Paul’s Answer to Antinomians, not the same in Romans 3 as in Romans 6

Romans 3: 3 What if some were unfaithful? Does their faithlessness nullify the faithfulness of God? 4 By no means! Let God be true though every one were a liar, as it is written, “That you may be justified in your words, and prevail when you are judged.” 5 But if our unrighteousness serves to show the righteousness of God, what shall we say? That God is unrighteous to inflict wrath on us? (I speak in a human way.) 6 By no means! For then how could God judge the world? 7 But if through my lie God’s truth abounds to his glory, why am I still being condemned as a sinner? 8 And why not do evil that good may come?—as some people slanderously charge us with saying. Their condemnation is just.

Romans 6: Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? 2 By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? 3 Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?

In Romans 3, Paul threatens antinomians with condemnation. I know some Calvinists (I was one of them) who think it is enough to say that God is sovereign and thus the cause of salvation .But the truth of the gospel is not only God’s sovereignty but also God’s righteousness. This means that the gospel is not only about the justification of the elect sinner but also about the justification of God.

I am NOT dismissive of efforts to justify God. To justify God does not of course mean that we make God just. Rather, it means that we declare that God is just. When God justifies an elect sinner, it’s not only God’s sovereignty that declares the sinner just. God is justified in justifying the elect sinner because 1. Christ died because of the imputed guilt of that elect sinner and 2. God declares individual elect sinners to legally share in that death. Because of these two facts of history,
God is justified in justifying elect sinners.

It does nOt seem fair. It does not look just. The elect sinners go free. Christ, who did not sin, “alive to sin”, because of imputed sins, so that Christ must die. This is why we are tempted to say that the whole thing is only about God’s sovereignty and then tell people to shut their mouths and ask no questions. But the Bible itself does not take that attitude. The Bible tells us how God thinks. The Bible justifies God.

Romans 3 and 6 deal with the objection that God justifying sinners will cause sinners to rationalize their sins, so that they not only say that their sins were predestined but also that they say that more sins result in more grace.

The Romans 6 answer is that grace is either grace or not. There is not more or less grace, but either grace or no grace. More sin does not get the elect more grace, because all those God justly justifies have all the grace any other elect person has. If you have grace, then you are justified from sin, and if you don’t have grace, you are a sinner “free from righteousness” (6:20).

While unbelievers trust in “God” to help them to sin less, those who have been delivered to the gospel know that there are only two kind of sinners —guilty sinners and justified sinners .

The theodicy of Romans 3 announces that God is true even if every human is a liar and therefore condemned. We justify God because God has revealed Himself and justified Himself. God has revealed that God is more than sovereign. God is Revealed as Righteous and Just. And God’s word is justified in history by what God did when Christ gave Himself up to death on the cross because of the imputed guilt of the elect.

We were wrong. God was right and God is still right. God prevails, but it is not only a matter of “might makes right” or “sovereignty always wins”. We have no right to make a negative judgment on God, since it is God who will be making a negative judgment on many sinners. But we are called to make a positive rational judgment about God’s justice. As Isaiah 53 explains, the righteous servant will be satisfied. God will be just to Christ. And God is just to justify elect sinners for the sake of Christ.

It is idolatry to only know a God who is sovereign. The true God is also righteous. It is unbelieving rebellion to deny that God is just. Psalm 51:4-6—“Against you have I sinned and done what is evil, so that you are justified in your words and blameless in your judgment..Behold you delight in truth…”

When we try to say, “well at least our lack of orthodoxy is only making God look more gracious”, we need to read Romans 3:5—God is the righteous judge of us. God takes sides with Himself. God takes sides against sinners. And the only sinners that God justifies are the elect who God has placed into the death of Christ.

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7 Comments on “Paul’s Answer to Antinomians, not the same in Romans 3 as in Romans 6”

  1. markmcculley Says:

    we can go to the law or to the cross, but not both

    Romans 5:20 Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more,

    freedom from the law as the only means of doing good works acceptable to God

    Galatians 5: 18 But if you are led by the Spirit,you are not under the law.

    Galatians 4: 4 But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son,born of woman, born under the law

  2. markmcculley Says:

    Romans 6 deals with the objection that God justifying sinners will cause sinners to rationalize their sins, so that they not only say that their sins were predestined but also that they say that more sins result in more grace.

    The Romans 6 answer is that grace is either grace or not. There is not more or less grace, but either grace or no grace. More sin does not get the elect more grace, because all those God justly justifies have all the grace any other elect person has. If you have grace, then you are justified from sin, and if you don’t have grace, you are a sinner “free from righteousness” (6:20).

    While unbelievers trust in God to help them to sin less, those who have been delivered to the gospel know that there are only two kind of sinners, —guilty sinners and justified sinners .

    The theodicy of Romans 3 announces that God is true even if every man is a liar. We justify God because God has revealed Himself. And God has revealed that God is more than sovereign. God’s words reveal God to be Righteous and Just. And God’s word is justified in history by what God did when Christ gave Himself up to death on the cross because of the imputed guilt of the elect.

    We were wrong: God was right and God is still right. God prevails, but it is not only a matter of “might makes right” or “sovereignty always wins”. One. We have no right to make a negative judgment on God. Two, it is God who will be making a negative judgment on many sinners. Three. we are called to make a positive rational judgment about God’s justice.

    But how do these three points connect and cohere?

    What God pleases to do is right. And there is no better proof of that than the way God justifies elect sinners. The wisdom of the cross shows God’s righteousness. It is just for God to not only let elect sinners go free but also to give them faith and all the other blessings of salvation. The death of Jesus was not only “one more bad thing”. That death without resurrection might have been, but Christ’s death plus resurrection , despite the sins of those who killed Jesus, was to God a good thing which reconciles and makes things right.

  3. markmcculley Says:

    Paul was well aware that his gospel was viewed as antinomian by some, but he was not generous to those who misrepresented the freedom of the gospel as leading to moral relativism. As Hays puts it, commenting on Romans 3:7-8, “At this stage of the letter, Paul does not really answer the objection except by rejecting it as a ‘slander’, a reprehensible misconstrual of his gospel.” (37)

    Nevertheless, and this is important, Paul does not tone down his rhetoric about the radical message of the gospel. In Romans 5:19, Hays points out, “Paul provocatively restates his message of grace in terms perilously close to the ‘slander’ he had rejected earlier” (38):

    But where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, so that, just as sin exercised dominion in death, so grace might also exercise dominion through Christ’s righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. (Romans 5) Man-made rules and regulations designed to protect righteousness – often with the best of intentions – fail to create true righteousness. In fact, insofar as they distract us from the power of the gospel itself, these human rules are detrimental. As Paul writes echoing Jesus’ warning against those who teach as doctrines of God the commandments of men (Matthew 15),

    If with Christ you died to the elementary principles of the world, why, as if you were still alive in the world, do you submit to regulations – ‘Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch’ (referring to things that all perish as they are used) – according to human precepts and teachings? These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh. (Colossians 2:20-23)

    https://matthewtuininga.wordpress.com/2012/08/01/get-used-to-the-slander-that-the-gospel-is-antinomian-and-remember-that-it-changes-lives/

  4. markmcculley Says:

    Piper–Packer is wrong when he says, concerning Paul’s response in Rom. 9. “He does not attempt to demonstrate the propriety of God’s action” (p. 23). He does indeed! That is why he wrote Rom. 9:14-23. I also reject the sentiment of these words: “The Creator has told us that He is both sovereign Lord and a righteous Judge, and that should be enough for us” (p. 24). Why should that be enough for us? If that were enough for us Paul would have told the questioner at Rom. 9:14to keep his mouth shut. But as a matter of fact the only time Paul ever tells people to keep their mouth shut is when they are boasting. If our hearts and our minds pant like a hart after the water-brook of God’s deep mind, it may not be pride, it may be worship. There is not one sentence that I know of in the New Testament which tells us the limits of what we can know of God and his ways.

    I might just say in response to much silly talk about the dangers of exhausting the mysteries of God, that my conception of God makes such a thought ludicrous. If we may compare God’s wisdom to a ragged mountain and our growing understanding of it to a slow assent, I do not have the slightest fear that during some midnight meditation I may (by the grace of God) attain some new ridge and all of a sudden find I am on the peak of the mountain with no more cliffs to climb.

    http://www.desiringgod.org/articles/a-response-to-ji-packer-on-the-so-called-antinomy-between-the-sovereignty-of-god-and-human-responsibility

  5. markmcculley Says:

    http://www.firstthings.com/article/1994/04/002-learning-from-the-masters-of-suspicion

    fudged renunciation a la Freud or ideological obfuscation a la Marx or the cunning of ressentiment la Nietzsche

    when the author rightly sees that Nietzsche is no “cynic,” he concludes that Nietzsche’s threat is merely that “no piety is exempt from scrutiny,” never adducing Nietzsche’s actual alternative to cynicism, a nihilism consisting in the impossibility of all piety.

    It no doubt goes with the manageability of the threat as seen here that where occasional concrete responses are recommended, these too are less than intrepid. Marx is to be satisfied with liberation theology, Nietzsche with a moderate Lutheran antinomianism, and Freud with “real” renunciation.

    Freud and Marx and Nietzsche charge that the holding of religious beliefs is itself sufficient evidence of bad faith. Therefore I cannot tell them, “I have thought these true things for the following disgraceful reasons, of which I now repent. Henceforth I will think the same things but for better reasons.” For if I continue to hold the beliefs in question, merely thereby I prove to them that I have not in fact repented.

  6. markmcculley Says:

    I John 1:5 Now this is the message we have heard from Him and declare to you: God is light, and there is absolutely no darkness in Him

    James 1: 13 No one undergoing a trial should say, “I am being tempted by God.” For God is not tempted by evil, and He Himself doesn’t tempt anyone.14 But each person is tempted when he is drawn away and enticed by his own evil desires. 15 Then after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin, and when sin is fully grown, it gives birth to death. 16 Don’t be deceived, my dearly loved brothers. 17 Every generous act and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights; with Him there is no variation or shadow cast by turning

  7. markmcculley Says:

    For many, avoiding hypocrisy is their practical means of atonement for sin. But do these people avoid hypocrisy?
    “Well, I may be selfish , but at least I’m honest about it. Thank you god that I don’t float like some people do but i always repent and usually it’s before other people do. Now that i have repented, it’s on you to accept me and if you don’t, then you are dead and don’t have the reality like I do. ”
    This proud confession of sin is a perversion of true repentance. We “acknowledge our sin” in that we admit to doing what we did, but then we dismiss that sin because in admitting sin we think we make it no longer a sin. Despite of what we might say about Christ’s death or about election, admitting sin is our de facto way to make atonement for sin

    http://www.mbird.com/2014/03/fighting-a-long-lost-battle-in-romans-7/


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