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THE EPISTLE OF ROMANS

Justification by Faith

“But now apart from the law the righteousness of God has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe (Romans 3:21-22 NIV).”

The issue of justification by faith and the relationship of works and the law has any role in salvation has been a doctrinal controversial since the Reformation. Martin Luther felt strongly that one is justified and thus restored to righteous by faith alone that he viewed this issue and Romans 3:21-26 is the central theme of the Bible.[1] Luther was strong in his conviction that faith and not works leads to one being declared worthy and significant, or righteous by God, he wished to have the Book of James declared uncanonical but included it in the Apocrypha of the Lutheran Bible with the following preface.

“In the first place it is flatly against St. Paul and all the rest of Scripture in ascribing justification to works.  It says that Abraham was justified by his works when he offered his son Isaac; though in Romans 4 St. Paul teaches to the contrary that Abraham was justified apart from works, by his faith alone, before he had offered his son, and proves it by Moses in Genesis 15. Now although this epistle might be helped and an interpretation devised for this justification by works, it cannot be defended in its application to works of Moses’ statement in Genesis 15. For Moses is speaking here only of Abraham’s faith, and not of his works, as St. Paul demonstrates in Romans 4. This fault, therefore, proves that this epistle is not the work of any apostle.[2]

“In the second place its purpose is to teach Christians, but in all this long teaching it does not once mention the Passion, the resurrection, or the Spirit of Christ. He names Christ several times; however, he teaches nothing about him, but only speaks of general faith in God. Now it is the office of a true apostle to preach of the Passion and resurrection and office of Christ, and to lay the foundation for faith in him, as Christ himself says in John 15, “You shall bear witness to me.” All the genuine sacred books agree in this, that all of them preach and inculcate Christ.[3]

Paul build his arguments with his thesis statement in Romans 3:21 22 No one can be redeemed righteous by the Law but is given to righteousness or justified in faith alone and by the profession of believe in the resurrection of Jesus Christ. He then explains all have sinned and have fallen short of the glory of God. This redemption is only available by the atonement, or blood sacrifice, that was offered up for all humanities sins on the cross, and in this act of ultimate justice, the sins of all humanity past, present and future are paid in full. This act was given out of grace alone.

He explains God is the God of all people both those under the Law although justification is achieved by faith not in observation or keeping the works of Law. He explains however, we do uphold the Law as faith does not nullify the Law but rather affirms the Law. It is in, by our Faith, and out of faith that all works and deeds therefore result. Thus work and deeds are a result of faith not a way of achieving faith or maintain righteousness or one is relational standing with Law.  The Greek word for faith, and believe chosen by Paul is Pistis / Pisteuo. In Greek mythology Pistis is the Spirit of faith, truth and honest who fled Pandora’s Box and abandoned humankind.

 

On the Issue of Continuity of Righteousness (James 2: 14:26)

Paul, continues his argument in Romans 4 illustrating the Life of Abraham and his obedience of Faith as result from the gracious promises and blessings bestowed on him as the result of his Salvation not  any actions or deed of his own intent as the results that led to the Covenant Relationship ( Righteousness.) Additionally Paul uses the illustration of the promise and blessing of an heir and nation to illustrate the inclusiveness of Salvation to all humanity. Furthermore, in the promise of the child being born to a barren mother shows ability as creator and originator of all thing. He who can create Life out of that which is formless or empty. He then states, “Abraham is the father of us all and God gives Life to the dead and call things that are not as though they were.” This passage, alludes to Eternal Life, and illustrates who Christ conquered sin and death.

Paul concludes by stating that Abraham offspring’s will be like him who had unwavering faith , when at 100 Sarah gave birth to Isaac and through his strengthened and unwavering faith he gave the glory to God and this is why we credit him righteous( romans 4:22). Finally concluding the words were not written credit to him for Abraham alone but for all of us also. However, for us this faith comes only in Jesus, our Lord raised from the dead, who conquered death and sin and was resurrected for our justification Romans 4; 23-25).

James 2: 14-26 states reasonable argument that on the surface level appears contrast Paul’s logical defense on Justification by Faith alone.  James contends faith, works and deeds are all necessary starts off by illustrating that if one has faith and does not practice deeds such as acts of charity can one truly be saved.  The key here I believe is a missing word James is not saying can one achieve righteous but can one who claims to have repented of sin and profess believe in Christ and thus have the Holy Spirit within truly be counted as righteous. Paul will build on this assumption himself in Romans 7, 8 and 12).

James states “faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead (James 2: 17). After the initial process of repentance, justification, baptism, transformation and sanctification process occurs and is ongoing. But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.” James continues, “Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds. You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder (James 2: 18-19).”  James states that faith without deeds is meaningless but faith and resulting deeds illustrates true righteousness. He then compares the works and faith of Abraham (In his sacrifice of Isaac) and Rahab the prostitute (who was made righteous by assisting the spies and gave them lodging), as examples how faith works and deeds are inseparable. However, the key to understanding James is that faith and deed result from faith not lead to faith or righteousness.  The righteousness James references here is more in lines with obedience of faith or sanctification of Paul. This is evident in his closing statement “As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead (2 James 26).”

Thus, why many theologians have argued about a debate in position on justification between Paul and James and the position of faith, works and deeds , the main issue is over a misunderstanding on what James understood as righteousness.  For James righteousness is a state of obedient faith that produces actions and deeds as a result of faith in an ongoing process in the Christian life similar to or even equivocal to Paul’s view of transformation, obedience of faith and sanctification. The issue is thus one of church doctrine and dogma and not an issue of historical or apostolic significance as Luther and others claim.

When on is considering the issue of justification by faith from the perspective of Paul it is clear the Paul is stating that one is declared worthy and significant to be a member of God’s people and entitled to all the privileges of citizenship. The entitlements of citizenship are freedom from rigid servitude to any form of the law.-in such things humanity will never earn God’s favor.

However, the principle of obedient faith is an ongoing process of sanctification and transformation of the mind and heart. By resisting the ways of worldly things, immoral actions, and the giving one’s self-over to the guidance, care and direction of Christ and the Holy Spirit (Romans 12).  Furthermore, one is to glorify God in all areas of one’s life by being a living sacrifice and serving others out of humility (Romans 12:1-8). Finally, a life of active love is living out of the obedience leading of faith.  This form of Christ-likeness forms the standard of Christian conduct (Romans 12:9-21).

The initial act of justification is a gift of both grace and mercy given freely offered by Christ to all and is the result of the atoning sacrifice which serves as the repaid of sin that was offered up and fully redeemed on the Tree of Calvary. Therefore, Paul is merely stating that no good deed, moral action, or even attempt to obey and live by the Law of Moses can grant one Eternal life. One must repent, profess in faith in Jesus Christ alone. This is a heartfelt and spirit led desire to trust and believe that a life lived in sin is futile. Only in and thru Jesus who is both man and God can on achieve eternal life.

The Epistle of James is a book of wisdom. It teaches one how to apply inseparability of deed and action through faith and become Christ-like. Thus, James is writing on sanctification and Christian living.   In contrast, Paul’s principle of justification of faith applies to the initial act of one entering into the covenant of God or being granted citizenship into the Kingdom of Heaven.

The church doctrine of justification is centered on a social and cultural view. For Luther, the sacraments and all the “unneeded requirements of the Catholic Church seemed to complicate the complicate the matter of faith and brought distress, confusion and even uncertainty of one’s eternal security.” Thus, Luther concluded that once one is justified one’s faith is sanctified all one must do is live by faith alone. “Sanctification is nothing over or above living obediently by faith alone for in Jesus all are declared holy and righteous[4].”

An Analogy from History

An analogy from history may help clarify this position: When we were under the oppressive rule of England and sought our founding fathers wrote a The Declaration of Independence and stated are decision to succeed from the reign of rule. When we repent of our sins and profess That Jesus Christ is our Lord and Savior our Authoritative King who died-for all sin, we state our intent to be set free from the oppression of the reign of Satan, self and the world itself.

In response to the Declaration of Independence, the Revolutionary War was waged as we fought for our Independence. The war we as believers wage is in part still going on and is why we must put on the Armor of God. In practice of the disciplines of truth, righteousness (morality), evangelism (Gospel), obedience of faith (trust and worship of God in all things), Salvation (   redemption, renewal, sanctification) and above all else study, mediation, and proclamation of the Word of God. Finally, we must pray for all people as well as we must under all occasions and circumstance whether we are in the face of adversity or giving the glory for blessings to God (Ephesians 6, Duet. 26:11).

However, the war is partial over as Christ conquered sin and death on the Tree of Calvary and the Bible provides all the necessary tools and serves as our Constitution or moral and spiritual guidebook, which is written on our heart.

As our nations is intended to be a melting pot of all oppressed and dispersed people we as soldiers under the commission of Christ and being restored to his Eikōn are commanded to make disciples of all people from every nations regardless of any cultural differences[5]. We serve as mentors as they strive by faith to enter citizenship into the Kingdom of God.

The main issue for Paul is how we become citizens to God’s Kingdom. Paul is merely stating throughout his argument on justification by faith alone we can never earn God’s favor. However after he builds his argument of how we are declared worthy and significant by the grace and mercy of Christ’s atoning sacrifice on the cross and how the blood sacrifice fully paid the price for the sins of all humanity regardless of culture.  All must practice a life in obedience of faith.  This ongoing process of sanctification that he introduces in Romans 6:1-23 is one that involves a full transformation of mind and heart (Romans 12).  It requires of dying of selfish ways, and all though we are free from obligation of any form of the any laws we serve as living examples in our new body. This new image is a likeness of Christ or Eikōn. We live under a new moral code of ethics built on faith, love and for the Glory of God (Romans 12:3-Romans 15:13). Key points include being a good citizen, defense of the weak, not judging others sins as all are sinners themselves, encouragement, keeping the 10 commandments, not harming others and trust and hope in the power of the spirit which provides joy and in the scriptures. The last point simply is as a call for evangelism.

Many see salvation as only available to “The Elect as Paul speak of those who are predestined and chosen by God in Romans 8: 30-36. However if one carefully reads it is simply a statement of encouragement that for one who lives in obedience of faith and life that “ neither death nor life, angels or demons or any powers can separate us from creation once we are in the love and Eikōn of Christ and living for his Glory( Romans 8:38). For more on free will versus predestination on would recommend reading “The Salvation Debate” and Eternal Security Debate in Across the Spectrum  by Boyd and Eddy[6].

 

In God Christ and Spirit,

Trent Rindoks

 

Image result for tomb of christImage result for Holy Spirit

 

 

Bibliography

Boyd, Gregory A., and Paul R. Eddy. Across the Spectrum: Understanding Issues in Evangelical Theology. 2nd. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2009.

Diehl, D. W. “Righteousness.” In Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, by Walter A Elwell, 1033-103. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2001.

Luther’s Treatment of the ‘Disputed Books’of the New Testament. 2016. http://www.bible-researcher.com/antilegomena.html (accessed April 8, 2016).

Moo, Douglas J. “Romans. NIV Application Commentary.” Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2000.

Packer, J. J. “Justification.” In Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, by Walter A Elwell, 643-646. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2001.

The Lausanne Covenant. Vol. 4th, in Perspectives On the World Christian Movement, edited by Ralph D Winter, & Hawthorn Stephen C, 764-768. Pasadena: William Carey Library, 2009.

 

[1] Luther’s Treatment of the ‘Disputed Books’ of the New Testament. 2016. http://www.bible-researcher.com/antilegomena.html (accessed April 8, 2016)

[2] Ibid

[3] Douglas J. Moo, “Romans. NIV Application Commentary.” (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2000).

[4] Gregory A. Boyd and Paul R. Eddy, Across the Spectrum: Understanding Issues in Evangelical Theology. 2nd. (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2009), 162-163.

[5] For more on diversity issues & world evangelism consult The Lausanne Covenant ( 1974):

The Lausanne Covenant. Vol. 4th, in Perspectives On the World Christian Movement, edited by Ralph D Winter, & Hawthorn Stephen C, 764-768. Pasadena: (William Carey Libary, 2009).

[6] Gregory A., Boyd,  and Paul R. Eddy, Across the Spectrum: Understanding Issues in Evangelical Theology. 2nd. (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2009).

 

 

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