Faith is Not the Righteousness, Turretin

Turretin on faith and justification. (p75, Justification, ed Dennison, P and R, 1994)

First,the false mode of justification by faith (introduced by the Socinians and Romanists) must be removed. The act of believing is not considered as our righteousness with God by a gracious acceptation. A. Because receiving righteousness cannot be our righteousness itself formally. Rom 5:17-18)

B. Because faith is distinguished from the righteousness itself imputed to us, both because it is said to be “of faith” and “by faith” (Rom 1:17; 3:22; Phil 3:9) and because Christ with his obedience and satisfaction is that righteousness which is imputed to us (Is 53:11; Jer 23:6; I Cor 1:30; II Cor 5;21; Gal 3:13-14). Faith has this righteousness as its object, but with which it cannot be identified.

C. Because we are not justified except by a perfect righteousness. For we have to deal with the strict justice of God, which cannot be deceived. Now no faith here is perfect. Nor can it be considered as such by God and a gratuitous lowering of the law’s demands. For in the court of divine justice, there cannot be a room for a gracious acceptation which is an imaginary payment.

D. If faith is counted for righteousness, we will be justified by works because this faith cannot but have the relation of a work that justifies. And yet it is clear that in this business Paul always opposes faith to works as incompatible and two antagonistic means by which man is justified either by his own obedience or by another’s obedience.

“The faith of Abraham,” it is said, “was imputed to him for righteousness” (Gen 15:6; Rom 4:3). Not properly because in this way he would have been justified by works. But metonymically, faith is taken for its object (Gal 3:25), ie, for that which faith believes. (ie the promise, Gal 3:16)

Nor is this to wrest Scripture and to expose coldly the power of faith, as it is charged. Nay, no more clearly and truly can the genuine sense of that imputation be set forth. For since that thing which is imputed to us for righteousness ought to be our righteousness before God (that on account of which God justifies us), nor can faith be that, it is clear that this phrase is to be taken metonymically with regard to the object.

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3 Comments on “Faith is Not the Righteousness, Turretin”


    John Murray: We thus see that if we are to find the righteousness which supplies the basis of the full and perfect justification which God bestows upon the ungodly we cannot find it in anything that resides in us, nor in anything which God does in us, nor in anything which we do. We must look away from ourselves to something which is of an entirely different sort in an entirely different direction. What is the direction which the Scripture indicates?

    1. It is in Christ we are justified (Acts 13:39; Rom. 8:1; 1 Cor. 6:11; Gal. 2:17). At the outset we are here advised that it is by union with Christ and by some specific relation to him involved in that union that we are justified.

    2. It is through Christ’s sacrificial and redemptive work (Rom. 3:24; 5:9; 8:33, 34). We are justified in Jesus’ blood. The particular significance of this truth in this connection is that it is the once-for-all redemptive accomplishment of Christ that is brought into the centre of attention when we are thinking of justification. It is therefore something objective to ourselves and not the work of God’s grace in our hearts and minds and lives.

    3. It is by the righteousness of God that we are justified (Rom. 1:17; 3:21, 22; 10:3; Phil. 3:9). In other words, the righteousness of our justification is God’s righteousness. Nothing more conclusively demonstrates that it is not a righteousness which is ours. Righteousness wrought in us or wrought by us, even though it be altogether the grace of God and even though it be perfect in character [as the Roman Catholics say], is not a God-righteousness. It is, after all, a human righteousness. It the commanding insistence of the Scripture is that in justification, it is the righteousness of God which is revealed from faith to faith, and therefore a righteousness which is contrasted not only with human unrighteousness but with human righteousness. It is righteousness which is divine in quality. It is not, of course, the divine attribute of justice or righteousness, but, nevertheless, it is a righteousness with divine attributes or qualities and therefore a righteousness which is of divine property.

    4. The righteousness of justification is the righteousness and obedience of Christ (Rom. 5:17, 18, 19). Here we have the final consideration which confirms all of the foregoing considerations and sets them in clear focus. This is the final reason why we are pointed away from ourselves to Christ and his accomplished work. And this is the reason why the righteousness of justification is the righteousness of God. It is the righteousness of Christ wrought by him in human nature, the righteousness of his obedience unto death, even the death of the cross. But, as such, it is the righteousness of the God-man, a righteousness which measures up to the requirements of our sinful and sin-cursed situation, a righteousness which meets all the demands of a complete and irrevocable justification, and a righteousness fulfilling all these demands because it is a righteousness of divine property and character, a righteousness undefiled and inviolable.

  2. markmcculley Says:

    For Luther, justification by faith does not refer to faith as that which receives righteousness, but rather as the righteousness itself that God gives to the believer through the gospel.
    For Luther, faith is what truly fulfills the law of God. By ascribing to God truthfulness, faith fulfills every divine demand, according to Luther Unlike Calvin, Luther does not speak of faith as something empty in and of itself. For Luther, faith is the righteousness of a Christian.
    Luther’s argument that faith is the righteousness depends on a distinction between commands and promises, a distinction that would later be formulated in terms of law and gospel. I agree with that distinction between law and gospel, but I still (with Calvin at this point) reject the notion that faith is the righteousness, because Christ’s death (not faith) satisfies the law. The law requires either perfect obedience or death. Not both.
    Faith is not perfect obedience. Faith created in us by the gospel is not perfect obedience. Christ’s presence in us is not perfect obedience.
    Faith in Christ’s death is not the same thing as Christ’s death. The object of faith is not the same thing as faith. The presence of Christ in us is not the same thing as faith. The presence of Christ in us is not the righteousness. The object of faith is not Christ’s presence in us.

    Of course I reject Melanchthon’s reject of the bondage of the will and endorsement of synergism, but I do agree with Melanchton (and with Piper vs Seifrid) in making it clear that faith is NOT the righteousness.

    Luther is more Augustinian on the bondage of the will, but also more Augustinian in his view of justification being Christ in us (not what Christ works in us, as in Augustine) but nevertheless on faith in us, as Christ in us, as therefore the “alien righteousness” IN US.

    By 1543 Melanchthon locates righteousness in Christ and affirms that faith is merely an instrument that grasps Christ, and, as such, is intrinsically unworthy in itself: . . . we are righteous by faith, that is, through mercy for the sake of Christ we are righteous, not because faith is a virtue which merits the remission of sins . . . . Therefore we do not say that we are righteous by faith in the sense that this is a worthiness of such great power that it merits remission, but in the sense that there must be some instrument in us by which we lay hold upon our Mediator who intercedes for us, and on account of whom the eternal Father is favorable toward us. Melanchthon, Loci Communes 1543 (trans. Preus), p 109.

  3. markmcculley Says:

    John 3 is not only about the new birth and the work of the Holy Spirit.

    John 3 is about the great things which have happened outside of us and our hearts, things in heaven and earth. John 3 is about Christ and His finished death.

    Nobody has gone up to heaven but Christ. But Christ was not only lifted up to heaven but lifted up on the cross. As there is an analogy between the snake lifted up and Christ lifted up to die (just as, so the Son), the “God so loved the world” is not talking about how much but in what manner God has loved those who believe in Him. Christ’s death is God’s love, and the result of Christ’s death is that those for whom Christ died do not PERISH.

    John 3: 13 No one has ascended into heaven except the One who descended from heaven—the Son of Man. 14 Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, 15 so that everyone who believes in Him will have lasting eternal life.

    16 “For God loved the world in this way: He gave His One and Only Son,so that as many as who believe in Him will not perish but have the lasting life of the age to come.

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