Justified By His Faithfulness – Romans 3:22

Derek Ouellette —  January 28, 2010

I read a post by another blogger recently titled “Made Righteous in Christ Jesus“. It is a well written post explaining and defending the traditional Reformed doctrine of the imputation of Christ’ righteousness.

But as the post takes flight the blogger focuses all of his energy on being made righteous by having faith in Jesus. In other words, there is subtle move from understanding being justified as a matter of “Incorporation/Participation” (being in Christ) to being imputed righteousness by having faith in Christ (believing in Christ).

I think this shift happens without thought and I think it is a mistake. I believe we are not made righteous by having faith in Jesus (that is how we are saved – Eph 2:8-9). But we are made righteous by Jesus’ own faithfulness!

Consider Romans 3:22:

This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. – NIV

Notice the NIV reads, “faith in Jesus Christ”. But the Greek reads, “faith of Jesus Christ” (look it up). And since the Greek word for faith can at the same time be translated “faithfulness”, I think the passage should be rendered, “faithfulness of Jesus Christ”.

Think about it for a moment. The passage makes no sense at all if it says “faith in” because Paul would be exercising his right to redundancy: “Through faith [believing] in Jesus Christ to all who believe” – obviously Paul, why add, “to all who believe” if you already said, “through faith [believing]”?

I think the passage makes better sense this way: “Righteousness of God comes through the faithfulness of Jesus Christ to all who believe”. Now doesn’t that make more sense?

When we believe we become participators in Christ, taking on his righteousness, a righteousness he claims by way of his faithfulness to God by being obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross (Philippians 2:6-11).

God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God – 2 Corinthians 5:21

The doctrine of imputation is always talked about a part from the doctrine of participation. I think this is a mistake.

The doctrine of imputation should never be talked about a part from the doctrine of participation.

(Note: the article I referenced above is otherwise a great post!)

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Derek Ouellette

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a husband, new dad, speaker, writer, christian. see my profile here.
  • http://wearethestories.org Eric Gregory


    Thanks for this – it’s given me yet another reason to want to purchase Richard B. Hay’s “The Faith of Jesus Christ: The Narrative Substructure of Galatians 3:1-4:11”.

    The entire book is concerned with this idea of the faithfulness of Jesus Christ.

    Also, I’m not sure the doctrine of imputation is necessary at all if we talk about participation. Since we participate in the death and resurrection of Christ, we die as He did and rise as He did. We are made righteous through his faithfulness (as he is the faithful Israelite able to keep the human end of the covenant with God). He is metonymical and prototypical of all who have faith (e.g. actively trust) and believe. Is anything “imputed” onto him or onto us?

  • http://covenantoflove.net Derek Ouellette

    Thanks Eric,

    I think I’m going to pick up Hays book as well.

  • http://harrysheresy.wordpress.com Hary Heimann

    Amen!! Good post, I couldn’t agree more

  • http://carlswordsofinspiration.blogspot.com Christian

    The bible says that none of us are righteous. If that is so, then how could we stand before a holy and righteous God? Jesus was, and is, perfectly faithful, while we stumble in our faithfulness. It is the righteousness of the Son that is imputed to us that the Father may see us as righteous before Him. There is a deposit of faith in all of us by the Holy Spirit because we are made in God’s image. The faith is not our own, but of God, and we simply respond to that faith and trust that Jesus did all the work necessary, and that there is nothing that we can “do” to add to it.

  • http://covenantoflove.net Derek Ouellette


    Amen… until you got to the assumed word “imputed”. It’s not by “imputation” it’s by “incorporation”. When we unite with Christ then when God sees us, he sees Christ. We are able to believe only because of God’s first grace. But when God, by his grace calls us, then we are able to respond in faith. (emphasis on “we”. It makes no sense to say that God believes for us! How do we “respond to that faith”… without faith?!) I know of know scripture verse that we are told to respond to faith. We are to respond to grace. We do this by faith. Grace is the gift of God so that it is not by works, but that grace is received by our faith.