Chapter # 4 Paragraph # 2 Study # 1
Thesis: The doctrine that justification is a gift to believers raises the question of whether the doctrine can be legitimately broadcast in the world of humanity.
Introduction: Last week we took a detour from the immediate context of Romans 4 to bring some things alongside that are sometimes not well understood because of the teaching of Romans 4. This evening we are going to get back on the main highway. The text before us this evening is Paul's question in verse nine. The question is this: Does the doctrine of justification by faith mean that justification is really available to humanity as a whole? We want to clarify as much as possible what is behind Paul's question.
September 27, 2005
I. The Things "At Issue".
- A. Paul's use of the phrase "this blessing" is a reference to two connected issues.
- 1. First, "this blessing" has to do with the claim in 4:6 that the "blessing" is being in the position of a person to whom God has reckoned righteousness without any consideration of behavior issues.
- 2. Second, "this blessing" has to do with the claim in 4:8 that the "blessing" is being in the position of a person to whom God will not reckon sin even though it is undeniable that behavior issues establish the fact of sins being done.
- B. Paul's dual claim has the place of being "fundamental" to the development of our understanding of many other truths.
- 1. Man's condition "under sin" is Paul's first "fundamental" claim; from it all manner of other doctrines arise. [Many, many doctrinal heresies have their roots in man's denial of the depravity of man. Two of the most crucial are the content of the Gospel itself, and the question of the security of those who believe it.]
- 2. God's gift of righteousness apart from that "dominion of sin" issue is Paul's second "fundamental" claim; from it at least two major issues are established.
- a. First, the dominion of sin is not necessarily deadly [there is an alternative method for escaping the wrath of God that is not "sin-reality" based].
- b. Second, the availability of an escape by "faith" necessarily means that the escape is not limited to those who participate in a certain type of behavior afterwards.
- II. The Argument.
- A. Romans 4:9 presents the doctrine of justification by faith as determinative.
- 1. "We say" is a phrase that indicates a final doctrinal position.
- a. Paul is indicating that this doctrine is no longer "debatable".
- b. Paul is indicating that his further arguments are going to logically arise from this irrevocable foundation.
- 2. The following paraphrase of Genesis 15:6 establishes both the setting of the gift in Abram's experience as well as the specific content of the doctrine: before the issue of circumcision arose in Abram's experience, righteousness had been given to him by God because he believed God's word of promise.
- B. Romans 4:9 raises the question of the implications of justification by faith in specific regard to the issue of "audience".
- 1. The "doctrine" is a foundational aspect of "Truth".
- 2. "Truth" exists and is knowledgeably present everywhere "proclamation" exists.
- 3. Everywhere "proclamation" exists, "hearing" exists.
- 4. Everywhere "hearing" exists, "faith" is a potential.
- 5. Paul's question is whether the "Truth" can be proclaimed where uncircumcised people can hear it.
- a. This raises the question of what Paul means by "circumcision" and "uncircumcision".
- 1) Circumcision refers to the "narrowed stream" of humanity which developed from Abraham's loins through Isaac and Jacob as recipients of a specific covenant from Yahweh.
- a) This covenant established a particular community within the context of the larger reality of humanity. This community made up the "narrowed stream".
- b) This covenant identified the particular community as those who were being given the land of Canaan as an everlasting possession (Genesis 17:7-8).
- c) The details of this covenant had to do with whether one could be a part of this particular community: if one was circumcised, he could participate in the elements of the promise of the land; and, if he was not circumcised, he was to be ostracized (primarily by execution) from the land (Genesis 17:14).
- i. These details clearly rested the results of the "blessing of the land" upon the issue of "obedience" to the covenant requirement.
- ii. Thus, "circumcision" was clearly a "works" issue.
- iii. Participation in the "land promise" rested upon whether one was circumcised, or not.
- 2) Uncircumcision refers to the "larger river" of humanity that was to be outside of the promise of Canaan.
- b. At issue is whether the Truth of the possibility of a genuine reconciliation with God can be legitimately announced beyond the boundaries of the particular community.
- 1) A related issue is whether the "land promise" was an integral part of the "gift of righteousness": did God intend that everyone who "believed" in the doctrine of justification by faith would dwell in Canaan?
- 2) Paul's point is that since justification is by faith, it is not by works; and, if it is not by works, it has nothing to do with the covenant of circumcision; and, if it has nothing to do with the covenant of circumcision, it is not a doctrine that can only be addressed to those whose possession of the land was determined by circumcision. In other words, the Truth of the "blessing" can be announced wherever men are found and anyone who "believes" it will be justified by faith regardless of their association with Canaan.