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Theology in Romans

I.  Introduction:

 In the last two passages that we have studied from Romans Paul emphasizes justification by faith.  He spends the entirety of chapter four making it clear that we are not justified by any works that we could do.  And this argument makes sense in light of what he has said about human depravity in 1:18-3:20, where he concludes: For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight.  Paul is teaching us justification by faith.  Yet, is this taught elsewhere in the Bible?  Of course Paul himself quotes from Genesis to demonstrate that Abraham was justified by faith (Romans 4:1ff).  When we studied through the book of James, we noted that even though many conclude that James and Paul contradict one another concerning justification by faith, on a closer look we can see how they actually agree.  Yet, what about Jesus?  Can an argument be made that Jesus did not teach justification by faith?  In fact, can the argument be made that Jesus actually taught justification by works?  I want us to briefly consider tonight Jesusí teaching about justification.  We will take a break from our normal outline (biblical and systematic theology) to focus on a few particular passages in the Gospels.

II.  Jesusí teaching on justification:

 A.  Matthew 25:31-46 Some might bring up this passage to argue that Jesus actually teaches justification by works.  Why would they make this conclusion?  What is it that separates the sheep from the goats on Judgment Day?  Jesus only comments on the fact that the sheep did good works (gave food, drink, clothing, visited sick and those in prison).  They are the ones who blessed by God and given the Kingdom.  As for the goats, again Jesus only comments on what they failed to do (the same list as before).  Thus, some will conclude from the above that Jesus is teaching justification by works in this passage. 

 How should we respond to such an interpretation?  Let me just mention a couple of counter arguments.  First, Jesus is talking about judgment in the present context.  Thus, the most we could say is that Jesus is teaching that we will be judged according to our works, which is exactly what Paul teaches in Romans 2:6-16.  The biblical authors agree that we will be judged according to our works.  Second, in this particular passage, Jesus does not say why the sheep did the good works, only that they did do them.  In other passages (like in James 2) we are taught the connection between faith in good works, namely that true faith in Christ produces good works.  Thus, if good works are being produced by faith, then Jesus is not contradicting justification by faith in this passage.
 B.  Yet, are there any passages where Jesus is teaching justification by faith?  Let me just mention a few:

  1.  Luke 7:36-50 Jesus is invited to eat at the house of Simon, a Pharisee.  While  He was there, a woman who was known as a sinner came and washed His feet with her  tears and perfume.  Simon does not understand why Jesus would allow Ďa sinnerí to do  this.  So Jesus explains that she has done this because she loves Jesus and recognizes the  fact that she has much to be forgiven.  Jesus tells her that her sins are forgiven and the  people marvel that He would say this.  And the passage closes with this statement by  Jesus to the woman: Your faith has saved you; go in peace.  He tells her that her faith has  saved her.  Faith in what?  The only answer I think we can offer is faith in Him, in Jesus.   She loved Jesus and believed in Him.  She evidenced this by washing His feet and He  tells her that her faith has saved her.  Thus, even though the term Ďjustificationí is not  used in this passage, we do see Jesus teaching that our sins are forgiven through faith in  Him.  

  2.  Luke 18:9-141 There are two men being described in the parable.  The first was a Pharisee.  He thanked God that he was not like other sinners and recited a list of the  good works that he did.  Jesus is teaching that this man is an example of those who  trusted in themselves that they were righteous.  The other man in the parable is a tax  collector.  He does not trust in himself but prays humbly: God, be merciful to me, a  sinner.  He puts his trust in Godís mercy toward sinners.  Which one does Jesus say is justified?  Jesus teaches that the tax collector, the one who trusts in Godís mercy, is justified.  This is surely justification by faith and not by works as Paul is teaching in  Romans.

  3.  John 3:1-21 John records many passages where Jesus emphasizes the importance of faith, or belief, in Him.  In the present passage, Jesus is teaching  Nicodemus about the necessity of being born again.  Nicodemus does not understand how  this could even be possible: how can a man be born again?  Jesus answers by teaching  that we are born again through faith in the Son of Man.  Over and over again Jesus  emphasizes the importance of belief, or faith, in this passage.  Not only is the one who  believes born again, but they are given eternal life and they are not condemned.  In the  last few verses, Jesus explains that those who do not believe are in love with the darkness  and do evil deeds.  Yet, those who do believe evidence their love for the light by doing  what is true.  Thus again, our deeds evidence our faith (or lack thereof).  Jesus does not  use the same term as Paul (Ďjustificationí) but He does teach that we are saved, born  again, given eternal life, through faith in the Son of Man.

III.  Conclusion:

 Thus, even though the terminology may be different, it is clear that both Jesus and Paul teach justification by faith.  We are not saved by works.  Rather, our good deeds only evidence the salvation that we have already received through faith in Christ.  All glory to Jesus, who is indeed our righteousness.  Amen.

Last Updated ( Tuesday, 17 August 2010 )

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