Among the most important words to understand in the New Testament, “faith” would surely rank among the top five. A key to understanding the New Testament concept is that the focus of faith is upon Jesus Christ, as Lord. Faith is the translation of the word, pistis, in the original language of the New Testament and involves four shades of meaning.
A. TRUSTING in Jesus Christ as Lord (that is, as King, Sovereign, Boss):
This is the emphasis of faith in John 3:16; Acts 16:31; Eph. 2:8. This what one normally understands concerning faith, as relying on someone else and believing what they stand for and what they say.
B. ENTRUSTING one’s life and eternal destiny to Jesus Christ:
This meaning is illustrated in John 2:23-24, “But while he [Jesus] was in Jerusalem during the Passover at the feast, many believed in his name, while seeing the miraculous signs which he was doing. However, Jesus himself was not committing himself to them, because he knew [how] all men were.” The verb form of the word, pistis, is translated here as both “believed” in verse 23 and “committing” in verse 24. Like our words, “trust” and “entrust,” one could put it that they trusted in Jesus Christ, but He did not entrust Himself to them, because he knew how fickle and unreliable people were and are. But as Lord, a person can trust in Jesus Christ and entrust himself into His perfect care.
C. FAITHFULNESS to the Lord Jesus Christ:
Faith also means worthy of trust, reliability, and assurance. Pistis in reference to God in Romans 3:3 is best translated “faithfulness.” This is also the idea regarding the seventh item of the fruit of the Spirit listed in Galatians 5:22 (and possibly in Matthew 23:23 and 2 Thessalonians 1:4). The result of genuine faith is faithfulness, because of what Jesus is doing in a believer and not what that believer is doing for Him (see Philippians 1:6).
D. A BODY OF BELIEFS to hold to:
Belief in Christ must focus on what one’s beliefs about Christ are: “He who remains in the doctrine of Christ has also the Father and the Son” (2 John 9b). When all is said and done, the most important set of beliefs that a believer can hold are the ones about Jesus deity (as a part of the Trinity), virgin birth, sinless life, atoning death on the cross and resurrection. Jude exhorted believers in the third verse of his brief letter “vigorously to contend [as an athlete] for the faith once for all delivered to the saints.” The word, pistis, here seems to refer more to the beliefs and doctrines of our faith than simply to the fact of believing. In other words, a believers salvation does not come by just having faith but by having faith in Jesus Christ according to a certain set of Biblical beliefs about Him.