Welcome back to my series on the passage 2 Peter 1:3-8. My friend Jon and I decided to step through this passage carefully, intent on finding a new framework with which to approach our relationship to God. It’s a beautiful passage concerning starting with one attribute, and strengthening it with another, gradually working through this full list which works from faith to love. The idea is that you master each trait and then continue to the next until you reach this goal, if you will, of love. If you’re interested in reading the first post, click here.
The theme of this post is faith.
I remember standing at the top of the rock, looking really only maybe 10 to 15 feet below me at the water. At the time, I really wasn’t one for jumping into water that I didn’t know exactly how deep it was – even if I knew other people had been doing it just fine. I run through every scenario in my head that could go wrong. To be honest, my motto for making the jump was “Well, even if it goes bad, I won’t die.” Eventually, I worked up the courage to make the jump and plunged into the cold water below.
To be honest, you can probably argue that the little story above doesn’t communicate the strongest example of faith, especially since I had seen others try and succeed. I’d likely tend to agree with you. But I want to use it more to introduce the concept and help define faith.
Faith is defined as “complete trust or confidence in someone or something.”
To be honest, seeing others make the same jump wasn’t really sufficient evidence for me; I wouldn’t believe it until I knew I could safely do it.
I had faith of some sorts. Faith that by jumping, I would come out alright. I had confidence and trust that I would be okay.
Many relate hope and faith. Honestly, it was the first relation I made in my head when closely considering faith. Faith, however, takes hope one step further. Hope is a desire or longing for something to take place. Hope may even have some amount of expectation. Faith removes the chance of failure. Hope is what makes us say, “I want this to happen.” Faith is what makes us say, “This is going to happen.”
I want to be careful here not to push the idea that faith cannot exist wherever doubt exists. Though they seem to work against each other, they build one another. If you have faith (or confidence) in something, it is highly likely that something comes along that makes you question it. If you can find a way to conquer the doubt, it will build your faith stronger and stronger.
In my personal experience, I will admit that as my faith grows, I feel my doubts do too. Different doubts, with seemingly bigger and tougher questions seem to replace past doubts. It gets complicated. But if I hold true to my faith, and hold on to complete trust and confidence, and work through even the biggest of doubts, faith is strengthened.
I feel I’ve sufficiently defined faith for the time being, so I want to move on to the significance in the passage. Getting back into 2 Peter, when introducing these qualities, Peter says, “For this very reason (to grow closer with God and escape evil), make every effort to support your faith with virtue…”
While the next theme to be discussed will be virtue, I want to highlight that we start with faith. There also are not qualifiers for this faith. Peter doesn’t say to start this journey, that your faith has to be this big, or has to check these boxes. Just, simply, start with faith. Start where you’re at. In fact, in the book of Matthew, Jesus says, “Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” (Matthew 17:20)
Part of the beauty is that no matter where you are at in your faith journey – no matter how big or how small your faith – this journey from faith to love is accessible to you.
If we return to my original anecdote from the beginning about jumping into the water and how faith is involved. It’s important to note that because of the faith I had in this situation, I was compelled to action. If I had believed firmly and trusted that jumping into the water would not hurt me, but I didn’t make that leap, then it didn’t change how I live.
Part of why my friend Jon is so instrumental to this journey is his love for linguistics (currently resisting the urge to make a joke about how that is not an Italian food, so I’m putting it in parentheses to keep my joke safe). Jon loves looking into the structure of language, especially as far as Scripture is involved.
While discussing the concept of faith, Jon informed me that the Greek that Paul uses for faith is ‘pistis’ (Πίστις). With this pistis, is a sort of push towards action.
In my head, I viewed faith as something which inspires or motivates us to action. Faith is something that comes before action and inspires action. To Jon, he equated faith as something that gets the credit for our action.
Another way that Jon put it is that faith is something that you must fully take to your heart and embody it. I would continue this as saying that if you fully embrace faith and take it to heart, such that it truly changes your heart, it will cause the actions.
I always struggled hearing back and forth the debate between salvation through faith alone and salvation through works. As I’ve spent time in my life digging through the ideas, I’ve settled on the thought of “saved by grace, through faith, which produces works.”
The actions are because of the faith. Even in the book of 1 Thessalonians, Paul gives an idea similar to this: “We remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Thessalonians 1:3)
One last note that helps to frame faith and action: the Greek pistis is a noun used for faith. With a very close relation to the noun, the related action verb would be pisteuo, meaning to believe. Both the noun and the verb have the root “pith” – meaning to be persuaded. Both pistis and pisteuo share the root which I think can closely be tied into Jon’s idea of taking something to heart.
In the case of Christians, it is the taking to heart of God and the Gospel and life of Jesus which brings about this faith and action.
I hope you enjoyed this installment of this series. It took me a little more time than I wanted to get this put out, but I think I needed the time for everything to sink in. I hope you’ll join for the next installment where we seek to take this faith and build onto it with virtue.
To God be the Glory.