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Dictionaries :: Faith

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Easton's Bible Dictionary


Faith is in general the persuasion of the mind that a certain statement is true (Phl 1:27; 2Th 2:13). Its primary idea is trust. A thing is true, and therefore worthy of trust. It admits of many degrees up to full assurance of faith, in accordance with the evidence on which it rests.

Faith is the result of teaching (Rom 10:14-17). Knowledge is an essential element in all faith, and is sometimes spoken of as an equivalent to faith (Jhn 10:38; 1Jo 2:3). Yet the two are distinguished in this respect, that faith includes in it assent, which is an act of the will in addition to the act of the understanding. Assent to the truth is of the essence of faith, and the ultimate ground on which our assent to any revealed truth rests is the veracity of God.

Historical faith is the apprehension of and assent to certain statements which are regarded as mere facts of history.

Temporary faith is that state of mind which is awakened in men (e.g., Felix) by the exhibition of the truth and by the influence of religious sympathy, or by what is sometimes styled the common operation of the Holy Spirit.

Saving faith is so called because it has eternal life inseparably connected with it. It cannot be better defined than in the words of the Assembly's Shorter Catechism: "Faith in Jesus Christ is a saving grace, whereby we receive and rest upon him alone for salvation, as he is offered to us in the gospel."

The object of saving faith is the whole revealed Word of God. Faith accepts and believes it as the very truth most sure. But the special act of faith which unites to Christ has as its object the person and the work of the Lord Jesus Christ (Jhn 7:38; Act 16:31). This is the specific act of faith by which a sinner is justified before God (Rom 3:22,25; Gal 2:16; Phl 3:9; Jhn 3:16-36; Act 10:43; 16:31). In this act of faith the believer appropriates and rests on Christ alone as Mediator in all his offices.

This assent to or belief in the truth received upon the divine testimony has always associated with it a deep sense of sin, a distinct view of Christ, a consenting will, and a loving heart, together with a reliance on, a trusting in, or resting in Christ. It is that state of mind in which a poor sinner, conscious of his sin, flees from his guilty self to Christ his Saviour, and rolls over the burden of all his sins on him. It consists chiefly, not in the assent given to the testimony of God in his Word, but in embracing with fiducial reliance and trust the one and only Saviour whom God reveals. This trust and reliance is of the essence of faith. By faith the believer directly and immediately appropriates Christ as his own. Faith in its direct act makes Christ ours. It is not a work which God graciously accepts instead of perfect obedience, but is only the hand by which we take hold of the person and work of our Redeemer as the only ground of our salvation.

Saving faith is a moral act, as it proceeds from a renewed will, and a renewed will is necessary to believing assent to the truth of God (1Cr 2:14; 2Cr 4:4). Faith, therefore, has its seat in the moral part of our nature fully as much as in the intellectual. The mind must first be enlightened by divine teaching (Jhn 6:44; Act 13:48; 2Cr 4:6; Eph 1:17,18) before it can discern the things of the Spirit.

Faith is necessary to our salvation (Mar 16:16), not because there is any merit in it, but simply because it is the sinner's taking the place assigned him by God, his falling in with what God is doing.

The warrant or ground of faith is the divine testimony, not the reasonableness of what God says, but the simple fact that he says it. Faith rests immediately on, "Thus saith the Lord." But in order to this faith the veracity, sincerity, and truth of God must be owned and appreciated, together with his unchangeableness. God's word encourages and emboldens the sinner personally to transact with Christ as God's gift, to close with him, embrace him, give himself to Christ, and take Christ as his. That word comes with power, for it is the word of God who has revealed himself in his works, and especially in the cross. God is to be believed for his word's sake, but also for his name's sake.

Faith in Christ secures for the believer freedom from condemnation, or justification before God; a participation in the life that is in Christ, the divine life (Jhn 14:19; Rom 6:4-10; Eph 4:15,16, etc.); "peace with God" (Rom 5:1); and sanctification (Act 26:18; Gal 5:6; Act 15:9).

All who thus believe in Christ will certainly be saved (Jhn 6:37,40; 10:27,28; Rom 8:1).

The faith=the gospel (Act 6:7; Rom 1:5; Gal 1:23; 1Ti 3:9; Jud 1:3).

International Standard Bible Encyclopaedia



1. Etymology

2. Meaning: a Divergency

3. Faith in the Sense of Creed

4. A Leading Passage Explained

5. Remarks

6. Conclusion

In the Old Testament (the King James Version) the word occurs only twice: De 32:20 ('emun); Hab 2:4 ('emunah). In the latter the Revised Version (British and American) places in the margin the alternative rendering, "faithfulness." In the New Testament it is of very frequent occurrence, always representing pistis, with one exception in the King James Version (not the Revised Version (British and American)), Heb 10:23, where it represents elpis, "hope."

1. Etymology:

The history of the English word is rather interesting than important; use and contexts, alike for it and its Hebrew and Greek parallels, are the surest guides to meaning. But we may note that it occurs in the form "feyth," in Havelok the Dane (13th century); that it is akin to fides and this again to the Sanskrit root bhidh, "to unite," "to bind." It is worth while to recall this primeval suggestion of the spiritual work of faith, as that which, on man's side, unites him to God for salvation.

2. Meaning: a Divergency:

Studying the word "faith" in the light of use and contexts, we find a bifurcation of significance in the Bible. We may word distinguish the two senses as the passive and the active; on the one side, "fidelity," "trustworthiness"; and "faith," "trust," on the other. In Ga 5:22, for example, context makes it clear that "fidelity" is in view, as a quality congruous with the associated graces. (the Revised Version (British and American) accordingly renders pistis there by "faithfulness.") Again, Ro 3:3 the King James Version, "the faith of God," by the nature of the case, means His fidelity to promise. But in the overwhelming majority of cases, "faith," as rendering pistis, means "reliance," "trust." To illustrate would be to quote many scores of passages. It may be enough here to call attention to the recorded use of the by our Lord. Of about twenty passages in the Gospels where pistis occurs as coming from His lips, only one (Mt 23:23) presents it in the apparent sense of "fidelity." All the others conspicuously demand the sense of "reliance," "trust." The same is true of the apostolic writings. In them, with rarest exceptions, the words "reliance," "trust," precisely fit the context as alternatives to "faith." 3. Faith in the Sense of Creed:

Another line of meaning is traceable in a very few passages, where pistis, "faith," appears in the sense of "creed," the truth, or body of truth, which is trusted, or which justifies trust. The most important of such places is the paragraph Jas 2:14-26, where an apparent contradiction to some great Pauline dicta perplexes many readers. The riddle is solved by observing that the writer uses "faith" in the sense of creed, orthodox "belief." This is clear from Jas 2:19, where the "faith." in question is illustrated: "Thou believest that God is one." This is the credal confession of the orthodox Jew (the shema?; see De 6:4), taken as a passport to salvation. Briefly, James presses the futility of creed without life, Paul the necessity of reliance in order to receive "life and peace."

4. A Leading Passage Explained:

It is important to notice that Heb 11:1 is no exception to the rule that "faith" normally means "reliance," "trust." There "Faith is the substance (or possibly, in the light of recent inquiries into the type of Greek used by New Testament writers, "the guaranty") of things hoped for, the evidence (or "convincing proof") of things not seen." This is sometimes interpreted as if faith, in the writer's view, were, so to speak, a faculty of second sight, a mysterious intuition into the spiritual world. But the chapter amply shows that the faith illustrated, e. g. by Abraham, Moses, Rahab, was simply reliance upon a God known to be trustworthy. Such reliance enabled the believer to treat the future as present and the invisible as seen. In short, the phrase here, "faith is the evidence," etc., is parallel in form to our familiar saying, "Knowledge is power."

5. Remarks:

A few detached remarks may be added: (a) The history of the use of the Greek pistis is instructive. In the Septuagint it normally, if not always, bears the "passive" sense "fidelity," "good faith," while in classical Greek it not rarely bears the active sense, "trust." In the koine, the type of Greek universally common at the Christian era, it seems to have adopted the active meaning as the ruling one only just in time, so to speak, to provide it for the utterance of Him whose supreme message was "reliance," and who passed that message on to His apostles. Through their lips and pens "faith," in that sense, became the supreme watchword of Christianity.

6. Conclusion:

In conclusion, without trespassing on the ground of other articles, we call the reader's attention, for his Scriptural studies, to the central place of faith in Christianity, and its significance. As being, in its true idea, a reliance as simple as possible upon the word, power, love, of Another, it is precisely that which, on man's side, adjusts him to the living and merciful presence and action of a trusted God. In its nature, not by any mere arbitrary arrangement, it is his one possible receptive attitude, that in which he brings nothing, so that he may receive all. Thus "faith" is our side of union with Christ. And thus it is our means of possessing all His benefits, pardon, justification, purification, life, peace, glory.

As a comment on our exposition of the ruling meaning of "faith" in Scripture, we may note that this precisely corresponds to its meaning in common life, where, for once that the word means anything else, it means "reliance" a hundred times. Such correspondence between religious terms (in Scripture) and the meaning of the same words in common life, will be found to be invariable.

Written by Handley Dunelm



Torrey's New Topical Textbook

Faith: Is the Substance of Things Hoped For

Hbr 11:1

Faith: Is the Evidence of Things Not Seen

Hbr 11:1

Faith: Commanded

Mat 11:22; 1Jo 3:23

Faith: The Objects Of, Are


Jhn 14:1


Jhn 6:29; Act 20:21

Writings of Moses

Jhn 5:46; Act 24:14

Writings of the prophets

2Ch 20:20; Act 26:27

The gospel

Mar 1:15

Promises of God

Rom 4:21; Hbr 11:13

Faith: In Christ Is

The gift of God

Rom 12:3; Eph 2:8; 6:23; Phl 1:29

The work of God

Act 11:21; 1Cr 2:5


2Pe 1:1

Most holy

Jud 1:20


1Th 1:3

Accompanied by repentance

Mar 1:15; Luk 24:47

Followed by conversion

Act 11:21

Faith: Christ Is the Author and Finisher Of

Hbr 12:2

Faith: Is a Gift of the Holy Spirit

1Cr 12:9

Faith: The Scriptures Designed to Produce

Jhn 20:31; 2Ti 3:15

Faith: Preaching Designed to Produce

Jhn 17:20; Act 8:12; Rom 10:14,15,17; 1Cr 3:5

Faith: Through It Is

Remission of sins

Act 10:43; Rom 3:25


Act 13:39; Rom 3:21,22,28,30; 5:1; Gal 2:16


Mar 16:16; Act 16:31


Act 15:9; 26:18

Spiritual light

Jhn 12:36,46

Spiritual life

Jhn 20:31; Gal 2:20

Eternal life

Jhn 3:15,16; 6:40,47

Rest in heaven

Hbr 4:3


1Ti 1:4; Jud 1:20


1Pe 1:5


Jhn 1:12; Gal 3:26

Access to God

Rom 5:2; Eph 3:12

Inheritance of the promises

Gal 3:22; Hbr 6:12

The gift of the Holy Spirit

Act 11:15-17; Gal 3:14; Eph 1:13

Faith: Impossible to Please God Without

Hbr 11:6

Faith: Justification Is By, to Be of Grace

Rom 4:16

Faith: Essential to the profitable reception of the gospel

Hbr 4:2

Faith: Necessary in the Christian Warfare

1Ti 1:18,19; 6:12

Faith: The Gospel Effectual in Those Who Have

1Th 2:13

Faith: Excludes Self-Justification

Rom 10:3,4

Faith: Excludes Boasting

Rom 3:27

Faith: Works by Love

Gal 5:6; 1Ti 1:5; Phm 1:5

Faith: Produces


Rom 5:2


Act 16:34; 1Pe 1:8


Rom 15:13


Isa 28:16; 1Pe 2:6

Boldness in preaching

Psa 116:10; 2Cr 4:13

Christ is precious to those having

1Pe 2:7

Christ dwells in the heart by

Eph 3:17

Necessary in prayer

Mat 21:22; Jam 1:6

Those who are not Christ's have not

Jhn 10:26,27

An evidence of the new birth

1Jo 5:1

Faith: By It Saints


Gal 2:20


Rom 11:20; 2Cr 1:24


Rom 4:12; 2Cr 5:7

Obtain a good report

Hbr 11:2

Overcome the world

1Jo 5:4,5

Resist the devil

1Pe 5:9

Overcome the devil

Eph 6:16

Are supported

Psa 27:13; 1Ti 4:10

Faith: Saints Die In

Hbr 11:13

Faith: Saints Should

Be sincere in

1Ti 1:5; 2Ti 1:5

Abound in

2Cr 8:7

Continue in

Act 14:22; Col 1:23

Be strong in

Rom 4:20-24

Stand fast in

1Cr 16:13

Be grounded and settled in

Col 1:23

Hold, with a good conscience

1Ti 1:19

Pray for the increase of

Luk 17:5

Have full assurance of

2Ti 1:12; Hbr 10:22

Faith: True, Evidenced by Its Fruits

Jam 2:21-25

Faith: Without Fruits, Is Dead

Jam 2:17,20,26

Faith: Examine Whether You Be In

2Cr 13:5

Faith: All Difficulties Overcome By

Mat 17:20; 21:21; Mar 9:23

Faith: All Things Should Be Done In

Rom 14:22

Faith: Whatever Is Not Of, Is Sin

Rom 14:23

Faith: Often Tried by Affliction

1Pe 1:6,7

Faith: Trial Of, Works Patience

Jam 1:3

Faith: The Wicked Often Profess

Act 8:13,21

Faith: The Wicked Destitute Of

Jhn 10:25; 12:37; Act 19:9; 2Th 3:2

Faith: Protection Of, Illustrated

A shield

Eph 6:16

A breastplate

1Th 5:8

Faith: Exemplified


Num 13:30


Job 19:25

Shadrach, &c

Dan 3:17


Dan 6:10,23


Mat 16:16

Woman who was a sinner

Luk 7:50


Jhn 1:49


Jhn 4:39


Jhn 11:27

The Disciples

Jhn 16:30


Jhn 20:28


Act 6:5


Act 6:7


Act 8:37


Act 11:24

Sergius Paulus

Act 13:12

Philippian jailor

Act 16:31,34


Rom 1:8


Col 1:4


1Th 1:3


2Ti 1:5


2Ti 4:7


Hbr 11:4


Hbr 11:5


Hbr 11:7


Hbr 11:8,17


Hbr 11:20


Hbr 11:21


Hbr 11:22


Hbr 11:24,27


Hbr 11:31

Gideon &c

Hbr 11:32,33,39

Vine's Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words
1 Strong's Number: g4102 Greek: pistis


primarily, "firm persuasion," a conviction based upon hearing (akin to peitho, "to persuade"), is used in the NT always of "faith in God or Christ, or things spiritual."

The word is used of

(a) trust, e.g., Rom 3:25 [see Note (4) below]; 1Cr 2:5; 15:14, 17; 2Cr 1:24; Gal 3:23 [see Note (5) below]; Phl 1:25; 2:17; 1Th 3:2; 2Th 1:3; 3:2;

(b) trust-worthiness, e.g., Mat 23:23; Rom 3:3, RV, "the faithfulness of God;" Gal 5:22 (RV, "faithfulness"); Tts 2:10, "fidelity;"

(c) by metonymy, what is believed, the contents of belief, the "faith," Act 6:7; 14:22; Gal 1:23; 3:25 [contrast Gal 3:23, under (a)]; Gal 6:10; Phl 1:27; 1Th 3:10; Jud 1:3, 20 (and perhaps 2Th 3:2);

(d) a ground for "faith," an assurance, Act 17:31 (not as in AV, marg., "offered faith");

(e) a pledge of fidelity, plighted "faith," 1Ti 5:12.

The main elements in "faith" in its relation to the invisible God, as distinct from "faith" in man, are especially brought out in the use of this noun and the corresponding verb, pisteuo; they are

(1) a firm conviction, producing a full acknowledgement of God's revelation or truth, e.g., 2Th 2:11, 12;

(2) a personal surrender to Him, Jhn 1:12;

(3) a conduct inspired by such surrender, 2Cr 5:7. Prominence is given to one or other of these elements according to the context. All this stands in contrast to belief in its purely natural exercise, which consists of an opinion held in good "faith" without necessary reference to its proof. The object of Abraham's "faith" was not God's promise (that was the occasion of its exercise); his "faith" rested on God Himself, Rom 4:17, 20, 21.


(1) In Hbr 10:23, elpis, "hope," is mistranslated "faith" in the AV (RV, "hope").

(2) In Act 6:8 the most authentic mss. have charis, "grace," RV, for pistis, "faith."

(3) In Rom 3:3, RV, apistia, is rendered "want of faith," for AV, "unbelief" (so translated elsewhere).
See UNBELIEF. The verb apisteo in that verse is rendered "were without faith," RV, for AV, "did not believe."

(4) In Rom 3:25, the AV wrongly links "faith" with "in His blood," as if "faith" is reposed in the blood (i.e., the death) of Christ; the en is instrumental; "faith" rests in the living Person; hence the RV rightly puts a comma after "through faith," and renders the next phrase "by His blood," which is to be connected with "a propitiation." Christ became a propitiation through His blood (i.e., His death in expiatory sacrifice for sin).

(5) In Gal 3:23, though the article stands before "faith" in the original, "faith" is here to be taken as under (a) above, and as in Gal 3:22, and not as under (c), "the faith;" the article is simply that of renewed mention.

(6) For the difference between the teaching of Paul and that of James, on "faith" and works, see Notes on Galatians, by Hogg and Vine, pp. 117-119.

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