Romans 1-4: Justification


Romans 1:1-17. Introduction

Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated unto the gospel of God,” Rm1:1.
Theme: “The gospel of God”.
“Gospel”: From the old English “good spiel.”
Good news because it's the gospel of God, not of man.

Which he had promised before by his prophets in the holy scriptures, concerning his Son Jesus Christ our Lord,” Rm1:2-3.
His gospel, promised by his prophets, concerning his Son. The Father’s idea from beginning to end. Incorrect to picture Jesus as trying to persuade the Father to forgive us.
Source is God; content is "concerning his Son."

Romans 1:16-17, “I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believes, ... for therein is the righteousness of God revealed.
It's also "The gospel of Christ." Source is God; content is "concerning his Son."
“Righteousness,” “justice,” “justification” all translated from the same Greek word.
“Righteousness of God” refers to justification. Not God is righteous (though he is), a righteousness from God, he provides to man, in contrast to man’s own unrighteousness.
To “every one that believes,” who trust in Christ, rather than in their own self-righteousness. If it's by works then it's "the righteousness of man."

Romans 1:16-17, “The gospel of Christ ... is the power of God unto salvation.
Main Proposition. The book of Romans is about salvation. It's concerning his Son (whose name means salvation). Salvation = justification (Rom 1-4), sanctification and glorification (Rom 5-11).

Romans 1:16-17, “The gospel ... is the power of God unto salvation ... for therein is the righteousness of God revealed.
Righteousness same as "justification" in Greek.
Main proposition of the book of Romans: Justification results in sanctification and glorification.
Because of what happens to us when we are justified, because of the way we are justified. All who have been justified will be glorified, and all who have been justified are being sanctified.
That's good news.

The gospel ... is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believes."
Gospel > Believes > Salvation (Justification, Sanctification, Glorification)

"For (because) therein is the righteousness (justification) of God revealed.
Gospel > Believes > Justification > Sanctification and Glorification

Outline of Romans
Rom 1-11 Doctrine
    Rom 1-4 Justification
    Rom 5-11 Sanctification and Glorification
Rom 12-16 Practice


Romans 1:18-32. The Unrighteousness of Men

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men,” Rom1:18.
How many of us would start our presentation of the good news with the wrath of God?
If there is no wrath of God, there is no gospel.
The wrath of God is the biggest problem that every person faces.
Why doesn’t God just stop being angry? “Against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men.” A very difficult problem to solve.

The order: ungodliness results in unrighteousness. You can’t have morality apart from godliness.

What is ungodliness? Romans 1:21, “When they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful.” Failing to acknowledge the Creator, failing to be appreciative, that is all it takes to be ungodly. And that leads to unrighteousness.

Romans 1:24, “God ... gave them up."
As a judgment upon our ungodliness, he doesn’t hold us back from unrighteousness.

Bodies, souls, and spirits: 
Bodies 1:24. “Wherefore God also gave them up ... to dishonour their own bodies between themselves.
Souls (emotions) Romans 1:26. “God gave them up unto vile affections.
Spirits (mind) Romans 1:28. “God gave them over to a reprobate mind.
Thoroughly ungodly and unrighteous; thoroughly unrighteous because of our ungodliness.

List of unrighteous deeds:
Romans 1:29-31. “Being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers, backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, without understanding, covenant breakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful.


Romans 2:1-17. The Judgment of God

Three things about the judgment of God.

First, it is according to truth. Romans 2:2, “But we are sure that the judgment of God is according to truth against them which commit such things.” The standard is truth. That's why we are all in trouble with the wrath of God.

Secondly, it is according to deeds. Romans 2:6. “Who will render to every man according to his deeds.” Two groups of people in the judgment, differentiated by their deeds.
Group one, 2:7, “To them who by patient continuance in well doing, (do good all the time without fail) seek for glory and honour and immortality, (for the right motives) “eternal life.

Group two, 2:8-9: “But unto them that are contentious, (bad motives) and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, (bad deeds), indignation and wrath ...".

A Terrifying Judgment. 
Indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish,” Rm2:7-9.
A sequence from the heart of God to the heart of man.
God's inward thoughts: “indignation” > God's outward actions: “wrath” > Man's outward experience “tribulation” > Man's inward experience: “anguish”

We are in the group “filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness,” etc., Rm1:29. We have earned the wrath of God.

Thirdly, God’s judgment is according to law. “For as many as have sinned without law shall also perish without law: and as many as have sinned in the law shall be judged by the law; For not the hearers of the law are just before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified,” Rm2:12-13.

This is not good news. There is no group that does not sin. Some “have sinned without law,” the Gentiles; and some “have sinned in the law,” the Jewish people. Some will “perish without law,” the Gentiles; and some will perish because they will be “judged by the law,” the Jewish people. But all have sinned, and all will perish. That is The Judgment of God.


Romans 2:17-3:20. The Law Says All Men Are Sinners

The next section shows that the law confirms this. The law says that all men are sinners. Romans 3:9, “We have before proved both Jews and Gentiles, that they are all under sin.” That means servants of sin, “under sin” the master.

As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one, ... none that understandeth, ... none that seeketh after God, ... all gone out of the way, ... together become unprofitable, ... none that doeth good, no, not one,” Rm3:10-12. And Paul here is quoting from Psalms 5, 10, 14, 36, 53, and 140.. “Their throat an open sepulcher, ... swift to shed blood, destruction and misery in their ways, ... the way of peace they have not known, ... no fear of God,” Rm3:13-18.

Now we know that what things soever the law says, it says to them who are under the law,” that’s the Jewish people; the Gentiles never were given the law.“That every mouth,” of both Jew and Gentile, “may be stopped,” we won’t be able to claim to be righteous or to offer any excuse for not being righteous. “And all the world,” the Jewish people were chosen as a representative sample of humanity, to show how all of us would have fallen short, if we had been chosen to live under the law, “may become guilty before God,” Rm3:19. Everyone is guilty before God. No one has kept the law. God gave the law for the purpose of making men guilty, not for the purpose of making men righteous.

Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight,” Rm3:20. How many people will go to heaven by being good? None, “no flesh,”. The law is the best chance anyone has of being justified by works, because the law is the perfect revelation of what is right and wrong. But no one keeps it.

For by the law is the knowledge of sin,” Rm3:20. That’s the best the law can do for you, to help you realize you’re a sinner. That’s why God gave the law. “The law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith,” Gal3:24. If the law makes you realize your sinfulness, and then you turn to Christ for salvation by faith, the law has accomplished its purpose in your life.


Romans 3:21-31. Justification By Faith

So far we have seen that men are under the wrath of God because of our ungodliness and unrighteousness. We are worthy of judgment, and the best the law can do for us, is to help us know we are sinners.

In verse 3:21, “But now ...” Now the good news, now the gospel. “The righteousness of God,” the righteousness from God that he provides to man,“without the law is manifested, being witnessed [to] by the law and the prophets.”

This righteousness is “without the law.” Contrary to Catholic doctrine, we don’t have to keep the Ten Commandments or be good to go to heaven. And if we think we have to be good to go to heaven then we can’t go to heaven, because that means we are an unbeliever, we don’t believe Christ’s death counts or is sufficient. If we think we have to be good to go to heaven, and we are not weeping in despair every moment, then we do not realize that we are not good; we are self-righteous, and have not received God’s righteousness. “There is none good, no, not one,”Rm3:12.

Jesus was asked by one man: “Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life? And he said unto him ... if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments. He saith unto him, Which? Jesus said, Thou shalt do no murder, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not steal ...” Mt19:16-26. In other words, Jesus is going through some of the Ten Commandments. And it is true that if you keep the law perfectly—as we saw in chapter two—“patient continuance in well doing” Rm2:27, then you will be justified by your works. But Jesus was trying to get this man to realize he was not going to be able to do that; he was trying to get him to see his need of salvation. And the end of the story is that the man, “went away sorrowful,” because he continued to believe he needed to earn eternal life, which is out of reach of every man.

So rather than teaching salvation by keeping the Ten Commandments, this passage from Matthew teaches the opposite. The only way we will ever be judged to be righteous is if we receive the righteousness God provides to us “without the law,” without the Ten Commandments, without any good deeds, or else it would be “the righteousness of man” rather than “the righteousness of God,” and you don’t find the righteousness of man in this book. You only find the unrighteousness of man.

So this righteousness of God is without law and it is by faith. “Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe,” Rm3:22

Justification does not require repentance, being baptized, being good, going to church, going to confession. If any of these things were required, this would be the place for Paul to tell us, because he is giving us a complete treatise on justification here in chapters one through four. But Paul says that the righteousness of God is given to all them that believe, including those that haven’t been baptized, including those that haven’t repented, including those that haven’t ever gone to confession or gone to church. Without doing any of those other things, God promises to “all them that believe,” that they will be justified.

In fact, if we do any of those other things for the purpose of justification, then we don’t have faith in Christ, because we don’t think what Christ did on the cross is sufficient to satisfy God’s justice.

Now there are some Scriptures scattered throughout the New Testament that seem to indicate that more than faith is required, when the context is not understood. For example, John the Baptist preached the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins. (Mt3:2) And we saw that Jesus preached, “Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand,” Mt4:17, when I was here several months ago.

But in the survey of Matthew, we saw that even though Jesus preached repent in the first part of his ministry, he stopped preaching repent in the second part, because that generation of the nation of Israel didn’t repent, and the kingdom was not at hand anymore. But some people today continue to preach repent based on the fact that Jesus preached repent, and don’t even realize that he stopped preaching repent. There may be valid reasons for preaching repent, but not because Jesus preached repent in the early part of his ministry, because he stopped.

So it is important to understand the context. And, like I said, this is a complete treatise on the subject of justification. If repentance or any other thing was necessary, Paul would be gravely negligent to omit to tell us what else we need to do here, because he says here that all we need to do is believe.

The book of John is entirely about how to have eternal life, and it says eternal life is by faith alone. The Greek word ‘pistos’ (pis-tos’), translated ‘faith,’ ‘believe,’ and ‘trust’ is used more times in John than any other book in the Bible, because the purpose of the book of John was that, “These are written that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing ye might have life through his name,” Jn20:31. Not, “that being baptized you might have life,” or “that going to church you might have life,” or “that being good you might have life,” but “that believing you might have life through his name.

The next paragraph tells us how God can justify us merely by our faith. He does it through redemption and propitiation. In Romans 3:23, “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” ... being condemned and punished. That is what we would expect, because God is a just God. But it says, “For all have sinned ... being justified,” Rm3:23. Now how can a just God do that?

Well, it is by his grace, “being justified freely by his grace,” Rm3:24. Grace means getting something good that you don’t deserve. And it is “freely,”unearned. But that still doesn’t explain it. What explains it is that even though it was free for us, it wasn’t free for God. It wasn’t free for Christ.

Through the redemption that is in Jesus Christ,” Rm3:24. Redemption means that when a poor person sells himself into slavery, a rich relative pays the price to buy their freedom again. That is what Christ did for us. He paid the price that only he could pay. So the price was paid. Our justification is not free, but it’s free for us.

Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood,”Rm3:25. Propitiation is when somebody is angry with you, and then they are appeased and are not angry at you anymore. When we started this section on justification, we saw that “the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men,” Rm1:18. Jesus bore that wrath in our place, and that is why God is not angry anymore at any person who believes, at any person who has “faith in his blood.”

But even though Christ died for all, we can choose to trust in our own righteousness, we can be judged for our own works, and we can suffer the wrath for ourselves at the judgment. But if we trust in Christ, his substitutionary death counts for us. He received our sins. “He [God the Father] hath made him [Yeshua] to be sin for us, [he] who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him,” 2Cor5:21. And we receive his righteousness. “Be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith,” Phil3:9. Or we can be self righteous, and see how it goes at the judgment.

One thing is more important than our justification. It is that God remain just. “To declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God,” Rm3:25. When it is talking about his righteousness here, it is not talking about the righteousness which he gives to man. It is talking, this time, about his own righteousness. Is he a just judge or not? When he passed over David’s sin of adultery and murder, the “sins that are past,” before the death of Christ, how could he do that and still be just? It is because he looked forward in time to the death of Christ for David.

That he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus,” Rm3:26. Now if God justified sinners, and that was the end of the story, then he wouldn’t be just, because the Bible says in Proverbs 17:15, “He that justifieth the wicked, and he that condemneth the just, even they both are abomination to the LORD.” God is able to justify the wicked -- that’s us -- without being unjust, because we receive the righteousness of Christ. And God was able to condemn the just -- that’s Jesus -- without being unjust, because Jesus willingly took our sins on himself. This way, and this way only, God can be just and justifier.

So God cannot just overlook or forgive sin. He can’t just say, “I forgive you,” because then he wouldn’t be a just judge. If we had a judge downtown that let guilty men go free, we would be putting a new judge in there, I hope. But Christ paid the price which satisfied justice, so God can justify the wicked “which believeth in Jesus,” and still be just.


Romans 4:1-25. The Law Says Justification Is By Faith

The Old Testament confirms the doctrine of justification by faith. First of all, it says that the righteousness that God provides is an ‘imputed’ righteousness. “For if Abraham were justified by works, he hath whereof to glory; but not before God. For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted [imputed] unto him for righteousness,”Rm4:2-3. In this passage, the same Greek word will be translated as ‘counted,’ ‘reckoned,’ and ‘imputed’.

Abraham was not in himself actually righteous. He had to be “counted” as being righteous while he was not righteous. This is another direct contradiction of the Catholic doctrine that men actually become righteous through baptism and confession and then must continue to be righteous to go to heaven.

And this righteousness of God is only available “to him that worketh not.” “Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt. But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness,” Rm4:4-5. If you are trying to be good to go to heaven then you don’t have this righteousness that God provides because you are one of those “that worketh,” rather than one of those “that worketh not.”

When your employer pays you, it is not grace. It is debt, because he owes you what you have earned for your work. Even if he helps you do the work, he owes you wages, because you put in the hours. If he pays you when you don’t even show up for work, that’s grace.

There is a system comprised of works, judgments, and rewards. There is a system comprised of faith, grace, and gifts. You have to be in that faith, grace, and gifts system in order to be justified. If you are in that works, judgment, and rewards system, you won’t survive the judgment.

The next paragraph also talks about imputed righteousness without works. “Even as David also describeth the blessedness of the man, unto whom God imputeth righteousness without works, Saying, Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin,” Romans 4:6-8.

It is not, as the Catholics teach, that grace helps us do good works for our justification. It is that our works have been completely removed from the equation for our justification. It is “righteousness without works.” It is an imputed righteousness, not that we are actually righteous because of our works. Our works are actually bad. We actually sin grievously. But the good news! “Blessed is the [sinning] man to whom the Lord will not impute [his] sin.” Actually sinners, but not counted as sinners!

Now the only way to be justified, based on all of this, is to avoid being judged. If we are ever judged, we will perish. It is important to understand that even though God will judge “every man according to his deeds,” as we saw in Romans 2:6, not all will go through the judgment personally, since Christ already went through the judgment for those who believe on him.

Hebrews 9:27-28 says: “And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment: so Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many.” Many believers, maybe some of us sitting here today, won’t die even once, because of the rapture, even though it is appointed unto man “once to die.” Why? Because Christ already died for us, and it counts for you if you have believed on him. And now even if we do die physically, the New Testament says we fall asleep, because we have already died through his death. And that is the same with the judgment. He already went through the judgment, so we won’t go through the judgment. There is no double jeopardy, even in our court system.

We see the actual judgment in Revelation 20 beginning in verse 5. “This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: on such the second death hath no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years,”Rev20:5-6. Notice there is no judgment for these who are raised in the first resurrection, because the judgment Christ already went through counts for them.

A thousand years later there is going to be another group resurrected, and they will be judged, and they will be condemned. There is no mention of anyone in this later resurrection being judged and being found to be good enough to go to heaven. The judgment is not to determine who will be justified and who will be condemned. It is to determine how much punishment each person in the judgment will be sentenced to. But everyone who is judged will be condemned.

In Revelation 20:7-15, “And when the thousand years are expired ... I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books [plural] were opened: and another book [singular] was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books [plural], according to their works.” No one is judged out of the book of life. All are judged by the books, plural, because they contain a list of “their works.”

“Death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works.” This is the judgment talked about in Romans 2. And none of these people survive the judgment. “And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And whosoever was not found written in the book of life [everyone in this second resurrection]was cast into the lake of fire.”

The book of life is just there as a check, but there will be no one in this judgment whose name can be found in that book. God made eternal life available as a gift by simple faith to whosoever will, but the absence of these people’s names in the book of life shows they trusted in their own works, and thus must indeed now be judged by their works. The book of life has no columns in which to list any works, only the names of those who believe. If you want to rely on works, you will have to be judged out of those other books.

The next paragraph is about inheriting the promise. I won’t read all this, but basically that God took Abraham out, and showed him the stars, and said, “So shall thy seed be,” Rm4:18. He said, “You are going to have a lot of descendants,” even though Abraham was very old and had no child at the time.

And Abraham believed the Word of God, and so “it was counted unto him for righteousness,” Rm4:3. Abraham was justified the same way we are, by faith in God’s Word. The content was different, because Christ hadn’t come yet, but all men through all time have been justified by faith alone in God’s Word.

In the middle of this paragraph it says, “According to that which was spoken, So shall thy seed be,” Rm4:18. That was the Word of God that Abraham believed. And the Word of God that we need to believe is that “he that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life,” Jn3:36.

So Abraham “was strong in faith giving glory to God,” Rm4:20. It is not presumptuous to have faith. It gives God the glory due his name. If you have faith, you are saying that you believe he will keep his Word. He is not a liar. “And being fully persuaded ...” Rm4:21. Faith is always fully persuaded. “And therefore it was imputed to him for righteousness,” Rm4:22.

Now, the best part of this, beginning in Romans 4:23-25, is that this was written for us. “Now it was not written for his [Abraham’s] sake alone, that it was imputed to him; but for us also, to whom it shall be imputed, if we believe on him that raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead; who was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification.

So Paul didn’t put these doctrines here because they are theoretical or philosophical. Paul, in this last paragraph is concluding this section with an invitation. He wants you to act upon these doctrines and these words.

And so if there is somebody here today that hasn’t received the righteousness of God, hasn’t put that kind of faith in Jesus, then this is the time to do that. We are going to close our eyes and bow our heads for a minute. Tell him that you trust in his Son as your substitute who took your sin and suffered your punishment in your place on the cross, and that you accept the righteousness he offers you. He will give you his righteousness just for believing because the Word of God, in Romans 3:22 says, “The righteousness of God ... is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all ... them that believe.