Do we Continue to Be Being Justified? Is This Because of Continuing Faith or Because of Continuing Works

Matt Perman explains the difference between “hard legalism” and “soft Legalism”. Soft legalists (Augustinians) give God the credit for the works which they do which they think are necessary for final salvation.

“Since works of the law are not faith (Romans 3:28) and whatever is not faith is sin, the “continue to be justified” theologians generally conclude that works of the law are therefore sin. Further, many continue to be justified theologians argue that “works of the law” refers not just to sin in general, but rather to a specific kind of sin–the sin of trying to earn from God. Towards this end, they often point to Romans 4:6: “to the one who works his wage is not reckoned as a favor but as what is due.” Like traditional Protestant theology, continuist theologians see Paul’s term “works” to be roughly synonymous with his phrase “works of the law.” From this passage in Romans 4:6 they infer that “works”–and thus “works of the law”–are things that are done in our own strength rather than God’s with a view to earning merit from God in the sense of doing God a favor such that God is obligated to return the favor.”

“The error in “continue to be justified” theology is in seeing only two kinds of disposition towards God: faith and sin. Contrary to such thinking, it is clear from the apostle Paul that there are actually, at the very least, three categories of human activity towards God. First, there is sin–that which breaks God’s law and thus displeases God and deserves His wrath. Second, there is gospel faith–the act of relying on Christ as He is offered to us in the gospel to save us from our sins. But, third, there is obedience–which is neither sin nor faith but is instead that which complies with God’s law of morality and thus pleases Him.”

“Faith can be referred to as obedience in the sense that when we believe in Christ we are doing what God tells us to. Thus is why the Scriptures sometimes speak of “obeying the gospel.” But “doing what God tells us to do” is not the definition of this third category that we are calling “obedience.” Obedience does not simply mean “doing what God says” but doing what is virtuous. Faith in the gospel is not love for our neighbor.”

Romans 9:11-12 …for though the twins were not yet born, and had not done anything good or bad, in order that God’s purpose according to His choice might stand, not because of works, but because of Him who calls, it was said to her, ‘the older will serve the younger.’”

Matt Perman– “Not because of works” is parallel with “had not done anything good or bad”–just as “in order that God’s purpose according to election might stand” corresponds to “because of Him who calls.” “Anything good or bad” explains the term “works.” Consequently, “works” are “anything we do, whether good or bad.” Works are not simply acts one does without faith or to put God in one’s debt. Rather, “works” is a term used to refer to human behavior in general. This behavior can then be classified as either obedience or disobedience. ”

Douglas J. Moo, “Law, Works of the Law, and Legalism in Paul,” Westminster Theological Journal, Vol 45, 1983, p. 95)—The use of erga in Romans 4 instead of ta erga tou nomou is undoubtedly to be explained by recalling that Paul generally confines nomos to the Mosaic law; a law which could not therefore have had relevance to Abraham. But what is especially relevant to the present argument is that erga in the two chapters must, if Paul’s argument is to possess any logical force, mean the same thing. Thus, the general usage of the two expressions, when considered in light of Romans 3-4, suggests that ta erga tou nomou should be viewed as a particular subset of erga, the difference being, of course, that the former spells out the source of the demand for the works in question

Matt Perman: “God’s law defines what is righteous and what is sinful. That which conforms to the law is righteous, that which violates the law is sinful. Since faith in Christ is not a “work of the law,” it must follow that faith in Christ as Savior is not commanded in that moral standard. Faith is not a requirement of the law but of the gospel. This means that faith in Christ is not a morally virtuous thing (as loving our neighbor, telling the truth, etc. are), for virtue is that which accords with God’s moral law. But gospel faith is not commanded by the law, and so is not a virtuous entity.”

MP–“What do we make of Romans 14:23 that “whatever is not of faith is sin”? …It seems best to understand Paul as using faith in a broader sense than he does in Romans 3 and 4. By faith in 14:23 Paul means the belief that a certain behavior is right. Paul is not using faith in the sense of believing in Christ for salvation. But even if Paul were speaking of saving faith in Romans 14, it would not follow that faith and obedience are the same thing. Paul is simply saying that what is not from faith is sin; Paul is not saying that anything which is not faith is sin.”

MP—Some “continue to be justified” theologians would not want to say that faith and obedience are the same thing. they argue that faith and obedience are so closely tied together that you cannot have one without the other….But many of them do not mean simply that obedience always results from faith. What they mean, rather, is that while obedience involves things other than faith, faith is still part of the very nature of obedience. Faith is an ingredient in obedience on their view–and, in fact, for them faith is the ingredient that makes obedience virtuous.”

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8 Comments on “Do we Continue to Be Being Justified? Is This Because of Continuing Faith or Because of Continuing Works”

  1. markmcculley Says:

    hhy are we talking about our “works” and not about our sins?

    dead works equals “anything done by a person who is not justified before God”

    if good works are necessary, how many are necessary

    and if we can’t say how many, what’s the point of saying “necessary”

    fear, legal motives?

  2. markmcculley Says:

    Who still talks about Christ’s merits in terms of His death as the perfect satisfaction of God’s strict law for the elect alone? Leviticus 18–do this and live….

    Beale, New Testament Biblical Theology, p 516—(My) view is compatible with Snodgrass–”Justification by Grace–to the Doers:An Analysis of the Place of Romans 2 in the Theology of Paul…Snodgrass holds that justification excludes ‘legalistic works’ done to earn justification but includes an evaluation of IMPERFECT works done by us through the Spirit…

    mark: Does being “united” to Christ mean that the distinction between promise and demand is removed in such a way that those justified still need to be justified by the instrumentality of works done after one is justified? Now that we are “united” to Christ, Is the promise of the gospel not different from the demand of the law that we do what God says to do in order to stay “united” to Christ or to be “more united” to Christ?

  3. markmcculley Says:

    When you think of I John, do you think of some “tests” you are failing? You should not be failing, you don’t have to fail, but you are failing!

    But if we walk in the light (the gospel truth), as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. 8 If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.on cleanses us from all sin. 8 If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.

    The answer to our filth is the blood of Christ, the death of Christ as that which sets us apart for access to the God who is Holy. The answer is not only the new birth by the Spirit. When Colossians 2 speaks of “the cutting off of the flesh” or “the circumcision of Christ”, the reference is not to regeneration but to the death of Christ for sins..

  4. markmcculley Says:

    1 Peter 2:5 you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.

    Hebrews 13: 15 Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name. 16 Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.

    Romans 12 I appeal to you therefore, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship

  5. markmcculley Says:

    there are some folks who say “not justification but sanctification” who still manage to think of faith as the power which keeps us saved. Scott Clark on faith as a “power”—-The English noun “virtue” is derived from the Latin noun ” the root sense of which is “power.” To speak of faith “as a virtue” tends to cause folk to locate the power of faith in faith itself.

    WCF 8.6: Although the work of redemption was not actually wrought by Christ till after his incarnation, yet the virtue, efficacy, and benefits thereof were communicated unto the elect….

    WCF 13.1 .–They who are effectually called and regenerated, having a new heart and a new spirit created in them…through the virtue of Christ’s death and resurrection

    2 Peter 1:5 is to the point here: For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue (αρετη), and virtue with knowledge….

    Neither the Three Forms nor the Westminster Standards speak of faith as a “virtue.”

    WCF 14.1 The grace of faith, whereby the elect are enabled to believe…. is the work of the Spirit of Christ in their hearts,

    There is nothing intrinsic to faith that makes it powerful. The mystery of faith is that it is, in itself, empty. It is a sign of our perversity that we continually try to fill faith with something other than “Christ for us.” We want to make the power of faith to be faith itself or Spirit-wrought sanctity or something else beside Christ.

    Those whom God effectually calls, he also freely justifies: not by infusing righteousness into them, but by pardoning their sins, and by accounting and accepting their persons as righteous; not for anything wrought in them, or done by them, but for Christ’s sake alone; nor by imputing faith itself, the act of believing, or any other evangelical obedience to them, as their righteousness; but by imputing the obedience and satisfaction of Christ unto them, they receiving and resting on him and his righteousness, by faith; which faith they have not of themselves, it is the gift of God.

    Faith does not justify because it is “formed by love,” i.e. made powerful by Spirit-wrought sanctity—–.

  6. markmcculley Says:

    In The Future of Justification: A response to N.T. Wright, John Piper softens and balances the antithesis by making a distinction between hard and soft legalisms.
    “The essence of legalism is the belief that our right standing with God is based on, comes by means of, or is sustained by our works — regardless of whether these works are self-produced (hard legalism) or whether they are completely produced by God’s grace in us (soft legalism). (p. 152, Footnote 14)
    …while legalism involves the view that ‘salvation consists of the observance of precepts,’ boasting and self-righteousness mayBUT DO NOT ALWAYS accompany this motion. When they do not, we may speak of a ‘soft’ or ‘torah-centric’ form of legalism; when they do, we have a ‘hard’ or ‘anthropocentric’legalism. To this, we may add that ‘soft’ legalists may not believe that they are thereby ‘earning’ their salvation, still less that they are ‘establishing a claim’ on God based on their own ‘merit’.
    Unfortunately, in most definitions of legalism by New Testament scholars, the possibility of ‘soft’ legalism is not even considered. The ‘legalist’, for Cranfield, is the one who tries to use the law ‘as a means to the establishment of a claim upon God, and so to the defense of his self-centeredness and the assertion of a measure of independence over against God. He imagines that he can put God under an obligation to himself, that he will be able so adequately to fulfill the law’s demands that he will earn for himself a righteous status before God.’ For Moule, legalism is ‘the intention to claim God’s favour by establishing one’s own rightness.’ For Hübner, those who see righteousness as based on works define their existence in terms of their own activities, leave God out of consideration, and, in effect, ‘see themselves as their own creator.’ For [Daniel] Fuller, legalism ‘presumes that the Lord, who is not ‘served by human hands, as though he needed anything’ (Acts 17:25), can nevertheless be bribed and obligated to bestow blessing by the way men distinguish themselves.’
    Such definitions would be innocent enough if they were accompanied by an awareness that ‘legalists’ of this kind represent only some of those who interpreted Deut. 30:16 as saying that obedience to God’s law was the way to life. But all too frequently there is no such awareness. The alternative to faith is not (as it is in Paul) simply ‘works’, — a statement which embraces both ‘soft’ and ‘hard’ legalism — but rather the sinful, self-seeking, merit-claiming works of the (necessarily ‘hard’) legalist.

  7. markmcculley Says:

    Even though am still inclined toward all evil, nevertheless, without my deserving it at all, out of sheer grace, God grants and credits to me the perfect righteousness of Christ, as if I had never sinned nor been a sinner…

    Norman Shepherd feared that an overly forensic conception of salvation would encourage moral laxity among Christians, as if an overemphasis on justification would yield a neglect of good works. Mind you, simply making sanctification a distinct but simultaneous benefit of union with Christ still won’t fix the problem of potential moral laxity.

    Norman Shepherd asserted—The Pauline affirmation in Romans 2:13 that the doers of the Law will be justified,†is not to be understood hypothetically in the sense that there are no persons who fall into that class, but in the sense that faithful disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ will be justified (Compare Luke 8:21; James 1:22-25). The exclusive ground of the justification of the believer is the righteousness of Jesus Christ, BUT HIS OBEDIENCE, which is simply the perseverance of the saints, is necessary to his continuing in a state of justification (Heb. 3:6, 14)

    if we had to appear before God relying– no matter how little– on ourselves or on what God has done in us, then, alas, we would be swallowed up.

    Belgic 24—Although we do good works we do not base our salvation on them; for we cannot do any work that is not defiled by our flesh and worthy of punishment.

  8. markmcculley Says:

    Charles Hodge—“Sinful acts become more infrequent and habitual acts become more frequent and controlling” ST, 3:226

    230–“The best Christians are in general those who from love to Christ and
    zeal for his glory, labor most and suffer most in his service

    For justification, go with faith alone because your works would bring condemnation.

    But for sanctification, go with works also, because once you are justified, then your works can’t condemn you so that means your works can make you more sanctified. And if you don’t become more sanctified, then this is evidence that you were never justified. Now maybe this sounds like the future aspect of justification also depends on Spirit given works, but as long as you say it’s sanctification and not justification, then you stay confessional and also that way you keep church members a little on the edge of their seats, so they don’t just sit there and do nothing.

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