Righteousness by Faith (Part 3)
CHAPTER 5 — Righteousness by Faith
For I am not ashamed of the gospel: it is the power of God for salvation to every one who has faith, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed through faith for faith; as it is written, "He who through faith is righteous shall live."—Rom. 1:16-17, RSV.
We have found that righteousness is necessary for salvation, but it is beyond man's power of attainment. Paul introduces his gospel to the Romans by declaring, "He who through faith is righteous shall live."1
What exactly is this righteousness of faith? How does it become available to sinners? How do they lay hold of it? How does God communicate it to them? What relation does it have to the justification of the believing sinner? These are the questions which we must now endeavor to answer.
The Righteousness of God
The first thing we must notice from Romans 1:16-17 is that the righteousness of faith is called "the righteousness of God." In Philippians 3:9 it is called "the righteousness which is of God by faith." It is called the righteousness of God because God provided it. The New International Version translates the Pauline expression dikaiosune Theou as "a righteousness from God."
When all men stood destitute of righteousness before God's judgment bar—when they stood before the law which demands perfect righteousness, red-faced, silent, guilty, empty-handed and with nothing to pay (Rom. 1:18-3:20)—God intervened. "But now [at the point of man's utter destitution] the righteousness of God without the law is manifested . . ." (Rom. 3:21). This means that God fulfills His own demands. He not only gives salvation, but He fulfills the conditions of salvation by providing for man the righteousness which the justice of God's law demands. That is good news indeed!
Recently Kaseman and others have proposed that "the righteousness of God" in Paul means the activity of God. This can be supported not only from the grammatical construction of Romans 1:17, but by a lot of Old Testament background, especially in the Psalms and Isaiah 40 to 66. In these Old Testament scriptures the righteousness of God often refers to the saving acts of God (see Isa. 51 :5). These saving acts were a manifestation of God's covenant loyalty and faithfulness—that is to say, His righteousness. But all these saving acts, like Israel's deliverance from Egypt and her release from Babylonian captivity, have been superseded by God's ultimate act of salvation which took place in the Christ event. It is quite fining, therefore, to call God's redemptive act in Christ "the righteousness of God."
We suggest that the interpretation of "the righteousness of God" as "God's saving act" is not inimical to Luther's interpretation which says that the expression means "righteousness which God has provided." God's gracious act in the life, death and resurrection of Christ provided a righteousness with which poor, destitute sinners could answer the claims of divine justice.
Whether we take "the righteousness of God" to mean the act of God or the provision of God, or both, one thing must be clear: Paul is talking about something objective, something entirely outside man's experience. The saving act took place once-and-for-all as a historical event in Palestine 2,000 years ago. The righteousness which God provided for our salvation is something He did entirely apart from any human help or participation. This is why Paul declares that it is "the righteousness of God apart from the law" (Rom. 3:21)—meaning apart from any law—fulfillment on the part of the believer. This makes it clear that the believer's holiness of life (sanctification) is not included in "the righteousness of God." This righteousness is apart from all works, all law-keeping on man's part, whether done before grace or after grace. God alone has the honor of providing this garment of righteousness, quite apart from human devising—even sanctified devising. When God provided the wherewithal of salvation, we had absolutely no hand in it.3 Just like Daniel's description of God's eschatological victory, this took place "without hand" (see Dan. 2:45; 8:25).
We have already seen how righteousness is primarily concerned with relationships. Man's activity cannot establish a relationship (covenant) with God. The relationship (covenant) between God and man has to be established by an elective act of God. It has to be a given. This was even true in the case of sinless Adam. Establishing the covenant was God's act in which Adam made no contribution. He could only accept the donation or reject it. Much less could sinful Israel do anything to establish a relationship (covenant) with God. It was God's unmerited, electing love which chose Israel and put her in covenantal fellowship with Himself.
The act of God whereby He bridged the gulf between Himself and sinful man and provided the wherewithal of a right relationship with Himself is sola gratia, soli Deo gloria—solely by grace and solely to the glory of God. Says Moorehead in his Commentary on Romans:
The righteousness of God is never represented in Scripture as something wrought in the sinner by the grace and Spirit of God—the implantation of the principle of grace in the heart nor even the new nature. If the righteousness of God means partly a work of grace by the Spirit in the soul, partly a work of the sinner co-operating with grace, then the Reformation was a mistake and a blunder, and we ought to return to Romanism, for this is the one supreme point of difference touching the ground and nature of justification between Romanism and Protestantism. Rather, the righteousness of God is set forth as something objective to us, reckoned to us, set to our account, therefore not an internal work. —pp.87-88.
The Righteousness of Christ
The righteousness of faith is also called "the righteousness of One" or "the obedience of One" (Rom. 5: 18-19). This is because it is a righteousness which God has provided for us in Jesus Christ. Peter calls it "the righteousness of . . . Jesus Christ" (2 Peter 1:1).
When Romans explains for us that the righteousness of faith is the righteousness of Christ, this does not mean that it is a righteousness which Christ works in our hearts by the Holy Spirit. Paul is talking exclusively about the righteousness of Christ's own Person. Romans 5:12-21 contrasts this righteousness with the disobedience of Adam. In this passage Paul is not contrasting the righteousness which Christ works in our hearts with the wickedness which the devil works in our hearts. Rather, he is talking about Adam's personal disobedience and Christ's personal obedience—and both were outside-of-me acts. Just as "one act of sin exposed the whole race of men to God's judgment and condemnation, so one act of perfect righteousness presents all men freely acquitted in the sight of God (Rom. 5:18, Phillips). Cranfield says that dikaioma of verse 18 undoubtedly means "one act of righteousness" in contrast to Adam's one act of disobedience. This means that Paul cannot possibly be talking about repeated acts of renewal and sanctification in the hearts of believers. The saving righteousness of Christ was a once-and-for-all, unrepeatable act which took place external to us.
The Old Testament bears explicit testimony to the righteousness of the coming Messiah (see for instance Isa. 53:9,11; 42:14; 50:4-7; 52:13; 11:2-5; Jer. 23:5-6; 33:16). This is fulfilled in Jesus of Nazareth, the One who fulfills all righteousness (see Matt. 3:15; Luke 23:41, 47; 4:34; 22:42; John 5:30; 17:4; Heb. 1:9; 4:15; 5:7-9; Phil. 2:5-9; Rom. 5:18-19).
We have seen how righteousness means (1) a right relationship to God, to man and to the created order—or covenant loyalty and faithfulness; (2) right conduct and behavior, rectitude expressive of right relationships—or obedience to the Ten Commandments; (3) being and doing that which will win God's approval. The righteousness of Christ is all that.
As the true Son of man, Christ was the second and last Adam in right relationship to God, to man and to the created order. God's Edenic ideal was re-enacted in Jesus. Because He was subject to God, the created order was subject to Him. He was the Man in God's image, over the works of God's hands. In Him, the new Adam or Representative of man, God brought man into that ideal relationship to Himself and to all creation. Even in the wilderness the wild beasts were at peace with Him. Even the winds and the waves obeyed Him.
Isaiah 40 to 66 depicts Christ's righteousness in terms of covenant faithfulness. As the "Servant of Yahweh," He personifies the new Israel who keeps covenant with God. The New Testament uses this Isianic servant motif. As Israel was called out of Egypt and tested in the wilderness, so Christ also is called out of Egypt (Matt. 2:15) and tested in the wilderness (Matt. 4:1-11). Whereas Israel murmured against God and broke her covenant vow, Christ passes over the same ground as God's new Israel. He is the righteous Servant who keeps covenant with God.
This righteousness of Christ certainly has ethical content. The conduct and character of Christ express His perfect relationship with God, with man and with the created order. In the aforementioned Old Testament passages is depicted a life without guile, without violence and without rebelliousness. It is a life full of God's Spirit, a life of humility, patient trust in God, zeal for God's glory, perfect submission to God's will and unflinching courage to finish the work which God gave Him to do.
Here is a life which fulfills the covenant stipulations, the Ten Commandments (Ex. 34:27-29; Deut. 4:13). Christ kept God's commandments (John 15:10). He fulfilled the law (Matt. 5:17). He was obedient (Phil. 2:5-9; Heb. 5:7-9). And this obedience of Jesus Christ to the law (will) of God is what constitutes His righteousness (see Rom. 5:18-19, where obedience is used as a synonym for righteousness). Says Calvin:
The obedience or righteousness of Christ was consummated in His death of the cross. He "became obedient unto [literally, until] death, even the death of the cross" (Phil. 2:8). The Formula of Concord is no doubt correct when it defines Christ's righteousness as His entire course of obedience from the manger to the cross. It includes His bitter sufferings and death. If we clearly grasp this point, we will soon see the folly of saying that the Pauline article of righteousness by faith is something wrought out in us. Christ's righteousness is Christ's act of atonement. This righteousness is a once-and-for-all act. It is absolutely unrepeatable and cannot be communicated to us in any way except by imputation.
For if righteousness consists in the observance of the law, who will deny that Christ merited favor for us when, by taking that burden upon himself, he reconciled us to God as if we had kept the law."—Institutes, Bk. 2, chap. 17, sec. 5.
There is another important aspect of Christ's righteousness that needs our closest attention. After the death of Luther, Osiander contended that Christ's righteousness was the righteousness of His divine nature. Others reacted by saying that it was the righteousness of His human nature. The Formula of Concord settled the issue for the Lutherans by affirming that, being the righteousness of the Person of Christ, it was at once divine and human. The Reformed stream of the Reformation followed this line of thought also. If we are to understand why Paul ascribes saving efficacy to Christ's righteousness, we need to see both aspects:
1. Vicarious Righteousness. Christ's righteousness could not save us unless it was truly vicarious—meaning rendered to God in our place and on our behalf. And it could not be truly vicarious unless it was rendered to God in real human nature. Justice demands righteousness from man; therefore Christ's obedience had to be a genuine human obedience.
On the other hand, if Christ were not more than human, His obedience would not be vicarious, because He would have owed it to the law on His own behalf. As Lawgiver, He owed no obedience to the law. Obedience is the obligation of the creature, not the Creator. But Christ voluntarily assumed both our nature and our obligation so that in our stead He could do for us that which we could not do for ourselves (see Gal. 4:4-5).
2. An Infinite Righteousness. Although this righteousness was lived out in the flesh-and-blood reality of Jesus of Nazareth, we must also consider that it was the obedience of an infinite Person. It is the Person of Christ which gives value to His work. Since His Person was infinite, His work was infinite, and therefore it has infinite value with God. If this were not so, it would be impossible that "the righteousness of One" could suffice to save a whole race of sinners. The character of Christ was infinitely perfect. He was filled with "all the fulness of the Godhead bodily" (Col. 2:9). According to the clear testimony of Philippians 2:5-8, His humiliation was infinite. His obedience was so glorious that it merited all honor and eternal blessedness (Phil. 2:9-10; Ps. 24).
The righteousness which is of faith is both vicarious and infinite. Vicarious means that it was done for us and not in us. Infinite means that it cannot be reduced to an intra-human experience. It is a righteousness which mounts up to the throne of the Eternal. It is as big as God. It is big enough for all sinners to run under and find shelter, for it is a righteousness which is eternally pleasing in the sight of God, fully satisfactory for all the claims of divine justice.
Righteousness of life has its necessary place in the experience of the believer. But for salvation, the law of God requires a higher righteousness than any saint will ever live out. When Paul presents the saving righteousness of faith, he is talking about this higher righteousness—one that is both infinite and unrepeatable. It stands absolutely alone.
The Righteousness of Faith Alone
When Paul tells us in Romans 1:17 that the righteousness of God is "from faith to faith," he means that it is by faith from start to finish. It is as if he said that it is by faith and nothing but faith—sola fide, by faith alone. He backs this up by saying that it is a righteousness "without the law" (Rom. 3:21), "without the deeds of the law" (Rom. 3:28) and "without works" (Rom. 4:6).
It has been argued by all good Romanists and by all poor Protestants (in one way or another) that the renewal and sanctification of the believer must be included in this Pauline article of righteousness by faith. We will endeavor to show (1) that this does violence to the structure of the book of Romans and (2) that this is in direct opposition to Paul's line of argument in Romans.
The Structure of Romans
All are agreed that Romans 1:16-17 is Paul's introduction to the theme of his book. That theme is succinctly stated when the apostle says, ". . . as it is written, 'He who by faith is righteous shall live.' "It will be noticed that there are two clauses here:
1. Ho dikaios ek pisteos (righteous [ness] by faith)
2. Zesetal (shall live, or shall gain salvation)
Here we have (1) condition (righteousness—attained by faith) and (2) result (life).
Says Cranfield in this very fascinating comment on the structure of Romans:
1:18-4:25 expounds the meaning of ho dikaios ek pisteos [righteousness by faith], while 5:1-8:39 expounds the meaning of the promise, that the man who is righteous by faith zesetai[shall live] (that this interpretation is not forced upon the text, is confirmed, as Nygren has pointed out, by the facts that in Romans 1:18-4:25 pistis [faith] occurs twenty-nine times and pisteuein [believe] eight times, whereas in chapters 5 to 8 they occur only twice [and both of these occur in Romans 5:1, 2, which is the summary of the foregoing argument and transition into the next section] and once respectively, while in 1:18-4:25 zoe is found only once, zen not at all, and zoopolein once [the Greek words for life, live, and life-giving], whereas in 5:1-8:39 zen occurs twelve times, zoe twelve times, and zoopoiein once).—The International Critical Commentary, Romans, p. 102.
Furthermore, in this first section (Rom. 1:18-4:25), where faith and believe are used repeatedly, Paul often connects them with the word righteousness (see Rom. 3:21-22, 25; 4:3, 5-6, 9-13, 21-24). Throughout Romans 3 and 4 Paul is not talking about the believer's holiness of life but about righteousness being imputed.
In the second section (Rom. 5-8) Paul swings his attention to the life that righteousness by faith brings to us. He talks about the life of the believer both here and in the hereafter. It is described as a new life, a Spirit-filled life, a glorified life and a holy life. Scholars generally acknowledge that Romans 6, 7 and 8 are talking about sanctification. In Romans 6 Paul even uses the word righteousness a number of times. Here he is referring to the believer's actual righteousness of life (see vv. 13, 16-20). But in this context he never uses the word faith. The apostle thereby makes a clear distinction between the righteousness of faith (chaps. 3-4) and the righteousness of life (chaps. 5-8). In Romans 8:4 the righteousness which is wrought in the believer by the Holy Spirit's indwelling is called "the righteousness of the law."
Another remarkable feature about the structure of Romans is that in the section where Paul is explaining the article of righteousness by faith, he makes no mention of the Spirit. But in the section where he deals with the believer's righteousness of life ("righteousness of the law," Rom. 8:4), The Spirit's indwelling is mentioned repeatedly. So the apostle makes a clear distinction between the righteousness of faith (a righteousness which was wrought out in Christ) and the righteousness of life (a righteousness wrought out in the believer by the Holy Spirit).
All this proves that the righteousness which is of faith is what is done for us, and righteousness of life is what is done in us. Here are root and fruit.
The Line of Argument in Romans
When we follow Paul's line of argument closely, we see that there are several powerful reasons for excluding sanctification from the righteousness which is by faith alone.
1. "Faith alone" is our acknowledgment that the righteousness which God has provided and made known to us in the gospel is all-sufficient. It has been wrought out, presented to God on our behalf, and accepted. Faith does not bring it into existence but confesses its existence. "Faith alone" means that the righteousness of God's provision is everything necessary for our salvation, and nothing remains to be added to that perfect and finished work. But when we come to talk about sanctification, this "faith alone" language would be most inappropriate. The righteousness of life is not yet complete in the best of saints, and much yet remains to be added to our spiritual attainments, as 2 Peter 1:5-8 testifies.
2. "Faith alone" means that the righteousness of God's provision is not seen (see Heb. 11:1). This righteousness is declared to us in the gospel and is only believed on and seen with the eye of faith. When the New Testament talks about sanctification, however, it talks about a righteousness which can be seen in loving deeds (see Matt. 5:16; 1 John 3:7-18; James 2:14-26; Rom. 12; Eph. 4-5; Titus 2:11-12). In this life we are righteous before God only by faith—meaning that we are not righteous before God by love, renewal or our lives of new obedience, for this inward work is only begun in us and will not be complete until glorification.
3. "By faith alone" means that the righteousness which God provided for our salvation is "without the law" "without the deeds of the law" and "without works" (Rom. 3:21, 28; 4:5-6). Here is a righteousness in which all our efforts, works, cooperation, participation and obedience are shut out. This is why Luther called it a passive righteousness.
It would be most inappropriate to talk about sanctification as being by faith alone. To be sure, living a life of holiness depends on faith, but not faith alone. J. M. Cramp, in his The Council of Trent, declared, "True Protestants never maintained the absurd position that we are sanctified by faith only."— (London: Religious Tract Society, 1840).
The business of living a holy life—what Luther called active righteousness—is not without meaningful human activity. The New Testament does not hesitate to speak of the necessity of human effort in cooperation with divine grace. The Christian life is often depicted as a battle, a march, a fight. We are not only told to pursue holiness, but we are warned that it will involve conflict and much tribulation. The Spirit is not given to do everything for us. We must not speak of the work of the Third Person of the Godhead in substitutionary terms. The Holy Spirit does not negate the need for responsible human effort. Rather, He enlists the human faculties in the great work of Christian sanctification.
Once the Pauline article of righteousness by faith alone is allowed to spill over into sanctification, not only is the glorious gospel ruined, but sanctification is ruined too. It becomes poisoned with a sickly, dehumanizing view of sanctification which, if really carried out, would reduce a man to the level of a pious zombie who is just a suit or glove which Jesus wears. The sections of the New Testament Epistles which deal with sanctification do not sound anything like Ouietism. The apostles' doctrine has none of this mystical sanctification by faith alone. In his well-known book, Holiness, Bishop J. C. Ryle makes a clear distinction between the righteousness which we receive by faith only and sanctification. That justification is by faith alone he affirms; that sanctification is by faith alone he denies. . . . . not once," he says, "are we told that we are 'sanctified by faith without the deeds of the law.' "—(Cambridge: James Clarke & Co., 1956), p. ix; cf. p. viii. Ryle ends his book with an excellent section from the Puritan, Robert Traill, who makes the same clear distinction between the righteousness which is of faith and sanctification. Says Traill:
There is a work required of us—to be perfecting holiness in the fear of God (2 Cor. vii. 1). But we are nowhere required to be perfecting righteousness in the sight of God; for God hath brought in a perfect righteousness, in which we stand; but we are to take care, and to give diligence to perfect holiness in the fear of God.—Ibid., p.330.
4. "By faith alone" means that only faith is counted for righteousness.
For what saith the Scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness. . . . But to him that worketh not, but believeth on Him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness. Even as David also describeth the blessedness of the man, unto whom God imputeth righteousness without works. . . .—Rom. 4:3, 5-6; see also vv. 20-24.
Faith alone is counted for righteousness—not love, hope, joy, peace, goodness or anything else. This is not because faith is a virtue that outshines all others. Faith is not our righteousness, nor does it have any special merit in itself. We must be careful at this point that we do not make faith run competition with the Saviour. He alone is our righteousness and salvation. In our place and in our name He lived that life of perfect righteousness necessary for entrance into eternal life. As our Substitute, He died on the cross to make satisfaction to the law for our sins. God was pleased to accept His work on our behalf and to impute it to us on condition4 that we believe on Christ. As Shrenk says:
The assertion of faith as a condition is always closely linked with the most objective declarations concerning the dikaiosune Theou [righteousness of God]: R. 1:17, 3:22-28; 4; 5:1. The achievement and declaration of salvation are never separated from the appropriation of salvation, because the revealing action in question always stands in the I-Thou relationship. . . . The most objective thing that can be said, namely, hilasterion [propitiation], is followed at once by dia pisteos [by faith]. . . . —Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, ed. G. Kittel (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1964-1976), Vol.2, p.206.
The relation between the objective act of redemption and the subjective appropriation of faith may be illustrated by an event in American history. On January 1, 1863, Lincoln declared a general emancipation of American slaves. When the individual slave heard and believed what Lincoln had done, he thereby applied it to himself and became personally free.
There are two sides to the transaction called righteousness by faith. (1) Faith (2) is counted for righteousness. On the human side there is faith; on the divine side there is imputation of righteousness.
Let us look first at the human side of the transaction. The poor, condemned sinner hears that God has already acted in Christ and provided for Him a perfect righteousness whereby he can stand in the judgment of God. He hears that Christ's sinless life, bitter sufferings and death were actually for him. Christ was his legal Substitute and Representative, and God is prepared to reckon Christ's life and death as his if he will only accept them. Now this poor, lost sinner is so helpless that he cannot of himself believe on Christ or come to Him. But God calls him by His Word, enlightens him by the Holy Spirit, and enables him to savingly believe. He cries out (to use Luther's moving words), "Mine are Christ's living, doing, and speaking, His suffering and dying, mine as much as if I had lived, done, spoken, suffered, and died as He did."
Let us now look at the divine side of the transaction. God "imputes righteousness without works" to this man. The righteousness He imputes is "the righteousness of One" or "the obedience of One" (Rom. 5:18-19). The word impute (logizomai) means to reckon or to account. It does not in itself change the object, but it changes the way the object is regarded. In this case it means that the believing sinner is credited with Christ's doing and dying. The believer stands before the bar of justice as if all those beautiful works and deeds were His own.
A young farmer was called to serve in the American Civil War. Because of hardship, another man volunteered to be his substitute and was accepted as such. The substitute served and lost his life. At a later date the young farmer was called up again. His reply was, "I have already served." However, the army would not accept his plea, so the young man appealed to the highest court in the land. The court ruled that the man was legally free. As far as the law and justice were concerned, he had served.
Is God's court any less just? On the grounds of Christ's imputed righteousness, God can justify the ungodly (Rom. 4:5) who believe on Christ. It is not a question of "how can He do that?" (see Rom. 3:26). In the verdict of the divine court, the believing sinner is justified (Rom. 3:24-28). This does not mean that he is made righteous, but it means that he is declared righteous.
Justification has to do with judicial categories. It is not something done in the sinner by the Holy Spirit, but it is simply a judgment, a decree, or a verdict of the Judge. That is the plain sense of what justify means wherever it is used in like contexts throughout the Bible (see Deut. 25:1; Matt. 12:36-37; Rom. 2:13; Prov. 17:15; 2 Chron. 6:23; 1 Kings 8:32; Luke 7:29).
The Relation between Righteousness by Faith and Justification by Faith
We are now prepared to consider the precise relationship between the Pauline righteousness by faith and justification by faith.
In the first place, it would not be wrong to say that these two expressions are more or less synonymous. "Righteousness of [or by] faith" always appears in the context of justification by faith. In the Greek, righteousness is dikaiosune, and justification is dikaiosune—exactly the same. It could also be pointed out that whereas Galatians 3:21 has righteousness in the Authorized Version, the Revised Standard Version has justification. Translators substitute one word for the other in Romans 10:4,10 and 8:10 (see AV, RSV, NEB, etc.).
Yet it might also not be wrong to argue for a technical difference.5 After all, translators agree that dikaiosune should be translated as righteousness rather than justification in a number of passages, even when connected with faith. Righteousness means a right relationship which finds expression in right behavior. It means obedience to the law of God, a righteousness which is so flawless that it can be considered right in the eyes of God. The word justification does not have the same ethical content, because it is purely forensic.
The law demands a righteousness with ethical content, and this the sinner owes to the law, but he is incapable of rendering it. Yet by faith he can bring the righteousness of Christ—all that the law demands of him—and God places the obedience of Christ to the sinner's account. Having made him righteous by imputation, God justifies or declares him righteous.
Just as righteousness is the condition for salvation, so righteousness is the condition of being justified (Rom. 2:13). Justification is the verdict of the Judge that a man is saved and shall surely live (Rom. 5:9,18; 1:17; 10:10). By faith the believing sinner attains to righteousness and can thereby stand approved in the judgment of God. Strictly speaking, then, being justified is the result of becoming righteous (imputatively) by faith.6
Throughout this chapter we have followed a line of thought to show that the righteousness which is of faith does not refer to any subjective quality in us, nor does it refer to the Spirit's work in us, but it is entirely objective to us. It is first the righteousness of God—the righteousness of His provision. It is the righteousness of Christ—the deeds and acts of incarnate Deity. It is apprehended by faith alone—meaning that it is not seen or felt by us. It is a righteousness which comes "without the law," "without the deeds of the law" and "without works"—meaning that it cannot possibly be referring to the inward righteousness of sanctification. It is imputed righteousness—meaning that the righteousness done and found in Another is counted as ours. And finally, it is a righteousness which justifies and saves us to life eternal—meaning that with utmost simplicity we can say that we are saved solely by faith in the objective doing and dying of Jesus Christ.
1 Verse 17 literally reads, "The righteous by faith shall live." It is grammatically possible to say that "by faith" refers either to "righteous" or to "shall live." If the former, the Revised Standard Version, as quoted above, is correct—and also Luther's translation. If the "by faith" refers to "shall live," the Authorized Version's "the just shall live by faith" is correct. Cranfield (The International Critical Commentary, Romans [Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark]) argues convincingly for the first sense mainly on the ground of context and Paul's argument in Romans.
2 See R. D. Brinsmead, "The Righteousness of God," Present Truth Magazine, Vol.23, pp.19-30, where this meaning is more fully explained.
3 This cannot be said about sanctification or the holiness which the Spirit works in the believer. Some think they can smuggle sanctification into "the righteousness of faith" by saying, "It isn't I but God's grace at work in me." unless we are going to say that grace annihilates human individuality and responsibility, we must acknowledge that sanctification involves the believer's meaningful activity in cooperation with grace.
4 We are not unmindful of the difficulties attached to the word condition. we do not mean meritorious condition. That is perfect righteousness, and this condition of salvation has been met for us by Jesus Christ. We speak of faith merely as an instrumental condition.
5 This point is made by Ziesler (The Meaning of Righteousness in Paul [Cambridge University Press]), and we suggest that his argument is valid.
6 We are hereby deliberately contradicting Ziesler's main thesis wherein he proposes that righteousness by faith is the result of being justified. We maintain that Paul clearly teaches that we attain righteousness by faith and are on this account justified and saved. "He who by faith is righteous shall live" (i.e., gain God's verdict of acquittal).