Many in the Constantinian-Christian Church interpret Scripture with a Western/Greek mindset. They see faith as simply a mental construct, something you believe that requires no action. So when they read verses like Ephesians 2:8-9, “For by grace you have been saved, through faith, and not of yourselves. It is the gift of God, not based on deeds, so no one can boast…” they wrongly believe that one can be saved by mentally assenting to the fact that Yeshua is the son of God and that he died for the sins of the world. Just say the prayer and voilà: you are eternally saved, regardless of how you go on to live your life.
But is that actually what Scripture teaches?
That famous American humorist and writer 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 that I must add, and living by that motto: “Don’t confuse me with the facts; I’ve already made up my mind,” will keep you there. With that in mind, let us examine–precept upon precept, line upon line, here a little and there a little, (Isa 28:10)–what the Scriptures actually teach about FAITH.
In Hebrew the word for saved is yashá. According to Strong’s Bible Dictionary this primitive root means: properly to be open, wide or free, that is, (by implication) to be safe; causatively to free or succor, and can also mean: avenging, defend, deliver or deliverer, help, preserve, rescue, be safe, bring (having) salvation, save or savior, get victory. The third time this word appears in Scripture is in Exodus 14:30. “So Yahweh saved Israel that day out of the hand of the Egyptians. . .”
Though most often translated in the King James version as saved, Yashá appears some 205 times in the Old Testament, and is also rendered at times as: avenged, delivered, defended, helped, preserved, rescued, salvation, and savior. Now Hebrew has only about 4,000 words, unlike English, in which there are over 100,000. So words in Hebrew are stuffed with meaning. Take the word Shema. It’s translated 405 times as hear, and 43 times as obey. But I’ll bet you didn’t know that just like Shema links hearing with obedience in Hebrew, there is a word that links faith to obedience (and conversely disbelief to disobedience) in the Greek.
That word is apeitheo
Thayer Bible Dictionary Definition:
Not to allow one’s self to be persuaded, to refuse or withhold belief, to refuse belief and obedience.
The King James translates the word apeitho as not obey in Romans 2:8.
“But unto them that are contentious, and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, indignation and wrath…”
As disobedient in Romans 10: 21
“But to Israel he saith, all day long I have stretched forth my hands unto a disobedient and gainsaying people.”
As disobedient in 1 Peter 2:7 and 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…”
As obey not in 1 Peter 3:1
“Likewise, ye wives, be in subjection to your own husbands; that, if any obey not the word…”
As disobedient in 1 Peter 3:20
“Which sometime were disobedient, when once the long-suffering of God waited in the days of Noah…”
As obey not in 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?”
ut that very same Greek word, apeitheo, translated as “disobedient” and “not obey” in the above verses is translated as “not believed” in other places in the King James:
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 to whom swear he that they should not enter into his rest, but to them that believed not?
So just like the Hebrew word shema equates hear with obey, the Greek word apeitheo equates disbelieve with disobey. With that in mind, let’s look at: 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.”
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 only about mental activity. But that is not the case! Scripture is linking Biblical 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.
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.
In Hebrews 11:8 we learn that Abraham obeyed by faith, and by faith in verse 11:17, he was tested and offered up his son Isaac.
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 I 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 return to Ephesians 2, only this time let’s read verses 8-10:
“For by grace are ye 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 hath before ordained that we should walk in them.”
Paul was not teaching that faith is mere mental activity. He was teaching us that it is based on God’s grace not anything we have done to earn it, but once we are SAVED, we will walk in the good works that God ordained, his TORAH.
Can a true believer sin?
Yes! That’s why Scripture tells us to confess our sins one to another. Only sin, for the true believer, is not willful and certainly not a lifestyle. True believers have hearts that want to please their Father. 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 never died to self and made Yeshua Lord. They don’t want to obey God’s commandments, and don’t have the Spirit, which Romans 8:4 tells us was given so that we can fulfill the righteous commands of the Law.
Those whose faith in Yeshua is merely a mental-construct are fooling themselves. They had better take to heart what Yeshua’s brother wrote: … 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.