by Mike Ratliff
For wee our selues also were in times past vnwise, disobedient, deceiued, seruing the lustes and diuers pleasures, liuing in maliciousnes and enuie, hatefull, and hating one another: But when that bountifulnesse & that loue of God our Sauiour toward man appeared, Not by the woorkes of righteousnesse, which we had done, but according to his mercie he saued vs, by the washing of the newe birth, and the renewing of the holy Ghost, Which he shed on vs aboundantly, through Iesus Christ our Sauiour, That we, being iustified by his grace, should be made heires according to the hope of eternall life. (Titus 3:3-7 Geneva)
The best way to deal with counterfeit “truth” is to exposit the real truth so clearly that there can be no doubt about its veracity and the vileness of the counterfeit. This does two things. God verifies in the hearts of His people His truth and those deceived people who are bound up in their false versions of the truth lay further groundwork in the preparation of their coming judgment. The February Issue of Tabletalk Magazine from Ligonier Ministries focuses primarily on one topic, “What N.T. Wright Really Said.” In these days of growing apostasy, it is quite refreshing to read the solid doctrinal truths from godly men in defense of the Gospel in light of Bishop Wright’s attacks via his New Perspective on Paul. Instead of focusing on personal attacks and attempts at character assassination, the writers of the articles in the series focus on one thing, what N.T. Wright said, and why what he said is unbiblical, and therefore, an attack on Orthodox Christianity and especially the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.
I have always regarded the Emergent and the Seeker-Sensitive fellows’ emphasis on being “Missional” as a smokescreen. They claim they are reclaiming the Church’s original roots of being “Missional” in what they practice, but I have never seen one of them do so equipped with the Biblical Gospel. Instead, they promulgate something else. That “something else,” of course, is just another version of the “gospel” according to N.T. Wright. Therefore, it behooves those of us who are serious about standing firm and shining the light of God’s truth into the darkness that is the growing apostasy in the 21st Century Church, to understand what the Gospel really is so that we can easily recognize the counterfeits out there and then take action as lead by the Holy Spirit.
We should not be surprised that our enemy is focusing so much of his confusing attacks these days on the wonderful work that took place during the Protestant Reformation to reclaim the doctrine of Justification by Faith, which had been subordinated under mere religiosity and false doctrines for hundreds of years by the apostate Roman Catholic Church. Where did the Reformers learn their doctrines, which had been denied to everyone for hundreds of years? They learned them from reading God’s Word, the Holy Bible, for themselves and were through this, taught by the Holy Spirit God’s good doctrines. In this post, we will focus on one section of Paul’s Epistle to the Romans dealing with Justification by faith.
In Romans 3:1-20 Paul makes sure that we know that God is Righteous in His dealings with unrighteous Man. Also, there is not one natural born man, woman, or child who possesses the righteousness that would justify them before our Holy, Righteous, and Just God. Then, in v21-31 we are given Paul’s doctrinal statement on how Men receive the righteousness of God, which is through faith alone.
For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin. But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it– the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. (Romans 3:20-25 ESV)
20διοτι εξ εργων νομου ου δικαιωθησεται πασα σαρξ ενωπιον αυτου δια γαρ νομου επιγνωσις αμαρτιας 21νυνι δε χωρις νομου δικαιοσυνη θεου πεφανερωται μαρτυρουμενη υπο του νομου και των προφητων 22δικαιοσυνη δε θεου δια πιστεως [ιησου] χριστου εις παντας τους πιστευοντας ου γαρ εστιν διαστολη 23παντες γαρ ημαρτον και υστερουνται της δοξης του θεου 24δικαιουμενοι δωρεαν τη αυτου χαριτι δια της απολυτρωσεως της εν χριστω ιησου 25ον προεθετο ο θεος ιλαστηριον δια πιστεως εν τω αυτου αιματι εις ενδειξιν της δικαιοσυνης αυτου δια την παρεσιν των προγεγονοτων αμαρτηματων (Romans 3:20-25 WHNU)
Because (διοτι) from (εξ) works (εργων) of law (νομου) not (ου) will be made right (δικαιωθησεται) all (πασα) flesh (σαρξ) before (ενωπιον) him (αυτου), through (δια) for (γαρ) law (νομου) perception (επιγνωσις) of sin (αμαρτιας). Now (νυνι) but (δε) without (χωρις) law (νομου) rightness (δικαιοσυνη) of God (θεου) has been demonstrated (πεφανερωται) having testified (μαρτυρουμενη) by (υπο) the (του) law (νομου) and (και) the (των) spokesmen (προφητων), rightness (δικαιοσυνη) but (δε) of God (θεου) through (δια) trust (πιστεως) of Jesus (ιησου) Christ (χριστου) in (εις) all (παντας) the (τους) trusting ones (πιστευοντας). Not (ου) for (γαρ) there is (εστιν) difference (διαστολη), all (παντες) for (γαρ) sinned (ημαρτον) and (και) lack (υστερουνται) the (της) splendor (δοξης) of (του) the God (θεου) being made right (δικαιουμενοι) as a gift (δωρεαν) in the (τη) same (αυτου) favor (χαριτι) by (δια) the (της) redemption (απολυτρωσεως) the (της) in (εν) Christ (χριστω) Jesus (ιησου); whom (ον) set forward (προεθετο) the (ο) God (θεος) place of expiation (ιλαστηριον) through (δια) trust (πιστεως) in (εν) the (τω) same (αυτου) blood (αιματι) in (εις) demonstration (ενδειξιν) of the (της) rightness (δικαιοσυνης) of him (αυτου) through (δια) the (την) passing over (παρεσιν) of the (των) having become before (προγεγονοτων) sins (αμαρτηματων) (Romans 3:20-25 word-for-word translation from Koine Greek to English)
So much for works righteousness. N.T. Wright attempts to make his readers believe that because some preachers and theologians have messed up this very clear statement that Paul did not mean what it clearly says. In v20 we are told plainly that keeping the law produces no righteousness that will result in justification. Being justified in God’s eyes is the key and that is the word δικαιωθησεται. The focus in this word’s use by Paul when referring to justification is that it is the result of some action that makes a person righteous in God’s eyes. Of course, Paul makes sure here to tell everyone that there is nothing that the person can do accomplish this since works are excluded. Where then does a person gain claim to being in right standing before God? In v22 Paul tells us that the righteousness of God comes to believers through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. This is saving faith, πιστεως. It is imputed to those who believe the Gospel as a gift, δωρεαν.
The righteousness of God must be believed and received now that it has been manifested. What is this belief? It involves knowledge of the Gospel’s content, mental assent to its testimony about Christ, and obedient trust and reliance on Him as Saviour and Lord. It is only for those who have faith. Therefore, when you see so many professing to have God’s truth, but they continually attack Justification by Faith Alone then you must understand right up front that they do not, themselves, possess this faith. This is how salvation comes to believers. There is no other way. Doing good works and focusing on humanity or anything else except this is not the message of the Gospel nor is it the message from Christ for the world. The message is this Gospel, there is no other.
It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. Then what becomes of our boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? By a law of works? No, but by the law of faith. For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law. Or is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles also? Yes, of Gentiles also, since God is one–who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith. Do we then overthrow the law by this faith? By no means! On the contrary, we uphold the law. (Romans 3:26-31 ESV)
26εν τη ανοχη του θεου προς την ενδειξιν της δικαιοσυνης αυτου εν τω νυν καιρω εις το ειναι αυτον δικαιον και δικαιουντα τον εκ πιστεως ιησου 27που ουν η καυχησις εξεκλεισθη δια ποιου νομου των εργων ουχι αλλα δια νομου πιστεως 28λογιζομεθα γαρ δικαιουσθαι πιστει ανθρωπον χωρις εργων νομου 29η ιουδαιων ο θεος μονον ουχι και εθνων ναι και εθνων 30ειπερ εις ο θεος ος δικαιωσει περιτομην εκ πιστεως και ακροβυστιαν δια της πιστεως 31νομον ουν καταργουμεν δια της πιστεως μη γενοιτο αλλα νομον ιστανομεν (Romans 3:26-31 WHNU)
In (εν) the (τη) restraint (ανοχη) of the (του) God (θεου), to (προς) the (την) demonstration (ενδειξιν) of the (της) rightness (δικαιοσυνης) of him (αυτου) in (εν) the (τω) now (νυν) season (καιρω), in (εις) the (το) to be (ειναι) him (αυτον) right (δικαιον) and (και) making right (δικαιουντα) the (τον) from (εκ) trust (πιστεως) of Jesus (ιησου). Where (που) then (ουν) the (η) brag (καυχησις)? It was closed out (εξεκλεισθη). By (δια) what kind (ποιου) law (νομου)? Of the (των) works (εργων)? Not (ουχι), but αλλα) through (δια) law (νομου) of trust (πιστεως). We reason (λογιζομεθα) for (γαρ) to be made right (δικαιουσθαι) in trust (πιστει), man (ανθρωπον) without (χωρις) works (εργων) of law (νομου). Or (η) of Judeans (ιουδαιων) the (ο) God (θεος) alone (μονον)? Not (ουχι) also (και) of nations (εθνων)? Yes (ναι) also (και) of nations (εθνων), if indeed (ειπερ) one (εις) the (ο) God (θεος) who (ος) will make right (δικαιωσει) circumcision (περιτομην) from (εκ) trust (πιστεως) and (και) uncircumcision (ακροβυστιαν) through (δια) the (της) trust (πιστεως). Law (νομον) then (ουν) we abolish (καταργουμεν) through (δια) the (της) trust (πιστεως)? Not (μη) may become (γενοιτο); but (αλλα) law (νομον) we cause to stand (ιστανομεν). (Romans 3:26-31 word-for-word translation from Koine Greek to English)
God’s judicial righteousness is demonstrated in the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. The work of Christ reveals both the justice of God and the righteousness of God’s way of salvation by “faith in Jesus.” By imputing the sins of all those whom He chose to save to Christ on the Cross, He made Him their sin-bearer. Through this, God does not compromise His own holiness, nor the necessity of sin’s being atoned for. Through the Gospel, He graciously provides a salvation that Man was incapable of obtaining. The Cross is the very manifestation of the glorious wisdom of God (1 Corinthians 1:23-24).
Are you in Christ? On what are you basing this? If you are basing this on your works then it is not on Christ and His work on the Cross to atone for your sins. There are no religious or good works we can do to earn or deserve this. This is totally a gift of God according to His mercy, by His grace, through the faith He gives to those whom He saves (Romans 2:1-10).
Men like N.T. Wright and those who clamor for what they write in order to justify their trashing of the Gospel, are not Christians. They may claim to be such or they may claim to be something innocuous like a “Christ Follower,” but it changes nothing. Jesus came to seek and save the lost (Luke 19:10). He accomplished His mission. Are you in His Kingdom? If you are so by God’s grace through faith then you are my brother or sister in Christ. On the other hand, if you claim this by your religious affiliation or by your works or whatever, then you are not in it, but are outside. Seek the Lord Jesus as your Saviour and Lord while there is still time.
Soli Deo Gloria!