What Is The Difference Between Faith and Belief? A Bible Study

by Robert Driskell on August 4, 2013 · Print Print · Email Email

Many people say with confidence, that they ‘believe’ in God. Many of these same people think that this is enough to guarantee that their sins are forgiven and gain them admission to Heaven. However, is this simple ‘belief’ in God enough? Is this ‘belief’ the same as the ‘faith’ spoken of in the Bible? Let us examine this concept a little closer.

True faith is more than simply ‘believing’

While ‘faith’ surely includes the element of ‘belief’, they are not one and the same. Certainly one must believe that something, or someone, exists before it is possible to put one’s faith in that person or thing. However, I can believe some things that do not affect my life. I believe China exists, but I do not live my life any differently because of my belief. The Bible tells us that this type of ‘belief’ is not true faith and will not result in a saving relationship with God.

To put one’s ‘faith’ in something, or someone, means that one is putting his or her trust in that person or thing. Who or what one trusts can have far-reaching, even eternal, ramifications. It means reliance on, dependence upon, that person or thing. I can say that I believe a plane can take me from here to there, but if I’m afraid to get on it, I reveal that I have no ‘faith’ in that plane. Also, if I do not get on the plane, I have no reason to expect it to take me anywhere. I must exercise my ‘faith’ in that plane, by boarding it, if I am to receive the benefits it offers.

True faith results in a changed worldview

When we have true saving faith in Jesus Christ, we see the world and its system in an entirely different way. The Holy Spirit enlightens us as to the true nature of things and actually causes us to think differently, “For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit” (Romans 8:5). We are instructed to make this a goal of our spiritual life, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind” (Romans 12:2). If we truly are Christians, dedicated followers of Jesus Christ, we will grow more to see our existence the way God sees it.

Simply to say “I believe in God” means very little if it is merely coming from the lips and not from the heart.

Simply to say “I believe in God” means very little if it is merely coming from the lips and not from the heart.

Faith results in changed actions

I have heard of, and have known, some people who claim to be followers of Christ; however, their lifestyle remained the same after they became Christians as it was before they became Christians. They still lived the same way, talked the same way, and had the same mindset as they did when they were living in rebellion to God. Were they exercising true faith? Jesus said, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments” (John 14:15), meaning that our actions will reveal the change our heart has gone through when we became His true followers. Conversely, if our lives do not exhibit a change of allegiance from self to Jesus, we have good reason to doubt our salvation is real at all. John writes, “And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments” (I John 2:3). True faith is evidenced by a change in the way we act.

Faith results in changed priorities

If anything in our lives is more important than God, our priorities are misplaced and we should examine ourselves to see if we have truly given our lives to Christ. If our lives are focused more on our jobs, our favorite sports team, the next new technological toy, our love life, or anything else that diverts the center of our attention away from God, we should question the validity, or at least the maturity, of our faith.

Some areas that reveal the focus of our hearts are:

Our finances: If we are so focused on how much money we are making, or how high up the corporate ladder we can climb, we must readjust our focus…our focus is on wealth instead of God. Also, on the other side of the coin, if we are so worried about not having enough money, our focus is on our need rather than on the One who provides for those needs.

Our thought life: What we spend out time thinking about reveals a lot about what we think is most important in our lives. While it is not wrong to think about things other than God, when we think about things to the extent that any thoughts of God are pushed out of our minds, we are in danger of shipwrecking our faith (1 Timothy 1:18-20). The Bible tells us to “pray without ceasing” (2 Thessalonians 5:12) which simply means keeping the lines of communication open between you and God at all times.

Our priorities: How we spend our time, money, and energy reveals what we think is important. Where does God fit into your life? How important is prayer and Bible study as opposed to making sure you do not miss your favorite television show? The Bible tells us to “seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness” (Matthew 6:33). Our relationship with God should be the most important thing in our lives…if we have true faith.

Conclusion

“Belief” can be simply a passive mental acceptance which amounts to nothing when it comes to how it affects our life. Simply to say “I believe in God” means very little if it is merely coming from the lips and not from the heart. People can, and do, say that they ‘believe’ in God, but their lives never change at all. However, when one has true faith in God, one’s life cannot help but reveal this truth. True faith, dependence/reliance/trust, in God reveals itself in our actions, our thought life, and our priorities. A saving relationship with the Creator and Sustainer of the universe can result in nothing less than a radical readjustment of our entire worldview. We will love God with all our hearts and we will love others as we love ourselves (Matthew 19:19, 22:39; Mark 12:31; Luke 10:27; Romans 13:9; Galatians 5:14; James 2:8, and more Old Testament references). If we claim we are Christians, but this is not the attitude of our hearts, it would be wise to ask God to search our hearts, cleanse us, mold us into the people that He wants us to be, and strengthen our faith.

Read more about what the Bible says about faith here:

What Does the Bible Say About Faith

Resources – The Holy Bible, English Standard Version “Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.”



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{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

Jack Wellman August 4, 2013 at 10:07 am

Fantastic work Robert. I had counseled with one woman who was contemplating marrying a man who said that he believed in God but I told her that so does the Devil and the fallen angels, demons, but that doesn’t mean that they have saving faith. I wish I could have referred her to this fine article (although it was not yet published) to help her understand that she needed to be sure to marry a Christian and not just someone who “believed in God.” You made it crystal clear that belief and faith are not the same thing. Thank you brother. Well done.

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Derek Hill August 4, 2013 at 3:48 pm

Wonderful analysis on this Robert. Thank you for elaborating so clearly on faith and believing. God bless you brother!

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Nikita August 4, 2013 at 4:06 pm

Dear Robert
I completely agree with Jack. You have made the difference between belief and faith clear with regard to how we should live as Christians. for me, faith is a stronger conviction than belief, after reading this article.

There is just one thing I wanted to ask, that threw me a but as I started reading this:
You started off by saying “Many people say with confidence, that they ‘believe’ in God. Many of these same people think that this is enough to guarantee that their sins are forgiven and gain them admission to heaven”. While this in itself is not quite correct (what people believe, I mean, not what you said), I always thought that people were saved if they believed that the only way into heaven was their belief that Jesus died for our sins and is our Saviour.

So while I agree with your article about faith and belief, with our faith being demonstrated in the way we live, while belief is not always so demonstrated, please could you just expand on your first point for me and whether the faith you wrote about is also a prerequisite for heaven?

Please don’t get me wrong – I completely agree that, as true Christians, we should not only believe, but also have faith in God and live our faith… But I just wanted to be sure on the teachings I have heard.

Thanks again for the article. It has given me motivation and strength in my daily living.

Nikita

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Robert August 6, 2013 at 6:54 am

Thanks for reading and commenting Nikita.

A couple of biblical examples may help make this clearer. In Luke 23, we read about the thief on the cross who truly put his faith (belief) in Jesus. The thief had no opportunity to live out his faith, but he was truly saved, as Jesus’ words reveal (Luke 23:43). Had the thief lived, he surely would have exhibited a changed life. This is true faith, the kind that results in salvation.

James, writing about a shallow kind of belief, says, “You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder!” (James 2:19 ESV). The demons know the truth of God, but they do not submit themselves to Him or worship Him. This kind of belief is not the saving kind.

I am reading a book right now that had a great illustration of this: Putting our faith in Jesus should be like getting hit by a Mack truck going 70 miles per hour. No one could say, “Hey, I stepped out into the highway today and a Mack truck going 70 miles per hour hit me. It’s amazing; it didn’t change me at all.” They might say it, but no one would believe them. The same is true with saying you ‘believe’ in Jesus, your life should be radically different because of your faith. How could it be possible for someone to truly ‘count the cost’, understand all that God has done for us, commit his or her life to Jesus, but his or her life not show any difference? How could that decision, commitment, not make a huge difference in the way life is lived?

God bless you, Nikita. I hope I’ve cleared some things up and not made them more muddy. In short, the Bible never leads one to belief that one can be a follower of Jesus and not have it show in their lives as evidence of their relationship with Jesus.

Yours in Christ,
Robert

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egbe peter August 7, 2013 at 2:47 am

Thank you Robert for this reply, now i really understand

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Robert August 7, 2013 at 10:21 am

Praise God. He uses the weakest of vessels (Me) to get His Word to others. May God bless you richly.
Yours in Christ,
Robert

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ed gonzalez August 10, 2013 at 12:45 pm

In hebrews it says faith is the assurance of things hoped for and the conviction of things not seen. You can’t say you believe in Christ and have no faith. It comes hand in hand.

A truly well written article.

God bless you Robert
Ed

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Robert August 11, 2013 at 10:56 am

Thank you, Ed,
May God continue to bless you and draw you closer to Him.
Yours in Christ,
Robert

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Bobbi August 20, 2013 at 8:07 pm

I truly believe this very thing of belief and faith is one of satan’s biggest deceptive tactics. I know for myself I spent years in this deception. I would say I believed in God, I hardly spoke the name of Jesus,and I would listen to gospel music and cry , and when people asked me if I was saved I was quick to tell them yes. I kept living the same old sinful way thinking that was my lot in life and I couldn’t be good like other people. I would try for awhile but it didn’t last long. until I truly repented after God had brought me to the end of myself, meaning I had run out of answers and excuses and realized I was no exception , then truth was revealed and I became a new creature in Christ Jesus.My life became all about Jesus and now I am a missionary in Guatemala loving my Lord and the people He sent me too. PRAISE HIM FOR EVERMORE

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Robert August 21, 2013 at 7:10 am

God bless you, Bobbi,
Thank you for sharing your story here. It will surely be a great encouragement for those who are dealing with similar struggles. Our safest action in any situation is to trust God. God bless you.
Yours in Christ,
Robert

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