Day 308: November 4, 2013

Today's Reading(s)

Romans 5:1-11
1 Therefore, since we have been declared righteous by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. 2 We have also obtained access through Him by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. 3 And not only that, but we also rejoice in our afflictions, because we know that affliction produces endurance, 4 endurance produces proven character, and proven character produces hope.5 This hope will not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.

6 For while we were still helpless, at the appointed moment, Christ died for the ungodly. 7 For rarely will someone die for a just person—though for a good person perhaps someone might even dare to die. 8 But God proves His own love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us! 9 Much more then, since we have now been declared righteous by His blood, we will be saved through Him from wrath. 10 For if, while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, then how much more, having been reconciled, will we be saved by His life! 11 And not only that, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ. We have now received this reconciliation through Him.

Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture quotations are taken from the Holman Christian Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1999, 2000, 2002, 2003, 2009 by Holman Bible Publishers. Used by permission. Holman Christian Standard Bible®, Holman CSB®, and HCSB® are federally registered trademarks of Holman Bible Publishers.



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Today's Reflection

Key Verse(s)

Therefore, since we have been declared righteous by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.
—Romans 5:1

Justified
by Steve Layton, Discipleship Minister, Brentwood Campus

It seems there was a man in England who put his Rolls-Royce on a boat and went across to the continent to go on a holiday. While he was driving around Europe, something happened to the motor of his car. He cabled the Rolls-Royce people back in England and asked, "I'm having trouble with my car; what do you suggest I do?" Well, the Rolls-Royce people flew a mechanic over! The mechanic repaired the car and flew back to England and left the man to continue his holiday.

As you can imagine, the fellow was wondering, "How much is this going to cost me?" So when he got back to England, he wrote the people a letter and asked how much he owed them. He received a letter from the office that read: "Dear Sir: There is no record anywhere in our files that anything ever went wrong with a Rolls-Royce." That is justification.
—Dr. Roy Gustafson, Associate Evangelist, Billy Graham Evangelistic Association

Justification is defined as “the divine act of God, based on the work of Christ upon the cross, whereby a sinner is pronounced righteous by the imputation of the righteousness of Christ.”

The doctrine of justification is developed most fully by the Apostle Paul as the central truth explaining how both Jews and Gentiles can be made right before God on the exact same basis—that being faith in Jesus Christ. Without this divine truth, there can be no unity in the body of Christ, hence its centrality to Paul’s theology of the church and salvation.

The Old Testament (OT) functioned as the Scriptures of the New Testament Church. To understand a New Testament (NT) term, one should identify the sources in the OT that gave rise to the understanding of the term in the NT. Today’s passage provides an excellent opportunity to consider the term “justification” (and the related terms “just” and “to justify”). Clearly, a wide range of uses of “just” or “righteous” (both fully valid translations of the Hebrew tsadiq and the Greek dikaios) can be seen in the OT, including the description of men as “just” or “righteous” in God’s sight (Job 1:1).

However, a specific set of passages provides the clearest background of the apostolic understanding. These include Exodus 23:7, “Stay far away from a false accusation. Do not kill the innocent and the just, because I will not justify the guilty,” where the legal standing of the person described as “righteous” is in view. To “acquit” here is to “justify.” This is clearly a forensic or legal context, the giving of a judgment.

Deuteronomy 25:1 also uses the same language: “If there is a dispute between men, they are to go to court, and the judges will hear their case. They will clear the innocent and condemn the guilty,” where the law court is again the context and “to justify” is clearly to render a verdict. Likewise Proverbs 17:15 and Isaiah 5:23 use these same terms in a forensic or judicial context. These uses show that the apostolic use in the NT is not foreign to the OT Scriptural background.

The apostles were convinced the truth of justification by faith as a free and divine act of God based solely upon the exercise of faith and nothing more. This wasn’t only consistent with the divine revelation of the OT, but they also specifically drew from those Scriptures a positive witness to their teaching.

Paul focused especially on the key passage regarding Abraham, “Abram believed the Lord, and He credited it to him as righteousness” (Genesis 15:6). This passage forms the central core of Paul’s defense of his doctrine of justification.

The centrality of the doctrine of justification comes out naturally in the writings of Paul, as it fell to him to explicate the ground of the believer’s relationship to God in light of the relationship of Jew and Gentile in the one body of Christ. The conflict brought about by the Judaizers’ insistence upon law keeping and circumcision forced the apostle to define with precision the basis of forgiveness and just how it is that any person, Jew or Gentile, can have peace with God.

The meaning of the family of Greek terms translated variously as “to justify” or “to declare righteous” is established clearly by its usage in the key passages in the NT. The term doesn’t mean “to subjectively change into a righteous person” but instead means “to declare righteous,” specifically, to declare righteous upon the act of faith based upon the work of another, the divine substitute, Jesus Christ.

Justification then involves both the forensic, legal declaration of the righteousness of the believer as well as the imputation of the righteousness of Christ as the grounds and basis of their acceptance. The fact that it is the righteousness of Christ that’s imputed to the believer accounts for the resulting perfection of the relationship between the believer and God: “Therefore, since we have been declared righteous by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 5:1).

The letter to the Romans comprises the single longest, thought-out presentation of the gospel in all of Scripture. Justification takes up the focus of chapters 3-5. Romans present a relentless and logical argument, drawn from scriptural foundations. After establishing the universal sinfulness of man in Rom. 1:18–3:19, Paul provides an overarching summary of the truth of justification in 3:20-31, followed by his scriptural defense, drawn primarily from the life of Abraham, in chapter four.

He insists that no one will ever be justified by works of law before God (3:19-20). Instead, God’s righteousness comes through “faith in Jesus Christ … given to all who believe” (3:22), whether they are Jew or Gentile. God does not justify as a result of man’s actions, but instead justifies “freely” as a gift by His grace” (3:24). The Father can justify believers because of the redemption that flows from the work of Christ (3:25-26), so that Paul can conclude that justification is wholly the work of God, obtained solely by faith alone (3:28).

Upon completion of his biblical defense, Paul can conclude that the relationship described by the word “justified” is one that brings true and lasting peace between God and man (Romans 5:1). This is the essence of biblical justification: right relationship between God and man. But the beauty of justification by faith is seen in the fact that it is God who establishes this relationship through Christ, so that it is not merely a temporary state that can be destroyed by man’s actions but is instead a state that results in eternal peace between the redeemed and the Redeemer.[1]

 


[1] White, J. (2003). Justification. In (C. Brand, C. Draper, A. England, S. Bond, E. R. Clendenen, & T. C. Butler, Eds.) Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary. Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers.

Reflection Questions

  1. Is the relationship right between God and me?
  2. Am I at peace with God knowing that I have been justified by faith in Jesus Christ?
  3. Many translate “exult” in God (as found in Rom. 5:11) as “rejoice” in God? Do I demonstrate joy in my life through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ?

About the Author

Steve Layton
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Steve is a graduate of Samford University and New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary (NOBTS), with a Master of Divinity and Doctorate of Ministry in Leadership and Administration.

Over the last 29 years in ministry, he’s served in churches throughout Alabama, worked at LifeWay Christian Resources, and taught at NOBTS and Jefferson State Community College. And, currently, he serves as Discipleship Minister at Brentwood Baptist.

Prior to coming to Brentwood Baptist, Steve worked on a new discipleship philosophy that was later branded “JourneyOn.” This discipleship strategy has grown and now includes a home emphasis called “JourneyOn @ Home.”

Steve is married to Melinda and they have five children: Kristen, Matthew, Michael, Meaghan, and John. In his free time, Steve plays bass guitar, is a marine aquarium hobbyist, loves football, and is a bad golfer. His life objective is to “equip and encourage people on their journeys toward Christlikeness.”