What Does Jesus Mean “Believeth” in John 3:16?

Most have at least heard someone mention the verse John 3:16 at some point in their life. Many Christians are highly familiar with this verse as it is the basis for how we receive salvation. It tells us we are saved by the Son of God, Jesus Christ. Here we will look a little closer at this verse and others like it that give us instruction on how to receive everlasting life through our Savior and Messiah Jesus of Nazareth.

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.    John 3:16 KJV

When we look at Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible we can go back to the original word used when the Bible was written. Since this verse is found in the New Testament, the original word used is in Greek. When we look at the original Greek word used we can than look at the definition and translations ourselves and see the full meaning of this word the way it was intended when it was written.

When we see the word believeth in John 3:16 it refers us to entry G4100 in the Strong's Concordance. This entry tells us the Greek word for believeth is pisteuo. This reference also points us to other cross references which we will address in a moment. First let's look at the word pisteuo: from G4102: to have faith (in, upon, or with respect to, a person or thing), i.e. credit; by implication to entrust (especially one's spiritual well-being to Christ):-- believe, believer, commit (to trust), put in trust with.

G4102 pistis: from G3982; persuasion, i.e. credence; moral conviction (of religious truth, or the truthfulness of God or a religious teacher), especially reliance upon Christ for salvation; abstractly constancy in such profession; by extension the system of religious (Gospel) truth itself: --assurance, belief, believe, faith, fidelity.

G3982 peitho: a primary verb; to convince (by argument, true or false); by analogy to pacify or conciliate (by other fair means); reflexive or passive to assent (to evidence or authority), to rely (by inward certainty):-- agree, assure, believe have confidence, be (wax) confident, make friend, obey, persuade, trust, yield.

The dictionary definition for believe is as follows: 1) to take to be true or real 2) to have religious faith [ to believe in life after death] 3) to have trust or confidence in 4) to suppose; guess.

The word pisteuo is also used in the following verses in the same context referencing what is needed for salvation or what we are commanded to do as Christians: Mark 16:16-17, Luke 8:12, John 1:12, 3:15-16,18,36; 5:24; 6:40,47; 14:12; 16:9; 20:31, Acts 10:43; 16:31, Romans 10:9-11,and 1 Corinthians 1:21. These of course are not all the verses that give us instruction on the matter. Let's also look at a few more verses that use words other than believe and break down what the Bible defines unbelief as.

First, staying on the subject of what it means to believe in Christ, look at Acts 2:21. In this verse we address the word call.

And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved.     Acts 2:21

The Greek word used for call here is reference # G1941 epikaleomai: middle from G1909 and G2564; to entitle; by implication to invoke (for aid, worship, testimony, decision, etc.0:-- appeal (unto), call (on, upon), surname.

G1909 epi: a primary preposition properly meaning superimposition (of time, place, order, etc.); as a relation of distribution [with the genitive], i.e. over, upon, etc.; of rest (with the dative) at, on, etc. In compounds it retains essentially the same import, at, upon etc. (literally or figuratively):-- about (the times), above, after, against, among, as long as (touching), at, beside, have charge of, fore, before, wherefore, in (a place, as much as, the time of), into, (because) of, on (behalf of), upon, over, (by, for) the space of, through, throughout, to, unto, toward, with.

G2564 kaleo akin to the base of G2753; to "call" (properly aloud, but used in a variety of applications, directly or otherwise):-- bid, call (forth), (whose) name (was[called]), (whose) surname (was [called]).

G2753 keleuo from a primary kello (to urge on); "hail"; to incite by word, i.e. order;--bid, (at, give) command, commandment.

At the moment we will just stick to the definitions and then we will go over what we can gather from all of this information. The next verse we will look at is Matthew 28:20 which is part of Jesus's command to us just before He rose to sit at the right hand of God. It is also part of the Great Commission. In this verse we will define the word observe which is G5083.

Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen.    Matthew 28:20

G5083 tereo from teros (a watch; perhaps akin to G2334); to guard (from loss or injury, properly by keeping the eye upon; and thus differing from G5442, which is properly to prevent escaping; and from G2892, which implies a fortress or full military lines of apparatus), i.e. to note (a prophecy; figuratively to fulfill a command); by implication to detain (in custody; figuratively to maintain); by extension to withhold (for personal ends; figuratively to keep unmarried):-- hold fast, keep, keeper, serve, preserve, reserve, watch.

The dictionary definition for observe is as follows: 1)to keep or follow; be guided by 2) to celebrate according to custom 3) to see, watch or notice 4) to remark or comment 5)to examine and study carefully.

So we derive from these definitions of the original Greek words the New Testament was written in a better understanding of what it means to believe in Christ therefore giving us a more specific description to the requirements of salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. Before we go any further I want to firmly say this list does not mean salvation by works. We are saved by the grace of Jesus. It simply means to be saved by the grace of Jesus we must accept the gift of His grace and that there is a way this must be done. It isn't as simple as saying I believe in Jesus and going back to our same old lives.

Jesus doesn't call the qualified, but instead qualifies the called. This list is how we are qualified. He breaks us and remakes us into what He needs us to be when we meet the criteria He has commanded us to meet.

  1. We must accept Christ as our Savior. We must have faith and believe in the FACT that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, the Word made flesh, that came to earth, was crucified, and risen as a perfect Lamb of God without sin to pay our debt to the Father for our sin. Refer to G4100
  2. We must trust Christ fully with everything in our lives. What does it mean to trust or entrust our lives to Jesus? If you trust Him, then you will fear nothing but the Lord. You will let go of worries, stress, doubt, and fear of anything. This is a process not instant. You will trust in the plan He has for your life, even and especially when it doesn't line up with your own plans, hopes, and dreams. God knows what is best for us. No matter how badly you wanted that job, or a family member to be healed trust Him. Maybe you just lost everything you own. Trust Him to have something better for you. refer to G4100
  3. We must commit our lives to Him. God must be number one in our lives above everything else. Our children and spouses definitely run a very close second, but God is first. We must be in full surrender to Christ and His will for our lives. We yield ourselves to Him. We no longer belong to our selves but to God for Him to do with as He pleases. He paid a great price for us and He is our Master. We are children of the One True King. Children don't plan their life according to their own rules but according to the rules of their Father. We must surrender or yield everything to Jesus. Lay it all at His feet. Our children are no longer ours but His because He can protect them better than us. We are and have nothing without Christ. Humble and surrender ourselves before the Lord. Refer to G4100 and G3982.
  4. We must be constant in professing our faith in Jesus Christ, the Gospel and the finished work of the cross. It is not just the preachers job to tell people about Jesus. It is not one of those things you do and then barely anyone knows that you are a disciple of Christ. It is one of those things that everyone that knows you has no doubt that you are washed in the blood of the Lamb and a born-again Christian. There must be constancy in profession with the goal of persuading others to accept the truth you already know. Refer to G4102.
  5.   We must be faithful, loyal and show fidelity to the Lord. We can't worship any other gods including the idols we create in our lives such as television, Xbox, PlayStation, sports, money, and other things people tend to put before God in their life. God must come first and be the only thing that consumes us. Refer to G4102  
  6. We must rely on Him for everything with certainty in our hearts that He will provide for us and fulfill His plan for our lives. Our reliance must be on God and not on ourselves, or other sources. We are no longer independent but fully dependent on the Lord.  
  7. We must be obedient in all things to the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. If we love Him we will obey His commandments. This is referring to the law of the Spirit not the law of Moses which we will break down in a separate study. We must go and live holy lives and walk in the Spirit and not in the flesh. Grace is not an excuse to continue living in sin. If we continue to willfully live in sin we will be vomited out of the body of Christ and loose our salvation therefore our salvation depends on a change of heart away from a life of sin and dedicated to living a holy life fully surrendered to Jesus Christ. 1 John 2 tells us those that do not obey His commandments are a liar and the love of Christ is not in Him. We must be obedient.  
  8. We must actually spend time in worship with the Lord daily. We can't expect a relationship to grow if we don't nurture it. I am not speaking of your prayer time or time at church but daily putting our nose on the floor and just spending time in His presence. If you don't show up for work you don't get paid. If you spend 5 minutes a day with your spouse or children, you can't expect any kind of real relationship to be established there. We must spend time with Him in order to be where we are supposed to be in our walk. If we don't want to hear depart from me I never knew you then we need to make sure He knows us by having a relationship with Him and not treating Him like a chore or a genie we only talk to when we need to make a wish. Refer to G2564.  
  9. We must share our testimony. We must testify to what the Lord has done for us and do our part in the great commission. Refer to G1941
  10. We must decide to follow Jesus. We need to make a conscious decision to take up our cross and follow Him no matter what the cost. Refer to G1941
  11. We also have to appeal (ask) to Jesus for forgiveness. We must repent of our sins calling to Him aloud. Refer to G1941 and 2564
  12. We must hold fast and endure till the end. It isn't a one time thing. It's not a sprint. It's a marathon. If you return to a life of sin you can lose your salvation. Refer to G5083.
  13. We are to serve God with all our hearts. He is our Master. We are here to do His will not the other way around. Our lives are now dedicated to Jesus and His plans. We are now servants of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Refer to G5083  
  14. Finally, according to the very dictionary definition of the word observe found in Matthew 28:20 which is a direct command to us, we must study and examine the word of God daily to feed our spirits. Observe is defined as to study or examine. If we continually observe all things that Jesus commanded us then that means we are to study them as well. Jesus is the Word made flesh so therefore we must study the Word in order to receive our daily bread as it states in the Lord's prayer. When we look at the Bible which is the Word of God we even see scripture that tells us to study and confirms this definition. How can we grow in Christ and mature as Christians if we do not feed our spirit and study the Bible?  

As we see here there are many things involved in the act of believing in Jesus. Even the demons believe and tremble at the name of Jesus. Believing must come with evidence and embody the entire definition not just the parts we choose. Jesus wants us all or nothing. He doesn't want visitation, but full custody. Again none of these things are considered works as to say it is works salvation. These are simple requirements that must be fulfilled. When we do these things we find out many other items we must fulfill because we are born again such as water baptism and the baptism of the Holy Spirit. We are not saved by our works but by grace that comes from the finished work of Jesus at the cross and resurrection. We must however follow the steps to accept that gift. When someone gives you a gift, you take certain steps to receive it. You show up to get it. Thank the person, and unwrap it. Then you choose to take it home and keep it. These things above are simply steps you take to accept the gift of salvation Christ has for you. Just because you needed to unwrap the present you received doesn't mean you worked to receive it. It was still a gift. We all must realize that salvation is a gift but it isn't free. It costs your entire life because you surrender your life to the Master Jesus. It is no longer yours. We are no longer in control but God Almighty is in control.

We hope this has blessed you and helped someone in their walk with the Lord. May God bless you and Jesus keep you.


  1. Hi, I stumbled across this site from performing a search on “Believeth” thank you for your content, I believe I just found the gift God was always trying to give me. Bless you
    From across the pond Australia 🇦🇺
    Derek Jones.

  2. Praise God. I’m so glad you were blessed.

  3. I was studying ‘Faith’ and stumbled onto your page. I am helped tremendously.
    The nuggets from this great Devine treasure God gave you, to share are beyond words. God continue to shower you, with his riches And everything you need. Many thanks 🙏🏽

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