11024 S. Bell Avenue
Chicago, IL 60643
Reflection October 1, 2017
"Saved by Faith in Jesus or Saved by the Faith of Jesus?" by Rev. Dr. Thomas Aldworth
This past Sunday, in my sermon, I raised what I believe is a very important issue. It revolves around how best to translate the Koine (Biblical) Greek in which the New Testament was originally written.
As I’ve pointed out numerous times in our “All of Paul” Bible Studies, we, Christians, hold that the entire Bible was/is “inspired” by God. But this “inspiration” occurred in the original languages (Hebrew and Greek).
Any and every English translation of the Bible cannot, theologically, be said to be “divinely inspired.” Translations are the work of human hands and minds. Some translations are better than others. Many of our fellow Christians cling to one “official” translation or another.
Our Catholic brothers and sisters, for instance, only use the New American Bible Translation in their worship, which includes the apocryphal books as part of their Bible. We American Baptists often use the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible but we are free to use other versions as well. Many of our fellow Christians cling to the antiquated but well-loved King James Translation.
Again let me make it very clear: the Bible is inspired ONLY in the original languages of ancient Hebrew and Koine (Biblical) Greek. Translations are never under the umbrella of divine inspiration!
I write about this because of the issue I brought to our congregation on Sunday. I mentioned there are debates over the correct translation in some passages from Paul’s Letters. Here are two such examples: Galatians 2:15-16 and Romans 3:21-22.
The translation of these two passages in the New Revised Standard Version are as follows: “We ourselves are Jews by birth and not Gentile sinners; yet we know that a person is justified not by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ (a footnote states “or ‘the faith of Jesus Christ.’). (Galatians 2:15-16)
“But now, apart from law, the righteousness of God has been disclosed, and is attested by the law and the prophets, the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ (again a footnote cautions “or ‘through the faith of Jesus Christ.’) for all who believe.” (Romans 3:21-22)
So are we “saved/justified” by believing, by having faith IN Jesus Christ, or are we “saved/justified” by the faith OF Jesus Christ? This is no small matter! The Greek can be read either way! I am, to put it mildly, no Biblical Greek scholar but I know where to go to find good, up-to-date, commentary on the Greek texts.
I, for one, believe we are saved because of the faith OF Jesus Christ. Jesus trusted in the Father even unto the cross. It is this stunning, absolute, trust/faith by the Son in the Father that opened up for us the redemption we all seek and need.
If we are saved by believing IN Jesus Christ - then this salvation is something WE DO! Salvation becomes something we accomplish through believing IN Jesus Christ. I find it difficult to accept this notion because of my understanding of what Paul proclaims in his writings.
Salvation is a totally free GIFT from God. It’s not something we DO! It’s not something we CAN do! Salvation is an absolute grace poured upon all of us through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. We can never EARN it. We can only accept it and embrace it. Salvation is something God DOES!
Such are the issues we regularly address in our “All of Paul” Bible studies. I realize that those who work are unable to attend the studies - and we should discern another way of engaging all who want to delve deeper into the New Testament.
As Christians, we are rooted in the Bible. As Christians, we are immersed in the Bible. As Christians, we are formed and fashioned by the Bible. But unless we take the time to study the Scriptures at some depth - we remain “surface” Christians.
In the 9 years, 4 months, that I’ve had the graceful privilege of pasturing our beloved Morgan Park Baptist Church, I have focused again and again on a deeper immersion into the Word of God. I’ve grown immeasurably in my own understanding of the Bible during these precious years at Morgan Park Baptist Church (the oldest church in Morgan Park).
Does this mean that we’ve always agreed in our common, shared, understandings of the Word of God? Of course not! We are decidedly human. As humans, we’ll disagree and sometimes struggle over our Biblical interpretations. This is, fundamentally, what it means to be church! But we trust that God is with us now and in the future, and always when we gather together in the holy name of Jesus Christ!
Rev. Dr. Joel Mitchell, Pastor