What is Faith?

We Christians are to live by faith, and we know that faith plays the staring role (from our end) in salvation…so what is it exactly?

The Greek word for faith is pistis.  When doing apologetics, you will find that many non-believers do not know that to really grasp some of the scripture, you need to return to the original language in which they were written.  This is one reason why the concept of faith is misunderstood amongst non-believers; they try to use a modern English definition for “faith.”

When we go to the Greek, the word takes on different meaning.  Pistis is a noun, it means to trust something/someone with great confidence.  One of the problems in our Bibles is that the translators used the word “believe” for a derivative of pistis; Pisteuo. Everyone should be able to see the same root there; Pistis is faith, and Pisteuo should be the verb form of faith; to faithe, faithes, faithing, etc…  Instead, the translators rightly chose a word in English that actually existed; however, in English “believe” does not get the point across as “faithe” would.  So, sometimes we can mentally “correct” the translations as we read.

John 6:29 Jesus answered and said unto them, This is the work of God, that ye believe (Pisteuo; that ye faithe) on him whom he hath sent.

Notice, it isn’t “believe” as in head knowledge only, it is trust with confidence.  It also does not mean “blind” trust.  We humans do not truly trust something with great confidence without evidence.  We just don’t do it.  To have confidence in something we want evidence.

The Christian faith is not blind in the least.  We have logical and philosophical reasons for faith in Jesus, we have objective evidence that anyone can observe and study, we have “subjective” evidence that is personal to ourselves, but that we can indeed share with others, we have historical evidence, archaeological evidence, evidence that stems from nature, evidence that stems from ancient writings, etc… etc… etc…

The Greek word pistis does not, in any way, have the idea of “blind” faith within its meaning.  Now, my pastor, Dr. Gene Scott used to define faith in an easy to remember manner, “Faith is Action based upon Belief sustained by Confidence. ABC.  And I completely agree with him, but you would have to have studied his teachings from a while to not get confused here.

To a stranger’s eye, it may seem like Doc was teaching works-based salvation; this isn’t so.  The action he is talking about refers to pisteuo being a verb.  In logic we’d put it like this: All work is an action, but not all action is a work.  We have a verb in the English “to think.”  Thinking isn’t a “work” in the Jewish “law” POV, (you can still think on sabbath as it isn’t considered a work) but it is still an action.  It is the same with faith; it is a action on our part without being a work.

Now, the other misconception amongst non-believers is that some people have faith and some do not.  This is totally wrong.  Every human being has faith.  Every single one.  Faith is a gift of God; every human has the capacity for faith, and every human exercises faith.  The catch is; What do you have faith in?  Do you trust that when you get up of a morning that when you put your feet on the floor and stand up that gravity will do its job?  That’s faith.  Do you trust that the sun, baring a sci-fi movie type cataclysm, will rise in the East?  That’s faith.

Everyone has faith; it is the object of that faith that becomes important.  God knows that we have faith in other things, but what He wants is supreme faith in Himself over all other things.  I love my family; I have faith in them, but they are not God, and are not the number one recipients of my faith.  I know that they all have faith in me, but I also know that I am not the numero uno recipient of faith from their side of things; God is.

When doing apologetics it is very important to have an understanding of the word faith, its role in salvation, and what it means.  God wants faith, it is what He is looking for from us; utter confidence in Him, and the work of Jesus Christ.  Don’t ever let someone try to convince you that Christianity is a blind faith; they are completely wrong on that score.  Don’t ever let someone try to convince you that they don’t have faith; that’s wrong too.  We all have faith, and what it will boil down to is what/who do you place your faith in/on.

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15 Comments

Filed under Apologetics, Atheism, Theology

15 responses to “What is Faith?

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  9. Good word. Were a follower of GS? The following is insightful regarding the fact that in the 1500’s the English verb for faith – faithe, or past tense verb, faitheth’ stopped being used and the word belief was substituted in its place. Back then belief was closer to faith in its meaning, then in time moved toward a mental process, away form the action form of the word faith, as stated:

    2. The difference between the Greek words for believe and faith in the New Testament

    In the New Testament, the Greek word for “faith” can be found 241 times in the noun form (Greek: pístis), which we translate into the English word “faith”; and 240 times in the verb form (Greek: peítho), which we translate into the English word “believe,” within the English translation of the New Testament the word believe is used as a synonym for faith.

    However, if the English word for belief is mere mental assent which is different than the English word for faith which goes beyond mental assent and produces action why is there this contradiction in the use of these two terms–

    In the King James Bible (KJB), in the book of John the verb form of Greek word for faith pisteuo is not translated into the English word “faith,” but rather the English word “believe,” which has a different meaning today. While the verb pisteuo, translated into the English “believe” comes from the Greek noun pístis, which is translated into the English word “faith,” and while in the Greek the words are synonyms, in the English the words faith and believe are not synonyms.

    The reason why the word “believe” is utilized in the book of John as the verb form of faith, which in the English are two separate words, with different meanings is that in the late fifteenth century, just prior to the production of the KJB, there was a verb form of the word faith, known as “faithe,” which fell out of usage in the English. And back then the English word for belief was similar to the word faith so they simply used the next closest thing to faith, which was belief.

    However, over time the word believe has come to mean something different that the word faith – believe has changed and come to mean mere mental assent – as seen in English dictionaries. NOW, believe and belief mean a mental process only, which is different than it was in the 16th century.

    This is why the book of John using the same Greek word which means faith in the Greek, means belief in the English NOW.

    see the following if it helps:

    http://faithbibleministriesblog.com/2013/07/06/how-to-be-saved-2/

    Thanks for you ministry, Brent

    • I meant “Were you a follower of GS” I miss him. bb

    • Kliska

      Yes, Doc was my pastor since I was five. Never actually got to go to his church out in Cali, but watched him a lot, and owe my approach to teaching this stuff to him! Thanks for your time to define faith. That is one of the biggest issues this generation has; they misunderstand what that really means.

      Grace and Peace to you.

  10. Good to hear from another kid of Doc’s. I lived in Orange county Californian in the 80’s. I too watched him night and day on Festival of Faith; I was even blessed with going to Faith Center and Los Angeles University Cathedral. I was a Kinghouse who loved his teacher. Before running into Doc, I was a pastor in northern Nevada with the Assemblies of God churches, part of the same division as Doc.

    We were lucking to have a teacher to impart our understanding of Biblical faith. Part of the insert I sent to you regarding the history of how the verb form of faith was stopped came from Holman Bible Dictionary. It is nice to be able to show people from a mainline Christianity source information concerning faith and how the bird, the devil has attempted to change word meanings to distort the understanding of faith regarding it’s Biblical meaning.

    There are many out there trying to earn what no man can, wasting their lives trying ti stay saved, impotent, keeping their focus on the wrong things, rather than Christ and living a life trusting that He is in total control of our lives.

    Holman’s ISBN # 1-55819-053-8; page 469. Their section on faith is the best I have seen, they must have been listing to Gene. Good to share with you, Brent Bolin (brentbolin@faithbibleministries.com)

    • Kliska

      Awesome, thank you! I always appreciate any links to references that link to what Doc was teaching, as it is hard to find. Doc was one of those preachers that seem to come around only once in a generation, and he caused people to either love him or hate him… as he always said the same word can bring life to some and death to others. I truly miss him every single day and wish that I could hear him talk about all the news items like back in the day. I was lucky that my family had satellite TV living in the midwest, and some of my favorite childhood memories involve listening to Doc, which means those memories are about Bible teachin’.

      Glad to meet you as well!

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