Jim Humphrey Consulting

Vol 3, No 19 Vol 3, No 21

Background of "Faith" in the Bible

Volume 3, Number 20
Created Date: August 28, 2009
Posted Date: August 28, 2009

Faith in the Gospels - a look back & forward:

In the original languages in which it was written the Word of God was perfect, like everything God created. The Holy Spirit even chose the words used in the original to convey His ideas to man when He inspired the authors of Scripture. But when that Scripture was translated into our language there were, in some cases, no words to convey the exact meaning in the original. Then, many of our English words have assumed different meanings as generations have come and gone. To compound the issue various scholars have established traditions about the meaning of various Biblical concepts and even though some may be misleading they never the less have been accepted and perpetuated down through the years. Therefore when studying God's Word today we must let it interpret itself. In some cases, this means it is necessary to examine and compare how individual words are used in their Biblical contexts in order to understand the intended concept. For the past 5 studies this is what we have been doing in the Gospels, i.e., Matthew, Mark, Luke and John with the Greek word “pistis” translated “faith.”

There are other Greek words translated “faith” in the Gospels but before we go on to them this is a good time to point out that the King James translators used the word “faith” only twice in the Old Testament (OT) - in Deuteronomy 32:2020 And he said, I will hide my face from them, I will see what their end shall be: for they are a very froward generation, children in whom is no faith.

and Habakkuk 2:44 Behold, his soul which is lifted up is not upright in him: but the just shall live by his faith.

. Two different Hebrew words respectively were rendered “faith” in those passages. These two Hebrew words are found a total of 54 times throughout the OT but the King James translates them with words other than faith 52 times, i.e., faithful, faithfulness, faithfully, truth, stability, etc. It follows that while the Old Testament Scriptures allude to faith, faith per se, is not taught. (The OT generally deals with obedience and disobedience to God's Word or Law.) We have to wait until the book of Hebrews in the New Testament to find the role faith played in what the Old Testament Saints did, for example: “by faith Abel offered a more excellent sacrifice;” by faith Enoch was translated,” etc., Hebrews 11. One of the reasons I suspect Hebrews was written by the Apostle Paul is that Paul has more to say about faith in his epistles than any other Scripture writer and Hebrews follows Paul's pattern in this.

Although faith is alluded to extensively in the Gospels we have to wait until Paul's epistles for full light to be shed on the ministry of Christ. For instance, Paul explained: “But before faith came, we were kept under the law, shut up unto the faith which should afterwards be revealed.” Galatians 3:2323 But before faith came, we were kept under the law, shut up unto the faith which should afterwards be revealed.

23 But before faith came, we were kept under the law, shut up unto the faith which should afterwards be revealed.

23 But before faith came, we were kept under the law, shut up unto the faith which should afterwards be revealed.

. What did Paul mean “before faith came” and “the faith that should afterwards be revealed?” It was questions about passages such as this that prompted these faith studies in the first place. When we get to the Pauline epistles we will study the teaching entrusted to Paul by the Lord Jesus Christ but for the purpose of our study in the Gospels we must consider Galatians 3:23 to learn more about Jesus' earthly ministry. First, we must remember that God's promises to Israel were contingent on whether they followed the law (they were rewarded for obedience and punished for disobedience because this is what law does.) However, the Nation in general as well as every Jew in particular failed because no one was able to keep the law perfectly, that is, until Jesus.

Jesus lived a perfect life in total obedience to the Law. He always followed His Father's will to the letter. We know now that this has everything to do with faith. Hebrews 12:22 Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.

informs that Jesus was/is the author and finisher of faith. The Greek word translated author conveys the meaning Chief or Captain, the one who leads others, or first in order of faith. The Greek word translated finisher is said to point to one who did something better than anyone else, He finished it. (See studies Vol 3, No 1& 2 for the word study on Author and Finisher.) This ties in with what Paul tells us in Galatians 3:23: “but before faith came, we were kept under the law, shut up unto the faith which should afterwards be revealed.” Paul goes on to state: “Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster [to bring us] unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster.” Galatians 3:24 & 2524 Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith.

25 But after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster.


So we conclude that when Jesus Christ lived and ministered on earth, faith came and was revealed. He was the author and finisher of it. His perfect faith justified those who believe in Him. And during the time He was living His life of perfect faith He taught about it. The Gospels record Him uttering the Greek word “pistis,” i.e., “faith” 23 times. In so doing He referred to people being healed by faith as well as degrees of faith, i.e., small or great, as when he compared the amount of faith required to do something to a grain of mustard seed. From our last 5 studies we may conclude from Jesus' teaching that at the time of His ministry faith was something people either had or did not have, and if they had it, it could be quantified as small or great. This is born out in the one occasion the apostles uttered the word when they asked Jesus to increase their faith, Luke 17:55 And the apostles said unto the Lord, Increase our faith.

, which tells us the apostles may have had faith but they requested more.

People can have faith in things other than the Word of God. Their faith may be in their own abilities, money, ideals, false gods, etc. Faith in these things can sometimes generate perseverance to the point that great things are accomplished, at least in the sight of men. People can be successful in business, accomplish great athletic feats, create beautiful works of art and even build magnificent places of worship attended by thousands, all without faith in the Word of God. On the other hand faith in God's Word is limited only by what God's Word has decreed, no more and no less. That is, if God has proclaimed something is going to happen, it will happen. But here is where people who wrongly apply God's Word have problems. For example, God told Noah to build an ark to save mankind but these instructions have never been directed to anyone else. Just because He told Moses to hold his arms up to part the Red sea doesn't mean we can do it. Just because Joshua and God's people marched around Jericho 7 times and defeated the enemy does not mean we use this formula in warfare. Whereas Israel had to follow the law, it died with Christ and we are in Him and therefore dead to it, Romans 7:2 - 62 For the woman which hath an husband is bound by the law to her husband so long as he liveth; but if the husband be dead, she is loosed from the law of her husband.

3 So then if, while her husband liveth, she be married to another man, she shall be called an adulteress: but if her husband be dead, she is free from that law; so that she is no adulteress, though she be married to another man.

4 Wherefore, my brethren, ye also are become dead to the law by the body of Christ; that ye should be married to another, even to him who is raised from the dead, that we should bring forth fruit unto God.

5 For when we were in the flesh, the motions of sins, which were by the law, did work in our members to bring forth fruit unto death.

6 But now we are delivered from the law, that being dead wherein we were held; that we should serve in newness of spirit, and not in the oldness of the letter.

, etc. God's Word is specific to those to whom it is addressed.

The Old Testament proclaimed what the Messiah would do when He came to Israel and Jesus did it. He healed the sick, gave sight to the blind, raised the dead, and miraculously fed thousands, just as prophesied. Jesus did no more or any less than what God's Word had specified. But many of the things Jesus did, as well as many things He said His disciples could do by faith simply do not apply directly to us today, except for our learning. “But he (Jesus) answered and said, I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel,” Matthew 15:2424 But he answered and said, I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel.

, and we who are living today are not Israel, either literally or spiritually. Paul explains in Romans 9, 10 & 11 that Israel literally has been set aside for awhile but will literally be restored after this age of Grace is completed, Romans 11:25 & 2625 For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in.

26 And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob:

. The risen Lord Jesus Christ revealed God's Word to us through the Apostle Paul, Acts 22:14 & 1514 And he said, The God of our fathers hath chosen thee, that thou shouldest know his will, and see that Just One, and shouldest hear the voice of his mouth.

15 For thou shalt be his witness unto all men of what thou hast seen and heard.

& 21; 26:16 - 18; Romans 15:15 & 1615 Nevertheless, brethren, I have written the more boldly unto you in some sort, as putting you in mind, because of the grace that is given to me of God,

16 That I should be the minister of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles, ministering the gospel of God, that the offering up of the Gentiles might be acceptable, being sanctified by the Holy Ghost.

; Galatians 1:11 Paul, an apostle, (not of men, neither by man, but by Jesus Christ, and God the Father, who raised him from the dead;)

, 15 - 17; 2:2 -9 and we must therefore interpret all the Word of God through the revelation Paul received. When we get to the Pauline epistles we will learn how faith applies to us today.

In the past five Faith Studies we have examined the Greek word “pistis” translated “faith” in the 24 places it is found in the Gospels: Matthew, Mark and Luke (not found in John.) In studies to follow we will examine other Greek words translated faith in the Gospels before we go on the Pauline Epistles and continue with “pistis” therein.

Jim Humphrey
Vol 3, No 19 Vol 3, No 21