Justification Applied

by Mike Ratliff

Δικαιωθέντες οὖν ἐκ πίστεως εἰρήνην ἔχομεν πρὸς τὸν θεὸν διὰ τοῦ κυρίου ἡμῶν Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ (Romans 5:1 NA27)

Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. (Romans 5:1 Possessing the Treasure New Testament V1)

In this post we will look at Romans 4:13-5:1 which is the application of the theology that Paul presents in Romans 3:20-31, which could be summarized with the statement, “By works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight since through the law come knowledge of sin, but the righteousness of God is manifest through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe.” I must interject something my brethren. I am so grateful to God for raising up the ministries of men like Dr. Michael Horton and Dr. James White who are both determined to define gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ biblically and in no uncertain terms that we truly in Christ know what we believe and why we believe it. Also, that we know it so well that we can defend it against all attempts by our enemy and his people to corrupt it and distract us from obeying it. God uses the teachings of these men and others to teach me the truths you read here. Of course, the reason they are the truth is that they are bound to the Word of God. 

It is imperative that we also understand that Romans 4:13-5:1 is an extended discussion of the supremacy of the promise (our justification) to the law and how if one makes observance of the law (works) the means of securing righteousness, then the promise is void, grace is undone, and the gospel loses its power.

Here is the entire passage:

Οὐ γὰρ διὰ νόμου ἡ ἐπαγγελία τῷ Ἀβραὰμ ἢ τῷ σπέρματι αὐτοῦ, τὸ κληρονόμον αὐτὸν εἶναι κόσμου, ἀλλὰ διὰ δικαιοσύνης πίστεως. εἰ γὰρ οἱ ἐκ νόμου κληρονόμοι, κεκένωται ἡ πίστις καὶ κατήργηται ἡ ἐπαγγελία· ὁ γὰρ νόμος ὀργὴν κατεργάζεται· οὗ δὲ οὐκ ἔστιν νόμος οὐδὲ παράβασις. Διὰ τοῦτο ἐκ πίστεως, ἵνα κατὰ χάριν, εἰς τὸ εἶναι βεβαίαν τὴν ἐπαγγελίαν παντὶ τῷ σπέρματι, οὐ τῷ ἐκ τοῦ νόμου μόνον ἀλλὰ καὶ τῷ ἐκ πίστεως Ἀβραάμ, ὅς ἐστιν πατὴρ πάντων ἡμῶν, καθὼς γέγραπται ὅτι πατέρα πολλῶν ἐθνῶν τέθεικά σε, κατέναντι οὗ ἐπίστευσεν θεοῦ τοῦ ζῳοποιοῦντος τοὺς νεκροὺς καὶ καλοῦντος τὰ μὴ ὄντα ὡς ὄντα. Ὃς παρ᾽ ἐλπίδα ἐπ᾽ ἐλπίδι ἐπίστευσεν εἰς τὸ γενέσθαι αὐτὸν πατέρα πολλῶν ἐθνῶν κατὰ τὸ εἰρημένον· οὕτως ἔσται τὸ σπέρμα σου, καὶ μὴ ἀσθενήσας τῇ πίστει κατενόησεν τὸ ἑαυτοῦ σῶμα [ἤδη] νενεκρωμένον, ἑκατονταετής που ὑπάρχων, καὶ τὴν νέκρωσιν τῆς μήτρας Σάρρας· εἰς δὲ τὴν ἐπαγγελίαν τοῦ θεοῦ οὐ διεκρίθη τῇ ἀπιστίᾳ ἀλλ᾽ ἐνεδυναμώθη τῇ πίστει, δοὺς δόξαν τῷ θεῷ καὶ πληροφορηθεὶς ὅτι ὃ ἐπήγγελται δυνατός ἐστιν καὶ ποιῆσαι. διὸ [καὶ] ἐλογίσθη αὐτῷ εἰς δικαιοσύνην. Οὐκ ἐγράφη δὲ δι᾽ αὐτὸν μόνον ὅτι ἐλογίσθη αὐτῷ ἀλλὰ καὶ δι᾽ ἡμᾶς, οἷς μέλλει λογίζεσθαι, τοῖς πιστεύουσιν ἐπὶ τὸν ἐγείραντα Ἰησοῦν τὸν κύριον ἡμῶν ἐκ νεκρῶν, ὃς παρεδόθη διὰ τὰ παραπτώματα ἡμῶν καὶ ἠγέρθη διὰ τὴν δικαίωσιν ἡμῶν. Δικαιωθέντες οὖν ἐκ πίστεως εἰρήνην ἔχομεν πρὸς τὸν θεὸν διὰ τοῦ κυρίου ἡμῶν Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ (Romans 4:13-5:1 NA27)

For the promise to Abraham and his seed that he should be heir of the world was not through the law, but through a righteousness of faith. For if it is those of the law who are to be the heirs, faith has been made void and the promise has been nullified. For the law works wrath, but where there is not a law, neither is there transgression. It is therefore of faith, that according to grace it may be a sure promise to all the seed, not to the seed of the law only, but also to the seed of the faith of Abraham who is father of us all. As it has been written–A father of many nations I have appointed you– before whom he believed God the one making alive the dead and calling the things not existing into existence. Who beyond hope on hope believed that he should become a father of many nations according to the thing having been spoken, “So will be your seed.” And not having weakened in faith, he considered his own body already dead being about one hundred years old and the deadness of the womb of Sarah. But at the promise of God he did not waver in unbelief, but was empowered by faith, giving glory to God and having been fully persuaded that what he has promised he is able also to do, wherefore it was also accounted to him for righteousness. Now it was not written, “It was accounted to him” because of him only, but also because of us. It will be accounted to the ones believing on the one having raised Jesus our Lord from the dead, who was given over to death for our trespasses and was raised for our justification. Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. (Romans 4:13-5:1 Possessing the Treasure New Testament V1) 

In vv13-15, Paul presents Abraham as the model of faith for us all. He also demonstrates the superiority of the promise (ἐπαγγελία) to the “law.” A study of the Old Testament makes it clear that this ἐπαγγελία precedes the law in time. I can remember as a young Christian with little to no theological “training” actually believing that the Jews actually were justified through the keeping the “law,” but that is not according to Pauline thought. To him, God has always justified his people by faith alone as per Abraham. In v13 Paul insists that the ἐπαγγελία to Abraham did not come through the “law” but through the righteousness “that comes by faith.”  Why is it that the “law” cannot, not every could, function as a means of justification? The law brings wrath because, “where there is not a law, neither is there transgression.”

Paul logically concludes in v14 that since the law “works wrath” justification is, therefore, from faith according to grace. We must get this straight. Because law works wrath, justification is by faith. It is by faith so that it may be in accordance with grace. Think of Ephesians 2:8,9. I know there are so many who try to say that saving faith is not part of the gift in Ephesians 2:8,9, but when we compare with this passage doesn’t this clearly show us that Paul’s understanding of the faith that genuinely believes God and causes God to justify believers, in accordance with His grace?

In vv17-20 Paul gives us the experience of faith in Abraham’s life after the giving of the promise. The circumstances in his life seem to contradict the promise, but he did not waiver. He grew strong in faith. This gave glory to God.

What was the object of Abraham’s saving faith? It was the God who is able to fulfill the promises He has made. Abraham believed in the God who justifies the ungodly. Here we have the connection between the promise of God and the very act of justification itself. It was Abraham’s faith based upon the character of God as the one saving and not upon the facts as he saw them. This is imputed to Abraham as righteousness (Genesis 15:6).

Now, all outside of Christ are dead in trespasses and sins and are likened in this death to Abraham’s death at being old and childless because of that. Saving faith is never focused upon man or what man does but always upon God who accomplishes his will in all things.

In v25 we have Christ becoming our propitiation in his passive obedience (his crucifixion). Then we have his resurrection “raised for our justification.”  This is a demonstration that he accepted Christ’s suffering and death as full payment for sin and that his wrath was no longer against those who had been propitiated nor against that sin that had been paid for.

Now we come to Romans 5:1, “Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” This is ringing affirmation of the objective legal standing all Christians have in Christ before God. They have been declared righteous by God. They have been imputed Christ’s righteousness. There is absolutely no longer any reason for a Christian to be under fear of judgment and the wrath of God but has peace with him, which is not merely subjective touchy-feely, but objective reality.

Soli Deo Gloria!

3 thoughts on “Justification Applied

Comments are closed.