Chapter # 3 Paragraph # 4 Study # 2
28 Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law.
1901 ASV Translation:
28 We reckon therefore that a man is justified by faith apart from the works of the law.
Textual Issues: In 3:28, the Textus Receptus has "therefore" and the Nestle/Aland 26 has "for" and the word order of "justified by faith" is reversed. The textual tradition is mixed; the support for both readings is fairly equal; but the determinative issue rests upon whether Paul was drawing a conclusion ("Therefore") or pulling up support for the statement of 3:27 ("For"). The apostle's argument seems to favor the idea that he is pulling up support because he has already established its factual basis. Thus, he is not "concluding" that a man is justified by faith; rather, he is arguing on its basis that boasting has been excluded.
July 26, 2005
- I. Paul's Argument "For" the Exclusion of Boasting.
- A. There are few things more important than cutting the foundations out from under the despicable practice of "boasting".
- 1. Its roots are in the original rebellion of the creature against the Creator.
- 2. Its fruits are all of the conflicts that exist in the worlds of men and angels.
- B. The "bottom line" in eliminating "boasting" by men in regard to things divine is this truth: justification is not the result of human achievement(s).
- II. Paul's Foundational Argument.
- A. "We reckon" is the translation of a term that signals a foundational commitment to the concept that is being "reckoned" upon.
- 1. Mark uses the word to indicate the process of logical thinking (11:31).
- 2. Luke refers to the use of the word in a quote from Isaiah 53:12 to refer to a conclusion that has been drawn from a reasoning process (22:37).
- 3. Paul has already used the word twice in Romans to refer to the reasoning processes and conclusions that should be drawn from them (2:3; 2:26).
- B. Paul's "reasoning processes" are that it simply cannot be that a man can achieve a conclusion by God of his "righteousness" on the basis of "performance" issues.
- 1. The simple fact that "all have sinned and are bereft of the glory of God" makes the acquisition of a justified standing before God on the basis of "works" a most basic impossibility.
- 2. The "back-up fact" that the "principle of faith" (God producing what He has promised for the one who believes Him) eliminates the "principle of works" is simply more of the same argument. If the principle of faith rests upon God's performance apart from man's, then it cannot be that the promise of justification rests upon man's performance under God's demands. There are only three options available to us.
This, of course, means that one must understand the "principle of faith" to be what Abraham came to understand it to be as recorded in Romans 4:21 -- that the fulfillment of promises is dependent upon the one making them, not the one receiving them. It seems that one of the most important reasons for making Abraham and Sarah wait until they were too old for any possibility of children was to make this point: the recipient of the promise is not held accountable for the fulfillment of it because the one making the promise is totally responsible for its fulfillment.
To get this clearly in mind, one has to make a distinction between a "conditional agreement" ("if you do this, I will do that") and a "promise". In our modern thought, we take a conditional agreement to be a "promise" in that it is a stated declaration that if one party to the agreement fulfills certain conditions the other party to the conditional commitment will respond by fulfilling his side of the agreement. But, Paul clearly dismisses this as "promise" in Romans 4:4 where he makes the "promise" a matter of "grace". In other words, biblically, "promise" is God's declared intention to do a given thing with no strings attached.
At this point, however, a difficulty arises. Since "justification" is "by faith", what keeps the one who fulfills the requirement of "faith" from being able to "boast" that he has "done" whatever it is that is involved in "believing"? Some have argued that "faith" is a "work" if it is taken to be a condition to be met by man. Others have argued that "faith" is not a "work" because even its "conditionality" is addressed by God Himself in "giving faith to those who exercise it".
This raises this question: is "faith" a "condition"? If so, how is it really any different from the principle of Law (demand/performance)? If not, how is "justification" by it?
To answer this question, we must come to grips with certain inescapable facts.
- a) Either man obtains God's "conclusion by judgment" that he is "righteous" on the basis of what he has done (which is absolutely impossible, given Romans 3:23);
- b) or he obtains it on the basis of what God (the Son) has done as a surrogate in his stead (which is the point of the entire sacrificial system wherein the guilty is set free because of the death of the innocent);
- c) or he obtains it on an amalgamated basis of God's works and man's works (which Paul denies on the basis of the "principle of faith").
Thus, as we said earlier, "promise" is God's declared intention to do a thing with no "strings" attached. Therefore, though "belief" is not an "attached string" that calls for the recipient to "drum up confidence (that he does not have) that the speaker actually means what he says", it, nonetheless, must be the response if the intended result is to even be possible. Thus, "faith" is not a "drummed up human response to get God to do what He promised" (He is going to do what He promised in any case), but, rather, simply the human embrace of God's integrity so that the soul settles into peace. Thus, effective "promise" is spoken into the context of a relationship wherein the human is made willing to grant that God has integrity [See Philippians 2:13]. A good contrary illustration of this is found in the conversation of Isaiah with Ahaz in Isaiah 7:3-16. God spoke "promise" into a context of a man who needed to be able to settle into fearless peace of mind (7:4) if he was to live well (God's objective for all of His creatures). However, this particular man was wilful in rejecting the possibility of God's integrity and God warned the man that his wilfulness in rejection of the fundamental reality of divine integrity would make the promise of no (internal) effect for him (7:9) even though every detail of the promise came to pass as promised. In other words, God did exactly as He "promised", but the impact upon the soul of Ahaz was blocked by his refusal to admit to divine integrity. It was not that he "could not believe"; it was that he powerfully resisted belief. He was not working to drum up faith; he was working to resist it.
- 1) First, there is no escape from the fact that the Bible puts some limits upon the application of the benefits of "promise". Those who "believe" it receive a greater degree of "benefit" than those who do not. Any time God fulfills a promise to an individual who "believed" him, the consequences of that fulfillment create an expanding ripple of good that reaches out and touches many who did not "believe" (indeed, may not have even heard of the promise made). For this cause, we may make this distinction between the benefits of "promise": the most significant fulfillment issues are "internal" and require faith on the part of the one who would experience them; and the less significant fulfillment issues are "external" and do not require faith on the part of the one who experiences it whether he would or not. Illustration: the one who "believes" the promise of "justification" receives the Life of God within himself and any number of benefits which are directly tied to the presence of that Life; and the presence of that Life in that individual so alters that individual that he begins to act in ways that are beneficial to those impacted by his actions -- impacts which occur whether those around him wish for them or not. Thus, we may say that "personal faith" is presented in the Bible as a necessity for the "internal" benefits of promise, but not for the external benefits.
- 2) Second, it is inescapable that "faith" has certain "results". This makes "faith" a means to an end. God does not "require" faith as an end; He seeks certain results that are achievable only by "faith's" presence in the heart/mind of the person for whom God seeks these results. This means we must understand what the "purpose" of faith is. On the basis of many biblical passages, we may say that the purpose of faith is to permit the internal impact of promise and to generate all of the many extended external results. This means we must understand what the purpose of "promise" is. It is this writer's conviction that, internally, promises are designed to put their recipients in a restful state of the soul and, externally, promises are designed to enhance the general welfare of God's creation. Thus, without "faith in the promise(s)" the soul simply cannot be at rest and the extended, external results cannot come.
- 3) Third, it is the essential nature of interpersonal relationships that communicated truth between persons has to be believed by the recipient of the communication in order for the purpose of the communication to be accomplished. In other words, promises cannot create their internal purposes if they are not believed. This makes the "necessity" of "faith" not a demand (to be performed) but an intrinsic necessity (that must be met by some means).
- 4) Fourth, it is this issue of "intrinsic necessity" that moves "faith" out of the realm of "the principle of Law" (demand/perform). In "Law", the person under "conditionality" is required to produce the "required" fulfillment of the condition(s). Under intrinsic necessity, the "conditionality" only has to be met -- by any means. Thus, grace can enter the picture. God can do for man what He requires of man as an intrinsic necessity and impart to man the results of His actions on the man's behalf. Under "Law" man must produce the required necessity; under "Grace" God is free to produce that requirement.
- 5) Fifth, the Scriptures, in key places, make "faith" in a man's heart/mind a "given" [See Philippians 1:29 for an example]. This means that "faith" is a God-given "gift", not a man produced "response". And, on this basis, "boasting" is eliminated since man has not "produced" the required "response" [See 1 Corinthians 4:7 for Paul's clear statement of this principle of "boasting eliminated"].