Chapter # 2 Paragraph # 2 Study # 6
July 17, 2011
16 Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.
17 But if, while we seek to be justified by Christ, we ourselves also are found sinners, is therefore Christ the minister of sin? God forbid.
18 For if I build again the things which I destroyed, I make myself a transgressor.
19 For I through the law am dead to the law, that I might live unto God.
20 I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.
21 I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain.
1901 ASV Translation:
16 yet knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, even we believed on Christ Jesus, that we might be justified by faith in Christ, and not by the works of the law: because by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.
17 But if, while we sought to be justified in Christ, we ourselves also were found sinners, is Christ a minister of sin? God forbid.
18 For if I build up again those things which I destroyed, I prove myself a transgressor.
19 For I through the law died unto the law, that I might live unto God.
20 I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I that live, but Christ living in me: and that life which I now live in the flesh I live in faith, the faith which is in the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself up for me.
21 I do not make void the grace of God: for if righteousness is through the law, then Christ died for nought.
- I. Paul's Response to Hypocrisy.
- A. He "saw" that their behavior and the Gospel were in opposition.
- B. He "said" to Cephas in the presence of all... . Paul determined to address the problem in public because it was not only a distortion of the Gospel, it was also a public humiliation for all of the Gentile brethren.
- 1. If you, being a Jew, are living in the manner of a Gentile and not in the manner of a Jew, how do you compel the Gentiles to live as Jews? [See the Study Notes for July 3, 2011<097>].
- 2. We [are] by nature "Jews" and not "sinners" from among the nations [See Study Notes for July 10, 2011<099>].
- 3. But knowing that a man is not justified by works of the Law, but by faith of Jesus Christ...
- a. Here Paul absolutely posits "his" understanding of the Gospel in opposition to that of "those from James". It is the foundation for his entire confrontation of Cephas.
- b. He claims that both he and Cephas "know" that a man is not justified by works of law. This is a remarkable claim in the face of "those from James" because those did not "know" such a "truth". It was part and parcel of the teaching of "those from James" that a man was justified by works of law.
- c. This claim that both he and Cephas "knew" this truth is rooted in his understanding of the gift of apostleship. The word translated "knowing" is used over 600 times in the New Testament and it carries the sense of both "certainty through visibility" (I see so that I know) and "certainty through rationality" (my logic drives my conclusions). It is not a tenuous "knowledge" in any sense. That Paul used this term without fear of contradiction from Cephas means that he was convinced that Cephas "knew" what he (Paul) knew. This certainty is rooted in the gift of apostleship in that this gift has its uniqueness in its impartation to its receiver of the ability to reason inerrantly. Apostles could reason without error; hence their ability to be the foundations of the doctrine of the Church. There was no genuine "truth" that an apostle could not tell was "true". Because Paul knew that Cephas was gifted by God in this same manner as he, he could say "knowing...we..." because he knew that Cephas could not honestly deny what Paul claimed he "knew".
- d. The "known" truth, part one: a man is not justified by works of law.
- 1) This "known truth" is given as an absolute. Justification simply cannot arise out of "works of law". The reason is simplicity itself: if a person has ever violated any of the precepts of "law", no one can honestly "justify" that person. "Justice" does not allow "positive merit" to cancel "demerit". If a man or woman committed adultery under "law" they were to be stoned to death. This was the penalty and it was not mitigated by "character witnesses" who testified that the guilty party was "good" in any sense of the term. "Law" simply cannot "justify" sinners. Period.
- 2) The issues are three: justification, works, and the meaning of "by".
- a) Justification is the decree of the Judge that no wrong has been done.
- b) Works are expenditures of energy to accomplish some objective. "Works" do not include "mental labors"; they are restricted to physical labors. However, such physical labors are polluted by any preceding mental activities that are the root of those labors in terms of what the labor is supposed to accomplish and how the labor is supposed to be effective. Any "vain" labor is corrupt (any labor that does not achieve its determined effect).
- c) The preposition "by" is used in the phrases, "not by works of law" and "by faith of Christ" and "not by works of law" and "because by works of law shall no flesh be justified". In verse 16 alone, the word translated "by" is found four times. It seems clear that its meaning is "out of a consideration of the impact of " in reference to its referent. "Not by works of law" means that, after a consideration of a person's works, no person will be justified before God. "By faith of Christ" is a bit more difficult because Paul did not write, "by faith in Christ". However, regardless of the connection of faith to Christ ("of" or "in"), the reality remains that the "by" means "after a consideration of the faith, the believer is justified". The triple declaration that "by works of law" no flesh will be justified before God in one verse is extraordinarily emphatic. The obvious conclusion of this emphasis is that no one ought to dare to attempt to approach God for justification "by works" -- i.e., "out of a consideration of what the person has done".
- e. The "known" truth, part two: a man is justified through faith of Jesus Christ.
- 1) At issue here is one fundamental question: the formulation of "through faith of Jesus Christ"; what does it mean? The formulation is complicated a tad by the fact that Paul used the genitive form of "Jesus Christ" in this phrase and used the same genitive form of "Christ" in his subsequent phrase "by faith of Christ".
- a) If Paul meant "through faith in Jesus Christ", he could have written that (he did use that phrase both in Romans 3:25 and Galatians 3:26).
- b) It is interesting that Paul deliberately made a slight distinction between the justification of the circumcision by faith and the justification of the uncircumcised through faith in Romans 3:30. The prepositions are not equal; they have their own nuance of meaning.
- i. There are two approaches to the use of the prepositions. One is to claim that they mean "the same thing". The other is to discover the distinctions between them and attempt to discern why Paul switched from "by" to "through".
- ii. The facts seem to boil down to two: "by" carries the general idea of "out of" and "through" carries the general idea of "movement through". This drives this conclusion: when an author uses "by" he is attempting to create a mental picture of something arising "out of" the entity to which the "by" is connected; and, when an author uses "through" he is attempting to generate a mental picture of something moving "through" the entity to which the "through" is connected. Thus, "by" tends in the direction of "means by which" and "through" tends in the direction of a necessary "intermediary" (an intermediate issue that has to be processed before one can come out the other side) [He went "through" the hole in the wall that had been made "by" shooting a bazooka at it].
- iii. This signals an explanation for Paul's meaning in Romans 3:30. He wrote that God shall justify the circumcised "by faith" and He shall justify the uncircumcised "through the faith". Thus, the Jews, who possessed a particular standing before God, would be "justified by faith"; i.e., they would gain a declaration from God of their sinlessness "out of a consideration of their faith". The Gentiles, on the other hand, would gain a declaration from God of their sinlessness "through the faith"; i.e., once they had passed through "the faith", they would come out the other side "justified". The distinction is this: the Jews had "the oracles of God" but had not "believed" them; but the Gentiles only got those oracles by the extended preaching of the Gospel to them and, once they moved through the content of that Gospel and believed it, they also could be justified by the One God.
- 2) The "faith of Jesus Christ" boils down to one of two meaning-options: either it is the faith Jesus Christ exercised; or it is the faith that Jesus Christ sponsors in others. On the face of it, the faith Jesus exercised is absolutely the foundation of the redemption that is to be found in Him. The entire point of His confrontation with Satan in the wilderness was the same point that existed in the original Adam's confrontation with the serpent: would the "man" believe God, or would he be seduced into believing a lie so that he might exalt himself above God? But, also on the face of it, the faith Jesus Christ sponsors in others is root of every person's salvation: faith does not just "spring into being" in a vacuum, it must be "brought into being by some means".
- 3) The issue is this question: what was Paul's "point"? Clearly, he intended to divorce "justification" from any "man's" activities which could be raised in a court of law to influence the decision of that court. But, just as clearly, it was the "man", Jesus Christ, whose activities arrested the condemnation that the Court of Heaven could levy against any lesser "man". Thus, I opt for the meaning of Paul's phrase, "...a man is justified through the faith of Jesus Christ..." when he "believes into Christ Jesus".
- 4. ...even we believed into Christ Jesus in order that we might be justified by faith of Christ and not by works of law...
- 5. ...because by works of law shall no flesh be justified.