The apostle Paul is known for his ability with the ancient Greek language used in the New Testament. He would create words and phrases that were full of meaning and hijack other words, such as the Greek word for Gospel, and use the for Christ’s glory. It is because of the heavy meaning found in many of Paul’s phrases that we have to intently divide the scriptures to find the truest meanings. Paul’s words and phrases have to be looked at individually, like the building blocks of Lego set. We see the finished product (a passage of scripture) but to fully appreciate the model we have to take into account each building block. This is no different for the unique Pauline phrase, “faith of Jesus Christ.”
Typically seen solely by some as a translation issue, in each of the three passages where this phrase is found (Rom. 3:22, Gal. 2:16, and 3:22), Paul is talking about salvation. So, the question of interpretation basically comes down as to whether Paul is implying we are saved by the faithfulness of Jesus Christ or are we saved by faith in Jesus Christ. Also, can this phrase be full of both interpretations.?
Once we answer what both interpretations entail, then it becomes easier to see that Paul very well could of intended both. This would make the phrase very rich theologically. A double entrende of sorts or even the two sides of the same coin. Salvation comes as a paradox, solely through the faithfulness of Christ, but also, to those who come to the faith in Jesus Christ.
We can be sure that Paul wanted people to know that we are saved or justified by no work of our own. For example, in the same books these phrases are found in, Paul wrote, “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Rom. 6:23) and “I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain” (Gal. 2:21). Salvation is something only God can do to us.
In the great book of Romans, it seems that Paul is trying to show the people that Jesus is the fulfillment of God’s covenant promises. This is seen in the phrase, “righteousness of God” which is also found in the same verse we find “faith of Jesus Christ.” The word, “righteousness” is also connected with faithfulness in the Old Testament when describing God’s covenant faithfulness. In this line of thought, Romans 3:22, Galatians 1:16, and 3:22 flows extremely well. We were condemned by the law but Christ fulfilled the requirements of the law on our behalf. That is grace and we are saved by that grace alone.
Still, the second interpretation also matches well with this phrase. Yes, we are saved by the work of Christ alone but God calls us to place faith in His Son in order to receive. Romans 1:16-17, speaking of the righteousness of God and salvation is “to every one that beleiveth.” Galatians 1:16 stated that we are justified “by the faith of Jesus Christ” but also stated it is to those who “have believed in Jesus Christ.” Paul further wrote in Galatians 3:22 and 3:26 that we receive this gift of salvation through belief or faith in Jesus Christ. It is not a stretch to say that we see a beautiful salvation in this way. Given to us as a gift through His son’s faithfulness to the covenant and received by faith in Jesus.
The position I take is Paul is referring to both. Even if Paul did not have the intention, we know the Holy Spirt via the verbal plenary inspiration of Scriptures could saturate the phrase. It also seems by taking both positions we can bridge the chasm of God’s part and our reaction to his salvation. In doing so, helping us gain a better understanding of our Redemption.