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Naves Topical Bible Dictionary

faith Summary and Overview

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faith in Easton's Bible Dictionary

Faith is in general the persuasion of the mind that a certain statement is true (Phil. 1:27; 2 Thess. 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 (John 10:38; 1 John 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 (John 7:38; Acts 16:31). This is the specific act of faith by which a sinner is justified before God (Rom. 3:22, 25; Gal. 2:16; Phil. 3:9; John 3:16-36; Acts 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 (1 Cor. 2:14; 2 Cor. 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 (John 6:44; Acts 13:48; 2 Cor. 4:6; Eph. 1:17, 18) before it can discern the things of the Spirit. Faith is necessary to our salvation (Mark 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 (John 14:19; Rom. 6:4-10; Eph. 4:15,16, etc.); "peace with God" (Rom. 5:1); and sanctification (Acts 26:18; Gal. 5:6; Acts 15:9). All who thus believe in Christ will certainly be saved (John 6:37, 40; 10:27, 28; Rom. 8:1). The faith=the gospel (Acts 6:7; Rom. 1:5; Gal. 1:23; 1 Tim. 3:9; Jude 1:3).

faith in Schaff's Bible Dictionary

FAITH . The word in the N.T. denotes (1) the truth of the gospel of Christ and the kingdom of God. Acts 6:7; Rom 1:5; Gal 1:23; 1 Tim 3:9; Jude 3 ("the faith which was once delivered to the saints"). (2) The act by which we lay hold of and appropriate the truths of the gospel and Jesus Christ, and rely for salvation upon the work done by him in our stead. This is the prevailing sense of the word. Matt 8:10; John 3:16; Rom 1:16, etc., and all through John and the Pauline Epistles. The verb corresponding to the noun "faith" is "believe." Acts 16:31. The word occurs only a few times in the O.T., but the principle is there designated by other terms, such as to "look" to God, Isa 45:22, to "wait on" him, Ps 27:14, and to "trust" in him, Nah 1:7. Abraham is "the father of the faithful," because unbounded trust in God was the very essence of his piety. Comp. Rom 4:1. Paul derives the theme of his Epistle to the Romans from the passage of Habakkuk: "The just shall live by faith." Rom 1:17; comp. Hab 2:4. The Epistle to the Hebrews gives a bright catalogue of the heroes of faith under the old dispensation. Heb 11:1 ff. The nature of saving faith is threefold. It includes a conviction of the understanding, assent of the will, and trust of the heart. The principal element of faith is trust when its object is Christ. But it is impossible for us to trust in him without first being convinced of the genuineness of his claims. We believe a thing when we are assured of its reality; in a person when we add to this assurance trust. Faith apprehends Christ, and takes actual hold of him and all his benefits. Hence he who believes in Christ has already eternal life. John 3:36. Faith is opposed to doubt, Matt 21:21, and to sight, 2 Cor 5:7. Things which are the objects of faith we do not see. Heb 11:1. The importance of faith consists in this-that without faith we cannot become partakers of the merits and righteousness of Christ. As by the hand we lay hold of a treasure, and as by the eye we perceive the beauties of scenery, so by faith we lay hold of Christ. We who come within hearing of the gospel must exercise faith in order to become heirs of salvation. By faith we "put on" Christ. It is by faith that we are justified, and not by works. The work of salvation was all accomplished when the Saviour uttered the words, "It is finished." But a living faith will be accompanied by works, as much as a rose must diffuse perfume, and a good tree bring forth good fruit. As our Lord said, "Thy faith hath made thee whole," so Paul says, "By grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God," Eph 2:8. But "faith without works is dead." Jas 2:26. Faith is operative in love. Gal 5:6. The "faith of God," Rom 3:3, means his faithfulness. FAITH'FULNESS is a divine attribute, and denotes the certainty of the accomplishment of all that the divine Being has declared. Num 23:19; Ps 89:1, Ps 89:33-34; Heb 10:23.

faith in Fausset's Bible Dictionary

Trusting commitment of one person to another, particularly of a person to God. Faith is the central concept of Christianity. One may be called a Christian only if one has faith. Our English word "faith" comes from the Latin fides, as developed through the Old French words fei and feid. In Middle English (1150-1475) "faith" replaced a word that eventually evolved into "belief." "Faith" came to mean "loyalty to a person to whom one is bound by promise or duty." Faith was fidelity. "Belief" came to be distinguished from faith as an intellectual process having to do with the acceptance of a proposition. The verb form of "faith" dropped out of English usage toward the end of the sixteenth century. Old Testament Expressions The word "faith" occurs in the Old Testament only twice in the KJV, eighteen times in the RSV, and sixteen times in the NIV. This discrepancy becomes even more interesting when we note that the RSV and the NIV agree on only five of these verses of Scripture (Deuteronomy 32:51; Judges 9:16,Judges 9:19; Isaiah 26:2; Habakkuk 2:4), and the KJV concurs with them only on the translation of Habakkuk 2:4. These differences revolve around problems with the translation of two Hebrew roots, ma'al and ‘aman. The first of these roots, ma'al, is a negative term that means "to be deceitful, treacherous, or unfaithful." The RSV, NAS, and the NIV translate this word with the phrase "broke faith" (Deuteronomy 32:51; Joshua 22:16) or with "acted unfaithfully" (Deuteronomy 32:51; Joshua 7:1). The KJV translates this root in those same verses with the word "trespass." While the Hebrew uses no single noun for "faith" in these verses, the translators have in each case rendered the sense of the Hebrew. The second root, ‘aman, is more difficult to translate because its meaning changes as it passes through the various Hebrew verb forms. There are seven such forms, but this root occurs in only three of them. In the first and most basic verb form the root means to support or nourish and is used of a parent's care for a child. In the second verb-form one encounters a range of meanings having to do with being secure. Only the third verb form was rendered with the Greek word for faith in the New Testament and in the Septuagint, an early Greek version of the Old Testament originating in Alexandria. ‘Aman expresses the idea of stability and steadfastness in this form and is translated as standing firm (Job 39:24, RSV; Isaiah 7:9 NIV), or "to trust" (a person) or "to believe" (a statement). One stands firm in one's convictions. In relationships, one trusts persons and believes their testimony or promises. Thus, we find no Hebrew noun for "faith" in the Old Testament, only verbs that have been translated with "faith" because of New Testament influence. If we do not find the noun "faith" in the Old Testament, we surely find the concept named with other words. In the Old Testament faith is described as the "fear of God" (Genesis 20:11; Psalms 111:10; Ecclesiastes 12:13; Malachi 4:2), and in terms of trust (2 Chronicles 20:20; Psalms 4:5, Isaiah 26:4), and obedience (Exodus 19:5; 1 Samuel 15:22, Jeremiah 7:23). Faith is a New Testament concept that encompasses and enriches these Old Testament concepts. The English versions of the Old Testament have translated a pair of Hebrew verbs using the noun "faith." They do so in order to express the understanding of God's relation to humanity that has grown out of the New Testament. Because the Old Testament does not have a word equivalent to the English noun, "faith," does not mean the idea of faith is unimportant for the Old Testament. Habakkuk 2:4 was properly taken by Paul as the center of Old Testament religion. God prepared the way for His people in mercy and grace, then called them to obedience. To accept the responsibilities of God's covenant was to trust His word that He alone was God and to commit one's life to His promises for the present and future. That is faith. New Testament Expressions The Greek noun, pistis (faith), is related to the verb pisteuo (I have faith, trust, believe). The noun and verb are found virtually everywhere in the New Testament, with the notable exception that the noun is absent altogether from John's Gospel and occurs only once in 1 John. The verb form does not occur in Philemon, 2 Peter, 2 and 3 John, or Revelation. Classical Greek used pistis and piseuo to mean "trust" or "confidence." In this period belief in the existence of the gods of the Greek pantheon would be expressed with the verb nomizo (to think, believe, hold, consider). In the Hellenistic period, however, both the noun and verb moved from secular to religious usage. The noun came to mean piety, and the verb took on the meaning "to believe"-a usage derived from debates with atheism in which faith required the overcoming of objections. In the New Testament "faith" is used in a number of ways, but primarily with the meaning "trust" or "confidence" in God. This basic meaning is particularly evident in the Synoptic Gospels. Mark 1:15 introduces and summarizes the Gospel with Jesus' charge to his hearers to "repent ye, and believe the gospel." (The word usually translated "believe" in this verse is the verb form of "faith" for which there is no English equivalent. The call is repeated as "Have faith in God," using the noun form, in Mark 11:22.) Thus, Jesus called His hearers to place their confidence in God. It is common in the Synoptics for Jesus to say after healing someone, "thy faith hath made thee whole" (Matthew 9:22; Mark 5:34; Luke 7:50; Luke 8:48.) One's confidence in or allegiance to God makes one whole. John expressed a similar understanding of faith in Luke 6:29 and Luke 14:1 where people are called to have faith in the Christ. The difference between John and the Synoptics is a grammatical one; John used only the verb and never the noun for faith. Outside the Gospels faith is related to the keynote concepts of the Christian message: the state of salvation (Ephesians 2:8-9), sanctification (Acts 26:18), purification (Acts 15:9), justification or imputed righteousness (Romans 4:5; Romans 5:1; Galatians 3:24), adoption as children of God (Galatians 3:26). Each of these comes by faith. As in the Gospels, faith is an attitude toward and relationship with God mediated by Christ Jesus. It is surrender to God's gift of righteousness in Christ rather than seeking to achieve righteousness alone. Faith is also called a fruit of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22)-something God creates in a person. In another place "faith" is used quite differently as a gift of the Holy Spirit that is given to some but not to others (1 Corinthians 12:8-9). Apparently such special gifts of faith refer to the ability to do great acts for God, what Jesus called moving mountains (Matthew 17:20; 1 Corinthians 13:2). The New Testament sometimes uses "faith" to designate Christianity itself or that which Christians believe (Acts 6:7; Ephesians 4:5; Colossians 1:23; Tim. Colossians 1:19; Jude 1:3). In this usage it is clear that an element of what we call belief is essential to the personal relationship we are calling "faith." Here it would be well to note Hebrews 11:6 also-"But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is" In this verse also the word translated "believe" is the Greek verb form of "faith." Context here dictates that we understand it in the sense of intellectual acceptance of a proposition, "belief." To have a right relation with God, it is necessary to "believe" that God is, that God has revealed Himself in Christ, and to accept God accepts you. If faith is the religion itself, it is so in more than an intellectual way. Faith is also the living out of the religion; it is Christianity in action. This is the meaning of "We walk by faith, not by sight" (2 Corinthians 5:7). "Walking" represents the totality of one's way of life. Paul wrote that "faith," both in the sense of Christian piety and of the trust and confidence one puts in God, determines action in life. Faith changes the standards and priorities of life. Similarly, using the imagery of a soldier's armor, Paul said that faith is a shield against sin and evil in our lives (Ephesians 6:16; 1 Thessalonians 5:8). If Christianity itself may be called "the faith," then it is a small step to the New Testament usage of the participle of the verb form of faith to designate Christians. This form is often translated "believers" (it occurs most often in the plural) or "those who believe" (Acts 4:32; Romans 1:16). If we continue our distinction between faith and belief, we would prefer the translation "those who have faith" or the ungrammatical "those who faith." The nearest the New Testament comes to presenting a definition of "faith" per se is in Hebrews 11:1. Here faith is called "the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen" (RSV). Thus, Hebrews closely ties faith very to Christian hope. The personal conviction of faith encourages the Christian to continue hoping for the fulfillment of the promises of God, but it is not the substance (as in the KJV) of these "things hoped for" in any normal sense of "substance." The "things hoped for" have a reality greater than anyone's hoping for them. Faith is then meant as a sort of foretaste of the hoped for things. Faith as the Way to Salvation. The concept of faith is primarily that of a personal relationship with God that determines the priorities of one's life. This relationship is one of love that is built on trust and dependence. We receive it by trusting the saving work of Jesus. Faith is the basic Christian experience, the decision for Christ Jesus. It is the acceptance of Christ's lordship (i.e., His God-given, absolute authority). In this sense faith is doubly a break from the past: it is one's removal from sin, and it is one's removal from all other religious allegiances (1 Thessalonians 1:9). As a break from the past, faith is the beginning of relation to God and not an end. It is, especially in Paul's letters, the inauguration of incorporation "in Christ," in which one continues to grow and develop. If faith is primarily a relationship into which one enters through acceptance of Jesus' authority, it also includes a certain amount of "belief." As a derived use, then, "faith" may also denote the content of what is believed. In this sense faith is the conviction that God acted in the history of Israel and "that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself" (2 Corinthians 5:19). In theological usage "the faith" may refer to many more doctrines and dogmas that have been developed since New Testament times, but in the New Testament "that which must be believed" was more limited as Romans 10:9-10 may demonstrate. Conclusion Faith is what we believe, it is Christianity itself, but primarily it is the relationship we have with God through what Jesus accomplished in His death and resurrection. William L. Self