Today, I want to share a few thoughts on faith, particularly in connection with the adjective “unfeigned” as used in the King James Version of the Bible. If you use more modern versions such as the NKJV or NIV, the word will likely be rendered “sincere” or “genuine”. In the first chapters of both his letters to Timothy, Paul speaks about “unfeigned faith”. In first Timothy, he speaks of it as a Christian virtue that works together with love. In second Timothy, he recalls Timothy’s unfeigned faith as he (Paul) longs to see him (Timothy). The word is mentioned both in 1 Timothy 1:5 and 2 Timothy 1:5.
The word translated “unfeigned” comes from a Greek word (anupokritos) which means being without pretense or hypocrisy. The word is rooted in an expression used to describe Roman and Greek stage actors who altered their voices using mechanical devices so they could be heard loudly. So, hypocrites were considered “actors” – people who are not showing their real selves but are merely staging an act for some reason. Unfeigned faith, however is genuine, not fabricated or staged for any reason whatsoever.
This raises a serious question: why would faith be feigned? Why would someone pretend to have faith, or be hypocritical, believing one thing but saying or acting out another? I find it strange because having faith is doing business with an all-knowing God. So why pretend? Such a person is likely not doing business with God, probably just trying to please or deceive others. Paul’s double emphasis on this phrase in his letters to Timothy leads me to conclude that he had encountered many whose faith were not sincere, who put up an act to feel among, gain favor, gather a following or enrich their pockets.
The goal of Christian instruction is to nurture “love, which comes from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith” (1 Tim. 1:5). So, if we pretend to believe God when we actually don’t, we deceive ourselves, and people will be able to tell soon enough because our lives will reflect what we believe. If we try to act like people of faith when we lack true conviction about God or the church, it will only take one or two trials to expose our act and show us for we truly are. Every act always comes to an end, no matter how long it is. Why start something you cannot sustain?
I want to wrap up by challenging you to live unfeigned. Faith is not a stage act. It is okay to admit you don’t know, don’t understand, or don’t believe. Pretense creates a screen between you and God and prevents honest conversations that can lead to transformation. Pretense defeats God’s purpose in your life. Live unfeigned!