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Jstification by Faith

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Liberty University

Justification by Faith
A Research paper submitted to Professor Laverne Smith
In partial fulfillment of the Requirements for
BIBL 161-D01

Willmington School of the Bible

Jason Miller Lynchburg, Virginia
FRIDAY November 28, 2014


Introduction 1
Man’s Unrighteousness 1
Man’s Need for Redemption 2
The Righteousness of God 3
Justification by Faith 4
Salvation from God’s Wrath 6
Contemporary Church’s View of Justification 6
Conclusion 7

Introduction The Protestant Reformation began when Martin Luther’s study of the scriptures revealed to him that mankind can only be justified by faith. This truth from God’s Word transformed Luther’s life and opened the door for believers to break free of religious bondage. Luther would say that justification by faith is the article upon which the church stands or falls. The reformer John Calvin would later echo that sentiment by stating that justification by faith is the hinge by which everything else turns. In reading Paul’s letter to the Romans one can easily see that the doctrine of justification is truly a cornerstone of the Christian faith. This doctrine is a theme that appears throughout the book. By examining man’s unrighteous state and his need for redemption the apostle Paul methodically shows the reader that not only is a person justified by faith alone but also that they are saved from God’s judgment and wrath.
Man’s Unrighteousness In addressing justification by faith, Paul first established the unrighteousness of man. In order for a man to be justified, he must first see the need for his justification. Paul began to show that need by establishing what sin is and the effect it has on mankind. In fact, almost immediately after declaring that God’s righteousness is revealed, he declared that God’s wrath is revealed. He began to show the righteousness of God by giving his audience a glimpse into man’s unrighteousness before the righteous God. Paul further clarifies that no one has an excuse before God since God has revealed himself in all his creation. He has imparted inside of man an inner sense of what God requires of him. By choosing to ignore God’s requirements, man incurs his wrath.
In his effort to show man’s unrighteousness Paul began to lay out before the reader that sin is disobedience with God and that sin is setting something up in place of God-idolatry. At its very root sin is simply going against God. The apostle unloaded on his audience a host of sinful activity in order to show that such idolatries are an affront to Almighty God and are deserving of his wrath (1:18-32). Paul devoted his attention to the host of transgressions and sin for two reasons. First, he wanted to show the readers of the epistle that sinners were deserving of God’s wrath (2:5-6). Second, he needed his audience to see that no one could achieve righteousness by their own efforts (3:10-18, 23). Paul was careful to show that both the Gentile (chapter 1) and the Jew (chapter 2) had fallen short of God’s expectations.
Man’s Need for Redemption By establishing man’s sinful state and the impending wrath of God, Paul effectively proved that mankind is in need of redemption. This is easily seen in Romans 1:17-18. Paul, in these two verses, makes it clear that there are only two ways to achieve righteousness-either by faith or by works. The fact that humanity is beset by sin makes it impossible to achieve righteousness by works. Because mankind cannot escape sin, he is hopeless to redeem himself. Sin only separates humanity from God. In fact, Paul clearly reminds his reader that the payment for sin is death (6:23). Try as he may, mankind cannot achieve righteousness through works. Sin is universal and prevents man from being righteous. God’s law, whether it be his written law or the natural law that is written on the hearts of man (Romans 2:15), shows man his unrighteousness. Through the law one can only see his condemned state. Paul effectively shows the futility of looking to the keeping of the law (works) for justification by showing that the law can only point out the need to be justified. Since he cannot redeem himself by his works, mankind is in need of a redeemer.
The Righteousness of God After showing that man is unrighteous, Paul next developed his argument for justification by faith by expounding on the righteousness of God. Even at the beginning of his discussion he prefaced his argument by declaring that there is a righteousness from God (1:17, 3:21). This essentially means that God is right or just. He is the standard of rightness or justice. Few would argue against that point but Paul was careful to establish proof of the righteousness of God. In much of the first three chapters in Romans Paul proved that man is unrighteous but God is righteous. He made sure the reader understood that everyone had fallen short of that standard of righteousness (3:23). He carefully made his case against both the Jew and the Gentile. No one could achieve righteousness. However, mankind had not been left in a hopeless state. Paul revealed to the reader that the righteousness of God could be imparted unto man. It is only though this righteousness that one could stand before God in judgment. If one does not possess God’s righteousness they cannot have audience or fellowship with God. Futhermore they are doomed to God’s wrath.
Justification by Faith
God prepared a way for man to have access to God’s righteousness by the sacrifice of his own son, Jesus Christ. He came to earth, lived a sinless life, kept all of God’s law, and became the sacrifice for the sins of all of humanity. Paul referred to this act as propitiation (3:25). Propitiation can be defined as “the turning away of wrath by an offering.” Jesus was that offering. Paul showed the readers of Romans that Jesus’ sacrificial death on Calvary satisfied the wrath of God and made it possible for man to be reunited in fellowship with God (5:8-10). Sproul would write that at Calvary the perfect sacrifice ended our estrangement with God. He was both the just God and the justifier. Though we were still estranged from him, he, the injured party, was satisfied.
Though Christ’s sacrifice made reconciliation possible, it was not automatically applied to all humanity. Paul made that very clear in his opening statement. He opened by stating that the just would live by faith (1:17). He would later reiterate that he was gracious enough to justify us (3:24). How then could be certain that this reconciliation was complete? Paul had already stated that all men were sinners (3:23), but in that same statement he also declared that all who had faith in the work of Jesus would be righteous. This is justification. It is the “acceptance of God’s righteousness through faith in Jesus Christ.” God made reconciliation available to all men, but he justified those who believed in his work of redemption.
But is faith the only role that man plays in justification? To the Jew of Paul’s day much was made of the keeping of the law. It would appear that a man would need to do something to be justified. Paul used a most recognizable example, Abraham, to clearly emphasize man’s role in justification. After all, justification could only be achieved by one of two means. Either it could be earned (works) or it could be received as a gift (faith). Paul’s analysis of Abraham’s righteousness clearly pointed to justification by faith. Paul used the passage from Genesis 15:6 to point that Abraham’s faith in God is what sealed his righteousness. No one could argue with the writings of Moses that stated, “He believed in the LORD, and he counted it to him for righteousness (Gen 15:6).” In other words, God considered Abraham righteous, not because of any of his righteous deeds, but because he believed in the promises of God. Abraham could not have been justified by any works of his own since had not been entrusted with the commandments of God. It would be Moses, generations later, to whom God gave his law. Abraham had a more primitive law that was inherently known in his heart. How could a man be justified by the keeping of a law that had not been delivered yet? Paul effectively squashed the false assumption that keeping the law could earn one favor with God 4:13-16). Furthermore, Paul choice of the passage in Genesis reminded the reader that God credited Abraham with righteousness even before his great demonstration of faith when called to sacrifice his only son and heir. It was Abraham’s faith alone that allowed him to be given righteousness. Though it may seem that justification requires no effort on man’s part, that is not accurate. Kenneth Allen wrote that faith was not the merit of justification, but that it was the means. It was the instrument by which one lays hold of the basis of justification. Faith is the one thing that was required of man. Paul made it clear that man, either Jew or Gentile, could not justify himself (Romans 3). The propitiation and reconciliation were God’s contribution. Man’s contribution was faith. It is us accepting God’s acceptance of us. By exercising faith we are looking away from any good we have done and depending entirely on Christ. In fact, William Witt stated that justification by faith alone might more appropriately termed justification by Christ alone.
Salvation from God’s Wrath Justification earns man a right standing with God. The old saying that many preachers use when explaining justification is that it is “just if I’d” never sinned. Without justification man cannot be reconciled with God and is therefore doomed to the wrath of God. Paul made the consequence of ignoring God’s sacrifice and offer of justification when he wrote that the consequence of sin was death but that God offered the gift of eternal life through Jesus’ sacrifice (6:23). By faith in Christ, the believer becomes identified with his sacrifice and is freed from sin (6:7). In addition, he is freed from the consequence of sin-death. He is no longer under the condemnation of sin; he no longer is subject to God’s wrath. Instead, the believer has peace with God 5:1).
Contemporary Church’s View of Justification After examining justification by faith it may be appropriate to ask the question of whether or not the church has promoted the proper view of justification by faith. After all, a good understanding of what a sinner is being saved from is an excellent reminder of how great God truly is and how much he loves humanity. My grandfather often told his congregation, “If lost people knew how lost they were and saved people knew how saved they were, evangelism would be easy.” It was Luther’s realization that a man is justified by faith that set the Protestant Reformation in motion. After John Wesley encountered the Moravians unwavering faith in their God, he became a changed man and the Wesleyan Revival spread through England. The Great Awakening shook America when evangelist preached justification. Jonathon Edwards wrote that souls ”flock to Christ, in Whose righteousness alone they hoped to be justified.” Revival is nearly always associated with the realization that one is in danger of God’s wrath. The lost are made aware of their inability to meet God’s standard and live up to his law. Repentance comes when the lost soul acknowledges that faith in Jesus alone can restore him to fellowship with God. Finally, the lost are justified when they accept Jesus sacrificial gift of salvation. By looking at the state of society today and the battles the church faces from within and without, it is safe to say that the church is not effectively conveying the message of justification by faith and the impending wrath of God for those who are not justified.
The doctrine of justification by faith is truly a cornerstone of the Christian faith. Without a proper understanding of this doctrine, a believer may become bound up in an attempt to earn God’s approval. Conversely, a sinner is enslaved in sin and guilt. By exercising faith in Jesus’ sacrifice at Calvary for the sins of mankind, a person may be justified and restored to fellowship with God. In the book of Romans the apostle Paul revealed that the justified saint is spared from God wrath and judgment by showing his unrighteousness and need for redemption.


Allen, Kenneth W. 1978. "Justification by faith." Bibliotheca Sacra 135, no. 538: 109-116. ATLA Religion Database with ATLASerials, EBSCOhost (accessed November 2, 2014).
Arand, Charles P. 2013. "Is justification really enough?." Concordia Journal 39, no. 3: 201-207. ATLA Religion Database with ATLASerials, EBSCOhost (accessed November 2, 2014).
Foreman, Kenneth J. 1961. The Layman’s Bible Commentary: Romans, I Corinthians, II Corinthians, vol 21. Richmand, VA: John Knox Press.
Henry, Matthew. n.d. A Commentary on the Whole Bible, vol 6 Acts to Revelation. Old Tappan, NJ: Fleming H. Revell Company
Moo, Douglas, J. 2000. Romans: The NIV Application Commentary, Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan
Polhill, John B. 1999. Paul and His Letters. Nashville, TN: Broadman and Holman Publishers
Sproul, R.C. 2009. The Righteous Shall Live by Faith: Romans. Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books:
Stagg, Frank. 1976. "Plight of Jew and Gentile in sin : Romans 1:18-3:20." Review & Expositor 73, no. 4: 401-413. ATLA Religion Database with ATLASerials, EBSCOhost (accessed November 2, 2014).
Witt, William G. 2013. "Anglican reflections on justification by faith." Anglican Theological Review 95, no. 1: 57-80. ATLA Religion Database with ATLASerials, EBSCOhost (accessed November 2, 2014).

[ 1 ]. . Sproul, R.C. The Righteous Shall Live by Faith: Romans. (Crossway Books: Wheaton, IL, 2009), 98
[ 2 ]. . Stagg, Frank. 1976. "Plight of Jew and Gentile in sin : Romans 1:18-3:20." Review & Expositor 73, no. 4: 401-413. ATLA Religion Database with ATLASerials, EBSCOhost (accessed November 2, 2014).
[ 3 ]. . Foreman, Kenneth J. The Layman’s Bible Commentary: Romans, I Corinthians, II Corinthians, vol 21. (Richmand, VA: John Knox Press, 1961). 24
[ 4 ]. . Henry, Matthew. A Commentary on the Whole Bible, vol 6 Acts to Revelation. (Old Tappan, NJ: Fleming H. Revell Company, n.d.), 368-9
[ 5 ]. . Ibid
[ 6 ]. . Stagg.
[ 7 ]. . Polhill, John B. Paul and His Letters. (Nashville, TN: Broadman and Holman Publishers, 1999), 287
[ 8 ]. . Sproul, 100
[ 9 ]. . Allen, Kenneth W. 1978. "Justification by faith." Bibliotheca Sacra 135, no. 538: 109-116. ATLA Religion Database with ATLASerials, EBSCOhost (accessed November 2, 2014).
[ 10 ]. . Ibid
[ 11 ]. . Sproul, 164
[ 12 ]. . Moo, Douglas, J. Romans: The NIV Application Commentary, (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2000), 126
[ 13 ]. . Witt, William G. 2013. "Anglican reflections on justification by faith." Anglican Theological Review 95, no. 1: 57-80. ATLA Religion Database with ATLASerials, EBSCOhost (accessed November 2, 2014).
[ 14 ]. . Sproul, 106-7
[ 15 ]. . Moo, 158
[ 16 ]. . Allen
[ 17 ]. . Foreman, 30
[ 18 ]. . Witt
[ 19 ]. . Ibid, 38
[ 20 ]. . Allen

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