Monday, July 10, 2017


The Old Testament word typically translated "justify" is the Hebrew word hitsdiq. According to the Brown, Driver, and Briggs Hebrew-English Lexicon, there is only one instance where this word may mean "to make righteous." All other instances of this word are always used in the forensic or legal sense meaning "to pronounce or declare one righteous." The New Testament word translated "justify" is the Greek word dikaioō, used 39 times. All instances of this word are always used in the forensic or legal sense meaning "to pronounce or declare one righteous." Especially in the writings of Paul. In other words, "to justify" throughout the Bible means "to declare judicially that one is in harmony with the law and free from condemnation due to sin."

Justification is the opposite of condemnation, as witnessed from Romans 8:33-34a: "Who will bring a charge against God's elect [those whom God has chosen]? God is the one who justifies; who is the one who condemns?" The opposite of condemnation is not "making one righteous" but "declaring one righteous." "To make one righteous" implies an infusion of grace or moral qualities, which simply is not true.

When Paul quotes Genesis 15:6 in Romans 4:3 and 22, and Galatians 3:6, he does so to illustrate how Abraham was justified by faith and not by works of the law. "Of the law" is an integral part of our understanding. To leave it out leads us to assumptions and false conclusions drawn from assumptions, which many of my fellow Reformers and Baptists are guilty of committing by blindly following traditions instead of paying attention to what Scripture says. It leads to eisegesis. Here are some of the typical passages cited as "proof texts" for the false doctrine of Sola Fide:
"For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the Law. Or is God the God of Jews only? Is He not the God of Gentiles also? Yes, of Gentiles also, since indeed God who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith is one." Romans 3:28-30

"But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is reckoned as righteousness." Romans 4:5

"For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes." Romans 10:4

"But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works, otherwise grace is no longer grace." Romans 11:6

"Nevertheless knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the Law but through faith in Christ Jesus, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, that we may be justified by faith in Christ, and not by the works of the Law; since by the works of the Law shall no flesh be justified." Galatians 2:16

"I do not nullify the grace of God; for if righteousness comes through the Law, then Christ died needlessly." Galatians 2:21

"Does He then, who provides you with the Spirit and works miracles among you, do it by the works of the Law, or by hearing with faith? Even so Abraham BELIEVED GOD, AND IT WAS RECKONED TO HIM AS RIGHTEOUSNESS." Galatians 3:5-6

"Therefore the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, that we may be justified by faith." Galatians 3:24

"For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works [of the Law], that no one should boast." Ephesians 2:8-9

"And may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith." Philippians 3:9
Notice that faith is not contrasted against works in these passages. It is contrasted against works of the Law! We cannot leave out the "of the law" that is so prevalent within these passages. Everything here needs to be understood through forensic or legal lenses. It is all legal talk.  Throughout Romans 4, the Greek word logizetai, translated as "credit," is a legal term.

Paul makes it abundantly clear that "by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified in His sight" (Rom. 3:20). That is, no human being will be declared righteous in God's sight by observing the Law. In Genesis 15:6, was Abraham performing some kind of work of the Law? Obviously not since the Law did not exist at that time. What Paul is so clearly speaking of is works done as a means of earning salvation. In James' writing, does he say anything about works done as a means of earning salvation? Not in the least. The "works" which James writes about are not the same "works" that Paul writes about. Paul always uses, or implies, the expression "works of the law." James, on the other hand, never calls them "works of the law," but simply "works."

The works James is speaking of are works accompanying faith and works resultant from faith. Works resultant from faith are good deeds. Good deeds should be the result of faith, but, as with the Roman Catholic Church, can quickly be done as a means of earning salvation. Anything done as a means of earning salvation is wrong. In Genesis 15:6, was Abraham performing some kind of good deed? Obviously not. If he was not performing a work of the Law, and if he was not performing a good deed, then what kind of "work" was Abraham doing? Abraham was demonstrating what I like to call "faith in action," works accompanying faith, or "living faith." These works are inseparable from faith and must accompany faith. Ergo, it is these works that are in view (or at least it should be) when it is correctly stated that faith + works = justification.

Faith + Works of the Law ≠ Justification
Faith + Good Deeds ≠ Justification

Both of the above equations are true. Neither of them results in justification. We cannot lump all works together, the way many Reformers and Baptists fallaciously and falsely do. We must understand the difference between them. I have given numerous examples before demonstrating the fact that we can see both faith and works (faith in action, living faith) side-by-side in every instance of faith throughout the entire Bible. Exactly as James indicated: "faith was working with his works, and as a result of the works, faith was perfected [or completed]" (James 2:22). The two must be working in tandem; they must be working together. Here are a couple examples to think about:
  1. When the bronze serpent was raised, it was not enough that people simply believe that looking at it would heal them. They had to actually look at it. If they merely looked at it without belief, it would do nothing for them either.
  2. The woman who had the issue of blood believed that if she simply touched Jesus' clothing she would be healed. She had to actually touch His clothes. If she merely believed it and then walked away, she would not have been healed. If she merely touched His clothes without believing, she would not have been healed.
  3. When Peter asked Jesus to call to him for him to walk on the water, believing that he could do so was not enough. He had to follow through by actually stepping out on the water. If he stepped out without believing, he would have sank, which is what happened the moment he took his eyes of Jesus.
As I have said repeatedly before, if you examine every instance of faith in Scripture, you will see both faith and works working side-by-side together. You cannot have one without the other. Again, for the slow of learning, I am not referring to "works of the Law" or to "good deeds" here. I am not talking about the false doctrine of the Roman Catholic Church. If you are unteachable and unwilling to learn, then go stick your head in the sand and stubbornly believe whatever it is that you want to believe. For those who truly want to learn what the Scriptures have to say, continue studying, "rightly dividing the word of truth" (2 Tim. 2:15).

Remember, majority opinion does not equal truth! Truth is not a consensus, and consensus is not truth. Truth is following Jesus and being led by the Spirit, no matter where it may lead or what others may think of you. As long as you are in humble submission to the Spirit's leading, you have nothing to fear from others. As crucial as the Reformers were, nevertheless they were not omniscient nor infallible. While they may have gotten many things right, they also got some things wrong. One of those things is their erroneous interpretation of Romans 7 based on human experience rather than exegesis of what is being said in the text. Christians are not supposed to blindly accept and follow traditions handed down for generations, which tend to lose their meanings and become drone-ish in their practice, but are to study the Word of God and test those traditions against Scripture. Because both are important to hear again and again, I will provide two favourite quotes that spur me on in my study of Scripture:
Even though there are none to few definitions in the Bible, Scripture, not any theological definition, is our ultimate authority. Theological definitions must measure up to Scripture, not the other way around. [Emphasis mine.]
—John M. Frame

Our only rule of faith and practice is the Word of God. We have . . .
   no creed to defend,
   no denomination to maintain, and
   no confession to bind our minds.

"What do the Scriptures teach?" That is and must be our only concern. If the plain teachings of Holy Scripture appear to destroy or contradict our understanding of any doctrine, then let us relinquish the doctrine, or acknowledge the fact that our minds are both depraved and minuscule, and bow to the revelation of God.
—Don Fortner

By the way... 
Faith = Justification + Good Deeds is a false equation. What that equation is saying is that being declared righteous + doing good deeds will result in faith. That is completely absurd! Christians! Stop making ridiculous equations if you are not going to stop and ponder the ramifications of what they mean! If you were to say that faith + being declared righteous will result in good deeds, then I accept that equation: Faith + Justification =  Good Deeds.

Faith + Nothing = Justification is also a false equation. You need demonstrative evidence that your faith is living faith. "His faith was working with his works, and as a result of the works, faith was perfected [or completed]" (James 2:22). You might also say, "His faith was working through his works," demonstrating that it was living faith. For example; take the old cliché of God seeing all you do, hearing all you say, and knowing all you think. Do you believe it? Every Christian says they do, but how many of them actually live like it? Their actions reveal what it is they truly believe. Faith + Faith in Action (Works) = Justification.