The translation issue
A few of these instances are found in Galatians 2. Galatians 2:16 Galatians 2:16Knowing 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.
American King James Version×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 Galatians 2:20I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ lives 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.
American King James Version×. 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 Galatians 2:16Knowing 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.
American King James Version×, to likewise mean “faith OF” Christ. And it makes sense that parallel construction elsewhere should be viewed the same way. Thus, Romans 3:21 Romans 3:21But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets;
American King James Version×should say “faith OF Jesus Christ,” and Philippians 3:9 Philippians 3:9And be found in him, not having my own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith:
American King James Version×should also read “faith OF Christ,” as the original King James Version translates these.
Even the New King James Version translates Revelation 14:12 Revelation 14:12Here is the patience of the saints: here are they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus.
American King James Version×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 Acts 20:21Testifying both to the Jews, and also to the Greeks, repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ.
American King James Version×that we must have “faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ” (parallel to “faith toward God” in Hebrews 6:1 Hebrews 6:1Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on to perfection; not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God,
American King James Version×). 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 Mark 9:24And straightway the father of the child cried out, and said with tears, Lord, I believe; help you my unbelief.
American King James Version×)—and the apostles who implored Him, “Increase our faith” (Luke 17:5 Luke 17:5And the apostles said to the Lord, Increase our faith.
American King James Version×). 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 Hebrews 12:2Looking to Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.
American King James Version×). 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 John 14:23Jesus answered and said to him, If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come to him, and make our stayed with him.
American King James Version×; 1 Corinthians 3:16 1 Corinthians 3:16Know you not that you are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?
American King James Version×; 1 John 3:24 1 John 3:24And he that keeps his commandments dwells in him, and he in him. And hereby we know that he stays in us, by the Spirit which he has given us.
American King James Version×)—Christ as the active agent to live through the person, as we saw in Galatians 2:20 Galatians 2:20I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ lives 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.
American King James Version×. 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 Galatians 5:22But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith,
American King James Version×, KJV; Romans 12:3 Romans 12:3For I say, through the grace given to me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God has dealt to every man the measure of faith.
American King James Version×; 1 Corinthians 12:9 1 Corinthians 12:9To another faith by the same Spirit; to another the gifts of healing by the same Spirit;
American King James Version×). Indeed, we experience “the mind of Christ” (1 Corinthians 2:16 1 Corinthians 2:16For who has known the mind of the Lord, that he may instruct him? But we have the mind of Christ.
American King James Version×).
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 1 John 5:4For whatever is born of God overcomes the world: and this is the victory that overcomes the world, even our faith.
American King James Version×). 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.