The Common Good

Thesis vs Jesus: When it Comes to Faith, Which Matters More?

The following is an excerpt from Banned Questions About Jesus, edited by the author:

Galatians 3:22: Is it the faith of Jesus or faith in Jesus that’s the key?

Amy Reeder Worley: It is both the faith of and in Jesus that lead to salvation, which is another word for “liberation.”

Jesus’ faith in God was absolute. He lived in complete service to God. Jesus prayed: at Gethsemane (Matt 26:36), after healing Simon’s mother-in-law (Mark 1:35), before he was baptized (Luke 3:21); when the disciples asked him how to pray (Luke 11:1); before the transfiguration (Luke 9:28); before he was arrested (John 17: 1-26); and minutes before he died (Luke 23:46). Jesus’ relationship with God was so intimate he called God “abba,” or daddy. He praised God’s works. (Luke 10:21). And he beseeched God to forgive his executioners. (Luke 23:46).

Yet Jesus’ did not tell us to just have greater faith in God. Rather, Jesus said he was “light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life.” (John 8:22). What did he mean? Jesus explained further, “I came from God and now I am here. I did not come on my own, but he sent me. You do not know him. But I know him and I keep his word.” (John 8:42). In other words, come with me; I can illuminate for you a path to God.

In saying that faith in Jesus and the faith of Jesus are both “the key,” we get dangerously close to a tautology (using different words to say the same thing). But in this case I don’t mean that both Jesus’ faith and faith in Jesus are the same. I mean that our faith in Jesus illuminates how to practice a faith that brings us closer to God.

Modern Christians focus so much on believing. We too often forget that faith requires practice, doing. Jesus embodied this practice. Our faith in Jesus as our guide to a relationship with God is a condition precedent to salvation, or a liberating faith in God.

Pablo A. Jiménez: I have always preferred to speak about the faith of Jesus than about faith in Christ. Most people find this shocking and many have tried to correct my theological statements. However, I persist in speaking about the faith of Jesus.

In English, the phrase “the faith of Jesus” is ambiguous. It can mean “the faith that Jesus had”, “the faith inspired by Jesus, who is our theological center” or “the faith that belongs to Jesus.” When asked about which meaning I imply in my preaching, my answer is: “Yes, I mean all of the above.”

First, the Christian faith exists because Jesus was faithful to God and to the mission that God delegated on him. In this sense, the church exists because Jesus had “faith,” a term better understood as faithfulness and commitment.

Second, believers must see Jesus as the model of belief, conduct and practice. We must strive to imitate Jesus’ faith.

Third, believers belong to Jesus. This is what the phrase “Jesus is Lord” means, after all.

Of course, correctly understood the phrase “to have faith in Jesus” implies all the theological ideas expressed above. However, I have found that many understand it as simply acknowledging Jesus’ existence, without a clear commitment of faith.

Therefore, for me sharing in the faith of Jesus is more important that having faith “in” him.

Christian Piatt: I would tend to say it depends on whom you ask, but based on my personal experience, maybe it has more to do with when you ask someone such a question about their understanding of Jesus.

I grew up understanding that the latter was the cornerstone of my faith, and ultimately, my salvation. This leaned heavily upon the idea that acceptance of Jesus as savior was the one and only way to heaven, and that Jesus died for my sins.

I have since come to understand both this passage in Galatians, as well as the notions of atonement, salvation and the place of Jesus in my faith, a little differently. Instead of Jesus dying for my sins, I now tend to embrace the concept that Jesus died because of our collective sinfulness, meaning that Jesus made himself fully vulnerable to the fearful, violent smallness that humanity brought to the cross, to the point of death.

Why? Because he believed in what God anointed/enlightened/blessed him to do, more than life itself. That is, he claimed love as paramount over all else, including his own personal wellbeing.

This brings us to the idea of the faith of Jesus raised in the question. How could someone put their humanity aside in the name of such sacrificial love? To me, it would take divine inspiration to hold so fast to one’s faith. And that same divine breath is what is passed on through the generations, within the body of Christ, as well as among those who embrace the spirit of Christ.

We’ve all heard the phrase “God is love,” but for me, the point that Jesus endeavored to make, to the foot of Calvary and beyond the open mouth of the tomb, is that LOVE IS GOD.

Christian Piatt is an author, editor, speaker, musician and spoken word artist. He co-founded Milagro Christian Church in Pueblo, Colorado with his wife, the Rev. Amy Piatt, in 2004. Christian is the creator and editor of Banned Questions About The Bible and Banned Questions About Jesus." He has a memoir on faith, family and parenting — PREGMANCY: A Dad, a Little Dude and a Due Date — hits book stores everywhere April 1. For more information about Christian, visit www.christianpiatt.com, or find him on Twitter or Facebook.

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