Faith/Faithfulness, the Entry to God’s Justice (Romans 3:27–31)Bible Commentary / Produced by TOW Project
In the previous section we looked at Romans 3:22–26 and highlighted the righteousness/justice that God gives us in salvation. Now let us look again at the passage to highlight the role of faith.
The righteousness of God has been disclosed, and is attested by the law and the prophets, the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction, since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God; they are now justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a sacrifice of atonement by his blood, effective through faith. He did this to show his righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over the sins previously committed; it was to prove at the present time that he himself is righteous and that he justifies the one who has faith in Jesus. (Rom. 3:21–26; emphasis added)
Clearly, God’s gift of righteousness/justice is intimately tied up in faith and belief. This brings us to one of the most famous themes in Romans, the role of faith in salvation. In many ways, the Protestant Reformation was founded on paying attention to this and similar passages in Romans, and their importance remains central to Christians of virtually every kind today. While there are many ways of describing it, the central idea is that people are restored to a right relationship with God by faith.
The Greek root-word pistis is translated as “faith” (or sometimes “believe,” as in one instance above), but also as “faithfulness” as in Romans 3:3. The English language distinguishes between faith (mental assent, trust, or commitment) and faithfulness (actions consistent with one’s faith). But in Greek there is only the single word pistis for both faith and faithfulness. There is no separating what a person believes from the evidence of that belief in the person’s actions. If you have faith, you will act in faithfulness. Given that in most workplaces our faithfulness (what we do) will be more directly evident than our faith (what we believe), the relationship between these two aspects of pistis takes on a particular significance for work.
Paul speaks of “the pistis of Jesus” twice here, in Romans 3:22 and 3:26. If translated literally, the Greek says “pistis of Jesus,” not “pistis in Jesus.” The literal wording of Romans 3:22 is thus that we are saved by Jesus’ faithfulness to God (the pistis of Jesus). In other passages, pistis clearly refers to our faith in Jesus, such as Romans 10:9, “If you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” In truth, our faith in Jesus cannot be separated from Jesus’ faithfulness to God. Our faith in Jesus comes about because of Jesus’ faithfulness to God on the cross, and we respond by living faithfully to him and placing our trust in him. Remembering that our salvation flows from Jesus’ faithfulness, not merely our state of belief, keeps us from turning the possession of faith into a new form of works-righteousness, as if our act of saying “I believe in Jesus” is what brings us salvation.
The full meaning of faith/faithfulness in Paul’s writing has two important implications for work. First of all, it puts to rest any fear that by taking our work seriously we might waver in recognizing that salvation comes solely by God’s gift of faith. When we remember that Christ’s faithfulness on the cross has already accomplished the work of salvation, and that our faith in Christ comes solely by God’s grace, then we recognize that our faithfulness to God in our work is simply a response to God’s grace. We are faithful in our work because God has given us faith as a free gift.
Second, the faithfulness of Christ impels us to become more and more faithful ourselves. Again, this is not because we think that our faithful actions earn us salvation, but because having been given faith in Christ, we earnestly desire to become more like him. Paul speaks of this as the “obedience of faith” (Rom. 1:5, 26). Without faith, it is impossible to be obedient to God. But if God gives us faith, then we can respond in obedience. In fact, much of the latter half of Romans is devoted to showing us how to be more obedient to God as a result of the grace God has given us through faith.