Lately I have been reading the book of John, and this morning was reading through chapter three. I don’t know about you but whenever I read scripture, I have a tendency to be very inquisitive. I examine, absorb, digest, ponder, re-read, and ask the Holy Spirit a LOT of questions.
When I came across the last verse in that chapter, verse 36, I was struck by two words: believe and obey:
“He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him”. – John 3:36 NASB (emphasis mine)
My question then was, why use the word believe and the word obey – couldn’t it have read “He who believes” and “he who does not [believe]”? Was the word believe synonymous with obey, or is there a specific reason why John the Baptist (who was expressing this) chose the words he did?
This sent me over to the Bible Hub app to see for myself the words used in the Greek, and how they translated. It was the word study that followed the definition that caught my attention. Here is what I found:
The Greek word used for Believe is πιστεύων, or ”pisteuōn” (pist-yoo’-o), meaning to believe, entrust.
Word Study comments: 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 inbirthing of faith. (emphasis mine)
The Greek word used for Not Obey is ἀπειθῶν, or “apeithōn” (ap-i-theh’-o), meaning to disobey.
Word Study comments: Cognate: 544 apeithéō – literally, refuse to be persuaded (by the Lord). (emphasis mine)
It was clear then that John the Baptist was being very specific when he chose the words he did, because he wanted to emphasize what happens when one accepts or rejects the Lord’s calling. The scripture might have easily read like this:
He who heads the Lord’s calling, being persuaded to believe, has eternal life; but he who rejects the Lord’s calling, refusing to be persuaded, shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.
Wow, that really resonated with me and went along well with a definition of submission I had recently heard, noting that it is “to have a cooperative spirit”. All the other times I had read that verse, I had incorrectly filtered the translation into something akin to the ability to lose one’s salvation if they did not obey – meaning I might believe, but if I ever disobeyed afterwards, I was putting myself at risk.
Looking at it in this light, however, opened up a river of grace for me that affirmed how much the Lord loves the “yes” in my spirit! Each time I choose to obey, I am choosing in a cooperative spirit to yield myself to the Holy Spirit’s work within me – allowing Him to persuade me to His point of view, so I can align myself rightly to Him in small progressions throughout my walk of faith.
This means that it is not the act of disobeying a single command (even when my overall intention may have been otherwise), but rather the posture one takes to not be persuaded by the Holy Spirit – concerning the free gift of salvation as well as anything else that comes after – because if we refuse to be persuaded about salvation, we will never be persuaded by whatever follows.
I hope this gives you grace and encouragement as well, to know that if you have been persuaded by the Holy Spirit to believe, then the free gift of salvation is forever yours, and is the first step towards a wonderful journey of submission. Be blessed!