Archive for the ‘Justification’ Category

Hart Documents Vatican II Watershed

January 25, 2013

Darryl Hart has posted an interesting item on the effect of Vatican II (link to post).  It is a point others have observed, but his documentation on the question of justification in Roman Catholic encyclopedias is especially eye-opening.  Hat’s off to DGH for this good post.

-TurretinFa

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Trent, Augustine, Scripture, and Justification

May 16, 2012

Trent makes a number of explicit claims about justification.

Of this Justification the causes are these:
the final cause indeed is the glory of God and of Jesus Christ, and life everlasting;
while the efficient cause is a merciful God who washes and sanctifies gratuitously, signing, and anointing with the holy Spirit of promise, who is the pledge of our inheritance;
but the meritorious cause is His most beloved only-begotten, our Lord Jesus Christ, who, when we were enemies, for the exceeding charity wherewith he loved us, merited Justification for us by His most holy Passion on the wood of the cross, and made satisfaction for us unto God the Father;
the instrumental cause is the sacrament of baptism, which is the sacrament of faith, without which (faith) no man was ever justified;
lastly, the alone formal cause is the justice of God, not that whereby He Himself is just, but that whereby He maketh us just, that, to wit, with which we being endowed by Him, are renewed in the spirit of our mind, and we are not only reputed, but are truly called, and are, just, receiving justice within us, each one according to his own measure, which the Holy Ghost distributes to every one as He wills, and according to each one’s proper disposition and co-operation.

Trent immediately explains:

For, although no one can be just, but he to whom the merits of the Passion of our Lord Jesus Christ are communicated, yet is this done in the said justification of the impious, when by the merit of that same most holy Passion, the charity of God is poured forth, by the Holy Spirit, in the hearts of those that are justified, and is inherent therein: whence, man, through Jesus Christ, in whom he is ingrafted, receives, in the said justification, together with the remission of sins, all these (gifts) infused at once, faith, hope, and charity.

Whether or not other aspects of Trent can be reconciled to Augustine, these conceptions are not consistent with Augustine. Augustine took the position that the thief on the cross had the faith that justifies without having baptism. To use Trent’s categories, the instrumental means for the thief was (in Augustine’s view) faith, not baptism.

Augustine connects the dots with Cornelius as well. Clearly he had the Spirit before baptism, which demonstrated his right standing with God (compare the argument about circumcision in Acts 15).
Augustine points out that the fact that the benefit can be invisibly applied (applied without the sacrament, the visible sign) should not lead us to scorn the sacrament. After all, even Cornelius was subsequently baptized.

Acts 10:30-48

And Cornelius said, “Four days ago I was fasting until this hour; and at the ninth hour I prayed in my house, and, behold, a man stood before me in bright clothing, and said, ‘Cornelius, thy prayer is heard, and thine alms are had in remembrance in the sight of God. Send therefore to Joppa, and call hither Simon, whose surname is Peter; he is lodged in the house of one Simon a tanner by the sea side: who, when he cometh, shall speak unto thee.’ Immediately therefore I sent to thee; and thou hast well done that thou art come. Now therefore are we all here present before God, to hear all things that are commanded thee of God.”
Then Peter opened his mouth, and said, “Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons: but in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him. The word which God sent unto the children of Israel, preaching peace by Jesus Christ: (he is Lord of all:) that word, I say, ye know, which was published throughout all Judaea, and began from Galilee, after the baptism which John preached; how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost and with power: who went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of the devil; for God was with him. And we are witnesses of all things which he did both in the land of the Jews, and in Jerusalem; whom they slew and hanged on a tree: him God raised up the third day, and shewed him openly; not to all the people, but unto witnesses chosen before God, even to us, who did eat and drink with him after he rose from the dead. And he commanded us to preach unto the people, and to testify that it is he which was ordained of God to be the Judge of quick and dead. To him give all the prophets witness, that through his name whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission of sins.”
While Peter yet spake these words, the Holy Ghost fell on all them which heard the word. And they of the circumcision which believed were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because that on the Gentiles also was poured out the gift of the Holy Ghost. For they heard them speak with tongues, and magnify God.
Then answered Peter, “Can any man forbid water, that these should not be baptized, which have received the Holy Ghost as well as we?”
And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord. Then prayed they him to tarry certain days.

Augustine goes on to say: “But what is the precise value of the sanctification of the sacrament (which that thief did not receive, not from any want of will on his part, but because it was unavoidably omitted) and what is the effect on a man of its material application, it is not easy to say.”
That’s perhaps the most troubling piece of all for those hoping to make Augustine in the image of Trent. Trent treats baptism itself as the instrumental means of justification, but it seems pretty clear that’s not what Augustine thinks.

And in case you think I’m speculating about his view on Cornelius, look at the parallel Augustine himself draws just shortly after:

And if any one seek for divine authority in this matter, though what is held by the whole Church, and that not as instituted by Councils, but as a matter of invariable custom, is rightly held to have been handed down by authority, still we can form a true conjecture of the value of the sacrament of baptism in the case of infants, from the parallel of circumcision, which was received by God’s earlier people, and before receiving which Abraham was justified, as Cornelius also was enriched with the gift of the Holy Spirit before he was baptized.

Notice what Augustine concedes: he concedes that baptism and circumcision are parallel, that Abraham was justified before circumcision, and that Cornelius was analogously “enriched with the gift of the Holy Spirit” before baptism.

If Rome would concede the same, we would find faith alone as the instrumental means of justification, rather than baptism. Moreover, we would find reputed righteousness, rather than actual righteousness, the formal cause. Whether that latter point is something that Augustine himself held, perhaps we can consider another time.

– TurretinFan

Clement of Rome and Bryan Cross – Justification by Faith Alone or Faith and Works?

May 2, 2012

I’m glad that my friend Lane Keister recently highlighted the point that 1 Clement teaches justification by faith alone. The author of 1 Clement (whether Clement is the author or the scribe is an open question) does clearly indicate that justification is by faith alone, and by faith to the exclusion of works of holiness.

The contemporary Roman response to this (and Bryan Cross’s response is illustrative of this category) is the same as their response to Paul’s similar clear teaching to the Romans (the ancient Romans) and the Galatians. That response is to attempt to divide justification up into parts, suggesting that initial justification could be by faith alone in some sense, while suggesting that final justification is by faith and works.

There are major and minor problems associated with this response. First, neither Paul nor the author of 1 Clement make this distinction. Second, Paul in Galatians denies this tactic: “Are ye so foolish? having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh?” (Galatians 3:3)

Next, notice that in their responses, Rome’s advocates invariably go to places where the author doesn’t mention justification. Bryan, to take an example, goes to Romans 5:5 and 1 Clement 12, 49, 50, 10 and 31, none of which mention justification.

The author of Clement does actually refer to the word justification in another place, and one in which he speaks about justification by works. The naive reader may be wondering whether Bryan has just overlooked this passage. No, there’s a good reason that Bryan does not go there. In that place, the author is using the term justification the way James does:

Seeing, therefore, that we are the portion of the Holy One, let us do all those things which pertain to holiness, avoiding all evil-speaking, all abominable and impure embraces, together with all drunkenness, seeking after change, all abominable lusts, detestable adultery, and execrable pride. “For God,” saith [the Scripture], “resisteth the proud, but giveth grace to the humble.” Let us cleave, then, to those to whom grace has been given by God. Let us clothe ourselves with concord and humility, ever exercising self-control, standing far off from all whispering and evil-speaking, being justified by our works, and not our words. For [the Scripture] saith, “He that speaketh much, shall also hear much in answer. And does he that is ready in speech deem himself righteous? Blessed is he that is born of woman, who liveth but a short time: be not given to much speaking.” Let our praise be in God, and not of ourselves; for God hateth those that commend themselves. Let testimony to our good deeds be borne by others, as it was in the case of our righteous forefathers. Boldness, and arrogance, and audacity belong to those that are accursed of God; but moderation, humility, and meekness to such as are blessed by Him.

(1 Clement 30)

In that place, the author of Clement is describing justification in the eyes of others. The author suggests that we should seek to be justified by our deeds as opposed to our words – much like the man in James who claims to have faith, but doesn’t show it by works.

But let’s turn to the passages that Bryan cites. First, let’s look at Chapter 12. Bryan cites the first line, but let’s look at the whole thing:

On account of her faith and hospitality, Rahab the harlot was saved. For when spies were sent by Joshua, the son of Nun, to Jericho, the king of the country ascertained that they were come to spy out their land, and sent men to seize them, in order that, when taken, they might be put to death. But the hospitable Rahab receiving them, concealed them on the roof of her house under some stalks of flax. And when the men sent by the king arrived and said “There came men unto thee who are to spy out our land; bring them forth, for so the king commands,” she answered them, “The two men whom ye seek came unto me, but quickly departed again and are gone,” thus not discovering the spies to them. Then she said to the men, “I know assuredly that the Lord your God hath given you this city, for the fear and dread of you have fallen on its inhabitants. When therefore ye shall have taken it, keep ye me and the house of my father in safety.” And they said to her, “It shall be as thou hast spoken to us. As soon, therefore, as thou knowest that we are at hand, thou shall gather all thy family under thy roof, and they shall be preserved, but all that are found outside of thy dwelling shall perish.” Moreover, they gave her a sign to this effect, that she should hang forth from her house a scarlet thread. And thus they made it manifest that redemption should flow through the blood of the Lord to all them that believe and hope in God. Ye see, beloved, that there was not only faith, but prophecy, in this woman.

The first point to note is that the author of Clement is describing the instrument of Rahab’s salvation from the destruction of Jericho. He’s not saying she was justified from her sins by a combination of faith and something else. Interestingly, this would seem to be Rahab’s initial act. So, if hospitality is a good work added to faith, then this would mean that her initial justification was not by faith alone. What an absurd result, even on Roman terms!

But note the spiritual lesson that the author of Clement derives. He actually states that she illustrates that redemption flows from the blood of Christ to all who “believe and hope in God.” When he comes to applying her physical salvation to spiritual salvation, her works are not in the picture – just her faith and hope in God. Yes, she places the thread in the window, but that thread for Clement illustrates Christ’s blood, not her deeds.

The second passage that Bryan goes to (twice, actually) is chapter 49 to which we will append chapter 50, since it was also excerpted and is a related thought:

(49)Let him who has love in Christ keep the commandments of Christ. Who can describe the [blessed] bond of the love of God? What man is able to tell the excellence of its beauty, as it ought to be told? The height to which love exalts is unspeakable. Love unites us to God. Love covers a multitude of sins. Love beareth all things, is long-suffering in all things. There is nothing base, nothing arrogant in love. Love admits of no schisms: love gives rise to no seditions: love does all things in harmony. By love have all the elect of God been made perfect; without love nothing is well-pleasing to God. In love has the Lord taken us to Himself. On account of the Love he bore us, Jesus Christ our Lord gave His blood for us by the will of God; His flesh for our flesh, and His soul for our souls.
(50) Ye see, beloved, how great and wonderful a thing is love, and that there is no declaring its perfection. Who is fit to be found in it, except such as God has vouchsafed to render so? Let us pray, therefore, and implore of His mercy, that we may live blameless in love, free from all human partialities for one above another. All the generations from Adam even unto this day have passed away; but those who, through the grace of God, have been made perfect in love, now possess a place among the godly, and shall be made manifest at the revelation of the kingdom of Christ. For it is written, “Enter into thy secret chambers for a little time, until my wrath and fury pass away; and I will remember a propitious day, and will raise you up out of your graves.” Blessed are we, beloved, if we keep the commandments of God in the harmony of love; that so through love our sins may be forgiven us. For it is written, “Blessed are they whose transgressions are forgiven, and whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord will not impute to him, and in whose mouth there is no guile.” This blessedness cometh upon those who have been chosen by God through Jesus Christ our Lord; to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.

Chapter 49 is a long praise of love and an exhortation for those who have love in Christ to obey the commandments of God. It is not an admonition to them to seek justification through observation of the commandments of God. Chapter 50, by contrast, is a suggestion to beg for love from God. While we are exhorted to love “so that through love our sins may be forgiven us,” notice that it does not say “through our love.” Notice as well that the author does not attribute the blessedness to the man who is most careful to keep the commandments, but rather to those chosen by God through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Continuing in the order that Bryan picked, let’s jump back to chapter 10:

Abraham, styled “the friend,” was found faithful, inasmuch as he rendered obedience to the words of God. He, in the exercise of obedience, went out from his own country, and from his kindred, and from his father’s house, in order that, by forsaking a small territory, and a weak family, and an insignificant house, he might inherit the promises of God. For God said to him, “Get thee out from thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house, into the land which I shall show thee. And I will make thee a great nation, and will bless thee, and make thy name great, and thou shall be blessed. And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse them that curse thee; and in thee shall all the families of the earth be blessed.” And again, on his departing from Lot, God said to him. “Lift up thine eyes, and look from the place where thou now art, northward, and southward, and eastward, and westward; for all the land which thou seest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed for ever. And I will make thy seed as the dust of the earth, [so that] if a man can number the dust of the earth, then shall thy seed also be numbered.” And again [the Scripture] saith, “God brought forth Abram, and spake unto him, Look up now to heaven, and count the stars if thou be able to number them; so shall thy seed be. And Abram believed God, and it was counted to him for righteousness.” On account of his faith and hospitality, a son was given him in his old age; and in the exercise of obedience, he offered him as a sacrifice to God on one of the mountains which He showed him.

Notice that the author of Clement describes here how Abraham is recognized as faithful. He is recognized as faithful by his obedience. Moreover, a reward was given him for his faith and hospitality, but that reward was not justification, not is it eternal life, but a son in his old age.

Then following Bryan’s hopping and skipping through 1 Clement, we come to chapter 31:

Let us cleave then to His blessing, and consider what are the means of possessing it. Let us think over the things which have taken place from the beginning. For what reason was our father Abraham blessed? was it not because he wrought righteousness and truth through faith? Isaac, with perfect confidence, as if knowing what was to happen, cheerfully yielded himself as a sacrifice. Jacob, through reason of his brother, went forth with humility from his own land, and came to Laban and served him; and there was given to him the sceptre of the twelve tribes of Israel.

Bryan seems to suppose that Abraham’s blessing referenced here is either justification or eternal life, but that’s not what 1 Clement says. Indeed, the blessings mentioned by Clement are largely temporal blessings. Abraham gets a son in his old age and Jacob gets a huge family. We see that it is not justification or eternal life that is in view, but other blessings when we look at the next chapter, chapter 32, which completes the thought:

Whosoever will candidly consider each particular, will recognize the greatness of the gifts which were given by him. For from him have sprung the priests and all the Levites who minister at the altar of God. From him also [was descended] our Lord Jesus Christ according to the flesh. From him [arose] kings, princes, and rulers of the race of Judah. Nor are his other tribes in small glory, inasmuch as God had promised, “Thy seed shall be as the stars of heaven.” All these, therefore, were highly honoured, and made great, not for their own sake, or for their own works, or for the righteousness which they wrought, but through the operation of His will. And we, too, being called by His will in Christ Jesus, are not justified by ourselves, nor by our own wisdom, or understanding, or godliness, or works which we have wrought in holiness of heart; but by that faith through which, from the beginning, Almighty God has justified all men; to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.

Notice how this chapter coming immediately on the heels of 31 undermines Bryan’s claims. Notice that even when it comes to these great gifts, the author of Clement says it was not “for their own sake, or for their own works,” taking back with one hand what he seemed to Bryan to give with the other hand. Moreover, it is at this very juncture that the author indicates that our justification is by faith alone.

It is remarkable how in his post Bryan tries to suggest that the question is about whether the author of Clement is talking about dead faith or not (“The question is this: Is he talking about about living faith (i.e. faith informed by the virtue of agape), or is he talking about dead faith (i.e. faith where there is not the virtue of agape)?”). One really wonders if Bryan seriously thinks that our position is that the author of Clement is suggesting that dead faith justifies. Of course, what Bryan means by “dead faith” and what we and James mean by “dead faith” are two different things. In Bryan’s attempt to re-frame the question away from justification by faith, he has simply added an additional layer of imposed meaning on the author of Clement. The author does not here distinguish between “dead” and “living” faith – and certainly does not do so in the sense that Bryan’s argument requires.

Moreover Bryan’s argument relies on a mis-framing of the real question. The real question is not whether the author of 1 Clement viewed love as a virtue or as good works. After all, while Trent did argue that Faith must be accompanied by both Love and Hope (Chapter VII), Trent also positively stated that men are justified through the works that they do:
Chapter X:

Having, therefore, been thus justified, and made the friends and domestics of God, advancing from virtue to virtue, they are renewed, as the Apostle says, day by day; that is, by mortifying the members of their own flesh, and by presenting them as instruments of justice unto sanctification, they, through the observance of the commandments of God and of the Church, faith co-operating with good works, increase in that justice which they have received through the grace of Christ, and are still further justified, as it is written; He that is just, let him be justified still; and again, Be not afraid to be justified even to death; and also, Do you see that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only. And this increase of justification holy Church begs, when she prays, “Give unto us, O Lord, increase of faith, hope, and charity.”

And this erroneous understanding of James’ epistle is irreformably made part of Rome’s dogma in at least two canons:
On Justification:
CANON XXIV.-If any one saith, that the justice received is not preserved and also increased before God through good works; but that the said works are merely the fruits and signs of Justification obtained, but not a cause of the increase thereof; let him be anathema.
CANON XXXII.-If any one saith, that the good works of one that is justified are in such manner the gifts of God, as that they are not also the good merits of him that is justified; or, that the said justified, by the good works which he performs through the grace of God and the merit of Jesus Christ, whose living member he is, does not truly merit increase of grace, eternal life, and the attainment of that eternal life,-if so be, however, that he depart in grace,-and also an increase of glory; let him be anathema.

What Rome anathematizes, we embrace – for it is the apostolic teaching of justification by faith alone apart from works. That’s the real question – not the question of whether love is properly a virtue.

– TurretinFan

Trent’s Anathemas Removed?

November 26, 2011

The White Horse Inn posted a program in which Michael Horton interviewed Christian Smith regarding, among other things, his conversion to the Roman communion.  Mr. Smith alleged that the Roman church moved toward the Lutheran position on justification and removed the anathemas that had been placed on the Lutherans in the Joint Declaration on Justification.

Mr. Smith is wrong, of course.  Nevertheless, it is interesting to see him make those kinds of claims.  It seems to show that despite alleging that his reasons for joining the Roman communion are “doctrinal,” Mr. Smith himself doesn’t really understand Rome’s doctrines.

Rome itself has, in a fairly official way, explained that the Lutheran view still appears to be within Trent’s anathemas:

The major difficulties preventing an affirmation of total consensus between the parties on the theme of justification arise in paragraph 4.4 The Justified as Sinner (nn. 28-30). Even taking into account the differences, legitimate in themselves, that come from different theological approaches to the content of faith, from a Catholic point of view the title is already a cause of perplexity. According, indeed, to the doctrine of the Catholic Church, in baptism everything that is really sin is taken away, and so, in those who are born anew there is nothing that is hateful to God.3 It follows that the concupiscence that remains in the baptized is not, properly speaking, sin. For Catholics, therefore, the formula “at the same time righteous and sinner”, as it is explained at the beginning of n. 29 (“Believers are totally righteous, in that God forgives their sins through Word and Sacrament…. Looking at themselves … however, they recognize that they remain also totally sinners. Sin still lives in them “) is not acceptable. This statement does not, in fact, seem compatible with the renewal and sanctification of the interior man of which the Council of Trent speaks.4 The expression “opposition to God” (Gottwidrigkeit) that is used in nn. 28-30 is understood differently by Lutherans and by Catholics, and so becomes, in fact, equivocal. In this same sense, there can be ambiguity for a Catholic in the sentence of n. 22, …”God no longer imputes to them their sin and through the Holy Spirit effects in them an active love”, because man’s interior transformation is not clearly seen. So, for all these reasons, it remains difficult to see how, in the current state of the presentation given in the Joint Declaration, we can say that this doctrine on “simul iustus et peccator” is not touched by the anathemas of the Tridentine decree on original sin and justification.

(Responses of the Catholic Church to the Joint Declaration, Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity – bold and underline emphasis added)

Horton provides some probing questions that gently expose some of the problems with Mr. Smith’s claims.  It’s not necessarily the style I would use (nor do I think it is the best style), but I think Horton does a good job within his own paradigm of interviewing.

-TurretinFan

Justification as Declaration of Righteousness

September 30, 2011

Here are some thoughts on Justification from the early church father John Chrysostom, courtesy of the great Reformer Thomas Cranmer and my friend (and fellow heir to the legacy of Chrysostom and Cranmer) David King:

Chrysostom (349-407): What does he mean when he says: “I have declared your justice?” He did not simply say: “I have given,” but “I have declared.” What does this mean? That he has justified our race not by right actions, not by toils, not by barter and exchange, but by grace alone. Paul, too, made this clear when he said: “But now the justice of God has been made manifest independently of the Law.” But the justice of God comes through faith in Jesus Christ and not through any labor and suffering.

Greek text: Τί ποτέ ἐστιν, Εὐηγγελισάμην δικαιοσύνην; Οὐκ εἶπεν ἁπλῶς, Ἔδωκα, ἀλλ’, Εὐηγγελισάμην. Τί δήποτε; Ὅτι οὐκ ἀπὸ κατορθωμάτων, οὐδὲ πόνων, οὐδὲ ἀμοιβῆς, ἀλλʼ ἀπὸ χάριτος μόνης τὸ γένος ἐδικαίωσε τὸ ἡμέτερον. Ὅπερ οὖν καὶ ὁ Παῦλος δηλῶν ἔλεγε· Νυνὶ δὲ χωρὶς νόμου δικαιοσύνη Θεοῦ πεφανέρωται· δικαιοσύνη δὲ Θεοῦ διὰ πίστεως Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ, οὐ διὰ καμάτου τινὸς καὶ πόνου.

Adversus Judaeos, VII, §3, PG 48:919; translation in Fathers of the Church, Vol. 68, Discourses Against Judaizing Christians, Disc. 7.3.2 (Washington, D.C.: The Catholic University of America Press, 1979), pp. 186-187.

Justification by Faith Alone – An Affirmative Constructive

June 28, 2011

The topic of today’s debate is Justification by Faith Alone. Martin Luther viewed this as one of the most critical doctrines of the Reformation – and that was even before Trent! Now that Trent has made Rome irreformable on the doctrine of justification by faith alone, it is impossible for Reformed and Roman churches to have communion.

However, we both claim that the Bible is authoritative, so let’s see what it tells us about Justification.

I. Justification is a Link in the Chain of Salvation
Romans 8:30 Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified.

This verse teaches us that Justification isn’t the whole of salvation, just an important link in the chain between predestination and calling (on one side) and glorification (on the other side).

II. Justified by Christ’s Blood
Romans 5:9 Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him.

The proper (and by proper, I mean formal) thing that justifies is the blood of Christ. It is His death that justifies us and assures us of salvation.

III. Not Justified by Doing the Law
Romans 2:12-13
For as many as have sinned without law shall also perish without law: and as many as have sinned in the law shall be judged by the law; (For not the hearers of the law are just before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified.

Romans 3:20 Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin.

These verses show us what doesn’t justify us. What doesn’t justify us is obeying the law. We can’t be righteous in the sight of God by obeying God’s law. So how then can we be justified in God’s eyes?

IV. Justification by Grace
Titus 3:7 That being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.

We are justified by grace. Of course, someone might say that grace can be complimentary to the law. In other words, you can be justified by grace and by the law. Thus, the comments about the law above would mean that we are not justified by the law alone, but by the law plus something else. So we can turn to the following:

V. Grace not Law
Galatians 5:4 Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace.

The answer to the question is a resounding “no.” It’s an either/or situation, not a both/and situation. You cannot seek to be justified by both. It’s either grace alone, or nothing.

We can see that again in:

VI. Justified by Christ not Personal Merit
Galatians 2:17 But if, while we seek to be justified by Christ, we ourselves also are found sinners, is therefore Christ the minister of sin? God forbid.

This one takes the opposite approach. It is asking whether you need both: do you need to be justified by Christ and by personal righteousness? The answer Paul gives is “no.” Now, how can you be justified by Christ by Grace?

The solution is:

VII. Justification by Faith
Romans 5:1 Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ:

Romans 3:30 Seeing it is one God, which shall justify the circumcision by faith, and uncircumcision through faith.

Galatians 3:8 And the scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the heathen through faith, preached before the gospel unto Abraham, saying, In thee shall all nations be blessed.

Each of these passages teaches us that justification is by or more properly (i.e. more precisely) through faith. In other words, faith is an instrumental means whereby we are justified.

And just so you can be sure that we are talking about the same kind of justification, we can see this confirmed:

VIII. Justification by Christ linked to faith
Acts 13:39 And by him all that believe are justified from all things, from which ye could not be justified by the law of Moses.

Notice that it is by Christ that those who believe are justified. They are justified from all things, from which the law couldn’t justify them. So, notice that the law / grace distinction is also a law / Christ distinction.

Justification is a declaration of righteousness, whereas the law produces a judgment of guilt. We can see that in an indirect way by looking at what the result of faith is – it is righteousness:

IX. The Righteousness that is By Faith
Hebrews 11:4-5
By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, by which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts: and by it he being dead yet speaketh. By faith Enoch was translated that he should not see death; and was not found, because God had translated him: for before his translation he had this testimony, that he pleased God.

Hebrews 11:7 By faith Noah, being warned of God of things not seen as yet, moved with fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his house; by the which he condemned the world, and became heir of the righteousness which is by faith.

Galatians 5:5 For we through the Spirit wait for the hope of righteousness by faith.

Romans 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:

Romans 1:17 For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith.

Notice that “obtained witness that he is righteous” and “God testifying of his gifts.” Moreover, notice how Noah is an “heir of the righteousness” which is by faith. Likewise, in the two passages in Romans, it is the “righteousness of God.”

But perhaps you might think that this righteousness is simply God enabling us to obey the law:

X. The Righteousness that is by Faith is not that which is of the law
Philippians 3:9 And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith:

Notice that Paul explicitly distinguishes the righteousness that is by faith, and personal righteousness, which Paul calls “mine own righteousness.”

Does the law have a place in connection with justification?

XI. The Law Points us to Christ, but Faith Justifies
Galatians 3:24 Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith.

Notice that the law of God is not completely cut out of the picture. It points to our own insufficiency, and consequently pushes us toward faith.

Nevertheless:

XII. Justification is by Faith, not Law
Galatians 2:16 Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.

Galatians 3:11 But that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, it is evident: for, The just shall live by faith.

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

Romans 9:31-32
But Israel, which followed after the law of righteousness, hath not attained to the law of righteousness. Wherefore? Because they sought it not by faith, but as it were by the works of the law. For they stumbled at that stumblingstone;

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

This should not come as a big surprise. In view of the Christ / law distinction and the grace / law distinction, the faith / law distinction should be almost common sense.

Indeed, grace and faith are linked:

XIII. Saved by Grace, through Faith
Ephesians 2:8 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:

2 Timothy 3:15 And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.

1 Peter 1:5 Who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.

Galatians 5:4-5
Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace. For we through the Spirit wait for the hope of righteousness by faith.

Romans 4:16 Therefore it is of faith, that it might be by grace; to the end the promise might be sure 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,

Romans 5:2 By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.

Romans 12:3 For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith.

Notice that it is God’s grace and power that saves, but through faith. The point is that it is not of ourselves. This also, somewhat indirectly, rules out personal merit. If we were justified in part by personal merit it might be God’s grace and power but also of ourselves. The Scriptures explicitly exclude such an interpretation.

Yet there is a faith / works connection:

XIV. Faith leads us to Work Righteousness
Hebrews 11:33 Who through faith subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions,

Hebrews 11:39 And these all, having obtained a good report through faith, received not the promise:

James 2:18 Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works.

James 2:26 For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.

Works are a fruit of faith. They aren’t what justify us in God’s sight, but they can show evidence to another man of our faith.

In other words, there can be another kind of justification:

XV. Justification – another Kind
Luke 16:15 And he said unto them, Ye are they which justify yourselves before men; but God knoweth your hearts: for that which is highly esteemed among men is abomination in the sight of God.

Luke 10:29 But he, willing to justify himself, said unto Jesus, And who is my neighbour?

James 2:24-26
Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only. Likewise also was not Rahab the harlot justified by works, when she had received the messengers, and had sent them out another way? For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.

This kind of justification is justification in the eyes of men. In other words, will men condemn or praise us? Men praise Rahab because she acted.

But do the Scriptures contrast these two kinds of justification?

XVI. Contrast between two kinds of justification
1 Corinthians 4:3-4
But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged of you, or of man’s judgment: yea, I judge not mine own self. For I know nothing by myself; yet am I not hereby justified: but he that judgeth me is the Lord.

James 2:21 Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar?

Romans 4:2-5 For if Abraham were justified by works, he hath whereof to glory; but not before God. For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness. Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt. But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.

Notice how Paul distinguishes between the two kinds of justification, and how a comparison of James and Paul show us that they are talking about two different things. Some people seem to try to pit Paul against James and to claim that while Paul says Abraham is not justified by works, but by faith, James says the opposite. The better understanding is that James is talking about how we see faith, not about what justifies us in God’s eyes. Works never justify us in God’s eyes.

I should point out that it is not farfetched to think that “justified” can refer to something else besides the formal justification of man in God’s eyes. The Scriptures provide at least two other examples:

XVII. God Justified
Romans 3:4 God forbid: yea, let God be true, but every man a liar; as it is written, That thou mightest be justified in thy sayings, and mightest overcome when thou art judged.

Luke 7:29 And all the people that heard him, and the publicans, justified God, being baptized with the baptism of John.

And:

XVIII. Wisdom Justified
Luke 7:35 But wisdom is justified of all her children.

Neither wisdom nor God is justified in the way that sinners are justified in God’s sight, but nevertheless the same word is used, because it relates to passing a favorable judgment.

That leads us to a simple definition of justification:

XIX. What is Justification? It is the Opposite of Guilt and Condemnation
Matthew 12:37 For by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned.

Romans 8:33 Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God’s elect? It is God that justifieth.

And this is where we can sum up our positive Biblical presentation on Justification by Faith Alone. We have shown that the Scriptures teach this important doctrine, therefore, we ought to believe it.

-TurretinFan

P.S. The above is the affirmative constructive speech for a debate that was originally scheduled for today. Perhaps I’ll use it when the debate actually happens, or perhaps not. In any event, I welcome any comments on the arguments or criticism of the arguments, from anyone interested.

The Law Justified Christ

April 11, 2011

Someone going by “Todd” (profile not available) wrote:

Your first counterargument is that “Christ fulfilled the law. The law didn’t condemn Christ, it justified Him.” I’m going to ignore the bizarre phrasing that the Law justified Christ, which hints at all sorts of problems. But more to the point, you seem to completely miss who the Law is for. Is it for God? Or did God give it to us sinners? You’d think the answer would be obvious, and yet you feels the need to point out that Christ was not a sinner. Duh. When Lutherans say “the Law always accuses”, we are not talking to Jesus, we are talking to fellow sinners.

I answer:

It’s a pity Todd ignored it. It’s an important point, something that Todd may not understand. Justification is a declaration of righteousness. As to those who are under the law, the law declares all (except Christ) to be sinners. The law accuses them.

This is why works righteousness as means of salvation is not just wrong, it’s stupid. Scripture puts it this way:

Romans 3:19-20

Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God. Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin.

The way that law could, in theory, justify someone is by the person perfectly obeying the law.

Romans 2:13

(For not the hearers of the law are just before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified.

Christ was justified in this way: he obeyed the law perfectly. This use of the term justify is found not only in the New Testament, but in the Old Testament:

Deuteronomy 25:1

If there be a controversy between men, and they come unto judgment, that the judges may judge them; then they shall justify the righteous, and condemn the wicked.

That is the role of judges: to declare the righteous and the innocent.

Moreover, the idea of justifying God is similarly to be found in the Old Testament:

Job 32:2

Then was kindled the wrath of Elihu the son of Barachel the Buzite, of the kindred of Ram: against Job was his wrath kindled, because he justified himself rather than God.

Notice that what Elihu wanted was for Job to declare God righteous and for Job to declare himself to be a sinner. But Elihu felt as if Job had declared himself to be righteous.

David provides us with a positive example:

Psalm 51:4

Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight: that thou mightest be justified when thou speakest, and be clear when thou judgest.

See this similar New Testament example:

Luke 7:29

And all the people that heard him, and the publicans, justified God, being baptized with the baptism of John.

So, you see, if one gets too immersed in justification by faith, one may miss the broader context of justification as a declaration of righteousness.

We actually see the idea of an imputed righteousness (negatively) in the Old Testament:

Isaiah 5:23

Which justify the wicked for reward, and take away the righteousness of the righteous from him!

What is remarkable here is that unjust judges are being blamed for accepting a bribe to declare a guilty person as not being guilty.

Later in Isaiah, however, we see that something similar (though proper and legitimate) is going to take place in Christ:

Isaiah 45:25

In the LORD shall all the seed of Israel be justified, and shall glory.

Isaiah 53:11

He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied: by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities.

This gospel message is later explained by the apostles:

Acts 13:39

And by him all that believe are justified from all things, from which ye could not be justified by the law of Moses.

This is, indeed, the critical point that struck home with Luther as it should also with you:

Galatians 2:16-17

Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified. But if, while we seek to be justified by Christ, we ourselves also are found sinners, is therefore Christ the minister of sin? God forbid.

Roman apologists (and not just them) love to try to tell folks that the law here means simply circumcision and the ceremonial laws. But Paul goes on to explain the imputation of Christ’s righteousness rather than our personal righteousness, explaining it this way:

Galatians 2:18-21

For if I build again the things which I destroyed, I make myself a transgressor. For I through the law am dead to the law, that I might live unto God. I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me. I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain.

In short, therefore, recall that we are justified by faith. We trust in Christ for our righteousness – not in our own works or in the works of some other creature, whether Mary, a martyr, or a saint. In Christ we die to the law. In that dread transaction, our sins are laid to his account, and though the law justified him, we are declared righteous, he is declared unrighteous, and he is crucified for us. We take his death for our sins, and we therefore live. Thus, our righteousness does not come by the law, but by the grace of God in Christ. The law no longer accuses us (as I explained in my previous post), because we are no longer under the law.

Paul beautifully explains it this way (by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit):

Galatians 4:3-5

Even so we, when we were children, were in bondage under the elements of the world: but when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, to redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons.

-TurretinFan

Lex Semper Accusat? Does the law always accuse?

April 8, 2011

Some folks like to throw around the mantra “lex semper accusat” (the law always accuses). This mantra may have value, and may even serve a didactic purpose in certain contexts. It is, however, theologically inaccurate.

A First Exception: Christ
Christ fulfilled the law. The law didn’t condemn Christ, it justified Him. Pilate testified to this:

Luke 23:4 Then said Pilate to the chief priests and to the people, I find no fault in this man.

Luke 23:14 Said unto them, Ye have brought this man unto me, as one that perverteth the people: and, behold, I, having examined him before you, have found no fault in this man touching those things whereof ye accuse him:

John 18:38 Pilate saith unto him, What is truth? And when he had said this, he went out again unto the Jews, and saith unto them, I find in him no fault at all.

John 19:4 Pilate therefore went forth again, and saith unto them, Behold, I bring him forth to you, that ye may know that I find no fault in him.

John 19:6 When the chief priests therefore and officers saw him, they cried out, saying, Crucify him, crucify him. Pilate saith unto them, Take ye him, and crucify him: for I find no fault in him.

A General Condemnation
Aside from Christ, the law condemns everyone, for all have sinned.

Romans 3:23 For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;

And consequently (Christ excluded) the law cannot justify anyone:

Romans 3:20 Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin.

Romans 2:13 (For not the hearers of the law are just before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified.

Law’s Condemnatory Power Destroyed
But for those who are in Christ, the law has lost its condemnatory power.

Romans 8:1 There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.

Indeed, it is impossible for those who are justified to be condemned by the law any longer.

Romans 8:33 Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God’s elect? It is God that justifieth.

Law’s Other Uses
Moreover, both before and after we are justified by grace through faith in Christ alone, the law has other uses. For example, the law has an evangelical use – it brings us to Christ:

Galatians 3:24 Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith.

Moreover, the law enables us to express our love to God:

John 14:15 If ye love me, keep my commandments.

1 John 5:3 For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous.

And I could go on and on. The law has a thousand uses, many of which are celebrated in Psalm 119.

-TurretinFan

The Alternative to the Gospel of Justification by Faith Alone

January 13, 2010

“The Alternative to the Gospel of Justification by Faith Alone,” is the title of a recent post by Pastor Wes White. The answer, of course, is justification by faith plus works. Pastor White suggests that:

Now, when most people think of being justified by works, they think of someone staying up late at night saying prayers, giving up all their money, or watching scrupulously over every action to make sure they are accepted by God. But where are such people? Maybe there are a few here and there, but we don’t see many of them.

Pastor White goes on to suggest that the usual form of practical error with respect to justification takes on a different form: (read his post to find out).

Some Early Christian Writings on Justification

December 5, 2009

Clement of Rome on Justification:

And we, too, being called by His will in Christ Jesus, are not justified by ourselves, nor by our own wisdom, or understanding, or godliness, or works which we have wrought in holiness of heart; but by that faith through which, from the beginning, Almighty God has justified all men; to whom be glory for ever and ever.

– Clement of Rome, (his, not Paul’s) 1st Epistle to the Corinthians, Chapter 32

Ignatius on Justification:

But to me Jesus Christ is in the place of all that is ancient: His cross, and death, and resurrection, and the faith which is by Him, are undefiled monuments of antiquity; by which I desire, through your prayers, to be justified.

– Ignatius, Letter to the Philadelphians, Chapter VIII (Short Version)

To such persons I say that my archives are Jesus Christ, to disobey whom is manifest destruction. My authentic archives are His cross, and death, and resurrection, and the faith which bears on these things, by which I desire, through your prayers, to be justified.

– Ignatius, Letter to the Philadelphians, Chapter VIII (Long Version)

Mathetes on Justification:

But when our wickedness had reached its height, and it had been clearly shown that its reward, punishment and death, was impending over us; and when the time had come which God had before appointed for manifesting His own kindness and power, how the one love of God, through exceeding regard for men, did not regard us with hatred, nor thrust us away, nor remember our iniquity against us, but showed great long-suffering, and bore with us, He Himself took on Him the burden of our iniquities, He gave His own Son as a ransom for us, the holy One for transgressors, the blameless One for the wicked, the righteous One for the unrighteous, the incorruptible One for the corruptible, the immortal One for them that are mortal. For what other thing was capable of covering our sins than His righteousness? By what other one was it possible that we, the wicked and ungodly, could be justified, than by the only Son of God? O sweet exchange! O unsearchable operation! O benefits surpassing all expectation! that the wickedness of many should be hid in a single righteous One, and that the righteousness of One should justify many transgressors!

– Mathetes, Letter to Diognetus, Chapter 9

Justin Martyr on Justification:

For if there was no need of circumcision before Abraham, or of the observance of Sabbaths, of feasts and sacrifices, before Moses; no more need is there of them now, after that, according to the will of God, Jesus Christ the Son of God has been born without sin, of a virgin sprung from the stock of Abraham. For when Abraham himself was in uncircumcision, he was justified and blessed by reason of the faith which he reposed in God, as the Scripture tells. Moreover, the Scriptures and the facts themselves compel us to admit that He received circumcision for a sign, and not for righteousness.

– Justin Martyr, Dialogue with Trypho, Chapter 23

Irenaeus on Justification:

And again, confirming his former words, he says, “Even as Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness. Know ye therefore, that they which are of faith are the children of Abraham. But the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the heathen through faith, declared to Abraham beforehand, That in thee shall all nations be blessed. So then they which are of faith shall be blessed with faithful Abraham.”47304730 Gal. iii. 6, etc. Thus, then, they who are of faith shall be blessed with faithful Abraham, and these are the children of Abraham. Now God made promise of the earth to Abraham and his seed; yet neither Abraham nor his seed, that is, those who are justified by faith, do now receive any 562 inheritance in it; but they shall receive it at the resurrection of the just. For God is true and faithful; and on this account He said, “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.”

– Irenaeus, Against Heresies, Book 5, Chapter 32, Section 2

For the Lord is the good man of the house, who rules the entire house of His Father; and who delivers a law suited both for slaves and those who are as yet undisciplined; and gives fitting precepts to those that are free, and have been justified by faith, as well as throws His own inheritance open to those that are sons.

– Irenaeus, Against Heresies, Book 4, Chapter 9, Section 1

And that man was not justified by these things, but that they were given as a sign to the people, this fact shows,— that Abraham himself, without circumcision and without observance of Sabbaths, “believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness; and he was called the friend of God.” Then, again, Lot, without circumcision, was brought out from Sodom, receiving salvation from God. So also did Noah, pleasing God, although he was uncircumcised, receive the dimensions [of the ark], of the world of the second race [of men]. Enoch, too, pleasing God, without circumcision, discharged the office of God’s legate to the angels although he was a man, and was translated, and is preserved until now as a witness of the just judgment of God, because the angels when they had transgressed fell to the earth for judgment, but the man who pleased [God] was translated for salvation. Moreover, all the rest of the multitude of those righteous men who lived before Abraham, and of those patriarchs who preceded Moses, were justified independently of the things above mentioned, and without the law of Moses. As also Moses himself says to the people in Deuteronomy: “The Lord thy God formed a covenant in Horeb. The Lord formed not this covenant with your fathers, but for you.”

– Irenaeus, Against Heresies, Book 4, Chapter 16, Section 2

The Lord, therefore, was not unknown to Abraham, whose day he desired to see; nor, again, was the Lord’s Father, for he had learned from the Word of the Lord, and believed Him; wherefore it was accounted to him by the Lord for righteousness. For faith towards God justifies a man; and therefore he said, “I will stretch forth my hand to the most high God, who made the heaven and the earth.”

– Irenaeus, Against Heresies, Book 4, Chapter 5, Section 5

For “all men come short of the glory of God,”41834183 Rom. iii. 23. [Another testimony to the mercy of God in the judgment of the unevangelized. There must have been some reason for the secrecy with which “that presbyter’s” name is guarded. Irenæus may have scrupled to draw the wrath of the Gnostics upon any name but his own.] and are not justified of themselves, but by the advent of the Lord,—they who earnestly direct their eyes towards His light.

– Irenaeus, Against Heresies, Book 4, Chapter 27, Section 2

And that the Lord did not abrogate the natural [precepts] of the law, by which man [Editor’s footnote: That is, as Harvey observes, the natural man, as described in Rom. ii. 27.] is justified, which also those who were justified by faith, and who pleased God, did observe previous to the giving of the law, but that He extended and fulfilled them, is shown from His words. “For,” He remarks, “it has been said to them of old time, Do not commit adultery. But I say unto you, That every one who hath looked upon a woman to lust after her, hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.”

– Irenaeus, Against Heresies, Book 4, Chapter 13, Section 1

-TurretinFan


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