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The extent of the good works achievable by humans is not enough in the eyes of God. However, justification by faith does not negate the role of the law. Indeed, Chapters 4-7 of Romans are devoted to explaining the role of the law in defining sin and consequently how Christ had to fulfill the letter of the law absolutely.
Results of Justification
One of the most important consequences of God's justification as seen above is found in Romans 3:29 (Definbaugh). The question posed here is whether justification by faith is only meant for the Jews. This is, for the time, a logical question, as Christ emerges from the Jews, and the Christian doctrine emerges from the Old Testament, featuring the Jews as God's chosen people. Paul however emphasizes that the New Testament is also for a new people, where there is no difference between Jew and Gentile. This is a manifestation of the lingering elitism of the Jews, resulting from being the chosen people of the Old Testament. These Jews rely on their ancestry to provide them with a sense of pride and righteousness. This paradigm, valid in the Old Testament but no longer in the New, is a righteousness available by physical means: of proven ancestry. The New Testament however entails that righteousness is achieved spiritually by faith alone. This is where Paul explains how even Abraham's righteousness did not result from his physical attributes but from his faith in God's promise. Circumcision, like the good works of Christians, is an outward symbol of justification, but not a requirement for that justification.
Paul further explains the spiritual implications of God's promise to Abraham, that he would be the "father of many nations." While this is so physically, it is even more prominent in a spiritual sense (the Middletown Bible Church). Abraham's true descendants are linked to him by faith rather than by physical descendence. In this way, all who are justified by faith can be called children of Abraham. Physical signs of such descendence, such as works and circumcision, take a secondary position to the faith that acquires the justification. Rather than distinguishing between Jew and Gentile then, differentiation occurs by means of faith: those who believe and those who do not. Furthermore there are those who rely on good works for justification, and those who rely only on faith.
The fruit of the new justification is thus that anybody who performs the simple act of faith. The chosen people includes those who choose to believe. It is now a choice to be part of God's people or not. Through Christ's act, Jews and Gentiles are the same both in salvation and condemnation. Abraham is used in Romans 4:9-17 in order to prove this. Abraham was seen as righteous by God, and yet not circumcized. Paul uses this to prove that God chooses the criteria for salvation, regardless of what human beings might think.
Justification results in a restful and grateful acceptance of God's grace. This implies that no more than a combination of the sacrifice of the Son and faith on the part of the believer is necessary to achieve justification. It however also has to be recognized that justification has a certain responsibility. Good works are another consequence of justification in terms of gratefulness.
This is a further dichotomy in the book of Romans; the contrast between those who work and those who do not work (Definbaugh). This however has resulted in a certain group of believers falling into many sorts of wrongdoings, which were not acceptable for the Christian way of life. Thus, while it is good to rest in the knowledge that the work for justification is done, it is also important to demonstrate that this work has an effect on the believer. This demonstration occurs through good works.
As seen above, justification results in gratefulness, which results in good works. Thus although it is impossible to be good "enough" in God's eyes, it is possible to demonstrate one's faith and the consequences of justification by honoring him with good works. Good works as a consequence for justification thus serve a dual purpose. Firstly, good works demonstrate gratefulness, and secondly they honor God and set apart his people from the rest of the world. Good works thus also serve as a testimony to God's grace, inspiring others to listen to God's message.
This is where Paul begins to delineate the idea of boastfulness. He rebukes those who boast in themselves, as if they have achieved justification by their own human means (Romans 2). He continues to state that the only reason for boasting is in Christ himself. Boasting in Christ rather than in the own human self is therefore another consequence of justification. Reasons for boasting in Christ are given in the fifth Chapter of Romans. These are also reasons to demonstrate gratefulness by means of good works. God's faithfulness, his love, and the assurance of the blessing of justification are reasons to boast in Christ rather than in humanity.
The best fruit of justification is then the knowledge and assurance of salvation. This knowledge instills in the Christian a sense of peace, joy and love regardless of earthly circumstances.
The permanency of justification is a multi-dimensional question. God's plan of justification through his Son remains open to any who wishes to believe until the end of time and the final judgment. This does not change, as God does not change his mind regarding humankind. Justification, as seen above, is however a contract between God and his people. The responsibility of people is to believe. Being fallible, people can violate their part of the contract, and thus lose their justification.
It is thus possible for a human being to lose faith in God and his Son. This is the only case in which justification can be lost. God's grace cannot be lost as a result of a divine decision; it is only the result of human fallibility. Nonetheless, this fallibility can be forgiven, and all that is needed to renew the contract is a renewed attempt at faith in God. Through grace then, this faith is once again rewarded with forgiveness and justification. It is therefore a process form the human point-of-view.
God's ultimate act leading to the justification of humankind occurred only once, through his Son's sacrifice. On the part of human beings on the other hand, justification is a continual process of decisions. The reason for this is human fallibility, and also the human tendency to choose the wrong way.
Because of God's single act of salvation and consequent justification, it is possible to renew one's faith and once again partake in justification once faith has been lost. This is the perfection of God's work, and shows his understanding of human nature. It also shows the dichotomy between the paradigms of God and humankind. God is consistent, never changing and always faithful to his commitments. Human beings on the other hand tend to abandon decisions once they are made. Commitments are also not always honored, as can be seen from the divorce rate in western societies. Thus God has provided the option of renewal, which allows humankind to make a process rather than a single once-off commitment of their part in the justification process.
God thus understands the fallibility of humankind, and that failure will be an inevitable part of creating the justification that is the Christian ideal. Faith once lost can therefore be regained, and justification can be renewed. The only requirement is faith, regardless of how fallible the Christian has been in good works.
Good works as a consequence of the justification process however could also result in a conflict between faith and works. Works are an extension of faith, but being fallible, human beings often tend to sin, like David did. This could also result in a loss of faith, but the reassurance is that God forgives and his justification remains the same. Good works inspired by faith can also grow to become increasingly effective, thus allowing the believer to grow in both faith and works. In cases where faith is not lost, justification remains the same, while the fruits of justification grow and develop (Definbaugh).
Justification can thus be both static and progressive. It is directly linked to the faith of the believer. Where faith grows by means of vanishing and reappearing at times, justification changes and grows accordingly. Where works become increasingly prominent as a result of growing faith, justification also grows. Works and faith are intertwined very closely, with good works tending to increase as faith does. While justification is not dependent upon good works, the strength of faith does tend to influence the quality of the believer's actions (Stuhlmacher 109).
Paul's epistle to the Romans is a multi-dimensional work, touching upon several issues of salvation and faith. Faith is the central…[continue]
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