Biblically: To Believe is to Obey
In order to properly understand any scriptural truth, we first need to understand the correct context in which it was written. Therefore, we need to understand the differences between the eastern Hebraic and the western Greek minds. We lose many biblical insights simply by approaching the Bible with our western Greek-trained mind. How is the western Greek mindset different from the Hebrew mindset?
The Hebraic Mind vs. the Greek Mind
The Hebraic mind perceives all things concretely. Meaning, the foundation of the Hebrew mindset, understanding, and the language is all based on things one can experience with their senses… e.g. things one can see, touch, etc. If we look at the Hebrew language itself, we find that every letter represents a tangible or concrete thing. The “Aleph” is an ox, “Beth” is a house, and so on for the entire Hebrew “aleph-bet.”
In absolute contrast to the Hebrew mindset, the Greek mindset is abstract – based on intangible “concepts”, “thoughts”, or ideas. Our English alphabet and language, just like the Greek alphabet, is abstract. A letter “a”, for example, does not represent a tangible thing, but rather a sound that must be combined with other letters to define the idea or an object. It does not represent a tangible object in and of itself, but rather is dependent on other letters to express the full meaning.
In this study, we will be looking mainly at the word most often translated as “believe/believed” spoken by Messiah (Yahusha) in the New Testament. We will look closely at and pay attention to the greater context in which this particular word is used. Through this study, we will be able to see that there is more being addressed than an abstract concept or idea of believing or trusting. By approaching these verses with the proper Hebrew mindset, we will begin to see that something more concrete and observable – like obedience – is being taught and understood.
We will look at the word “pisteuó” – The Greek Strong’s # G4100. pisteuó = trust (indicating thoughts). We will notate instances of this word with (#G4100) for ease of your further study. The intent of this teaching is to provide the proper frame with which to apply to the rest of the instances of this word throughout scripture.
The Proper Context
One major consideration one must keep in mind when reading scriptures, is the Hebraic author and audience(s). We must understand that the scriptures, both Old and New Testament writings were written by Hebrews to Hebrews – whether in the promised land or those that had been dispersed into Rome or other territories. The Messiah and other authors are speaking or writing from a concrete Hebraic perspective. We should then go back to the Hebrew word which has been translated as “believe/believed” since Hebrew is the original language of both the Messiah and the witnesses that wrote about his Works and teachings.
The Hebrew word translated as believe/believed is the Hebrew Strong’s # H539. aman, which the Strong’s defines as “to confirm, support”. Oddly, the Strong’s definition expands on this word using abstract ideas such as “trust” and “faith.” It appears as the Strong’s concordance definition is missing some depth of understanding because it is not defining the word from a concrete Hebraic mindset of actions, but from a Greek mindset of thoughts. We need to keep in mind, even when reading the concordance, that the Hebrews expressed themselves in concrete, tangible ways, not merely in abstract ideas and thoughts. We need to apply this understanding to all scripture in order to perceive it more accurately.
The Hebrew word “Shema/Shama” (Strong’s # H8085; Deut. 6:4) means to “hear and obey”. “Shema,” like “aman” denotes two actions; hearing coupled with obedience. If one looks at the Strong’s definition, they find it is simply defined as “to hear”. One has to examine further to gain understanding that the “obedience” part, although omitted from the Strong’s definition, is absolutely an integral, vital part of this word. Study of this word is powerful, but requires a much more in-depth pursuit. For the sake of brevity and focusing on the topic at hand, we’ll keep our focus on “aman” and address “shema” in a separate study. We encourage the reader to examine “shema” further in their own study as many additional insights will be gained by doing so.
Belief: More Than Just an Idea; It’s Action
If we look at the Strong’s definition of “aman” as “to confirm, support” in the proper Hebraic mindset, we understand that the confirming or supporting was not by some abstract, intangible thought, but in tangible action – something that can be witnessed or seen. This truth is consistent throughout the entirety of Scripture.
Now that we’ve established the proper foundation, let’s begin to get into the meat of this principle. There are innumerable instances we could study, however, for the sake of brevity of this study, we will focus on just a few of the examples in scripture. It will be up to the Berean student to continue this study and apply it to remaining scriptural instances to further their understanding. There is so much depth and wealth of understanding to be obtained when one applies this understanding to the Scriptures.
The Account of the Messiah by Yohanan (John)
We will start by looking at the words of the Messiah Himself in the book of Yohanan (John). We must look at the words in the context in which they were spoken and written. (Quotes, all caps, and/or bold text will be used to provide emphasis as needed.)
In Yohanan (John) 3:18-21, we see that the word “believe” (G#4100) is used in direct relation to “works”, “practices” and “doing” – not “thoughts” or “thinking.”
18. “He who believes (G#4100) in Him is not judged, but he who does not believe is judged already, because he has not believed in the Name of the only brought-forth Son of Elohim.
19. “And this is the judgment, that the light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the light, for their works were wicked.
20. “For everyone who is practicing evil (matters) hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed.
21. “But the one doing the truth comes to the light, so that his works are clearly seen, that they have been wrought in Elohim.”
The Messiah goes from speaking about “believing” and “not believing” directly to “works,” “practices,” and “doing” in the same thought. If we understand that believing is an action, this makes a lot of sense. Notice that Messiah does not mention any thoughts or evil thinking. It is not logical to apply the idea of “thoughts” to these verses in context. If one attempts to apply “thoughts” to “believing” in this context, there is a big gap in making the jump suddenly to works and actions within the same thought.
Likewise, since we are judged by our actions, the only way to escape judgment is by actions – or works – of obedience. We cannot escape judgment by our thoughts alone as we can and do easily deceive ourselves in our thoughts. It is our actions – what we do – that reveal our thoughts. In verse 19, it was their “works” that were wicked, not their “thoughts”. Again, looking at verse 21; …“the one doing the truth…”. We see that truth is not something that is merely thought, it is an action. It is the obedience of “doing” of “truth” that proves that one’s “works” are in Elohim.
Yohanan (John) 3:36 reads “He who believes (G#4100) in the Son possesses everlasting life, but he who does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of Elohim remains on him.”
Here, we see the Messiah directly comparing “belief” to an opposite – “not obey” (or disobedience). Ones “believes” in the Son by “obedience” just as one does “not believe” by “disobedience” to the Son, thus opening themselves up to receive the “wrath of Elohim”.
In Yohanan (John) 4:39; “And many of the Shomeronites of that city believed (#G4100) in Him because of the word of the woman who witnessed, “He told me all that I have done (#G4160).”
Here we see again believe and doing… also the word “in” (#G1519) is very significant in this instance because it indicates action. This word transliterates to “Eis” and means “literally, “motion into which” – motion. Motion is not an abstract thought, but concrete, seeable actions. One cannot create motion simply by mental ascent. One has to perform some action in order to show motion.
Yohanan (John) 4:48: “Yahusha then said to him, “If you (people) do not see signs and wonders, you do not believe (#G4100) at all.” He is addressing their lack of obedience to the instructions they had already been given, as well as their need to see signs and wonders in order for them to repent (teshuva) – or turn back in their actions into obedience.
In Yohanan (John) 4:50; “Yahusha said to him, “Go, your son lives.” And the man believed (#G4100) the word that יהושע spoke to him, and went.”
Yahusha gave the nobleman instruction to do something, and he believed/OBEYED and went. Again we see believe being compared with action. He showed his obedience (belief) in his action of going. In verse 53, we see that that man and his entire household believed (#G4100) – obeyed Yahusha. It is not enough to “think” about the Messiah, but His purpose was to call men back to the action of obedience to the Father’s instructions. The nobleman’s household then must have “obeyed” the teachings of the Messiah.
Again in Yohanan (John) chapter 5, when the Yehudim were seeking to kill Messiah because of his actions of healing the man on the Sabbath, we see in verse 17, Messiah is speaking about actions.
Yohanan (John) 5:17 reads; “But יהושע answered them, “My Father works until now, and I work.”
Continuing in context of actions (again, not thinking), verses 19-21:
19. “Therefore יהושע responded and said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son is able to do none at all by Himself, but only that which He sees the Father doing, because whatever He does, the Son also likewise does.
20. “For the Father loves the Son, and shows Him all that He Himself does. And greater works than these He is going to show Him, in order that you marvel.
21. “For as the Father raises the dead and makes alive, even so the Son makes alive whom He wishes. …
The context of actions does not change to thinking, but remains constant through Verse 24:
“Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes (#G4100) in Him who sent Me possesses everlasting life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life.
The context of actions reveals that he who “believes” in verse 24 is not referencing thoughts, but it is referring to actions – “obedience”. The context of actions continues in Messiah’s speaking of “hearing His voice” (which is also speaking about obedience) and those practicing evil (disobedient) in verse 29.
Continuing on to Yohanan (John) 5:44; Messiah is calling the Yehudim out on their “believing” – not on their thoughts, but on their performance – their “obedience” or in this case, their lack thereof:
44. “How are you able to believe, when you are receiving esteem from one another, and the esteem that is from the only Elohim you do not seek?
45. “Do not think that I shall accuse you to the Father. There is one who accuses you: Mosheh, in whom you have set your expectation.
46. “For if you believed Mosheh, you would have believed Me, since he wrote about Me.
47. “But if you do not believe his writings how shall you believe My words?”
When reading these verses in the Hebraic mindset, it is clear that Messiah is not speaking about how they were “thinking” about Mosheh (Moses), but He was addressing their lack of obedience to the Torah (instructions) that were given to him by the Father. Messiah is pointing out that since they don’t obey the original instructions, they will have a very difficult time obeying His words – because they are one and the same.
As previously mentioned, there are far too many instances of the belief is obedience truth to list in one teaching. One will find numerous examples of this throughout both Old and New Testaments, including the writings of Sha’ul (Paul). Let’s take one final example from Paul’s letter to those who obey the Messiah in Rome. Obedience is how Paul defines those that have been set-apart from unbelievers. In fact, Paul directly equates the belief (G#4100) with obedience (G#5218) in his opener to the Romans. In Romans 1:5-6:
5. “…through whom we have received favour and office of the emissary for belief-obedience among all the nations on behalf of His Name,
6. among whom you also are the called ones of יהושע Messiah.”
Again, there are so many examples that an entire book could be written commentating on some of them. Hopefully, the brief examples above help the reader to be able to understand this principle and gain a more in-depth understanding of their study of the Scriptures. We believe that as the student of truth applies this to their study of scripture, it will add depth of meaning to the entirety of the book and a realness/tangibility to all of its truthful principles.
Biblical quotes & Strong’s Concordance information sourced from BibleHub.com
Scripture quoted from “The Scriptures” (ISR 1998) Version