Thursday, February 5, 2009

What is Faith? Part 2

Biblical faith is belief, trust, or commitment in God through Jesus the Messiah. Joseph Thayer says,

"To believe" means to think to be true; to be persuaded of; to credit, [to] place confidence in. [And in] a moral and religious reference, pisteuein [from pisteuo] is used in the N.T. of a conviction and trust to which a man is impelled by a certain inner and higher prerogative and law of his soul. (Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, 511).

Biblical faith involves an objective element (the existence of God, Jesus' resurrection), and the subjective appropriation, moved by the grace of God, of those truths. (1) For example, in James 2:19, it says that the demons believe that God exists. Objectively speaking, the Holy Spirit works in conjunction with the evidence for the truthfulness of the Christian faith to enable us to understand that God exists. However, from a subjective perspective, we also must place our trust in God, which can only happen with the help of the Holy Spirit (John 16: 12-15).

A good example of this is seen in Acts 17:1-4, “And according to Paul's custom, he went to them, and for three Sabbaths reasoned with them from the Scriptures, explaining and giving evidence that the Christ had to suffer and rise again from the dead, and saying, This Jesus whom I am proclaiming to you is the Christ. And some of them were persuaded and joined Paul and Silas, along with a large number of the God-fearing Greeks and a number of the leading women." In this passage, we see that the Holy Spirit worked through the objective evidence of the Tanakh (the acronym that is formed from the first three parts of the Hebrew Bible: Torah (the first five books of the Bible), Nevi’ im (the Prophets), and K’ tuvim (the Writings) which caused some of Paul's audience to understand that Jesus is the Jewish Messiah. However, the Holy Spirit also caused Paul's audience to place their trust in Jesus as the Jewish Messiah.

Biblical faith also involves a commitment of the whole person. In the Tanakh, the Hebrew word for heart is "leb," or "lebad." While the word "heart" is used as a metaphor to describe the physical organ, it is also the center or defining element of the entire person. It can be seen as the seat of the person's intellectual, emotional, affective, and volitional life. In the New Testament, the word “heart” (Gr.kardia) came to stand for man’s entire mental and moral activity, both the rational and the emotional elements.(2)

1. Clark, K.J., Lints, R., and James K.A. Smith. 101 Key Terms In Philosophy And Their Importance For Theology. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2004, 26.
2. W.E. Vine, Unger, Merrill F. and William White Jr. Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary Of Old And New Testament Words. Nashville: TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1985, 297.

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