Bible Study, Biblical Greek, Evidence for Faith, Faith, Faith of Jesus, Faithful and True, Fruit of the Spirit, Indwelling Christ, Indwelling Spirit, Kingdom Living, Kingdom of God, Living by Faith, Proof for Faith, Rational Belief, Unity
“The fruit of the Spirit is…faithfulness” Galatians 5:22
I was certain I knew how this week’s study would go. I know what “faithfulness” means. Indeed, when I went to my dictionary, I anticipated no surprises. Nor did I find any, except that “faithfulness” didn’t appear in my dictionary on its own but at the end of the entry for “faithful”. No matter. There were no surprises in the definition of “faithful”: keeping faith, maintaining allegiance to someone or something; constant; loyal. That is God, I said to myself, and knew what scriptures I would use to declare His faithfulness.
Well, He is faithful and faithfulness but that isn’t the word used for this particular aspect of the fruit of the Spirit in the original Greek. The Greek word here is pistis (G4102) and it means faith. If faithful, or even faithfulness was meant, the Greek word pistos (G4103) would have been used. I had to double check with The Interlinear Greek-English New Testament and the fruit of the Spirit is pistis-faith. What’s the big deal? Am I getting nitpicky? I don’t think so because I am aware of controversy surrounding the meaning of faith.
I looked up “faith” in two separate dictionaries and found the same definition. The definition in The New World Dictionary of the American Language does start out with the word’s origins which include fides (Latin) meaning confidence, belief. No controversy here. But then, the first definition is “unquestioning belief that does not require proof”. The World Book Dictionary puts the word origins at the end of the entry and starts with “a believing without proof”. I have to read down to definition #5 in The New World Dictionary before I find a semblance of what is meant by “faith” in the Bible: complete trust, confidence, or reliance. The World Book Dictionary does eventually give me “confidence, reliance” as well. Confidence, trust, and reliance is not possible without proof.
I am going to set pistis and its meaning aside for the moment and ask myself the question, does the Bible require me to have blind faith-faith based on no evidence whatsoever? I cannot see that it does. Quite the opposite. In his first epistle to the Thessalonians, Paul tells them to “test all things: hold fast what is good” (1 Thes. 5:21). In his second letter to Timothy, Paul says, “Study and be eager and do your utmost to present yourself to God approved (tested by trial), a workman who has no cause to be ashamed, correctly analyzing and accurately dividing–rightly handling and skillfully teaching–the Word of Truth” (2 Tim. 2:15, Amplified). I’ve already written posts on 1 John 4 but this is an excellent chapter on the necessity of testing as is Romans 12:2. The expectation of the New Testament writers was that believers would be active in their beliefs, investigators, and would not blindly follow after anyone.
Neither do I find an inference of blind following in the original Greek. The definition of pistis is: persuasion, credence, conviction, assurance, belief, faith, fidelity. I do agree a person can have all of these things without proof or evidence but the root of pistis is peitho (G3982) and contains the meaning “to assent (to evidence or authority).” No blind following is inferred here.
There are voices today who insist there is no evidence for even the existence of God and that, because that is so, my faith is not only blind I hold to it in the face of evidence proving the opposite. That is not true. My faith is based on evidence. Greater minds than mine have done this work: minds like Dr. John Lennox, Dr. Stephen C. Meyer, and Dr. David Berlinski for the science-minded among you. There are so many other men and women, brilliant minds, who believe in God and did not have to set aside their intellects to do so. I encourage anyone and everyone to test, investigate, study, and decide for yourself. Do not blindly follow anyone.
While I am grateful for the scientists, philosophers, and theologians I have read over the years who have shown me I am not irrational for believing in God, I have the very best proof of my faith in another source. That is, of course, God Himself. The word pistis is relational. The Dictionary of New Testament Theology tells me the following about “faith”:
“The words dealt with here are basically concerned with that personal relationship with a person or thing which is established by trust and trustworthiness (including their negation). If this relationship comes about through persuasion or conviction, the vb. peithomai is used. The perf. tense pepoitha expresses the firm conviction and confidence that has come about. The words of the pistis group are derived from the same verbal stem. They denoted originally the faithful relationship of partners in an agreement and the trustworthiness of their promises. In a broader sense, they came to denote the credibility of statements, reports, and accounts in general, both sacred and secular. In NT Gk., they gained a special importance and specific trusting acceptance and recognition of what God has done and promised in him” (Page 588).
I have come across many instances where study has led to a belief in God but leaves Him remote. He’s an “intelligence”, “a mind”, but uninvolved and uninterested in His creation. I think Andrew Murray says it best: “Nature speaks of God and His work; but of Himself, His heart, and His thoughts of love toward us sinners, nature cannot tell” (Holiest of All, Page 43). There comes a point where evidence of the existence of God is not enough. Without a revelation of Himself; His personhood, His intentions, and His nature, faith becomes belief without proof. At the very least, it is not the faith that is the fruit of the Spirit. This faith is a living, breathing, person centered in Jesus Christ.
In Galatians 2:20, Paul says; “I have been crucified with Christ: it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.” There is a mistranslation in this passage and it’s “I live by faith IN the Son of God”. The true translation is “l live by faith OF the Son of God.” It’s a subtle difference and yet it’s all the difference in the world. The Greek word for in, en, is not the word here. It’s tau (G5120) and it appears twice in the sentence: OF (tau) the Son OF (tau) God. It means “of this person, his.”
This faith that is the fruit of the Spirit, His Spirit, has nothing to do with us. It’s very good to have evidence for our beliefs but we do not live this Christian life because we have built up our own faith in Jesus. We live it through His faith, His relationship to the Father, which is also our relationship to the Father through His Spirit living in us. The proof is in the person, in this case.
Isn’t it wonderful? Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Amen!
Unless notes otherwise, scriptures are quoted from the New King James Version of the Holy Bible, Thomas Nelson, Inc. 1982
The Comparative Study Bible, The Zondervan Corporation, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1984
The Interlinear Greek-English New Testament, Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1958
Barnhart, Clarence L., The World Book Dictionary, Volume One, Field Enterprises Educational Corporation, Chicago, Illinois, 1970
Brown, Colin, The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology, Volume I, Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1967
Guralnik, David B., The New World Dictionary of the American Language, Second College Edition, William Collins + World Publishing Company, Cleveland • New York, 1976
Murray, Andrew, Holiest of All: A Commentary on the Book of Hebrews, Whitaker House, New Kensington, Pennsylvania, 1996
Strong, James, LLD., S.T.D., The New Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible, Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nashville, Tennessee, 1990