Faith of Jesus
Here is the patience of the saints: here are they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus. (Revelation 14:12 KJV)
This verse has been a staple of my religious diet since I was very young. This verse was drilled into my head repeatedly and was used to define my church's very identity. Yet at the same time this verse seemed to present and reenforce a nearly impossible demand for me, because if I failed to perfectly keep all of God's commandments and also work up enormous faith, maybe as much as Jesus demonstrated, then the chance of me being saved appeared to be rather shaky.
Recently my mind has been opened to many new things about God, truths that have eliminated many of my fears and apprehensions and have unlocked many things to my understanding that used to make little sense to me in the past. Even now as I read nearly anything in Scripture I can now see new and amazing things I could not appreciate before because my comprehension was so blinded by narrow, dark views about how God relates to sinners or how He felt about me.
I started to do a little research today on this phrase faith of Jesus and what I am discovering is simply amazing, at least for me. What I am finding is expanding faster than I can even grasp, but I want to capture at least some of it here to get started on what is sure to continue to expand even more.
To start with, a number of years ago I heard a presentation by Fred Bischoff that really caught my attention and got me to rethinking popular assumptions about this phrase the faith of Jesus. He pointed out that in the original language, many places in Scripture that were translated as faith in Jesus could just as accurately be rendered faith of Jesus. He also explained that there is real power in this faith of Jesus experienced when we begin to appreciate the faith that Jesus has demonstrated in sinners. This is the faith He had that when He came to this earth to reveal the truth about how God feels about us in ways that we as humans can relate to, the result would be effects in hearts that would produce a rich harvest of people willing to change their minds about God and allow Him to salvage them from sin.
The power of sin resides in the power of lies about God that continue to make us afraid. Jesus believed that when the real truth about God would be seen in the way Jesus lived and treated people as a humble peasant mingling with sinners and loving them unconditionally, this truth about God could dispel the false ideas that have made us so afraid to come to Him for healing and reconciliation.
Just as love awakens love, so too can faith awaken faith. Faith, belief and trust all come from the same Greek word. Why translators diversify them is a mystery to me for it confuses many into thinking they mean different things. I prefer the word trust for it has the least amount of religious baggage for me and relates to everyday language that makes more sense. And as I have reflected on what Fred pointed out about Jesus having faith in us for the purpose of awakening a responding faith in God, I realized that we are already familiar with that principle and even enjoy stories demonstrating that very principle.
A business owner takes in a troubled boy, expresses confidence in him so much that the boy is inspired to live up to the expectations of his mentor even when no one else saw anything worthwhile in him. A football coach believes in a messed up teenager who is in constant trouble, takes him under his wing, is tough but caring and transforms him into a legend. It makes sense that God would use the same principle to inspire faith in us demonstrating that He believes in us in ways we can't begin to imagine.
What has been far less noticed is this factor of the faith that Jesus has in us. We have emphasized our need to have faith in God to be saved. But I learned that trying to work up faith is nearly impossible. But to respond with faith inspired by someone else's faith in me is another matter altogether. This is what I am starting to see more clearly as I flush out this issue of the faith of Jesus in Scripture. Let's take a look at some of these passages.
Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified. (Galatians 2:16 KJV)
It is important to not misunderstand what the term justified really means. This is not speaking of a legal pardon or forgiveness getting us off the hook for breaking a law. Rather this justification really means being put back into harmony with all the principles that govern reality as God designed it. Justified means to be set right again, both with God and with the design laws which we were created to live by for harmony with nature, each other and with heaven. This is very practical rather than legal, for it is about restoring what was lost, repairing what is broken, healing what has been wounded or infected and bringing us back into joyful fellowship with the rest of the universe as we were designed to live.
But the scripture hath concluded all under sin, that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe. (Galatians 3:22 KJV)
In the original language, this verse literally reads, faith of Jesus Christ given, or handed over, to those with faith. At first this sounds like circular reasoning. If one already has faith why is faith given to them? If they don't have faith why would it not be given to them since they need it?
For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of yourself more highly than you ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. (Romans 12:3)
If we begin to discern a distinction between our faith and the faith of Jesus, it begins to make more sense. We don't have to start out with faith like Jesus had, but if we are willing to simply believe that the faith we see Jesus using, an implicit trust in His own Father to be fair and to handle things even when everything appears out of control, then our choice to embrace the faith of Jesus and ask to receive it can give us enormous new power. Because of our choice to simply believe and choose God's way as demonstrated by Jesus, we can receive the enormous faith of Jesus as a free gift empowering us to live life like Jesus lived it.
And without faith it is impossible to please God, for whoever would approach him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him. (Hebrews 11:6)
This verse really bothered me for many years. Because I grew up assuming that faith meant believing something with no trace of doubt lingering inside, I never felt like I had enough faith to succeed. And since faith generally was about praying for something I wanted or believing I had forgiveness of sins, because I could never eliminate all doubt from my mind I could never experience peace or joy or anything close to those feelings. When it came to pleasing God, that also seemed like a God who was not much like Jesus at all. In my mind God was rather insensitive, demanding, fault-finding and threatening. Because He seemed to me like a harsh task-master, insisting He needed to be pleased or He would not answer my prayers, I seldom felt like asking much except to grovel to convince Him to absolve me of the enormous guilt and condemnation I lived under nearly every waking moment.
It took me many years to realize that God was not at all like how I had perceived Him most of my life. When I did so I realized that this verse was not about appeasing God as I had always assumed but could better be understood in the context of two people madly in love with each other who are always trying to find ways to make the other person happy – pleased. In that context this verse took on new meaning and began to lose its dark, threatening shadow cast over it by the enemy.
As I looked closer it made even more sense. If I resist believing that God even exists, how could that please Him? Or if I don't believe that God is the kind of being who wants to reward and bless me, then my attitude about Him can actually block Him from doing many things He would like. In this light it makes sense that if I want to have an intimate, authentic relationship with Him – or anyone for that matter – these two basic prerequisites need be in place before I should expect to find a fulfilling relationship. Trust/faith/belief must be in place for any healthy relationship.
For I am not ashamed of the gospel; it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who has faith, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed through faith for faith; as it is written, "The one who is righteous will live by faith." (Romans 1:16-17)
This passage I believe may be affirming the concept of God giving us more of the faith of Jesus as we invest our faith in Him. As I choose to exercise the measure of faith that each of us has been given intuitively, and I choose to trust that God's way is the better way and I want to participate in it, my life will also begin to reveal the righteousness of God as the faith of Jesus becomes more evident in me and the power of God heals me to more and more reflect Him as humans were intended by design to do.
An interesting link that became obvious as I gathered verses about the faith of Jesus together was this close connection between faith and the righteousness of God. I now realize that faith is not the object to focus on but rather the purpose of faith – to allow the righteousness of God, i.e. His goodness, love, humility, compassion and all His other attractions to be reproduced in my life to attract others to want to know Him for themselves as well. This was the original intent for all the human race and has never been diminished, only distorted. But by embracing the reality that Jesus has great faith that His revelation of God's love will attract us to give Him access to our hearts to in turn make us reflectors of His love, His revelation of God's beauty and perfect light can be multiplied, not only to attract other sinners to God for healing but to affect the thinking of untold number of beings watching throughout the universe.
The goal and purpose of faith is not to show how well I can believe in God but to show how good God really is to defeat and destroy the accusations and lies of the enemy that have undermined God's ability to govern the way He insists, with love and love alone. By embracing the truth about love, the truth that God is love and light and that in Him is no darkness at all with all the implications that involves, my life can be filled with the same righteousness that is starting to be revealed about God and I can become part of God's purpose to fill the entire earth with the glory of God (Revelation 18:1-2).
Faith is the means by which we receive the fuel of agape love that humans were designed to use for living as reflectors of God's righteousness. Lies about God that we believed introduced sin, selfishness, fear and many false notions about God that have devastated our planet and defaced God's image in humanity. God's plan to restore us that we call salvation begins to have its effect in our lives as we embrace the good news that God is not at all like what sin has led us to think about Him. God is not our antagonist who must be appeased. Rather the malfunction caused in us by the lies we have believed about Him have caused us to distrust Him and remain too far from His life-giving, loving embrace.
Lies we believe about God contradict the truth that God really is righteous – which means He is all good, all light, all love and nothing else (1 John 1:5). The good news, the gospel, is the realization that this really is the truth about Him, that He is not the one we should be afraid of and hide from. When we choose to embrace this truth (faith), that choice opens us up to be infused with the far more potent faith that was perfected in the life of Jesus and that empowered Him to do all His miracles and to live the selfless servant life that He did while here on this earth. In this way we too can live similarly – by His faith, exercising His faith to reveal the goodness of God as we live life like Christ.
For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (2 Corinthians 5:21)
But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets; Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference: (Romans 3:21-22 KJV)
Parallel this to the first verse quoted from Revelation and we begin to see how they line up perfectly. The people viewed in Revelation living near the end are people who have patience of saints, who both keep the commandments and have the faith of Jesus. The faith of Jesus clearly correlates in these verses. So what is correlated with keeping the commandments? The righteousness of God! And if you notice, many of these passages that speak of the faith of Jesus speak of the righteousness of God. If the commandments are simply descriptions of God's character – His righteousness reduced to simple, relevant explanations, then righteousness is what the simplified descriptions of the commandments will look like in real life in our relationships, actions and attitudes.
The people described in Revelation are not people who have worked very hard to obey perfectly a list of rules and commandments. Rather, these are people who have learned that with the faith of Jesus received into them, faith originally inspired by Jesus' faith in them that awakened responsive faith from within them, they become so transformed by beholding Jesus obsessively that their trust in God each day produces the same kind of life that it did in Jesus – the very righteousness of God.
For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you should follow in his steps. "He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth." When he was abused, he did not return abuse; when he suffered, he did not threaten; but he entrusted himself to the one who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in his body on the cross, so that, free from sins, we might live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed. (1 Peter 2:21-24)
This is one of the most explicit and vivid revelations of the faith of Jesus and its results. Peter gives a first-hand account of what Jesus' faith looked like. His faith entrusted everything to His Father whom Jesus believed would be absolutely fair in how He would handle everything in the long run. Because Jesus had this kind of faith in His Father He could resist every temptation for resentment, bitterness, feelings of offense, desires for revenge or retaliation. Instead of reacting with feelings like we naturally have toward abusers, desires to return abuse for abuse or at least threats, Jesus, while having access to infinite power to defend and protect Himself, chose only to forgive and love and nothing else. This is the faith of Jesus and is the same kind of faith that will mark the lives of all who accept His faith.
This passage also makes it clear that this faith of Jesus has the power to set us free from sin in order that we might live for righteousness. This is exactly the same thing we find in Revelation – people who follow the Lamb, people who have the trademark faith that looks and responds just like the faith Jesus had and who, like Jesus, have also come to reflect in their lives what God looks like. They have become synchronized with the principles of God's character as condensed into His commandments. They have allowed the Spirit of Jesus dwelling in their hearts to reproduce in their lives the same kind of public display of the real truth about God's character as was exhibited in Jesus' life.
Here are more clues as to the kind of life Jesus was talking about that display the righteousness of God.
A dispute also arose among them as to which one of them was to be regarded as the greatest. But he said to them, "The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those in authority over them are called benefactors. But not so with you; rather the greatest among you must become like the youngest, and the leader like one who serves. For who is greater, the one who is at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one at the table? But I am among you as one who serves." (Luke 22:24-27)
But Jesus called them to him and said, "You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them. It will not be so among you; but whoever wishes to be great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be your slave; just as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many." (Matthew 20:25-28)
You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous. (Matthew 5:43-45)
Woe to you when all speak well of you, for that is what their ancestors did to the false prophets. But I say to you that listen, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. (Luke 6:26-28)
All of these passages describe attributes that will mark the life of a person who has the faith of Jesus. These people will not be clamoring to rise higher in the world's systems of hierarchy. They will not be resentful toward their enemies but rather will love them unconditionally as God loves. Jesus taught that to be children of our Father in heaven we must view enemies the same way He does, which is with unending kindness and respect, never in animosity or reflecting their evil spirit back to them.
But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets; Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference: (Romans 3:21-22 KJV)
Here are the same verses expanded in another translation that amplifies this truth even more.
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 for all who believe. For there is no distinction, since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God; they are now justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a sacrifice of atonement by his blood, effective through faith. He did this to show his righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over the sins previously committed; it was to prove at the present time that he himself is righteous and that he justifies the one who has faith in Jesus. (Romans 3:21-26)
For many years passages such as this confused me because I could only read them through a legal paradigm. Proving that God is righteous in this context produces very twisted conclusions that in fact resulted in making Him look just the opposite in my mind. The legal explanation fall far too short for explaining what Paul is trying to reveal that only makes sense in a relational paradigm. Once I discovered the true definitions of the terms used here and discarded the misleading legal context that is typically used to explain this and other passages, suddenly light comes pouring out of verses I never dreamed could have so much hope and love in them.
Now I can see that God proves He really is righteous – meaning He is fair, right, good and all the other wonderful attributes He has claimed He has – by replicating that same righteousness in the lives of those allowing Him access to their hearts. When Paul says that God justifies a person who has faith in Jesus, this word actually means that the person is restored to a perfect reflection of God's righteousness, the one lost when our first parents sinned in Eden. To justify means to set right again. And the method God uses to set us right and keep us right is to expose us to the real truth about His own goodness/righteousness that is seen in Christ. Then that revelation itself has the power to transform us into a similar reflection of same image as was seen in the human life of Christ.
Now a mediator involves more than one party; but God is one. Is the law then opposed to the promises of God? Certainly not! For if a law had been given that could make alive, then righteousness would indeed come through the law. But the scripture has imprisoned all things under the power of sin, so that what was promised through faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe. Now before faith came, we were imprisoned and guarded under the law until faith would be revealed. Therefore the law was our disciplinarian until Christ came, so that we might be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer subject to a disciplinarian, for in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith. As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus. And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham's offspring, heirs according to the promise. (Galatians 3:20-29)
This first highlighted phrase in this passage was something that jumped out at me as I read. It relates to another topic that has produced much fear and discouragement for millions who, raised like me, were taught that Jesus is necessary to be our mediator pleading to His Father, interceding for us with compelling arguments to alter the Father's attitude towards us as a sinners. This teaching infers a sharp distinction between the attitude of Jesus about us and the disposition of the Father towards us and has caused millions to either reject religion altogether or live in constant terror of the Father as I did for so long, clinging to hope that Jesus will at last be successful in convincing the Father to forgive.
For the first time I noticed as I read this verse that it actually destroys credibility for that entire line of thinking. Paul explicitly states here that the need for a mediator requires differing parties. The mediator takes the side of one party for the purpose of convincing another party to change their mind about the first, meaning that the mediator views things differently that the person they are seeking to change.
Yet Paul makes an emphatic point that I never noticed before. He contrasts the notion of differing views between parties with the explicit statement that God is one. As I read this I suddenly realized that insisting that Jesus is needed to plead to the Father seeking to change His mind about me on my behalf necessarily implies that the Father must feel differently about me from how the Son feels creating the very need of a mediator on my behalf in the first place.
If this is true, then the clear words of Jesus repeated throughout His ministry on earth could not be true, for He claimed that everything He said and did were simply reflections of His Father. He also told His disciples just before going to His death that if they had seen Him they had also seen the Father. There is no shadow of difference between how Jesus feels about sinners and how the Father feels toward sinners. If this is the case, then every theory asserting a need for Jesus to intercede to the Father on our behalf is baseless and false in contrast to these clear declarations of Jesus (John 16:26-27).
In addition, I now see in this verse that if we continue to insist Jesus is needed to mediate for us to the Father, implying that they do have differing opinions and feelings about us, the only way that could be is that the oneness of the godhead does not exist as they claim. Either Jesus is not God – just like God, or there must be division within the godhead. And either way sounds like blasphemy to me.
How can Jesus be our mediator and yet not be trying to change the Father's thinking or attitude about us? Notice that Jesus is mediating or interceding with the Father, not to the Father. What that means has enormous implications regarding many popular beliefs. It can best be illustrated by examining the typical mental image we have when we read these words. If we picture Jesus before God's throne facing the Father, then mediation would appear to be an attempt to in some way change the Father's disposition about us. But if Jesus is standing before the Father facing out, the same direction the Father is facing, suddenly we see that both the Father and Jesus together, in perfect harmony of disposition, are both mediating toward someone else on our behalf. In this perspective Jesus, along with the Father, intercedes for us. This view can produce enormous changes in our feelings about the Father and can serve to eliminate one of the main sources of fear that has plagued many their whole life.
The relationship of faith to the law here is a subject that needs to be unpacked to also address fears it has produced for many years. But I will leave that for another time and move on to the next point.
To be clothed with Christ I see is not a legal maneuver as is commonly taught. Rather this is describing a transformation of character which is the amazing but natural effect of having the righteousness of God revealed to us by the gospel. The good news about how good God really is as seen in the revelation of Jesus has inherent power to create a transforming reaction within all who choose to believe. This dramatically alters the image of God reflected from inside the heart outward into the life and affecting every relationship.
I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God--what is good and acceptable and perfect. For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of yourself more highly than you ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. (Romans 12:1-3)