by Darrel Cline (darrelcline biblical-thinking.org)
Chapter # 4 Paragraph # 1 Study # 2 August 30, 2005 Lincolnton, N.C.
(154)Thesis:Abraham discovered that God would actually treat him as a "righteous" man if he would believe Him.
Introduction:In our study last time we saw that Paul chose to bring Abraham into his argument at the point of Romans 4:1 because of the enormous weight Abraham had in the minds of the Jews by this point in history. His goal was to persuade the Jewish element of his readership that not only was his reasoning legitimate, but that it was consistent with the experience of Abraham.
This evening we are going to look into the specific "discovery" of Abraham. It specifically focused upon the question of the methodology of justification. There are two issues here: What does it mean to be "justified"?; and, How does one get to be "justified"?
I. What Does It Mean to be Justified?
A. In the Romans 2 context, "justification" was the condition of being treated by God as sin-free.
1. The large backdrop in Romans 2 was the Day of Wrath in which the issue was being examined by Jesus Christ as to motives and actions in light of the requirements of Justice.
a. This backdrop tended to give the impression that "justification" was something that could not occur until the future time when the Day of Wrath had actually arrived.
b. This backdrop also tended to give the impression that "justification" could only come as a consequence of a legal evaluation of one's motives and actions throughout a whole life time.
c. Both of these impressions are absolutely true in the setting of the Day of Wrath and the methodology of that day in respect to "justification".
1) The day is "of wrath" -- it is not about receiving "good"; it is about experiencing "wrath".
2) The methodology of the day is legal evaluation of actual motives and actions.
B. But, there is a larger context than Romans 2 because Romans 2 has a context also.
1. In the larger context, "justification" is presented as a condition or state of being that can be obtained long before the Day of Wrath.
a. Romans 5:1, which is a part of the larger context, pointedly declares that it is possible to be "justified" long before one's life is over and long before the Day of Wrath arrives.
b. Romans 4:3, which is a part of the larger context as well as being the focus of our study this evening, clearly says that Abraham was "justified" more than 80 years before his living and doing on this earth was finished.
2. The automatic necessity associated with a possibility of "justification" before one was finished "doing" is of a method of justification that is not rooted in a legal evaluation after the fact.
a. This absolutely has to mean that legal evaluation is not the "method" of a pre-death, pre-finished-course-of-actions "justification".
b. Once the door is open to a different methodology, Paul's argument takes on a significant amount of "weight".
C. The point is this: though the "method" of acquiring "justification" is strongly challenged by Paul's reasoning, the "essence" of "justification" is not.
1. The essence of justification is God's determination that one's character is such that it permits Him to act toward that one as a sinless saint.
2. The real issue here is this: How will God treat me? Justification is a means to an end. The end is the real issue; the means is important only as a way to get to that end.
a. The answer is entirely dependent upon how He "sees" me in respect to my essential character.
1) If He "sees" me as a rebellious sinner, He will treat me as such.
2) If He "sees" me as a sinless saint, He will treat me as such.
b. The doctrine of "justification" is, then, a doctrine of God's ability to "see" one as a sinless person and, therefore, to "treat" one accordingly.
1) The bottom line here is "treatment by God".
2) The bottom line of "treatment by God" is the question of whether it is "wrath" that He dishes out, or "blessedness".
II. How Does One Get to be Justified?
A. Paul argues that, when it comes to "methodology", Abraham could have approached the question from the direction of "legal evaluation after the fact", but did not.
1. Legal evaluation after the fact means no one is justified in this life because "after the fact" means this life is over.
2. Legal evaluation after the fact also means that "boasting" is an inescapable development of a "justification" that is rooted in legal evaluation.
a) This is an absolutely intolerable result.
b) Nothing has been accomplished if, when all of life is over and the judgment is concluded, men are inescapably proud boasters because they have accomplished their "justification" by their own doings.
B. Paul's "ace" in the hole is that the Scriptures absolutelydeny that Abraham approached the issue of justification from the legal evaluation of performance point of view.
1. The absolute denial is in the fact that the Scriptures, in Genesis 15:6, pointedly declare that God "reckoned" Abraham as righteous more than 80 years before his life was over.
2. The absolute denial is also in the fact that the Scriptures, in Genesis 15:6, pointedly declare that God "reckoned" Abraham as righteous on the basis of the fact that Abraham "believed" God's words to him about the nature of his coming Seed.
III. What Should One Expect From Justification?
A. First, the text says that God "reckoned" Abraham's faith unto him for righteousness.
1. This means, first, that God did not "make" Abraham incapable of error from that point forward.
2. This means, as a fundamental consequence, that we should not expect that we will not fail just because we are "reckoned" as righteous in the eyes of God.
a. The issue in "justification" is not how we will act after we have been justified; but, rather, how God will treatus after we have been justified.
b. The issue in "failure" is not whether we have been "justified" or not, but whether the capacity for "wise faith" has been developed in us.
c. The issue of God's treatment of us in light of our "justification" must be seen in light of our need to develop "wise faith". His dealings with us after He has determined to treat us as sinless saints has to do with developing the wisdom of faith, not with reacting to our failures with judgment.
B. Second, the fact that "reckoning" is God's determination to treat us as sinless on the basis of faith means that we need to be aware that "failure" is the outworking of unbelief.
1. This means that our need is to understand that the faith/unbelief issue is where we need to be focused.
2. This, then, as a consequence, means that we "believe" that He will develop our ability to "believe" as He takes us forward from the point of "justification".