The Gift of Right Living

Faith Recovery Podcast
Faith Recovery Podcast
The Gift of Right Living

Through the gospel, God gives the gift of right living to everyone who believes.

In “The Gift of Right Living,” Kent and Nathan examine the Christian doctrine of justification. We compare traditional Protestant teaching about “imputed” righteousness scripture.

The Gift of Right Living – Episode Notes

Is justification a legal standing of righteousness before God? Is it more than legal?

It seems to include a legal standing, but it also supersedes it.

According to Paul in Romans 1:18 the wrath of God is manifest on the ungodliness and unrighteousness of people who hide their truth in their unrighteousness. Then he goes on to describe the false worship and idolatry of the pagan world. They didn’t know the law, but they still had behaved unrighteously. So, a person can be unrighteous without breaking a law.

In Romans 5:13, Paul says that sin isn’t imputed where there is no law. Based on that we could say that until Moses, everyone had imputed righteousness if the only definition of unrighteousness is the breaking of a law, but Paul goes on to say that “death reigned from Adam to Moses even over those who hadn’t sinned in the likeness of Adam’s transgression.” If simply being absolved of legal culpability was enough, then all those people would have been just fine, but they weren’t.

It seems that not only were they not righteous, but they needed to acquire some legal guilt for their own good.

The law was brought in so that the trespass might increase. But where sin increased, grace increased all the more, 21 so that, just as sin reigned in death, so also grace might reign through righteousness to bring eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. (Romans 5:20-21 NIV)

It would seem that legal guilt is secondary to a basic unrighteousness that precedes legal guilt and is manifested by it.

At the same time, we could say that it’s legal standing if we understand the nature of the law we’re under. More on that later.

Bottom line: The justification provided in Christ is more than, “counted to have performed the law.” If that’s all it was, then God in giving the law would have made us guilty only to absolve us in Christ. This would make God’s standard of righteousness pretty low and arbitrary.

“Suppose one of you has a servant plowing or looking after the sheep. Will he say to the servant when he comes in from the field, ‘Come along now and sit down to eat’? 8  Won’t he rather say, ‘Prepare my supper, get yourself ready and wait on me while I eat and drink; after that you may eat and drink’? 9  Will he thank the servant because he did what he was told to do? 10  So you also, when you have done everything you were told to do, should say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty.’ ” (Luke 17:7-10)

The best the law can make anyone even as a standard we’re declared to have fulfilled is “unworthy.”

Is it the verdict of the final judgement, brought forward into the present, declaring believers to be righteous?

If you mean “once saved always saved,” I don’t think so. 

Back to the legal aspect of justification, it doesn’t seem that judgment will just be on the basis of external performance of a written code but on the condition of a person’s character.

For all who have sinned without the law will also perish without the law, and all who have sinned under the law will be judged by the law. 13 For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous before God, but the doers of the law who will be justified. 14 For when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law. 15 They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them 16 on that day when, according to my gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus.

Romans 2:12-16 NIV

We’re reckoned righteous like Abraham was on the basis of faith. It’s the entrance into a relationship with God based on grace and faith as his was. Now, his faith wasn’t perfect and neither was his moral performance. But he believed enough and God accepted it. And at the same time we might say that God advanced Abraham the righteousness based on faith trusting that he would come to have and express saving faith in time.

What is the meaning of “righteous”? (righteousness)

It seems to refer to character in conformity with the nature of things. Appropriate disposition and action.

This is why Paul puts “ungodliness” and “unrighteousness” together.

It’s why Jewish judgmentalism was the same sin as pagan idolatry.

Paul makes a distinction between the righteousness that is according to the law and the righteousness of God. Surely they can’t be the same since God doesn’t follow law. And those who follow law are looking to hit the minimum requirement. In fact, law presumes unrighteousness.

Paul says that the righteousness of God is revealed in the gospel  – that suggests it’s not revealed in the law.

Is it Christ’s righteousness imputed to us? If not, then what?

This has to do with the notion of merit, but wouldn’t that make God a debtor to a person who lived a certain way?

Could any human life merit God’s favor? If it did, could it be favor?

God isn’t gracious because Christ earned grace.

Christ came and died because God is gracious. Christ graciously died because he is God.

It wasn’t Christ’s perfect legal compliance that is counted to us, but his grace:

Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men[fn] because all sinned— 13 for sin indeed was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not counted where there is no law. 14 Yet death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sinning was not like the transgression of Adam, who was a type of the one who was to come.

15 But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if many died through one man’s trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift by the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many. 16 And the free gift is not like the result of that one man’s sin. For the judgment following one trespass brought condemnation, but the free gift following many trespasses brought justification. 17 For if, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ.18 Therefore, as one trespass[fn] led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness[fn] leads to justification and life for all men. 19 For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous.

Romans 5:12-19 NIV

In Christ, humankind has been woven into the grace and faith of the Trinity. By the faith of the son we’ve come to fit in this austere community and our belonging we have become empowered to minister the grace flooding into our lives.

In Romans 5:12-19, grace is the echelon we inhabit through Christ but it’s also the mechanism whereby we actually become righteous.

Justification is progressive as we live by the faith of the Son.

That is why his faith was “counted to him as righteousness.” 23 But the words “it was counted to him” were not written for his sake alone, 24 but for ours also. It will be counted to us who believe in him who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord, 25 who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification.

Romans 4:22-25 NIV

Is it a permanent status? Can you lose it? Does it come and go as we vacillate in our faith?

No, it’s not permanent.

Yes, you can lose it.

No, it doesn’t come and go as we vacillate in our faith. When we act outside of faith we find ourselves to have violated the covenant. The good news is that if that happens, we only need to resume a life of faith to know we’re justified by grace.

Do not, for the sake of food, destroy the work of God. Everything is indeed clean, but it is wrong for anyone to make another stumble by what he eats. 21 It is good not to eat meat or drink wine or do anything that causes your brother to stumble.[fn] 22 The faith that you have, keep between yourself and God. Blessed is the one who has no reason to pass judgment on himself for what he approves.  But whoever has doubts is condemned if he eats, because the eating is not from faith. For whatever does not proceed from faith is sin. (Romans 14:20-23)

But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. 12 For before certain men came from James, he was eating with the Gentiles; but when they came he drew back and separated himself, fearing the circumcision party.[fn] 13 And the rest of the Jews acted hypocritically along with him, so that even Barnabas was led astray by their hypocrisy. (Gal. 2:11-13)

I testify again to every man who accepts circumcision that he is obligated to keep the whole law. 4 You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified[fn] by the law; you have fallen away from grace. 5 For through the Spirit, by faith, we ourselves eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness. 6 For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love. (Gal. 5:3-5)