What is faith?
Download supporting notes for this session »
Next: Session 3 ... What is the gospel? »
Session 2 ... transcript
What is faith?
The New Testament was originally written in Greek, because Greek was the most widely spoken language in the world at that time.
The Greek word for "faith" in the New Testament is 'PISTIS'. It is also translated into English as "belief".
Faith in Jesus is what pleases God.
The opposite, "unbelief" ('APISTIS'), displeases God. Unbelief is not trusting in God.
At 1 Corinthians chapter 12 (verses 8-10), we find a list of nine "gifts" of the Holy Spirit. The third on the list is "faith" (Greek: Pistis).
God gives us the gift of faith. God empowers us to believe, and to do works of faith.
At Galatians chapter 5 (verses 22-23), we find a list of nine attributes of the believer that are the "fruit" of the Holy Spirit.
The seventh on the list is "faith" ... the same Greek word: Pistis. It is translated "faithfulness" in most English Bibles. In other words, real faith is evidenced by faithfulness.
There is the matter of receiving something from God - free and unmerited - and there is the response from the believer - a going on, maturing, transformation into the image of Jesus, as the person stays attached to Jesus, in faith.
One Greek word (pistis), but it has two meanings ... faith and faithfulness. Not one or the other. Both.
Faith is a gift. And faith is a fruit.
Fruit grows. You don't see anything on the branch, but God's life-force is at work, out of sight. Then a bud appears, a flower, then it turns into something completely different. And it grows, and ripens, and becomes sweet.
That is what happens to you spiritually, with faith, when you believe in Jesus.
We have asked the question: "What must I do to be saved?" "What must I do to receive eternal life?"
Answer: Whoever believes in Jesus will have eternal life. (See John 3:15; 3:16; 3:36; 5:24; 6:40; 11:25; Acts 13:38-39; 1 John 5:1).
The word "believes" is critical to an understanding of what the Bible says about salvation. It is a verb. It is an action word.
The root of the word is the Greek for belief or faith or faithfulness ... PISTIS.
The form of the word in these verses is translated "... whoever believes ..." in most English Bibles. In the original Greek text it is: "Pistevon". It is in the Aorist tense. It is the present participle active. In simple English: It is present continuous. In other words, it is whoever "believes" (present tense, believes now), "and continues in a state of belief, or faith and trust" in God, in Jesus, will have eternal life."
Meet the condition (believe in Jesus), and remain in a state of believing in Jesus, and you receive the promise (eternal life).
The Bible says that "the path of the righteous is like the first gleam of dawn that shines brighter and brighter until the full light of day.
Just like a tiny bud on a branch, it doesn't look like much at first. But, it's enough. It's an awakening. It's conception.
It is like pregnancy. You are either pregnant, or you aren't. You either have faith, or you don't.
A tiny bit of faith is enough. At first, you don't know much, you don't understand completely, but the power of God is at work in you. You start a journey, where you are transformed little by little into the image of Jesus ... as you stay in faith in Him. The Bible says "we are being transformed into His image, from glory to glory".
It's ongoing. It's a growing. It's a maturing.
At Hebrews chapter 11, verse 1, we find what some believe is a definition of faith. "Faith is the assurance of what is hoped for, the conviction of things not seen."
"Assurance". That's a strong word.
But the Bible says, "Serve faithfully (ongoing), and you will grow and gain great assurance in your faith" (1 Timothy 3:13).
Hebrews chapter 11, verse 1 is not a definition of faith. It is a declaration of what faith does. The chapter goes on to describe people who trusted God through the toughest trials.
Faith produces fruit ... naturally. Slowly, but surely.
Relax. If you believe in Jesus, and stay attached to Jesus, you can be sure that He is at work in you. And He will complete what He began. (Philippians 1:6)
In the next session, we'll examine "What is the Gospel?"