In the English language, the Greek word pistis can be translated as both “faith” and “faithfulness.” In the Bible, however, these words carry different meanings and applications. As shown in the table below, the usage of faith and faithfulness in Scripture varies significantly in the two testaments.
Whereas the New Testament Greek appears to speak of faith in a more abstract way, the Old Testament speaks of faith in more concrete terms, hence the more frequent usage of faithfulness. Faith as expressed in the New Testament does not necessarily imply faithfulness. This is the point James makes when he says, “You believe that God is one. You do well; the demons also [have faith], and shudder” (James 2:19). The point is that faith without the works of righteousness is dead (James 2:17).
This faith/faithfulness concept is illustrated further by another couplet paradigm in Scripture. The usage of the word “obey” in the Old Testament Hebrew and the New Testament Greek denotes “hearing.” One cannot hear without obeying. The corollary is that to have faith properly implies faithfulness.
Faithfulness, Works, and Righteousness
Faithfulness is faith at work. Faithfulness is faith in action. When Abraham heard the call of God to leave his country, he obeyed. When God promised Abraham a child, he believed. When God went silent for more than a decade after Abraham slept with Hagar, Abraham continued to hold on to the promise of a child. For Abraham’s steadfast faithfulness to the promise of God, it was counted to him as righteousness (Gen 15:6).
Called to be Faithful
More than any other calling, God is calling us to be faithful. Our faithfulness in little things is a great indicator of our faithfulness in bigger things. The path to faithfulness among the faithless begins with accepting and acting upon God’s call and choice in Christ in one’s life.
Read the rest of the GYC Theme Series:
- Introduction: Searching for a Model of Salvation
- Part 1: The Call of God
- Part 2: Chosen for Mission
- Part 3: Faithful Among the Faithless
 Depending on the Bible translation, these numbers will vary slightly. The important point is how little the word “faith” appears in the OT.