Our Faith in Christ or His Faith Within Us?

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Our Faith in Christ or His Faith Within Us?

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The translation issue

A few of these instances are found in Galatians 2. Galatians 2:16 in the original King James Version states that we are justified—made right with God—by having the "faith OF Jesus Christ" and the "faith OF Christ" (emphasis added throughout). The New King James Version translates these phrases as "faith IN Jesus Christ" and "faith IN Christ." Which version is correct?

To understand, we'll have to go into some grammar and translation issues. In the original Greek there is actually no word for "of" or "in" in the phrases. Rather, the question revolves around the case ending of the name. There is no question that the genitive or possessive case is used here in the original Greek. In English we would typically designate this with apostrophe s—that is to say, "Christ's faith," faith that belongs to Him.

But there is controversy over whether the subjective genitive or objective genitive is intended. Is Christ in these phrases the object of faith—that is, the faith belongs to Him because it is directed TO Him (from us)? That would justify the translation "faith IN Christ." Or does it belong to Him because it is inherent within Him—the faith He Himself has? This would mean that "faith OF Christ" is the proper translation—and that, seemingly, His faith is somehow instilled into us.

"Not I, but Christ lives in me"

Let's look now at Galatians 2:20. As rendered in the original King James Version, Paul wrote, "I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith OF the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me." The italicized words are rendered in the New King James Version as "faith IN the Son of God." A literal translation from the Greek would be "God's Son's faith"—but the subjective/objective question applies here too.

Helping us is the context. Paul is writing of Jesus living within and through him (by the Holy Spirit) instead of him just living his own life. So in then summing this up by saying he lives by faith involving Christ, it would be illogical for Paul to mean his own faith in Christ. It makes much more sense contextually for him to mean that Christ's faith operates within him as Christ lives His life within him. Remember his point:
". . . yet not I, but Christ . . ."

We should therefore understand Paul's parallel phrases only four verses earlier, in Galatians 2:16, to likewise mean "faith OF" Christ. And it makes sense that parallel construction elsewhere should be viewed the same way. Thus, Romans 3:22 should say "faith OF Jesus Christ," and Philippians 3:9 should also read "faith OF Christ," as the original King James Version translates these.

Even the New King James Version translates Revelation 14:12 as stating that Christians have "the faith OF Jesus" (though that's because "faith" here is viewed by the translators as the belief system and not the belief itself—yet both derive from Him).

Faith toward Christ and help to believe

Of course, we certainly do need to have faith IN Christ. Paul himself stated in Acts 20:21 that we must have "faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ" (parallel to "faith toward God" in Hebrews 6:1). Paul's wording clearly refers to our faith directed TO Christ. We must believe in who He is and what He has done for us as well as all that He teaches through the whole Bible.

Of course, even here we are not truly alone in our efforts. For God helps us to have faith. We are like the man who cried out desperately to Jesus, "Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!" (Mark 9:24)—and the apostles who implored Him, "Increase our faith" (Luke 17:5). Indeed God will help us to have faith even before we are spiritually converted through the Holy Spirit.

However, just our own belief in God and Christ is not enough to bring us in line with God's way and ultimately lead us to salvation. We must have the "faith OF the Son of God." Jesus is expressly stated to be "the author and finisher of our faith" (Hebrews 12:2). So our faith is obviously from Him.

Jesus' own faith—or building up ours?

But what does this actually mean? Does Jesus really give us His own faith—putting His own trusting belief into our hearts and minds? Or does He build His degree of faith within us over time —a development process wherein He strengthens our own faith (which is thus His by authorship)? We should understand that both aspects are at work in the life of a true Christian.

Some advocate solely the latter. If a man said he was going to attain the "strength of Samson," no one would think he meant that Samson's own strength would somehow be given to him. They would just think he was speaking of become as strong as Samson—probably over time. Likewise, receiving "the faith of Christ" is taken by some to mean only developing, over time, as much faith as Christ had or has. And indeed, it is true that our thinking is transformed over time to be like Christ's—including in what we believe.

But there is more to it than that. For in a person obtaining the "strength of Samson," it would not be because Samson lived within and through him. With the faith of Christ, the matter is quite different.

When a person receives the Holy Spirit after repentance with faith and baptism, God the Father and Jesus Christ supernaturally live in that person through the presence of the Holy Spirit (John 14:23; 1 Corinthians 3:16; 1 John 3:24)—Christ as the active agent to live through the person, as we saw in Galatians 2:20. His thoughts and actions direct our own supernaturally to the degree we yield to Him. Thus we exhibit His character, experiencing a measure of faith as fruit and a gift of God's Spirit (Galatians 5:22, KJV; Romans 12:3; 1 Corinthians 12:9). Indeed, we experience "the mind of Christ" (1 Corinthians 2:16).

Yet we should recognize that when God gives us supernatural help through the Spirit to see as Christ sees and act accordingly, we should not view this as Christ having and exercising faith for us or in place of us. Rather, He lives through us—bringing transformation to our own minds over time so that we ourselves gradually come to think and live more and more like Him. Thus, there is supernatural intervention and empowerment by Christ, but this is transformative of our own being through a process of conversion—a process that requires our own ongoing cooperation.

And in this way, Christ's faith becomes our faith. As the apostle John stated, "This is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith" (1 John 5:4). It truly is ours as well.

Again, we must certainly have faith IN Christ. But on top of that, the faith OF Christ being established and built within us is the only way that we can remain in God's way of life over the course of our Christian lives and receive eternal salvation.