Dear Brother Dimond:
I introduced my biblically astute Protestant friend to your lesson on Justification. On your major point on Romans 3:28 on the law being a reference to the problem in Galatians, he noted that you have to take every verse in its context, as you, yourself said. He noted that you did not address Rm. 4:1-6 which is the context. Abraham was not dealing with the Jewish law problem in his time. I was without response. If you have any material on this please send it to me… If not could you suggest an answer I could give him with special emphasis on verses 4 and 5?
Yours in Christ,
First, we would have to object to a description of a Protestant as biblically astute. Many Protestants have a knowledge of certain verses, the biblical languages, biblical history, etc; but they remain in the dark concerning the most important and the most obvious teachings of the Bible. That is, they are oblivious to the teaching of the Bible on salvation, Christ’s Church, etc. Since they remain oblivious to things that are so obviously taught in the Bible – things which constitute its core message, such as that works and deeds are a part of determining whether man has salvation – they really don’t understand the Bible at all.
Second, his assertion that the context was not taken into consideration when discussing Romans 3:28 is completely untrue. It’s typical of some Protestants who will sadly never be convinced, no matter how much evidence you give them. Romans 3 begins with a discussion about circumcision: a work of the Old Law. This point was specifically made in our book, The Bible Proves the Teachings of the Catholic Church. Hence, we can clearly see that the context is the works of the Old Law.
Romans 3:1- “What advantage then hath the Jew? Or what profit is there of circumcision?”
For the rest of the chapter St. Paul speaks in that context. Before I get to your question about Romans 4, I will say that it’s not only Romans 3:1 and Galatians 2 which corroborate our point about St. Paul’s meaning of “the works of the law.” It’s also demonstrated by Galatians 5 and Philippians 3.
Galatians 5:3-6- “For I testify again to every man that is circumcised, that he is a debtor to do the whole law. Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace. For we through the Spirit wait for the hope of righteousness by faith. For in Jesus Christ neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision; but faith which worketh by love.”
We can see that when referring to “the law,” he’s talking about the Old Law, not all human deeds.
Philippians 3:5-9- “[I] Circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of the Hebrews; as touching the law, a Pharisee; Concerning zeal, persecuting the church; touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless. But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ, and be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith:”
Now, your friend brings up Abraham. He asks why St. Paul would mention Abraham if he was speaking of the Old Law. By asking this question, your friend leads us directly to another devastating refutation of his position.
(All of this is covered, by the way, in this article: Justification by Faith Alone and Eternal Security completely refuted by the Bible. Please go to the end and look at the section called: THE CASE OF ABRAHAM REFUTES PROTESTANT THEOLOGY – IT PROVES THAT JUSTIFICATION IS NOT A ONCE AND FOR ALL TIME ACT, BUT SOMETHING INCREASED AND MAINTAINED THROUGH OBEDIENCE… This section on Abraham was not in our book. That’s because it’s a more involved point and people really shouldn’t need it after all of the other evidence.)
St. Paul brings up Abraham in Romans 4, right after talking about how people are justified by faith apart from the works of the law (i.e., apart from the Old Law). He does this precisely to prove to these people that justification is not inextricably bound up with the Old Law, with circumcision, etc. St. Paul gives the example of how Abraham was justified by his faith in Genesis 15:6, which was before Abraham was circumcised in Genesis 17:
Romans 4:9-10- “Cometh this blessedness then upon the circumcision only, or upon the uncircumcision also? For we say that faith was reckoned to Abraham for righteousness [Gen. 15:6]. How was it then reckoned? when he was in circumcision, or in uncircumcision? Not in circumcision, but in uncircumcision.”
His point, therefore, is that if God can justify Abraham by faith before circumcision (as this example shows), then he can justify you, if you submit to the faith of Jesus and cast aside circumcision and the works of the (Old) Law. That’s the precise point he is making. That must be understood when one reads this chapter. His point is not that if you submit to Jesus and His faith, none of your human actions, deeds or sins will have anything to do with your justification! That is a gross perversion of his true meaning.
Thus, when Paul says the following in Romans 4:1-4…
Romans 4:1-4- “What shall we say then that Abraham our father, as pertaining to the flesh, hath found? For if Abraham were justified by works, he hath whereof to glory; but not before God. For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness. Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt.”
… he is clearly speaking in the context of contrasting the Old Testament system of works with the power that God has to justify those who accept His faith outside of that system of Old Testament works. That is the precise subject and the context. He is not teaching that justification by faith in Christ is apart from all human actions and deeds.
But in James 2, the subject and the context are different. James 2 is concerned with teaching Christians that their faith in Christ is not enough. It’s about the Christian life and life in general, not about teaching people that the Old Testament system is not obligatory. One could truly say that in James 2 the subject is the same as the issue we’re talking about: the Protestant idea that man is justified by his faith in Jesus alone. And that idea is denounced as completely false. And that’s why in this chapter we read that Abraham was justified by works.
James 2:21-24- “Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar [Genesis 22:10]? Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect? And the scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God. Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only.”
So we can see how the Protestants have totally misunderstood these passages of Scripture. In doing so, they have constructed a false religion and a false Gospel which completely contradict the whole message of Scripture. There is much more on Abraham in that section of the file I referenced. It covers how Abraham was justified more than once, which also refutes Protestant theology.
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