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By the grace of God I am what I am: 
 1 Cor. 15:10a​
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Pistis I: What Does it Mean?
We have just finished looking at the doctrine, reproof, and correction as laid out in the Church Epistles of Romans, Corinthians, and Galatians. It was by no means an exhaustive study but it was solid enough to lay the foundation for who a believer is and how he should conduct his life in this the Administration of Grace.

2 Timothy 3:16
All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:

The Epistle to the Romans is a doctrinal epistle. Doctrine is how to believe rightly. The right way for a believer to believe in this day and time is to know he has been justified and made righteous by the grace of God through the accomplished work of Jesus Christ. Due to our justification we are at peace with God and our righteousness allows us to stand in the presence of God without any sense of sin, guilt , or condemnation.

God created His gift of holy spirit within all who have believed, setting each believer apart from the world. In Christ we have been sanctified, made holy and stand in the Family of God as beloved children of the Most High. There is nothing that can separate us from the love God has for us, His children.

We could not work for these things, we could not earn these things. They are a gift from God.

The Epistle to the Corinthians is a reproof epistle. Reproof is to correct us when we are not practicing the right way of believing in our daily walk. The Corinthian Church began to look to the flesh of men saying, "I am of Paul" or "I am of Apollos". In essence they were breaking up into denominations based upon carnal criteria that was meaningless. 

Romans had shown that all were justified, and righteous, and set apart by the grace of God. No man had earned this for himself. Spiritually, we are all equal in the eyes of our Heavenly Father. We were called to fellowship with God, with His son, with each other. 

Prior to becoming a believer a Corinthian tapped into whatever dumb idol he followed. But now, due to what God accomplished in His son Jesus Christ, the believer received a new nature, a spiritual nature. This new nature allows the child of God to discern spiritual matters, to understand spiritual concepts, to tap into the heart of God. The right way of believing declared the old nature of the flesh to be dead while the new nature brought newness of life and living in Christ.

The divisions at Corinth lead to abuses in the spiritual freedom given to every believer. Old idolatrous practices crept back into, or never were removed from the everyday life of the believer. Natural knowledge was allowed to exalt itself against the knowledge of God. The epistles to the Corinthians were written to return them to the right way of believing.

The Epistle to the Galatians is a correction epistle. False believers had infiltrated the fellowships and changed the doctrine delivered to them by Paul and Barnabas. It began with questioning the authority and the credentials of the apostle Paul. They attacked the man in order to attack what he had taught. God's adversary has used this tactic beginning with Eve in the Garden of Eden when he attacked what Adam had taught Eve concerning the fruit of a certain tree.

Romans had clearly demonstrated that Christ had fulfilled the Law and that by the Law no man was to be made righteous. Yet, over time, these false brethren had convinced the Galatians that they did indeed need circumcision in order to truly be saved. 

In Corinth the believers were not walking in the love of God in their renewed mind as written out beginning in Romans chapter 12. The Corinthians received the reproof from the apostle Paul before their wrong practice became wrong doctrine. The believers in Galatia however did not respond as the Corinthians. In Galatia they practiced the wrong way for so long that it became their new doctrine.

The correctional Epistle of Galatians was written to correct the wrong doctrine that had crept into the fellowships. The epistle to the Galatians endeavored to return the believers to the right way of believing as declared in the epistle to the Romans. 

Doctrine, reproof, and correction. Doctrine is written to give the believers the right way of believing, while reproof and correction are written to bring believers back to the right way of believing. Spiritual success and victory comes to the life of a believer when he walks in the right way of believing. Every believer needs doctrine, reproof, and correction.

Romans 3:20
Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin.

The Law showed Israel what wrong things they were doing. The Law taught man what was sinful. It endeavored to control actions but it couldn't and didn't show man the right heart, the right attitude because the man of the Old Testament lacked spiritual insight, spiritual understanding, and a spiritual nature. 
A parent has a form of fellowship with his new born infant. But true fellowship comes when that child has knowledge, wisdom, and understanding. Spiritual maturity is required for a true and vital spiritual fellowship with God.

Romans 3:21
But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets;

The Old Testament and the prophets who had spoken for God were witnesses to how God would bring righteousness to mankind. Righteousness is required to stand in the presence of God for He is righteous. The goal has always been for man to stand in the presence of God, as Adam and Eve before they sinned in the Garden. 

Romans 3:22
Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference:

Now we begin to see the greatness of the grace of God. The righteousness of God to man is based upon the faith of Jesus Christ. Therefore it is of the utmost importance for every man to have an understanding of what God means by "the faith of Jesus Christ."

The Greek word translated "faith" is pistis. It is used two hundred and forty-four times in the New Testament. Generally speaking it should be translated believing or belief. However, due to the imprecise nature with which we speak the English language other words, such as persuasion, conviction, assurance, confidence, or trust could be used to define pistis. 

Blue Letter Bible defines pistis as, "conviction of the truth of anything, belief." Strong's defines pistis as, "faith, belief, trust." Bullinger's Lexicon defines pistis as, "persuasion, conviction." Yet, for reasons unknown, mainstream Christianity continues to translate this word pistis as "faith" while ignoring the simplicity of a belief or believing.

Different people could use different words to translate this word pistis. Perhaps the worst English word we could use is the word faith! The reason I say that is because through a multitude of teachings in mainstream Christianity the word faith has become the most misunderstood word in Christianity. Too many have described faith in nebulous and incomprehensible terms.

However, it really doesn't matter what English word a person uses as long as that person has an understanding of what the Greek word pistis is communicating. Call it persuasion, call it conviction, call it trust, call it belief, call it faith, the important thing is the concept the word pistis conveys. If a person understands the concept underlying the word pistis then the English word used to translate it is almost unimportant.

The righteousness of God is by the pistis of Jesus Christ and it is given to all who pisteuo, the verb form of the word pistis. This is something a person needs to know and understand because it deals with the righteousness of God to mankind. If a person fails to understand this spiritual reality then he will spend a lifetime following false trails that never end in the righteousness God has provided through the finished work of Jesus Christ. Like the Corinthians, a person will spend his life following those dumb idols never arriving at the right way of believing.

There are certain foundational things we need to understand about pistis. First, pistis comes from the heart of an individual.

Romans 10:9-10
That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.

Notice verse 10, "For with the heart man believeth unto righteosuness...." Pistis comes from the heart of man. The word "believeth" is the verb form pisteuo. 

We aren't speaking of the physical organ but rather the core of the mind of man. That place within your mind where you hold those things in life that are truth and accurate. 

Proverbs 4:23
Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life.

The mind governs the life of man and the heart governs the mind. Out of the heart of man flows both good and evil. The heart proclaims and declares man's character and ethic. The heart is the home of what a man believes.

Proverbs 14:30
A sound heart is the life of the flesh: but envy the rottenness of the bones.

Proverbs 15:13
A merry heart maketh a cheerful countenance: but by sorrow of the heart the spirit is broken.

The heart is the home of our beliefs, our passions, our hopes. Both for good and ill.

Matthew 15:16-20
And Jesus said, Are ye also yet without understanding? Do not ye yet understand, that whatsoever entereth in at the mouth goeth into the belly, and is cast out into the draught? But those things which proceed out of the mouth come forth from the heart; and they defile the man. For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies: These are the things which defile a man: but to eat with unwashen hands defileth not a man.

So often we get hung up on man's physical diet. We have placed an overwhelming importance upon what we consume. Yet what we consume today leaves us tomorrow. Jesus declared that man should not live by bread alone but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God. That tells us that there is some importance to what we eat but that the more important matter is the words of God. Are we as concerned about what we feed the heart as we are about what we feed the belly? Yet what is in that heart is of far more importance.

The heart is the home of our beliefs, whether they are right beliefs or wrong beliefs. Everyone believes but everyone does not believe rightly. This is the second thing we must understanding about believing, there are right beliefs and wrong beliefs.

Romans 10:17
So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.

When you are an infant all that you hear and all that you see comes from your parents and those who are around your parents. As you grow older you acquire friends and go to school and now you have a larger resource of seeing and hearing. You listen to music, and watch movies and television, you read books and newspapers and the abundance of knowledge you store in your heart grows. Some knowledge you receive willingly and some knowledge you reject. You are building your heart, you are forming a system of beliefs. Each day we either add to our heart or establish and confirm what is already in the heart. 

All people believe but only right believing comes from the Word of God. All believing that is not based upon the words of God is believing but it is wrong believing. This is not to say that every time a person quotes or proclaims the words of God that they are building right believing. More than a few have used the Word of God deceitfully and to their own ends. This is why we never study a teaching but rather we study the Word of God. If, for example, someone is teaching on believing, you do not study the teaching but you go to the Word and study the subject of believing.

The goal of doctrine, reproof, and correction is to have the right way of believing. The goal is not to simply have believing.

Lying, cheating, stealing, murder are things some people hold as beliefs. But they are beliefs center on and based upon the system of the world. Yet not all beliefs are so obviously evil as these just mentioned. Some beliefs are wrong beliefs not because they are of an evil intent but rather of an evil way.

A Buddhist believes in the four noble truths: to live is to suffer, suffering is caused by desire, one can eliminate suffering by eliminating all attachments, and this is achieved by following the eight fold path. The eight fold path consists of having a right view, a right intention, right speech, right action, a right livelihood, right effort, a right mindfulness, and a right focus.

All of these things sound good and can make for a good person if they are followed. Yet they miss life on two points. First, they are an attempt to control the flesh and we have already seen in the epistle to the Romans that controlling the flesh is not the way to achieving the righteousness of God. We are changed from the inside out, not the outside in.

Galatians 3:19
Wherefore then serveth the law? It was added because of transgressions, till the seed should come to whom the promise was made; and it was ordained by angels in the hand of a mediator.

The Law, controlling the fleshly actions of man, was only given so man could see what was the wrong thing to do. 

Galatians 3:21
Is the law then against the promises of God? God forbid: for if there had been a law given which could have given life, verily righteousness should have been by the law.

If there was a law that could have given man righteousness then God would have given that law to man. There is always another "How to" book teaching man to become more than he is but all of them deal with controlling the flesh. The Epistles of Romans through Thessalonians teach man "How to" walk in the new nature God created within a believer so that the change comes from the inside out. With God, the change begins with the heart rather than the flesh. 

Galatians 3:22
But the scripture hath concluded all under sin, that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe.

Again, the same principle as in Romans 3:22. The righteousness of God comes by the pistis of Jesus Christ to those who believe, pisteuo. And that is the second problem with the Buddhist way, it eliminates Jesus Christ and puts the work back on the individual person. Live the perfect life of a Buddhist and you will more than likely be a good person. But you will be a good person who endeavors to come to God based upon your own merit and God has declared that no one will come unto Him unless that person comes by way of Jesus Christ.

If we could earn the righteousness of God by controlling our flesh, then God would have given us that law so that some could perhaps succeed. Yet God also plainly declares that all men have sinned and come short of the glory of God.

Perhaps a point that needs to be made at this time is the difference between pistis and pisteuo. So what is the difference between pistis and pisteuo? Pisteuo is the result of pistis. Pistis precedes pisteuo. Pistis is the belief that a person holds in their heart while pisteuo is the corresponding action that is the natural outcome of a belief.

What then is this pistis of Jesus Christ?

Hebrews 12:2
Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.

The word "author" means beginner while the word "finisher" means completer, perfecter, who brings one through to the goal so as to win and receive the prize. The word "our" is not in the text and should be deleted. So what is the first part of this verse telling us?

Hebrews 12 is declaring that Jesus Christ believed God completely and totally. He always did the will of His Father, Jesus always obeyed God, he always trusted God to do what God had said. All other opinions, and thoughts, and theories were irrelevant in light of what God had said in His Word. No other person ever believed God all the way through his entire life!

Well, didn't Abraham believe God? Yes, he did. Didn't David believe God? Yes, he did. Isn't the Bible filled with men and women that believed God? Yes, it is. Then what’s the difference? The difference is that while many men and women believed God in this situation or that situation only Jesus Christ believed God in every situation. Jesus Christ believed the words of God from the beginning to the very end in all that he said and in everything that he did. Jesus Christ is the "author and finisher" of pistis. Jesus Christ lived a perfect life before God. He is the only man that has ever earned his way into the presence of God, the only man that has ever earned the righteousness of God, and in my pistis in him I have gained his access to the Father.

Remember that sin separated man from God in the Garden of Eden. Sin is an overwhelming and awesome chasm that exists between man and His One True God. No amount of works will enable man to span that chasm. The perfect Buddhist will be stopped at the edge of that chasm just as surely as the most dynamic sinner. Man simply lacks the ability to span the chasm based upon his own works.

It is the accomplished or completed pistis of Jesus Christ that spans that chasm between man and God. It is the pistis of Jesus Christ that is the bridge that enables man to cross that chasm and once again fellowship with the One True God.

The wages of sin is death. The atonement or price of redemption was a perfect sacrifice, the shedding of blood, the giving of a sinless life to pay for the sin's and sin of mankind. In the Old Testament they sacrificed a lamb of the first year, a lamb without spot or blemish and it covered their sin's, their wrong actions. Yet even this was only for a time and therefore was carried out yearly. But the main thing those animal sacrifices could never do was cover for sin, the nature that every man has in his birth, a sin nature.

Hebrews 9:13-15
For if the blood of bulls and of goats, and the ashes of an heifer sprinkling the unclean, sanctifieth to the purifying of the flesh: How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God? And for this cause he is the mediator of the new testament, that by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions that were under the first testament, they which are called might receive the promise of eternal inheritance.

Israel used the blood of innocent animals to cover their transgressions but then the time came when a man, Jesus, who lived a sinless life shed his innocent blood for the redemption of all who will believe what God declared in His Word. The death of Jesus Christ paid for our sins and acquired for those who will believe justification. While the life of Jesus Christ, his obedience, his accomplished believing from beginning to end, acquired for those who believe the righteousness from God, the release from our sin nature. Through Jesus Christ God took care of our sins and our sin nature. We are saved, made whole, not through any works I have done or will do, but by the grace of God through the accomplished pistis of Jesus Christ.

Romans 10:9-10
That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.

If we confess Jesus as Lord, that means we confess he did for us what we couldn't do for ourselves. This pistis of Jesus by its contextual use in God's Word would be rightful seen as accomplished believing, for he accomplished believing God throughout his life.

The word confess is homologeo and means to say the same thing, to say the same words. By confessing Jesus as Lord we are saying he did for us what God says he did for us, which is to accomplish believing God. It doesn't say confess it to your minister or priest. It doesn't say confess it to the world or the local church. It also doesn't say to confess your sin or sinfulness. It says to confess Jesus as Lord. 

Then it says to believe, pisteuo, that God raised him from the dead. The reason he was supposed to be in the ground for three days and three nights is because a person was considered legally dead after seventy-two hours. The wages of sin is death, Jesus had to be legally dead to pay for the sins of mankind. The reason you are justified when he is raised from the dead is because he died in your place, he died for your sins. He didn't die for his sins, he was sinless!

This confession that Jesus is Lord means we accept he did for us what we couldn't do for ourselves and brings to us the salvation provided to man by God. This belief that God raised him from the dead brings to us the righteousness of God in the accomplished believing of Jesus Christ.

Now we can go back to Romans 3 and read God's Word with some understanding and spiritual insight.

Romans 3:22
Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference:

The righteousness of God which is by the accomplished believing of Jesus Christ unto all that believe, pisteuo. "Which is by" is translated from the Greek word dia and means through. We receive God's righteousness through the accomplished believing of Jesus Christ.

2 Corinthians 5:21
For he (God) hath made him (Jesus Christ) to be sin (sin offering) for us, who (Jesus Christ) knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him (Jesus Christ). 

So now we see there are different aspects to this word pistis. Sometimes pistis refers to the accomplished believing of Jesus Christ, while other times it refers to the right way of believing for the individual person. Now we can read God's Word with a more accurate view and understanding because we realize the context will declare to us how this word pistis is meant to be understood.