What is faith?

The concept of faith appears many times throughout the Bible. What is faith, and what does it mean for us?


The Bible defines faith this way: "Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen" (Hebrews:11:1). In a world primarily dependent on the scientific method, where all facts must be tested and retested using observable, measurable evidence and empirical data, to claim that something as intangible as faith counts for both substance and evidence sounds ridiculous. But that, at its core, is faith.

In Hebrews 11 (and most places in the New Testament), faith is translated from the Greek word pistis, which can also be translated belief or assurance. To have faith is to believe God and trust Him. Faith can begin with seeing the wonders of the physical creation, which reveal our Creator's invisible attributes (Romans:1:20; see Life's Ultimate Question: Does God Exist? ). But faith must grow beyond that to become an active, living faith powered through the gift of God's Holy Spirit (James:2:18-20; Ephesians:2:8; Galatians:5:22).

The rest of Hebrews 11 proceeds to describe men and women who "died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off were assured of them, embraced them and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth" (verse 13). Their faith in God's promises was so strong that they could see them in their minds' eye. Their future homeland, the Kingdom of God, was as real to them (arguably more real) as anything else around them.

The Bible says that "without faith it is impossible to please Him [God], for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him" (Hebrews:11:6). Faith—absolute and unshakable trust that God's promises are true—is essential for entering God's Kingdom. Of the heroes of faith listed in Hebrews 11, we read, "Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared a city for them" (verse 16). That promised eternal city takes faith to reach.

For more understanding, please read our booklet You Can Have Living Faith .

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