God’s Faithfulness, Not Abraham’s Faith

The Greek noun pistis translated as “faith” throughout the New Testament actually means “faithfulness.” Here in Romans, “For what if some did not believe [trust]? shall their unbelief [distrust] make the faith [pistis 4102] of God without effect?” (Rom 3:3), “the faithfulness of God” (ASV, NET, NKJV), “God’s faithfulness” (CSB, NIV), Paul was talking about God’s faithfulness to keep His promise to Abraham: “By myself have I sworn, saith the LORD … That in blessing I will bless thee, and in multiplying I will multiply thy seed as the stars of the heaven, and as the sand which is upon the sea shore; and thy seed shall possess the gate of his enemies” (Gen 22:16-17). That “his enemies” is singular indicates “thy seed” isn’t many people but only one person, “He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ” (Gal 3:16). It’s God’s faithfulness to send His Son as promised.

Paul went on to teach, “his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God” (Rom 3:25). Because God would be faithful to keep His promise of sending His Son as the Lamb, “God will provide himself a lamb” (Gen 22:8), therefore He forbore the sins of the past which would later be remitted by the sacrifice of His Son. What Paul taught here in chapter 3 about God’s faithfulness laid the groundwork for what he taught in chapter 4 about Abraham.

The Greek verb logizomai in “Abraham believed [trusted] God, and it was counted [logizomai 3049] unto him for righteousness” (Rom 4:3), means “to conclude,” “to esteem,” or “to think,” as it’s typically rendered throughout the NT. But when concerning Abraham in Romans 4, it’s always translated “counted,” “imputed,” or “reckoned,” with the meaning of equivalence. It’s that God counted Abraham’s faith as equivalent to righteousness, and likewise if we simply have faith or believe!

However, the same statement about Abraham, “And he believed [trusted] in the LORD; and he counted [ḥāšab 2803] it to him for righteousness [șᵊḏāqȃ 6666]” (Gen 15:6), was also made of Phinehas, “Then stood up Phinehas, and executed judgment: and so the plague was stayed. And that was counted [ḥāšab 2803] unto him for righteousness [șᵊḏāqȃ 6666]” (Psa 106:30-31). What Phinehas did was “took a javelin in his hand; And he went after the man of Israel into the tent, and thrust both of them through, the man of Israel, and the woman through her belly” (Num 25:7-8). This had nothing to do with faith. God simply concluded or esteemed Phinehas’ actions as right in that immoral circumstance. Likewise, that “Abraham believed [trusted] God, and it was counted [logizomai 3049] unto him for righteousness” (Rom 4:3), is that God esteemed Abraham’s actions as right. Since Abraham trusted God to be faithful to His promise, therefore God forgave him based upon the sacrifice His Son would one day make.

The Greek ergon simply means “actions,” whatever actions the context requires. In “For if Abraham were justified by works [ergon 2041]” (Rom 4:2), it’s his actions of building altars to offer sacrifices and call upon the name of the Lord: “there builded he an altar unto the LORD … there he builded an altar unto the LORD, and called upon the name of the LORD” (Gen 12:7,8), “Unto the place of the altar, which he had made there at the first: and there Abram called on the name of the LORD” (Gen 13:4), “built there an altar unto the LORD” (Gen 13:18). But he abruptly stopped building altars and began trusting God to provide the sacrifice for his sins, “And he believed [trusted] in the LORD; and he counted it to him for righteousness” (Gen 15:6). This is what Abraham found or discovered, “What shall we say then that Abraham our father, as pertaining to the flesh, hath found?” (Rom 4:1).

David found the same, “Even as David also describeth the blessedness of the man, unto whom God imputeth [logizomai 3049] righteousness without works [ergon 2041], Saying, Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute [logizomai 3049] sin.” (Rom 4:6-8). In Psalm 32, “I acknowledged my sin unto thee, and mine iniquity have I not hid. I said, I will confess my transgressions unto the LORD; and thou forgavest the iniquity of my sin,” David was forgiven by confessing his sins and said nothing about the actions of offering a sacrifice. And in Psalm 51, he even said that he didn’t offer a sacrifice, “For thou desirest not sacrifice; else would I give it.

That “his faith [faithfulness] is counted [logizomai 3049] for righteousness” (v. 5), “faith [faithfulness] was reckoned [logizomai 3049] to Abraham for righteousness” (v. 9), “it was imputed [logizomai 3049] to him for righteousness” (v. 22), is that God’s faithfulness was considered to Abraham for righteousness. This had nothing to do with Abraham’s faith. The issue was how sins could be forgiven prior to Christ’s sacrifice, “the remission of sins that are past. The answer is that “through the forbearance of God,” God considered His faithfulness to provide His Son’s sacrifice as good as done. Therefore, His faithfulness was considered righteousness.

Trust in God

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?

Say Not in Your Heart

Paul quoted Moses’ words from Deuteronomy, “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 is nigh thee, even in thy mouth, and in thy heart” (Rom 10:6-8). After having given the First and Great Commandment, “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD: And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might” (Deu 6:4-5), Moses said the same thing several times: “If thou shalt say in thine heart” (7:17); “Thou shalt also consider in thine heart” (8:5); “And thou say in thine heart” (8:17); “Speak not thou in thine heart” (9:4); “there be not a thought in thy wicked heart, saying” (15:9); “And if thou say in thine heart” (18:21); “that he bless himself in his heart, saying” (29:19); “But the word is very nigh unto thee, in thy mouth, and in thy heart” (30:14). Loving God with all our hearts isn’t just what we say out of our mouths, but what we say to ourselves in our hearts, “in thy mouth, and in thy heart.”

Abraham learned the hard way to NOT laugh at God, “Then Abraham fell upon his face, and laughed, and said in his heart, Shall a child be born unto him that is an hundred years old? and shall Sarah, that is ninety years old, bear? And Abraham said unto God, O that Ishmael might live before thee! And God said, Sarah thy wife shall bear thee a son indeed; and thou shalt call his name Isaac [laughter]” (Gen 17:17-19). Telling Abraham to name his son “laughter” indicated that God knew he had just laughed at Him in his heart. Abraham got the point.

Jesus and John the baptizer both taught: “And think not to say within yourselves” (Mat 3:9); “But and if that evil servant shall say in his heart” (Mat 24:48); “and begin not to say within yourselves” (Luk 3:8); “he spake within himself, saying” (Luk 7:39); “And he thought within himself, saying” (Luk 12:17); “But and if that servant say in his heart” (Luk 12:45); “but afterward he said within himself” (Luk 18:4); “Then the steward said within himself” (Luk 16:3). We all speak to ourselves in our hearts. And since people don’t know what we’re saying, it’s very easy to forget that God does and begin speaking to ourselves evil things.

Jesus didn’t just suggest but commanded us, “Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on … take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? … Take therefore no thought for the morrow” (Mat 6:25,31,34). We can’t be saved if we’re sinning against Christ’s commandment by thinking to ourselves about tomorrow. To take no thought for tomorrow requires that we trust God—that He becomes the God of our lives: “I will be their God” (Gen 17:8; Jer 24:7,32:38; Eze 11:20,36:28,37:23,27; Zec 8:8), “I will be their God” (2Co 6:16); “I will be to them a God” (Heb 8:10); “God is not ashamed to be called their God” (Heb 11:16); “God himself shall be with them, and be their God” (Rev 21:3); “I will be his God” (Rev 21:7). For God to be our Savior, God must be our God. It means no longer running our lives and ruining our lives!

“Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding” (Pro 3:5), requires that we don’t say anything to ourselves displeasing to God, try to figure out situations, or “help” God work things out. It means being truly at peace with any outcome and sincerely content in any circumstance we find ourselves, “I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content” (Phl 4:11). And this isn’t just a better way to live—it’s the way we must live to be saved.

The Greek verb pisteuō appears about 250 times in the New Testament and is almost always translated as “believe” but actually means “trust.” Paul taught about salvation, “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. For with the heart man believeth [trusts] unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth [trusts] on him shall not be ashamed.” (Rom 10:9-11). That salvation isn’t by believing but by trusting is evident by what David said, “O my God, I trust in thee: let me not be ashamed, let not mine enemies triumph over me … O keep my soul, and deliver me: let me not be ashamed; for I put my trust in thee” (Psa 25:2,20), “In thee, O LORD, do I put my trust; let me never be ashamed” (Psa 31:1). Salvation isn’t by believing but by trusting God. Our trust in Him won’t be put to shame, “Whosoever believeth [trusts] on him shall not be ashamed.”

Paul understood Moses’ words “Say not in thine heart … in thy mouth, and in thy heart,” that we confess the Lord publicly out of our mouths, and speak trust in God privately within our hearts. To be saved, we must trust the Father and obey His Son.

Trust and Obey

Salvation has always been by trusting and obeying God. The Greek noun pistis and verb pisteuo appear some 250 times each in the New Testament but have been mistranslated as “faith” and “believe” respectively rather than “faithfulness” and “trust.” We’re not saved by believing some facts are true but by trusting and obeying the one true God—Him being the God of our lives.

Many times God’s people were told to keep His commandments: “And shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments” (Exo 20:6; Deu 5:10); “Therefore shall ye keep my commandments” (Lev 22:31); “If ye walk in my statutes, and keep my commandments, and do them” (Lev 26:3); “That ye may remember, and do all my commandments, and be holy unto your God” (Num 15:40); “Ye shall diligently keep the commandments of the LORD your God” (Deu 6:17); “Thou shalt therefore keep the commandments” (Deu 7:11); “Therefore thou shalt keep the commandments of the LORD thy God” (Deu 8:6).

It’s taught today, however, that God’s people couldn’t keep His commandments and neither can we because we all were born with a sin nature inherited from Adam. But that’s simply false doctrine that keeps us from obeying and being saved. Jesus Christ Himself taught that we must live according to the righteous standard He taught or we won’t be saved: “For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven” (Mat 5:20), “And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity” (7:23); “Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them … And every one that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not” (7:24,26).

The gospel isn’t only to be believed but also obeyed: “But they have not all obeyed the gospel” (Rom 10:16); “And being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him” (Heb 5:9); “There is one lawgiver, who is able to save and to destroy” (Jas 4:12); “And this is his commandment, That we should believe [trust] on the name of his Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, as he gave us commandment” (1Jo 3:23).

It’s taught today that Abraham is our example of faith but Paul taught his trust in God and faithfulness to Him, “Even as Abraham believed [trusted] God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness … So then they which be of faith [faithfulness] are blessed with faithful Abraham” (Gal 3:6,9). And God Himself commended his obedience, “And in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; because thou hast obeyed my voice” (Gen 22:18), “Because that Abraham obeyed my voice, and kept my charge, my commandments, my statutes, and my laws” (Gen 26:5).

Paul taught that to be counted righteous as Abraham, “For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed [trusted] God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness” (Rom 4:3), we must trust God as he did, “Now it was not written for his sake alone, that it was imputed to him; But for us also, to whom it shall be imputed, if we believe [trust] on him that raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead” (Rom 4:23-24). This is what he meant later in his letter, “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). It isn’t just believing the resurrection happened but trusting in God who made it happen, “Who by him do believe [trust] in God, that raised him up from the dead” (1Pe 1:21).

It was for lack of trust that God’s people were destroyed, “And to whom sware he that they should not enter into his rest, but to them that believed [trusted] not? So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief [distrust].” (Heb 3:18-19), “the Lord, having saved the people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed them that believed [trusted] not” (Jde 1:5).

Salvation is ultimately about the one true God being the God of our lives: “I will be their God” (Gen 17:8; Jer 24:7,32:38; Eze 11:20,37:23; Zec 8:8); “will be their God, and they shall be my people” (Jer 31:33); “And they shall be my people, and I will be their God” (Jer 32:38); “ye shall be my people, and I will be your God” (Eze 36:28); “I will be their God, and they shall be my people” (Eze 37:27); “I will be their God, and they shall be my people” (2Co 6:16); “I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people” (Heb 8:10); “God is not ashamed to be called their God” (Heb 11:16); “they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God” (Rev 21:3); “I will be his God, and he shall be my son” (Rev 21:7). And being the God of our lives means that we trust Him to provide for us, protect us, and defend us, and that we obey the commandments of His Son Jesus Christ.