This post is a part of a series: parts one, two, three, and four.
Unfortunately (or fortunately considering the length of the last post), I forgot a fascinating portion that comes right before John’s discussion in Eph 2:8. It provides some prior context for his discussion on faith then. After talking at length about the being raised and seated with Christ, he goes into this passage:
We are in need of the Spirit of revelation, so that we may know the depth of these mysteries. Then, so that you will not disbelieve, see what follows. “So that he may display, in the coming ages, the surpassing riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.” As he said these things concerning Christ, do they matter to us? Some say, “what is it to us, if he rose?” But he shows that these things are indeed for us, if he is joined to us. Else, he would be saying these things about himself, “while we were dead in transgressions, he raised us and seated us with him.” Thus, as I have been saying, don’t disbelieve! He takes up this demonstration to show his goodness from the first things and the head. How does he show this, if these things have not yet happened? [being seated in the heavenlies] They happen in the coming ages. What [is proved]? That his good works were astounding, and that he was the most faithful of all. Currently these things seem foolish to the unbelievers, but then all will know.
Some of this I’ve found very difficult. The bolded part has had me puzzled for several days now. The emphasis here is on faith. John wants to tie Christ’s destiny (his rising and being seated with the father) with the believer’s destiny. The passage says such extravagant things about believers that he warns them to “not disbelieve.” The bolded bit has something about the “first things,” (προτέρων), the head (κεφαλῆς), and “wanting to show him(self?) to be the best,” as the reason for “taking up this demonstration.” He will demonstrate in the coming ages the greatness of his deeds, and that he was the most faithful of all. It’s not entirely clear here to me John here is referring to Christ or the Father. Is it the Father who “shows himself to be more faithful than all” or Christ? Ephesians 2 suggests that it’s the Father. “God, who is rich in mercy…” But Christ gets much more mention by name in this passage. My money is on the Father, but perhaps it’s a silly question. Whatever the case, part of this “demonstration” is to prove that God/Christ is the “most faithful of all.” God’s faithfulness provides a perfect basis for our faith
We have another interesting passage right before this. Discussing the transition from 2:3 to 2:4 we get, “‘On account of his great love, with which he loved us.’ Then he shows just how he loved us. These were not worthy of love, but of wrath and punishment on the last day. Thus, this was from great mercy! ‘And while we were dead in in our transgressions, he made us alive with Christ.’ Again Christ is the middle, as is his accomplishment that is worthy of faith (καὶ τὸ πρᾶγμα ἀξιόπιστον). For if the firstfruits lives, so shall we. He made him alive, and so too will he make us.
Here it is evident that we are “made alive with Christ” by his “worthy-of-faith” deed. Our faith is rooted in Jesus’ accomplishment in the incarnation-life-death-resurrection. Christ’s “deed” or “accomplishment” here probably does refer to his entire life. In Philippians, John talks at length about the necessity of faith in the incarnation and the resurrection, at one point saying that “these things accomplish righteousness.” I’d imagine that he has a similarly wide view here. God’s love is expressed chiefly through the coming, sacrificial death, and triumphant resurrection of his son.
As for the πίστις Χριστοῦ, these are only tangentially related. Human faith is clearly in view. John urges his listeners to “not disbelieve,” and he also describes Jesus’ life as “worthy-of-faith.” God’s faithfulness, however, is also in view. God (or Christ) will prove himself in the coming ages to be a “doer of great deeds” and the “most faithful of all.” When it comes to 2:8-9 (discussed in part 4), it shows that God’s faithfulness (or Christ’s) is on his mind. What I need to do there is see how John uses δῶρον elsewhere. In 2:8, after saying, “this faith is not ours,” he says, “The gift (δῶρον) is of God. What is the gift? faith? Jesus? salvation? Faith is the most likely candidate in the immediate context. Later he talks about a woman “offering her firstborn son, the son of prayer [ie, an answer to her prayer], the entire gift (δῶρον), back to God.” (PG 62.173) Alas, we shall see!
ἐν πίστει τῃ του αὐτοῦ,
Here are the Greek passages (please look at the bold and offer suggestions!):
Ὄντως Πνεύματος χρεία καὶ ἀποκαλύψεως, ὥστε τὸ βάθος νοῆσαι τῶν μυστηρίων τούτων.
Εἶτα, ἵνα μὴ ἀπιστήσῃς, ὅρα τί ἐπάγει· Ἵνα ἐνδείξηται ἐν τοῖς αἰῶσι τοῖς
ἐπερχομένοις τὸν ὑπερβάλλοντα πλοῦτον τῆς χάριτος αὑτοῦ ἐν χρηστότητι ἐφ’ ἡμᾶς
ἐν Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ. Ἐπειδὴ γὰρ εἶπε τὰ περὶ τοῦ Χριστοῦ, ταῦτα δὲ οὐδὲν ἦν πρὸς ἡμᾶς
(Τί γὰρ, φησὶ, πρὸς ἡμᾶς, εἰ ἐκεῖνος ἀνέστη); ἔδειξε μὲν οὖν ὅτι καὶ πρὸς ἡμᾶς, εἴ γε
οὗτος ἡμῖν ἥνωται· πλὴν ὅτι καὶ τὰ ἡμῶν κατ’ ἰδίαν φησίν· Ὄντας γὰρ ἡμᾶς νεκροὺς
τοῖς παραπτώμασι συνήγειρε καὶ συνεκάθισεν. Ὥστε, ὅπερ ἔφην, μὴ ἀπίστει, ἀπό τε
τῶν προτέρων ἀπό τε τῆς κεφαλῆς ἀπό τε τοῦ βούλεσθαι ἐνδείκνυσθαι αὐτὸν τὴν
ἀγαθότητα λαβὼν τὴν ἀπόδειξιν. Πῶς γὰρ ἐνδείξεται, ἂν τοῦτο μὴ γένηται; Καὶ
ἐνδείξεται ἐν τοῖς αἰῶσι τοῖς ἐπερχομένοις. Τί; Ὅτι καὶ μεγάλα τὰ ἀγαθὰ ἦν, καὶ
πάντων πιστότερα. Νῦν μὲν γὰρ λῆρος εἶναι δοκεῖ τοῖς ἀπίστοις τὰ λεγόμενα, τότε δὲ
πάντες εἴσονται. (PG 62.33)
∆ιὰ τὴν πολλὴν ἀγάπην αὑτοῦ, ἣν
ἠγάπησεν ἡμᾶς. ∆είκνυσι πόθεν ἡμᾶς ἠγάπησε. Ταῦτα γὰρ οὐκ ἀγάπης ἄξια, ἀλλ’
ὀργῆς καὶ τιμωρίας τῆς ἐσχάτης. Καὶ οὕτω οὖν ἀπὸ πολλοῦ ἐλέους. Καὶ ὄντας ἡμᾶς
νεκροὺς τοῖς παραπτώμασι, συνεζωοποίησεν ἐν τῷ Χριστῷ. Πάλιν ὁ Χριστὸς μέσος,
καὶ τὸ πρᾶγμα ἀξιόπιστον. Εἰ γὰρ ἡ ἀπαρχὴ ζῇ, καὶ ἡμεῖς· ἐζωοποίησε κἀκεῖνον, καὶ
ἡμᾶς. (PG 62.32)