Romans 4:4-8: Proof for Justification by Faith Alone?

Romans 4:4-8: Proof for
Justification by Faith Alone?

By: Matt1618

This is a posting I did in response to a message board on an anti-Catholic web site, who posted the idea that Rom. 4:4-8 is conclusive evidence for justification by faith alone. I am responding to a Protestant Apologist by the name of Wayne. I had earlier posted a response that can be found here. We discuss the issue of whether the Protestant position of a purely forensic, alien righteousness is a legal fiction or not, and whether Rom. 4:4-8 gives credence to that idea. We also touch on what Paul's citation of David's life proves. My first response will start with a > and will not be italicized.. Wayne's responses start with a > and are all red. My second response has neither a > or red font.


This is a response to Wayne, but while I was writing, I also saw Mr. White enter the fray, and bring up Romans 4:4-8, so this would also respond to his post 'Justification.'

> Or if you are upset about me stating that your position being that God does a legal
> fiction and just turns away from the filthiness of man, let us consider what RC Sproul
> asserts in his book. Sproul writes "By imparting or imputing Christ's righteousness to us
> sinners, God reckons us as just. It is "as if" (Sproul's quote) we were inherently just.
> But we are not inherently just.... We are just by imputation even while sin still remains in
> us,though it does not reign in us...He quotes Calvin "To justify is nothing else that to
> acquit from the charge of guilt, "as if" innocence were proved"...When God justifies
> us...he does not acquit on us on a proof of our own innocence, but by an imputation of
> righteousness, so that "though not righteous in ourselves", we are deemed righteous in
> Christ" (Sproul,102).

> So, are you denying that there are forensic declarations made in the redeeming work
> of God?Then I suppose the legal declaration that the sins of man was inputed to Christ
> on the cross is a "legal fiction." You'll never make that case here.

Nowhere does the Bible say that Jesus was "imputed with sin." I deny that Jesus was filled with sin, as he is God. Sin can never touch the person of Christ. Christ did not suffer our punishment because our deserved punishment, apart from his grace, is hell. Christ is currently not suffering in hell, as he is reigning at God the Father's right hand. His sacrifice is a sin offering to God. Wayne's position on faith alone is biblically contravened by the context of Romans 4, passages in Romans 2, 5, 6, 8, that I gave in earlier threads, and makes Paul a distorter of the life of Abraham and David. In my demonstration of the errors of Sola Fide in reference to the life of Abraham, I showed that the Calvinist understanding that is put forth on the BBS of the Accounting of Abraham as righteous in the forensic way would make the bible a pile of contradictions in relation to Gen. 12-15, Psalm 106, Heb. 8, James 2, plus the context of Romans 3 and 4.

Wayne doesn't like me saying that his concept is a legal fiction, because God supposedly actually imputes (or credits) the believer with the alien righteousness of Christ. As I originally wrote, I acknowledged quite clearly his understanding that God actually imputes Christ's righteousness to our account, and that Calvinists are supposedly clothed with this alien righteousness that can be the only thing that will stand before God on judgment day, and the works that we do are only the fruit of that righteousness. Wayne unfortunately still fails to account for the fact that his magisterium (his own understanding of scripture, heavily influenced by the rebels of the 16th century) has God, though looking at the perfect righteousness of Christ, still justifying one who is inherently sinful, or as Luther put it, a dunghill covered with snow. Thourgh God is perfectly righteous, and perfectly holy, Wayne's magisterium (himself, heavily influenced what seems to be the Calvinist magisterium) has God pretending someone is righteous, who is inherently unrighteous.

> I elsewhere state that your view does assert that Christ's righteousness is actually
> imputed to the individual. Nevertheless, Sproul and Calvin unhesitatingly assert that
> God reckons us righteous "as though" and "even though we are not righteous". You
> declare all along in your book the forensic (legal) basis of justification. Reformed (so-
> called) theologians admit that God justifies those people who are > not actually righteous.

God does not justify the righteous. God justifies the ungodly. That's what the Bible says. RC dogma has twisted that truth beyond all recognition.

He says the church makes a mockery of this verse. Really? His view makes God contradict the bible in more ways than one. First, it makes God take part what scripture terms as an abomination as will be later shown. Waynes position is that the one who is justified stays inherently wicked, and though God's grace most definitely will work through love, it won't cut the mustard before God's judgment. RCC dogma has twisted beyond recognition? Protestant dogma has twisted beyond recognition the scriptural accounts of Abraham & David's life, to maintain a dogma. Let us look at the context and surrounding verses of Rom. 4:5 from which you get that verse.

Romans 4:4 Now to one who works, his wages are not reckoned as a gift but as his due. 5 And to one who does not work but trusts him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is reckoned as righteousness. 6 So also David pronounces a blessing upon the man to whom God reckons righteousness apart from works: 7 "Blessed are those whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered; 8 blessed is the man against whom the Lord will not reckon his sin."

Now on Friday when I demonstrated the Catholic character of Abraham's justification, found here, I wrote that the Catholic Church denounces any attempt for people to earn their justification. The language that Paul uses here is that of condemning those who try to obligate God to owe them justification. Paul shows in v. 4 one who tries to put God in an employee-employer relationship (saying that God is obligated to pay someone or justify them, i.e. works of the law, be it Mosaic or trying on their own power to earn justification) will not be justified. It is only through God's graciousness that one will be justified (For more info, see my 4 point demonstration of this on Friday). That is exactly the Catholic position. We are his adopted children who God pours his own divine life into at justification.

The main problem is that Wayne's belief is that the one who is justified, not only is ungodly at the outset, but remains ontologically ungodly at the point of justification (even though he must and will bear fruit in sanctification). The problem is that this view not only distorts the life of Abraham a few verses earlier, but also the life of David, which Paul uses as an example to prove in verses 6-8 what he is saying in Rom. 4:4-5.

To prove his point Paul quotes a Psalm of David from which he elucidates his theology. Let us examine the background and the context of the psalm that Paul is quoting from. The Protestant understanding must be that here is where David is justified, and his righteousness is credited (forensically imputed alien righteousness). Since this is the point of David's justification, this must be the first and only time that David is justified. Anything done before this point of time, David is an unregenrate man, and anything after Psalm 32 David is merely for the fruit of justification, or sanctification. If David had already been justified beforehand, and here is again justified, defacto it shows that justification is a process. Any response must take this into account:

Psalm 32:1 "Blesses is he whose transgressions are forgiven, who sins are covered. Blessed is the man who sin the Lord does not count against him."
David is rejoicing here, (as in Psalm 51) that God is here forgiving him for his sins of adultery and slaying of Bathsheba and Uriah the Hittite. The time of the events that he is getting forgiveness for is 2 Samuel 11-12.

An important question that concerns us, is this the time of David's one and only justification, as a Protestant of the Calvinist leaning must hold? On the contrary, David since his youth called on the Lord to defeat Goliath. He was not unregenerate then. In 1 Samuel 13:14, years before 2 Sam. 11-12 and Psalm 32, David is called a "man after God's own heart" a distinction given to no other man in the bible. The Psalms prior to Psalm 32 were also written well before the events of 2 Sam. 11-12, which were the occasion for Psalm 32. This shows indeed that David was a true child of God before the events of Psalm 32. Otherwise, we would have Psalms written before Psalm 32 to be written by an unregenerate pagan who had no real relationship with God.

Although David earlier in his life was a true child of God, he did something to make himself ungodly. He committed major sin with Bathshebe and Uriah to make him become ungodly (2 Sam. 11-12). That is how he was ungodly coming into Psalm 32. How was he forgiven? By sincere repentance given in the grace of God as so heartfelt put in Psalms 32 and 51. He did not earn his way back through law, as Paul clearly states. In this state of mortal sin, he responds to Gods' grace and is rejustified. He is put back in God's grace. However, it is not David earning his way back into God's grace, not as an employee from an employer. It is a Father-Son relationship. Paul shows that works do not earn his grace back, but his justification is won back by repentance, the point of Rom. 4:4-8. Paul's sees David's acknowledgement and confession of his sin, a total reliance and recognition of God' benificience, grace and mercy, reflecting the Catholic position. He is here credited as righteousness. The fact of David's earlier Godly life, with the fact that he put himself outside of God's grace, and the fact that his repentance led him to justification shows several things fatal to the Calvinist understanding of justification that has been put out on the BBS.

1) The language used here is not meant to imply a forensic view of a one time justification. David already was a believer well before this point in time.

2) David, although he was quite clearly a believer who loved God with all his heart, fell out of God's grace by mortal sin. That is why he needs to be forgiven to be put back in God's grace. David's grace-driven repentance puts him back into God's favor.

3) The crediting of righteousness is not based on an acceptance of an alien righteousness. His repentance was needed to get back into God's righteousness. When one is in this state, then one has a Father-Son relationship at the heart of justification. Then, under the auspices of grace, out of love, the Son responds with works of love that is necessary for ultimate justification (Rom. 2:6-13, 6, 8:1-39, Gal. 5-6) and one becomes a doer of the law in a state of God's grace.

4) The next question that must be faced is when it says that God justifies the ungodly, does it mean that justification is not based on an infusion of grace, as Calvinists maintain? In other words, when one is justified, does the person stay ungodly, although he will do good works afterwords? Let us examine Psalm 32 itself, which Paul is directly using to elucidate his conclusion. Does justification mean nothing inherently changed in David, when he is restored to his righteousness, and is it an alien righteousness that he is credited with, as you maintain?

Psalm 32: 1A Psalm of David. A Maskil. Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. 2 Blessed is the man to whom the LORD imputes no iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit. 3 When I declared not my sin, my body wasted away through my groaning all day long. 4 For day and night thy hand was heavy upon me; my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer. [Selah] I acknowledged my sin to thee, and I did not hide my iniquity; I said, "I will confess my transgressions to the LORD"; then thou didst forgive the guilt of my sin. [Selah] 6 Therefore let every one who is godly offer prayer to thee; at a time of distress, in the rush of great waters, they shall not reach him. 7Thou art a hiding place for me, thou preservest me from trouble; thou dost encompass me with deliverance. [Selah] 8 I will instruct you and teach you the way you should go; I will counsel you with my eye upon you. 9 Be not like a horse or a mule, without understanding, which must be curbed with bit and bridle, else it will not keep with you. 10 Many are the pangs of the wicked; but steadfast love surrounds him who trusts in the LORD. 11 Be glad in the LORD, and rejoice, O righteous, and shout for joy, all you upright in heart!

We see that in the very verse that Paul quotes from, it says that in the one Lord does not impute iniquity, David's spirit has no deceit!! Thus, David has an inner quality, spiritual essnce, of righteousness. Hardly David ontonlogically staying ungodly. God now looks at David through his eyes of grace. He has went from godly (the life he lived earlier as a man after God's own heart) to ungodly (his mortal sins separated him from God and made David ungodly), back to the state of godly (and remaining in his grace via his obedience), when he repents through God's grace. David has an inner changed nature. In an earlier critique of Mr. White on his book "The Roman Catholic Controversy", I referred to this part of his book, his commentary on Rom. 4:4-8 in relation to David. I had addressed this critique to Mr. White, but this would be for any Calvinist (or Lutheran) who holds to a one time justification for a person who at justificaiton is ontologically still unjust (though reckoned as just). I will repost that paragraph from my site:

"Is the quoting of Psalm 32 in Rom. 4:6-8, a quoting of one who is actually unrighteous, but declared righteous, solely through God's imputation just as you claimed Abraham was (though we've disproved).? Or does it quote David as though recognizing himself to be a sinner, who through God's grace and forgiveness becomes a righteous person. As you would agree Paul would not wrench scripture out of context, the best way to figure this out is looking at Psalm 32 itself. Paul quotes 32:1-2. David thanks God for his forgiveness and acknowledges himself to be a sinner. He shows his utter reliance on God's grace, no question. We both agree on that. The question is whether now that David is forgiven, is he an actually righteous person, or is only declared such. You declare that there is no subjective change in the individual (pp. 154-155). He is only righteous in the sense of being declared so. Let us look at the context of Psalm 32, which Paul uses. David writes that his sin is covered, and not imputed (vv. 1-2a). When David was a sinner outside of God's grace he admits that his spirit was wasted away. However, David acknowledged his sin and confessed them to God. The question - "Is David and God's people unrighteous sinners who are only declared righteous?" Not only does he have no deceit (v. 2b), but every one who is godly offers prayer to God (v.6). God preserves David from trouble and is the means of deliverance (v. 7), not merely a covering. David next contrasts the wicked from the righteous (vv. 10-11). He uses absolutely no courtroom language. Your theory holds that there are none intrinsically righteous before God. According to David "Steadfast love surrounds him who trusts in the Lord. Be glad in the Lord, and rejoice, o righteous, and shout for joy, all you upright in heart." God's people are actually righteous, godly, and have no deceit. God's people are actually upright in heart! Apparently when God imputes his righteousness, it is not external. He imparts his own life into the individual. You asked in your book (p. 155) "Where is the subjective change taught by Roman Catholic theology?" In the very text that Paul quotes from! We see in this very psalm a man who is not only declared, but actually upright in heart. That is Catholic theology at heart. God's grace transforms, makes this change in the individual, and is part of justification."

It shows that at the time of justification, inherent righteousness is a part of this justification. This belies Waynes view, and shows that his view makes Paul distort David's life, not something inspired scripture is likely to do. David is credited with righteousnes here in Psalm 32. His acts of repentance thus give a crediting of righteousness. Thus, a crediting of righteousness is not a one time thing. When God justifies David, he returns him to a state of actual righteousness. The Catholic position is this in Trent. No, we do not dispute that God justifies the ungodly. As Trent says one is born a Child of Adam (and ungodly) but at the point that the ungodly child of Adam is justified, this ungodly person becomes godly:

Trent session 6 Chapter 4 says exactly this.


"In which words is given a brief description of the justification of the sinner, as being a translation from that state in which man is born a child of the first Adam, to the state of grace and of the adoption of the sons of God through the second Adam, Jesus Christ, our Savior."

He no longer is a child of Adam, he is an adopted child of God, at the point of justification. When God declares, he does. Wayne's position is that what God justifies, he only declares, he does not actually do what he declares, he does not actually make one righteous. Actually, Wayne's position that God justifies the ungodly who stays ungodly elsewhere in scripture is called an abomination to God: Prov. 17:15: "Then He that justifieth the wicked, and he that condemneth the just, even they both are abomination to the LORD." It is not in God's character to do such a thing. In contrast to that the bible teaches that God transforms in the act of justification this ungodly person to a godly person.

> When something terms as true something
> that is not actually true, that is fiction. I
> read Sproul's argument that it is not a legal
> fiction (pp. 105-108), but any way you term it,
> God reckons one righteous even when he is inherently
> unrighteous. The term legal fiction is thus justified.
> Thus when I say "He does not do some legal
> fiction, and then just turn his eyes away from
> the filthiness of man" I am not creating
> a straw man at all.

It really, really bothers me when the prophets of man-centered religion attribute no
> reality to a work of God. When God imputes something to a man it is actually true. The
> Bible says if any man is in Christ he is a NEW CREATION.

Exactly, a new creation is one infused with righteousness (2 Cor. 5:17). Catholicism gives to God more reality to what he actually does. In the Catholic view, God actually undoes the fall of Adam. A new creation is not just being covered with an alien righteousness. Christ pours out his own divine life into the individual. We become partakers of the divine nature (2 Pet. 1:4).

>There is nothing fictional about that. When you try to make the case that you will,
> become righteous enough through your own works (whatever you think those may be),
> to become just before God, WITHOUT the imputation of Christ's perfection, you are
> out of the realm of straw-men and into the realm of making God out to be a liar.

Romans 6:7 says that one who has died, has been justified from sin (same word as was used in Rom. 4:5). Set free from sin, actually, not only declaratively so. Justification involves a real separation from sin, not a mere forensic declaration of a separation. When Christ came to set us free from sin (John 8:32-36), he gives us his own grace to purify us from all iniquity (Tit. 2:11-14). The whole Protestant analysis of Paul in Romans 3, 4, and 5 has been shown to be a fiction. God pours out his own divine life into the individual, a greater gift than just looking away from someone who is inherently unrighteous. God looks upon his adopted children as a Father to a Son, intrinsic to the Catholic concept of justification. The Protestant concept of justification has God taking part in what scripture has termed elsewhere an abomination (Prov. 17:15). That would make God a liar.


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