Thoughts on Atonement, Justification, and Righteousness

reading[1]

In Paul’s epistle to the church in Rome, the prophecies and promises about Jesus Christ were to show Jesus was the promised Messiah.[1] In the introduction section of Romans, Paul lays out some facts. God will be proven faithful and just, the law brings out sin in mankind, the Jews do not live up to the law’s holy standards, that both the Jews and Gentiles are under the dominion of sin, and that God will judge the world’s sin.[2] The Gospel of Christ tells how sinful people can find access to God through sacrificial atonement. Atonement means the bringing back together something that was torn apart.[3] The book of Romans draws on the pattern of Israel’s system of sacrifices to explain the idea of atonement.[4] There were sacrifices in Israel’s worship for atonement; Sin Offering (Lev. 4), Trespass Offering (Lev. 5), and Whole Burnt Offering (Lev. 1) as well as the great Day of Atonement (Lev. 16).[5] In Romans 7, Paul used the Old Testament passages to show that the sacrifices of old were not enough to bring man and God back together.[6] The work Jesus Christ did on the cross is the ultimate work of atonement that will restore humanity to God.[7] The need for atonement brings the ideas of justification and righteousness to the forefront.

The idea of Justification has a significant role in Paul’s epistle to the Roman church. Justification is having the right legal standing before God.[8] Paul’s Doctrine of Justification is drawn from the prophetic expectations of the “day of the Lord” (Isa. 2:10-22; 13:6-11; Jer. 46:10; Amos 5:19-20; Obad. 15; Zeph. 1:14-23, etc.).[9] In Romans 3, Paul infers that it is in vain to look for justification by the works of the law but rather that can it be obtained through faith in Christ.[10] The law is designed to show mankind our weakness and sinfulness.[11] The idea of justification is but one of two ideas that have an important role in Paul’s epistle to the Roman church.

The idea of righteousness – which is the by-product of justification – has a monumental role in Paul’s epistle to the Roman church. Once God declares a sinner “justified,” said sinner now has the merits of perfect righteousness in God’s sight.[12] The Doctrine of Righteousness can be analyzed in four ways. The first way is called Original Righteousness; God made man morally good but man fell from this state into a state of sin. The second way is called Christ’s Righteousness; Christ is the only human being who has perfectly fulfilled God’s moral law and maintained a righteous nature. The third way is Imputed Righteousness (or Justification); God declares a believer righteous. The fourth way is Renewed Righteousness (or Sanctification); being made into the likeness of Christ and becoming righteous in actual moral character.[13] Paul, in Romans 9:30-33, states that Israel was not able to obtain righteousness through the Law but the Gentiles have obtained righteousness by their faith in Christ.[14] The ideas of justification and righteousness in Paul’s epistle are foundational to showing that Jesus Christ is the fulfillment of the Law.

 

[1] James M. Arlandson, “The Old Testament in Romans.” Biblegate.com, August 31, 2015. Accessed February 15, 2016. https://bible.org/article/old-testament-romans.

[2] Ibid.

[3] J.D. Douglas and Merrill C. Tenney, Zondervan Illustrated Bible Dictionary, ed. Moises Silva (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2011), 140.

[4] Ross Allen, “Introduction to the Book of Romans.” Biblegate.com, June 8th 2004. Accessed February 20, 2016. https://bible.org/seriespage/1-introduction-book-romans.

[5] Ibid.

[6] F.F. Bruce, Paul: Apostle of the Heart Set Free. (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1977), 331.

[7] Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine. (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1994), 568.

[8] Ibid, 722.

[9] J.I. Packer, Evangelical Dictionary of Theology. (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2001), 644.

[10] Matthew Henry, “Matthew Henry Commentary on Romans,”Biblestudytools.com. N.A. Accessed February 20, 2016.  http://www.biblestudytools.com/commentaries/matthew-henry-complete/romans/.

[11] William Barclay, The Letter to the Romans. (Philadelphia, PA: The Westminster Press, 1977), 57.

[12] Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine. (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1994), 725.

[13] D.W. Diehl, Evangelical Dictionary of Theology. (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2001), 1034.

[14] James M. Arlandson, “The Old Testament in Romans.” Biblegate.com, August 31, 2015. Accessed February 15, 2016. https://bible.org/article/old-testament-romans.

 

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