Justification by faith – the blessings of righteousness

by Mike Ratliff

22 Therefore it was also credited to him as righteousness. 23 Now not for his sake only was it written that it was credited to him, 24 but for our sake also, to whom it will be credited, as those who believe in Him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead, 25 He who was delivered over because of our transgressions, and was raised because of our justification. Romans 4:22-25 (NASB) 

We have completed Paul’s case that God justifies sinners on the basis of faith alone. In the passage above (Romans 4:22-25) we have his concluding remarks to that part of his dissertation. He has made it clear that those truly in Christ did not get there according to merit or works, but on the basis of faith alone, but now we begin the section of Romans that if not taken in context can cause much confusion. I will not move quickly through it. I have found it amazing to study God’s Word in context as we are doing and come across a passage that has been used by “proof texters” to teach a pet theology, but when kept in its proper context, it does no such thing. Carefully read again the passage I placed at the top of this post then read the passage below because, as you will see, it begins with the word “therefore.” 

1 Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom also we have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand; and we exult in hope of the glory of God. Romans 5:1-2 (NASB) 

1 Δικαιωθέντες οὖν ἐκ πίστεως εἰρήνην ἔχομεν πρὸς τὸν θεὸν διὰ τοῦ κυρίου ἡμῶν Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ 2 διʼ οὗ καὶ τὴν προσαγωγὴν ἐσχήκαμεν [τῇ πίστει] εἰς τὴν χάριν ταύτην ἐν ᾗ ἑστήκαμεν καὶ καυχώμεθα ἐπʼ ἐλπίδι τῆς δόξης τοῦ θεοῦ. Romans 5:1-2 (NA28)

Let’s stop for a moment and look at the first two words in this Greek passage. From them we have in the NASB the words, “Therefore, having been justified…” The word “therefore” translates οὖν (oun), which means “then” or “therefore” for example. Δικαιωθέντες is the aorist participle passive form of δικαιόω (dikaioō), which is a judicial term in which someone is judged to be innocent or just. This verb structure is incredibly enlightening for those really paying attention. An aorist participle describes simple action, but the fact that this form is a passive participle tells us that the timing of the action is related to the main verb in the passage, but primarily it tells us that the subject of the action is “receiving the action” rather than doing the action, “Therefore, since we have been justified by God…” is what Paul is saying.

How have we been justified? It was ἐκ πίστεως or “by faith.” Since these things are true there is something that is true, which is, “εἰρήνην ἔχομεν πρὸς τὸν Θεὸν διὰ τοῦ Κυρίου ἡμῶν ᾿Ιησοῦ Χριστοῦ, δι᾿ οὗ καὶ τὴν προσαγωγὴν ἐσχήκαμεν τῇ πίστει εἰς τὴν χάριν ταύτην ἐν ᾗ ἑστήκαμεν, καὶ καυχώμεθα ἐπ᾿ ἐλπίδι τῆς δόξης τοῦ Θεοῦ.” This says, “peace we have with God through our Lord Jesus Christ through whom we also have had access in faith in grace in which we have stood and we rejoice in hope of the glory of the God.

This is not poetic language or wishful thinking. All of us in Christ have real peace with God which is not merely a subjective feeling but an objective reality. Compare this with Romans 1. God has declared Himself to be at war with every human being because of man’s sinful rebellion against Him and His laws. However, in Justification, we see the first great result, which is that the sinner’s war with God is ended forever (Colossians 1:21,22). Those in Christ have been reconciled to God. These “Christians” have access to God through Jesus Christ. (Hebrews 4:16; 10:19-22; Matthew 27:51). What is this “hope of the glory of the God?” This is the believer’s ultimate destiny, which is to share in the very glory of God (Romans 8:29, 30; John 17:22; 2 Corinthians 3:18; Philippians 3:20, 21; 1 John 3:1,2). This hope will be realized because Christ Himself secures it (1 Timothy 1:1).

3 And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; 4 and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; 5 and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us. Romans 5:3-5 (NASB) 

3 οὐ μόνον δέ, ἀλλὰ καὶ καυχώμεθα ἐν ταῖς θλίψεσιν, εἰδότες ὅτι ἡ θλῖψις ὑπομονὴν κατεργάζεται, 4 ἡ δὲ ὑπομονὴ δοκιμήν, ἡ δὲ δοκιμὴ ἐλπίδα. 5 ἡ δὲ ἐλπὶς οὐ καταισχύνει, ὅτι ἡ ἀγάπη τοῦ θεοῦ ἐκκέχυται ἐν ταῖς καρδίαις ἡμῶν διὰ πνεύματος ἁγίου τοῦ δοθέντος ἡμῖν. Romans 5:3-5 (NA28)

This phrase begins in an interesting way. The translators rendered it as “And not only this..”, but literally this says, “Not alone but, but also.” Paul is emphasizing that our justification is awesome and the benefits are beyond our understanding, but they are “past tense.” We “have been” sealed.  What we are going through right now in the present is “sanctification,” our progressive salvation from sin’s power. This is our every day, right now part of our salvation we see. How does he describe it? He says we rejoice or καυχώμεθα. The people of God rejoice not only in future glory but in present trials and sufferings, not because trials are fun or pleasant, but because they produce a step-by-step transformation that makes believers more like Christ. The word Paul used that is translated here as “tribulations” is θλίψεσιν the dative, plural form of θλίψις (thlipsis), which is a word used for pressure, like that of press squeezing the fluid from olives. Paul is not describing the normal pressures of living (Romans 8:35). No, these are the inevitable troubles that come to all genuine followers of Jesus Christ because of their relationship with Him (Matthew 5:10-12; John 15:20; 2 Corinthians 4:17; 1 Thessalonians 3:3; 2 Timothy 3:12; 1 Peter 4:19). Paul’s point is that such difficulties produce rich spiritual benefits, which he lists as, “perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope;Here is the Greek again for v3,4, “οὐ μόνον δέ, ἀλλὰ καὶ καυχώμεθα ἐν ταῖς θλίψεσιν, εἰδότες ὅτι ἡ θλῖψις ὑπομονὴν κατεργάζεται, ἡ δὲ ὑπομονὴ δοκιμήν, ἡ δὲ δοκιμὴ ἐλπίδα.” which literally says, “Not alone but, but also we rejoice in the afflictions, knowing that the affliction patience works thoroughly, the but patience approval, the but approval hope.” Think of the purification of metal in which it is tried in the fire over and over until all of the impurities or dross are removed. That is what God is doing with each of us. Therefore, let us rejoice in the extraordinary pressure this lost and dying world puts on us out of hatred and spite for our Lord and Saviour.

6 For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. 7 For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die. 8 But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. 9 Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him. 10 For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. 11 And not only this, but we also exult in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation. Romans 5:6-11 (NASB) 

Paul is describing us as  being spiritually helpless. That is the true nature of the unregenerate who are spiritually dead. I am totally amazed when I hear and read of all of the spiritual unity going on as the world’s religions are “coming together” as “one.” Well, according to God’s Word, the unregenerate are incapable of doing anything to help themselves (John 6:44; Ephesians 2:1). When Christ died for His people, us, it could not have been for our merit for we were ungodly. It was, instead, based on His own character. This is one of the natures of grace that many miss. So many fall into heretical beliefs because they miss this. They assume that salvation must be earned. Grace comes only after we have done all we can do on our own. However, that is not what God’s Word says at all. Christ died for the ungodly who are totally undeserving. There is not one thing they could do to earn or deserve their justification. We will end here and pick up with this passage in the next post and move into vv12-21.

Soli Deo Gloria!

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