Thursday, May 5, 2011

Here is part 3 of my ongoing series on the biblical gospel of Jesus Christ — God justifies the ungodly.

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God Justifies the Ungodly… Part 3
By Geoffrey R. Kirkland

Greek Text:
τῷ δὲ μὴ ἐργαζομένῳ πιστεύοντι δὲ ἐπὶ τὸν δικαιοῦντα τὸν ἀσεβῆ λογίζεται ἡ πίστις αὐτοῦ εἰς δικαιοσύνην·

Geoff’s Translation:
But to the one who does not work but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited as righteousness.

Discourse:
This verse shows that God saves the one who does not work for his salvation by meritoriously earning good deeds which will incur God’s favor (τῷ δὲ μὴ ἐργαζομένῳ) as this could never happen. Rather (δὲ), the it is the one who believes who is saved (πιστεύοντι). The previous article showed that true saving faith involves a submission to the Lordship of Christ and a proper recognition of who God is and what Christ has accomplished for sinners.

The next ingredient for study is to examine who it is who justifies. But first of all, justification should be defined. Justification is a legal, forensic term that refers to that one-time, supernatural, divine act of God whereby He declares a person to be FREED from sin’s consequences AND treats Him as though He were a perfect Son of His. In other words, justification happens to you, by God, one time and it is a spiritual and miraculous and declarative/forensic, judicial pronouncement. Justification is different from sanctification. Justification is a one-time act of God where sanctification is an ongoing act where the believer “pursues holiness” with the enabling grace and strength of God the Spirit (cf. Phil 2:12-13). Our verse in Romans 4:5 reveals in no ambiguous terms who it is who justifies—God. The phrase ἐπὶ τὸν δικαιοῦντα is a present participle masculine singular. That means that there is one person who does the justifying and it’s not man, it is God. Scripture speaks of this reality in numerous places. Romans 8:30 says that “He [God] also justified them,” [He/God] who has saved us (2 Tim 1:9); “Salvation is from the LORD” (Jonah 2:9); But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus (1 Cor 1:30). One may ask if man participates in his or her own salvation in any respect. The answer is an emphatic no. No man can ever participate in his or her own justification. Salvation is a monergistic work—that is, the work of one; it is not synergistic—the working together with. Salvation is all God’s work.

But someone may well reply that we place our own faith in Christ. So couldn’t this be seen as a work? The answer that the Scriptures reveal is no. Faith is not a work; it is a channel by which the rivers of salvation are brought to the needy soul of the sinner. Ephesians 2:8 says that we are saved “through faith and that is not of yourselves.” The word “that” goes back to its nearest antecedent which is faith. In other words, we are saved through faith and that faith is not of ourselves, it is the gift of God (cp. Phil 1:29 where Paul says that it has been granted [lit. given/graced] to believe in the Lord Jesus).

Paul wants to make certain that his hearers in Rome understand the gospel correctly. Thus, he repeats himself again by noting that it is God who justifies the ungodly (τὸν ἀσεβῆ). Paul has already shown this to be so from Romans 1:18-32 where he condemned the Gentiles. Then in Romans 2 Paul condemned the Jews and noted how they are all alike under sin. Romans 3 encapsulated every single human being and thrust everyone under the judgment of God for “all have sinned” (v.23). Every sinner must come to this point of recognition that Christ did not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance (Luke 5:32).

Every single person is ungodly by nature. Romans 5:12 says that when Adam sinned in the Garden of Eden, in some mysterious way his sin affected and infected all of his posterity. Thus, when Adam sinned you sinned. Therefore, by your very nature as a human being having come from Adam, you have inherited a sin nature. It’s not that you are a sinner because you sin; rather, you sin because you are a sinner. Psalm 51:5 says that when we were in the mother’s womb we were sinners. Every person is also ungodly in conduct. Ecclesiastes 7:20 makes this clear as it says: Indeed, there is not a righteous man on earth who continually does good and who never sins. The Scriptures also reveal that we are ungodly in our minds and in our thoughts. Moses confirms this in Genesis 6:5 Then the LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And if someone still tries to wiggle his way out of being called an “ungodly man,” Paul eliminates any means of escape when he writes:

Romans 3:10-18 10 as it is written, "THERE IS NONE RIGHTEOUS, NOT EVEN ONE; 11 THERE IS NONE WHO UNDERSTANDS, THERE IS NONE WHO SEEKS FOR GOD; 12 ALL HAVE TURNED ASIDE, TOGETHER THEY HAVE BECOME USELESS; THERE IS NONE WHO DOES GOOD, THERE IS NOT EVEN ONE." 13 "THEIR THROAT IS AN OPEN GRAVE, WITH THEIR TONGUES THEY KEEP DECEIVING," "THE POISON OF ASPS IS UNDER THEIR LIPS"; 14 "WHOSE MOUTH IS FULL OF CURSING AND BITTERNESS"; 15 "THEIR FEET ARE SWIFT TO SHED BLOOD, 16 DESTRUCTION AND MISERY ARE IN THEIR PATHS, 17 AND THE PATH OF PEACE THEY HAVE NOT KNOWN." 18 "THERE IS NO FEAR OF GOD BEFORE THEIR EYES."

Therefore, to put it bluntly, until you recognize you are a filthy and ungodly sinner who has profaned God’s glory by your sin; UNTIL you’ve done this and confessed it, you cannot be saved! Every true believer comes to this point of biblical repentance. There remains still one essential element of the biblical gospel but this will be the topic of the next article.

Read the pdf here.

1 comments:

Pastor Dave said...

good stuff!

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