Justified by Faith - Lesson from Romans

Introduction

The primary difference between Christianity and other religions is the path to “salvation.”  In other religions one must perform in order to receive from the god of that religion.  However, in Christianity salvation is not based on what we do, but rather on what Jesus Christ already did for us.  Our relationship with God is secured through Christ and not our own works.

Paul writes about this very fact extensively in his letter to the Romans.  He uses the term “justified,” which means to be declared righteous in the context of Christianity.  We are going to investigate Paul’s claim of justification by faith in light of what we have learned from John 3:16 where if one believes in Jesus Christ then you will not perish, but rather have everlasting life.

Focus Scripture Text

Romans 5:8 (HCSB) But God proves His own love for us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us!

This scripture passages closely resembles John 3:16.  We are going to look at this particular passage in some detail.  First we need to acquire the proper context to ensure that we are interpreting it as accurately as possible.  Therefore, we are going to investigate Romans 4:1 – 5:11.

Outline and Summary of Chapter 4

Abraham discovered that his right standing with God, i.e., righteousness, was obtained not by works, but instead by faith.  Abraham believed what God told him and that belief, i.e., faith, was credited to him as righteousness by God.

Romans 4:4-5 (HCSB) Now to the one who works, pay is not considered as a gift, but as something owed. But to the one who does not work, but believes on Him who declares righteous the ungodly, his faith is credited for righteousness.

  • We do not deserve the righteousness that God has provided nor can we earn it.  God also is not obligated to give it to us because we can do nothing to deserve it.  Righteousness is therefore not something that is owed to us by God based on our performance.
  • Paul goes on to point out how David wrote about how the person that God forgives their sins is blessed.
  • Abraham was credited righteousness before the law and before circumcision.  The promise to Abraham and his descendants was not through the law, but rather through the right relationship (righteousness) that came by faith.
  • Righteousness (right standing with God) will be credited to us if we believe in God who raised Jesus from the dead.  Jesus was delivered to death for our trespasses (sins) and raised from the dead for our justification (declaration of righteousness).
  • One thing that we can take away from Paul’s discussion here is that we receive righteousness by faith in Jesus Christ not by observing the law.  We cannot earn the righteousness of God since God has provided it by grace, i.e., it is a gift that is received by faith alone (See Isaiah 64:6).

Romans Chapter 5

Romans 5:1-2 (NLT) {1} Therefore, since we have been made right in God’s sight by faith, we have peace with God because of what Jesus Christ our Lord has done for us. {2} Because of our faith, Christ has brought us into this place of undeserved privilege where we now stand, and we confidently and joyfully look forward to sharing God’s glory.

  • We have peace (been reconciled) with God because we have been justified by faith. 
  • We experience the grace of God because of our faith in Jesus Christ

Romans 5:3-5 (HCSB) {3} And not only that, but we also rejoice in our afflictions, because we know that affliction produces endurance, {4} endurance produces proven character, and proven character produces hope. {5} This hope does not disappoint, because God’s love has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.

  • The Greek word translated as afflictions literally means a pressing, pressing together, pressure.  It refers to the difficulties of life, pressures, distresses, tribulations, oppression.
  • The fact that we have been justified by faith does not mean that we will not have afflictions, persecutions, or otherwise problems.  Our salvation does not exclude us from the normal situations that happen to those who live on earth especially to those who proclaim the gospel of Christ (See Matthew 5:12, James 1:2-3), i.e., those who are persecuted because of Jesus’ sake.
  • The word “endurance” comes from the Greek word hupomone (pronounced hoop-om-on-ay) and it means steadfastness, constancy, endurance: the characteristic of a person who is not swerved from their deliberate purpose and loyalty to faith and piety.
  • The term “proven character” (or just character in some translations) comes from the Greek word dokime (pronounced dok- ee-may) and it means examination, i.e., try out by testing; evidence, i.e., proof that something is genuine, approved, a proof. 
  • The word “hope” comes from the Greek work elpis (pronounced el-pece) and it means confidence expectation of either good or evil.  In this context it refers to the confident expectation of eternal salvation.  Therefore, when we are tried and build steadfastness in faith then we confidently expect the culmination of our salvation, i.e., eternal life.
  • This confident expectation in God’s salvation does not disappoint.  It is sure.  Some would say, “We can take it to the bank!”  God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit.  The Holy Spirit was given to us.

Romans 5:6 (HCSB) {6} For while we were still helpless, at the appointed moment, Christ died for the ungodly.

  • The ungodly are helpless.  Those who are not saved by faith are helpless.  They cannot save themselves and we have already seen that you cannot be justified by works.  Therefore, there is no way for the ungodly to get right with God on his or her own.
  • Justification is available to the ungodly by faith because Jesus Christ died for our sins according to the timing of the Father.
  • Justification is available because of what Jesus did not because of what we have done.

Romans 5:7 (HCSB) {7} For rarely will someone die for a just person—though for a good person perhaps someone might even dare to die.

  • It would be rare for someone to risk their lives for a just (righteous, right standing) person or good person.
  • Keep in mind that the previous passage reveals that Jesus died for the ungodly, i.e., those who are not righteous and those who are not good.

Romans 5:8 (HCSB) {8} But God proves His own love for us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us!

The word “proves” comes from the Greek word sunistao and it means literally strengthened, to set together; by implication to introduce (favorably), figuratively to exhibit.  Here it is translated as prove or demonstrated.  Some translations translate this as “show.”  This is more than God merely showing His love for us similar to how we might show love for someone by doing something for them, i.e., expressing our love.  God did more to express His love so that we would know that He loves us.  Instead God’s love was demonstrated similar to how one would put evidence together to prove a point in a court hearing.  His love is seen through the sending of Christ to die for us while we were helpless and ungodly.  We can know from this that God’s love is not only real, but also not dependent on our good deeds and the like.

Romans 5:9-11 (HCSB) {9} Much more then, since we have now been declared righteous by His blood, we will be saved through Him from wrath. {10} For if, while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, ⌊then how⌋ much more, having been reconciled, will we be saved by His life! {11} And not only that, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.

  • Those who have been declared righteous (justified) by the blood of Jesus Christ (the redemptive act of Jesus) will be saved (delivered, escape) from the wrath of God on all sin.

    Romans 6:23 (HCSB) {23} For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord

  • We can surely have hope (confident expectation) of the culmination of the salvation of God in that if He justified us (declared us to be righteous) while we were sinners, then surely he will fulfill His word for eternal life now that we are indeed justified.  Again, it is not on us, but rather on what Jesus Christ has done.
  • We can rejoice because of this great salvation that came through Jesus Christ by the grace of God.  We have been reconciled (brought into peace with or agreement with) to God!

Conclusion

There are several points that we can take away from this lesson along with Part 1.

  • We are justified (declared righteous) not by works (following the law, good deeds, etc.), but by putting our faith in Jesus Christ.  We are justified by faith not works.
  • Works have no place in being justified by God.
  • God demonstrated His great love for us by sending Jesus to die for us while we were still sinners (helpless and ungodly).
  • We do not have to perform in order to be justified.  We only need to believe in Jesus Christ.

Questions

  1. How are we justified?
  2. What does the word justified mean in the context of Christianity?
  3. Is it possible to earn righteousness from God if we are really good most of our lives?
  4. How much value do our good deeds have with regards to obtaining the righteousness of God?
  5. How did God demonstrate His great love towards us?

 

Justified By Faith version 2
By William Cunningham
September 2014

By: 
William R. Cunningham