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In four verses (Romans 3:24, 3:26, 3:28, and 4:5) the apostle Paul used present tense verbs when describing justification. What makes this harder is all four are either infinitives or participles, which makes the function of the verb much harder to understand. I am looking for any insights these might have on the timing of justification, i.e. when does justification occur. My hope is not on how to translate the present tense of these verbs (as there a lot of tools to help with that), but on the meaning if any the present tense suggests.

Here are the verses in Greek, with the verbs I am looking for in bold (All taken from the 2005 Robinson Byzantine text):

Romans 3:24 24 δικαιούμενοι δωρεὰν τῇ αὐτοῦ χάριτι διὰ τῆς ἀπολυτρώσεως τῆς ἐν χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ

Romans 3:26 26 ἐν τῇ ἀνοχῇ τοῦ θεοῦ· πρὸς ἔνδειξιν τῆς δικαιοσύνης αὐτοῦ ἐν τῷ νῦν καιρῷ, εἰς τὸ εἶναι αὐτὸν δίκαιον καὶ δικαιοῦντα τὸν ἐκ πίστεως Ἰησοῦ.

Romans 3:28 28 Λογιζόμεθα οὖν πίστει δικαιοῦσθαι ἄνθρωπον, χωρὶς ἔργων νόμου.

Romans 4:5 5 Τῷ δὲ μὴ ἐργαζομένῳ, πιστεύοντι δὲ ἐπὶ τὸν δικαιοῦντα τὸν ἀσεβῆ, λογίζεται ἡ πίστις αὐτοῦ εἰς δικαιοσύνην

For the most part there are not any significant textual issues, although verse 26 adds an article in front of the word ἔνδειξις ("proof") and in verse 28 there is a replacement of the conjunction οὖν with the conjunction γὰρ, in the critical Greek texts.

Any thoughts on how these are related to reckoning (λογίζομαι) would also be greatly appreciated.

  • @ruminator I was hoping for something on the significance of the present tense as it relates to the timing of justification. – Ken Banks May 1 '18 at 23:51
  • I modified the first paragraph for clarity. I can see how you may have misunderstood my wording. Please let me know if that clears it up. Thanks. – Ruminator May 2 '18 at 0:34
  • Ken, maybe you should modify your question to make it clear what you are fishing for. – Ruminator May 4 '18 at 4:07
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I think in all cases the person is justified at the moment of believing. This seems to be the purpose of 4:5, leading into the quote from Psalm 32. Paul clearly connects the imputation of righteousness to the forgiveness of sin in Psalm 32, even though David doesn't mention the imputation of righteousness. That these two acts of God are coincident seems to be supported by 5:1, in which the imputation of righteousness has resulted in a new situation where we enjoy peace with God experientially now (i.e., already).

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    I would agree with your conclusions, as to the timing of justification. I was hoping for a little that would explain why Paul used the present tense if justification occurs at the moment of salvation. – Ken Banks Apr 13 '18 at 12:15
  • Sorry. After team-preaching through Romans not long ago, I think it's rhetorical. His set-up in chs. 1 and 2 is often the same. Cheers. – Nick Uva Apr 14 '18 at 14:19
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In an inductive evaluation it is necessary to consider each passage rather than opine on what they must say based on a theology.

KJV unless otherwise noted.

Romans 3:34

In verse 34 Paul is speaking of the ongoing justification of sinners in the new age rather than the justification of one particular person. Since each day more sinners are being converted the justification of sinners as a group is something that takes place over the course of history. Therefore the present tense expresses the ongoing effects of the gospel over time:

Rom 3:21  But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets;  Rom 3:22  Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference:  Rom 3:23  For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;  Rom 3:24  Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus:  Rom 3:25  Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God;  Rom 3:26  To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus.

So the present continuous tense is appropriate.

Romans 3:26

In verse 26 God is the one who is justified. In the past he had "winked at" sin in that he failed to punish sinners (which was his job) without justification. It wasn't until Christ died as a propitiation that he supplied the justification for his past mercies as well as present and future mercies.

A propitiation is not to be confused with an atonement. Jesus' death is never said to be an atonement. The Levitic system was based on atonement. An atonement is an expression of remorse and an appeal for forgiveness and mercy which is made by (or on behalf of) a perpetrator. A propitiation on the other hand is made by a judge to express his/her commitment to public justice in the form of a gesture made publicly wherein the judge is fully identified with the victims of injustice and who remain un-avenged. That is, it is the judge's job to avenge every injustice:

Rom_12:19  Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine [ie: my responsibility]; I will repay, saith the Lord.

It is incumbent on the judge to uphold the law to give confidence to the victims to leave their case with him:

Rom_12:19  Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine [ie: my responsibility]; I will repay, saith the Lord.

Many Jews suffered innocently and yielded vengeance to God, the judge of all the earth. Yet the judge desired to be merciful. It was the innocent suffering of his son, offered as propitiation that justifies God to graciously forgive sinners. No such justification was required for God to forgive sins against himself but it was necessary to justify himself in the sight of his public to forego the punishment of repentant sinners.

So the present continuous sense applies in that from the time of Jesus' death forward God was just and the justifier of them who believe that Christ died for their sins.

Romans 3:28

In verse 28 Paul is describing the current and ongoing method of justification, which is by the principle/law of faith hence the present continuous tense is once again appropriate:

Rom 3:27  Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? of works? Nay: but by the law of faith.  Rom 3:28  Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law.

Romans 4:5

Again in 4:5 in the present dispensation believing on him that justifies, whether in Paul's day or ours and into the future, the faith of the ungodly is met with mercy and forgiveness. This is, in this age, an ongoing reality as more and more people trust the finished work of Christ:

Rom 4:5  But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.

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