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What is Faith? Bible Meaning and Importance for Christians

 Faith is one of those words that is commonly used but not always understood. So, when the Bible uses the word faith, what does it mean? Faith is confidence and trust in who God is and what He says.

Updated Jan 05, 2024
What is Faith? Bible Meaning and Importance for Christians

What is Faith? It is trust, assurance, and belief in God, knowing all things come from Him. Living faith is demonstrated by service and obedience to God. Here's how Apostle Paul defined faith in the Bible:

"Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. This is what the ancients were commended for. By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God's command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible." (Hebrews 11:1-3)

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What is Faith?

Faith is one of those words that is commonly used but not always understood. Some of that confusion comes from how the word faith is used in everyday conversation; a quick look at Dictionary.com shows seven different uses! One common way people use the word faith is to refer to belief in something despite lacking any evidence. But is that what the Bible means by faith? The answer is a resounding no! So, when the Bible uses the word faith, what does it mean?

The Bible's closest to offering an exact definition is Hebrews 11:1: “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” From this particular passage, we see that the central feature of faith—is confidence or trust. In the Bible, the object of faith is God and his promises. A clear example of this is Abram's encounter with God in Genesis 15. In response to God's promise of countless descendants, Abram “believed the LORD, and he counted it to him as righteousness” (Gen 15:6). Commenting on this, the Apostle Paul writes, “No unbelief made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised” (Romans 4:20-21). Thus, faith means trusting God and having confidence that he will fulfill his promises.

Biblical Meaning of Faith

Pastor John McArthur speaks of the Biblical meaning of faith: "Some say faith is merely believing certain facts. One popular Bible teacher says saving faith is nothing more than confidence in the divine offer of eternal life.

Biblically, however, the object of faith is not the divine offer but the Person of Jesus Christ. Faith in Him is what saves, not just believing His promises or accepting facts about Him. Saving faith has to be more than accepting facts. Even demons have that kind of faith (James 2:19).

Believing in Jesus means receiving Him for all He is (John 1:12). It means confessing Him as Savior and yielding to Him as Lord. In fact, Scripture often uses the word obedience as a synonym for faith (cf. John 3:36; Acts 6:7; Hebrews 5:9)."

Genuine faith in the Bible is reflected in everyday life. James emphasizes that faith without corresponding actions is dead (James 2:17). Faith operates through love to produce concrete evidence of its existence in a person's life (Gal. 5:6). In other words, the obedience that pleases God is the result of faith (Rom 1:5; 16:26) rather than a mere sense of duty or obligation. The difference between a husband who buys flowers for his wife out of love and one who does it merely out of obligation is significant.

Faith is incredibly important because it is the means through which we establish a relationship with God. As it's written in Ephesians 2:8, "For by grace you have been saved through faith." Faith is how we receive the gifts of what Jesus has done for us - he lived a life of perfect obedience to God, died to pay the penalty for our sinful nature, and by His Resurrection, defeated sin, death, and the devil. By putting our trust and faith in Jesus, we receive forgiveness for our sins and the gift of eternal life.

Examples of Faith in the Bible

Faith is generally the persuasion of the mind that a specific statement is true (Philippians 1:27; 2 Thessalonians 2:13). Its primary idea is trust. A thing is true and, therefore, worthy of trust. It admits of many degrees up to full assurance of faith, following the evidence on which it rests.

Faith is the result of teaching (Romans 10:14-17). Knowledge is an essential element in all faith and is sometimes spoken of as an equivalent to faith (John 10:38; 1 John 2:3). Yet the two are distinguished in this respect, that faith includes in its assent, which is an act of the will in addition to the act of the understanding. Assent to the truth is the essence of faith, and the ultimate ground on which our assent to any revealed truth rests is the veracity of God.

Saving faith is so-called because it has eternal life inseparably connected with it. It cannot be better defined than in the words of the Assembly's Shorter Catechism: "Faith in Jesus Christ is a saving grace, whereby we receive and rest upon him alone for salvation, as he is offered to us in the gospel." (Excerpts from Easton's Bible Dictionary)

Jesus is the Source of Our Faith

Jesus is the source of our faith because Jesus is the son of God. Jesus gives us living water by which we can be saved through grace. That grace and mercy are given to us by God. Faith is from God (Ephesians 2:8). God gave His one and only Son to atone for our sins. What a precious gift! We don’t deserve this most extravagant gift. Yet, God loves us so much that He decided to give His Son so that we may live (John 3:16).

Jesus was born in humble surroundings, lived a life of servanthood, preached to thousands, healed the sick, followed the will of His Father, and gave the ultimate sacrifice for us.

The wounds and agony Jesus suffered on the cross help us remember the dedication and love of Father and Son. The grief of his mother, Mary, and the followers of Jesus, are shared in Scripture.

Hearing or reading the word of God can bring us closer to Him. Through sharing fellowship, good times, and difficult times, we can call to Jesus and have faith He is with us.

Jesus intercedes for us when we pray to God.

At the end of prayers, the words “In the name of Jesus” may be spoken, written, or thought. With those words, we are asking Jesus to intercede on our behalf. (excerpt by Melissa Henderson, What Does it Mean to Have Faith in Jesus?)

What is a Profession of Faith?

To put it simply, a profession of faith is publicly declaring your faith journey with Christ. As mentioned before, this can happen through baptism, an outward symbolism of an inner relationship with God. It can also occur by other means, such as sharing one's testimony.

Testimonies can range widely. They can be from a believer who has believed their whole life to a Satanist who decided to dedicate their lives to God when the Gospel convicted them. Everyone has a different story, and we are encouraged to share what we have experienced in Christ with others.

Baptism is an outward act to symbolize a changed life and profession of faith. Scripture tells us in Acts 2:41, "Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day." and in Acts 22:16: "And now what are you waiting for? Get up, be baptized and wash your sins away, calling on his name.’" Here, we need to make a distinction. The act of baptism itself does not save someone. It's merely symbolic to represent the death to self (being put in the water) and being resurrected in Christ (being pulled up to the surface). See Ephesians 2:8-9 on what is necessary for salvation. (excerpt by Hope Bolinger, What is a Profession of Faith?)

'Walk by Faith, Not by Sight' Bible Meaning

In (2 Corinthians 5:7), Paul explains to the Corinthians that even though this temporary realm we live in may seem like a physical barrier between us and God—through Christ, we are able to have fellowship with God via the invisible realm of faith. 

Similarly, in (John 20:29) and (1 Pet 1:8) we see the same evidence that there is more to Truth than meets the eye. Though none of us has physically seen God, we can know He is real, His words and ways are good, and He’s trustworthy. How? Through living with faith.

When we use faith as an interpretive filter, it changes how we see things and how we live. No longer are we bound to a finite understanding of life, dependent on our senses and intellect. Through faith, we tap into the infinite insight only God can provide. Armed with this new perspective, a believer can live out their God-given calling through Christ’s strength and power rather than their natural understanding.(excerpt by Annette Griffen, 3 Practical Ways to Walk by Faith and Not By Sight)

Faith Without Works is Dead

For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also (James 2:26).

According to James, in his letter to the scattered believers in Jerusalem, a man is justified by works and faith (James 2:24). He concluded that faith without works is dead (James 2:26). Faith without works is likened as a body without a spirit.

This excellent illustration is consistent with the words of our Lord Jesus: “It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing. The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life” (John 6:63). Clearly, the determinant here is the Spirit of God.

Just as a body can be dead or living, a dead faith (without works) and a living faith (with works) cannot coexist in the same person. The dead faith is a sign of an unchanged, spiritually dead heart. Faith without works is dead because it does not reveal the transforming work of the Holy Spirit manifested in the fruit of righteousness in a person’s life (Ephesians 5:8-10; Philippians 1:9-11). (excerpt by Joel Ryan, "What Does James 2:26 Mean by 'Faith Without Works is Dead'?")

Key Bible Verses about Faith

Hebrews 11:6And 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.

Mark 11:22-24And Jesus answered them, “Have faith in God. Truly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says will come to pass, it will be done for him. Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.

Ephesians 2:8-9For 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.

James 2:19You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder!

Proverbs 3:5-6Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.

Inspiring Faith Quotes

“Faith is not the belief that God will do what you want.  It is the belief that God will do what is right.” - Max Lucado

“Faith, in the sense in which I am here using the word, is the art of holding on to things your reason has once accepted in spite of your changing moods.” - C.S. Lewis

"Faith is the gaze of a soul upon a saving God." - A.W. Tozer

“Faith never knows where it is being led, but it loves and knows the One who is leading.” - Oswald Chambers

“Faith is a living and unshakable confidence.  A belief in God so assured that a man would die a thousand deaths for its sake.” - Martin Luther

Read more: Inspiring Faith Quotes.

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