You say you have faith, for you believe that there is one God. Good for you! Even the demons believe this, and they tremble in terror. How foolish! Can’t you see that faith without good deeds is useless?
Don’t you remember that our ancestor Abraham was shown to be right with God by his actions when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? You see, his faith and his actions worked together. His actions made his faith complete. And so it happened just as the Scriptures say: “Abraham believed God, and God counted him as righteous because of his faith.” He was even called the friend of God. So you see, we are shown to be right with God by what we do, not by faith alone. (James 2:19–24 NLT)
In most translations, every instance of the Greek word pistis in the New Testament is translated in English as “faith,” except for one. Galatians 5:22 – the very same list of spiritual fruit we are digging into during this season of Lent – is the lone example of pistis translated as “faithfulness.” This seems odd considering there is a marked difference between faith and faithfulness, at least in how we understand those two words in English.
Very often when we talk about faith, we are only concerned with our heads and our hearts; it is a steadfast belief in something, sometimes without firm evidence. On the other hand, faithfulness describes repeated action; it is dependability based on proof from previous activity.
In reality, faith and faithfulness are like conjoined twins; if we try to separate one from other, we risk losing both. It is God’s faithfulness that is the flame that ignites – and reignites – our faith. It is our faithfulness toward God and those we regularly interact with that illustrates our faith in God.
From this standpoint, the use of “faithfulness” in Galatians 5:22 instead of “faith” is likely an attempt by the translators to ensure we the readers understand there must be action behind the fruit. All the virtues in Paul’s list are grounded in action; patience, love, kindness, gentleness, and all the rest must be on display in our lives to rightly be called fruit. As we examined the first week of Lent, every virtue must be rooted in the interior life and must also manifest in word and deed. We so often think of “faith” in terms of, at worst, only an intellectual or emotional agreement, or, only slightly better, a one-time action, a leap of faith. Yet for any spiritual fruit to truly be manifest in our lives, it must continue to blossom, bloom, and grow, day after day, year after year.
Our faith must lead to faithfulness, or it is useless.