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