Sunday, May 1, 2011

here is part 2 of the series: God justifies the ungodly.

God Justifies the Ungodly… Part 2
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.

The beginning of Paul’s discourse continues his thought from Romans 4:4 that if someone works his reward is not a gift but it is an obligation—that is, something that is “due”. It is not this way with the gospel (δὲ). The gospel is for the one who does not work to earn his salvation (τῷ μὴ ἐργαζομένῳ). None will earn salvation. No one can work for his redemption. One can no more save himself than if he were drowning in the middle of the ocean with the towering billows and mighty waves pummeling down upon him while still trying to swim to shore for safety. It will not happen. Good works will not save. If they could, then salvation would not be by grace but it would be out of obligation (it would be a reward or a payment). Merit towards God cannot be earned by a life of morals. Outward deeds cannot save, they only condemn. Good works cannot deliver, they only damn (cf. Rom 3:20, 28). All the righteous deeds that people think they accomplish are but filthy rags before the all-holy eyes of God (Isa 64:6).

If you are trying to earn your salvation by your good works, you must cease trying to accomplish your own redemption. More specifically, you cannot contribute in the slightest to your salvation at all. All man does is defile himself with the filthiness and ungodliness that a sinful life lived for self brings.

The text in Romans 4:5 continues by saying that the one who does not work but believes (πιστεύοντι δὲ). This phrase contrasts (δὲ) the one who works (v.5a) with the one who believes (v.5b). Salvation is brought to an ungodly person by means of true saving faith. Faith is the channel through which the river of salvation flows. Faith is the instrument through which the eternal songs of heaven become a reality. Faith is the conduit through which the streams of God’s grace flow.

Saving faith is not only an intellectual assent. The devil and the demons believe in God and, most certainly, have a correct theology about God, yet they certainly are not redeemed (cf. James 2:19). Saving faith cannot be defined by a mere temporal faith. The Jews believed in Jesus yet only to find themselves picking up stones in order to kill Jesus (cf. John 8:31, 59; cp. 12:42-43). Saving faith is not an optimistic hope. Merely hoping for the best and seeing ‘what happens on the other side’ is not good enough. Mark it well: judas believed in Jesus, but he suffers in hell right now; the Pharisees believed in Jesus but they are being presently condemned in hell right now; many people in America believe in Jesus. Knowing about Jesus is not saving faith.

True saving faith consists of a confident and wholehearted commitment to Jesus Christ that results in a life of submission, obedience, and joy. To put it in biblical terminology, “if you confess with your mouth Jesus as LORD and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead you will be saved” (Rom 10:9). This verse includes two essential truths about a faith that saves. First, the confession of one’s mouth that “Jesus is LORD” is not a simple utterance that one merely shuffles off the tongue. “Jesus is LORD” was a creed in the early Church that meant I am submitting my life to Jesus as My LORD—not Cesar. The Roman government demanded that you say “Cesar is LORD” and then you could worship whoever or whatever you wanted (it was a political statement for them). But the Christians still refused to succumb to this. They stood their ground and demanded that Jesus (and Him alone!) is LORD. Thus, this first part of Romans 10:9 is a submission to the sovereign Lordship of Jesus Christ in obedience—even if the consequence is death. Second, true saving faith includes a “belief in one’s heart that God raised Him from the dead.” This means one must intellectually believe in the work of Christ on the cross, bearing the sins of sinners, and resurrected on the third day.

And lest one think that putting their faith in Jesus Christ is a work that they do to merit their own salvation. Scripture speaks of saving faith as a gift from God. Ephesians 2:8 says that it is “by grace you have been saved through faith and that is not of yourselves.” The nearest antecedent to the word “that” is faith. Thus, faith is not of yourselves, it is the gift of God. Paul declares in Philippians 1:29 that it has been given (lit. granted) to believes not only to suffer for Christ’s sake but also to believe in His Name (cp. 2 Tim 2:25). Therefore the message is clear: it is by faith alone that one becomes right with God. No works, no merit, no achievements, no accolades, no accomplishments, no deeds, no dues. Salvation is by grace alone, in Christ alone, through faith alone.

Find the pdf here. More on Romans 4:5 in the next post.


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