This is a popular verse in Philippians. When this passage is studied, someone usually says, “Paul commands Christians to rejoice always and he means it so much, he says it twice.” That is a good point, but it is missing one of, if not the most important part of the verse: “In the Lord.” Our continuous rejoicing is not in our career, property, hobby, or even our family. It is in the Lord. He is the only Being that can empower us into a state of constant rejoicing.
Last month we looked at the way Luke uses the word believe in the book of Acts. Passages like Acts 2:44-47 and Acts 16:31-34 use the word believe to describe conversion. The context of the passage defines what the word means. This month, let us look at how James uses the word believe in a different context, with a different meaning. James does not use the word believe as conversion but as a fruitless belief in God’s existence.
James explains to his audience that faith without good works is dead. Faith has no meaning if the person of faith is not willing to act on it. He gives the example of someone seeing his brother or sister without daily food, and he says, “Depart in peace, be warmed and filled.” What good did that do? Unless he acted on faith and gave food to his brother or sister, his command profited nothing. That person might claim to have faith, but his actions say otherwise. James then says that person’s belief in God is not all that special.
“You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe – and tremble! But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead?” (James 2:19-20)
Is James using the word believe the same way Luke does in Acts 2:44-47? Is James saying that the demons have an encompassing belief in God that produces repentance, baptism, and the free gift of salvation? Are the demons converted to God? No. James says that his audience, like the demons, believes that God is a real person with real power, but refuse to be moved to action. This is not an encompassing belief; this is a belief that is only a thought. This is a belief that resides in the mind but never moves to the heart or the hands. This is not an encompassing belief.It is a fruitless belief.
John 12 gives another example of fruitless belief. Jesus performs many signs and wonders and some of the rulers of synagogue believed in Him. However, notice their reaction.
“Nevertheless even among the rulers many believed in Him, but because of the Pharisees they did not confess Him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue; for they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God.” (John 12:42-43)
These rulers believed in Jesus, but due to their fear of the Pharisees kicking them out of the synagogue, they did not confess Him. Their belief was only a thought.
Is our belief in Jesus an encompassing belief or a fruitless belief? Is it a belief that leads to repentance, baptism, and salvation? Is it a belief that is no more than a thought that God is real, like the demon’s belief?
Why do we not believe like we should? Like the rulers of the synagogue, it might have a lot to do with fear. John says, “They loved the praise of men more than the praise of God.” They became afraid that if they pursued Jesus they would be rejected by men. Christians that act on their belief today are treated cruelly. In the South, perhaps, not many will ridicule a Christian for believing in God. But when that Christian tries to act on hisbelief, some might ridicule trying to justify his own non-action. Just like those in James 2 that deceived themselves by saying that a belief without action was enough to please God.
— Andrew Smith
What does the word believe mean? Well, it all depends on the context. Throughout the book of Acts, believe is an encompassing term that describes converts to Christ. However, James will use the word believe to mean a fruitless understanding that God is real, or God is all powerful. In this article we will cover two passages in which Luke uses the word to describe the action of being converted.
In Acts 2, Peter delivers a sermon on Pentecost proving that Jesus is the Lord and Christ, the Messiah. The people are cut to the heart. They asked Peter what they should do with their guilt. Peter responds: “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (v,38). Luke then says that many of the people obeyed: “Then those who gladly received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them” (v.41). Luke goes on to describe these people as “all who believed.”
We have and will suffer on this earth. God has never promised us anything different than that fact. From Elijah to Jeremiah, from Stephen to Paul, all of God’s people have suffered. Paul wrote to the Corinthians about the state of his suffering. Something was happening to him in Asia. Paul said, “we were burdened beyond measure, above strength, so that we despaired even of life. Yes, we had the sentence of death in ourselves” (2nd Cor. 1:9). Have you ever felt that you were burdened beyond measure? Have you felt like the world has sentenced you to death? You probably have.
Thankfully, Paul shares his outlook on his suffering. Paul says that he might be sentenced to death, but he has put his trust “in God who raises the dead, who delivered us from so great a death, and does deliver us; in whom we trust that He will still deliver us” (2 Cor. 1:9-10). God has the power to raise the dead. Even if our suffering leads to death, who better to put our trust in than He who has conquered death?
The Lord did many incredible things in the Bible. He caused the Red Sea to part for the Israelites, sets large hailstones from heaven on those that tried to harm His people, and He even stopped the sun’s movement from horizon to horizon. The Lord did big powerful things, like raising Jesus from the dead, to smaller things like causing an ax head to float on the water.
These miraculous powers were always used by God to endorse the prophets. By giving them miraculous power, God was endorsing their message. It was a clear and easy way for God’s people to know that these prophets were telling the truth.
Several of us might have received and read these articles all year. I hope they have been encouraging to us all. There are some that probably started reading these at the beginning of the year, yet they quit reading some time ago. They may have purposely quit reading, or maybe they just forgot. That is often how our plans turn out. We will make big plans early to get reconnected with God or do something for God, and then we slowly forget about those plans till they are non-existent.
Many have a poor view of Christianity because they see it as complicated. Understandably so because in one small town, you have over 50 churches all having different beliefs, different practices, different paths to salvation; yet, all churches claim they are following the Way, the Truth, and the Life. Are their 50 different ways to enter Christ’s Kingdom? Jesus says no. “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door, but climbs up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber… Then Jesus said to them again, ‘Most assuredly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. All who ever came before Me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not hear them’” (John 10:1,7-8). The Lord says that He is the only door that leads to salvation. There are other doors available, but they are like thieves and robbers. These doors deceive you into believing they lead to Jesus when they actually lead to something else.
Many give Thomas a hard time for wanting to see the resurrected Jesus before he believed. Some even call him “Doubting Thomas” to illustrate his skepticism. However, Thomas’ doubt is powerful evidence for the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Paul explains to the Corinthians that the whole gospel hangs on the resurrection of Jesus. If the resurrection did not happen, then Jesus was not the Son of God and His sacrifice was void.
Jesus, our Lord, knew that many would follow Him. He also knew that of those that followed many would eventually turn back to the world. So, Jesus set up provisions for them so they could repent again and return. He spent time teaching directly to His fallen followers and helped them understand that He was merciful, longsuffering, and greatly wished for them to return home to Him. In Luke 15, Jesus speaks directly to the fallen and give three parables of those returning home.
Pilate asked Jesus that question at the Lord’s trial. Jesus had already given the answer in the previous verse: “For this cause I was born, and for this cause I have come into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice” (John 18:37). Beforehand, Jesus made arguably His most famous statement that also was about truth: “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6). There are two inferences we can make from Jesus’ words.