Faith of Jesus
September 2, 2019

In Romans 3:21-22, Paul writes, "But now apart from the Law the righteousness of God has been manifested, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe."

Paul has already mentioned the righteousness of God. It's His royal justice, which is declared in the goods new about Jesus' resurrection and installation as king (see here and here). Through Jesus, the God of Israel has shown His credentials as King of the cosmos.

Now Paul tells us that this righteousness comes through the pistis tou Iesou Christou, "the faith of Jesus Christ."

This has been one of the most hotly debated phrases in Pauline studies for a couple of decades. Traditionally, the genitive has been taken as an "objective" genitive: "Jesus Christ" is the object of the phrase. Righteousness comes through our faith in Jesus Christ.

Richard Hays argued that the phrase is a "subjective" genitive: Jesus is the one who exercises or manifests faith. Righteousness comes through Jesus' own faith or faithfulness.

As N.T. Wright has argued, the context pushes toward the latter understanding. Romans 3:21-22 reaches back to verses 2-3, where Paul says that the Jews "were entrusted with the oracles of God. What then? If some did not believe, their apistis will not nullify the pistis of God, will it?"

The oracles of God were given to the Jews "in trust." They were entrusted with God's own words, which they were to communicate to the Gentiles, so that the Gentiles would worship and obey the God of Israel. Paul has already charged that Israel failed to do that (see here). Instead of promoting worship, the Jews sowed blasphemy among the nations.

The Jews' apistis isn't a failure to believe things about Yahweh. It's not exactly their failure to trust Him. It's their failure to carry out the mission entrusted to them. They received the oracles of God in trust, but they proved untrustworthy.

Paul's point at the beginning of chapter 3 is that God isn't stymied by Israel's apistis. He is pistis, faithful to His promises to Abraham and His intentions for the nations, regardless of whether Israel is faithful or not. He is true, though every many a liar. He will bless the nations, and He will bless them through the Jews. And by doing that, He will demonstrate His royal justice.

That is the issue when we get to verses 22-23. The law didn't enable the Jews to fulfill their mission. As Paul says later in Romans, the law turned against Israel, and became a source of curse instead of blessing. But what the law couldn't do, God did: He carried out Israel's mission, not through the Jews but through His Son, who is also son of David. Jesus revealed and brought in the royal justice of God by being pistis when Israel was apistis.

Hence pistis tou Iesou Christou means "Jesus Christ's faithfulness in carrying out the mission of the Jews. Jesus' own trustworthiness in fulfilling the task entrusted to Him."

In the last part of Romans 3, Paul isn't talking about "redemption applied" but "redemption accomplished" - how God demonstrated His righteousness in history, in the faithful obedience of His Son.

This doesn't at all rule out a role for a human response of pistis. Paul ends verse 22 using the verb pisteuo. To the pistis of Jesus, the only proper response is pistis.

But the fact that pisteuo is a response to Jesus' pistis shapes what pisteuo means. It's not belief; it includes trust; but, as Matthew Bates has shown, in the royal context of the gospel, pistis means loyalty or allegiance to the king.

Jesus has been loyal to His Father, even to death on a cross; when we hear that message of Jesus' loyalty, it calls us to a response of loyalty. Thus the righteousness of God is manifested through the pistis of Jesus to all those who respond with pistis.

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