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John 14

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1 "Do not let your hearts be troubled; believe in God, believe also in me."

 

Commentary

Jesus appeals to faith throughout his "Upper Room Discourse."  His comforting  "Let not your hearts be troubled" clearly relates to the situation Jesus has previously described (13:33), in which He will soon depart to a place where the Disciples cannot follow.  This impending separation from their Master not only causes them to grieve, but also calls into question all the ideas they have harbored about Jesus' impending Messianic reign (cf., Luke 22:31ff).  More specifically, Jesus' comments here link back to Peter:  his faith is soon to be shattered, and the other Disciples will flee and hide when Jesus is taken in the Garden.

Jesus offers pastoral consolation and comfort to his confused companions.  The path leading away from the tumult in their hearts lies in the second half of this verse:  "Trust God; trust also in Me."  It is their faith - both in God and in their Master - that will see them through the agony of Gethsemane and despair of the Cross.  Commentators differ on the specific force of pisteu˘ in this verse - imperative, indicative, or both.  It could be rendered, "You trust in God and you trust in me," though this does not seem to fit the context in which the reason the disciples' hearts were in turmoil was due to their lack of trust.  It could also be translated as both indicative and imperative: "You trust in God, trust also in me."  This fits the context somewhat better.  In this case, Jesus is inviting his disciples to extend the object of their faith beyond the God they have known in the past to include Jesus as well; but, as Carson notes, "it is not clear, from their troubled hearts, that their trust in God is very secure at this point" (Carson, p. 488).  Finally, both clauses may be rendered as imperatives:  "Trust in God, trust also in me" (NIV).  I believe this translation fits the context best.  Jesus enjoins the Disciples to have faith in both God and Himself, so that their hearts may find comfort - for just as God's Word is true, so is Jesus'.  Thus, His departure is for a purpose (v. 2-4), He will not leave them alone (v. 16), and He will return (vv. 3, 18).

Regardless of the specific force, Jesus equates Himself to the Father as the proper object of the Disciples' faith.  While pisteu˘ refer generally to faith or trust in people or in the Gospel, in this context, it can only mean religious devotion of the true God.  The chaistic structure (in which pisteu˘ begins and ends the clause; see Grammatical Analysis, below) strengthens the idea that whatever faith the Disciples place in God, they should place this same faith in Jesus:

"The simultaneous injunction of faith in God and in Christ under the same conditions implies the divinity of Christ (pisteutete eis).  The belief is "in Christ" and not in any propositions about Christ (Westcott, p. 200).

The inclusion of Jesus as an appropriate object of faith is, as Carson say, "almost inevitable:"

If Jesus invariably speaks the words of God and performs the acts of God (5:19ff), should he not be trusted like God?  If he tells his followers not to let their hearts be troubled, must it not be because he has ample and justifiable reason? (Carson, p. 488).

Ultimately, Jesus' appeal to His Disciples is to continue to believe in Him as they have God - a theme He expands in what follows (vv. 10ff).  But here He asks them specifically to trust that He will not leave them forever, but will keep His promise that they (and we!) may join Him in the Place He has prepared.

Grammatical Analysis pisteuete eiV ton qeon, kai eis eme pisteuete

PISTEUTE EIS TON THEON, KAI EIS EME PISTEUETE

believe in (the) God, also in me believe.

PISTEUď (4100)

  • "to believe," also "to be persuaded of," and hence, "to place confidence in, to trust," signifies, in this sense of the word, reliance upon, not mere credence (Vine).
  • Formally in the NT, as in Greek usage, pisteu˘ denotes reliance, trust, and belief...Distinctive is the use of pisteuein with eis, which has the new and strong sense of "believing in" and arises in the context of the church's mission (TDNT).
  • believe (in), trust of relig[ious] belief in a special sense, as faith in the Divinity that lays special emphasis on trust in his power and his nearness to help, in addition to being convinced that he exists and that his revelations or disclosures are true.  In our lit[erature] God and Christ are objects of this faith ( BAGD).

The second half of this verse is an example of a chiasmPisteuete (A) eis (B) ... eis (B') Pisteuete (A').

Other Views Considered

Jehovah's Witnesses

 

The Watchtower's New World Translation renders the second half of this verse, "exercise faith in God, exercise faith in me."  Some Evangelical apologists have suggested that the NWT adds the word "exercise" in this verse without warrant.

 

Response:  Though the word "exercise" appears nowhere in the Greek, it was probably added by the NWTTC to emphasize what it saw as the imperative aspect of the verb pisteu˘.  While the result is a somewhat wooden paraphrase, and there are better ways to bring out the imperative force (e.g., the NIV and NASB), I would not object overmuch to the NWT's rendering of this verse.  Whether the NWTTC has remained true in this verse to its stated purpose of avoiding paraphrase is another matter.

 

A larger issue for Jehovah's Witnesses, however, is Jesus' command to "exercise faith" in Him to the same extent, and in the same context, as one "exercises faith" in God.  If Jehovah's Witnesses were to follow Jesus' command, they would be exercising towards a created being the same kind of faith they have in God.  It is important to note, as Westcott's comments (quoted above) make clear:  Jesus is not saying to have faith in His works, nor have faith in Him because He represents the Father; He simply equates faith in Him with faith in His Father.  In the context of salvation, this equation can only mean that Jesus is making Himself equal with His Father as the ultimate Savior and Redeemer of God's children - a role exclusively held by YHWH in the OT revelation.

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