Monday, July 26, 2010

Justification by Faith

Justification by Faith

Justification has reference to God’s moral law. Justification is the opposite of condemnation.
Condemnation comes because of unbelief (John 3:18) which is sin, the transgression of God’s law of righteousness (Romans 14:23).

No one can be justified by keeping the law; neither is a person justified apart from keeping it. We are justified in order to keep it. We do not use the law as a means of justification; neither will we use justification by faith to jettison the law.

In Romans 3:31, Paul asks and answers the question of the relationship between justification by faith and the law: “Do we then make void the law through faith? Certainly not! On the contrary, we establish the law.” The law is never nullified by faith. Justification by faith always upholds the law. As Waggoner put it: “Justification carries the law on the face of it…. It establishes the law in the heart.
Justification is the law incarnate in Christ, put into the man, so it is incarnate in the man” (E.J.
Waggoner, “General Conference Daily Bulletin,” March 12, 1891, p. 85).

The New Century Version (2005) puts Romans 3:31 this way: “So do we destroy the law by following the way of faith? No! Faith causes us to be what the law truly wants.”

Ellen White wrote that the message sent from heaven through Waggoner and Jones “presented justification through faith in the Surety; it invited the people to receive the righteousness of
Christ, which is made manifest in obedience to all the commandments of God” (Ellen White, Testimonies to Ministers, pp. 91, 92).

The biblical teaching of justification by faith always makes a person a doer of the law. After a sinner is justified by faith in Christ, God’s righteous law stands as a witness to his justification (Psalm 119:172;
Romans 3:21). That law testifies in favor of the believing sinner in the Supreme Court of the universe.
Conversely any person who disregards God’s law can never be justified.

The Cross, the Law and Justification
Both justification and the law were magnified in the death of Christ on Calvary. Our transgressions of the law put Christ on the cross. His obedience, even to the death of the cross (Philippians 2:8), is the very means by which we are justified (Romans 5:19).

Not only is the death of Christ important to us because of our sins, it is also important for our justification. Further, the cross exalts the law of God. The cross was necessary to magnify both justification and the law. This is what makes Calvary so important.

Justification and the law came together at Calvary. Both justification and the law were magnified on the cross. Christ’s obedience unto death is our justification (Philippians 2:8; Romans 5:19; 5:9). It is received personally by faith in Christ (Romans 5:1). In His death on the cross Jesus exhausted the penalty that was against us, while at the same time He exalted the law, showing that God did not and could not change His law to save Jesus, our Representative and Substitute, from its penalty.

Illustrations of Justification by Faith Drawn From the Experiences of Abraham and David.
In Romans 4:1-8 these two Old Testament characters, one a liar and the other an adulterer and murderer,
are used to illustrate God’s justification that follows the conditions of repentance toward God and faith in Christ and His righteousness.

Abraham twice lied about Sarah. He told Sarah to inform Pharaoh of Egypt that she was his sister. This half-truth was a cover up of the truth that she was indeed his wife! (Genesis 12:10-20). This lie allowed Sarah to be taken by Pharaoh as a concubine. Abraham committed this same sin again in Canaan with King Abimelech (see Genesis 20). God had to intervene in both cases to save those kings from dire consequences.

And then too, Abraham was promised that he would be “a father of many nations” (Romans 4:17).
However, in order to be a father of many nations, Abraham needed first to be the father of one child.
Although God made the promise of a child to him, he thought he would have to help God out in fulfilling His promise. In time, Abraham repented and finally believed God.

The other Old Testament person used to illustrate righteousness by faith is David. David was an adulterer and a murderer. He, too, was brought into a deep repentance for his sins and belief in Christ for righteousness.

Notice what God said about David after he died. To Solomon He said: “If you walk in My ways, to keep My statutes and My commandments, as your father David walked, then I will lengthen your days” (1Kings 3:14). Then to Jeroboam God said: “My servant David…kept My commandments and… followed Me with all his heart, to do only what was right in My eyes” (1 Kings 14:8). After Abraham and David had repented and believed God, He treated them as if they had never sinned. Not a word about their terrible sins did God bring up after they believed from the heart. This then brings us to a simple but effective way to remember what justification and the law is about, from God’s standpoint.
Justified: Just as if I’d never sinned. Just as if I’d always believed.  Just as if I’d always obeyed.

As with David and Abraham, when we repent and believe, God looks at us as though we had never sinned – He sees us as if we have always obeyed! He says to you, “I, even I, am He who blots out your transgressions for My own sake; And I will not remember your sins (Isaiah 43:25). Then He writes his law upon the justified heart and mind, thus bringing justification and the law together in the experience of the believer.

--Jerry Finneman
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:

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

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

“Justified by Faith”

 “Justified by Faith

 “Justification by faith” has been one of, if not the most discussed idea in Christian theology for millennia. How are we saved? What exactly are we being saved from? What do all these Latin terms like justification and sanctification mean? What exactly is faith? Is righteousness a “covering” or an actual experiential reality? Does it really need to be so seemingly complicated, and technical, and “theological”? Do I have to learn Greek?

As I’ve had the opportunity to read, study, dialogue, and listen to dozens of honest, thoughtful, and God-fearing Christian brothers and sisters, both within Adventism and Christianity at large,
I’ve come to see that there are two fundamental ways of viewing salvation and religion. To put it succinctly, in one religious system or thought process, salvation is about a change occurring in
God in order for us to be accepted by Him (“saved”). While in the other religious system or thought process, salvation is about a change occurring in us, in order to accept and love God.

Now some false religious systems are fairly obvious to us and we call them paganism. For example, I have an idol in my home or temple, and I give gifts to that idol so that the gods relate to me in a more favorable way. The gifts or sacrifices may be food, money, personal sacrifices such as journeys, or in the extreme they may be things like human sacrifice. But the bottom line is that god(s) standing toward us is an attitude of hostility, anger, aloofness, or withdrawal, until something is done by a person outside of god to alter their attitude or feelings towards us.

In Christian circles this may be a bit more subtle. We may have the idea, consciously or subconsciously, that things like faith, repentance, confession, discipleship, etc, will cause God to change His attitude or feelings towards us from one of condemnation or lack of acceptance, to one of acceptance. But again, the basic idea is that something we do alters or changes God’s attitude or stance towards us.

In its most subtle form, the idea is not that anything we do changes God’s acceptance or attitude towards us, but that what Jesus has done, or is doing, changes God the Father’s attitude or feelings towards us. The idea is expressed somewhat like this:

We are sinners and therefore God the Father cannot accept us. But Jesus has died in our place, so now God the Father can accept us because of Jesus, who stands between us and God the Father.

Sometimes this is expressed as the righteousness of Christ covering us so God can accept us.

The root issue is the same. God is relating to us in a somewhat hostile or “unaccepting” or condemnatory way – maybe even just a little bit – and He needs to be changed by something, and in this case Jesus causes the change to occur in God the Father. God the Father changes from an attitude of condemnation towards us, to an attitude of acceptance towards us.
While we are generally spiritually savvy enough not to use words such as appeasement or placation to describe what is going on in this system of religious thought, it looks quite close to appeasement. We would need to be very cautious that other words such as expiation or propitiation aren’t communicating the principle of appeasement.

Let’s now look at the second religious thought system. The idea that salvation is about God working to change our attitude towards Him. Frequently in Scripture we are described as relating to God as an enemy. “The carnal mind is enmity against God” (Romans 8:7). We are by “nature children of wrath” (Ephesians 2:4). “We were enemies” (Romans 5:10). We were “alienated and enemies in our minds” (Colossians 1:21). Etc. In each of these verses, and many others, the point is that we have been relating to God as our enemy. We have had hostility and wrath towards Him. God by contrast has been relating to us a lost sheep and prodigal sons, working to woo and win us back to Himself. God has not been our enemy, but we have been His enemy.

When we see salvation through this paradigm we realize that God has indeed loved us with an everlasting love (Jeremiah 31:3). The problem has been that sin and Satan have introduced into our minds and psyches, dark thoughts about who God is and how He relates to us. We see Him as needing appeasement in order to relate to us with acceptance and reconciliation. In some religions this appeasement is met by the sinner, in Christianity it is frequently seen as Jesus providing the change in God’s attitude and stance towards us.

All throughout Scripture, there are no verses about God being reconciled to us, but they are all about us being reconciled to Him. God has reconciled us to Himself (2 Corinthians 5:18). God was in Christ, reconciling the world to Himself (2 Corinthians 5:19). Be reconciled to God (2
Corinthians 5:20). Christ suffered once for sins… To bring us to God (1 Peter 3:18). With loving kindness have I drawn thee (Jeremiah 31:3). We were reconciled to God (Romans 5:10).
Reconcile them to God (Ephesians 2:16). Repeatedly in Scripture the message is about God working, extending Himself, pursuing us, in order to help us to see that He has always related to us with the attitude of the prodigal’s father – waiting for us to see His unchanging love and acceptance – in spite of our abuse and hostility towards Him.

Justification by faith then becomes merely, but oh so significantly, a change in our attitude towards God as we realize the grace and goodness and benevolence with which He has always related to us. We are “justified”, meaning we are changed in our thoughts and feelings towards
Him, by “faith” which is a heart appreciation of the love He has always manifested towards us and especially revealed at the cross.

I want to have my still existing, subtle, and sometimes subconscious misunderstandings about
God removed. I want to be changed (justified) by an ever growing appreciation and trust (faith) in God’s goodness and grace, especially as it is most clearly revealed in the death of God the Son.  God the Son, manifesting and revealing God the Father, to those of us who have related to Him as an enemy. May I not treat Him as an enemy or see Him as needing to be appeased any more.

--Bob Hunsaker
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:

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

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

“All Have Sinned”

Memory Text and Monday – “All have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). The phrase “All have sinned” is in the past historical tense, meaning that “all sinned” at some definite point in the past. Paul uses that same idea in chapter 5, verse 12. He is referring to Adam’s fall in the Garden of Eden. The entire human race was implicated in that sin (see also Romans 5:12-18). We come into this world suffering the consequences of our progenitor’s sins. 

To “come short of the glory of God” is a sin too. However, this phrase is in the present continuous tense. We all add to our sin problem by committing our personal sins each day, according to this text. We come short of the glory of God by:

1: Transgression (1 John 3:4; 5:17)
2: A mental act of sin (Romans 7:7)
3: Neglect to do what we know to be right (James 4:17)
4: A sin of ignorance (Leviticus 5:17, 18)
5: Doing good works with wrong motives (Isaiah 64:6)

Our sin problem is enormous. We find that the principle or force of sin exists within our very nature
(Psalm 51:5, Romans 7:14-24). Ellen White uses the expression, “indwelling sin.” She says that Adam did not have “indwelling sin” before the fall (Signs of the Times, October 17, 1900). Jesus especially warns us of the sin of unbelief which is willful, purposeful, and deliberate rejection of truth with full knowledge and understanding of it (see John 3:16-18, 36; 16:8, 9; Mark 16:15, 16).

The Bible makes it clear that our sinful situation is hopeless outside of Jesus Christ. The human race would have become extinct when Adam fell if it were not for the “Lamb slain from the foundation of the world” (Revelation 13:8).

Monday – The Gospel is always good news, and it is good news to everyone! Jesus is the Savior of all mankind (John 4:42, 1 John 4:14). Jesus has always been every person’s Savior. Faith is the human response to the good news of the gospel. God is even the source of our faith (Romans 12:3).

The gospel is powerful good news. When the believer submits wholeheartedly to the gospel, he begins to reflect the glory of his Creator. The image of God is restored in man. The believer experiences Christ’s victory over sin as he appreciates what that victory cost his Savior. In order for Man to have a saving relationship with God he must submit to the Gospel in full faith. The gospel restores the relationship of the creature with the Creator.

Tuesday’s lesson asks us to compare the first century with our current century. Are “all” still sinning?
The world’s condition is not getting better. Fear of the future is increasing. When men turn their backs on God’s grace, all He can do is honor their choice. The consequences of selfishness increase exponentially as “God [gives] them up” (Romans. 1:24). The progression Paul describes in Romans 1 is being played out as God’s Spirit is withdrawn. Man made disasters are added to so-called natural disasters. Satan rejoices in the heartache and pain. Rejection of Christ always results in disaster.

Wednesday –Let us look at Paul’s “Jews and Gentiles” message as applied to Seventh-day Adventists and unbelievers. Where do our works and profession place us? What advantage do we have? Does that advantage make us better? The “True Witness” in Revelation 3 gives us our answer. “…Be zealous therefore, and repent.” A genuine faith response to the gospel will always include repentance.

Thursday True and sincere repentance is proportional to our understanding of the seriousness of the sin problem that grips the human race. When we think, “we’re not that bad” or “it’s the other person,” we will not see our need of repentance.

We have discovered that every person is part of the sin problem. Our personal sins affect our brothers and sisters both in and out of the church. We are a corporate body in the world and in the church. Each individual’s choices affect the entire body. When we see the corporate nature of the sin problem, we will experience a deeper repentance for our own sins, and will lift each other up in prayer.

“As we see souls out of Christ, we are to put ourselves in their place, and in their behalf feel repentance before God, resting not until He brings them to repentance. Some will reject God’s mercy, but even then we are to feel sorrow of heart because of their condition, showing them how to repent, and seeking to lead them step by step to Jesus Christ” (Ellen White, SDA Bible Commentary, Volume 7, page 960).

The “True Witness” is calling us to genuine corporate repentance. “Or despisest thou the riches of his goodness and forbearance and longsuffering; not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance?” (Romans 2:4). Jesus said to Nicodemus: “As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life” (John 3:14, 15).

When we see a clear picture of Jesus dying on the cross to rescue us from the sin problem, it will “lead us to repentance.” When we see ourselves in the dark pit of sin, Jesus will shine clearly on the cross. This will break our hearts in true repentance for our sin(s) against God. God’s love is the only power that can break the bondage of sin in our lives.

“Those who wait for the Bridegroom’s coming are to say to the people, „Behold your God.”  The last rays of merciful light, the last message of mercy to be given to the world, is a revelation of His character of love. The children of God are to manifest His glory. In their own life and character they are to reveal what the grace of God has done for them” (Ellen White, Christ Object Lessons, page 415).

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:

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

Monday, July 05, 2010

“Jew and Gentile”

“Jew and Gentile”

While most of us as 21st century Christians are not troubled by issues relating to the difference between genetic Jews and genetic Gentiles, we all still have a nagging sense that the issues that Paul and the other apostles were dealing with in the first century, has special application to us. Especially as modern Christians who look at the world around us and see the growing laxness of moral standards, there is an increasing sense that we do need to be distinctive, different, and “special” in comparison to the world around us.

This was the concern of the first century Jewish Christians who felt that Gentile converts looked too much like the world that they had supposedly just exited. Hence, the council at Jerusalem, that Paul appealed to, did in fact pick some external standards as applicable to Gentile converts to Christianity. Interestingly they chose dietary laws and moral purity as essential to Christian experience and harmony with each other.

A deeper question underlies all questions relating to rules, regulations, behavior, laws, conduct, performance, etc. The question is this: What are God’s goals in the giving of rules or laws? Two quotes from Ellen White and two scriptures can help us process the role of law and/or rules in religious experience. The first takes us back before the creation of man to the function and necessity of law in heaven:

“When Satan rebelled against the law of Jehovah, the thought that there was a law came to the angels almost as an awakening to something unthought of. In their ministry the angels are not as servants, but as sons. There is perfect unity between them and their Creator. Obedience is to them no drudgery. Love for God makes their service a joy. So in every soul wherein Christ, the hope of glory, dwells, His words are re-echoed, "I delight to do Thy will, O My God: yea, Thy law is within My heart" (Ellen White, Thoughts from the Mount of Blessing, page 109).

Amazing! While God’s law had always been in existence, and the angels in some vague, “back of the mind” sense, were aware of it, the law didn’t have a significant place in their consciousness or daily thinking. The law existed, not in a codified, written form, so much as a principle dwelling in their angelic psyches. It was there in their hearts and minds, but they were virtually unaware of it. There weren’t any Ten Commandments hanging on their angelic walls or in their angelic foyers. Yet, their obedience was flawless – perfect. Equally important, their obedience was pleasurable!

“If man had kept the law of God, as given to Adam after his fall, preserved by Noah, and observed by Abraham, there would have been no necessity for the ordinance of circumcision. And if the descendants of Abraham had kept the covenant, of which circumcision was a sign, they would never have been seduced into idolatry, nor would it have been necessary for them to suffer a life of bondage in Egypt; they would have kept God’s law in mind, and there would have been no necessity for it to be proclaimed from Sinai or engraved upon the tables of stone. And had the people practiced the principles of the Ten Commandments, there would have been no need of the additional directions given to Moses” (Ellen White, Patriarchs and Prophets page 364).
Again, the existence of codified, written out, explicit, rules or laws, became a necessity in order to deal with emergency situations – first in heaven, and then here on earth. Think of it! The Biblical record could have told an entirely different story! No circumcision. No four hundred years in Egypt. No Exodus. No Ten Commandments written on stone. No sanctuary service with all its sacrifices, festivals, and detailed rules.

Law is necessary - in an explicit, codified form - to deal with rebellion and upheaval in God’s universe, and here on planet earth. But law was meant to exist not in this external, superficial, outward form, but in an internal, principled, and motivating form, written in the mind and heart.
“What purpose then does the law serve? It was added because of transgressions” (Galatians3:19). As people become less and less sensitive to the still, small voice of the Holy Spirit, and thus “transgressions” increase, God is forced to speak through the more direct and forceful voice of codified, explicit commands. But there’s a danger in this form of communication. The danger is that we can begin to perform the behaviors required of us, but still lack the motivations of love to God and our fellow man that are meant to be the source and foundation of right behavior. Instead of doing what is right, “because it is right”, we do what’s right because our own salvation depends on it. In this religious paradigm, love for God and love for others is squelched by the raw motivation of self-preservation and fear, albeit frequently on a sub-conscious level.

We can be serving God on the outside in our behavior, and serving self on the inside in our motivations. Satan is perfectly happy with this situation because our witness still validates his claim that selfishness is the most powerful motivation, and most influential principle in the entire universe. Satan claims that God Himself is motivated by self-preservation (Genesis 3, Job 1 & 2), and thus that Satan’s claim to eternal life is validated.

“Unselfishness, the principle of God's kingdom, is the principle that Satan hates; its very existence he denies. From the beginning of the great controversy he has endeavored to prove God's principles of action to be selfish, and he deals in the same way with all who serve God. To disprove Satan's claim is the work of Christ and of all who bear His name” (Ellen White, Education, page 154).

So while God has made use of external codified law to meet the emergency and necessity of our deep and ongoing transgression, He desperately desires to bring us back to a condition where for us, as well as the angels, the thought that there is a law is almost as an awakening to something unthought of. How can this occur? How can we be brought back to the place where the law is the unconscious spring of all our thoughts, feelings, and actions? Is that even possible?

“Let me put it another way. The law was our guardian and teacher to lead us (to) Christ...” “So now, through faith in Christ, we are made right with God” (Galatians 3:24 NLT, NKJV). By beholding Christ, we are enabled and empowered to experience not mere behavioral conformity – if we even were ever to achieve that – but actual engraving of the principles and motivations of God’s law of self-giving, self-sacrificing, self-effacing love on our hearts. Our psychological makeup, in the perception of the love of God in Jesus Christ, is transformed and restored, to a condition where “obedience” is an inevitable pleasure.

“All true obedience comes from the heart. It was heart work with Christ. And if we consent, He will so identify Himself with our thoughts and aims, so blend our hearts and minds into conformity to His will, that when obeying Him we shall be but carrying out our own impulses. The will, refined and sanctified, will find its highest delight in doing His service. When we know God as it is our privilege to know Him, our life will be a life of continual obedience. Through an appreciation of the character of Christ, through communion with God, sin will become hateful to us” (Ellen White, Desire of Ages page 668).

Whether it’s tithing, circumcision, Sabbath-keeping, dietary reform, or “the weightier matters of justice and mercy” (Matthew 23:23), what a wonderful promise that we can move to a new experience of “obeying from the heart” (Romans6:17). It need not be a mere obligatory obedience, but a deeper and deeper internal, intellectual, and spiritual harmony with the very principles, motivations, and thoughts that actuate the heart of God Himself. This is what it means to be a partaker of the divine nature (2 Peter 1:4). My prayer for myself and for you is that very soon – as we approach the time of the rapid “last movements” – we will experience this transformation.

--Bob Hunsaker
E.J. Waggoner wrote a verse by verse commentary on the book of Romans. His treatise, Waggoner on Romans is now available in book form and will prove a valuable study aid for teachers and students alike.
You may access the complete book at:
Waggoner on Romans

For Jack Sequeira sermons on Romans click here: MP3; Windows Media; Real Audio