Chapter Twenty-Six: John 3:16
What About Paul's Use of Pistis & Pisteuo?
As mentioned above, to understand John 3:16, the Master and Sole Teacher has the privilege of interpreting His own words. We looked at the context of John 3:16. We looked at the context of other lessons of Jesus. We looked at inspired prophets like John the Baptist. We looked at the words of Apostle John — the writer of John 3:16 — who injected his own thoughts in John 12:42. There we saw Apostle John discusses the rulers who had pisteuo but contrary to that pistis later refuse to confess Jesus. The evidence repeatedly proves John 3:16 should have been translated as “obey unto Him” (Jesus). The verse gives no support that mere belief alone saves or mere belief is all there is to salvation.
The Problem Of Paul
There is no secret here what is the problem weighing against us from changing our perceptions to Jesus’ intentions. Many impose their views of Paul’s doctrines upon Jesus’ words. They translate Jesus to most closely follow the doctrines they perceive Paul is teaching.
However, we are not free to invert the relationship between Jesus and Paul so that Paul becomes the Master used to undermine the words and clear meanings of Jesus.
As Kierkegaard pointed out in 1855 in his work My Task: “It is of great importance, especially in Protestantism, to straighten out...[the] inverting [of] the relationship, and in effect criticizing Christ by Paul, the Master by the disciple.”26
Nevertheless, we will now demonstrate that Paul clearly often intends pistis to mean a faithfulness which is destroyed by disobedience, unto damnation of even Christians.
We will also see that Paul sometimes means by pistis a faithfulness in the ‘Old Testament’ sense of faithful (obedient) living.
We will also see that Paul often teaches that justification is by obedience or faithfulness, not belief alone — a truth hampered from your notice by minimizing translations of Paul’s words.
This is not to deny there are just two or three problem passages where Paul affirms pisteuo or pistis in such a way that the meaning is belief alone. This is particularly the case in Romans 4:5.
We will address these verses later, in particular the significance of Romans 4:5. We will see how the early church confronted this very problem of the words of Christ versus Paul. We will see clearly how the early apostolic church solved the dilemma. It will no doubt surprise many of you.
Regardless of how the early church resolved this problem, what remains unaltered is that there are abundant proofs that ordinarily — except for two or three passages — Paul means faithfulness (obedient living) for pistis, not faith or belief alone. This assists us once more in corroborating how Jesus was likely using the noun pistis and its verb cousin pisteuo.
Romans 10:11 Translates OT “Trust” With Pisteuo
Let’s start with Romans 10:11.
Paul uses pisteuo in Romans 10:11 to translate a verb in an ‘Old Testament’ passage which in Hebrew only meant trust. Because of the force of the original Isaiah passage, the NIV renders pisteuo in Romans 10:11 as trust rather than believe even though believe is how the NIV everywhere else translated pisteuo in the New Testament.
As Scripture says, ‘Anyone that trusts in him will never be put to shame.’ (NIV) (Rom. 10:11)
Paul is quoting from Isaiah 28:16.
Why did the NIV translate pisteuo in Romans 10:11 into trust rather than believe? Because the NIV realizes its own version of Isaiah 28:16 renders the word in the underlying OT as trust (rely upon and follow). The NIV translates Isaiah 28:16 as “the one who trusts will never be dismayed...”
Why didn’t the NIV render the Hebrew word as believes and then render Romans 10:11 as believes, so as to prevent an inconsistency in translating pisteuo when used by Paul elsewhere in the New Testament? Because the Hebrew word here was limited to trust. It was not faith or believing. The Hebrew word is not about intellectual assent in a fact about God or belief in a promise. But this then means that the NIV accepted that Paul here used the verb pisteuo to mean trust. The NIV left us to supposedly believe that Paul intended pisteuo everywhere else to mean merely believing in some fact about Jesus/the atonement, but here, and here alone, to mean trust.
Instead, it should have been a monumental fact that Paul uses in Romans 10:11 pisteuon to translate the ‘Old Testament’ word that meant trust. Because if this is true, then why should we not have used Romans 10:11 to enlighten us on translating pisteuo elsewhere in Paul’s writings? To make a comparison to how Jesus likely used pisteuo?
Romans 10:11 is an important link back to the ‘Old Testament.’ It unlocks the normal meaning of the word pisteuo in the New Testament. The Greek word has variable meanings. We cannot presuppose we know it means the most shallow meaning among all possible options: belief in or intellectual assent to a fact or truth. It can also mean trust, which implies obedience. Thus, how to translate pistis and pisteuo in Jesus and even in Paul’s writings is unlocked by witnessing first-hand Paul’s own rendering of the word for trust in the ‘Old Testament’ by the Greek verb pisteuo.
Thus, we know that because the OT equivalent word in Isaiah 28:16 only meant trust, and Paul rendered this ‘Old Testament’ word for trust by pisteuo, we can deduce the correct usage throughout the New Testament would primarily be at least trust (which connotes obedience anyway), not faith (which connotes mere belief or intellectual assent).
Romans 3:3: Another Proof That Pistis Does Not Mean Faith
We read in the American Standard translation of Romans 3:3 the following:
For what if some were without faith? shall their want of faith make of none effect the faithfulness [pistis] of God? (Rom 3:3 ASV.)
Another meaning for pistis is proven here. This verse proves it sometimes certainly must mean faithfulness. It would be utter nonsense to render this the “faith of God” or even the “trust of God.” God has no faith in Himself or trust in Himself, which even hard-core Pauline scholars admit.27
Here, pistis has only one meaning that fits in Romans 3:3: faithfulness, which here means ‘consistent righteous behavior.’ It is comparable to the human activity of faithfulness toward God. Pistis certainly has nothing to do with belief here.
One comment on Romans 3:3 is insightful:
It seems quite clear to me that Paul does not mean by PISTIS what Luther meant by “Glaube” (faith). PISTIS can certainly mean “faith” or “trust,” but it can also mean “faithfulness” as it must in Romans 3:3.28
There is more in Romans 3:3 to learn regarding pistis. It also impacts translation of the apistia in the first part of the sentence. Ordinarily, and in the ASV quote above, it has apistia as “want of belief.” Yet, this is wrong. It mismatches the direct contrast to the pistis of God. Thus, the apistia — formed by the negative prefix a in Greek in front of pistis — should be seen as the contrast to the pistis of God. Thus, the pistis of God, which has to mean faithfulness of God, is being contrasted to apistia — obviously the unfaithfulness of men. This is translated correctly in the American Literal Translation:
For what if some were unfaithful? Their unfaithfulness [apistia] will not make the faithfulness of God useless, will it? (Rom 3:3 ALT.)
Yet, there is even one more key within this verse that makes certain apistia means unfaithful in the sense of disobedient.
Where the ALT has “if some were unfaithful” the Greek verb is apisteo. This combines the negative prefix a with pisteuo which latter verb we find in John 3:16. When the prefix and verb are so combined, the word means in ancient Greek either to disobey or disbelieve. In context, one can see here it means disobey. The ALT changed this into “were unfaithful;” while satisfactory, another more precise meaning that fits the context is disobey.
With this background, now look at the entire passage with the underlying Greek verbs and nouns exposed. Here we see pistis, apistia, and apisteo are all dancing around giving us an entirely different concept about pistis and pisteuo in other contexts. Here pistis certainly is not talking about belief as mental assent for God does not have that about Himself. This pistis of God is contrasted with the disobedient unfaithful behavior of men.
For what if some apisteo-ed [disobey-ed]? Their apistia [unfaithfulness] will not make the pistis [faithfulness] of God useless, will it? (Rom 3:3 ALT.)
Thus, the pistis of God is the faithful righteous behavior of God. Paul teaches it is not useless merely because men are disobedient and unfaithful. Hence, pistis certainly in this context meant faithfulness, with an emphasis on righteous behavior. We know this because it is contrasted against disobedient behavior. We also saw that a-pisteuo meant “not obeying” here which re-emphasizes that pisteuo should ordinarily be translated to mean obey in the New Testament.
Romans 3:22: More Proof Pistis Means Faithfulness
A reputable Christian scholar, N.T. Wright (Bishop of Durham, England), in 2005 pointed out that Luther erred in translating pistis as faith in Romans 3:22. Because it is speaking of the pistis “of Jesus,” it can only mean once again faithfulness. This is because the text has in Greek a subjective genetive (“faithfulness of Christ”) not an objective genetive (“faith in Christ”).29
Wright is backed up by George Howard’s scholarly analysis of the Greek. He demonstrated that in the twenty-four times the genetive is used in Paul’s writings, it is used in the subjective genetive sense, which means of.30
In other words, because it says of, not in, within the genetive used in Greek, Wright explains Romans 3:22 must be speaking of Christ’s faithfulness, not Christ’s faith in Himself or God. The idea of pistis as faith when spoken of Jesus would be totally incongruous anyway within the verse. Only faithfulness makes sense when we speak of pistis as of Christ.
This notion of Jesus’ “faithfulness” here likewise totally matches how Paul speaks elsewhere of “one man’s obedience” (Rom. 5:19) as a synonym for the faithfulness (obedience) of Christ. Hence, Paul uses pistis in Romans 3:22 to mean faithfulness (obedience) of Jesus, not the faith of Jesus.
Indeed, in the Gospel accounts we learn Jesus’ faithfulness was an obedience unto death to the Father’s will. (Matt. 26:39, “if it be possible, let this cup pass away from me: nevertheless, not as I will, but as thou wilt.”)
Weak efforts have been offered in reply to dispute Wright’s reading of Romans 3:22, but they are sophistic.31
Wright was correct. In fact, Luther could never have been translating properly because he openly defended his translation of Romans 3:22 based upon the Latin text, not the Greek text.32 Even so, Luther actually acknowledges in the quote in Footnote 32, page 461 that the Latin too has a genetive of, not in. Then how did Luther translate pistis as meaning faith when the pistis “of Jesus” in Romans 3:22 could not possibly be translated as faith “in” Himself? If the genetive is revealed, it had to be faithfulness (not faith) “of Jesus.” The explanation by Luther is astonishing. In one of the most stunning glosses of a Scripture text, Luther simply suggests he is free to replace the words of with in, because he prefers an entirely different structure to the sentence. It is unabashed! See Footnote 32, page 461.33 This is how Luther changed the faithfulness of Christ into faith in Christ. This is how an example of pistis meaning faithfulness was erased by Luther, and made into faith. Thus, for generations, we lost one clear usage example from Paul that pistis meant faithfulness. Thanks to Bishop Wright in 2005, this original meaning has now been restored.
We should note that the KJV is correct grammatically, revealing the genetive construction “of Jesus Christ” in Romans 3:22. However, it mistranslates pistis as faith. It reads “faith of Jesus Christ.” Yet, again, it is incongruous to speak about the “faith of Jesus” because Jesus cannot make Himself the object of His own belief. He knows who He is.
‘Faithfulness Of Jesus’ Appears Seven Times In Paul’s Writings
By the way, Luther’s erroneous translation of Paul talking about a “faith in Christ” in Romans 3:22 is a translation error which reappears in six other passages in the English New Testament. Luther’s errors in these passages influenced English translations to follow Luther’s lead. This has misled millions on the nature of justification in certain passages. Pis-tis Christou appears not only in Romans 3:22, but also in Romans 3:26, Galatians 2:16,20, 3:22, Phil. 3:9, and Ephesians 3:12.
Thus, instead of Paul saying God “justifies him who believes in Jesus” (Rom. 3:26 KJV), it says God “justifies him who has the faithfulness of Jesus” (Romans 3:26) — a major reversal in meaning. If you have the obedience Jesus exhibited, God justifies you.34
If Paul had meant instead to say “faith in Jesus” in this verse on justification, he knew how to do it. Paul speaks elsewhere of those who have a “pistis en Cristos Iesous.” (Gal. 3:26; Eph. 1:15; Col. 1:4.) Similarly, others in the New Testament expressed such a thing as “pistis en Cristou.” 35 However, Paul never did that in these seven examples. He used a subjective genetive, and did so in particular in this justification verse. When rendered properly, it means you are only justified if you have the “faithfulness of Christ.”
Hence, the only somewhat correct translation of Romans 3:26 — each rendering the genitive (possessive) properly — appears in Young’s Literal, New Revised Standard (1989), Darby’s, Douay Rheims (“faith of Jesus”) and the Spanish Reina Valera (RV “justifica al que es de la fe de Jesús”).The only error is that these Bibles each incongruously still translate pistis as faith (of Jesus) as if Jesus could be believing in Himself or the Father rather than having a faithfulness (of Jesus) toward the Father.
Another interesting point is that the KJV has it faith in Jesus in Romans 3:26 while in every other of the seven verses, the KJV has the possessive correct in saying faith of Jesus. As Steven L. Chambers notes, “the King James version preserved ‘the faith of Christ’ in every instance except Romans 3:26.”36 Obviously, the KJV was concerned that any more accurate translation of 3:26 would upset justification doctrine. Because that is not at stake in the other six verses, the KJV correctly revealed the possessive “of” meaning.
35.Chambers offers up the argument for consideration that twists this fact around to favor a reading of it as “faith in Christ.” This argument says Paul is entitled to have an idiosyncratic (isolated) meaning from all others who express the same thought differently. This argument says: “Paul never uses that construction; he never makes Christ (or God) the object of a preposition following pistis. Thus, pistis Cristou may well be an alternate, and uniquely Pauline, way of expressing ‘faith in Christ.’” (Steven L. Chambers, “‘Faith in Christ,’ or the ‘Faith of Christ? Pistis Cristou in Paul,” Lutheran Theological Review XII (1999-2000) at 23 (available online).) Chambers cites (and apparently realizes it is a valid point) Williams’ claim that this argument represents a fundamental logical error. Merely because “Paul does not use pistis en or eis when he seems to mean ‘faith in Christ’ does not lead to the inverse conclusion that he does mean ‘faith in Christ’ every time he speaks of pistis Cristou.” (Chambers, supra, at 25, citing Sam K. Williams, “Again Pistis Christou”, CBQ 49 (1987), 431-447, at 433-34.) Chambers appears to have a misunderstanding that Paul never says pis-tis en Cristou, which he does in Gal. 3:26; Eph. 1:15; Col. 1:4. What Williams is saying is that sometimes Paul appears to mean in Christ even when he only says pistis Cristou, but this does not support reading in into it every time. This is particularly true because Paul in those four cited passages does prove he knows how to say pistis en Cristou.
How Justification In the “Old Testament” Can Assist
Yet, the KJV’s effort to change justification into faith in Jesus is an unnecessarily strained translation in light of Hebrew scripture. The Scripture taught in Deuteronomy 6:25 that justification was by obedience to God’s law.37
This is also what Habakkuk 2:4 says in a proper translation: “the just shall live by his faithfulness.” Apparently Paul is being mistranslated whenever it is claimed he taught justification by faith in his quotes from the Habakkuk passage.38 The underlying Hebrew word meant only faithfulness.
This concept of justification is also what Ezekiel taught about justification. “But if a man be just, and do that which is lawful and right.... [and] hath walked in my statutes, and hath kept mine ordinances, to deal truly; he is just, he shall surely live, saith the Lord Jehovah.” (Eze 18:5,9 ASV.)
Then why translate Paul in Romans 3:26 in a highly dubious way as if Paul said one is ‘justified if one has faith in Jesus’ rather than what it truly says — God ‘justifies those who have the faithfulness of Jesus’? The ‘faith in Jesus’ construction is at total odds with not just normal Greek grammar, but also it is contra-indicated by every prior clearly inspired Scripture on justification. This includes the parable from Jesus of the Prodigal Son (Luke 18:9-14).39
This was the point of two scholars in the late 1950s on how to translate Romans 3:26: Herbert and Torrance.40 They emphasized the Hebrew meaning of faithfulness in the original word that is ambiguously translated as pistis or pisteuo in the New Testament. When rendered into English, they said we should opt for faithfulness rather than faith. The ambiguity inherent in pistis and pisteuo was lacking in the original Hebrew which was sometimes being quoted (Hab. 2:4). In fact, the Hebrew texts which explained justification made it absolutely certain justification was by faithfulness, not faith.
That such a choice was necessary was particularly true in Romans 3:26. As Chambers explains: “If pisteuo, they argued, actually had the preferred Greek translation of faithfulness, as distinct from faith, then Paul’s expression would mean that God was continuing” His prior lessons about justification by faithfulness.41 It was a point well-taken, especially in light of Deuteronomy 6:25 and Habakkuk 2:4, properly translated. The King James translators claimed they were following such pass-through principles — old to new.
Yet, more important, the only suitable meaning of pistis when spoken “of Jesus” is faithfulness. That is the beginning and end of the issue. It is nonsense to say Jesus believes in Himself. It is also ridiculous to say He believes in God. Thus, instead Paul teaches in Romans 3:26 that justification is for anyone of us who has the "faithfulness (obedience) of Jesus." Paul here is expressing a doctrine of justification by obedience in imitation of Jesus.
After this digression, let’s return to our proofs that Paul frequently uses pistis to mean faithfulness, not faith.
2 Thessalonians 1:3-5,8,11: Pistis Must Mean Faithfulness
Paul says God will punish two types with His everlasting vengeance. One type is “those who do not know him” and the second type is “those who do not obey (hupakouousin) the gospel of our Lord Jesus.” (1:8) Paul prays the Thessalonians, by contrast, will be “counted worthy of your calling, and fulfill every desire of goodness and every work of pistis, with power.” (1:11.) Paul glories in their pistis “in all your persecutions” that “you endure.” (1:4.) He then importantly says this persecution is “a demonstration (evidence) of the just judgment (krisis) of God, to the end (eis) that you may be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you also suffer.” (1:5a ALT; 1:5b ASV.) Cf. 2 Tim.2:12 (“If we endure with Him, we shall also reign with Him.”)
Verse 1:5 tells you pistis means faithfulness in the three uses in this passage. For it ends saying God permits persecution to test them to make them “counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you also suffer.” Nicholl admits Paul says afflictions “function to purify them so that they will be counted worthy of the kingdom and so [they] can inherit it.” (Nicholl-2004: 149-50.) Paul wanted them to “be worthy of their calling.” (1:11.) Jesus said He rejects the many He invites whom He “called [yet] were not worthy.” (Matt. 22:8.) Hence, you are not simply worthy by the initial blood-cleansing by Christ or His call. Salvation is not guaranteed by faith alone had no persecution come your way. Rather, Paul says God allows persecution with the “end” or “objective” that by suffering “you may be counted worthy of the kingdom of God.”42 If faith alone instead were true, no amount of the testing of your endurance in doctrinal belief is necessary to make you worthy of the kingdom. You would in theory be already worthy by faith alone before any persecution. Thus, something other than faith alone must be on Paul’s mind of what is being tested. Only faithfulness as the meaning of pistis makes sense in this passage each time it appears.
Twelve Proofs On Paul’s Usage Of Pistis As Faithfulness
We clearly have seen twelve total times that the only meaning of pistis in a passage from Paul is faithfulness. See, Romans 3:3 (“faithfulness of God”), Romans 10:11 (the quote of Isaiah where it means “trust”), and seven other verses talking of the “faithfulness of Jesus.” (Romans 3:22, but also in Romans 3:26, Galatians 2:16,20, 3:22, Phil. 3:9, and Ephesians 3:12.) We saw that three times Paul extols the “faithfulness” of the Thessalonians under persecution, who are tested by God so they will be “counted worthy of the kingdom of God.” (2 Thessalonians 1:3-5,8,11.)
These twelve examples are just more proofs of how the word pisteuo (related to its noun form pistis) should be translated in John 3:16. Pisteuo means those who “obey for/ unto Him” should have eternal life.
Paul’s Doctrine On Disobedience Means He Often Understood Pistis And Pisteuo As Faithfulness/Obey, Not Belief/Believe
Is there further confirmation that in Paul’s understanding pistis and pisteuo were negated by disobedience? If so, then we know Paul ordinarily meant these words respectively meant faithfulness (obedient living), not faith, unless the context dictates otherwise, as what saves. Otherwise, disobedience could never be relevant to salvation if faith alone is all there is to salvation.
In other words, did Paul ever say a person who had pistis could fall by disobedience and lose their salvation/ inheritance in heaven? If so, then we would know the correct translation of pisteuo (verb) and pistis (noun) in Paul’s writings is ordinarily obey and faithfulness, not believe and faith, unless — to repeat — the context makes clear otherwise.
If so, then the impact on our conception of salvation even as sometimes taught by Paul, and certainly as taught by Jesus in John 3:16, would be monumental. If salvation is by faith, then it is simple, easy and cost-free. If it is by obeying and faithfulness, it is precarious and costly.
Paul Teaches Disobedience Negates Pisteuo
Paul several times expressly stated a Christian who was morally disobedient would lose his salvation. Paul, in fact, feared for himself that unless he cut off the body parts that ensnared himself in sin, he would go to hell whole.
Of course, Paul learned this lesson from Jesus. Our Lord told the apostles that each of them had a stark choice. You can go to heaven only if you maim yourself by the self-discipline of cutting off body parts ensnaring you in sin. Or, you can fail to take such measures to buffet your body, and you will certainly go to hell whole. (Mark 9:42-47.)
Paul says the very same thing in 1 Corinthians 9:27. Paul states:
I buffet my body, and bring it into bondage, lest by any means, after I have preached to others, I myself should be disapproved (adokimos). (1 Cor. 9:27.) (YLT)
Disapproved or rejected is the most literal Greek meaning of adokimos. Instead of “disapproved,” the KJV has it “castaway.” Regardless, it is a serious negative condition.
Sometimes it is translated as “reprobate.” Every other time the Greek word adokimos is used, it is always talking about the lost. (2 Cor. 13:5,6,7, 2 Tim. 3:8, Titus 1:16.)
Thus, Paul held the fear that he might be rejected by God and thus be lost unless he buffeted his body. Consequently, in this verse, Paul shared Jesus’ view on salvation. Jesus taught you can go to heaven-maimed or hell-whole. (Mark 9:42-47.) You can cut off the body part ensnaring you in sin, and have eternal life (heaven maimed) or you can fail to “buffet” your body in such manner, and go to hell whole. Paul in this verse had Jesus’ view that sin, unaddressed by self-discipline over fleshly desire, will cause one to go to hell whole. Even Calvin read Paul’s words in the same way. He said it matched Jesus’ doctrine that one who begins as a believer must engage in “strenuous perserverance,” and it “would be of no avail to have set out boldly on the Christian race if they did not continue to the end.” (Calvin quoted in F. Lisco, The Parables of Jesus (Philadelphia:1850) at 119.)
Unquestionably, in this passage, Paul applied this principle of heaven-maimed or hell-whole to someone like himself who already had initial pistis. Yet, Paul also clearly implied here that his own prior pistis is not the sole determinant of salvation. Hence, Paul’s concept of pistis is ordinarily not faith, but faithfulness, which can be negated by disobedience — the very thing Paul says in 1 Cor. 9:27 will make him adokimos — disapproved, rejected, a castaway, a reprobate. In other words, a lost soul.
While few who sit in the pews of a cheap-grace church ever learn this truth about this passage, an Atlantic Baptist University article says its meaning is clear:
To become disqualified (adokimos) is to be disallowed from obtaining eschatological salvation because of failing to meet its condition, obedience to God (see 2 Cor 13:5-7; 2 Tim 3:8; Titus 1:16; see also Heb 6:8). Implicit in Paul’s comments about himself is his warning to the Corinthians that they will likewise become disqualified if they continue their misuse of their freedom [by sinning].43
Titus 1:16. In the same vein, Paul in Titus 1:16 says of those who disobey God’s commands yet confess — homologeo — God, their good works are adokimos. Paul uses this identical expression to say if you homologeo that Jesus is Lord, you shall be saved. (Rom. 10:9.) But here Paul says the very same homologeo for God is negated by disobedience.
They confess (homologeo) that they know God; but in works they deny him, being abominable, and disobedient [apeithos], and unto every good work reprobate [adokimos]. (Titus 1:16, KJV.)
The Young’s Literal has this: “Unto every good work disapproved.” In the literal Greek, it means “to every good work rejected.” Thus, you can confess God, but if your works disobey Him, you deny God and all your good works are dis-approved/rejected by God. (They become like filfthy rags.) You must be lost despite having confessed God. Paul does not say this proves you never truly “believed.” He says instead you “deny” God by disobedience.
Galatians 6:7-9. Paul speaks likewise in Galatians 6:7-9. He says that salvation depends upon not sowing to the flesh — even for a Christian. If you have pistis in the next quote, it does not satisfy the obedience requirement that Paul simultaneously insists upon. This implies that Paul here understood obedience was implied in the meaning of the word pistis. Obviously, Paul ordinarily meant faithfulness (obedient living) not faith when he used pistis. Paul says:
Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to his sinful nature, from that nature he will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. (Gal. 6:7-9 NIV).
Table on What you sow You reap.
If you sow to the sinful nature You reap destruction.
If you sow to the Spirit You reap eternal life.
If you do not become weary in doing good, You will reap a harvest.
The meaning of this passage is clear if you simply notice the conditions and the outcomes. See Table above. Paul is addressing Christians. If they sow to the flesh, they will suffer “destruction.” In contrast, if they “sow to the Spirit,” which is paralleled by the phrase “not become weary in doing good,” they will reap “eternal life.”
Romans 6:22. Another passage to consider is Romans 6:22. Here Paul says the benefit of becoming God’s servant is it should “lead to holiness, and the result is eternal life.”44 On this verse, the Atlantic Baptist University article says the meaning is unequivocal:
Paul continues by saying that the result (“fruit”) of being enslaved to God is holiness (eis hagiasmon), by which he means practical righteousness or habitual obedience to God. The result (“fruit”) of holiness, moreover, is eternal life. In other words, in Rom 6:20-22, Paul gives expression to the familiar Jewish idea that eternal life is conditional upon practical righteousness; it is significant that Paul does not say that the condition of receiving eternal life is imputed righteousness or the “righteousness of God”....
Please note here the purpose or object use of eis. This is the preposition we emphasized in John 3:16 means for. John 3:16 says he who is pisteuo-ing eis Christ should be saved. Here in Romans 6:22, becoming God’s servant is the first step whose purpose is to lead to an object: holiness. It is for the purpose of making you holy. This is not a one-step of belief that transforms you into a holy person. Becoming God’s servant has the eis purpose of making you holy. Then the result is eternal life.
Romans 2:13. In another passage, Paul ties justification to obedience. Paul writes:
For not the hearers of the Law are just before God, but the doers of the Law shall be justified. (Rom 2:13.)
Incidentally, compare this to our prior discussion of Romans 3:26. Paul there said God justifies whoever has the faithfulness of Jesus. This means those who imitate Jesus’ obedience are thus justified. (See page 462 supra.) This is identical to what Romans 2:13 quoted here literally says in all translations.
Romans 2:6-7. In yet another passage — Romans 2:6-7 — Paul most remarkably of all says that God
will render to every man according to his works: to them that by patience in well-doing [i.e., lit. ‘endurance in good works’] seek for glory and honor and incorruption, eternal life.
The Greek words translated as ‘patience in well-doing’ more correctly say endurance in good works. Paul thus says ‘to those who endure patiently in doing good works, God will render eternal life.’
Here, the Atlantic Baptist University article once more comments how clearly this spells out a doctrine contrary to what most suppose Paul taught. The Atlantic Baptist University article states:
Paul clearly affirms that believers will be judged based on what they have done, not on what they have believed. It should be noted that the eschatological judgment to which Paul refers does not presuppose that the criterion of receiving eschatological salvation is perfection, but rather habitual obedience.45
Thus, this passage adds more support to re-interpreting the word pistis in Paul’s writings to ordinarily mean faithfulness, not faith. This supports the idea that Paul spoke this way in reliance on Jesus likewise teaching these principles.
Colossians 1:22, 23. Similarly, Paul says that pistis leads to presenting you holy and blameless unless you fail to continue in pistis, and you lose your steadfastness in pistis. Paul’s aim is
to present you holy, and blameless, and above reproach in His sight IF INDEED YOU CONTINUE46 IN PISTIS, grounded and steadfast, AND ARE NOT MOVED AWAY from the hopeof the gospel... Colossians 1:22,23.
One can see that again pistis here must mean faithfulness. The pistis can be ruined by losing steadfastness in the pistis. This is how one speaks of faithfulness. This is not how you speak about mere belief in facts about Jesus or the atonement. Moreover, this passage negates the idea that a belief one-time saved you. Instead, Paul says your salvation is tied up in an activity of pistis that must continue or otherwise it is in vain or for nothing. Faithfulness or trust, not faith, best fits those characteristics. Finally, the idea of a mental assent in the sense of faith in the doctrine of faith alone cannot be what Paul intended for pistis here because he just said pistis alone did not save you. Steadfastness or continuance are also necessary. To repeat, only faithfulness (obedient living) if read into pistis can contain a sufficiently broad meaning to make sense of this verse.
Thus, while everyone succumbs to translating pistis as faith here, the notion of mental assent does not fit. It should be translated here as faithfulness, not faith. Paul says it is destroyed by losing steadfastness and not continuing in the hope of salvation. When you lose hope in salvation, Paul is concerned you will no longer bother being faithful anymore. Paul is telling us to remain faithful and do not give up on the hope of salvation. Be steadfast. Be faithful.
1 Timothy 5:8. Paul likewise shows how a true Christian’s misbehavior denies pistis and makes you worse than an unbeliever in this quote:
But if anyone does not provide for his own and especially his household, he has denied the faith [pistis, trust, pledge] and is worse than an unbeliever. (1Ti 5:8 ALT.)
Thus, once again, we see how the better translation choice for pistis is not faith, but pledge. When a Christian does not provide for his family, he denies the pledge of faithfulness you gave to Jesus as Lord. If pistis meant faith, how would you deny your acceptance of facts (belief) by simply misbehavior? But if pistis means here pledge, you surely deny such a trusting faithful relationship or pledge by misbehavior.
1 Timothy 5:11-15. Paul speaks again similarly about pistis in 1 Timothy 5:11-15. In fact, here Paul certainly uses pistis not to mean faith in the sense of belief in facts about Jesus. In fact, most translations of this passage do not render pistis as faith, but instead translate pistis as pledge. This is a reasonable rendition. Yet, if you translate pistis here as pledge in this next quote, then why not thoroughly revise all of Paul’s passages on pistis to be about salvation by a pledge? A firm commitment, trust or faithfulness? The word pledge is a synonym for a most solemn trust. When you pledge your honor to a king, it is a promise of compliance with the will of that king.
Let’s now read 1 Timothy 5:11-15 where we find pistis is no longer translated by even the leading translations as faith but as pledge:
But younger widows refuse: for when they have waxed wanton against Christ, they desire to marry; (12) having condemnation, because they have rejected their first pledge [pistis]. (13) And withal they learn also to be idle, going about from house to house; and not only idle, but tattlers also and busybodies, speaking things which they ought not. (14) I desire therefore that the younger widows marry, bear children, rule the household, give no occasion to the adversary for reviling: (15) for already some are turned aside after Satan. (1Ti 5:11-15 ASV.)
Paul says that this wanton sensual desire in them makes them wax against Christ. By doing so, they have rejected their first pistis. Here Paul is talking identical to Jesus who says in Luke 8:13 that after the second seed hears the word, it at first accepts the word with Joy. Then the second seed keeps on pisteuo-sing for a while (translated typically as believes), but in time of temptation falls away, withers and hence dies. The noun form — pistis — in 1 Timothy 5:11-15 and the verb form — pisteuo —in Luke 8:13 must be talking of the first pledge to obey unto Christ which these persons initially made.
Thus, 1 Timothy 5:11-15 is just one more proof that dictates we can no longer construe Paul’s usage of pistis or pisteuo to always mean faith. Rather, Paul is obviously saying in these passages that salvation turns upon nothing so shallow as mere faith. Instead, Paul in these passage must be saying salvation turns on faithfulness, trust, a pledge or promise of compliance — which are legitimate alternative Greek meanings in standard lexicons.
One can concede that Paul is not always consistent in his usage of pistis and pisteuo, as we shall discuss. That is not, however, a problem in how to interpret Jesus. It is a problem in how to understand Paul! Nevertheless, Paul clearly often states salvation is not by the shallow notion of faith alone. Hence this at minimum gives us further confirmation that our choice of how to translate pisteuo in John 3:16 conforms to even how Paul sometimes (or even often) spoke and taught. Jesus does not have to strictly agree with every mode of meaning of Paul. Rather, Paul must strictly always agree with Jesus. If Paul does not, this is proof that Paul is not speaking at that moment with inspiration. A conflict in Paul’s usage can never be used to gainsay Christ’s meaning. Yet, when Paul agrees with Jesus, it shows how Jesus’ meaning even penetrated into some or most of the writings of Paul.
The clearest examples are the following four inheritance warnings by Paul. They repeat the true gospel of Jesus Christ, as we previously have seen.
Paul’s Four Inheritance Warnings
As the final proof that Paul’s concept of pistis often must mean faithfulness, not faith, is Paul’s inheritance warnings. In four passages Paul clearly said that if a Christian commits various sins (which are cognizable as moral rules from the Mosaic Law), such as covetousness, adultery, etc., this means you shall “not inherit the kingdom of God.” (1 Cor. 6:9, Ephesian 5:5-7, Galatians 5:19-21, and 1 Thessalonians 4:6-8.) Jesus said those who “inherit the kingdom” means they have “eternal life.” (Matt. 25:34,46. See page 219-20.)
We will discuss these four passages in a moment. The point is, if this is true, then this proves again that Paul often is not using pistis with its shallow meaning of faith. Rather, Paul often instead used it with a more strenuous meaning of faithfulness, which includes the notion of faithful obedience.
Let’s take, for example, 1 Thessalonians 4:6-8, from among these four passages. It clearly is addressing Christians, and says when you act disobediently you “reject God” who has given you His Holy Spirit:
[For] each of you to know how to be acquiring his own vessel [fig., wife] in sanctification and honor, (5) not in lustful passion of desire, just as also the Gentiles, the ones not knowing God,(6) [so as] not to do wrong and take advantage of his brother in this matter, because the Lord [is the] avenger concerning all these [things], just as also we forewarned you and solemnly testified. (7) For God did not call us to impurity [or, immorality], but in sanctification.(8) Therefore, the one rejecting [this] [or, regarding [this] as nothing] does not reject a person but God, the One having also given His Holy Spirit to you. (1Th 4:4-8 ALT.)
Or 1 Corinthians 6:8-10, we read similarly:
But you act unjustly, and you defraud, and these [things to] brothers [and sisters]! (9) You know that unrighteous [ones] will not inherit [the] kingdom of God, do you not? Stop being led astray [fig., being deceived]; neither sexual sinners nor idolaters nor adulterers nor passive partners in male-male sex nor active partners in male-male sex (10) nor covetous [ones] nor thieves nor drunkards nor slanderers [or, abusive persons] nor swindlers will inherit [the] kingdom of God. (1Co 6:8-10 ALT.)
In this 1 Corinthians passage, Paul clearly says that these Christians are acting unjustly toward brothers and sisters. Paul understands these malefactors have truly accepted Christ. He then sternly warns them that anyone misbehaving will not inherit the kingdom of God. Actually, someone was leading them astray. Some taught that they safely could act unjustly toward brothers in the faith, or commit this list of sins, and still inherit the kingdom of God. Paul is sternly warning them that the opposite is true.
The passages of Ephesian 5:5-7 and Galatians 5:19-21 are to the same effect. In these two epistles addressed to the “brethren,” Paul warns, as he says he warned them before, that anyone who practices various moral sins “shall not inherit the kingdom of God.”
Clearly all these passages prove that Paul had an idea that whatever he thought elsewhere about pisteuo or pistis often enough he taught obedience was implied in their word meanings. Yet, the only definition of pistis that works like this is the option to translate it as faithfulness, trust, or pledge. Those translations alone connote obedience. The meaning of faith for pistis in these passages, while conceivable, is certainly too shallow to convey what Paul must have intended in these passages.
Even in Passages Where Paul Means Intellectual Assent.
Finally, even when Paul does use pistis to mean faith, in the sense of doctrine, almost every time he uses the word that way, Paul also says in the very same context that the faith (doctrine) is denied or negated by disobedience to moral rules. 2 Tim.3:6-8; 2 Cor. 13:5. Thus, Paul was even then still harkening back to a fuller more strenuous meaning about what the faith (correct doctrine) entailed.
This is not to deny Paul has verses which teach salvation is by pistis without works (obedience). (Eph. 2:8-9; Romans 4:4.) But to repeat, this does not raise a problem how to interpret Jesus’s usage of pistis or pisteuo. Nor would such evidence in just two passages refute that Paul clearly ordinarily used pistis and pisteuo to mean faithfulness.
Rather, the fact Paul has a different program of salvation in these two passages merely raises a problem on how to explain the contradiction within Paul’s view of salvation. In a moment, we shall discuss the solutions employed by the early Christian church to this dilemma. See “The Problem Of Paul’s Belief-Without-Obedience Verses” on page 481.
Conclusion On Ordinary Meaning Of Pistis And Pisteuo In Paul’s Writings
As a result of the overwhelming evidence above, unbeknownst to most Christians in the pew, evangelical scholars now agree it is impossible to believe Paul consistently taught faith alone saves. Rather, Paul often taught faithfulness saves. As T. Schreiner wrote in The Law and Its Fulfillment (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1993) at 203:
Even though Paul asserts that no one can attain salvation by good works, he also insists that no one can be saved without them, and that they are necessary to obtain an eschatological inheritance.
As the evangelist Charles Finney similarly said: “But he [Paul] has everywhere insisted on good works springing from faith, or the righteousness of faith, as indispensable to salvation.” (Finney, Justification by Faith (1837).)
Consequently, the entire conception of salvation has been negatively impacted for centuries by translating pisteuo (the verb) and pistis (the noun) consistently as believe and faith respectively. The primary sense in Jesus’ teachings, let alone in other portions of the New Testament, of the word pisteuo was always obey, trust, compliance, etc. Pistis normally means faithfulness, not faith. This is why Paul could say disobedience (i) was a denial of pistis and (ii) was a denial of God who gave His Holy Spirit to you and (iii) causes the loss of the inheritance of the kingdom of God.
The Problem Of Paul’s Belief-Without-Obedience Verses
Paul two times teaches salvation by belief even if one is still disobedient and has commenced no obedience whatsoever. (Eph. 2:8-9; Rom. 4:4-5; cf. Romans 10:9.)47
Specifically, as evangelical scholars appear all to concur, Paul teaches in Romans 4:5 that a mental assent to a belief without repentance from sin — while you are still ungodly — saves you. (Romans 4:5.)
These two instances of a usage of pistis to mean belief-only are clear as long as Paul meant by erga (works) a synonym for obedience. This appears to be Paul’s intent.
Yet, the only way to reconcile Paul fully to Jesus is to always read pistis as faithfulness. Unfortunately for Paul (if we wish to regard him as always inspired), this has serious difficulties within these two passages. Nevertheless, there is one plausible way to read Ephesians 2:8-9 this way so as to fit Jesus. The weight of Romans 4:5 in the opposite direction may make it a Quixotic venture to solve Ephesians 2:8-9 this way. Yet, if Romans 4:5 can ever be reconciled to Christ’s teachings, here is a solution to Ephesians 2:8-9.
Ephesians 2:8-9: Can It Fit Jesus’ Words?
As to Ephesians 2:8-9, it can fit Jesus’ teaching if you read erga in Eph. 2:8-9 to mean visible works. As a result, then the clause “lest any man should boast” is no longer meant to require the most shallow meaning to pistis to keep the risk of boasting to the smallest minimum. Instead, the boasting clause would be directed at erga as explanation.
Thus, Paul would be saying you are saved by “faithfulness, not by works (to be seen by men) lest any man should boast.” This means you are saved by obedient living (to internal moral rules from Jesus) rather than by visible works. If salvation were by visible works, Paul means God would be tempting you to boast. Hence, God allegedly created a salvation formula that does not invite boasting because it depends on internal faithfulness that only God sees.
The problem is even if you read Ephesians 2:8-9 that way, there is the seemingly impossible hurdle posed by Romans 4:5 where Paul says he who “works not (ergazomai), but believes (pisteuo epi)48 [on] the one justifying the irreverent — ungodly — is being accounted the pistis of Him unto [eis] righteousness.”
In other words, what this verse says is the one who lacks obedience (works) but is pisteuo epi on the One who justifies the ungodly is being reckoned with the faithfulness (pistis) of Jesus for righteousness’ sake.49
Pisteuo In Romans 4:5a
Here in Romans 4:5a, pisteuo by being contrasted with ergazomai is contrasting working against pisteuo-ing. This antithesis would support an intellectual assent-belief meaning to pisteuo in this verse.
Most troubling of all, Paul in Romans 4:5b says God “justifies the ungodly.”
In light of the fact works are irrelevant in this verse, and most concur repentance-from-sin is a work, every commentator agrees Paul directly affirms justification without repentance from sin.
As Robertson’s Word Pictures says: “The man is taken as he is and pardoned.” Wesley concurs, saying God had to justify a man while he was “at that very time, ungodly.” Gill insists that Paul means Abraham (in context) was “in his state of unregeneracy...an ungodly person” when God justified him. The Geneva notes likewise say: “That makes him who is wicked in himself to be just in Christ.” Clarke concurs that Paul speaks of Abraham, and according to Paul: “Abraham...was called when he was ungodly, i.e. an idolater; and, on his believing, was freely justified.” Clarke says we are to understand this is the model: justification comes about without any interior repentance from sin. The only requirement Paul has in this verse is belief in the goodness and mercy of God. Clarke says:
Abraham’s state and mode in which he was justified, are the plan and rule according to which God purposes to save men; and as his state was ungodly, and the mode of his justification was by faith in the goodness and mercy of God.
Thus, it is Romans 4:5 which is the sole basis to ridicule repentance-from-sin as a requirement for salvation among most evangelicals.
For example, the famous Ryrie Study Bible says repentance from sin is “a false addition to faith” when added as a condition of salvation.”50
Likewise, Frederick Bruner, on the faculty with the Fuller Theological Seminary, and a prolific evangelical author, insists in his book Theology of the Holy Spirit that receipt of the Holy Spirit is “not conditional.” Confession of sin and repentance from sin are “works” which supposedly only hinder simple faith. Bruner insists that repentance is “not something to be done.” Rather, it is God’s gift which enables a person to follow Christ and decide to be baptized.51Again and again Bruner berates Pentecostal Christians in particular who seek more than Christ’s forgiveness at conversion. Bruner declares it is wrong to insist that a convert has some responsibility for meeting conditions such as repentance, obedience, eagerness and the like. All such arguments from Bruner hang principally on Romans 4:5.
FOOTNOTES FOR PART 6
26. This inversion is usually done by not distinguishing Paul from Jesus, and simply labelling anything from Paul as “the Bible,” without any sense of priority for Jesus. For example: “As with any single verse or passage, we discern what it teaches by first filtering it through what we know the Bible [i.e., Paul] teaches on the subject at hand. The Bible [i.e., Paul] is clear that salvation is by grace through faith in Jesus Christ, not by works of any kind....(Ephesians 2:8-9). So, any interpretation which comes to the conclusion that any... act, is necessary for salvation, is a faulty interpretation.” http://www.gotquestions.org/baptism-Acts-2-38.html.
27.The King James prefers a rendering that makes no sense, and renders this the “faith of God.” Fortunately, this is an isolated phenomenon. See GNB (“faithful”). In fact, those who believe Paul virtually always uses pistis to mean faith, concede in Romans 3:3 pistis must mean faithfulness. “The translation ‘faithfulness’ is dictated by the parallel terms as well as the reference to God’s pistis.” (Karl P. Donfried, “Paul and the Revisions: Did Luther Really Get It All Wrong?,” Dialogue: Journal of Theology Vol. 46, No. 1 (Spring 2007) at 31, 34 (available online).
28.Michael Palmer (April 1999) posted at http://lists.ibiblio.org/pipermail/corpus-paul/19990403/000132.html (accessed 7-1-07).
29.N.T. Wright, Paul in Fresh Perspective (Minneapolis: Fortress, 2005) at 47.
30.George Howard, “On the “Faith of Christ,” Harvard Theological Review Vol. 60 No. 4 (Oct. 1967) at 459, 459.
31.One recent dissent is Karl P. Donfried, “Paul and the Revisions: Did Luther Really Get It All Wrong?,” Dialogue: Journal of Theology Vol. 46, No. 1 (Spring 2007) at 31 (available online). Donfried’s argument has numerous flaws, and no valid points. First and most important, Donfried does not deny there is a subjective genetive here — the key issue. Instead, he claims that he reads Luther as saying there is none in the quote in Footnote 32, page 461. But Luther does not say that. In fact, Luther is quoting Latin, not Greek which the scholar (Wright) is citing and whom Donfried opposes. Nor does Donfried note that Luther is confessing he is wishing the Latin read differently than it actually reads. The Latin reads exactly as Wright reads the Greek! It is a mystery how Luther came about with his translation even from the Latin! Next, Donfried quotes translations of early church ‘fathers’ who in allusions and paraphrases are translated as talking about ‘faith’ in this verse. However, these English translations of the early Greek and Latin ‘fathers’ prove nothing. The original Latin word fides in some of those texts has as much ambiguity as the Greek word pistis. One translation error does not support later error. Thus, because these ‘fathers’ were translated as talking about faith does not prove Romans 3:22 was translated as faith correctly. Finally, Donfried says Wright’s view of faithfulness as the correct translation has led to frightening theologies. He cites Bondros’ recent work as an example of where this translation must take you: “The extreme consequences of Wright’s misinterpretation of Paul can be seen in the recent volume by David Bondros, Paul on the Cross....” Id., at 35. He then explains Bondros teaches Paul did not believe Christ made atonement for sin, but Christ was merely obedient to being used as an instrument of redemption. This is the big smear by means of a fallacious non-sequitur. Yet, Donfried never actually addressed the key issue: the Greek meaning of the text.
32.Luther unabashedly tried using the Latin version to understand the Greek, but it is incoherent because the Latin genetive is the same as the Greek. Luther wrote: “when it says the faith of Christ (fides Cristi) [the LATIN], we must understand faith in Christ (fides in Cristum).” (Luther, Works (American edition; ed. Jaroslav Pelikan and Helmut Lehmann; Philadelphia and St. Louis: Muhlenberg and Concordia, 1955ff) 25, 242 (Lectures on Romans). This makes no sense even on its face. Fides Cristi in Latin means the faith or faith-fulness of Christ. Luther apparently feels free that he can change this by a gloss of interpretation into fides in Cristum. How can you do that? Perhaps we should say that Luther is actually rewriting the verse to say what he would prefer it would have said. But neither does the Latin nor the Greek say what he wishes Romans 3:22 would say about pistis.
33.Interestingly, Luther was not always consistent in wiping out the of in the translation of the same expression elsewhere. In Galatians 2:20, Luther translated it “dem Glauben des Sohnes Gottes.” That is, the “faith of the Son of God.”
34.Similarly, Galatians 2:20 should read that “I live in faithfulness, the faithfulness which is of the son of God.” Had Paul not used pistis...of the Son of God,” then we would not have been sure how to translate his first use of pistis which talks of his own pistis. We would not know whether he meant faithfulness or faith. Yet, by Paul equating it to the pistis of the Son of God, we know the latter usage is faithfulness. (It is absurd to speak of Jesus having a faith in Himself.) Thus, the first pis-tis is intended the same way as the second pistis, to demonstrate the similarity between the way Paul says he is living and the way Jesus lived: obediently. Incidentally, in a bizarre argument, Chambers claims Galatians 2:20 has to be read the other way around, so it is “I live in faith, the faith which is in the son of God” (i.e., an objective genetive). He claims this avoids clashing between how pistis reads for “believers” versus how it reads for Jesus. That’s totally false. It is the opposite. His reading claims that I have the same faith that was in Jesus Christ. However, that rendering clashes with common sense. Jesus does not have a faith in Himself that I then duplicate. He KNOWS who He is. He doesn’t have to have a faith (like myself) in what is not seen. (Rom. 8:24.) Also, it is a subjective genetive, meaning “of”; it does not mean “in.” Hence, it is Chamber’s argument that causes a ridiculous clash, while faithfulness makes perfect sense in both cases. For Chambers’ argument, see Steven L. Chambers, “‘Faith in Christ,’ or the ‘Faith of Christ? Pistis Cristou in Paul,” Lutheran Theological Review XII (1999-2000) at 23-24.
35. Chambers offers up the argument for consideration that twists this fact around to favor a reading of it as "faith in Christ." This argument says Paul is entitled to have an idiosyncratic (isolated) meaning from all others who express the same thought differently. This argument says: "Paul never uses that construction; he never makes Christ (or God) the object of a preposition following pistis. Thus, pistis Cristou may well be an alternate, and uniquely Pauline, way of expressing `faith in Christ.'" (Steven L. Chambers, "`Faith in Christ,' or the `Faith of Christ? Pistis Cristou in Paul," Lutheran Theological Review XII (1999-2000) at 23 (available online).) Chambers cites (and apparently realizes it is a valid point) Williams' claim that this argument represents a fundamental logical error. Merely because "Paul does not use pistis en or eis when he seems to mean `faith in Christ' does not lead to the inverse conclusion that he does mean `faith in Christ' every time he speaks of pistis Cristou." (Chambers, supra, at 25, citing Sam K. Williams, "Again Pistis Christou", CBQ 49 (1987), 431-447, at 433-34.) Chambers appears to have a misunderstanding that Paul never says pistis en Cristou, which he does in Gal. 3:26; Eph. 1:15; Col. 1:4. What Williams is saying is that sometimes Paul appears to mean in Christ even when he only says pistis Cristou, but this does not support reading in into it every time. This is particularly true because Paul in those four cited passages does prove he knows how to say pistis en Cristou.
36.Steven L. Chambers, “‘Faith in Christ,’ or the ‘Faith of Christ? Pistis Cristou in Paul,” Lutheran Theological Review XII (1999-2000) at 20, 22. (available online).
37.“And it shall be righteousness unto us, if we observe to do all this commandment before Jehovah our God, as he hath commanded us.” Deut. 6:25 ASV.
38.This is extensively discussed in my prior book, Jesus’ Words Only (2007) at 274-76 and 507-08. This raises the question whether Paul really meant by pistis in translating Habakkuk 2:4 faith or faithfulness. Because the underlying Hebrew exclusively meant faithfulness (obedient living), it may be simply an English translation error which misperceives Paul as saying faith not faithfulness in Romans 1:17 and Galatians 3:11 when Paul quotes Habakkuk 2:4. Thus, it is conceivable Paul meant that justification is by faithfulness (obedience), not belief (faith) alone even in these two passages. If Paul meant faithfulness in both Romans1:17 and Galatians 3:11 is what justifies, we have all been misled by the erroneous translations of Romans 1:17 and Galatians 3:11. This would mean that it was not Paul who was mistranslating the sense of Habakkuk 2:4, but it was the English translators who were mistranslating Paul. Regardless of who is mistranslating whom, even had Paul meant we were justified by belief alone (mental assent), this does not permit us to overthrow prophetic statements from Habakkuk, Ezekiel and Moses in Deuteronomy on what causes justification. This is the point exhaustively demonstrated in Jesus’ Words Only (2007).
39.The twist on Romans 3:26 to ‘faith in Jesus’ also is contra-indicated by Jesus’ doctrine on justification by repentance in the Parable of the Publican and the Pharisee. See page 27 et seq. for anyone of us who has the “faithfulness (obedience) of
40.A. G. Herbert, “Faithfulness and ‘Faith,’” Theology 58 (1955) at 37379 and Thomas F. Torrance, “One Aspect of the Biblical Conception of Faith,” Expositary Times 68 (1957) at 111-14. Chambers claimed that their arguments were refuted by James Barr, saying Barr established that faith, not faithfulness ‘everywhere dominates in the New Testament.’ (See James Barr, The Semantics of Biblical Language (Oxford University Press, 1961; repr. London: SCM Press, 1983) 201, viz., at 161-205.) This exaggerates Barr’s claims and the validity of his proof. What Barr said instead was that Torrance was wrong to equate pistis necessarily with all the meanings that emet had in Hebrew. For the Hebrew concept of faithfulness in emet had wider implications than faithfulness in Greek. Barr means it is improper to read into a Greek definition a wider meaning that only exists in Hebrew. Thus, nothing in Barr says it is wrong to infer that Paul meant the meaning of faithfulness which is a permissible meaning in Greek when Paul quotes Habakkuk 2:4. The reason is clear: we should probably infer Paul used pistis as faithfulness because Paul should have known it meant faithfulness at minimum in the Hebrew of Habakkuk 2:4. Paul’s orientation most likely had to be to the Hebrew. (W.D. Davies, Paul and Rabbinic Judaism (1970).) Even if Paul thought only in Greek terms, nothing in the Septuagint Bible’s normal usage conveyed faith in the word pistis to Paul. As Bishop Robertson said: “the Septuagint... probably never uses pistis in our sense of ‘faith’... [s]o at least we can say that pistis by itself would not primarily suggest the idea of ‘faith’....” D. W. B. Robinson, “‘Faith of Jesus Christ’—a New Testament Debate,” The Reformed Theological Review Vol. 29, no.3 (Sept.-Dec. 1970) at 71, 81. For this reason, other scholars point out that Hebert and Torrance are still correct contextually on the meaning of pistis being faithfulness in Romans 3. See Richard B. Hays in The Conversion of the Imagination: Paul as Interpreter of Israel’s Scripture (Eerdmans: 2005). He explained: “Barr’s cogent criticisms of Torrance and A.G. Herbert do not however apply to the present exegetical observations about Romans 3. Barr’s basic objection is directed against the linguistically naive assumption that there is a distinctive (Hebraic) ‘fundamental meaning’ that governs the semantic range of... pistis in the NT without regard to context and usage.” Id., at 54. Hays, who agrees with my view of pistis as faithfulness in Romans 3, ends: “My observations here, rather than resting upon an alleged fundamental linguistic equivalence, proceed from the evidence of Paul’s usage of these words as functionally equivalent terms within this particular discourse.” Id. In scholarly circles, the reading of “faithfulness of Christ” has gained acceptance, following the seminal work in 1981 by Richard Hays entitled The Faith of Jesus Christ (2d Ed. 2001). Hays argues that Paul’s wording is not faith in Christ, but faithfulness of Christ.
41.Steven L. Chambers, “‘Faith in Christ,’ or the ‘Faith of Christ? Pistis Cristou in Paul,” Lutheran Theological Review XII (1999-2000) at 22 (available online).
42.Most faith-alone advocates explicate this passage by illogical statements. Calvin for example simply makes an ad hoc statement that “No persecutions can make us worthy of the kingdom of God.” Yet, this is a direct contradiction of what Paul just said was God’s plain purpose!
43.This article is entitled: “The Spirit, The Necessity of Good Works and Final Judgment,” http://www.abu.nb.ca/courses/pauline/Works.htm (last accessed 11/25/2006), now only available though the WayBackMachine as of 8/23/2006 at this link.
This Atlantic Baptist University course article cites in support G. D. Fee, The First Epistle to the Corinthians (NICNT; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1987) at 433-41; C. K. Barrett, The First Epistle to the Corinthians (2d ed.; London: Black, 1971) at 218. However, not all agree. The Atlantic Baptist article continues:
“According to J. Gundry Volf, Paul uses the term ‘disqualified’ (adokimos) in relation to apostleship or service, not in relation to his final salvation (Paul and Perseverance: Staying in and Falling Away (Louisville: Westminster/Knox, 1990) at 233-47). In 1 Cor 9:27a, what Paul renounces is [supposedly] his apostolic rights and Christian freedom, and this not for the sake of obtaining final salvation, but for the sake of obtaining a reward.”
In response, the Atlantic Baptist University piece says: “Her argument, however, is not convincing.”
More important to us, why would Gundry Volf try to make Paul not repeat what Jesus so clearly teaches in Mark 9:42-47? Why subtract a passage where Paul is in clear agreement with Jesus by spinning it to not be about salvation? The reason is obvious: Paul does not endorse cheap grace here, as he is often read to endorse in other passages.
44.“But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life.” (Romans 6:22 NIV.)
45.“The Spirit, The Necessity of Good Works and Final Judgment,” http:/ /www.abu.nb.ca/courses/pauline/Works.htm (last accessed 11/25/ 2006) only accessible now through the WayBack Machine in its 8/23/2006 version at this link.
46. The Greek word is epimeno. It also means “to stay at or with, to tarry still, still to abide, remain, to persevere.”
47.These verses support salvation by a mental belief without obedience, if “works” means obedience. If you are saved by pistis, not erga (Eph. 2:8-9, ‘faith’ not ‘works’) so no one can boast, it sounds like God is so concerned boasting may happen that He has debased salvation so mere belief in facts, as distinct from obedience/faithfulness, saves you. Similarly, if you pisteuo that God raised Jesus from the dead in Romans 10:9b, then this is condition b of what saves you. This 10:9b says if you believe this fact (i.e., the resurrection) is true, you are assured salvation. The salvation statement in Romans 10:9a, however, runs counter to belief alone. It adds the requirement that if you also homologeo en stoma — confess with the mouth — that Jesus is Lord, then you are saved. Confession is often admitted by Paulinists to be a work. An action. At least it is not faith alone. So there is a quandary hanging over Romans 10:9a versus10:9b. Finally, in Romans 4:4-5, if you pisteuo, but do not have erga, Paul shockingly say God justifies you while you are still “ungodly.” (This apparently says God justified a man who was unrepentant-about-sin — at least that is how most Paulinist commentators read it, as we shall see.) See also Phil. 3:8-11. There are various solutions that argue these verses teach salvation by faith and works and not by works alone. (Stulac.) Others claim erga means works of the ceremonial law cannot save. However, Paul’s negative view about the entire law makes that an unconvincing argument. See my prior book, Jesus’ Words Only (2007), chapter five. Others try to make the case Paul does not ever have a “cheap grace” gospel, relying heavily upon Romans 3:7-8. See, Lebedev, “Paul, the Law, Grace and … ‘Cheap Grace,’” Quodlibet Journal Vol. 6 No. 3, July - September 2004 (available at http://www.quodlibet.net/lebedev-grace.shtml.) Yet, if there is no means of resolution, I offered what I regard is the correct solution about the doctrinal conflict between Jesus and Paul (and Paul with Paul) in my work Jesus’ Words Only (2007). The title is succinctly the point.
48.Vincent sees a small nuance in the fact this says pisteuo epi. It carries the idea of “mental direction with a view to resting upon.”
49.Please note Romans 4:5 is another instance where pistis means faith fulness. Paul speaks again about the pistis of Jesus. It again must mean faithfulness. It was Jesus’ obedience unto death to which Paul is referring by pistis here. However, it is the usage of pisteuo epi in the first part of Romans 4:5 that poses the difficulty.
50.Charles Ryrie, The Ryrie Study Bible (Chicago: Moody Press, 1976) at 1950.
51. Frederick D. Bruner, A Theology of the Holy Spirit (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1970) at 115, 116, 166.