Questions & Answers
How definitions help and hinder understanding
I like definitions because they give a framework to words. Of course, even with all our dictionaries and lexicons, we still struggle with communication. You know, just when I've used all the right words in the right ways I still get some people who respond with, "I'm not sure what you meant by that." :) What I'm saying is that a definition is not the end-all of any study. I know guys who have studied the Greek and Hebrew for years, and they still disagree with each other over what it means. :) As a matter of fact, the more people take a stand on their understanding of the original languages, the more controversy they have with each other. Go figure. But then again, that's no different than what happened when the Pharisees ran into Jesus. These were the elite of the elite, they had what very few had: the ability to read and study words. And they became nit-pickers over words.
I have a friend who has "corrected" me a few times over the years about certain Greek or Hebrew words. After getting very technical with me, he has had to admit that when all is said and done that the meaning of the word is determined MOSTLY by the way it was used in each specific case. Do you follow what I'm saying? We still do the same thing as we talk to each other. We will use words that have various shades of meaning (sometimes even opposite meanings) but they way we use them is how they are to be understood. This is why there can be so many "definitions" given for one word, because those who make the dictionaries (and lexicons) have studied the various ways the word has been used and then they take the most commons uses and enter them into their dictionaries. Dictionaries have to be updated constantly because of the way our language evolves.
So, keep studying those definitions, but NEVER let the definition determine the context, but let the context help you to understand how that word may have been used. The ironic part in this is that you might be reading something in the Bible and the context will convince you that a specific English word just can't mean what it seems to mean, and then you look it up and discover that the Hebrew or Greek word behind it has a meaning that is much better than what the translators gave it. I've had this happen on many occasions. It is exciting, to say the least. :)
As far as "faith" and "belief", we have some added factors that have really twisted our ability to see it simply. The definitions and concepts of "faith" have evolved over the years BECAUSE of the religious mind of man. There is a saying that goes something like this: " If Buddha can't move the mountain, Buddha will go to the mountain." That saying describes the whole evolution of religion over the centuries, and it has everything to do with our assumptions of what "faith" is.
The religions of Jesus' day would not have been described as different faiths as we do today. Looking back, we lump them all together and say that Christianity is just one of the many faiths that have existed over the centuries, even claiming it to be one of the more recent faiths. The only reason we NOW call them faiths is because of the coming of faith in the person of Jesus Christ. (Of course, the religion of Christianity is no different than any other religion, so in that sense it is just one faith among many.)
Those who have found true life in Christ have come to see that all of the attempts of the flesh to get righteous are bogus, and cannot be tied or connected because of something we have done, but because Christ did it. We who believe HIM for righteousness have made a statement: righteousness is NOT found in any of the systems or efforts of religion in any way. Those who hold to another faith is saying the same thing that everybody else in the world is saying: righteousness can be attained by what we do.
What does this mean? That "faith" does not equal faith. A religious system of effort, striving, laws, works and false concepts has been redefined by this world as a legitimate form of faith because its followers hold strongly to it (we call that "faith", too). The concept that if you believe in something hard enough that it will become true is a fantasy, not faith. It is a false hope. The word "hope" is also screwed up, for it describes an inward EXPECTATION (that's the actual meaning) of that which is TRUE, not for that which we wish real hard for. Jesus IS our hope ... HE is the meaning of the word. Jesus is also the meaning of faith.
Before FAITH came ... now that FAITH has comeGalatians 3:23,25
Faith is truly ONLY connected with Christ. The two are interconnected. To refer to it in any other way will screw up your whole understanding of faith.