Session 2

What is faith?

To be saved requires faith in Jesus. How do we know if we have saving faith?

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Session 2 ... transcript

What is faith?

The original New Testament writings were delivered to us in Greek. 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.

In 1 Corinthians chapter 12 there is a list of nine "gifts" of the Holy Spirit. The third on the list is "faith" (Greek: PISTIS). (1 Cor 12:8-10). God gives the gift of faith. God empowers us to believe, and to do works of faith.

In Galatians chapter 5 there is a list of nine attributes of the believer that are the "fruit" of the Holy Spirit (Gal 5:22-23). 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. 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?" The answer (according to the Bible): Whoever believes in Jesus will come into 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). For this reason, it is my opinion that the verses should best be translated not as “whoever believes in Jesus …”, but as “whoever is believing in Jesus …”

The state of belief starts at some point, but it is to continue. It’s a process, a progression.

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." (Proverbs 4:18). Just like a tiny bud on a branch, it doesn't look like much at first. But, it's enough. It's conception. It's an awakening. It's like pregnancy. You are either pregnant, or you aren't. You either have faith, or you don't. A tiny amount of faith is enough. The seed has been planted.

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 Jesus. The Bible says "we are being transformed into His image, from glory to glory" (2 Corinthians 3:18). It's ongoing. It's growing … and maturing.

In Hebrews chapter 11, we find what some say is a definition of faith. "Faith is the assurance of what is hoped for, the conviction of things not seen" (Heb 11:1). "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. 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).

It is a work of the Spirit of God. When you make the choice to believe in Jesus then you receive the Holy Spirit. Why? Why receive the Holy Spirit at that point? The Bible says that we are “purified” (in God's sight) through faith in Jesus (Acts 15:9). And in this cleansing it is possible for us have what is holy come and dwell in us.

What a privilege! It's good news for fallen people. Good news. What the Bible calls “the Gospel”.

In the next session, we'll examine "What is the Gospel?" And by that, we mean: What does the Bible say is the Gospel?