The Faith of Christ
Our Faith in Christ
The Scriptures speak of both “the faith of Christ” and our “faith in Christ.” In Galatians 3:19 Paul tells us that the law of God given at Mt. Sinai was given for a specific, designated period of time. — “It was added because of transgressions till the Seed (Christ) should come to whom the promise (the promise of God’s blessing, grace, and salvation) was made.” In verse 21 the apostle assures us that the law of God given at Sinai is not in any way against, or contrary to God’s covenant promise of salvation by Christ, and that it was never intended to produce righteousness. The law is, as Paul puts it in 2 Corinthians 3:7, “the ministration of death.” It has nothing to do with life. It cannot produce righteousness. — “I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain” (Gal 2:21).
Verse 22 — “But the scripture hath concluded all under sin.” — The whole volume of Holy Scripture and particularly the killing letter of the law of God, declare that all men, all that is in us by nature, and all that is done by us are under the power, dominion, and guilt of sin. All the sons and daughters of fallen Adam are defiled, sinful, and guilty.
Paul’s language is inclusive of all things relating to all men. — All the members of our bodies. — All the faculties of our souls. — All the thoughts of our minds. — All the emotions of our hearts. — All the intentions of our wills. — All our choices. — All our works. — All our services to God and men. — Even all our best works of righteousness, which are but “filthy rags.” — All are sinful and polluted. The Word of God declares that we are guilty and shuts us up as prisoners under the sentence of death, without hope in ourselves.
“That the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe.” — The promise of life is the promise of eternal life and salvation, of everlasting righteousness and the never ending smile of divine approval. All included in the promise belongs to all who believe.
It is not our believing that fulfilled God’s covenant promise and brought in that blessed righteousness by which we now stand before him in life. The promise is given to all who believe. But the promise was fulfilled and comes to us “by faith of Jesus Christ.” It was Christ to whom the promise was made as our Surety in the everlasting covenant, upon condition of his obedience unto death as our Substitute. And it is Christ who obtained the promise by his faithful fulfillment of his covenant engagements as our Surety (Heb. 10:5-14).
Verse 23 — “But before faith came, we were kept under the law, shut up unto the faith which should afterwards be revealed.” — What faith is Paul talking about here? Whose faith is this? Is it yours? Is it mine? The faith that came by which we were delivered from the curse of God’s holy law, by which we were justified, is “the faith of Jesus Christ” spoken of in verse 22.
It is this, “the faith of Jesus Christ,” that is revealed to us by the gospel. We are shut up to Christ, the faith that is now revealed in the gospel. Our faith in Christ is not revealed to us, it is given to us and worked in us by the mighty operations of God the Holy Spirit (Eph. 1:19-20; 2:8-9; Col. 1:12). It is Christ (“the faith of Christ”) who is revealed.
When God the Holy Spirit comes to chosen, redeemed sinners in the saving power of his omnipotent grace, he convinces them of all that Christ accomplished by his faithful obedience as our Substitute. When he reveals Christ in a person, he convinces him that his sin has been put away by Christ’s atonement, that righteousness has been brought in by Christ’s obedience, and that justice has been satisfied by Christ’s blood (John 16:8-11). And the sinner, being convinced of these things, trusts Christ.
Verse 24 — “Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith.” — Be sure to note that our translators put the words “to bring us” in italicized letters to call our attention to the fact that these words were added by them to make the sentence read more smoothly and that there are no corresponding words in the original language of the text. So verse 24 would be more accurately translated, — “Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster unto (or until) Christ, that we might be justified by faith.”
Everyone in Galatia would have understood exactly what Paul meant by comparing the law to a schoolmaster. A schoolmaster was a servant to whom a man would commit the care and education of his children until they reached maturity. It was his responsibility to teach and protect the children and see to it that they got their education. It was the law’s purpose, like a schoolmaster, to direct God’s elect to Christ and make sure they get to Christ. It was our schoolmaster until Christ came and fulfilled it by his faithful obedience to it and satisfaction of it. Once that was done the schoolmaster’s service ended (Rom. 10:4).
Now that the righteousness of the law has been fulfilled by Christ’s obedience in life as our Representative and the justice of the law has been fulfilled by Christ’s satisfaction of it in his death (Rom. 4:25), we can be and are “justified by faith.” Because justification has been accomplished by Christ in the court of heaven, we can now be justified in the court of our own consciences by faith in Christ.
Faith looks away from self to Christ. Looking to Christ we see our justification fully accomplished in him and we are justified by him. Trusting Christ, we receive complete, final, full justification in him and have peace with God in him “by whom we have now received the atonement” (Rom. 4:25-5:12, 18).
Verse 25 — “But after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster.” — Since faith has come, that is to say, since Christ has come, we are no longer under the law. It was the law’s purpose, like a schoolmaster, to direct God’s elect in the Mosaic age to Christ and make sure they got to Christ. It was the children’s schoolmaster until Christ came and fulfilled it by his faithful obedience to it and satisfaction of it. Once that was done the schoolmaster’s service ended (Rom. 10:4).
Verse 26 — “For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus.” — Obviously, just as it is in the case of justification, our faith in Christ does not cause God to adopt us as his children. That was done in eternal election (Eph.1:3-6). Rather, our faith in Christ is the fruit and evidence of our adoption (Gal. 4:6-7), just as it is the fruit and evidence of our justification. Our faith in Christ is the assurance of our adoption as the children of God. Believing on the Son of God, we stand before God with the confident assurance that we are justified, accepted in Christ, the children of God, “heirs of God and joint-heirs with Christ.”
“The Faith of Christ”
The Scriptures declare that we are “justified by the faith of Jesus Christ.” That means that our justification was totally accomplished by Christ, that it was accomplished outside our experience, altogether without us, by the faith (faithful obedience) of the Lord Jesus Christ as our Substitute. Paul uses this phrase, “the faith of Christ,” seven times in his writings (Rom. 3:22; Gal. 2:16, 20; 3:22; Eph. 3:12; Phil. 3:9).
Every time he speaks of justification accomplished for us, he uses this phrase or its equivalent ― “the faith of Jesus Christ.” We have been conditioned to think of faith only in connection with ourselves. We believe in Christ. We trust the Son of God. “He that believeth on the Son of God hath everlasting life.” When we read in the Book of God about “the faith of Christ” we automatically think, “That must just be an odd way of saying ‘faith in Christ.’”
That is exactly what the vast majority of the commentaries do with this phrase. They tell us the words, “faith of Christ,” really means, “faith in Christ.” These words, “the faith of Christ,” are commonly treated as though they were a mistranslation of the Greek text; but they are not a mistranslation. I have checked everyone of them carefully. Our translation is correct. Yet, almost every modern English translation (those “great improvements” upon the old, archaic King James Version) mistranslates this phrase and makes it read, “faith in Christ.” I do not think that the mistranslations were made accidentally!
We are told by the commentators and led by the modern translations to believe that the phrase is really just an odd way of saying “faith in Christ” and that it really refers to our faith in Christ. Such recklessness in handling the Word of God, be it deliberate or otherwise, completely alters the meaning of Holy Scripture.
When Paul speaks of our faith in Christ and of the faith of Christ as distinct things, the distinction is clear and unmistakable. When he speaks of our faith, it is obvious (Rom. 3:25, 28; 4:5; Gal. 3:26; Col. 1:4). There’s no ambiguity at all. In these, and the dozens of other passages like them, there is no question about whose faith Paul is referring to. He is talking about our faith. And when he draws a distinction between our faith in Christ and the faith of Christ, the distinction is equally obvious (Rom. 3:21-22; Gal. 2:15-16; 3:22; Phil. 3:9).
Paul is not simply declaring our faith in Christ twice in the same sentences, just in different ways. He is not being redundant. Not at all! When he speaks of “the faith of Jesus Christ” he is talking about Christ’s faith. When he speaks of our faith in Christ, he is talking about our faith. Both are vital. We could never be saved by our faith in Christ were it not for the faith of Christ; and we can never be saved by the faith of Christ until we have faith in Christ. Yes, we must have faith in Christ; and our faith in Christ is the result of “the faith of Christ” as our Savior while he was in this world.
“The faith of Jesus Christ” — What exactly does that mean? When the Holy Spirit speaks about “the faith of Jesus Christ,” he is referring to our Savior’s faithful performance of all the Father’s will as our covenant Surety, Substitute, and Redeemer. “The faith of Jesus Christ” refers to our Savior’s fidelity as Jehovah’s righteous Servant. It speaks of his faithful performance, in our place as our Substitute, of all that was necessary for the salvation of God’s elect. “The faith of Jesus Christ” refers to his faithfulness in accomplishing all that which the Father trusted to his hands as our Mediator (Eph. 1:12).
Faith and Faithfulness
When the Word of God speaks about “the faith of Christ,” the word “faith” speaks both of our Savior’s trust in God as the perfect man and of his faithfulness to God as his Servant. It speaks not only of trust, but also of loyalty and fidelity.
We see a clear example of the word faith being used this way in Romans 3:3-4. ― “For what if some did not believe? shall their unbelief make the faith of God without effect? God forbid: yea, let God be true, but every man a liar; as it is written, That thou mightest be justified in thy sayings, and mightest overcome when thou art judged.”
When Paul speaks here of “the faith of God,” it is obvious that he is referring to the truthfulness, veracity, fidelity, and faithfulness of God. In fact, the word commonly translated “faith” in the New Testament is translated “fidelity” in Titus 2:10. There, when Paul exhorted servants to be faithful in all things to their masters, “showing all good fidelity,” the word could be translated, “showing all good faith.” It is in this sense that he uses the phrase “the faith of Jesus Christ.” Our justification was accomplished and eternal redemption was obtained for us by Christ’s faithfulness in doing all that he came here to do for us, according to the will of God (Matt. 1:21; Heb. 10:1-14).
As portrayed in the book of Ruth, the Lord Jesus Christ is our Kinsman Redeemer. As Boaz did for Ruth all that she could not do for herself, what we could not do for ourselves Christ has done for us as our Substitute and Savior, as our Kinsman Redeemer. He took our place before the law of God, assumed total responsibility for us, obeyed the law perfectly, bringing in everlasting righteousness, and died under the penalty of the law, satisfying all its holy demands by his death upon the cursed tree, when he was made to be sin for us.
Redemption, as described in the law and illustrated in the book of Ruth, required two things on the part of the redeemer. First, the redeemer had to be able and willing to redeem. Second, he had to faithfully perform all that was required by the law to buy back the lost inheritance of his needy kinsman.
The one needing redemption was totally dependent upon the faithfulness of the kinsman redeemer for deliverance. Ruth laid herself down at Boaz’s feet, looking to him alone for everything her soul required. And she found all in him. He would not rest until he had performed the thing.
So it was with us. The debt and penalty of our sins was one from which we could not escape. The righteousness required by God’s holy law we could not perform. — “By the works of the law shall no flesh be justified!” None of our works, no matter how well intentioned, no matter how well performed, can propitiate God’s justice and justify us in his sight. We desperately need and must have a Redeemer, One who is able and willing to do everything required by God’s holy law and justice for us. We must have a Redeemer who is able and willing, but more. — We must have a Redeemer who has actually stepped out onto the stage of time and faithfully performed all the work for us. “Behold the Man!” — Here is our mighty Boaz, the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God ― “But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, to redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons” (Gal. 4:4-5). Thanks be to God for “the faith of Jesus Christ” and the redemption, justification and salvation he accomplished by his faithfulness as our Substitute and Surety!
Look at the passages in which Paul uses this tremendous phrase, — “The faith of Jesus Christ,” and rejoice in the glorious good news of the gospel — redemption obtained and justification accomplished by the faithful obedience of Christ as the sinner’s Substitute.
“But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets; 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” (Rom 3:21-22).
“We who are Jews by nature, and not sinners of the Gentiles, 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.” (Gal 2:15-16).
“But the scripture hath concluded all under sin, that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe” (Gal 3:22).
“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” (Phil 3:9).
The “righteousness of God,” justification, the promise of justification unto eternal life, does not come and could never come through something we do. Never! — “Salvation is of the Lord!” It has been accomplished and comes to sinners by “the faith of Jesus Christ” (Eph. 1:11-12; 3:8-12). It costs our Savior dear; but the salvation he gives is a totally free salvation. In him “we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will: That we should be to the praise of his glory, who first trusted in Christ.” The Father trusted his darling Son as our Surety from eternity and he was faithful to that trust.
Truly, the riches of Christ are “unsearchable riches!” By his faithful obedience unto death in our room and stead, every sinner who trusts him has been made completely worthy of God’s everlasting approval in heaven’s eternal glory, and shall have it. Let us give thanks to our great God for such grace by such a Savior (Col. 1:12-14). The life we now have and enjoy in Christ, that eternal life which is God’s free gift to us, comes to us “by the faith of the Son of God” (Gal. 2:19-20).
Does all of this mean that sinners must not be called upon to believe in Christ? Does this mean that “faith in Christ” is unnecessary? Not at all! Our “faith in Christ” is every bit as necessary for our eternal salvation as “the faith of Christ” as our Savior. The Scriptures speak just as often and just as forcefully about our “faith in Christ” as they do of “the faith of Christ” as our Surety and Mediator (Acts 3:16; 24:24; Rom. 3:25; Gal. 3:26; Eph. 1:15; Col. 1:4; 2:5).
We call upon sinners everywhere to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and do so with this word from God Almighty. This is a sure thing. It is a lead pipe synch. — “He that believeth on the Son of God hath everlasting life.” We say to sinners everywhere exactly what Paul said to the Philippian jailor when he came trembling and fell down at the apostle’s feet crying, “What must I do to be saved?” — “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved!”
If you trust Christ, you now live “by the faith of the Son of God” who loved you and gave himself for you. You have redemption, righteousness, justification, and eternal life. You have everything included in that magnificently huge word – “Salvation!” It was all obtained for you by “the faith of Jesus Christ.” Even your faith in him, and mine, were obtained for us by “the faith of Jesus Christ.” No wonder Paul speaks as he does in 1 Corinthians 1:30-31. ― “Of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption: that, according as it is written, He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord.”