by Jefferson David Tant
Although our nation is declining in its religious values, many still believe in God. And if you ask the average person if they believe in God, they will probably give you an affirmative answer. In fact, in a pleasant conversation I was having with a woman who was serving me some coffee, I asked her what she did on Sundays. “I work every weekend,” she answered. “So you don’t ever go to church?” She agreed that she did not. I asked her if she believed in God. “Yes, I believe in God, but you don’t have to go to church to believe in God.”
Well, she was right. You don’t have to “go to church” to believe in God. But what does it mean to “believe in God?” Is that the same as “believing God,” or do those statements have different meanings? Is there any significant difference between saying “I believe in God” and “I believe God?”
Take, for example, Xi Jinping, the current ruler in China. I believe in him, as I know he exists. But do I “believe” him? No, I do not believe everything he says, for there have been examples of untruths that he has told, especially about the coronavirus that has spread havoc and death throughout the world. Wise Solomon had some advice about such a person. “When he speaks graciously, do not believe him, For there are seven abominations in his heart” (Proverbs 26:25).
Then there is the matter of Satan. Do I believe in Satan? Obviously so, as I see his evil influence in the world all around me. But do I “believe” Satan? Obviously not, for I do not want to be a partaker of his evil deeds and reap the bad consequences.
So, what’s the point I am making? To “believe in God” is good, but the true sense of “believing God” involves much more. It involves obeying God. He promises good, but the end result of not following his promises is not good. Note what Christ said in John 3:36: “He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him."
A while back I was involved in a Bible study with some men from various denominations. They all were churchgoers and thus believers in God. We were having a conversation about some denominational doctrine or practice that was different than what the Bible said. As I recall, I then opened my Bible and read a passage dealing with our topic. My friend sitting across the table from me said, “I don’t believe that.” But that’s what God said! I read the very words from God’s Word. My friend “believed in God,” but he did not “believe God.”
Then there was the time my father, Yater Tant, closed a sermon by quoting Mark 16:16 where Christ was giving the Great Commission to his disciples: “He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved; but he who has disbelieved shall be condemned.” A visitor that morning spoke to my father on the way out and told him that verse was not in her Bible. My father insisted that it was. Then my father asked for her Bible and turned to the passage. Sure enough, it was not in her Bible. She had cut it out! Problem solved, or so she thought. She believed in God, but obviously, she did not believe God!
Now back to the matter of “going to church.” Consider what the inspired writer wrote in Hebrews 10:23-26: “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful; and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging [one another]; and all the more, as you see the day drawing near. For if we go on sinning willfully after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins.”
There are other passages that deal with the matter of our assembling to partake of the Lord’s Supper each Lord’s Day and giving to support the Lord’s work. God’s Word says we are “sinning willfully” when we forsake assembling together.
Now, as for believing in God, consider what James wrote: “Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself. But someone may [well] say, "You have faith, and I have works; show me your faith without the works, and I will show you my faith by my works." You believe that God is one. You do well; the demons also believe, and shudder. But are you willing to recognize, you foolish fellow, that faith without works is useless?” (James 2:17-20)
These are not works to earn our salvation, but simply works or deeds of obedience. Weymouth’s Translation of verse 17 says; “So also faith, if it is unaccompanied by obedience, has no life in it--so long as it stands alone.”
Consider the fact that about 7% of couples in the US today are living together without being married. The Bible calls this fornication. And what does the Word of God have to say about this? “Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled; for fornicators and adulterers God will judge” (Hebrews 13:4). If you would ask many of these unmarried couples if they believed in God, I am sure you would get an affirmative answer. But obviously, they do not believe God. There is a vast difference.
Finally, you say you believe in God? You have lots of company. “You believe that God is one. You do well; the demons also believe, and shudder” (James 2:19). Even Satan believes in God, which is why he tried to get rid of Christ, as he considered Christ a threat to his rule over people.
Dear Reader, if you say you believe in God, but you are not following His will, I pray you will study your Bible, understand what God wants for you, and then do more than simply believe “in” God, but that you will come to “believe” Him in seeking to do His will, that you may enjoy that home God has prepared for all those who love him.
Consider what Jesus said in John 14:15: “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.”