Question: "What is a believer?"
Answer: In the New Testament, the word believer is used for a person who is convinced that Jesus is the Messiah and the author of salvation. The Greek word usually translated “believer” or “believing” carries the idea of faithfulness and loyalty (John 20:27; Acts 16:1; 2 Corinthians 6:15). A believer is one who faithfully trusts in Jesus Christ.
A believer is one who has received the truth that Jesus Christ is the Son of God into their hearts, resulting in a new creation (John 1:12; 2 Corinthians 5:17). A believer does more than hear Jesus’ words and accept what He said about God; a believer allows the information to change him (see John 2:23–24). Saving faith is more than mental acceptance of the facts regarding Christ; it involves repentance and unreserved commitment to Him. True believers are those who hear the Word of God, believe it in their hearts, and recognize the value of the message to the extent that they take up their crosses to follow Jesus (Luke 9:23; 14:26–33).
In the Bible, believers were also called disciples. A disciple is one who actively pursues becoming like the one he or she admires. The disciples of Jesus were so committed to becoming like Him that their detractors began calling them “little Christs,” or “Christians” (Acts 11:26). The unbelievers may have meant the term as an insult, but such a name is the highest compliment believers can receive. Our goal as believers is to be “little Christs” in our words, actions, and values (Romans 8:29).
Sadly, the term Christian has lost most of its meaning in our secular world. It has come to mean one’s religious preference, akin to Buddhist, Muslim, or atheist. Today, many people call themselves “Christians” or “believers,” but the label has more to do with culture or upbringing than true faith in Christ. Not so in the first century. Believers lived quite differently from their unbelieving peers. They may have come from any number of wicked pasts, but they had been redeemed and transformed by the power of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:9–11). There were no cultural benefits of being a believer. To believe in Jesus of Nazareth as the promised Messiah often meant persecution, rejection, and even death (Acts 8:1; 1 Thessalonians 3:7; 2 Corinthians 4:8–10).
Believers “seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness” (Matthew 6:33). Such faith often comes at a high cost relationally, socially, financially, and even physically. Jesus warned prospective believers to “count the cost” of following Him (Luke 14:25–33). Paul warned that “everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Timothy 3:12). Believers across the world are right now suffering for their faith, just as Paul and the other apostles did. Even in nations once free, believers are facing increasing hostility toward the exercise of their faith.
A believer has many promises of God to comfort and encourage him and motivate him to greater service. A believer has experienced the new birth: “Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God” (1 John 5:1). A believer has a relationship with God that sets him free from his old life of guilt, shame, and sin (John 8:36; Romans 8:2). A believer experiences a love like no other and is empowered to love others (John 10:11; Romans 5:8; 1 John 4:11). A believer has access to God’s presence and fellowship with the Holy Spirit, who comforts, protects, leads, and guides (Ephesians 2:13, 18; Hebrews 4:16; John 14:16–18).
Jesus said, “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it” (Matthew 7:13–14). Believers are those who have found the narrow road that leads to life and remain steadfastly on it no matter who or what opposes them (John 8:31; 2 John 1:9).