Does God Have Faith? – McIntyre

By Joe McIntyre

One controversial aspect of the modern Faith movement is the idea that we can exercise the “God-kind of faith.” This phrase is taken from Mark 11:22 in which Jesus says, “have faith in God.” Many scholars tell us that it literally means, “have the faith of God.” Many Faith Teachers have said that we are to have, therefore, the “God-kind of faith.” This would be the kind of faith that Jesus exercised when He commanded the fig tree to wither up from the roots and it did. (See Mk. 11:12-14; 20-23).

In the parallel passage in Matthew’s gospel, Jesus says, “Assuredly, I say to you, if you have faith and do not doubt you will not only do what was done to the fig tree, but also if you say to this mountain, ‘Be removed and be cast into the sea’ it will be done”(Mt. 21:21). In the context, Jesus is discussing the cursing of the fig tree and the disciple’s ability to duplicate Jesus’ behavior. He assures them that they can even command a mountain to be removed and cast into the sea. He describes this ability as “faith in God” or “the faith of God’ depending on which reading of the original Greek we deem correct.

In a respected commentary on Mark’s gospel, Joseph Addison Alexander mentions that in Jesus’ teaching the disciples about faith, He found it necessary to address their failures. “For such deficiency of faith, i.e., of confidence in the divine power to effect such changes, or at least in the divine grant to themselves of a derivative authority to do the same. Have (more emphatic than in English, and denoting rather to retain or hold fast) faith in God, literally, of God, a Greek idiom, in which the genitive denotes the object, and which has sometimes been retained in the translation as it is here in the margin of the English Bible.” (The Gospel According to Mark, Thornapple Commentaries, Joseph Addison Alexander, p. 310).

Many who have been critical of this idea of ‘having the faith of God’ rightly point out that God is the object of our faith and the primary meaning of the Greek word for faith is trust in something or someone. “So,” they reason, “faith isn’t something God has, it’s something we have in God.”

Thayer’s Greek Lexicon gives as its first meaning for pistis (the Greek word for faith) “conviction of the truth of anything, belief; In the N. T. of a conviction or belief respecting man’s relationship to God and divine things, generally with the included idea of trust… when it relates to God, pistis is the conviction that God exists and is the creator and ruler of all things, the provider and bestower of eternal salvation through Christ.”

Thayer’s definition expresses what most people mean when they say that faith is something that we have toward God, not something that God has or exercises. Most Christians would be in agreement that this is the primary meaning of the concept of faith and the Greek word pistis.

But is this the only valid usage of the word in the New Testament? Does pistis ever have another meaning in the Scripture which is related but not identical? Let’s investigate a little further.

In the exercise of faith that Jesus was teaching about in Mark 11, it was not only faith toward God that He was advocating. Based on a living faith in God, Jesus was saying to his disciples that they needed to also exercise faith in the word of command. They were to speak to an obstacle (a fig tree or a mountain) and command something to happen to that obstacle. Jesus said “if you have faith and do not doubt, you will not only do what was done to the fig tree, but also if you say to this mountain, ‘be removed and be cast into the sea’, it will be done.”(Mt. 21:21).

In the parallel passage in Mark it says, “whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be removed and be cast into the sea’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes [pisteuo- verb form of pistis] that those things he says will be done, he will have whatever he says.”

The exercise of faith in this passage is not only faith toward God, but the word faith is used in a secondary sense, faith in the words that are commanded. “if you believe those things you say, you will have whatever you say.”

Jesus again expresses this same idea in Luke’s gospel. “If you have faith as a grain of mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be pulled up by the roots and be planted in the sea’ and it would obey you”(Lk.17:6). Jesus is talking about releasing faith, not in God as the object of our faith, but in the words that we speak. Certainly this presupposes that we have faith in God and are moving in obedience to the Holy Spirit. It is our faith in God that emboldens us to exercise this faith in our words.

My point is that the word faith, though primarily used in Scripture to describe our trust toward God, is also used to describe the confidence we have in the words we speak in what is known as the “command” of faith. This is the primary way, although not the only way, that Jesus ministered to the sick and oppressed. “Arise and walk,” “Daughter, I say unto you, ‘arise,’ “etc.

Scholars refer to this usage of the word pistis or faith as the “word of power.” For example, The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology (Vol. 1, p.600) in its article on pistis says, “The picture of faith moving mountains (Mk. 11:23) and uprooting the fig tree (Lk. 17:6) confirm the word of power that is able to transform the created order. The instructions to the disciples in Mk. 11:24 f. show the connection in the teaching between the promise that rests upon the word of power and supplication. The supplication is the prerequisite of the word of power.”

In other words, faith toward God in prayer (supplication) precedes the release of the command of faith (the word of power). But both of these concepts (supplication and the word of power) are described by the one word: faith. (pistis in Greek).

So, does God have faith? Well, we might ask does God speak words which He expects to change things? Did God create the universe by speaking words that He expected to “transform the created order”? Is it a valid usage of the word “faith” to describe the power released in words, whether human or divine, sent for to change or transform the created order? I believe it is. Is it appropriate to call this having “the God-kind of faith”? I think so.

In fact, on of the most respected Greek scholars coined this phrase to describe what Jesus was talking about in Mark 11:22. Hank Hanegraaff refers to this man, A.T. Robertson, as “almost universally accepted as the final word on Greek grammar.” (Christianity In Crisis, p. 90).

So what does A.T. Robertson say about the phrase ‘have faith in God’ in Mk. 11:22? Robertson says, “in Mark 11:22… we rightly translate ‘have faith in God, though the genitive [the Greek case] does not mean ‘in’, but only the God kind of faith.” (A Grammar of the Greek New Testament in the Light of Historical Research, p. 500). This most universally accepted Greek scholar tells us that the “God kind of faith” is the true meaning of Mark 11:22!

God speaks things into existence. When He declares something, He believes it will come to pass.

Psalms 33:9 – For He spoke, and it was done; He commanded, and it stood fast.

We are created in His image and likeness. As we submit to Him and seek to do His will, He authorizes us to speak on His behalf and with His authority.

We can have the God kind of faith

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Comments 17

  1. Caesar Requejo

    So for GOD, it is necessary that He “believes and have faith” in what He speaks, otherwise, what He speaks will never come to pass? With all HIS PERFECTION, He needs FAITH to believe in what He speaks for them to come to pass.

    1. Post
      Author
      FaithMechanic

      God does not necessarily ‘need’ faith. He naturally exudes faith. It is the way He thinks. He simply knows that what He says will happen – that is essentially the essence of faith.

      Does God need love? No, He IS love so He naturally has it and is it. It is similar with faith.

      Remember, God is the one who came up with this concept and requirement of faith, not us.So it must be important to Him and the way He is. He thinks love and He thinks faith, and He wants us to be and act the same way.

  2. dr. james willingham

    I have a sermon on Mk.11:22, titled, “The Right Stuff,” using the title of Tom Wolfe’s descriptive phrase describing, I suppose, the courage and commitment of the first Astronauts in the effort to go into space and to the moon. As to the genitive used in Mk.11:22, it is, according to several sources of Greek studies, the genitive of source, meaning a faith that comes from God, a God-given faith, which is consonant with Phils.1:29 which speaks of it having been given to us, “not only to believe, but also to suffer.” Also consonant with the view that faith is the given of Ephs.2:8,9. Recently I read an English translation of Jerome’s Latin text for the Gospel of Mark by a Dr. John Cunyus of Texas in which he rendered the meaning in a way which clearly indicated that Jerome had seen that the stress in the Greek was on the source of faith, the source being God. God must give us the faith to trust in Him, to rely and depend upon Him at all times. There are several other usages of the genitive case for faith, i.e., Gals.2:20.

    Being a Southern Baptist, I naturally gravitate toward A.T. Robertson, his Word Pictures, his Big Grammar, etc., but even Dr. Robertson was not infallible. Dr. Gordon Clarke called attention to some matters that were overlooked by Dr. Robertson in one of his writings. Preferences and other problems can hinder even the most astute of scholars from full comprehension and understanding.

  3. Mark

    Joe, great job! Love the way you broke this down. Totally makes sense. God is calling us to take up the mantel of speaking, with His authority, to the mountains and seeing them cast into the sea! He will not violate His own covenants. According to Psalm 8.6, He has given us dominion over the works of His hands (visible and invisible). The question is, “will we take up our swords (words of life) and yield them with authority and power?” It is His power being wielded through our words of faith. We are His ambassadors and He is making His appeal to the world around us. All creation is waiting to see if we will manifest our glory (Rom. 8:19). So far, I love this site, just found it… I’ll have to read more.

  4. Okonji Michael N.

    Mark this, I hear Jesus saying Christianity is about asking and receiving that your joy may be full. It is not about you in action. It is about Me in action in and through you, and yes, My actions within you cause you to act also, but in this case you are putting on Christ. You are doing that which you see Me doing in and through you. This is Christianity. This is what I intended. This is what I intend for My children. Teach them to hear and see Me in action in and through them and the world will be a better place.

  5. Pastor Henry Olumeni

    Faith gets the job done. No faith, no result. A faithless christian is a nominal head-knowledge believer who may not make it to Heaven because he/she does not please God, but self and world. Yes, I believe in myself that I exist, I live, I am a spirit-human. That makes it easier to place my faith/confidence in Christ that all that pertain to HIM is yes and amen. Does God has faith in HIMSELF? Yes. He would say “I am the Lord, I change not,” “There is no God beside me” and so forth. God is a personality, not a power-phantom! He believes in Himself because He knows and likes Himself. If He does not love HIMSELF, where and how does he express love that HE is (LOVE)? I love this site and this blog. Jesus Christ is Lord!

  6. Anonymous

    In what does God have faith? This is an absurd concept if you accept the whole of scripture that describes God in terms of perfection: all loving, all knowing, always existing, etc. To have faith would by definition make God incomplete, given that faith requires an incomplete knowledge. This entire article is nonsense. God is the OBJECT of human faith. (I would recommend that you read the article by Hank Hanegraaff on this subject before you include him as a source reference)
    I would just suggest that Scriptures should be read listening for the illumination of the Holy Spirit, and not twisted with pseudo-scholarship to prove a point of dubious theology. By ignoring most of Scripture, you can prove anything.
    Jesus said in Acts, “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit is come upon you.” The power is the Holy Spirit, and only when I speak at His prompting is there power in the words. A follow-up question is how does God speak? Could the word “speak” actually be a representation of a form of communication that far exceeds the mind of humans to understand?

    1. Post
      Author
      FaithMechanic

      When God speaks (however He may actually speak), He knows and is fully assured that what He has spoken will come to pass. That is the essence of faith. Faith is a knowing, and choosing to act in agreement with that knowing is the act of believing. This is natural to God and must be learned my man.

      One can have faith in oneself because one can have a knowing of what one can do in oneself. Because God has absolute power and knowledge, He has absolute faith. We are finite and cannot be fully assured of anything, so we of ourselves cannot have faith. Our faith is His faith that has been transferred (personally spoken) to us by God, through the Word of God.

      Jesus spoke to the fig tree, and then told His disciples to ‘Have the (same) God kind of faith’, about the mountain they were standing upon. Faith knows the outcome before it happens, and the God kind of faith (in God) releases the power and authority of God as it speaks what it knows. Believing in that knowledge is the continued action of faith, and it receives the spoken result – ‘That is the Word of Faith that we preach.’

      God knows that His word is sure, and like Him, we are also expected to know that His word is sure. That is the essence of faith in God. It is of Him, and to Him, and ultimately, it is for Him. Trusting in Him and His word glorifies Him and pleases Him.

    2. Anonymous

      God has faith IN His words in that when He says something, He has No Doubt that it will come to pass – there is no “incomplete knowledge,” there at all. When we have faith IN God, we are to have faith IN our words; therefore, we have “The God Kind OF Faith.”
      You are 100% incorrect to say that “faith requires an incomplete knowledge.” If you ask God for something and then turn around and say that you don’t know if He will give it to you, then your knowledge indeed is incomplete, and neither are you in faith.
      And as far as your questions re: “how does God speak?” are concerned, I would refer you to the instances in the Old Testament, when God spoke at Creation and to Adam, Abraham, Moses, Joshua, David, Solomon, The Prophets, et al.

  7. Anonymous

    So, when God gambled on Job’s faithfulness, to the point of allowing Satan to destroy Job’s “property”, which included his children and probably some wives, and all his animals, He really wasn’t “hoping” that Job would pass the test? He knew in advance, His challenge to Satan, being a proclamation, called into existence Job’s faith??

  8. Robert

    Thank you for this good exegesis on a difficult subject. I agree! Jesus has called us as witnesses to represent Him, and as such we need to speak with authority for Him. If there is a word of caution, it is simply that we do so within the scope of His will. Speaking the word of authority calls for faith and boldness. Thank you.

  9. todd

    When Jesus said All authority in heaven and earth has been given to me, and then said for us to go that is responsibility and faith in us at the same time.

  10. Brother Harvey Hendrickson

    I certainly appreciate this information, it has cleared up some questions in my mind.

  11. Evan

    I understand that we can have a faith like God but here is a question that was posed to me. Does God have faith in us?

    1. Post
      Author
      FaithMechanic

      Evan – Thank you for commenting. Here are some thoughts:

      1. The obvious first point is – can God have faith? Most theologians say no. They say that God does not have to believe, because He just does what He chooses, through His ever-present power. And, they say, it is impossible for God to have faith, because there is no one (other than Himself) in whom He can have faith. I disagree. You don’t have to believe in someone separate from yourself to have belief. Did God believe that light would appear when He said, “Light be?” Of course; He knew and believed that His words had power and would bring about the desire result. New Testament belief and faith are essentially the same thing. Faith is the noun version and believe is the verb form. They both come from the same Greek word. God believes and has faith.

      As a side point, Mark 11:22 can be rendered as either, “Have the God kind of faith,” or, “Have faith in God.” The Greek will allow both; the decision is one of context, so the latter is chosen because of the above theological opinion. I believe the ‘God kind of faith’ is more consistent with the intent of His discourse. He had just cursed a plant; and they commented upon on it. He then explains that they – through a similar operation of releasing faith words – could receive the same result, except only on a much bigger scale – with a mountain.

      2. A staunch Calvinist might say no because God already knows what the individual does, and has actually determined the individual’s actions, so faith is not an issue. In addition (and this affects item number one above), God lives in a place without time so all this may be irrelevant.

      3. God dying on the Cross, through Jesus Christ, would have been a wasted effort if nobody received and believed in it. For this reason, God had to believe that His price would be received and believed. He had (or ‘has,’ the tenses are difficult in referring to God) to trust that His actions would rebound to His Glory – through many coming back to Him in salvation.

      4. The whole Bible, from Genesis to Revelation, is God having faith in His work in man, and man having faith in God’s work in man. Both, believing and acting in unity toward the same long-term goal.

      5. What about I Corinthians Chapter 13? Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
      Love simply believes the best in each situation and of each individual. Galatians says that, ‘faith works by love.’ God is love and does believe.

      6. Finally, how can we believe in each other if God doesn’t first believe in us? We are to follow Him because we are to be like Him. Jesus is the Author and Finisher of our faith. Some translations read the ‘Beginning and End’ (or Goal, Perfection) of our faith. He has faith, has acted in faith, and is the very exemplification of faith. He loves mankind and He believes in mankind, and, by the way, He is God.

      Yes, God believes in you, and so does every good believing Christian.

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