An Apologist View
Professor John Markley
BIBL 425 - ROMANS
Dating to the writing of the book of Romans there has been a basic misunderstanding as to what Paul meant by justification by faith. The Jewish culture had been educated in the law and yet the Gentile culture was being instructed that the law was death. The Jewish community was confused and aghast that God would justify sinners. Nonetheless that is exactly what Paul said God would do and he would do it based on the simple faith of the believer. Our early church fathers also struggled. Martin Luther and other reformers emphasized justification over salvation by works. In response the Catholic Church formulated its own view of salvation as a process involving both faith and works. The opposition to Luther came to a head at the Council of Trent which began its first session in 1545. It was affirmed at Trent that justification was a process which included both works and faith. Even in contemporary times we have divisions within the religious community over this doctrine. The most recent push to redefine Pauline theology has been with the baby boomer generation. They have questioned the reality of objective truth in abstract ideas. If there is no objective truth then why should we argue over any lines of demarcation between religious groups and their doctrines? In attempts to strive for a softer canon and unity within the church, they have weakened the very foundation of the Christian faith. Church unity should not result from a lack of integrity. Integrity demands “that we not oppose error for the wrong reasons or in the wrong way. We must instead oppose error for the right reasons and in the right way.”
What is Justification by Faith?
Some of the hardest words to understand in the New Testament are justification, justify, justice and just. The simple reason is linguistics. An English reading of Paul’s text would say that God is justifying or giving a reason that we were right in our actions. A Greek reading however would be different. The Greek reader would understand that God is not making excuses instead he is acting as though the action never occurred.
Faith is a pretty easy concept for all of us to understand. We know when sitting in a chair we are exhibiting faith that it will hold our weight. Bing online dictionary defines faith as a belief or trust in someone or something, especially without logical proof. As stated above, justify is a little harder since as English readers we understand it to mean an explanation or reason. But let’s change our paradigm and look at it instead as a Christian reader.
The definition of justification ranges from a very simple one to one that is very complex. But both mean the same thing. Simply put justification is that “God declares a person as righteous on account of his or her faith in Jesus Christ as the center piece of salvation.” A more lengthy definition can be found in an earlier statement from Baptists in America: “Justification is God’s gracious and full acquittal of sinners, who believe in Christ, from all sin, through the satisfaction that Christ has made; not anything wrought in them or done by them; but on account of the obedience and satisfaction of Christ, they receiving and resting on Him and His righteousness by faith.”
Let us dissect this last definition. It first tells us that justification is God’s release of the sinner. He releases the sinner because Christ has paid the price for their sin. Christ did this not because the sinner did Him some grand favor, but because they have trusted Him. Because of this trust, Christ in obedience to his Father’s will sacrificed His life for ours. As a result of this sacrifice we are seen as righteous in God’s eyes.
To summarize justification by faith means that we the sinner are justified, no longer seen as a sinner in God’s eyes. We have receive...