“believe that” vs. “believe in” – a rambling about words

I was looking at someone’s Facebook profile and saw what he’d put down under Religious Views:

Messianic Jewish
Jewish people who believe that Y’shua (Jesus) is the promised Messiah of our people. And for the world!

I’m always interested to see what Jewish people who share my faith put down in that section, because it’s something we’re having to be creative with expressing, we have to think what to say – if you’re a non-Jew and you believe in Jesus you can just say “Christian” and be done with it (though yes, of course we could spend all night discussing what people mean by the term “Christian”… but that’s another story) but if you’re Jewish and believe in him and you want to state your faith, the terminology is less clear and obvious. Which is why some choose to add an explanation.

Now I looked at this guy’s explanation of what “Messianic Jewish” means and I thought: hmmm… I’m not sure I’d go with this… because our faith is about much more than just believing that… believing a set of statements about Jesus is not enough. As the Bible says, “even the demons believe”, so what is it that makes the difference? The difference is believing in Jesus – putting our trust in him, trusting in his sacrifice on our behalf, trusting in him as the way to the Father…
I spent over 12 years believing a set of statements about Jesus before I came to real faith in him.

15 thoughts on ““believe that” vs. “believe in” – a rambling about words

  1. Interesting – your phrasing has just blown my attempt to hang the distinction on the different prepositions… my "believing that" is, in the way you've phrased it, a "believing in" – just believing in stuff about him rather than believing in him.hmmm… this is turning out to be more complex than I thought… will have to chew on this. thank you for giving me food for thought.


  2. am wondering now if maybe it's more like peeling onions, like there are layers of faith – starting with believing things about him, and gradually learning to put our faith in him? or maybe – actually I'd say probably – the journey is different from one person to another. different starting point, different order of discovering things, different stuff we struggle with believing, different obstacles to learning to trust him?there's more to this though, I can feel it in my bones. this is one that needs slow cooking.


  3. ok, here are some more thoughts to throw into the mix:I mentioned the bit in the Bible saying "even the demons believe" – but what is the context of this verse (James 2:19)? It's in the context of faith being dead without action. Our deeds, our behaviour, show the result of the kind of faith that matters – faith which results in a change in our heart and therefore a change in our behaviour. The demons believe a set of facts about God, they know (according to this verse) that there is one God, and they know (according to various biblical accounts of Jesus casting out demons and according also to what happens when people cast out demons in his name) that Jesus has authority over all; so what is the difference? the difference is the choice: which side are we on? Once we understand who Jesus is, once we come to believe in certain things about him – that he is the Anointed One, the Son of God, who died to save us from our sins – we have a choice how to react: do we rebel, as the demons do, or do we bow down and give him Lordship of our lives? Once we give our lives over to him, he will start changing us, he'll change our hearts and therefore our behaviour will change.am I making sense?


  4. yup, still making sense but something tells me there is more here awaiting additional simmering.the journeys, unequivocably are different. even those that might appear identical in narrative are, at their core, varied in the infinite ingredients that go to make up each person's psyche. (i can't seem to escape the land of the cooking metaphor.) yes, the demons acknowledged him. they saw him, they knew he existed, they saw what he could do to/with? them, they understood the power he had. but there was no connection to/with him. there was no infilling. there was no seasoning with his very nature. even today, those of us who "live and move and have our being" with him can stumble and step outside his nature. perhaps that is a part of the "cross" we all share? that at each moment in our lives we have to continue to choose to live in him? i don't know. that notion bumps uncomfortably against his living and moving in me. it allows the possibility that he could step aside and allow me to step away from him. that potentiality is unsettling to me yet i see it all around me, in varied disguises and in my own wayward tendencies on a regular basis. it seems to require the possibility that we must always continue to make the choice we made to trust in him. forever and always and again and again. i'm wallowing – can you stir the pot and see what comes uppermost?


  5. oh yes, because they don't accept his lordship, they're not allowing him to take over their lives and change them. and yes, definitely, I do again and again rebel and have to get back to submitting to his lordship – though there's a one-off choice there is also a continuing choice again and again to follow him. he lives in me but whenever I choose to ignore him and do what I want, he sits back and lets me – and then of course we're surprised that we feel God is remote…this stew is smelling great. you keep adding more herbs, I'll keep chopping more vegetables.


  6. the "one-off choice" and the "continuing choice" brings to my mind the relationship in a marriage. there are the initial vows that you take to each other but then there is the daily living together with another totally individual human being. oy. the vows have to be continually remembered and refreshed and relived in even the simplest acts of abiding with one another. but the joy is in doing just that.i think i can be more comfortable with myself in that comparison. i can understand well the reminders of the vows i took with my husband. i need to also be understanding of the reminders to trusting and relying upon Jesus. that choice i took to live a life committed to him. it adds a little clarity to the notion of "bride of Christ". and now, i actually have to go and make some meatballs and a sauce for tonight's spaghetti. and sadly break the news to the 2 little girls that they cannot have any. i have such a weakness for a pleading yorkie face.:)


  7. … i wrote a long reply to this post when you first popped it up here, then i chucked it. after reading through the ensuing discussion i thought i'd throw at least a part of it back up here. to believe that x is y is rather dry. it might be true, but it's not rich or deep or enlivening. it's just a mathematical statement, essentially. but if you have a strong and rich and deep opinion of what x is. and then you find something else, y, that's equally remarkable and intense and bursting with meaning, and then you take the one and connect it in equivalence to the other, you end up with something rich and powerful and intense. all of that to say that just saying something might not make it very meaningful. but if what is said is valuable and meaning full, then just stating it can be mindblowingly incredible and deep.


  8. yes. we can all say the same words but we can connect with them on different levels. actually we can say the same words again and again at different stages of our lives and they might suddenly take meaning one day and blow our minds. it's not just whether we can sign a form that says "I believe that such-and-such" but it's whether we've taken in the deep meaning of whatever it is. (am I close at all to what you were saying, Meg?)


  9. Re the term for Messianic Jews: The term Judo-Christians describes something else, so how about Christo-Jews? But it doesn't look much different from "Messianic Jews".Re beliefs: have you tried Hebrew lately? In Hebrew, if you say that you "believe in" someone, you might mean that you "trust" him (as in, trusting his abilities). So what about saying that you "trust" Yeshua?


  10. yes, it has crossed my mind that there's some Hebrew influence on my interpretation of the word "believe".and yes, one way of defining my faith is by saying: I trust Yeshua for my salvation.


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