Q&A: Honesty about Dependence

Someone recently asked me this question about my translation of the Greek pistis/eo (commonly translated as faith, belief, trust) as “honesty about dependence”.

Question: Does the phrase “honesty about dependence” weigh the concept of faith toward the verb? Should “faith” not also hold the noun, as God’s gift?

Answer: There is more to pistis/eo than can be packed into a word or phrase in English.  That should come as no surprise, since God’s wisdom and ways are beyond comprehension.  But at least “honesty about dependence” seems to stop the human ego long enough for a little thought or conversation.

Regarding the verb form, always remember that the three English words—faith or believing or trusting—are all translating a single Greek word. The point of that Greek word is that pistis/eo (faith, belief, trust) is God’s work in us and is the opposite of our working, like floating in salt water or resting in sleep.  These things exist and endure without any activity on our part.  Honesty is an unencumbered connection to truth. This is one of the reasons that Jesus says, “Unless you repent and become as a child you cannot enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 18:3) and to Nicodemus, “unless you are regenerated from above, you cannot enter the kingdom of heaven” (John 3).

Second, the noun is really just describing the verb; faith, belief, and trust describe the condition of being fully at rest in honesty about dependence.

Third, recognizing truth and the cessation of any contention against or in competition with the truth is present. Part of being honest about dependence is knowing what is true, which is why God is so diligent about providing us with unequivocal witnesses to the truth and lots of them (His Word, which includes references to history, and all creation and all human experience). 

Fourth, faith/belief/trust as honesty about dependence are always and only God’s work in us and we come there by His Word/Spirit at work in us (John 8:31; Romans 10:17; Deuteronomy 6:4ff) and when we find ourselves in circumstances that will not allow us to be dishonest.  Consider Abraham being much too old to conceive—he “was honest about dependence and it was credited to him as righteousness.”  Or when Paul pleaded with God for relief from his thorn in the flesh but God said “no,” because God’s grace was made complete in our weakness.

God bless us all with coming to rest in honesty about dependence on Him and with appreciation for all the ways and means by which He brings us there and sustains us so, so graciously and wonderfully.

Posted in Q&A

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