Important Note: This will be at least a two part blog post and perhaps more. I urge you to study all of them as they go forward and go back and forth.
Are we saved by our faith in Christ, or are we saved by the faith OF Christ? I think the answer may be surprising to some. Well, one of the first steps in salvation is justification. I do not want to enter into an argument about the order of salvation, ordo salutis in this blog post. I do believe that all can agree that one of the important first steps in salvation is justification. This is the point of this post.
Look at Galatians 2:16 from the 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.”
Now look at the same verse from the NKJV Gal 2:16 “knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law but by faith in Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, that we might be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law; for by the works of the law no flesh shall be justified.”
Here we have a disagreement between the King James Version and the New King James Version. One group of translators say that it is faith in Christ, and the others say that it is the faith of Christ. The Greek text has the phrase in the genitive case so it is the faith of Christ, (pisteows ihsou christou.) All of the newer translations translate it faith in Christ except the NET bible. Of the older translations only the King James Version, and Young’s Literal Translation translate it as the faith OF Christ.
Let’s look at the difference in meaning. If the correct translation is faith in Christ then we are justified by our faith in Christ, but if it is translated faith of Christ, then we are justified by the faith of Christ, or we are justified by Jesus’ faith. It makes the difference between monergistic and synergistic justification. In one case it is solely an act of God in Christ, and in the other case it is an act by humanity. In the first case God acts independently and humans apprehend it by faith… in other words they believe that God did it and rest in that belief. In the second case God makes a provision with Christ, but the choice of being saved is with the individual… in a sense humanity becomes his or her own savior. In first case, Christ’s faith is honored and in the other, it is ignored or marginalized.
According to the gospels, God announced that Jesus was his beloved Son in whom he was well pleased. How did Jesus please him? We get a clue in Hebrews 11:6. "But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him." The only thing that pleases God is faith. Therefore it is safe to conclude that if Jesus pleased God, it was by his faith. He was willing to believe God to the point of death. His faith was the ultimate faith. That is why his faith would justify the many. Adam took on the knowledge of good and evil, did not believe God, and made it impossible to believe him completely. Abraham, Moses, Joseph, and David, just to name a few, were examples of those who would believe God from time to time, and therefore became metaphors/types of the saving faith that was to come in Jesus.
Jesus saving faith is something that we apprehend by faith. We are given that faith by the Holy Spirit when we hear the gospel message. In order to apprehend it correctly one must hear it correctly. I do not mean that if one does not apprehend it correctly they will not be saved. I do mean that if they do not apprehend it correctly they will NEVER be able to rest in Christ completely.
I posed this question to Bill Mounce and he wrote a blog article on it. He, in essense, justified why the newer translations translate it as *in Christ* instead of *of Christ and I will examine that in the next post.* I think my blog articles will help add some additional food for thought. I think that it shows the depth of the understanding of the Apostle Paul.