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Justification by Faith Evidenced in Old Testament

What then shall we say that Abraham, our forefather [a]humanly speaking, has found? [Has he obtained a favored standing?] For if Abraham was justified [that is, acquitted from the guilt of his sins] by works [those things he did that were good], he has something to boast about, but not before God. For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed in (trusted, relied on) God, and it was credited to his account as righteousness (right living, right standing with God).”(A) Now to a laborer, his wages are not credited as a favor or a gift, but as an obligation [something owed to him]. But to the one who does not work [that is, the one who does not try to earn his salvation by doing good], but believes and completely trusts in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is [b]credited to him as righteousness (right standing with God). And in this same way David speaks of the blessing on the one to whom God credits righteousness apart from works:


Blessed and happy and favored are those whose lawless acts have been forgiven,
And whose sins have been covered up and completely buried.

Blessed and happy and favored is the man whose sin the Lord will not take into account nor charge against him.”(B)

Is this blessing only for the circumcised, or also for the uncircumcised? For we say, “Faith was credited to Abraham as righteousness.” 10 How then was it credited [to him]? Was it after he had been circumcised, or before? Not after, but while [he was] uncircumcised. 11 He received the sign of circumcision, a seal or confirmation of the righteousness which he had by faith while [he was still] uncircumcised—this was so that he would be the [spiritual] father of all who believe without being circumcised—so that righteousness would be credited to them, 12 and [that he would be] the [spiritual] father of those circumcised who are not only circumcised, but who also walk in the steps of the faith of our father Abraham which he had before he was circumcised.

13 For the promise to Abraham or to his descendants that he would be heir of the world was not through [observing the requirements of] the Law, but through the righteousness of faith.(C) 14 If those who are [followers] of the Law are [the true] heirs [of Abraham], then faith [leading to salvation] is of no effect and void, and the promise [of God] is nullified. 15 For the Law results in [God’s] wrath [against sin], but where there is no law, there is no violation [of it either].

16 Therefore, [inheriting] the promise depends entirely on faith [that is, confident trust in the unseen God], in order that it may be given as an act of grace [His unmerited favor and mercy], so that the promise will be [legally] guaranteed to all the descendants [of Abraham]—not only for those [Jewish believers] who keep the Law, but also for those [Gentile believers] who share the faith of Abraham, who is the [spiritual] father of us all— 17 (as it is written [in Scripture], “I have made you a father of many nations) in the sight of Him in whom he believed, that is, God [c]who gives life to the dead and calls into being that which does not exist.(D) 18 In hope against hope Abraham believed that he would become a father of many nations, as he had been promised [by God]: “So [numberless] shall your descendants be.”(E) 19 Without becoming weak in faith he considered his own body, now as good as dead [for producing children] since he was about a hundred years old, and [he considered] the deadness of Sarah’s womb.(F) 20 But he did not doubt or waver in unbelief concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong and empowered by faith, giving glory to God, 21 being fully convinced that God had the power to do what He had promised. 22 Therefore his faith was credited to him as righteousness (right standing with God).(G) 23 Now not for his sake alone was it written that it was credited to him, 24 but for our sake also—to whom righteousness will be credited, as those who believe in Him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead— 25 who was betrayed and crucified because of our sins, and was raised [from the dead] because of our justification [our acquittal—absolving us of all sin before God].

Results of Justification

Therefore, since we have been justified [that is, acquitted of sin, declared blameless before God] by faith, [let us grasp the fact that] we have peace with God [and the joy of reconciliation with Him] through our Lord Jesus Christ (the Messiah, the Anointed). Through Him we also have access by faith into this [remarkable state of] grace in which we [firmly and safely and securely] stand. Let us rejoice in our [d]hope and the confident assurance of [experiencing and enjoying] the glory of [our great] God [the manifestation of His excellence and power]. And not only this, but [with joy] let us exult in our sufferings and rejoice in our hardships, knowing that hardship (distress, pressure, trouble) produces patient endurance; and endurance, proven character (spiritual maturity); and proven character, hope and confident assurance [of eternal salvation]. Such hope [in God’s promises] never disappoints us, because God’s love has been abundantly poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.

While we were still helpless [powerless to provide for our salvation], at the right time Christ died [as a substitute] for the ungodly. Now it is an extraordinary thing for one to willingly give his life even for an upright man, though perhaps for a good man [one who is noble and selfless and worthy] someone might even dare to die. But God clearly shows and proves His own love for us, by the fact that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Therefore, since we have now been justified [declared free of the guilt of sin] by His blood, [how much more certain is it that] we will be saved from the [e]wrath of God through Him. 10 For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, it is much more certain, having been reconciled, that we will be saved [from the consequences of sin] by His life [that is, we will be saved because Christ lives today]. 11 Not only that, but we also rejoice in God [rejoicing in His love and perfection] through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received and enjoy our reconciliation [with God].(H)

12 Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, so death spread to all people [no one being able to stop it or escape its power], because they all sinned. 13 Sin was [committed] in the world before the Law [was given], but sin is not charged [against anyone] when there is no law [against it]. 14 Yet death ruled [over mankind] from Adam to Moses [the Lawgiver], even over those who had not sinned [f]as Adam did. Adam is a type of Him (Christ) who was to come [but in reverse—Adam brought destruction, Christ brought salvation].(I)

15 But the free gift [of God] is not like the trespass [because the gift of grace overwhelms the fall of man]. For if many died by one man’s trespass [Adam’s sin], much more [abundantly] did God’s grace and the gift [that comes] by the grace of the one Man, Jesus Christ, overflow to [benefit] the many. 16 Nor is the gift [of grace] like that which came through the one who sinned. For on the one hand the judgment [following the sin] resulted from one trespass and brought condemnation, but on the other hand the free gift resulted from many trespasses and brought justification [the release from sin’s penalty for those who believe]. 17 For if by the trespass of the one (Adam), death reigned through the one (Adam), much more surely will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in [eternal] life through the One, Jesus Christ.

18 So then as through one trespass [Adam’s sin] there resulted condemnation for all men, even so through one act of righteousness there resulted justification of life to [g]all men. 19 For just as through one man’s disobedience [his failure to hear, his carelessness] the many were made sinners, so through the obedience of the one Man the many will be made righteous and acceptable to God and brought into right standing with Him. 20 But the Law came to increase and expand [the awareness of] the trespass [by defining and unmasking sin]. But where sin increased, [God’s remarkable, gracious gift of] grace [His unmerited favor] has surpassed it and increased all the more, 21 so that, as sin reigned in death, so also grace would reign through righteousness which brings eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Believers Are Dead to Sin, Alive to God

What shall we say [to all this]? Should we continue in sin and practice sin as a habit so that [God’s gift of] [h]grace may increase and overflow? Certainly not! How can we, the very ones who died to sin, continue to live in it any longer? Or are you ignorant of the fact that all of us who have been [i]baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? We have therefore been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory and power of the Father, we too might walk habitually in newness of life [abandoning our old ways]. For if we have become one with Him [permanently united] in the likeness of His death, we will also certainly be [one with Him and share fully] in the likeness of His resurrection. We know that our old [j]self [our human nature without the Holy Spirit] was nailed to the cross with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin. For the person who has died [with Christ] has been freed from [the power of] sin.

Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live [together] with Him, because we know [the self-evident truth] that Christ, having been raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has power over Him. 10 For the death that He died, He died to sin [ending its power and paying the sinner’s debt] once and for all; and the life that He lives, He lives to [glorify] God [in unbroken fellowship with Him]. 11 Even so, consider yourselves to be dead to sin [and your relationship to it broken], but alive to God [in unbroken fellowship with Him] in Christ Jesus.

12 Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its lusts and passions. 13 Do not go on offering members of your body to sin as instruments of wickedness. But offer yourselves to God [in a decisive act] as those alive [raised] from the dead [to a new life], and your members [all of your abilities—sanctified, set apart] as instruments of righteousness [yielded] to God. 14 For sin will no longer be a master over you, since you are not under Law [as slaves], but under [unmerited] grace [as recipients of God’s favor and mercy].

15 What then [are we to conclude]? Shall we sin because we are not under Law, but under [God’s] grace? Certainly not! 16 Do you not know that when you continually offer yourselves to someone to do his will, you are the slaves of the one whom you obey, either [slaves] of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness (right standing with God)? 17 But thank God that though you were slaves of sin, you became obedient with all your heart to the standard of teaching in which you were instructed and to which you were committed. 18 And having been set free from sin, you have become the slaves of righteousness [of conformity to God’s will and purpose]. 19 I am speaking in [familiar] human terms because of your natural limitations [your spiritual immaturity]. For just as you presented your bodily members as slaves to impurity and to [moral] lawlessness, leading to further lawlessness, so now offer your members [your abilities, your talents] as slaves to righteousness, leading to [k]sanctification [that is, being set apart for God’s purpose].

20 When you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness [you had no desire to conform to God’s will]. 21 So what benefit did you get at that time from the things of which you are now ashamed? [None!] For the outcome of those things is death! 22 But now since you have been set free from sin and have become [willing] slaves to God, you have your benefit, resulting in sanctification [being made holy and set apart for God’s purpose], and the outcome [of this] is eternal life. 23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God [that is, His remarkable, overwhelming gift of grace to believers] is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Believers United to Christ

Or do you not know, [l]brothers and sisters (for I am speaking to those who know the Law), that the Law has jurisdiction [to rule] over a person as long as he lives? For the married woman [as an example] is bound and remains bound by law to her husband while he lives; but if her husband dies, she is released and exempt from the law concerning her husband. Accordingly, she will be designated as an adulteress if she [m]unites herself to another man while her husband is alive. But if her husband dies, she is free from the law [regarding marriage], so that she is not an adulteress if she marries another man.

Therefore, my [n]fellow believers, you too died to the Law through the [crucified] body of Christ, so that you may belong to another, to Him who was raised from the dead, in order that we may bear fruit for God. When we were living in the flesh [trapped by sin], the sinful passions, which were awakened by [that which] the Law [identifies as sin], were at work in our body to bear fruit for death [since the willingness to sin led to death and separation from God]. But now we have been released from the Law and its penalty, having died [through Christ] to that by which we were held captive, so that we serve [God] in the newness of the Spirit and not in the oldness of the letter [of the Law].

What shall we say then? Is the Law sin? Certainly not! On the contrary, if it had not been for the Law, I would not have recognized sin. For I would not have known [for example] about coveting [what belongs to another, and would have had no sense of guilt] if the Law had not [repeatedly] said, “You shall not covet.”(J) But sin, finding an opportunity through the commandment [to express itself] produced in me every kind of coveting and selfish desire. For without the Law sin is dead [the recognition of sin is inactive]. I was once alive without [knowledge of] the Law; but when the commandment came [and I understood its meaning], sin became alive and I died [since the Law sentenced me to death].(K) 10 And the very commandment which was intended to bring life, actually proved to bring death for me.(L) 11 For sin, seizing its opportunity through the commandment, beguiled and completely deceived me, and [o]using it as a weapon killed me [separating me from God]. 12 So then, the Law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good.

13 Did that which is good [the Law], then become death to me? Certainly not! But sin, in order that it might be revealed as sin, was producing death in me by [using] this good thing [as a weapon], so that through the commandment sin would become exceedingly sinful.

The Conflict of Two Natures

14 We know that the Law is spiritual, but I am a creature of the flesh [worldly, self-reliant—carnal and unspiritual], sold into slavery to sin [and serving under its control]. 15 For I do not understand my own actions [I am baffled and bewildered by them]. I do not practice what I want to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate [and yielding to my human nature, my worldliness—my sinful capacity]. 16 Now if I habitually do what I do not want to do, [that means] I agree with the Law, confessing that it is good (morally excellent). 17 So now [if that is the case, then] it is no longer I who do it [the disobedient thing which I despise], but the sin [nature] which lives in me. 18 For I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my flesh [my human nature, my worldliness—my sinful capacity]. For the willingness [to do good] is present in me, but the doing of good is not. 19 For the good that I want to do, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want. 20 But if I am doing the very thing I do not want to do, I am no longer the one doing it [that is, it is not me that acts], but the sin [nature] which lives in me.

21 So I find it to be the law [of my inner self], that evil is present in me, the one who wants to do good. 22 For I joyfully delight in the law of God in my inner self [with my new nature],(M) 23 but I see a different law and rule of action in the members of my body [in its appetites and desires], waging war against the law of my mind and subduing me and making me a prisoner of the law of sin which is within my members. 24 Wretched and miserable man that I am! Who will [rescue me and] set me free from this body of death [this corrupt, mortal existence]? 25 Thanks be to God [for my deliverance] through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, on the one hand I myself with my mind serve the law of God, but on the other, with my flesh [my human nature, my worldliness, my sinful capacity—I serve] the law of sin.

Footnotes

  1. Romans 4:1 Lit according to the flesh.
  2. Romans 4:5 Faith is not an equivalent or substitute for righteousness, but God graciously treats it as if it were the same. Otherwise, no one could be saved from sin and have eternal life.
  3. Romans 4:17 A reference to both the birth of Isaac, and the resurrection of Christ.
  4. Romans 5:2 In the NT the word “hope” expresses a cherished desire along with the confident assurance of obtaining that which is longed for.
  5. Romans 5:9 The “wrath of God,” with the definite article in Greek, anticipates the outpouring of God’s wrath on rebellious sinners in the tribulation period (cf Rev 6:16, 17).
  6. Romans 5:14 Lit in the likeness of Adam’s transgression.
  7. Romans 5:18 Salvation is available to all people who respond and place their personal trust in Christ.
  8. Romans 6:1 Grace justifies believers, making them free of the guilt of sin, blameless, so that they may have eternal life.
  9. Romans 6:3 “Baptize” is a transliteration of the Greek word baptizo, which means to submerge an object into liquid. In this passage Christ becomes the liquid, metaphorically, and those who are baptized into Him remain in Him forever and benefit from His experiences, including His death. The best news is that Jesus was resurrected, so believers will also experience resurrection (those who are alive when Christ returns will experience a physical transformation). But even now believers experience a kind of resurrection in that they live new lives (as Paul says, “walk in newness of life”) in a wonderful new relationship with God and their fellow believers.
  10. Romans 6:6 Gr anthropos, i.e. man, person.
  11. Romans 6:19 There are three basic kinds of sanctification in the NT: (1) Positional sanctification is based on the death of Christ. Every believer is a saint and is holy before God. The believer is “set apart for God” and in some instances “set apart for God’s purpose” (Heb 10:10, 14, 29); (2) Practical sanctification is a progressive process and means “growing in righteous living” as the believer matures spiritually (Rom 6:13; 1 Thess 5:23; 1 Pet 1:16); (3) Ultimate sanctification is that which is to come when the believer stands before God (Eph 5:26, 27).
  12. Romans 7:1 Lit brethren.
  13. Romans 7:3 Lit becomes another man’s, probably referring to an illicit, sexual relationship. Paul uses the same language at the end of the verse, but there he probably means sexual intimacy within a new marriage.
  14. Romans 7:4 Lit brethren.
  15. Romans 7:11 Lit through it killed me.

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