4102 pístis

Properly, persuasion (God giving His persuasion about what pleases Him); faith.

The root of 4102/pístis (“faith”) is 3982/peíthō which means “to persuade or be persuaded.”  This points to the core-meaning of faith in the Bible: “the Lord’s inworked (inbirthed) persuasion” (G. Archer).

Ephesians 2:8-9
For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.

In its biblical sense, faith is always received by believers (never self-generated).1  Faith is always the gift (work) of God, from the moment of conversion, to the end of sanctification2

1. “According to Heb 11:1-3, faith is a [divine] persuasion of invisible things.” 3 Heb 11:1 refers to faith (pístis) as “God’s warranty (title deed)” given to believers desiring what pleases Him, and hence receiving the persuasion He births within (cf. Heb 11:1 with 1 Jn 5:4).  Faith certifies that the revelation of His will always comes to pass . . . His way! 4

Faith therefore is also an experience with God as well as divine revelation about what pleases Him.  It is all about Him, comes from Him, and glorifies Him.  “Faith then is not the same as human belief (which is a common theological error) explicitly refuted in Scripture” (G. Archer).  Faith is always God’s work (imparted by the Lord, cf. Ro 12:3; 2 Thes 1:11, Gk text).  (Confusion about this leads some to mistake faith as their “tool” to wield supernatural power . . . for self-serving ends.)

2. Faith (pístis) is occasionally used collectively, i.e. of all God has revealed (inworked) concerning His will, as in the infallible revelation of Scripture (cf. Jude 3).  Here again faith is received as God’s grace-gift, guaranteeing that all He says will come to pass, as He wills.

One insightful NT scholar well-remarked, “Pístis can only be translated three ways: ‘faith in God’ (objective genitive); ‘faith from God’ (subjective genitive); and ‘faithfulness of God.’  Since Greek already has a term for faithful (4103/pistós), ‘faithfulness’ is not likely.  Moreover ‘faith in God’ still presumes faith comes from Him which prompts faith-believing – hence the best choice (consistent meaning) of translating pístis (‘faith’) when used with the genitive (God/theou) is ‘faith from God.'”

Grant Osborne, “Faith in Scripture is the gift of God which persuades the receptive heart of what pleases Him.” 5

Working it out . . .

Throughout the Christian life (beginning to end) faith (4102/pístis) is an unearned gift of God.

Eph 2:8,9: “For by grace you have been saved through faith (pístis); and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast” (NASB).

Gal 5:22,23: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith (pístis), gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.”6

Faith is related to (yet distinct from) believing (4100/pisteúō).  Faith (a Greek noun) refers to “God’s persuasion birthed in a believer.” Believing (a Greek verb) relates to the human choice to have confidence (affirm, trust).

Faith is not exactly the same as believing, and believing is not exactly faith so the common statement, “Put your faith and trust in Christ” is easily misunderstood where both terms become only a human choice.7

Reflection: Many people believe . . . without having faith – and have faith . . . but lack enough belief to carry it through!  The goal of life is to only do works that are God’s work, through us (1 Jn 4:17).

 


  1. Exegetically, the Greek neuter noun (“gift”) includes faith and salvation (cf. Wm Hendriksen and most other commentators, in loc). 

  2. so Wm. Tyndale, M. Luther, J. Calvin, etc., etc., etc. 

  3. F. Büchsel, TDNT II 476, DNTT, 2, 768 

  4. Faith is “title” to what God leads believers to hope for (what pleases Him) – which always brings a “divine-assurance” (invisible confirmation) of His will (Heb 11:1).  

  5. Faith (pístis) is regularly followed by a noun or pronoun referring to the Lord in the Greek genitive case (like “faith from God”).  While this is routinely understood as an “objective genitive” (= “a person’s faith in God”), the “subjective genitive” is “more natural and theologically far more likely (i.e. ‘faith from God,’ ‘faith birthed by God’)” (G.  Archer).

    Randy Clark, “The word ‘faith’ has traditionally been understood as ‘believing the correct doctrinal positions about Jesus’ . . . they are important.  However in the Bible these are not the emphasis of the word ‘faith.’  Instead, faith as Scripture emphasizes it is most often understood as receiving a word of revelation from God, believing the word that calls for some act of obedience . . . ” (Charisma Magazine, March 2012, pp 37,38).

    Faith from God inspires (produces) faith-believing.  For more discussion see 4100/pisteúō (“believe”). 

  6. 4102/pistis (“faith”) should never be translated “faithfulness.” 

  7. “Faith from God” is distinct from human belief and confidence, though they overlap in meaning.