by Darrel Cline (darrelcline biblical-thinking.org)
Chapter # 3 Paragraph # 4 Study # 2 July 26, 2005 Lincolnton, N.C.
(144)Thesis:"Faith" is not a "work" but an "intrinsic necessity" within the context of relationship.
Introduction:In our opening study of this 4th paragraph in Romans 3 last week we focused upon the distinctions between the "principles" of "Works" and "Faith" as the foundation for Paul's attack upon "boasting" as an expression of, perhaps, the most heinous of sins. Boasting is a primary tool in the tool kit of those who wish to be independent of God, and superior to God, and still be regarded as "worthy of recognition and reward".
That study skirted around a significant puzzle in most people's minds: how is "faith" really any different from "works"? Isn't it true that many, if not most, believers, having theoretically been delivered from the need for "boasting", are yet "boastful"? And, is it not the majority opinion of most who call themselves "believers" that whether a person obtains God's salvation, or not, boils down to the often stated claim, "Well, everyone has a free will and each one must make his own choice as to whether he will accept God's gift of salvation, or not". And does not this claim of "free will", being the bottom line in the determination of whether one obtains salvation, or not, automatically re-establish what Paul has so determinedly destroyed...a basis for boasting? If, when it is all said and done, the difference between the believer and the unbeliever is that the believer used his "free will" to choose God and the unbeliever used his "free will" to reject God, there is no escape from the conclusion that "believers" are "more responsible" in the exercise of their "free wills" than are "unbelievers". And, if they are "more responsible", they are morally superior; and if morally superior, "boasting" has been resurrected.
So, this evening we are going to look again at Paul's doctrine of justification by faith as the basis for the elimination of "boasting". We are going to attempt to come to a clearer grasp of the difference in the "principles" of "works" and "faith".
I. The Requirement of the Elimination of Boasting.
A. In order to eliminate "boasting" one must understand what it is.
1. In all "boasting", whether approved by Scripture or not, there is an inner exulting of spirit that boils down to a joyful sense of great worth.
2. In "evil boasting", this inner exulting of spirit is rooted in the belief that "I" am capable of achieving my objectives [See James 4:16 compared with 1 John 2:16] and, thus, proving my "worth".
B. In order to eliminate "boasting" one must be able to "get rid of" the "personal capacity" belief.
II. Our Context: The Modern Problem of "Justification by Faith".
A. On the one hand, there are many who do not really wish to "get rid of" the personal capacity belief and its automatic corollary, the personal superiority belief.
1. Some of these vehemently argue that man must "believe" the Gospel and prove the reality of their "faith" by obedience to certain special doctrinal issues. Their favorite text is "faith without works is dead", and, invariably, whether stated or unstated, the claim is made that "I" have done these required things. "My" faith is not dead.
2. Others of these vehemently argue that man's predestination to salvation makes the requirement of faith a "given" and take great pride in the "logical consistency of their doctrinal system", which is nothing more than the pride of "intellectual superiority".
3. All of these deny the presence of "boasting" in their point of view, while "boasting" in their superior understanding of the Bible.
B. On the other hand, there are some who really do not wish to maintain the personal capacity belief, but do not know how to reconcile the "exclusivism" of salvation on the basis of "faith".
1. The "problem" seems to be this: Justification requires "faith".
a. If justification was a stand-alone concept that did not require anything to make it personally applicable, personal capacity could be eliminated by the effective works of Jesus Christ.
b. Except for a few universalists and extreme fatalists, the biblical statement that justification is by faith stands.
c. So, if a person must believe in order for justification to take place, how is "faith" not merely a radically-reduced-to-only-one-demand variation of the "demand/performance" principle of Law?
2. In the context before us Paul claimed two distinct "principles": one was "works" and the other was "faith".
a. The problem seems to be the identification of the "distinction".
b. If "works" boils down to "obedience to a divine demand" and "faith" boils down to "a human acquiescence to a divine imperative", how is "faith" not just a "more simple" variation on the "works" thesis?
II. Paul's Biblical Argument.
A. First, "justification by faith" must genuinely eliminate the personal capacity foundation of "boasting". "For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works."
1. If "personal capacity" is not eliminated, boasting will not be eliminated.
2. If "the responsible exercise of personal capacity" is the root of justification, boasting is inevitable.
B. Second, the principle of "faith" must be genuinely retained in the doctrine of justification by faith.
1. If "faith" is relegated to an addendum status so that justification actually occurs before "faith" is exercised, then "justification" is not really "by faith", but is a prelude to faith.
2. The only legitimate position the Bible allows is for "faith" to exist before "justification", which, in turn, must exist before the benefits of justification are extended.
a. The biblical statement is that "justification is by faith".
b. The major biblical illustration is that of Abram who believed God and that belief was reckoned to him for righteousness.
C. Third, the principle of "faith" must be genuinely distinct from the principle of "works".
1. The "principle of works" is a principle of the actual human performance of a divine imperative established by law [Note Romans 5:13 -- sin is not imputed where no law has been given -- and Romans 2:14 where law exists even for the Gentiles].
a. The word "actual" means that the human who performed was the source of the obedience from beginning to end.
1) The "motive" of love was out of the human's heart.
2) The "belief" of faith was out of the human's mind.
3) The "action" of obedience was out of the human's energy.
4) There was nothing special out of God that precipitated any of the three.
a) God, as Creator, obviously imparted the basic elements of a "creature" as a person distinct from Himself.
b) But, God was no more than "Creator" in this "worker".
b. The bottom line is the human performance of a divine imperative established by law.
2. The "principle of faith" is a principle of a surrogate divine performance of a divine necessity established by the Divine Glory.
a. Part of the "distinction" between "works" and "faith" is the distinction between imperative established by law and necessity established by Being.
b. Part of the "distinction" between "works" and "faith" is the distinction between the impact on relationships that "works" produces and the impact on relationships that "faith" produces.
1) Works produce conflict as they foster boasting.
a) The divine intention in "making demands" was to establish man's bondage to Sin.
b) The divine intention in "making demands" was not to produce peace in relationships.
2) Faith produces the contentment of harmony as boasting is eliminated.
a) The divine intention in "giving promises" was to put man's soul at rest [See Matthew 11:29 and Hebrews 4:1].
i. This was not to put man's spirit into exultation by achievement.
ii. This was to put man's soul into peace by removing all failure to meet demands.
b) The only way a "promise" can "give rest" is if the promise is "believed".
i. This is the necessity of Being. Relationships, by definition, are interactions between persons and they have an essential necessity that is built into this identity.
ii. Relationships require "faith" as a fundamental necessity of the essence of "relationship".
c. And a third part of the "distinction" between "works" and "faith" is the distinction between "who" does "what" [Note 1 Corinthians 4:7].
1) Under the demand/perform requirement undergirding "works" is the requirement that the one under demand do the performing.
2) Under the promise/faith necessity undergirding "faith" is the biblical revelation that the promises are to be kept by the one making them.
a) This opens the door to grace.
i. Law disallows third-party intervention.
ii. Promise ignores Law without violating Justice.
b) Since "rest" can only come by "faith", any promise of rest must be attended by the divine provision for "faith" -- otherwise the promise goes begging and becomes a lie.