What is the Biblical Concept of FAITH?

Updated: Jul 31, 2019


This posted article is also available as a 20-minute streaming MP3 audio file. Listen to this audio file at: https://www.cominghome.co.il/audio.


Generally, what might be the first thing that comes to mind when we read in the Bible that someone has faith? Or, perhaps we might ask more directly, what is faith? What does it mean to have faith? What exactly does biblical faith look like?


In this short study, I would like us to have a look at the concept of faith as one might have understood it between man and YHVH (God). Considering that Yeshua, Paul, and many of the biblical orators and writers were of an Israelite/Hebrew extraction, I think that we should start with learning about faith as it is understood from biblical Hebrew.

COMPARISONS BETWEEN FAITH AND TRUST


Let us start with a brief look at two New Testament words that tend to become muddied in the overall interpretation of the biblical narratives. The words are FAITH and TRUST.

  1. FAITH is often used to translate the Hebrew letters Alef (א) Mem (מ) and Nun (נ). Grouped together, this Hebrew root refers to a master teacher or trainer, a trainee, and/or an artisan and craftsman. See Deuteronomy 7:10 and Numbers 14:11. In the New Testament, belief and faith are often used interchangeably.

  2. TRUST is used to translate the Hebrew letters Beyt (ב) Tet (ט) Chet (ח). Grouped together, this Hebrew root refers to confidence, trustworthiness, certainty, and security. See Isaiah 30:15.

FAITH AS IT IS OFTEN UNDERSTOOD TODAY


In reality, from a biblical Hebraic perspective, the word FAITH (or sometimes “belief”) has a very distinct meaning in biblical Hebrew. However, when people generally use the word faith or belief, they speak of faithfully accepting a set of religious doctrines but it can also refer to having trust in a certain person; someone or something is trustworthy or believable.

It seems to me that the terms faith (or belief) and trust have merged in their meanings over time. Sadly, the result has mostly obscured the beautiful theology that supports the overall message of the Gospel or what is called the Good News of the New Testament. Let us look at one example of the problem. We will use Mark 9:23-24 as it might generally be understood today.

  • NKJV English translation rendered from Greek: Yeshua: “If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes.” Immediately the father of the child cried out and said with tears, “Master, I believe; help my unbelief!”

  • Mark 9:23-24 as it might be interpreted today: Yeshua: “If you can only trust me, you can do anything if you are able to show trust; all things are possible. Immediately the father of the child cried out and said with tears, “Master, I trust that what you say is true. Help me though, because I do not trust you.”

Certainly, as it is, this can be woven into a great sermon. However, I do not think that this meaning captures the essence of what biblical Hebraic faith represents.

FAITH AS IT SHOULD BE UNDERSTOOD TODAY


The English term FAITH is translated from the Hebrew term Emunah. For those that read Hebrew, Emunah it is spelled Alef Mem Vav Nun Heh – א מ ו נ ה. Again, the root is simply Alef Mem Nun sofitא מ ן (sofit refers to 5 of 22 Hebrew letters that look a bit different from their usual form when they appear at the end of a word).

The grouped letters Alef Mem Nun sofitא מ ן are referred to as a shoresh; that is, a root or a source. When vowels are added to the root, we are given many words with meanings that will always be related to each other. Below, I have transliterated some of the words with their vowel sounds here:


HEBREW ROOT Alef (א) Mem (מ) and Nun (נ) WITH VOWELS:

  • Eemun = training.

  • Oohman = craftsman, specialist.

  • Ahmon = craftsman, artisan.

  • Ahman = artist, master, master-workman.

  • Ahmoon = trained, educated.

  • Ahmen (amen) = so be it, truth, a certainty, something enduring, lasting, and eternal.

The general idea of the root Alef (א) Mem (מ) and Nun (נ) is that of one who is trained by the lessons of a master trainer, a mentor, a tutor, a craftsman, or an artisan. In other words, the idea of biblical Hebraic faith is a verb describing one who is being trained to copy something or someone.


To possess Emunah or faith, it means to make a faithful copy of someone or something by steadfastly watching the master trainer. This one learns to make a faithful copy of what he sees when he emulates the trainer, in much the same way that an artist paints a portrait of what he might be looking at in a person who is modelling for him. Thus, we might say that “A” is mentoring “B” and “B” is copying “A.” All of this forms the basis in the biblical Hebraic concept for the word faith.

Even today, in everyday Israeli life, if you go out to a restaurant, you might see a waiter (a table server) giving on-the-job training to one who is following in the shadow of his teacher. In Hebrew, the one being trained and taught how to copy his teacher’s actions is referred to as eemun. The teacher who is training his student is referred to as the mayuman. Both words are related to the root for Emunah – faith.

The biblical Hebraic faith concept is illustrated in the story of Gide’on in Judges 7:17 when Gide’on had to show the 300 men under his command what he wanted them to do.

And he said to them, “Look at me and do likewise; watch, and when I come to the edge of the camp you shall do as I do.”

With a similar teaching, the writer of the Book of Hebrews 12:1-2 instructs us with these words:

“…Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Yeshua, the author and finisher of our faith.”

And again, in Matthew 16:24 –

Then Yeshua said to his disciples, “If anyone desires to come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.”

The biblical Hebraic meaning of faith is not so much about believing and trusting something or someone as it is more about being trained by a master teacher in order to become a faithful representation or copy of the trainer or teacher.


Given this biblical understanding of faith, let us revisit the narrative in Mark 9:23-24. This time, however, permit me to present what I believe might be the more appropriate Hebraic idea in the dialogue.

  • NKJV English translation rendered from Greek: Yeshua: “If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes.” Immediately the father of the child cried out and said with tears, “Master, I believe; help my unbelief!”

  • My personal understanding based on the biblical Hebrew meaning of faith or belief: Yeshua: “If you are willing to receive the lesson that I want to teach, then both you and your son will experience a complete healing from the spiritual corruption that dwells in you and in all of mankind (inherited from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil). Immediately the father of the child cried out and said with tears, “Master, I want to be trained to see life’s evils as you do. Help me and teach me because you know that I do not perceive life’s evils as you see them because you understand the cause of the troubles.” (i.e., I want to be like you but need your help because I recognize that I am far from being like you.)

I think this more accurately defines the biblical idea of faith and what hinders each of us in our numerous helpless situations. Like the man of Mark 9:24 who fundamentally said, “I want to be trained to perceive life’s evils as you do; help me because I do not understand life’s evils as you understand them,” we will always have struggles between the redeemed spirit nature in our new redeemed man and the corrupted flesh nature in our old fleshly man. This was the essence of Paul’s theology in Romans chapters 7-8.


Therefore, we conclude that a person of faith is one who is being trained by the master trainer; to approach life’s pains and hardships by receiving Messiah in the new man and then putting on Messiah's face in the midst of all our troubles and difficulties. This is the basis for James’ (Ya’acov’s) teaching in James 2:18:

But someone will say, “You have faith, and I have works (actions). Show me your faith without your works (actions), and I will show you my faith by my works (actions).

SAVED BY GRACE THROUGH FAITH


Yeshua was in the image of the Father and he was trained through what he saw emanating from the Father; he copied YHVH as he said in John 5:19:

Then Yeshua answered and said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, the son can do nothing of himself, but what he sees the Father do; for whatever he does, the son also does in like manner.”

True biblical faith (Hebrew: Emunah) is a different idea from trust (Hebrew: Betach). Faith (putting on the face of our master trainer) is a gift of his love training when we look into his face. We cannot earn faith or trade for it. Because of the gift of his faith (Hebrew: Emunah) through grace, our response towards him is to believe and to trust (Hebrew: Betach).

Therefore, we are saved by grace through faith. In other words, we do not earn our acceptance into apprenticeship under him because it is a calling freely given to us due to his love for us. Through his love, we are undeservedly invited to participate in a divine apprenticeship program and then trained in that program to shine the face of his glory and grace. In other words, it is Messiah’s face shining and reflecting through our face.

We are not talking about a purely rational exercise in testifying that we believe in some unique set of dogmas and doctrines. Our faith is a testimony that Messiah is our hope of glory…our glorification on the day when we wake up from death in the Last Day resurrection (see John 5:27-29 and John 11:25-26). Then we will see him as he is and he will see us as we are because of his actions, not ours. This was a known teaching in the Second Temple period as expressed through the words of Hebrews 12:1-2:

“Let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Yeshua, the author and finisher of our faith.”

The weight and the sin which so easily ensnares us is, in fact, the passed-down inherited image of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil; the very same tree that ensnared Chavah and then Adam in Genesis chapter 3. Through Adam, there is no question or doubt that each of us is, in fact, born into this world as a complete copy of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil which follows the principle of Genesis 1:11 that like kind produces like kind.

Consequently, whatever is dished out to us in this life, we are indebted to remember the Yeshua principle that trained him to go forward in the midst of deep anguish,

“…who for the joy that was set before him endured the execution stake, despising the shame, and he has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God (Elohim).”

SUMMARY OF FAITH

  1. Faith, Step One: Follow me! (see Mark 8:34) and to Abraham, “I will show you” (see Genesis 12:1 and Hebrews 11:8).

  2. Faith, Step Two: Copy the example! (see John 13:14-15); “Abraham obeyed (copied) YHVH” (see Genesis 15:6); and Gide’on who said to his men, “Look at me and do likewise; watch (see Judges 7:17).

Hebrews 11:1 relates the principle in this way, saying:

“Now faith is the substance of events* hoped for, the evidence not seen.” Ἔστιν δὲ πίστις ἐλπιζομένων ὑπόστασις, *πραγμάτων (happenings, events) ἔλεγχος οὐ βλεπομένων.

What is our faith? It is the substance and essence of the events for which the evidence is trusted but is not yet seen. Romans 6:5-7 explains it:


For if we have been united together in the likeness of his death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of his resurrection, knowing this, that our old man was crucified with him, that the body of Sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of Sin. For he who has died has been freed from Sin.


These are all events that we are walking in right now even though the fullness and reality of the events are yet to be revealed. The actual evidence cannot be seen because it is all a future event to us. Put another way, we are presently walking in something that is yet future though we have not yet experienced its reality. Therefore, said Paul,

“We walk by faith and not by sight” (see 2 Corinthians 5:7).

Because of this truth, we accept Colossians 1:27-28:

Messiah IN YOU, the hope of glory (our hope of glorification). Him we preach, warning every man and teaching every man in all wisdom, that we may present every man complete (healed from the corruption of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil) in Messiah Yeshua.

Our hope is in our yet future glorification on the great day of the Last Day resurrection all because of Yeshua who perfectly copied his face on and into us, through the path of his deaths and his third-day resurrection. So, we conclude that he is making us into his image through our training, which is the essence of the definition of faith. This is lesson of 1 John 3:2:

Beloved, now we are children of Elohim (God); and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when he is revealed, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.

Shalom

Avi ben Mordechai

+1 (719) 259-5433 (LIFE)

SMS Text or Voicemail

  • Facebook Social Icon
  • YouTube Social  Icon
  • Vimeo Social Icon

©2020 Avi ben Mordechai / Coming Home, Inc.

Colorado Springs, CO USA

Dallyellup Beach, Western Australia