Romans - Lesson 17

Class Discussion on Justification

This lesson reviews the students' questions and Dr. Moo's replies on the last two lessons regarding justification.

Lesson 17
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Class Discussion on Justification

A. Theological or Psychological

B. Already/Not Yet

C. Faith and Works are a Gift

D. Work Out Your Salvation

E. Justification is a Gateway to the Spirit

F. Paradoxical and Mystery

G. Sequence or Package

H. Concept verses Doctrine

I. Experiential verses Positional

J. the Importance of Justification

K. The Judgement of Christians

  • 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.
  • In Romans 14:1-15:13, you learn about the division in the Roman Christian community, the concept of adiaphora, the balance between liberty and love, and Paul's emphasis on mutual acceptance and avoiding spiritual harm through personal conviction and respect for others' practices.
  • In Romans 15:14-16:27, you explore Paul's extended conclusion, his ministry to the Gentiles, his request for prayers regarding his journey to Jerusalem, the roles of Phoebe and Junias in ministry, and the diversity of the early Christian community.

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.


Other Recommended Reading:

The Future of Justification: A Response to N. T. Wright, Piper, John. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2007. (978-1581349641) 

Understanding Paul: The Early Christian Worldview of the Letter to the Romans. 2d ed., Westerholm, Stephen. Grand Rapids: Baker, 2004. (978-0801027314) 

Justification: God's Plan and Paul's Vision, Wright, N. T.  Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 2009. (978-0830838639) 

English version of the Bible: NIV (2011) is preferred; ESV and HCSB are also recommended.

Dr. Douglas Moo 
Class Discussion on Justification  
Lesson Transcript


Class Discussion on Justification

A. Theological or Psychological? 

How much of this do you think is theological and how much of it is psychological?  You talked about striving for holiness with or without anxiety and in some of the reading, I got the feeling that the emphasis is more like in my life, I need to feel like works are necessary in order to motivate me to do works. I think about how many people I have learned from at the congregation where I pastor who just reflexively do good works. When an opportunity comes up, they are going to do that. Christ is in their hearts, they are forgiven, they’re walking in assurance, and so doing works is not a question of willingness; it’s usually just a question of opportunity. As soon as they have an opportunity, they will do it. So again, I wonder how much of it is theological and how much of it is psychological, as far as how we’re presenting the necessity for works.

Dr. Moo:  
I think it is almost always both, isn’t it? I agree entirely, and I’m sure we’ll all recognize around these tables here, that the people we minister with are in very different places psychologically because of their personality, because of their experiences, and that is where again pastoral wisdom is needed from the single platform of Christian truth. We are addressing different people with different needs, and that is where again the wisdom of the pastor comes in and says, now what is the truth this person needs?  

To go back to the teeter-totter analogy. I have counseled with people like this who would be virtually every week in my office saying “Doug, I’ve lost my salvation again this week. I sinned. God can’t accept me; I am this terrible person.” Clearly a personality which tended toward depression, self-doubt, sometimes because of family situations they have been through. And there, you know obviously, what you need to do as a pastor is assure them that their standing with God doesn’t rest with what they have done. It rests on what Christ has done for you. 

Then you counsel another kind of a personality, who says, “I’m okay, yeah, I’m committing adultery right now, but in my heart, I know I’m believer and I’ve been saved by faith in Christ.” Well, there you need to preach the other side. You need to say to the person, “Look, if you’re a believer, here is what God expects you to be. You can’t just continue to sin that way and think you are alright.  I’m wondering whether you are justified at all the way you are acting.” So, I agree entirely that both are always involved when we actually pastor in real life situations. 

What we need is to have that firm platform of our Christian truth established, then we can again use that platform to address the different personality issues, psychological problems, and so forth that people do confront us with. People are very different; we all understand that. One size does not fit all. 

That doesn’t mean that we change our theology to suit people’s circumstances, but again, I love the imagery of C.F.D. Moule, a British scholar who talks about Christian theology like a large platform that a debater is standing on. It is a single platform of Christian truth; it is a single thing. But as the debater is meeting different objections out there in the audience, that debater is going to move to different parts of the platform to address the different people out there, the different issues that they are throwing up at him. To me, that is the task of a pastor; to be theologically informed and to know what you believe and what Christian truth is. But then again to have that wisdom, that skill to identify either where your people as a whole are at, or where individual believers are at, so you know what part of that platform to stand on and how to address them and what piece of Christian truth they need to hear in that kind of a circumstance.


B. Already/Not Yet 

I need help with the already/not yet idea. So, we are talking about the initial aspect which would be conversion, and the ultimate aspect of the last judgment. So, the “active in works;” is there a reason why you put it under ultimate aspect?

Dr. Moo: 
Yes, because I think that our initial justification is surely by faith alone and again at that point we have brought no works. We have not had the Spirit yet. We have not been able to produce the fruit of a life of righteousness. So, there aren’t works that are possible there. 

But, when we are justified by faith alone, we are also brought into the realm of sanctification. We are indwelt by the Spirit and that sanctifying work of God, that active power of the Spirit means that works are going to be here also as part of the evidence for the ultimate aspect of justification. 

So, the bottom line is that we are talking about evidence of what has happened? 

Dr. Moo: 
I’m okay with the word evidence; I don’t like “evidence” in some ways because it suggests too much something that will automatically happen. Whereas there are just too many passages where we are urged to do works and warned about what happens if we don’t do works. The language of evidence to me is not quite satisfactory. I’ll have to confess to you that I don’t have a nice, neat word for you, I wish I did, that would exactly, to me, maintain the balance that I want to maintain in Scripture here. So, I am not unhappy with “evidence;” that is the traditional word, but I do think that it can fall a little bit short of putting the onus of responsibility on me.


C. Faith and Works as Gifts  

So, what do you do? There is a significant group of Christians that say that faith is a gift, and they would also say that works are a gift; that God is giving you both of these things. I still don’t see the balance that we are talking about. How do we even talk about it? It seems to me that we are talking out of both sides of our mouth: yeah, you have got to do these things, but on the other side we say but God is going to give you these things.

Dr. Moo: 
That is exactly right. You have exactly understood my point. I want to talk about it out of both sides of my mouth. I think Scripture does exactly that. Here is a place where I think sometimes – and we all know this can happen – in the interest of doctrinal precision and in the interest of logical, making sense of things, we push Biblical truth into a mold. Here it seems to me, in my view at least, is a place where some Biblical truth stands out there that is just not willing to be put in the same neat mold where I have to live with some messiness in my theology in faithfulness to what Scripture is saying.

In Scripture, it says to work out your salvation in fear and trembling, for God is at work in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure. How does this apply to what we are talking about?

Dr. Moo: 
This brings in both the divine and human side; God has done it, but you need to be active in responding. So, the gift idea - I don’t have any problem with the gift idea for both faith and works to some degree. But it is a gift that we need to respond to, we need to activate, we need to use and that is the side that we can’t neglect, it seems to me.


D. Justification, a Gateway for the Spirit to Indwell Us?

Can you simplify when you say that justification is a gateway, the doorway, or the means whereby the Spirit can now indwell us? In other words, we are justified, and then you start talking about sanctification. But what is then the basis of our sanctification? It is the Spirit operating through us. So, justification is a doorway, the means, the instrument whereby the Spirit is now permitted.

Dr. Moo: 
I am not sure that I would put it that way. Here is where I think our analogies and our illustrations can fail us a little bit. I think that at conversion a package of things happens: we believe, we’re given the Spirit, we repent, we have faith, we are justified, we are sanctified in some sense, we are forgiven. A whole battery of things happens there. 

Theologians have spent a lot of energy over the years trying to figure out the exact sequence among those things. I am not sure that Biblically I want to be able to neatly establish the sequence. Does regeneration precede justification; does regeneration precede faith or follow faith? There have been long debates about these things. So, when you say justification is the doorway, that suggests that it is sort of first and then the Spirit comes. I am not sure I want to say that. I kind of want to keep these all, rather confusedly perhaps, as a package that we are given, and distinguishing among what the sequence has to be, I am not so sure I can do that.


E. Paradox, Mystery, and Antinomy

Isn’t this somewhat like trying to define the Trinity?

Dr. Moo: 
Something like that, maybe. This again, paradox and mystery, antinomy.  I am one of those who wants to be cautious about using those kinds of words, because sometimes we use those words as an excuse for lazy thinking. We are confronted with a couple of truths, we’re not immediately sure how to reconcile them and so we say it’s a mystery, let’s move on. I think God calls us to do hard thinking, to try to make sense of it. To try to create as neat a package as we can. But my point here is to say there comes at some point along the line where we say I’m not sure I can create as neat a package as I would like without having to throw some of the Bible overboard.


F. Sequence or Package? 

So, you would say that the sequence can change depending on the individuals? 

Dr. Moo: 
No, I am not saying that it is different for individuals; I’m just saying we might not be able to neatly lay out the sequence. 

The only reason we couldn’t is because it could be different, right? 

Dr. Moo: 
No, no, I don’t think it’s different. Is there? How do you know that? What is the sequence?

You’re saying it’s simultaneous but it’s still all in the sequence.

Dr. Moo: 
It is a package we’re given. I’m not criticizing those who want to try to slice and dice here and say which comes first. I can understand why they want to do that, and there is some reason to think about those things. But again, to me it’s more of a package we’re given, and not that it’s necessarily going to be different for one person as opposed to another. 

So, sequence is not even good language; package is better?

Dr. Moo: 
For me, yes. But maybe I’m going too far, I don’t know. 


G. Concept versus Doctrine 

How comfortable are you with Wright’s assertion of the concept of justification and the doctrine of justification being and remaining fully distinct?

Dr. Moo:  
I’m not sure I like the difference between concept and doctrine. We can think of justification at three levels: one, we can think about the simple vocabulary, the words in Scripture; Hebrew and Greek words that are translated just, or justify, or righteous

And then we can think at the level of what we might call the Biblical teaching about justification, namely taking a lot of that key language and trying to understand what it is saying. 

What McGrath is noting there, and he argues this in his big survey of the doctrine, is that justification has become for some an umbrella term that basically talks about Christian salvation in general. That, I think, is problematic; I think that is what Wright is getting at there, and I agree to that extent, but I am not sure I like doctrine verses concept as a way to describe it.


H. Experiential versus Positional 

I have found it helpful to use the concept of experiential righteousness and positional righteousness. 

Dr. Moo: 
I think that is fine, yes. I think that is a helpful thing. What I understand justification to be is the positional side but then Scripture uses the language of righteousness, and we are going to see this in Romans to talk about the way we live; moral behavior pleasing to God, and there is the experiential side of it. Very much so, yes. I would not use justification for that second bit, but righteousness, yes, is used that way. 

So, justification in its definition needs to remain distinct, although at the same time, associated with salvation?

Dr. Moo: 
Yes, that is exactly right. If we think about what happens when we come to Christ: we’re converted, we’re regenerated, we’re justified, we’re reconciled, we’re adopted, we’re washed, we’re forgiven; we are saved. Scripture uses a whole variety of different terms from different worlds to describe what happens when we come to Christ. And justification is one of those important words, but it isn’t the only one. Here’s where again we are doing justice to Scripture.  Justification is significant in Romans, and Galatians, and Philippians 3 and one or two other texts and that is it. Paul never even mentions justification, by language at least, in 1 Thessalonians, 2 Thessalonians, 2 Corinthians, Ephesians, Colossians, 1 and 2 Timothy. In Titus 1 there is a reference that might fit.  So, we have to be careful here about making justification too important because even in Paul, isn’t there everywhere.


I. The Importance of Justification 

I think we have said enough about justification, and some of you are saying more than we needed to say on justification. But again, let me explain why we have done this. This is a key contested matter in current Christian theology. It is a significant part of Paul’s teaching in Romans. And my vision again for the pastorate is the pastor who is not an academic theologian, but the pastor who is informed about Biblical truth so that again, from that platform of Biblical truth, we can address our people, help them, guide them, counsel them, chastise them, encourage them. 

If we are going to be genuinely Christian pastors, that has to be done with genuine understanding of Christian truth. Or we’re just like the psychologist or counselor down the street helping people by saying whatever we think is going to help them, rather than talking to people about what the truth of Christ really is and how that needs to have its impact upon their lives, and influence them and change them, criticize them, condemn them, encourage them. Whatever needs to be done, whatever the Word is doing in their lives. And again, it seems to me that justification is pretty important part of that.


J. Judgment of Christians 

It seems like Wright, or some of the writers on this, give short shrift to the idea that the judgment is for reward rather than for salvation.

Dr. Moo: 
Wright clearly doesn’t think that, and I agree with him there. I think that the idea that the judgment of Christians for reward is not clearly taught in Scripture. I tend to agree with him on that. The text in which the judgment of believers is talked about moves beyond the issue of reward to the issue of salvation and condemnation, in my view. I wouldn’t call it a consensus; it’s e certainly a majority view among Pauline scholars these days, but I wouldn’t call it a consensus. There are certainly some still see the issue of rewards there sometimes, but I don’t think that anyone would see it in all the texts. Some of them but maybe not all of them.