Paul’s famous statement, “That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe [pisteuō 4100] in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved” (Rom 10:9), is misunderstood to mean that we’re saved by simply believing that the resurrection of Jesus Christ happened as an historical fact. Thus, countless sermons have been preached and books written lending evidence to the resurrection for us to have firm belief. But that this wasn’t what Paul meant is apparent by his quote from Isaiah, “For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth [pisteuō 4100] on him shall not be ashamed” (v. 11), and by what he had written earlier, “if we believe [pisteuō 4100] on him that raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead” (4:24). The Greek verb pisteuō appears about 250 times in the New Testament and usually rendered “believe” but actually means “trust.” It’s not believing Jesus was raised but trusting in Him that raised Jesus.
Peter quoted the same from Isaiah, “Wherefore also it is contained in the scripture, Behold, I lay in Sion a chief corner stone, elect, precious: and he that believeth [pisteuō 4100] on him shall not be confounded [ashamed]” (1Pe 2:6. And he had already said earlier, “Who by him do believe [pisteuō 4100] in God, that raised him up from the dead” (1Pe 1:21). It’s trusting in Him that raised Jesus from the dead.
That “Whosoever believeth [trusts] on him shall not be ashamed” is that we won’t be put to shame, let down, or disappointed when we trust in Him. David said: “they trusted in thee, and were not confounded” (Psa 22:5); “O my God, I trust in thee: let me not be ashamed, let not mine enemies triumph over me” (Psa 25:2); “let me not be ashamed; for I put my trust in thee” (Psa 25:20).
To “believe [trust] in thine heart” is to “Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding” (Pro 3:5). In His Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said nothing about believing. He taught us to “lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven … For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” (Mat 6:20,21). This treasure is trusting in our hearts our “Father which is in heaven” (v. 1). We must live with no thought about our life or tomorrow, “Take no thought for your life … Take therefore no thought for the morrow” (vs. 25,34). We’re not to try and understand, figure out, and plan out everything but simply trust in God.
“The just shall live by faith [pistis 4102]” (Rom 1:17; Gal 3:10; Heb 10:38), is mistranslated. The Greek pistis doesn’t mean “faith” but “faithfulness” which is proven by Habakkuk’s statement, “the just shall live by his faith [‘ĕmûnȃ 530]” (Hab 2:4). The Hebrew ‘ĕmûnȃ appears about 50 times in the Old Testament and always indicates faithfulness in every context. Rendered more clearly in other translations, “live because of his faithfulness” (NET), “live by his faithfulness” (NIV), Habakkuk wasn’t speaking of our faith but His faithfulness! Abraham foretold of God providing the Lamb, “My son, God will provide himself a lamb” (Gen 22:8), and God swore His faithfulness to do it, “By myself have I sworn, saith the LORD” (v. 16). Isaiah later wrote of the Lamb to come, “he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter” (Isa 53:7), and John announced the Lamb had come, “Behold the Lamb of God” (Jhn 1:29,36). Therefore, the just will live—have eternal life—by trusting in God’s faithfulness.
The German Reformer Martin Luther (1483-1546) is the man that gave us the misunderstanding that “The shall live by faith” means we’re saved by faith. And he’s also the man that wrote the scathing antisemitic book “The Jews and Their Lies” which was used about 400 years later by another antisemitic German leader Adolph Hitler to fuel hatred for the Jews in the Holocaust. Yet ministers, pastors, scholars, and theologians sing the praises of Luther! Why keep his dark side a secret? Maybe because revealing it would hinder his doctrine of salvation by faith?
There are many places in Scripture where God’s people were called or called themselves “servants” or “faithful.” But there’s nowhere in Scripture where they ever called themselves “believers” as they do today. There are two places in the KJV where statements were mistranslated to sound that way, “And believers [pisteuō 4100] were the more added to the Lord” (Act 5:14), “be thou an example of the believers [pistos 4103]” (1Ti 4:12). The verb pisteuo and adjective pistos were both erroneously rendered as the noun “believers.” And the problem is far more pervasive in modern Bible Versions. The ASV has 4 places calling them “believers,” the ESV 15, the NET about 25, the NIV about 50, and the NLT about 175! Why such vast inconsistencies?
Salvation isn’t about simply believing the resurrection happened but trusting God that made it happen. Our salvation is victory over death in resurrection. But if we can’t even trust God in our life, “Take no thought for your life,” how can we trust God in our death?