No One Justified In God’s Sight (Part II).
Romans 3 – 5.
The Apostle Paul anticipated the view broadly held by Jewish believers at Rome, that Abraham’s justification was by his obedience and good works, rather than by his faith. If God were to justify through works, only those who fully obeyed Him in all aspects of life would be justified; which boils down to no one alive in this world would ever be justified. The Greek word he used implied being ‘credited with’ or ‘accounted for’ – a customary accounting term. Paul contended that not only Abraham, but also King David, were accredited for their righteousness, which they could never have earned on their own (Rom 4:1-8; c.f., Ps 32:1-2). But if God justified through faith alone, then even sinners, who never deserved it, would be justified, because it is God’s free and gracious gift in Christ. Quite apart from it, Abraham was considered righteous eons before the Law was given to Moses. What Paul achieved here was no mean feat, as Jewish believers, still by and large, held on to their belief that the external performances of rituals were the necessary salvific conduits to gaining Yahweh’s favour (Rom 4:9-15).
The Apostle’s depth of understanding on this issue of righteousness and faith took us one step further. Instead of just viewing it as a purely Jewish issue, Paul generalised it to include anyone, notwithstanding their ethnicity, who shared Abraham’s expressed faith in God. Non-Jewish believers would likewise become the prophet’s heirs, a spiritual kinship that was irrevocable (c.f., Gal 3:29). The implication is profound, as the gap that was bridged was enormous: Abraham had put his faith in Jesus, millennia prior to Christ’s arrival, and every believer since then share this same faith (Rom 4:16-25). When the Jews challenged Jesus, “Surely You are not greater than our father Abraham, who died? The prophets died too; who do You make Yourself out to be?” Jesus answered, “Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it and was glad” (John 8:31-58). It would be one of my delights one day, to meet Abraham and to fathom his remarkable spiritual discernment mentioned in this statement by Jesus.
What are the ramifications of being justified by God? Firstly, we have peace with God. It indicated a positional change for us. For through this reconciliation, we possess a capacity through Christ to come before a holy God, as He becomes our Abba Father (Gal 4: 3-6). Hence, the tenor of our present quest towards Abba Father, as His children, is determined by our ongoing intimate relationship with Him. Secondly, we exult in the hope of the glory of God. This meant that we have confidence in God’s promise for a secure glorious future with Him. Our realisation of this celebrated joyful future ought to eclipse our present temporal trials and sufferings in this world (c.f., 2 Cor 4:16-18).
As Paul reasoned with the Roman believers, he further majored on God’s unconditional love as the basis for His justification. This agape is totally foreign to anything we would know or experience as living beings, and in our inconsistent attempts to embrace it, we inevitably project our intensely qualified affection onto everyone around us, including our God. It was exactly under these circumstances that God’s agape was distinctively demonstrated in that while we were still helpless… while we were yet sinners… and while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son (Rom 5:6-11). This astounding love is never far from the heart of God towards us, and unless we are lost in loving Him, agape would likely remain just another pleasant vocabulary. How would our appreciation and experience of God’s agape transform us?
Read “No One Justified In God’s Sight (Part I)” Here: