Theology of Romans, Part 2

what-is-justification-by-faith-part-3-21502153

Justification is a glorious blessing from God.  Last time, we looked at some of the blessings of justification.  This time, let’s look at the “nuts and bolts” of this piece of theology Romans.

1.  Who does God justify?

The answer to this question is truly amazing because it cuts against the grain of religious thinking.  Almost everybody—at least everybody who subscribes to “Hallmark theology”—naturally thinks that God wants good people in heaven and that the only way to get there is to do good things and live well-behaved, well-ordered lives.  Of course, that’s what unthinking, Biblically illiterate people always think:  their entrance through the pearly gates is guaranteed by their efforts.  But that is far, far from the truth.  As Christians, we don’t take our theology from Hallmark cards; we take our theology from the Bible, and here’s what the Bible says in answer to this question:

But didn’t [Abraham] earn his right to heaven by all the good things he did? No, for being saved is a gift; if a person could earn it by being good, then it wouldn’t be free—but it is! It is given to those who do not work for it. For God declares sinners to be good in his sight if they have faith in Christ to save them from God’s wrath.  (Romans 4:4, 5 TLB)

When we were utterly helpless, with no way of escape, Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners who had no use for him.  (Romans 5:6  TLB)

In case these verses are misunderstood or misinterpreted, this one clinches the Biblical truth that the only people God saves are the UNGODLY:

But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.  (Romans 5:8  TLB)

All of this means, of course, is that Hell will be full of good people.  The Bible makes it abundantly clear throughout, but especially here in Romans, that if you really want to be saved, you must come to the stark realization that you are UNGODLY.  You must without hesitation accept that fact and then—and ONLY then—will you become eligible for salvation.

This is a huge pill for religious people to swallow.  Religious people are those who rely on their “good deeds” to tip the scales in their favor.  Religion complicates what God sees as a very simple process.  To be saved takes, not a lifetime of hard work and effort, but a moment’s decision.

…if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.  For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.  (Romans 10:9, 10  NKJV)

2.  How can God possibly justify someone who is guilty?

This is another question, like the last one, with an answer so profoundly surprising as to be almost unbelievable.  The answer to this question is also the answer to another one:  Why did Christ die?

It shall be imputed to us who believe in Him who raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead, who was delivered up because of our offenses, and was raised because of our justification.  (Romans 4:24, 25  NKJV)

The “it” of verse 24 is “righteousness.”  What Paul is talking about here is “imputed righteousness”; that is, a righteousness (Christ’s, as we learned last time) foreign to the one who now possesses it.  Christ died so that His perfect righteousness could be imputed—given—to the unrighteous and ungodly.

Jesus Christ was “delivered up” on account of OUR offenses—our sins and our lack of righteousness.  So, how can God justify someone who is guilty?  The real question these two verses raises is:  How can God punish the only One who was NEVER guilty?  Jesus Christ was punished in the sinner’s stead so that that sinner may be given Christ’s righteousness.  God is able to justify the guilty because atonement has already been made for them.

Now we rejoice in our wonderful new relationship with God—all because of what our Lord Jesus Christ has done in dying for our sins—making us friends of God.   (Romans 5:11  TLB)

Christ’s work on the Cross secured first of all the sinner’s forgiveness, then his justification.  It is those who believe in Christ that are justified.

3.  Do man’s good works have anything to do with his justification?

Biblical justification is a theology that sounds almost too good to be true.  It flies in the face of religion, which tries to complicate it and it flies in the face those who believe in personal responsibility and accountability.  This is where faith comes in to play!  We can do NOTHING to justify ourselves in God’s sight.  We can do NOTHING to appear better than we really are.  We MUST rely solely on what Jesus did for us on the Cross.  Mote’s powerful lyrics come to mind:

My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness;
I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
But wholly lean on Jesus’ name.

It’s hard for a lot of Christians to “wholly lean on Jesus’ name”!  They always think it takes something more; that they have to “do” something, which is why legalistic religions seem to thrive.

Now do you see it? No one can ever be made right in God’s sight by doing what the law commands. For the more we know of God’s laws, the clearer it becomes that we aren’t obeying them; his laws serve only to make us see that we are sinners.  (Romans 3:20  TLB)

Now, it is true that if a person does the best he can he will be justified in the sight of other people, but not in the sight of God.

Don’t you remember that even our father Abraham was declared good because of what he did when he was willing to obey God, even if it meant offering his son Isaac to die on the altar?  (James 2:21  TLB)

For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God.  (Romans 4:2  NKJV)

God sees no good works coming from a bad heart.  A person hoping their good works will get noticed by God and somehow tip the scales in their favor is simply proving their heart is still bad.

4.  How does God justify man?

Simply put, God justifies man judicially.  God, as the Judge of universe, makes a declaration in man’s favor.  In Romans 4, there are three words occur over and over again that clearly express the nature of God’s justification:  counted, reckoned, and imputed.  The righteousness of God is, therefore, counted, reckoned, and imputed to the believer.  God does it all.

But these three words, wonderful as they are to man, cut the other way as far as the Son of Man is concerned.  Our sins were counted, reckoned, and imputed to Christ as He hung on the Cross.  God did that, too.

But now God has shown us a different way to heaven—not by “being good enough” and trying to keep his laws, but by a new way (though not new, really, for the Scriptures told about it long ago). Now God says he will accept and acquit us—declare us “not guilty”—if we trust Jesus Christ to take away our sins. And we all can be saved in this same way, by coming to Christ, no matter who we are or what we have been like.  (Romans 3:21, 22  TLB)

5.  Is justification achieved by simply believing?

As hard as it may be for you to grasp, the answer to this question is a resounding a YES!

But isn’t this unfair for God to let criminals go free, and say that they are innocent? No, for he does it on the basis of their trust in Jesus who took away their sins.  (Romans 3:26b  TLB)

It’s not just a belief in God, for even the demons believe in God!  It’s belief or trust in Jesus, specifically, what Jesus accomplished on the Cross.

The simplicity of it all!  Have you ever wondered why such a deep and profound doctrine is so simple?  It’s because of the love of God!  When God looks at this world of ours, what do you think He sees?   He faces a world of sinners, desperately lost and stuck in their rebellion and absolutely miserable in their sin.  There is not a thing man can do to help himself out of his lost, pathetic state.  It’s all up to God.  It was up to God to find a way to rescue man without He Himself getting tainted by man’s filth.

Can a man hold fire against his chest and not be burned?  Can he walk on hot coals and not blister his feet?  (Proverbs 6:27, 28  TLB)

Can God help a filthy sinner without getting dirty?  God says:  Absolutely I can!  God does it all for the believer HIS WAY.  Only the act of believing is left up to us.  By faith, we count on God’s Word being true.  By faith, we believe Jesus did exactly enough to save us; that there is nothing left for us to do, save believe.

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