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What is a biblical definition of faith?


Hebrews 11:1 says, “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” This would be the most concise biblical definition of “faith.” But what else does the Bible say about faith?

The Greek word used most often in the New Testament for “faith” is pistis. It indicates a belief or conviction with the complementary idea of trust. Faith is not a mere intellectual stance, but a belief that leads to action. As James 2:26 says, “For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead.” James talks about demonstrating his faith by his works. Often what we do says more about what we believe than what we say.

A common example to illustrate faith is that of a chair. I may say I “believe” the chair can hold my weight, but I do not actually put faith in the chair until I sit in it. This is the type of faith required for salvation. Hebrews 11:6 says, “And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.” If we don’t actually trust that God is real and that what He says is true, we won’t come to Him for salvation. Ephesians 2:8–10 says, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”

Faith is an active trust in God, a belief in what He says is true that results in action. When we have faith in God, we believe that we are sinners deserving of eternal punishment (Romans 3:23). We believe that Jesus came into the world to live a perfect life, die on our behalf, and rise again victorious over sin and death (John 3:14–18Romans 5:6–111 Corinthians 15:3–520–222 Corinthians 5:18–21). We trust in Jesus to save us from our sins. We have faith that He gives us His Holy Spirit, as He promised (John 14:15–1716:4–15). We then trust in the Holy Spirit to do His work of sanctification in us (Romans 82 Corinthians 3:18). We live to honor God, relying on His forgiveness and trusting that His ways are truly best (John 15:1–27Romans 13:8–142 Corinthians 5:17Colossians 32 Peter 1:3–11).