What is Biblical Faith?

The fact that the primary dictionary definition, the popular understanding, and the biblical meaning are no longer in agreement leads me to believe that the meaning of this word is in transition. I suggest that it is time to consider revising our speech and Bible translations to better reflect the biblical intent, rather than risk misleading our audience (or deluding ourselves).

Certainly our enemy would prefer to have people believe that Christianity is based on a belief without evidence and not a conviction based on evidence over time, that the word of God is trustworthy.

The distinction between the contemporary understanding and the biblical intent is seen quite clearly in the well know verse, John 14:1:

“Do not let your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in me.”

In the popular understanding of “belief” this verse seems backwards. Why would Jesus have based believing on Himself whom His audience could see, on a God who they could not see? Shouldn’t it have been the other way around? Does it make sense to understand this verse as saying “You believe in God without evidence, therefore accept me without examining my claims?”

Of course not. Jesus is saying “You have placed your confidence in God because He has repeatedly proven Himself to Israel. Likewise I have demonstrated to you over and over again that I am the christos—the king God ordained to deliver you—now rely on me in the same way.”

It is this meaning that we see in the Hebrews 11:1: Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. Faith here should not be understood as acceptance without proof, but as confidence based on the evidence of God’s past dealing with his people. A history which the author proceeds to delineate. It is this that engenders the loyalty which the rest of the chapter demonstrates. It is also this type of confidence which the demons hold without leading to loyalty. Which leads us to our next point.

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6 thoughts on “What is Biblical Faith?

  1. It is interesting to read Hebrews 11 in light of your discussion. Verse 13 seems to nicely coincide with your thoughts.

    These all died in faith (loyalty), not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.

    Years ago, the passage from verses 13-16 of this chapter helped clarify for me the importance of leaving behind my loyalty to my earthly country and putting my allegiance with the Kingdom of God.

  2. Thank you John, that is a good point that I missed. One of the signs that a new idea is on the right track is that it gives back more than you put into it. In this case we can clearly see that their confession to be strangers and pilgrims was directly the result of their “pisteuo.” “Died in faith” does not make this near a clear as; “died in loyalty” or “died being loyal…”

    I need to emphasize that this is a journey that we are on, to understand scripture. I do not claim to have arrived at the truth, only to being sincere in its pursuit. This is why I started the post with the definition of intellectual humility.

    Again, thank you for sharing you insight. I hope others will follow you example.

  3. Pingback: October Blog Challenge: Faithfulness | Christian Bloggers

  4. Excellent, Chris! I couldn’t agree more–the new testament understanding of faith is concerned with allegiance/loyalty, not mere mental assent.

    For some time, I’ve been intrigued with John 2:23-24, where many had faith in Jesus’ name, but He did not commit Himself, or have faith in them, because He knew all. Not only is this an interesting addition to your question “Does God Have Faith in Us?” it also serves as a commentary on popular understandings of “faith” today–many will profess “belief” but without allegiance.

    Authentic faith is always . . . faithful. It’s that simple. May He find us faithful!

  5. Thank you Helos, and James. Please pray for me, my loyalty/faith is going to be tested this morning. While I think I am willing, I really don’t want it to cost me a job that I have been praying for. I will update this evening.

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