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What is the difference between 'faith in Christ' (Col 1:4), the 'faithfulness of Christ' (Gal 2:16), and 'faith of Christ' (Gal 3:22)?


Colossians 1:4

ESV - 4 Since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love that you have for all the saints.

Clarify Share Report Asked July 29 2016 Mini Anonymous

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Closeup Jennifer Rothnie Supporter Housewife, Artist, Perpetually Curious
The terms 'faith in Christ', 'faith of Christ', and 'the faithfulness of Christ' are three different English translation variants used for 'pistis Christos', some translators opting for one over the others based on context.

'Faith in Christ', and 'Faith of Christ' both mean the same thing, but with slightly different emphasis. 'Faith in Christ' emphasizes our response to Christ; that we have put our faith in and are abiding in faith with Christ. 'Faith of Chriist' emphasizes Christ; that Christ is the object of our faith. [It's actually an archaic way of saying 'faith in Christ' and mainly found in the KJV translation.] 

Often Bible translations use these interchangeably or pick one over the other which fits with the ambiguity of the Greek. It doesn't change the meaning of a verse, since both Christ as the object of our faith, and our response to Christ in faith, are contained in both terms. Context usually makes clear whether the main focus in a verse is on Christ, on our response to Christ, or both in equal measure.

'The faithfulness of Christ' actually does mean something different. It refers to Jesus being obedient to God; humbling Himself and taking the form of a man and being obedient unto death. (Phil 2:8)

These terms are often used in tandem with each other, for without the faith of Christ we would not have Christ to place our faith in! 


In Col 1:4, Paul commends the Colossians for their faith in Christ, for news of it has spread as they bore fruit in the gospel; they were Christians who have a living and active faith.

In Gal 2:26, we see that we become sons of God "through faith in Christ Jesus". This shows the important, inescapable fact that salvation can only come through faith in Christ (John 1:12, Rom 5:2, Eph 2:8). By using the term 'faith in Christ' here, scripture emphasizes that no one can believe in our staid (Rom 9:3, Gal 6:5), but that faith must be our response to the gospel. (Rom 6:10-17).

I Tim 3:13 shows one way how service can increase boldness of faith in Christ Jesus, making a person a better witness to Christ. II Tim 3:15 shows how scripture can give us wisdom about the Salvation that comes through faith in Christ.

These, and other passages, show how salvation comes through faith as well as how faith remains the foundation of our relationship with Christ as we continue by the Spirit and bear fruit.

Other passages highlight not our response, but Christ as the object of our faith.

"I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ lives in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me." Gal 2:20

While Paul is speaking of his new life in Christ, here he focuses on Christ, and how his new life flows from Christ.

'The faithfulness of Christ' is perhaps the most difficult phrase of the three, as it does not mean the same thing as the other two phrases, yet is often used as a translation variant despite no difference in the wording of the Greek. Translators have to examine where context makes 'the faithfulness of Christ' a more likely reading,

Gal 2:16 is one of those verses where context leans towards 'faithfulness of Christ' in one part:

"Yet we know that a person is not justified by doing what the Law requires, but rather by faith in Jesus the Messiah. We, too, have believed in the Messiah Jesus so that we might be justified by the faithfulness of the Messiah..."

Since the verse is already mentions faith in Jesus, then it would make sense for the next repetition to expand on that, not just repeat it. Also, 'we believe in Jesus that we might be justified by believing in Jesus' wouldn't make much sense as a sentence. So, the variant reading 'faithfulness of Christ' expands on the theme of faith beautifully by pointing out we are justified by faith (the cause) because God imputes the faithfulness of Christ, what He did, to our account (the means)

July 29 2016 2 responses Vote Up Share Report

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