Neither Ritual nor Moral Law Can Justify – Part 2
Romans Lesson #043
December 1, 2011
Since about Romans 2, we have been spending a lot of time on justification. I hope that everybody here could give a pretty good explanation of what justification means and could at least describe it in more than one sentence and hopefully go to two or three different passages in Scripture to do so. So we will start here on the front row and just go one by one! I remember the Teen Class when Pastor Thieme used to do that to the teenagers. “Okay, you stand up. Last week I covered such and such. Now tell me what I said.” So you always felt like you had to be prepared. That was excellent training.
Sometimes I think that we hear things so much that we sort of put our mind in neutral, and we think we have heard and understood something and really do not. I remember about 10 years ago I was down from Connecticut teaching a class at a black church, and I was teaching on fundamentals of Greek exegesis. This one individual is who associated with our congregation came. After we got through looking at Philippians 3, he said, “I always thought I really understood justification, but having gone through this in detail, I am just amazed at how much more I have learned.” That is how we grow and come to understand the Word.
I want to start tonight in Philippians 3. I want to go to other passages of Scripture to correlate what Paul says elsewhere on justification with what he is saying in Romans. Last time I went back to Job 9:2 (NASB) “Truly I know it is so, but how can a man be righteous before God?” That is really the question. I think we live in an era today when the average person is so surrounded, especially if you are younger, with so many stimulants. By that I do not mean drugs or alcohol, although that is certainly one area of a problem. But I mean media in terms of Facebook, Twitter, e-mail, Internet, all of the things that constantly barrage people. People generally do not have time to stop and reflect and just think about some things.
There are many people in life who never want to look at this question, part of it is because of what Romans 1 says that they are suppressing the truth in unrighteousness. If there is a God and I have to stand before that God, how can I hope to make a claim to righteousness? Do I need to make a claim to righteousness? What would be the basis for saying that I am righteous? That is the term that the Scripture uses. It does not use the term in the sense of “are you good enough?” It is “are you righteous enough?” I think in the process of talking to people about the gospel and about Christianity, it is important for us in to express our thinking in these biblical terms. “Have you ever really thought about how you can be righteous enough to get into heaven? What does righteous mean?” You are expressing the idea that this is an absolute standard related to the character of God.
As Job 9:2 says, “… how can a man be righteous before God?” How can we meet that standard? Can we do it through ritual? There are only a few answers that have ever been offered down through history. One is that we accomplish it through ritual. Another answer is that it is accomplished through doing as good as you can. But doing as good as we can when that is measured against an absolute standard, such as the righteousness of God, is not going to be enough. Yet man constantly tries to convince himself that God is somehow going to overlook the negatives in his life, the failures, the sin, the immorality, the disobedience to God because that is who God is.
But we think of how the Scriptures describe God as the Everlasting Judge. As Abraham put it in Genesis 18:25 “… Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?” There is a standard that God has as a judge that He will evaluate every person by. How can people do it? One option is ritual. Another option is personal morality or trying to live up to some sort of religious code. A lot of people in America are prone toward self righteousness and so they want to come up with some rigorous standard or code of conduct that they abide by. But where do they get that code of conduct? That is a good question to ask people? “Well, I think I am good enough.” That implies that you have a comprehension of a standard by which you are measuring good. What is that standard and where did you get it? What does God say about that standard?
Those who reject the standard idea just leap into antinomianism or licentiousness, and they just try to ignore the whole thing. That group is more prone to understanding the grace of God. This is why Jesus had such a response from the people that He spent most of His time ministering to. The prostitutes, the outcasts of society, the tax collectors—those who were the social pariahs, the unlovable segments of Jewish society at the time that Jesus came. Not because Jesus was justifying or rationalizing in any way their sin; it is that they understood they were sinners, as opposed to the religious groups (the Saducees and the Pharisees) who thought that because of their position, education, money, ritual, obedience to the Law that meant God should accept it.
This was the mentality that the Apostle Paul had which he expresses in Philippians 3:1-2 “Finally, my brethren, rejoice in the Lord [This is as Paul goes into the last section of this epistle]. For me to write the same things to you is not tedious, but for you it is safe. Beware of dogs…” Notice his language here; it is not politically correct. He is not talking about collies, German Shepherds, Yorkshire Terriers, Cairn Terriers, and all of the other cute little household domestic pets.
The term dogs was a pejorative, an insult that was used in relation to Gentiles and those who had not kept the Law. They were considered the unrighteous. Yet he uses that term not in its traditional pejorative sense towards the non-Jews, towards those who were on the margins of society. If you look at this context, he is applying it to those who were attempting to become righteous by obeying the Law.
Philippians 3:2 “Beware of dogs, beware of evil workers, beware of the mutilation!” What does he mean when he uses this term to “beware of the mutilation”? He is referring to those who are insisting that for a man to be saved, to begin to obey the Law, he had to first be circumcised. Paul is very strong in the language he uses as he expresses this because those who are insisting upon this have created such division and trauma among all these different churches Paul had established. By the time he writes Philippians, he is under house arrest in Rome. It is one of those prison epistles: Philippians, Ephesians, Philemon and Colossians.
He is attacking them because by insisting upon circumcision and insisting upon observance of the Mosaic Law as part of what needs to be observed in order to be justified, it has caused great division. The dogs, the evil workers, and the mutilation (the Judaizers who were insisting on the observance of Torah as a means of gaining God’s approval) are all referred to in this same group.
In contrast, in verse 3 he says, “For we are the circumcision …” He is contrasting “we,” meaning the Philippian Christians and including himself within that group. He is talking about spiritual circumcision. We have not gotten quite into that verse yet in Colossians 2:11, where we begin to get into the spiritual circumcision which is another way of talking about the baptism by means of God the Holy Spirit. When we believe in Jesus Christ, trust in Him and are identified with Christ in His death, burial and resurrection, the power of the sin nature is broken. It is that removal of the power of the flesh Paul calls it in Colossians 2:11 that is what we have in Christ. He does not mean the physical flesh, but what it stands for, which is the sin nature. Being of the circumcision is not referring to the physical circumcision but is talking about spiritual circumcision which takes place at salvation.
Philippians 3:3 “For we are the circumcision, who worship God in the Spirit, rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh.” What he says there is that we are not to boast in the flesh; we are not to have confidence in anything we do that originates with our own efforts, whether ritual or morality. Then in verse 4, he says “Though I might have confidence in the flesh.” He is going to use himself as an example. If anybody could work their way to heaven, he could. Then he begins to go through his resume. He was just obsessed with fulfilling every jot and tittle in the Mosaic Law.
He reminds them of his accomplishments in the flesh (Philippians 3:5-6) “Circumcised the eighth day” according to the Mosaic Law. A male child should be circumcised the eighth day, so by saying that, he is pointing out that he was not a proselyte, he did not come into Judaism later. From the very beginning of his life, he was obedient to every detail of the Law. “Of the stock of Israel”—he is fully, genetically Jewish. “Of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of the Hebrews”—he is just stating that no matter how you categorize or classify what it means to be Jewish, he surpasses all those qualifications.
“Concerning the law [the Torah and its interpretation], a Pharisee” We as Christians tend to come to 1st century Judaism or Second Temple Judaism period with sort of slanted or biased view. We look at the Pharisees in terms of their conflict with Jesus. Jesus is the good guy and the Pharisees are the bad guys. If we were going to dramatize when the Pharisees come onstage, we hear the bass notes, we see them dressed in black, and they are the evil villains. But if you were a 1st century Jew, your opinion of the Pharisees was that there was no one better. No one was more moral, no one was closer to God. If anybody could get into heaven or if anybody could gain God’s approval by their righteousness, it was a Pharisee.
I have had some conversations with three or four different Jewish friends of mine who are not religious and not observant, agnostic at best and atheist at worst. Yet when it comes to the Day of Atonement, high holy days in the fall and Passover in the spring, I have heard them make this comment that if they go to synagogue, they will not go to reformed or conservative or even orthodox synagogue but will go to Chabad House. Chabad is ultra-orthodox, but they take the text literally. They really believe that the Bible was given to Moses directly by God. In terms of how we believe, they have the closest view toward biblical infallibility, inerrancy, and inspiration of any Jewish group. I find it interesting that here you have agnostic, atheist Jews who think if it is true, they are the ones who have the truth. People who are kind of massaging the text and making it mean whatever they want it to mean say “how can that really be true?” But the people who are taking it literally and seriously, then they must be the ones who have it right.
I just used that as sort of a modern day analogy because the modern “Chabadniks” would be somehow analogous to the Pharisees of the 1st century. They are viewed as being the ones who if anybody has got it, they have got it. In a Jewish culture in the 1st century, the Pharisees were viewed as the super good guys. When Paul says in Philippians 3:5 “… concerning the law, a Pharisee …” what you would be hearing is that if anybody could do it on their own, Paul could. He had checked off all the check boxes.
In verse 6, “… concerning zeal, persecuting the church …” He was so zealous he was persecuting the church, and other places we know he was arresting and executing Christians. Then he says, “… concerning the righteousness which is in the law, blameless.” Couldn’t find anything wrong.
Then in verse 7, he begins to shift. “But what things were gain to me [that which I thought was of value, would bring ultimate, lasting, enduring, eternal value] these I have counted loss for Christ.” I think he is being a little “puny” here because he uses the word HEGEOMAI which is the same word that is usually translated imputing for imputing righteousness, reckoning righteousness. He is saying “What things were gain to me, these I have imputed or reckoned or considered as loss for Christ.” In other words, all the best that we can do is loss, but he is going to expand that.
What we have here is a chiasm, which is a kind of literary device for organizing material. If you have two basic concepts, you will have the first concept and then the second concept. Then you have the second concept repeated and then go back to the first concept. It is A, B, B, A organization. It drives the attention of the reader to the center pieces because the center of those terms is where the writer wants the focus to be. You could have a much more extended list where it goes A, B, C, D, D, C, B, A. Again, what is in the center is what the writer wants you to focus your attention on.
Here the A term is “what things were gain.” The B term is “these I have counted loss” at the end of verse 7. Then verse 8 begins talking about the things that are counted loss and expands on that a little bit. The real focus here is what is counted loss. Verse 8 “Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things …” In just this short section, you have loss repeated three times and count repeated three times.
Then we bring in the synonym for loss, which is the word in the Greek SCUBALA that is translated as rubbish in the KJV and NKJV. That really cleans it up—it is basically horse manure or whatever synonym you wish to use. That is how he is describing the best that he has done. Take a look at any religious order where the leadership has been involved in giving up and all this ritual—Paul says that none of that that man can do amounts to anything. It is nothing more than a pile of manure.
We need to count it all loss for the purpose of gaining Christ. Now we are back to our original A term focusing on gain. The focal point here is on loss and what constitutes loss. Verses 8-9 “… and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him …” This is where we get into the whole doctrine of justification. It is the word HEUREO which is in the subjunctive passive—God is the one who would be doing the evaluating. The word for finding is really “being discovered under evaluation.”
Philippians 3:9 “And be found in Him [in Christ] …” Not that he would be found in the synagogue praying, in the temple praying, giving alms to the poor, but simply “be found in Him” because that is the only place that there is justification. “And be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ …” We have another use of that genitive construction that should be understood as an objective genitive “the faith directed toward Christ” because that is what he is talking about. He clarifies it even more “… the righteousness which is from God by faith.”
The other day I got an email with a question to comment on the phrase “justification means just as if I had never sinned.” That sounds like a nice little way of remembering what justification means, but when we look at a passage like verse 9, it shows us that it is not “just as if I had never sinned” because I do not have any righteousness. If it was “just as if I had never sinned,” it would be as if I do not have sin. It is more profound than that; it is that I still have sin, but what God looks at is what is imputed or credited to my account which is the righteousness that comes from God. I am never made internally righteous. The implication is that I am made righteous and as if I have never sinned. It has nothing to do with my experience; it has to do with what I now legally possess which is a righteousness that comes from God by means of faith.
Philippians 3:10, Paul goes on to show that getting this righteousness is not the end game. It is only the means to an end “that I may know Him …” Knowing Him is not a synonym for salvation. It is what comes as a result of salvation or justification and the process of spiritual growth. Verse 10-11 “That I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings being conformed to His death, if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.”
This is a really interesting term here. The way it is expressed is a first class condition, EIPOS in the Greek. It indicates not an “if, maybe” I’ll attain to the resurrection of the dead. It is an expression of certainty. Paul is confident that he will attain to the resurrection of the dead. This term that we find in verse 11, EXANASTASIS, literally means the out resurrection of the dead.
For a long time, I thought of this as a rapture synonym, but just recently in preparation for a paper that I am going to be giving next week at Pre-Trib on three central rapture passages, I recognized that there are two things that happen at the rapture. 1 Thessalonians 4:17 “Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air.” The “caught up” is the Greek word HARPAZO which was translated rapio, a Latin word in the Latin Vulgate which is where we get our word rapture. So "rapture" is a biblical word.
Who is caught up together with them? The “them” are the dead in Christ. They rise first – that is a resurrection term. The only people who are raptured are those who are alive when Jesus returns in the air. The other group is resurrected, and they receive their resurrection body because they have died. Technically, the only ones who are raptured are those who are alive when the Lord returns; everybody else just gets resurrected.
This is why Paul uses this term. He knows that one way or the other, he is going to go up. He is close to the end of his life and is beginning to recognize that he is probably going to go through physical death, so he uses this term EXANASTASIS, the out resurrection. He is beginning to anticipate that he will not be raptured, but he is confident he will be resurrected out from the dead when Jesus Christ returns. His confidence comes from his understanding of justification. It is not on the basis of anything he has done, but righteousness is a gift from God.
In Romans 4:13 he starts to talk about the promise. Before that, he talked about circumcision; now he is talking about the promise because that was the focus of Abraham’s faith. Faith always believes something. Mysticism believes anything that is somehow present within the mind. We do not know where it came from. The promise tells us about a specific articulated statement of God that Abraham believed. Verses 13-14 “For the promise that he would be the heir of the world was not to Abraham or to his seed through the law, but through the righteousness of faith. For if those who are of the law are heirs, faith is made void and the promise made of no effect.” Here he uses the term “of the law” to refer to those who were trying to get righteousness through the Law.
“For if those who are of the law are heirs” – he uses a 1st class condition which assumes for the sake of argument that this is true, even though it is not. “Faith is made void and the promise made of no effect”—faith is what perceives and what grabs hold of a promise.
In verse 15 he explains it by saying, “Because the law brings about wrath …” I pointed out last time that if we disobey the Law, we get God’s discipline. Wrath in Romans refers to God’s divine discipline in time; whereas, wrath in 1 Thessalonians also refers to God’s discipline in time, but it has a more technical sense of the judgments to come during the tribulation period. Throughout Romans, it is focusing on God’s judgment on those who reject His free gift of righteousness. The Law brings about wrath because nobody can fully obey it.
He goes on to explain it “for where there is no law, there is no transgression.” What you hear is “there is no sin,” but the word transgression is the Greek word PARABASIS, which means transgressing the Law literally. So what he is saying is that where there is no Law, there is no breaking of the Law. Even though there was no Law prior to Moses, there was still sin. We know what Paul is going to say in Romans 5:12-15.
Romans 4:16 “Therefore it is of faith that it might be according to grace …” Faith and grace go together, and Law and works go together. If faith precludes works and if works preclude getting the promise because receiving the promise is based on faith, then what Paul is saying is that faith is the only basis. “Therefore it is of faith that it might be according to grace, so that the promise might be sure to all the seed …” Now he is going back to the problem he has faced with his Jewish audience that the Jews thought that because they had the Law, that gave them closer access to justification. It gives them special privileges in some areas in relation to God because they have the Law. But that did not make them less accountable; it made them more accountable. It did not give them a leg up on getting justified, but they should have understood more clearly that they could not be justified on their own.
Verse 16 “… not only to those who are of the law, but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham …” So here the phrase “of the law” refers to Jews, and “of the faith of Abraham” refers to those Gentiles who are following in Abraham’s footsteps. Abraham is described as the “father of us all.” This plays an important role because what Paul is showing here is that the promise was not just to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and their descendants, but there is a blessing promise in the Abrahamic Covenant that is for everyone—Jew and Gentile alike.
Verse 17 “(as it is written, ‘I have made you a father of many nations’) in the presence of Him whom he believed—God, who gives life to the dead and calls those things which do not exist as though they did.”
The original quote is from Genesis 17. This is where God gets specific with Abraham and Sarah about when they are going to have this child. This is where we have the circumcision sign of the covenant given. Abraham at this time is in his late 90s. God has waited until it is very clear to Abraham and everybody else that there is nothing natural about this process of Sarah’s pregnancy.
In Genesis 17:4-6, God articulates the promises that go with this covenant. “As for Me, behold My covenant is with you, and you shall be a father of many nations. No longer shall your name be called Abram, but your name shall be Abraham [Father of a Multitude]; for I have made you a father of many nations. I will make you exceedingly fruitful; and I will make nations of you, and kings shall come from you.” He continues to go on and explain the promise that he has given to Abraham.
In Genesis 17:15-16, He makes it clear that this child is going to be through Abraham and Sarah. “Then God said to Abraham, ‘As for Sarai your wife, you shall not call her name Sarai, but Sarah shall be her name. And I will bless her and also give you a son by her; then I will bless her, and she shall be a mother of nations; kings of peoples shall be from her.’ ” Verse 17 “Then Abraham fell on his face and laughed …” Sarah is not the only one who laughed. We often think of Sarah laughing because she is hiding around the corner. Because she chuckled, God said “You will name him Isaac, which means laughter.”
Based on Romans 4, Abraham finds this so incredible that he laughs. He says in Genesis 17:17, “… ‘Shall a child be born to a man who is one hundred years old? And shall Sarah, who is ninety years old, bear a child?’ ” Abraham is still trying to work the angles and solve the problem on his own and in verse 18-20 “And Abraham said to God, ‘Oh, that Ishmael might live before You!’ Then God said: ‘No, Sarah your wife shall bear you a son, and you shall call his name Isaac; I will establish My covenant with him for an everlasting covenant, and with his descendants after him. And as for Ishmael [God had a different plan], I have heard you; Behold, I have blessed him, and will make him fruitful, and will multiply him exceedingly. He shall beget twelve princes, and I will make him a great nation.’ ” Ishmael is not viewed as a bad guy. He receives the grace of God, and I believe Ishmael was probably saved. He receives a blessing from God. It is not the blessing that goes to the Jewish people and is related to the Abrahamic Covenant.
Verse 21 “ ‘But My covenant I will establish with Isaac, whom Sarah shall bear to you at this set time next year.’ ” Now they have a specific time. Verse 24-27 “Abraham was ninety-nine years old when he was circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin. And Ishmael his son was thirteen years old when he was circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin. That very same day Abraham was circumcised, and his son Ishmael; and all the men of his house …” They fulfill the covenant because circumcision is part of the Abrahamic Covenant.
Romans 4:17 “(as it is written, ‘I have made you a father of many nations’ [Genesis 17:4-5] ) in the presence of Him whom he believed [verse 16]—God, who gives life to the dead and calls those things which do not exist as though they did.” When God’s promise to Abraham “I have made you a father of many nations” is made, it is expressed through a perfect tense verb. These perfect tense verbs are really important because they emphasize something that is already completed and emphasizing the present results of a past completed action. The determination related to Abraham has already been made by God and there is no more discussion about it; and even though it has not actually happened yet, the decision has been made by God, and it is spoken of in the present tense as a present reality.
Verse 17 “… in the presence of Him whom he believed …” This kind of cleans up the translation a little bit. Some of the translators have gotten a little too wordy here. It begins in the Greek with an adverb that is really a combination of two prepositions, and it governs the genitive case. The only noun in the genitive case is God, and God happens to be separated by three words from this adverb. In Greek you can do that without having to put English in between. So it is really “in the presence of God.” The “of” indicates a genitive case. Then you have a relative pronoun “whom he believed.” It is a real clean, crisp translation. “… in the presence of Him whom he believed—God, who gives life to the dead and calls those things which do not exist as though they did.” That is the NKJV translation which is better. The NASB shifts it for some reason “calls those things into existence that did not exist.” In the Greek, it says “calls those things that did not exist into existence.” It is a much stronger statement of ex nihilo creation, creation out of nothing. God brings life where there is death.
Think how many times you read through the Old Testament and had this juxtaposition between life and death. Moses tells the Israelites as he gets ready to leave them “You need to choose this day between life and death.” Joshua does the same thing before he dies. “You need to choose life or death.” When you get into the prophets and you read especially in Kings, many times God is referred to as the Living God. How many times did we see episodes and miracles with Elijah and Elisha where those who died are given life. There is a healing related to life. Even when Elisha dies and is in the grave, a person is thrown into the grave who is dead, and he is healed just by his contact with Elisha. I am not sure all the aspects that God is trying to communicate, but one of the things is that He is a living God and is the God of life and brings life where there is death.
This is what Abraham understood. We recognize because of Hebrews 12 that Abraham finally got it by Genesis 22 when God told him to sacrifice Isaac that God was going to fulfill His promise. Even if he killed Isaac, God could raise him from the dead. According to Romans, as early as Genesis 17, Abraham is finally getting the picture that God is the one who is going to bring life where there is death, so he just needs to trust Him.
Romans 4:18 expands on that. “Who, contrary to hope …” which is a decent translation. PARA plus the word ELPIS and that indicates the idea of contrary to or against hope. We say hope against hope, which basically means that in spite of everything that we understand and is available to our knowledge, we are still going to hope. But our hope against hope is just a belief in the irrational. Whereas, this is not. The Greek word for hope, ELPIS, really emphasizes a confident expectation. Abraham has a certainty in saying “contrary to hope.” That first hope in verse 18 is that uncertainty that man has based on human perception. “Contrary to hope [everything that man thinks is normal], in hope [in a confidence in God], (Abraham) believed...” He is not just having faith in faith; he believes the promise of God.
You hear today in all kinds of evangelical circles that “we just need to believe God.” But what exactly are we believing is what I want to say? “Well, just trust God that this will happen tomorrow.” I do not recall anywhere that God promised that X would happen tomorrow. I can trust God to sustain me, to give me wisdom in the midst of whatever circumstances present themselves so that I can apply the word to that, but I cannot just believe that God is going to do whatever I would like Him to do. It seems a little bit presumptuous and arrogant, if you ask me.
But here that is not what Abraham is doing. Abraham has a specific promise from God to him. That is one of the most important things in claiming promises: Make sure it is a promise that you can claim. Make sure that you are not reading your neighbor’s mail. That is what happens a lot of times with some Old Testament promises because it is a promise in a particular situation to a particular group of people in a specific historical set of circumstances. We sort of grab it because it is a nice promise and say, “Well, that relates to me.” The trouble is that it was addressed to your next door neighbor, the Jewish people, and not addressed to the church. You have to make sure that a promise really is for us, and then when it is, we can claim it. We see the dynamics of what it means to claim a promise in these verses.
Romans 4:18 “Who, contrary to hope, in hope believed, so that [with the result that] he became the father of many nations …” He trusted in God, and God fulfilled His promise. It boggles my mind to think about everything that God had to do to bring about that pregnancy. As we age, your skin loses its elasticity, and that particularly applies in a pregnancy. If you think about what happens after menopause with the reproductive organs inside of a woman - they lose everything that keeps them vibrant so that it could be a place where life could be generated and nurtured during the nine months of pregnancy. God has to change all of that inside of Sarah. We are not just talking about the literal, physical act of procreation. It seems to me when you start breaking down all the other aspects of what is involved in a pregnancy, that is the easy part. The hard part is getting it to where the woman has a healthy pregnancy and all the things change inside of her so she is able to carry and nurture and biologically provide all the needs for that embryo and fetus inside of her womb. Abraham just trusts God, and whatever it is, God is going to bring it about.
In Romans 4:19, he is not being weak in faith, and it is not that faith is viewed here as being in grades – a little faith or a lot of faith. It is simply that he was not weak in faith. It is a positive way of saying that he was strong. In verse 20, the English translations usually mess it up a little and say that he was fully persuaded. You are either persuaded or not persuaded. Fully does not enter into it – there are no gradations of persuaded. If I tell you that it is raining outside, you either believe me or you do not believe me. You do not say, “Well, I believe you a little bit.” (That is like being a little bit pregnant.)
The Greek word that is used there does not present a gradation of confidence either. It is a certainty. He is not weak in faith, which is just another way of saying, he was strong in faith. “… he did not consider his own body …” That word for consider is the Greek word KATANOEO, which means simply to observe, to notice, to contemplate. He kind of looked at himself like some of us have as we have gotten older and thought “I guess my football playing days are over.” It is just not going to happen anymore. He looks at his own body and just does not take that into account. The promise of God is more real to him than what he sees, how he feels when he wakes up in the morning, what has been going on for the last 20 years—none of that matters. The promise of God is more real to him than any experience, which is the way it should be for any of us.
Verse 19 “… he did not consider his own body, already dead [incapable of sexual reproduction] (since he was about a hundred years old), and the deadness of Sarah’s womb.” They are both incapable. Verse 20 “He did not waver at the promise of God through unbelief, but was strengthened in faith …” He was either strengthened by means of faith, or God strengthened his faith. I think his conviction was strengthened by means of faith, by means of what he understood to be true and what he believed that God was doing.
“He did not waver …” That has the clear idea that he did not doubt or hesitate. The Greek word is DIAKRINO, but it is used as an idiom of a person who is striving with himself. They are not really sure what kind of a decision to make. It is used in the context like this that he was not indecisive about “the promise of God through unbelief, but was strengthened in [by means of] faith, giving glory to God, (vs. 21) and being fully convinced …” Fully convinced is the Greek word PLEROPHORETHEIS, which has the idea of just being absolutely certain, absolutely assured of a specific set of results. It is not fully convinced; it is just convinced. How much more convinced do you need to be than just being convinced? If you are filling out your income tax return and you have double checked all of your figures and are convinced you have done it right, do you need to be any more convinced? No. Just like faith – faith means you believe something is true. There are no grades of faith; you do not have to have more faith or less faith. You just need to trust. When we trust, we know that something is certain.
In Romans 4:21 Abraham is “convinced that what He [God] had promised He was also able to perform.” He has finally understood omnipotence and God’s faithfulness. If God promises something because He is righteous and just, He is going to fulfill it. He cannot go back on His promise. If He has promised it, He can bring it to pass because of His omnipotence. Abraham is convinced finally that God is really God.
Verse 22 “And therefore it was accounted [imputed] to him for righteousness.” We have gone over the doctrine of imputation that it is reckoned to him as righteousness. This is an application now of that that because he believed God, he was credited with righteousness.
In verses 23-25, Paul is now going to summarize what he has said in terms of application for his audience. He has gone through all this Old Testament analysis, and he says in verse 23, “Now it was not written for his sake alone …” This is not just dusty old manuscripts in ancient history; it is not legendary myth. He says it was not just for Abraham’s sake alone that it was imputed to him but also for us. “… It shall be imputed to us who believe in Him who raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead.” Notice the object here is in the Father, believing the promise of God in relation to Jesus Christ as our Savior. Jesus is identified as the one who was raised from the dead.
Verse 25 “[Jesus] who was delivered up because of our offenses, and was raised because of our justification.” We have two interesting phrases. Both of them translate the same Greek preposition. The first word which is translated “delivered up” is the Greek word PAREDOTHE, which is an aorist passive indicative, indicating that he receives the action of being given up. That word PARADIDOMI is the same word that is being used of betrayal, Judas betrayed Him. It has the idea also of being arrested and taken into custody by the Roman soldiers.
He is “delivered up because of our offenses.” This is where it gets really interesting in terms of understanding the Greek here. In this first use of this preposition DIA, it indicates that he is delivered, arrested, taken to the cross because of our offenses, because He has to pay the price for our sins. It is very clear that that is the statement related to accomplishing the work that is necessary for our justification. But the work that is done for our justification, payment for our sins, was completed at the cross, not the resurrection. Some people get confused when they read the next clause “and was raised because of our justification.” The resurrection did not have anything to do with the soteriological work of Christ on the Cross. But this is the same construction that we have in the previous causal phrase. Both of them have a DIA plus the accusative.
The second use should probably have the sense that He was raised on account of our justification. In the sense that it was a necessary effect of the payment of sin to express God’s approval of what had been accomplished on the Cross. Because the payment for sin was complete, it was then necessary for God, as a consequence, to raise Jesus from the dead. So it has a little different sense, a causal sense, than the first use. One writer has called the first one “a perspective reference” in the sense of because of the need to or for the sake of. It is the idea that Jesus was raised with the view to or for the sake of our justification because the payment for sin had been accomplished already on the Cross.