More Than “Believing in Jesus”

Daily Reflection / Produced by The High Calling

Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, To God’s holy people in Ephesus, the faithful in Christ Jesus. (NIV)

Ephesians 1:1

In common English, if someone asks you, "Do you believe in God?" you would rightly assume that they're asking "Do you believe that God exists?" Similarly, if someone were to ask, "Do you have faith in Jesus?" you might answer by saying, "Yes, I believe that Jesus is the Christ" or something like that. In both examples, the language of belief is used to indicate that which we think to be true. Belief has to do with our ideas.

The biblical use of the language of belief includes this sense, but is much richer. We can see this, for example, in Ephesians 1:1 where Paul refers to the recipients of his letter as "the faithful in Christ Jesus." "Faithful" translates the Greek adjective pistos, which, in this case, stands alone as if it were a noun. Pistos, which is related to the word pistis, or "faith," has a range of possible meanings. You can be called pistos if you are faithful or trustworthy in life, a person who can be counted on. Yet, pistos can also be used as we would use the word "believer" in English (see 2 Cor 6:15). It's almost a technical term meaning "Christian, that is, someone who has faith in Christ."

When Paul refers to the recipients of his letter as "faithful in Christ Jesus," he is not saying merely that they are "believers in Christ Jesus," though it is surely true that they acknowledge Jesus as the Messiah. In fact, the phrase "in Christ Jesus" has profound significance far beyond the object of belief. We'll explore the meaning of "in Christ" throughout our devotional study of Ephesians. By referring to the letter's recipients as "faithful," Paul could be affirming their steadfastness and reliability, much as he uses the same word to describe his co-worker Tychicus in Ephesians 6:21 (the only other use of pistos in Ephesians). Yet, given Paul's use of this language elsewhere in his correspondence and its role in the address of verse 1, it seems likely that Paul is emphasizing the fact that the people to whom he is writing are people of faith.

This means that they affirm the unique role of Jesus as Messiah, Savior, and Lord. Yet their faith goes beyond affirmation. It is a personal response to Jesus, an acceptance of his saving work that includes both acknowledgement and trust. Their wholehearted commitment to Christ defines their life and puts them in a transformational relationship with him as people "in Christ."

Are you faithful in Christ Jesus? Yes, I'm asking if you believe that Jesus is the Messiah, if he is your Savior and Lord? But I'm also asking if you have truly put your trust in him and if you're living each day in this posture of reliance upon him?

QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: I would encourage you to reflect on the question I asked in the last paragraph. What would your life be like if you were to trust Jesus each moment of each day?

’Tis so sweet to trust in Jesus,
And to take Him at His Word;
Just to rest upon His promise,
And to know, “Thus says the Lord!

O how sweet to trust in Jesus,
Just to trust His cleansing blood;
And in simple faith to plunge me
’Neath the healing, cleansing flood

Yes, ’tis sweet to trust in Jesus,
Just from sin and self to cease;
Just from Jesus simply taking
Life and rest, and joy and peace

I’m so glad I learned to trust Thee,
Precious Jesus, Savior, Friend;
And I know that Thou art with me,
Wilt be with me to the end


Jesus, Jesus, how I trust Him!
How I’ve proved Him o’er and o’er
Jesus, Jesus, precious Jesus!
O for grace to trust Him more!

"’Tis So Sweet to Trust in Jesus" by Louisa M.R. Stead, 1882. Public domain.

Images sourced via Creative Commons.