Gal. 2:20 has long been a favorite verse for many, but truly understanding its importance has left many outside the reality.
The main emphasis on the concept of faith during the past 50 years has been on the necessity of one’s exercise. “You gotta have faith!” “Be it unto you according to your faith.” (Matt. 9:29)
This has brought much condemnation to the Body of Christ because of the emphasis on the person’s level of faith. If they have “tried to believe” for healing, for instance, and it doesn’t happen, then it is because they didn’t have enough faith.
This carried over into one of the most despicable aspects of the Charismatic Movement, especially in the Word of Faith camp. If the man of God prayed for you and you were healed, it was because of “God’s man of faith and power for the hour.” But, if you did not receive a healing when prayed for, it was because YOU did not have enough faith. That is a total and complete line of nonsense which results in condemnation.
This hypocrisy denies the reality of the source of our faith—JESUS CHRIST. To make my effort at believing to be the source of ‘results’ is to place me at the level of being supreme commander of my life.
This is not possible with a cruciform theology, where everything is centered and flows from the cross of Jesus. There is nothing man-centered in this view.
If that is true (and it is), then even our faith must be considered from a different perspective. As Steve McVey said, “It is the faith OF Christ, not IN, which is necessary for a solid cruciform theology.” This distinction between “of” and “in” is of more importance than most can realize. Yes, they are each a two-letter preposition, but the impact is monumental.
Again, let’s consider how the Bible presents this idea.
- [Gal 2:20 ESV] I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
I underlined the word ‘in’ twice, though it is used three times in the verse. The first two times the word is used in our English translation, there is a corresponding prepositional word in the Greek text. In the third instance there is not such a correspondence.
It is necessary to note that ALL translations are interpretations of the original language text. These interpretations are affected by the bias of the translators. A word-for-word literal translation would be so ‘wooden’ that it would be nearly unreadable for the average high-school graduate.
Thankfully, we have modern tools at our disposal which enable us to see past any particular bias if we are willing to do the work.
The third use of ‘in’ with “in the Son of God” is an example of bias affecting translation. The bias here is that of thinking that the faith necessary is something that we must do. Most of evangelical Christendom has now gone in this direction.
However, there is no corresponding preposition in the phrase from the original Greek text, although a preposition is necessary to make sense of the three words “faith, Son, God.” Those three words, if left to stand alone as they are in the original, would make no sense.
Each of those words are in the genitive case, which gives rise to an interpretation that can be translated into another language. The genitive case in the Greek language has two basic meanings—either possession or source. Our English language only uses the possessive case, as in “John’s book”, which would translate the “book of John” if there were only the two words in the genitive case. “Of” is added because of the genitive usage.
The so-called ‘literal’ translation, then, would be “the faith of the Son of God,” which is how the King James Version and a few more have it. Most of the modern translations (ESV, NIV, NASB, CEV, etc) have taken the route of using ‘in.’
The difference is monumental! Using “IN” indicates that it is by my effort to believe, whereas using the word “OF” puts the whole thing on Christ, the Son of God.
Some may think that this is a stretch, that I am making this up to suit my own bias. That would be a legitimate charge, except for more plain language from Paul.
“…for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.” (Phl 2:13)
He states that our ability to do anything is the result of God’s working in us. Jesus said the same thing as recorded in John 15:5—I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.
Paul let us know that it is all a gift of God—our salvation, the faith for salvation, grace—in another place. “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God,” (Eph 2:8)
There is one verse which puts both the faithfulness of Jesus and our faith together as a synchronous work.
“…yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified.” (Gal 2:16)
This verse brings both the objective aspect and the subjective experience into a single place. And the KJV gets it right, showing again that our effort is encased within the faithfulness of Jesus.
[Gal 2:16 KJV] 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.
Our justification before God is a ‘done deal,’ because of Jesus, and we can enjoy the benefits of this justification when we exercise the gift of faith that He has given us.