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The Faith of Jesus Christ

In the question and answer section of your website on doubting your salvation, the writer quotes Galatians 2:16 and indicates "the faith OF Christ" refers not to faith IN Christ, but Christ's actual faith. That verse is referred to also in the same way in the section on "how to lose your salvation." JF&B, Matthew Henry, Luther, and Wiersbe all seem to indicate that this verse refers to faith IN Christ. Can you tell me of any other sources that support your interpretation?

There are actually several references to the faith "of" Jesus Christ. Here are a few:

  • Romans 3:22 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:
  • Galatians 2:16 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 3:22 But the scripture hath concluded all under sin, that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe.
  • Philippians 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:

If I understand your question, you are asking if I can give you some names of Bible commentators or known Bible scholars who teach the "faith of Jesus Christ" as I do. I cannot. I have only checked a few, but those I have checked totally ignore the possibility of significance to the phrase. In fact, the use of the preposition "of" in the English is based on the Greek declension of the name of Jesus and not on a separate Greek word meaning "of." I am sure that many scholars would be ready and willing to argue against the interpretation I have presented on the basis of the intricacies of the Greek language.

Yet, I cannot and do not wish to claim originality for this teaching and assume it has a history beyond my knowledge. I heard it from another preacher who is a serious Bible student. I suppose the teaching could have originated with him but I expect that such a teaching probably existed earlier. I really have no desire or inclination to try and trace it down.

I have accepted the teaching and incorporated into my understanding of scripture completely on its own merits as I see them. Since I am a Bible student and not a hefty theologian, I understand that others may just as readily reject this teaching. Perhaps it would help your study if I gave my reasons for accepting this doctrine.

The phrase itself is very powerful if accepted as is in the King James Bible. Since I accept the King James Bible as God's perfectly preserved word in the English language, I believe that "of" is the correct preposition here. And, although "of" can be a connector in many ways ("love of God" can be the love that comes from God or the love we have for God according to context), it is most natural in these verses as the faith that belongs to Jesus Christ and proceeds from Him. That is, if I were to ask someone without the context what they thought "the faith of Jesus Christ" is, I doubt that they would say it meant our faith in Him unless they already knew the argument concerning these verses.

I realize that context sometimes changes the natural meaning of a phrase and I will discuss that next, but the natural meaning of the phrase is that it refers to the faith of Jesus Christ. Also, when God wants to make it clear that He is referring to our faith in Jesus Christ, the Bible can say things like "faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ" as it does in Acts 20:21 or "faith in Christ Jesus" as in Galatians 3:26 and Colossians 1:4. My point is that we must begin with the natural meaning and either confirm it or prove it to be altered by context. As a whole, the commentators simply ignore the possibility.

The immediate context of these verses point to something other than our faith in Jesus Christ. Three of these verses contrast the belief of the one getting saved with the faith of Jesus Christ.

  • Romans 3:22 - "the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe." Here, the righteousness of God which comes on them that believe comes by the faith of Jesus Christ.
  • Galatians 2:16 - "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." We have believed in Jesus Christ that we might be justified by the faith of Christ.
  • Galatians 3:22 - "the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe." The promise is given to them that believe by the faith of Jesus Christ.

In each of these passages, the faith of man (those who "believe") is seen working with the faith of Jesus Christ. They are not used as parallel phrases but as cooperating concepts. For this reason, I believe that they are different.

The teaching that Jesus completes our faulty, though sincere, faith with his perfect faith agrees with other scriptures. Let me give some examples:

  1. In Mark 9:24, the father who had a child with a "dumb spirit" cried out to Jesus, "Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief." This man recognized the weakness of his own faith and cried out for Jesus to complete it. Evidently Jesus did because he healed the man's child.
  2. In Galatians 2:20, Paul testified, "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 crucified life involved Paul living his life "by the faith of the Son of God." That is, the faith of Christ in him enabled him to live the crucified life. This is the concept of Christ being formed in us (Galatians 4:19). We are to put on the Lord Jesus Christ (Romans 13:14) and let His mind be in us (Philippians 2:5). We are to be conformed to the image of God's Son (Romans 8:29) and to be renewed in knowledge after the image of Him (Colossians 3:10). We are complete in Him (Colossians 2:10). All of this and more point to the enabling power of Christ in us. He completes our love (Ephesians 3:19), our thoughts (Philippians 2:5), and much more. And He completes our faith, both in sanctification and in salvation.
  3. Hebrews 12:2 calls Jesus "the author and finisher of our faith." He authors that faith by lighting every man that comes into the world (John 1:9) and by drawing all men to Him through His death on the cross (John 12:32). He finishes our faith by completing our true but unfinished faith in Him.

This doctrine has great practical benefits. Since I have been teaching this doctrine, I have seen it help numerous people. People who truly believed in the Lord and faithfully served Him still often struggled with doubts of salvation because they saw that their faith was not perfect. This doctrine takes the faith of the individual away from themselves and back to its proper focus--the Lord Jesus Christ. It is not faith in my faith that is needed, but faith in Him. And, when the person can see that He completes our faith, they can fully trust in what the Lord Jesus has done for their salvation and not in the quality of their faith.

In Luke's record of the parable of the sower, the seed falling on good ground describes the person who accepts the word "in an honest and good heart" (Luke 8:15). The quality required is that of sincerity and truth. It does not require the individual to be perfect or to believe perfectly. Very few people experience no doubts at all. If salvation depends on the perfection of our faith, then most if not all people are eternally damned. However, if it depends more on an honest and good heart throwing all at the feet of Jesus despite any confusion in our souls knowing that He will finish our faith, then we may certainly be saved by trusting in Him.