The Faith of God (God-kind of Faith) – Smythe

by Peter SmytheUsed by permission

“And Jesus answering, saith to them, “Have the faith of God.” (Worrell).

“And Jesus answering, saith to them, “Exete pistin theou” (Phonetic Greek).

In beginning a series on faith, I thought it best to start out with the small, but controversial statement that Jesus made about faith in Mark 11:22. While the statement is just three Greek words, it has generated quite a stir in the Body of Christ for the last twenty or so years. Word of Faith preachers, especially Kenneth Hagin, have been maligned for holding to the translation, “Have the faith of God,” or “Have the God-kind of faith,” instead of the “orthodox” translation of “Have faith in God.” From the research that I’ve done, I believe that A.S. Worrell puts it best:

“Have the faith of God; translators generally render this, “Have faith in God;” but if this had been the thought, it would have been easy to have expressed it in the Greek. Faith originates with God; and those who have real faith have His faith; the same perhaps as “the faith which is of the Son of God.” Gal. 2:20. Worrell, A.S., Worrell New Testament, note on Mark 11:22.

A.S. Worrell’s translation is used by many serious Bible students because it is deemed to be a more accurate translation of the original text than the King James. Worrell’s translation in the past was preferred by Baptists because of his rendering of the Greek word for baptism as “immersion.” In this note, he strikes upon the grammatical and theological problems posed by rendering Mark 11:22 as “faith in God.” There are too-many-to-count instances in the New Testament where the word ?? (in) is used to convey the very same thought that exete pistin en theo (“faith in God”) would have. Since Jesus didn’t say exete pistin en theo(“faith in God”), there is more than a good chance that He purposely meant “possess the faith of God.”

For those who’d like a little more (with the Greek) and to avoid any run-ins with Rick Nanez, let me add the following:

First off is Jesus’s word, exete. That word is the imperative for “to possess or contain, have or own” with the understood subject of “you” or “y’all.” The word’s nuances include “to take hold of something” or “to grip” or “of holding something in one’s hand.” This definition comes from A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature which is otherwise known as BDAG by Greek scholars. The Louw & Nila Greek/English Lexicon of the New Testament defines the word as “to have or possess objects or property (in the technical sense of having control over the use of such objects) – “to have, to own, to possess, to belong to.” This lexicon is also a favorite of scholars. Personally, I like the term “possess.” For instance, “Possess the faith of God.”

The word pistin is translated “faith” throughout the New Testament.

The “controversy” surrounds the nature of the grammatical form of theou (“God”). In Greek, the grammatical form is called a “genitive” which usually denotes possession which is “subjective.” See Mounce, Basics of Biblical Greek at 44. In that sense, “Have faith of God” is perfectly doable. The trouble comes when the theologians argue whether Jesus’s statement is “subjective” or some other kind of genitive (“objective”). I say “theologians” because grammarians can’t make the call on this one. It is somewhat like the English word “gay.” Does “gay” mean happy-go-lucky (like it used to) or does it mean sexual preference (like it does now). Reading “Is he gay?” doesn’t answer the question unless you know its context, a 1930’s novel or a 2007 political referendum.

While Mark 11:22’s use of the genitive may be in the eye of the theological beholder, A.S. Worrell does not stand alone:

“Here again we must appeal to the root idea of the genitive as the case of genus or kind. The resultant idea is due to the context and one must not suppose that the Greek genitive means all the different English prepositions used to translate the resultant idea. Thus Mark 11:22 exete pistin theou we rightly translate ‘have faith in God,’ though the genitive does not mean ‘in,’ but only the God-kind of faith. Cf. Romans 3:22. Robertson, A. T., A Grammar of the Greek New Testament In the Light of Historical Research at 500.

A.T. Robertson was known as the “granddaddy” of all Greek grammarians when he was alive. His book, A Grammar of the Greek New Testament in Light of Historical Research is considered one of the most advanced Greek grammars. As is shown in this quotation, while Robertson agrees with the “faith in God” translation, he emphasizes that “in” doesn’t mean “in” as we, English speakers think of it. He marks out that the genitive inculcates a “genus” or “kind” and holds that Jesus’s phrase involves the “God-kind of faith.”

“Although pistin theou is often taken as an objective genitive (i.e. faith in God), it is possible that a genitive of origin should be preferred (i.e. faith of God); see also Mark 1:14 [to euangelion tou theou – good news of God]; Acts 19:20 [tou kuriou o logos – word of the Lord]; Romans 1:1 [doulos Christo Iesou – servant of Christ Jesus]; 17 [dikaiosune theou – righteousness of God], 3:21-22 [dikaiosune theou – righteousness of God; pistews Iesou Christou – faith of Jesus Christ]; 4:11 [dikaiosunes tes pistews – righteousness of the faith], 13 [dikaiosunes pistews – righteousness of faith]; 15:16; Phil. 3:9). We have already drawn attention to references in Jewish literature suggesting that faith was conceived of as an eschatological gift from God. (e.g. 1 Enoch 108:13; Sib. Or. 3-584-5; Test. Isaac 1.8) and this background would be consistent with the Markan text of pistin theou,where faith is portrayed as a means by which acts of God are performed. Wallis, Ian, The Faith of Jesus Christ in Early Christian Traditions at 53-54.

Ian Wallis’s book, The Faith of Jesus Christ in Early Christian Traditions is an excellent study of the use of the genitive construction in the Greek New Testament. (In this quote, the bracketed parts are mine. I sought to demonstrate the Greek genitive construction and English translation in the cited verses.) Wallis holds Mark 11:22 out in the same manner as both Worrell and Robertson. One interesting thing that Wallis has confirmed in his book is that the Apostle Paul never used an objective genitive in his texts which raises questions about the “orthodox” “faith in God” translation.

While Richard Hays says that Mark 11:22 is an objective genitive (i.e. faith in God), he concedes that “it is probably wisest to accept that the objective genitive construction after pistis is possible, though rare, in N.T. Greek.” Hays, Richard, The Faith of Jesus Christ at 149. In his book, Hays states that Mark 11:22 is an objective genitive (i.e. faith in God), but then quickly steers away from that with this quote. Greek Grammarian Daniel Wallace takes the same position as Hays in saying that Mark 11:22 is a “clear example of pistis + objective personal genitive,” but concedes that similar genitive constructions, such as Galatians 2:16, 20 (whether pistews Iesou Christou is “faith in Christ” or “faith of Christ”) must be resolved theologically because the grammar is “ambiguous.” Wallace, Daniel, Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics at 119.

In this series on faith, we will see that “faith of God” in the sense of Worrell’s, Robertson’s, and Wallis’s constructions are consistent throughout the Gospels, Acts, and the Epistles. Indeed, it appears that only those who actually take Jesus at His word in Mark 11:22 as “[you] possess the faith of God” actually get to experience verses 23 and 24.

[Note: Originally, this was written using the New Testament Greek words. Recent versions of WordPress do not acknowledge Greek lettering. Consequently, the essay is now written using phonetic Greek.]

Comments 13

  1. Maximo Gomez

    What is your perception of Hebrews 11:1-3, especially the phrase, “By faith we understand that the worlds were framed.” Would it be a stretch to say that this is the faith of God instead of the faith of the believer? Especially in view of, “when he could swear by no greater, etc.” The faith of God in creation. The exaltation of God’s word above his own name leads me to believe that God exercised faith in his own person.

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  3. Gary Maxwell

    What is especially interesting is that most–if not all–word of faith teachers state emphatically that only believers have the God-kind of faith. Yet, the disciples were not even born again in Mark 11 and the woman with the issue of blood certainly wasn’t born again so this point is proven to be misleading when this is considered.

    And there are not two types of faith–one before and one after the cross.

    Hmmm…..

  4. Michael Palmer

    I think the question of “faith of God” or faith in God” can be simply answered by thinking of it as, “water of the well, as the same as water from the well.” Or, faith of God, means faith from God.

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  5. Andrew Chapman

    ‘One interesting thing that Wallis has confirmed in his book is that the Apostle Paul never used an objective genitive in his texts’

    I don’t think this is true. I just checked out the examples in Winer Moulton 3rd edition pp185-6. There are 3/4 examples of phobos theou alone: Romans 3:8, 2 Corinthians 5:11 (and probably 7:1 – except P46), Ephesians 5:2.Romans 10:2 zhlov theou has to be zeal for God I think.

    You may well be right about pisis theou.

    You may well have sorted out the Greek script by now, but if not, Google it, and you have to go into the database tables and change from Latin something to utf-8 or some such by memory. You have to do the tables on by one – a dozen or so, I can’t remember, but it worked for me.

    Andrew

  6. Manuel

    EN RESUMEN DIOS NO SOLO NOS CONVENCE, A TRAVEZ DE LA FE NOS HACE VER LO QUE EL VE, SABER LO QUE EL SABE, MOISÉS CONTRUYO UN TABERNÁCULO QUE VIO, LOS APÓSTOLES DIJIERON PORQUE LO QUE VEMOS Y OÍMOS ES LO QUE HABLAMOS.
    MOISES SE SOSTUVO COMO VIENDO AL INVISIBLE, LOS APÓSTOLES, CAMINABAN NO COMO QUIEN CAMINA SOLO CREYENDO QUE VERA, SINO VIENDO, LA FE HACE TANGIBLE POR NUESTRO ESPÍRITU LA REALIDAD DE CRISTO AL LADO NUESTRO.
    CUANDO LE AFRENTAMOS POR NUESTRA CONDUCTA LO SUBIMOS AL CIELO,
    RECUERDA COMO EL PROFETA
    2Re 6:16 Eliseo le respondió:
    —No tengas miedo. ¡Son más los que están con nosotros que los que están con ellos!

    2Re 6:17 Luego Eliseo oró y dijo: «Dios, te ruego que lo ayudes a darse cuenta de lo que sucede». Entonces Dios ayudó al sirviente, y este vio que la montaña estaba llena de caballos y carros de fuego que rodeaban a Eliseo
    FUE HASTA ESE MOMENTO QUE EL CRIADO DE ELÍSEO RECIBIÓ LA FE QUE DIOS DA.
    LA PRUEBA DE QUE LA FE ES DE DIOS NO DE MERAMENTE INTERPRETATIVA DE TEOLOGOS, SINO QUE LA FE QUE DIOS DA SIEMPRE PRODUCE RESULTADOS SOBRENATURALES, LA FE QUE DIOS DA NOS HACE VER SU RESPUESTA, PERO NO CON NUESTRA MENTE CARNAL LA FE TE HACE VER Y ESPERAR, PORQUE LO VES O LO PERCIBÍS CON LA HABILIDAD, NO DADA POR TU MENTE SINO POR DIOS.

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      FaithMechanic

      Manuel,
      I think I am getting what you are saying – “IN SUMMARY God not only convinces us, THROUGH FAITH makes us see what he sees, knowing what he knows…”

      I agree. Faith is a piece of the foreknowledge of God, imparted to us to bring to reality that foreknowledge. I believe the word ‘hearing’ in Romans 10:17 for example, is more than just hearing. It can mean speaking to use, imparting a knowing inside our heart, showing a vision, etc. God bless you and thanks for the comment. Rex

  7. Marcus

    Have the God-kind of faith is really a simple concept. Faith is not based on what is not known – but on what is known. We cannot have faith in Christ until we know what Christ did – His death for our pardon and reconciliation unto God.

    Faith, then, is more a certainty that what is said will (by virtue of being spoken) come to pass. God has perfect faith because He knows that everything He said will be will, in fact, be (hence none of His words fall to the ground or return to Him void – they do what He sent them to do). When we speak out in faith it is that same confidence – being fully persuaded (if you will) that what you said is going to be will be because of who you are in Christ.

    Given the context (Jesus telling a tree to die and it subsequently dying – and Peter seeming to be amazed at the fact it died) it is reasonable to think along those same lines – Jesus was saying (if I may paraphrase) Be like God in that you are fully assured that what you say will happen will come to pass.

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      FaithMechanic

      Marcus,

      Excellent quote – “Be like God, in that you are fully assured that what you say will happen, and will come to pass.” I am going to add it to my Faith Quotes page. Thank you for your great comment. Keep reading the Word and building your faith. That is what will give you victory in life. You get it!

  8. Alex

    “Have faith of God” would be best understood as “have the kind of faith that God gives”. I have heard w.o.f. preachers enthusiastically say, “Have the God-kind of faith”, but without going into much if any detail about what that might mean. I get the impression that they mean “have the kind of faith that God has”. In light that God is omniscient and eternal, that statement would be nonsensical, because by definition, God doesn’t have faith. Faith is a reaching forward for things not yet known. Faith is belief, specifically, belief that what God said, He will do: even if it is not yet made manifest. God can not be limited by “not yet knowing, not yet seeing”. He sees the end from the beginning; He knows all, the deepest thoughts and intents of man’s hearts. He designed and created the entire universe from great galactic clusters to the tiniest quark, sub-atomic particle, and He knows it all intimately. There is nothing hidden from Him, neither past, nor future. So the word “faith” simply does not apply to God. Therefore, “have the God-kind of faith” is somewhat misleading; it would be better to say, “have the kind of faith that God instills into you (not just your own level of ordinary faith).”

  9. Nick Lambert

    It can easily be resolved theologically as if it is about “our faith in God” we are back to works (& this cannot be, “lest any man should boast”). Faith is a gift of God, which “Comes by hearing”.

    It is not about our faith in God but about “His faith (deposited) in us (by His grace)”. If we have His faith, we literally would move mountains just as Jesus say’s in MK11. It is about His faith for His purposes to be achieved.

  10. Manfred Roth

    This text on Mark 11:22 is very helpful. I was familiar with the statement, that exete pistin theou means “have the faith of God” or “have the God kind of faith” but was irritated time and again by the nearly overwhelming amount of scholars and theologians that have a different opinion – even Kenneth S. Wuest does not mention the possibility of the genitive here (and he’s usually very accurate in his comments). Thank you!

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