October 14, 2011

What About Justification?

After reading this recent post, someone may wonder, "If 'the righteousness of God' in Romans 3:21-22 is God's own righteousness and not the righteous status granted to believers in justification, then what about justification by faith?" If we take "the righteousness of God" to be an attribute of God rather than God's justification of sinners, have we lost justification? The certain answer is that we have not. Μὴ γένοιτο.

We don't lose justification because the doctrine is clearly taught in the very same paragraph that we have been considering. Paul says that sinners who believe in Jesus are justified by God's grace as a gift (Romans 3:24). And it is because of God's own righteous character that he grants justification to sinners as a gift of grace through faith in Christ. Even if we take the controverted πίστεως᾿Ιησοῦ Χριστοῦ (3:22) to be "the faithfulness of Christ" rather than "faith in Christ", we do not lose justification by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. Paul is clear that God's action to justify, which is the fruit of his own righteous character, comes by his grace as a gift (3:24a) in Christ Jesus (3:24b) through faith (3:25). It's right there.

So, in taking "the righteousness of God" to be a description of the divine attribute of righteousness, we haven't tossed justification by faith out the window. It's a both/and rather than an either/or. I would even venture to say that a more robust doctrine of justification emerges that is exegetically grounded in God's eternally consistent righteous character.

4 comments:

ἐκκλησία said...

I agree with your conclusion here.

Is the what a husband and wife share in marriage a status the husband bestows on the wife, or something possessed by the husband? Neither, but a result of the marriage contract itself.

The 'righteousness of God' is indeed a description of a divine attribute of Jesus. However, since "the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the assembly ( ekklesia )" [Eph 3:23][Eph 1:22][Col 1:18] it is also a description of something possessed by those under the new covenant. What belongs to Christ belongs to his congregation, and what belongs to His congregation belongs to Him.

Through the new covenant, the wife is covered by her husband's righteousness as her head, and has perfect claim to what is His. It is shared. Likewise, what belongs to the wife is also the husband's. This is why despite Christ's righteousness, he shared out condemnation. (Notice that the debate is only ever about our justification and never about His condemnation - yet the same covenant which brings us justification, brought Him condemnation).

Justification is by faith because it is by faith we receive new covenant circumcision. By lack of faith we receive condemnation (which is uncircumcision) [Rom 2:26]. This is what James means by "So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead." [James 2:17]. Thus, by obedient faith we are entirely entitled to share that divine attribute, righteousness, belonging to Christ (and established by Him), as though it were our own - because by our faith we are His bride. Partaking in the marriage supper of the lamb makes it ours. Justification by faith is our marriage.

Matt O'Reilly said...

It is interesting to me that you agree here while disagreeing with the previous post of which this argument was a development.

ἐκκλησία said...

Matt, I'm not disagreeing with your conclusions in the previous post; but I am saying you do not understanding Paul's 'ethnic' argument and how it deals with righteousness. As you observe in the previous post, you recognise this as a point of disagreement between us. Paul is not saying what you believe he is saying because you are largely ignorant of Israel's prophetic destiny, their history and the messiah's role in undoing God's divorce. Paul's argument about righteousness is an re-iteration (perhaps a commentary) on the father's righteousness in Jesus's parable from [Luke 15:11-32]. The object and the subject (as in subjective) of Paul's point which is the foundation for his view of righteousness, is lost.

Here is an example; you likely believe the Galatians to be non-Israelites (I'm speculating). So Paul's epistle to the Galatians would be evidence of God establishing the new covenant with someone other than Israelites. Yet the Galatians (whose name means exiles (H1540 גלה galah) were non-Jewish Israelites who were taken into the Assyrian Empire as the House of Israel and uncircumcised (because of unbelief). As the Assyrian empire moved west to conqueror Lydia under Cyrus, the House of Israel was scattered throughout Asia Minor as prophesied in [Amos 9:9][Isa 30:28]. This is evident in [1 Peter 1:1]. But isn't God's righteousness more evident when we see him restore a people who knew and rejected Him, rather than a people who never knew Him at all? (It not only shows God's glory in their weakness, but it shows God's faithfulness).

How do we know biblically? Look at Paul's claim in [Gal 6:16] that the new creation was God's Israel (circumcised or not). This is not a figurative claim, it is a literal one. Therefore, the book of the Galatians is NOT evidence that God established the new covenant with non-Israelites, rather IT IS evidence that God established the new covenant with the House of Israel, exactly as he promised. Your understanding of Paul's argument about what advantage the "Jew" has (in relation to the ethnos (or nations)) is equally skewed by your prejudicial view of biblical history. In other words the same presupposition that influences your view of Galatians, influences your view of Romans.

However, even if one doesn't understand Paul's premise, one can still have a correct conclusion.

Incidentally, I acknowledge that by accusing you of not understanding Paul's argument, I am accusing all other Christian scholars of the same thing since your view fits squarely within Christian convention. Either God has blinded this fool to the glory of his word, or he hasn't.

Matt O'Reilly said...

Thanks for clarifying.