What It Means to Believe Jesus
by Jonathan Parnell
"The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God." -2 Cor. 4:4
Jesus is raised from the dead, and therefore the Christian story is not just a story. It demands a response, and that response, because Jesus is raised and real, is personal—the gospel calls us to believe him.
But what exactly is faith? What does it mean to believe Jesus?
Because Jesus is a person, a real person who has been raised from the dead, he has intangible, aesthetic qualities that faith comprehends.
Even on the level of our common relationships, when we talk about putting our faith in someone, we mean that we deem the qualities of that person worthy of our trust. Trusting someone—believing that person—inevitably taps into our affections. This is why it hurts so much when the object of our trust doesn’t pan out like we hoped. Relying upon someone involves the heart.
Two passages in the Bible stand out when it comes to faith in Jesus and to our affections. The first is from Paul in 2 Corinthians. In the context of describing his ministry, Paul mentioned the negative effect of his preaching. It wasn’t always so cheery when he talked about Jesus. There were some folks who didn’t get it. They might have heard what he said, but they were oblivious to its magnitude. He wrote, “In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God” (4:4).
In the eighteenth century, the American theologian Jonathan Edwards commented on this verse: “Nothing can be more evident, than that a saving belief of the gospel is here spoken of, by the apostle, as arising from the mind being enlightened to behold the divine glory of the things it exhibits.”
Translation: faith comes from seeing the worthiness of Jesus.
Paul said that those who do not believe the gospel fail to see Jesus for who he is. Edwards, therefore, inferred that those who do believe the gospel must see Jesus for who he is.
According to Paul, believing is “seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God” (2 Corinthians 4:4). Faith is getting the glory of Jesus. It’s when it clicks. It’s when people see his character and qualities and say, “Yes!”
Believing in Jesus is the affectional embrace of Jesus as worthy and glorious.
Excerpted from Never Settle for Normal: The Proven Path to Significance and Happiness Copyright © 2017 by Jonathan Parnell. Published by Multnomah, an imprint of the Crown Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House LLC.
Jonathan Parnell is the lead pastor of Cities Church in Minneapolis and author of Never Settle for Normal: The Proven Path to Significance and Happiness. He is a graduate of The College of Southeastern and Bethlehem College and Seminary and has served as a longtime writer for John Piper’s DesiringGod.org. He and his wife, Melissa, and their seven children live near Minneapolis. Find out more information at www.jonathanparnell.com.