Without question, the subjective vs. objective genitive debate over the phrase, “the faith of Jesus (Christ)” has been the hardest concept within Romans for me to wrap my head around thus far. I honestly struggle with the fact that anything that we do can have any kind of impact AT ALL on God’s righteousness. (Like He needs us to “be” how He is and always has been and always will be.) However, that said, obviously the study is important even though it has been equally as interesting as it has been frustrating!…
First, it is important to note than when considering the different options for the phrase in Romans 3:21-26, the discovery and decision will both have a direct impact on and be directly impacted by the phrase “the righteousness of God” found in 1:16. According to the lecture it will “determine the means of disclosure of the righteousness of God,” and further, determine the means whereby God presents Jesus as the sacrifice of atonement as well as determine the identity of those who are considered to be justified as a result of the demonstration of God’s righteousness; i.e. who is the center of activity in befitting the benefits that come as a result of the righteousness of God? Is it the believer who models faith inJesus as God’s mechanism of salvation? Or, is it Jesus, who demonstrates obedient faithfulness by giving Himself over to die?
Pistis Christou as an objective genitive means “faith in [Jesus] Christ,” while Pistis Christou as a subjective genitive means “the faithfulness of [Jesus] Christ.” The entire passage of 3:21-26 hinges on this distinction. Just like the word “of” was ambiguous in the phrase “the righteousness ofGod,” so too is there ambiguity surrounding “the faith of/in Jesus.” Is Jesus the subject of the object of the phrase? If the former, then the faith is that which Christ himself displayed through his own loyalty and obedience in dying on the cross. If the latter, then the faith is that which believers put inChrist (the most typical understanding of the phrase). Again, the distinction is important. Both interpretations have vastly different trajectories in terms of the understanding of how salvation occurs.
In theoretical terms, the two are not mutually exclusive; that is, even if Jesus is the subject of the faith in the passage, then it is still God and what He has accomplished towards the end goal of salvation through Jesus as the object of believer’s belief. Alternately, if Jesus is the object of the phrase, it does not negate Jesus’ obedience in being crucified. There is nothing happening here which can happen without Jesus, regardless of anything we are a part of, whether that be in action or in belief.
Rather, in both versions, the action of God is fundamental. The difference, however, is whether the gift of salvation is apportioned in response to the human trust or in response to Jesus and His true faithfulness. Moreover, it is a question of how God understands the transaction to occur; neither necessarily expels Jesus from the keystone of divine activity because again, no Jesus, no salvation, no anything. So I repeat: it is not our actions or understandings that have a bearing on God’s righteousness or Jesus’ faithfulness – it is God’s.
That said, with regard to verses 3:21-22, it is the “through” phrases which bring the Christological focus of the gospel of God (1:2-4) into a clearer light. God’s righteousness is made manifest throughputting faith in [Jesus] Christ – meaning, allwho believe. This requires that “all” believers then, participate in the faithful action of Jesus and in so doing, enter into a fused relationship whereby the believer’s identity is wholly found in Christ. While participation from believers is part of the responsibility (works?) associated with the manifestation of God’s righteousness, God is righteous nonetheless.
As crystal clear as this study is (whew), I tend to land right back where I started. “The faithfulness of Jesus” cannot be disputed. Jesus absolutely was faithful in His every act, in His very being (faithfulness of), and we (believers) absolutely put faith in Him – in His loyalty and faithfulness.
Perhaps it is our relationship with Jesus that is more paramount for being non-mutually exclusive than two little words. The relationship is ineffable.