Paul's Passing Thoughts

The Potter’s House: Law and Grace; Romans Chapter 4

Posted in Uncategorized by pptmoderator on September 5, 2014

Potters House logo 2  Originally published January 2, 2013

We now come to chapter four in our study of Romans. Thus far, Paul has emphasized that all men, whether Jew or Gentile, are saved by faith alone. This salvation is a revelation of God’s righteousness, and is imputed to us when we believe in Jesus Christ. We have learned that the gospel is the full counsel of God which of course includes the death burial, and resurrection of Christ. We have learned that Paul was very concerned with a spiritual caste system that would render the Gentiles as second-class citizens in the church. Though the church is uniquely Jewish, God shows no partiality in regard to race and gives the various gifts of salvation to all men freely.

What we have in the book of Romans is a radical dichotomy between justification and sanctification; or said another way, salvation and its imputed righteousness set against the Christian life as kingdom citizens living on earth as aliens and ambassadors. However, there is NO dichotomy between law and gospel. Why? Because both are the full counsel of God. In the Bible, “law,” “truth,” “gospel,” “Scriptures,” “holy writ,” “the law and the prophets,” and other terms are used interchangeably to speak of the closed canon of God’s full counsel for life and godliness. Christ as well as Paul made it absolutely clear: man lives by every word that proceeds from God and ALL Scripture is profitable to make the servant of God complete in every good work.

Now listen: though the life application of some Scripture changes with time and circumstances, it still remains that all Scripture informs us in regard to our walk with God in the way we pray, think, and act. We do not stone rebellious children in our day. Nay, when we have a rebellious teen in the church, we do not gather the congregation together and stone him/her to death. With that said, does the fact that God at one time instructed the Jews to do so inform us in regard to many applications for teen rebellion in our day? Absolutely. Oh my, the contemporary applications in our day are almost endless. Not only that, Old Testament ritual and symbolism offers a built-in protective hermeneutic for the Scriptures as a whole. What do I mean by that? Well, you can mess with words, but symbolism is very difficult to mess with. If it’s a lampstand, it’s hard to change that to a Honda Civic. Right?

Paul delves into a paramount truth for Christians in the book of Romans: The relationship of the law to the unsaved verses the saved. And here it is: the lost are UNDER the law, and the saved are UNDER grace, but informed by the law. Let me repeat that: the lost are UNDER the law, and the saved are UNDER grace, but informed by the law. And we can see this right in the same neighborhood of the text that we are in.

Romans 3:21—But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it—

That verse pretty much says it all. We are justified apart from the law, and as we will see, Paul means totally apart from the law. But we are informed by it. Paul states in Romans 3:28:

For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law.

Now note what he states after a few verses following in Romans 4:3,

For what does the Scripture say?

Paul strives to make the point in this letter that law is not even on the radar screen in regard to justification. And this is extremely important to know in our day for many teach that law is on the justification radar screen and therefore Christ must keep the law for us in order to maintain our justification. Not so, there is no law to keep in regard to justification—a righteousness APART from the law, the very righteousness of God has been imputed to our account in full. Paul even writes (and this is very radical) that Christians are sinless in regard to justification because there is no law in justification to judge us:

Romans 7:1—Or do you not know, brothers—for I am speaking to those who know the law—that the law is binding on a person only as long as he lives?

Romans 7:6—But now we are released from the law, having died to that which held us captive….(v.8) Apart from the law, sin lies dead.

Now, the law can judge our sin in our Christian life, but that can’t touch the fact that we are “washed.” Therefore, in sanctification, we only need to wash our feet to maintain a healthy family relationship with our Father God and Brother, the Lord Jesus Christ. Turn with me and let’s look at this in John 13:1-11:

Now before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father, having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. 2 During supper, when the devil had already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray him, 3 Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God, 4 rose from supper. He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist. 5 Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him. 6 He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, do you wash my feet?” 7 Jesus answered him, “What I am doing you do not understand now, but afterward you will understand.” 8 Peter said to him, “You shall never wash my feet.” Jesus answered him, “If I do not wash you, you have no share with me.” 9 Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!” 10 Jesus said to him, “The one who has bathed does not need to wash, except for his feet, but is completely clean. And you are clean, but not every one of you.” 11 For he knew who was to betray him; that was why he said, “Not all of you are clean.”

Clearly, “washing” refers to salvation, and differs from needing the lesser washing of the feet. The example is set against the unregenerate betrayer among them. Note that Jesus said that even though we needed to wash our feet, we are still “completely clean.” My, my, what a strong contrast to much of the teachings in our day; i.e., the idea of “deep repentance” that is the same repentance that saved us and keeps us saved—as long as we are in a Reformed church where such forgiveness is available. (more…)

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