Part VI - The Apostle Paul in Romans

Having established a foundational premise in the teachings of Our Lord, the other Apostles, and the Old Testament wisdom literature in previous sections, we are now prepared to tackle the writings of the Apostle Paul. The following url will examine the Book of Romans. As it would not be practical to examine the entire book, we will confine ourselves to looking at chapters 2, 3, and 4 in their entirety along with parts of  Along with relevant parts of chapters 5, 6, 10, and 13. In the process, we will do our best to let Paul himself tell us what he means by us being saved "by faith and not works." However, sometimes when the Apostle references the Old Testament, recourse will have to be had to those passages also to help establish the context of his teaching. Remember, many unlearned and unstable individuals have twisted the Apostle's writing to their own destruction (cf. 2 Pet 3:16). The parts in blue correspond with the teachings of Our Lord, the Apostles, and the Old Testament as covered earlier. The ones in red refer to a different topic altogether. Without further ado, here is the Apostle Paul himself to tell us what he means when he says "justified by faith":

1 Wherefore thou art inexcusable, O man, whosoever thou art that judgest. For wherein thou judgest another, thou condemnest thyself. For thou dost the same things which thou judgest. 2 For we know that the judgment of God is, according to truth, against them that do such things. 3 And thinkest thou this, O man, that judgest them who do such things and dost the same, that thou shalt escape the judgment of God? 4 Or despisest thou the riches of his goodness and patience and longsuffering? Knowest thou not that the benignity of God leadeth thee to penance? 5 But according to thy hardness and impenitent heart, thou treasurest up to thyself wrath, against the day of wrath and revelation of the just judgment of God: 6 Who will render to every man according to his works. 7 To them indeed who, according to patience in good work, seek glory and honour and incorruption, eternal life: 8 But to them that are contentious and who obey not the truth but give credit to iniquity, wrath and indignation. 9 Tribulation and anguish upon every soul of man that worketh evil: of the Jew first, and also of the Greek. 10 But glory and honour and peace to every one that worketh good: to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. 11 For there is no respect of persons with God. 12 For whosoever have sinned without the law shall perish without the law: and whosoever have sinned in the law shall be judged by the law. 13 For not the hearers of the law are just before God: but the doers of the law shall be justified. 14 For when the Gentiles, who have not the law,do by nature those things that are of the law; these, having not the law, are a law to themselves. 15 Who shew the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience bearing witness to them: and their thoughts between themselves accusing or also defending one another, 16 In the day when God shall judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ, according to my gospel. 17 But if thou art called a Jew and restest in the law and makest thy boast of God, 18 And knowest his will and approvest the more profitable things, being instructed by the law: 19 Art confident that thou thyself art a guide of the blind, a light of them that are in darkness, 20 An instructor of the foolish, a teacher of infants, having the form of knowledge and of truth in the law. 21 Thou therefore, that teachest another, teachest not thyself: thou, that preachest that men should not steal, stealest. 22 Thou, that sayest men should not commit adultery, committest adultery: thou, that abhorrest idols, committest sacrilege: 23 Thou, that makest thy boast of the law, by transgression of the law dishonourest God. 24 (For the name of God through you is blasphemed among the Gentiles, as it is written.) 25 Circumcision profiteth indeed, if thou keep the law: but if thou be a transgressor of the law, thy circumcision is made uncircumcision. 26 If then, the uncircumcised keep the justices of the law, shall not this uncircumcision be counted for circumcision? 27 And shall not that which by nature is uncircumcision, if it fulfil the law, judge thee, who by the letter and circumcision art a transgressor of the law? 28 For it is not he is a Jew, who is so outwardly: nor is that circumcision which is outwardly in the flesh. 29 But he is a Jew that is one inwardly and the circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit not in the letter: whose praise is not of men, but of God. [1]

Obviously, if the Scriptures are to be preserved in their integrity as free from error, the rendering of James by Protestants -- which contradicts the literal sense of his words -- must be rejected. But remember the Pauline Shuffle. This is done because Protestants place greater stock in Paul as interpreted by Luther and Calvin then in all the rest of the Bible if there is a contradiction. As the next three chapters will show, Paul was not speaking of works of mercy or charity (as Our Lord, Peter, James, John, and Jude did) in Romans for the most part. While he did cover it in a fair amount in chapter two, in the following two chapters we will see that his focus shifts to something completely different. Thus far it should be rather obvious if you go back and reread all the parts in red and seek to find the denominator common to them. Let us resume with the words of the Apostle in the Epistle to the Romans, chapter three:

1 WHAT advantage then hath the Jew, or what is the profit of circumcision? 2 Much every way. First indeed, because the words of God were committed to them. 3 For what if some of them have not believed? shall their unbelief make the faith of God without effect? God forbid. 4 But God is true; and every man a liar, as it is written, That thou mayest be justified in thy words, and mayest overcome when thou art judged. 5 But if our injustice commend the justice of God, what shall we say? Is God unjust, who executeth wrath? 6 (I speak according to man.) God forbid: otherwise how shall God judge this world? 7 For if the truth of God hath more abounded through my lie, unto his glory, why am I also yet judged as a sinner? 8 And not rather (as we are slandered, and as some affirm that we say) let us do evil, that there may come good? Whose damnation is just. 9 What then? Do we excel them? No, not so. For we have charged both Jews and Greeks, that they are all under sin. 10 As it is written: There is not any man just. 11 There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. 12 All have turned out of the way; they are become unprofitable together: there is none that doth good, there is not so much as one. 13 Their throat is an open sepulchre; with their tongues they have dealt deceitfully. The venom of asps is under their lips. 14 Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness: 15 Their feet swift to shed blood: 16 Destruction and misery in their ways: 17 And the way of peace they have not known: 18 There is no fear of God before their eyes. [2]
If the reader takes careful note, they will see that the context of Romans has changed between chapter two and chapter three. The references to justification by charity are nowhere to be found in chapter three. The reason of course is because the context has changed. The Apostle Paul has started discussing the advantages of the Jew. This is a logical extension from the previous chapter where Paul states that the Gentiles who had not the law could be saved if they did what the law required. Obviously the Jew reading this would wonder what advantages there would be for them. (Indeed the first sentence of chapter three asks this very question.) So obviously the Apostle Paul in proposing the question would set forth in chapter three answering the question asked. At the very least, this interpretation is congruent with the literal text of the first sentence of chapter three.

The sentence in verse 9 is in red font because it supplies the context for the exposition in verses 10-18. Reformed Protestants like to point to those verses as a proof for their doctrine of total depravity. But in reality verse 9 sets the context for the exposition that follows: that both Jews and Greeks (non-Jews) are under sin. Verses 10-18 of chapter three are verbatim passages from Psalm 14 which does not state that there are "no just men." Instead, the Psalm notes that there are no just men among the children of men. Here is the same Psalm quoted in full for verification:

Unto the end, a psalm for David. The fool hath said in his heart: There is no God. They are corrupt, and are become abominable in their ways: there is none that doth good, no not one. The Lord hath looked down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there be any that understand and seek God. They are all gone aside, they are become unprofitable together: there is none that doth good: no not one. Their throat is an open sepulchre; with their tongues they acted deceitfully: the poison of asps is under their lips. Their mouth is full of cursing and bitterness; their feet are swift to shed blood. Destruction and unhappiness in their ways; and the way of peace they have not known: there is no fear of God before their eyes. Shall not all they know that work iniquity, who devour my people as they eat bread? They have not called upon the Lord: there have they trembled for fear, where there was no fear. For the Lord is in the just generation: you have confounded the counsel of the poor man; but the Lord is his hope. Who shall give out of Sion the salvation of Israel? when the Lord shall have turned away the captivity of his people, Jacob shall rejoice, and Israel shall be glad. [3]
It is noted in the same Psalm that God is with the just generation. And in that Psalm the "just generation" are referred to as the Lord's people. Thus this "proof-text" for the Calvinist doctrine of total depravity evaporates when subjected to Scripture interpreting Scripture. Note in the subsequent paragraphs what specific types of works Paul is referring to.
19 Now we know that what things soever the law speaketh, it speaketh to them that are in the law: that every mouth may be stopped and all the world may be made subject to God. 20 Because by the works of the law no flesh shall be justified before him. For by the law is the knowledge of sin. 21 But now, without the law, the justice of God is made manifest, being witnessed by the law and the prophets. 22 Even the justice of God, by faith of Jesus Christ, unto all, and upon all them that believe in him: for there is no distinction. 23 For all have sinned and do need the glory of God. 24 Being justified freely by his grace, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 Whom God hath proposed to be a propitiation, through faith in his blood, to the shewing of his justice, for the remission of former sins, 26 Through the forbearance of God, for the shewing of his justice in this time: that he himself may be just and the justifier of him who is of the faith of Jesus Christ. [4]
St. Paul is referring in other words to the Law of Moses. Note the wording and of what he is speaking please:
27 Where is then thy boasting? It is excluded. By what law? Of works? No, but by the law of faith. 28 For we account a man to be justified by faith, without the works of the law. 29 Is he the God of the Jews only? Is he not also of the Gentiles? yes, of the Gentiles also. 30 For it is one God that justifieth circumcision by faith and uncircumcision through faith. 31 Do we then, destroy the law through faith? God forbid! But we establish the law. [5]

It is manifestly clear that the works of Justification Paul is speaking in Romans of are the works required by the Mosaic Law and whether or not the Gentiles had to perform them in order to be saved. The question asked in verse 29 confirms this interpretation. The Apostle Paul after stating "we account a man to be justified by faith, without the works of the Law" immediately follows this statement up with the questions "is he the God of the Jews only?"  and "is he not also of the Gentiles?" This demonstrates that the distinction being made here is between Jews and Gentiles. Earlier in the chapter St. Paul declared that there was "no distinction" and that "we have charged both Jews and Greeks, that they are all under sin" (Rom. 3:9). After expounding on this subject and noting that "by the works of the law no flesh shall be justified before him" (Rom. 3:19), the Apostle Paul then makes the pivotal declaration "[b]ut now, without the law, the justice of God is made manifest, being witnessed by the law and the prophets" (Rom. 3:21). The law itself had witnessed to this as Our Lord made clear when he was questioned as to the greatest commandment of the law. And as the words of Our Lord take precedence over his servant Paul, let us stop for a moment and consider what Our Lord said on the subject.

Upon being asked the question by a doctor of the law, He responded with "[t]hou shalt love the Lord thy God with thy whole heart, and with thy whole soul, and with thy whole strength" (Matt. 22:37). This is a direct reference to Deuteronomy where the Lord dictated to Moses "Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God is one Lord. Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with thy whole heart, and with thy whole soul, and with thy whole strength. And these words which I command thee this day, shall be in thy heart" (Deut. 6:4-6). The Lord followed this up with "[a]nd the second is like to this: Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.On these two commandments dependeth the whole law and the prophets" (Matt. 22:39-40). And the second commandment is another reference to the Torah, this time the Book of Leviticus which states "Thou shalt not hate thy brother in thy heart: But reprove him openly, lest thou incur sin through him. Seek not revenge, nor be mindful of the injury of thy citizens. Thou shalt love thy friend as thyself. I am the Lord" (Lev. 19:18) Notice the reference in these two "greatest commandments" of the law to being in the heart. This is pivotal to properly understanding the biblical view of Justification. Having vindicated the Apostle Paul's reference to the law, let us consider some of what the prophets had to say. The following is just a sampling of texts which speak of the integral nature of the law. The translation used for these passages is the Revised Standard Version:

Receive instruction from his mouth, and lay up his words in your heart. (Job 22:22)

The law of his God is in his heart; his steps do not slip. (Psalm 37:31)

I delight to do thy will, O my God; thy law is within my heart. (Psalm 40:8)

Give me understanding, that I may keep thy law and observe it with my whole heart. (Psalm 119:34)

My son, do not forget my teaching, but let your heart keep my commandments; for length of days and years of life and abundant welfare will they give you. Let not loyalty and faithfulness forsake you; bind them about your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart. (Proverbs 3:1-3)

Hearken to me, you who know righteousness, the people in whose heart is my law; fear not the reproach of men, and be not dismayed at their revilings. (Isaiah 51:7)

Notice carefully the common thread of the above passages. The exhortation of the two "greatest commandments" is to love God and neighbour from the heart. The quotes from the prophets above likewise emphasize the importance of the law being of the heart or internal rather then ritualistic and external. The Lord made it known to the prophet Jeremiah that He would make a new covenant with the house of Israel which would be written not on tablets of stone but instead on "the tablet of the heart" (cf. Proverbs 3:3).
Behold the days shall come, saith the Lord, and I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Juda: Not according to the covenant which I made with their fathers, in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, the covenant which they made void, and I had dominion over them, saith the Lord. But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel, after those days, saith the Lord: I will give my law in their bowels, and I will write it in their heart: and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.[6]

Thus, when the Apostle Paul declared in Romans 3:21 that "[b]ut now, without the law, the justice of God is made manifest, being witnessed by the law and the prophets", he was declaring that this new covenant of God had arrived. But it was not a covenant that differed from the old in the important area of individual sincerity. For as Our Lord noted, the Torah and the prophets taught that the law was intended to be internalized. Indeed the reason Our Lord castigated the Pharisees for hypocrisy was because they went through the motions of appearing righteous but were not righteous. The ceremonies of the law were intended to impress God's commandments on the heart. St. Paul noted this earlier in Romans when he stated that "[f]or it is not he is a Jew, who is so outwardly: nor is that circumcision which is outwardly in the flesh. But he is a Jew that is one inwardly and the circumcision is that of the heart" (Rom. 2:28-29). So this dichotomy which Protestants (and some other Christians) try to make between the old and the new covenants on the basis of one being internal and the other merely external is clearly a false one. Having noted this, let us move on to finish examining Romans 3 and move onto Romans 4.

After pointing to the justice of God "being [now] made manifest" without the law -- or in fulfillment of the prophecy of Jeremiah -- the Apostle Paul declares that "there is no distinction...For all have sinned and do need the glory of God" (Rom. 3:22-23). To interpret the "all" here as all individuals is to ignore the previous context of Romans 2-3. The distinction being made throughout is that of Jew and non-Jew. The Apostle Paul points out that there is no distinction between Jew and Greek for indeed "we have charged both Jews and Greeks, that they are all under sin" (Rom. 3:9). There is no compelling reason to presume that the "all" referred to in Romans iii,23 is any different then the "all" referred to in Romans 3:9. Indeed if one reads the sequence, Romans 3:9 is the Apostle Paul advancing a thesis and Romans 3:10-22 is him substantiating that thesis. Understood in this context, Romans 3:23 would be a restating of the thesis after it had been set forth in the preceding lines. Indeed "all have sinned" for both Jews and Greeks are all under sin. Any interpretation other then the one just mentioned does not take into account the full context of the chapter not to mention what the rest of the Scriptures are saying.

The Apostle Paul after declaring that both Jews and Greeks are all under sin follows this up with the common remedy for both circumcised and uncircumcised alike: the law of faith in Our Lord Jesus Christ. As we have noted in examining the words of Our Lord and the Apostles Peter, James, John, Jude, and the Old Testament wisdom literature, this is not a sola fide concept of faith in the slightest. The Apostle Paul as we have noted above in Romans 2 confirms the teaching of the other texts of the Scriptures. The particular emphasis which is laid on the law in Romans (and as we shall see in Galatians also) has nothing whatsoever to do with forms of sola fide or imputed righteousness. One of the most popular texts for defending sola fide is St. Paul's discussion of Abraham and Genesis 15:6. That is the chapter we will examine next but not without noting that there is no sola fide or imputed righteousness in Romans through chapter three. As we will see shortly, the same is the case for chapter four of Romans as well.

1 What shall we say then that Abraham hath found, who is our father according to the flesh? 2 For if Abraham were justified by works, he hath whereof to glory, but not before God.WHAT shall we say then that Abraham hath found, who is our father according to the flesh. 3 For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed God: and it was reputed to him unto justice.  [7]

Before we consider the proper interpretation of this passage, let us revisit Fr. Martin Luther's Preface to James. In stating that "I do not regard it as the writing of an apostle" he followed this declaration up with the following reasons:

In the first place it flatly against St. Paul and all the rest of Scripture in ascribing justification to works 2:24). It says that Abraham was justified by his works when he offered his son Isaac (2:20); Though in Romans 4:22-22 St. Paul teaches to the contrary that Abraham was justified apart from works, by his faith alone, before he had offered his son, and proves it by Moses in Genesis 15:6. Although it would be possible to "save" the epistle by a gloss giving a correct explanation of justification here ascribed to works, it is impossible to deny that it does refer to Moses' words in Genesis 15 (which speaks not of Abraham's works but of his faith, just as Paul makes plain in Romans 4) to Abraham's works. This fault proves that this epistle is not the work of any apostle. [8]
We have already considered several of the lies and misunderstandings of Fr. Martin Luther with regards to the epistles of James and Jude. Justification to works is hardly a concept that is "against St. Paul and all the rest of the Scriptures". Indeed this essay has made it clear that Our Lord and the Apostles Peter, John, and Jude all sided with the Apostle James' understanding of faith to be completed requiring works of charity. (Indeed the epistle of James is the only book of the Bible that mentions sola fide and it does so deliberately to refute the notion in no uncertain terms.) But Fr. Luther in his novel understanding of sola fide, prefers to play the Pauline Shuffle and pit his interpretation of Paul against the rest of the Bible. As they do not agree, it is the rest of the Bible which needs to be interpreted in the light of an interpretation of St. Paul's epistle to the Romans. The epistle to the Galatians is treated in a similar fashion but we do not want to get ahead of ourselves here.

Romans 4:3 states "Abraham believed God: and it was reputed to him unto justice". Nothing whatsoever is said about sola fide (faith alone) in this passage. Indeed it is hardly a secret to those who are reasonably informed that Fr. Luther was so desperate to ground his novel teaching in the epistle to the Romans that he inserted the word "alone" in Romans iii,28 so that it read "[f]or we account a man to be justified by faith [alone], without the works of the law." So Fr. Luther was clearly not interested in interpreting the Scriptures without first deliberately mistranslating the text so that it would "say" what he wanted it to say. In that light, we should not be surprised that he saw sola fide in Romans 4:3 where the text itself says nothing of the sort.

To properly understand the context of the passage one must consider the passages that preceded them. The Apostle Paul had just said that we are all justified by faith and not by the works of the law (Rom. 3:28); therefore logically an example would be in order of someone justified apart from the Law. After all, the Apostle then says that God is the God of the Jews and the Gentiles (Rom. 3:29) who justifies all people by faith (Rom. 3:30). Then he says that through faith the law is not destroyed but instead is established (Rom. 3:31). Now we are up to the beginning of chapter four and the topic of Abraham.

In seeking to emphasize the points of Romans 3:22ff, Paul supplies his readers with the Patriarch of the Jewish nation himself Abraham as an example of someone who was righteous and who was justified apart from the works of the law. Abraham was justified by his faith in God according to Paul. However James (who wrote his Epistle after Paul wrote Romans and Galatians) also stated that Abraham's faith "was reputed to him as justice" exactly as Paul did but James specifically states that Abraham was justified by works. Is there a contradiction??? There is no contradiction because Abraham's works of justification were commanded of him by God and performed out of pure and undivided love of God. The Apostle James claimed that Abraham was justified by works because it was through the works (commanded of him by God) that Abraham completed his faith (and that included the "work" of begetting Issac of Sarah at an old age). Genesis 15:6 speaks of the promise certainly but was Issac conceived via a virgin birth or was Abraham actively involved in the process??? In fact, if we look at the words of James again and apply it to Genesis 15 rather then Genesis 22, note the interesting parallel involved:

Was not Abraham our father justified by works, begetting his son Isaac at an elderly age - and in the dead womb of his wife Sarah - because of belief in God and His promise? Seest thou that faith did cooperate with his works and by works faith was made perfect?
Faith alone did not save Abraham in Genesis 15:6. For if Genesis 15:6 taught sola fide then Abraham could have just "believed" in God and Issac would have been sent. For that is what sola fide means. The inventer of sola fide was very clear on this subject noting in his Commentary on the Galatians that "[i]f the law requires charity, charity is part of the Law and not of faith. Since Christ has displaced the Law which commands charity, it follows that charity has been abrogated with the Law as a factor in our justification, and only faith is left." In short, the notion that charity has any role in our justification was explicitly ruled out of court by the originator of sola fide. Therefore, later attempts by other Protestant theologians (such as Philip Melanchton) to try and salvage the Scripture's clear teaching of justification by charity as an addendum to sola fide shoud rightly be seen for what they are: attempts to square a circle.

At no point of the Bible is the notion that charity being non-integral to a saving faith taught. And when Protestant theologians try to teach that a person justified by faith alone "will perform good works", this is a presumption unwarranted by the Scriptures themselves. For Our Lord is clear in countless passages already covered that charity is integral to a saving faith. The other Apostles covered were equally emphatic on this point. And the Apostle Paul in Romans 2 was equally clear on this subject as he will eb in his other writings. So attempting to make charity an addendum to sola fide: sorry buthat dog will not hunt.

Like all true believers, Abraham's faith needed to be supplemented by works to be a saving faith and thus his faith was completed by works. (Matt. 7:21; Mark 11:25; Luke 6:43-49; John 3:21; 2 Pet. 1:5-11; James 2:21ff; 1 John 3:7; 4:12,16; Jude 1:20-21, etc.) And the "works" in Genesis xv,6 involved his active role in begetting Issac coupled with his having faith in God's promise (James 2:21-22). If Abraham had not done his part in begetting Issac, he would not have been reckoned as righteous. And while Abraham believed God, he did not know how God was going to fulfill this promise. Indeed the witness to this from Genesis 16 is Abraham believing that his offspring would come from Sarah's servant girl (Gen. 16:2-4). Since the birth of Ishmael from Sarah's servant girl (whom Abraham had taken as a wife) to the scene in Genesis 17:16, thirteen years had passed. And this is significant because Genesis 17:16 is where God establishes the terms of the covenant that he will make with Abraham and all of his offspring. It is after that point that God reveals there that it is Sarah who shall give birth, Abraham according to the Scriptures found this notion amusing. However, after God reiterates it he dutifully submits to circumcision both he and his entire household. In short, Abraham continues to believe in God and he manifests this by his obedience to the Lord's commands.

Remember, Genesis was written after Abraham died and the author was to some extent foreshadowing in that part of the text. The proof of this is that in Genesis 15:6, Abraham is not yet referred to as Abraham but instead is still Abram. The Lord would not change his name to Abraham until Genesis 17:5 - shortly before outlining the covenant itself in Genesis 17:10-14. And only after the Lord outlined the covenant was it made known that Abraham's promised heir would not be his son Ishmael but instead that his wife Sarah should give birth to a son. All of this is easily verifiable by examining the biblical sequence. Now the audience of course knew that Abraham believed because their very existence as his descendants confirmed this. They knew he believed God because he obeyed God. And by his obedience an entire nation was born from the son of his old age. But with this belief - and integral to it - was Abraham's obedience to the Lord.

If Abraham had not engaged in sexual intercourse with his beyond-fertile wife Sarah, Isaac would not have been born. And without Isaac's birth, Abraham would not have manifested his belief in God's promise. Yes it is true that Abraham's belief in God was reckoned as righteousness. But this was only because he completed his faith by maintaining his obedience to God in the interim period. And when the time was upon him, he performed the acts required to have offspring. Despite all evidences that the enterprise was a futile one (Abraham being a hundred years old, Sarah being in her nineties and long barren), Abraham nonetheless did his part in obedience to the Lord. And the writer of Genesis, in a touch of retrospection of you will, noted that Abraham had believed God as far back as Genesis 15:6 - back when he was still Abram. But without completing his faith with obedience out of love of God (or works of charity), that faith would not have been genuine. St. Paul in using Abraham as his example in Romans 4 claimed that Abraham was justified by faith to show his readers an example of someone dear to all Jews who was not justified by the works of the law. The reason we know this was the intention is the preceding passages of Romans 3 and what follows from this point in Romans 4.

4 Now to him that worketh, the reward is not reckoned according to grace but according to debt. 5 But to him that worketh not, yet believeth in him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is reputed to justice, according to the purpose of the grace of God. 6 As David also termeth the blessedness of a man, to whom God reputeth justice without works: 7 Blessed are they whose lawlessness is forgiven, and whose sins are covered. 8 Blessed is the man to whom the Lord hath not imputed sin. [9]

In quoting David the prophet, the Psalm quoted is Psalm 31. This Psalm is referred to as a penitential psalm. The singer acknowledges suffering for their sin and upon revealing their sin to the Lord, His forgiveness is acknowledged with thanksgiving. Like the singer of the psalm, the one who believes in God and not in themselves, is righteous before God. Contrary to this is the one who strives of their own accord to be righteous before God. No one by any works whatsoever can earn their salvation. For merits are offset by demerits and no man can of his own accord merit more then he owes before God.

It is typical for Protestants to use Romans 4:3-8 as some kind of "magic passage" that somehow trumps every other biblical passage. (They also do this with Ephesians 2:8-9.) Instead of adjusting their interpretation of this passage to one that squares with the literal import of all the passages we have already covered, they instead seek to make those passages square with an interpretation of Romans 4:3-8. In doing this, they do not really obey the Bible as they claim but they impose their own theology onto the text. Further still, they ignore the surrounding passages which render their interpretation of this passage (as a prooftext for sola fide and imputed righteousness) unviable.

The text in its essence above is saying that those that strive to do their own works (apart from God) have their reward reckoned to them according to debt and not by grace. Any other possible interpretation places St. Paul against His Lord and Master's literal words as well as the words of the other NT authors. Of course because men are sinners, they cannot possibly justify themselves because by one sin they violate the Law. Thus if the Law was their justifier, it would (upon violation) be their judge. We are justified by faith but incumbent in this is the necessity of works of mercy to supplement our faith (2 Pet. 1:5-11). For in the Hebrew worldview, to will and to work are synonyms and a true saving faith is completed with charity aka "works of mercy" (cf. James 2:22). Nothing in the Apostle Paul's statements above contradict this understanding. Indeed if we take the Apostle to be saying what Protestant theologians assert, then we have to pit him against the rest of the Bible. No faithful Christian would seek to do such a thing.

9 This blessedness then, doth it remain in the circumcision only or in the uncircumcision also? For we say that unto Abraham faith was reputed to justice. 10 How then was it reputed? When he was in circumcision, or in uncircumcision? Not in circumcision, but in uncircumcision.11 And he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the justice of the faith, which he had, being uncircumcised; that he might be the father of all them that believe, being uncircumcised, that unto them also it may be reputed to justice: 12 And might be the father of circumcision; not to them only, that are of the circumcision, but to them also that follow the steps of the faithful, that is in the uncircumcision of our father Abraham. 13 For not through the law was the promise to Abraham, or to his seed, that he should be heir of the world; but through the justice of faith. 14 For if they who are of the law be heirs, faith is made void: the promise is made of no effect. 15 For the law worketh wrath.For where there is no law, neither is there transgression. 16 Therefore is it of faith, that according to grace the promise might be firm to all the seed; not to that only which is of the law, but to that also which is of the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all, 17 (As it is written: I have made thee a father of many nations,) before God, whom he believed, who quickeneth the dead; and calleth those things that are not, as those that are. 18 Who against hope believed in hope; that he might be made the father of many nations, according to that which was said to him: So shall thy seed be. 19 And he was not weak in faith; neither did he consider his own body now dead, whereas he was almost an hundred years old, nor the dead womb of Sara. 20 In the promise also of God he staggered not by distrust; but was strengthened in faith, giving glory to God: 21 Most fully knowing, that whatsoever he has promised, he is able also to perform. 22 And therefore it was reputed to him unto justice. 23 Now it is not written only for him, that it was reputed to him unto justice, 24 But also for us, to whom it shall be reputed, if we believe in him, that raised up Jesus Christ, our Lord, from the dead, 25 Who was delivered up for our sins, and rose again for our justification. [10]
To continue to read Romans 4, the dichotomy between circumcision and uncircumcision again manifests itself. The Apostle Paul never strays from this theme from the point he refers to there being "no respect of persons with God" (Rom. 2:11). St. Paul simply finds additional angles from which to substantiate his thesis and by Romans 4 he uses the example of the Patriarch Abraham. The reasoning is simple: the law coming after Abraham could not have been that which justified him.

Abraham faith was contingent upon his obedience. He still had to perform his part for the promised heir would not simply appear. No, in Abraham's case indeed "faith did cooperate with his works and by works faith was made perfect. And the scripture was fulfilled, saying: Abraham believed God, and it was reputed to him to justice, and he was called the friend of God" (James 2:22-23). The Apostle Paul though referring to the Genesis foreshadowing nonetheless explains the role that Abraham played in this endeavour, how he "against hope believed in hope; that he might be made the father of many nations" (Rom. iv,18). But this was not a mere cerebral or pious sentiment. No indeed it was integral.

For Abraham "[though he] was not weak in faith; neither did he consider his own body now dead, whereas he was almost an hundred years old, nor the dead womb of Sara" (Rom. 4:19). Indeed as St. Paul tells us "[i]n the promise also of God he staggered not by distrust; but was strengthened in faith, giving glory to God: Most fully knowing, that whatsoever he has promised, he is able also to perform" (Romans 4:20-21). If Abraham was without faith, he would have viewed intercourse with his ninety year old wife to be fruitless in providing the heir that God promised him. By obeying the command of God, Isaac was conceived and the promise of becoming a father of many nations began to develop. For these reasons, St. Paul says that Abraham's faith "was reputed to him unto justice" (Romans 4:22). The entire purpose of this story is to highlight someone who was justified by faith "apart from the works of the law" (cf. Rom. 3:28). There is no notion of sola fide anywhere in Romans 4 except by the twisting of the Apostle Paul's writings by the unlearned and unstable such as Fr. Luther, John Calvin, and the other so-called "reformers" and their descendants (cf. 2 Pet. 3:16).

Having explained in detail how one could be justified by faith apart from the works of the law -- and using the venerable Abraham as "Exhibit A" in his thesis, the Apostle Paul moves on in the next chapter to discuss the peace that one who is justified by faith should have:

1 BEING justified therefore by faith, let us have peace with God, through our Lord Jesus Christ: 2 By whom also we have access through faith into this grace, wherein we stand, and glory in the hope of the glory of the sons of God. 3 And not only so; but we glory also in tribulations, knowing that tribulation worketh patience; 4 And patience trial; and trial hope; 5 And hope confoundeth not: because the charity of God is poured forth in our hearts, by the Holy Ghost, who is given to us. [11]
The charity of God by which the Apostle refers to is of course active and not passive. Thus the exhortation of Our Lord, Peter, James, John, and Jude about our conduct as the barometer whereby we are judged. The rest of Romans 5 draws out the contrast between Adam and Our Lord --the latter being the source of rebirth for mankind. However, there is one key tidbit that should not be overlooked:
16 And not as it was by one sin, so also is the gift. For judgment indeed was by one unto condemnation; but grace is of many offences, unto justification. 17 For if by one man's offence death reigned through one; much more they who receive abundance of grace, and of the gift, and of justice, shall reign in life through one, Jesus Christ. 18 Therefore, as by the offence of one, unto all men to condemnation; so also by the justice of one, unto all men to justification of life. 19 For as by the disobedience of one man, many were made sinners; so also by the obedience of one, many shall be made just. [12]
Many shall be made just. Not just have justice imputed to them but made just. Adam's sin made us sinners in reality and Our Lord's obedience and atonement by recapitulation actually makes us just. This is pretty straight forward of course but Protestants often overlook this part of Romans anyway. But in light of what it discusses, it seems good to cover it nonetheless.

Chapter 6 of Romans moves into the subject of how we die to sin and are reborn in Our Lord Jesus Christ:

1 What shall we say, then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? 2 God forbid! For we that are dead to sin, how shall we live any longer therein?  3 Know you not that all we who are baptized in Christ Jesus are baptized in his death? 4 For we are buried together with him by baptism into death: that, as Christ is risen from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we also may walk in newness of life. 5 For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection. [13]
According to the Apostle Paul, we will be in the likeness of His resurrection. Baptism is the means whereby we are initiated into the covenant of grace. We noted earlier in this essay that Our Lord was explicit as to its necessity  (John 3:5) as was the Apostle Peter (1 Pet 3:20). Yet baptism is considered a mere "formality" or "ordinance" by many Protestants. This is contrary to not only the unanimous testimony of pre-Reformation Christian history but also the literal words of Scripture. But then as it has been noted already, Protestants do not obey the literal words of Scripture as a general rule. Baptism is declared the means by which we are buried with Christ and from which we arise with a renewal of life. Yet baptism is a "work" so the literal words of the Apostle Paul point towards our rebirth (or justification) by a work (baptism). Yet more Scriptural evidence against sola fide from the book of Romans.
11 So do you also reckon, that you are dead to sin, but alive unto God, in Christ Jesus our Lord. 12 Let no sin therefore reign in your mortal body, so as to obey the lusts thereof. 13 Neither yield ye your members as instruments of iniquity unto sin; but present yourselves to God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of justice unto God. 14 For sin shall not have dominion over you; for you are not under the law, but under grace. [14]
Indeed, the Law does not judge us for we are under grace as adopted sons of the Father rather then criminals convicted under the strict code of law. But many Protestants believe that we are no longer obligated to keep the law anymore in its moral tenants. This of course contradicts the constant exhortations of all of the NT personages (especially Our Lord) who expressedly declare otherwise. Thus by keeping the moral tenants of the Law we supplement our faith as Scripture attests to overwhelmingly. (Matt. 7:21; Mark 11:25; Luke 6:43-49; John 3:21; 2 Pet. 1:5-11; James 2:21ff; 1 John 3:7; 4:12,16; Jude 1:20-21, etc.)

As Romans 10 has been cited at times to defend sola fide, let us look at the bulk of that chapter also:

1 BRETHREN, the will of my heart, indeed, and my prayer to God, is for them unto salvation. 2 For I bear them witness, that they have a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge. 3 For they, not knowing the justice of God and seeking to establish their own, have not submitted themselves to the justice of God. 4 For the end of the law is Christ: unto justice to everyone that believeth. 5 For Moses wrote that the justice which is of the law: The man that shall do it shall live by it. 6 But the justice which is of faith, speaketh thus: Say not in thy heart, Who shall ascend into heaven? That is, to bring Christ down; 7 Or who shall descend into the deep? That is, to bring up Christ again from the dead. 8 But what saith the scripture? The word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth, and in thy heart. This is the word of faith, which we preach. 9 For if thou confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and believe in thy heart that God hath raised him up from the dead, thou shalt be saved.10 For, with the heart, we believe unto justice; but, with the mouth, confession is made unto salvation. 11 For the scripture saith: Whosoever believeth in him, shall not be confounded. 12 For there is no distinction of the Jew and the Greek: for the same is Lord over all, rich unto all that call upon him. 13 For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord, shall be saved. [15]
Again the Jew-Gentile theme is emphasized which is the whole thrust of the epistle to the Romans: that all peoples are justified by faith. Nowhere is the word alone or the word only  in relation to the word faith anywhere to be found!!! As for Romans 10, Protestants seem to automatically stop reading the chapter at that point and say "see, all we have to do is believe in Jesus" which of course demonstrates that they do not understand the Hebrew concept of believing at all.

For belief and obedience are two sides of the same coin and to disobey those placed over you in authority by God is not to believe in the Lord Jesus. Of course since Protestantism was not a movement founded by Our Lord or of those who can show succession in the Church to possess legitimate authority, they have no one in that movement that can claim to speak either in the name of the Lord or with His authority. The Apostle Paul in the part of Romans 10 that Protestants always overlook tells us HOW we are to "believe in the Lord Jesus." Here is what he said:

14 How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? Or how shall they believe him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? 15 And how shall they preach unless they be sent, as it is written: How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, of them that bring glad tidings of good things?  [16]
To be "sent" is to "apostle" someone. This is the very foundation of the doctrine known as "Apostolic Succession": that those who have valid succession from the Apostles have the authority to preach in the name of the Lord and also to pass on their authority. The Apostolic Christians understand this as authority given to the leaders of the Church by the Lord via someone else with lawful succession (John 20:21-23). Those that do not have this authority are in rebellion against God and will "perish in the contradiction of Korah" to quote from the Apostle Jude in his epistle. (See Jude 1:8-13 referencing Korah's rebellion in Numbers 16.)
16 But all do not obey the gospel. For Isaias saith: Lord, who hath believed our report? 17 Faith then cometh by hearing; and hearing by the word of Christ. [17]
From "hearing" not by "reading" does faith come. This is why those who seek to hand out Bibles to everyone and their brother, miss completely how we are to learn the Gospel. St. Paul in the Book of Romans also echoes Our Lord in Matt. 22:35-40 when he speaks of fulfilling the Law. In fact, the Apostle Paul in Romans 13 says exactly what Our Lord did about love fulfilling the Law:
Our Lord:

[O]ne of them, a doctor of the law, asking him, tempting him: Master, which is the greatest commandment in the law? Jesus said to him: Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with thy whole heart and with thy whole soul and with thy whole mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. And the second is like to this: Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments dependeth the whole law and the prophets. (Matt. 22:35-40)

The Apostle Paul:

Owe no man any thing, but to love one another. For he that loveth his neighbour hath fulfilled the law. For: Thou shalt not commit adultery: Thou shalt not kill: Thou shalt not steal: Thou shalt not bear false witness: Thou shalt not covet. And if there be any other commandment, it is comprised in this word: Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. The love of our neighbour worketh no evil. Love therefore is the fulfilling of the law. (Romans 13:8-10)

Let us see: we fulfill the Law by loving one another and doing no wrong to one another. St. Paul's explanation clearly shows that he agreed with Our Lord on the matter. Of course we have already shown that Our Lord did not teach sola fide. We have also demonstrated that the Apostles Peter, James, John, Jude, nor the Old Testament teaches sola fide. We have also shown in Romans in these key passages brought up by Protestant apologists to defend sola fide that Paul never speaks of sola fide at all. Romans 13 actually shows us that Paul and Our Lord are in agreement. So if (i) Our Lord did not teach sola fide, and (ii) the Apostle Paul agrees with Our Lord then (iii) the Apostle Paul does not teach sola fide either. Of course Our Lord's words are the most important in all of Scripture and they take primacy of place in every dispute. And Paul quite clearly agrees with his Lord and Master on the matter.  So there is no sola fide doctrine taught in Romans. It is a "tradition of men" if ever there was one (cf. Isa. 29:13; Matt. 15:6-9; Mark 7:6-7).

Those who use the Epistle to the Romans to claim sola fide (faith alone) have engaged in a malicious twisting of the very words of the Apostle Paul apart from their intended meaning. This is exactly what the Apostle Peter warned his audience that people were doing who were "unlearned", "unstable", and "lawless men" (2 Pet. 3:14-17). And as this same pattern surfaces with St. Paul's Epistle to the Galatians, that is what will be examined next. But not without noting yet again that the book of Romans does not teach sola fide  or any other doctrine distinctive to Protestant soteriological theology.


[1] Romans 2ff

[2] Romans 3:1-18

[3] Psalm 14 (Douay-Rheims Psalm 13)

[4] Romans 3:19-26

[5] Romans 3:27-31

[6] Jeremiah 31:31-33

[7] Romans 4:1-3

[8] 'Matt1618': Luther's Preface to James and Jude (c. 1997)

[9] Romans 4:4-8

[10] Romans 4:9-25

[11] Romans 5:1-5

[12] Romans 5:16-19

[13] Romans 6:1-5

[14] Romans 6:11-14

[15] Romans 10:1-13

[16] Romans 10:14-15

[17] Romans 10:16-17

Other Notes:

The citation from Dr. Art Sippo was taken from "Justified By Works and Not Faith Alone" and located at the following link:

The Scripture citations unless otherwise noted were taken from an online Douay-Rheims Bible that is similar in many ways to the online Douay-Rheims Bible located at the following link:

The Scripture citations from the Revised Standard Version of the Bible were obtained at the following link:

The citation from Fr. Martin Luther was obtained from an extract "Luther's Preface to James and Jude" compiled by 'Matt1618' and located at the following link:

©2003, 2000, "Justification by Faith Working in Love", written by I. Shawn McElhinney. This text may be downloaded or printed out for private reading, but it may not be uploaded to another Internet site or published, electronically or otherwise, without express written permission from the author.

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