What Is Faith From A Biblical, Hebraic Mindset?
By Christine Egbert
Many believers interpret (misinterpret) Scripture from a Greek/Western mindset. For them faith is simply a mental construct, something one believes with no action required. But is that what Scripture actually teaches about saving faith?… the faith James declared “dead without works”, and which Paul emphatically stated in Romans 3:31 “establishes Torah.”
Based on a “Greek” interpretation of Ephesians 2:8-9, many assume that by agreeing with the fact that Yeshua, the Son of God, died for their sins, and by saying what they call the sinner’s prayer (which is found nowhere in Scripture), voilà, they’re eternally saved. It doesn’t matter how they go on to live. But that is NOT what Scripture teaches. There is a great difference between faith that saves and merely believing something to be true, for the Bible informs us that demons believe and tremble. Only demons are not saved! Why? Because merely believing is not biblical FAITH.
The word translated as faith from Hebrew is ‘ĕmûnâh. It means to have moral fidelity, and fidelity means faithfulness, faithfulness to a person, to a cause, or to a belief, demonstrated by continuing loyalty and support. So we see faith (unlike mere belief) demonstrates the believer’s faithfulness.
This article does NOT question salvation by God’s GRACE through faith. That is established orthodoxy! I want us to examine the biblical definition of FAITH.
Now before we begin, please consider what Mark Twain once said, “It ain’t what you don’t know that’ll get you in trouble; it’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so.” To Twain’s witticism I must add that living by the motto, “Don’t confuse me with the facts; I’ve already made up my mind,” is a sure way to remain in trouble. So with that in mind, let us examine, precept upon precept, line upon line, here a little and there a little, what the Bible actually teaches about saving FAITH.
Hebrew has only about 4,000 words, unlike English, which has over 100,000. Hebrew words are stuffed with meaning. Take for instance the word shema. This word, shama, is translated 405 times as HEAR and 43 times as OBEY. Likewise, in the New Testament the Greek word, apeitheō, sometimes gets translated as “disbelief” but at others times as “disobedience.” Why? Because in God’s economy disobedience is disbelief.
Thayer’s Bible Dictionary defines apeitheō as: Not to allow one’s self to be persuaded, to refuse or withhold belief, to refuse belief and obedience.
The King James translates this Greek word, apeitheō, sometimes as not obey, and at other times as not believe. Why?…because they are forever linked.
Scriptures Translating Apeitheō As One Form Or Another Of Disobedient
Romans 2:8: “But unto them that are contentious, and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, indignation and wrath…”
Romans 10: 21 “But to Israel he saith, all day long I have stretched forth my hands unto a disobedient and gainsaying people.”
1 Peter 2:7-8:“Unto you therefore which believe he is precious: but unto them which be disobedient, the stone which the builders disallowed, the same is made the head of the corner, and a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense, even to them which stumble at the word, being disobedient…”
1 Peter 3:1 “Likewise, ye wives, be in subjection to your own husbands; that, if any obey not the word…”
1 Peter 3:20 “Which sometime were disobedient, when once the long-suffering of God waited in the days of Noah…”
1 Peter 4:17 “For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God: and if it first begin with us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God?”
Scriptures Translating Apeitheō As One Form Or Another Of Disbelief
But that very same Greek word, apeitheō, translated as “disobedient” in the above verses, is translated as “not believe”in these verses:
Romans 11:30 “For as ye in times past have not believed God, yet have now obtained mercy through their unbelief…”
Acts 17:5 “But the Jews which believed not…”
Hebrews 3: 18 “And of whom did he swear that they would not enter into his rest, but to them who believed not?”
Just as the Hebrew word shama equates both to hear and to obey, the Greek word apeitheo equates disbelieve with disobedience. With this in mind, let us read Hebrews 3:18-19 in the Literal Translation:
“And to whom did He swear they would not enter into His rest, except to those not obeying (apeitheo)? And we see that they were not able to enter in because of unbelief (apeitheo).”
Here Scripture makes it clear that to God’s way of thinking you cannot separate belief from obedience. In the ASV, BBE, CEV, ERV, ISV, and TLV versions on my e-Sword, the word apeitheo in Hebrews 3:18 is translated as disobey, disobedient, or disobeying. But in the King James it is translated this way: “And to whom swear he that they should not enter into his rest, but to them that believed not? So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief.”
Did you catch that sleight of hand?
By translating apeitheo in verse 18 as believed not instead of disobeyed, which is clearly the better choice based on the previous verse, 17, which reads: “ But with whom was he grieved forty years? Was it not with them that had sinned…?” the reader who has not studied the meaning of these words, could easily think the scripture is talking about mere mental activity. But that is NOT the case! Scripture is linking faith to obedience.
1st John 3:4 tells us that sin is transgressing (disobeying) God’s law. Hebrews 3:17 talks about those who sinned, whose carcasses fell in the wilderness. They were the ones God swore would never enter his rest, the ones who willfully disobeyed, which to God is the same as unbelief. This linkage between biblical faith and obedience explains why the author of Acts 5:32 (LITV) declared: “And we are His witnesses of these things, and also the Holy Spirit, whom God gave to THOSE OBEYING HIM.”
OTHER ATTRIBUTES OF BIBLICAL FAITH
Now let’s look at some other attributes of Biblical faith.
Acts 14:22 teaches that one’s faith must endure: “Confirming the souls of the disciples, exhorting to continue in the faith, and that through many afflictions we must enter into the kingdom of God.
2 Corinthians 5:7 says we walk by faith, not by sight.
In Luke 22:32 Yeshua prayed for Simon’s faith not to fail.
James 2:24 tells us that a man is proved righteous by his works and not by faith alone, again making it clear that to God the two are linked.
In Acts 6:7 it says a great crowd of the priests obeyed the faith. If faith were only a belief, an idea not coupled to an action, how could they obey faith? The same applies to Romans 1:5 where it says: “by whom we have received grace and apostleship, to obedience to the faith…”
Why would II Corinthians 13:5 tell us to examine ourselves to see if we are in the faith, if faith didn’t have an action component? Why would 1st Timothy 5:8 warn us that those who do not provide for their own family have denied the faith and are worse than infidels?
In closing, let’s read Ephesians 2:8-10:
“For by grace are you saved through faith; and that not of yourselves. It is the gift of God, not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Yeshua Messiah unto good works, which God has before ordained that we should walk in them.”
Heb 11:1 Faith is the essence of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen…
Heb 11:2 By faith the elders obtained witness.
Heb 11:3 By faith we understand the ages were framed by the Word of God…
Heb 11:4 By faith Abel offered a greater sacrifice to God than Cain…
Heb 11:5 By faith “Enoch” was translated so not to see death…
Heb 11: 7 By faith Noah prepared an ark for the salvation of his house…
Heb 11:8 By faith, Abraham obeyed, going forth to that place he would receive for an inheritance…
Heb 11:9 By faith Abraham resided as a foreigner in a land of promise, living in tents with Isaac and Jacob, the joint-heirs of the same promise.
Heb 11:11 By faith, beyond her age, Sarah conceived seed and gave birth…
Heb 11:6 Without faith it is impossible to please God!
Paul never taught that faith is mere mental activity. He taught that scriptural faith is based on God’s grace, not anything we’ve done to earn it, but once we are SAVED, God expects us to walk in (to do) the good works He for-ordained through His TORAH (Ephesians 2:8-10).
Can A Believer Sin?
Yes! That’s why Scripture tells us to confess our sins one to another. Only sin, for the true believer, should not be willful, and certainly not a lifestyle.True believers have hearts wanting to please their Father through obedience (If you love me, keep my commandments). Those who only mentally believe that Yeshua is who the Bible says He is, but have never had God’s TORAH written on their hearts and in their minds, have not yet died to self and made Yeshua their Master. They don’t want to obey God’s commandments. They see God’s commandments as bondage. They don’t walk in the (Holy) Spirit, which Romans 8:4 tells us was given so that we can fulfill the righteous requirements of the Torah.
We in what is called the Hebrew Roots movement (or pre-Constantine-Christianity), who are contending for the faith that was once delivered to the saints, are often accused of professing a “works-based salvation.” But that is not true! One can ONLY be saved by GRACE through FAITH, but FAITH, Biblical Faith, generates obedience to God.
Yeshua’s brother Jacob (whom the KJV translators renamed James) once asked, “… if a man says he has faith and has no works, can that faith save him?. . . Faith, if it has no works is dead. . . You believe there is one God, you do well; even the demons believe and tremble. But do you know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?. . From those works faith is made complete. . . You see then, a man is justified by works and not by faith alone.” In short, biblical Faith always bears the FRUIT of obedience to Yah’s instructions, His TORAH.