Justified by the Faith OF Jesus Christ, not by Ours….
Jefferis Kent Peterson
The Faith of Jesus Christ.
I’ve been re-reading and have been rekindled by an idea of a scholar Richard Hays, on The Faith of Jesus Christ. And this idea has been very liberating to my spirit and walk in the Lord. It has to do with the misinterpreted line, faith “in” Jesus Christ. Almost everywhere that is written in English is a wrong translation. It is properly translated by the King James, but not even by the New King James or American Standard versions. Let me explain.
“Therefore by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight, for by the law is the knowledge of sin. But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, even the righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe. For there is no difference; for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” Romans 3:20-23, NKJV.
In Greek, the actual wording is “even the righteousness of God, through the faith OF Jesus Christ.” It is a possessive or genitive phrase. Now a genitive means that this phrase can be interpreted as either subjective or objective. In other words, it is like the phrase, the Love of God. That is either our love for God, or the love that God has. In one case it is objective (love for God), in the other subjective (God is the subject) and it describes the love that belongs to God, or God’s love.
In Greek, the faith of Jesus Christ is also a subjective genitive, but has been interpreted as an objective in almost every translation. However, I’ll show you why that is wrong. Paul uses Habakkuk to describe the way of faith:
Hab 2:4 Behold, he whose soul is not upright in him shall fail, but the righteous shall live by his faith.
The righteous in this phrase is an adjectival noun The young, the rich, etc. These are Adjectival Nouns, meaning the people who are young, the people who are rich, etc. Here it is understood that “the righteous” is the righteous one or the righteous person.
Paul quotes Habakkuk 2 times in his letters. Ro 1:17 For in it (the Gospel) the righteousness of God is revealed through faith to faith; as it is written, “He who through faith is righteous shall live.” Ga 3:11 Now it is evident that no man is justified before God by the law; for “He who through faith is righteous shall live.”
In Paul’s day, the Essene Community, called the Messiah, the Righteous One or the Teacher of Righteousness, so it was a common expression at that time period. In Romans, Paul draws on the idea of The Righteous One to describe Jesus Christ, who reveals the righteousness of God through his faith. Paul’s whole argument in Romans is that the Law does not justify anyone, not even Abraham was justified by Law, but by faith. The Law, and obedience to it, can actually cause a breach of faith, because no one can keep the whole law. And since all unbelief “is sin” (Rm 14:23), anyone who does not believe God fully, has broken the Law. But here is the key. Paul sees Jesus as the fulfillment of the prophecy of Habakkuk. Jesus is The Righteous One who was able to maintain faith and not break it. To Paul, Jesus is our champion, a hero, like David when he faced Goliath. Jesus was able to do through his faith what we could not, face the giant of unbelief without stumbling or sin. Jesus was able to believe the Father perfectly. That is why he is “The Righteous One who shall live by His Faith.”
Paul is making an argument here that God’s righteousness was revealed “from faith to faith.” God’s perfect righteousness was revealed in and through the faith OF Jesus Christ, and was revealed to faith (our faith as we receive him). That is why the righteousness of God was revealed “apart from the Law”! It was revealed through the faith OF Jesus Christ and, dare I say it, not by his obedience to the Law (although he did not sin). It wasn’t the Law that revealed God’s righteousness in him, it was his faith.
“Therefore by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight, for by the law is the knowledge of sin. But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, even the righteousness of God, through the faith of Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe. For there is no difference; for all have sinned and fall
short of the glory of God,” Romans 3:20-23.
Why is this important? Because it is not our faith in Jesus which justifies us, but the faith of Jesus Christ in us which justifies us. In other words, it is his faith at work in us and in our hearts which produces righteousness and the God kind of life. And what is most important about this is the implications it has for us and our faith. First of all, it explains why faith is a gift and why we are saved through faith by grace and not as a work of our own. It is not our faith which justifies, but the faith of Jesus given to us, which resides in us. Since it is not our faith that justifies, but the faith of our Champion Jesus, whose faith is now at work on the inside of us, we are not called upon to believe God out of our own miserable resources or self generated faith or mental efforts, or our attempts to believe. We are only enabled to believe God through and because of the faith of Jesus Christ as work in us. It is Jesus’ faith upon which we are dependent and upon whom we rely. It is upon his faith, which is perfect and never fails, upon which we can rest and fully trust, because we know his faith is sufficient for every need and greater than every obstacle. And it is why Paul said “I can do all things through the Anointing (or the Anointed One, the Christ) which strengthens me.” He was seeing and understanding the immeasurable power at work in him through the faith of God’s Son Jesus.
What this revelation is doing is freeing me up from trying to believe in my strength, for I knew my faith was not up to the task of believing the impossible in the face of obstacles, the supernatural, and the giants of the Land. But the good news is, it isn’t my faith that matters. It is the faith OF Jesus Christ at work in me. He is surely able to believe the Father in all things. So, I am now pursuing, with full reliance upon His faith, to believe for whatever God so wills in my life. I know that with Him, all things are possible and to Him nothing is impossible. His faith is able to accomplish in me all that is necessary and whatever is required.
So I say, bring on the giants! You’ve got no idea who you’re dealing with! You are not just facing me, you are facing the faith of The Righteous One.
From Galatians, just more scriptural background: Ga 3:11 Now it is evident that no man is justified before God by the law; for “He who through faith is righteous shall live.”
Paul again continues his argument in Galatians. What is interesting here is how much the reading changes and how much more fluid it becomes if we translate the Greek exactly since it definitely says through the faith OF Jesus in several places. The King James actually has it more accurately than even the New King James.
Notice the different read: “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,” Galatians 2:16, NKJV. In the first translation, faith becomes our work of believing which justifies us. “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,” Galatians 2:16, KJV.
Here is is the faith of Jesus which justifies us… It is entirely His work and none of our own. We are justified by HIS faith!
Again, compare how we are justified. Are we justified by hearing with faith (an action on our part), or by hearing of faith (hearing of the faith of Jesus Christ and accepting his work of marvelous faith on our behalf)?
“Does he who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you do so by works of the law, or by hearing with faith?” Galatians 3:5, RSV. “He therefore that ministereth to you the Spirit, and worketh miracles among you, doeth he it by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?” Galatians 3:5, KJV.
“But the scripture consigned all things to sin, that what was promised to faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe.” Galatians 3:22, RSV. “But the scripture hath concluded all under sin, that the promise by thefaith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe.” Galatians 3:22, KJV.
In every case, it is the faith of Jesus which is set up as the model and as the agent or instrument of our salvation, so that all credit and honor goes to Jesus for his exceedingly great faith, now given to us as a gift, who are enabled to receive and believe.
“Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin. But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets; 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: For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus. Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? of works? Nay: but by the law of faith.” Romans 3:20-27, KJV.
I believe these translations take the burden of believing God off of our shoulders as if we are the engine and instrument of our own salvation through faith we can manufacture and manifest, and allows us to rely fully upon the faith of Jesus Christ as our enablement, and so it makes sense then of the entirety of God’s good work in us:
“ For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God;not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.” Ephesians 2:10, NAS95.
Now we may ask, “Is Having the same Faith which Jesus has, the Will of God for our Lives? “ Yes.
“For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the first-born among many brethren.” Romans 8:29, RSV.
If Faith is a gift, will God give us this faith and does God want us to have it?
“If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”” Luke 11:13, RSV.
The point is simple. While on earth, Jesus may have questioned his Father, especially before going to the Cross, but Jesus never doubted his Father. His faith in his Father was perfect. He believed God would heal the sick; he did not question his relationship to the Father nor the Father’s love for him. When he laid hands on the sick, he knew his prayers would be honored and the sick would be made well. He did not doubt that the Father wanted to heal the sick and open the eyes of the blind. He saw his ministry as the fulfillment of the promise of God made in Isaiah:
“And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up; and he went to the synagogue, as his custom was, on the Sabbath day. And he stood up to read; and there was given to him the book of the prophet Isaiah. He opened the book and found the place where it was written, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.” And he closed the book, and gave it back to the attendant, and sat down; and the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. And he began to say to them, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” Luke 4:16-21, RSV.
Since God the Father wants us to look like Jesus, act like Jesus, and love like Jesus, he also wants us to trust Him just like his own Son does. He wants us to become like Jesus and be remade into his likeness. So, it is the will of God that we trust the Father just as Jesus did while on the earth. He wants us to have the same faith towards the Father that Jesus did. It is not a question of whether the Father wants us to have faith nor a question of is he willing to give us this faith… This faith is absolutely necessary for us if we are to walk in the footsteps of Jesus and become like him.
Now faith and love are intertwined, and the faith the Father wants us especially to have is faith in the Father’s love towards us, so that we may be conformed to his Son not only in power but in character. In fact, there are warnings about those who have faith but not love, that Jesus does not know them. Judas had faith to heal the sick along with the rest of the disciples, but he did not love God. My point is that the faith that matters is the “faith that works through love” (Gal. 5:6). For it is not just faith in the abstract, but the faith which comes from being confident in God’s desire for us and in his love for us which gives us to trust God and maintain faith in the face of difficulties, resistance, and hardships. That is the kind of faith that will never doubt, and it is the kind of faith the Father wants us to have, so that in the end we become like Jesus.
26 thoughts on “Justified by the Faith OF Jesus Christ, not by Ours….”
I agree with much of what you write, though it seems you have the idea that God gives us his faith and we exercise it to get eternal salvation.
Could it be that it fits better the whole of scripture without contradiction to have the perspective that he exercises his faith upon the dead sinner when he quickens them according to his own choice? Then we really know it is all him we are resting on.
I believe Our faith is a fruit of his faith, and accomplishes important things, yet secondary to what His faith does.
Hi, glad to have you aboard, RC
I am not sure that we disagree. I think what you are saying is exactly my point. It isn't our faith that saves us, but His faith working in and through us that brings salvation: "and that not of yourselves, lest anyone should boast."
The word "faith" in Greek is also our word for "trust." So, if the gift of faith causes or allows us to trust Him more completely, it is still his work. The work on our part is to learn to turn from our own efforts (repentance) into a deeper reliance and trust in Him for everything. That is why Jesus says, "I can do nothing of myself…"
Joh 5:19 Jesus gave them this answer: “I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does.
I have always understood ( per Holy Spirit ) that the way most Christians look upon their faith as the reason they are saved is “ a work “. They try to spin it but when presented the study it takes to really believe scripture is work.
Realizing you are saved by the faith “of” Jesus accelerates the understanding of Gods sovereignty and the idea of salvation as a true gift.
I appreciate this site because many times I feel completely alone in a certain doctrine which makes you question yourself. Corroboration makes one feel vindicated and helps you press on.
Thanks Jack. You might find this helpful
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Pardoned or Paroled?: Escaping a Prison of Guilt to Find Freedom in Christ
Do you feel sad, guilty, unworthy, or ashamed? Does it seem that no matter what you do, you can’t live up to God’s standards? Are you always trying to be on your best behavior, but still feel like you aren’t being good enough? If you always have the feeling you are being watched and judged, then …
Right on, brother! I’m so glad there are still many of us that believe that we are justified by the Faith OF Jesus and not our own.
Praise God for His gift of faith! Henrietta Klaasing, South Africa.
Mr. Peterson, thank you for this article. I was reading Ephesians and all of the sudden it occurred to me that I have misunderstood whose faith we are talking about in Ephesians 2:8. Paul was talking about Jesus’ faith not mine. And we can have Jesus’ perfect faith when we belong to Him. If Jesus is our Savior AND Lord then the Father’s grace and the Son’s faith is ours (justification).
I found your article when I Googled, “It is Jesus’ faith not our own faith that saves us”. Wow, what a game changer. I’m new to this thought so this might not be quite the right way to state this, but for me it is the difference between working up enough of my own faith to believe in Christ, versus resting in belonging to Christ and trusting in His own faith (the perfect faith acceptable to the Father). I wished it hadn’t taken me 62 years to discover this! Thanks!
You are welcome. For me, it is still a challenge to keep looking to His faith and not mine, but each time I remember this, it takes the pressure off. One of the consequences of the “faith movement” for someone, who is a performance-oriented person like me, is to put the focus on man rather than the grace of God which enables us. I.e., it makes faith a human work and is human-focused.
Exactly Mr. Peterson. How backwards is it to take faith and turn it into our own effort and even legalism. I guess performance oriented people, which I join you in, are somewhat blind to that nature. Kind of flies in the face of Jesus setting us free. God’s grace is most amazing because it sets me free from me!!
“Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our LORD!”
Faith allows us to believe and trust in Jesus’ faithfulness. I Don’t mean to make this a running dialogue, but in this freedom I am reminded of Paul’s doxology at the end of Romans 11. Thanks
The declaration of righteous is objective. That objective declaration is made to the world for whom Christ died, and is merited by the faith of Christ, apart from ourselves. The imputation of righteousness is subjective, and that righteousness is received through the gift of grace, which is Christ’s faith in us.
That’s the difference.
I am not sure I completely agree. Righteousness is also objective in the sense that when receiving Jesus as Savior, the Holy Spirit is imparted to us and lives within us, and HE is our righteousness. We are made righteous not just in a subjective sense but in a very real sense through the gift of union and relationship with Jesus.
What I mean by “objective” justification is that we don’t participate in the declaration, other than being the one’s to whom the declaration is made.
What you’re describing are the “subjective” acts that we do participate in. Those would be imputed righteousness, receiving the Spirit through faith, sanctification, etc.
Justification does not “make” us righteous, but rather declares us to be so on the merits of Christ. When we believe the declaration we’re imputed to righteousness, like Abraham was.
Phil. 3:9 And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness,
which is of the law, but that which is through THE FAITH OF CHRIST,
the righteousness which is OF GOD BY FAITH:
THE SEA OF CHRIST’S BELIEVING
O mighty ocean, the very Faith of Christ,
whose waters run so infinitely deep
Where all my problems drown forever,
for once they enter forever there they’ll keep
Swallow up all my adversaries,
for it’s here alone that I can face
For the winds of time that ever blow,
they have no power in this place
The only place where to God I am well pleasing,
without ever a doubt Christ’s Faith in me does live
Immersed into the sea of Christ’s believing,
and all the unsearchable riches this faith can give
Let me ever plunge the depths of these waters,
let my mind swim with the very thoughts you alone declare
Let your Faith filled waves mount in me with such great fury,
let me believe, who really I am, who I am really, in there
Hope the above link helps on the study of salvation through Christ. Our Faith and Christ’s faith.
Is your position here basically in harmony with that of NT Wright?
I am not aware of Dr. Wright’s position on this matter. Traditional Protestant interpretation, viewed through the lens of the Reformation and the anabaptist movement, tends to place the emphasis on the faith of the individual in receiving Christ as personal savior (a very evangelical position, which is my background). However, the emphasis on “my” faith often leads to a cycle of performance and failure, as if the source of faith is within my own nature, ability, and power. I.e., I become the focus of my salvation instead of Jesus as the “author and finisher of our faith.” Yes, we do have faith because God gives us faith, and our faith is to be directed towards God the Father and the Son, through the Holy Spirit. But the source of our faith is Christ in us, the Hope of Glory, and comes from our relationship and fellowship with the Son, rather than something we exercise independently from Him.
I don’t remember if I replied to your question. It has been a long time since I read Wright… What aspect are you referring to in his view?
My dad was teaching this 30 years ago. Glad to see others understand this
That is about when the book came out 🙂
The church can be the most dangerous place because of their false gospel that would lead a person to think they were saved. What could be more important than salvation? Cults work their way into the churches by having the same words but different definitions of that word. I would say most churches have a secular definition of what faith is and no idea of what “the faith of God” or the “faith of Jesus Christ” is and how it can save a person. When a person does not know His faith they can only trust in and try to develop their own faith. Faith means “to bring to belief” His work of faith in us will cause us to believe the right way and not with a make-believe believing. Develop your own study: Rom 3:3 “For what if some did not believe? shall their unbelief make the faith of God without effect?” How is His faith effectual for salvation?
Gal 2:16 “Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even(caused us to believe) 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.” KJV Others translations have changed to read “faith in Jesus Christ” to fit their understanding. They do not change “faith of Abraham” to “faith in Abraham” even though it has the same Greek structure. (Rom 4:16) One source of the error is from a bad translation of Gen 15:6. The conjunction and should be for. The New Testament translators quoted the Old Testament.
Thanks, Dwayne, for this most helpful teaching. Your use of scripture makes all the difference.
Galations2:20 is another reference that clearly supports your teaching.
“…the life that I live in the flesh is IN the faith of God’s Son, Who loves me and gave Himself up for me.”
Yes. See also, “… But sometimes little words matter. There’s a difference between of and in. Dr. Bernard Scott is an expert biblical scholar who I heard speak at a forum in California. He suggests that Luther might’ve got it wrong in just a teeny little way. If we look at Gal 2:16, 2:20 and Romans 3:22 and 3:26,
“The debate hinges upon the translation of a simple two-word Greek phrase: pistis Christou. It concerns a technical point of grammar, and so it might seem as though scholars are making a great deal of fuss over such a small matter. The stakes, however, are high—both for our understanding of Paul and for Christian theology in the wake of the Reformation. In short, if the Christou in pistis Christou is an objective genitive (“faith in Christ”), then Luther was right and Protestant theology since Luther has generally been on the right track so far as this issue is concerned. If, however, the Christou in pistis Christou is a subjective genitive (“the faith/faithfulness of Christ”), then Luther got it all wrong, and Protestant theology since Luther has generally been on the wrong track. Thus, the difference between “faith in/faithfulness to Christ” and “Christ’s [own] faith/faithfulness” is important because it goes to the very root of one of the major issues that sparked the Protestant Reformation.”
Dr. Scott argues that the best interpretation of the Greek, and it’s a compelling case, is that it’s not faith in Jesus Christ, it’s faith of Jesus Christ. We’re saved by the faith of Jesus Christ.
Now, that’s a curious thing. What could that mean? If that’s true, somehow it’s either that Jesus’ faith in God ripples out and affects all the rest of us vicariously; or maybe he models for us having faith, a life of faith. He models it for us and shows us what it’s like to have a true life of faith, showing us that faith, and if we can tap into that faith, then we too have salvation. We too are saved. Interesting thing to ponder. It’s an interesting thing to ponder, it’s really, really, really interesting. You can geek out on that. It could even lead to divisions of denominations. Sometimes back in the day Christian churches would divide about those kinds of things! …” from “Was Luther Wrong? We’re Saved by the faith OF Christ” https://www.patheos.com/blogs/rogerwolsey/2018/08/was-luther-wrong-were-saved-by-the-faith-of-christ/
I fully agree with your explanation of Habbakuk and Romans 1v17, and to back it up no one has mentioned perhaps the most definitive verses from Philippians 3v8-10.
This is taken from the Concordant version which goes to the original greek : ” that I should be gaining Christ, and may be found in Him, not having my righteousness which is of law, but that which is through the faith OF Christ, the righteousness which is from God for faith.
The Concordant version can be checked by going online to http://www.concordant.org