What Does it Mean to Be a Believer?


Leon Morris described Romans 3:21-22 this way,

“In what is possibly the most important single paragraph ever written, Paul brings out something of the grandeur of Christ’s saving work. He speaks of the righteousness of God, the sin of man, and the salvation of Christ. He views this salvation in three ways: as justification (imagery from the law court), as redemption (imagery from the slave market), and as propitiation (imagery from the averting of wrath).      Leon Morris, The Epistle to the Romans, The Pillar New Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI; Leicester, England: W.B. Eerdmans; Inter-Varsity Press, 1988), 173.

Paul said, ” But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— 22 the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe” ( Romans 3:21–22).

The word translated “believe” is  πιστεύοντας. It is a present active participle from the verb generally translated believe or faith when in the noun form. It is defined this way:

to entrust oneself to an entity in complete confidence, believe (in), trust, w. implication of total commitment to the one who is trusted. In our lit. God and Christ are objects of this type of faith that relies on their power and nearness to help, in addition to being convinced that their revelations or disclosures are true.” (William Arndt, Frederick W. Danker, and Walter Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000), 817.)

Therefore, the ones who are justified by faith are those who entrust themselves completely to Jesus and yield a total commitment to him. So Abraham is justified by faith (Romans 4) as he entrusted his life to God (James 2:21-26). The Bible presents “believers” as those who believe in God’s existence, trust in God’s mercy, and are committed to God’s cause. Biblically, we can’t be “believers” without any of those characteristics.

A great illustration of this principle is seen in the following words from Jesus.

And behold, some men were bringing on a bed a man who was paralyzed, and they were seeking to bring him in and lay him before Jesus, 19 but finding no way to bring him in, because of the crowd, they went up on the roof and let him down with his bed through the tiles into the midst before Jesus. 20 And when he saw their faith, he said, “Man, your sins are forgiven you.” Luke 5:18–20.

Notice in verse 20 that Jesus, “saw their faith.” Their faith was evident in their works. So ours must be as well. If we are believers, our faith will be visible.

Furthermore, this fact is also highlighted in John 3:36. “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.” Notice the contrast is between “whoever believes’ and “whoever does not obey”. Thus to be an unbeliever is to be one who does not obey. And to truly obey is to truly be a believer. So Paul served because he believed. “But this I admit to you, that according to the Way which they call a sect I do serve cthe God of our fathers, believing everything that is in accordance with the Law and that is written in the Prophets; New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update (LaHabra, CA: The Lockman Foundation, 1995), Ac 24:14.

In Romans 1:5 Paul described the Christian life and mission this way:  “we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of his name among all the nations, including you who are called to belong to Jesus Christ,”  Romans 1:5–6).

This is not the presentation of works based righteousness or works based salvation. A life of true living faith is a life that has been redeemed, reformed, and re-energized by God. This is the way in which Philippians 2:12-13 is fulfilled in the life of believers. Paul said,

“Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, 13 for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.”

Notice the synergy present in these verses. Christians are “working out their own salvation” but all the while it is God who “works in you.’ Will we entrust our lives to him fully? Commit our lives to him fully? Allow him to live through us completely?

Is our faith visible? How can we make it more so? Better worship attendance? Better leadership? More evangelistic discussions?

God help us to be faithful in living the faith.

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