“Believe” and “faith”—same or different?


by Shawn Brasseaux

Allegedly endeavoring to “defend” the doctrine of justification by grace through faith in Christ alone, certain “theologically-minded” individuals have suggested faith and belief are two different Bible concepts. If these people are correct, then we would indeed be wrong in considering “faith” verses and “believe” verses to be synonymous. Does the Bible equate these two terms? “For what saith the Scriptures?” (Not “For what saith the theology textbook?”!)

Let us start with something simple, Romans 4:3-5, and work our way into deeper matters: “[3] For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness. [4] Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt. [5] But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness. Contrary to the Calvinist’s claim, faith is not a work. Romans teaches we are justified, not by working, but by faith (verse 5). Again, faith and work are different; they are not interchangeable. Now, what about faith and believe? Are they different? No! The Apostle Paul, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, considered “faith” and “believe” interchangeable. We gain righteousness—a right standing before God—by believing on Christ Jesus as sufficient payment for our sins, and that faith (that is, our believing on Him) results in our justification. To have faith is to believe, and to believe is to have faith.

Paul was referring to “the scripture” of Genesis 15:6, “And he believed in the LORD; and he counted it to him for righteousness.” This is much more than “Abraham believed God existed.” Abraham trusted what the LORD had just told him: “[1] After these things the word of the LORD came unto Abram in a vision, saying, Fear not, Abram: I am thy shield, and thy exceeding great reward. [2] And Abram said, LORD God, what wilt thou give me, seeing I go childless, and the steward of my house is this Eliezer of Damascus? [3] And Abram said, Behold, to me thou hast given no seed: and, lo, one born in my house is mine heir. [4] And, behold, the word of the LORD came unto him, saying, This shall not be thine heir; but he that shall come forth out of thine own bowels shall be thine heir. [5] And he brought him forth abroad, and said, Look now toward heaven, and tell the stars, if thou be able to number them: and he said unto him, So shall thy seed be. [6] And he believed in the LORD; and he counted it to him for righteousness.”

Now, watch Paul’s commentary in Romans 4:9-11: “[9] Cometh this blessedness then upon the circumcision only, or upon the uncircumcision also? for we say that faith was reckoned to Abraham for righteousness. [10] How was it then reckoned? when he was in circumcision, or in uncircumcision? Not in circumcision, but in uncircumcision. [11] And he received the sign of circumcision [Genesis chapter 17], a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had yet being uncircumcised [Genesis chapter 15]: that he might be the father of all them that believe, though they be not circumcised; that righteousness might be imputed unto them also:….” Abraham was to be physically circumcised in chapter 17 because he had been justified in chapter 15. In Genesis, the Holy Spirit through Moses wrote Abraham “believed” (15:6). The same Holy Spirit led Paul in Romans to remark Abraham had “faith” (4:9,11). We would have to want not to see it not to see it. Either we believe (have faith in) our theology, or we have faith in (believe) the Bible. According to the Scriptures, to have faith is to be justified, and to believe is to be justified. Faith and believe must be one and the same—unless there are two ways for us to be justified!

When someone separates the ideas of faith and believe—whether they know it or not—they are confusing the pure Gospel of Grace (1 Corinthians 15:3-4). God does not give us faith (see our related study linked at the end of this article). Believe is what we do; exercise faith is what we do. Yet, they want to distinguish between faith and believe because they assume faith is God’s gift to us whereas believe is our “work.” Of course, their position is erroneous. Romans 4:5 has already settled the matter: faith is not a work, belief is not a work. Genesis and Romans compared, believe and faith are the same. “Abraham believed” and “Abraham had faith” are two ways of expressing the same concept, and it is just as true of us. When we trust Jesus Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection as sufficient payment for our sins, we are exercising faith or believing God’s words to us. Faith (belief) is simple reliance on what the Lord did at Calvary. Works is what we do in religion in an attempt to make God accept us into Heaven. We are pitting our “righteousness” against God’s, striving to replace or match Christ’s perfect righteousness—and God will not have it! Anyone who confuses faith with works is just as mixed up as someone who cannot see faith and believe are the same.

Also see:
» Does God give us faith?
» I believed the Gospel, so why do they not believe?
» Is it not enough that I “believe in God?”
» Is faith in Christ alone enough to go to heaven? Do not the devils believe?
» We are saved by faith, but are we blessed by works?
» Why does Romans 3:30 read “by faith” and “through faith?”