New Testament scholar Luke Timothy Johnson notes “Belief and faith are closely related but not identical.” I’m not sure what the difference is between faith and belief, but I am sure both are important.
It would be difficult to overstate the importance of believe and faith in the Bible. Here are just three:
Hebrews 11:1 gives a partial definition of faith: “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see” (NLT).
Hebrews 11:6 underscores the necessity of faith: “And it is impossible to please God without faith. Anyone who wants to come to him must believe that God exists and that he rewards those who sincerely seek him” (NLT).
John 3:16 is one of the best known verses in the Bible: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”
The words obviously overlap in meaning, and sometimes forms of the words are used interchangeably, but if Johnson is right they are not exactly the same. What further complicates the meaning of the words is that different people mean different things by them.
Having given it some thought, if pushed to differentiate, my take is that belief is primarily about content and faith is more oriented to living according to one’s belief. One writer observes people can believe something is true without it mattering in their lives.
When someone says this is what I believe they are affirming the content of their belief (or faith). Creeds and statements of faith are lists of teachings or body of content of what a person or group believes. When someone says I have faith in something (or someone) they are referring to their trust or expectation about something or someone they believe.
Equally important, faith and belief are lived out in one’s life. What we really believe is shown in how we live. I like two phrases that seem to me to bring it all together: “keep the faith” and “stay faithful.”
Feel free to leave a comment below and/or share this post on Facebook or other social media.