10 May 2023
In our study of Galatians, we have noted how Paul ‘laboured’ to show that the true gospel and salvation is received by faith and how the keeping of the law cannot secure salvation.
It is interesting to see Paul making this very clear in Romans 3; here we note how Scripture is the best cross-reference to other parts of Scripture, affirming the truth in God’s revelation.
“Therefore no one will be declared righteous in God’s sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin. But now apart from the law the righteousness of God has been made known, in which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile. For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by His grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of His blood – to be received by faith” (Romans 3:20-25a TNIV).
“For we maintain that a person is justified by faith apart from observing the law” (Romans 3:28).
Surely these above passages make it very clear what Paul advocated in Galatians that there is no place in observing the law to secure justification in God, and that faith is primarily the path to justification by grace. Paul in Romans 3 also indicated that the Law and the Prophets (from the Old Testament) testify to this truth of justification by faith, resulting in a righteousness apart from keeping the law. The Old Testament also ‘supported’ this truth, and Paul subsequently elaborated how, through Abraham’s faith, God declared him righteous.
This affirms the need to know the ‘whole story and revelation’ of God from the Scriptures (from Genesis to Revelation) before we can discern truth from untruth or distortion of truth.
A working principle of ecumenical thought is that all doctrinal views held by sizable groups within Christendom are facets and fragments of God’s truth; this may sound very reasonable but we must pause here. The principle expressed goes on to claim that all these various facets of truth are complementary to each other and so these facets of truth should be fused together.
We stand on the ground that the above principle is a half-truth and a half-truth treated as the whole truth becomes a complete untruth.
It is very important to remember that the essential step to ‘sound doctrines’ is to bring all views – one’s own as well as those of others – to the touchstone of Scripture. This is a step which much ecumenical theology seems to overlook.
The truth is that it is not enough to labour at assimilating the various views of each other. Such labour may serve to promote better mutual understanding but we are not entitled to infer from the fact that a group of people are drawing nearer to each other that any of them is drawing nearer to the truth. Our first task must be to test all the words of men by the authoritative Word of God, to receive only what Scripture endorses, and to reject all that is contrary to it.
This is what the Apostle Paul did in his exhortations in Galatians and Romans, including reference to the Word of God in the Old Testament. This is what we ought also to abide by – this is what it means to defend the truth and to teach and elaborate on the truth God has chosen to reveal to us through the Holy Spirit. Failure to do this for fear of man or for the desire to be popular and well- received in the Christian world would incur the judgement of God and compromise the community of Jesus Christ.