The following is the first part of a longer article on the study of the word “belief” as used in the book of Acts.
The Greek noun for faith is pistis; the corresponding verb is pisteuo. Combined, these forms are employed some 243 times in the New Testament. There is a great deal of confusion and controversy in the community of “Christendom” as to the meaning of these terms. Unfortunately, sectarian bias has clouded the understanding of many on this important biblical theme. Depending upon the context in which the words are found, their meanings can vary.
Belief may involve merely being exposed to certain data and acknowledging such as reliable. When Paul heard of divisions within the church at Corinth, he said: “I partly believe it” (1 Cor. 11:18). He accepted the report as fairly credible.
Believing can go a step further, though, suggesting the idea of trust. Knowing the temperament of men, Jesus did not “trust” (pisteuo) himself to the Jews of Jerusalem (Jn. 2:24). God did “trust” Paul, however, and so committed the gospel unto his apostle, to be proclaimed in a ministry to the Gentiles (Gal. 2:7).
Belief can be used - and frequently is - in the full sense of being obedient. Jesus taught: “He who believes [pisteuo] on the Son has eternal life; but he who obeys not [apeitho] the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him”(Jn. 3:36 - ASV).
[Note: The King James translators did not favor us by rendering two different Greek terms by the same English word. An important distinction was obscured. Cf. Heb. 3:18-19 - ASV.]
In the ultimate sense, therefore, to believe the Lord is to do what he says, and a refusal to obey his will is an expression of disbelief. This is a sobering thought.
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