Yesterday evening, I gave a talk at my church on the biblical idea of “faith.” These days, that word is often used in ways that are quite foreign to the Bible. In popular culture, for example, “faith” has become a synonym for “wishing” or “positive thinking.”
Many Christians misunderstand it as well. In today’s church, the word “faith” is often reduced down to something cognitive: mental assent about certain facts about Jesus (e.g. “Do you believe these facts about Jesus, namely, that he died, resurrected, that he forgives, etc?”).
I’m not suggesting that mental assent doesn’t have a role to play; it does. It just doesn’t capture the full story. There’s more to biblical faith than ascribing to facts.
In the New Testament, for instance, confessing one’s “faith in Jesus” meant pledging one’s loyalty to Jesus. The Greek word pistis (translated often as “faith”) can mean “faithfulness.” In fact, it is difficult to separate the two concepts with respect to the Gospel.
This is evident, I think, in a text like Romans 1:5, where Paul speaks about his calling to “bring about the obedience of faith among all the Gentiles.” The phrase “obedience of faith” is ambiguous. But it is packed with significance.
Here’s the point: For Paul (like the other writers of the New Testament), faith & following and confession & obedience — all of it goes hand-in-hand.