Faith/Faithful – Semantic range

This venn diagram relates to the idea of semantic field.  A word has a range of meanings.  It seems the more common the word the wider its range of meanings.  The challenge this creates is to determine what is meant by a word.  Dictionaries are helpful for discovering the options, but it takes a reader to decide what meaning fits the context.

In the Fruit of the Spirit list of Galatians 4:22,23, the 7th word is “pistis” which is translated as “faith” in older versions and “faithfulness” in newer.  It seems as if the passage is not talking about the initial response of faith that starts someone on the road, but the ongoing quality of faithfulness that guides her on the path.

Yet is there a strong distinction in quality.  In church language we want to differentiate “saving faith” (the start up kind) from “living faith” (the ongoing kind.)

Is there any real distinction between the two words?  Or is it the same function in different times.

Is the Fruit of the Spirit called “faith” or “faithfulness” the initial act of believing, or the daily act of believing and obeying?

The classic passage on faith that was important in the Reformation is Romans 1:16-18

16 I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. 17 For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.  (NIV)

Notice that it is “by faith from first to last” which translates the more literal “from faith to faith”.  This indicated that “faith” is not a mere initial step, but an ongoing and inclusive attitude.  And so it seems that there is not real distinction in the quality of the thing we call “faith” or “faithfulness.”  Both are trusting reliance on God.  There needs to be a place in time where faith begins, and there needs to be a duration when faith continues.


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