Cross, Cosmos and Consummation: Col 1

The triad of faith, hope, and love, is common fare in the Pauline correspondence. Not only does it appear in 1 Cor 13, from which we’ve all heard it read at weddings, it also appears as the basis of Paul’s celebration of the Thessalonians’ reception of himself and the gospel in 1 Thess 1, and the celebration of the Colossians’ faith in Col 1.

In Thessalonians, the “faith” is specifically associated with “work”. In Colossians, it would seem to be faith that has Christ as its object. “Faith in Christ Jesus,” it would seem, is roughly equivalent to “believing in Jesus.”

But is this so?

The phrasing is πίστιν ὑμῶν ἐν Χριστῷ.

When talking about believing in someone or something, εἰς is more common than ἐν. It raises the question for me as to whether we’re supposed to see ἐν Χριστῷ as the object of our faith (as it’s most often taken) or as the cosmic space within which the believer exists.

In parallel with Paul’s pervasive “in Christ” language, is this about “faith that we have in union with Christ”?

Romans 4:12 uses what might be a parallel expression. Speaking there of Abraham’s faith, Paul says, “The faith which was in uncircumcision,” τῆς πίστεως τῆς ἐν τῇ ἀκροβυστία.

“Faith in the uncircumcision” is not a description of the object of Abraham’s faith, but of his status at the time of belief.

So, perhaps, in Colossians 1: “I’ve heard of the faith that you have as you are in Christ Jesus, the love that you exercise toward the community of saints, and these because of the hope that is awaiting you at the consummation of all things.”


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