A Long Definition of Faith

“Faith, which is the response of a human being to God as truth and goodness and so the one source of salvation, is reliance on the truth of God’s promises and on God’s faithfulness to them (3:3seq.; 1 Th 5:24; 2 Tm 2:13; Heb 10:23; 11:11) and on his power to implement them (Rm 4:17-21; Heb 11:19). After the long OT period of preparation (Heb 11) God has spoken through his Son (Heb 1:1). We must believe the Son (see Mt 8:10b; Jn 3:11seq., 11e) and the kerygma or proclamation (Rm 10:8-17; 1 Co 1:21; 15:11,14; cf. Ac 2:22+) of the good news (Rm 1:16, 1 Co 15:1-2; Ph 1:27; Ep 1:13) made by the apostles (Rm 1:5; 1 Co 3:5; cf. Jn 17:20). The kerygma proclaims that God raised Jesus from the dead, made him Kyrios (Rm 4:24f; 10:9; Ac 17:31; 1 P 1:21; cf. 1 Co 15:14,17), and through him offers life to all who believe in him (Rm 6:8-11; 2 Co 4:13f; Ep 1:19f; Col 2:12; 1 Th 4:14). Faith in the name, or person, of Jesus (Rm 3:26; 10:13; cf. Jn 1:12; Ac 3:16; 1 Jn 3:23) who is the Messiah (Ga 2:16; cf. Ac 24:24; 1 Jn 5:1). the Lord (Rm 10:9; 1 Co 12:3; Ph 2:11; cf. Ac 16:31) and Son of God (Ga 2:20; cf. John 20:31; 1 Jn 5:5; Ac 8:37; 9:20) is thus the necessary condition of salvation (Rm 10:9-13; 1 Co 1:21; Ga 3:22; cf. Is 7:9+; Ac 4:12; 16:31; Heb 11:6; Jn 3:15-18). Faith is not only intellectual assent, it is to trust and obey (Rm 1:5; 6:17; 10:16; 16:26; cf. Ac 6:7) the lifegiving truth (2 Th 2:12f). Faith which thus unites a person with Christ (2 Co 13:5; Ga 2:16,20; Ep 3:17) also confers the Spirit on him (Ga 3:2,5,14; cf. Jn 7:38f; Ac 11:17), the Spirit of the sons of God (Ga 3:26; cf. 1:12). Faith is reliance on God and not on self (Rm 3:27; Ep 2:9) and thus contrasts with the old order of the Law (Rm 7:7+) with its vain search (Rm 10:3; Ph 3:9) for holiness by works (Rm 3:20,28; 9:31f; Ga 2:16; 3:11f); only faith can effect true holiness, the saving holiness of God himself (Rm 1:17+; 3:21-26), received as a free gift from him (Rm 3:24; 4:16; 5:17; Ep 2:8; cf. Ac 15:11). Faith relates to the promise made to Abraham (Rm 4; Ga 3:6-18) and so make salvation accessible to everyone, pagans included (Rm. 1:5,16; 3:29f; 9:30; 10:11f; 16:26; Ga 3:8). It is coupled with baptism (Rm 6:4+) calls for public profession (Rm 10:10; 1 Tm 6:12), and expresses itself in charity (Ga 5:6; cf. Jm 2:14+). Faith is obscure (2 Co 5:7; Heb 11:1; cf. Jn 20:29), and involves hope as its concomitant (Rm 5:2+). It must be allowed to grow (2 Co 10:15; 1 Th 3:10; 2 Th 1:3) amid struggles and sufferings (Ph 1:29; Ep 6:16; 1 Th 3:2-8; 2 Th 1:4; Heb 12:2; 1 P 5:9), demanding fortitude (1 Co 16:13; Col 1:23; 2:5-7) and tenacity (2 Tim 4:7; cf. 1:14; 1 Tm 6:20) right up to the vision and possession of God (1 Co 13:12; cf. 1 Jn 3:2).”

source: The New Testament from The Jerusalem Bible (1966), Romans: the Letter of Paul to the Church in Rome, p. 269, footnote j.

I typed this whole definition by hand. 🙂


Another useful description of what faith is:

‘faith is “a condition required by God to be performed by him who shall be saved before it is a means of obtaining that salvation,” since neither God the Father, God the Son, nor God the Holy Spirit believes for the individual. The person him- or herself must believe in Christ Jesus. God does not implant faith into a person (whatever that would mean), for faith is neither a substance nor an object that can be given, but refers primarily and properly to the response of an individual to the work of God in Christ through the Spirit, resulting in an active trust in the atoning and justifying work and merit of Jesus Christ at Calvary and in His resurrection.’
– Will Birch, “Who Saves Whom? Does Faith in Christ Save Anyone?” (Williambirch).

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