Sometimes we use “believe” to indicate our agreement with someone else’s statement. When I say, “I believe you,” I am indicating that I “believe” something is true. If you point to an airplane and ask, “Do you believe this is an airplane?” I might say, “Yes, I believe that is an airplane.”
At other times we use the word “believe” to indicate our confidence in someone. We may use the term for a political candidate or a doctor indicating confidence in that person. In this case they would get our vote or our business. We could also use this term with respect to the pilot of the airplane. We could believe in him, meaning we have confidence he can fly the airplane.
The word translated “believe” in the Bible is “pisteuo.” “Faith” is closer to the meaning of “pisteuo.” But, we don’t have a verb form of “faith” in our language. We cannot say, “I faith you.” We are left with our word “believe.” In this case, if we believe in the airplane and the pilot, we must climb aboard the airplane, take our seat and actually fly in it. We follow instructions and trust both the airplane and the pilot to take us aloft thousands of feet in the air.
The “faith” meaning of the word changes how we understand key passages in the Bible. For instance, when Jesus says,“I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me shall never die,” he is actually saying, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who puts his trust and absolute faith in me shall never die.”
Here is the difference in religion and relationship. There are many who occasionally attend church who “believe” in Christ and “believe” they are Christians. They use the term like the first example. They are not quite sure, but they think it might be true, or hope it is.
Then there are others who attend church who “believe” according to the second definition. They give mental assent believing that Jesus is the Son of God, but it doesn’t make much difference in their lives.
Still others fall into the third category. They believe in Jesus in the sense that they have confidence in who he claims to be. They think he is a good person, that he spoke the truth, that he would get their vote among the other religious leaders in the history.
But moving into a faith relationship with Jesus Christ requires the New Testament kind of “believing.” We must trust Him with our lives. In this case we don’t have to understand or know everything, just like we don’t have to understand or know everything about flight and airplanes in order to fly. When the Bible says, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you shall be saved,” it means more than wishful thinking, mental assent or even having confidence in Christ. It means we must place our complete faith and trust in Jesus Christ. Like flying, we must follow His instructions and trust Him. If we do this, He will save us.