Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Does Romans Teach Justification by Faith Alone?


Most  denominational  theologians, exegetes, and  translators  believe  the  New
Testament teaches a person is justified by faith alone. Their main point of focus
is  Paul's  letter  to  the  Romans. So, it  is  reasonable to ask, "Does Romans Teach
Justification by Faith Alone?"

     What is justification? The New Testament uses several words in this family of
words that are from the same "root" or "stem." The adjective dikaios which means
"righteous, upright, just." The verb dikaioo which means to "make right, just, to
vindicate." The noun dikaiosis  which  means "justification, acquittal, vindication."
The adverb dikaios which means "uprightly, fairly, justly." The noun dikaiosune
which  means  "righteousness, uprightness, justice."  Justification  is  the  state  or
condition of being right with God, or declared "no longer guilty" by God. This is
the pronouncement of God through the Messiah, "who was delivered up for our
trespasses, and was raised up for our justification." (Romans 4:25, ASV-1901)
Therefore, the question is: "Does  the  book  of  Romans  teach  that God declares
a  person to be righteous or "no longer guilty" by faith alone?"

     The  short  answer  is "no."  Neither the  phrase  "faith alone,"  nor  the  concept
of  justification by faith alone are found in Paul's letter to the Romans. Paul plainly
implies  in  Romans  that  nothing alone  justifies  a  person.  Paul says a person is
"justified freely by his grace," (Romans 3:24), "justified by faith," (Romans 3:28),
and believers are "justified by his blood." (Romans 5:9) Since a person is justified
by "grace" and "blood," and inasmuch as "grace" and "blood" are not the same as
"faith," a person is not justified by faith alone! If a person were justified by faith
alone it could not be  by  the grace of God  and  the  blood  of  Christ! "Alone"
excludes all else.

     What are we to make of Paul's statement that, "Now to the one who works, the
reward is not accounted according to grace, but according to debt. But to the one
who does not work, but believes in the one who justifies the ungodly, their faith is
accounted for righteousness."? (Romans 4:4-5)

     First,  human  works  are   not  the  basis or grounds  of   justification. More
particularly, in Romans the "works of the law" (or "works of law", implying the
law of Moses  or  works  by  which  one  puts  God  in  his "debt.") is a point of
focus. (cf. Romans 4:19, 21, 28) There is no justification through such works.

     Second, Paul is not excluding the works or deeds required by God as a means
of being justified by God. At least twice in Romans Paul says that his apostleship
was "for (or in order to bring about, RD) obedience of faith." (Romans 1:5; 16:26)
The "obedience  of   faith"  means   the  obedience  that   faith  elicits; faith  that
requires compliance with God's will.

     Third, Paul did not believe a person can be justified apart from Christ Jesus or
apart from his death. He reminds the Romans that, "Or  are  you  ignorant  that  as
many as  were  immersed  into  Christ  Jesus  were  immersed  into  his  death?
Therefore, we  were  buried  with him through immersion into death, that just as
Christ was raised from the dead  through  the  glory  of  the  Father, so  we also
may walk in newness of life." (Romans 6:3-4) Nothing in Romans excludes the
necessity of immersion. Paul says those who are immersed are immersed "into
Christ Jesus," and "into his death." Immersion was the means by which they
received the benefits of Jesus' death. To deny the necessity of immersion is to
deny the necessity of Christ Jesus' work and the benefits of his blood. And that
is what those who teach justification by faith alone do.
                                                                                                               R. Daly


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