by Darrel Cline (darrelcline biblical-thinking.org)
Chapter # 4 Paragraph # 4 Study # 2 January 10, 2006 Lincolnton, N.C.
(186)Thesis:Justification by faith is primarily about believing in the God of prophecy and power, and, then, secondarily about believing what the God of prophecy and power has said tothebeliever.
Introduction:In our study last week we addressed the issue of the "application" of Scripture to our own particular lives. We saw that there is a very real problem in the area of "expectations" -- particularly in the area of expectation of what is to happen in us because we have believed. There are many problems in this area and they can only be resolved as we discover not only that we are justified by faith but also who we are to trust and for what.
This evening we are going to pursue this issue: what is the content of our faith?
I. Observations of What Paul Did Not Say.
A. Paul did not tie our "faith" to Abraham's in terms of specific content.
1. Genesis 15:6 tells us that the specific content of Abraham's faith was a promise of a seed that should be like the stars of heaven.
a. There is nothing "obvious" about any "promise" to "forgive sins" or to "justify" or to "give eternal life".
b. There is only a deliberate focus upon a core desire in the man.
2. Paul is very careful to keep some distance between the specific promise to Abraham and the content of our faith.
a. He argues that "justifying faith" is fundamentally in God Himself, not in the specific words He spoke.
1) He never says to us that we are "justified" when we believe that God will give us a child, or a land, or a great name.
2) He only says that the "faith" that we must mimic must be in the same Object: the God Who has spoken.
b. He argues that "justifying faith" is related to what God has spoken, but only in the sense that what He has said surfaces certain "requirements" in Himself that must become a part of our "T"heology and faith.
1) God spoke a promise about a "seed".
2) The promise surfaced a significant difficulty: a barren wife; a woman whose womb was "dead" (unable to function in the "womb" world).
3) The difficulty surfaced three "T"heological necessities: God must be able to give life to that dead womb; God must be Truth in the sense that there will be an ultimate fulfillment of the words spoken before the fact; and God must be willing to make every provision that is inherent in the issue of God making promises to men.
a) Interestingly, "justification -- a declaration of righteousness" is not a major part of the spoken promise(s); it is only a sub-surface necessity for the issue of God having a relationship with any man.
i. Sin established a very real and significant barrier between God and men.
ii. The only way God could talk to man in "relational" terms (making promises that provide for man's experience of Life) was if that barrier was breached.
iii. The "breach" occurred when man "believed" the words of the God Who was capable: God "justified" the "believer"; He "declared" him to be Sin-free so that the Sinless God could share relational unity with now-sinless man.
b) But, such a "declaration" cannot just be "spoken"; it has to have true legitimacy.
i. God is not free to simply "declare".
ii. Any declarations that God makes must have roots in His character. [This is Paul's entire point: Abraham did not "believe" in words; he "believed" in the Speaker in terms of His essential attributes as the words surfaced those essentials.]
B. Paul did tie our "faith" to Abraham's in terms of specific underlying necessities.
1. Over the centuries, in the progress of revelation, there is a clearly discernible movement from the surface to the depths.
a. The "surface" is the specific words of God to specific people.
b. The "depths" are the realities of God's character that lie beneath all of His words to any particular person.
c. Over the centuries the "focus of theology" moved specifically in the directions of revelation that unveiled man's incapacity for fellowship with God in the face of God's character and that unveiled God's capacity to compensate for man in the face of the demands of His character.
1) There was a movement from "surface words" to "essential" "T"heology.
2) There was a movement from "promises" to "God's true identity".
3) There was a movement from "words about life" to "explanations about how that life could become a reality".
4) There was a movement from "the promise of restoration" to "the provision of a Redeemer".
2. Thus, we are now, in Romans 4, at the point where the "promise" is of "justification", not "words" about the particular issues of everyday living.