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5. What is Biblical "Faith" ?

  The Bible word "faith" is one of the most misunderstood words in the Scriptures.

   The truth concerning this word "faith" is MOST IMPORTANT to Christian growth and success in the Christian life. Most people seem to think of "faith" as simply "believing". The stronger you can "believe", the more "faith" you are having.

   People say "I sure wish I had your faith", and "just have faith", as if Biblical faith is a quality that we have control over, and that we can work up more "faith" by just "believing harder"! That misconception comes from assuming that the Bible word "faith" is a verb.

  The common word for "faith" in the New Testament is the Greek word "pistis". This word is used 244 times in the New Testament, and it is a NOUN, not a verb! "Faith", the noun, in the New Testament is a three stage process:

1. God's Word is taken into our mind through hearing or reading, and by means of the Holy Spirit.

2. God tests us on that Word which is taken in, to see if we really "believe" it.

3. When the test is passed, God makes that Word a permanent part of our human soul, and we "grow". (God's Word resident in your soul is the only thing you can take to heaven with you).

   Noun and verb examples:

  I have come to see that the English language is one of the least precise and expressive languages on planet Earth. Our English dictionary often contains 10 or more definitions for the same word. Just for example, what do I mean when I say "bark"; do I mean the noise from a dog? Is it a boat? To hurt your shin? The covering on a tree? To speak sharply and loudly? To verbally advertise?

   Not only do we have many definitions for one English word, but each usage and definition can be a noun OR verb, or some other part of speech! Bark - The noise a dog makes, can be a NOUN OR a VERB! When we tell the dog to "bark", it is a verb which tells the dog to ACT, and when we describe the dog's "bark", it is a noun describing the "thing" that the dog did.  If you work crossword puzzles, I'm sure that you are very aware of this weakness in the English language.

   Another example my wife and I recently bumped into is the word "author". We struggled with a crossword assuming that the word "author" was a noun, and we were looking for a "man's name". But, in the end, the word "author" was a VERB, meaning "to author" or write something.

   An excellent Bible example, and one that has actually spawned religious denominations, is in 1 Pet 3:21, where the Greek word "baptisma" is translated "baptism". Some religious denominations believe this verse teaches "baptismal regeneration", that the "ACT" of water baptism itself regenerates or makes a person a born again child of God.

   The Greek word "baptisma", in 1 Pet 3:21 is a NOUN, meaning the "THINGS" SIGNIFIED BY BAPTISM, it is NOT A VERB as the English reader would naturally assume! Peter is saying that "baptism doeth save us (is presently saving) ", meaning that the "things", or "Bible teachings", or "doctrines" CONCERNING baptism are now saving us.

   What are those things, or teachings that baptism signifies? We are buried with Christ, sins washed away, raised in newness of life, the great doctrines of soteriology, or salvation, these are the "things" now saving us, not the verb, the ACT of baptism! The ACT of water baptism is a beautiful ritual that outwardly PORTRAYS what God HAS ALREADY DONE for us. The REALITY is what God does , the RITUAL is what we do to publicly acknowledge what God has done.

   One of the many beauties of the Greek language of the New Testament is that the ending on the Greek word tells us the part of speech. Whether a word is a noun or verb is not up for grabs in the New Testament Greek, as it is in our English language. "Baptisma" is the noun, the things signified, and "baptizo" is the verb, meaning the "act" of baptism.

Our word "faith" is not ambiguous in the Greek:

--- "pistuo" is the VERB, meaning the "ACT of BELIEVING" and is translated 248 times in the KJV as "believe", "trust", and "commit". "Pistuo" means "to trust in and rely on".

--- "pistis", the misunderstood NOUN for "faith", used 244 times in the New Testament, means not the "act of believing", but "THE THINGS BELIEVED". "Pistis" is used two ways in the New Testament:

1. I find 30 times where "Pistis" is used for the Bible itself, the whole relm of Christian doctrine, when it is preceded by the article "the", as in Jude 3, where we are admonished to fight for "the faith " which was once for all delivered to the saints.

2. The remaining 214 uses of "pistis" speak of personal faith, the "things believed", God's Word permanently resident in the human soul.

Now, lets look at "pistis", our personal faith, "the things believed":
--- I only find ONE way for us to acquire "faith" in the New Testament, Rom 10:17, "so then faith (cometh) by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God". One way only, from hearing, reading, or being taught the Word of God. It cannot be "worked up", "bought", "desired", "prayed for", or "invoked" on someone.

--- Faith is being "measured out" by God to each of His children, Rom 12:3, 1 Cor 12:9, and 2 Cor 10:15.

--- Not everyone has Biblical faith, 2 Thess 3:2, only God's children have it.

--- We are presently "being saved" by faith and it doesn't come from us, it comes from God, Eph 2:8.

--- We grow in stages or plateaus of faith, Rom 1:17, from "faith to faith".

--- In Heb 11:1 personal faith gives us "the assurance (hupostasis) of things hoped for, and the conviction (elengkhos) of things that cannot be seen. The rest of Hebrews chapter eleven is a wonderful list of Bible heros who accomplished the things they did through the Spirit of God and the Word of God resident in their souls (faith).

--- God gives us a test on the Scriptures we take in, and the testing increases our patience (endurance), Jas 1:3.

--- Do not fight against God's testing, but let it work, that we may "be perfect (mature) and wanting (lacking) nothing". Jas 1:4, 2:22 and 26.

--- The testing of our faith is more precious to God than pure gold! 1 Pet 1:7.

--- It is our "faith", God's Word resident in our soul, that enables us to live a godly, successful, Christian life in this world full of evil, 1 Jn 5:4.

--- CHRISTIAN FAITH IS NOT BLIND There is no "blind faith" in the Christian life. Abraham, in Heb 11:17-19, and Gen 22:1-19, is an excellent example:

--- Abraham only had one child, named Isaac, when his faith (noun) was tested. Isaac, you remember, was a "miracle baby", born to Abraham and Sarah long after Sarah had passed child bearing age. The name Isaac means "laughter". Abraham fell on his face and laughed when God told him he and Sarah were going to have a son.

--- Sarah did have Isaac, at age 90. She had laughed also in Gen 18:12-15, but she denied it. --- Abraham's name means "father of many nations", and God had promised him in Gen 17:17-20, that he would be the father of a great nation. But, now at this great time of testing, he has just one son, Isaac.

--- God told Abraham in Gen 22:1-18 to take his only son, Isaac, and go to a mountain in the land of Moriah, which means "chosen of Jehovah", and to sacrifice his only son as a burnt offering to the Lord. (This is an EXTREME test of Abraham's "faith").

--- Abraham has God's Word resident in his soul. As he goes to the mountain that God had pointed out, he believes that God will either provide a substitute sacrifice and spare his son Isaac, or that God will raise him from the dead:

       a. In verse 5, Abraham told the young men that traveled with them "You stay here with the ass, and I AND THE LAD will go yonder and worship, AND COME AGAIN TO YOU".

       b. In verses 9-14, Abraham makes a wooden altar, places his only son on it, and raises the knife to slay his only son. As his hand and knife are raised, the Angel of the Lord calls out from heaven and tells him to stop.

       c. In verse 12, The Angel of the Lord says "now I know that thou fearest God, seeing that thou hast not withheld thy son" .

       d. In verse 13, Abraham looks up and sees a ram caught in a thicket by his horns, and offered the ram instead of his only son as a burnt offering to the Lord. (All the offerings and sacrifices in the Old Testament spoke of Jesus and his death on the Cross as a substitutionary sacrifice for us. God DID sacrifice His only begotten Son to save us).

       e. How was Abraham able to obey God in such an extreme test? He had God's Word resident in his soul! God had told him that he would be the father of many nations through his son Isaac. So, he could be confident in the face of extreme testing.

       f. In verse 14, Abraham named the place "Jehovah-jireh", meaning "the Lord will provide".

   The bottom line for successful Christian living: Stay in fellowship, take in God's Word, and seek to live by it. Your growing "faith" - God's Word resident in your soul - and the Spirit of God will be the strength required to live in this world filled with troubles.

   When you see the word "faith" in God's Word, or hear someone say "I wish I had your faith", remember that it is a noun, and the issue is how much of God's Word is permanently resident in the soul. This is why the psalmist, in Psalms 119:11, says "Thy Word have I hid in my heart, that I might not sin against thee".