What Does it Take for a Person to Believe?
by Steven Chan
As we seek to obey the Great Commission of our Lord to go into all the world and make disciples of all nations (Matt 28:19,20), some of us may wonder what would it take to cause a person to believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. The Bible declares in Rom 10:17 that “faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God”. But how much of the Word of God would a person need to know before he can believe? From the testimony of the Scriptures as well as from our own personal experience, it appears that there is no fixed amount of knowledge of God’s Word that one must know before one can believe. It may be little or much. It varies from heart to heart. So, we should endeavour to sow the seed which is the Word of God (Luke 8:11) and keep watering it (I Cor 3:5-9) and let God give the increase.
Let’s not assume that everyone must be taught everything about the Word of God before they can believe. In fact, the Great Commission of Matt 28:19-20 requires us to teach all nations and then baptizing them (that’s how disciples are made) and then continue to teach them to observe all things whatsoever Jesus has commanded us:-
Matt 28:19-20: “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen” (KJV)
Let’s consider some Bible examples.
In John 1:45-50, we have the account of how Philip brought Nathanael to Jesus and how Nathaneal became a believer:- “Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found Him of whom Moses in the law, and also the prophets, wrote–Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” 46 And Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.” 47 Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward Him, and said of him, “Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom is no deceit!” 48 Nathanael said to Him, “How do You know me?” Jesus answered and said to him, “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.” 49 Nathanael answered and said to Him, “Rabbi, You are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” 50 Jesus answered and said to him, “Because I said to you, ‘I saw you under the fig tree,’ do you believe? You will see greater things than these.”
Nathanael did not accept the declaration by Philip that he had found “Him of whom Moses in the law, and also the prophets wrote”. Nathanael’s objection was this: “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Some have commented that Nathanael’s objection could have been based on his understanding of the Scriptures that Jesus would be from Bethlehem (Micah 5:2) and not from Nazareth – at that point in time, Nathanael probably did not know that Jesus was actually born in Bethlehem. In any case, Philip tried to overcome his objection by inviting him to “come and see Jesus” for himself. Come and investigate for yourself whether the claim is true.
Philip appeared to have done just the little part of inviting Nathanael to “come and see” but Jesus as our co-worker did His part of making a favourable impression on Nathanael and facilitating him to believe who He was in truth. When Jesus saw Nathanael coming, He said to him: “Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom is no deceit!” – thereby evidencing to Nathanael that He was no ordinary person as He knew him as an Israelite indeed (i.e. a true Israelite) and He knew his character, “in whom there is no deceit”. In response to Nathanael’s question, “How do You know me?” Jesus answered and said to him, “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.” Based on that little information about Jesus, Nathanael declared his faith: “Rabbi, You are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!”
In response to Nathanael’s declaration of faith, Jesus then commented: “Because I said to you, ‘I saw you under the fig tree,’ do you believe?”
It appears that Nathanael was able to believe in Jesus just based on those facts – in particular, according to Jesus, the fact that He saw him even before Philip called him. Jesus said that He would provide him with even greater evidence for his faith but for Nathanael the special knowledge that Jesus had of him –was sufficient to convince him that Jesus was indeed the Son of God and King of Israel. Jesus knew what was in man: “many believed in His name when they saw the signs which He did. But Jesus did not commit Himself to them, because He knew all men, and had no need that anyone should testify of man, for He knew what was in man.”(John 2:23-25)
Another account can be found in 1 Peter 3:1-5 where the Bible says that wives can win over their husbands who do not obey the Word, without a word by the conduct of their wives:-
“Wives, likewise, be submissive to your own husbands, that even if some do not obey the word, they, without a word, may be won by the conduct of their wives, 2 when they observe your chaste conduct accompanied by fear. 3 Do not let your adornment be merely outward–arranging the hair, wearing gold, or putting on fine apparel– 4 rather let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God. 5 For in this manner, in former times, the holy women who trusted in God also adorned themselves, being submissive to their own husbands,”
Over the years many have mentioned that the conduct of Christians in the church has led them to believe in Jesus. Jesus said in John 17:22-24 that the unity of believers in love will make the world know that God has sent Jesus and has loved them:-
“And the glory which You gave Me I have given them, that they may be one just as We are one: 23 I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me.”
One sister told me this: “When I brought my loved one to the church, she saw the love that brethren had for one another; and she also saw the respect that the youths had for the older brethren” and that made her want to know about Jesus. Our conduct is continually observed by our friends and visitors to the church. Will we conduct ourselves such that people will want to know our Lord?
The Bible tells us that God has provided much more evidence that will help us believe in Jesus as the Son of God:-
“And truly Jesus did many other signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name.”(John 20:30-31)
God wants to help us believe in Jesus. He is not willing that any should perish but that all may come unto repentance (2 Pet 3:9). So, let us do our part in bringing people to Christ – and let God work with us to give the growth/increase in faith and repentance of those in whose heart the Word has been sown (2 Tim 2:23-26; I Cor 3:5-9). We are not expected to teach a person everything before they can believe; we just need to teach sufficiently for them to believe and obey the Lord – and then we must continue to teach them to observe all things whatsoever the Lord has commanded us (Matt 28:19-20).
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