Justification by Faith and not by Works

Justification by Faith and not by Works
The concept of salvation has been a controversial topic to many people.
The main argument arises following the failure of some people to
comprehend the logic behind the God’s justification of the sinful man
by faith. This is because man is not only a sinner before accepting
Christ, but continues to commit sin after claiming justification.
However, this directs to the doctrine of God’s forgiveness and
justification by faith, which is an undeserved gift. This doctrine of
“justification by faith” was coined by Saint Paul, and it implies
the perfect life of Jesus on earth and crucifixion made it possible for
God to declare sinners as righteous and perfect. Paul presents this
concept of justification by faith in a description showing that the
forgiveness of sins, although worth of all, it is given to those who
believe. Paul implies that the blood of Jesus is the final price that
makes it possible for God transfer His equivalent righteousness to man.
However, this concept has been understood variously by different people.
This paper addresses some of the contemporary issues (including the
righteousness of God and its relationship with the justification by
faith and God’s wrath) raised from the concept of justification by
faith. The paper will also address the efforts made by the evangelical
church in establishing the relationship between God’s righteousness
and God’s wrath.
Statement of the problem
Paul is one of the apples of Jesus whose teachings require deeper
insight and Gods wisdom to comprehend and apply in Christian faith. Paul
introduced several concepts of Christian faith during the missionary
work. However, some of the Christian concepts introduced by Paul’s
teachings have raised some arguments about the contradiction of other
biblical contexts. The doctrine of justification by faith, which was
advanced by Paul in various verses in the book of Romans (such as Romans
3: 20, Romance 3: 28 and Romance 4: 5) are concepts that seem goes
contrary to the teaching of the apostle James in the book of James 2: 24
and James 2: 26 1. Apostle Paul states that Justification of God does
not require any works while James states that man is justified not by
faith alone James 2: 24). Such contradictions have raised the
misunderstanding of the Paul concept of justification of man by faith
and not by work. In addition, the concept has failed to trickle in the
hearts of men because they fail to understand how Gods righteous can
reach a sinful man just by believing. This paper will clear the
misunderstandings based on explanations of the biblical context.
The following research questions will provide significant guidance in
pursuance of this theme
What does the phrase “righteousness of God” in verse 17 mean? How
does the idea of righteousness of God relate to justification by faith?
How does the ideas of righteousness of God and the wrath of God relate
to each other? What are the implications of God’s wrath in Paul’s
use of the concept of salvation? Has the contemporary Evangelical church
adequately maintained the relationship between the two concepts of
God’s righteousness and God’s wrath?
The righteousness of God
The concept of God’s righteousness has been interpreted variously, but
the main focus has been to find a vivid explanation of God’s plan to
transfer His justice and mercy to the sinful man. The concept of God’s
righteousness was introduced in the New Testament by Apostle Paul in the
book of Romans. God’s righteousness is one of the difficult concepts
to comprehend. Although it was presented in the Old Testament (Habakkuk
2: 4), Paul presents it in a slightly different way, but within the same
context 2. In the Old Testament, the concept
1 Biblica Incorporation, Holy Bible: New International Version
(Colorado Springs: Biblica Incorporation, 1984), 793-786.
of God’s righteousness referred to the straightness in the moral
sense, which is presented on different aspects of human life. First, the
Old Testament demonstrates God’s righteousness as a requirement to
conform to God’s likeness for He is holy (Psalms 4:5). Secondly, the
concept of God’s righteousness is presented in a judicial context
where it is stated that God keeps His faithfulness to them that obverse
His commands (Deuteronomy 7: 9). However, Paul presents the same concept
to Romans referring to God’s plan to save 3.
Paul indicates that the gospel is the key channel that God chose to
reveal His righteous nature to man. He states this in defense of the
preceding verse (Romance 1: 16) that is to explain why he is not ashamed
of the Gospel. Paul implies that the only way to inform people about
Gods plan to save man is by spreading the Gospel, which essentially it
is the representation of Gods righteousness. The context in which the
term righteousness has been used may refer either to the attribute of
God or an attribute that is acceptable to God 4. The phrase, which
indicates that the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith,
has also been interpreted variously among the Pauline scholars. However,
the phrase mainly implies that the acceptance of God’s justification
by faith marks the beginning of man`s journey of faith. Similarly, it
implies that man shall be continually be justified by faith because
after the initial reception of God’s justification man continues to
live in the world, which has opportunities to violate the attributes
that are acceptable to God. Paul informs that Gods righteous are not
manifested in man’s life by observing the law, but by faith (Romance
9:
2 Biblica Incorporation, Holy Bible: New International Version
(Colorado Springs: Biblica Incorporation, 1984), 793-786.
3 IBID, 663.
4 Keong, C., Justification and the righteousness of God in the
Pauline Corpus. (2009, October 16). The Paul Page.
30-31, 10: 4 and Galatians 1: 1-3). Paul, by this statement, means that
the salvation of God is initially given by grace and maintained
throughout man’s life on earth by grace and not by observing the legal
bounds. This puts a clear distinction between God’s righteousness and
human righteousness. In the same context, Paul demonstrates that the
Jews, although strict with observing the law and ritual ceremonies, did
not receive the righteousness of God (Romance 10: 4). In the contrary,
they rejected the God’s own designed way of transferring His mercy and
justice to men simply by faith and not human efforts 5.
The relationship between the righteousness of God and justification by
faith
The complex interconnectivity of the two concepts is presented by Paul
in the Romance 1: 16-17 in three dimensions. The three dimensions
include the gospel of Christ, which reveals the righteousness of God,
and the righteousness of God that guides the sinful man towards the
justification by faith and not by their works 6. Although the term
justification is defined variously, Paul uses it to mean the reason,
fact, or an explanation that justifies. The grammatical and biblical
definitions of the term justification bear similar meaning, but the fact
or the reason of justification in the biblical context is the believing
in God and not by obeying the law. Paul was speaking to the Roman
community to inform them that they had an equal title to salvation as
the Jews. This is because by that time the Jews strongly believed that
they were the Gods chosen generation that deserved His salvation. They
lived by the Law of Moses and all the religious ceremonies as a way of
seeking Gods righteousness. Paul indicates this as ignorance on the part
of the Jews by stating that it is blindness in part of Israel, which
would persist until they witness the revelation of God’s
5 Hay, M., “On becoming the righteousness of God”, Pauline Theology
2, (2008): 200-209.
6 IBID, 206.
righteousness and justification of the gentiles by faith irrespective of
the ignorance of the law of Moses (Romance 11: 25 and Romance 15: 9) 7.
Abraham is the appropriate example of how God executes justice by faith
and reveals His righteousness to those who believe in Him without
reservation. According to Paul, the Jews failed to comprehend the means
of revealing His righteous and rendering justice of faith from the time
of the creation. Paul states that Abraham`s faith resulted in his
justification because before the Law of Moses was given. In addition,
all the descendants of Abraham were justified by faith established in
the old covenant (between Abraham and God) that subsequently resulted in
the new faith through Jesus Christ. It is thus evident that everything
that exists on earth has been made just and right with God by faith
since the call of Abraham to date 8.
Revelation of the wrath of God
Apostle Paul is one of the Christians who efficiently utilized the
mission trips to reveal the truth of the scripture in the whole truth
irrespective of whether it pleased men or not. In Romance 1: 18-32 he
reveals several ways in which God expresses His wrath against the sinful
nature of man. Paul beings by warning that the wrath of God is revealed
to those who uphold godlessness and other forms of wickedness (Romance
1: 18-23). In verse 20 Paul asserts that God is just and fair enough
because, since creation, He has revealed His invisible character and
made it understood to men through His visible creation. This implies
that God does not pour His Wrath to men who have no knowledge of what He
expects (righteousness)
7 Biblica Incorporation, Holy Bible: New International Version
(Colorado Springs: Biblica Incorporation, 1984), 793-786.
8 Hay, M., “On becoming the righteousness of God”, Pauline Theology
2, (2008): 200-209.
from them. In verses 21 and 23, Paul explains how the sinful nature of
men leads to lack of faith in God and eventually results in the worship
of images. In subsequent verses (24-32) Paul explains how God’s wrath
develops and various forms in which God reveals His wrath to men.
Revelation of God’s wrath and its relationship with the righteousness
of God
Abandonment is one of the forms that God uses to expose His wrath of
men. Abandonment as the act of withdrawing one`s support or help from,
especially in spite of duty, allegiance, or responsibility 9. The
definition is depicted in various chapters of Romance chapter 1
including verse 24, 26, which states that God gave them over. The term
handing over is derived from the Greek to refer to the act of handing
someone over to be punished according to the nature sins committed.
Similarly, Paul uses the scripture to expose God in the judicial
capacity where He is promising to surrender those who disobey His
commandments and worship images. This implies that God abandon sinners
by withdrawing His restraining grace and allowing them to live with the
consequences of their sin 10. In verse 17 Paul illustrates the results
of the withdrawal of God’s grace, which include fornication,
promiscuity, and adultery. The absence of God’s restraining grace
allows the lust of the heart, which guides man to godlessness and the
worship of idols. This means that the righteous of God can no longer be
revealed to the sinful men because they do not have faith in Him.
In the second phase of the wrath of abandonment the conscience of men,
which are the God-given mechanism against sin, dies and men no longer
find any guilt in sin. The implication of death of conscience is an
increase in the depth of sin. Paul illustrates this in
9 Vanhoozer, J., The wrath of God as an aspect of the love of God
(Michigan: Erdmann Publishing Company, 2002), 92-99.
Romance 1: 26, where sexual sin graduates from sexual immorality between
persons of the opposite sex to homosexuality. At this level, the grace
of God, which renders His justification through faith, sin graduates
from one level to another and sinners no longer feel the guilt of sin.
This step of revelation of God’s wrath is classified as a step of
submission to degrading passion for sin 10. Verses 26 and 27 illustrate
how both men and women changed the natural (Gods given) sex orientation
and the destructive passion for sin guided them towards sexual relations
between individual of the same sex. This marks the complete destruction
of the early warning signs of sin.
Step three of a demonstration of God’s wrath is the climax of
rejection of a sinful society. This is stated in verses 28, 29, 30, and
31 where Paul states that after watching that the society did not find
any need to retain His knowledge God surrendered them to a depraved
mind. This signifies that since the mind of the spoken society was not
receptive to the knowledge of God, He allowed sin to occupy them. The
collapse of mind opens the floodgates of all sorts of sin that can be
committed on earth. Men are no longer under any moral control, either
from Gods grace or self conscious. Paul suggests some of the sins
(including murder, envy, deceit, malice, gossip, hatred against God,
arrogance, disobedient to parents, and unloving among others) that get a
chance after the society is given over to a depraved mind. In verse 32
Paul states that although, although people are aware of the results of
leading a sinful life, they are unable to refrain from this style of
life. This is an illustration of total rejection of God’s
justification, which gives undeserved mercy and forgiveness 11.
10 Vanhoozer, J., The wrath of God as an aspect of the love of God
(Michigan: Erdmann Publishing Company, 2002), 92-99.
11 Fehr, E., Erath of God: Religious prime and punishment (Zurich:
Institute for Empirical Research in Economics, 2011), 3-19.
Implications of God’s wrath
Despite that God is merciful and offers His salvation to the sinful man,
there are circumstances in which He pours His wrath and gives over his
people to destructive forces. The term wrath in this context refers to
the strong intense to take vengeance. There are three main reasons that
make God withdraw His mercy from man. First, when men neglect the
worship of God and occupy themselves with the worship of idols, God
withdraws His grace and gives them over to be guided by human lust
(Romance 1: 26) 12. The ultimate result of this is progressive
indulgence in sexual immorality, which results in death. However, the
Bible reveals in Romance 11: 26 that God can justify people if they turn
away from their godlessness and save them from the distractions of
caused human lust. Secondly, during the unrighteousness of men God
surrender the sinful society to destruction of self against self. This
implies that the wicked society never finds the boundaries between what
is morally right and what is immoral. At this level, people indulge into
fornication, thus degrading their bodies against one another (Romance 1:
24). Finally, the end product of leading a sinful life is death (Romance
6: 23). God’s plan of salvation was intended to deliver man from sin
that subjected him to spiritual death. This would be accomplished
through repentance and human justification by faith 13.
Effectiveness of the contemporary evangelical church
The contemporary evangelical church has partly failed to maintain the
relationship between God’s righteousness and God’s wrath. The main
goal of the evangelical church is a commitment to the gospel and
upholding its total truth. However in the recent decade, there
12 Bertram, W., Theology on justification by faith, (Minneapolis:
Augsburg, 2005), 244-254.
13 DeWaay, B., The demise of Gospel preaching in the modern
evangelical church (St. Louis: Twin City Fellowship, 2002), 67-83.
have been some claims that Evangelical church has diverted their goal.
The modern preaches are market driven, and this has resulted in
preaching of the God’s plan for salvation with incompletely revealed
truth 14. Consequently, people are informed how to receive Jesus and
they are not told who Jesus is, why they need Him, and what Jesus has
done. This is an effective gospel, which does not fulfill the purpose of
the Gospel, which is to inform people that they have disobeyed the law
of God, and there is still a chance to receive God’s justification by
faith in Him. There are two main ways, which clearly indicates how the
contemporary Evangelical church has failed to preach the truth about the
righteousness of God and God’s wrath as considered in this section.
Research has shown that the gospel preaching has gone through drastic
shifts for the last few centuries. Preaching has changed from the
conversion gospel to humanistic gospel. Early evangelists believed that
sinners had no capacity to rescue themselves from the shatter lifestyle.
To this end, the main objective of evangelism was to inform the sinners
about the way of justification by faith in God. This helps the converts
to distinguish between the righteousness of men as guided by obedience
to law and rituals from the righteousness of God 15. This trend has
changed, and the current evangelism holds that conversion occurs through
a decision for Jesus. This implies that sinners are taught about the
benefits of accepting Jesus and never inform them about the Jesus
Himself. Apart from the failure on the part of the church to preach the
way to the righteousness of God, it has misused the doctrine of the
wrath of to God. The teachings on the fruits of sin have been frequently
used to scare people
14 Bickel, R., Calvinistic modification of justification by faith alone
(Paternoster: Baker Book House, 2005), 2-13.
15 Keller, T., Misconceptions of modern evangelism (Belton, Topical
Review, 2002), 46-67.
to join the church instead of teaching the sinners about the
justification of God by faith.
Secondly, the current gospel is largely dominated by the decision
theory. This is because the modern preaching targets at achieving the
conversion by the conscious decision of what one should expect by
accepting salvation. However, research has shown that people who have
been converted through the modern evangelical culture die of spiritual
starvation because of the distorted purpose and approach to the gospel.
This has mainly occurred in the preaching about the wrath of God. The
former evangelism held that salvation from human lust and godlessness
was the divine decision that God makes to rescue his people from
destruction (Joel 3: 14). This means that God calls people back to
himself, but salvation or the righteousness of God is not obtained
through human decision 16.
There are two ways through which the misconceptions about the true way
of God’s salvation by believing in Jesus can be rectified. First, the
contemporary Evangelical church should be confident about the
effectiveness of God’s ordained means of delivering his people from
their sinful lifestyles. This can be achieved by trusting that God will
send His chosen preachers to teach the true Gospel and God’s plan for
salvation for people to believe in God (Romance 10:14). Secondly,
evangelist of the modern time should believe in the sovereign power of
God and preach His gospel with faithfulness and accuracy 17. By doing
this, they will have acknowledged that the righteousness of God is
attained neither by scaring people about the wrath of God nor by the
conscious decision of gospel recipients to abide the law. It is attained
by God’s grace and His decision to render justification to people who
believe in God through Jesus 18.
16 Hay, M., “On becoming the righteousness of God”, Pauline Theology
2, (2008): 200-209.
17 Dwight, P., “Equipping Christians to live by truth from God”,
VERITAS 9 no. 1 (2009): 2-16.
18 Beeker, R., “Justification by faith alone: The relation of
faith to justification”, Reformed Perspective 9 no. 33 (2007):
249-256.
Conclusion
The concept of justification by faith forms the backbone of the gospel
that leads to the revelation of the righteousness of God to sinners.
Paul’s efforts to develop the concept of justification by faith in the
new Testament was an achievement, which justifies why evangelism should
be based on reveling the true path designed by God to establish a
sustainable relationship with a man. This is significant because it
helps in teaching people about the way to salvation. Additionally, it
helps people realize that the righteousness of God is given by Him to
those who believe in Him through Christ who established the second
covenant. In addition, accuracy and faithfulness in evangelism is a
critical factor that ensures that the doctrine of the Wrath of God is
not misused to scare people, but to show them that God can punish the
sinner only if they reject the knowledge of His word.
Bibliography
Beeker, R., “Justification by faith alone: The relation of faith to
justification”, Reformed Perspective 9 no. 33 (2007): 249-256.
Bertram, W., Theology on justification by faith, (Minneapolis: Augsburg,
2005), 244-254.
Biblica Incorporation, Holy Bible: New International Version (Colorado
Springs: Biblica Incorporation, 1984), 793-786.
Bickel, R., Calvinistic modification of justification by faith alone
(Paternoster: Baker Book House, 2005), 2-13.
DeWaay, B., The demise of Gospel preaching in the modern evangelical
church (St. Louis: Twin City Fellowship, 2002), 67-83.
Dwight, P., “Equipping Christians to live by truth from God”,
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Fehr, E., Erath of God: Religious prime and punishment (Zurich:
Institute for Empirical Research in Economics, 2011), 3-19.
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(2008): 200-209.
Keller, T., Misconceptions of modern evangelism (Belton, Topical Review,
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http://www.thepaulpage.com/justification-and-the-righteousness-of-god-in
-the-pauline-corpus/
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(Michigan: Erdmann Publishing Company, 2002), 92-99.
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