Justification and the “Deeds of the Law”

Justification and the “Deeds of the Law”

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SPROUL: He begins by saying, “By the deeds
of the law no flesh will be justified in his sight.” Now the first question is, to what is he referring
when he refers to “the deeds of the law”? There have been those who are saying that
this is a restrictive passage that it only refers to the ceremonial requirements of the
Old Testament law, and that what the apostle is saying here is that nobody is justified
by going through all of the actions that God commands as he did the Jews, going through
the sacrificial system and all of the cultic practices that were associated with the tabernacle
and later with the temple. In other words, he is saying that nobody is
going to be justified by following the rituals that the law commands. And again, that is a very restrictive application
of the text. The vast majority of commentators however
say, “No, Paul is not simply limiting this to the performance of ritual, but rather to
all that the law commands including all of the moral obligations that God’s law imposes
upon His creatures,” and so he is saying that by the obedience to the law of God, both
cultically, ritually, as well as morally, by the keeping of these no one will ever be
justified. So in that sense, any kind of good work as
we would perceive it to be is excluded from the grounds of justification. Others again limited this passage to say that
no works of obedience done prior to regeneration will add to our justification, but then they
say but what we do after we are reborn will be the grounds of our justification. So again, works are brought back into the
house here as the grounds for justification. And again, this is part of the dispute between
Rome and Protestantism because the Protestant view takes this to mean that no works ever
done at any time are the grounds for our justification. Even the works that are done after we are
converted or the works that were done after we receive grace, those works that they may
contribute to our reward in heaven are never part of the grounds of our justification. Let me just say this, again when he is talking
about justification, he is not talking simply about a work of divine pardon. There is a difference between being pardoned
and being justified. A person is pardoned who has already been
declared to be and convicted of being guilty. And after they are convicted of being guilty,
the governor or the president may execute their executive privilege of giving clemency
and pardoning these people, that is, excusing them from the punishment that is due to their
guilt. But justification is not simple pardon. Now part of justification involves the forgiveness
of sins, but the essence of justification is declaring a person just. So in one sense, you do not have to pardon
somebody who has been declared righteous. People who are righteous have no need of pardon
and so that the point of justification goes beyond the forgiveness of sins that is ours
in the cross and all of rest to the declaration by God that we who are in Christ and who possess
faith are counted righteous before Him. That is why we have said all along that the
imputation of somebody else’s righteousness, the righteousness of Jesus is so fundamental
and essential to our understanding this work of justification.

8 thoughts on “Justification and the “Deeds of the Law”

  • Damian Touchet Post author

    I believe before salvation and after this applies…before salvation no man is justified by the law…or works…good works after salvation comes in and flows out as a fruit of the spirit, christ in us…only…..and God will test those works by fire (His word)…those works after salvation are sometimes seen from a religious standpoint from the outside, as a salvation by works ,in order to be saved..when it is actually the outflow of christ in us…..but the unsaved man or woman cannot really grasp , how this is so.. in psalms david says…I shall run thy way of thy commandments, when thou shall enlarge my heart…. that's run!! To Agree…a change of heart and desire to please God. And which his laws are written in our hearts…..Christ in you…(great video)

  • Still Learning Post author

    The transcript isn't available..

  • J.D. Martin Theology Discussion Channel Post author

    What a beautiful study.

  • AslanRising 1776 Post author

    God demands perfection. If you will to be justified by the law, you must keep, obey the law perfectly, in thought, word and deed. If you believe you can do this, you do not know Gods holy character.

  • Michael Stanley Post author

    Simply put, God alone justifies. Men do not have the right, 'for all have sinned'. God alone is 'just and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus' (Rom.3:26).

  • Bonnie Hawkins Post author


  • dan jackson Post author

    So….. God decided to spare certain humans considering all were fallen and unworthy. No earning it, only chosen, because no one chooses Christ on their own. His choice

  • Patrick Campanhol Post author

    Very clear explanation.

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