The Gift of Faith (Part 1)

by Johannes Justus

Before we look at the gift of faith in more detail I would like to present a short study about the facets of faith mentioned in the bible. This is important for our further discussion of faith.

The main term for faith in the Old Testament is the Hebrew word aman.[1] Its literal meaning is “to attach oneself”.[2] I think of a mountaineer who attaches himself to the mountain with a karabiner. Thus he is secured, even if he should slip or fall. In the New Testament the main term for faith is the Greek word pistis. Its basic meaning is “confidence”. Thus, it is primarily a relationship that thought of, not knowledge. Nevertheless, in classic Greek faith does also have to do with the intellect. Both aspects are emphasized: Confidence, a more emotional concept, as well as reason and reckoning something to be true[3]

I would like to underline that in the bible the term faith illustrates an attitude of confidence toward God. Faith describes a relationship of a person with God that is based both on confidence and on reflection. Faith provides stability because it attaches itself to God and his word. In the New Testament this kind of faith unfolds itself in three facets, and in each the Holy Spirit plays a decisive role:

1. Faith as conviction by the Holy Spirit

A person can become a believer by hearing the word of God.[4] Whoever trusts in the message of salvation based on Christ’s death and resurrection receives both the forgiveness of sins and the promise of eternal life.[5] This kind of faith is the faith that saves. In this case man does not earn or accomplish anything, but receives what was accomplished.

It is remarkable that what is described above is a work of the Holy Spirit. For the Holy Spirit empowers the preacher, reveals the content of the sermon, convicts the listener of sin, righteousness and judgment, and finally makes a home in the believer.[6]

2. Faith as fruit of the Holy Spirit

The Bible does not only speak of becoming a believing, but also of being a believer. Whether faith is living or not is not only manifested through words, but first of all trough deeds.[7] Faith is not a static state, but a dynamic way of life. I remember my conscription into the Russian Air Force. The Major said to me: “Mr. Justus, I have met several people who talked about their Christian faith. I will watch if you really act accordingly.”

I am convinced that real faith will always have visible effects. It is remarkable that even concerning this aspect things are not to be accomplished through one’s own efforts, but through the power of the Holy Spirit.[8] A tree could, of course, be recognized by the rustling of its leaves, but it is easier recognized by its fruit. Thus, faith visible in the life of a Christian is a fruit of the Holy Spirit.[9] According to my observation some Christians are quite strong when it comes to confessing their faith, but rather weak when it comes to practicing it. But faith is intended to be practical. It is to mould us, correct us, change us, motivate us, develop us, etc..

3. Faith as a charism of the Holy Spirit

Finally faith is found in the Bible as a charism of the Holy Spirit.[10] As with the other gifts of the spirit even this gift is characterized by being worked by the Holy Spirit only on certain occasions according to the specific situation. And once again it is remarkable that even this kind of faith cannot be produced by human efforts. The Holy Spirit must cause it. Even in the size of a mustard seed this kind of faith has the power to move mountains.[11]

When dealing with the gift of faith in more detail in the future it is crucial for a correct understanding to distinguish between these three facets of biblical faith. Moreover, we must recognize how prominent the role of the Holy Spirit is when it comes to faith. Whoever believes in Jesus cannot live without the Holy Spirit. Faith and the efficacious power of the Holy Spirit are inseparable.

 

 

[1] The word Amen is derived from this term. It means „That‘s for sure!“ or „That’s right!“

[2] E.g. Genesis 15:6 says: “Abram believed in the Lord; and he counted it to him for righteousness”. This could also be translated: “Abram attached himself to the Lord…” or “Abram secured himself in the Lord…” Additional important verses in the OT are: Exodus 4:1-9, 2 Chronicles 20:20, Psalm 13:6, Proverbs 16:20, Isaiah 28:16, Habakuk 2:4.

[3] Therefore the preaching of the gospel should appeal to both emotions and reason.

[4] see e.g. Romans 10:17, 1 Corinthians 15:2+11, Ephesians 1:13, 1 Thessalonians 2:13

[5] see e.g. John 3:16-18, Romans 1:17, 6:8, 10:9, 1 Corinthians 15:3-17, Ephesians 2:8+9, 1 Peter 1:9

[6] See e.g. 1 Corinthians 1:18-15, 2:1-5, John 16:14, 1 Corinthians 2:6-16, Ephesians 1:17, 2:5-10, John 16:8, 1 Corinthians 14:24-25, John 7:39, Romans 8:9+15+16, 2 Corinthians 3:3, Galatians 3:2, 4:6

[7] Titus 3:8, James 1:22, 2:17

[8] see e.g. Acts 1:8, Romans 8:11-17, 15:13, 2 Corinthians 1:21-22, 5:5, Galatians 5:5, Ephesians 3:16, 4:30, Jude 20+21

[9] see Galatians 5:5. Here the Greek word pistis is usually translated „faithfulness“, because faithfulness is trust lived out.

[10] see 1 Corinthians 12:9

[11] see e.g. 1 Corinthians 13:2, Matthew 17:20, Mark 11:23, Luke 17:6

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