We know that a man is not justified by doing the works of the law, for we can never do them all perfectly. How is a man justified? Paul says, “By the faith of Jesus Christ” (Galatians 2:16), but surely that is a misprint for it says, “the faith of Jesus Christ”, and certainly it should say, “faith in Jesus Christ”. Actually, if we read on, we find that Paul makes a distinction:
“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.” (Galatians 2:16)
Paul makes a distinction between the faith of Jesus Christ and faith in Jesus Christ. In Greek, which is the language that the New Testament was written in, there is no phrase for “of”, but there is a phrase for “in”. When you look at this text in Greek, the assumptions must be made for the usage of the word “of”, but there is a distinct Greek word “eis”, meaning “in or into”. It is the same phrase that Jesus used when He told the woman with the issue of blood to “go into peace” (Mark 5:34). Because the text shows where to place the English word “in”, the translators had to assume that in the other places it should be another word.
We take the authority away from this verse when we begin changing the words to suit our modern vernacular. Paul states that we are justified by the faith “of” Jesus Christ and then furthers it by stating that we have placed our faith “in” Jesus Christ. What Jesus did in sacrificing His life on the cross and taking His own blood to the Father in heaven was faith of the highest form. He believed that His sacrifice would be sufficient and He also believed that His Father would be so pleased with this sacrifice that He would raise His Son from the dead, which He did. Christ’s faithfulness is what causes all of us to be justified.
That certainly cannot stand alone, for we need to meet His faith with our faith in His finished work. Paul makes it clear in this verse that our believing in Jesus Christ is what makes us justified “by the faith of Christ”. Christ can have a mountain of faith but if I do not meet Him with my faith, I leave without His justification.
Paul said it this way in Romans, “Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 5:1). It is our faith that brought the justification but it was Jesus’ faithfulness to the cross and its atoning work that brings us peace with God. In other words, without the faithfulness of Jesus, our faith means nothing.
Further, we do not continue to remain righteous based upon the volume or quantity of our faith on a day to day basis. Paul says that the life which we now live in the flesh we “live by the faith of the Son of God” (Galatians 2:20). I live this life, not due to my own faithfulness but due to His faithfulness. It is His faith that never waivers, while mine may shift from time to time. Thank God that Jesus is faithful!