John 3:16 (NASB95)
16 “For YHVH so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.
Acts 16:31 (NASB95)
31 They said, “Believe in the Y’shua, and you will be saved, you and your household.”
Ephesians 2:8–9 (NASB95)
8 For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of YHVH; 9 not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.
Romans 3:31 (NASB95)
31 Do we then nullify the Law through faith? May it never be! On the contrary, we establish the Law.
Hebrews 11:1 (NASB95)
1 Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.
From these scriptures it is clear that our salvation is via our faith (believe in Y’Shua our Messiah) by His grace. In this article Iplan to proof to you that faith alone is not enough. He expects more and wil
judge us according to what we say and do.
What does the word “faith” mean? The English word “faith” is a noun. The verb associated with faith is “believe”. Here are some common definitions:
faith \ˈfāth\ noun
plural faiths \ˈfāths, sometimes ˈfāṯẖz\ [Middle English feith, from Anglo-French feid, fei, from Latin fides; akin to Latin fidere to trust — more at bide] 13th century
1 a : allegiance to duty or a person : loyalty
b (1) : fidelity to one’s promises
(2) : sincerity of intentions
2 a (1) : belief and trust in and loyalty to God
(2) : belief in the traditional doctrines of a religion
b (1) : firm belief in something for which there is no proof
(2) : complete trust
3 : something that is believed especially with strong conviction especially : a system of religious beliefs [the Protestant faith] synonym see belief —on faith: without question [took everything he said on faith][i]
be•lieve \bə-ˈlēv\ verb
be•lieved; be•liev•ing [Middle English beleven, from Old English belēfan, from be- + lȳfan, lēfan to allow, believe; akin to Old High German gilouben to believe, Old English lēof dear — more at love] verb intransitive before 12th century
- 1 a : to have a firm religious faith
- b : to accept as true, genuine, or real [ideals we believe in] [believes in ghosts]
- 2 : to have a firm conviction as to the goodness, efficacy, or ability of something [believe in exercise]
- 3 : to hold an opinion : think [I believe so] verb transitive
- 1 a : to consider to be true or honest [believe the reports] [you wouldn’t believe how long it took]
- b : to accept the word or evidence of [I believe you] [couldn’t believe my ears]
- 2 : to hold as an opinion : suppose [I believe it will rain soon] — be•liev•er noun —not believe: to be astounded at [I couldn’t believe my luck]i
Please note that “believe” is defined as a verb, but in the definition there is no need for any action. It is all thoughts or ideas. The English language has turned the verb of believing into something mental – no work required!
A more “religious” definition of “faith” could be:
- A constant outlook of trust towards YHVH, whereby human beings abandon all reliance on their own efforts and put their full confidence in Him, His word and His promises.[ii]
- Human belief in and reliance upon the divine.[iii]
As all of you would be aware, the Bible was not originally written by English speaking people. It was written by people who grew up in the Hebraic way of thinking and doing. It is interesting to note that most Hebrew words come for a root verb. This indicates to us that Hebrew is a language of action[iv]. It is not a language of thoughts, ideas and concepts but rather of doing!
So let us look at the Hebrew words and their definitions.
Believe – Strongs #539 – TWOT 116 – אָמַן
אָמַן (ʾāman) to confirm, support, uphold (Qal); to be established, be faithful (Niphal); to be certain, i.e. to believe in (Hiphil).[v]
אָמַן ʾâman, aw-man´; a prim. root; prop. to build up or support; to foster as a parent or nurse; fig. to render (or be) firm or faithful, to trust or believe, to be permanent or quiet; mor. to be true or certain; [vi]
“The basic root idea is firmness or certainty. In the Qal it expresses the basic concept of support and is used in the sense of the strong arms of the parent supporting the helpless infant. In the Niphal conjugation the meaning is “to be established” (2 Sam 7:16; 1 Chr 17:23; 2 Chr 6:17; Isa 7:9). The Niphal participle means “to be faithful, sure, dependable” and describes believers (Num 12:7; 1 Sam 2:35; Neh 9:8). This form is also used to describe that upon which all certainty rests: YHVH himself (Deut 7:9), and his covenant (Ps 89:28).” v
Faith – Strongs #530; TWOT 116e אֱמוּנָה –
אֱמוּנָה (ʾĕmûnâ) firmness, fidelity, steadiness.v
אֱמוּנָה (ʾěmû∙nā(h)): n.fem.; ≡ Str 530; TWOT 116e—1. LN 31.82–31.101 faithfulness, trustworthiness, steadiness, entrusted, i.e., a state or condition of being dependable to a person or standard[vii]
The Apostolic Writings (New Testament) source documents that we currently have are in Greek. Thus, if we want to carry the thoughts through from the Tanakh (Old Testament) to the Apostolic Writings we need to also get to know the Greek words that are used.
Believe – Strongs #G4102 – πιστεύω [pisteuo /pist·yoo·o/]
πιστεύω (pisteuō): vb.; ≡ DBLHebr 586; Str 4100; TDNT 6.174—
- LN 31.35 think to be true, to believe, implying trust (Mt 24:23; Lk 1:20; 1Co 11:18; Jas 2:19; Mk 16:13, 14 v.r.);
- LN 31.85 trust, faith, believe to the extent of complete trust (Mt 18:6; Ro 4:3; 1Pe 2:6; Mk 16:17 v.r.);
- LN 31.102 have Christian faith, become a believer the Gospel (Ac 4:32; Ro 1:16; Mk 16:16 v.r.);
- LN 35.50 entrust, put something into the care of another (Ro 3:2; Gal 2:7; 1Th 2:4; 1Ti 1:11; Tit 1:3)vii
Faith – Strongs #G4102 – πίστις [pistis /pis·tis/]
πίστις (pistis), εως (eōs), ἡ (hē): n.fem.; ≡ DBLHebr 575; Str 4102; TDNT 6.174—
- LN 31.43 what can be believed, a state of certainty with regard to belief (Ac 17:31);
- LN 31.85 trust, believe to a complete trust (Mk 11:22; Ac 24:24; Eph 4:29 v.r.);
- LN 31.88 trustworthiness, the state of complete dependability (Ro 3:3);
- LN 31.102 Christian faith, belief in the Gospel (Ro 1:8; Eph 2:8; Gal 1:23; Jude 3);
- LN 31.104 doctrine, the content of what is to be believed (Gal 1:23; Jude 3), for another interp, see prior;
- LN 33.289 promise, pledge to be faithful (1Ti 5:12)vii
Now that we have all the basic definitions out of the way, let us see how these words are used in Scripture and also what Scripture says regarding “Faith” and “Believe”.
Romans 10:17 (NASB95)
17 So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Messiah.
“Hearing – If you were Paul, the Jewish rabbi Sha’ul, what Hebrew word would you have in mind when you wrote the Greek verb akoe (to hear)? There can only be one obvious answer – shama. But as soon as we realize that Sha’ul has shama in mind, we must revise our Westernized interpretation of this verse. Sha’ul is not saying that all we need to do is listen to words spoken in order to experience faith. He is saying precisely what the Torah says. Hearing and obeying are the same action. The Greek verb akoe might describe merely the reception of audio signals, but the Hebrew verb shama never is satisfied with this vapid explanation. In Hebrew, to hear is to act upon what is heard. Until I do what I have heard, I haven’t heard anything at all! Greek emphasizes the causality of hearing (how it happens). Hebrew emphasizes the purpose of hearing (what it means for my subsequent behavior).
And now that we’re looking at this verse from a Jewish, rabbinic perspective, what do you suppose “faith” would be in Hebrew? How about emunah? Once again we must recognize the Hebraic nuance. Emunah is not about words. It’s not about true statements of doctrinal creeds or the Sinner’s Prayer. Emunah means reliability, trustworthiness, steadfastness. Faith in Hebrew is about standing on the rock-solid instructions of God. Faith is the result of obedience, not the precondition of obedience. First I do it, then I discover that I am able to stand on His word. I choose to obey, then I experience His working in me.” [viii]
From the above quote from a recent post of Skip Moen it is clear that the Hebraic thinking is still implied in the Greek text of people like Paul. This verse teaches us that our faith comes from the hearing of the word of Y’Shua (Jesus) and turning this into actions in our lives. As Paul said in 1 Cor 11:1 we should imitate Y’Shua. We should do what he did.
The author of the book of Hebrews also has a long discussion regarding faith in Hebrews 11. Let us look at some of the key verses:
Hebrews 11:1–3 (NASB95)
1 Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. 2 For by it the men of old gained approval. 3 By faith we understand that the worlds were prepared by the word of YHVH, so that what is seen was not made out of things which are visible.
Hebrews 11:6–10 (NASB95)
6 And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to YHVH must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him. 7 By faith Noah, being warned by YHVH about things not yet seen, in reverence prepared an ark for the salvation of his household, by which he condemned the world, and became an heir of the righteousness which is according to faith. 8 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. 9 By faith he lived as an alien in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, fellow heirs of the same promise; 10 for he was looking for the city which has foundations, whose architect and builder is YHVH.
The author of Hebrews makes it clear that we must have faith if we want to please YHVH. He also gives examples in Hebrews 11 of these “men of old” and their faith. What I want you to notice is that all these people Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph and Moses, followed their faith with one or more physical actions. Only believing that YHVH would save him and his family would not have kept Noah dry when the flood started. He had to go and build the ark.
Another Apostle who wrote a lot about faith was the apostle James. He is of the opinion that through their works people like Abraham have been justified. If Abraham had believed that YHVH would provide him a heritage, and not have been obedient, what would have happened? Abraham was reckoned a friend of YHVH not only for his faith, but also the works he did because of his faith. Had he doubted the promise of YHVH, he would most likely not have been able to take his only son to be offered.
In the same way Rahab believed that the Israelites would have conquered Jericho without her even meeting the spies (Joshua 2:1-14). Due to her faith, her actions followed. She hid them and let them out of the city by another way (she even lied to save them … another discussion … later!). This is what saved her and her family (Joshua 6:17-25). I am sure that more people in Jericho believed that the Israelites would defeat them, but this believe alone did not benefit them in any way.
James also has a very interesting method to prove that believing alone is not enough. His explanation is that even demons believe that YHVH is one (“echad”). Believing in YHVH without any fruits (actions) in your life does not put you in any better position than a demon.
James 2:14–26 (NASB95)
14 What use is it, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but he has no works? Can that faith save him? 15 If a brother or sister is without clothing and in need of daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and be filled,” and yet you do not give them what is necessary for their body, what use is that? 17 Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself. 18 But someone may well say, “You have faith and I have works; show me your faith without the works, and I will show you my faith by my works.” 19 You believe that YHVH is one. You do well; the demons also believe, and shudder. 20 But are you willing to recognize, you foolish fellow, that faith without works is useless? 21 Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up Isaac his son on the altar? 22 You see that faith was working with his works, and as a result of the works, faith was perfected; 23 and the Scripture was fulfilled which says, “And Abraham believed YHVH, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness,” and he was called the friend of YHVH. 24 You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone. 25 In the same way, was not Rahab the harlot also justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way? 26 For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead.
Due to these verses, there was a lot of initial resistance to include the book of James in the canon of the Bible. James was first quoted in a passage by Pseudo-Clementine (De Virginitate). It was considered as canonical by Origen (c. 185 – 253 C.E) and Eusebius (c. 265-339 C.E). Martin Luther again later questioned the inclusion of James in the Bible. The main objection was that these verses (James 2:17-18, 24) contradicted what Paul wrote in Romans 3:28.[ix]
Romans 3:28 (NASB95)
28 For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the Law.
The question here is whether the two are talking about the same topic. In Romans 3, Paul is explaining that works (including doing the traditions of men) cannot lead to salvation. We are saved by YHVH’s grace. His grace for us does not depend on our obedience.
Ephesians 2:8–9 (NASB95)
8 For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of YHVH; 9 not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.
So why do we need to keep His commandments?
Leviticus 26:3–4 (NASB95)
3 ‘If you walk in My statutes and keep My commandments so as to carry them out, 4 then I shall give you rains in their season, so that the land will yield its produce and the trees of the field will bear their fruit.
What James is describing is that due to our faith we will do the actions that YHVH wants us to do. Thus, if we have faith in Him, we would do as He commands because of our choice to please Him. If we are righteous, we will live by our faith (that what we know to be true).
Habakkuk 2:4 (NASB95)
4 “Behold, as for the proud one, His soul is not right within him; But the righteous will live by his faith.
We know that His commandments are for our own good. If we follow His commandments, He will bless us and if we do not follow His commandments, He will curse us. YHVH does not say that we will lose our salvation if we do not obey, simply that we will experience the effect of the curses (Deut 28:15-68).
We also know that according to Luke 6 that our faith will show itself in our works.
Luke 6:44–45 (NASB95)
44 “For each tree is known by its own fruit. For men do not gather figs from thorns, nor do they pick grapes from a briar bush. 45 “The good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth what is good; and the evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth what is evil; for his mouth speaks from that which fills his heart.
Does our works benefit us in any way except for keeping us out under the curses? Yes, we have several places in the Apostolic Writings where Y’Shua also teaches that our works are accounted to us:
Luke 8:11–15 (NASB95)
11 “Now the parable is this: the seed is the word of YHVH. 12 “Those beside the road are those who have heard; then the devil comes and takes away the word from their heart, so that they will not believe and be saved. 13 “Those on the rocky soil are those who, when they hear, receive the word with joy; and these have no firm root; they believe for a while, and in time of temptation fall away. 14 “The seed which fell among the thorns, these are the ones who have heard, and as they go on their way they are choked with worries and riches and pleasures of this life, and bring no fruit to maturity. 15 “But the seed in the good soil, these are the ones who have heard the word in an honest and good heart, and hold it fast, and bear fruit with perseverance.
Luke 12:32–34 (NASB95)
32 “Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has chosen gladly to give you the kingdom. 33 “Sell your possessions and give to charity; make yourselves money belts which do not wear out, an unfailing treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near nor moth destroys. 34 “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
Luke 14:12–14 (NASB95)
12 And He also went on to say to the one who had invited Him, “When you give a luncheon or a dinner, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, otherwise they may also invite you in return and that will be your repayment.13 “But when you give a reception, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, 14 and you will be blessed, since they do not have the means to repay you; for you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”
From our Master’s words it is clear that we must bear fruit. What is the fruit of man?
Matthew 12:33–37 (NASB95)
33 “Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or make the tree bad and its fruit bad; for the tree is known by its fruit. 34 “You brood of vipers, how can you, being evil, speak what is good? For the mouth speaks out of that which fills the heart. 35 “The good man brings out of his good treasure what is good; and the evil man brings out of his evil treasure what is evil. 36 “But I tell you that every careless word that people speak, they shall give an accounting for it in the day of judgment. 37 “For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.”
In this specific verse our words are considered as our fruits. Here we see that our actions, our words in this specific case, will be judged. It makes no reference to salvation here, but certainly there is some form of judgment involved here.
In the letter to Corinth, Paul also makes it clear, that at the end our works will be judged by fire.
1 Corinthians 3:11–15 (NASB95)
11 For no man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Y’Shua the Messiah. 12 Now if any man builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, 13 each man’s work will become evident; for the day will show it because it is to be revealed with fire, and the fire itself will test the quality of each man’s work. 14 If any man’s work which he has built on it remains, he will receive a reward. 15 If any man’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.
Let us also look at this from the other side. Let us make the assumption that “salvation is all about grace by faith and under His grace our works have no impact”. Isn’t this exactly what Paul tells us?
Galatians 3:10–14 (NASB95)
10 For as many as are of the works of the Law are under a curse; for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who does not abide by all things written in the book of the law, to perform them.” 11 Now that no one is justified by the Law before YHVH is evident; for, “The righteous man shall live by faith.” 12 However, the Law is not of faith; on the contrary, “He who practices them shall live by them.” 13 Messiah redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree”— 14 in order that in Messiah Y’Shua the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we would receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.
Please note that Paul does not state “Messiah redeemed us from the Law” neither does he say “Messiah redeemed us from the curse that is the Law”. No, Paul claims that Y’Shua redeemed us from the curse of sin – death – by dying for us even though He had no sin. The law defines sin as Paul also discovered.
Romans 7:7 (NASB95)
7 What shall we say then? Is the Law sin? May it never be! On the contrary, I would not have come to know sin except through the Law; for I would not have known about coveting if the Law had not said, “You shall not covet.”
He states that the curse of the law – death – has become a curse for us. By Y’Shua dying for us and being resurrected, he has removed the curse of death for us – Jews and Gentiles. So Paul, later in the book of Romans, concurs that the law is good.
Romans 7:16 (NASB95)
16 But if I do the very thing I do not want to do, I agree with the Law, confessing that the Law is good.
Paul also continues this discussion and concludes later in his book to the Romans that not doing the law leads to death. His argument is that if the Spirit of YHVH is not in you, you will do the things of the flesh and this flesh is hostile toward YHVH and cannot please Him. This hostility will also be the reason for the flesh not willing to subject itself to the law of YHVH.
Romans 8:5–8 (NASB95)
5 For those who are according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who are according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. 6 For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace, 7 because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward YHVH; for it does not subject itself to the law of YHVH, for it is not even able to do so, 8 and those who are in the flesh cannot please YHVH.
This all proofs to me that Paul is telling us that if the Spirit of YHVH is not within me, I will not be willing to do the law and will find ways to proof that it is no longer applicable. This makes the theology of “I do not need the law to guide me as I am lead by the Spirit” appear contradictory to me. My interpretation of Paul says “If the Spirit is in me, I will not walk contrary to YHVH and will do His law.”
If we keep on playing the “only faith” theology through, we can see what the ripple effect is and what else is impacted. Several things suddenly go miss.
- If I doubt for a moment, does this imply I have now lost my salvation?
- If our works (sins) make no difference, then why do we need repentance?
We also very frequently hear the discussion that “I first need to be convicted of a law before I do it” or “I have not really studied that commandment yet and will apply it once I understand it”. This puts my human reason above my faith. This is very well defined in the following quotation:
“Faith, though it is works with reason, is a higher faculty than reason. It’s source is God. Lefevre d’Etaples says it so well:
Reason does not attain to faith, but grace, which is superior to reason, provides it … He who is unwilling to leave behind the possibility of his own reason encloses himself in a dark and confining prison where the sun of grace does not shine and life-giving faith is not found”[x]
This comment sums up the key point: We should not always rely on our own reason before we are faithful (do!). This implies that I will do certain commandments even though they make no sense to my reason and logic. Doing these commandments without understanding (reason) them is my outward signal of faith (assurance of things hoped for).
For me this study has made it clear:
- My salvation cannot be earned by what I do. It is by grace through faith.
- Believing and doing is what saved and blessed a number of people.
- Y’Shua taught that we will be known by the fruits (outward signs) and that we will be justified or condemned by our words.
- Y’Shua also states that our works stores up treasures in heaven for us and for our works we may be blessed and rewarded at the resurrection of the righteous.
- Paul also attested to the fact that our works will be revealed with fire and that the quality of our works will be tested.
- There is no contradiction between the writings of Paul and James.
- A proper study of Paul proofs that he concurs with the law and that he wants his body to do what the law requires from him.
From this the only conclusion that I can make is that my actions (works) do make a difference to Him.
Interesting side note – Amen
The various derivatives of אָמַן (ʾāman) reflect the same concept of certainty and dependability. The derivative אָמֵן -ʾāmēn – “verily” is carried over into the New Testament in the word ἀμήν – amēn- (Strongs greek #281) which is our English word “amen”. Y’Shua used the word frequently (Mt 5:18, 26, etc.) to stress the certainty of a matter. The Hebrew and Greek forms come at the end of prayers and hymns of praise (Ps 41:13; 106:48; 2 Tim 4:18; Rev 22:20). This indicates that the term so used in our prayers ought to express certainty and assurance in YHVH to whom we pray.
It is used after the pronouncement of solemn curses (Num 5:22; Deut 27:15ff.; Neh 5:13; Jer 11:5) and after prayers and hymns of praise (I Chr 16:36; Neh 8:6; Ps 41:13). v
[i] Merriam-Webster, I. (2003). Merriam-Webster’s collegiate dictionary. (Eleventh ed.). Springfield, Mass.: Merriam-Webster, Inc.
[ii] Manser, M. H. (1999). Zondervan Dictionary of Bible Themes. The Accessible and Comprehensive Tool for Topical Studies. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.
[iii] Myers, A. C. (1987). The Eerdmans Bible dictionary (373). Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans.
[iv] It is not what you think, it is what you do – Bereans Online Study – http://www.bereansonline.org/studies/whatyoudo.pdf
[v]Scott, J. B. (1999). 116 אָמַן. In R. L. Harris, G. L. Archer, Jr. & B. K. Waltke (Eds.), Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament (R. L. Harris, G. L. Archer, Jr. & B. K. Waltke, Ed.) (electronic ed.) (51). Chicago: Moody Press.
[vi] Strong, J., S.T.D., LL.D. (2009). Vol. 2: A Concise Dictionary of the Words in the Greek Testament and The Hebrew Bible (14). Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.
[vii] Swanson, J. (1997). Dictionary of Biblical Languages with Semantic Domains : Hebrew (Old Testament) (electronic ed.). Oak Harbor: Logos Research Systems, Inc.
[viii] Skip Moen – http://skipmoen.com/2011/08/17/paul%E2%80%99s-shema-1/
[ix] The Journey from Texts to Translations. Paul D. Wegner, Baker Academic, ISBN 978-0-8010-2799-4
[x] Sacks, S. (1995). Hebrews through a Hebrew’s eyes : Hope in the midst of a hopeless world (86). Baltimore, Md.: Lederer Messianic Publishers.