Monday, November 22, 2010

Faith vs. Belief - And the Winner Is...

For most Christians, faith and belief are synonymous. I suppose that in a few cases they actually are. Microsoft Word's hand-dandy thesaurus says they are. Of course it includes trust, confidence, reliance, assurance, devotion, loyalty and conviction too. There are a few references for these words in the Hebrew and the Greek. Strong's 529, 520 and 5012.

I usually refrain from teachings on Fire & Grace, however; this one is very important. Why? Because of the splintering of the church over doctrine, the mixture of politics and religion in the culture war, and mixture of religions that has no substance; just philosophy and practice.

First, the word faith is used almost 500 times in the Bible, and the word believe about 300. The word belief, just 3 and one of those it is the same Greek word as faith. Context always seems to matter in the Bible.

So what is the difference, and why does it matter?

I am going to tackle belief first. In the Old Testament it seems to have it muddled up together with righteousness; the act of obeying the law. (Romans 3)

Genesis 15:6 Abram believed the LORD, and he credited it to him as righteousness.

Jews were taught the law, and for those that obeyed, they were considered righteous. Abraham was one of the first to be considered righteous, however; he appeared on the scene before the written law of Moses. Job was also one of righteous.

Job 11:4 You say to God, "My beliefs are flawless and I am pure in your sight."

The Rich young ruler was another. (Luke 18:18-22)

The trouble today is that people can believe anything. They can believe in the teaching and philosophies of the New age, Oprah, the Bible, the Qu'ran and horoscopes. A lot of fundamentalists get caught up in what they believe, and make that a requirement for salvation. This is how come there is a battle within the church which includes lots of finger pointing. Don't hear what I am not saying, what we believe as Christians is important. The problem, honestly, is that so many seem confused about what they believe because they judge it all with their mind and not with their spirit. (1 Cor 2:10-15)

Judging things by the spirit is not always easy as the writer of Hebrews penned.

Hebrews 4:12 For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.

The human soul is very close to the human spirit, just as bone is to bone marrow. Only the word of God can separate it. That's why it is so easy to make mistakes in knowing what God wants.

True righteousness comes from believing the truth and having faith.

2 Thessalonians 2:13 But we ought always to thank God for you, brothers and sisters loved by the Lord, because God chose you as firstfruits to be saved through the sanctifying work of the Spirit and through belief in the truth.

Sin of course, is the opposition.

Psalm 78:32 In spite of all this, they kept on sinning; in spite of his wonders, they did not believe.

So where does that leave us with faith, and how is that different from belief? The essence of belief is in knowing the truth and acting on it. Simply said, belief is in knowing the word or principals of God, and doing it. It can sometimes lead to religiousness and wooden literalism; dead religion without faith. That was the problem with the Pharisees, they interpreted the law, acted righteous and yet, Jesus said they led folks far from salvation.

It is only through faith in the resurrected Jesus, and the work on the cross that can save us. It is belief in the truth that allows us to carry that out.

We even receive our righteousness, the kind that will allow us to stand before God the Father, by faith.

Romans 3:22 This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe.

Belief is believing God; faith however allows us to see the unseen.

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

Hebrews 11:3 By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible.

Faith is eternal! Belief is not. When we are in Heaven, or resurrected, or raptured we will not need to believe anything, because our faith will place us with Jesus.

Here are a couple of guys that saw some stuff by faith.

Hebrews 11:4 And by faith Abel still speaks, even though he is dead.

Hebrews 11:7 By faith Noah, when warned about things not yet seen, in holy fear built an ark to save his family.

Other than being eternal, what good is our faith here on earth? Well, it is the very thing that allows us to endure trials.

2 Corinthians 4:17 For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. 18 So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

James 1:2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters,[a] whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. 4 Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

We can believe that God wants to heal, but without faith it cannot happen. In fact, with belief alone, we cannot please God. Only faith can do that. (Hebrews 11:6)


Charlie Chang said...

This may sound weird, but I once hurt my ankle and it was giving me problems for like 3 weeks.

We had a C&C bible study and they were asking for prayer requests and at first I wasn't going to but I spoke up and honestly believed that God was going to heal my ankle.

So nuff, next morning, my ankle was fine.

It was one of those rare moments where I seriously did not doubt and just believed. Makes me think how much more healing there could be among the world if we just believed.

Charlie's Church of Christ said...

I had to read this really carefully to try to get it. Thanks for responding to me David! At first I wasn't seeing it, but I think I now do. I like that you just automatically assumed that belief and action are basically the same - I think the church has done wrong in separating them. Would you agree that in some ways by believing/acting it shows some sort of faith?

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