Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Original Thinking, Indebtedness to Teachers, and Current NT Discussions

Recently I posted an entry I titled “Harmony between Rom. 2:6-11 and Rom. 4:1-9.” At the time I posted it I had not read the following since I had digested it, marked it up, and highlighted portions in my copy of the book many years ago when I worked my way through the entire book, Paul, An Outline of His Theology by Herman Ridderbos. As I have discovered repeatedly and have commented upon on my blogs several times, once again it was revealed to me that I owe so very much to all who have taught me, whether in the classroom or by some other means, especially by way of their books. My thinking is not original in the sense that I am the first to think individual thoughts. After all, as someone once said, "Originality does not consist of thinking new things but of thinking for ourselves." Thus, my earlier blog entry, noted above, indicates that those who have taught me, have taught me well, for they have compelled me to think for myself. Lo and behold! In thinking for myself, I find myself thinking thoughts after those who have gone before.

How pertinent are the following words, then, for current issues and discussions in New Testament studies!
“When it is said therefore in Romans 4 that to the one who does not ‘work’ but who believes in him that justifies the ungodly, his faith is reckoned for righteousness, this is not in any way to be brought to bear against the ‘working’ character of faith itself and likewise not against the judgment of the believer according to his works. For just as absolutely as faith is involved in justification by the grace of God and by nothing else, even so work emanates from this same faith; as faith it cannot remain empty and work-less, but becomes known as faith precisely in works. Indeed, in the pronouncements on the justification of the ungodly and the imputation of faith for righteousness and those concerning the just judgment of God according to every man’s work, we have to do with the two poles of the same matter. For the first expresses as pregnantly as possible that the ground or cause of divine justification does not lie in human work as merit, but only in the grace of God. And in the second all the emphasis is placed on the work of faith, in the sense of its indispensable fruit. Yet this does not mean that justification by faith may be said to be the initial judicial act of God, which takes place in the present, and which is then to be followed in the final judgment by a justification on the ground of works. For it is true of the latter as well that it is a justification of the ungodly, an imputation of faith for righteousness, so long as what is at issue is the ground for justification. . . . To be sure, works are indispensable as the demonstration of the true nature of faith and as the evidence of having died and been raised together with Christ. In that sense one could also speak of the reckoning of works for righteousness, although the apostle does not so express himself. For works, too, only find their acceptableness before God in the fact that they are from Christ, wrought in the believer on account of his death and resurrection. . .” (Ridderbos, Paul, 179-180).

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Harmony between Rom. 2:6-11 and Rom. 4:1-9

Since I presented my essay, “Justification, Judgment & Behavior: Judgment Day’s Coming Verdict Now Announced in the Gospel,” during the recent ETS meetings in Atlanta, I have been working almost daily at recasting it with a view to publishing it. (It will bear a different title when published.) In preparation for writing today, I awoke early, around 4:45 am. Prior to rising a half-hour later, I resumed my thoughts from yesterday and composed the following paragraphs which constitute a footnote, a rather significant footnote, so important that I may find that I need to promote it out of the notes field and into the text field.

I welcome your comments, insights, and criticisms of my reasoning.


In Rom. 4, to argue his case that Abraham was justified not from works (ἐξ ἔργων ἐδικαιώθη) but that his faith was reckoned to him for righteousness (ἐλογίσθη . . . ἡ πίστις εἰς δικαιοσύνην), Paul plays the imageries of bookkeeping (ὁ μισθός οὐ λογίζεται κατὰ χάριν κτλ.) and the courtroom (πιστεύοντι ἐπὶ τὸν δικαιοῦντα τὸν ἀσεβῆ λογίσεται κτλ.) off one another. Yet, is it not excessive to reason that Paul’s claim here, “to the one who works, the reward is not reckoned κατὰ χάριν ἀλλὰ κατὰ ὀφείλημα,” renders theoretical his positive assertion, “God will recompense each one κατὰ τὰ ἔργα αὐτοῦ” in 2:6? That “God will recompense each one in accordance with one’s works” does not mean that God’s reward will be “in accordance with debt” instead of “in accordance with grace.”

In Romans 2 and 4 Paul comes at the issues from very different angles. As Paul reasons in Rom. 4, there is a kind of “worker” (τῷ ἐργαζομένῳ) who regards God to be the debtor versus another who, by implication, is in debt to God and thus is the “non-worker” (τῷ μὴ ἐργαζομένῳ) who believes (πιστεύοντι) upon God as “the one who justifies the ungodly.” Accordingly, in Rom. 4 his argument concerns the sinner’s posture before God. The sinner “who works,” by implication to be set right with God, regards him as an employer who makes good on a debt (κατὰ ὀφείλημα) rather than one who is gracious (οὐ . . . κατὰ χάριν). To the sinner, like Abraham, “who does not work but believes upon the One who justifies the ungodly, this faith is reckoned for righteousness” (4:4-5).

Prior to his use of the participle in 4:4 (τῷ ἐργαζομένῳ), Paul uses it in Rom. 2:10 to depict a kind of “worker” whom God impartially will reward with eternal life, which is to say he will bequeath the reward κατὰ τὰ ἔργων αὐτοῦ but not κατὰ ὀφείλημα. In 2:6-11 his argument concerns God’s “righteous judgment,” which is to say, the impartiality and inviolability of the correlation between God’s recompense and human behavior truthfully assessed (κατὰ ἀλήθειαν). In 2:6-11, Paul’s insistence that God will recompense each human κατὰ τὰ ἔργα αὐτοῦ hardly is to argue that humans obligate God by putting him in their debt, either actually or theoretically. On the contrary, the apostle’s argument is that precisely because God will recompense everyone “in accordance with one’s works” (κατὰ τὰ ἔργα αὐτοῦ) is essential to establish his thesis that “in the gospel God’s righteousness is revealed” (1:17). Since God’s judgment is integral to his gospel (2:16), Paul punctuates his argument in Rom. 2:1-11 with the following distinct assertions to make it clear that his concern is to advance his thesis concerning God’s righteousness (δικαιοσύνη θεοῦ): (1) τὸ κρίμα τοῦ θεοῦ ἐστιν κατὰ ἀλήθειαν (2:2), (2) δικαιοκρισίας τοῦ θεοῦ (2:5, (3) ἀποδώσει ἑκάστῳ κατὰ τὰ ἔργα αὐτοῦ (2:6), and (4) οὐ ἐστιν προσωποληψία παρὰ θεῷ (2:11).