Monday, January 28, 2013

Faith Is Not A Work

Before I launch into today's obsession (which I've been told must be myself looking to disabuse everyone else in the world of their errors, as I cloister in a pristine perch, breathing pure spiritual air), I refer you to an amazing article by David Mamet, whom some of you might recognize as an excellent wordsmith.  He is an award winning playwrite, who experienced a massive change in worldview just a few years ago.  Read his thoughts on gun ownership, possession, and protection against violence and crime.  Enjoy.

As well, you should listen to a sermon by Gary Webb on guns (available here), the second amendment and the responsibility of Christians.


During brief moments that I'm not obsessing over what other people are doing wrong and not writing on this blog, I memorize one verse a week.  I lead our whole church in memorizing the same verse.  Actually, if I multitask, I can both obsess and perform other tasks at the same time.  I recently have been singing in our choir, and I'll often work on Bible memory then too, so I obsess plus sing plus memorize.  It's tough, but you've got to do whatever you can to maintain your obsessions.  We are memorizing a chunk of Philippians 3 right now, and this last week we memorized v. 9, which reads:

And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith:

Notice that saving righteousness, justification, comes "through the faith of Christ."  "Faith of Christ," not "faith in Christ."  "Of," not "in."  That should stick out to anyone, because "of Christ" reads a little odd to us, because it is obviously making a point.  In the Greek text, "faith of Christ" is two Greek words and "Christ" is in the genitive case, hence, "faith of Christ."  "Christ" is not in the locative case, which would translate, "in Christ."  It is genitive, "of Christ."

When you have a genitive case as such, you do have to make a decision on what the genitive is saying.  There are different types of genitives.  By the way, it is actually tough to think about the use of the genitive and obsess over what other people are doing wrong, but it is a finely tuned craft with me, so both can occur simultaneously with regular practice.  (I happen also to be eating French toast right now for those interested in my status.  I'm wearing sweats and a stocking cap and the thought of mouthwash occurred to me while still obsessing, of course).  Is it a genitive of description, an attributive genitive, genitive of apposition, an objective genitive, a subjective genitive, a partitive genitive, a possessive genitive, or some other genitive?

Some non-Calvinists out there are so anti-Calvinistic that they are against faith not being a work.  They fight against what they see as a Calvinistic idea that faith is not a work.  It is part of the anti-Calvinistic scorched earth defense against Calvinism, and a definite failing defense.  My anti-Calvinist friend, please stop this obsession, and not to point out your error, which is my obsession, but faith is not a work.  If faith were a work, then salvation would be by works.  But even without that bit of logic, Scripture teaches that faith is not a work.  Now back to the genitive in Philippians 3:9.

"Of Christ" is not a genitive of description, because it is not a Christ type of faith or kind of faith.  An example of a genitive of description is the phrase, "day of salvation.'  This isn't that.  It is not attributive, because it is not saying that Christ is faithful, such as "man of peace," which could be restated, "peaceful man."  It is not a genitive apposition, because faith is not Christ, that is, Christ is not a restatement of faith.  It is not a subjective genitive, because it is not the faith that Christ Himself is practicing.  It is not an objective genitive, because that idea would normally be expressed by "believing Christ," that is, seeing Christ as the object of the faith.  It is not a partitive genitive, because it is not faith that is a part of Christ.   It is not a possessive genitive, because it is not strictly Christ's, because it is also yours.  So what genitive is it?  It is simply a genitive of source.  Jesus is the source of saving faith.  The faith of Christ, the faith that comes from Christ, is the faith through which we receive the righteousness of God.

What will make this easier is to parallel, which you should, "of the law" with "of Christ."  Paul's own righteousness was "of the law," that is the source of it was his own lawkeeping.  Expositor's Greek Testament says that it is the faith which Christ "kindles, of which He is the author, which, also, He nourishes and maintains."  This is like Galatians 2:20, where Paul writes, "I live by the faith of the Son of God."  It isn't faith "in the Son of God," but faith "of the Son of God."  It is genitive.  Galatians 3:26 translates "faith in Christ" and it uses the preposition en, "in."  When you want "faith in Christ," you can use the locative case and the Greek preposition en (same in Colossians 1:4, 2:5 uses eis for "faith in Christ" as does Acts 24:24).

Faith is a gift, not a work.  This is also backed up by Philippians 1:29.  Read that verse.  Anti-calvinists, you don't help your case by arguing against faith as a gift.  You come across as people who are willing to twist Scripture to fit your predisposition.  Faith is not a work.  We are saved by faith, which is not a work.  Faith itself is not a work and is not of works.  Salvation is by grace alone.


Don Johnson said...

Actually, it is an objective genitive, Christ is the object of our faith. It doesn't have to be expressed by the dative. It isn't source or subjective either. It is not Christ believing for us or providing us with faith. The faith that saves is our own faith, not something that comes from someone else.

But faith is not a work. Romans 4.4-5 make that quite clear. So it really doesn't matter where the faith comes from.

Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

Jon Gleason said...

Kent, now you're obsessing about someone saying you were obsessing. But as long as you multi-task, I guess it won't be too bad.

Phil. 3 is one of my favourite passages, verse 10 is my favourite verse.

A.T. Robertson saw this as an objective genitive. So also C.H. Lenski. Those two men knew a lot of Greek. But it makes the following words somewhat redundant, so I think they've missed the boat on this one.

You argued that "righteousness which is of the law" is paralleled by "through faith of Christ," but it seems to me the parallel is the end of the verse: "righteousness which is of God by faith." Thus, source and means are paralleled:

Righteousness -- my own -- law
Righteousness -- God's -- faith

I think Galatians 2:20 is a strong buttress to your point, but I don't think the parallelism in this verse supports you.

Thanks for a thought-provoking article. You aren't too bad at this multi-tasking thing. Either that, or you're terrible at obsessing.

Kent Brandenburg said...


I just finished mixing teaching my two classes with my obsession of correcting other people. And now for what I obsess over everything of which I obsess, correcting Canadians. And Don, I didn't like your tone, just to start. You're too dogmatic when you speak, not nuanced. I've met other Canadians like you, so you are about par for the course though. But I digress. I know lot of folks say objective: A. T., as Jon Gleason said. And I picked out someone who agreed with me, Expositor's Greek Testament. But the argument, I believe, is in the contrast with the usages translated "faith in Christ" and the use of en and eis with those. I changed my post slightly, because inserting the "in" seems to be an addition that makes Christ not the object any longer. Objective genitive would seem to need to keep Christ as the object. It's tough arguing with A. T., who wrote his mammoth Greek Grammar, but all of us disagree with A. T. some, and he doesn't actually make any arguments in his Word Pictures. We're to believe him just because, because, because, he's A. T.

There is a difference between "faith in Christ" and believing Christ, which seems to fit the objective idea better. That might be why the translators in the KJV didn't translate it "in Christ," except where there was the preposition en and the locative case. You can add Ephesians 1:15 to that.

My argument is not helped by "faith in God" in Mark 11:22, which uses the genitive, and then Acts 3:16, "faith in his name," which uses the genitive. The modern versions bring in the "in" for the genitive. So churches historically took it as "of" for centuries.

Another argument for me, look up verb and then "in" and then some name of God or Lord or Jesus, and see how much is genitive. It isn't. It's almost always en and locative.

You've got Acts 9:42, believed in the Lord, which uses epi. It's the accusative, so something like "concerning the Lord."

glory in the Lord, testify in the Lord, etc.

Kent Brandenburg said...

I agree with the righteousness parallel too, Jon. Righteousness and faith on one side with God, and then my righteousness and the law on the other. Thanks.

Jon Gleason said...

I'm obsessing over this now. We've got three references to righteousness in this verse.

The first is about my own righteousness, which is "of" the law.

The last is about God's righteousness, which is "by" faith. Faith is the instrument by which we receive it.

These two are parallel. Now we come to the middle statement. The righteousness which is "through the faith of Christ."

The last statement tells us how we receive righteousness -- by faith. Everyone agrees (well, except for Rome and other false teachers). So is this middle statement telling us how we receive righteousness, too? It is if it is a genitive of source (or ablative), as Kent is arguing. Likewise, if it is an objective genitive, as Don, AT, and friends argue.

In both these cases, it makes the final phrasing of the verse somewhat redundant, especially in the objective genitive. I don't find that persuasive at all.

But actually, I think I can make a case for a descriptive / attributive genitive here. I'm not sure I believe my own case, but I can make it. :)

Under this way of reading it, Paul is saying that I don't have my righteousness, but Christ's, that which is provided through His faithfulness, for He "was faithful to Him that appointed Him" (Heb. 3:2). Christ faithfully fulfilled all righteousness, and this is the righteousness which I now have. Through His faithfulness all righteousness is completed, and it is imputed to me by faith.

Our middle statement, righteousness "which is by faith of Christ," then becomes a statement about the quality of the righteousness, about its completeness. That would fit well with the context. I had all this righteousness by my own works, but it's dung. I have this "faithfulness of Christ" righteousness now, and it's by faith.

I've never looked at the passage that way before. I'm persuaded that what I've said in making the case is true and Biblical, but not necessarily that this passage is teaching it. Thoughts?

I'm a little scared to comment here, now. Some people say that living in Scotland has affected my accent so that I sound Canadian, now. If Kent doesn't like my tone, he might start obsessing. That won't do any of us any good.

Kent Brandenburg said...


This is like a Greek class discussion. Obviously, the categories are for us, not us for them. They are invented categories to help sort out meaning. They could have been given different names, and often do have different names. I grew up with genitive of reference as the catch-all category. Faith with reference to Christ.

As I memorized v. 9, thoughts said that the last two parts are restatement, last part elaboration on part before it. The translators seemed to see it that way with the word "which." That which is through the faith of Christ is the righteousness which is of God. That which is of the law is that righteousness which is mine own. Paul is being emphatic by adding "by faith."

Are you saying that the law was something Paul did that resulted in his righteousness, and that God's righteousness was something that Christ faithfully did? So we're not doing anything, Christ is doing everything?

Do you also think that "faith of the Son of God" is the Son of God's faithfulness then?

Jon Gleason said...

Let me try again, Kent. I'll explain it in detail that you won't need, but some others might.

Christ's righteousness is both negative (He did not sin) and positive (He did good). Thus, He not only fulfilled the Law (Mt. 5:17), but fulfilled all righteousness (Mt. 3:15). This is sometimes called the "active obedience" of Christ.

The righteousness of Christ is imputed to our account, including this active obedience. Thus, we do not have to do the righteous act of baptism to be saved, because Christ's righteousness is imputed to us. We do the righteous act because He told us to and we love Him, but if someone (such as the thief on the cross) is never baptized, he will still be saved because of imputed righteousness, including Christ's active obedience.

Christ's active obedience is called "faithfulness" in Hebrews 3. By His faithfulness (active obedience), He provided / completed the righteousness which is imputed to us. It doesn't mean we don't live righteously, for we walk worthy of our calling. But Romans 4 tells us the righteousness of God is imputed to those who have not worked.

Now we come to Phil. 3:9. Here's where I'm musing, and unpersuaded. Grammatically, pisteos Christou (faith of Christ) could refer to Christ's faithfulness, His active obedience, as the means by which imputed righteousness is provided.

The force of the passage then is:
I don't have my own righteousness (which is as dung) from/by the law, I have the righteousness (which is perfect) which Christ perfected / provided by His faitnfulness, the righteousness which is of/from God by faith.

Thus, the first statement in this verse, about righteousness of the law is contrasted with the last statement, righteousness of God by faith, while the middle statement (righteousness by faith / faithfulness of Christ) would be contrasted with the statement of the prior verse. The worthlessness of his own righteousness is being contrasted with the perfected righteousness of Christ.

Like I said, I've never looked at the passage this way, and I haven't read any commentaries which view it this way, which usually means I'm out to lunch. But it fits grammatically, theologically, and contextually, I think....

Don Johnson said...

Coming back in, I have to thank Kent for his compliment. Don't want anyone to think I am going soft!

I don't believe faith is a gift, but I also believe, as I said earlier, that it doesn't matter whether it is or not. Paul dogmatically states in Rm 4.5 "to him that worketh not, but believeth..." According to Scripture, faith is NOT a work, no matter what its source, whether it is a gift or an act of one's own will.

As to the source, I think Rm 4.5 is instructive as well, since the "works" one does NOT do would be one's own (no one argues they are a gift from God), thus, by analogy, the believing (called "his faith" later in the verse) would be his own as well.

That's my line and I'm sticking to it.

Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

KJB1611 said...

I can't say I have time to get into a big discussion on tis, but the following, a footnote of my dissertation, gives some reasons I believe the genitive is objective:;

In texts such as Romans 3:22; Galatians 2:16, 20; 3:22; Epheisans 3:12; Philippians 3:9 the pi÷stiß Cristouv, “faith of Christ,” and their related phrases are objective genitives, signifying “faith in Christ.” Compare Romans 5:1-2; Ephesians 2:18; & pgs. 81-98, Chapter 7, “On the pi÷stiß Cristouv Question,” On Romans: And Other New Testament Essays, C. E. B. Cranfield. Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1998.

Carson & Beale note:
[P]rior to the 1970s the construction pistis Iēsou Christou was almost universally understood to mean “faith in Jesus Christ” (the so-called objective genitive), but in recent decades many scholars have argued that it should be rendered “the faith/faithfulness of Jesus Christ” (subjective genitive). . . . [T]he arguments usually advanced against the traditional interpretation are either irrelevant (e.g., some scholars point to the absence of pistis + objective genitive of a person in classical literature, but this absence is precisely what one would expect in documents that do not otherwise speak about the need for believing in a person) or based on an inadequate understanding of the objective genitive (e.g., that it is not natural, or that it does not apply in this case because pisteuō is construed with the dative or with a prepositional phrase). The ambiguity inherent in genitival constructions can be resolved only by examining unambiguous constructions in the immediate and broader contexts, preferably if they use the same or cognate terms. The NT as a whole, and Paul in particular, regularly and indisputably use both pistis and pisteuō of the individual’s faith in God or Christ, but they never make unambiguous statements such as episteusen Iēsous (“Jesus believed”) or pistos estin Iēsous (“Jesus is believing/faithful”). These and other considerations explain why the early fathers who spoke Greek as their native tongue never seem to have entertained the idea that this genitival construction has Jesus Christ as the subject of the implied action (pgs. 789-790, Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament, G. K. Beale & D. A. Carson. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2007)

Similarly, Warfield noted:

[The] object [of] pi÷stiß is most frequently joined to [it] as an objective genitive, a construction occurring some seventeen times, twelve of which fall in the writings of Paul. In four of them the genitive is that of the thing, namely in Philippians 1:27 the gospel, in 2 Thessalonians 2:13 the saving truth, in Colossians 2:12 the almighty working of God, and in Acts 3:16 the name of Jesus. In one of them it is God (Mark 11:22). The certainty that the genitive is that of object in these cases is decisive with reference to its nature in the remaining cases, in which Jesus Christ is set forth as the object on which faith rests (Romans 3:22, 26; Galatians 2:16 [2x], 20; 3:22; Ephesians 3:12; 4:13; Philippians 3:9; James 2:1; Revelation 2:13; 14:12). (“The Biblical Doctrine of Faith,” Warfield, in Biblical Doctrines, vol. 2 of Works.)

Compare the many pisteu/w + ei˙ß contructions with Christ as their object (Matthew 18:6; Mark 9:42; John 1:12; 2:11; 3:15-18, etc.), although such faith directed toward Christ includes faith in that God who sent Him as well (John 5:24; 1 Thessalonians 1:8; 1 Peter 1:21).

KJB1611 said...

I believe, at least on Wallace's definition of genitive of source, the genitive does not fit source:

2. Genitive of Source (or Origin) [out of, derived from, dependent on]

a. Definition

The genitive substantive is the source from which the head noun derives or depends. This is a rare category in Koine Greek.

b. Key to Identification

For the word of supply the paraphrase out of, derived from, dependent on, or “sourced in.”

c. Amplification

Again, as with the genitive of separation, the simple genitive is being replaced in Koine Greek by a prepositional phrase (in this instance, e˙k + gen.) to indicate source. This corresponds to the fact that source is an emphatic idea: emphasis and explicitness often go hand in hand.

Since this usage is not common, it is not advisable to seek it as the most likely one for a particular genitive that may fit under another label. In some ways, the possessive, subjective, and source genitives are similar. In any given instance, if they all make good sense, subjective should be given priority. In cases where there is no verbal head noun, possessive still takes priority over source as an apt label. The distinction between source and separation, however, is more difficult to call. Frequently, it is a matter merely of emphasis: separation stresses result while source stresses cause.101 (Some of the illustrations below could belong under either source or separation.)102

KJB1611 said...

Finally, if every good and perfect gift is from God, it will be hard to argue that faith is not a gift from God. Even your breakfast is a gift from God. Calling faith a gift, however, does not mean irresistible grace any more than your Cheerios went into your stomach by irresistible grace. Also, many texts plainly state faith and repentance are gifts, e. g., Phil 1:29.

KJB1611 said...

P. S.--Don't obsess.


Kent Brandenburg said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Kent Brandenburg said...

Hi Thomas,

I know you don't have time. It seems that Carson/Beale are attacking the subjective, Jon's offering here (sorry Jon).

I know that genitive of source is not a main genitive usage, and we called it an ablative of source in second year Greek, but notice the parallel in Philip 3:9, use the ek, that Wallace mentions. Out of the law versus out of Christ. Paul's righteousness came out of ("from"---source) the law, while there was a faith which came out of Christ.

This is different for you and me, because I'm saying that the translators translated "of" here, and they surely could have translated it "in," because they do elsewhere, as I showed.

This is not the passage I would quote for faith as a gift, Philippians 1:29, but it reads as Christ as source to me.

One should be careful with exceptional usages, I believe, too. Evidence should be there, not speculation.

Kent Brandenburg said...

It looks as though this has been a scholarly debate between objective and subjective genitive (see last footnote here):

But there is also a group that says genitive of source (see footnote 54):

Kent Brandenburg said...

I'm waiting for my Greek class to start, and I was thinking about this more. I was thinking of the juxtaposition of the works of the law in Romans versus the faith of Christ. There is an intentional contrast, I think. I was thinking of the concepts of the truth of Christ, the law of Christ, the gospel of Christ, the word of Christ.

"faith of Abraham" in Rom 4 couldn't be objective, believing in Abraham. It could be subjective or source though.

Gotta go

Anonymous said...

A person is eternally saved through faith in the gospel of Jesus Christ, but does God give this faith or is it purely a human response? Those who teach that faith must be given by God are usually constrained to do so by their theological perspective, as is true of Reformed theology.