This letter is written for you so that the things we discussed by phone might be made clearer:
THE GRACE OF GOD = THE FREE GIFT OF RIGHTEOUSNESS
Bob, for us to understand each other, we should share the same terminology
with the following words:
Grace = free favour or gift
Righteousness = commandments
Justification and righteousness are synonymous
Salvation = the result of being made righteous or being justified
You may not agree with the above terminology but bear with me as I attempt to
(1) The word, grace, as it is used in its various forms in the New Testament commonly means free gift. Now, there are many free gifts or many forms of God's grace. We can see the spiritual gifts of 1 Corinthians 12. In Ephesians 4 we can see the positions of grace established within the body of Christ. With grace something is always given. Now, when we speak of God's grace with respect to salvation, we should be thinking of a very specific gift or grace from God. That specific gift which saves you is the free gift of righteousness. Those who are righteous will have salvation. Ultimately, we must say that salvation is a gift. But in Paul's legal mind he would in this regard emphasize the gift of righteousness, which is a doing of God's commandments (the Law). This doing of the Law is not accomplished by the physical (by works) fulfillment of the Law. Rather, it would be the accomplishing or the fulfilling of the Law (Spiritually), by faith, which results in our salvation. This Spiritual fulfillment of the Law requires explanation, and one needs to understand the mechanics of this righteousness (gift) that comes from God.
(2) Let's look at righteousness and determine exactly what it is. Psalms 119:172 states all of God's commandments are righteousness. What this tells us is that whatever God commands, He will do. Whatever He does is righteous, because God is not wrong but is righteous in all His works. So, if we or anyone else should follow God's commandments, we are righteous, we are not condemned. Paul states this principle plainly and simply in Romans 2:13 where he says, "For not the hearers of the Law are just in the sight of God, but the doers of the Law will be justified." John, in 1 John 3:4-7 also admonishes us not to be deceived, that sin definitely is the breaking of God's Law. But the one who does what is right, is righteous.
An excellent example to show that God's commandments are His righteousness is in Matthew 3:13-15. Jesus comes to be baptized by John and John refuses because he knows that Jesus is much greater than he. All Jesus needed to express to him was that His baptism was a fulfillment of righteousness, and then John consented. Because of that statement, John knew it was a command of God that Jesus should be baptized. Needless to say, John was not about to hinder a command of God finding it's fulfillment. Where is that command? Bob, you know that the clean man who was to sprinkle the ashes of the Red Heifer must also wash his clothes (Numbers 19:21). It was a commandment, God's righteousness.
(3) I think very little needs to be said about whether justification and being declared righteous are synonymous. Righteousness and justification are the same word in the Greek language, and the translators often interchange the words. Look at Strong's Concordance under both English words and the same Greek word is indicated. I am only making this point because when you read Paul, the different translations exchange these two terms back and forth, but they both mean the same. One who has righteousness is one who has justification.
(4) A lot needs to be said concerning the fact that your salvation is a result of being made or declared righteous. This will become evident as we proceed.
So far, Bob, in knowing me, I sense that you feel on guard about the way I use the scriptures, and you are positive that I am wrong about how I have seemed to apply them. Take Romans 2:13 as a good example. I DO interpret Paul as saying that if you do not keep the Law of God, you will not be righteous. That seems to contradict a multitude of scriptures which Paul uses elsewhere, but this principle is established: Do what the Law commands, and you are righteous. You have righteousness.
Paul writes constantly about the righteousness or justification that is by faith, that this righteousness comes from God and is a result of the death of Jesus. Now, if I am so bold as to stick to the principle that I have stated, then I would have to establish that there exists a keeping of God's commandments that is received by faith, that there is a doing of His Law that is a gift from Him. I must be able to prove that as a result of the death of Jesus, I actually am doing what the Law required me to do, and, thereby, I am made righteous. Such a righteousness would not be based upon the physical keeping of the Law of God, that keeping which Paul commonly refers to as "works of the Law." However, this righteousness would be based upon doing the Law in a spiritual sense, by faith, through Jesus, the Christ. Paul constantly preached against trying to be justified by the "works of the Law." He fully realized that it was impossible for flesh to conform to or do God's Law in a physical sense (Romans 8:7). Paul unequivocally taught that Jews and Gentiles alike are under sin and that all have sinned and that no one can claim complete righteousness. He tells us elsewhere that the Jews tried to obtain righteousness, but that they failed because they attempted to do it according to the physical keeping of the Law, by the physical works of the Law (Romans 9:30-32). On the other hand, the Gentiles, who did not try to keep the Law in a physical sense, obtained to the keeping of the Law and that all happened by faith.
What was that faith? What did the Gentiles believe in order to be credited with righteousness? They had to believe and realize that in being sinners they sacrificed their sin offering (Jesus) thereby fulfilling what the Law required them to do as a result of their sin. Look at Romans 8:1-4. The Law could not be fulfilled by anyone in the flesh by physically keeping it. So God sent Jesus in the flesh as a sin offering to accomplish these two things:
1. In order to show mankind that sin is totally unacceptable. Sin killed His son, and that cannot and will not be tolerated by anyone who
has a knowledge of it.
2. As a gift to mankind, God has allowed everyone to have righteousness through their sin by fulfilling the just requirements of the Law in their sacrifice of Jesus as a sin offering. The Law commands that if you sin unintentionally, you are to bring a sin offering, place your hands on the head of that sin offering (identifying with your offering, you become one with it), and then the Law commands you to kill it. This process satisfies all of your guilt concerning unintentional sin. If you fulfill these commandments, you will be righteous. The Jews had to try to fulfill these commandments in a physical sense, in the only way they knew. For them it was a never-ending process. They found themselves killing their sacrifices over and over and over. Each time they were credited with righteousness because they had accomplished what God had commanded. Even so, that righteousness would only endure until they sinned again.
On the other hand, Paul continually attempted to persuade Jew and Gentile alike concerning a more gracious and enduring way of fulfilling the Law through Jesus. He continually argued that Jesus was our sacrifice, that we died with Him and in dying with Him, we died to sin, and in living, we live in Him so we should strive to be without sin as He is without sin. He argued that if you died to sin, sin was no longer your master. Therefore you should be without sin from your heart. In order to die to sin, you must admit that you sacrificed Jesus, and, in doing so, you have fulfilled the just requirements of the Law concerning your sin. This is your righteousness. It is the grace of God, and its purpose is to save you from sin. If you continue to sin, or if you fall back into what is now for you deliberate sin, you re-crucify or re-sacrifice Jesus and publicly shame Him, for it was His work and purpose that you were to be without sin. Jesus allowed Himself to be sacrificed by us so that we would stop sinning. If we continue in sin after knowing that our sin killed Jesus, it proves we truly love sin and have no regard for the life of Jesus, or our own lives, or the lives of anyone. Those who do so will fall under the all-consuming wrath of God and His total condemnation.
Bob, I would now like to explain the mechanics of the above grace of God. No one has ever explained these mechanics to you before. I have touched on it, but not quite in this way.
God's grace comes as a result of sin. If sin did not exist, we would not have the gift of righteousness. So we can boldly say that by sinning we have kept the Law of God. We were accomplishing righteousness through our sin. I know that this statement seems so wrong and contrary to what you think God would do, but let's look closely at several of Paul's statements concerning sin and grace:
Romans 5:14-21 - Paul says in verse 14 that Adam is a foreshadow or type of the coming one, obviously referring to Jesus. However, (verse 15) Adam does not foreshadow Jesus with respect to The Offense. Obviously, Jesus was without sin; therefore, Paul wants you to see how both Adam and Jesus compare but not with respect to sin. There is no comparison if you concentrate on The Offense or if you concentrate on one having sinned (verse 16). Paul wants us to look at or see the comparison through The Free Gift, verse 15, of each. That is why he says, "but not with respect to The Offense, rather The Free Gift. Through Adam we have the free gift of death and condemnation. Through Jesus we have the free gift of life and righteousness. The former gift is through the disobedience of Adam, the latter gift is through the obedience of Jesus. In setting up this comparison Paul makes some intriguing statements. In verse 16 Paul is showing us how Jesus and Adam are antitypical with respect to the number of sins affecting what they each freely give. Paul writes, "and the free gift is not thus from one having sinned. For on the one hand (the instance of Adam) the judgement is from one unto condemnation, on the other hand (the instance of Jesus) The Free Gift is from many offenses unto justification." Now, this last phrase, Bob, is very interesting.
Paul is saying that the gracious free gift of God comes from many offenses and that the result of this gift is righteousness. Later, in verse 20, Paul expresses the view that law came into the picture to increase The Offense, namely, the exact same sort of transgression committed by Adam. You are told what to do by God, and, then, you don't do it. When law came into the world, it did not increase the number of sinners in the world, but it did increase the number of sinners who could now commit The Offense. With the coming of law, individual sin could now be imputed to each person. Look at Paul's next statement, "But where The Sin increased, The Grace abounded all the more." This is thoroughly consistent with the argument of Paul in Galatians 3 that the Old Covenant was added to the promises given to Abraham in order to eventually show whom the Seed was to be. "Christianity" has absolutely no concept of what Paul is talking about in Galatians 3. Jesus said it best when he informed the Jews that if indeed they are Abraham's seed, they should be doing the deeds of Abraham (John 8:39). Abraham obeyed everything that God commanded him to do (Genesis 26:5). Paul knew this, and he saw that the Law was not a threat to the promises. In Paul's mind the Law came to demonstrate exactly whom the seed would eventually be, someone like Abraham. This is why when Paul asks the question, "Why, then the Law?", he answers that the Law was added to promote transgressions. The actual Greek word that I have rendered "to promote" is a form of the Greek word for grace. Literally, it should be translated, "The Law was added for the sake of transgressions." God graciously made us all sinners in order that we could eventually see the sinless one, Jesus, Abraham's Seed. Then, God in His infinite mercy and wisdom used our sin through Jesus to fulfill His Law, thereby, giving us the grace or free gift of righteousness. We are through our sin doers of the Law, and we thereby have been justified.
God, through the Law, wanted all of mankind to have imputed sin exactly like Adam. Before the Law was given, except for a few isolated cases, Adam was the only one who died for his own sin. God changed this situation when He gave Moses the Law. The Law increased The Offense and allowed all of mankind the opportunity to, as Adam did, transgress a direct commandment of God. That is the meaning of the phrase "to increase the offense." God was making all of us imputed sinners so that eventually we all, through Jesus, could be made righteous. If this be the case, and it is, then if you increase sin, you increase grace. The more we sin, the more we accomplish the just requirements of the Law.
Paul taught the grace of God in this manner, and many misunderstood him.
Some understood him as teaching that righteousness could be maintained by continuing in sin. You can find Paul's answer to that in Romans 6:1-2. A Christian fully realizes that after coming to a knowledge of the truth, there can be no compromise with sin. A Christian cannot live in sin to increase the grace of God. The full consequences are too horrible to contemplate.
Look at Galatians 2:17-21. Paul states "that if while we seek to be justified (declared righteous, a doer of the Law) in Christ, it is evident we ourselves are sinners." This shows exactly what we have been discussing. We prove ourselves to be sinners if we accept justification in Christ. Does this mean then that Christ promotes sin? Absolutely, emphatically not! If I in any manner attempt to rebuild through sin what was destroyed through sin, then I really prove myself to be a lawbreaker. In Christ a sinner was destroyed. If you rebuild yourself as a sinner, you truly show God you are a lawbreaker.
Bob, you man ask why is God going to the trouble to let us use sin to receive his grace. It seems so contrary to God's sinless nature. God in His infinite wisdom is reproducing Himself. God is no different than any other parent. His desire is that each of us internalize His value system, and all of His children will indeed do so. In order for this to eventually occur for the elect in Christ, all of mankind had to be given the opportunity to experience sin. That is why man was made flesh and then given law. God thereby made us slaves to sin, sold to sin, and then He set about to redeem us from the control of sin through Christ. As a means of fair play and mercy from God, he has allowed the sin we were placed under to be made into righteousness, but it is for our learning, to teach us to say no to ungodliness and worldly passions just as Paul states in Titus 2:11. Please read that scripture along with Titus 3:3-7; it really shows the true purpose of grace.
I hope I have sufficiently explained the mechanics of the grace of God. There is so much to learn and so much to say. Please consider everything that I have written. It was written with the hope and prayer that we both someday walk in the same direction, following the same plan, building the same house of God together as we have done in our physical work. With Christ's love, being both his servant and yours sincerely . . .
Last Modified: 7/22/2012