What is Faith Biblically?                                                                                    By Jack Kettler


As in previous studies, we will look at definitions, scriptures, commentary evidence, lexical proof, and confessional support for the purpose to glorify God in how we live.




Faith, “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen" (Hebrews 11:1). It is synonymous with trust. It is a divine gift (Romans 12:3) and comes by hearing the Word of God (Romans 10:17). It is the means by which the grace of God is accounted to the believer who trusts in the work of Jesus on the cross (Ephesians 2:8). Without faith, it is impossible to please God (Hebrews 11:6). It is by faith that we live our lives, "The righteous shall live by faith” (Habakkuk 2:4; Romans 1:17). *


Question: What is faith in God?


Answer: Faith in God is trust in Him, based on a true understanding of who He is, as revealed in the Bible. Faith in God involves an intellectual assent to the facts concerning God and a life-changing reliance on those facts. **


Strong's Concordance on faith # 4102 pistis:


pistis: faith, faithfulness

Original Word: πίστις, εως, ἡ

Part of Speech: Noun, Feminine

Transliteration: pistis

Phonetic Spelling: (pis'-tis)

Definition: faith, faithfulness

Usage: faith, belief, trust, confidence; fidelity, faithfulness. πίστις pístis, pis'-tis; from G3982; persuasion, i.e. credence; moral conviction (of religious truth, or the truthfulness of God or a religious teacher), especially reliance upon Christ for salvation; abstractly, constancy in such profession; by extension, the system of religious (Gospel) truth itself:—assurance, belief, believe, faith, fidelity.


Scriptures and commentary:


“He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him.” (John 3:36)


“So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” (Romans 10:17)


From Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers on Romans 10:17:


“(17) So then faith cometh.—Inference from the prophecy just quoted. Before men can believe, there must be something for them to believe. That something is the word of God, which we preach and they hear. It must be remembered that the word for “report” in Romans 10:16, and for “hearing” in Romans 10:17, is the same, but with a slight difference of meaning. In the first place, both the act of hearer and preacher are involved; in the second place, only the act of the hearer.

By the word of God.—We should read here, without doubt, “by the word of Christ”—i.e., by the gospel first delivered by Christ and propagated by His ministers.” (1)


“For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.” (Ephesians 2:8)


“Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. For by it the elders obtained a good report. Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear.” (Hebrews 11:1-3)


Definition of Faith 11:1–3 from Simon J. Kistemaker’s New Testament Commentary on Hebrews 11:1-3:


“1 Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.

2 This is what the ancients were commended for.

3 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.


The writer delights in recounting the history of the heroes of faith recorded in Scripture. Before he cites examples, however, he composes a brief definition of faith. He does not write a dogmatic exposition. Instead he formulates a few clear, straightforward sentences.

1. Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.

As we study this verse, let us note the following points:

a. Faith


The word faith in the New Testament has many aspects. For example, when the Judean Christians, whom Paul had sought to destroy, spoke of their belief in Christ, they said, “The man who formerly persecuted us is now preaching the faith he once tried to destroy” (Gal. 1:23). Faith, then, is a confession, much the same as we call the Apostles’ Creed the articles of our Christian faith. However, this is not the meaning of faith that the writer of Hebrews conveys.


For the evangelists who wrote the Gospels, Jesus Christ is the object of faith. John summarizes this emphasis when he states the purpose of his Gospel, namely, “that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name” (John 20:31).   Also, the Acts show that in the first century, “a personal faith in Jesus was a hallmark of the early Christians.”


Still another aspect of faith is Paul’s emphasis on appropriating, that is, claiming salvation in Jesus Christ. Paul contends that God puts the sinner right with him through faith: “This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe” (Rom. 3:22). And Paul explains that faith comes from hearing the Word proclaimed (Rom. 10:17).


The author of Hebrews recognizes these same aspects of faith featured by other writers of the New Testament. However, his use of the concept faith must be understood primarily in the context of the eleventh chapter of his epistle. The heroes of faith have one thing in common: they put their undivided confidence in God. In spite of all their trials and difficult circumstances, they triumphed because of their trust in God. For the author, faith is adhering to the promises of God, depending on the Word of God, and remaining faithful to the Son of God.


When we see chapter 11 in the context of Hebrews, the author’s design to contrast faith with the sin of unbelief (3:12, 19; 4:2; 10:38–39) becomes clear. Over against the sin of falling away from the living God, the writer squarely places the virtue of faith. Those people who shrink from putting their trust in God are destroyed, but those who believe are saved (10:39).” (2)


Saving Faith by J. C. Ryle:


“There is a dead faith, as well as a living one.

There is a faith of devils, as well as a faith of God's elect.

There is a faith, which is vain and useless, as well as a faith, which justifies and saves.


How shall a man know whether he has true saving faith? The thing may be found out! The Ethiopian may be known by the color of his skin; and the leopard may be known by his spots. True faith may always be known by certain marks. These marks are laid down unmistakably in Scripture. Reader, let me endeavor to set these marks plainly before you. Look at them carefully — and test your own soul by what I am going to say.


1. He who truly believes in Christ — has a NEW HEART. It is written, “If any man is in Christ, he is a new creature — old things are passed away; behold, all things have become new.” (2Cor. 5:17.) A believer has no longer the same nature with which he was born. He is changed, renewed, and transformed after the image of his Lord and Savior. He who minds first, the things of the flesh — has no saving faith. True faith, and spiritual regeneration, are inseparable companions. An unconverted person — is not a genuine believer!


2. He who truly believes in Christ — is a HOLY person in heart and life. It is written that God “purifies the heart by faith,” and that Christians are “sanctified by faith.” “Whoever has this hope in him purifies himself.” (Acts 15:9; 26:18; 1 John 3:3.). A believer loves what God loves — and hates what God hates. His heart's desire is to walk in the way of God's commandments, and to abstain from all manner of evil. His wish is to follow after the things which are just, and pure, and honest, and lovely — and to cleanse himself from all filthiness of flesh and spirit. He falls far short of his aim, in many things. He finds his daily life, a constant fight with indwelling corruption. But he fights on — and resolutely refuses to serve sin. Where there is no holiness, we may be sure there is no saving faith! An unholy man is not a genuine believer!


3. He who truly believes in Christ — works godly WORKS. It is written, “faith works by love” (Gal. 5:6). True belief will never make a man idle, or allow him to sit still, contented with his own religion. It will stir him to do acts of love, kindness, and charity, according as he sees opportunity. It will constrain him to walk in the steps of his Master, who “went about doing good.” In one way or another, it will make him work. The works that he does may attract no notice from the world. They may seem trifling and insignificant to many people. But they are not forgotten by Him who notices a cup of cold water given for His sake. Where there is no working love — there is no faith. A lazy, selfish professing Christian — has no right to regard himself as a genuine believer!


4. He who truly believes in Christ — overcomes the WORLD. It is written, that “whoever is born of God, overcomes the world — and this is the victory which overcomes the world — even our faith” (1John 5:4). A true believer is not ruled by the world's standard of right or wrong, of truth or error. He is independent of the world's opinion. He cares little for the world's praise. He is not moved by the world's censure. He does not seek for the world's pleasures. He is not ambitious of the world's rewards. He looks at things unseen — he sees an invisible Savior, a coming judgment, and a crown of glory, which never fades away. The sight of these objects makes him think comparatively little of this present world. Where the world reigns in the heart — there is no genuine faith. A man who is habitually conformed to the world — is not a genuine believer!


5. He who truly believes in Christ — has the witness of the Holy Spirit. He has hopes, joys, fears, sorrows, consolations, expectations, of which he knew nothing before he believed. He has internal evidences, which the world cannot understand. Where there are no inward pious feelings — there is no faith. A man who knows nothing of an inward, spiritual, experimental religion — is not a genuine believer!


6. He who truly believes in Christ — has a special regard to the person of CHRIST Himself. It is written, “Unto you who believe — Christ is precious” (1Peter 2:7). That text deserves especial notice. It does not say “Christianity” is precious, or the “Gospel” is precious, or “salvation” is precious — but Christ Himself! A true believer's religion does not consist in mere intellectual assent to a certain set of propositions and doctrines. It is not a mere cold belief of a certain set of truths and facts concerning Christ. It consists in union, communion, and fellowship with an actual living Person, even Jesus the Son of God. It is a life of . . .


faith in Jesus,

confidence in Jesus,

leaning on Jesus,

drawing out of the fullness of Jesus,

speaking to Jesus,

working for Jesus,

loving Jesus, and

looking for Jesus to come again.


Such life may sound like enthusiasm to many. But where there is true faith, Christ will always be known and realized, as an actual living personal Friend! He who knows nothing of Christ as his own Priest, Physician, Redeemer, Advocate, Friend, Teacher, and Shepherd — knows nothing yet of genuine believing!


Where these marks of which I have been speaking, are utterly lacking, I dare not tell a man that he is a true believer. He may be called a Christian, and attend a Christian church. But if he knows nothing of these marks — I dare not pronounce him a believer. He is yet dead in trespasses and sins. Except he awakes to newness of life, he will perish everlastingly.


Show me a man who has these marks — and I feel a strong confidence about the state of his soul. He may be poor and needy in this world — but he is rich in the sight of God. He may be despised and sneered at by man — but he is honorable in the sight of the King of kings. He is traveling towards heaven! He has a mansion ready for him in the Father's house. He is cared for by Christ, while on earth. He will be owned by Christ before assembled worlds, in the life which is to come!” J. C. Ryle (3)


What is True Faith? By C. H. Spurgeon:


“True faith is, in every case, the operation of the Spirit of God. Its nature is purifying, elevating, heavenly.


Wherever true faith is found, it is the sure mark of eternal election, the sign of a blessed condition, and the forecast of a heavenly destiny.


Faith is the eye of the renewed soul, the hand of the regenerated mind, the mouth of the newborn spirit.


Faith is the evidence of spiritual life, the mainspring of holiness, the foundation of delight, the prophecy of glory, and the dawn of endless knowledge.


If you have true faith, you have infinitely more than he who has all the world.


Faith is the assurance of sonship; the pledge of inheritance; the grasp of boundless possession; the perception of the invisible. Within your faith, there lies glory, even as the oak sleeps within the acorn.


Time would fail me to tell of the powers, the privileges, the possessions and the prospects of faith.


He that has faith is blessed, for he pleases God, he is justified before the throne of holiness, he has full access to the throne of grace and he has the preparation for reigning with Christ forever!” Charles Spurgeon (4)


Faith by Gordon H. Clark:


“Faith is a concept that raises two main problems: (1) its definition or psychological analysis and (2) its function. The second of these, concerned chiefly with the doctrine of justification by faith alone, will be treated only briefly.


Augustine was probably the first to define faith. In his treatise concerning the Predestination of the Saints he said, “Thinking is prior to believing… To believe is nothing other than to think with assent. For not all who think believe… but all who believe think; and they think believing and believe thinking.” To the present day, the Roman church defines faith as assent, “fiducial assent” (cf. The New Catholic Encyclopedia, New York, McGraw-Hill, 1967).


The Reformers, though more concerned with justification, of necessity considered faith. That faith or belief had an intellectual content was universally accepted. Aside from the mystics, Kant was the first to speak of a faith without knowledge. Jacobi, Schleiermacher, some Modernists, and more particularly the contemporary dialectical theologians follow this line. Brunner (q.v.) states, “God and the medium of conceptuality are mutually exclusive.” But the Reformers unanimously agreed that belief requires a known object.


The second element in belief is assent. A person may know or understand a proposition and yet not believe it. To believe is to think with assent. Assent is an act of will: it is the voluntary acceptance of the proposition as true.


By combining knowledge and assent, Calvin was able to oppose the Romish idea of implicit faith. The Institutes (III.2) complain that the schoolmen “have fabricated the notion of implicit faith, a term with which they have honored the grossest ignorance… Is this faith- to understand nothing? Faith consists not in ignorance, but in knowledge.”


The early Reformers were inclined to include assurance of salvation in their definition of faith. But there were many variations. Cunningham (cf. bibliography) reports seven different views. Later Reformed theologians definitely excluded assurance (cf. the Westminster Confession), but came to add fiducia, as a third element in addition to knowledge and assent. They failed, however, to give an intelligible account of fiducia, restricting themselves to synonyms or illustrations (cf. Thomas Manton, Exposition of the Epistle of James, pp.216ff. Marshallton, Del., Sovereign Grace Book Club, 196-). This defective view is so common today that many ministers have never heard of the earlier Reformed views.


The doctrine of faith, like all doctrines, must be deduced from Scripture. One cannot make an empirical analysis of experience and hope to arrive at the Christian position on faith, regeneration, or anything. Because the Scriptural material is so copious, all that can be offered here is a sample study restricted to John. John speaks of faith about one hundred times, more accurately. It should be said that John uses the term faith only once, while the other ninety-nine times he uses the verb believe. Consonant with this, John puts great emphasis on the intellectual content of faith and supports his emphasis by asserting that Christ is the Logos or Reason of God, who himself is truth.


Sometimes the object of the verb believe is a noun or pronoun: name, doctrine, Son, Moses, me, him. No one should conclude from this that belief in a person is any different from belief in a truth, for in most cases it is easy to see the doctrine or proposition in the context even when the word-object is a pronoun (John 4:21; 5:38; 8:31, 45, 46; 10:37).


Twenty-five percent of instances of the verb believe have the propositional object written out in full, if not in the verse itself, at least in the context (2:22; 3:12; 4:21, 41, 50; 5:47; 6:69; etc.). These two sets of references show that the immediate and proper object of faith or belief is a proposition. To believe the Son, or me, or Moses, is to believe what the person said.


In contrast, the Liberals of the twentieth century want a “faith” in a god who is unknowable and silent because he is impotent to give us any information to believe. This anti-intellectualism undermines all good news and makes gospel information useless.


But according to John, and Paul as well, assent to doctrine or information is not useless. “If thou shalt confess with the mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in thy heart that God has raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.” Likewise John tells us that those who believe in his name, i.e., believe he is the Messiah, have the right to be children of God (1:12; 3:15, 36), and those who do not, (3:18). Those who believe have already crossed over from death to life (5:24). Faith or assent is not the cause of life: it is the evidence of life. Similar ideas are found in 6:40, 47; 7:38; 8:31; 11:25; and particularly 8:51, 52, “If anyone keeps my doctrine, he shall not see death ever.” Obviously, this is consistent with the doctrine of justification (q.v.) by faith.” GORDON H. CLARK (5)


Westminster Confession of Faith Chapter XIV of Saving Faith:


I. The grace of faith, whereby the elect are enabled to believe to the saving of their souls, [1] is the work of the Spirit of Christ in their hearts, [2] and is ordinarily wrought by the ministry of the Word, [3] by which also, and by the administration of the sacraments, and prayer, it is increased and strengthened. [4]


II. By this faith, a Christian believes to be true whatsoever is revealed in the Word, for the authority of God himself speaking therein; [5] and acts differently upon that which each particular passage thereof contains; yielding obedience to the commands, [6] trembling at the threatenings, [7] and embracing the promises of God for this life, and that which is to come. [8] But the principal acts of saving faith are accepting, receiving, and resting upon Christ alone for justification, sanctification, and eternal life, by virtue of the covenant of grace. [9]


III. This faith is different in degrees, weak or strong; [10] may often and many ways assailed, and weakened, but gets the victory: [11] growing up in many to the attainment of a full assurance, through Christ, [12] who is both the author and finisher of our faith. [13]


Scriptural proofs:


[1] Hebrews 10:

[2] 2Corinthians 4:13; Ephesians 1:17

[3] Romans 10:14

[4] 1Peter 2:2; Acts 20:32; Romans 4:11; Luke 17:5

[5] John 4:42; 1Thessalonians 2:13; 1John 5:10; Acts 24:14

[6] Romans 16:26

[7] Isaiah 66:2

[8] Hebrews 11:13; 1Timothy 4:8

[9] John 1:12; Acts 16:31; Galatians 2:20; Acts 15:11

[10] Hebrews 5:13, 14; Romans. 4:19-20; Matthew 6:30; Matthew 8:10

[11] Luke 22:31-32; Ephesians 6:16; I John 5:4-5

[12] Hebrews 6:11-12; Hebrews 10:22

[13] Hebrews 12:2



1.      Charles John Ellicott, Bible Commentary for English Readers, Romans, Vol.7, (London, England, Cassell and Company), p. 246.

2.      Simon J. Kistemaker, New Testament Commentary, Hebrews, (Grand Rapids, Michigan, Baker Book House, 1986), p. 309-310.

3.      J. C. Ryle, Saving Faith, Public domain.

4.      Charles Spurgeon's sermon, The Trial of Your Faith #2055. 1Peter 1:7. [1973.

5.      Gordon H. Clark, Carl F.H. Henry, Editor, In Baker’s Dictionary of Christian Ethics. Washington D.C.: Canon Press.]  

“To God, only wise, be glory through Jesus Christ forever. Amen.” (Romans 16:27) and “heirs according to the promise.” (Galatians 3:28, 29)

Mr. Kettler has previously published articles in the Chalcedon Report and Contra Mundum. He and his wife Marea attend the Westminster, CO, RPCNA Church. Mr. Kettler is the author of the book defending the Reformed Faith against attacks, titled: The Religion That Started in a Hat. Available at: http://www.TheReligionThatStartedInAHat.com


For more Study:


* https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/ctd/f.html


** https://www.gotquestions.org/faith-in-God.html


Faith by Louis Berkhof https://www.monergism.com/faith-0


Faith by Charles Hodge https://www.monergism.com/faith-1