Romans - Lesson 16

Justification (Part 2)

Dr. Moo sheds light on the complex relationship between faith and works, justification and sanctification. The lesson explores contemporary theological debates surrounding the meaning, basis, time, and means of justification, highlighting diverging perspectives between scholars like Piper and Wright. While affirming the traditional Protestant teaching on justification, the lesson emphasizes the importance of maintaining a balanced pastoral approach that upholds both assurance in God's grace and the significance of works in the Christian journey, navigating the tension between divine sovereignty and human agency.

Lesson 16
Watching Now
Justification (Part 2)

Romans 3:21-26

A. Dikaiosune, dikaioo and dikaios

B. Dikaios, Faith and Universality

C. Faith in Jesus Christ

D. Faith of Christ

E. Student Questions

  • This lesson offers a deep dive into Paul's Letter to the Romans, revealing its pastoral aims, Paul's intentions to visit Spain, Jerusalem, and Rome, and its relevance to early Christian dynamics and theological inquiries about the Law in Christ's time.
  • This lesson offers a fresh view of Paul's theology, focusing on Romans. It emphasizes the first-century context, highlighting Gentile inclusion and unity in Christ, challenging traditional views. Gain insights into Paul's message and its relevance today.
  • Explore the book of Romans for modern faith conflicts: balance tradition with contemporary practices, learn from history, and grasp Paul's ministry and Gospel's complexities.
  • Follow along with Dr. Moo as he begins a thorough review of Romans 1:2-5. You will learn how Paul emphasizes Jesus' earthly life, resurrection, and his appointment as the Son of God in power. This lesson examines the interconnectedness of faith and obedience, underscoring that while faith initiates salvation, genuine faith inherently entails obedience to Christ as Lord, maintaining a balanced Christian life.
  • By delving into Romans 1:16-17, you'll understand the Gospel extends beyond individual salvation, encompassing God's reign over creation and His establishment of justice. The Gospel challenges worldly powers, offering hope and transformation to all who embrace it.
  • Listen along as the class discusses questions and answers revolving around Romans 1:16-17.
  • In Romans 1:18-28, you learn that all people are held accountable by God, having knowledge of Him through natural revelation but some turn away. This passage highlights the manifestation of God's wrath against sin, the exchange of truth for falsehoods, and the absence of excuses for humanity's actions, ultimately emphasizing God's fair judgment.
  • Listen in as the class and Dr. Moo discuss aspects of Romans 1:18-28.
  • The lesson discusses Romans 2:1-11, it highlights the use of the diatribe device and the transition from focusing on Gentiles to Jews. It underscores the Jewish belief in their special status and their potential misunderstanding of God's judgment. The lesson reviews the focus of the text on key themes such as judgment, righteousness, and the relationship between faith and good deeds.
  • In this lesson, you'll review the significance of the Law, notably the Law of Moses, in God's judgment. Paul stresses that mere knowledge of the Law isn't sufficient for righteousness; obedience is key. The primary message is that salvation ultimately relies on God's grace and the Gospel of Jesus Christ, as human efforts and consciences alone cannot secure salvation. This lesson highlights the importance of understanding these concepts in interactions with people of different religious beliefs.
  • The key takeaway in this lesson is that while being a Jew comes with a great heritage, it doesn't guarantee salvation. Obedience to God's law is crucial, and reliance on religious heritage or rituals won't save you. The lesson emphasizes the universal human condition of being under the power of sin, and people cannot be declared righteous in God’s sight by observing the Law or by the works of the Law. Only through faith in Christ are we made righteous.
  • This lesson explores the New Perspective on Paul, emphasizing that the Law was for Jewish covenant status, not just salvation. It promotes a holistic faith view, balancing vertical and horizontal aspects, Spirit-led obedience, and 1st-century Judaism diversity, enriching Pauline teachings in the church.
  • In exploring Romans 3:21-26, you'll gain insights into the relationship between righteousness, faith, and salvation. Paul highlights God's righteousness, which is accessible to all through faith in Jesus Christ. By weaving together themes of righteousness, faith, and inclusivity, Paul challenges conventional Jewish and Gentile perspectives, emphasizing the continuity of God's salvation plan while underscoring the centrality of faith in Christ for all believers.
  • In this lesson, you will gain insights into the potential challenge in translating Romans 3:23-24, particularly the term "all" and its connection to the debate on universalism in evangelicalism. Dr. Moo stresses the importance of coherence in biblical interpretation and explores the themes of God's righteousness, faith, and grace in justification. The lesson reviews the cultural background of redemption, drawing parallels with the Greco-Roman slave market and emphasizing the need to understand both the problem of sin and the Gospel solution.
  • Embarking on this lesson, you'll gain insight into the historical development and contemporary challenges surrounding the doctrine of justification. Through exploring classic Reformation principles and contemporary reassessments, you'll understand the tensions between Protestant and Roman Catholic perspectives, particularly regarding the infusion of righteousness and the role of grace.
  • The lesson explores the intricate connection between faith and works, justification, and sanctification in contemporary theological discourse. It delineates divergent views on justification, with scholars like Piper advocating for the preservation of biblical distinctions amidst modern theological trends. The lesson examines key questions regarding the meaning, basis, time, and means of justification.
  • Students in Dr. Moo's class ask multiple questions about justification.
  • By studying Romans 3:27-4:25, you gain insight into Paul's theology, where faith, exemplified by Abraham's righteousness, transcends works and ethnicity, emphasizing the universal scope of salvation through Christ.
  • Hear the questions the students ask regarding Romans 3:27–4:25. And discover Dr. Moo's answers to the questions posed.
  • In Romans 5 – 8, you gain insights into profound theological concepts like justification, identity in Christ, and the tension between present reality and future hope, guiding you to embrace your changed identity and hope for future transformation amidst life's trials.
  • Students as deep questions about Romans 5-8. Hear what Dr. Moo presents as answers to their questions.
  • Through Romans 5:1-11, you'll review the contrast between the Old and New Realms, understanding the essence of living in grace, finding hope amid suffering, and experiencing the assurance of eternal security rooted in Christ's sacrifice and God's love poured into believers' hearts by the Holy Spirit.
  • In Romans 5:12-21, Paul contrasts Adam's sin with Christ's redemptive grace, emphasizing humanity's hope and victory over death through union with Christ, while various interpretations of original sin underscore the universal need for redemption and Christ's pivotal role in restoring humanity to God.
  • Listen to the thorough questions the students ask regarding Romans 5:12-21.
  • The students ask excellent questions of Dr. Moo in this insightful discussion on Romans 6:1-14.
  • Through this lesson, you will gain a deeper understanding of the theological implications of Christ's death and resurrection as explained in Romans 6. You will explore different interpretations of Paul's language regarding the old self and the new self, considering the implications for the Christian life. Ultimately, you will be challenged to recognize your identity in Christ and to actively live according to that identity, rejecting the slavery of sin and embracing servitude to God.
  • Hear the questions the students ask of Dr. Moo regarding Romans 6:1-23.
  • In diving into Romans 7, you'll explore the Law's role in Christian life. Paul's discourse clarifies the distinction between law and gospel, emphasizing the Torah's significance in understanding divine commandments.
  • Class discussion on Romans 7:1-6
  • In Romans 7:7-12, Paul explores the Law's role in intensifying sin and contrasts it with Christ's liberation. His narrative prompts reflection on individual experience and collective identity, enriching understanding of Christian faith.
  • The class discusses the previous lesson on Romans 7:7-12.
  • This lesson covers interpretations of Romans 7:13-25; whether Paul's description is of pre- or post-conversion struggle with the Law.
  • In Romans 8:1-22, discover the Spirit's transformative power over sin, leading to a life free from condemnation, intimacy with God, and anticipation of future glory amid present sufferings.
  • Explore the theological insights on environmental stewardship, emphasizing Christian responsibility in light of Romans 8:19-22.
  • Gain insights into Romans 8:23-27, understanding destined glory despite present suffering. The Spirit intercedes, bridging current and promised futures, offering assurance amid weakness.
  • Romans 8:28 offers profound insights into the nature of God's providence and the believer's journey of faith. Beyond its surface meaning, the verse challenges misconceptions about 'good' and underscores the transformative power of God's grace. It invites believers to trust in God's unfailing love amidst life's trials, anchoring their hope in the assurance of His sovereign care and redemptive purposes.
  • Romans 9:1-5 highlights Paul's profound concern for Israel's salvation and the theological complexities surrounding God's promises. Reviewing salvation history, you'll learn that God's offer of salvation for both Jew and Gentile, fits within the Old Testament narrative.
  • Paul discusses Israel's role in God's plan, emphasizing grace over race. He illustrates divine choices and sovereignty, sparking debates on salvation.
  • Discover diverse views on election, Israel's struggle with faith, and the significance of overcoming theological narrowness in Romans 9:30-10:21. Gain insights into law versus faith in attaining righteousness and the importance of engaging deeply with Scripture for a comprehensive understanding.
  • Gain insights into faith versus works, Christ as the culmination of the Law, and the inclusivity of righteousness through Him. Embrace unity in Christ, transcending cultural divisions, and embodying love and holiness.
  • Gain insight into contrasting righteousness by law vs. faith in Romans 10:5-13. Accessibility of salvation through Christ bridges Old and New Testament teachings, emphasizing unity and continuity.
  • Gain insights into Romans 10:14-21, emphasizing faith, preaching, and Israel's reception of the message. Dr. Moo highlights Paul's use of Old Testament quotes and God's ongoing relationship with Israel, revealing the significance of faith and salvation.
  • Gain insight into Romans 11:11-15. Paul discusses Jewish rejection, Gentile salvation, and Jewish inclusion, aiming to provoke Jewish envy. The phrase "life from the dead" hints at spiritual renewal or future resurrection.
  • Gain insights into the Olive Tree analogy in Romans 11:16-24. Understand humility, faithfulness, and the purpose of warning passages in Scripture.
  • Discover the mystery of Israel's salvation in Romans 11:25-32. Paul reveals unity of Jews and Gentiles, challenging arrogance and emphasizing God's inclusive love.
  • Gain deeper understanding of Christian-Jewish ties, navigate theological challenges, address Israel-Palestine tensions, and embrace God's inclusive grace.
  • Gain deep insights into Romans 12:1-2: True worship extends beyond rituals, urging sacrificial living and transformation in response to God's mercy.
  • In Romans 12:3-8, Paul stresses humility, unity, and diverse gifts within the body of Christ, urging faithful stewardship for the edification of the body of Christ.
  • Gain insights into love's complexity in Romans 12:9-21. Paul urges sincere affection, alludes to Jesus' teachings, and prompts contemplation on love and judgment.
  • Gain insights into balancing submission to authorities with obedience to God. Understand the context of Paul's exhortation to Roman Christians and the complexities of submission, emphasizing humility, unity, and love in the Christian life within God's sovereignty.

Dr. Douglas Moo, from Wheaton College Graduate School, offers an exegetical examination of the book of Romans. This course was recorded during a D.Min. seminar at the Carolina Graduate School of Divinity in May 2012.

Please note that the audio mp3 file numbers on downloaded files are two greater than each lecture number beginning with number 15.

Dr. Douglas Moo 
Justification (Part 2/2)  
Lesson Transcript

Justification (Part 2/2)

A. Faith and Works; Justification and Sanctification; The Contemporary Reassessment

Back to justification, what I am trying to illustrate here again is where I think a lot of the pressure has come in recent days. The Reformation view says that faith and works are distinct things; justification and sanctification are distinct things, but the Reformers would equally want to emphasize that genuine faith will always lead to works, they are inextricably tied and if you have truly been justified, then you will also be sanctified. They are tied together. 

The tendency again in a lot of the modern academic work is to blur those distinctions. To view faith and works together as overlapping in some way, justification and sanctification together. It is that issue I think that is motivating Piper to write his book. At the end of the day, that for him is where his real concern is. These distinctions are blurred, and he thinks they are Biblical and important to maintain.

So, what are the key questions that we face today? First, the meaning of justification itself; is it forensic only or does it include transformation as well? I don’t have time to list all the books that have been published in the last 20 years arguing for this second view. But there are a host of them from different standpoints and from different theological orientations all saying justification is not forensic only. 

Second, what is the basis of justification? We talked about this yesterday a bit. The spark in the debate was an article written by Robert Gundry around 2005. Robert Gundry is a fine, very capable evangelical Biblical scholar who wrote a brief article saying that he didn’t see any basis in Paul for the idea of the imputation of Christ’s righteousness. He said that it is faith that is the basis of our justification; there is no idea of an imputation. Of course, Wright agrees with Gundry on that point. So, that’s been an issue. 

Three, what is the time of justification? Here again, you see a difference between Piper and Wright; Piper basically has maintained the kind of standard emphasis on justification as something that is only involving our past. When we are converted, we are justified, end of story. For Wright, there is a future aspect of justification however, tied to the judgment. So, that becomes a difference we will explore a bit. 

Four, what is the means of justification. Here again, the issue is - is it faith alone? Here is where our discussion of “works of the law” yesterday comes into play. If Paul is saying you are justified not by “works of the law” defined in a narrow sense, then that opens the door for us to be justified by other kinds of works. 

Now, we’ve talked about this, and I have indicated where I stand. It seems to me that justification is forensic only and I think Piper and Wright basically agree on this. They define justification in different ways; Wright wants to talk more about an indication of belonging to the people of God. But still, it is a matter of our status rather than our transformation. I think, for myself, this is pretty clear in Paul; justification is a matter not of changing me morally, it’s a matter of declaring me right before God.


B. Response: Christian Obedience? 

Here, I think that we need to recapture an emphasis that is very, very significant, especially in Calvin on our union with Christ. When we come to believe, we are joined to Christ. Think of all the places where Paul talks about our being “in Christ.” Think of the imagery of the Vine and the Branches of John 15. There is a lot of Biblical material that talks about this central idea of union with Christ. 

So, when I believe, I am joined with Christ and in Christ I receive this two-fold gift (I’m using some of the language Calvin likes to use). I receive the gift of justification and sanctification. In other words, there is no such thing as a believer who is justified but not sanctified. And you cannot be sanctified without being justified. The two always come together through our union with Christ. 

C. The Basis of Justification

Here, I want to make a very brief case for the traditional idea of the imputation of Christ’s righteousness. Looking at it from the broader Biblical standpoint, when the Old Testament uses the language ”justify,” it makes clear that in response to God, the judges of Israel for instance are to justify those who truly are innocent, and they are to condemn those who are truly guilty. In other words, the image here again is of the law court and of a judge who is ruling rightly, who is judging correctly, who recognizes this person is innocent and therefore I must vindicate them, (justify them)while this person is actually guilty and so I need to be faithful to my calling and condemn the person who is truly guilty.

In Exodus 23:7, this is applied to God as well; ‘I [God] will not justify the guilty.’ God cannot be unjust; there are things God can’t do. He cannot do things that are contrary to His nature. He cannot simply overlook sin and guilt. 

And yet, in Romans 4:5 as we are going to see in a few minutes, we have this famous teaching that God is the one who “justifies the ungodly.” How can God do that? The traditional explanation has been here is where Christ’s righteousness becomes so important. God can justify us who are in ourselves guilty and sinful because He justifies us on the basis of Christ’s righteousness that we enjoy in union with Him. 

In terms of looking at the broader Biblical picture, the imputation of Christ’s righteousness functions really significantly here to explain how God, as we were seeing yesterday, can be both just and the justifier of those who have faith in Jesus. 

Another way to diagram the issue, we talked about that. Some use the language of interchange. The Christian has his or her sin imputed to Christ; He takes our sin on Himself, and going the opposite direction, we as believers have Christ’s righteousness applied to us. This is the great exchange that takes place in our union with Christ.

D. Definitive Justification 

Let me just spend a little more time on this point. In Romans, we are going to see there are some pretty strong passages that would lead us to the conclusion to what I would call a “definitive justification.” By that I mean a justification that we enjoy at the time of our conversion that is final and conclusive for our standing with God. 

Romans 5:1, ‘since we have been justified’. Paul almost kind of looks back at people who have already been justified and then talks about other things. Verses 

5:9-10 are even clearer in some ways; ‘since we have now been justified how much more shall we be saved.’ If we have been reconciled, how much more have we been reconciled; shall we be saved? Again, Paul seems to argue from a present, final experience of justification to the future. 

If you remember this at all, in my own commentary, I emphasize this point in these passages. I have a footnote in which I say in Paul, justification is a past event. It is part of what we have already experienced. 

I really like the charge you make in verse 9 in your commentary, verse 9 and 10 linked side by side, just confirms it.

Dr. Moo: 
The argument is they are so parallel between the two where Paul obviously is saying the same thing twice to emphasize it, isn’t he?

When I wrote my commentary on Galatians, which I just finished in November, it turns out that as I worked through Paul there, I came to some different conclusions. This happens. I don’t feel I need to apologize for changing my view a bit. I think in some ways all of us if we are seriously standing under God’s Word and we read it afresh, we’re going to change our views sometimes. Hopefully not in really fundamental and significant ways but that’s part of what it means to grow as a Christian, it seems to me. We shouldn’t be afraid of saying to people I used to think this way but now I’m not so sure. 

For me as I worked in Galatians, there Paul it seemed to me was using the language of justification for something that was either general or sometimes even future in the life of the believer. Here is one of the texts that I think goes this way. Galatians 5:4-6 Paul talks about “you who are trying to be justified by the law.” Remember that “you” here are Christians and so right away, there is sort of a question that we should raise; if Paul is addressing Christians, aren’t they already justified? Yes, in a sense they are, but Paul seems to be saying here, there is another sense in which they aren’t yet. 

Similarly in verse 5, ‘by faith, we eagerly await through the Spirit, the righteousness for which we hope.’ That is from the NIV. The phrase is not an easy one to figure out. It could be understood in other ways, there is no question about that. It seems to me that the NIV here does recognize the right reading of that verse. 

So that for me, justification is one of the many Christian doctrines that partakes of a basic theological framework that we find throughout the New Testament. An already/not yet tension that we are going to talk a lot more about as we come to Romans 5 – 8 later today. 

The language has become standard, among New Testament scholars at least, to talk about the situation, the already, what we experience as believers that is already true of us, and what we do not yet experience. 

Already we are adopted into God’s family, but not yet are we His children in the way that we are one day going to be. 

Already we have been saved from our sin, but not yet are we in a place where we will no longer sin, and so forth and so on. Many of the doctrines fall into this. 

It seems to me in the work that I’ve done subsequent to the commentary that justification participates in this “already/not yet” tension as well. There is an initial aspect of justification by faith alone, but also an ultimate aspect of justification that Paul focuses on in Galatians, that James chapter 2 talks about, that is also however – and here is where I differ from Wright – also however based on faith alone, a faith active in works. As I read Galatians with a future element of justification involved there, Paul is just as emphatic there as he is in Romans about tying justification to faith alone.

E. Our Works, Decisions and Choices Matter 

Let me talk about this statement in Wright  

‘Justification, “by faith” in the present, anticipates the verdict of the last day, which will reflect what people have actually done,’ always through and by the Spirit. (Justification, 191-92)

Here again is where I agree with Wright that there is a future aspect of our justification, but I disagree with his nebulousness about the place of works in that final verdict. Again, I want to say that justification, whether in its present, past, or future aspect is always by faith alone. I want to be clear about that; and Wright has not been real clear about that.  He is clear about presentjustification being by faith alone, but is not so clear about ultimate justification being by faith alone, whereas I think it is by faith alone. 

But I do think that we do have to sort of live with a bit of tension here, in which we say nevertheless our works are going to be significant for that final vindication. Here I think there is a deliberate Biblical tension, so that we do not on the one hand, fall into this way of thinking about our faith as something that is final and over, conclusive, so we don’t need to bother trying to lead the Christian life on one hand. But on the other hand, we don’t become anxious and concerned that justification will be based on our works. 

So, I am saved, from first to last, by grace alone through faith alone. I think the Scriptures are very clear on that point. But here is where again, I think in our concern to emphasize that justification is by faith alone, some forms of Protestant teaching have not done justice to the New Testament teaching about the real place for works in God’s ultimate assessment of us. I think there has been sometimes an imbalance that we need to correct just a little bit. 

Let me talk about this from another standpoint: how can my justification be on the one hand, by faith alone, and yet, on the other hand, nevertheless, take into account in a significant way my works? I think there is a tension here, but it involves a broader Biblical idea, not sure what to call it, a Biblical perspective perhaps that involves what we might call divine and human agency. God does things but human actions are still important. God is sovereign, always does what He wills and decides to do, and yet human decisions, human choices are real decisions and choices. God determines that Judas should betray Jesus, and yet Judas makes a decision to betray Jesus and is condemned for it. 

What this suggests is that our first what I am calling “Zero Sum” model is not the Biblical way to think about these things. What I’m calling the “Zero Sum” model here is one in which the divine and human agency are placed on the same level and so if God is this sovereign, then I am this responsible. The more that I am responsible, the less God is sovereign; the two are eternally competing against each other. 

Then we fall into the problem where if we have a strong robust emphasis on the sovereignty of God then human beings are robots. Or on the other hand, if we have a really strong emphasis on the significance of human decisions, then God is a weak God who really isn’t sovereign over everything. Those are clearly choices that are unpalatable in terms of the Biblical presentation of God and humans. 

So, rather than the ‘Zero Sum’ model, I think we have to live with what I am calling, the “Biblical Tension” model in which in everything that happens, God is fully sovereign and in everything that happens, human beings are fully responsible. These operate together throughout Scripture. I bring it in here simply because it seems to me that helps us with this idea of faith alone and human works. God does justify us in His grace by our faith alone, and yet what we do as believers is significant in terms of the decision God is going to make about us in the judgment. 

Of course, what we do is always a product of faith, the work of the Spirit in our lives, but we well understand that we as human beings are not inanimate objects. We have to respond to God’s grace. We have to respond to His Spirit. It is not going to happen automatically. We are given responsibility to live a life that God calls us to live and our doing that will be significant in God’s final evaluation of us.

F. Justification and Judgment: The Pastoral Implications

In a more pastoral note, what Scripture is trying to do on the one hand is to provide us assurance; my standing with God rests on what God has done for me in Christ. Here I agree with Piper’s emphasis. But that assurance should be an assurance that is not presumption. 

On the other hand, there are a lot of New Testament texts that also warn me about the consequences of not living out my Christian life. They encourage me about the necessity of being a faithful Christian who evidences faith in works if I hope to be saved on the last day. But that earnest striving for holiness should be without anxiety either. I am combining a little bit here some of the things that both Wright and Piper are saying on this point. Both have a bit of the truth there, both have some important bits of the truth, but I think I want to combine them a little bit. 

Bottom line, my understanding of justification at this point is very much in line with the traditional Protestant teaching on the doctrine. If you go back to that first slide where we talked about the traditional view, I am in agreement with every one of these points. The only difference is that I would want to give more attention to the New Testament passages about the significance of our works and God’s warning to us about the last day and those works than has sometimes been true in the tradition. 

I would then argue then finally, that what is called for here is very careful pastoral balance in the way we present these things. It really is very important that we maintain a careful balance, not by taking away something from one or the other, but by fully preaching both sides of the situation here, fully proclaiming our assurance resting on the grace of God in Christ and our justification on the one hand, as we are preaching Romans 5, let’s say. But on the other hand, preaching James 2 as well in which we recognize our works are significant, too. Don’t lose that side of things in our preaching of the one.