Yesterday I wrote a post about Paul’s use of the phrase ek pisteos Iesou Christou in Romans and how that phrase has been appropriated, incorrectly in my view, for the doctrine of justification. You can read it here.
We’re justified not by our faith IN Christ but by the faith OF Christ, is Paul’s argument I argued.
As anticipated, I received a flood of panties-in-a-twist emails from evangelicals excoriating me for playing fast and loose with their core doctrine.
One of the responses, from a friend, essentially asked:
What difference does it make, IN or OF? Isn’t it just semantics?
I could answer that question a number of ways, many of them theological. After all, how one chooses to translate ek pisteos Iesou Christou does lead to different even divergent conclusions. It’s a little like a circuit. You can’t reverse the wires and expect to have the same result.
But that’s for another post or another day because right now the phrase ek pisteos Iesou Christou registers for me not on a theological level.
For me, the phrase ek pisteos Iesou Christou is personal.
Someone I care about very much is right now in a bad way.
You know the sort- where you’re overwhelmed, don’t know what to do, how to help and can’t find the remedy (or end) in sight.
The sort where you’re left with those persistent, security-blanket questions like:
Where the hell are you God?
Are you napping on the job or what?’
The sort where your faith in Christ feels as porous as sand and your doubts and unbelief feel like the Nothingness that comes creeping over everything in The Never-Ending Story.
So that’s why I think how we translate Paul’s phrase ek pisteos Iesou Christou can make all the difference in the world.
I don’t insist you agree with me, but, for me, saying our standing, our justification, before God depends on our faith IN Christ is not good news. Not at all. Not today.
Because, let’s be honest, even on our best days our faith IN Christ is as fragile as a house of cards.
No, the good news has to be better than that. It has to be big enough to withstand the waves of doubt and despair that threaten to knock us down and undo us.
Whoever we are in God’s eyes, whatever righteousness we possess, however we’re justified and saved has to depend on a faith stronger than the one I can muster on most days.
Especially the dark ones.
It has to depend on the faith OF Jesus Christ, the one who felt what we feel in Gethsemane but who nonetheless got up from the Garden and kept the faith when there’s no chance in hell we would have.