QUESTION: As you have pointed out, Colossians 2:12 says that we are buried and raised with Christ (i.e., regenerated) IN baptism, and THROUGH faith. But the rest of the verse describes this faith as being tēs energeias tou theou. This is usually translated as faith “IN the working [or power] of God.” But there is no preposition “in” in the Greek text. In fact, the genitive case is used; and in the Greek language this case is usually translated with “of.” So, is not Paul actually saying that our faith is OF the working of God? Does the genitive case then support the Calvinist doctrine that faith is not our choice, but is the gift of God? Is Paul actually saying that we are regenerated through a faith caused by “the working of God”? Is he saying that God is the source of our faith?
ANSWER: You are correct in saying that “the working of God” is in the genitive case. And you are correct that the genitive case is often translated as a possessive, using our preposition “of.” (There is no actual Greek preposition here meaning “of”; this meaning is drawn from the genitive case of the noun for “working.”)
The question is whether the use of the genitive case always and necessarily means “of,” in the sense of possession. IF that were the case, then the “faith” in Colossians 2:12 might indeed be something “belonging to” or “drawn from” the working of God. But here is the fact (and this is very important): the genitive case simply does not ALWAYS and NECESSARILY have this possessive meaning. It has other connotations, according to the context.
This is especially true when the Greek noun pistis (“faith”) is followed by a noun in the genitive case. The following data will show very clearly that the genitive case is often used with “faith” to show the OBJECT of that faith, and is NEVER used to describe its source.
I have limited my search to Paul’s writings, using a Greek-English concordance. I found 20 instances (including Col. 2:12) where the word “faith” is followed by a noun phrase. In these 20 instances, TEN of them are using the genitive case, and ten are using a preposition. Three different prepositions are used: en (“in”), seven times; pros (“toward”), twice; and eis (“unto”), once. Now, here is the important point: besides Col. 2:12, every phrase is describing the OBJECT of the faith, and never the SOURCE of the faith.
In fifteen of the twenty instances, the object of the faith is Jesus himself. Philemon 5 uses pros: “faith toward the Lord Jesus.” Colossians 2:5 uses eis: “faith unto Christ.” Six texts use en (Gal. 3:26; Eph. 1:15; Col. 1:4; 1 Tim. 3:13; 2 Tim. 1:13; 3:15), with the simple meaning of “in Christ Jesus.” But here is the important point: the remaining seven texts describe faith IN JESUS by using the simple genitive case: Rom. 3:22; Gal. 2:16 (twice); 2:20; 3:22; Eph. 3:15; Phil. 3:9. These last seven texts show that the genitive case is being used to indicate the OBJECT of faith. (Some have attempted to interpret them to mean “the faith of Jesus,” in the sense of “the faithfulness of Jesus”; but this is extremely faulty theology. The texts are clearly referring to OUR faith IN Jesus.)
In the other five texts, the noun “faith” is followed by five other nouns. First Thessalonians 1:8 speaks of “faith toward [pros] God.” Romans 3:25 speaks of “faith in [en] his blood.” The next two use the genitive case to describe the object of faith: Philippians 1:27, where “faith (of) the gospel” clearly means “faith IN the gospel”; and 2 Thessalonians 2:13, where “faith (of) the truth” indisputably means “faith IN the truth.” This leaves Colossians 2:12, where “faith (of) the working of God,” following the consistent pattern everywhere else, MUST mean “faith IN the working of God.”
The false idea that the genitive case (“of”) in Colossians 2:12 must mean that the working of God is the source of faith is simply an instance of Calvinist propaganda, and ignorant propaganda at that. As shown above, in all of the other cases where the genitive case follows the noun “faith” in Paul’s writings, the OBJECT of the faith is meant. There is no reason the think that Colossians 2:12 is any different.
[ADDENDUM. Outside of Paul’s writings there are but a few other uses of a phrase combining “faith” with a following noun. Here are the ones I found: (1) In Mark 11:22, Jesus says, “Have faith in God.” “In God” is actually just the genitive for God (theou). This supports the conclusion above regarding Col. 2:12. (2) Acts 3:16 has two phrases, “faith (of) His name,” genitive, meaning “faith IN His name”; and “faith THROUGH (Greek, dia) Him,” speaking of the faith that brought about the lame man’s healing. (3) Acts 20:21 and 24:24 both speak of faith eis Jesus. (4) Hebrews 6:1 speaks of “faith TOWARD (epi) God. (5) Finally, in Revelation 2:13 Jesus speaks of “faith in Me,” using the genitive mou. This is a pronoun, not a noun; but the use of the genitive is significant. It obviously indicates Jesus as the object of faith.]