Friday, 22 March 2013
…since there is one God who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith. Romans 3:30
Both Testaments wholly and completely establish the truth that “there is one God.” This was noted in the previous verse and accepting the notion of the Trinity in no way implies polytheism. The Trinity is noted as “three persons in one essence,” although the term “persons” is an unfortunate but necessary appellative. Time is three states in one essence – past, present, and future. All three exist equally and at the same time and yet they differ from each other. They are different reference points within the stream of time. This in no way implies “polychronsim” or multitudes of time. It is one essential thing. Proclaiming a Trinity within the godhead is to affirm one God.
This God – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – “will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith.” God’s means of justification doesn’t change. The law cannot save and so faith in God and His provision, even under the law, is necessary in order to be saved. A person under the law, who lives the law scrupulously and yet doesn’t have faith in what the law teaches is as far from God as the most vile sinner. And the vile sinner who understands his state under the law and yet has faith in the mercy of God is closer to God than the most obedient soul who lacks faith. Jesus showed us this in the following parable –
“Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other men—extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess.’ And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” Luke 18:9-14
This train of thought is repeated throughout the Old Testament and throughout Jesus’ teachings as He cited the law, reminding those around Him of this truth. The fact is that if a person could be justified through the observance of the law, then God would be the God only of those under the law. Everyone outside of the law would, by default, be excluded. But this isn’t the case at all. In all times and in all ways, it is by faith that one stands justified before God. However, it must be proper faith. Misdirected faith is, after all, wasted faith.
So where does this leave “deeds.” The question is valid because as the New Testament progresses, we will be faced with the concept of “bearing fruit” such as in Romans 7 and “faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead” as noted in James 2. The answer cannot be that deeds further justify us in our standing before God. If this were so, then a person who accepted Jesus and then got run over by a train wouldn’t be “as saved” as someone who got saved and then lived a long life helping others and doing good stuff.
The deeds after salvation – those done in faith for the sake of the gospel – must then accrue to our account, not for salvation but for rewards. This is an important point and it is the dividing line between heresy and truth concerning justification before God. It is by faith alone with nothing added that we stand justified before God. And the properly directed faith is in Jesus and His works. This will be explained in the following verse.
Life application: What is the motive for your deeds? If it is to attain salvation and a right standing with God, then you are far from Him. You have missed the grace of God as displayed in the work of Jesus for your salvation. Rather, trust in what Jesus has done – that it is all-sufficient to save you. And then, O saved soul, go forth doing good deeds out of a grateful heart in the salvation God has lavished upon you through His Son.
Heavenly Father, how could I add to the perfection of Your salvation through Jesus? I look to the cross and see the fulfillment of the law on my behalf. The code which condemned me has been nailed to that tree and I stand justified, free, and forgiven. May my life go forward in gratitude and in a display of appreciation for the immeasurable gift of my Lord. Amen.