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Romans 4:13-25 by Robert Dean
Series:Romans (2010)
Duration:1 hr 7 mins 1 sec

Justification Summary
Romans 4:13–25
Romans Lesson #044
December 8, 2011

I want to give you a brief report on the Pre-Trib Rapture Study Group meeting—what we did, what we covered, what it was like. We are going to have to make this a team presentation because unfortunately I had to miss a few events, and Pastor Dan Inghram from THE National Capital Bible Church is here. Dan is going to report on the parts I did not attend.

For those of you who do not anything about the Pre-Trib Rapture Study Group. This started in December 1991, and this was the 20th Annual Pre-Trib Rapture Study Group. It was the result of the combined forces of Dr. Tim LaHaye and Tommy Ice. Tommy and I and Charlie had actually talked a lot about and dreamed a lot about having a dispensational think tank back in the late 1980s as more and more seminaries and theologians and other groups came up attacking dispensationalism. There needed to be some sort of academically-oriented organization that would work specifically on defending the pre-trib, dispensational rapture doctrine and our view of prophecy. Sadly, one of the reasons for that was because the seminaries that had historically stood for dispensationalism were beginning to drift off course. Dallas was beginning to shift into progressive dispensationalism in their theology department. Talbot was. Other schools were spending a lot more time talking about psychology, counseling, and other types of new techniques to somehow stimulate people spiritually. All, in my opinion, were works of the flesh. They were leaving out theology, especially this pre-millennial, pre-tribulational dispensationalism. There were a lot of attacks.

It has just increased over the years. People you would never have thought would depart from dispensationalism have departed and become covenant theologians, or they shifted from amillennialism to postmillennialism. I went to visit Judy in the hospital the other day, and she was reading an old classic by Charles Feinberg, who was a Hebrew professor at Dallas Seminary back in late 40s-early 50s. He had been brought up in an orthodox Jewish home, trained from a young age to be a rabbi, discovered Yeshua as his Messiah in his late teens, and went to Dallas Seminary. He was unbelievably brilliant in the Old Testament Scriptures in Hebrew. He wrote a book called Millennialism, which came out in the late 40s and just dealt with amillennialism and premillennialism because, as he said in his forward, postmillennialism is dead. Postmillennialism resurrected itself in the 70s. A lot of publications attacked dispensationalists and the pre-trib rapture and made all sort of fraudulent claims that have been demonstrated to be false. Even a scholar with the reputation of John Gerstner (a well-known scholar who is with the Lord now) wrote a book on dispensationalism in the early 90s, and well over 50% of the things he said dispensationalists taught and believed were not true.

There needed to be answer, so the Pre-Trib Rapture Study Group met. Initially it was just pastors, academics, seminary professors, and some popularizers—Hal Lindsey was at the first few. The idea was to bring the scholars and the popularizers together so that hopefully the popularizers would get straightened out by the scholarship of the others. Maybe the scholarly ones would learn how to communicate a little more at the popular level by listening to the other guys.

By the late 90s, Tim LaHaye decided it might be a good idea to invite non-professional Christian workers to come to sit as observers, so that we could get the word out and have an impact at a broader level. Now, rather than just having that small group of about 40-60 academics there, there has been as many as 500. Two or three years ago, they hit that high point of 500. With the recession, most conferences of this nature have shrunk about 25%, so there were over 300 in attendance this year. It was a conference where everything related to the rapture itself. Not just to other issues related to dispensationalism or prophecy, but everything this year, in honor of the 20th anniversary, was related specifically to understanding the pre-trib rapture.

Tommy Ice gave the first paper which was an overview of the rapture in church history. It has been almost 200 years since John Nelson Darby, who was the first to articulate a systematic view of dispensationalism. He was considered the originator of the doctrine of the pre-tribulation rapture. As a result of the encouragement, scholarship, background of the Pre-Trib Study Group, there have been a number of discoveries in the last 20 years of earlier pastors, theologians, and writers who have obviously held to a pre-trib rapture position. Though we have always believed that this was true, you have to have documentary evidence that it is true. There have been a number of discoveries made going back into the early church. The earliest of which was the writing by a man who called himself Ephrem the Syrian, which was just a pseudonym, so he was called Pseudo-Ephraem. It was clear that he believed that the rapture preceded the tribulation.

Some people had the tribulation as only 3-½ years. They were not making a mid-trib position; they just had only a 3-½ year tribulation. Darby, according to what Tommy has discovered, held to only a 3-½ year tribulation just during his initial studies for maybe 6 months or so before he realized that Daniel’s 70th week identified it as a 7-year period.

In that presentation, Tommy identified a number of different people. Morgan Edwards was a Baptist and the founder and first president of Brown University in Providence, RI. It is arguably the most liberal university in the country. I read a study when I was in Connecticut that there were no conservatives or Republicans on the faculty and were probably a handful in the student body. When Tommy went there one time looking to find writings by Morgan Edwards, they did not have anything that he had written, and they did not care. Like many of those schools founded in the East originally to train pastors, they are so liberal now that they are embarrassed by their heritage.

John Hart spoke next and is a professor at Moody Bible Institute. I have read several things by him that have been quite excellent. He wrote a paper defending the view that in Matthew 24:36 ff, it shifts back to talking about the rapture as a signless event. Probably the majority but not all (there is a lot of disagreement over this among pre-trib dispensationalists) believe that it is all about the 2nd coming. There are a number, like Arnold Fruchtenbaum, Hal Lindsey and a number of others, who think that in verse 36 there is a shift that occurs back to once again talking about a signless event. John did an excellent job presenting his view.

I spent about two hours on the phone today with Dr. Michael Rydelnik, who is the head of the Jewish studies department at Moody Bible Institute. He graduated from Dallas in 1983 and has written a number of fabulous works related to the Old Testament. He takes the same view that Hart does. They got a lot of their argument from Craig Glickman, who is a professor at Dallas when I was a student there.

(Pastor Dan Inghram gives an overview of the afternoon sessions.)

The third presentation was Dr. Paul Wilkinson. Tommy and Paul met in England, and he has come to the last three Pre-Trib conferences. Each time his presentation has been exceptional. This time he talked about the rapture and evangelism. He talked about various ministers, pastors, and evangelists and how their focus and emphasis on the rapture has had an impact on their ministries and has caused them to be motivated to evangelism. He said that the pre-trib belief gave them an urgency for witnessing to their friends and acquaintances. I would really encourage you to listen to that because he gave an interesting story about Ribbentrop and how he came to know the Lord during the trials at Nuremberg. He was a high-ranking German officer, who was one of the strongest advocates of the Holocaust and the extermination of the Jews, helping to set up the concentration camps.

There was an army chaplain who was assigned to the Nuremberg trials, and I think he made the comment that every day the prisoners had to attend a chaplain service. Ribbentrop was kind of standoffish at first, but as they went through the trials, he became more approachable. He was one of the three that were sentenced to death by hanging. He accepted Christ as his Savior prior to his execution, and when he stepped up to the hangman’s noose, he turned to the chaplain and said, “I’ll see you again.” He was a believer as he went to his death.

The fourth presentation was Dr. Tim Demy “The History of American Pretribulationism.” He talked about dispensationalism coming to America really by way of John Nelson Darby. He talked about Dwight L. Moody and how he became a very strong predispensationalist. As a matter of fact, it was Moody who made the comment, “There is nothing between me and the rapture.” He also spoke about James Hall Brookes, William E. Blackstone, C.I. Scofield, Arno C. Gaebelein, and Charles Ryrie.

Dr. Ed Hindson spoke to us at the banquet. He spoke briefly about the Pre-Trib Conference and how it got started, and then he gave a very interesting presentation about being a pretribulationalist and dispensationalist. One of the things that he emphasized was that he teaches Revelation at Liberty University, so he had some of the background from Revelation there as well.

The fifth presentation was by Dr. David Hocking on the rapture in the book of Revelation. A lot of his focus was on Revelation 4-5. He spoke about the 24 elders. We know that in the first three chapters, there is an emphasis on the church. I think the word EKKLESIA is mentioned something like 16 times. It is not mentioned at all in chapters 4-19, and then it is mentioned again when we get to chapter 22. One of the comments he made about the 24 elders is that when we talk about elders, we normally think of that word being applied to the church. It was his position that the 24 elders are a representation of the church. He gave a presentation on Revelation 5:9 “And they sang a new song, saying: ‘You are worthy to take the scroll, and to open its seals [speaking of the Lord Jesus Christ]; for you were slain and have redeemed us [and who is this “us” that are singing—he believes that is the 24 elders]…’ ” This is the representation of the church in heaven at that time singing this to the Lord. The rest of the verse “ ‘…out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation, and have made us kings and priests to our God; and we shall reign on the earth’ ” If you are following in your translation, there are a lot of challenges, different manuscripts that apply to those verses. He spoke about that and how the different manuscripts might apply to that because not every translation has “us” and “we” in those verses.

In the next presentation “Jesus and the Rapture, Dr. Andy Wood spoke about John 14:1-4. He did it in three parts. He talked about some preliminary observations on the reason for the rapture being found in John 14 and then gave an excellent exegesis of those verses. Then he talked about answering the non-rapture arguments for that passage.

The next presentation was on the three major rapture passages by Dr. Robert Dean. We had just had a presentation on John 14, so he amended that to two rapture passages. He spoke about 1 Corinthians 15:50-58 and also 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18.

Dr. Wayne House spoke on the topic “Is the Rapture Found in 2 Thessalonians 2:3?” The crux of his presentation was whether in 2 Thessalonians 2:3 we have the word apostasy, APOSTASIA—do we have a definition of a transliteration or do we have a translation with the word being “departure”? The departure in that verse would the be the church being raptured instead of an apostasy occurring in the world at that time. His position is, of course, going to be departure. So the rapture is in that verse.

Then Dr. Mark Hitchcock gave an overview of the pretribulational argument. What he essentially did was he took an acronym PRETRIB and talked about the arguments and positions that we have for pretribulationalism.

The final presentation came from Dr. Tommy Ice. He talked about John Nelson Darby and the rapture. He said that Darby is considered to be the individual that has had the most impact, the most influential person at least in the last 300 years as far as dispensationalism and pretribulationalism are concerned. One of the comments he made was that Darby came to the United States many times, but in his travels, he did not simply speak about dispensationalism and pretribulationalism, but he actually established quite a few churches. Tommy said that somewhere in the vicinity of 1,500 churches might be able to be accredited to him as far as those church plants were concerned. He talked about the fact that Darby was not influenced by the Irvingites and or by Margaret MacDonald. He is accused of that all the time. His detractors like to say that Darby got his ideas from the Irvingites and MacDonald. That is not true.

(Pastor Dean speaks again.)

That is important to understand that Darby got the rapture from studying the Bible. He was injured in an accident with a horse that pushed him up against a fence post and broke his knee. He had to convalesce for several months. He was a little depressed, and all he could do was read his Bible. He had been postmillennial. As he read through his Bible again and again, he not only became premillennial, but he came to understand the rapture.

Dan mentioned Margaret MacDonald and the Irvingites. The Irvingites were sort of a proto-charismatic type of group that was not looked upon with much favor. That is a real insult to say that Darby got it from the Irvingites or from this prophetic utterance that Margaret MacDonald actually gave. If you read the account of that utterance, it is actually post-tribulational.

A lot of these criticisms that people float out there for the pre-trib rapture have been debunked historically, exegetically, and biblically.


I want to review Romans 1-4 and then clear up some things at the end of Romans 4. I think it is important to contextualize what is being said here. Context is everything. Remember you take the “text” out of the “context,” and you are left with a “con” job. Do not just look at verses in isolation.

Here is a rough outline of what we have looked at in Romans 1-4 so far.

Four Parts:

Intro, 1:1–17

Doctrine of Justification, 1:18–11:36

1. The Need of it, 1:18–3:20

a. Down and Outer, 1:18–32

b. Moralist, 2:1–4

c. Jew, 2:5–3:8

d. Therefore all are under sin, the world, 3:9–20

2. The Fact of it, What it is

a. The Explanation or Fact of it, 3:21–31

b. Illustration, 4:1–25

The introduction goes down through verse 17, the key verses being verses 16-17. Verse 16 “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it [the gospel] is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek.” It is not up to us; it is not up to our abilities to persuade, to convince, to argue. It is to clearly explain the gospel, and God the Holy Spirit uses that. The “first” is not chronological—it has to do with priority. Some people think when you start witnessing, you ought to go to Jews first and then go to Gentiles. It is not saying that. Jews have the priority because they are the ones to whom God revealed Himself and who have the promises and the covenants. They have the priority in terms of their position within history, not priority in terms of chronology or order.

Verse 17 “For in it [the gospel] the righteousness of God is revealed from faith [phase one faith when we are justified] to faith [phase two when we are growing and progressing]…” Notice how righteousness of God is revealed in phase one when we believe Jesus died on the cross for our sins and also in phase two spiritual life as we grow. That is important for what I am going to say about some verses at the end of chapter four.

Then we get to that next section in Romans 1:18-3:20 that establishes the need for justification. The need for justification is basically as Paul summarizes it in 3:23 “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” So you have the explanation of the immoral one who rejects the revelation of God in creation, and then you have the person who thinks he can become righteous through his own morality in 2:1-4. In 2:5-3:8 (there is a clear break there in the grammar), you have the Jew. The emphasis there is on the Jewish claim. This was distinct to this period of Judaism—the claim that the men had to be circumcised to enter into the covenant, the blessings of God, and salvation.

One question always nagged at the back of my mind. I asked Arnold Fruchtenbaum at Pre-Trib. How was it in this circumstance where you had these Judaizers coming in? Some of them may have been Christians, but they were emphasizing the Law that it is great to trust in Christ, but you do not get it all. They are sort of early charismatics. Charismatics say you do not get it all when you trust in Jesus; you have to have a second step. They were kind of two-steppers like that. You get something with Jesus, but to get it all, you have to be circumcised. How did the women hear that? How does that relate to women?

Arnold gave me his answer, and I was not quite satisfied with it. Not that it is much different from the answer that I am going to give you, but that was one reason I called Dr. Rydelnik. I asked him the question, and I think he does a better job of explaining some of Arnold’s answers than Arnold does. He had basically the same answer.

In the synagogue at that time, the men were on one side, and the women were on the other side. The men were first class citizens, and the women were like third class citizens. They were not concerned about the women. There were two ways that you became a convert to Judaism or you became a proselyte. It did not matter what else they did, but the men had to be circumcised. And then both men and women had to be ritually immersed (sort of the predecessor of the believer’s baptism in a cultural sense) in the mikveh. We have seen pictures of those outside the southern gates of the temple. That was how they entered into the covenant.

Arnold’s first answer was you have to understand the difference between a rabbi and a mohel (often a rabbi but is the one who performs the act of circumcision). He said, “A rabbi gets paid a salary and the mohel gets the tips.” Just seeing if you are still awake.

First century Judaism as opposed to later development of Judaism, the emphasis was really all on circumcision. That was not true 200-300 years later, but it was at the time of Christ. When Paul is speaking of circumcision, he is not just specifically speaking of that, but it really stood for the whole works/righteousness system that was there in Judaism.

In that section (Romans 2:5-3:8), he deals with the fact that Jews had great privileges because God gave them the covenants and the promises, but that did not get them righteousness. Righteousness for the Jew or the moral person or the immoral person only comes by faith alone in Christ as a gift from God.

He begins to explain what justification is in Romans 3:21-31. Verse 27 “There is no boasting, there is no works, there is no Law, except the law of faith.” Verse 28 “There we conclude that a man is justified [declared righteous] by faith apart from the deeds of the law.” Any legal obedience is irrelevant. Then Paul expands that that this applies not just to Jews because God is not the God of Jews only but also the God of the Gentiles (vs. 29). Verse 30 “Since there is one God who will justify the circumcised [Jews] by faith and the uncircumcised [Gentiles] through faith.” It is through the law of faith, not works, that we are justified.

Romans 4 gives two illustrations—one from Abraham, one from David. I have not emphasized this before. There are two phases of salvation. Phase one is justification. It happens at an instant, a moment in time when a person believes in Jesus as their Savior. God imputes to them righteousness, and the Supreme Court of heaven declares them righteous, not because of anything in their life, not because of any transformation, but because they have received the imputation, have been credited with Christ’s righteousness. But that is not the only type of justification there is in the Bible. There is a justification related to phase two—ongoing, progressive in terms of obedience that brings about an experiential righteousness, which is where we go at the end of chapter 4.

At the beginning of chapter 4, Paul is talking about phase one justification, but by the time we get to verse 16 ff, he is shifting to phase two. Let me give you 12 points of summary on verses 14-25.

1) Verse 14-15. The Mosaic Law brings divine discipline because no one can obey the Law perfectly. Verse 14 “For if those who are of the law are heirs, faith is made void and the promise made of no effect.” It is either the Law, or it is faith in the promise. Verse 15 “… because the law brings about wrath; for where there is no law there is no transgression.” What he means is that the law brings divine discipline because no one can obey the Law perfectly. Disobedience brings discipline or judgment from God.

2) Where there is no written law, there is no transgression of a written law. You remember I pointed out that when we read the end of verse 15, what you are hearing is that where there is no Law, there is no sin. That is not what it is saying. The word transgression is the word PARABASIS, which means a violation of a written precept. He is being very clear – where there is no written law, you cannot violate the written law. There is no transgression. Back in Romans 2, Paul made it very clear that even the Gentiles who do not have the Law, still violate the Law in their conscience and are under condemnation. So he is not saying where there is no Law, there is no sin. He is talking about Abraham now (430 years before the Law) and saying Abraham needs to be justified even though he never violated, transgressed the Mosaic Law.

I pointed out that what he is saying is the Law cannot be obeyed; the result, therefore, is wrath. If there is no written law, there is no violation of the Law. His point here is that the promise is for those who obtain it by faith alone. God makes a promise, and the faith is directed not just to the promise but to the one who makes the promise as the one who is able to perform it.

The conclusion from those two points is that if obedience to the written Law cannot lead to life, then life must be based on grace rather than law. It is either one or the other; they are mutually exclusive.

3) Verse 16 “Therefore it is of faith that it might be according to grace, so that the promise might be sure to all the seed, not only to those who are of the law [the Jews, he earlier called them the circumcision], but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all [those who have faith].” So what do the two justified groups have in common? Faith. So there is the contrast – it is either by grace through faith, or it is by works through Law. Those are the two: law/works vs. faith/grace.

4) “All the seed” includes all those who follow Abraham’s example of faith in God. Abraham’s righteousness was not based on obedience to the Law, because he was 430 years before the Law, and he was declared righteous years before he was circumcised. (Four hundred thirty years ago, the North American continent of the western hemisphere was still barely known to the Europeans.) He was not circumcised until many years after he was saved.

5) Abraham is both the physical father of many nations through his son Ishmael, his grandson Esau, and other sons that he had (the Midianites through his wife Keturah), but the father of all believers (Jew or Gentile). Romans 4:17 “(as it is written, [Genesis 17:4] ‘I have made you a father of many nations’ [spiritual, not physical] ) in the presence of Him whom he believed – God…” Whom did Abraham believe? He believed God. Was it the Father, the Son, or the Holy Spirit? It does not say. It is the triune God. There is not a distinction there among the persons of the Trinity.

Then he defines the one he believed—“God, who gives life to the dead and calls those things which do not exist as though they did.” What that meant for Abraham had to do with resurrecting his ability to sexually procreate and to father a son. It has other applications because God can give life where there is death. He believed the promise of the God who gives life to the dead.

Verse 18 goes on to say, “Who, contrary to hope [human viewpoint], in hope [confidence in God] believed, so that he became the father of many nations [physical], according to what was spoken, ‘So shall your descendants be.’ ” Who spoke that? God the Father. Genesis 17:4 “As for Me, behold, My covenant is with you, and you shall be a father of many nations [physical descent].” That is the promise.

You believe a promise. You do not just believe something amorphous and nebulous. You believe something that is stated—a promise.

6) We also know that Abraham is the spiritual father of all who believe. It does not matter what their ethnic background is. Galatians 3:6-7 “Just as Abraham ‘believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness [Gen. 15:6].’ Therefore know that only those who are of faith [believing the right promise from God] are sons of Abraham.” That is why Paul said not all Israel is Israel. Physical descent is not enough. We also have to follow Abraham in terms of spiritual descent. That is the real key.

Verse 8 “And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel to Abraham beforehand, saying, ‘In you all the nations shall be blessed.’ ” That is spiritual descent and spiritual faith.

7) Faith always focuses on a promise by believing it to be true because ultimately of the one who makes the promise. The promise is no good if the person behind it is impotent or a liar. Romans 4:19 “And not being weak in faith, he did not consider his own body, already dead … and the deadness of Sarah’s womb.” The point here in verses 19-20 ff is that Abraham’s experience was “It cannot happen—she is old and I am old.” But God’s promise was more real to him than his experience. Our faith gets strengthened when we start believing that God’s word is more real to us than our experience.

8) Romans 4:20-22 reinforces the reality of Abraham’s trust in God’s promise to give him a son through the natural procreation process even though both he and Sarah were far too old to have children. Abraham believed God could do whatever He promised. He finally gets to a growth point. He has been justified phase one since before he left Ur of the Chaldees. But all through these different tests, his faith is growing and strengthening. Verse 20 “He did not waver [doubt] at the promise of God through unbelief, but was strengthened in faith…” That is not phase one faith. This is phase two growth.

What has happened? Paul has made a transition. In the first part of the chapter, he is talking about phase one justification. Now he is talking about phase two and the growth of the believer and the growth of Abraham. Verse 21-22 “And being fully convinced that what He had promised He was also able to perform. And therefore [Paul is applying the same verse to phase two] ‘it was accounted to him for righteousness.’ ” So he is getting experiential righteousness imputed as he is growing spiritually.

9) At this point Paul has shifted away from discussing what Abraham believed initially for justification salvation (phase one) to ongoing faith for imputed phase two righteousness. We have to understand there are these two justifications.

10) This is my first line of argument. The application of this in verse 24 is to “us”—those who have already believed in Christ for justification. Do believers in Jesus Christ need to be justified? No, we are already justified—phase one.

11) He says in verse 23, “Now it was not written for his sake alone that it was imputed to him [that follows the Greek in the Septuagint], (verse 24) but also for us [believers]. It [His righteousness] shall be imputed to us who believe in Him who raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead.” Who are we believing in in that phrase? Are we believing on Jesus who died on the cross for our sins? No. What is the gospel? “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ.” Is the object of belief in this verse the Lord Jesus Christ? No. Is the object of faith in this verse the cross? No. It is not talking about phase one justification; it is talking about phase two justification. The object of faith here is not Jesus and his death on the cross for our sins but on God the Father who is the one who can bring life where there is death.

We are not spiritually dead anymore, but we have a lot of carnal death hanging around. We have to have the abundant life, so this shifts to phase two. Paul is beginning his transition from talking about justification in these verses to when he is going to be talking about sanctification starting in chapter 6.

Just as Abraham believed in a resurrecting God (not when he is getting justified, phase one), so we also believe in a resurrecting God. By the time he finally gets to Genesis 22:2 and God says, “Take now your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering …” Hebrews tells us that he did it because he knew that God could raise him from the dead. Now his belief is not in God for justification salvation; it is in God in terms of his spiritual growth and sanctification.

We know this because of James 2:21 ff which talks about a second kind of justification. Verse 21 “Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered Isaac his son on the altar?” You are either justified by faith, or you are justified by works, but to get into heaven, it is either one or the other. James is not writing about getting into heaven; he is writing about spiritual growth. He is not talking about being justified in this whole section of James 2. Abraham had a second kind of justification related to his phase two spiritual growth. Verse 25 uses Rahab as an example. “Likewise, was not Rahab the harlot also justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out another way?” She was already a phase one justified believer.

We have a second justification which is a vindication of faith. James 2:21-22 “Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered Isaac his son on the altar? Do you see that faith was working together with his works, and by works faith was made perfect [brought to completion]?” It is brought to completion because it starts with phase one, but then it is matured through phase two.

Verse 23 “And the Scripture was fulfilled which says, ‘Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.’ And he was called the friend of God.” That verse identifies as phase one justification, but when he lives out his spiritual life, he grows spiritually, has experiential righteousness, and comes to maturity.”

Verse 24 is a badly translated verse. “You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only.” This communicates that you have to have works and faith. That is lordship salvation. What is the issue here? When this is translated, the word “only” in the English text modifies “faith.” The word faith is a noun and the word only is an adverb. An adverb does not modify a noun; an adverb modifies a verb. The verb is left out because it was stated earlier.

What the verse really says, “You see then that a man is justified by works and not justified [it is left out—ellipsised] by faith only [or only justified by faith].” Since adverbs modify verbs, when we supply the ellipsised verb, we see it is “not justified by faith only.” Now only is in the wrong place because only is at the end modifying the noun faith, and we really need to move it up, so that it reads —“You see then that a man is justified by works and not only justified by faith.”

This indicates that it is not that you are phase one justified by works and faith, but that there are two different kinds of justification. A justification by faith alone is how you are declared righteous at phase one, and a second justification comes in phase two as a result of trusting in God. How do you summarize the Christian life? “Trust and obey, for there’s no other way to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.” It is very simple—only two things. That is what Abraham is doing. His faith is being strengthened, and he is being declared righteous (ongoing phase two righteousness).

This is reiterated in Hebrews 11:17-19 “By faith Abraham, when he was tested [phase two], offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises offered up his only begotten son, of whom it was said, ‘Isaac your seed shall be called,’ concluding that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead, from which he also received him in a figurative sense.” He was trusting God and was already justified saved, but in his ongoing faith, he has experiential righteousness and that is imputed according to Romans 4.

12) Jesus died because of our sins, and then because we have justification secured, He was raised. Romans 4:25 “Who was delivered up because of our offenses, and was raised because of our justification.” There are two phrases there that use the same grammatical construction which would be translated “for our” or “because of our” or “on account of our” offenses. The object of that prepositional phrase is different. “Because of our offenses” is a negative. Sins are negative things. “Because of our justification” is a positive thing. So they need to be understood a little bit differently.

Jesus died because of our sins; that is why He had to go to the cross. The second one is because justification has been accomplished, He is raised from the dead. That is God’s vindication of His work on the cross. Justification phase one is by faith alone, but there is also ongoing justification by faith in phase two. James is saying the same thing that Paul is saying. You pick up 90% of the commentaries on James, and they say they disagree. That is because their presupposition is lordship, not free grace. Because they do not understand free grace, they never get it right. They always introduce works by the back door.