“I live by faith in the Son of God”

According to the New International Version of the Bible the quote above – “I live by faith in the Son of God” in Galatians 2:20 – could mean it was Paul’s own faith that he lived by.

But if it was his faith it conflicts with the sentence before, because Paul says, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live.” Paul viewed himself as dead, meaning there was nothing in himself that he lived by.

Was his faith an exception to that, though? No, because Paul knew that every part and every step of his salvation came from God. It was all done by God’s grace, and “I do not set aside the grace of God,” verse 21. The last thing Paul wanted to do was create some misunderstanding about God’s grace. Grace was grace, meaning God is the source and sustainer of our lives from start to finish, and there’s absolutely nothing we contribute to it. Or as Paul phrases it in verse 20: “I no longer live but Christ lives in me.”

The faith that Paul lived by wasn’t his faith, then, it was Christ’s. To properly reflect what Paul himself is saying, therefore, the word “in” would be far better translated with the word “OF,” so that Paul is now saying “I live by faith OF the Son of God,” so there’s no doubt where the faith is coming from. But even though that may be more accurate, it still sounds awkward – and it doesn’t fit in with the flow of Paul’s thoughts either, because in context Paul is focusing on the love of Christ “who loved me and gave himself for me,” verse 20, not on Christ’s faith.

Could the word “faith” be better translated too, then, to reflect Paul’s focus on Christ’s love? Yes, a better word would be “FAITHFULNESS,” so that Paul is now saying, “I live by the faithfulness of the Son of God,” which puts the attention exactly where Paul wants it, on Christ’s love and faithfulness as the source of his life. It fits in with Paul’s train of thought much better too, because it removes all hint of Paul being the source of his faith, and it “does not set aside the grace of God.” It also puts the focus entirely on Christ, because that’s who Paul totally depended on and trusted in for his life.

In Paul’s mind there was nothing he could do to make himself more righteous (verse 21), but that wasn’t a worry for him because he wasn’t depending on anything from within himself anyway. It was Christ and HIS love and faithfulness that he lived by.


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