The next attribute of the fruit of the spirit in Galatians 5:22 is faithfulness. The Greek word for peace used in the text is pistis. The New Testament typically translates this noun as faith or faithfulness. In Greek mythology, pistis is the personification of “good faith, trust, and reliability.” Though pistis is a noun, it finds its root in the verb peithō which, interestingly, is usually translated as persuade and is the Greek goddess of persuasion and seduction.
The primary concern when considering the original Greek of this text is the meaning of pistis as it is used in Galatians. Reading this paper cleared up some confusion about whether or not we are being called to have faith in an active sense or be faithful in a passive sense. In the case of Galatians 5, as well as some other lists of virtues in the New Testament, pistis is most appropriately translated with the purpose of instructing us to be faithful. With regards to its etymology in the verb peithō, the definition we look to is to make friends of, to win one’s favor, gain one’s goodwill, or to seek to win one, strive to please one. Essentially, we are turning the action of winning someone’s goodwill into the nominative attribute of being someone deserving of another’s goodwill. We want to be a people who deserve to be trusted.
1 | At first glance, thinking of faithfulness as a form of persuasion can seem a little strange, yet I think we fall into that line of thinking quite easily. When you contemplate persuading non-believers into a faith in Christ, what do you typically think that needs to look like?
I want to think about a different noun to represent faithfulness for a moment, based on its verb root. Let’s call it persuasiveness. Now, let’s consider some of our biblical “heroes of the faith” and what made them persuasive as carriers of Christ’s message. What themes do you notice? How does that aid in your understanding of faithfulness?
2 | Abraham
3 | Moses
4 | David
5 | Jesus
6 | Paul
In the Scriptures
Although the term pistis is used many times in the New Testament, it is most often referring to faith in the active sense – having faith in God. For the purpose of Galatians 5:22, I’ve chosen to look exclusively at the scriptures in which pistis is most appropriately translated in its passive, noun sense.
1 Timothy 4:12 | Don’t let anyone despise your youth, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, and in purity.
1 Timothy 6:11 | But you, man of God, flee from these things [false doctrine and human greed], and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance, and gentleness.
2 Timothy 2:22 | Flee from youthful passions, and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart.
2 Timothy 3:11 | But you have followed my teaching, conduct, purpose, faith, patience, love, and endurance, along with the persecutions and sufferings that came to me in Antioch, Iconium, and Lystra. What persecutions I endured—and yet the Lord rescued me from them all.
2 Thessalonians 1:4 | Therefore, we ourselves boast about you among God’s churches—about your perseverance and faith in all the persecutions and afflictions that you are enduring.
1 Timothy 2:7 | For this I was appointed a herald, an apostle (I am telling the truth; I am not lying), and a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth.
It’s interesting to me that the use of pistis as faithfulness is most abundant in the letters written to new Christians. It is used as either (1) instruction for how to live (2) praise for their community of believers (3) descriptors of Paul’s ministry. It is written to or about believers – those who have already placed their faith (in an active sense) in God. What they are being instructed in now is being trustworthy to their conversion. Why is this important? Because these believers are the living, breathing representatives of Christ. It’s not their personal faith in God that will likely win people over to Him; rather, it’s their faithfulness to those around them, alongside their righteousness, love, peace, etc… that will draw people into Christ’s love. It’s how they treat people and how trustworthy they are that defines their ministry.
1 | In the NT, pistis is used a few times in a list of virtues that Christians should embody (including the one we’re looking at now in Galatians). Thinking about what we’ve considered as a persuasive lifestyle representing Christ, write a new list that you think Christians would be wise to follow. However, instead of using broad terms such as love faithfulness, focus on specific actions that represent these terms. What, specifically, would make a Christian persuasive to others with regard to faith in Christ? What makes a Christian a faithful witness to Truth?
2 | In Timothy and Thessalonians, Paul speaks of faithfulness amidst persecution. Consider your answer to question 1 and determine if you have left out aspects of the Christian life that deal with persecution. Does it look any different to be persuasive while being persecuted? How or how not?