When Scripture uses the verb “to justify” (δικαιόω) as it does in Romans 3:20, “wherefore out of the works of the law will no flesh be justified before he, for through the law comes the knowledge of sin,” it means to say, “to declare righteous.” The bible doctrine of justification is a forensic, legal doctrine. Paul goes on to say that the “righteousness of God” (δικαιοσύνη θεοῦ) has been manifested “without the law” (χωρὶς νόμου). It was to this righteousness to which the Old Testament, the Torah and the Prophets (a shorthand expression to summarize all of the Hebrew and Aramaic Scriptures) bore witness. True righteousness for justification is not something that we can accomplish nor is it even something that is accomplished within us by grace and cooperation with grace—that was taught by some of the Pharisee and by the medieval church—rather it is something that was accomplished by Christ for us and it is received through faith (διὰ πίστεως) alone, in Christ alone. It is believers (τοὺς πιστεύοντας) in Christ who are declared to be righteous on the basis of Christ’s performance of the law for them, as their substitute (Rom 2:21–22). It is neither on the basis of our performance (not even our performance in cooperation with grace) nor on the basis of the Spirit’s work in us but, as Paul reiterates in v. 28, “we say that we are justified by faith (alone) without the works of the law” (i.e., our performance).
The church has had a difficult time hanging on to this doctrine, however, and in this episode, Chris and I discuss how and why that is.
Here is the episode on the Abounding Grace site.
My pastor, Chris Gordon, is host of Abounding Grace Radio and we talk regularly about these are other issues. AGR airs daily on KARI in the Pacific Northwest (4:30 PM), in San Diego on KPRZ (1:30 PM and 4:00 PM), in KRDU in Fresno (4:00 PM), KPDQ in Portland (1:30 PM and 4:00 PM), GraceRadio 107.9FM in Modesto (7:00 AM and 7:00 PM), and weekly on CJFW in Terrace, B.C. Canada (7:30 PM Sundays), and 8:00 AM and 9:00 PM (Sundays) on CFIS 93.1 FM (Prince George, B.C.). AGR also airs on KVOH out of Zambia into the larger African continent.