The Hebrew noun [emuwnah 530] in Habakkuk’s famous statement “but the just shall live by his faith [emuwnah 530]” (2:4), actually means faithfulness and not faith as it is translated. It appears around 50 times in the Old Testament and always indicates faithfulness in every context. About half of its occurrences describe God’s faithfulness. Obviously it’s not speaking about God having belief in something or someone else but rather about Him showing faithfulness to us. It’s rather suspicious that in the King James Version, Habakkuk 2:4 is the only place out of 50 where emuwnah is translated as faith! A few translations (CJB, GW, LEB, NET, NIV, NLT, NOG, VOICE) do render it correctly as faithfulness. Furthermore, the Septuagint includes a possessive pronoun that would be rendered into English as “But the just shall live from my faith [faithfulness].” Of course Habakkuk 2:4 is quoted three times in the New Testament (Rom 1:17; Gal 3:11; Heb 10:38), and if Habakkuk truly meant faithfulness then this meaning would not have changed in its NT counterpart of the Greek pistis.
The Greek noun [pistis 4102] appears almost 250 times in the NT and is always translated as faith in the King James Version except in just three places where the context forces it to be rendered faithfulness or fidelity (Rom 3:3; Gal 5:22; Tit 2:10). The word pistis also appears about 30 times in the Septuagint (Deu 32:20; 1Sa 21:12, 26:23; 2Ki 12:15, 22:7; 1Ch 9:22,26,31; 2Ch 31:12,15,18, 34:12; Neh 9:38; Psa 33:4; Pro 3:3, 12:17,22, 14:22, 15:28; Sng 4:8; Jer 5:1,3, 9:3, 15:18, 28:9, 32:41, 33:6; Hos 2:20; Hab 2:4), and all but two (Deu 32:20; Hab 2:4) are rendered as “faithfully,” “faithfulness,” “truth,” “trust,” “loyalty,” “reliable,” “steadfast,” “assuredly,” and on one occasion the proper name “Amana.” And the contexts of the two exceptions don’t force the meaning of faith but only allow this possibility. In fact, the majority occurrences weigh in favor that these two exceptions also mean faithfulness. The point is that in the KJV and most other translations, when liberty allows pistis to be translated as faith then that liberty is taken. However, the Septuagint translators used it consistently with the meaning of faithfulness.
Look at how the New English Translation and the New Testament for Everyone render Romans 3:22, 26: “the righteousness of God through the faithfulness of Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction … This was also to demonstrate his righteousness in the present time, so that he would be just and the justifier of the one who lives because of Jesus’ faithfulness” (NET); “God’s covenant justice comes into operation through the faithfulness of Jesus the Messiah, for the benefit of all who have faith. For there is no distinction … This was to demonstrate his covenant justice in the present time: that is, that he himself is in the right, and that he declares to be in the right everyone who trusts in the faithfulness of Jesus” (NTE). Back in the first chapter of Romans, this is also what Paul meant when he said “For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from [ek 1537] faith [pistis 4102] to [eis 1519 faith [pistis 4102]: as it is written, The just shall live by [ek 1537] faith [pistis 4102]” (Rom 1:17). Paraphrasing, he was saying that God’s righteousness is on the basis of Christ’s faithfulness to the end result of our faithfulness; as it is written, the righteous shall have eternal life on the basis of Christ’s faithfulness.
Was Martin Luther correct in his understanding of “The just shall live by faith” to mean that we are saved by belief? The argument of Sola Fide is that we are saved by only believing some facts are true and nothing else, otherwise we are trying to save ourselves by our works. But does “by faith” mean to believe some facts are true or does it mean faithfulness to God?
The three main passages where Paul stated emphatically that righteousness is not by the works of the law, he juxtaposed it with the faithfulness of Jesus Christ: “For no one is declared righteous before him by the works of the law, for through the law comes the knowledge of sin. But now apart from the law the righteousness of God (although it is attested by the law and the prophets) has been disclosed—namely, the righteousness of God through the faithfulness of Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction” (Rom 3:20-22 NET); “yet we know that no one is justified by the works of the law but by the faithfulness of Jesus Christ. And we have come to believe in Christ Jesus, so that we may be justified by the faithfulness of Christ and not by the works of the law, because by the works of the law no one will be justified.” (Gal 2:16 NET); “and be found in him, not because I have my own righteousness derived from the law, but because I have the righteousness that comes by way of Christ’s faithfulness—a righteousness from God that is in fact based on Christ’s faithfulness” (Phi 3:9 NET). Rather than it being an issue between working versus believing, Paul taught that it’s an issue between the Law of Moses versus Christ’s faithfulness.
He quoted from Moses about Christ’s faithfulness to come down from heaven, die for our sins, and be raised up again: “But the righteousness which is of faith [faithfulness] speaketh on this wise, Say not in thine heart, Who shall ascend into heaven? (that is, to bring Christ down from above🙂 Or, Who shall descend into the deep? (that is, to bring up Christ again from the dead.) But what saith it? The word [rhema] is nigh thee, even in thy mouth, and in thy heart: that is, the word [rhema 4487] of faith [faithfulness], which we preach … So then faith [faithfulness] cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word [rhema 4487] of God” (Rom 10:6-8, 17). Was he saying in verse 17 that faith or belief comes by repetitiously hearing God’s word? Actually, he was saying that the message of Christ’s faithfulness to die for our sins comes by hearing, and that people hear this message by the word or declaration Paul was sent to preach.
He taught the same to the Galatians: “I have been crucified with Christ, and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So the life I now live in the body, I live because of the faithfulness of the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” (Gal 2:20 NET), “This only would I learn of you, Received ye the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith [faithfulness]? … He therefore that ministereth to you the Spirit, and worketh miracles among you, doeth he it by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith [faithfulness]?” (Gal 3:2, 5). This “hearing of faithfulness” is hearing his preaching of Christ’s faithfulness to give Himself for us, “But they had heard only, That he which persecuted us in times past now preacheth the faith [faithfulness] which once he destroyed” (Gal 1:23).
In this passage, “Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus: That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus. For by grace are ye saved through faith [faithfulness]; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast” (Eph 2:5-9), Paul meant that we are saved by grace through faithfulness. He will go on to say, “For through him we both have access [prosagoge 4318] by one Spirit unto the Father” (Eph 2:18), “This was according to the eternal purpose that he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord, in whom we have boldness and confident access [prosagoge 4318] to God because of Christ’s faithfulness” (Eph 3:11-12 NET). We now have access to the Father because Christ is seated at His right hand. Therefore, we are saved by God’s grace through Christ’s faithfulness to die for our sins because we died with Him, were made alive with Him, were raised with Him, and are now seated with Him at the Father’s right hand.
The gospel of Jesus Christ
“For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith [faithfulness] to faith [faithfulness]: as it is written, The just shall live by faith [faithfulness]” (Rom 1:16-17).
That “the gospel of Christ” is the message that Christ Himself preached is evident by what Paul said at the end of Romans, “Now to him that is of power to stablish you according to my gospel, and the preaching of Jesus Christ” (Rom 16:25). Therefore, the primary litmus test that the Greek pistis means faithfulness would be through examining what Jesus Christ Himself preached.
Looking at just a few passages from the Gospel of Matthew: “When Jesus heard it, he marvelled, and said to them that followed, Verily I say unto you, I have not found so great faith [faithfulness], no, not in Israel” (8:10); “And, behold, they brought to him a man sick of the palsy, lying on a bed: and Jesus seeing their faith [faithfulness] said unto the sick of the palsy; Son, be of good cheer; thy sins be forgiven thee” (9:2); “But Jesus turned him about, and when he saw her, he said, Daughter, be of good comfort; thy faith [faithfulness] hath made thee whole. And the woman was made whole from that hour” (9:22); “And when Jesus departed thence, two blind men followed him, crying, and saying, Thou Son of David, have mercy on us … Then touched he their eyes, saying, According to your faith [faithfulness] be it unto you” (9:27, 29); “Then Jesus answered and said unto her, O woman, great is thy faith [faithfulness]: be it unto thee even as thou wilt. And her daughter was made whole from that very hour” (15:28).
Did Jesus mean that it was their faith or belief that healed them? If so, then maybe we really should be listening to “Word of Faith” teachers claiming we can be healed by our faith! But notice that the two blind men were crying out “Thou son of David.” What happened is that Jesus healed these people because of their faithfulness to God in receiving Him as their Messiah. This is indeed what Christ preached, “Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection; not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead [nekros 3498] works [ergon 2041], and of faith [faithfulness] toward God” (Heb 6:1). These “dead works” are the blood of animals, “the blood of goats and calves … the blood of bulls and of goats, and the ashes of an heifer … purge your conscience from dead [nekros 3498] works [ergon 2041]” (Heb 9:12-14). Christ preached to Israel that they should turn from these dead works and be faithful to God in receiving Him as their Messiah.
The Jews who reject Jesus of Nazareth as their Messiah are not walking in the steps of Abraham’s faithfulness, “walk in the steps of that faith [faithfulness] of our father Abraham” (Rom 4:12). God had promised Abraham that he would have a biological son for his heir, “This shall not be thine heir; but he that shall come forth out of thine own bowels shall be thine heir” (Gen 15:4), and Abraham later considered Ishmael to be the fulfillment of that promise. However, God had not yet indicated the woman through which his heir would come. He would later reveal to him, “As for Sarai thy wife, thou shalt not call her name Sarai, but Sarah shall her name be. And I will bless her, and give thee a son also of her” (Gen 17:15-16). Did Abraham joyfully embrace this? On the contrary, he argued with God about it, “O that Ishmael might live before thee!” (Gen 17:18). Paul said that “He staggered [diakrino] not at the promise of God through unbelief; but was strong in faith [faithfulness], giving glory to God” (Rom 4:20). The Greek diakrino means “to contend with.” Although Abraham did initially contend with God, he quickly submitted as evidenced by circumcising himself and his household that same day. He forsook his hope of Ishmael to a new hope of Isaac, “Who against hope believed in hope, that he might become the father of many nations, according to that which was spoken, So shall thy seed be” (Rom 4:18). He accepted that the promise of “So shall thy seed be” (Gen 15:5) would actually be fulfilled through Sarah. These are his steps of faithfulness to God and these events were meant to teach us about God’s plan of salvation, “Which things are an allegory: for these are the two covenants; the one from the mount Sinai, which gendereth to bondage, which is Agar” (Gal 4:24).
Paul revealed that Abraham’s steps of faithfulness to God in turning his hope from Ishmael to Isaac was figurative of what the Jewish people were to do in turning their hope of righteousness from the Law of Moses to the faithfulness of Jesus Christ. Therefore, those who reject Jesus of Nazareth as the Messiah are contending with God and saying “O that Ishmael might live before thee!” They are not following the steps of Abraham’s faithfulness by submitting to God’s righteousness.
When Paul said “from faith [faithfulness] to faith [faithfulness]” (Rom 1:17), he meant that righteousness is on the basis of Christ’s faithfulness with the result of our faithfulness. Christ’s faithfulness to the Father in obedience to death “became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross” (Phi 2:7-8), results in our faithfulness to Him as Lord. Faithfulness to Him as Lord is indeed the gospel He preached: “Who then is a faithful and wise servant, whom his lord hath made ruler over his household, to give them meat in due season?” (Mat 24:45); “His lord said unto him, Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord” (Mat 25:21); “And if ye have not been faithful in that which is another man’s, who shall give you that which is your own? No servant can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.” (Luk 16:12-13); “And he said unto him, Well, thou good servant: because thou hast been faithful in a very little, have thou authority over ten cities” (Luk 19:17).
The just shall live by faithfulness in Galatians
“So then they which be of faith [pistis 4102] are blessed with faithful [pistos 4103] Abraham. For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse: for it is written, Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them. But that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, it is evident: for, The just shall live by faith [pistis 4102].” (Gal 3:9-11).
When Paul said “So then they which be of faith [faithfulness],” he was referring back to the faithfulness of Jesus Christ: “yet we know that no one is justified by the works of the law but by the faithfulness of Jesus Christ. And we have come to believe in Christ Jesus, so that we may be justified by the faithfulness of Christ and not by the works of the law, because by the works of the law no one will be justified” (Gal 2:16 NET), “I have been crucified with Christ, and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So the life I now live in the body, I live because of the faithfulness of the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” (Gal 2:20 NET). Therefore, to be “of faithfulness” is to be seeking justification by the faithfulness of Jesus Christ and not by the works of the law.
The Greek pistos in “faithful Abraham” is an adjective depicting his faithfulness to God. But some Bible versions render it as a verb “believing Abraham” (DBY, NKJV), or even a noun “Abraham, the man of faith” (NIV), “Abraham the believer” (NET). It seems these translations are an attempt to make the text agree with the erroneous assumption that Abraham was justified by faith or belief. But since Paul was teaching about faithfulness then this supports the understanding of “The just shall live by faith [faithfulness].” As Abraham was justified by being faithful to God, we also will be blessed by our faithfulness.
The just shall live by faithfulness in Hebrews
The faithfulness that Jesus Christ taught, “the doctrine of Christ … faith [faithfulness] toward God” (Heb 6:1), is expounded upon later in Hebrews, “Now the just shall live by faith [faithfulness]” (Heb 10:38), “Now faith [faithfulness] is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Heb 11:1). Faithfulness being the assurance of things or matters hoped for is that our faithfulness to God gives us a confident assurance that we can put our hope and trust in Him. After all, why should He do anything for us if we are not being faithful to Him? Therefore, if we are not being faithful to Him then we have no basis for hope and trust. And faithfulness is the convicting of matters not being seen because “By faith [faithfulness] Noah, being warned of God of things not seen as yet, moved with fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his house” (Heb 11:7). Because of Noah’s faithfulness, God warned or convicted him of the flood that was not yet seen. He then moved with fear and faithfully obeyed, “Thus did Noah; according to all that God commanded him, so did he” (Gen 6:22).
“For by it [faithfulness] the elders obtained a good report … But without faith [faithfulness] it is impossible to please him” (Heb 11:2, 6). The good report God gave of the Old Testament saints indicates that faithfulness is what pleases Him. We understand that since God gave by inspiration the Scriptures that record their faithfulness to Him then faithfulness is what pleases Him. “Through faith [faithfulness] we understand that the worlds [aion 165] were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear” (Heb 11:3). This statement is not about the creation of the material world in the beginning but rather the aion or ages being framed and ordered throughout history so that Christ would come into the world and save us from our sins. For four thousand years God spoke to faithful people to bring about the historical events which transpired or the “things which are seen.” History didn’t just happen by chance. These events had to have happened the way they did so that the geographical, political, religious, ethnic, social, economic, and linguistic climate would be exactly the way it was for God’s Son to come and die for us.
Enoch, Noah, and Abraham were faithful to God because they all walked with God:
“By faith [faithfulness] Enoch” (Heb 11:5), “Enoch walked with God” (Gen 5:22, 24)
“By faith [faithfulness] Noah” (Heb 11:7), “Noah walked with God” (Gen 6:9)
“By faith [faithfulness] Abraham” (Heb 11:8), “walk before me” (Gen 17:1)
Earlier in Hebrews we were told “And Moses verily was faithful [pistos 4103] in all his house, as a servant” (Heb 3:5), which corresponds to “By faith [faithfulness] Moses” (Heb 11:24). The Greek adjective pistos is the same that was used to describe Abraham in Galatians, “So then they which be of faith are blessed with faithful [pistos 4103] Abraham” (Gal 3:9). It was because of Moses’ faithfulness to God that he “refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter; choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season,” “forsook Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king,” “kept the passover, and the sprinkling of blood,” and “passed through the Red sea as by dry land” (Heb 11:24-29). Moses faithfully obeyed God as a servant, “My servant Moses is not so, who is faithful in all mine house” (Num 12:7). And he died faithfully serving, “So Moses the servant of the LORD died there in the land of Moab” (Deu 34:5), “These all died in faith [faithfulness]” (Heb 11:13).
The testing of our faithfulness
James taught that our faithfulness, not our faith, is what will be tried or tested, “Knowing this, that the trying of your faith [faithfulness] worketh patience” (Jas 1:3). He later cited the testing of Abraham’s faithfulness as an example, “Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar?” (Jas 2:21), “And it came to pass after these things, that God did tempt [nacah 5254] Abraham” (Gen 22:1).
The Hebrew nacah is also used several times for God testing or proving Israel: “that I may prove [nacah 5254] them, whether they will walk in my law, or no” (Exo 16:4); “for God is come to prove [nacah 5254] you, and that his fear may be before your faces, that ye sin not” (Exo 20:20); “to prove [nacah 5254] thee, to know what was in thine heart, whether thou wouldest keep his commandments, or no” (Deu 8:2); “for the LORD your God proveth [nacah 5254] you, to know whether ye love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul” (Deu 13:3); “That through them I may prove [nacah 5254] Israel, whether they will keep the way of the LORD to walk therein, as their fathers did keep it, or not” (Jdg 2:22); “Now these are the nations which the LORD left, to prove [nacah 5254] Israel by them” (Jdg 3:1).
The debate over the centuries between Roman Catholics and Protestants about faith versus works in James 2:14-26 is bogus because James wasn’t even talking about faith but faithfulness, “Even so faith [faithfulness], if it hath not works [ergon 2041], is dead, being alone” (Jas 2:17). The Greek ergon simply means actions. It’s not an issue of belief versus meritorious works but rather of only saying we are faithful versus actually being faithful! It’s our actions that show our faithfulness, “though a man say he hath faith [faithfulness], and have not works [ergon 2041]?” (Jas 2:14), “shew me thy faith [faithfulness] without thy works [ergon 2041], and I will shew thee my faith [faithfulness] by my works [ergon 2041]” (Jas 2:18).
Repeatedly James emphasized that actions must accompany faithfulness, “have not works [actions]” (Jas 2:14), “hath not works [actions]” (Jas 2:17), “without thy works [actions]” (Jas 2:18), “without works [actions]” (Jas 2:20, 26), “not by faith [faithfulness] only” (Jas 2:24). Tested and proven actions complete or perfect our faithfulness, “Seest thou how faith [faithfulness] wrought with his works [actions], and by works [actions] was faith [faithfulness] made perfect [teleioo 5048]?” (Jas 2:22). Faithful actions must accompany confessed faithfulness otherwise faithfulness is left incomplete and alone.
God told Abraham “I am the Almighty God; walk before me, and be thou perfect [tamiym 8549]” (Gen 17:1). The Hebrew tamiym is used about 40 times in Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers to describe the requirement of a sacrifice being “without blemish.” Of course Abraham’s faithfulness was not perfect or complete until it was tested by offering his son Isaac as a sacrifice. His faithfulness was seen in his obedient actions, “for now I know that thou fearest God, seeing thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son from me” (Gen 22:12), “because thou hast obeyed my voice” (Gen 22:18). It’s easy to be faithful to Christ when everything is going well and we don’t have to give up anything. The test of our faithfulness is seen when things are not going well and when we must make sacrifices of the things that are important to us. Walking before God in faithfulness requires sacrificial actions.
James taught that everyone confessing faithfulness must be proven, “What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith [faithfulness], and have not works [actions]? can faith [faithfulness] save him?” (Jas 2:14). How is a master profited when his servant is not being faithful? Christ preached “And cast ye the unprofitable servant into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Mat 25:30). And Paul taught that we are slaves, not necessarily to whom we confess to obey, but to whom we actually obey, “Do you not know that to whom you present yourselves slaves to obey, you are that one’s slaves whom you obey, whether of sin leading to death, or of obedience leading to righteousness?” (Rom 6:16 NKJV).
He also taught, “And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; And patience, experience [dokime 1382]; and experience [dokime 1382], hope” (Rom 5:3-4). This follows what he had just taught about righteousness being imputed to Abraham, “it was imputed to him; But for us also, to whom it shall be imputed … Therefore, being justified by faith [faithfulness]” (Rom 4:23-24, 5:1). The Greek dokime translated here as experience actually means proof. He was saying that patiently serving through trials and tribulations proves our faithfulness to the Lord Jesus Christ and therefore gives us reason to hope.
Peter taught that tested and proven faithfulness to the Lord Jesus Christ is far more valuable than gold, “That the trial of your faith [faithfulness], being much more precious than of gold that perisheth” (1Pe 1:7), because the result of faithfulness is salvation which is more valuable than any amount of gold, “Receiving the end of your faith [faithfulness], even the salvation of your souls” (1Pe 1:9).
That pistis means faithfulness and not faith is also evident by various statements that make the most sense when understood this way. One example is the parable of the mustard seed: “The kingdom of heaven is like to a grain of mustard seed, which a man took, and sowed in his field: Which indeed is the least of all seeds: but when it is grown, it is the greatest among herbs” (Mat 13:31-32), “If ye have faith [faithfulness] as a grain of mustard seed” (Mat 17:20). Typically this is taken to mean that if we have just a tiny amount of faith then we can accomplish great things. But it’s actually about making ourselves the least as faithful servants, “But he that is greatest among you shall be your servant” (Mat 23:11). A seed planted in the ground is figurative of death and resurrection from death, “Thou fool, that which thou sowest is not quickened, except it die” (1Co 15:36). Since a seed produces “after his kind” (Gen 1:11-12), “and to every seed his own body” (1Co 15:38), then it follows “For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection” (Rom 6:5). As with a mustard seed, Christ made Himself the least in His death and became the greatest in His resurrection. Likewise, we will be resurrected “after his kind,” after the mustard seed kind so to speak. In other words, if we are also planted in the ground as the least, we will be resurrected to be great.
Another example is this statement: “And he that doubteth [diakrino 1252] is damned if he eat, because he eateth not of faith [faithfulness]: for whatsoever is not of faith [faithfulness] is sin” (Rom 14:23). How is it that anything we do that is not out of belief is sin? What in the world does that mean? But since the context is about the servant and master relationship, “Who art thou that judgest another man’s servant? to his own master he standeth or falleth. Yea, he shall be holden up: for God is able to make him stand.” (Rom 14:4), then what makes the most sense is that anything we do which is not out of faithfulness to our Master the Lord Jesus Christ is sin. The Greek diakrino translated here as doubt actually means contend. The idea is that a servant contending with what his master has told him to do is not faithfully serving his master. Therefore, Jewish and Gentile brothers in the Lord shouldn’t be pushing upon each other their convictions about meats and observing of days because both groups are striving to be faithful to the same Lord.
Another final example is this statement: “For in Jesus Christ neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision; but faith [faithfulness] which worketh by love” (Gal 5:6). How is it that belief works by love? How could we believe more by loving more? In context, the commandment of love satisfies all of the commandments of the law, “For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this; Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself” (Gal 5:14), which is the law of Christ, “Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ” (Gal 6:2). The reason it is Christ’s law is because He commanded it, “Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets” (Mat 7:12), “And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” (Mat 22:39-40). Therefore “faith [faithfulness] works by love” makes the most sense because faithfulness to our Lord Jesus Christ can only be accomplished by keeping His commandment of love.
As with the Greek noun [pistis 4102], its verb form [pisteuo 4100] also appears almost 250 times in the NT and is always translated as believe in the KVJ except in just eight places where the context forces it to be rendered commit or trust (Luk 16:11; Jhn 2:24; Rom 3:2; 1Co 9:17; Gal 2:7; 1Th 2:4; 1Ti 1:11; Tit 1:3). And similarly as with pistis, when liberty allows pisteuo to be translated believe then that liberty is taken. The Complete Jewish Bible (CJB), on the other hand, is one English version that consistently renders pisteuo as trust.
To support this contention that pisteuo actually means trust rather than believe, Abraham again is the example: “For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed [trusted] God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness” (Rom 4:3), “Even as Abraham believed [trusted] God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness” (Gal 3:6), “And the scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed [trusted] God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness” (Jas 2:23).
The Scripture “And he believed [trusted] in the LORD; and he counted it to him for righteousness” (Gen 15:6), was fulfilled many years later when Abraham’s faithfulness was tested, “Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar? … And the scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed [trusted] God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness” (Jas 2:21, 23). This indicates that imputed righteousness is not a one-and-done event but is contingent upon continued faithfulness. Would God still have counted Abraham righteous had he disobeyed? What would have been the point of the test?
God had told him “walk before me” (Gen 17:1), which Paul referenced “before him whom he believed [trusted], even God, who quickeneth the dead” (Rom 4:17). Abraham trusted God to raise his son Isaac from the dead, “By faith [faithfulness] Abraham, when he was tried, offered up Isaac … Accounting that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead” (Heb 11:17, 19). Nobody else was on that mountain to witness what Abraham was about to do. Therefore, his faithful sacrifice was in God’s sight alone, “And Abraham called the name of that place Jehovahjireh: as it is said to this day, In the mount of the LORD it shall be seen” (Gen 22:14). Although multitudes witnessed the crucifixion of Jesus Christ as a common criminal between two thieves, only God saw His faithfulness as the sacrificial Lamb sent by Him, “God will provide himself a lamb” (Gen 22:8).
Walking before God means that we obey in His sight regardless of how other people see us or if they see us at all. As living sacrifices (Rom 12:1), we obey God even when we know we’ll be misunderstood and mistreated by other people. We’re willing to be seen as fools, deceivers, ignorant, unscholarly, troublemakers, unimportant, etc. It’s an inverse correlation—the less glory we get on account of faithfulness to Him, the more glory He gets. This is why Abraham “was strong in faith [faithfulness], giving glory to God” (Rom 4:20).
Christ didn’t seek a good reputation among people but willingly died with the reputation of a criminal, “But made himself of no reputation … and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross” (Phl 2:7-8).
And we are to have this same mindset, “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus” (Phl 2:5). Our lives are to be “made conformable unto his death” (Phl 3:10). But if we are seeking to have a good image in front of people then we are not being conformed to the image of Christ.
Jesus Christ taught faithfulness and Paul was not ashamed of the gospel Christ taught, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth [trusts]; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith [faithfulness] to faith [faithfulness]: as it is written, The just shall live by faith [faithfulness].” (Rom 1:16-17).
The statement Paul later makes “That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe [trust] in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved” (Rom 10:9), is often quoted to claim that if we just make a confession and believe that Christ was resurrected then we are saved. However, he had already taught earlier “if we believe [trust] on him that raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead” (Rom 4:24). As Peter also conferred, “Who by him do believe [trust] in God, that raised him up from the dead, and gave him glory; that your faith [faithfulness] and hope might be in God.” (1Pe 1:21). It’s not about simply believing that the resurrection happened, it’s about trusting in God that made the resurrection happen! We must live in faithful service to the Lord Jesus Christ, trusting God the Father to defend and reward us, “I am thy shield, and thy exceeding great reward” (Gen 15:1). This is what Jesus Christ taught: “reward of your Father which is in heaven” (Mat 6:1), “thy Father which seeth in secret himself shall reward thee openly” (Mat 6:4), “thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly” (Mat 6:6), “thy Father, which seeth in secret, shall reward thee openly” (Mat 6:18). “But without faith [faithfulness] it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him” (Heb 11:6).
Abraham’s example is not that of faith and belief but rather of faithfulness and trust. Now, of course faith and belief are certainly components of faithfulness and trust because we’re not going to be faithful to someone we can’t trust and we can’t trust someone we don’t believe. However, the doctrine of Sola Fide has dwindled salvation down to a single element comprising the whole. This is not the gospel of Christ.
I contend that Martin Luther was wrong in his understanding of “The just shall live by faith” to mean belief. But who am I to speak? I’m not a scholar, theologian, or even a seminary graduate. I’m just a follower of “unlearned and ignorant men” (Act 4:13), a follower of fools, “We are fools for Christ’s sake, but ye are wise in Christ; we are weak, but ye are strong; ye are honourable, but we are despised … Wherefore I beseech you, be ye followers of me” (1Co 4:10, 16). If I’m seeking the glory of being esteemed as a great author, scholar, or theologian then I’m the one getting the glory. But if I’m being scorned, ridiculed, mocked, rejected, seen as a fool, and even seen as a false teacher on account of faithfulness to my Lord Jesus Christ then He is being glorified, “strong in faith [faithfulness], giving glory to God” (Rom 4:20). Being like Christ means that we become like a mustard seed. He didn’t seek a good reputation among people or to make a name for Himself, therefore God gave “him a name which is above every name” (Phl 2:9). We must walk in faithfulness to Him regardless of how we appear to others, “For we walk by faith [faithfulness], not by sight [appearance]” (2Co 5:7).