Faith of Christ by Thomas D. Stegman, S.J

A growing number of scholars contend, against a long-standing interpretation, that Paul stresses the importance of the faith (or faithfulness) of Christ.

What has led some Pauline scholars to highlight the faith of Christ?

Paul’s letters contain seven instances of a Greek phrase that, grammatically speaking, can be interpreted “faith in Christ” or “faith of Christ” (Rom 3:22; Rom 3:26; Gal 2:16 [2x]; Gal 2:20; Gal 3:22; Phil 3:9). The context of these passages is how God’s righteousness has been revealed or how God brings people into right relationship with God. For example, in Rom 3:22 Paul declares that God’s righteousness has been disclosed through pistis Christou (the debated Greek phrase) for all who believe. Traditionally, the disputed phrase has been rendered “through faith in Christ,” thereby emphasizing the importance, for Paul, of the human response of faith to the gospel proclamation.

However, many scholars argue that the interpretation “faith of Christ” makes better sense of Paul’s exposition. In the example from Romans, Paul has just described in unrelenting fashion for two chapters the universal scope of human sinfulness and unrighteousness—all people are implicated (Rom 1:18-3:20). This somber portrait of sinful humanity makes the human response of faith an unlikely setting for the revelation of God’s righteousness. Indeed, Rom 3:21-26 highlights God’s activity in and through Jesus: redemption is through Christ, whom God put forth as expiation for sin. Moreover, “faith of Christ” removes a redundancy in the traditional rendering of Rom 3:22 (“faith in Christ for all who believe”). The interpretation that God’s righteousness has been revealed through the faith of Christ for all who believe thus underlines the importance and role of Jesus in God’s saving activity, which is the point Paul wants to emphasize. This interpretation coheres with how Paul refers to the subject matter of the letter in Rom 1:1-3: the gospel of God that concerns God’s Son.

What is meant by the “faith” or “faithfulness of Christ”?

The notion of Jesus’s Sonship is crucial for understanding what the “faith,” or as preferred by some interpreters the “faithfulness,” of Christ means for Paul. It refers to Jesus’s filial obedience to God the Father’s will for him, particularly in offering his life on the cross. Jesus’s obedience “unto death, even death on a cross” is the climax of the first stanza of the Christ-hymn in Phil 2:8. Paul contrasts Adam’s disobedience to God with Jesus’s obedience, the obedience through which “many will be made righteous” (Rom 5:19). First and foremost, then, Jesus’s faithfulness points to his relationship as Son to God the Father, who acts through him to bring about salvation.

Jesus’s faithfulness to God was embodied in self-giving love for all human beings. Paul describes this in Gal 2:19-20 when he writes, “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the flesh, I live by the faithfulness of the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (author’s translation). Thus Paul can say that the cross, the ultimate expression of Jesus’s faithfulness to God, is a manifestation of divine love (see Rom 5:6-8).

In the end, it may very well be that Paul exploits the ambiguity of the phrase pistis Christou to signal two essential aspects of discipleship. Believing trust in the gospel proclamation (i.e., faith in Christ) is the beginning of the way of salvation, which also entails maturation as God’s sons and daughters in walking in the way of Jesus’s self-giving love (i.e., Christ’s faithfulness).

Thomas D. Stegman, S.J, "Faith of Christ", n.p. [cited 13 Dec 2019]. Online: https://www.bibleodyssey.org:443/en/people/related-articles/faith-of-christ

Contributors

stegman-thomas

Thomas D. Stegman, S.J
dean and professor of New Testament , Boston College School of Theology and Ministry

Thomas D. Stegman, S.J., is dean and professor of New Testament at Boston College School of Theology and Ministry. He received his PhD in New Testament studies from Emory University and is the author of four books and two coedited volumes, including The Paulist Biblical Commentary (Mahwah, NJ: Paulist, 2018), to which he contributed a 50,000 word commentary on Romans.

Characteristic of a deity (a god or goddess).

The practice of atonement, resulting in the removal of sin.

of or due from a son or daughter

A gospel is an account that describes the life of Jesus of Nazareth.

A song or poem that is religious in nature.

People who study a text from historical, literary, theological and other angles.

Visible or tangible form of something ethereal, abstract, or invisible.

Rom 3:22

the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe.

Rom 3:26

26it was to prove at the present time that he himself is righteous and that he justifies the one who has faith in Jesus.

Gal 2:16

16yet we know that a person is justified not by the works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ. And we have come to believe in Christ Jesus, so that we ... View more

Gal 2:20

20and it is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gav ... View more

Gal 3:22

But the scripture has imprisoned all things under the power of sin, so that what was promised through faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe.

Phil 3:9

and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but one that comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God based ... View more

Rom 3:22

the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe.

Rom 1:18-3:20

The Guilt of Humankind
18For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and wickedness of those who by their wickedness suppress the truth ... View more

Rom 3:21-26

Righteousness through Faith
21But now, apart from law, the righteousness of God has been disclosed, and is attested by the law and the prophets,22the righteousn ... View more

Rom 3:22

the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe.

Phil 2:8

8he humbled himself
and became obedient to the point of death—
even death on a cross.

Rom 5:19

19For just as by the one man's disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man's obedience the many will be made righteous.

Gal 2:19-20

For through the Law I died to the Law and its demands on me [because salvation is provided through the death and resurrection of Christ], so that I might [from ... View more

Rom 5:6-8

While we were still helpless [powerless to provide for our salvation], at the right time Christ died [as a substitute] for the ungodly. 7 Now it is an extraordi ... View more

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