Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Does God Infuse Righteousness Into Our Souls Or Declare Us To Be Righteous?

  • Discussion:
           -Karlo Broussard of Catholic Answers wrote an article on how we should understand the word reckoned as translated in Romans 4:3. Are we to understand that term as a legal status that God declares us to be or is righteousness infused into our souls? The purpose of this article is to counter a few of this Roman Catholic apologist's claims on the matter:

           "First, just because the Bible uses the language of God “reckoning” a person as righteous, it doesn’t follow that there is no ontological transformation—a change in what the sinner is. There is no reason why God’s declaration of our righteousness and our transformation by grace must be mutually exclusive. The two can be harmonized."

            The legal declaration of us being righteous in His sight (justification) is to be distinguished with the gradual process by which God makes us righteous (sanctification). He not only erases our record of transgressions against Him, but also transforms us to live in accordance with His will.

           "But God’s forgiveness of David’s sins [Romans 4:8, where Paul quotes Psalm 32:2] was not merely a legal declaration without some existential effect on David. To the contrary, David describes God’s forgiveness of his sins as being made “clean” and “whiter than snow” (51:7). And herein lies the key to God no longer reckoning David’s sin: the objective guilt of those sins had been removed. God’s reckoning was an evaluation that correctly corresponded to the objective reality of that which was being reckoned."

           The forgiveness of sins enables us to overcome personal guilt and be at peace with God. Everything that surrounds justification is not to be conflated with justification itself. Forgiveness is an aspect of justification, but it does not make up its entirety.

           "There are other passages that fit the same pattern. For example, in Romans 8:18 Paul “considers” [logizomai] that our current sufferings are not worth comparing with our glory that is to be revealed in heaven. Paul’s mental evaluation of our present sufferings compared to our glory in heaven matches the objective reality about the two. In Romans 9:8, Paul “reckons” [logizomai] Abraham’s spiritual children as God’s children. Paul’s evaluation about Abraham’s spiritual children corresponds to what they really are: God’s children."

           Notice that in each of the above examples a reckoning according to reality takes place—a mental evaluation that correctly corresponds to reality. Never does the reckoning in these verses suggest a mere declaration that is not intended to match up to the reality. There are some passages in Scripture where people “reckon” something in a way that doesn’t match the true nature of the thing being reckoned (see Mark 15:28; Rom. 2:3). But in these cases the reckoning is seen as flawed."

           The King James Version translates Strong's G3049 (logizomai) in the following manner: think (9x), impute (8x), reckon (6x), count (5x), account (4x), suppose (2x), reason (1x), number (1x), miscellaneous (5x). It has a slightly wide semantic range of meaning (For example: to reckon, count, compute, calculate).

           The term logizomai has many instances in which something is accounted, reckoned, or regarded in a manner that corresponds with reality. But this accounting term does not always have to carry that meaning. This is the grounds for the Apostle Paul’s argument in Romans 4.

           Interestingly, the form of logizomai that occurs in Romans 2:26 is an instance that can clearly be understood in a judicial or declarative sense. It would be absurd to assert that circumcision is infused into somebody. God treats a righteous man who is uncircumcised as if he is circumcised. 2 Timothy 4:16 also has a form of logizomai that can mean impute something on somebody’s behalf. So we can indeed interpret the Greek word in the sense of Christ’s righteousness being credited to our account. 

           Furthermore, opponents of penal substitutionary theory have the dilemma of explaining what it means for God to not impute sin to believers in passages such as Psalm 32:1-2, Romans 4:7-8, and 2 Corinthians 5:19. God credits righteousness to the ungodly "apart from works." Their sins have been "forgiven" and "covered" (Romans 4:7-8). This source sheds more light on the meaning of logizomai in Romans 4: 

          "...In the Greek translation of the Old Testament (the Septuagint), the term often appears where individuals must treat a person or object as if it were something other than what it is inherently. For example, when the Levites received tithes, they were not to treat these tithes as actual tithes that had already been devoted to the Lord. Instead, they had to regard these tithes as their income and then pay a tithe to the Lord themselves from what had been given to them. Inherently, what the people gave were tithes. But the Levites reckoned them as income (Num. 18:25–32). Taking this all together, we see that in Romans 4 logizomai means to credit something to a person’s account and regard that person not according to what he has done or who he is but according to what is credited to his account."

           "So, when we come to Romans 4:3, where God “reckons” Abraham as righteous, it’s reasonable to conclude, in light of the foregoing analysis, that God evaluates Abraham to be righteous because in reality his faith truly has a righteous quality to it, thus making Abraham ontologically righteous. To say that God “reckons” Abraham as righteous even though he’s not, you either have to say that God was wrong in his reckoning or that you’re using the term reckon in a way that Paul does not. No Protestant wants to concede the first horn of the dilemma. And I doubt that many want to concede the second. So, rather than undermining the Catholic view of justification, God’s reckoning of Abraham as righteous in Romans 4:3 supports it."

           Following is an excerpt from John Gill's Exposition of the Bible on the text of Romans 4:4:

           "of debt: it must be his due, as wages are to an hireling. Now this was not Abraham's case, which must have been, had he been justified by works; he had a reward reckoned to him, and accounted his, which was God himself, "I am thy shield, and exceeding, great reward", Genesis 15:1; which must be reckoned to him, not of debt, but of grace; wherefore it follows, that he was justified, not by works, but by the grace of God imputed to him; that which his faith believed in for righteousness. The distinction of a reward of grace, and of debt, was known to the Jews; a the one they called פרס, the other שכר: the formerF4 they say is הגמול, "a benefit", which is freely of grace bestowed on an undeserving person, or one he is not obliged to; the other is what is given, בדין, "of debt", in strict justice."

           Following is an excerpt from Matthew Henry's Commentary on Romans 4:6-8:           

           "He further illustrates this by a passage out of the Psalms, where David speaks of the remission of sins, the prime branch of justification, as constituting the happiness and blessedness of a man, pronouncing blessed, not the man who has no sin, or none which deserved death (for then, while man is so sinful, and God so righteous, where would be the blessed man?) but the man to whom the Lord imputeth not sin, who though he cannot plead, Not guilty, pleads the act of indemnity, and his plea is allowed. It is quoted from Ps. 32:1, 2, where observe, 1. The nature of forgiveness. It is the remission of a debt or a crime; it is the covering of sin, as a filthy thing, as the nakedness and shame of the soul. God is said to cast sin behind his back, to hide his face from it, which, and the like expressions, imply that the ground of our blessedness is not our innocency, or our not having sinned (a thing is, and is filthy, though covered; justification does not make the sin not to have been, or not to have been sin), but God's not laying it to our charge, as it follows here: it is God's not imputing sin (v. 8), which makes it wholly a gracious act of God, not dealing with us in strict justice as we have deserved, not entering into judgment, not marking iniquities, all which being purely acts of grace, the acceptance and the reward cannot be expected as debts; and therefore Paul infers (v. 6) that it is the imputing of righteousness without works. 2. The blessedness of it: Blessed are they. When it is said, Blessed are the undefiled in the way, blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the wicked, etc., the design is to show the characters of those that are blessed; but when it is said, Blessed are those whose iniquities are forgiven, the design is to show what that blessedness is, and what the ground and foundation of it. Pardoned people are the only blessed people. The sentiments of the world are, Those are happy that have a clear estate, and are out of debt to man; but the sentence of the word is, Those are happy that have their debts to God discharged. O how much therefore is it our interest to make it sure to ourselves that our sins are pardoned! For this is the foundation of all other benefits. So and so I will do for them; for I will be merciful, Heb. 8:12."

           We are under no obligation to conclude that God was wrong to credit a righteous status to Abraham even though he was not. That conclusion does not logically follow. The Lord knows what is in our hearts. Believers are covered in the righteousness of Jesus Christ. His righteousness belongs to us. This "legal transaction" is not a lie just because it is a gift. This is not a matter of legal fiction. Christ is a real Mediator. Christ is truly our Advocate. He truly obeyed the Law perfectly. He paid the penalty for sin on our behalf. These points are all rooted in fact.

1 comment:

  1. Very well written Jesse, very thorough.
    I wrote up some additional thoughts on the Roman claim that imputed righteousness is a legal fiction.
    https://evangelicalmiscellanies.blogspot.com/2021/02/is-imputed-righteousness-legal-fiction.html?m=1

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