Feb 28, 2022
Faith versus belief has been a vehemently debated topic among Christian circles and those outside Christian circles. Faith and belief are tightly woven together; however, they are not the same. I used to believe faith and belief were synonymous, yet they are actually independent of one another.
Differentiating the two definitions of these words can help us better understand the difference between faith and belief. Faith is defined as “complete trust or confidence in someone or something” (“Faith,” Oxford Languages, 2022). Belief is defined as “an acceptance that a statement is true or that something exists” (“Belief,” Oxford Languages, 2022). Both of these definitions are similar, yet, they are different. Faith is much larger than belief. Belief requires a person to believe in something; however, faith stirs a person to action. James 2:17 tells us, “In the same way, faith by itself if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.” Our beliefs can change and waiver, but our faith stands firm despite the waves of life. Faith versus belief challenges us in our Christian walk because we have to ask ourselves, “Do I stop at belief, or do I go the whole way in faith?”.
Belief is a vital part of the Christian walk, yet a believer cannot stop at belief and never move forward. Faith takes your belief to another level because it is actually incorporating what you believe into action. Faith versus belief has a major difference because faith is larger, stronger, and more durable than belief. Many people have a belief in things, yet the belief does not cause them to have trust and faith in the belief.
In other words, many people have the belief that George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and Abraham Lincoln were all real presidents of the United States, yet no one would have faith that any of these men could save them or protect them. Yes, we have belief in the person, but there is no faith tied in with the belief. The belief simply stops at belief and does not extend into faith. We would say that we have a belief in the personhood and presidency of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and Abraham Lincoln; however, we would not say that we have faith in these men of history. This is because faith goes deeper than belief. Faith involves a full heart of commitment. Belief only relates to a mental acknowledgment and not a heart commitment.
Placing Faith in Christ
When a person places faith in Christ, it includes both belief and faith. As established, faith goes beyond belief because it goes deeper into a person’s heart rather than only a mental belief. Faith stretches to the heart of a person and impacts their daily life. For the Christian, belief and faith both occur; however, a person has to have true faith in order to be saved. Belief alone cannot save a person. Many people have the belief that Jesus was a real person, yet they do not have faith in Him as their God and Savior. A person can believe in something or someone, but not actually have faith.
For the Christian, faith goes beyond the mental belief in Jesus and stretches into our hearts. This is not to say that faith is built upon “blind faith” or is lacking in facts, because faith in Christ is built out of true knowledge in Jesus’ divinity, Lordship, and redemption, but the knowledge side is present when someone places faith in Christ. Why? Because nobody mindlessly places faith in something unless they truly believe in it. This is where belief and faith come together because belief does have to come alongside faith; however, a person cannot stop at belief alone. Placing faith in Christ means believing that Jesus died for your sins, was buried, and rose again (1 Corinthians 15:1-4). You have to believe before you can express faith in Christ. We can believe in Christ today because we can obtain the mental knowledge of Him, and this can lead us to place faith in Him as Savior.
Jesus has been revealed to us through the Bible, and He has also been attested to through many ancient secular historians, such as Tacitus, Seutonius, Thallus, Pliny, and Josephus. None of these men would have a reason to lie because they were anti-Christian and Josephus was a Jew, which would make him more hostile toward Christianity. Tacitus, Seutonius, Thallus, Pliny, and Josephus would not have written information about Jesus unless He was a historic figure who did live and ultimately die for the sins of the world. A person can believe in Jesus’ personhood, such as Tacitus, Seutonius, Thallus, Pliny, and Josephus did; however, unless the belief is tied in with faith, salvation cannot occur. A person has to express legitimate faith in Christ in order to be saved and receive forgiveness of sins. Apart from faith, a person is still lost in their sins and condemned to hell without the forgiveness of God that is only found in placing faith in Christ. Belief alone cannot save a person. Only true, genuine faith in Christ provides salvation.
Belief and faith are interrelated, but not the same thing within modern society. In the New Testament, these terms were used interchangeably, which is why in some translations, “belief” and “faith” are used to mean the same thing. When the New Testament writers wrote the New Testament, they used the words “belief” and “faith” interchangeably because, during New Testament times, these two words were synonyms of each other. In our modern-day, belief and faith have evolved to become two different words, albeit similar. It is important to take this to heart when we are looking at the debate of faith versus belief.
Only in the modern day have the words “belief” and “faith” taken up deeper meanings, especially in regard to Christianity. Nonetheless, it is important to remember that when the Bible speaks about faith and belief, these words are used interchangeably. When the Bible refers to “belief” or to “believe,” the authors are referring to having faith in what you are believing. Thus, when the words “belief” or “believe” is recorded in the Bible, it is referring to faith such as in John 20:31, “But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” When John is referring to “believing,” he is referring to having faith in Jesus as the Son of God. Faith versus belief did not emerge later on due to the evolution of the meaning of “belief” and “faith.” As Christians, we know that our faith is built upon strong proof and belief in God. Anybody can believe in the personhood and existence of Jesus, yet it requires faith in Christ for a person to be saved.
Faith in our modern-day exceeds belief because it all comes down to a person’s heart. Belief in the modern sense is linked only to mental knowledge rather than the heart. Faith versus belief has now emerged into the world because the meaning of the words has dramatically changed over the course of history. Faith goes beyond belief as it comes from the heart. A person can have belief in something without having faith in it. In order to receive salvation, a person has to place faith in Christ. This means a person cannot only believe in Jesus’ existence, but they also have to trust in Him. Trusting in Christ means that you have faith He is God and that He can save you from your sins. Faith versus belief can be a difficult topic among Christians, yet there is importance in knowing the differences between faith and belief.
If you want to place faith in Christ today, you can. All that is required is that you believe that Jesus died for your sins on the cross, was buried, and rose again. If you place faith in Christ, you are given forgiveness of sins, eternal life, and redemption. Hallelujah for soul-saving faith!
Vivian Bricker loves Jesus, studying the Word of God, and helping others in their walk with Christ. She has earned a Bachelor of Arts and Master’s degree in Christian Ministry with a deep academic emphasis in theology. Her favorite things to do are spending time with her family and friends, reading, and spending time outside. When she is not writing, she is embarking on other adventures.