Righteous, Righteousness, Justify, Make Righteous in the New Testament, Part 6
6. LASTLY, WE WILL DISCUSS THE GREEK VERB DIKAIOO, WHICH IS CLOSELY RELATED TO THE TWO WORDS WE HAVE BEEN DISCUSSING. Dikaioo and dikaiosune were both derived from dikaios. First I’ll list the ways the NASB translates dikaioo in the New Testament: justice (1), acquitted (1), freed (3), justified (24), justifier (1), justifies (2), justify (4), vindicated (3) for a total of 39 uses of dikaioo in the New Testament. And I’ll list the ways that the NIV translates dikaioo in the New Testament: justified (19), justify (4), justified (3), proved right (3), considered righteous (2), declared righteous (2), acknowledged that right (1), acquitted (1), freed (1), justified before God (1), make innocent (1), vindicated (1) for a total of 39 uses. The quotations of these verses in this paper are taken from the NASB, unless I mention otherwise. I’m taking this listing of verses that use this Greek verb in the New Testament from The Greek English Concordance to the New Testament with the NIV (Zondervan, 1997).
One primary thing that I am looking for throughout this study is verses where the Greek verb dikaioo is used in the greatly limited sense of Christians being forgiven and having a right standing in a strictly legal sense that has nothing to do with being transformed through new-covenant salvation. This is very important because a large number of Christians think that this greatly limited meaning for dikaioo is often used in key new-covenant-salvation passages in the New Testament. I believe they are making a big mistake that strongly dilutes the meaning intended by the writer and, much more important, by the One who sent the writer. I am also looking for any verses in a non-new-covenant-salvation context where dikaioo is used in the greatly limited sense of being forgiven and having a strictly legal, right standing that has nothing to do with how the people live, their works.
I’ll quote a few sentences from A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and other Early Christian Literature (BAGD), Revised and Edited by Frederick Danker, third edition (University of Chicago Press, 2000), under dikaioo, on page 249, under 2, b, and β. (Every verse that is mentioned here was written by the apostle Paul.): “… As affirmative verdict Rom. 2:13. Especially of persons [the Lexicon has an infinitive of dikaioo here] be acquitted, be pronounced and treated as righteous and thereby become dikaios [but not including actually being made righteous through new-covenant salvation], receive the divine gift of dikaiosune [but the gift does not include being transformed] through faith in Christ Jesus and apart from nomos [Greek for law] as a basis for evaluation (M Seifrid, Justification by Faith – The Origin and Development of a Central Pauline Theme ’92) [Romans] 3:20 (Psalm 142:2), 24, 28; 4:2; 5:1, 9; 1 Cor. 4:4; Gal. 2:16, 17 (Psalm 142:2); 3:11, 24; 5:4; Titus 3:7….”
From my point of view, it is quite significant, and wrong, that the definition given by this Lexicon in the last paragraph for dikaioo doesn’t include being transformed, being made righteous in our hearts and lives, by the imparted righteousness of God in Christ in the verses that deal with new-covenant salvation. This is very important because large numbers of Christians agree with what this Lexicon says regarding the meaning of dikaioo in many of the verses listed here, verses that deal with new-covenant salvation. I believe it is wrong to apply this definition to most of the verses they listed here. I believe this includes Rom. 2:13. (All of the verses listed here are discussed below when we come to these verses.) This verse speaks of God justifying (in the future) those who have been transformed and made righteous and become “doers of the Law” through new-covenant salvation. The apostle Paul made it clear throughout Romans, and other writings, that the only way to be transformed and made righteous is through new-covenant salvation. I’ll briefly comment on the other verses listed in the BAGD Greek Lexicon in the preceding paragraph: In Rom. 3:20 Paul says that no one will be justified by the works of the Law, because no one apart from the saving grace of God in Christ can keep the Law (especially the moral law) in an adequate sense. Romans 4:2 along with all of Romans chapter 4 (except for the last verse of that chapter) is different because of what the apostle was doing in that chapter, which is discussed in some detail in this paper. Romans 3:24 and 5:1, 9 are used in a new-covenant-salvation context that includes being transformed and made righteous. 1 Cor. 4:4 isn’t used in a full new-covenant salvation context, but it is clear that the apostle Paul’s life manifested to a high degree the gospel that he proclaimed, by grace through faith, and that he has been/will be justified. Dikaioo is used four times in Gal. 2:16, 17. Three times in Gal. 2:16-17 Paul makes the point that people cannot be justified by the works of the Law (because people are not able to keep the Law, especially the moral law, apart from new-covenant salvation). And three times he speaks of being justified through/by faith in Christ Jesus. Being justified by faith in Christ includes having been crucified with Christ to become a righteous new creation (Gal. 2:19-20; 5:24; 6:15); it includes all the work of the life-giving, making righteous, sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit (cf., e.g., Gal. 1:4; 3:14, 21 [GALATIANS 3:21 IS SUPER-IMPORTANT IN THAT PAUL SHOWS THAT WE MUST HAVE GOD’S LIFE (BY THE SPIRIT OF LIFE THROUGH CHRIST) TO HAVE RIGHTEOUSNESS, which is clearly more than a strictly legal righteousness]; Gal. 5:5 [which is discussed in this paper under dikaiosune]; Gal. 5:16 [which shows that we are called to walk by the Spirit on a continuous basis and not sin]; Gal. 5:24 [Paul speaks of crucifying the flesh with its passions and desires, which is accomplished through the death of Christ and by the indwelling Spirit]; and Gal. 6:8-9, 14.) I don’t see any basis to say that Paul would limit “being justified” to being forgiven and given a strictly legal, right standing with God in Gal. 2:16-17. Paul was saying that we will be declared righteous by God because He has made us righteous in our hearts and lives through new-covenant salvation. In Gal. 3:11 the apostle again says that no one is justified by the Law (because no one adequately keeps the Law apart from the saving grace of God in Christ). He goes on to say that he who is righteous by faith shall live (quoting Hab. 2:4). Paul meant that we become righteous in our hearts and lives through faith in Christ, which provides the powerfully transforming new-covenant salvation. I’ll repeat the important point that to the extent we don’t cooperate with God’s enabling grace by faith we will not be transformed. And we cannot cooperate with God’s enabling grace by faith if we don’t know that grace has been provided in God’s new-covenant salvation package. It is super-important that we rightly interpret, and believe, and continue to believe, and walk in line with God’s gospel/Word. In Gal. 3:24 justify is used in the same full sense that it is used in Rom. 2:13; 3:24; 5:1, 9; and the three uses in Gal. 2:16, 17. In Gal. 5:4 Paul again made the point, strongly made the point, that we cannot be justified by trying to keep the Law. He warned his Gentile Christian readers that if they submitted to the Judaizer’s gospel, which was a “different gospel” (Gal. 1:6; see Gal. 1:6-9), they would “[fall] from grace” (lose their salvation). And “being justified by His grace” in Titus 3:7 is used in the transformed through new-covenant-salvation sense that is discussed throughout this paper. Titus 3:5-7 are discussed below under dikaioo.
I’ll also include another excerpt from what this Greek Lexicon (BAGD) states later in the same location (under 2, b, β, on page 249). This excerpt doesn’t do away with the (widely accepted) viewpoint that has already been presented in the preceding excerpt, except maybe a little regarding Rom. 3:24. Anyway, what the Lexicon says in the second excerpt is relevant and important for the topic of this paper: “Since Paul views God’s justifying action in close connection with the power of Christ’s resurrection, THERE IS SOMETIMES NO CLEAR DISTINCTION BETWEEN THE JUSTIFYING ACTION OF ACQUITTAL AND THE GIFT OF NEW LIFE THROUGH THE HOLY SPIRIT AS GOD’S ACTIVITY IN PROMOTING [ENABLING] UPRIGHTNESS IN BELIEVERS [my emphasis]. Passages of this nature include Rom. 3:26, 30; 4:5 [I don’t see how Rom. 4:5 fits here.] and the Lexicon goes on to list Rom. 3:24 [which was listed above in this Lexicon; see the paragraph before the long last paragraph in my paper] as it continues, and Rom. 8:30, 33, and Gal. 3:8. I’ll also quote the last sentence from this Greek Lexicon under 2, b, β, “For the view (held since Chrysostom [about AD347-407. I believe the apostle Paul should be included here, and not just him.]) that dikaioo in these and other passages means [or at least includes the meaning] ‘make upright’ see Goodspeed, ‘Problems of NT Translation, 1945,’ pages 143-146, Journal of Biblical Literature 73. 1954, pages 86-91.”
In this study I’ll list all of the uses of dikaioo in the New Testament. I’ll quote many of the verses, and I’ll quote and discuss all of the verses that are directly relevant for this study. I’ll also quote many other verses and discuss some of them. I don’t like controversy, but I love the balanced truth of what the Bible teaches! That’s what I am aiming for! I know that what we believe will directly affect how we live! I would like to avoid all controversy, and I don’t want to show disrespect toward my brothers and sisters in Christ, but I’m trying to be faithful to God and to put Him first. I know that will work for good!
Matthew 11:19 (I’ll just quote the key words: Yet wisdom is vindicated [“proved right” NIV] by her deeds [works]. The wisdom of God will always eventually be vindicated (proved right) by the things that she does (by her works). Those who are far from God typically reject the things that are done by those walking in the wisdom of God, but His wisdom will be vindicated, along with those who have loved and walked in His wisdom.); Matthew 12:37 ((For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned. You will be justified (found to be righteous and declared to be righteous) by your words (and by your actions) when you stand before God in judgment if your words correspond with the words that God would have you speak (and actions He would have you do). If your words (and actions) are against the will of God “you will be condemned.” There is nothing here about being justified because you have been forgiven, but God’s people are forgiven for sinful words (and sinful actions) when they repent. These words, like many words in the Gospels, were not spoken in a full new-covenant-salvation context, but we cannot avoid the fact that how we live, including what we speak, is totally relevant for the day of judgment. The new covenant includes forgiveness, but the heartbeat of new-covenant salvation is being transformed by the grace of God in Christ, so we will be ready, fully ready, to stand before God whenever that comes to pass.)); Luke 7:29 ((When all the people and the tax collectors heard this [There is room for some difference of opinion here, but I prefer the view that Luke was referring to their having heard, and having submitted to, God’s call to repent through John the Baptist. Apparently Luke intended 7:29-30 to be a parenthetical statement. Anyway, this verse isn’t relevant to what it means for Christians to be justified by God.], they acknowledged God’s justice [In the margin the NASB has “Or justified God“; “acknowledged God’s way was right” NIV], having been baptized with the baptism of John. They justified God by repenting and submitting to His will by submitting to John the Baptist and his ministry and being baptized. The next verse shows that the Pharisees and lawyers rejected the ministry of John and the baptism that had been sent by God.])); Luke 7:35 (This verse is similar to Matt. 11:19 (discussed above under dikaioo), including the context, but the last word(s) is different: Yet wisdom [the wisdom of God] is vindicated [“proved right” NIV] by all her children. When the dust has settled and the truth and reality have become totally obvious, God’s wisdom will have been vindicated, proved right by the lives of those who submitted to and walked in His wisdom.); Luke 10:29 (This verse goes with 10:25-37. But wishing to justify himself [The lawyer, wishing to show that he was righteous and on the path “to inherit eternal life”], he said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” The answer of Jesus in verses 30-37 called the lawyer to a higher level of righteousness. If a person, like this lawyer, continued to follow Jesus and His teaching, it would soon become obvious that the only way to receive and walk in the righteousness of God in an adequate sense was to repent and submit to the gospel of new-covenant salvation.); Luke 16:15 (And He said to them [to “Pharisees, who were lovers of money” (16:14); money is relevant in this context because Jesus was teaching about the need to be faithful with money in 16:10-14, and at the end of verse 14 Luke reported that the Pharisees “were scoffing at Him.”], you are those who justify yourselves in the sight of men, but God knows your hearts; for that which is highly esteemed among men is detestable in the sight of God. I assume that what Jesus said to the Pharisees here went far beyond the sin of being lovers of money. Justifying yourself (believing and saying that you are righteous) is worth nothing if God, the Judge, doesn’t agree and justify us [declare us righteous]!); Luke 18:14 ((Dikaioo was not used in a new-covenant-salvation context in Luke 18:14, which was part of a parable that Jesus gave in Luke 18:9-14, but the use of dikaioo in this verse should be discussed in more detail. I’ll quote LUKE 18:9, 13-14: And He [Jesus] also told this parable to some people who trusted in themselves that they were righteous [Jesus mentioned and spoke of “a Pharisee” in this parable in verses 10-12. All people need to repent and submit to God’s plan of salvation in Christ, but this parable didn’t directly deal with the need to submit to the Lord Jesus and new-covenant salvation.], and viewed others with contempt. … (13) But the tax collector, standing some distance away [from the Pharisee] was even unwilling to lift up his eyes to heaven, but was beating his breast, saying, “God be merciful to me, the sinner!” (14) I tell you, this man [the tax collector] went to his house justified rather than the other [the Pharisee in this parable], for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted. It could be said that the tax collector “went to his house justified” meant only that he was forgiven and had a forgiven, greatly limited, strictly legal, right standing with God. If that is the idea, then this is the only verse I have found in the New Testament where dikaioo was used with that greatly limited meaning in a setting that was not directly dealing with new-covenant salvation. Anyway, I don’t believe that Jesus intended that greatly limited meaning for dikaioo in this parable. For the record, Jesus undoubtedly originally spoke this parable in Aramaic, not Greek.
Luke 18:9 gives us the reason for this parable (parables often just make one important point): “And He [Jesus] also told this parable to some people [especially some Pharisees] who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and viewed others [very much including tax-collectors] with contempt.” One dominant problem with that heart attitude and totally wrong viewpoint of many Pharisees and others like them was that people like that didn’t see a need to repent and were not submitting to the all-important ministry of the Lord Jesus. For one thing, HE WAS CALLING FOR SERIOUS REPENTANCE. (They also rejected the ministry of John the Baptist who was calling for repentance.) A parable like this one could help wake up some Pharisees and those like them: It powerfully warned them, and I assume it did help wake up some of them.
Jesus didn’t mention that the tax collector repented like Zaccheus, “a chief tax collector,” did in Luke 19:1-10, but I believe we can safely assume that the tax collector of the parable was motivated to repent where repentance was required. (This parable makes it clear that the tax collector was truly crying out to God from his heart; he was not just trying to get rid of guilt feelings so he could feel better about himself, or putting on a religious show in the flesh.) I’ll quote a sentence from what Charles L. Childers said under Luke 18:14 (Vol. 6 of the Beacon Bible Commentary [Beacon Hill Press, 1964], page 578): “This publican [Childers agrees that he was a tax collector] was both forgiven and approved by God, though he had been a sinner and acknowledged it.” I believe Childers goes too far saying “he had been a sinner,” because there is nothing in this parable about his receiving new-covenant salvation and being transformed; however, I believe there is plenty of room to see genuine repentance and faith in God to the extent of his knowledge. This parable isn’t directly dealing with becoming a Christian, but with the heart condition needed to become a Christian.
Based on what little Jesus told us about the tax collector, it seems safe to assume that he, like Zaccheus, would eagerly, from his heart and in sincerity, respond to the call to new-covenant salvation with repentance and faith. That’s the dominant thing that Jesus was concerned with, that people repent and submit in faith to God the Father, His Son, and the call to new-covenant salvation. The tax collector of the parable was a perfect candidate for new-covenant salvation: For one thing, he knew that he desperately needed it. This parable was spoken to people like the Pharisee of the parable. Those people were strongly contrasted with the tax collector to emphasize as much as possible their very sad state that needed very serious attention. There was every reason to present the tax collector in the best possible light in this parable.
Based on Jesus’ words in the second half of 18:14, the tax collector was a perfect example of one who humbled himself and will be exalted, and the Pharisee is a perfect example of one who exalts himself and will be humbled, will be humbled by God’s judgment if he doesn’t repent. It is significant that the Pharisee still has some time to humble himself and repent.)); Acts 13:39 ((And through Him [Christ] everyone who believes is freed from all things, from which you could not be freed through the Law of Moses. On the translation “freed” for dikaioo see Rom. 6:7 below. Acts 13:38-39 are discussed on pages 155-156 of my book Holiness and Victory Over Sin. The apostle Paul undoubtedly included total forgiveness of sins here, but it is very clear that he was speaking of a lot more than forgiveness. (They were forgiven under the Mosaic Law through the sacrificial offerings, except for sins that were defiant, committed with a high hand.) THE APOSTLE PAUL’S EMPHASIS HERE IS ON OUR BEING SET FREE (“FREED”) FROM SPIRITUAL DEATH AND BONDAGE TO SIN AND DEMONS AND THE KINGDOM OF SATAN AND DARKNESS, AND OUR BEING BORN AGAIN AND MADE RIGHTEOUS AND HOLY (cf., e.g., Gal. 1:4; 3:13, 14, 21, 22; 4:3-11, 26-31; 5:13-21).)); Romans 2:13 ((For it is not the hearers of the Law who are [probably better, who will be; we have to supply the verb here; it is not included in the Greek; but the future verb, “will be justified,” is included in the Greek at the end of this verse.] just [righteous] before God, but the doers of the Law will be justified. In Romans chapter 2 and much of chapter 3, Paul was showing why the Jews needed new-covenant salvation, because they weren’t “doers of the Law” in an adequate sense. It is very significant that in Rom. 2:7, 10, and 2:26-29 the apostle spoke of Christians, and only Christians, being enabled to do good and “[keep] the requirements of the Law” (Rom. 2:27; Rom. 2:26-27 deal specifically with Gentile Christians, which makes Paul’s point that the Jews needed new-covenant salvation all the more powerful). In Rom. 8:4 he spoke of Christians, and only Christians, being enabled to fulfill the requirements of the Law by the indwelling Righteous, Holy Spirit of life. So, in this context, when Paul said the doers of the Law will be justified, he was saying that the doers of the Law, those who have been made righteous through new-covenant salvation, “will be justified” because they are, and will be, “righteous,” having been made righteous in their hearts and lives through new-covenant salvation. I don’t see any support whatsoever for a greatly limited meaning for “justified” here.
You could argue that Paul wasn’t directly dealing with how we can become doers of the Law in Rom. 2:13. I believe he was (he makes it clear that new-covenant salvation is the only way we can become doers of the moral Law in an adequate sense), but even if he wasn’t, Rom. 2:13 uses “justified” of people being declared righteous by God at the end because they actually will be righteous; they are “doers of the Law.”)); Romans 3:4 (May it never be! Rather, let God be found true, though every man be found a liar, as it is written, “THAT YOU MAY BE JUSTIFIED IN YOUR WORDS, AND PREVAIL WHEN YOU ARE JUDGED” [quoted from Psalm 51:4 (50:4 in the Septuagint)]. God and all of His words and actions will ultimately be found/proved to be true and righteous.]); Romans 3:20 (Because by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified in His sight; for through the Law comes the knowledge of sin. Paul has just demonstrated in Rom. 3:9-19, especially verse 19, that all people, very much including the Jews, are sinners and need new-covenant salvation. The Mosaic Law gave the “knowledge of sin,” but it did not give victory over sin. In 3:21-22 Paul goes on to speak of new-covenant salvation which is the only thing that can solve the spiritual death, bondage to sin and demons, problem and make people ready to stand before God in judgment through forgiveness, AND THROUGH BEING BORN AGAIN AND MADE RIGHTEOUS WITH THE IMPARTED RIGHTEOUSNESS OF GOD BY THE INDWELLING RIGHTEOUS, HOLY SPIRIT OF LIFE, BY GRACE THROUGH FAITH. All true Christians “will be justified in His sight.”); Romans 3:24 (In 3:23 the apostle mentioned again that all are sinners and therefore need new-covenant salvation. being justified as a gift [not earned, not merited] through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus. Again, “justified” is used in the very full sense that includes participating in the “redemption which is in Christ Jesus,” being redeemed from (out of) the pitiful state of being in spiritual death and in bondage to sin and demons, and being born again and made righteous with the imparted righteousness of God by the indwelling Righteous, Holy Spirit of life. “Redemption” deals with setting slaves free. This is a whole lot more than being forgiven and having a strictly legal, right standing with God. We, according to the teaching of the apostle Paul, were all slaves of sin in the kingdom of spiritual death and darkness.); Romans 3:26 (The words His righteousness in this verse speak of God’s being righteous, which He always was and always will be.); Romans 3:28 ((For we maintain that a man is justified by faith [faith in Christ] apart from works of the Law. Christians are not under the Mosaic Law, and it is clear that we are not required to do the ceremonial works of the Mosaic Law, including circumcision. However, we are enabled, and required, to keep God’s moral law (cf. Rom. 2:26-27; 8:4; 1 Cor. 7:19), but we do those righteous works by grace by faith. We are not earning salvation by keeping the moral law, by our works, and God gets all the glory for our salvation: “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them” (Eph. 2:10).)); Romans 3:30 (since indeed God who will justify [future] the circumcised by faith [the Jews who become Christians by faith and continue to live as Christians by faith] and the uncircumcised [the Gentiles who become Christians through faith and continue to live as Christians through faith] through faith is one. The ONE God (the Creator of all things, including all people, and the Judge of all people) is God of the Jews and the Gentiles, and it isn’t surprising that He included the salvation of Gentiles in His plan of salvation, and we Gentiles are very thankful for that. God will be able to justify them (find them righteous and declare them righteous) when they stand before Him because they have been made righteous in their hearts and lives by Him through new-covenant salvation. This is a whole lot more than being forgiven and having a strictly legal, right standing with God that does not include being transformed by the grace of God in Christ.); Romans 4:2 ((Since the Greek noun dikaiosune was used quite often (eight times) in Romans chapter 4, we have already discussed this chapter quite a bit. See above under dikaiosune. The Greek verb dikaioo is used twice in Romans chapter 4. The use of this Greek verb in verses 2 and 5 is comparable in meaning with the words being “credited for righteousness” or the equivalent, that are used quite a bit in this chapter (4:3, 5, 6, 9, 10, 11, 22, 23, 24; cf. 4:13).
It is extremely significant in a negative sense that large numbers of Christians have leaned heavily on Romans chapter 4 to establish the meaning of dikaiosune and the verb dikaioo in the New Testament. I’ll quote ROMAN 4:1-2: What then shall we say that Abraham our forefather according to the flesh has found? I believe the translation given in the margin of the NASB gives Paul’s intended meaning: What then shall we say that Abraham, our forefather, has found according to the flesh? (2) For if Abraham was justified by works [in the flesh], he has something to boast about, but not before God. One important point that the apostle was making here is that Abraham wasn’t “justified” “by works.” As Paul will go on to say, Abraham “was justified” by faith. The dominant point that Paul made in Romans chapter 4 is that Abraham was justified by faith, not “by works,” not “according to [by] the flesh.” By faith Abraham was able to rise above the flesh and tap into God’s saving grace to the extent it was available to him in the years before the Lamb was slain to save believers with new-covenant salvation.
Paul went on in verse 3 to show that believing God (having faith in God) was credited to Abraham as righteousness, which is comparable in meaning in this greatly limited context with saying he “was justified” by faith. This backs up what the apostle said in verse 2: Abraham was not justified “by works.” And Paul went on in verse 4 to make the important point that if Abraham (or Christians) were justified (saved) by works (by our works), we would be earning salvation. It would not be coming by grace, but it would be earned. One key aspect of the gospel Paul proclaimed is that we are saved BY GRACE, which by definition means that we haven’t earned, or merited, salvation at all. One reason God set up salvation by grace through faith (not earning salvation by works of the flesh) is that pride (with unbelief) is at the root of sin, and to the extent we are striving in the flesh to earn salvation, we will try to take at least part of the glory for ourselves in pride. See under the next verse (Rom. 4:5) to complete this discussion.)); Romans 4:5 ((But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him [We cannot substitute works for faith/believing in God. For one thing God must have our hearts, and faith/believing is of the heart.] who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited to him as righteousness. We must understand, and admit, that before we become Christians we are ungodly, that we are sinners and we need to repent and be transformed, or we will not be looking for, or open to, new-covenant salvation that offers us forgiveness, the new birth, and the indwelling Righteous, Holy Spirit of life as a gift. The apostle Paul spent most of the first three chapters of his epistle to the Romans showing that all Jews and all Gentiles are sinners and need (desperately need) new-covenant salvation in the blood of the Lamb of God.
As this paper shows, Paul typically used justified in the very full sense that includes being forgiven, set free from spiritual death and bondage to sin and demons, born again and made righteous with the imparted righteousness of God in a new-covenant- salvation context. However, here in Romans chapter 4, which is a VERY SPECIAL chapter, because Paul was building this chapter using Abraham for his primary example, and Abraham was still living under the penalty of Adam’s transgression (which included spiritual death and bondage to sin and demons), Paul was forced to use justify in the greatly limited sense of having “his faith credited to him as righteousness,” without including the super-important things that he typically includes in the meaning of the verb justify in new-covenant-salvation contexts. Above (under dikaiosune, under James 2:23), I listed four ways that Paul was against works, but that he was in total agreement with James that faith in Christ without the required works (of living for God in accordance with His will by His grace) is dead – it isn’t real, saving, faith.
The apostle was not saying that Christians do not have to do the works (the righteous lifestyle required of Christians) that the grace of God in Christ enables us to do in order to be justified when we stand before God. (Of course we must understand that Christians will be forgiven for any sins they commit when they repent, but Christianity involves a lot more than sin, get forgiven, sin, get forgiven.) One thing Paul was saying is that the people of Israel needed to come to Christ and submit to new-covenant salvation, which made it necessary for them to stop trying to be saved through doing works under the old covenant, now that new-covenant salvation had become available in the crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension of the Lamb of God. Paul also had to deal with the Judaizers, who were Jews who had become Christians, in some cases undoubtedly true Christians, who strongly insisted that Gentiles who became Christians had to be circumcised, etc., to be saved. Circumcision was a ceremonial work required under the old covenant.
All Christians must understand that we cannot earn salvation by our works; however, we need the works that the grace of God, very much including the work that the indwelling Righteous, Holy Spirit of God, enables us to do. We come to Christ with empty hands, so to speak, but then we are called and enabled to live in the righteousness of God by grace through faith to the glory of God. See Eph. 2:10 for example.)); Romans 5:1 ((We discussed Romans chapter 5 quite a bit already in this paper, under the discussions of dikaios and dikaiosune above in this paper, and see section 8.6 of my paper on Isaiah chapter 53. It seems clear to me that the apostle Paul used dikaios, dikaiosune, and dikaioo in the very full new-covenant-salvation sense that includes being born again and made righteous with the imparted righteousness of God whenever it fit that context. If it were not for the unfortunate, widespread misunderstanding of Romans chapter 4 (not realizing that it is a VERY SPECIAL chapter, primarily because of Paul’s strong use of Abraham, who did not, and could not, partake of new-covenant righteousness before the Lamb had been slain to set us free and to pour out the new-covenant Spirit of Righteousness) and for unfortunate traditions that have been held for a long time, since the Reformation, most Christians would undoubtedly readily agree with what I am saying in this paper. Anyway, now would be a good time to very seriously consider what I say in this paper. THIS IS IMPORTANT, VERY IMPORTANT! Therefore, having been justified [or, having been made righteous] by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ [and new-covenant salvation in His blood]. If we were forgiven and declared righteous in a strictly legal sense, but not transformed, we could not have “peace with God.” See Rom. 8:5-8 for example. Much more can be said (as this paper shows), but what the apostle went on to say in Rom. 5:6, 8, and 10 should suffice to show that Paul was using “having been justified” in a very full new-covenant-salvation sense here: In 5:6 he said that we used to be helpless and ungodly. In 5:8 he spoke of the time, before we became Christians, “while we were yet sinners [who were sinning].” And in 5:10 he spoke of the time “while we were enemies [of God, living in sin].”)); Romans 5:9 ((I’ll quote ROMANS 5:8-9: But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners [before we became Christians, but who are now walking in the righteousness of God by grace through faith], Christ died for us [bearing our sins with the guilt and the penalties, including the major penalties of spiritual death and bondage to sin and demons, so that we could be set free from those penalties]. (9) Much more then, having now been justified [or, having now been made righteous] by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him. “Having now been justified by His blood” from being in the pitiful state of being spiritually dead and in bondage to sin and demons, we have the victory over sin, and in the ideal case we would never sin again. And if we should sin, we will be forgiven through His blood when we repent. There will be no basis for the wrath of God to come against those who are forgiven and living in the righteousness of God by grace through faith. God’s wrath is coming against those who are living in sin and are rejecting God’s new-covenant salvation in Christ. God hates sin, and He certainly cannot allow sinners into heaven. It would destroy the divine order of heaven.)); Romans 6:7 (( (On Romans chapter 6 see above in this paper under dikaios and dikaiosune.) for he who has died is freed from sin [better has been freed from sin (perfect tense in the Greek)]. We know what the apostle meant by “he who has died”: In verse 1-6 he has been speaking of our being “dead to sin” (6:1) through union with Christ in His atoning death for us – “our old self [man] has been crucified with Him…so that we would no longer be slaves to sin” (6:6) – we “have been baptized [referring to water baptism when we become Christians] into His death” (6:3) – “we [referring to the old man who was a slave of sin (see 6:6, 17, 20)] have been buried with Him through baptism into death [death to the old man who was a slave of sin]” (6:4). And Romans chapter 6 emphasizes the point that now, as born-again Christians, we are called, enabled, required, and privileged to be slaves to God and to His righteousness (cf., e.g., Rom. 6:16, 18, 19, 22). That’s a whole lot more than being forgiven and having a strictly legal, right standing with God that has nothing to do with being transformed.
Based on what I said in the preceding paragraph, it is obvious what Paul meant by the words “has been freed from sin” here in 6:7. We are no longer slaves of sin in the kingdom of spiritual death, but we have become slaves of God and His righteousness, by grace through faith. However, it is totally necessary for us to understand that this victory is not automatic just because we have become born-again Christians. As the apostle says in Rom. 6:11, “Even so consider [“reckon” (KJV, NKJV) BY FAITH] yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God [and His righteousness] in Christ Jesus.” We must appropriate and cooperate with the saving grace of God in Christ by faith, based on what God’s Word says, on a continuous basis, against the world, the flesh (the old man who hasn’t been annihilated and will still manifest itself in sin if we allow it, and we are responsible for that sin), and the devil and his hosts.
The translation “has been freed [from sin]” for dikaioo fits the context and communicates well here, but I prefer the translation “has been justified [from sin],” because the use of this Greek verb here helps demonstrate that “justify” (dikaioo) is being used in a full, new-covenant-salvation sense that includes God’s forgiving us, setting us free from spiritual death and bondage to sin and demons, and His giving us the new birth and making us righteous through the all-important atoning death of His Son and His outpoured, indwelling Righteous, Holy Spirit of life (the very life of God). I prefer the translation “has been justified [from sin]” only because it is so important for us to understand what the apostle Paul meant by “jusfify/justified.” It is so much more than being forgiven and having a strictly legal, right standing with God; THERE IS TRANSFORMATION.));
We will continue with this study of the Greek verb dikaioo, starting with Rom. 8:30, in Part 7 of this paper. We finish this paper in Part 7.
Copyright © by Karl Kemp
The last few years I have done a lot of writing. I have written four books ("Holiness and Victory Over Sin: Full Salvation Through the Atoning Death of the Lord Jesus Christ"; an e-book, "Righteousness, Holiness, and Victory Over Sin," which serves as a good introduction for the paperback book; "The Mid-Week Rapture: A Verse-by-Verse Study of Key Prophetic Passages"; and "Introduction to The Mid-Week Rapture." The e-books are easier to read and should be read first, but the paperback books contain a lot of information not contained in the e-books. All the books are available at amazon.com.
I have written a large number of papers, most of them dealing with foundational Christian issues. Most of them are available at karlkempteachingministries.com. I also have been doing some radio broadcasts the past 5 years.