Salvation 2.0: Part 5.1: Faith

grace5Faith begins, not with a Plan or even with Jesus. It begins with God. You see, the Bible actually speaks of the faith of God —

(Rom 3:3 KJV) For what if some did not believe? shall their unbelief make the faith of God without effect?

— as well as the faith of Jesus —

(Rom 3:22 KJV) Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference:

(Gal 2:16 KJV) Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.

(Gal 3:22 KJV) But the scripture hath concluded all under sin, that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe.

How very odd! Modern translations deal with these perplexing passages in different ways, but the scholarly consensus is increasingly to follow the NET Bible translation —

(Rom 3:3 NET)  3 What then? If some did not believe, does their unbelief nullify the faithfulness of God

(Rom 3:21-23 NET)  But now apart from the law the righteousness of God (which is attested by the law and the prophets) has been disclosed –  22 namely, the righteousness of God through the faithfulness of Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction,  23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. 

(Gal 2:16 NET) 16 yet we know that no one is justified by the works of the law but by the faithfulness of Jesus Christ. And we have come to believe in Christ Jesus, so that we may be justified by the faithfulness of Christ and not by the works of the law, because by the works of the law no one will be justified. 

(Gal 3:22 NET) 22 But the scripture imprisoned everything and everyone under sin so that the promise could be given – because of the faithfulness of Jesus Christ– to those who believe. 

Now, the problem arises from the Greek itself, not a change in manuscript evidence. In Rom 3:3, “faith of God” translates πίστιν τοῦ θεοῦ (pistin tou Theou)– which means “faith of God.” Quite literally.

But pistis — the root word for faith — can also take the meaning “faithfulness.” Every modern translation sometimes uses “faithfulness” for pistis, even if the translators don’t follow the NET Bible in these key passages. It’s not controversial.

Just so, in Rom 3:22, “faith of Jesus Christ” translates πίστεως Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ (pisteos Iesou Christou) — “faith of Jesus Christ.” Again, “faithfulness” makes much better sense.

(I’m going to skip the discussion regarding whether “faith in God” or “faith in Jesus Christ,” as in several translations, really makes sense. After all, such a translation creates huge redundancies, as in the NIV —

(Rom 3:22a NIV) This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. )

And so, if we remember that in the Greek “faith” and “faithfulness” are the same word, then we find this marvelous parallel.

1. God is faithful.

2. Jesus is faithful.

3. We are saved if we have faith/are faithful. Being saved means being incorporated into Jesus in some sense — as a part of his body. Hence, to be in Jesus, who is faithful, we must also be faithful.

And so faith, as a condition of salvation, actually makes sense. It’s not just about believing certain things to be true. It’s also about taking the first step toward becoming like Jesus and God — which makes just all kinds of sense if we’re being saved to become like Jesus and God and so to participate in their redemptive mission.

In fact, this kind of faith makes the Reformation kind of faith (just believe that it’s true) seem cheap and tiny.

Another way of looking at this is in Kingdom terms. To enter the King’s Kingdom, we must pledge to be faithful to the King — and mean it. It’s just that simple. You can’t be faithful to someone you don’t believe exists or don’t believe is in fact the King. And you have no reason to enter the Kingdom or make such a pledge unless you believe the King has made promises that matter and you trust him to keep his promises.

Now, we need to flesh out God’s faithfulness just a bit before we can talk about human faithfulness.

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About Jay F Guin

My name is Jay Guin, and I’m a retired elder. I wrote The Holy Spirit and Revolutionary Grace about 18 years ago. I’ve spoken at the Pepperdine, Lipscomb, ACU, Harding, and Tulsa lectureships and at ElderLink. My wife’s name is Denise, and I have four sons, Chris, Jonathan, Tyler, and Philip. I have two grandchildren. And I practice law.
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