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Romans

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Topic: Read Romans 3:21-4:25 and explain the Apostle Paul's argument. How do you explain the tension between Paul and James? Offer a resolution.
What is his thesis (3:21)?
The apostle Paul’s thesis is that a righteousness of God apart from law is now available to all believers in Christ (Romans 3:21-22) (Moo, pg. 126). This righteousness is received through faith not by obeying the law (Romans 3:22,26,28). Even though it is awarded apart form deeds, it was announced by the Law of Moses and the Prophets and establishes the former law; it does not destroy it (Romans 3:21,31).
How does he build his case?
Paul presents three implications of justification through faith apart from deeds in Romans 3:27-31. First, justification by faith excludes boasting (Romans 3:27-28). Salvation does not come through what we have done (our works or deeds), but by putting our trust in Christ. We are to lift up Christ by exalting in the works he has done, not our own works (Moo, pg. 142). Second, justification by faith excludes ethnic barriers (Romans 3:29-30). If it is by faith, then it cannot be by circumcision, race, or nationality. Every believer in Christ will be justified by God, regardless of origin. Third, justification by faith excludes antinomianism (Moo, pg. 129). Though some may charge the Apostle Paul with promoting lawlessness, the accusation is unfounded. We do not reject God’s law by affirming salvation by grace; we place law in its proper context within both salvation history and in the life and practice of the believer.
What is his conclusion? Compare Paul's conclusion here with James 2:14-26.
The Apostle Paul uses the 4th chapter of Romans to defend and explain the doctrine of justification through faith from the Old Testament scriptures. He uses Abraham, before the Law of Moses (Romans 4:1-3), David, under the Law of Moses (Romans 4:6-8), and believers in Christ, after the Law of Moses (Romans 4:23-25), to prove the universality of this principle of grace. God never saved men by law; He has always saved men by grace through faith. The nature of this saving faith is depicted in the life of Abraham who trusted in God despite his circumstances (Romans 4:13-22). This Old Testament history convincingly establishes the availability and universality of salvation to every believer, whether Jew or Gentile (Moo, pg. 159-160).
Some have struggles to reconcile Paul’s affirmation of justification “by faith apart from deeds of law” (romans 3:28) with James earlier announcement that “a person is justified by works and not by faith alone” (James 2:24). The Apostle Paul affirms man is justified by faith, not by his deeds (Romans 3:20, 28). The faith which justifies is one which connects with and commits to Jesus at every level: intellectual, emotional, volitional, and behavioral (Moo, pg. 109). Just as love is known by behavior and repentance is known by the fruit of a changes life, so saving faith is known by the obedience it both prompts and empowers (1Co. 13:4-7, 2Co. 7:9-11). This is why the Apostle Paul can affirm the doctrine of justification through faith establishes the law (Moo, pg. 149-150). It dies not establish the law as an agent of salvation, bust as an authoritative guide to the will of God lived out by believers who are sanctified by grace.
James and Paul are addressing two different questions. The Apostle Paul considers, “How can a sinner be justified before a holy God?” James considers, “What kind of faith saves (Compton, pg. 40)?” A person is justified through faith in Christ, apart from deeds of law (Romans 3:28). But the faith which justifies is never alone; it’s always accompanied and confirmed by the resultant proof of obedience and progressive sanctification (James 2:21-24). Abraham served God in the “obedience of faith” (Romans 1:5), the same active trust to which believers are called by the gospel the Apostle Paul proclaimed in his letter to Rome (Moo, pg.37-38).
But the faith which justifies is never alone; it is always accompanied and confirmed by the resultant proof of obedience and progressive sanctification (Jas. 2:21-24). Abraham believed God’s promise, and his trust was accounted for righteousness (Ge. 15:6), but Abraham was justified as a true believer, God’s recognition of his faith was vindicated, and his status as a righteous man was confirmed by the obedience and devotion evident in the patriarch’s life (He. 11:8-12, 17-19). Abraham served God in the “obedience of faith” (1:5), the same active trust to which believers are called by the gospel Paul proclaimed in his letter to Rome (12:1-2; 16:26).[22]
Bibliography:

Compton, R. Bruce. “James 2:21-24 and the Justification of Abraham.” Detroit Baptist Seminary Journal(Fall 1997). http://www.galaxie.com.ezproxy.liberty.edu:2048/article/7582 (accessed July 11, 2013).

Moo, Douglas J. Romans: The NIV Application Commentary. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2000.

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