Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble. But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead? (James 2:19–20 KJV)
As a young believer, I thought I knew the difference between believing(here, we focus on believing God’s words) and faith. I was taught that believing is the conviction(in the heart) and faith is action. This teaching is true, but only partly so; in fact, it could be potentially misleading, as we see below. For more on believing as a general human capacity and faith as restricted to the things of God, please see this article A Simple Truth That Will Demystify Faith.
The New Testament makes a subtle but crucial distinction between believing and faith. We see both words in James 2:19-20. Believing is a verb (an act), and the corresponding noun (the state) is faith: in Greek, believing is the verb pisteuo, and faith is the noun pistis. We believe with our hearts (not visible), but faith is the state of believing and all the works or results accompanying that act of believing.
Mathematically, faith = believing + works. Or if you consider faith as a coin, the two sides of that coin are believing and works. Faith is not solely the works but the invisible believing in the heart and the resulting works, both inner and outer. Based on the misconception that faith is exclusively the things we do or say (the works), Christians often attempt to act out faith by doing things considered faith without the heart that believes. Jesus said that for our words to move mountains, they must come from a heart that believes. Words of faith without a believing heart are empty and unfailingly result in disappointments and frustrations.
So, believing, pisteuo, is our hearts accepting God’s Word as true and relying on it; faith is the invisible believing and everything resulting from believing—feelings, thoughts, desires, words, and actions.
Can true faith in the heart (believing) ever exist without visible signs? Can faith be without works?
Apply the Word
I was perplexed when the Lord taught me that I do not need to prove I have believed by doing “faith things”. If I believe genuinely, it will show up in how I talk and live. So do not try to force the actions; focus on believing the Word.
Ask the Spirit to help you believe the Word.
- The Three-Tier Pyramid of Believing
- What is faith?
- When Jesus Saw Their Faith
- A Simple Truth That Will Demystify Faith
- What is a Devotional?
- View All Deshen Daily Devotionals
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