What is Faith?
The question of being saved by faith comes up quite often when
the plan of salvation. Some people say that faith in Christ is all one needs
to be saved. They say that once you believe in the truthfulness of the
salvation that Christ offers you are saved and nothing more is needed to
enter into the Kingdom of God. The plan of salvation is simple, but not that
simple. Faith is just the beginning.
Let's start with the meaning of faith as used in the New Testament. I am
relying on the Strong's Concordance and Vine's dictionary for these
definitions and Webster's dictionary for the meanings of English words. The
word faith used in the New Testament is always used with one of two
different meanings. The first one we will talk about is used in Matthew
8:26. Leading up to this verse, Christ and his disciple are in a ship when a
storm hit them. The disciples are scared and awaken Christ saying, "Lord,
save us: we perish." Christ's reply to them is, "Why are ye fearful, O ye of
little faith?" It is used four other times in the New Testament in a similar
way, talking about a lack of faith.
The Strong's number for the definition is 3640. The Greek word used is
oligopistos. This comes from the Greek words oligos which means puny in the
extent of degree, number, duration or value. Words such as almost, briefly,
few, short, small, and a while, are used as meanings of the word. This is
combined with the word pistos. This means trustful, believing, faithful,
sure, true. So the complete meaning comes out to be "lacking confidence; of
With this in mind, let us look at the use of the word in Matthew 14:31. We
will begin our reading in verse 23 of this chapter and read through verse
Peter saw Christ walking on the water in the midst of high waves and strong
winds. At first they thought it was a spirit and they cried out for fear.
Christ spoke to them and calmed their fears. Then Peter said to Christ,
"Lord, if it be thou, bid me come unto thee on the water." Christ told him
to "Come". Peter stepped down OUT OF THE SHIP ONTO THE WATER. This is in a
sea of waves and winds. Can you imagine the amount of faith this would take?
These disciples were mostly fishermen, men that knew what the sea could do
to them. Again, I ask you, "Can you imagine the faith needed to step out
onto the water?"
When he got on the water he began to walk toward Jesus. In other words he
took steps and moved toward Jesus. He WALKED on water. But, he lost site of
his goal, to reach Jesus. He let the things of the world intrude into his
thoughts. He saw the wind blowing. He became afraid and started to sink into
the sea. He was afraid. He was being lost, sinking, needing saved. But, wait
a minute. Wasn't he safe on the ship before? To be safe again, he cried out
for help. He cried saying, "Lord, save me."
What was Christ's response? He immediately stretched forth his hand, and
caught him. The only thing Jesus said at this time that is recorded for us
to consider is "O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?" In this
case little faith is not referring to the amount of faith. The definition of
doubt comes from the Greek word distazo; to waver or doubt. If you have
doubt, you do not have faith. Faith is an antonym of doubt. In this case,
Peter had faith, lost it, and Jesus had to bring him back to safety.
Have you ever stumbled and questioned the truthfulness of the Gospel? Have
you ever ask Christ for help, to save you?
Now, let us take a look at the other Greek word used for faith in the New
Testament. The Strong's number for this one is 4102. The word is pistis.
This comes from the Greek word peitho which means to convince, to pacify, to
conciliate, to assent, to rely by inward certainty, have confidence, be
confident, to obey, persuade, trust, and yield. The meaning of pistis is
listed as: credence, conviction of religious truth or the truthfulness of
God or a religious teacher, especially reliance upon Christ for salvation.
It includes the constancy in such profession and by extension , the system
of religious truth itself - with assurance, belief, faith and fidelity.
We all can understand the concepts and the meanings of these words. The
ideas of inward certainty, have confidence, conviction of religious truth,
and reliance upon Christ for salvation are all ideas we have embraced
already. (I hope). However, I would like to bring your attention to two
words in particular, to obey, and fidelity. If we are to have a faith that
carries with it obedience and fidelity, that means we must do something.
That is why, when people are faced with the truth and they recognize that
they do believe in the saving grace of God, they say; "What must we do?"
Next, what is obedience?
Study prepared by Kim Reynolds
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