IF YOU’RE NORMAL, you are going to hate this Bible Question of the Week.
Not that you are absolutely abnormal if you like the question. Or that my friend who is asking the question – Wayne Sacchi – is 10 degrees shy of a snowflake.
It’s just that your average human soul would not ask a question like this unless they felt an urgent need for sedation.
As in, “Quick, I’m about to have an emergency appendectomy on the side of the road.”
What I find difficult to understand is why other human souls have exactly the opposite reaction. They find the question stimulating.
Here’s the question.
According to Paul are we justified by “faith in Christ” or by “the faithfulness of Christ”?
Wayne gives examples of two competing translations of the same Bible verse.
- Our faith: “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 5:1 NIV).
- Christ’s faithfulness, too: “Therefore, since we have been made righteous through his faithfulness combined with our faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 5:1 CEB).
Wayne says, “I find the Common English Bible rendering more of an interpretation than a translation. I know Christ was faithful too, but I find this rendering strange to my Protestant ears. What do you think?”
Well, here’s what I think: With the world going to hell in a hand basket, why do theologians spend their time thinking about stuff like this?
To which a theologian would probably answer: The fact that the world is going to hell in a hand basket is why we spend our time thinking about stuff like this.
To which I would say: Spoken like a theologian. (It’s my article, I get the last word.)
Some Bible experts reading Paul’s words in the original Greek language say they see enough subtleties in the tense he used and in the phrasing of his words to justify the translation of the Common English Bible – that we need to include the faithfulness of Christ.
But most seem to say Paul was talking about the leap of faith we take when we trust in Jesus, much like the leap of faith Abraham took when he raised the knife to sacrifice his son – a lethal action God stopped at the last second.
So most scholars would say we are saved by our faith in Christ.
But what do we have faith in if it’s not in the faithfulness of Christ?
Here is how Paul described Abraham’s faith a few lines earlier in his letter: “He never doubted that God would keep his promise” (Romans 4:20).
That seems to me to say Abraham had faith in God’s faithfulness.
My Protestant ears are okay with that.
Frankly, I thought I would be feeling drowsy by now. But I’m feeling a little perked up.
I don’t think I’m feeling juiced because of my faith. I think it’s because I’m grateful for the faithfulness of God and his Son.
Or it could be that two-week-old unpasteurized cider I finished off at lunchtime.
Nah. It had just a pleasantly light zing to it.