What is a Biblical Definition of Faith?

What does the Bible say about faith?

A son holding his father's hand

What is faith?

We talk about faith all the time, but what is it? Do you know what faith is? Of course you do, right?

Are you sure?

Maybe a better question to ask is, “Do I have a Biblical definition of faith?”

Contrary to what you may have heard, faith is not wishful thinking or some sort of spiritual currency that you trade for heavenly favors. Nor is faith something you manufacture through sheer determination.

So what is faith?

Here’s my definition: Faith is knowing and trusting your Father’s love. Faith is resting in the confident assurance that God is good and he longs to be good to you.

What, too gushy? Not Greek enough for you?

In the original language of the New Testament, there is a family of words that are translated as faith (pistis), believe (pisteuo), trustworthy (pistikos) and faithful (pistos). Then there is another family of words that can be translated as unbelief (apistia), unbelieving (apistos), disbelief (apeitheia), disbelieve (apeitheo), and unpersuadable (apeithes).

All these words derive from a common word (peitho) that means to convince, win over, or persuade.

Abraham “was fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised” (Rom. 4:21). That’s faith. Faith is being fully persuaded or convinced that God is good and trustworthy and that he cares for you.

Abraham’s faith

Manmade religion preaches blind faith, but Biblical faith is based on knowing God. Faith is not a leap in the dark, it’s walking in the light of God’s love.

Again, consider Abraham. God said go and he went (Gen. 12:1). When Abraham got to Canaan, God said stay and he stayed. That’s faith.

By faith Abraham, when he was called, obeyed by going out to a place which he was to receive for an inheritance; and he went out, not knowing where he was going. By faith he lived as an alien in the land of promise… (Hebrews 11:8-9)

Then God said “I will bless you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars,” and Abraham said “okay.” Also faith.

We tend to overthink faith, but faith is saying yes to God. When we pray the prayer of faith, we are simply saying yes to the Lord.

[Sidebar: When you agree with God that’s called confession. Agreeing with God makes you right with God and that’s called righteousness (Rom. 3:28). Good things happen when you agree with God.]

Where does faith come from?

Manmade religion says you have to faith your way into heaven, but that’s not how faith works. True faith is always a response to something God has said or done.

We might say that faith stems from hope which comes from love. It’s the unfailing love of God that inspires us to trust him. Here’s a verse that explains the proper order:

We have come to know and have believed the love which God has for us. (1 John 4:16)

God loves us (that’s the first bit), then we come to trust in his love (that’s the faith bit). His love for us inspires our faith in him.

And since the love of God is revealed in Jesus Christ (John 17:26), we can also say that faith comes from hearing the good news of Jesus:

Faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ. (Rom. 10:17)

We don’t get faith from hearing a good sermon; we get it from hearing about Jesus.

When we hear about the love of God that is revealed in Jesus, our faith is activated. “Wow! God is so good! How can I not trust him?” In the Bible, believing in Jesus is called the work of God.

Are you starting to see what faith is? Let’s finish with some quick contrasts:

Religion says, “you need to believe,” without giving you a reason to believe, but the gospel declares “God is good and completely trustworthy.”

Religion says “impress God with your faith,” but the gospel says we have been justified “by the faith of Christ” (Gal. 2:16). We love because he loves us, and we believe because God believes in us.

Religion says “faith comes from within,” but the gospel reveals Jesus “the author and perfecter of our faith” (Heb. 12:2).

He is truly the supplier of our faith, hope, and love.

Faith is…

Tradition portrays faith as a damp ticket to heaven that may or may not be valid for entry, but the faith that God gives us is nothing like this.

Faith is not just the means by which we come into union with Christ; faith is the very flavor of our relationship.

Faith is living each day in total dependency on the One who spoke the universe into existence and flung the galaxies across the heavens.

Faith is knowing your heavenly Father has great dreams and good gifts for you.

Faith is an invitation to smile at the storm, stride over the mountains, and live supernaturally here and now.

How boring life would be without faith.

Those are my thoughts; I’d love to hear yours. How do you define faith? What does trusting God mean in your day-to-day life? Let me know in the comments.

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If you liked this, you will love Paul’s rapidly-expanding Grace Glossary. Learn the language of the new covenant by discovering the treasures hidden within words like grace, faith, and forgiveness.

26 Comments on What is a Biblical Definition of Faith?

  1. You’ve given a beautiful picture of our faith and how to build that same faith in others. Faith itself is a very basic thing. We have faith in God’s love. Others sadly have faith in condemnation, atheism, or other religions.

  2. Carrie McKoy // February 24, 2022 at 3:20 am // Reply

    I love your descriptions: God said, “Go” and Abraham went. God said, “Stay” and he stayed. God said I’ll bless you and give you innumerable descendants, and he said, “Okay!” We see this in the NT as well. Unlike Zechariah, who told the angel, “That’s impossible!”, Mary told him, “I don’t understand it but, okay!” That’s childlike faith. If we make it too complicated for a child, it’s not faith.

  3. Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.
    Hebrews 11:1

  4. What a great description of faith. The ultimate example of it would be Jesus hanging on the cross, beaten and betrayed. Circumstances looked as bad as they possibly could be, but He remained fully persuaded that His Father had power and love for Him to do what he had promised. When death and darkness seemed to have won, He cried out, “Father, into Your hands I commit My Spirit.”

  5. That sidebar is the best thing I’ve seen you write. Thank you!

  6. I have actually contemplated this very thing quite a bit lately. And I joyfully agree with your post, Paul. Considering Jesus’ observation when the disciples were in freak out mode in the stormy waters and Jesus was so relaxed that he was asleep we can at least see what faith looks like and what no faith looks like – faith produces rest, and no faith produces fear. I think that along with Jesus’ statement concerning these “men of little faith”, Jesus also thought to himself “Just give me a little time. I’m going to fix that”.

    To me faith is not something we muster up or even do. It is what happens to us naturally as we surrender to God’s love fueled pursuit. The effect, if you will, that God’s love has on us is summed up in the word faith. We have no power to produce it, it is ignited as we engage with God and come to know the Grace based relationship that we stand in. When the veil is removed from our minds and we start to receive from the fountain of Grace that is Jesus himself, our previously dormant ‘faith mode’ becomes operational. In a manner of speaking, you could say that at least part of the work of Jesus was to impact our realm so radically through his death and resurrection as to awaken our faith mode and bring that dormant feature online.

  7. My definition is faith is a reasonable or knowledgeable trust in the Lord Jesus Christ as he is presented in the Scriptures

  8. I’ve always thought of faith as spiritual muscles. Much like God has gifted muscles to our flesh, he’s also gifted faith to our spirit. When we hear the word of God and exercise our faith in response to His love and grace, we build up our faith and strengthen it, much like how our flesh muscles get stronger through use. But unlike the flesh, even someone that’s let their spiritual muscles atrophy can still move mountains through Christ Jesus (Matt 17:20).

    However, it’s not works. We don’t exercise our faith just for the sake of building up our faith. I believe it happens naturally as we learn to walk by the spirit and allow the Father’s love and grace to permeate our lives.

  9. OK, is it just me or is it some type of New Zealand slang, but I don’t understand the first sentence after the heading “Faith is…”

    It states “Tradition portrays faith has damp ticket to heaven…”. I’m guessing it’s supposed to be “faith as a ticket”?

    I do have a couple things to say about faith, if I can get the time to try to compress them down to 250 words.

  10. To me faith is agreeing with God and living and responding to life in a way which reflects our belief.

  11. Jacqueline Baker // February 24, 2022 at 9:05 am // Reply

    I often pray….God give me your wisdom to do things your way so I do not copy the world. I then walk in that prayer with faith that I have all his wisdom to go about my day.

  12. Kath and David Wells // February 24, 2022 at 10:10 am // Reply

    Spot on! I decided a while ago to always talk about trust, resting in him…as a more tangible way of describing faith.

  13. Brandon Petrowski // February 24, 2022 at 1:52 pm // Reply

    This was good and gives a more filled out perspective than what a person can get from just reading “faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things unseen..”

    This paragraph I had trouble following, not sure if there were typos or grammar issues, or if it just isn’t clicking for me for some reason..
    “Tradition portrays faith has damp ticket to heaven that may or may not be valid for entry, but the faith that God gives us is nothing like this.”

  14. Hey, Paul. At around 3am yesterday morning I awoke having this prompting to google biblical faith. Then at 5am your article arrived in my mailbox. When I googled biblical faith at 3am GotQuestions.org came up. One of the examples they used is the following . Suppose three men get on a plane to go to the same destination. One of them is a flight engineer knows a lot about the plane and also knows the pilot. Another guy just casually sits down and begins reading a magazine, and The third guy is sweating bullets, pacing back-and-forth fearing the plane may not get him there but then does sit down. The plane makes it to the destination. This question posed is who has the most faith in the airplane. The answer given :all three of them have the same faith. They all trusted in the airplane by sitting down in their seats and allowing the plane to arrive at its destination. The people who were at the airport viewing the plane believe it will make it to the destination but they didn’t actually get on the plane or commit anything to it.
    But I really like your explanation: the fact that we really are responding and trusting in the love, goodness and promises of God as we walk through our daily life. That now really makes so much sense to me 🙂

  15. Mark Francis // February 26, 2022 at 5:07 am // Reply

    Another fantastic bit of writing, Brother! I am encouraged.

    If I may ask a question, can you please address the difference between faith and hope? Is faith confidence in something God has done or said in the past, and hope the confidence we will see that in the future?

  16. gospelprince // February 28, 2022 at 5:47 am // Reply

    When we allow Jesus to be the custodian of every facet of our life, through being resolute in trusting him come hail or thunder – that’s faith Like babies, we are not worried about how our Father God gets us out of troubled waters or any adverse situations. we trust that our needs have been met even though it is not seen by the natural eye. Faith is the confidence of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen. I term the exciting world of always saying yes to the Father as faith. In fact I have a motto of : Confidence [in Christ] is Evidence of anything I ever want. I have seen loads and loads of miracles happening to me and others. I have also acronymized faith having the Father as the centre of it as : ICCETaPn . I for Interpolative, C for Creative, another C for Construction, T for Things, and aPn for a Person. = Interpolative Constructive Creation of the Thing or things you need or want as a result of the Person of Christ in you. The acronym is pronounced as ‘I set a Pin’ for retention purposes.

  17. Wonderful article! I believe that God also uses trials that we go through as spiritual barbells to exercise our faith and strengthen us.

  18. Vince Mikhail Luigi Acosta // March 7, 2022 at 10:12 pm // Reply

    Thank you!

  19. Sizwe Gqoboka // April 1, 2022 at 11:43 pm // Reply

    True. “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:”Ephe 2:8

    Grace is the source which we are saved. Faith is the medium but it’s not of yourselves. Faith is gift of God. If it was your faith, you’d be boastful.

    “In whom we have boldness and access with confidence BY THE FAITH OF HIM.”-Ephe 3:12 KJV

    Faith is gift and it’s author is Jesus.

    “… and the life which I now live in the flesh I live BY THE FAITH OF Son of God…”Gal 2:20 KJV

    By who’s faith? JESUS. So, you have all faith for everything through Chris Jesus the Author of Faith who dwells in you. Quit seeking something you’re already in full of.

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