“Expounding the Faith”
Let us start with a parable. A woman goes to buy a new dress. She goes first into a high end store. She sees a dress she really likes and it fits her very well, but it costs more than what she wants to pay. So she goes into a store with more affordable prices. She sees what seems to be the exact dress; in fact it is the same brand. But it is not quite as attractive nor does it fit as well as the first dress. How can this be? Is it all in her mind?
She is puzzled by this so she decides before buying that she will investigate. She contacts the company. They tell her that on the label, there is a number; the lower the number the better the quality of the dress. There were details that went into the production of the lower number dresses that were not considered for the higher number dresses. Sometimes it was the kind and color of thread used, and the kind of stitch. Other times it was how they cut the fabric, etc. Two things that seem identical were not. Our works, as the dress, may seem similar. But works of faith are different from works done in our own strength.
First we will deal with the theology behind this point, and then we will bring it together. Paul opens Romans 5 with this declaration.
Romans 5:1 Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ:
The word “therefore” tells us that this statement is referring to what was said before in chapter 4. Paul’s style is to make a statement, elaborate on it, then conclude with a firm declaration. Often he goes back to elaborate further on his declaration. In chapter 4, Paul was using Abraham as an example of how justification by faith works. The way it worked for Abraham is the same way it works for us. Paul makes a declaration in Romans 4:3, then spends the rest of chapter 4 elaborating on it. He then concludes with Romans 5:1. Paul says of Abraham in chapter 4 verse 3,
Romans 4:3 For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness.
Paul used the Greek word “episteusen,” which comes from the word “pistis” for faith or belief. In essence it is saying that Abraham had faith. We know that faith comes through hearing and hearing by the Word of God (Romans 10:17). Abraham heard God’s Word and believed it. When we replace "believe" with other definitions of faith we get a better feel of what this means. Abraham heard God’s word and felt appreciation in his heart. He heard God’s word and trusted the word to do what it said it would; he waited and depended on the Word alone. God’s word to Abraham was “the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” As a result of his belief in God's Word, Abraham was one of the elders that obtained a good report, and he pleased God (Hebrews 11:1,2,6).
The second part of Hebrews 4:3 says that His belief “was counted unto him for righteousness.” What is righteousness? Ellen White defines it as “obedience to the law” (1 Selected Messages, p. 367). We replace the word righteousness with the definition Ellen White provides and it reads, “Abraham believed God and it was accounted to him for obedience to the law.” In believing God’s word, Abraham obeyed the law. Abraham’s righteousness (obedience to the law) came from exercising faith in God’s word.
This is the sense that we get from Romans 5:1, where Paul reiterates what he explained in chapter 4. Translators have interpreted it as “Therefore being justified by faith…” But, the transliterated Greek rendering of Romans 5: 1 seems to say, “Being-justified then out of-belief.” We know that the word justified means “made righteous.” So we could interpret it as, “Being made righteous out of faith” -- thus there is a kind of faith that makes us righteous or obedient to the law. Ellen White expresses the same thought in the following quote,
Righteousness is obedience to the law. The law demands righteousness, and this the sinner owes to the law; but he is incapable of rendering it. The only way in which he can attain to righteousness is through faith. By faith he can bring to God the merits of Christ, and the Lord places the obedience of His Son to the sinner’s account. Christ’s righteousness is accepted in place of man’s failure, and God receives, pardons, justifies, the repentant, believing soul, treats him as though he were righteous, and loves him as He loves His Son. –Ellen G. White, 1 Selected Messages, p. 367
In summarizing Romans 4, Waggoner gives context to his explanation about Romans 5.
Faith Works Real Righteousness. The first verse of the fifth chapter begins with "therefore." The word indicates that what follows is a natural conclusion of what goes before. What has gone before? The story of what Abraham gained by faith. He gained righteousness by faith, but it was by faith in the promise that he should have a son. That son was the child of faith. But the same faith that resulted in the birth of Isaac, also brought righteousness to Abraham. And the same will also be imputed to us, if we have the same faith. Therefore, we are taught that the righteousness of faith is as real as was the son that was born to Abraham through faith. Righteousness by faith is not a myth. –Waggoner on Romans, page 85
The prophet Isaiah tells us that, “All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags” (Isaiah 64:6). Our righteousness falls short of the law’s requirement. We need a righteousness that is perfect since the law requires perfection. Sister White states that Christ’s righteousness is what we are given to satisfy the law’s demand of perfection. We have stated thus far that the only way to get this righteousness is by faith. Can our filthy faith produce a perfect righteousness? The answer is obviously, “No, it cannot.” Therefore we must obtain a faith that is perfect. That faith is the faith of Jesus. When we accept His faith it produces in us His righteousness. This is the faith that characterized Abraham. It is the faith that those who overcome and endure until the end will have (Revelation 14:12).
Abraham, when living by faith, is the high quality dress. Jesus is the fabric and thread used to make Abraham. When Abraham is trying on his own strength he is the low quality garment. The fabric and thread used is sinful flesh. Which one would you rather be?
For an excellent companion book to these studies, please see Waggoner on Romans: the Gospel in Paul’s Great Letter, by E. J. Waggoner. You may access the complete book at: http://www.1888mpm.org/book/waggoner-romans
For Jack Sequeira sermons on Romans click here: MP3; Windows Media; Real Audio
For the written version click here
For a paraphrase on Romans click here