It’s stunning. Not once does John’s Gospel use the word “faith.” Never. Nowhere. Not at all. This word—this noun—that has become so familiar to us, never shows up in the fourth gospel. We’ll find it in the other gospels, and we’ll find it throughout the rest of the New Testament. But not in John’s Gospel.
What does show up in John’s Gospel—equally stunningly—is the word “believe.” Over ninety times!! It’s a verb; an action word. And John loves it.
We like to speak of “coming to faith” or “having faith” or “the difference that faith makes” or “joining the faith.” We like to speak with nouns because they represent items or objects with boundaries and limitations. A house is defined by its walls and fixtures. A car is defined by its shape and parts. And there’s always room in my life for another object. Indeed, I like to accumulate.
But the ancient Evangelist has no interest in accumulations. He writes with pinpoint intensity to jolt us into realizing that following Jesus means action on our part—constant action, daily action. “Believing in Jesus” is not a declaration of the head but a commitment of the life; it’s not something we agree to but action that we take.
I suspect that we’ve tamed even the well-known John 3:16 by reading it more through the lens of nouns than verbs.
“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”
“Whoever believes in Him.” In my world of nicely ordered objects and items, I twist this simple clause to mean “whoever has the right belief about Jesus.” We diminish believing and make it belief, and nothing could be further from the biblical truth.
Believing means trusting. It calls us to live differently. If I trust Jesus—daily and moment-by-moment—then I won’t fear what lies around the corner. If I trust Jesus—completely and comprehensively—then I’ll look to Him with more regularity. If I trust Jesus whole-heartedly, then I’ll be bold and courageous for Him and because of Him.
The Apostle John calls us to live not with a noun (faith) but with a verb (believe); ninety times. There’s something very powerful about “doing words.” How are you doing today?