Thoughts on Romans 3 – the faith of Jesus

In Ch. 1 and 2 Paul establishes that the general condition of mankind – both Jews and Gentiles – is pretty bleak. There is a horrible sin problem in both camps (we have seen earlier that the language of the Bible is not all-inclusive). He then concludes:

Rom 3:19 Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law [i.e. Jews], so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God. 20 For no human being will be justified in his sight by works of the law, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.

The term used for “world” is the Greek ?????? (kosmos) referring to people (Jn. 3:16), not the whole of creation – in the above verses it particulary refers to the Jewish people who are guilty because of breaking the law of God.

If you doubt it, let us read it again:

“the law says it speaks to those who are under the law


every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God


no human being will be justified in his sight by works of the law”

Gentiles never had the law Paul talks about.

The reference is clearly to those Jews who while trying to become justified by keeping the law of God were guilty of breaking it. Paul then continues:

Rom 3:21 But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from law, although the law and the prophets bear witness to it, 22 the righteousness of God through faith IN Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction; 23 since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 they are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as an expiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins; 26 it was to prove at the present time that he himself is righteous and that he justifies him who has faith IN Jesus.

First of all, there was righteousness before the laws of Moses were given, so righteousness doesn’t come because one keeps the laws. However, the one who is righteous WILL keep the laws – because he is righteous and not that he may become righteous through keeping them.

The NRSV footnote says the following on v. 22:

“through the faith OF Jesus Christ”;

and on v. 26:

“who has the faith OF Jesus”.

If you can accept this translation (which is more consistent than translating it as “in” – why translate it as “in” when other times it is translated as “of”: the same construct is used when referring to the faith OF Abraham), then Paul’s message is really simple. We need to have the faith OF Jesus. What was the faith OF Jesus? Paul explains in the chapter that follows:

Rom 4:16 That is why it depends on faith, in order that the promise may rest on grace and be guaranteed to all his descendants — not only to the adherents of the law but also to those who SHARE THE FAITH OF ABRAHAM, for he is the father of us all

You see, we all need to have the faith OF Abraham in order to inherit the promise. His faith is the very faith Jesus himself also had: that God promised the land to Abraham’s descendants, and that in his seed all families of the earth shall be blessed.

If we translate the given term in the above-mentioned passages as “faith IN Jesus”, then Jesus is the object of faith, and our faith has no relevance to Abraham’s. However, if we translate it as “faith OF Jesus”, then he is set up as an example to be followed by all who call him Lord.

1John 2:6 he who says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.

This passage clearly supports the latter (OF) translation.


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