Spiritual Warfare – Indwelling Sin, Our Enemy (Pt 2)

Picking up from the last post on sin, here we want to focus on the universality of sin.  All people are sinners and stand guilty before God.  Romans 3:23 – “there is no distinction; for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” This universality of sin is seen in two ways. 

Original Sin

First, as a result of Adam’s sin we all enter the world with a fallen nature. This is original sin–the sinful tendencies, desires, and dispositions in our hearts with which we are all born. Thus, original sin is something inherent in us–it is a morally ruined character. The original sin that we are all born with manifests itself throughout our lives in actual sins–the actions, thoughts, and feelings we have that violate God’s moral commands.

So our sinful hearts (original sin) cause us to make sinful choices, think sinful thoughts, and feel sinful feelings (actual sins). We are not sinners because we sin; rather, we sin because we are sinners. We are all born totally imprisoned in original sin. There is no island of goodness left in us. In Ephesians 2:1,3 Paul says, “And you were dead in the trespasses and sins . . . nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.”

Thus all people, until and unless they are converted, are sinners.  Paul makes it absolutely clear that all Christians came from this state and that all non-Christians are still in this state.  Scripture regards all people before they are saved by Christ as sinners and thus deserving of punishment from God.  Which is to say that from the inception of our existence, we are sinful.  In Psalm 14:2, 3 we read: “The Lord has looked down from heaven upon the sons of men, to see if there are any who understand, who seek after God. They have all turned aside; together they have become corrupt; there is no one who does good, not even one.”

Here again we see unrighteousness as a quality of the human race: “they have all turned aside…there is no one who does good.” Similarly, Job 15:14 declares that sinfulness is a property of humanity: “What is man, that he should be pure, or he who is born of a woman, that he should be righteous?” Verses 15-16 then speaks of the human race as a whole in shocking terms expressing our general corruption: “Behold, He puts no trust in His holy ones, And the heavens are not pure in His sight; How much less one who is detestable and corrupt, Man, who drinks iniquity like water!”

Jeremiah 17:9 says, “the heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick; who can understand it.” This seems to assume original sin–wickedness is a property of the human heart.  Ecclesiastes 9:3 declares a similar truth: “…the hearts of the sons of men are full of evil, and insanity is in their hearts through their lives.” Again, the human heart is sinful, and therefore all humans are sinful.  These texts indicate, then, that human nature itself is corrupt.

Imputed Sin

Second, the guilt of Adam’s sin is credited not just to Adam himself, but to us all. We are regarded as having sinned in Adam, and hence as deserving of the same punishment. This is imputed sin. We not only receive polluted and sinful natures because of Adam’s sin (original sin), but we are also regarded as having sinned in Adam such that we are guilty of his act as well (imputed sin).

Imputed sin is the ruin of our standing before God and is therefore not an internal quality but an objective reckoning of guilt, whereas original sin is the ruin of our character and thus is a reference to internal qualities. Both original sin and imputed sin place us under the judgment of God.  The key text for this is in Romans 5–

Romans 5:12,15-19 – sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned . . . .   [15] But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if many died through one man’s trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift by the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many.  [16] And the free gift is not like the result of that one man’s sin. For the judgment following one trespass brought condemnation, but the free gift following many trespasses brought justification.  [17] If, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ.  [18] Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men.  [19] For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous.

At least five times in the proceeding verses Paul says that death comes upon all humans because of the one sin of Adam:

  • Verse 15: by the transgression of the one the many died
  • Verse 16: the judgment arose from one transgression resulting in condemnation
  • Verse 17: by the transgression of the one, death reigned through the one
  • Verse 18: through one transgression there resulted condemnation to all men
  • Verse 19: through Adam’s sin, the many were made sinners

We are all condemned not ultimately because of our individual sins, but because of one sin (verse 18). We die not ultimately because of personal sins, but because of Adam’s one transgression (verse 17). It is not ultimately from our personal sins that we die, but rather “by the transgression of the one the many died.” Paul states over and over again that it is because of one sin that death and condemnation belong to us all. In other words, we are connected to Adam such that his one sin is regarded as our sin and we are worthy of condemnation for it.

Verse 19 provides us with a direct statement of imputation: For as through the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, even so through the obedience of the One the many will be made righteous. Paul here says that we are made sinners by the sin of Adam. Due to his disobedience, we are regarded as sinners. We cannot take “made sinners” here to be referring to original sin in which we become inherently sinful because it is paralleled with “made righteous.”

The phrase “made righteous” in this context is referring to the great truth of justification. Justification does not concern a change in our characters, the infusion of something inherent in us. Rather, it involves a change in our standing before God.  In justification, God declares us righteous because He imputes to us the righteousness of Christ–not because He makes us internally righteous (cf. 2 Corinthians 5:21).  Thus, when Paul says “made righteous” here, he means “imputed with righteousness” not “infused with righteousness.”  Since “made sinners” is paralleled with “made righteous,” it must also be referring to imputation. Thus, Paul is saying that we are all made sinners in the sense that we are imputed with Adam’s sin.

9 thoughts on “Spiritual Warfare – Indwelling Sin, Our Enemy (Pt 2)

  1. Nick42 says:

    In my study on this topic, the Greek term “logizomai” is the English term for “reckon/impute/credit/etc,” (all terms are basically equivalently used) and when I look up that term in a popular Protestant Lexicon here is what it is defined as:

    —————-
    QUOTE: “This word deals with reality. If I “logizomai” or reckon that my bank book has $25 in it, it has $25 in it. Otherwise I am deceiving myself. This word refers to facts not suppositions.”
    http://tinyurl.com/r92dch
    —————-

    The Protestant Lexicon states this term first and foremost refers to the actual status of something. So if Abraham’s faith is “logizomai as righteousness,” it must be an actually righteous act of faith, otherwise (as the Lexicon says) “I am deceiving myself.” This seems to rule out any notion of an alien righteousness, and instead points to a local/inherent righteousness.

    The Lexicon gives other examples where “logizomai” appears, here are some examples:

    ——————-
    Rom 3:28 Therefore we conclude [logizomai] that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law.

    Rom 4:4 Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted [logizomai] as a gift but as his due.

    Rom 6:11 Likewise reckon [logizomai] ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord.

    Rom 8:18 For I reckon [logizomai] that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.
    ——————-

    Notice in these examples that “logizomai” means to consider the actual truth of an object. In 3:28 Paul ‘reckons’ faith saves while the Law does not, this is a fact, the Law never saves. In 4:4 the worker’s wages are ‘reckoned’ as a debt because the boss is in debt to the worker, not giving a gift to him. In 6:11 the Christian is ‘reckoned’ dead to sin because he is in fact dead to sin. In 8:18 Paul ‘reckons’ the present sufferings as having no comparison to Heavenly glory, and that is true because nothing compares to Heavenly glory.

    To use logizomai in the “alien status” way would mean in: (1) 3:28 faith doesn’t really save apart from works, but we are going to go ahead and say it does; (2) 4:4 the boss gives payment to the worker as a gift rather than obligation/debt; (3) 6:11 that we are not really dead to sin but are going to say we are; (4) 8:18 the present sufferings are comparable to Heaven’s glory.
    This cannot be right.

    So when the text plainly says “faith is logizomai as righteousness,” I must read that as ‘faith is reckoned as a truly righteous act’, and that is precisely how Paul explains that phrase in 4:18-22. That despite the doubts that could be raised in Abraham’s heart, his faith grew strong and convinced and “that is why his faith was credited as righteousness” (v4:22). This is also confirmed by noting the only other time “credited as righteousness” appears in Scripture, Psalm 106:30-31, where Phinehas’ righteous action was reckoned as such.

  2. John says:

    …[W]hen Paul says “Faith is credited to us as righteousness,” he does not mean that our faith is our righteousness, or any part of our justifying righteousness. He means that faith is what unites us with Christ and all that God is for us in him. When God sees faith in Christ, he sees union with Christ. And when he sees union with Christ, he sees the righteousness of Christ as our righteousness. So faith connects us with Christ who is our righteousness and, in that sense, faith is counted as righteousness. Faith sees and savors all that God is for us in Christ, especially his righteousness. That’s what faith does.

    Now what is the Biblical basis of that interpretation? John Owen, in volume five of his Works (pp. 318-319) gives five arguments, and John Murray in his commentary on Romans gives nine arguments (pp. 353-359) why “faith credited as righteousness” does not mean that faith is our righteousness. I will give a few of these.

    First, notice that at the end of verse 6 and at the end of verse 11 in Romans 4 you have a very different way of expressing “imputation” or crediting. At the end of verse 6 it says, “God credits righteousness apart from works.” And at the end of verse 11 it says, “. . . that righteousness might be credited to them.” Notice: in both of these, faith is not the thing credited as righteousness, but righteousness is the thing credited to us. “God credits righteousness,” not “God credits faith as righteousness.” What this does is alert us to the good possibility that when Paul says, “Faith is credited as righteousness,” he may well mean, “God credits righteousness to us through faith.”

    Second, look at Romans 3:21-22, “But now apart from the Law the righteousness of God has been manifested, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe.” Notice that it is God’s righteousness that comes to us through faith. Faith is what unites us to God’s righteousness. Faith is not God’s righteousness.

    Third, 2 Corinthians 5:21, “He [God] made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” Here we have a double imputation. God imputed our sins to Christ who knew no sin. And God imputed his righteousness to us who had no righteousness of our own. The key phrases for us are “the righteousness of God” and “in Him.” It’s not our righteousness that we get here. It is God’s righteousness. And we get it not because our faith is righteous, but because we are “in Christ.” Faith unites us to Christ. And in Christ we have an alien righteousness. It is God’s righteousness in Christ. Or you can say it is Christ’s righteousness. He takes our sin. We take his righteousness.

    Fourth, consider 1 Corinthians 1:30. John Bunyan said that, after that experience in the field where the imputed righteousness of Christ hit him so powerfully, he went home and looked for Biblical support. He hit upon 1 Corinthians 1:30. “But by His [God’s] doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption.” “By this scripture,” Bunyan said, “I saw that the man Christ Jesus . . . is our righteousness and sanctification before God. Here therefore I lived for some time very sweetly at peace with God, through Christ” (Grace Abounding, p. 91).

    This text says that Christ became to us (or for us) “righteousness.” And the reason Christ is our “righteousness” in this way is that we are “in Christ Jesus.” “You are in Christ Jesus who became to us . . . righteousness.” Christ is our righteousness, not faith. Faith unites us to Christ and all that God is for us in him. But what he is for us in him is righteousness.

    So then what is the point of all this? The point is this: When Paul says in Romans 4:22 (and verses 3, 5, and 9) that “faith is credited as righteousness,” he does not mean that our faith is our righteousness. He means that our faith unites us to Christ so that God’s righteousness in Christ is credited to us.

    Here’s a very imperfect analogy. But I will risk it in the hope of greater understanding. Suppose I say to Barnabas, my sixteen-year-old son, “Clean up your room before you go to school. You must have a clean room, or you won’t be able to go watch the game tonight.” Well, suppose he plans poorly and leaves for school without cleaning the room. And suppose I discover the messy room and clean it. His afternoon fills up and he gets home just before it’s time to leave for the game and realizes what he has done and feels terrible. He apologizes and humbly accepts the consequences.

    To which I say, “Barnabas, I am going to credit your apology and submission as a clean room. I said, ‘You must have a clean room, or you won’t be able to go watch the game tonight. Your room is clean. So you can go to the game.” What I mean when I say, “I credit your apology as a clean room,” is not that the apology is the clean room. Nor that he really cleaned his room. I cleaned it. It was pure grace. All I mean is that, in my way of reckoning – in my grace – his apology connects him with the promise given for a clean room. The clean room is his clean room. I credit it to him. Or, I credit his apology as a clean room. You can say it either way. And Paul said it both ways: “Faith is credited as righteousness,” and “God credits righteousness to us through faith.”

    So when God says, this morning, to those who believe in Christ, “I credit your faith as righteousness,” he does not mean that your faith is righteousness. He means that your faith connects you to God’s righteousness.

    Now what difference should this make in your life?

    For Martin Luther and John Bunyan the discovery of the imputed righteousness of Christ was the greatest life-changing experience they ever had. Luther said it was like entering a paradise of peace with God. For Bunyan it was the end of years of spiritual torture and uncertainty. What would you give to know for sure that your legal acceptance and approval before God was as sure as the standing of Jesus Christ, his Son?

    It’s free. This is what Christ came to do: fulfill a righteousness and die a death that would remove all your sins and become for you a perfect righteousness. He offers you this today as a gift. If you see him as true and precious, if you take the gift and trust in it, you will have a peace with God that passes all understanding. You will be a secure person. You will not need the approval of others. You will not need the ego-supports of wealth or power or revenge. You will be free. You will overflow with love. You will lay down your life in the cause of Christ for the joy that is set before you. Look to Christ and trust him for your righteousness.

    -John Piper, “Faith and Imputation”
    http://www.desiringgod.org/ResourceLibrary/Sermons/ByScripture/10/1095_Faith_and_the_Imputation_of_Righteousness/

  3. Nick says:

    Thank you for your thoughtful response. Sorry for this late post, I’ve been very busy the last few days.

    Here are my thoughts:

    I am especially glad you said,”Now what is the Biblical basis of that interpretation?” after your first paragraph, because I’d like to see the exegetical and lexical reasoning behind it.

    I don’t have Owen’s Works or Murray’s Romans Commentary, but do they directly address issues such as: (1) how logizomai is used in the Bible; (2) how logizomai is used in Rom 4:4; (3) how “credited as righteousness” is used in Psalm 106:30f; and (4) Rom 4:18-22? If they don’t address issues like those, then I cannot see how they could sufficiently analyze the passage.

    Now, onto the points you raise:

    1) You point out: What this does is alert us to the good possibility that when Paul says, “Faith is credited as righteousness,” he may well mean, “God credits righteousness to us through faith.”
    I don’t see why that is a problem. God crediting the believer’s act of faith as righteousness and crediting righteousness to the believer are equivalent. Paul is using shorthand in his talk for what is already established. It would be like me saying “diamond counted as value” and “value counted to the ring” (which the diamond is a part of).

    2) Regarding Romans 3:21-22, that is an interesting point to make. I think the first thing that needs to be established is: What does “righteousness of God” mean? The way it’s used in Rom 3:5, contrasted to our unfaithfulness, I understand it to mean
    “faithfulness to promises”, hearkening back to something like Jer 33. That said, I would still have to think about what you said some more.

    3) Regarding 2 Cor 5:21, I have often heard this explained in terms of “double imputation,” as you just did. However, I think it’s a bit of a rush to say that when Paul (who is aware of the term logizomai) doesn’t use the term here. In texts like Phil 3:9-11, Paul explains God’s righteousness affecting him in terms of an inner transformation of his soul. This would seem to match the “become the righteousness” stated here.

    4) I would put this in the same category as #3. Further, we must be careful taking something said in one text (especially another book) and reading it into another text (or book). In other words, “righteousness” need not mean the same or be used the same everywhere it appears, and thus care must be taken when approaching Rom 4 with this.

    Regarding your last sentence: “…he does not mean that our faith is our righteousness. He means that our faith unites us to Christ so that God’s righteousness in Christ is credited to us.”

    Thinking about this, I don’t believe the two meanings are incompatible (given my usage of reckon). For example, faith can act like a window to Abraham’s soul, revealing God’s righteousness infused in it.

    I sort of understand your analogy, but as you say its “imperfect” and I don’t think ultimately gets a meaning across. For example, if the requirement is a clean room, then regardless of who cleans it, Barnabas can go. An apology is not required of Barnabas, what is required is a clean room. If an apology is allowed, then the room need not be cleaned at all by anyone (the apology can be graciously given the value of a clean room). Further, if Barnabas room corresponds to his soul, then God by His power is making Barnabas inwardly righteous.

    You asked: “What would you give to know for sure that your legal acceptance and approval before God was as sure as the standing of Jesus Christ, his Son?”

    Well, I can’t think of a more important assurance. But what ‘sounds good’ doesn’t automatically make it Biblical. I can have a conditional and limited assurance about such a thing, but never one so sure that I couldn’t doubt – unless I was literally standing face to face with Jesus.

  4. John says:

    First off, I want to be clear–in my first reply I noted that what I posted was from a sermon by John Piper, not me. I am in agreement with what he says and what he says he says succinctly so I not only agree, but like it! But I want to be clear that those are his words, not mine.

    Now for my words 😉 First of all, there have been entire books written on these issues, so it will be impossible to cover every reason of why I think what I wrote is correct. Along with Piper, there are several able commentaries that discuss the precise exegetical arguments for these things.

    But, second, I do want to explain what I think are some “essentials” in this discussion. I’ve read the arguments, but I just cannot see how you can ‘covenant faithfulness’ for righteousness of God. Unless Paul is using the phrase to mean different things at different times, it becomes nonsensical in many passages (e.g. 2 Cor 5:21).

    Another important note here is my belief that the Scriptures are the Word of God and, therefore, cohere as one book with one, consistent theology. Yes, we build our understanding of that theology from a rigorous exegesis of the text. But if our exegesis of one text puts it at odds with many other texts, then our exegesis must be wrong. This comes into play when we talk of our faith being considered righteousness before God. Paul is clear that salvation is not by works lest anyone should boast (cf. Eph 2:8-9). But if it is our faith that counts for righteousness with God, then we HAVE done a work that causes us to be right with God. Not only are there good exegetical arguments for seeing imputation though faith form the text, that interpretation makes the text compatible with the rest of the Bible’s teachings. If my faith is part of what makes me right with God, then I can boast!

    This leads to my last point–our basis of assurance. The Bible is clear that we CAN have assurance of standing with God in several places. This is probably most clear in Romans 8, especially verses 1, 14-16. Those who have the Spirit can be assured of their salvation. Specifically because our salvation does not depend on us, but on what Christ has done. Our faith is the conduit that connects us to God’s grace in Christ, but not the basis for our salvation. God’s love/mercy/grace int he cross is the basis for our assurance.

    Blessings!

  5. Nick says:

    Hi,

    Yes, I realized they were quotes from Piper when I read the link. But as you would agree what matters is whether the argument is true, not who said it.

    I’m not set on an exact definition for “righteousness of God,” so I wouldn’t set it on “covenant faithfulness,” but I see sufficient evidence to read it somewhat along those lines, so texts like 2 Cor 5:21 are not really a problem. Romans describes the “righteousness of God” in the way the OT Prophets did, as something along the lines of God’s delivering power. I’d appreciate your input on what you define “righteousness of God” as, as well as how you came to that conclusion.

    I also strongly agree with the ‘rule’ you stated: “if our exegesis of one text puts it at odds with many other texts, then our exegesis must be wrong.” This principle is always in mind when I make an attempt to exegete.

    You said that if our faith itself is counted as righteousness then “we HAVE done a work that causes us to be right with God.” I don’t think this makes sense because Paul just contrasted works with faith, so they are not the same. It makes no sense to say “faith is a work” when they are two different things by definition. Paul does *not* contrast the one who works with the one who ‘does nothing at all’ but rather the one who believes. If faith is a gift from God, which it is, then man has nothing to boast about, so anyone who boasts at that point is really deceiving themself.

    I would for the most part agree that the one who has the Indwelling of the Holy Spirit can be assured of their salvation, but to me points to what I’ve been saying about God making the individual righteous and then reckoning them as such. Romans 8:10 says, “if Christ is in you, your body is dead because of sin, yet your spirit is alive because of righteousness.” Righteousness transforms the soul, so it makes sense to say faith itself is counted as righteousness – for how could the Indwelling of God the Spirit not be righteousness?

  6. John says:

    Hi again, Nick,

    I think covenant faithfulness as a meaning for righteousness of God, just isn’t tenable. It is true that in the OT, God’s righteousness is often seen as synonymous with his saving acts (e.g., Judg 5:11; 1 Sam 12:7; Ps 98:2-3; etc). But–as other scholars maintain–I think we should see God’s righteousness fulfills his covenant faithfulness, but that doesn’t mean we should define righteous as faithfulness. Along with this, we hardly see the words covenant and righteousness together in any OT text.

    In the NT, we see God’s righteousness involving his justification of sinners. Specifically, in Phil 3:9 the righteousness of God is seen as a gift that stands in contrasts to Paul’s own righteousness. This gift was given to him through faith. Both Rom 1:17 and 3:21-22, also righteousness as something forensic, to be given to believers through faith. Romans 3:25-26 also shows God’s righteousness to be related to his judgment of sinners and the justifying of sinners as a gift of his grace through faith in Christ. Then 2 Cor 5:21 comes on the heels of Paul’s teaching about reconciliation, which involves “not counting their trespasses against [sinners]” (5:19). This is possible because of Christ’s atoning death in place of sinners, which enables them to become the righteousness of God. This cannot be ‘covenant faithfulness.’

    I agree that faith and works are different, but that only works if we take faith as the means by which we receive something from God and not as something God counts as a righteous act which merits our forgiveness. This is part of the reason why it makes better exegetical sense to see imputation here. Otherwise that faith/works distinction is gone.

    Finally, you said, “I’ve been saying about God making the individual righteous and then reckoning them as such.” Here is a fundamental difference in our understanding. I believe Paul (and the rest of the NT) teach the opposite: first God declares to be righteous, then he begins to make us righteous. It’s the distinction between justification and sanctification; the first is a legal declaration, the second is a transformative process. I would take this to be the case, for example, by what we read as Paul’s argument in Romans 5-6. Paul argues for the justification of sinners = their being reckoned as righteous as the basis for their sanctification = their pursuit of real righteousness. Both take place by the power of the Spirit through faith, but are distinguished.

    1. Nick says:

      Hi,

      Regarding “covenant faithfulness,” I agree the term itself might be kind of poor, but the concept I believe is represented in Scripture. In Jeremiah 33, it says:

      “14 “Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will fulfill the promise I made to the house of Israel and the house of Judah. 15In those days and at that time I will cause a righteous Branch to spring up for David, and he shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. 16In those days Judah will be saved, and Jerusalem will dwell securely. And this is the name by which it will be called: ‘The LORD is our righteousness.’
      17″For thus says the LORD: David shall never lack a man to sit on the throne of the house of Israel, 18 and the Levitical priests shall never lack a man in my presence to offer burnt offerings, to burn grain offerings, and to make sacrifices forever.””

      Even if the term “covenant” isnt used here, it clearly is referring to the “promises” made to Israel and Judah, springing from David’s lineage. And this is set in the context of being “saved.” So it really all is closely related. When Paul says “the righteousness of God” in Romans, I see Jeremiah’s prophecy clearly linking to it. And this is *precisely* how Paul begins Romans (1:1-4). So even if the term “covenant faithfulness” doesn’t quite nail down the meaning, the general drift is certainly recognizable.

      John: In the NT, we see God’s righteousness involving his justification of sinners.

      Nick: Agreed, but that works in just about any definition of “God’s righteousness.”

      John: Specifically, in Phil 3:9 the righteousness of God is seen as a gift that stands in contrasts to Paul’s own righteousness. This gift was given to him through faith.

      Nick: Reading Phil 3:9 in context, Paul clarifies in 3:10-11 that this “knowing God’s righteousness” means his soul is transformed, becoming like Christ in His Death and Resurrection. This is certainly not ‘forensic’, at least not primarily.

      John: Both Rom 1:17 and 3:21-22, also righteousness as something forensic, to be given to believers through faith. Romans 3:25-26 also shows God’s righteousness to be related to his judgment of sinners and the justifying of sinners as a gift of his grace through faith in Christ.

      Nick: That’s just it though, and I realized this when I stopped to think about it in the past, the notion of God fulfilling His promises to send a Savior does fit with those passages. The context is not so much ‘forensic’ as it is ‘prophetic-history’ unfolding. Rom 3:21 says the Law and Prophets bear witness to this “righteousness,” indicating it’s related to prophecy. In 3:25-26 it speaks of to “show” God’s Righteousness, indicating it became manifest. Lastly, the term “righteousness of God” is specifically speaking of “righteousness of God the Father,” so it’s a quality of the Father’s nature and not a forensic status.

      John: Then 2 Cor 5:21 comes on the heels of Paul’s teaching about reconciliation, which involves “not counting their trespasses against [sinners]” (5:19). This is possible because of Christ’s atoning death in place of sinners, which enables them to become the righteousness of God. This cannot be ‘covenant faithfulness.’

      Nick: This is a fair claim – to an extent. It is interesting that Paul uses the term “become”, because that indicates transformation. In terms of becoming “covenant faithfulness,” yeah, that sounds awkward; but with a more elastic definition I could see it fitting. To “become the righteousness of God in Christ” could mean we as Christians now reflect God’s saving power in a true sense, just as Christ’s life does.

      John: I agree that faith and works are different, but that only works if we take faith as the means by which we receive something from God and not as something God counts as a righteous act which merits our forgiveness.

      Nick: I don’t seen any tension between the two ‘options’ you give here. For example, by repentance we receive forgiveness, but God won’t forgive unless you genuinely repent. A genuine repentance is something that pleases God and in turn causes Him to forgive.

      John: I believe Paul (and the rest of the NT) teach the opposite: first God declares to be righteous, then he begins to make us righteous.

      Nick: I don’t see any basis for God declaring us righteous without us being righteous. Indeed, this is precisely why I studied how logizomai is used, because it points to just that.

      John: It’s the distinction between justification and sanctification; the first is a legal declaration, the second is a transformative process.

      Nick: Why can’t they be tied together? 1 Cor 6:11 says “you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified,” putting sanctification prior/concurrent with justification.

      John: I would take this to be the case, for example, by what we read as Paul’s argument in Romans 5-6. Paul argues for the justification of sinners = their being reckoned as righteous as the basis for their sanctification = their pursuit of real righteousness. Both take place by the power of the Spirit through faith, but are distinguished.

      Nick: They can be distinguished, but that doesn’t make them independent or mean that justification happens first. I see Paul describing justification as a transformation process in Romans 6, and he even uses the term ‘justify’ in Rom 6:7.

  7. John says:

    I wouldn’t say that God is not faithful to his covenant. What I am saying is that when we get to the NT, we cannot DEFINE God’s righteousness as covenant faithfulness.

    Reading Phil 3:9 in context, Paul clarifies in 3:10-11 that this “knowing God’s righteousness” means his soul is transformed, becoming like Christ in His Death and Resurrection. This is certainly not ‘forensic’, at least not primarily.

    How do you get that? Paul says he goes through sufferings and counts his former righteousness as loss so as to “know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.” How do you equate that with God’s righteousness?

    John: I agree that faith and works are different, but that only works if we take faith as the means by which we receive something from God and not as something God counts as a righteous act which merits our forgiveness.

    Nick: I don’t seen any tension between the two ‘options’ you give here. For example, by repentance we receive forgiveness, but God won’t forgive unless you genuinely repent. A genuine repentance is something that pleases God and in turn causes Him to forgive.

    Faith is not a work, but a gift from God (Rom 12:3; Eph 2:8-9; Phil 1:29). Thus, God is the first mover in our hearts as we hear the gospel. He gives life, regenerating us that we might see his glory and believe the gospel. As we believe, we are also turning away from sins (repentance). Several things happen at together-justification, initial sanctification, adoption, etc. But that doesn’t mean that there is not a logical priority.

    Furthermore, the word ‘justification’ is a legal, forensic word and that’s how Paul uses it in his letters. Even in the verse you reference–Rom 6:7–a statement of fact is used as the basis for Paul’s argument that Christians are to continue in holiness.

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