Saturday, July 6, 2019

Examining A Few Of Catholic Nick's Presuppositions Regarding Romans 4:2-8

  • Discussion:
          -A blogger who goes by the name of Catholic Nick wrote an article titled Another Gold Nugget in Romans 4:6 (Against Faith Alone), where he interacts with comments made by John Piper on the meaning of "counted righteous" as found in Romans 4. This article is not so much a commentary on John Piper's Desiring God ministry, but rather serves as an analysis of Nick's claims (which are quoted as follows) regarding this passage from Romans:

          "First, Piper has not been consistent with the parallelism of the passage: 4:6 Blessing to whom God credits righteousness apart from works, 4:7 Blessed are those whose iniquities are forgiven, and 4:8 Blessed is he whom the Lord will not reckon his sin. Notice that the parallel is not of “iniquities” and “sin” corresponding to “apart from works,” as Piper hurriedly assumed, but rather the “crediting of righteousness” corresponds to “iniquities forgiven” and “not crediting sin.” In other words, Paul is saying that to “credit righteousness” is synonymous with “not crediting sin. Thus, there is no actual correspondence between “apart from works” and “sinner” here."

          Romans 4:6 speaks of those, "to whom God counts righteousness apart from works." That cannot be separated from iniquities being forgiven. Christ's righteousness corresponds to our iniquities being forgiven. The key to interpreting this passage lies in verse 2, which says, "For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God.” Paul says that a system of works righteousness would result in boasting. Verse 4 says that if someone earns wages, then it is not a gift. But justification is a gift from God. Verse 5 states that God justifies the ungodly and counts them as righteous by faith. King David is used as an example of being justified in spite of his transgressions against God. Verses seven and eight are emphasizing our pardon from sin. The overall point from these parallel phrases is that we are not justified by works.

          "Second, consider that Piper shows there is just as much of a parallel between 4:5 and 4:6 as there is between 4:6 and 3:28. Here Piper shows that “justified by faith apart from works of the law” (3:28) is to be understood synonymously with “credits righteousness apart from works” (4:6). Thus, the “ungodly” is one who is “apart from works of the law.” Realizing this, it is even less reasonable to say “apart from works of the law” is a synonym for “sinner” in general (for example, being uncircumcised does not make one a sinner in general)."

           It is true that Romans 3:28 has a parallel with Romans 4:6 (“justified by faith apart from works of the Law” has the same meaning as “credits righteousness apart from works”). However, it is not reasonable to conclude that there is a distinction between an ungodly person and a sinner. Nick's reading of Romans 4 renders the language of sin and the need of it being covered superfluous. He has turned Romans 4:5-8 right on its head.

          "The only fitting explanation is that “ungodly” is a slang (or even pejorative) way of speaking of a Gentile, who is by definition someone who lacks works of the law. Note this parallel found in Galatians 2:15-16. And not only is this the only consistent way to interpret that parallel, it's the only way to make sense of Paul's earlier statements regarding Abraham."

           Romans 1:18 says that the wrath of God is revealed against all ungodliness. In that context, the Apostle Paul describes sins such as homosexuality (which were practiced in pagan cultures) and indicates that such are symptomatic of being handed over (Romans 1:32). Romans 3:9 says that both Jews and Greeks are under sin. Paul in Romans 5:6 says that Christ came to die for the ungodly. Romans 5:8 says that God manifested His love toward us despite being sinners. Romans 5:10 says that God enabled our redemption while we were enemies. The terms sinner and ungodly most naturally read synonymously in this context. The King James Version translates Strong's G765 in the following manner: ungodly (8x), ungodly men (1x). Never once is the term rendered as "Gentile."

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