Here in Part 7 we continue with the excerpts taken from chapter 6 ("A Study on the Meaning of Justify/Justification as these Words are Used in the New Testament") of my book. We are looking at some passages that help us understand what it means for Christians to be redeemed.
1 PETER 1:14-19. "As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts which were yours in your ignorance, (15) but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior; (16) because it is written, 'YOU SHALL BE HOLY, FOR I AM HOLY.' (17) And if you address as Father the One who impartially judges according to each man's work, conduct yourselves in fear during the time of your stay upon earth; (18) knowing that you were not REDEEMED [my emphasis] with perishable things like silver or gold from your futile [sinful] way of life inherited from your forefathers, (19) but with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ."
Christians have been redeemed from their former "futile [sinful] way of life" by the atoning blood of Christ. (First Peter 1:13-19 are discussed in chapter 8 of this book.)
COLOSSIANS 1:13, 14. "For He delivered us from the domain [authority] of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, (14) in whom we have REDEMPTION [my emphasis], the forgiveness of sins."
We have been delivered "from the domain [authority]" of the kingdom of the darkness [the kingdom of sin, Satan, and spiritual death], and we have been transferred into "the kingdom of [the Lord Jesus Christ]." This is a big part of what REDEMPTION means. Colossians 1:9-14 are discussed in chapter 7 of this book. There I opt for the viewpoint that "forgiveness" is not an adequate translation for the Greek noun "aphesis" in Col. 1:14. It would be better to translate Col. 1:14 something like the following: "in whom we have the redemption, THE RELEASE from sins (with the guilt and the penalties, including being released from the major penalties of spiritual death and bondage to sin)." We are no longer under the penalties of spiritual death and bondage to sin, etc. (The meaning of redemption is further discussed under Col 1:14 in chapter 7 (chapter 7 deals with the meaning of the Greek noun "aphesis.")
ROMANS 3:25a. "whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation [or, a propitiatory sacrifice] in His blood through faith." The NIV has, "God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood." Our redemption - our being justified - our full salvation comes through faith in the gospel, which centers in the atoning death of the Lord Jesus Christ. (I'll comment on "displayed publicly" below, under Rom. 3:25, 26.)
SEVERAL QUOTATIONS ON THE MEANING OF JUSTIFY
I'll quote several sentences from W. T. Dayton, "Romans" ("Wesleyan Bible Commentary, Vol. 5 [Hendrickson, 1986 reprint], pages 29, 30). The notes in brackets are mine.
"The rest of chapter 3 [he is starting at Rom. 3:21] is devoted to the introduction of the remedy for man's sin in the righteousness of God imparted to man in response to faith. Though justification is a forensic term [that is, it is suitable for a court of law], applied properly to a declaration of righteousness, Paul uses it in its broader context of all that God does to deliver man from the power and dominion of sin and to restore him to right relationship with God."
On page 30, under Rom. 3:24, he says (in part): "It [the verb justify] should now be understood in the broader context that includes both the declaration of righteousness and the accompanying change in nature or character. Indeed, for the passage to refer to an isolated declaration would be to make God declare an untruth. He will not declare one righteous without making him so."
I'll also include two excerpts from Peter Toon ("Justification and Sanctification" [Crossway Books, 1983]):
The first quotation is part of a paragraph on page 29 in chapter 2. (The chapter is titled "Righteousness According to Paul.") He is commenting on Rom. 6:19. "This verse or section does not endorse the idea that a person is first justified/declared righteous and then (later or gradually) sanctified. Rather, the idea is that being in right relationship with God as judge and heavenly Father, the believer is thereby consecrated to the service of the Lord. Justification and consecration belong together. Not a little harm has been done by those preachers who have rigidly imposed upon Paul's teaching a division between justification (understood as what God declares in Heaven) and sanctification (understood as what God does in us here on earth). It is not quite so simple, for as we will see in Chapter 4 of this book, justification and sanctification are two complementary ways of describing the gracious activity of God."
I'll also quote his last paragraph of chapter 5 on p. 54. (The chapter is titled "Augustine and Aquinas.") "After the time of Aquinas the doctrine of justification continued to be discussed in the different schools of medieval theology - e.g., Dominican and Franciscan. While differences of approach and method may certainly be detected, it is clear that the discussion remains within the general principle that 'to justify is to make righteous.' As yet the idea that to justify is to declare or pronounce righteous has not appeared and will not appear until Luther. Thus the search for forerunners of the Reformers - that is, men (heretic or orthodox) who actually taught the Reformation doctrine of justification - has produced none and seems incapable of producing any."
Lastly, I'll quote part of a paragraph from the book titled "Righteousness in the New Testament." (The book was published in 1982 by Fortress Press and Paulist Press.) The subtitle is " 'Justification' in the United States Lutheran - Roman Catholic Dialogue." The author is John Reumann, a Lutheran scholar, and there are responses by two Roman Catholic scholars. I don't agree with every viewpoint presented in this book, but I believe it contains much helpful information on the meaning of the words "righteousness" and "justification" as they are used in the New Testament.
This quotation is from J. A. Fitzmyer, a Roman Catholic scholar, section 382, page 208. He is discussing the meaning of dikaioo. (He uses the infinitive form dikaioun instead of dikaioo, but he is speaking of the same Greek verb.) "I agree, 'dikaioun' has to be understood in a juridical or forensic sense. ... Yet the issue is whether or not one can leave dikaioun solely with the declarative denotation. Is God's word, spoken in a verdict of acquittal, efficacious or not, i.e., does it terminate or not in a real change in the human beings so addressed? Or, to put it in terms of Kasemann's thinking, is the 'power' (Macht) of the righteous God effective in his declaration? ... Since patristic times dikaioun has been understood by Greek interpreters of Paul to mean 'make righteous.' Indeed, this even seems to be suggested by Rom. 5:19 itself.... Here one may recall the OT notion of God's word as effective (Isa. 55:10 11). Yet it is not merely that God's creative power 'makes' the sinner anew (that would be to confuse the images again!), but rather that God's declarative justifying power even makes the sinner righteous."
ROMANS 3:25, 26. "whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation [a propitiatory sacrifice] in His blood through faith. This was to demonstrate His righteousness [dikaiosune], because in the forbearance of God He passed over the sins previously committed; (26) for the demonstration, I say, of His righteousness [dikaiosune] at the present time, that He might be just [dikaios] and the justifier [dikaioo] of the one who has faith in Jesus."
"whom God displayed publicly." The Greek verb behind "displayed publicly" is "protithemi." This verb can also be translated "purposed" or "planned" (as in Rom. 1:13 and Eph. 1:9), and I somewhat prefer a translation like "whom God PLANNED [to send as] a propitiatory sacrifice...." ((I had an endnote: The New English Bible has, "For God designed him to be the means of expiating sin by his sacrificial death, effective through faith." Several commentators express this basic point of view, including C. E. B. Cranfield, F. Godet, and J. B. Lightfoot.)) A translation like this fits very well with the rest of verse 25 and with verse 26 (as I'll point out below); and it certainly is true that the Father had already planned to send His Son to die for our sins before the foundation of the world (cf. 1 Pet. 1:20; Eph. 1:3 7). It is also true that the Father did PUBLICLY DISPLAY His Son as the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.
"This was to demonstrate His righteousness, because in the forbearance of God He passed over the sins previously committed." God in His forbearance passed over the sins previously committed in the sense that He was lenient and did not fully judge those sins. (See Rom. 2:4 and Acts 17:30, 31.) It might even have appeared that God, the Judge of the world, had been unrighteous in permitting so much sin, rebellion, and chaos to continue.
If we understand "protithemi" (used in the first part of verse 25) in the sense of "purposed/planned," then the apostle has already explained (at least in part) the basis for God's forbearance. God always knew that He was going to send His Son to fully solve the sin problem, and this foreknowledge permitted Him (not that He needed anyone's permission) to be more tolerant and to put off fully dealing with sin.
The Lord Jesus Christ died for all people, including those who lived on the earth in the years before Mount Calvary. Many of those who lived in earlier days will have a place in God's eternal kingdom through the atoning death of the Lord Jesus Christ. (Cf., e.g., Heb. 11:39, 40; 12:23. These verses are discussed in Endnote 10 of chapter 7 of this book.)
"for the demonstration, I say, of His righteousness at the present time." Now (at the present time), in the light of the gospel, God's righteousness is demonstrated. Not only has His former forbearance been explained, but we can also see that all sin has been, or will be, effectively dealt with by the Lord Jesus Christ. All who submit to Him are made righteous, and all who persist in sin and rebellion will be removed by judgment. The judgment of all people has been given into the hand of the Lord Jesus Christ (cf., e.g., Matt. 16:27; John 5:21-29; Acts 10:42, 43; 17:30, 31; 2 Cor. 5:10). It is also true that the penalty for the sins of all those who will have a place in God's eternal kingdom has been borne by the Lord Jesus Christ.
"that He might be just [dikaios]." I would translate dikaios as it normally is translated: "righteous." The idea here is that God is "righteous" in the sense that His "righteousness [dikaiosune]" has been demonstrated (as mentioned in verses 25 and 26).
"and the justifier [dikaioo] of the one who has faith in Jesus. The NIV has, "and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus." For God to be "the justifier" ("the one who justifies") here in Rom. 3:26 means the same thing as "being justified" (by God) in Rom. 3:24. If we are going to translate the present participle of dikaioo as the justifier ("the one who justifies"), then we must understand justify in the full sense of this word, as it is discussed under Rom. 3:24. I believe a translation like the following would be accurate: "that He might be righteous and the One who makes righteous the one who has faith in Jesus."
Dikaioo in Rom. 3:28 and 30. I believe that dikaioo is used in these verses with the same full meaning as in Rom. 3:24 and 26.
ROMANS CHAPTER 4
It is beyond the scope of this study to fully discuss Romans chapter 4, but a few comments are required regarding the meaning of dikaioo as it is used in Rom. 4:2 and 5. Some Christian scholars determine the meaning of dikaioo, as it is used in these verses, and assume that this meaning also applies in Rom. 3:24; 5:1, 9; etc. In my opinion, this assumption leads to a serious misunderstanding of the meaning of dikaioo as it is used in Rom. 3:24; 5:1, 9; etc. Romans chapter 4 is quite specialized, and there are, therefore, definite limits to how much from this chapter can be directly applied to other chapters. This chapter is specialized because it builds on the example of Abraham and, to a lesser extent, the words of David recorded in Psalm 32:1, 2 (Rom. 4:6-8). It is important to note that these men lived on the earth before new covenant salvation became available, as we'll discuss below.
The example of Abraham (and Psalm 32:1, 2) was important to help substantiate some foundational principles of God's plan of salvation, as this plan was proclaimed by the apostle Paul. The apostle was able to use Abraham (and Psalm 32:1, 2) to substantiate the fact that God's plan of salvation is based on faith/believing/promise (Rom. 4:3, 5, 9, 11, 12, 13, 14, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 24), not on works/Law/flesh (Rom. 4:1, 2, 4, 5, 6, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15). The apostle was also able to substantiate the accompanying foundational principle that God's plan of salvation is based on grace/favor (Rom. 4:4, 16), not on merit/what is due (Rom. 4:2, 4). Romans 4:16 is an important verse to show the link between faith and grace. It says: "for this reason it is by faith, that it might be in accordance with grace...." (Cf. Eph. 2:8-10.) Faith receives and cooperates with God's grace. It certainly does not earn God's grace.
((In the preceding paragraph I had an endnote for the word "works": We need a balanced New Testament understanding of the word "works." The apostle Paul emphasized that Christians must have good works (cf., e.g., Eph. 2:10; Titus 2:14; 3:8; Rom. 2:6-13; 2 Cor. 5:10). All such good works flow from the grace of God in Christ Jesus by the indwelling Spirit of God. They are the works of the Spirit (cf. Gal. 5:22, 23).
There are at least four senses in which the apostle Paul was against works. He was against works without faith in Christ (cf., e.g., Rom. 9:30-10:3; Gal. 2:16). He was against bringing the ceremonial works of the Law (like circumcision) into the new covenant (cf., e.g., Gal. 5:2-4; Col. 2:16-23). He was against the works of the flesh done to glorify man (cf., e.g., Rom. 3:27; 4:2; 1 Cor. 1:29-31; Gal. 6:14, 15; Eph. 2:8-10). And he was against works done in an attempt to earn that which has been freely given by God (cf., e.g., Rom. 4:4; 11:6; Titus 3:5-8).))
((I also had an endnote that deals with word "flesh" and Rom. 4:1, I believe the translation in the margin of Rom. 4:1 (NASB) communicates the intended meaning: "our forefather, has found according to THE FLESH [my emphasis]." The point is, as Paul will demonstrate in the following verses, that Abraham received from God on the basis of faith/promise/grace, not works of THE FLESH/merit.))
The life of Abraham effectively illustrates the foundational principles of faith/promise/grace, not works/Law/merit/flesh. Also, the fact that Abraham happens to be the father of the nation Israel makes him all the more relevant as an example. However, significantly, the apostle could not use Abraham (speaking of Abraham during the days he lived on the earth) as an example of one to whom the righteousness of God had come in the sense of Rom. 1:16, 17 and 3:22/as an example of one who had been justified [dikaioo] in the sense of Rom. 3:24; 5:1, 9; etc.
Abraham lived in the days before new covenant salvation had become available through the atoning death of the Lord Jesus Christ (cf., e.g., John 7:37-39; Acts 2:33; Rom. 8:1-17; Gal. 3:23-4:7; Heb. 7:11-10:39). Although he was a man of faith, he could not receive (during the days he lived on the earth) that which would only become available through the atoning death of the Lord Jesus Christ (cf. Heb. 2:14; 11:13, 39, 40; Luke 16:19-31; Eph. 4:8-10). Abraham was still in spiritual death in that he had not yet been made alive by the Spirit of life, who comes to believers through the atoning death of the Lord Jesus Christ. It is undoubtedly true, however, that Abraham (during his life on earth) was able to receive many benefits because of that which God knew would come to pass on Mount Calvary many years in the future. Of course it is true that Abraham had some communion with God and that he was relatively righteous, but he, like all people, needed to be saved from sin and spiritual death through the Lord Jesus Christ.
The apostle Paul could not say that the righteousness of God had come to Abraham (during the days that he lived upon the earth) in the sense of Rom. 1:16, 17 and 3:22, but he could say: ABRAHAM BELIEVED GOD, AND IT WAS RECKONED TO HIM AS RIGHTEOUSNESS (Rom. 4:3, quoting Gen. 15:6). In the context of Rom. 4:1-8, these words are quoted from Gen. 15:6 by the apostle Paul to show that Abraham obtained a right standing with God through faith (not works). "To be justified [dikaioo]" as this verb is used in Rom. 4:2 and 5 means to be declared/reckoned righteous. As I mentioned, however, we must not assume that the meaning in this specialized, pre-new covenant setting will suffice in a typical new covenant setting. It won't!
As the apostle continues in Romans chapter 4 (building on the example of Abraham), he speaks of faith being reckoned as righteousness for Christians (Rom. 4:11, 23, 24, cf. 4:5). This terminology (of faith being reckoned as righteousness) is not typical new covenant terminology. In fact, it is not used anywhere else in the New Testament with respect to Christians. (Galatians 3:6 and James 2:23 both quote from Gen. 15:6, as does Rom. 4:3.) If it were not for the fact that the apostle Paul used Abraham and Gen. 15:6 to illustrate an important truth, the New Testament probably never would have used this (easily misunderstood) terminology for Christians.
The New Testament typically says something like the following: the righteousness of God (which is a lot more than a legal, positional righteousness) comes to believers (cf. Rom. 1:16, 17; 3:21, 22); believers are made righteous (which is a lot more than a legal, positional righteousness) [cf. Rom. 5:19]; they become slaves of righteousness, whereas they had been slaves of sin (cf. Rom. 6:17-19); they die to sin and live to righteousness (1 Pet. 2:24); and they are doers of righteousness (1 John 2:29; 3:7, 10; Rev. 22:11).
It is true that Christians are justified in the narrow sense of the verb justify that is used in Rom. 4:2 and 5, but it is important to see that this verb very often means much more than this in a typical new covenant setting.
ROMANS 4:25. "He who was delivered up because of our transgressions, and was raised because of our justification [dikaiosis]."
"He who was delivered up because of [Greek preposition "dia"] our transgressions." The Lamb of God was delivered up to death by God the Father. He bore our transgressions with the guilt and penalties, including the death penalty. (Cf., e.g., Isaiah chapter 53; Rom. 3:24, 25; 5:6-10; 8:32.) It is also true that the Lord Jesus Christ voluntarily yielded Himself to die on the cross (cf., e.g., Isa. 53:10; Matt. 26:53; John 10:11, 15-18; Phil. 2:8).
"and was raised up because of [dia] our justification [dikaiosis]." Most understand these words to mean that Christ was raised up (from the dead) so that we could be justified. It is true that we could not be justified if He had not been resurrected, but I don't believe this is what the apostle intended to say here. I'll quote a couple of sentences from what F. Godet says on Rom. 4:25 ("Epistle to the Romans," [Zondervan, 1969 reprint], page 184; also see John Murray, "Epistle to the Romans"). I believe he has the right idea. "In the same way as Jesus died because of our offenses, that is, our merited condemnation, HE WAS RAISED UP BECAUSE OF OUR accomplished JUSTIFICATION. ... By the same law of solidarity whereby our condemnation had brought Him to the cross, our justification must transform His death into life." (See the next three paragraphs, especially the third.)
The Lord Jesus Christ was "the first born from the dead" (Col. 1:18, cf. Rev. 1:5). First Corinthians 15:20-23 say: "But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who are asleep. (21) For since by a man came death, by a man also came the resurrection of [or, from] the dead. (22) For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all shall be made alive. (23) But each in his own order: Christ the first fruits, after that those who are Christ's at His coming."
After going on to discuss OUR JUSTIFICATIOIN in Rom. 5:1 11, the apostle then discusses Adam and "the last Adam" (cf. 1 Cor. 15:45) in Rom. 5:12-21. Adam was the head of mankind and his sin greatly affected all people - they died spiritually (cf., e.g., Gen. 2:17; 3:22-24), they became sinners (cf., e.g., Rom. 5:19), and physical death became a reality (cf., e.g., Gen. 3:19; 1 Cor. 15:20-26). The Lord Jesus Christ ("the last Adam") fully solved the sin problem through His atoning death, and He has brought full salvation (including spiritual life and righteousness and holiness) to all people - to all who believe and receive (cf., e.g., Rom. 5:1-8:39; 1 Cor. 15:45). In Rom. 5:1-8:39, Paul emphasizes the Christians' union with the Lord Jesus Christ (cf., e.g., 1 Cor. 15:20-23; Gal. 2:20; Col. 2:11-15; 3:1-11).
The meaning of justification [dikaiosis] in Rom. 4:25. Through His atoning death (the "one act of righteousness" of Rom. 5:18 [cf. "the obedience of the One" of Rom. 5:19]), the Lord Jesus Christ has overthrown sin (as an authority and power), Satan, and death (spiritual and physical death). The demise of these enemies is surely included in the meaning of dikaiosis as this word is used in Rom. 4:25. Because of our justification there was no authority or power that could hold the Lord Jesus Christ in the kingdom of death. Likewise, there is no authority or power that can force Christians to continue to serve sin in the kingdom of sin, Satan, and death. Our justification, understood in the fullest sense, also includes our yet future bodily resurrection. We have already been resurrected spiritually. The apostle Paul goes on to speak of these things in Rom. 5:1-8:39.
ROMANS CHAPTER 5
ROMANS 5:1-11. "Therefore having been justified [dikaioo] by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, (2) through whom also we have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand; and we exult in hope of the glory of God. (3) And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; (4) and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; (5) and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us. (6) For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. (7) For one will hardly die for a righteous [dikaios] man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die. (8) But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. (9) Much more then, having now been justified [dikaioo] by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him. (10) For if while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. (11) And not only this, but we also exult in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation."
In this study we are especially interested in the meaning of dikaioo as it is used in Rom. 5:1 and 9. The adjective dikaios is used in Rom. 5:7, but this usage is not very relevant for our study.
ROMANS 5:1. I believe "having been justified" [dikaioo] builds on "justification" [dikaiosis] of Rom. 4:25 and that "justified" should be understood in the same full sense. (It also builds on "being justified" of Rom. 3:24; etc.) We have been set free from sin and spiritual death, and we have been made alive and made righteous - our nature has been changed. This is part of justification when it is understood in the full sense. If our nature had not been changed - IF WE WERE STILL "UNGODLY" (Rom. 5:6); IF "WE WERE YET SINNERS" (Rom. 5:8); IF WE WERE YET "ENEMIES" of God (Rom. 5:10) - then (as Rom. 5:1-8:39, for example, show) we could not "have peace with God." (Especially see Rom. 8:5-8; Eph. 2:1-3.)
ROMANS 5:2. The grace in which we stand includes all the life giving, sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit.
"hope of the glory of God." The Christians' hope (hope does not infer doubt) is to share in the (eternal) glory of God, starting at the time of the return of the Lord Jesus Christ. (Cf., e.g., Rom. 2:7, 10; 8:17-25; Phil. 3:20, 21; Col. 1:5, 27; 3:4; Heb. 2:10; 1 Pet. 1:3-5; 5:1, 4, 10.)
ROMANS 5:5. Our hope does not disappoint, that is, our "hope of the glory of God" (Rom. 5:2) will not be disappointed. At the right time, "all who have loved His appearing" (2 Tim. 4:8) will be caught up into the eternal glory of God.
One reason that we can be sure of this fact is that we can know that God loves us as individuals. God has personally manifested His love to every true Christian by giving them His love gift - the Holy Spirit to dwell in their hearts. The love of God has been poured out within our hearts [or, with the NIV, "into our hearts"] through the Holy Spirit who was given to us. God poured out (out of his heart into the heart of each believer) the gift of the Holy Spirit (cf. Acts 2:17, 18, 33; 10:45; Titus 3:6). This was a significant manifestation of the pouring out of "the love of God" for each believer. The indwelling Spirit testifies to God's love for us and even allows us to experience something of that love (cf., e.g., Rom. 8:14-16). In Rom. 5:6-8 the apostle continues to speak of God's love for us, which helps confirm that this is his point in Rom. 5:5. It is also true that the indwelling Spirit enables us to walk in love (cf. Gal. 5:22).
ROMANS 5:6-8. "We were still helpless" when we were still in spiritual death and under the authority and power of sin before we became Christians (cf., e.g., Rom. 5:12-8:17). At that time we were "ungodly" (Rom. 5:6), which is essentially the equivalent of "while we were yet sinners" of Rom. 5:8. IT IS SIGNIFICANT THAT THE APOSTLE SPEAKS OF OUR HELPLESSNESS, UNGODLINESS, SINFULNESS AS BEING IN THE PAST FOR THOSE WHO ARE NOW CHRISTIANS!. The sending of His Son to die for us "while we were yet sinners" ["ungodly" and "helpless"] was, of course, a great demonstration of God's "love toward us."
W. B. Dayton ("Wesleyan Bible Commentary," Vol. 5, page 37, under Rom. 5:6 10) says (in part): "That we are no longer sinners as a result of His grace does not detract from the greatness of the love that provided for our deliverance. It is He who has justified us by His blood and reconciled us to God (verses 9, 10)."
We will continue these excerpts from the study of Romans chapter 5 (in chapter 6 of my book) in Part 8.