Monday, February 22, 2010

The Unity of Romans 1-2

Over at Berith Road, Steven Coxhead has an interesting post on Romans 1-2. He rightly reads Romans 2 in light of Gentile Christians and notes the unity of chs. 1 and 2, but then concludes:

Paul's Jewish opponents believed that righteousness and salvation could only be attained by means of physical circumcision and a commitment to doing the law of Moses. But Paul had come to understand that the new covenant truths of Deut 30:6, 11–14; Jer 31:33; and Ezek 36:26-27 also applied to Gentiles through faith in Christ. That is to say, Paul had come to see how justification by faith in Christ had effectively opened up justification by the works of the law to Gentiles (as per the logic of 2:13) through the grace of the Spiritual circumcision of the heart that Christ had come to achieve as a key element of the new covenant!

Which sounds okay, but I have to ask, what about 3:20? No flesh will be justified by works of law!

92 comments:

Steven Coxhead said...

Hi Mike,

Paul actually says “all flesh will not be justified by the works of the law” in Rom 3:20. Is that the same as “no flesh will be justified by the works of the law”? Perhaps, but we should at least think about the possibility of whether or not Rom 3:20 has been translated correctly. Regarding 3:20, I take it that Paul is saying that the works of the law (i.e., obedience to the Mosaic covenant) couldn’t bring the fullness of justification and life to the world, so you are right to ask how my take on Rom 2 fits in with Rom 3:20.

But the interesting thing from the point of view of Rom 2 is that Paul says both of the following: (1) the doer of the law will be justified; and (2) there are Gentiles who have circumcised hearts who do the law (2:14–15, 27–29). The conclusion that I’ve suggested in my blog logically follows from those two premises, and I reckon that Paul was hinting at that too. In Rom 2:28–29 he virtually says that such Spirit-circumcised Gentiles, being true keepers of torah, are the true Jews!

In other words, in Paul’s Jewish way of thinking, justification by faith in Christ in the new covenant age is the functional equivalent of justification by the works of the Mosaic law in the old covenant age. Ordinarily he is concerned to contrast the two, but in Rom 2 he links them very closely together.

The other thing to keep in mind is that there was a legitimate Old Testament doctrine of justification on the level of the fulfillment of covenant responsibilities through obedience to Mosaic torah for old covenant Israel (see Deut 6:25). The Old Testament is concerned to trace whether or not Israel historically kept the law so as to be justified on the level of the covenant. Obviously the message of the Old Testament is that Israel failed disastrously, but the solution put forward by the Old Testament prophets concerning the problem of Israel’s lack of obedience is simply that God would act through Christ and the Spirit in the new covenant age to cause Israel to obey! The new covenant is about Israel and the nations being moved to keep torah (see Jer 31:33; Ezek 36:26‒27). So if Israel and the nations are moved to keep torah, that means that the condition put forward by Moses in Deut 6:25 will be fulfilled, which means … ? Justification on the level of the covenant. In the new covenant age this is justification by faith in Christ, but it is also the functional equivalent in the new covenant age of the doctrine of justification by the works of the Mosaic law that applied (primarily unsuccessfully) under the old covenant.

To put it slightly differently, if a Jew (rightly) wants to be justified by the works of the law, in the new covenant age this equates to justification by faith in Christ. Obeying Moses in the new covenant age actually means obeying the Messiah.

Joel Willitts said...

I am in sympathy with Steven's interpretation. I have been teaching that Paul sees that God has applied the New Covenant to Gentiles in freeing them from idolatry. You have stated it well. I would however push back on two points. First, that the Gentile is a "true Jew". Paul is not speaking of Gentiles in 2:28-29. And related to this, second, what would it have looked like for the Gentile to be keeping the Torah of the Messiah? Would Jew and Gentile's lifestyle be the same?

Steven Coxhead said...

Thanks, Joel, for those comments.

Yes, I can see what you're saying about 2:28-29. Maybe Paul only has physical Jews in mind in those two verses. Not sure exactly. But if being a true Jew is a matter of the circumcision of the heart, then Gentiles who participate in such circumcision are not all that different from true physical Jews. It is intriguing to wonder if Paul is deliberately implying that Christian Gentiles are effectively true "Jews." Could Paul be implying something so radical and controversial as that at the end of Rom 2? It would certainly get his opponents' blood boiling if they understood him to be implying that.

As to your second point, I think that the torah of the Messiah is the same for Jew and Gentile. But that doesn't mean to say that their lifestyles would be identical. In the New Testament, the Christian Jew could still keep the food laws (to some extent), attend the feasts, and go to the temple or synagogue; but there had to be give and take in terms of lifestyle in order that fellowship with Gentile brothers and sisters be maintained. I take it that give and take is also applied to Gentile Christians in Acts 15 with the Jerusalem Council.

So new covenant torah is the same for Jew and Gentile, but there is liberty on the disputable matters as per Rom 14, which allows for a different lifestyle to some extent.

sujomo said...

Hi Mike,

It is suggestive that pasa sarx is used by Paul both at Romans 3:20 and at 1 Corinthians 1:29. It might be argued that in both contexts he is comparing and contrasting Jew and Gentile with respect to the before and after of circumcision of the heart by the Spirit or accepting the Lordship of the crucified Messiah.

cheers, Sujomo

Jason A. Staples said...

I presented a paper on this very issue at the last SBL, "Gentiles Who Keep the Law: Paul's Law-Observant Gospel."

A few points: Joel is right in that the Jew of 28–29 is not a Gentile Christian. My paper argues that the distinction being made is between the new-covenant Jew and those from the Gentiles, who are restored from the house of Israel (a 12-tribe restoration scheme I've been arguing in Paul for a while; again, this is fairly close to what Joel has been doing).

Secondly, the New Covenant isn't about "Israel and the nations being moved to keep torah," as you have stated, Steven. The New Covenant is made only with Israel—the northern house of Israel and the southern house of Judah. The faithful of the nations only come into play as NC members as that is the avenue for the restoration of the north. (I have a very long forthcoming article on this aspect of Paul's theology, also.)

Thirdly, it appears to me that Paul makes a distinction between "the works of the Law," which are not necessary for justification, and the "righteous requirements of the Law" (δικαίωμα τοῦ νόμου), which are required and accomplished by those with the Spirit through the New Covenant.

Steven Coxhead said...

Thanks, Jason. I'll look out for your material. It sounds very interesting.

Yes, I agree that Paul has in mind physical Jews in 2:28-29. But I'm just wondering about the implication of what this means for Gentiles who have the Spirit, and whether Paul meant to imply anything at this point. If Gentiles can keep torah, then from a traditional Jewish perspective they are virtual Jews. I'll have to keep on thinking about this one.

About the new covenant only being made with Israel, yes, I think my view would be fairly similar to yours. The Old Testament presentation focuses on the new covenant as made with Israel, but also indicates that as Israel is brought back the nations will come too. So the nations will participate in the new covenant in some way. I take it that they participate in the new covenant as they come into submission to the King of Israel, effectively joining themselves to Israel.

The Old Testament talks about foreigners keeping God’s covenant (Isa 56:6), but these foreigners are viewed as being part of Israel (Isa 56:3), yet at the same time God’s house will be a house of prayer for all peoples (Isa 56:7). This suggests that the nations will join Israel, but still retain their Gentile status when they do so. Hosea 2:18 suggests that the new covenant is also made with the whole of creation, which presumably also includes the nations.

The Old Testament prophets also look forward to the nations keeping torah (see Isa 2:1-4; 42:4; 51:4). Hence my statement that (in the Old Testament) the new covenant involves Israel and the nations keeping torah. Not sure if you were denying the existence of such Old Testament teaching in your comment.

Would you say that the nations are subsumed into the northern tribes, or can we still distinguish between Israel and the Gentiles in the new covenant situation according to the Old Testament? How do you understand Paul’s way of thinking on this issue? Does he hold that Christian Gentiles become part of Israel? Ephesians 2:11-22 is interesting in this regard.

I understand Paul as holding to the view that the works of the law (i.e., a commitment to torah) was required for justification on the level of the Mosaic covenant during the old covenant age (Rom 10:5), but that righteousness in the new covenant age has to do with submission to Messianic torah rather than Mosaic torah as traditionally understood (Rom 10:6-8). This is because in the crossover to the new covenant, Mosaic torah morphs into Messianic torah.

Erick said...

Thank you for the comments.

Firstly, the first 3 chapters of romans are nestled within a mission of Paul to settle all human beings, whether Jew or Greek, as being disabled from obtaining a righteousness by working the law of God. All have sinned, none are righteous, all are guilty, no one does good, etc,etc....Therefore, rom 2 is not speaking of what will actually be on the day of judgement, but what God's terms are by judging humanity according to law. Of course, no one will be justified by the works of the law, but speaking within terms of the law (outside the realm of the grace spoken of in the great transition at 3:21) then only those who do the law will be justified. But of course this just paves the way of his explication of the cross of Jesus as the only successful alternative for non-doers of the law to be justified.

At the end of rom 2, again....Paul is within his own mission to demonstrate that physical circumcision is only profitable if one keeps the righteous requirements of the law. This is nestled within his own agenda to prove that Jews are not better than Gentiles. It works off the assumption that physically uncircumcised gentiles are of course not right with God....so what about Jews who are physically circumcised? And Paul wants to show that even this addition before God does not avail anything unless one keeps the law. BY arguing that a gentile who keeps the law will be coutned as circumcised is simply Paul's way of saying that physical circumcision is not availing anything for the Jew (minus the benefits then cited on in 3:1-2). Therefore, for Paul to quickly interject what a true jew is like at v 28-29, filled with the Spirit, is still within his own agenda to prove jews are bad as well as gentiles.

During the old testament, the "faith" of the gospel that is not present within the dispensation of grace was not revealed (Gal 3). The mosaic law was an administer for sin and death (despite it's holy nature rom 7). Because humanity remained within it's disability as "flesh", the law of God (mosaic covenant) became subject to the powers which more strongly governed human life (sin/death). Any attempt in this circumstance to be found just in God's sight by attempting to do God's will is futile...it only shows the deep need of human beings to be rescued from without, action taken up by someone else for their benefit... (which paves the way for "faith" as Paul teaches in rom 4).

"But now", marks the transition. Paul taught that with the revealtion of jesus christ was the revelation of the law's end as an administration for human beings to attain righteousness. The law demanded "works of doing" for righteousness, and the jews rightly interpreted this way. True jews of course had faith in God's promises (in a way somewhat prematurely than us Heb 11-12),

Proof that this is true is that Paul argues the negative effects of the law as curser, enslaver, and slayer as it was revealed by God. The covenant made with Abraham and the covenant made with Israel (mt. sinai). Paul is not dealing with a jewish misunderstanding (although this is true in some sense), but Paul is showing the enslavement which came out of the Sinai covenant itself! as God gave it!.

But now!!! righteousness which God declares as righteousness, and a righteousness which is His alone to give to humanity has been revealed out of believing in the gospel of Jesus CHrist (rom 1:16, rom 3:22). And this is fleshed out in the gracious act of God making righteous sinners by the atoning death of Christ Jesus. To be found right before God is not revealed as a matter of believing in Jesus CHrist, because He was delivered over for our offenses and raised for our justification, for either jew or greek, for all have the same problem of guilt and disability to find righteousness in the law-works.

Erick said...

Thank you for the comments.

Firstly, the first 3 chapters of romans are nestled within a mission of Paul to settle all human beings, whether Jew or Greek, as being disabled from obtaining a righteousness by working the law of God. All have sinned, none are righteous, all are guilty, no one does good, etc,etc....Therefore, rom 2 is not speaking of what will actually be on the day of judgement, but what God's terms are by judging humanity according to law. Of course, no one will be justified by the works of the law, but speaking within terms of the law (outside the realm of the grace spoken of in the great transition at 3:21) then only those who do the law will be justified. But of course this just paves the way of his explication of the cross of Jesus as the only successful alternative for non-doers of the law to be justified.

At the end of rom 2, again....Paul is within his own mission to demonstrate that physical circumcision is only profitable if one keeps the righteous requirements of the law. This is nestled within his own agenda to prove that Jews are not better than Gentiles. It works off the assumption that physically uncircumcised gentiles are of course not right with God....so what about Jews who are physically circumcised? And Paul wants to show that even this addition before God does not avail anything unless one keeps the law. BY arguing that a gentile who keeps the law will be coutned as circumcised is simply Paul's way of saying that physical circumcision is not availing anything for the Jew (minus the benefits then cited on in 3:1-2). Therefore, for Paul to quickly interject what a true jew is like at v 28-29, filled with the Spirit, is still within his own agenda to prove jews are bad as well as gentiles.

During the old testament, the "faith" of the gospel that is not present within the dispensation of grace was not revealed (Gal 3). The mosaic law was an administer for sin and death (despite it's holy nature rom 7). Because humanity remained within it's disability as "flesh", the law of God (mosaic covenant) became subject to the powers which more strongly governed human life (sin/death). Any attempt in this circumstance to be found just in God's sight by attempting to do God's will is futile...it only shows the deep need of human beings to be rescued from without, action taken up by someone else for their benefit... (which paves the way for "faith" as Paul teaches in rom 4).

"But now", marks the transition. Paul taught that with the revealtion of jesus christ was the revelation of the law's end as an administration for human beings to attain righteousness. The law demanded "works of doing" for righteousness, and the jews rightly interpreted this way. True jews of course had faith in God's promises (in a way somewhat prematurely than us Heb 11-12),

Proof that this is true is that Paul argues the negative effects of the law as curser, enslaver, and slayer as it was revealed by God. The covenant made with Abraham and the covenant made with Israel (mt. sinai). Paul is not dealing with a jewish misunderstanding (although this is true in some sense), but Paul is showing the enslavement which came out of the Sinai covenant itself! as God gave it!.

But now!!! righteousness which God declares as righteousness, and a righteousness which is His alone to give to humanity has been revealed out of believing in the gospel of Jesus CHrist (rom 1:16, rom 3:22). And this is fleshed out in the gracious act of God making righteous sinners by the atoning death of Christ Jesus. To be found right before God is not revealed as a matter of believing in Jesus CHrist, because He was delivered over for our offenses and raised for our justification, for either jew or greek, for all have the same problem of guilt and disability to find righteousness in the law-works.

Erick said...

Thank you for the comments.

Firstly, the first 3 chapters of romans are nestled within a mission of Paul to settle all human beings, whether Jew or Greek, as being disabled from obtaining a righteousness by working the law of God. All have sinned, none are righteous, all are guilty, no one does good, etc,etc....Therefore, rom 2 is not speaking of what will actually be on the day of judgement, but what God's terms are by judging humanity according to law. Of course, no one will be justified by the works of the law, but speaking within terms of the law (outside the realm of the grace spoken of in the great transition at 3:21) then only those who do the law will be justified. But of course this just paves the way of his explication of the cross of Jesus as the only successful alternative for non-doers of the law to be justified.

At the end of rom 2, again....Paul is within his own mission to demonstrate that physical circumcision is only profitable if one keeps the righteous requirements of the law. This is nestled within his own agenda to prove that Jews are not better than Gentiles. It works off the assumption that physically uncircumcised gentiles are of course not right with God....so what about Jews who are physically circumcised? And Paul wants to show that even this addition before God does not avail anything unless one keeps the law. BY arguing that a gentile who keeps the law will be coutned as circumcised is simply Paul's way of saying that physical circumcision is not availing anything for the Jew (minus the benefits then cited on in 3:1-2). Therefore, for Paul to quickly interject what a true jew is like at v 28-29, filled with the Spirit, is still within his own agenda to prove jews are bad as well as gentiles.

During the old testament, the "faith" of the gospel that is not present within the dispensation of grace was not revealed (Gal 3). The mosaic law was an administer for sin and death (despite it's holy nature rom 7). Because humanity remained within it's disability as "flesh", the law of God (mosaic covenant) became subject to the powers which more strongly governed human life (sin/death). Any attempt in this circumstance to be found just in God's sight by attempting to do God's will is futile...it only shows the deep need of human beings to be rescued from without, action taken up by someone else for their benefit... (which paves the way for "faith" as Paul teaches in rom 4).

"But now", marks the transition. Paul taught that with the revealtion of jesus christ was the revelation of the law's end as an administration for human beings to attain righteousness. The law demanded "works of doing" for righteousness, and the jews rightly interpreted this way. True jews of course had faith in God's promises (in a way somewhat prematurely than us Heb 11-12),

Proof that this is true is that Paul argues the negative effects of the law as curser, enslaver, and slayer as it was revealed by God. The covenant made with Abraham and the covenant made with Israel (mt. sinai). Paul is not dealing with a jewish misunderstanding (although this is true in some sense), but Paul is showing the enslavement which came out of the Sinai covenant itself! as God gave it!.

But now!!! righteousness which God declares as righteousness, and a righteousness which is His alone to give to humanity has been revealed out of believing in the gospel of Jesus CHrist (rom 1:16, rom 3:22). And this is fleshed out in the gracious act of God making righteous sinners by the atoning death of Christ Jesus. To be found right before God is not revealed as a matter of believing in Jesus CHrist, because He was delivered over for our offenses and raised for our justification, for either jew or greek, for all have the same problem of guilt and disability to find righteousness in the law-works.

Erick said...

The transition from old to new covenant is not a transiation from mosaic torah to messianic torah (unless these are systematic ideas which represent biblical and exegetical truths). The transition from old to new covenant is a transition most concernd with the destruction of adamic humanity and the creation of christic humanity. Within adamic humanity, the law confronted it already in a state of guilt and enslavement to sin/death. The law provided no means of rescue, for it demanded human beings who are already guilty and enslaved to sin's domination to be guilt-free and slaves to righteousness. Therefore, the great rescue which came in Jesus Christ is that his cross and resurrection both provide better, freedom from guilt (justification, or the clean conscience & forgiveness of sin spoken in Hebrews)and freedom from sin/death.

Erick said...

We are forensically declared to be unified and identified with Christ in His saving work of death, burial,and resurrection. Now he alone physcially performed these events, but we are reckoned with Him in this because he bore our identity in these events. However, even though we do not physically or historically go through these events, we share in the experiential effects or consequeces, which is the cancel of sin's control and the invasion of the Spirit to produce righteousness. The terms of life in the new creation have now begun as a transforming process here and now.

Erick said...

However, in addition to free justification. (and I am not trying to pose systematic theology here, I am just demonstrating the diverse nature of what comes out of our single unity with Christ as the representation of humanity's destruction (his cross) and new creation (new creation).

Joel Willitts said...

Erick:

You've written a good deal here to respond to and I won't be able in any detail. However, I think you're reading is driven not by Paul's own rhetorical logic but by your own law/gospel antitheses presupposition, which I reject.

When I read Paul's logic attune to his own first century Jewish context, I see little of what you're suggesting. Besides of course Paul thinks both Jews and Gentiles are in need of Christ's work. I would recommend you read if you have not already Simon Gathercole's book Where is Boasting? The idea that the whole point of ch 2 is only to "prove that Jews are not better than Gentiles" such that what Paul says doesn't really mean what it says particularly his reference to uncircumcised keepers of the law and final justification based on works is in my view casuistic.

Jason said...

Any thoughts on Phil 3:3 and how it relates to the question of identity in Romans 2 (esp 2:28-29)?

Steven Coxhead said...

Hi Jason.

Paul's Judaizing opponents were obviously promoting physical circumcision, and were probably claiming that they were the true circumcision, leading Paul to flatly deny that claim in Phil 3:3.

Given that there were Gentiles in the Philippian church, Phil 3:3 strongly implies that Paul viewed Gentile Christians as being part of the true circumcision, part of the true spiritual Israel. There are definitely echoes of that to some extent in Rom 2.

Erick said...

By showing that true Jews are Spirit-filled, circumcised (spiritually) in the heart, with no boast other than God's grace....he nullifies the claim of his contemporary judaizers to actually be jews. In other words, Paul points out that they are not truly jews, thus proving my point...that Paul's purpose to show that Jews who are set on the law for righteousness and circumcision for identity as God's people are not truly Jews themselves

Joel Willitts said...

Erick:
You forgot to add the line in your description of "true Jews' "and who are justified on the day of judgment my their works" (2:-16). Add that and I'm happy with your description. Take that out and you are saying less than Paul.

Erick said...

That reading of Romans 2 is isolating Paul's larger canvass. I do believe that it is a possible reading, but unlikeley.

Salvation from the wrath of God in Romans 2 is attributed to those who do good and salvation from the wrath of God in Rom 5 is attributed to the blood of Jesus Christ. While there is a sense in which our works will identity who we are on the final day of judgement (and there are texts which suggest this), ultimately (in God's sovereign purpose rom 8:29-32) it is secured because of the merits of Christ.

in Rom 2, Paul is speaking to those who know the law. This is why he assumes the language of final judgement, for Jews would have heartily agreed to every word in rom 2:1-16. But Paul is sayign that if you really believe this, then you would confess your damnation.

Jason A. Staples said...

Erick,

It is also quite possible that Paul meant exactly what he said. That tends to be the side I fall on.

The supposed contradiction you're pointing to in terms of "saved from God's wrath" by works in Rom 2 and by the blood of Christ in Rom 5 isn't exactly what you're suggesting.

First of all, the issue at stake in Romans isn't "being saved from God's wrath," as though God's wrath were really the problem. Rather, it is how one becomes righteous. Romans 2 establishes what the requirements for righteousness are—the terms of the judgment, as it were.

Paul then sets out to establish that the only way to be transformed into the "righteous person" who withstands the just judgment of God is through the new covenant transformation of the heart, given through Christ's faithfulness.

This is not forensic for Paul so much as it is an actual conversion—the person actually becomes righteous, actually becomes a law-doer. I would argue that the forensic reading you're applying is very nearly exactly the thing Paul argues against in Rom 2. He vigorously resists the notion that those who do unrighteous things will somehow be judged differently because of their reliance on some outside element that makes them special (circumcision, the "works of the Law," etc.). The modern equivalent to this is "belief in Jesus"; Paul's questions to the Jew who puts his faith in the Law apply equally to the modern person who "believes on Jesus"—and his reminder that the terms of judgment aren't different for this person still applies also.

Erick said...

Jason,

If we isolate what Paul says in Rom 2, it still doesn't even suggest (w/ no alternative) that what he is saying is actually the case with respect to those who receive the grace spoken of in ch 3-5. We must not isolate someone's statements, we must nestle it within the author's own agenda. The small injection of Spirit-filled, inwardly (heart) circumcised, and God-boasting true Jews does not somehow give us the warrant to project into Paul's agenda this successful new covenant transformation to remedy the sinful human condition.

I heartily agree with you that true salvation goes far to truly transform and re-create human beings. However, this is not to eliminate the forensic aspect of our salvation.

For instance, there is a forensic aspect even to our new creation. The only reason sin and death's domination have ceased over believers is because we are declared to be one in Christ's historical death and resurrection, which marks the transition in his own human life from the first humanity to the birth of the 2nd humanity (wherin sin and death have no association). Therefore, even our transformation to be slaves to righteousness is based off our forensic participation in Christ's historical death and resurrection. I bring this up for the sake of not abandoning "forensic" language to paul.

For what it's worth, I believe it is dangerous, even, to ignore the forensic language in rom 1-5. Paul is certainly not teaching that the new creation we become in Christ is the basis of our right-standing before God. Even though our right-standing with god comes out of participating in Christ's old-man destruction (his human death), it is not the acutal tranformation that God sees to declare us righteous...it is on the basis of our guilt and sin being obliterated (Rom 4:6-8, 24-25). Guilt and real corruption are the problem with human beings, and our union with Christ seeks to remedy both problems. Even though Scripture unifies the work in which actually secures this for us, it is distinguishable on the basis of concept.

Therefore, God declares us to be righteous for no other reason than the action take up by our Lord Jesus Christ in sacrificing His life for our sin. However, since we get stuck to the transition from old to new humanity in Christ's death/ress, we inevitably become new people with new behavior, in complete distinction from the negative terms of our old lives (Rom 6:1-10).

Jason A. Staples said...

Erick,

You're totally right in saying "We must not isolate someone's statements, we must nestle it within the author's own agenda." The problem I see is that you're assuming Paul's agenda is something other than what he says. It is understandable, as you're applying what has been a standard way to read Paul for many years, but I suppose our biggest difference is that I think we should give more credence to what Paul actually says is his agenda, instead of the traditional systematic way of reading an agenda into what he says.

Erick said...

Jason,

I appreciate agreement on the issue of ascertaining the author's agenda. But it is this precisely which we disagree on.

Without them actually being there in the manuscript, I picture certain statements of Paul to stick out as controlling points which every other statement is to be interpreted by. And this is as follows:

"For the wrath of God is revealed against all the unrighteousness and ungoliness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness" (Rom 1:18)


"And do you think you, who judge such as these, and yet practicing the same, that you will escape the judgement of God"? (Rom 2:1)


"Are we Jews better than Gentiles? Certainly not! For we have already settled both jews and gentiles under the control of sin" (Rom 3:9)


"now whatever the law (Psalms) about all humanity certaintly applied to those under the law, in order that every (not just gentiles) mouth may be stopped and the whole world (not just the gentile world) may become guilty before God" (Rom 3:19-20)


"THEREFORE, by the deeds of the law, no flesh will be found right in God's sight, for the law is the knowledge of sin and guilt" (Rom 3:20).


If these following verses control the chapters, then I believe we've ascertained Paul's agenda, and it is anything but an explication on the new covenant's transformation being the successful remedy to the human condition. Paul is outstanding the failure of human beings to be right before God by any means and then goes into what does successfully make human beings righteous in God's eyes, which then sets focus on the death of Jesus.

Jason A. Staples said...

I have no problem with putting weight on those statements; the problem is that you're assuming certain definitions into those statements and arriving at a works/faith and law/grace dichotomy that Paul doesn't seem to hold.

The problem is that Paul nowhere states anything like your conclusion: "Paul is outstanding the failure of human beings to be right before God by any means and then goes into what does successfully make human beings righteous in God's eyes, which then sets focus on the death of Jesus."

It's a very elegant conclusion; it's just not what he says in the verses you've listed.

Erick said...

I do not see how we can come to any other conclusion.

"All have sinned. No one is righteous. No one does good. not one" (rom 3:9-10). Paul seems to teach that mankind has sinned.

"...that every mouth may be stopped and the whole world may become guilty before God" (rom 3:19). Paul seems to be teaching the mankind is accountable to God for their behavior, and that no defense will be able to be provided on the day of judgement because of the clarity of their guilt.

"Therefore, by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in God's sight, for by the law is the knowledge of sin" (rom 3:20). Paul seems to be concluding from the universality of human guilt that any attempt to do "works" of the law (whatever this means) cannot be justified in God's judgement, for by the law (whatever this means) we arrive at the knowledge of what cause the whole problem in the first place for both jews/greeks: SIN.

"But now, without/apart from law (which was just eliminated as a valid option to be found just in God's sight [whatever this means])
righteousness of God is revealed, being testified by the Law and prophets, even righteousness of God through/on the basis of the faith of Jesus Christ to all and on all who believe". (Rom 3:21-22). Paul seems to be teaching since the law provided no means for justification, there has been opened another way from God through believing Jesus Christ. The faith of jesus argument is another example of isolation. Faith is the human's act, as Paul's continuous arguement witH Abraham shows.

Joel said...

Greetings guys.

If I may, I would like to offer a few things that seem pertinent to this dialogue.

It is fairly well documented and understood that Paul's use of "circumcision" was not merely the physical act of circumcision, but rather a circumlocution for the religious system of conversion (i.e., a non-Jew wishing to become a "child of Abraham," or a part of the covenant family of God--Israel). The impetus for this religious conversion was the belief that one must become a "child of Abraham" in order to be partakers of the world to come (i.e., be "saved"). Therefore, those who wished to advocate this religious system after the mystery of Christ was revealed missed what the Torah had in spirit all along, and especially what Christ came to manifest and correct. In other words, Paul's argument against "circumcision" was not so much about the actual act, but the belief behind that which said a Gentile must become a Jew in order to be a part of God's covenant people. In Messiah we are children of Abraham.

Another thought for consideration, which is intimately connected to the previous, is that Paul seems to give us the impression that there are two types of righteousness: a righteousness based on faith and a righteousness based on the Law (cf. Rom. 10:1-5ff and parallel passages). Considering this, perhaps what Paul is wishing to establish (in part) is a correct perception a believer ought to have about these two types of righteousness. That is, the righteousness of God, based on faith is what (and always has!) makes us right in God's eyes, or saves us (cf. Gen. 15:6; Rom. 4). That said and done, it seems as if the righteous instructions God gave his people are what we ought to take upon ourselves so as to manifest God's righteousness in the ways we can, having been redeemed by God through Christ. Does not God imply this in Ex. 20:2-3ff? Are we not God's body on this earth? How else would we know righteousness if God had not given us practical ways to reveal his character?

Thanks for the dialogue.

Steven Coxhead said...

I've got a post on seeing Paul in his wider context, which includes Old Testament prophetic concerns. It may be helpful in relation to this discussion.

It can be found at The Gospel of Paul and the Old Testament Prophets.

The problem as I see it is that we have traditionally read Paul in relative isolation from the Old Testament prophets' opinion of what the new covenant was about. To understand Paul, we need to understand the Old Testament.

John Thomson said...

Guys

Just for the sake of some moral support for Erick, I think despite your protests that he has understood Paul and he is correctly delineating Paul's argument. This will come as no surprise to Stephen.

It is clear to me that Paul does work with a faith/works grace/works contrast, not merely in epoch but principle. I am no scholar but I am thankful it is also clear to many scholars who have an understanding of C1 sources that I do not. Frankly, when, as it seems to me, scholars go so easily off-beam interpretingScripture I have little confidence that they properly understand secondary sources and even less confidence that they know how to relate these to Paul's concerns.

Its a pity that God has so closed the bible to ordinary folks like me that I can't understand what it teaches unless I have a working knowledge of 2nd Temple judaism.

The merits of a position must be decided primarily on inductive study of the book and then the book in relation to the rest of Scripture. On that basis Erick's exegesis is credible and in fact orthodox. That of course doesn't mean it is right, yet he has given more reasons why it should be than many of the other answers.

Jewish boasting is not simply in nationality but law-keeping which is precisely why Paul shows them they are law-breakers, and breakers of moral not ceremonial laws.

In Ch 4 Paul is at pains tp point out works of any kind are anathema for God will allow no-one to boast in his presence (4:1-4).By contrast God justifies the ungodly through faith. This is not simply true in the eschatological age but was the principle upon which Abraham (before law)and David (during law)were justified. In Ch 9 this is underlined.

Rom 9:9-11 (ESV)
For this is what the promise said: “About this time next year I will return, and Sarah shall have a son.” And not only so, but also when Rebekah had conceived children by one man, our forefather Isaac, though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad-in order that God's purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of him who calls-

and again

Rom 9:15-16 (ESV)
For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy.

Incidentally, I am not at all sure why the Steven is wrong about the gentiles at the end of ch 2. A good case can be made.

Rom 2:26-29 (ESV)
So, if a man who is uncircumcised keeps the precepts of the law, will not his uncircumcision be regarded as circumcision? Then he who is physically uncircumcised but keeps the law will condemn you who have the written code and circumcision but break the law. For no one is a Jew who is merely one outwardly, nor is circumcision outward and physical. But a Jew is one inwardly, and circumcision is a matter of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter. His praise is not from man but from God.

If the uncircumcised gentile has a circumcised heart he is effectively a true Jew (the Israel of God). Is not Paul anticipating gentiles who through the Spirit keep the righteous requirement of the law (Roms 8). See Steven, I am not always opposed.

Just a few comments.

Chris said...

Hi John,

I understand where you are coming from, and we definitely don't want a situation where interpretive power rests in the hands of an academic elite. The teaching ministry of the community of Jesus, after all, consists of (to use a medical school analogy) 'specialists' who are supposed to train 'general practitioners' (i.e. the so-called 'laypeople') for ministry.

That said, I don't think it's fair to suggest that scholars fail to truly understand secondary sources just because their interpretations seem to appear 'off-beam' to us, especially when 'off-beam' is understood in relation to our particular traditions. With regard to the issues Erick is raising, some of the Best handlers of C1 sources would probably strongly disagree with him. There are also some equally competent handlers of C1 sources who would side with him. All that to say: more than competence in handling C1 sources is at play here, so I don't think it's fair to question the proficiency of scholars who might disagree with Erick (which is what your words seem to suggest?).

You are right to say that Erick's conclusions are orthodox - but only in from a traditional Reformed perspective, and only when an inductive reading of the text is upheld as the 'right' or 'ideal' method of reading the texts. In response to the former, I would like to point out that some readers such as myself are not from the Reformed tradition (Assemblies of God here). So, the question for us when we hear the word 'orthodoxy' is: whose orthodoxy? Reformed Orthodoxy? Eastern Orthodoxy? Catholic? Or should we go further back to Nicene-Cappadocian Orthodoxy?

As for the inductive method - I am appreciative of it, but I am firmly unconvinced that it should be privileged. I am all for getting down and dirty with texts as texts - I am an English Literature student, so I get a kick out of paying attention to texts and inter- and intra-textual allusions. In that spirit, I appreciate inductive reading. But inductive reading is flawed because it assumes that the language resides in some sort of vacuum beyond history and culture, when it simply isn't true.

To illustrate that point, I remember in one of Coleridge's poems, he mentions that he is with the 'inmates' of his house, and many English students often mistakenly read a sense of imprisonment into that term, as if Coleridge felt trapped by his domestic life. A simple check with the OED (Oxf. Eng. Dict.), however, will show that 'inmates' during Coleridge's time also was used generally to mean 'inhabitants'.

Simiarly, the language of Paul is, like it or not, situated and shaped by the first century and its sources: something inductive reading will Never uncover. And one cannot justify the method using a the argument that inspiration somehow means that God flattens history and historical forces in the production of the Biblical texts: the Bible itself does not say that anywhere. It's something one has to read into it.

So while I get where you're coming from, John, I think your defence of Erick is deeply problematic. I do think that Erick can hold to his stand if he is more careful in his handling of the texts, because, as I mentioned, there are some excellent NT scholars who are on the same page as him; but their reading is definitely much more careful and attentive than what he is bringing to the table (such as his belief in locating 'controlling points').

Chris said...

P.S. John, I do want to say that I understand why you like inductive reading: I sense from your words that you are thinking of the non-theologically educated people on the ground, who frequently have no recourse to the secondary sources that scholars do. I help out in Christian Education in two churches, so that concern is a burden on my mind as well; I resent situations where people feel disempowered and 'lesser' because the academy seems to put a gap between itself and the congregation.

But instead of teaching inductive reading, my ambition is to bring the academy to the congregation and bridge that seemingly huge gap. It will be a lifelong goal, I think! Especially since Pentecostals are notorious for being resistant to scholarship in particular, and intellectual reflection in general. Fun times ahead, haha.

Jason A. Staples said...

John,

You say the following:

"Its a pity that God has so closed the bible to ordinary folks like me that I can't understand what it teaches unless I have a working knowledge of 2nd Temple judaism.

The merits of a position must be decided primarily on inductive study of the book and then the book in relation to the rest of Scripture. On that basis Erick's exegesis is credible and in fact orthodox. That of course doesn't mean it is right, yet he has given more reasons why it should be than many of the other answers."

I understand the "everyman" sentiment behind your comments, but we should be careful not to overlook the fact that even "ordinary folks" operate within an interpretive tradition. Your reading of Paul is very unlikely to be a simple, inductive reading but is instead a reading bequeathed to you from others' readings of Paul in the past.

I also understand your frustration that Joel and I haven't really offered a full-scale response to Erick's position. Unfortunately, due to my studies, I don't have the time to do this on a blog at the moment (especially since a large amount of scholarship from the past 30 years has already done an excellent job of showing that reading to be incorrect). Richard Hays, Douglas Campbell, (as Joel suggested) Gathercole, and a number of others serve as a good starting point to deal with some of these issues.

Erick said...

These men (hays, campbell, and gathercole) have offered much detailed and exegetical responses to the reformed tradition.

However, I do not locate myself in the reformed tradition primarily because I do not believe in covenant theology nor do I believe in the imputation of Christ's earthly obedience to the Law.

However, I can argue well the position that gathercole, hays, and cambpell argue...what prohibits me from embracing them is the weakness of their arguments. They remain too close to texts and do not look at the larger picture. Secondary sources are extremely helpful, but should not be the basis of any of our conclusions, especially because of how much controversy there was in Paul's day between his gospel and judaism (even on into the early centuries of the church).

The jews did not confess themselves to be award-winning legalists who force God to repay them eternal life for their goodness. They did not consider GOd to be their debtor.

However, dwindling in all the "grace" language of the old testament, whatever mercy/love/and grace they attributed to God, it still fell short of giving everything over to the work of God in Christ which demands only faith as a means of salvation.

They of course would not deny faith as a prereq, but that one must obey the law covenant in order to be saved. In Paul's day, the form of "works" was the mosaic covenant, which was Israeli historically.

It is clear throughout all of Paul's epistles that the new creation which had dawned in Jesus Christ as Lord and 2nd Human Being, the world was introduced to a power from God which was not at work prior to this revelation. Within this power includes the free gift of right-standing with God (as the reformers taught it) but also the remaking of human beings now in the present, even though they fall short of the real future resurrection life conditions.

I agree that we must know our Old Testament. NO one scholarly in this regard denies this. But I must ask...what is it that I am missing from the old testament?

Jesus comes into the world as the long awaited annointed king of Israel to mediate the restorative promises of God projected by the prophets. He indeed fulfills this commission, but in a way not forseen by the average human readers of the old testament. Messiah would inaugurate a kingdom where sin/death/satan have no dwellings. etc,etc, we could go on and on.

But the new covenant promises have arrived in Jesus Christ, but are still awaiting their fulfillment in the new heavens and the new earth, where truly there will be no more sin and thus no more cause for expulsion from the Eden of God.

Jason said...

Joel, thanks for your post above, very helpful remidner about the distinction between Phil 3 and the original quote. Can I trouble you to write a review article, sometime and somewhere, on Gary Burge's new book on the Land in the NT (I think by Baker Academic...maybe Brazos...)? 'twould make my day...

Steven Coxhead said...

Just in response to John, it's not a matter of an elite group who understands first century Judaism. My point is that it's all there in the Old Testament, if only we were to read the Old Testament on its own terms.

In response to Eric's question about what he may be missing from the Old Testament, I’ll name a few things that may be relevant:

(1) God saves the righteous;
(2) The righteous is a populated set;
(3) The righteous are defined as those who keep the law;
(4) The law could be kept (covenantally not absolutely);
(5) A legitmate doctrine of justification by the works of the law on the level of the covenant responsibilities existed as part of the Mosaic covenant;
(6) Faith is a holistic concept (i.e., it includes faithfulness as part of it meaning);
(7) An anthropological distinction between faith and works does not exist;
(8) Atonement is only efficicious for the righteous;
(9) The new covenant is about Israel and the nations being moved (by Christ and the Spirit) to keep torah so that the promised covenant blessings (including the forgiveness of sins) could be realized;
(10) The new covenant involves Israel and the nations being brought back to faith, where faith includes the idea of covenant faithfulness.

And Paul claims in Rom 1:2 that his understanding of the gospel is consistent with what was prophesied in the Old Testament. The question is: Have we interpreted Paul in a manner consistent with the Old Testament, which Paul himself claims as the key authority for his theology?

John Thomson said...

Thanks for response fellas. My tone may have been more acerbic than intended. However, the actual point I stand by. Of course we can and do learn from C1 sources, however, the greater the construct here and the more it opposes a more natural reading of the text (a judgement I know) the less reliable it is. Background readings should aid not control.

Steven, I know you base your understanding of Paul on your reading (and perhaps privileging) of the OT (probably with a certain regard for Jewish exegetes). We disagree on this method as you know. I think we must understand the OT through the lens of the NT. Moreover, I think the NT perspective makes good sense of the OT and sense in a way that the Jewish exegetes of Jesus' day did not. The reason they didn't Paul tells us in Roms 9,10 is that they approached the law wrongly (by works not faith 9:31). Thus they stumbled over the stumbling stone.

Legalism of some sort in C1 Judaism, seems to me demanded by the NT. Parables such as the Pharisee and publican/prodigal and elder brother/same wages to everyone all point in this direction.

I worry pastorally. I believe if we blur or worse morph faith in a person as an initial justifying act into faithfulness (not a kick in the pants away from works to the ordinary person)we are left with salvation though works. Works no longer are an evidence of life but its basis. If we do this we have lost the gospel and however sophisticated the construct may become it will be effectively legalism. Thus Paul is emphatic: by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified in my sight:not then, not now, not ever.

There are a number of perspectives at work in this thread so I guess it is becoming confusing. To suck up to the blogger I still find his TSROG one of the safest and clearest guides through many of these issues. Though, as they say, the views expressed here are completely my own.

Chris said...

Hi John,

Just one thought: I agree that "by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified in my sight:not then, not now, not ever". However, should the emphasis there be on "works" or on "the law"? What choice we make there, I suspect, will result in a completely different reading...

Cheers,

Chris

John Thomson said...

Chris

I thought everyone on this blog would be sleeping on the other side of the world at the moment.

I continue to take 'works of the law' in the traditional sense as any attempt to make oneself right with God through keeping the law of Moses. I see it typified in the Pharisee 'I thank thee I am not as other men, i tithe...' and for that matter in a pre-conversion law-zealous Paul. Works-righteousness seems from a biblical perspective to be endemic in C1 Judaism. The rich young ruler is another example. The question Jesus was asked in John 6: what must we do to work the works of God. The answer being the work of God is to believe in me. The mistake is to some extent understandable because as I understand it the law was actually a covenant of works (this do and you shall live) with Paul (and James) making it clear such doing was impossible (hence the Messiah). It is not the case that some were justified by works but most weren't rather that none were justified by works of the law. However in Ch 4 and 9 Paul shows that what referred specifically to 'works of the law' is true in general of all 'works' where 'works' are defined as getting right with God through our own efforts. Such justification would be our due and a grounds for boasting and God will allow no such boasting. Thus neither Abraham (before law) nor David (under law) nor Jacob (before birth) were justified by a life lived but by the merciful call of God received by faith so that salvation rests not on human will or effort but on grace and if it is on grace then it is not of works. Works of the law, I take to be any demand of the law, and not merely boundary markers.

Those of faith in Israel recognised their impoverishment before the law realising it exposed sin but did not excite righteousness. They cast themselves on the gospel promise of 'the righteousness of God' that the Law and prophets (OT in general) predicted. On the basis of this covenant promise their cry of faith like the publican was - God be merciful to me a sinner; this is the essence of justifying faith.

What distinction were you pointing to?

John Thomson said...

PS Steven's view that some were saved by 'the works of the law' seems to me to flounder on the rock of Adamic humanity. To be in Adam is to be condemned by sin and to be controlled by sin.

As condemned humanity no flesh will be justified by law (not some flesh but no flesh,the law merely confirms sin (not merely sins but sin). Our problem is not merely sins but sin.
Pauls conclusion in Roms 3 is not simply that all are sinners but that all are 'under sin' that is, under the power of sin. Roms 5 makes the same point

'while we were helpless Christ died for the ungodly'.

It was to a humanity in Adam, condemned and controlled by sin, (whether under law or without law)that the gospel comes in liberating justifying power - to a world where all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.

Steven Coxhead said...

If it’s God’s plan to save his people through the obedience (which understands and rejoices in grace) that God works in them, then I can’t see any pastoral problem.

“Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure” (Phil 2:12-13). Paul had no problem with the idea of God bringing people to salvation through obedience. Sometimes trembling with fear is a good thing.

Any soteriological system (apart from universalism) requires some kind of response. The question is what kind of response God requires. Whether it’s a big response or a small response, it’s still the response that God works in us. Even if it’s faith (small) rather than obedience (bigger), it’s still a response on our part. Saying that faith rather than works allows us to escape from salvation by works and legalism is a mirage if you mean by that that the human person doesn't do anything in the process of salvation.

Historically the thinking behind the slogan faith, not works is: let’s make the necessary response as minimal as possible in order to highlight the righteousness of Christ. But why not make the necessary response as holistic as God does in order to highlight the power of the righteousness of Christ as revealed in his gracious working of the necessary (whole person) response in his people?

“He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you, but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” (Mic 6:8).

The wonder of the new covenant is that God will graciously work this necessary response in his undeserving people. I can’t see how (properly understood) doing justice, loving kindness, and walking humbly with God is a kind of legalism from which we must be rescued. How does Christ working this response in his people devalue or obscure his own righteousness? Logically it doesn't make sense. Surely Christ working covenant faithfulness in his people should be seen as an integral part of his righteousness! Isn't that what the Old Testament promised that the Messiah would come to accomplish?

Legalists need to be taught that true obedience walks humbly before God, that true obedience understands and rejoices in grace. If I could be so bold, dealing with legalism by saying that obedience isn't necessary for salvation is unbiblical.

If only the new covenant wasn't about the law being written in the heart! I’m surprised that God hasn’t been accused of being a legalist himself.

Steven Coxhead said...

Hi John,

Was the Pharisee in the temple walking humbly before God?

He claimed to be a keeper of the law, but Jesus’ critique was that without humility he wasn’t the keeper of the law that he should have been.

Jesus taught in all seriousness: “unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matt 5:20). He also taught: “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven” (Matt 7:21).

He taught the need for a true, personal righteousness as a condition for entering the kingdom of heaven: doing the will of his Father, keeping torah in the context of grace.

"Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied ... Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God" (Matt 5:6, 8).

Steven Coxhead said...

Hi John,

It is not my view that the OT saints were saved by the works of the law in isolation from the redemption that Christ was coming to bring. But it is my view that the law of Moses received into their hearts was the word of God that brought them life in a promissory sense.

The righteous in the old covenant age were bound up by sin, and suffered its effects, and looked forward to the full redemption that God would achieve for the faithful remnant of his people in the eschatological future. Without Christ, there is no hope.

John Thomson said...

Steven

Good to see a spirited response. Two points.

I don't believe 'works' and 'obedience' carry the same meaning. Works for Paul contains an illegitimate element of self-trust and merit.

Faith is by definition the opposite. It is a mistake to inject into faith 'some merit' for this is precisely what Paul opposes in Roms 4:1-8. We may say faith is important, even valued but never meritorious. However, contradictory this may be made to appear it seems to me to retain the balance of Scripture - though I would be happy to have it expressed more precisely.

'Obedience' has not the negative connotations of 'works'and is intimately connected with faith. However, Paul makes every effort to keep faith and obedience 'one-yet-distinct for very good reason - the danger of some form of legalism. Therefore so too must we. If we conflate faith and obedience into something amorphous, into faithfulness,we lose the clarity Paul's gospel requires.

Yes, believing people will be encouraged to be faithful, and indeed must be faithful if truly believing (work out your own salvation), however, Paul does not say 'Being justified by faithfulness we have peace with God'. Faithfulness is a life-long process; it cannot by definition point to a time in the past, yet in Roms 5:1 Paul does just that. Faith is firstly a moment of obeisence (of kissing the son) before it results in a life of obedience. I fail to see why this distinction is difficult to accept. It seems so self-evidently a concern of Paul's. I do not wish to deny faithfulness I simply wish to assert faith.

However, to reiterate in closing, the faith/obedience/faithfulness discussion is at least a step removed from the works/faith grace/works discussion.

Regards Steven

John Thomson said...

Steven

How does one obtain a righteousness that is greater than that of the Pharisee? How do we walk humbly before God?
How, in the OC, did one receive a circumcised heart?

My contention is they did so by faith. Faith in the revealed promise. Faith must precede faithfulness.
How did the thief on the cross enter paradise - it was not by faithfulness but by faith.

Do you believe there is a moment when someone passes from death to life, from condemnation to justification, from the broad road to the narrow? And if so what is that moment based on?

(oh dear here we will open another can of worms in baptism I guess).

John Thomson said...

PS

Steven

You must be burning the midnight oil.

Steven Coxhead said...

Hi John,

When works is shorthand for the works of the law, then it is a negative concept for Paul. The term the works of the law in Hebrew idiom means obedience to the law of Moses.

One obtains a righteousness that is greater than that of the Pharisees by having the word of God in one’s heart. In the old covenant, like in the new, a circumcised heart is an operation of the Holy Spirit. It begins when the word of God is applied to the heart.

Faith precedes faithfulness in our way of thinking—and I’m happy with that distinction—but the classic Jewish view (influenced by the Old Testament) isn’t concerned to make a clear distinction.

How did the thief on the cross enter paradise? It was by faith. His confession of Jesus as Messiah (which we presume he maintained until the end of his life) was his faith and faithfulness.

Do I believe there is a moment when someone passes from death to life? Yes. That moment is based on faith (i.e., receiving God’s word into the heart), but true faith continues to believe (and hence becomes faithfulness in our way of thinking).

I’m just seeking to use the biblical language of faith in a way that is more Hebraic, hence my lack of a clear-cut distinction. But in terms of systematics, such a distinction can be helpful.

I’ve been burning the midnight oil for 12 minutes!

John Thomson said...

Hi Steven

Don't let these discussions keep you up or disturb sleep.

I find myself able to agree with your last email. I know there are a few hidden canyons but its a good place to finish and get a good nights sleep (or in my case get off and do something else).

God bless.

John Thomson said...

PS

I'd appreciate someone in the future commenting on whether the blessings and curses of the law were temporal or eternal. Or pointing me in the direction to get some help on this.

Steven Coxhead said...

Good question, but I need some sleep.

I have 3 hours of NT Greek to teach this morning!

Many (temporal and eternal) blessings!

Erick White said...

Hi Stephen,

the way in which you are reading the whole bible is foundationally in error. You are trying to integrate your own picture on the Old Testament into Paul the apostle.

Paul's statements on the law are clear. It was an administration of death. The law served the lording power of sin (1 cor 15), the law brought curse upon transgressors, imprisoned it's subjects to guilt and condemnation.

These are not positive statements concerning the dispensation of law.

The easy thing to do is to read the OT and read the mighty power and mercy of God which was at work to form the people israel. No other nation had ever been created out of such soveriegn and miraculous power. And it seems all of God's dealings with Israel remind them of His eternal oath to the fathers.

But there is this attachment to the promise, the sinai law. This law came in next to the promise and was there for the purpose of eliminating any attempt for the human to obtain the promises by works.

This is why Paul can contrast Abrahamic covenant and the Sinaitic covenant in terms of freedom/life and slavery/death.

I think it would save us some time to hear your understanding of that allegory in Galatians. ....


Thanks

Joel Willitts said...

Erick:
I have written on the allegory in gal 4 in ZNW see it here: http://www.reference-global.com/doi/abs/10.1515/zntw.2005.96.3-4.188?cookieSet=1.

Jason A. Staples said...

John,

You said: "I don't believe 'works' and 'obedience' carry the same meaning. Works for Paul contains an illegitimate element of self-trust and merit.

Faith is by definition the opposite. It is a mistake to inject into faith 'some merit' for this is precisely what Paul opposes in Roms 4:1-8. We may say faith is important, even valued but never meritorious."

First off, the word that Paul uses for "credited" has exactly this notion of "merit" that you're trying to avoid.

Secondly, "works" or "doing" in Paul is not always negative. It is only negative when it is compounded with "of law" as in, "works of law." Be careful how you read...

Erick White said...

I cannot purchase that article.

John Thomson said...

Well of course your assumption about 'credited' is precisely what you need to prove. Paul's contrast in Roms 4:1-8 is between what is a due (righteousness achieved by works) with what is precisely not a due (righteousness by faith). For Paul, in my view, credited does not carry the sense of inherent value. The thing credited or reckoned (faith) is not of the order of that for which it stands (righteousness). The efficacy does not lie in the faith but in its object. In one sense this is self-evident since faith in Allah doesn't save nor even a general nebulous faith in the Creator - saving faith in Scripture is rooted ion the word of promise which is life giving.

Nor is 'works' only negative when compounded the law. I agree that 'works of the law' are Paul's main target, however, as I pointed out previously, in Roms 4:1-8 Paul's idea of 'works' is much wider (and is anthropological not simply salvation-historical). Romans 9, again quoted, makes effectively the same point. See my previous comments. Be careful how you read...

There are, outside of Romans and Galatians, a number of times when 'works' are condemned without a direct reference to 'the works of the law' though naturally these often lie in the background. There are references to 'works' that are positive but these are normally referred to as 'good works'. Roms 2:7 also refers to 'good works'. Every other reference in Romans is negative.

Erick White said...

It is extremely dangerous to misinterpret the gospel which Paul taught. It is so serious for him that depending on your view of the gospel, you will either suffer eternal damnation or you will be saved on the last day (Gal 1:9).

Paul consistently expouses his gospel in terms of "liberty" or "freedom", which terms are not independent. They thrive off of the assumption that the subjects of "freedom/liberty" are in some sort of slavery or bondage. And this slavery is consistently taught by Paul in terms of sin and all it's effects on human life.

There are diverse ways in which sin has effect humanity. In the first place, quite obvious, is that it puts us in a wrong-relation with God our Creator and Lord. This is basic to understanding the gospel. God has been the author of mankind and has decreed to govern it according to his judgements. In these judgements, it is included that there are penal consequences for rebellion against Him and His character. The consequences are seen in terms of death, the cessation of human life, rather than the sustenance of human life. As Creator of man, he demonstrates his anger toward man by taking away it's life, the very thing which put man into being.

Jesus' death on the cross for the sin of the world thus must be interpreted to be God's way of placating the penal consequences which sin has brought upon the race of man. To be freed from liability to judgement is what Paul calls "justification". Those who do the law will be justified, or in other words, those who conform to God's just requirements are seen by Him to be in the right, and thus in right-relationship to him, and thus entitled to life.

However, when speaking of the present humanity, no one can be justified by works of any sort (be it the mosaic jewish system or not) because sin has overpowered such efforts and implacably settled man in guilt, seperation from God, and the sentence of death.

Therefore, Jesus' death, because it fully pays for our liability to judgement, has set us free from the negative effects of sin. By this we enjoy the forgiveness of sin ( a central theme proclaimed as recorded in the early preaching of the church in acts) and a right-relationship with God.

Combating Paul's proclamation of freedom/liberty is the Judaizers insistence that one cannot simply receive freely "righteousness" and thus be set righteous in God's eyes, and thus participating in the life-giving covenantal promises of God (Gal 3:21). No, no, no...there must be strict adherance to the mosaic law of God given to Israel through Moses in order to be made "perfect" or "saved" or "justified" or "heirs of the promise".

But Paul sees the cross of our Lord as accomplishing all the is needed for sinful mankind. This is why, in response to the Galatians bent toward judaizers, he can speak of their not understanding fully the cross of Christ (Gal 3:1-3). If one genuinely understood the cross, in other words, they would not come into any sort of bondage, for the cross eliminates this and sets us in freedom/liberty.

To deny this is to deny the very tenure of God's good news for the world. To say that we are accepted by God by what we do as human beings is to make the cross of Christ of no effect, to allow boasting in God's presence, and ultimately it is a fool's path because it will never deliver one from true guilt.

Steven Coxhead said...

Hi Erick,

We need faith to be accepted by God, right?

Next question: Isn't faith something we do? Is your human self not doing something when you believe? I don't think we can say that there is an alien inside of us who does the believing for us.

Your mistake is believing the Lutheran mirage that faith is not something we do. Yes, faith is a gift of God, but it is something that God works in us to do.

So what's the difference between your (little) faith and my (big) faith? Either way, it's still faith. It's still something that we need to be accepted, and it's something we do as the Spirit moves us.

Faith is a human action, unless you prefer the concept of an alien faith. The only way you can logically escape the charge of inserting human action into the process of salvation is by asserting an alien faith, a kind of faith that has no connection with me as a person.

Do you see the problem with your logic?

Jason A. Staples said...

Erick,

Two things. First, I would suggest that when you get involved in this kind of discussion that you spend less time re-stating your reading of Paul's agenda (especially since you continue to state it as though it were a straightforward reading, with anything else simply being wrong) and more time backing up your assumptions. Remember that you're talking to people who are already familiar with the perspective that you are pushing.

It also sounds as though you haven't really read Hays, Gathercole, or Campbell, since your criticism of their work doesn't really make a whole lot of sense given what they actually have to say (and given that they each have very different things to say). I would suggest you actually read them.

Secondly, your definition of "justification" (that is "To be freed from liability to judgement") is, in my view, seriously flawed. I think a very strong case can be made that "justification" in Paul involves a person actually being made righteous—as in the person actually coming to be a person who does the things that please God. Yes, this results in being judged as righteous, but as a secondary effect of actually having become righteous, not as though a person were suddenly being judged by a different standard.

Erick White said...

If you read romans 3-4, Paul gives us the character of faith which makes us acceptable to God. Yes, indeed, faith is a human action, but it is not isolated or independent on it's own like mowing the lawn of your neighbor. Faith is essentially an empty term by itself. The same with "love". You cannot just say "I love", because there must be an object/subject which is being loved. In the same way, something must be believed or had faith in for the "Faith" to mean anything in the first place.

Firstly, abraham's being made acceptable to God by faith apart from works excludes boasting. Why? Because faith is non-meritorious. Faith does not intrinsically have worth within itself by which it can be exchanged for something else. It simply believes and is persuaded of something or someone.

Secondly, what prompted Abrahamt to trust God was his stress over his inability to work out God's promise on his own efforts. It prompted him to question God's promise. But once God re-iterated his promise, Abraham simply trust God, that HE (not abraham) would perform the work which he spoke to do for his benefit. In other words, Abraham knew it was to be done regardless if he could contribute or not.

Thirdly, faith being credited as righteousness is argued side-by-side, line-after-line with the blessing of forgiveness of sin (Rom 4:6-8). Notice the "just as" in v6. Paul sees a man, sinner though he may be, that is pardoned and acquitted from the penal consequences of his sin to be like the situation of Gen 15:6 where faith is reckoned for righteousness (another way of saying Abraham's justification by faith).

Fourthly, Abraham's faith is characterized by hoping in the performance of God, not the performance of man. He grew stong in his conviction and persuasion that God would do what he spoke to do. This caused Abraham to be patient and to be filled with hope, and to not doubt GOd's promise for his benefit, but to wait for God's performce of what he spoke of previously. And therefore it was accounted to him for righteousness.

Fifthly, Paul understands Abraham's faith to be a paradigm for christian faith in the Lord Jesus. However, in our case, God has not just promised to do in the future, but also has done in the past, in delivering his son to death and raising him from the dead for our justification. To have faith like Abraham is to believe that God will justify you, ungodly though you may be, because of his miraculous working in the cross and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

This is the nature of faith. It is the attitude which cannot exist on it's own, it knows that left to itself there can be no accomplishment of anything, but it must rest on the action take up by another in order to avail anything.

In our case, sin has disabled man from getting right with God. Therefore, faith leaves the only successful alternative, in that it trust in the working of another to perform what we cannot do on our own because of our disabilities.


And those authors you speak of are well known already in the scholarly world, and have very little to contribute to what Paul has to say. Maybe I can explain on this later.

John Thomson said...

Erick

I think your comments about faith are very good. As it happens I agree too with your earlier definition of justification through Christ's death and resurrection status. I think we are singing from the same hymnbook.

I would only say I think you overstate your criticisms of Hays, Campbell and Gathercole. Gathercole in particular is not so far from where we are at - and a fair bit unfortunately from where Jason seems to be at.

It is at times difficult to know where charity is called for and where another gospel is being preached.

Jason, am I to understand you do not see justification in forensic categories at all? I am happy to see justification as intimately involved with life; it is justification unto life. I am happy to say that the new life produces righteousness that will be evidence at the last judgement. However, if you remove the forensic element I think you have missed the entire argument of Paul and the law-court background to justification verdicts in OT and NT.

Why does this matter? Well firstly, it may come precariously close to the 'another gospel' of Paul that Erick reminded us about. Secondly, I think pastorally it is dangerous even perhaps disasterous. The Bible is not for the academy but the church. As someone in the church and not the academy I am perhaps biased. I greatly enjoy reading a little theology and I think as Chris says the academy can teach us. I am broadly reformed but not thirled to any confessional stance. I am happy to learn from the academy but the academy must act responsibly. It must remember its ideas influence and shape the church for good or ill and sometimes I think it forgets this. What is more I sometimes think - by no means always - that academics are more familiar with academic tomes than they are with Scripture. if you wish to convince me (and other church people) you must be able to present biblical arguments not simply cite authorities. We could all cite our authorities.

Nicholas P. Mitchell said...

"Secondly, your definition of "justification" (that is "To be freed from liability to judgement") is, in my view, seriously flawed. I think a very strong case can be made that "justification" in Paul involves a person actually being made righteous—as in the person actually coming to be a person who does the things that please God. Yes, this results in being judged as righteous, but as a secondary effect of actually having become righteous, not as though a person were suddenly being judged by a different standard."

Jason,

We have to remember that in Christ we are not dealing with a 'regular' court. We are dealing with an eschatological judgment that has already been inaugerated. For Paul (i.e. Rom 6) we see that justification is by co-crucifixion and co-resurrection. N.T. Wright has done a good job at saying that the the final judgment has been brought forward into the present. So all those who have died and risen with Christ have received the verdict "righteous" or "son of God". What God declares, however, God effects. I do not, like Michael Gorman, call this actual transformation justification (and I don't think Paul does either). It is a result of it. More specifically, it is a result of co-crucifixion and co-resurrection. God does actually make us righteous but Paul is confident that both Jews and Gentiles belong at the same table in the present time. We don't have to wait until the end to see who we should be sitting with. I think in writings like Gorman and Campbell the forensic meaning of justification gets pushed to the side. However, if we realize that 'righteous' is a status with results then we don't have to.

Jason A. Staples said...

John,

It is certainly "another gospel" from what has often been presented as Paul's gospel, but I'm convinced it's closer to what he was preaching than most of what is preached today. As such, I'm more afraid for those who have altered Paul's gospel to make it less about transformation and more about being judged differently (which he vigorously protests).

I do think the forensic aspect of justification is present in Paul (it's probably better to translate "vindicated" in some cases, actually), but again it has to do with the transformation that has occurred. The people of God are forensically declared to be righteous because they have been truly made righteous, not because the terms have suddenly changed. That's the whole thrust of Paul's argument in Romans (especially Rom 2, which directly says the terms of the judgment don't change for anyone)—the external Law can make no one righteous, because sin comes from the inside out. (This is similar to Hebrews' critique of the Law, where it says the Law was weak in that it could not perfect anyone.)

So in order to deal with this problem, God sent his son to deal with the problem, so that those who participate in Christ through the Spirit would actually be made righteous from the inside. The judgment "righteous" only declares what has happened—it is a forensic declaration of the truth. That's why Paul makes such a fuss—only by the mediation of Christ and participation in the Spirit can anyone truly be made righteous and thus be declared so in the judgment. Yes, this is different from the "just believe and you'll be judged by a different standard" gospel, but I strongly believe that gospel to be a distortion of what Paul actually says.

I'm sorry I can't spend a whole lot more time on this at the moment and lay everything out in full detail; I have two articles I'm trying to finish right now in addition to other work. I can only forward you on to the work of a few others and to some of my own work that will be coming out soon.

Jason A. Staples said...

One other thing, Erick:

Paul himself has no problem with boasting per se. The question is the substance of the boast, not boasting itself.

Rom 5:2–3 "And we boast in hope of the glory of God; and not only this, but we also boast in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverence..."

The problem he was getting at is that those things that were seen as cause for boasting—having the Law, national privilege, circumcision, etc.—didn't actually make anyone righteous, and was thus a hollow boast. He then points to what can actually produce the righteousness that is pleasing to God—participation in Christ through the Spirit.

John Thomson said...

Jason

Its not what you're saying but what you are not saying that concerns me. I'm not sure how far you buy into Campbell's transformation only construct.

If we are righteous transformationally (which I actually believe in the new birth by the spirit we are) what about our sin? And what is meant by 'justified by the blood of Christ'.

How can sin be forgiven and I be declared just? In a word, how can God justify the ungodly?

Jason A. Staples said...

Good questions, John. In terms of forgiveness and transformation, I don't think they're all that separate. Ezekiel 18 deals with this from one perspective—God's judgment concerns who we are, not with the past, which is forgotten.

But atonement is most certainly a part of the whole transformation—cleansing from past sin into new life. Forgiveness of sin is certainly a part of the transaction of repentance, but what is interesting is that it is a lesser concern in the biblical text. In Jer 31:31–34, forgiveness is promised, but it is a by-product of having been made righteous by the law being written on the heart.

Your last question is a great one, and I think that question is at the heart of Romans. God has undertaken to be able to justly judge the unrighteous as righteous by providing for the unrighteous to be changed from unrighteous to righteous—atoning for the past and transforming the present. Thus, God's judgment is still just, but the unrighteous has ceased to be under judgment because the unrighteous has truly been made righteous.

Jason A. Staples said...

John,

Keep in mind also that Paul certainly does not emphasize forgiveness for sin, as "forgiveness" only occurs in this sense four times in the 10-letter canon and once in the 7-letter canon (the Psalm quotation in Rom 4:7). He does, however, strongly emphasize being made righteous. The remarkable thing is that forgiveness has become the pre-eminent preaching point among certain circles of Christianity, despite this fact.

Again, this is not to say that forgiveness is unimportant, only that it is not the primary point of emphasis. Being transformed and re-made into a legitimately righteous person is, however, a primary emphasis.

Erick White said...

I really do hate to say this, but to beleive that God justified the unrighteous by making them righteous is exactly what Paul argues against.

There is a huge element of truth to the fact that God is imputing the new creation of Christ crucified and risen to all who believe, such that they are actually subjects of what life will be like in the righteous new heavens and earth, etc,etc.. Yes, yes, yes...and this indeed includes actually being righteous in our moral day-to-day lives.

However, words are doors to meaning. What does Paul mean by what he says. And justification is simply being found righteous by God. And the next question is what does Paul on teach on how God does justify people? And the means of justification are in terms of Christ's blood. The death of Christ is the means of our being justified, and his death is not part of our transformation. Our transformation is a result of his death, but the work for justification to take place was totally external from us. When it becomes internal (or applied) we are renewed at the same time justified (because our sins are remitted).

Jason A. Staples said...

Erick,

Yet again, you have offered a statement of fact with absolutely no evidence, saying, "And justification is simply being found righteous by God." To this, I say: prove it. Simply stating it doesn't make it true.

John Thomson said...

Jason

Forgive/ness is also used more than 30 times in the gospels.

However, as I think you'll agree, it is not necessarily how often a word is used that is important.

My own understanding seems very similar to Ericks. I believe that the Adamic 'I' must die. It must bear the penalty of a broken law (mosaic, or instinctive). This happened on the cross. There, not only did Christ bear my sins but the death due to Adam happened; there sin was condemned in the flesh (of Jesus). In this death 'I' am acquitted. The punishment is borne (death) and I am declared righteous. In resurrection Christ (and I in union with him) begin a new life - eschatological life. His vindication/justification/declaration as righteous is his and by virtue of my union with him, is mine too. I share in his status and state in new creation; I have a new position and a new life. This life is unable to sin and through union with Christ by the Spirit produces 'good works'. However, this transformational righteousness of Roms 5-8 flows from the forensic righteousness of Roms 1-4.

Roms 5:9 seems to encapsulate this.

Rom 5:9-10 (ESV)
Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life.

I suspect you will be reasonably happy with the second half but how you deal with the first half (Adam) I would like to know. Certainly any articles you can point to will be helpful (Campbell excepted).

Regards

Erick White said...

The verse just stated by John Thompson proves that justification is aquittal or declaration that one is free from charges of guilt

"...having been justified by his blood" (Rom 5:9).

"blood" is another way of saying sacrificial victim. And a sacrificial victim bears the punishment of others so that those subject might be freed from having to face the punishment themselves.

Erick White said...

And thompson, you are absolutely right. Christ's death is adam-inclusive, or in other words, it represented the human race which exists. In his death, our identity and his identity merge together, so that "we" can "say" that we are crucified, buried, and risen. Not because we were somehow physcially or historically, but forensically. Our identity with Christ is then merged together post-resurrection so that it can be said that we even sit with Christ since he is sitting.

Jason A. Staples said...

Erick, that verse does not prove your definition. "Made righteous by his blood" works just as well as a translation. Again, you're just stating your definition as a fact, despite that being the actual thing being debated. After a while, a thing stops being worth discussing if one side continues to assume the thing under debate.

John, the biggest thing I would add to your summary is that the whole process happens through participation in Christ's death (by means of the Spirit). That is, it isn't simply that Christ died but also that we participate with him in his death. That participation is critical to Paul's argument ("if we suffer with him, we will also be glorified with him," "if we participate in his death how much more will we participate in his life?" etc.).

As I see it the argument goes that we once participated with Adam in our sin, and now through the Spirit we participate in the death of Christ in order to share in his life.

John Thomson said...

Jason/Erik etc

You're probably right, it is time to stop. Thanks for the dialogue.

Mark said...

I have been observing various recent debates about Paul and justification with some interest.

I have a question which is more related to pastoral implications:

If justification essentially means simply to be made righteous (ice actually not forensically) then where does this leave the matter of Christian assurance?

It would seem that an answer would involve mainly self assessment (i.e. how righteous am I?) which begs the question, how righteous does one have to be to be saved?
It seems that what has traditionally been called 'sanctification' is a process that starts at conversion and is not completed until the resurrection. However, this particular rendering of justification (which essentially sees it as being exactly the same sanctification) would seem to imply it is a past event (eg 'having been justified through faith' etc.).

Are we talking sinless perfection here? While I certainly affirm that the gospel brings about a life change with a growth towards holiness, how many of you can look in the mirror and honestly see a man (or woman) who's conduct is totally righteous? Isn’t this exactly the struggle that Luther went through initially?

John Thomson said...

Mark

I said I was finished but I cannot but 'amen' these concerns.

When I lie on my deathbed I want to be able to say

'The blood of Jesus Christ God's son cleanses me from all sin'.

I have experienced deep depression where my sin seemed enormous (part of the illness I know). There was no relief from guilt in trying to pretend my sin was not dark and damning, nor in looking at my 'righteousnesses', I could see little to give confidence there. My only answer to guilt lay in grace; my only answer to my corruption was the cross of Christ.

Luther knew what he was fighting for. It was no academic fight, a fight over theological abstractions, but a fight for life- for shalom-itself.

The issues are not simply matters of biblical antiquarian interest but are pastoral and vital.

Steven Coxhead said...

Mark and John,

I understand your pastoral concern. But the same pastoral problem applies to faith.

How do you know your faith is true faith? It is not perfect either. How many times do we act each day out of unbelief rather than faith? How much faith is sufficient?

In speaking of the need for faithfulness, I don't think anyone here is advocating sinless perfection. What is being stressed is the need for an ongoing commitment to the whole counsel of God in the context of grace, at the heart of which is the confession of sin.

Please remember that the righteous under the Mosaic covenant confessed their sins and made use of the sacrificial system (Ps 32). In fact, it was only as the law was kept that the whole system of atonement existed in Israel in the first place. Weren't they commanded to build the tabernacle and offer sacrifice?

The Old Testament distinguishes between the wicked wicked and the wicked righteous, with only the wicked righteous being saved. The same system is found in Paul. Romans 8:13 is a good example.

Erick White said...

But faith is not righteousness, do you see? Faith is assurance of God's responsibility, not ours. It may seem wrong to put it this way, as if God was in debt to us. But in a sense, this is what Paul teaches in Rom 8:32, if God has sacrificed His son for us, how much more will he not freely give us all things in the future.

Faith grasps the future promises of God which has been secured in the past in Christ's cross/resurrection. Therefore assurance is possible with faith, not works.

Abraham's faith was one of trust, not performance. Even though performance came out of faith.

Steven Coxhead said...

Faith is a human act. It too is performance. It too is weak.

If God can accept a weak faith, why can’t he accept a weak attempt at following him (faithfulness) if that’s the condition he has laid out? Going by your definition of righteousness as absolute, faithfulness isn’t righteousness either.

Is it not possible for faithfulness to grasp the promises of God for him to act on our behalf?

God actually says about Abraham: “For I have chosen him, that he may command his children and his household after him to keep the way of the Lord by doing righteousness and justice, so that the Lord may bring to Abraham what he has promised him” (Gen 18:19).

How do you explain that verse? God says that he would fulfill his promise to Abraham as he and his household performed righteousness and justice.

In conclusion, what you are saying about faith applies just as equally to faithfulness. How is faith alone special?

Erick White said...

This verse is not speaking of the basis for the promises's fulfillment, but the actuality of it. If God promised to give me land and a great nation from my family, then part of brining this promise to actuality is me teaching my family about the God who gave me such a grace gift, and thus the promise comes to pass because of my faithfulness.

However, the origin of the promise is in God's work, not man's. And it is this alone which gives faith it's shape in the NT.

faith is not an instantaneous action, it is a life-long character and attitude which trusts and relies on God. It gives us self-oriented missions and gives itself into God and His purposes. But it only thrives off God and His promise, not on self-sustaining worth.

Erick White said...

gives up* self-oriented missions

Steven Coxhead said...

How about Gen 12:1-3? God commanded Abraham to go so that he might be blessed.

The promise from the very beginning was conditional on Abraham's obedience (which included trust in God's faithfulness).

See my post The Inheritance of Eternal Life through Faith instead of Law in Romans 4:13.

Erick White said...

I will read this in a moment.

However, do not misunderstand me. Faith and obedience work together like a pulley and the rope which rounds the pully.

But with regard to Gen 12:1-3, the promissary word is still at the foundation. "The land I will give to you and your descendants". Abraham left with the prospect that God would do, not Abraham. This is the type of obedience which flows from faith, it is shaped by the promise unto which it clings to or follows on.

a nice demonstration of faith is the men who carry the paralytic to the top of a house under which Jesus was healing the multitudes, and they lowered him down from the cieling to where Jesus was. And the text says "and when he saw their faith...". Do you see? Faith was at work here, but not to do something for God but for God to do something for them. Faith is relentless to receive salvation from God, to see God miraculously work. But it inevitably carries out in devotion to the God who grants the free promise.

John Thomson said...

Heb 11:8 (ESV)
By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going.'

It wouldn't make a great deal of sense to say here 'by faithfulness Abraham obeyed' any more than 'faithfulness is the substance of things hoped for the evidence of things not seen'.

Erick White said...

The main point in rom 1-5 that Paul is trying to get across to his audience in his letter to Rome is that God has opened up salvation (in continuity with what the OT prophets projected) for both jews and gentiles by faith (1:16) in Jesus Christ the Lord, who is God's annointed King and Savior of the both Israel and the nations.

Underneath this larger heading, is the uncovering, open manifestation, or revelation of God's righteousness from/out of the faith in the gospel. What this means of course is that righteousness which God has in Himself to give man, as a grace-gift (5:16), is credited to faith in Jesus Christ.

Now what does it mean to have faith? Does it mean to obey the commandments of God? Is it non-meritorious in nature, but nonetheless faithfulness in action to God's will??

Faith is the act of the human being by which he/she comes to full conviction that the God of Israel is the true and living God and that His promises will be effected for his/her benefit. It believes unto salvation (Rom 10:9). It abandons any other belief-system about God and man, and fully gives into God-given revelation in the Old Testament. And it trusts in the Lord Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sin and the justification of the ungodly (Rom 4:24-25).

This definition of faith is the only definition which supports Paul's argument in Rom 4:15-16. "Therefore, it is of faith (the crediting of righteousness) so that it may be according to grace...". Grace is a free and undeserved gift, and faith is the conduit which sustains such a principle, because it contributes nothing to God, only takes from God.

Jason A. Staples said...

Erick,

You might want to look up what χάρις (the Greek word usually translated "grace") actually means. It's pretty far from what you just said, especially since the one thing that is always present in χάρις is the notion of reciprocity. One-sided χάρις is not χάρις.

Erick White said...

What the word means is controlled by the author using it, not some lexicon (ultimately).

When Paul says that we are "justified freely by His grace..." (v24), it can mean nothing other than that we don't pay for it, He just gives it to us.

Rom 4 teaches that the principle of grace is in contradiction to the principle of meritorious exchange (me giving something to be given something). Grace is one-sided in this sense because the recipient contributes nothing to the object which gives.

For example, If I sell shirts at 5 dollars a piece. I've just split my customer range into three. 1) Those who have the 5 dollars to buy but do not want to buy shirts. 2) Those who have 5 dollars and want to buy shirts. 3) Those who do not have 5 dollars and either wants to or doesn't want to buy shirts.

Now if I immediately set the price down to $0. I've just flattened my customer possibilities to everyone.

This is what it means for God to sell redemption. It comes absolutely free, with no worth required for exchange.

Jason A. Staples said...

Erick,

Your statements only work if you are already assuming your definition of χάρις. Your logic is circular, as it has been throughout.

Romans 4 highlights χάρις as different from work wages, but it does not oppose the notion of reciprocity. Paul would have been foolish to do so using the word χάρις, since the word was already widely in use as a reciprocal term. Why in the world would he use a word that had always meant (and continued to mean) reciprocity for exactly the opposite concept? Either Paul was an idiot or he is saying something other than what you're saying he's saying.

The notion of exchange is pervasive throughout the Pauline letters; in exchange for our lives (which are reckoned as dead), we receive Christ's life through the Spirit.

Erick White said...

I've provided you with what evidence we have of what Paul teaches. Now, may God help you.

David Turner said...

In Rom 1, when speaking of homosexuality, Paul spoke about those had known the Lord and rejected him, worshipped idols then "therefore" V24, "because of this"v26. He then spoke of those who had a heterosexual orientation to start with, abandoned that to PRACTICE homosexuality. (Note: nothing about sexual orientation.) 80% of 400 gays I have researched have never known what it is to be attracted to the opposite sex. How can Paul or anyone accuse them of abandoning something they have never had?

ALL of these must be true before Rom 1 can apply to gays, otherwise we are taking the passage out of context.

Two things in scripture are against nature. Practicing gays as defined above, and men with long hair 1 Cor 11:14. The Gk is the same in both places. We need to treat both exactly the same.

The WHOLE POINT of Rom 1 is Rom 2:1which says "You therefore have no excuse, you who pass judgement on someone else." We are forbidden to judge them in this very context.

When researching the rest of the clobber passages, I found translators had often actually LIED from the HB and Gk just to help people gay bash. That is SIN. I am very happy to discuss this.

I wrote a paper on this topic, and in the first month after it was published on the web, 7000 (90%) agreed with me, and 350 gays said they planned to commit suicide over this and decided against it. This issue is THAT serious. I have now included a sample of those emails at the end of my paper. They are particularly moving.

I am a graduate of both BCQ and Malyon College.

jeff miller said...

I, for one thank you who are allowing us to trace the steps of your conversation. I have a couple observations: The one who humbled himself in Luke 18 was the one who went home, not with assurance, but justified. So in regard to assurance we should say "Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted" And perhaps we should not think so highly and exclusively about our individual moral failures. After all through loyalty to Jesus some of us who were afar off have been brought near to a people with a long history of failure...and of punishment from God which was made full in the suffering of Jesus on the cross. The "other Gospel" in Galatians is one suffering under the distortion that the Teachings of Jesus do not have a superseding and displacing relationship to the Law of Moses in the lives of those who are loyal to God.
For what it is worth.

David Turner said...

In Gal 3:10 and 5:3 Paul said that those who claimed the OT law still applied must obey ALL the law. See also Acts 15, Rom 10:4 "For Christ is the end of the law" and Phil 3:2.

Those who claim Lev 18:22 and 20:13apply today to condemn homosexual practice, must explain how they obey Lev 19:37 and 20:22 "Keep all my decrees and all my laws and follow them".

You don't get a choice. You must obey ALL the law.

This includes Lev 20:9 "If anyone curses his father or mother, he must be put to death". When your children throw a tantrum and curse you or your spouse, how may of them have you killed lately? "Oh, no, no, no. That is OT law that doesn't apply any more." REALLY ??

The what about 20:13, four verses away? You must obey ALL of the OT law.

Lev 19:17 says "Do not hate your brother in your heart." Thinking of your gay brothers and sisters in Christ, does that one get a tick or a cross?

David Turner said...

A further comment on homosexuality in Rom 1, as it refers to Sodom.

In Gen 19:4-5 it says "All the men... where are the men? Both words for "men" there and consistently through the passage is Hebrew "enowsh" which has been translated as "people" many times. eg Ex 10:7 "Let the people go" - same word. Why do we say it MUST be "men" in Gen 19?
Only ONE text says the sins of Sodom were sexual and that is Jude 7. The Greek is "sakros heteras" "sakros" means "flesh" and we get "heterosexual" from "heteras". Jude 7 says the sexual sins of Sodom were heterosexual, NOT homosexual.

2 Peter 2:7 and 3:17 (NIV) says Lot "was distressed by the filthy lives of lawless men". That word "men" in both places doesn't even exist in the Gk. It is just "athesmov" which just means "the wicked". The translators have LIED just to help people gay bash and that is SIN.

When scripture lists the sins of Sodom, homosexuality is not even mentioned. I would have thought it would be the first thing to be mentioned. eg Is 1. One of the sins of Sodom was that they didn't defend the cause of the fatherless or plead the cause of the widow V17. If "ALL the men" of Sodom (Gen 19:4) were homosexual, where did the fatherless and widows come from? There wouldn't have been any? This text proves that sin of Sodom was NOT homosexuality.

Ez 16:49 says "Now this was the sin of your sister Sodom" Listen very carefully - GOD is speaking. "Arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy. They were haughty and did detestable things". "detestable" is Heb "towebah" and over 31 things were "towebah" to the Jews. Scripture must interpret scripture. Deut 29:17 says idolatry was detestable (towebah) and v23-25 says the people of Sodom worshipped idols. Deut 29 explains that "destable things" in Ez 16 means "idolatry", NOT homosexuality.

Jesus spoke of Sodom and he didn't even mention homosexuality.

Why did God destroy Sodom and Gomorrah? Deut 29 asks that very question and V25 says "And the answer will be..." becasue they broke the covenant and committed idolatry. It was NOT because of homosexuality. BTW "like" in v23 is not in the Heb. It has been inserted. He is talking about Sodom. Why would the tranlators want to do that? I know.

How could we have got it so wrong for so long over homosexuality? Gays are out there committing suicide at 6 times the national average over this. The LYING from scripture to be homophobic and gay bash has GOT to stop my friend, starting right now.

(I am a graduate of BCQ and Malyon College).

David Turner said...

What we say on this topic is vitally important. Here is an example why.

Craig Hoyle is a 20 year old, and was a 7th generation Exclusive Brethren. He is gay. Dr Mark Craddock of the Exclusive Brethren actually prescribed Cyprostat for Craig in an attempt to chemically castrate him to "cure" him of his homosexuality. (The medical profession no longer considers homosexuality an illness which needs to be cured.)

Craig has since left the Exclusive Brethren and has lost all contact with his family and friends inside. (This was reported recently on Channel 7s - Today Tonight programme here in Australia)

I find it absolutely incredible that this sort of thing can go on in the name of Christ and His church in 2010.

(Sorry if this is straying from the thread of Rom 1-2, but sometimes it is really important to understand that what we say can have an enormous impact on people - people who Jesus loves deeply.)

Let's pray for Craig, now he has come out. He still loves the Lord very much. Pray also for other gays still within the Exclusive Brethren who must be having an incredibly difficult time.

David Turner said...

Greg, my best mate from high school 47 years ago came out to me and said he was gay at Christmas. His doctor has said he is having a nervous breakdown right now as a direct result of what his church has said about his homosexuality. Friends, this is really serious.

Geoff, a young gay man, received a letter from his pastor on church letterhead with the heading "Letter of Excommunication". The pastor based his actions on 1 Cor 5:9-13 where Paul says (according to NIV), to expel the immoral from among you and do not even eat. The word translated "immoral" is "pornoi" which occurs three times in that passage. According to Abbott-Smith lexion we all used at BCQ and Malyon College, "pornoi"- "fornicators" comes from "pornia" which means "fornication" - and is defined as "voluntary consensual sex between a man and a woman outside marriage". Homosexuals are not even mentioned.

Geoff was absolutely devastated and I tried my level best to console him. I found out a few weeks ago, Geoff had taken his life over this. Friends this is just not good enough.

Research I have read showed 90% of heterosexual couples in our churches have had sex outside marriage and are/were fornicators. What 1 Cor 5 actually means is that the 10% who haven't had sex before marriage should expel and refuse to eat with the 90% who have had sex before marriage. Imagine how many would be left in our churches!

All I have wanted to do it ask you to take one minute to realize the impact on homsexuals of what you say. The topic of homosexuality in Rom 1-2 is NOT just an academic argument.

David Turner said...

Who are the ones who are supposed to be twisting and maipulating and LYING from the Hebrew and Greek?