Posts Tagged 'Justification by faith'

Panic Podcast – The Gospel in Romans and Galatians

Thanks for coming back to my place for today’s podcast, in which we will be taking a closer look at justification by faith in Romans 4 and Galatians 3.

And to answer the burning question several of you had about yesterday’s video sermon, yes!  That was Mr Pete and Hughie walking around behind me.

 

Video Sermon

Good morning! Lots of folks are on vacation these days, so wherever you are, by the sea, at a resort, or even if you’re stuck at home, it’s great to have you here! Click right HERE for this week’s VIDEO SERMON, shot on location.

Don’t forget, if you’re a member of our church and on vacation, your church is still open and doing the Lord’s work even as you’re soaking up the rays, click HERE to give your tithes and offerings.

Theology of Romans: Justification, Part 1

Judges-gavel 

Justification, Romans 3—5


In the book of Job, perhaps the most ancient piece of literature in the world, we read a very interesting comment and question courtesy of a man with the curious name of Bildad:

“God is powerful and dreadful. He enforces peace in heaven.  Who is able to number his hosts of angels? And his light shines down on all the earth.  How can mere man stand before God and claim to be righteous? Who in all the earth can boast that he is clean?  God is so glorious that even the moon and stars are less than nothing as compared to him.  How much less is man, who is but a worm in his sight?”  (Job 25, TLB)

Like all of Job’s friends, Bildad’s theology was hit-and-miss, but he nails it here.  How indeed can any man stand before God call himself “righteous”?   This is a question asked by all serious people.  Other people ask other questions, like:

  • How can I stay healthy and live a long life?
  • How can I make people like me?
  • Where can I find happiness?

Those are all good questions, but the serious, thinking person who realizes there is One greater than himself, to whom he is accountable, wonders how in the world he may be considered “good” in that One’s eyes.

This question is tackled by Paul, the theologian, in his letter to the Romans.

1.  Do all people need to be justified?

In the estimation of the world, there are “good” people, there are “bad” people, and there are “so-so” people.  But in God’s estimation, everybody needs to be “justified” before Him.

Well, then, are we Jews better than others? No, not at all, for we have already shown that all men alike are sinners, whether Jews or Gentiles.   As the Scriptures say,  No one is good—no one in all the world is innocent.”  (Romans 3:9, 10  TLB)

There were some Jews in Paul’s day that thought they had a great advantage over Gentiles.  God had entrusted them with the Law and blessed them over the centuries and they felt, therefore, they were special.  Paul makes it clear that the Jew, or the people who think they are somehow morally superior, have no advantage over anybody else.  Both stand equally before God.  All people everywhere have been affected by sin in one way or another.

Yes, all have sinned; all fall short of God’s glorious ideal…  (Romans 8:23  TLB)

As proof that all people are sinful and fall short of God’s ideal, Paul cites 6 passages from Psalms and Isaiah that show how sinful all people are.

  • The very character of man (verses 10—12) condemns him.
  • The conduct of man (verses 13—17) proves how sinful we are.
  • The cause of our conduct is given:  we just don’t care what God thinks (verse 18).

Paul sums it up perfectly in verse 19:

…all the world stands hushed and guilty before Almighty God.

In other words, there is no defense we can put forward.  Neither Jew nor Gentile; teetotaler or recovering drunk; Roman Catholic or Protestant; nobody can justify themselves before God.  Not one of us can excuse our behavior in a way acceptable to God.  Old Bildad was right after all!  No matter how good you or others may think you are, you aren’t in God’s sight.

2.  What does “justified” mean?

That brings us to the need of every human being to be justified in God’s sight.  What does that mean?  We take as our jumping off point in discovering a working definition what Paul wrote in Romans 4—

King David spoke of this, describing the happiness of an undeserving sinner who is declared “not guilty” by God.  “Blessed and to be envied,” he said, “are those whose sins are forgiven and put out of sight.  Yes, what joy there is for anyone whose sins are no longer counted against him by the Lord.”  (Romans 4:6—8  TLB)

To be justified is to be forgiven.

These verses are what caused Martin Luther to refer to the Christian’s righteousness (or goodness) as an “alien righteousness.”  Here is how he put it:

Everything…is outside us and in Christ.  For God does not want to save us by our own but by an extraneous righteousness which does not originate in ourselves but comes to us from beyond ourselves, which does not arise on our earth but comes from heaven.  Therefore, we must come to know this righteousness which is utterly external and foreign to us.  That is why our own personal righteousness must be uprooted.

It takes Luther a long time and a lot of words to make the simple point that the goodness God demands of us is not in us.  What He demands of us He puts in us through the Holy Spirit the righteousness (or goodness) of His Son.  He fills us with HIS righteousness.

To be justified is to be saved from wrath.

And since by his blood he did all this for us as sinners, how much more will he do for us now that he has declared us not guilty? Now he will save us from all of God’s wrath to come.  (Romans 5:9  TLB)

Because we are all sinners, we all deserve to be punished.  But because we have been forgiven those sins, part of our justification, we are spared that punishment.  God has done so much for us in the work of Christ; we have the glorious expectation of an ultimate salvation.  That expectation gives us present peace with God.  Why would we fear the One who has declared us “not guilty?”  Yes, thanks to the far-reaching work on the Cross, we can expect to be delivered from the judgment all men must face.  This deliverance is positively guaranteed by the fact of justification—the declaration by God that we are “not guilty.”

To be justified is to be considered righteous.

…we say that faith was accounted to Abraham for righteousness.  (Romans 4:9b  NKJV)

What a mind-boggling thought!  We who are not righteous are considered to be righteous by God simply by virtue of our relationship to Jesus Christ!  Abraham is given as an example.   The Jews loved to think their blessings came from circumcision, that is, their observance of the Laws.  But Abraham, the father of Judaism, lived long before the Law was given yet was the recipient of all those blessings.  Why?  Because he had faith, and that faith was credited to him as righteousness.  In other words, Abraham believed in advance and it was that belief in God’s future promises that made Abraham righteous in God’s eyes.

So, we may not be righteous in practice, but our faith in our ultimate redemption and restoration through the work of Christ makes us righteous in God’s eyes.  Or, to put it another way, God sees us as we will be in our final state, not as we are at this moment.  Of course God is not blind to our sin, that’s why we must walk in a constant state of humble forgiveness.

To be justified is to be at peace with God.

So now, since we have been made right in God’s sight by faith in his promises, we can have real peace with him because of what Jesus Christ our Lord has done for us.  (Romans 5:1  TLB)

J.B. Phillips in his translation of this verse gives us, perhaps, a better sense of what Paul was trying to say:

Let us grasp the fact that we have peace with God…

We no longer live under the shadow condemnation.

So there is now no condemnation awaiting those who belong to Christ Jesus.  (Romans 8:1  TLB)

We should no longer fear the wrath (present or future) of God because of our change in position.  Once we were unforgiven and deserving of God’s wrath.  But He has moved us into a new position; one of freedom from condemnation.  Therefore, we can sleep knowing peace.  We can live without fear that God is “out to get us” because we deserve it.

To be justified means rejoicing in hope.

For because of our faith, he has brought us into this place of highest privilege where we now stand, and we confidently and joyfully look forward to actually becoming all that God has had in mind for us to be.  (Romans 5:2  TLB)

Through our faith in His Work, Christ brings us into the fullness of God’s grace—the place of divine favor.  We had no right to be in God’s presence before and we had no right to an ounce of His grace.   Just like the common peasant could not just walk into the King’s throne room, so we were unable to walk into God’s throne room.  We, like the peasant, need someone better than ourselves to introduce us to God.  The French have a word for this:  entrée.  It is Christ who brings us who are justified into the full grace of God.  And that gives us HOPE.  And never discount the importance of hope!

Hope deferred makes the heart sick…  (Proverbs 13:12a  TLB)

Life is miserable without hope.  People who have lost hope have lost the will to live and died.  Hope is vitally important, and through our relationship with Christ and our new position in Him, we can “joyfully look forward.”  In other words, we have HOPE.

To be justified is to know the love of God in full measure.

Then, when that happens, we are able to hold our heads high no matter what happens and know that all is well, for we know how dearly God loves us, and we feel this warm love everywhere within us because God has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.  (Romans 5:5  TLB)

Our hope is rooted in God’s love for us.  It is God’s love for us, not our love for God, that makes all the difference in the world.  How do we know God loves us? It’s because He has poured His Holy Spirit into us!

For his Holy Spirit speaks to us deep in our hearts and tells us that we really are God’s children.  (Romans 8:16  TLB)

Because we have been justified, we have received the Holy Spirit and that Spirit bears witness to our spirit that God loves us.

To be justified is to be reconciled to God.

And since, when we were his enemies, we were brought back to God by the death of his Son, what blessings he must have for us now that we are his friends and he is living within us!  (Romans 5:10  TLB)

“Justification” is a judicial term; a legal term.  God, as the Judge of the Universe, has declared the believer “justified,” freed from the guilt of sin.

“Reconciliation,” however, is a relational term; it deals with a relationship.  When two people are reconciled, it means they are not longer at loggerheads; they are not longer at odds with each other.  The thing that was causing them to be hostile towards each other has been removed.

Both “justification” and “reconciliation” have been accomplished by the finished work of Christ on the Cross.  No longer is there any enmity between God and man.  No longer is man fearful of divine punishment.  There is complete assurance that our sin problem has been dealt with once and for all.  Of course, both justification and reconciliation are exclusive blessings of the redeemed; those who have accepted Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.

SOME FRUIT OF JUSTIFICATION

Justification makes a believer happy!

Romans 5:1—11

Chapter 5 of Romans marks a turning point. Up till now, Paul has been a professor of New Testament doctrine, teaching his readers all about the doctrine we call Justification By Faith. The first four chapters of this letter are what Joe Friday would call “only the facts.” In chapters 5 to 8, Paul leaves the facts of justification to cover the fruits of justification. The kind of fruit varies from chapter to chapter, and in chapter 5 Paul discusses a number of fruit that justification brings, all of which result in hope in the life of every believer.

1. Peace, vs. 1

Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ…

The first fruit or benefit of having been justified by faith is “peace with God.” It seems as though this is one thing human beings have been looking for almost since the very beginning. For most people, a life of peace is a fleeting dream. Grasping peace is like trying to remember the details of a dream you just awoke from. The problem is that while people want peace, they want it on their terms, not God’s terms. And unfortunately, almost always your terms will be in conflict with other peoples’ terms. This is true of God. If you pursue peace on your terms, you will be in conflict with God. The Gospel of Jesus Christ comes between man and God and paves the way for peace between the two.

The Greek word for “peace” that Paul used is eirene, and it does not primarily suggest an attitude or a relationship between people but rather a “state” or a “time of peace” in between an everlasting state of war. Thanks to the work of Jesus Christ, man has been set free from the continuing state of war that exists between God and the human race and can now be at peace.

This peace is both objective and subjective. We have been given peace through Jesus Christ, but it is up to us to enjoy it; to claim it. In fact, this is how J.B. Phillips translates the second part of verse 1:

Let us grasp the fact that we have peace with God.

The believer must never lose sight of the fact through the propitiatory sacrifice of Christ, we have an unshakable hope for the future. This hope is rooted and grounded in our relationship with Christ:

Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus… (Romans 8:1)

Peace with God is available only to those who have embraced the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Peace with God is the foundation of all other peace in the world. This is why there will never be peace in the world or permanent peace in the human heart until all men everywhere submit to the rule of God.

Martin Luther once preached a sermon on Romans 5 and made some interesting observations, which are worth sharing:

  • The righteous man has peace with God but affliction with the world because he lives in the Spirit.
  • The unrighteous man has peace with the world but affliction and tribulation with god because he lives in the flesh.
  • But as the Spirit is eternal, so also will be the peace of the righteous man and tribulation of the unrighteous.
  • And as the flesh is temporal, so will be the tribulation of the righteous and peace of the unrighteous.

2. Access, vs. 2a

…through whom we have gained access by faith…

Here is the second benefit of justification: access to the presence and reality of God. This reminds us of something else Paul wrote:

For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit. (Ephesians 2:18)

This was accomplished through Christ’s vicarious sacrifice. It was the shedding of His blood that brought reconciliation and it was the Holy Spirit that causes believers to appropriate and appreciate this great act of redemption.

The Greek ten prosagogen, translated “access,” means “our introduction.” The idea Paul is trying to get across is that of entrance into the presence of a monarch. It does not suggest that our access is accomplished on our own strength, but rather that we need an “introducer”–Jesus Christ. The French word entree is a good word for what Jesus has done for us. He brings the the justified believer into the full favor and grace of God the Father, and thus into His presence.

3. Grace, vs 2b

into this grace in which we now stand.

This statement sums up the privilege of all believers. We are currently able to enjoy every spiritual blessing in Christ. Grace is like a key we hold in our hands that will, one day, open wide the door that will permit us entrance in reality into the very presence of God Almighty. Right now we can enjoy God’s presence spiritually, but in the future, we will be literally and forever in the same “time” and “space” as He is!

For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. (1 Corinthians 13:12)

4. Hope, vs 2c

And we boast in the hope of the glory of God.

Closely related to faith is hope; these two great virtues have much in common. Our hope of eternal happiness with God the Father in Heaven is grounded in the glory of God. As we sit and reflect on God’s glory, our hearts are filled with hope. Thus, we can face the future with joy, confidence, and optimism. In fact, God’s plan is that we should reflect His glory. God is not gloomy or depressed. God is not downtrodden, sullen and melancholy. And neither should we be.

5. Suffering, vs. 3—5

Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.

Depending on our current circumstances, these verses can be a little hard to take. Another benefit of our justification is a new understanding of suffering. The believer’s joy or glory is not something we hope we may experience some time in the future, but it is a present reality today, even during times of distress. Suffering of all kinds will come and go, but the peace, access, grace, and hope never leave the justified believer.

In the Christian life, suffering is helpful; it has real value. It produces a number things:

  • Perseverance, or “steadfast endurance.” This gives us the ability to literally “bear up” in the face of any pressure or trial.

  • Character is something that perseverance leads to. The word translated “character” denotes the quality of being approved, what has been proved by trial. This was something Job understood well: When he has tried me, I shall come forth as gold” (Job 23:10)

  • Hope is produced by character. Interestingly, “hope” is the final step toward spiritual maturity. The other two steps lead to this one. It’s not that Paul is suggesting that our hope is in our character or that our character is the source of our hope. That source is clearly the grace in which we stand.

Paul stresses that the Christian hope does not put believers to shame. In other words, the Christian hope will never disappoint us. Our hope is not an illusion because it has been poured into our hearts by the Spirit. Get it? God gives us the hope we possess.

Our new understanding of suffering couldn’t be more different than the world’s. Christian suffering is a source of joy because it has a purpose: to build character.

6. Judgment, vs. 6—11

This wonderful benefit of justification relates to the final judgment.

Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him! (vs. 9)

Christian hope is not to be confused with things like wishful thinking that says, “I hope God will kind to me on judgment day” or “If I get to go to heaven.” In fact, our hope is based on something concrete: the things God did for us in the death of His Son. God did all that He did for us out of love for us. God, were were just told, poured His love into our hearts, and now we are told why:

You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. (vs. 8)

We were so full of sin, we were powerless to help ourselves and powerless to latch onto God’s love. God, out of love, took the initiative and poured His love into us! God’s love is so unique, Paul gave a simple illustration to help his readers understand:

Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. (vs. 7)

God demonstrated His love for sinful man in a most unique and remarkable way: He did it while we were at our worst! God’s love for sinful man, as revealed in Jesus Christ, is unprecedented and unparalleled.

But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (vs. 8)

Nothing we could have done would have moved God to send His Son to die for us. He did it “while were still sinners.” Moreover, we are told, Jesus died “at just the right time” or, as it can also be translated, “at the appointed time.” In other words, Jesus died at precisely the time set by God, not by us.

Of importance is the present tense of the word “demonstrates.” Even though Jesus died once for all; His death occurring at a point in history two thousand years ago, the fact is the death of the Son of God continues to impact and influence the present generations, so powerful it was.

Paul’s argument in the concluding verses of this section is a marvel of pure logic. If God did all these good things for us while we were at our absolute worst, how much more will He do for us now that we are on His side! When we look at the love He HAD for us, surely we can HAVE hope and confidence for the future.

Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him! (vs. 9)

The fact that we have “been justified by his blood” indicates that man’s sin problem has been thoroughly dealt with. The consequence of our sin is inescapable: sure and certain judgment. However, praise God, the love of God made it possible for us to know beyond the shadow of any doubt that we “shall be saved from God’s wrath through him.” As wonderful as this is, Paul says there is “much more” to our salvation that simply being saved from what we have done.

For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life! (vs. 10)

That last phrase is the game-changer: “We shall be saved through (or by) his life!” In other words, Christ got rid of our sinful yesterdays and He is the answer to what we are today. Christ not only died, but has also risen. He saved us by His death, but because He rose, ahead of us also lies salvation. Barth observes:

Christ’s risen life sets a seal upon our justification effected by His death, and because He lives, this peace, our reconciliation, and the pouring forth of the love of God in our hearts, mark a point in our journey beyond which there is no turning back, going on from which we have only one future, and in which we can only glory, as long as we remain in Christ.

Paul set forth the wrath of God in the first part of Romans (1:18—3:20) and the righteousness of God in this second section (3:21—5:11). Next, we will tackle how the wrath of God and the righteousness of are seen in Adam and Christ.

(c)  2011 WitzEnd

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