“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 (the) faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference.”
(Rom 3:21-22 KJV)
The correct translation of an important phrase, repeated eight times in the Greek New Testament, has long been the subject of debate. It is the phrase, písteos Iesoú, which is rendered “the faith of Jesus” in the King James Version. Many later translations have rendered it as “faith in Jesus,” while a couple of more recent translations render it “the faithfulness of Jesus.” 
Grammatically speaking, it could be rendered in any one of these three ways. The ending of the nouns here are in the genitive case, but in Greek the same ending is used for both the subjective genitive (or genitive of possession) and the objective genitive. If we render it as an objective genitive it would read, “faith in Jesus,” referring to our faith in Jesus. On the other hand, if we render it as a subjective genitive or genitive of possession, as many older translations do, it would refer to Jesus’ faith or “the faith of Jesus.” There is a third possible rendering of the phrase. It could also be rendered as “the faithfulness of Jesus” since there are occasions in which the word pistis, which normally means “faith,” instead carries the idea of “faithfulness.”
However, although the grammatical construction is not determinative, that doesn’t give us the liberty to simply choose which reading we prefer. The Arminians who believe that our salvation is received by our own independent faith prefer the reading “faith in Jesus.” The Calvinists prefer the reading “the faith of Jesus,” whereas the Inclusionists, who deny that faith is even necessary for salvation, prefer the reading “the faithfulness of Jesus.”
Obviously, only one reading is the correct one, and due to the fact that each reading presents salvation as being appropriated in a distinct manner, it is imperative that we determine exactly what was being expressed by the author of the inspired text. Some argue that the correct reading cannot be determined with certainty. However, while it is true that it cannot be determined grammatically, I believe that it can and must be determined based upon the context in which the expression is used and the overall teaching of Scripture concerning the subject of salvation.
In this blog I will briefly examine the three different renderings, arguing from the Scriptures in favor of the rendering, “the faith of Jesus” as found in the older translations such as the Tyndale Bible of 1526 and the King James Version of 1611. While I present my arguments dogmatically as one who is convinced that the truths of Scripture can be known with certainty, I do so with a spirit of Christian charity, knowing that men more devout and learned than I would disagree with me.
1. “The Faithfulness of Jesus”
The rendering of písteos Iesoú as “the faithfulness of Jesus” has gained popularity since the NET Bible was published in 2005 containing this reading. Also N.T. Wright, who greatly influences contemporary thought, favors this reading. Additionally, in 2007 Carlton Pearson authored his book, “The Gospel of Inclusion” which has had a great influence upon the more Liberal and Progressive Universalists and non-Universalist Inclusionists.
The Inclusionists argue that all of mankind has already been saved by the finished work of Christ upon the cross. All are already in Christ and justified – they just don’t know it yet. According to this view, all were saved 2,000 years ago by the faithfulness of Jesus and therefore do not need to repent and believe the gospel in order to be saved.
I confront the errors of this doctrine in my blog, “The Blurring of Biblical Distinctions” so I will not give much attention to it here. Suffice it to say here that, although Christ reconciled all mankind unto Himself by the blood of His cross and all will finally be saved and restored based upon His finished work, throughout the New Testament we see the need to personally repent of our sins and appropriate the righteousness of God in Christ through faith in the gospel in order to be saved (Mark 16:16; Jn 3:16,18; 6:40; 6:29; Acts 16:31; Rom 4:5; 1Cor 1:21, etc.).
The argument for rendering písteos Iesoú as “the faithfulness of Jesus” has a grammatical strong point and also a grammatical weakness. The strong point is that when pístis is used in the New Testament with a personal genitive it is almost always a subjective genitive - “the faith of,” rather than objective, “faith in.” (cf. Matt 9:2,22,29; Mark 2:5; 5:34; 10:52; Luke 5:20; 7:50; 8:25,48; 17:19; 18:42; 22:32; Rom 1:8,12; 3:3; 4:5,12,16; 1 Cor 2:5; 15:14,17; 2 Cor 10:15; Phil 2:17; Col 1:4; 2:5; 1Thess 1:8; 3:2,5,10; 2Thess 1:3; Titus 1:1; Philemon 6; 1Peter 1:9,21; 2Peter 1:5). This however, also favors the reading “the faith of Jesus” which I believe is the correct one.
The weakness is that, while pístis can mean “faithfulness” rather than “faith” it rarely carries that meaning. The King James Version never renders pístis as “faithfulness.” The one instance where it clearly should read “faithfulness” is Romans 3:3 which refers to the “faithfulness of God” (pístin tou theoú). Two other possible instances where “faithfulness” rather than “faith” may be the better rendering are Matthew 23:23 and Galatians 5:22. The remainder of the 243 occurrences of pístis obviously mean “faith” and not “faithfulness” and are rendered as such in all translations.
Also, it is noteworthy that the translators of the LXX, or the Greek translation of the Hebrew Old Testament, rarely ever used pístis to convey the idea of “faithfulness.” Instead they used the word altheía which means “truth,” or subjectively, “truthfulness, integrity of character.”  The idea expressed by our English word “faithfulness” is not so much related to “faith” (pístis) as it is to “trustworthiness or integrity of character” (altheía).
It is true that Jesus was faithful unto death and that His faithfulness is the basis for the salvation of all mankind (Php 2:8-11; Isa 53:7,10-11; Heb 12:2; 1Tim 2:6; 4:10). However, there are at least two instances where the genitive of pístis cannot refer to the faithfulness of Jesus but rather to the faith of Jesus:
“Here is the patience of the saints; here are those who keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus.” (Rev 14:12)
“My brethren, do not hold the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with partiality.” (James 2:1)
Not even the NET translation attempts to force the meaning of “faithfulness” upon pístis in these instances. Therefore, if we are going to be consistent, we should understand pístis as “faith” in these contexts rather than “faithfulness.” It wouldn’t be of any real consequence except that some Inclusionists, ignoring all the passages indicating that faith is necessary for salvation, latch on to this rendering and argue from it that it is His faithfulness that saved us 2,000 years ago and therefore it is not necessary to believe the gospel in order to be saved.
“Faith in Jesus”
As we have already seen, grammatically speaking, písteos Iesoú can either be understood subjectively as “the faith of Jesus” or objectively as “faith in Jesus.” The rendering “faith in Jesus” is the favored rendering of the Arminians since they believe that the sinner has the potential to understand the gospel and independently respond in faith without the need of divine assistance.
I address this issue in more detail in my book: “The Universal Solution” (Presenting Biblical Universalism as the Solution to the Debate between Calvinists and Arminians). I would just like to point out that, until God made us alive through the new birth, we were all spiritually stillborn – dead in our trespasses and sins (Eph 2:1,5). Since we were spiritually dead, Jesus said that unless we are born again, we cannot see the kingdom of God (Jn 3:3). How can one believe that which he cannot even see or perceive? It is not that we were unwilling to see, but rather, being spiritually dead towards God, we could not see and believe until we were born again. All appeals to believe the gospel are vain until we are regenerated and our eyes are opened to see and believe.
The carnal believer may become dull of hearing, but the unregenerate cannot hear because they do not have spiritual ears to hear. That is why Jesus said of the unregenerate: “Why do you not understand My speech? Because you are not able to listen to My word.” (Jn 8:43) Not only were we unable to see prior to being regenerated but we were also not able to listen – not merely unwilling. In a similar manner, we were not simply unwilling to come to Christ, but we were unable to come to Him, as Jesus says:
“No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day. 45 It is written in the prophets, ‘And they shall all be taught by God.’ Therefore everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to Me… 65 And He said, ‘Therefore I have said to you that no one can come to Me unless it has been granted to him by My Father.’” (Jn 6:44-45,65)
Jesus likewise said that those in the world cannot receive the Spirit of truth because they neither see Him nor do they know Him (Jn 14:16-17). It is impossible to respond in faith to that which one does not first perceive nor comprehend. First they must be drawn to Him and the veil removed from their eyes (2Cor 4:3-4, cf. Rom 8:7-8; 1Cor 2:14).
Taking all of this into account, I cannot agree with the Arminians when they say that we independently believe as a personal free-will decision, and then God follows up on our faith by regenerating us. We exercise the faith that is granted to us when the Lord opens our heart for the first time, thereby enabling us to perceive and receive the gospel (Acts 16:14). Perceiving, which is necessary in order to believe and receive Christ, requires regeneration (Jn 3:3). Many have confused the order as set forth in John 1:12,13:
“But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: 13 who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.” (Jn 1:12-13)
Since “receiving” and “believing” are mentioned in the sentence before regeneration, many think that faith chronologically precedes regeneration. However, upon closer examination, we see that regeneration takes place because of God’s will – not because of our faith and receiving. God brings about regeneration as an act of His sovereign will – not in response to a decision of our own will. This is further confirmed by James who says:
“Of his own will he gave birth to us by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of first fruits of his creatures.” (James 1:18 WEBA)
If it was our own free-will act of faith that brought about regeneration, then it would be regeneration by the will of the flesh. We were born of God or regenerated because God first willed it. Those who were chosen in Christ from the foundation of the world to be the firstfruits of His new creation, in the time preordained by God will exercise their God-given faith, believing and receiving Christ.
We see the same sequence in 1John 5:1, where John says: “Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God.” Although the New King James Version conceals it, this verse clearly indicates that regeneration precedes faith. “Is born” is not in present tense as the translators rendered it. It is in the perfect tense and the passive voice. The verb translated “believes” is in the present, active. Therefore, it should read “Whoever is believing that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God.” In other words, if one is believing that Jesus is the Christ, it is because he had already been born again prior to believing.
However, while there may be a logical sense in which regeneration precedes our willing response of faith, I don’t see a discernible separation in time between them. To argue about which came first is comparable to asking what came first in creation - the chicken or the egg. The obvious answer is neither. The chicken was created together with the eggs in one creative act, just as the plants were created already bearing seeds. The same can be said concerning the new creation. We were re-created, with faith being as much a part of the miracle of the new creation as regeneration itself. Faith is just as integral and spontaneous in the new birth process as is the first breath of a new-born coming out of the birth canal.
In Adam all die – we are born separated from God and dead in sin. However, the good news which was proclaimed in the Early Church but was suppressed upon entering the Dark Ages, and even to this day continues to be overlooked both by Calvinists and Arminians, is that, in God’s own time all who die in Adam will be made alive or regenerated through the gift of faith in Christ at the time ordained of the Father, from before the foundation of the world.
“For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive. But each one in his own order…. Now when all things are made subject to Him, then the Son Himself will also be subject to Him who put all things under Him that God may be all in all.” (1Cor 15:22,23a, 28)
Likewise, although Jesus said that no one comes to Him unless the Father effectually draws Him, He also said: “And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me.” (Jn 12:32 KJV)  In the Father’s time each individual will have been divinely visited and effectually drawn unto Christ, becoming reunited in Him, resulting in God being all in all in eternity (1Peter 2:12; Eph 1:10; 1Cor 15:28).
Both our initial faith which appropriates our salvation and the faith that perseveres are granted to us by grace. When Paul said, “what do you have that you did not receive?” no one can truthfully reply saying, “My faith.” (1 Cor 4:7). Paul in Ephesians 2, after saying that we were spiritually dead prior to being made alive by God, goes on to explain that it was all entirely of grace – including the faith we received to receive salvation:
“For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, 9 not of works, lest anyone should boast. 10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.” (Eph 2:8-10)
Those who would boast that their faith is what saved them and produced a life of good works, do not comprehend that the faith that saves and transforms us is not our own. Saving faith is not of ourselves - it is a gift of God. Any subsequent good works are in reality not ours but His, since we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus. He deliberately chooses the foolish, the weak, the base and despised in order that we should be to the praise of the glory of His grace – not so we can boast as to how great our faith is.
Arminians would argue that in Ephesians 2:8 it is salvation which is a gift of God – not faith. However, we see that, grammatically speaking, the pronoun “that” refers back both to salvation and faith. The participle translated “have been saved” is masculine gender and “faith” is a feminine noun, whereas “that” is in the neuter. That would indicate that the declaration “that not of yourselves” is referring back to both the masculine participle “have been saved” and also the feminine noun “faith.” If he was referring exclusively to salvation as the grace-gift of God, without also including “faith,” he would have used the masculine form of “that not of yourselves,” to correspond with the masculine gender of the participle “have been saved,” instead of the neuter. Paul’s selection of the neuter to refer to the gift indicates that he considered both salvation and faith as being part of God’s grace-gift.
Not only is saving faith seen as a gift of God but we also see that persevering faith is also a gift of God’s grace. A literal translation of Philippians 1:29 emphasizes that the grace-gift of faith is ongoing and not simply the faith by which we initially appropriated salvation. The Concordant Literal Version says:
“for to you it is graciously granted, for Christ's sake, not only to be believing on Him, but to be suffering for His sake also.” (Phil 1:29 CLV)
The word translated “graciously granted” is the Greek word charizomai “to give as a grace-gift” and is in the aorist tense. The aorist indicates that the grace-gift of faith was given at a point of time in the past. However, it was given to us not just to initially believe on Him but to continue believing on Him, as we see expressed in the present active infinitive “believing.” Therefore, this verse implies that the faith we have received from God will not fail but will persevere to the end.
“The Faith of Jesus
If saving and persevering faith is not ours but comes from above as a grace-gift from God, then whose faith is it? To me, the answer to this question clarifies that the correct rendering of písteos Iesoú is “the faith of Jesus.” The faith imparted to us at the moment of regeneration is nothing less than the faith of Jesus. Jesus Christ is both the author and finisher of faith:
“looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith….” (Heb 12:2)
“looking to the author and perfecter of faith—Jesus….” (Heb 12:2 Youngs Literal Translation)
We see here that Jesus is the author of faith and also the finisher or perfecter of faith. Some translations add “our.” However, while it is true that Jesus’ faith becomes ours, the author is here emphasizing that genuine faith originates in Christ and finishes in Christ, rather than in us. For that reason, I feel that the addition of “our” by the translators detracts from the emphasis of the passage – that we should look unto Him and not into ourselves if we want faith that saves and perseveres to the finish line. The text actually says, “the faith,” not “our faith.” In the correct rendering of písteos Iesoú we see revealed the fact that “the faith” is the faith of Jesus and not our own (Gal 3:22-25 KJV).
If indeed we have been crucified and raised to new life with Christ, then it is no longer we who live but it is He who lives in us. Our only righteousness is His righteousness in us. Our only wisdom is the mind of Christ within us, and our only faith is the faith of Jesus who now lives in us and imparts His faith to us, just as Galatians 2:12 states in the King James Version and other older translations:
“I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.” (Gal 2:20 KJV)
While the reading “faith in Jesus” would favor the Arminian view which sees salvation as depending upon our faith, it does not harmonize with the passages which clearly indicate that effectual faith is a gift from God and does not originate in us. Making salvation dependent upon our faith, rather than the grace-gift of His own vicarious faith, makes salvation ultimately dependent upon the will of the flesh or the will of man, rather than upon the grace of God.
God has chosen His elect Church, made up of the least likely candidates, in order to be displayed in the coming ages as His workmanship, to the praise of the glory of His grace, in a way that will unequivocally exclude any grounds for boasting on our part (1Cor 1:26-29; Rom 3:27; Eph 2:6,7). Any taint of human merit in His workmanship would detract from the praise of the glory of His grace when we are put on display to the world. I see many of the recent renderings of texts, referring to the faith of Jesus as being our faith in Jesus, to be more based upon modern humanistic influences than upon a sound exegesis of the particular texts, as I believe a brief examination of the texts will show:
“But the scripture hath concluded all under sin, that the promise by (ek – not dia) faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe (those that are believing). 23 But before (the) faith came, we were kept under the law, shut up unto the faith which should afterwards be revealed. 24 Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith. 25 But after that (the) faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster.” (Gal 3:22-25 KJV)
“But the scripture locks up all together under sin, that the promise out of Jesus Christ's faith may be given to those who are believing.” (Gal 3:22 Concordant Literal Version)
While many modern translations have changed “the faith of Jesus” making it read instead “faith in Jesus,” we see that a literal rendering of this verse militates against their interpretive rendering of the text. The promise, which comes out of the faith of Jesus as to its source (ek), is given to those who are believing. In other words, if you are a believer and an heir of the promise, it is because the faith of Jesus has been given to you. If you are living by faith it is not really yours but that of Christ who is now your life, and the life we are now living in the flesh is by His faith – the flesh in and of itself profits nothing.
However, according to the New King James Version and many other modern versions, it reads: “But the Scripture has confined all under sin that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe.” By mistranslating the Greek preposition ek as “by,” instead of “out of,” and making it read “faith in Jesus” instead of “faith of Jesus,” they make salvation seem as though it ultimately depended upon man, rather than the grace of God and for His glory.
That the faith in view is Christ’s faith and not man’s, is even more evident in the context. In verses 23 and 25, it speaks of the time before Christ and after Christ as “before the faith came” and “after the faith came.” In what sense can we say that faith didn’t come until Christ? Hebrews 11 contains a long list of Old Testament saints who exercised faith before Christ. Obviously “the faith” referred to in the New Covenant is not our faith but the faith of Jesus Christ which comes to all and upon all who believe, as we see in the literal rendering of Romans 3:22:
“Even the righteousness of God which is by (dia) faith of Jesus Christ unto (eis) all and upon (epi) all them that believe (that are believing): for there is no difference.” (Rom 3:22 KJV)
“even the righteousness of God through the faith of Jesus Christ, toward all and upon all those who believe. For there is no difference.” (Rom 3:22 MKJV)
Believe me, if you are believing in a saving persevering way, it is through the faith of Jesus Christ imparted to you by His grace. It is His faith which is in you and upon you. You did not receive the righteousness of God because of your faith in Jesus which you had in and of yourself and exercised as an independent act of your own will, as some modern versions would have us believe, but on the contrary, it was granted to us to believe (Phil 1:29).
 (Rom 3:22; Gal 2:16; 2:20; 3:22; Eph 3:12; Php 3:9; Jas 2:1; Rev 14:12).
 Complete Jewish Bible, 1998, and The New English Translation (NET), 2005.
 Abbott-Smith Manual Greek Lexicon of the New Testament.
 The Word “draw” in both John 6:44 and here is the Greek word helkô, which expresses something much stronger that a simple attraction. Strong’s Dictionary defines it: “drag (literally or figuratively).” It appears eight times in the New Testament and in each case, it expresses the idea of being drawn by a force greater than the resistance of the one being drawn.