by Darrel Cline (darrelcline biblical-thinking.org)
Chapter # 4 Paragraph # 1 Study # 3 September 6, 2005 Lincolnton, N.C.
(156)Thesis:The debate over the methodology of justification is resolved by understanding the nature of the "reward".
Introduction:Last week we considered two questions: what is the essence of "justification"?; and how does one come to be "justified"? We answered the first question by saying that the essence of justification is God's determination that one's character is such that it permits Him to act toward that one as a sinless saint. And we answered the second question by saying that the method of justification cannot be legal evaluation of behavior because justification was given to Abraham 100 years before his behavior was concluded. This means that justification must be rooted in an altogether different basis -- one that the Scriptures declare to be "faith". When God "reckons" one to be a sinless saint, that one is justified. Justification is, then, the result of a "faith-based reckoning" rather than a "legal-based reckoning".
This evening, because the issues are profoundly important and have been the target of confusion by the kingdom of darkness for centuries, we are going to look a bit more into the "methodology" debate to see that the debate can be resolved by looking at the nature of the reward.
I. Paul Rests the Argument Upon the Nature of the Standard Governing the Reward.
A. His claim is that "the reward is reckoned according to a standard."
1. The word "reckoned" is the same word that was used in 4:3 to describe how God "justifies".
a. It has to do with the reasoning of God that allows Him to treat a sinner as a saint.
b. Thus, in 4:4 we are still dealing with God's reasoning...the way He thinks.
c. The question in men's minds is: how in the world can God think a sinner is a saint?
2. Paul addresses that major question by showing that the "reckoning" has a "standard".
a. The phrases "as a favor" (NASB) and "as what is due" (NASB) are both "kata plus the accusative" phrases. A.T. Robertson says of this text that "kata" with the accusative introduces a "standard" or "rule of measure".
b. Thus, Paul is telling us that God's reasoning could, perhaps, approach the issue of how to treat a person from two different "standards".
B. His claim is that "the reward" can be considered from two different ways of thinking.
1. First, he suggests that "rewards" can be considered "according to a standard of grace".
a. "Grace", as a standard, is all about the treatment of another being rooted not in the other, but in the graciousone.
b. Thus, anything that comes "according to the standard of grace" comes as a gift, the motivation of which lies in the giver, not the "getter".
2. Second, he suggests that "rewards" can be considered "according to the standard of obligation".
a. "Obligation", as a standard, is all about the treatment of another being rooted in a contractual agreement between two, or more, parties in which the activities of all involved are agreed to ahead of time. [Matthew 20:1-16]
b. Thus, anything that comes "according to the standard of obligation" comes under Justice, which guides the activity on the basis of the prior agreement and the subsequent performance.
II. Paul Identifies Two Different Approaches to the "Reward".
A. In 4:4 he addresses the issue of "standard" from the perspective of one who "works".
1. The assumption of "labor" is of a prior agreement.
2. The assumption of "labor" is a subsequent "obligation".
B. In 4:5 he addresses the issue of "standard" from the perspective of one who does not work.
1. The absence of "labor" indicates an absolute absence of "obligation".
2. The absence of "labor" means that anything that is "given" is given freely.
III. Paul Injects the Issue of "Faith".
A. How is "faith" not a part of a prior agreement that results in a subsequent "reward" for fulfillment of that agreement?
1. Part of the answer rests in the nature of the "gift".
a. "Justification" is not a "thing" that can be given and received.
b. "Justification" is a "relationship-adjusting decree" that cannot be "received" without "adjusting the relationship".
1) The "typical" relationship between God and man is inimical. Man is the rebellious competitor for the position and privilege of deity and God is the retaliatory Judge Who puts down the rebellion.
2) To "adjust" this relationship so that it becomes a friendship requires a shift in attitude on the part of both involved parties. The rebel must cease the pursuit of rebellion and the Judge must suspend judgment. The two must become "friends".
3) This shift of attitude on the part of both parties cannot happen as long as one or both do not "shift" (this should be self-evident).
4) This shift cannot occur without a new basis for a new relationship and that new basis is a different perception of the "opponent".
5) This different perception is impossible apart from "faith". If one does not "believe" that the "opponent" is different than the earlier perception, there can be no "shift of attitude".
2. Part of the answer rests in the nature of the "Giver" and the "Receiver".
a. Man, as Receiver, cannot "perceive" of God as different than He "was" unless he realizes that it was his perception that was wrong.
1) God cannot "change" so that He is different than He was.
2) The problem from the beginning was not that God was a legitimate object of rebellion and competition, but that man's perception of God was led astray by flawed reason and motivation.
b. God, as Giver, cannot "perceive" of man as different than he "was" unless he is different.
1) God extends "justification" to man when man' s perception of God changes to fit reality so that man can be considered by God to be different: by a new content of "faith", man has become different.
2) Justification is not a "thing" that is transferred from one person to another; it is a determination by God that because man has been transformed in his attitude from enemy to friend He can now relate to him as "Friend" rather than "Judge".
3) But justification cannot be extended by God without Justice in God being legitimately satisfied: He must be able to be both just and justifier of the one whose attitude has shifted. Justification is rooted in real action by a real Man Whose actions were on the behalf of a new humanity who would exist by re-creation just as the old humanity existed by creation.
B. Faith does not "obligate" God to act, it "permits" Him to act.
1. The entire issue of whether faith obligates God or permits Him is a "perception" issue that is at the very heart of the entire problem.
a. If God needs to be "obligated", man's perception is still of God as Enemy.
b. If God only needs to be "permitted", man's perception is that of a Willing Provider.
2. There is no "obligation" in "believing"; there is only goodness and integrity in making the promise(s) that require only "faith" before they can be implemented.