J. R. Daniel Kirk, one of my favorite Christian theologian/Bible/New Testament scholars recently had a helpful post on living in the story of God in Jesus. And in the post he grapples a bit with the issue over how to translate a certain phrase in Paul’s writings. Traditionally this has been translated into our English, “faith in Christ/Jesus.” But more literally it would be translated, “the faithfulness (or, faith) of Christ/Jesus.”
I think the words of the Koine Greek text, and the larger narrative favor “the faithfulness of Jesus,” over “faith in Jesus.” Though if translated that way, there are still plenty of texts, including from Paul himself that make faith in Jesus to be important for us, even essential.
But in a practical way I find the faithfulness of Jesus in terms of what he did for us in his death and resurrection, in that saving work which the Spirit of God now works in accord with, I find that to be more helpful to me than thinking about my own faith.
It is Jesus’ faithfulness I can rest in, and not my own sometimes weak, wavering, and even battered faith. It’s not that I am excused not to hold on to faith, or keep the faith. But I can better do so by realizing that it’s because of the faithfulness of Jesus that I can continue in that stance of faith, and nothing more nor less. Of course the Spirit is at work in God’s grace in Jesus to help us, all part of what comes out of the faithfulness of Jesus.
In the end either translation is acceptable. Though I prefer and surmise that one of them is better. But it can’t be disputed, I believe, that Jesus is the just one who lives by his faithfulness and in that faithfulness lifts others up to do so. Yes, we must put our faith in Jesus, committing ourselves, our lives completely to God through him.
I along with others in Jesus will keep looking in faith to the one who in his faithfulness to us on the cross, and by the resurrection, will not only carry us through, but will help us to grow up and do well- in him, together in Jesus for the world.