Not What Kind of Faith, but What Kind of Righteousness

Many preachers sound like they thin k faith is the righteousness God accepts.
Of course it is good to talk about what kind of faith is necessary. But before we do that, we better talk about the object of faith, and better be clear that faith is not in faith but in the righteousness of Christ.

The “new perspective” tells us that Jews (converted and unconverted) never thought that they had to be perfect or that their works were meritorious. (For the most sophisticated version of this argument, see Roman Catholic WTS trained Robert Sungenis). This is partly right. Unconverted Jews DID THINK THAT they could be accepted without merit and with imperfect works. This is what they called “grace”. It is what many “Calvinists” today call grace.

But God is BOTH just and the Savior. This is the only God there is. God has obtained a perfect righteous by the obedience and death of the God-man and God gives His loved elect every blessing on the basis of the merit, the righteousness of our God and Savoir Jesus Christ. Even the gift of “precious faith” comes from this righteousness. (II Peter 1:1)

Faith not only comes from the righteousness. True faith has as its object this righteousness. Faith in one’s regeneration is idolatry, if the object of that is not what Christ did in His death and obedience.

The righteousness of God is not faith, not even faith with the right object, the correct doctrine, and in the true God. To believe the true God’s gospel is to believe that faith and works are not the righteousness, but the fruit and effect of righteousness.

The new perspective has a distinction between works and ceremonial works. This is not new to Dunn or Garlington: it was what the Roman Catholics tried to tell John Calvin. Moo and Westerholm and Schreiner and many others have shown that all works of any kind are being excluded in the antitheses in Gal 2:16, in Eph 2:8-9, in Romans 9:11–(the children not being born, nor having done any good or evil, that the purpose of election might stand, not of works but of him who calls), in Romans 11:6 (if by grace, it is no longer of works; if of works, no longer grace.)

The contrast is not only with ceremonial works, since God justifies THE UNGODLY WHO DO NOT WORK. Romans 4 is confirmed by Romans 9:30-31. The problem is not that some sinners try to get righteousness from the law the wrong way, where others sinners obey or believe the right way.

The problem is that no sinner gets righteousness by obeying the law anyway, and that elect sinners get righteousness by imputation. And what is imputed is not faith and works, but what Christ did. By that obedience the many are constituted righteous. Romans 5:19

But that is “forensic”, not transformational.. So the new perspective attempts to ignore (but not deny, especially for the “getting in” part) the forensic part and focus on the “live of faith” transformational part. But God’s law and verdict cannot be ignored, and so the new perspective ends up teaching a future justification (never in this life) based on perseverance.

Perseverance is what the new perspective thinks God counts as the righteousness. No problem, no merit, we are still Reformed, they say, since God is the one who makes us persevere.

There are major problems here. 1. The new perspective is persevering in idolatry. His faith may continue, but the object of his faith is not the righteousness obtained by Christ’s fulfillment and satisfaction of the law, by which Christ perfected the saints. (Heb 10:14). 2. The righteousness is what Christ did, not what Christ is doing in us now. What Christ is doing in those who truly are submitted to the gospel is vital and necessary, but is not necessary for righteousness.

Christ is the end of the law for righteousness for all who believe. Romans 10:4. Christ’s finished work has finished what the law required for all the elect. That Christ was the person He was made His work the complete satisfaction it was!

Submission to the true gospel is not the righteousness. Quickening, faith, repentance, conversion are all the effects and fruit of the righteousness. But it is not possible to preach this or remember it if one does not preach that Christ died only for the elect. And even if one does preach that Christ died only for the elect, if one makes what God does IN those elect to be some of the righteousness, some of the object of faith, then one has rebelled against the rule of Galatians 6:14-16 that we are to glory only in the cross and to judge by that.

Since the unconverted do nothing but sin all the time, certainly there is less sin in those whom God has made to submit to the gospel. But this less sinning, this obeying, this submitting, none of it is the righteousness which God accepts as the reason for justifying one person (in the future) rather than another. At that future judgment of works, those who have already been resurrected and justified will not be judged;the unjustified workers shall be condemned. All their works will be judged as evil works

If faith means a life of works,.then Romans 11:6 means if works, not works, and if faith, not faith. But nobody cannot explain away the Biblical distinction between faith and works. Faith has an object not itself: faith receives righteousness, even the receiving of righteousness is the fruit of righteousness. Faith is not a work. The reason faith is not a work is not because faith is a gift of God. God causes and gives it to people so that they work also. (Eph 2:10 workmanship)

The reason faith is not a work is that faith has as it object the gospel of imputed righteousness. Faith is “unto” righteousness. Faith receives righteousness. Faith receives the atonement, the reconciliation. (Romans 5:11).

The new perspective seems to think that God forgives because of a combination of His grace and the sinner’s perseverance. Some sinners are more forgivable than others, because some sinners persevere more than others. This is self-righteousness.

God is just to forgive the elect sinners God loves because Christ obtained a righteousness which demands that these sinners be forgiven. If these sinners are not forgiven, then God is not just and the work of Christ hasn’t enough value. Every sinner God forgives will be given knowledge, commitment, faith and perseverance to abide in the true gospel.

No, the Jews (converted and unconverted) never thought they could keep the law perfectly. And yet those who were unconverted ignorantly tried to establish their own righteousness. (Romans 10:3) They said that they would be saved not by the merit of their works but by God’s “grace” accepting their works as righteousness established. They had not submitted to the righteousness revealed in the gospel. They say 1. our works God causes us to do. 2. our works are not merit. 3. our works are faith 4. God’s “grace” accepts our works as the righteousness required.

But God never has and never will accept anything as that required for justification but that GOD-righteousness produced by the God-man when He finished the work of reconciliation by His death and resurrection. Even though God works in the hearts of the elect to transform them, that transformation is a result of what Christ’s finished work. The work in the elect is the necessary result of the work for the elect. The work in the elect is not perfect, and is not the righteousness God requires.

The righteousness of faith is not faith. The righteousness of faith is the object of faith; the message to be believed is about what Christ did to satisfy the covenant will of God by which Christ the “Servant” did all that was necessary to merit every blessing for all those He was given. (John 17; Hebrews 10; Ephesians 1).

At this point, if I had been reading this when I was a proud lost Calvinist, I would have asked: do you mean “the covenant of grace”, and are you a “covenant theologian?”. I was easily distracted by many many things, and only the grace of God undistracted me so I attended to the important questions and stopped chasing all the others. I don’t care what you call it (God’s law, God’s covenant of redemption, the suretyship, whatever), but I know that the only true peace and joy found in this world is to be found by resting in what Christ did and not in my resting, not in my abiding..

The issue is not if Luther is wrong. The issue is that Christ did something for the elect and that this something that Christ did is itself (without anything added) all that is needed to guarantee and entitle the elect to every spiritual blessing in Christ. The blessings of faith, of commitment, of works, of perseverance are all results of that obedience of Christ, by which he made an end of the law for the elect FOR RIGHTEOUSNESS.

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One Comment on “Not What Kind of Faith, but What Kind of Righteousness”

  1. markmcculley Says:

    John Fesko– “That the righteous deeds of the saints….are given to the saints is evident in both Isaiah 61:10 and Revelation 19:8. When we correlate these data with Revelation 20:11-15 and the book of life of the Lamb that was slain (Rev. 20:12; 13:8), what emerges is that it is the obedience, or righteousness, of Christ that is imputed that is the ground of judgment for the believer. We see the same wedding-garment imagery connected with the work of Christ in Paul [Ephesians. 5:25-27) The bride of Christ, then, is clothed in righteousness which by imputation is the righteous deeds of the saints” ( Justification, p 327)

    Romans 14: 22 The faith that you have, keep between yourself and God. Blessed is the one who has no reason to pass judgment on herself for what she approves. 23 But whoever has doubts is condemned if she eats, because the eating is not from faith. For whatever does not proceed from faith is sin

    I Corinthians 4:5 Therefore do not pronounce judgment before the time, before the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart

    Revelation 2:17 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who conquers I will give some of the hidden manna, and I will give him a white stone, with a new name written on the stone that no one knows except the one who receives it.’

    Letter to Diognetus: “As the visible body contains the invisible spirit, so Christians are seen living in the world, but their religious life remains unseen.”

    Jonathan Malesic (PhD, University of Virginia), Secret Faith in the Public Square–”A majority of Republican primary voters told pollsters that it was important that a candidate share their religious commitments.”


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