Romans 4, Part 3
Oct 22, 2010
Abraham's faith in the promise of God was strong enough to overlook the deadness of his own body--and that of Sarah--so that he was confident that God was able to fulfill His promise in spite of its seeming impossibility.
For this reason (faith), God imputed righteousness to him, as we read in Romans 4:21, 22,
(21) and being fully assured that what He had promised, He was able also to perform. (22) Therefore also it was reckoned [imputed] to him as righteousness.
God called what was not as though it were, calling Abraham righteous, by the same principle that he imputed many nations to him before the fact.
(23) Now not for his sake only was it written, that it was reckoned to him, (24) but for our sake also, to whom it [righteousness] will be reckoned, as those who believe [have faith] in Him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead, (25) He who was delivered up because of our transgressions, and was raised up because of our justification.
So here Paul makes the application to us and our own positional righteousness with God. Even as with Abraham, we who have faith "in Him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead," are also calledrighteous. Our righteousness is imputed, even as Abraham's was imputed. It is not infused. It will take the second work of Christ to fulfill the prophecy of the second goat that removes sin (Lev. 16:20-22).
It is important also to note that Paul defines our faith in God quite specifically. It is not enough to have a general faith in the existence of God, or even that He is a God who answers prayer or takes care of us. We must have faith in Christ's first mission and purpose in coming to earth. Paul mentions the resurrection of Christ itself as the ultimate object of our faith.
In the first century there were Gnostics who claimed to be the REAL Christians. Their view combined Christianity with the philosophy of the Greeks and other religions. They believed that matter was created by the devil (that is, the demiurge) and that it was inherently evil. Therefore, they denied the idea that God could come in human flesh, because a good God, they said, would never taint Himself with flesh that was inherently evil. Only spirit was good, they said.
Hence, also, they denied the resurrection of the dead, for why would a good God have any interest in recovering evil flesh?
But John, who more than any other apostle confronted the Gnostics, presented the Logos to his readers--which was fully acceptable to the Gnostics; but then he smacked them across the face by saying, "and the Logos was made flesh and dwelt among us" (John 1:14). The Creator of the Universe came in human flesh. Such a teaching directly contradicted the entire Greek and Gnostic mindset. John did not compromise the truth in order to reach more people.
Later in his epistles, John wrote against the Gnostics more fully, telling us in 1 John 4:2 and 3 that:
(2) ... every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, (3) and every spirit that does NOT confess Jesus [coming in the flesh] is not from God....
Because John was so anti-gnostic, the Gnostics adopted him as their patron saint. This was by the principle of adopting one's enemy in order to re-interpret his words and make people think that he is a friend. It is a perverse tactic that hides the fact that John refuted Gnosticism in the strongest of terms.
In Romans 4, Paul was not speaking directly to the Gnostics, but confining himself to teaching the basic foundation of the Gospel of Christ. Elsewhere, Paul treats this topic more extensively. In 1 Corinthians 15 Paul devotes much of the chapter on this, basing the hope of our own resurrection upon the precedent of Christ's resurrection.
(12) Now if Christ is preached, that He has been raised from the dead, how do some among you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? (13) But if there is no resurrection of the dead, not even Christ has been raised; (14) and if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is vain, your faith also is vain. . . (17) and if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins.
The Gnostics redefined resurrection as merely an inner spiritual enlightenment. They denied that it involved earthly material, because they did not believe Gen. 1:31, which says that matter was created "very good." They did not believe that creation was part of the Kingdom of God. They did not believe that the meek would inherit the earth, but rather that they would go to heaven and live in a purely spiritual form.
Rosh Hoshana, however, prophesies to us of the resurrection of the dead, and the feast of Tabernacles presents the view that heaven and earth will be married. That is, matter will be as the wick on the candle that holds the glory of God. Our hope is "the redemption of our body" (Rom. 8:23), and we can point to Jesus Christ Himself as the example of our own destiny. After His resurrection, He had authority in both heaven and in earth and could take on human "flesh and bones" (Luke 24:39) at will.
When Jesus appeared to His disciples, not as a spirit but with human flesh and bones, He was not being tainted by evil matter. He was showing the ultimate purpose of matter itself and the reason for its creation in the first place.
Even so, we know very little about such flesh, having so little personal experience with it. We know for sure, however, that such flesh will not limit us in the way that our current bodies do. It will be of a higher order, going back to an earlier time before the Adamic curse infused death (mortality) into us.
Paul ties true faith to a belief in the resurrection of Christ--and by extension, to our own resurrection as well. In Romans 4:24, righteousness is imputed to "those who believe in Him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead," as opposed to a God who merely does other good things.
1 Cor. 15:17 says that if Christ was not raised, our faith is worthless and we are yet in our sins. The clear implication is that if we do not believe that Jesus Christ was raised from the dead, we are yet in our sins, regardless of what we testify with our lips. In other words, Gnostics are not justified by their so-called "faith," because they believe (pisteou) a lie, rather than the specific truth by which we are justified.
Justification does not come through a mere belief in God, nor even a general belief in Jesus. Our belief must be in the work that He accomplished on the cross, which was proven by His resurrection from the dead. Even Muslims believe that Jesus was a prophet and a good man, but they deny Him as being the sacrifice for sin prophesied in the animal sacrifices of the Law. Hence, from the biblical perspective, they are not justified by their faith, regardless of how strong their "faith" might be. Why? Because their faith (belief) is not in the very things that provide for our justification.
This is the final part of a series titled "Romans 4." To view all parts, click the link below.
Dr. Stephen Jones