By Daniel Bobinski
Note: In March of 2020 I decided to use this space to focus on God’s greatest command. If you’re connecting with this series for the first time and would like to read the earlier columns on this topic, I encourage you to visit Christian Living’s website to read the whole series. Visit https://www.christianlivingmag.com/columns/
We’re continuing the final stretch of our study on how the Apostle Paul defines agape (ah-GAH-pay). Agape is Koine Greek for the English word “love” that Jesus used when He told us to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, and mind, and to love our neighbors as ourselves. Over the past few years we’ve reviewed almost all the words and phrases used by the Apostle Paul as he defines agape in 1 Corinthians 13 (starting with love is patient, love is kind, etc.), and we have just a few left.
In this installment we’re looking at the word that most often gets translated as believes. The Greek word is pisteuō (pronounced pist-yoo’-o). It’s translated as love “always believes” in just about every translation, but a few different takes on the word exist. Those are the New International Version (which uses “love always trusts”) and the New Living Translation (which uses “love never loses faith”). Every other translation uses the word “believes.”
This makes sense, because of the 247 times the word pisteuō is used in the New Testament, 239 of those times it gets translated as “believes.” The thing that I first want to point out is what is meant by pisteuō, and for that I want to lean on the translation we find in the New International Version: Love always trusts.
It’s one thing to look at a chair and say you believe it will hold you up. But if you don’t sit down in the chair because deep down you’re concerned about its sturdiness, then your statement of belief is rather hollow. Let me offer a different example.
The Story of the Acrobat
In the 1800’s, a French acrobat named Jean François Gravelet, better known as Monsieur Charles Blondin, became known as the man who could cross Niagara Falls on a tightrope. In fact, he crossed Niagara Falls on a tightrope more than 300 times.
Balancing for Blondin was like a gift from God. Not only did he walk the rope by himself, he would walk backwards and even cross with a bag over his head. He would carry people on his back while he did it. He even pushed a wheelbarrow across on the tightrope.
Legend has it that one time after Blondin pushed a wheelbarrow across the tightrope, someone in the crowd praised him, saying, “I believe you can take anything across the falls.” To that, Blondin is alleged to have responded, “If you believe that, get into the wheelbarrow and I will take you across.” As one might imagine, the onlooker declined.
That story illustrates the difference between “believing” something can happen and “trusting” something can happen. If the onlooker had true pisteuō, he would have gotten into the wheelbarrow. In other words, saying you believe in something is one thing; believing to the point of trusting your life with it is something completely different.
It is interesting to know that one of the most famous verses in the world also uses pisteuō, and that’s John 3:16.
“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”
The word believes in that verse is pisteuō. If we use “trusts” instead of “believes,” it sounds like this:
“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever trusts in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”
It’s like getting into a wheelbarrow that Jesus is pushing because we truly pisteuō Him. It’s like saying, “I trust You with my life, Jesus – take me where You want me to go.” That concept stands in stark contrast to what demons might say, and it’s why we need to be careful when we hear someone say the phrase, “I believe in Christ.” After all, Satan and his minions believe that Christ exists, but they don’t put their trust in Him. They don’t pisteuō.
The Command to Trust
With this concept in mind, we can look at the command to “love the Lord” and say pisteuō the Lord. We can trust Him and rely on Him 100%. Remember, that is not a suggestion; it’s a command. And Jesus said that loving the Lord is the greatest command.
Naturally, the second-most important command is to love our neighbors as ourselves. However, that begs the question, can I really trust and rely on myself? It’s a fair inquiry, and I recommend that people not trust in the flesh because the flesh is weak. With that being true, then how can we pisteuō our neighbors “like ourselves?”
My answer is only mine, but I believe if I have invited the Holy Spirit into my life, then I can rely on and trust the Holy Spirit living inside of me to work God’s will in my life. I can pisteuō myself because I am already dead to self and alive in Christ. And, combined with the agape attribute of patience, I can also trust (or pisteuō) “my neighbors” – who are the rest of mankind. I can trust that by praying and trusting God to use me in the way He wants, then the people with whom we interact are the people God has decided to place in my path.
Out of all of this, I believe the most important part is to regularly trust God 100% that He has you in his wheelbarrow and He is not going to let you fall. And as this passage says, always do that.
Dr. Daniel Bobinski is an award-winning and best-selling author and a popular speaker at conferences and retreats. Reach him at [email protected] or (208) 375-7606.