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TorahTimes Messianic Ministry

Teaching Truths about Torah, Time, and Messiah

Justifying Reformed Theology by Torah

Abstract: The Greek verb translated in the sense “justify” (δικαιόω) does not mean “justify” in most of Paul’s usages. In first century Greek it meant “to satisfy justice” or “to administer justice” in a punitive sense. The term does not mean “to declare righteous,” “to acquit”, “make righteous” or “to prove right” in such cases (as claimed by most Christians). When Paul says “we account a man to be satisfying justice apart” (Rom. 3:28), he means that Messiah received the divine punitive justice that was due to us in our place as a substitute. He means that Messiah satisfied God’s punitive justice for us. Paul does not mean Messiah’s receipt of the stroke due to us results in us being ‘declared perfect’ in a moral sense. Only righteousness is satisfied (punitive justice). In no case is the sinner declared righteous or acquitted. Rather a guilty plea is entered, a sentence is decreed, and Messiah pays the sentence for the sinner who will repent and trust him.

The Protestant doctrine that the cross results in a declaration of righteousness, without being found righteous, is fundamentally based on a principle of lawlessness, since it justifies the guilty. It is also based on the implicit notion that God can be compensated for sin by legalistic restitution. The declaration of righteousness, said to be based on the imputation of Christ’s righteousness to the believer, is thought to compensate God for all of his losses, and to repair, and reverse, all wrongs done to him. Not even the righteousness of God can undo all the negative effects of sin. Therefore, the Most High demands only a punitive penalty be paid. Therefore, neither ending the case with “declared righteous” nor imputation of positive righteousness can satisfy compensatory justice. That doctrine is false, and its reason for being is lawlessness......

To justify something may mean to correct or straighten it out, or it may mean to acquit or prove it right. Here I intend to do justice to the Reformed doctrine of justification by faith alone through grace alone using the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. In this article, I am going to concentrate on the meaning of the word translated justify. First let us compare translations:

For we are accounting a man to be satisfying justice by faith­fulness apart from the traditional works. (Romans 3:28; Good News of Messiah, 3rd edition, Romans Ebook: 4th edition).

I should explain this right away, before listing the other versions: the main sense is that punative justice is accounted to be satisfied by Messiah’s faithfulness. This is not our faithfulness. It is His faithfulness to obey the Father’s commandment to die for our sins. His faithfulness to satisfy justice is without our works, which cannot satisfy punitive justice. I already proved that Paul is speaking of Messiah’s faithfulness in this other article. Since His faithfulness satisfies justice (of a punative nature), such satisfaction is without our works. Trying to satisfy punitive justice by good works is really a tradition. It was never prescribed by Torah, therefore it is best taken as traditional works, or legal works to satisfy divine justice against sin or to avoid the penalty. It should be understood that traditional works include any tradition, whether a legitimate law or an invented tradition, by which one seeks to satisfy punitive justice. I am not therefore particularly making a difference between works of law here and works of custom. The key to knowing whether one is obeying to satisfy punitive justice by his own works is simply if he denies if Messiah satisfied the whole penalty. Accepting Messiah is the same as acknowledging that we ourselves cannot satisfy the punitive penalty of sin.

Now I will list some other translations:

1. For we reckon that a man is declared right by belief without works of Torah [ISR, Institute for Scripture Research, 1998]

2. For we consider that a person is declared righteous by faith apart from the works of the law [NET (New English Translation) Bible]

3. Therefore, we hold the view that a person comes to be considered righteous by God on the ground of trusting, which has nothing to do with legalistic observance of Torah commands. [The Complete Jewish Bible, David Stern].

4. Therefore do we reckon a man to be declared righteous by faith, apart from works of law. [Young’s Literal Translation]

5. So we are made right with God through faith and not by obeying the law. [New Living Translation]

6. We determine therefore that by faith a man is made righteous and not by the works of The Written Law. [Aramaic Bible in Plain English].

7. We conclude that a person has God’s approval by faith, not by his own efforts. [God’s Word Translation]

8. For we maintain that it is as the result of faith that a man is held to be righteous, apart from actions done in obedience to Law. [Weymouth New Testament]

Finally here, I repeat the Good News of Messiah translation:

For we are accounting a man to be satisfying justice by faith­fulness apart from the traditional works. (Romans 3:28; Good News of Messiah, 3rd edition, Romans Ebook: 4th edition).

Firstly, it is plainly obvious that the concept of being declared righteous or made righteous without obeying the Law is a contradiction of the Law. So either Paul has been mistranslated, or Paul cannot be a true teacher. Those are the only two choices here. The Torah says, From a false matter you shall keep far and clear, and the righteous you shall not slay, because I will not declare the wicked righteous (Exodus 23:7). The Almighty says here that not only are the judges not to declare a law breaker righteous, but He himself will not declare a lawbreaker righteous. Torah also says, If there be strife between men; then let them themselves approach the judges: when they will have judged them, then they will have declared righteous the righteous one, and they will have declared evil the wicked one (Deut. 25:1).

The Scripture also says, And it will be righteousness for us when we watch to do all this commandment before Yahweh our Almighty just as he has commanded us (Deut. 6:25). It also says, And they were both righteous before the Almighty walking in all the commandments and ordinances of Yahweh blamelessly (Luke 1:6). It also says, Wasn’t Abraham, our Father declared righteous by works (Jam. 2:21). And the Scripture was fulfilled, And he had made his support on Yahweh, and it was counted to him as righteousness (Gen. 15:6). One who does not support the one who supports them has no fidelity. Abraham’s trusting faithfulness was counted as righteousness. Even the initial act of believing is in obedience to the Law. For believing is a test, And you will have remembered all the way which Yahweh your Almighty has caused you to go this forty years in the wilderness, in order to humble you, to test you, to know what is in your heart, if you would keep his commandments or not (Deu. 8:2).

Since our fidelity must be tested, it is abundantly clear that the Most High is not causing us to be faithful. He is expecting us to be faithful in response to His faithfulness, and such faithfulness as we have is righteousness, and counted as righteousness. Is it then necessary to condemn Paul as a false teacher? Or is he just mistranslated and misunderstood? The latter answer is correct. In the Greek language, the primary sense of the verb δικαιόω was not declare righteous or justify. The English word justify in respect to persons almost always means to acquit or to prove to be in the right. To be justified without works in English means to be acquitted without actually being right. It is a contradition of the very terms used. The Almighty said he will not do that. So we must discover the primary meaning of the Greek word Paul used. The first meaning of δικαιόω is “to do justice” “to administrate justice” in such a way that punitive justice is satisfied or carried out to a lawbreaker, or on behalf of a lawbreaker. I have provided this archive of documentation to prove the matter. I suggest that all doubters look over all the examples and the photos I have provided from the Greek dictionaries.

I translate the word as to satisfy justice. This means that such punitive justice as God requires in the case of the sinner is fully satisfied. It does not mean that the sinners case ends with an acquittal. If an unrepentant sinner is tried, the punitive justice is satisfied with the eternal death of the sinner. If a repentant sinner is tried, and pleads guilty, then Messiah proves an alternative way to satisfy justice. If the sinner accepts it, then Messiah pays the punitive penalty on behalf of the sinner. This is the justice required for the repentant sinner. The Father has determined to accept Messiah’s suffering and temporary death as fulfilling his requirement for punitive justice. The sinner is justiced or administered justice via Messiah’s acceptance of the penalty.

Probably the most literal way to understand the original language is by turning the noun justice into a verb, to justice. The sinner is justiced by Messiah. The English word justify has been used euphemistically for the condmening of criminals, but such usage is archaic and is no longer any modern sense. I would like now to show why the Scripture cannot mean declared righteous in any sense, even if someone admits that the doers of the law are righteous. To do this I will have to explain the various forms of justice along with the Reformed theory of justification.

The Reformed theory of justification proposes that the righteous perfection of Messiah, who never sinned, is legally transferred to the account of the sinner. God then views the account having only righteousness in it, and as a judge dismisses the case with an acquittal. The sinner is declared not guilty. In the Reformed theory, the death of Christ effects the transferrence of his righteousness to the account of the believer. This is a “just as if I had never sinned” theory. Reformers are often quick to deny that it is “just as if I had never sinned”, but that is exactly what it is. For they claim that all justice is perfectly satisfied. In that claim lies the real problem.

The claim implicit in substitutionary righteousness to satisfy justice depends on the philosophy that substitutionary righteousness compensates God for sin. And if any substitutionary righteousness can compensate God for sin, then perfect substitutionary righteousness may compensate God for all sin. This is the real philosophy behind the Reformed teaching of imputed righteousness, whether they will admit to it or not. It is a logical necessity. If Reformed theologians deny that substitutionary righteousness compensates God for sin, then there is no point in the idea in the first place. Substitutionary righteousness in reformed theology is not an actual imputation of righteousness to sanctify us (which really has a legitimate purpose). Rather they regard it as forensic righteousness which is legally accounted. This has no purpose except to get the judge to declare the sinner innocent. It is a legal fraud, a shell game.

Substitutionary righteousness raises the question of whether God can be justly compensated for all sin. So we have to make a distinction between compensatory justice and punitive justice. Compensatory justice repairs all the damages due to sin. Perfect compensatory justice requires the undoing of all the suffering and death caused by sin. One can see therefore that perfect compensatory justice is impossible. The fact of suffering caused by sin cannot be erased. The only pefect compensation is if the suffering was never caused to happen in the first place. Punitive justice, on the other hand, is an expression of anger, wrath, and disgust against sin. Punitive justice takes an eye for an eye, tooth for tooth, limb for limb, and life for life. Punitive justice does not restore the victim of a murderer to life again. Punative justice does not bring back the eye maliciously put out by the sinner.

The Scripture, therefore, establishes a standard of punative justice for sin, and a necessity to satisfy punative justice by means of the sinner paying the penalty or a substitute paying the penalty. It does not establish a standard of perfect compensatory justice for the forgiveness of sins. Perfect justice requires both punative justice and compensatory justice to be satisfied, but since full compensation for sin is impossible, the scripture does not seek perfectly equitable justice. God in his mercy cannot both at the same time undo all the causes of sin and satisfy perfect and equitable compensatory justice. Therefore, the demand for perfect compensation is dropped from his legal means of forgiveness. A punative justice only is sought after, and this in His mercy is paid by Messiah.

Messiah paid our penalty. The penalty was the punative justice that the Father determined was necessary. Punative justice is based on an equitable principle, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, limb for limb, life for life. A sinner can compensate a victim only in certain cases, such as property loss, or doctoring expenses. Even though the principle of punative justice is based on equity, it does not repair the damages. That is why it is punative justice. The damage of sin to the forgiven sinner is repaired by the resurrection life of Messiah, but the damage to any other unsaved party is not repaired, and the damage to God caused by the loss of the unsaved is not repaired. Even punishment of the wicked in the fire of Hell does not compensate God for the loss of the sinner. Even the eternal conscious torment that some advocate cannot compensate God. It cannot compensate God because it does not bring those killed by sin back to life.

Substitutionary righteousness falsely teaches that the Most High can be compensated. The Almighty desires us to become righteous, and to make us righteous, but this in no way compensates him for his loss. If we think we lost something due to the sin of others, rest assured that Yahweh has lost more. His only recourse is to demand a punative penalty to express his wrath against sin, and then to make a way that the penalty can be paid by a willing substitute (himself) so that he can forgive sin. Forgiveness is a remission of further punishement. Forgiveness is a forgoing of further demands for compensation, or a droping of such demands where impossible.

Substitutionary righteousness makes the sinner feels as if atonment has paid the Most High off completely and utterly for the consequences of sin. Therefore, the sinner returns to his sin thinking that they can return to the priest and obtain absolution after their penance. Trusting in substitutionary righteousness is no contrition for sin at all. It is a substitute for repentance, and a misunderstanding of forgiveness. Since Paul dealt so clearly with the notion that our good works pay off sin, the philosophers in the Church kept the principle and imply that Messiah’s righteousness compensates sin, so as to avoid saying that the sinners good works do that. The sinner who feels 100% righteous in God’s sight has faith in a illusion of righteousness. And having faith in an illusion of righteousness is a stumbling block to the seeking of real genuine righteousness that flows from the faithfulness of Messiah.

Is it any different that the Church of Rome teaches infused righteousness, in which the believer is said to actually be righteous in an inward mystical sense? There are also some who claim to be perfect, and that they are cleansed from all sin, and not just being cleansed from sin, or cleansed from condemnation. But these are also illusions of righteousness, based on unbiblical philosophies. God does not give a darn about substitutionary righteousness of any form, which is an illusion to make the unsaved feel like they are saved. If they really understood how much the Most High was forgiving, they would not presume on it by inventing these other theories.

There is a theory that is very common, that Messiah dying for the sins of the world means that the sins of the whole world are forgiven. What is missing is obvious: the sinner needs to repent accept Messiah and become faithful. What “died for the sins of the world” means is that he gave them a means of being saved (such was the extent of his love for the world), not that he unilaterally forgave all sin. Yet that is how this theory goes. It is almost universalism. But it is not always because those who hold this theory often say that if a person does not believe all sin is forgiven in Christ, then his penalty will be reinstated. But wait! Sinners generally do not believe that in the first place, so now we will say their sins are reinstated. There is no logic here. The theory is based on the philosoophy that compensation for all sin is possible except in the case where someone refuses the compensation.

So Messiah has satisfied justice for us. And this justice is of the limited nature of the suffering and one death that he died for us all. This is a punative penalty, which Messiah satisfied by being faithful to His Father’s commandment to lay down his life for sin, as a sin offering. The penalty is paid by His covenant faithfulness, and not by our keeping faith with him. It is not paid by our works, traditional or otherwise. It is not paid even by perfectly good works.

The doctrine of the Reformation essentially trades the concept of punitive justice taught in scripture against sin, and substitutes a principle of compensatory justice. This changes the view of God from a God who is just, and who demands justice tempered with mercy, to a God who demands full compensatory justice, and gets compensatory justice. At the same time reformed theologians continue to talk in terms of forgiveness and mercy. God does not like this mixture of a philosophy of compensation with his forgiveness. It is a stumbling block to sinners who think they are just in God’s eyes, and who think everything they do is paid for. The false doctrine mixed with some truth is a false compromise with the ungodly.

How did the mixture of truth (justice balanced with mercy) and error (the idea of compensation for God) get mixed together? The error was introduced by sinners who did not want to repent of their mortal sins. A mortal sin is a sin so serious that one cannot commit it and at the same time claim to be saved. A mortal sin must be repented. But many did not want to repent of their mortal sins. They still wanted to have a free conscience; they wanted to be condemnation free in their mortal sin. So they came up with a philosophy of salvation whereby God would be compensated for their mortal sin, and would not see their mortal sin. The mortal sin is the sin unto death that John speaks about. A mortal sin is not a sin of ignorance or circumstance. Paul lists such sins in Gal. 5 and says that those doing them will not inherit the kingdom of God. Unto the doctrine of substitutionary righteousness they also added once saved always saved so that salvation was not conditioned upon their repenting from mortal sins. They wanted it guaranteed apart from any subsequent sin on their part.

Now we do believe and teach the real imputation of righteousness through repentance and the instruction of the Spirit of Messiah. And for the full and complete imputation which comes from the faithfulness of Messiah, we do wait. For Messiah’s faithfulness to die satisfied justice. But Messiah’s faithfulness due to his divine life is what sanctifies us. He is restoring us until the last day, in which we are perfected. This righteousness is not offered to us as compensation for sin to satisfy punitive justice. It is offered as a free gift. It is real actual righteousness which is being infused into our hearts. It is not that we have caught up with perfection, but leaving what lies behind we pursue it. For we wait for the righteousness that comes by His faithfulness, and do pursue it by enduring in faithfulness to him.