Romans Chp 3 Vs 21 – 31; 4: 1-12 - Justification by Faith – Is Trusting a Person - Dr J Stewart Gillespie 

3 Key Words: 

Righteousness (v21) – a “righteousness apart from the law” - we considered Gods righteous Standard in chapters 1 – 3 and in this transitional verse we noted a Righteousness from God that is able to bring salvation rather than damnation, justification rather than condemnation. We found an example of a righteousness of God that saves in the book of Joshua, in Rahab the Harlot saved on the basis of righteousness! Gods Righteousness is not only a standard but it also becomes a standing by faith in Christ. 


Redemption (v24) – for that we went to the book of Exodus and to the Passover, we found a 7 fold redemption in Exodus chp 6, God would release His people from their Burden and from their Bondage to draw us to Himself. We saw the key words of Release, Removal, Redemption, Relationship and Responsibility! They were brought out of Egypt by a “mighty hand and an outstretched arm” (Deut26:8) and led out by a little lamb! We asked the people of Israel, how was it that you were brought out of Egypt and we heard their reply: 'it depends on which way that you look at it!' From the perspective of the Jew they were led out under the blood of the lamb, from the perspective of the Egyptian they came out under the blood of the firstborn! How often we must be humbled: “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD.” (Isa 55:8), “Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time:” (1Pe 5:6). We say our redemption prefigured in Exodus brought out under the blood of the lamb and brought out under the blood of the first-born! (1 Peter1:18-19) 


Propitiation (v25) – We went to the book of Leviticus and to the 16th chapter to see this truth prefigured in the OT in the blood stained 'mercy seat.' Propitiation deals with the problem of sin by the power of the blood at the place of mercy. The priest came in with a purity imputed, the white linen covered him before the presence of God. Propitiation has 3 aspects: God ward it is God satisfied, Man ward it is man justified and Christ ward its is Christ crucified. As simple as I could make it and as deep as I knew it!  God satisfied, man justified and Christ crucified! 


Righteousness apart from the law we saw it in Joshua 
Redemption by blood we saw it in Exodus 
Propitiation – we saw it in Leviticus 


You and I have discovered that the roots of our salvation go deep, very deep into the OT scriptures! 
In fact they go even deeper than that: 

Righteousness apart from the law, a righteousness of God that saves we will see goes back even beyond the book of Joshua, in Romans 4 we will see that it goes back to at least Abraham in Genesis chp 15! 
Redemption – whilst so clearly seen in Exodus, the first mention of redemption is in fact in the book of Genesis: “The Angel which redeemed me from all evil, bless the lads; and let my name be named on them, and the name of my fathers Abraham and Isaac; and let them grow into a multitude in the midst of the earth.” (Gen 48:16). Interestingly this is a redemption from evil! 

Propitiation – we saw it in Leviticus, but again we could go back much further than that! The first mention of the Hebrew word for atonement goes back to Noah and His ark – pitched within and without with pitch (Gen6:14)! Possibly we could go back even further still to the garden of Eden: “Unto Adam also and to his wife did the LORD God make coats of skins, and clothed them.” (Gen 3:21) 


There are many links here with the outworking of the great purposes of God from generations gone by! 
There is more to your salvation and mine than you ever understood the day you were saved! 

Salvation does not consist in understanding a process but resting in a person! 

This of course is exceedingly important! 

If the way of salvation was new it would be extremely suspect!

Either God has had no interest in the world up until the past 2000 years, or God is not righteous in His dealings with men excluding much of human history from salvation or this means of salvation is completely fabricated! 

James Montgomery Boice sees the significance of this: “All this is proof of Christianity's timeless validity. If Christianity were merely something founded by Jesus Christ some 2000 years ago it might be interesting but it would have no more ultimate claim upon us than the dogmas of any other human religion” 

If the roots of our salvation go deep into the OT scriptures then, all of this raises the very interesting question of wither or not it was possible for men and women to be saved before the death of the Lord Jesus Christ? Did salvation begin with us? 

We must acknowledge that there are many things that were unclear, incompletely apprehended by the OT believers, suggested by OT texts and made explicitly clear in the NT: 


Job : “Then Job answered and said, I know it is so of a truth: but how should man be just with God? If he will contend with him, he cannot answer him one of a thousand.” (Job 9:1-3) – Jobs understanding of the means of justification by faith seems at least at the beginning of the book of  Job to be incomplete. Yet God describes Job at the very beginning of the book: “And the LORD said unto Satan, Hast thou considered my servant Job, that there is none like him in the earth, a perfect and an upright man, one that feareth God, and escheweth evil?” (Job 1:8) 

Abraham: called in Gen 12, a relationship with God in existence in chp 13 with the erection of an Altar at Hebron, called “Abraham of the most High God” in chp 14 by Melchezedek and yet Abrahams question at the beginning of chapter 15 indicates an incomplete understanding of Divine purpose: “What wilt thou give me seeing I go childless?” (15:2) 

Isaac: in a covenant relationship (26:24) yet in Genesis 27 he seems ready to bless the wrong boy, the one through whom Christ would not come! 

The prophets: 1 Peter 1:10 – their understanding was incomplete, there was a need to search, a need to enquire and a need to seek further revelation. 


Daniel – clearly a man of God from the beginning of the book of Daniel: Dan2:47; 4:18; 5:14; 6:3, 10, 16, 22, 26 and in Dan 9:23 “thou art greatly beloved” and yet it is not until Dan 9:24ff that we have the revelation of the details of the coming of Christ and His death for sin (9:24) and Gods plan of salvation! 

Add to all of this the quite clear and explicit statements in the NT that certain aspects of Gods plan of salvation were deliberately hidden from past generations as mysteries, many of them fundamental to our appreciation of the Gospel: 

Mystery of the Gospel (Rom 16:25; Eph 6:19) 
Mystery of the Cross of Christ (1 Co2:7) 
Mystery of the Rapture (1Co15:51) 
Mystery of His Will (Eph 1:7-10)  - All things in Christ 
Mystery of Christ  (Eph 3:3,4;Col 4:3 ) – the Gentiles fellow heirs and of the same body. 
Mystery of Christ and the Church (Eph5:32) 
Mystery of Christ in you the hope of Glory (Col 1:26,27) 
Mystery of Godliness (1 Tim 3:16) 


Consider also that the OT peoples had the “parable” (Heb9:9) and had a “shadow of good things to come and not the very image of the things” (Heb10:1) and we begin to see that many of these OT saints could not have had the fullness of the appreciation of the Person and Work of Christ which is possible for us! 


This is perhaps most clearly stated in Heb 2:2-3 “How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation; which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard him;” (Heb 2:3). It is quite clear that the message of the Gospel of Gods free grace and saving power “began” to be preached in the fashion which you and I are familiar with only with the advent of Christ Himself! 


This of course is already strongly implied in: “Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God;” (Rom 3:25) 


Where does that leave us then practically?


Romans Chp 1 told us that mankind with only the testimony of creation stands condemned if they reject that testimony to Gods eternal Power and Godhead.

Romans chp 2 tells us that man with conscience and the testimony to the righteousness of God stands condemned and chapter 2 tells us that man with the OT covenant stands condemned for falling short of the standards they profess to hold dear!

So here we are today with the testimony of Creation, Conscience and Covenant and NT scriptures as well as the preaching and teaching of those OT scriptures! What a tremendous privilege and what an awesome responsibility!

“Therefore we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest at any time we should let them slip. For if the word spoken by angels was stedfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just recompence of reward; How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation; which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard him; “ (Heb 2:1-3) 

There must well have been aspects to the work of salvation that some of these OT believers did not appreciate, that seems clear! 

Yet the roots of salvation go deep into those OT scriptures! 

In Romans chp 4 we find specific mention of 2 prominent OT characters who found that salvation! 
Furthermore it is clear form the gospels that many others in the OT were saved by the work of Christ: 

Elijah and Moses on the mount of transfiguration 

“There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when ye shall see Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, and all the prophets, in the kingdom of God, and you yourselves thrust out. “ (Luk 13:28) 

We must acknowledge that there are many things that were unclear to them, incompletely apprehended by the OT believers, yet the scriptures are clear many of them were saved! 
How is this possible? 
They may not have fully understood Gods Plan of Salvation or the Process of Salvation but they did trust in the Person who was able to justify and save them. 

These OT saints depended upon the same: 

Person – Christ 
Principle – Justification by Faith 
Prospect – Salvation and Eternal Life 

Not only do the roots of our salvation go deep into the OT scriptures but so too the Saviour. 
These OT saints all depended upon Christ for Justification: 

Moses: “Esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt: for he had respect unto the recompence of the reward.” (Heb 11:26); Deut 32:2-4; 15-18; 1 Co10:1-4 “that rock was Christ” (1Co11:1-4). 

Abraham: Gal3:8, 16 – the Gospel of the future blessing in Christ; John 8:56. 

David: Psalm 110:1; Heb 1:13; Matt 22:41-46: Davids Lord was Christ! Acts 2:25, 29-32 

Jacob: Gen 28:12-13; John 1:41 – Jacobs ladder, his connection between heaven and earth, was Christ! 

Daniel: Daniel 10:5-18; 8:15; 10:9-10, 16; Rev 1:13-17 – Daniel encountered the same person as did John! 

Shadrach, Meshech and Abednego in the fiery furnace (Dan 3:25-26) who will protect them in the flames?

Surely the God whom they serve, the “Son of God”. 

Prophets: Moved by the Spirit of Christ (1Peter1:11) 

These OT saints all depended upon Christ for Justification! 

Justification then we would conclude from the pattern of the OT scriptures came when these OT believers exerted faith in a Person, the Person of Christ, rather than Faith in a Process or faith in their understanding of a process! 

Some did not understand the process but they benefited from it by faith in the Person! 

Salvation came when they exercised faith in the justifier: “But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.” (Rom 4:5) 

This is the same means by which you and I are justified and saved in the NT 

 “Testifying both to the Jews, and also to the Greeks, repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Act 20:21) 

“For the which cause I also suffer these things: nevertheless I am not ashamed: for I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day.” (2Ti 1:12) 

“And he said unto Jesus, Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom. And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, To day shalt thou be with me in paradise.” (Luk 23:42-43) 

“Wherefore also it is contained in the scripture, Behold, I lay in Sion a chief corner stone, elect, precious: and he that believeth on him shall not be confounded.” (1Pe 2:6) 

“But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea.” (Mat 18:6) – were these little ones saved? Certainly: “he that believeth on him shall not be confounded.” (1Pe 2:6) – did they understand propitiation, redemption and justification by faith? 

“Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life.”(Joh 5:24) 

“And this is the will of him that sent me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day.”(Joh 6:40) 

“Jesus cried and said, He that believeth on me, believeth not on me, but on him that sent me. And he that seeth me seeth him that sent me. I am come a light into the world, that whosoever believeth on me should not abide in darkness.” (Joh 12:44-46) 

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” (Joh 3:16) – spoken to Nicodemus before the death and sufferings and resurrection of Christ! 
Consider also: Luke 8:48; Acts 20:21; Acts 26:18; Acts 8:37; 13:39; 16:31; Col 2:5-7; 2 Tim 3:15; Heb 6:1; 12:2; James 2:1; 1 Peter 1:21; Rev 14:21. 

Justification comes by faith in the person of Christ rather than from my understanding of the work of Christ – God doesn't save us because we are smart enough to be able to work it all out! 

God does not save me because I have faith that the process of justification that it is good, true and right! Job for example didn't even understand the process! 

God does not save by virtue of the fact that I have a sufficiently strong grasp or a deep enough appreciation of the truth concerning the person and work of Christ! 

God doesn't save you once you become a 'mature' Christian, God saves whilst you are “yet without strength” but willing to exercise faith, that is to trust and depend upon Christ for salvation. 
Neither does He save by my participation in the activities of Christianity, my knowledge of the Bible! 
Consider the following scriptures: 

1 Co13:1-2 – My knowledge of spiritual truths and my confidence in those spiritual truths as dependable Divinely revealed facts, of itself does not profit, there must be “love” the product of a relationship with Christ personally (Gal 5:22; John 13:34-35; John 15:9, 12; 1 John4:7) – knowledge of the process is of no profit without knowledge of the person! 
2 Co 3:6 - “Who also hath made us able ministers of the new testament; not of the letter, but of the spirit: for the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life.” (2Co 3:6) – facts and the appreciation and understanding of them alone does not save! 

Derek Tidball: The Message of the Cross: The Bible Speaks Today 

“The object of our faith makes all the difference. Only faith in Christ enables us to appropriate justification personally. To have faith in Him requires us to relinquish faith in anything else or anyone else as the hope of our salvation. It is to trust in Him entirely and exclusively.” (p197) 

John Stott: 

“Faith is the eye that looks to Christ, the hand that lays hold of Him, the mouth that drinks the water of life. And the more clearly we see the absolute adequacy of Jesus Christ's Divine – Human Person and sin-bearing death the more incongruous does it appear that anybody could suppose that we have anything to offer. That is why justification by faith alone, to quote Cranmer again, 'advances the true Glory of Christ and beats down the vain glory of man.” 

Philip Graham Ryken: The Message of Salvation: The Bible Speaks Today: 

“Faith is merely the instrument of our justification, the channel by which we receive the righteousness of Jesus Christ. It is often described as the empty hand that reaches out to receive the gift of Gods righteousness.” (p202) 

JC Ryle: 

“True but laying hold of a Saviour's hand, leaning on a husbands arm and receiving a physicians medicine. It brings with it nothing to Christ but a sinful man's soul. It gives nothing, contributes nothing, pays nothing, performs nothing. It only receives, takes, accepts, grasps and embraces the glorious gift of justification which Christ bestows” 

Philip Graham Ryken: The Message of Salvation: The Bible Speaks Today: 

“it is not faith itself (or even the doctrine of justification by faith) that saves us. Rather it is Christ who saves us and faith is simply that way that we appropriate Christ.” (p202) 

What do we mean by Faith? 

“Faith is believing that Christ is what He is said to be and that He will do what He has promised to do and then to expect this of Him.” (CH Spurgeon) 

“”  (CH Spurgeon) 

“awareness...assent...commitment” (Lloyd Jones) 

Know it 
Accept it 
Rest in it 

C Gordon Olson: 'Beyond Calvinism and Arminianism' 


“Faith has to be more than mere profession, more than intellectual assent to certain propositions about the gospel. It is the appropriation or receiving of Christ into the life, which means trust in the person and work of the Divine Messiah (John 1:12). The essence of Evangelicalism is a personal relationship with the Lord Jesus. Nothing less will do.” (p287) 

Dr. Norman Geisler: Systematic Theology: Vol 3 Sin Salvation 

“In short, faith (belief) implies trust in, commitment to, obedience to and hope (confidence) in its object. As applied to faith in Jesus, the implications for saving faith are clear: It is the kind of belief that has trust and confidence in Christ for salvation and thereby implies a commitment to follow and obey Him.” (p518) 

As a consequence of the means and source of salvation, to grow as a Christian means to develop and grow in in Christ! Our salvation begins with faith in Christ as the source and supplier of salvation and thus to grow as a Christian is to grow in our relationship with Christ and our appreciation of Christ! 
If our salvation were to be rooted in works then to grow as a Christian would mean to grow in works! 
If our salvation were rooted in the knowledge of facts then to grow as a Christian would primarily mean going on an intensive college course or training school! 
You can tell a lot about what a Christian is depending upon for their salvation by their approach to Christian maturity! 

Christian maturity thus lies in a deepening relationship with Christ, often referred to as the 'knowledge' of Christ, a word and idea first used in scripture within the context of a relationship, that of Adam and Eve: 

“But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and for ever. Amen.” (2Pe 3:18) 
“Grace and peace be multiplied unto you through the knowledge of God, and of Jesus our Lord,” (2Pe 1:2) 
“And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; And to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity. For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (2Pe 1:5-8) 
“That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him:” (Eph 1:17) 
“Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ,” (Php 3:8) 

Salvation comes not from my understanding of a principle or a process but rather on the basis of the work completed by Christ (Rom3:25) by means of faith He becomes my Saviour the moment I trust Him (Rom 3:28) 
All who have ever been saved have been saved by the same means: 

Saved by the same person – Christ 
Resting in the same principle – Justification by Faith 
Looking for the same prospect – salvation 
Saved by the same power – the blood of Christ 
All on the basis of the same propitiation. 

“To say that we are justified “through Christ” points to His historical death; to say that we are justified “in Christ” points to the personal relationship with Him which by faith we now enjoy. This simple fact makes it impossible for us to think of justification as a purely external transaction; it cannot be isolated from our union with Christ and all the benefits which this brings.” (John Stott) 
Does all of this mean then that the details of the gospel don't matter? 
Just so long as I believe in Jesus? 
Not quite! For faith is: 

Defined by Gods Word (Rom1:2; 3:21; 10:17, 20; 1Peter1:11) 
Born of Gods Word (1Peter 1:23) 
Sustained by Gods Word (1 Peter 2:1) 

The common thread in justification by faith is that it was always faith in Christ and in His ability to make the sinner right! 
My faith must be in the real Christ of God and not in a figment of my imagination. 
The faith I exercise is faith in the Christ of Gods revealed Word. 

John Wesley: 

“In the evening I went very unwillingly to a society in Aldersgate Street, where one was reading Luther’s preface to the Epistle to the Romans. About a quarter before nine, while he was describing the change which God works in the heart through faith in Christ, I felt my heart strangely warmed. I felt I did trust in Christ, Christ alone, for salvation; and an assurance was given me that He had taken away my sins, even mine, and saved me from the law of sin and death. I began to pray with all my might for those who had in a more especial manner despitefully used me and persecuted me. I then testified openly to all there what I now first felt in my heart.” - The conversion of John Wesley aged 35 years!