for my death and the eternal punishment which God justly demanded for my sinful rebellion against Him
⟩ That his resurrection provided proof of God’s vindication of His righteous life as well as proof of God’s acceptance of his sacrifice as a substitute for the penalty I deserve
⟩ That his ascension declared his elevation to the throne of God, his coronation as King of God’s kingdom; a sort of reverse incarnation: man ascending to be with God.
❯ Third, that I believe the application of these facts creates new life and requires complete reorientation of life.
⟩ That Jesus has done everything necessary to to put me in right relationship with God
⟩ That my only reason for standing before God without shame is what Jesus has accomplished on my behalf
⟩ That Jesus has become the focus of all my hope, my only hope, in this life and the next
⟩ That Jesus Christ, my Savior, will not abandon my soul to death, but gives me the hope of eternal life
⟩ That I am not my own, but belong to Jesus Christ, my King, and my undivided allegiance must be to Him
⟩ That my life is His to rule and direct as he pleases
⟩ That Christ’s honor and worship is my chief concern and purpose in life
❯ One Final Thought
To be in a right relationship with God, not all of these facts need be known and understood. Such is the case with children, new believers, and those who haven’t been properly discipled. But to deny any of these facts, or their meaning, or their application falls short of Jesus’s idea of belief in Him. It is not enough to say, “I believe in Jesus.” We, like the church of Corinth long ago, do not get to define belief in Jesus any way we want. Our own definitions will inevitably be in vain.
I wish to believe in Jesus.
Let us believe together.
“Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain.”—1 Corinthians 15:1-2