Paul wrote to the Galatians:
We ourselves are Jews by birth and not Gentile sinners; yet we know that a person is justified not by the works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ.*
(From the Daily Office Lectionary – Galatians 2:15-16 – June 6, 2012)
Do you see that little asterisk at the end of the quoted scripture? It’s there because a footnote in the Bible tells us that “faith in Jesus Christ” is only one possible interpretation of the original koine Greek. The alternative is “the faith of Jesus Christ.” Change a preposition and you change the entire sense of the sentence! “In” or “of”? Are we saved by our faith in Jesus? Or by Jesus’ faith in his Father? I’m going to suggest that it is the latter. The faith of Jesus, the confidence he had in the God he trusted in, the commitment he made to his mission, the fidelity he had to the values he taught. That is what saves us, not anything we do, say, or believe. Salvation is a matter of grace, the unwarranted, unmerited, unearnable grace of God. ~ The reason this debate exists, by the way, is that the preposition is not even there in Greek. Rather, in Greek the ending of the noun gives an indication of meaning. In the Greek of this text we find something called the “genitive” case. It is unclear whether Paul intended the “genitive subjective” (which would support the “of” understanding) or the “genitive objective” (which leads to the “in” translation). Although the objective understanding has prevailed for centuries, a lot of modern scholars are arguing that we might better understand Paul’s meaning with the subjective interpretation. I think they have a point. ~ It is not our faith in Jesus which justifies us, but the faithfulness of Jesus Christ to his mission and to his God. What is most important about this is the implication it has for us. Faith is a gift; we are saved through faith by grace and not by any work of our own. Salvation is not from the human act of believing but from the divine act of Jesus’ obedience. Thus, our human faith is not a prerequisite for salvation but is our appropriate response to the blessing given through the faithfulness of Christ. ~ “We know that a person is justified not by the works of the law but through the faith of Jesus Christ.” Of not in!