“You will never know the fullness of Christ until you know the emptiness of everything but Christ” – CH Spurgeon
“And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.” Jesus, speaking of Himself as the Son of Man, as recorded in John 3:15
Some years ago, an ad was placed in a mid-west newspaper: “Read the words of Jesus as He actually spoke them.” The ad was promoting the King James Bible. Somehow, I do not think Jesus spoke the King’s English to the Jewish people, more than 1000 years before it was the King’s English. The Bible was not written in English, rather in ancient Hebrew and classical Greek. Translating these languages with their various sentence structures and grammatical differences is no small challenge.
In these languages, the choice of one word over another, the turn of a phrase makes significant differences in the meaning to the passage. That a biblical writer chose one form of a Greek word over another is of vital importance to understanding the intention of the writer and of the God who inspired that writer.
As mentioned in previous posts, the primary goal of citizenship in the Kingdom is true oneness with the King, now and forever. Oneness with our God is the reason for our being created as a race of humans. It is the purpose we were redeemed at so high a cost as the blood of Jesus, God’s Son. It is the primary and defining relationship in the Kingdom of our God. One of the “keys” that helps us unlock the fulness of our Kingdom relationship is our choice to believe into Christ Jesus. What do I mean by “believe into?”
In John chapter 3 is found the account of the night-time visit by Nicodemus, a religious ruler of the Jews, to Jesus. Nicodemus comes to ask about Jesus’ authority to teach and perform miracles. In His response, Jesus gives us an important key to entering His Kingdom, found in understanding two vital words that have not always been translated clearly into English.
John 3:15-18 And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. “Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Those who believe in him are not condemned; but those who do not believe are condemned already, because they have not believed in the name of the only Son of God.”
There has been much discussion of the meaning of the word “believe” in these verses. Some think this word means that if you simply believe the facts about Jesus, that is sufficient for salvation. Others think that “believe” means agree and take committed action based on that belief, action that transforms one’s living.
One side accuses the other of what is sometimes called “easy believism.” The other side accuses their detractors of adding works to faith for salvation. So much of the discussion revolves around the word, “believe.” What do we make of this word, “believe?”
I think the answer to that question is found in the word which follows “believe” in these verses. That word is commonly translated as “in,” which does not capture the meaning of the word. That Greek word, “eis” means not simply “in” but “within or among, in union with something.” The implication is to believe so as to be within or in union with. Three times in this passage, in 3:15, 3:16 and 3:18, the notion that we must “believe into” is repeated. I think we can find our key to understanding what is meant by “believe” by understanding the second word, “in” or “into.”
Once again, Jesus is laying out the purpose of our God for our salvation: to bring us into union with the fulness of our God – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. God brings about this union with Himself by placing us into the Son and filling us with the Spirit. In the context of the rest of scripture, to believe into Jesus means to believe in a way that brings us into union with Him. When we do, we also gain union with the Father because of the Holy Spirit who lives the life of God in us.
The point? Entrance into the Kingdom of our God implies agreement with the intention of our God for everyone who desires to enter. Our God intends for us to become one with Him, to be joined into union with Him in this life and for eternity. Therefore, entrance into His Kingdom and into eternal life requires that we believe into union with Jesus. Salvation and becoming one with our God are not separate issues or processes. Our God speaks of them as one process, one goal. We are saved for this purpose, and to deny this purpose is to deny the purpose of God in us.
“God never intended His people to be ordinary or commonplace. His intentions were that they should be on fire for Him, conscious of His divine power, realizing the glory of the cross that foreshadows the crown.” – Smith Wigglesworth