What does the Bible mean by faith? More than you might think! I like to think of it in terms of three “T’s” which comprehend, I believe, the fullness of the biblical term.
Biblical faith clearly entails affirmation of the truth, truth as it is found in Jesus. We do believe that truth is relative, relative that is to Jesus. He is our standard, source, and lens for understanding the truth and affirming what is true about our lives as beloved creatures living in God’s creation. While we do not know “the” Truth, we know the One who is “the” Truth. Hebrews 11:1 and John 14:6 pick up this aspect of faith.
Biblical faith also entails trust. What we believe we are to act on. In fact, nothing is truly believed until it is acted on. If you believe a particular tightrope walker can push a wheelbarrow across a piece of rope suspended between two buildings high above the ground, you ought to be willing to jump in and let him push you across! Mere mental assent is not and never is enough. Apparently even the devil and his minions do that (James 2:19). Abraham is our exemplar here – he trusted God enough that even had he completed his sacrifice of Isaac, he was convinced God would give his son back to him by resurrection from the dead (Hebrews 11:17ff.)!
There is more yet to faith, biblically considered. This more is best captured, I believe, by the old English word troth. Mary, according to the KJV, was “betrothed” to Joseph. This commitment to marry was binding and betokened the shared love that has brought the couple together. It is trust evoked by love leading to permanent union. The biblical imagery that the church is the bride of Christ (Ephesians 5) and that we await with longing the wedding feast celebrating the marriage of Christ and his church forever (Revelation 19) is evidence of this.
Truth-Trust-Troth: all three aspects comprise the fullness of biblical faith. Mental assent is necessary, but not enough. Trust is required. But this trust is based on the conviction of the truth the Bible proclaims. Thus faith, trust, is more than a leap into the dark. It is a leap into the dark convinced and counting on God to catch us and lead us through what we cannot see or prove. Even more, though, and supremely, faith is an act of love, a grateful commitment of all we have and are to loyally serve the One we have come to know as Creator and Redeemer through Jesus Christ. It is the whole person (mind-body-will) going all in in a love-trust “betrothal” to this very Jesus.
Fullness of faith blossoms when truth, trust, and troth embrace. Truth without trust does not suffice; nor does truth and trust without troth. We might say, adapting an image from Irenaeus, that truth and trust are the right and left hands of troth. That is, others see our betrothal to Jesus by experiencing our affirmation and trust of God’s truth.