The word "faithful" in ActsVolume 4, Number 16
Created Date: November 29, 2016
Posted Date: November 29, 2016
Faithful in Acts:
We’ve examined the Greek word “pistis,” usually translated “faith” in Acts and now move on to “pistos,” usually translated “faithful” to learn what it teaches. Pistos is found 66 times in the New Testament (NT) and in the King James Version (KJV) it is translated “faithful” 53 times and with various other words the remaining 13. Its only found 4 times Acts; translated “faithful” once, “believe” twice and once as “sure.” Strong defines it as “objectively trustworthy; subjectively trustful; believe (-ing); faithful (-ly), sure, true.” The Greek Lexicon indicates it is derived from another Greek word that means, “to persuade, win by words, influence, hence it may be taken either actively or passively according to the meanings of the verb. Passively - faithful, trusty, worthy of confidence; of persons on whom we may rely; of things, trustworthy, sure firm, certain. Actively - trusting, believing.” I asked friends in Greece what pistos means to them and they wrote “... one who believes, referring specifically to people who believe in God, i.e., religious people.” Thus its present meaning in Greek sheds light on where it came from.
“Pistos” first appears in Acts uttered by the Apostle Peter where it is translated “believed.” The account begins with God showing Peter in a vision that the taboo established by the Law of Moses against eating meat from certain animals was lifted. At about the same time, a Gentile Roman Centurion named Cornelius, described as a just man who feared God, being well respected by the Jews was visited by an Angel of God in a vision and told that his prayers and gifts to the Lord’s work were recognized and he was to send for Peter who would tell him what he should do. When Cornelius’ servants came to the house where Peter was staying and asked for him the Spirit of the Lord told Peter He had sent them to him and for him to accompany them (this, in spite of the fact it had been taboo for Jews to associate with Gentiles). Peter, along with his Jewish associates, traveled to visit Cornelius where Peter witnessed to Cornelius and his household about the ministry of Christ, His death and resurrection. At the point when Peter said that whoever believes in Him would receive forgiveness/ deliverance from sins, the Holy Spirit came upon Cornelius and those with him..
“And they of the circumcision which believed (pistos - faithful) were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because that on the Gentiles also was poured out the gift of the Holy Ghost.”. Peter and those with him are referred to as “the circumcision, which believed” because they were Jews who followed the Law of Moses and were faithful to Jesus Christ because they believed He was their Messiah and were waiting for His return to establish Israel’s Promised Kingdom. They were astonished because they just saw something never before witnessed, i.e., the Holy Spirit poured out on Gentiles! As proof of this: “For they heard them speak with tongues, and magnify God. Then answered Peter, Can any man forbid water, that these should not be baptized, which have received the Holy Ghost as well as we? And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord. Then prayed they him to tarry certain days.” . Cornelius and those with him spoke in language that was understood by everyone, regardless of their native tongues. Up to this time, believing Jews had to have repented and been baptized before receiving the gift of the Holy Spirit but here, these Gentiles received the Holy Spirit instantaneously after having heard the Word of God that Jesus had died and risen again for their sins.
The fact Peter and those with him are called “faithful” is in keeping with what we learned while studying the word “faithful” in the Gospels. In Faith Study Volume 3, No’s 10, 22, 23 & 24 it is observed that the word “pistos - faithful” is found 12 times in Matthew, Luke and John where it was always uttered by Jesus Himself. The number 12 in the Bible is significant in that it is the number for governmental perfection and thus identified with the nation of Israel. In the 11 cases in Matthew and Luke, Jesus used it to describe the attribute a servant should have when his master leaves him in charge while the master is gone, thus explaining how believing Jews should conduct themselves while awaiting Jesus Christ’s return to earth to establish His Kingdom. Its found once in John where Jesus was speaking to the Apostle Thomas after proving to him He had indeed risen from the dead.
The second occasion “pistos” or “faithful” occurs in Acts, it is translated “sure.” The Apostle Paul uttered it in an address in a Synagogue in Antioch, Pisidia to “Men of Israel and those that feared God,”- 16. Paul told how God chose the Nation of Israel and brought them out of captivity in Egypt; suffered their ill manners for 40 years in the wilderness; destroyed 7 nations in Canaan and divided that land among Israel; provided Judges to rule over them for 400 years and when they wanted a King He gave them Saul; then, He removed Saul and gave them David, a man after His own heart to fulfill His will. And from David’s seed God raised Jesus Christ to fulfill His promise of a King for Israel and sent John the Baptist to Introduce Him to them, -25. Paul then reiterates that he is addressing the Children of Abraham, i.e., Israel, and those that fear God with the Word of Salvation, i.e., Jesus Christ. He pointed out that the Jews in Jerusalem and their rulers didn’t know Christ, or even the Scriptures read every Sabbath, as they actually fulfilled those Scriptures in condemning Christ to death. However God raised Him from the dead, as witnessed by many, -31.
Paul then declared to them the Gospel and how God fulfilled the promise He made to their fathers by raising Jesus Christ from the dead and declaring Him to be His Son,-33. “And as concerning that he (God) raised him (Christ) up from the dead, now no more to return to corruption, he said on this wise, I will give you the sure (faithful) mercies of David.” . Here, Paul quotes : “Incline your ear, and come unto me: hear, and your soul shall live; and I will make an everlasting covenant with you, even the sure (faithful) mercies of David.” The everlasting covenant God made with David guaranteed Israel’s promised Messiah would come from David’s offspring: “The LORD hath sworn in truth unto David; he will not turn from it; Of the fruit of thy body will I set upon thy throne.” . God’s faithfulness in carrying out that covenant was proven when He raised Christ from the dead, -34.
Third occasion: “pistos” translated “believed:” After Paul contended with and separated from Barnabas because Barnabas wanted to bring John Mark with them, Paul took Silas through Syria and Cilicia while Barnabas took John Mark to Cyprus,-41. “Then came he (Paul) to Derbe and Lystra: and, behold, a certain disciple was there, named Timotheus, the son of a certain woman, which was a Jewess, and believed (pistos-faithful); but his father was a Greek: Which was well reported of by the brethren that were at Lystra and Iconium.” . Since Timothy is described as a faithful disciple, he must have been one of Paul’s converts during his first missionary journey to Lystra and Derbe, , because Paul later called Timothy his son in the faith, . Also, we know Timothy’s grandmother Eunice as well as his mother Lois were believers, , and that Timothy had been taught the Old Testament Scriptures from the time he was a child, . So the use of the word “pistos” or “faithful” in this case is again used in relation to a Jewish man’s (Timothy’s) faithfulness, i.e., he believed God’s Word and was faithful to it.
(It is interesting that Timothy’s father was Greek and thus Timothy had not been circumcised on the 8th day according to the Law of Moses. At the time of Paul’s encounter with him, the transition from the offer of the earthly Kingdom to Israel was phasing out while the message of Grace to both Jews and Gentiles was being revealed, preached and established by the Apostle Paul. However, Paul was sensitive to the Jewish believers waiting for Christ’s Kingdom so he arranged for Timothy to be circumcised in order to make him more palatable to the Jews to whom he was presenting the Gospel. Paul’s position on circumcision shifted as the revelation of the secret unfolded making it clear that circumcision was not required for salvation and thus some time later he refused to require Titus to be circumcised when false Jewish teachers came in and tried to force it upon him,-10.)
The fourth and last time “pistos” is used in Acts the KJV translates it “faithful.” Paul, Luke and others had arrived in Philippi, Greece and on a Saturday, the Jewish Sabbath, they went to a river where a Jewish lady named Lydia and other women met,. It should be noted that Lydia is said to “have worshipped God.” This means she obediently followed the Law of Moses as a Jew because that was the only way to worship God prior to the revelation of Grace by Faith alone, as revealed to the Apostle Paul. However, even though she had “worshipped God” previously, we learn that when she heard the message Paul was preaching the Lord opened her heart and she heeded what Paul was talking about: “And a certain woman named Lydia, a seller of purple, of the city of Thyatira, which worshipped God, heard us: whose heart the Lord opened, that she attended unto the things which were spoken of Paul.” . Here again, the word “faithful” is used describing a Jew: “And when she was baptized, and her household, she besought us, saying, If ye have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come into my house, and abide there. And she constrained us.” .
To recap “faithful” in Acts, it is used to describe 1) Peter and his Jewish disciples, Acts 10:45; 2) God’s faithful promises to David for a Messiah, Acts 13:34; 3) Timothy as being faithful, Acts 16:1 & 2 and 4) Lydia’s faithfulness, Acts 16:15. When we get into the Pauline epistles, we will see the word “pistos - faithful” used to describe God as being faithful; Paul’s fellow ministers being faithful; the things Paul wrote being faithful and all who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ being faithful.