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Faith and Belief: Are They the Same Thing?

by David A. DePra

      In the Bible, we are told to BELIEVE. Again and again, we are

told that FAITH is they key. Of course, in the Word of God, "belief"

and "faith" are more or less interchangeable terms. They equal each

other. In scripture, if I BELIEVE, I am exercising FAITH.

     Yet somehow, partly because of language usage, the terms do

not necessarily equal each other today. When we say we "believe"

something, today we usually limit this to mean "we agree that it is

true." But today when we speak of "placing our faith" in someone,

or something, we are saying we are relying upon them.

     So "faith" is NOT "belief" -- as we use the word today. "Belief" is

agreement that something is true. "Faith" starts there. But then

"faith" becomes reliance and surrender to what I know is true. That

is the big difference. In the Bible, however, "to believe" and to

"have faith" mean the same thing. In the Word of God, if I "believe

in" someone, I am placing my FAITH in them.

     This becomes a problem for some Christians. It becomes a

problem because many of us read in the Bible about the necessity

of BELIEVING, and we think it is talking about "belief" as we use the

term today. We think that when we are told "to believe" in the Bible,

that God is merely telling us "to agree that something is true." But

God almost never means this by the term BELIEVE.  By "believe,"

God means "to exercise faith." In other words, He means that we

must not only agree that something is the Truth, but He means that

we must rely upon it AS true, and surrender to it.

     Suppose I say, "I believe this is a chair." Today, that is "belief."

I'm agreeing to the fact that this chair IS a chair. But in the Bible, this

isn't yet what it means TO BELIEVE. In the Bible, I must not only say

"I believe this is a chair," but I must then go on to SIT IN IT. I must

rely on the fact that it is a faithful chair, able to support me. I must,

so to speak, surrender myself to it by sitting down in it. In the Bible,

this would not only be what it means to BELIEVE IN the chair, but

it would be what it means to place my FAITH in it.

     So we see that Biblical faith -- Christian faith -- is not merely

agreeing that something is true, or agreeing that someone is

reliable. Nope. Real Biblical faith goes on to surrender to the One

that is true, and goes on to rely completely upon Him. Thus, real

faith carries with it ACTION. I not only see the Truth, agree that it is

the Truth, but I then make the choice to give myself to it. That is

action, or works. Real faith always motivates us to action, or works.

Believing in Jesus

     Anyone can say, "I BELIEVE Jesus Christ is the Saviour of the

world." But merely agreeing that Jesus is the Saviour -- indeed,

agreeing that He is MY Saviour -- does nothing to save me. I must

place my FAITH in Him as my Saviour. I have to rely on Him and

unconditionally surrender to Him.

     Why doesn't agreement -- mere belief -- save me? Because to

merely believe -- or give agreement to it as truth -- is something

which requires no moral choice. In fact, it requires NOTHING. I

can simply agree that something is true and walk away from it.

Faith does require a moral choice. In fact, at it's core, faith is

neither intellectual or emotional. It is MORAL. By faith I surrender

myself to God and rely upon Him unconditionally. This translates

into repentance and a changed life.

     So how can we know the difference between mere "belief" and

real FAITH? There are many ways to know. One way to tell the

difference between "belief" and real FAITH is to ask: Is my

so-called "faith" the kind of "belief" that Satan himself has?

     This might seem shocking, but Satan believes lots of true stuff.

In fact, he knows it all. He would not be able to oppose Truth unless

he knew Truth. Lucifer became Satan because he knew the Truth

and rejected it. Today, he continues to "believe" the Truth IS the

Truth. But he fights against it continually.

     James, in his epistle, deals with this. He asks, "Do you believe

in one God? You do well. The demons also believe, and tremble."

(Js. 2:19) The point being that Satan himself KNOWS and AGREES

to the fact that there is one God. In fact, Satan knows Jesus is the

Saviour of the world. But does his "belief" save him? Does giving

assent to this as being true change him? No. In fact, his belief

and knowledge of these truths judge and condemn him! He knows

the Truth, but refuses, even fights it.

     Thus, we see that "belief" that something is the Truth is only a

beginning. Sure, we must do this as a start of real faith. But if that is

ALL we are doing -- giving assent to the fact something is Truth --

then we are no further along than is the Devil himself.

     Real faith means to rely upon, depend upon, and to surrender to.

It means to cast my whole self upon the One in whom I place my faith.

And the fact is, this is not a game. It is serious business. For

anyone who sees the Truth and agrees that it IS the Truth is then

ACCOUNTABLE to God. If they do not surrender themselves

to the Truth, that very light which they received will be what judges


     Belief which does not lead to faith equals judgment. For saying I

know the Truth makes me accountable to at least inquire further.

And the fact is, if what I believe is the Truth, God is going to see to it

that I am given the chance to begin living out my beliefs, thus,

translating them into faith. Whether I surrender to God is up to me.

One Big Mistake

     This distinction between "belief" and "faith" is important today,

because many people wrongly think that what God requires of them

is that they merely agree that certain things are true. But this is NOT

the case. God wants us to know the Truth. But He wants us to then

surrender to it and be changed by it.

     The most common mistake Christians make along this line is to

place their faith in doctrines ABOUT Christ, instead of in Christ

Himself. What we do is BELIEVE that the doctrines are true, and

then get on with business as usual. Despite the fact that there may

be no repentance, and no change in our lives, we somehow think

that possessing an arsenal of true doctrines is equal to what would

happen if the Truth behind them actually possessed US.

     The two are NOT equal. It is possible to know all of the doctrines

of the Bible -- all of the doctrines of salvation -- and yet NOT be

saved. Why is this possible? Because I am not saved by believing

the DOCTRINES of salvation. Rather, I am saved by actually

placing my faith in Jesus Christ. The former is an assent to a fact

The latter is a surrender to the Person -- about whom the fact


     There are thousands of Christians today who have lots and lots

of "beliefs" -- true and Biblical beliefs. But little FAITH. We must

come to see the difference.

Faith Without Works

      Mere "belief" can actually be "faith without works." Why? Due to

the fact that simply believing something is true does not necessarily

mean I will act on that belief. Belief does not necessarily result in


     James says, "Faith without works is dead." (Js. 2:20) But so often

this is misinterpreted. James is NOT saying, "If you do not put your

real faith into actions, and do good works, your real and living faith

will die." No. That is not what James is getting at here. He is not

telling us we must keep our faith alive by doing good works. Rather,

he is saying that if our "faith" does not result in works, it NEVER

WAS a living faith. It could NOT have been living because a living

faith always produces good works. Our faith is therefore dead. It

was proven dead by the fact that there were no good works.

We must get this. A living faith always produces good works. A

dead faith cannot. So if the works are NOT there, my faith never

was alive. It was dead from the start.

     A dead faith is really no faith at all. But it may be what we would

today refer to as "belief." To simply agree that something is true

is not yet a living faith. And it may be no more than a dead faith. At

that point, there are no works. Only agreement to a fact.

     God tells us that if we place our faith in Christ -- Biblically believe

on Him -- then good works WILL be the result. It is impossible for it

to be otherwise. And these good works will not be a matter of me

saying, "Well, I said I believe, so I'd better go out and prove it by

doing good works." No. The good works will happen because by

faith I have surrendered myself to Christ and become a new

creature -- one who does good works because it is more and more

his nature and character to do them. A good nature in Christ must

result in good works, from out of that nature. A good tree always

produces good fruit.

     The opposite is likewise true. If there are no good works in my

life, then it is evidence -- not that my real faith has died -- but that I

never had real faith to begin with. All I may have had was a BELIEF;

an intellectual agreement to certain Truths. But I'm still a bad tree,

incapable of producing good fruit.

     Faith results in good works. Belief does not necessary result in

anything. Indeed, belief, unless it leads to faith, may make the end

of a person worse than the beginning, for he knows Truth, but has

not surrendered to it.

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