Posted tagged ‘justification’

Only Christ Was Justified by Producing Righteousness

September 11, 2013

There are two kinds of justification, but only one kind of righteousness that God will accept. God justifies Christ not because of His resurrection, but because of Christ’s full satisfaction of divine law. Christ’s resurrection is God’s justification based on Christ’s obedience even unto death. We call this satisfaction of law Christ’s righteousness.

Christ’s righteousness is the only kind God accepts. So the second kind of justification is the kind in which God imputes Christ’s righteousness to the elect.

I Timothy 3:16 is a very interesting verse to think about. Christ was justified. Now, how was Christ justified? Certainly NOT by the work of the work of the Holy Spirit. Christ was NOT justified after becoming born again. Christ was justified by satisfying the righteous requirement of the law for the sins imputed to Christ. Christ was justified by His death. Christ needed to be justified because Christ legally shared the guilt of His elect, and this guilt demanded His death. Christ was not justified because of His resurrection. Christ’s resurrection was Christ’s justification, and that judicial declaration was because of Christ’s death.

Romans 6:9–”We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. 10 For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God.”

So Christ was justified by His own righteousness. Christ was declared to be just, not simply by who He was as an incarnate person, but by what He had done in satisfaction to the law. No righteousness was imputed or shared from somebody else to Christ, because Christ had earned His own righteousness by His own death.

God’s declaration (in the resurrection) that Christ (God the Son) is righteous is on the basis of what Christ did in His death..

Romans 4:24-25 –Righteousness will be counted to us who believe in him who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord, who was delivered up because of our trespasses and raised because of our justification.

The justification of the elect sinner is different from the justification of Christ. The legal value and merit of Christ’s death is shared by God with the elect sinner, as Romans 6 says, when they are placed/baptized into that death. This is NOT the Holy Spirit baptizing us into Christ. Nor is it Christ baptizing with the Holy Spirit.

So only one righteousness. In Christ’s case, no legal sharing. In the case of the justified elect, that same one death is legally shared, and this one death is enough, because counted to them it completely satisfies the law for righteousness. (Romans 10:4)

Romans 6:7–”For one who has died has been justified from sin. 8 Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. 9 We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him.”

Fesko is correct in thinking of resurrection not as the basis but as God’s declaration of justification. The Norman Shepherd (“federal vision”) problem creeps in when people begin to think that since Christ was justified by what He did, then the elect also must be justified by what they are enabled to do.

But there is only kind of justification for sinners like us, and it’s by imputation. It’s not in the future. And we will never be justified the same way Christ was.

We are ONLY justified by what Christ did, and NOT by what Christ is now doing in us. Christ alone was justified by what He did. Only Christ could be (and was) justified by producing righteousness.

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Does God Count the Faith God Gives us as Righteousness? Since Faith is Not a Work?

July 23, 2013

Does God credit our faith (a gift from God to us) as the righteousness which saves us? In chapter 4, Brian Vickers describes Romans 4: “Paul contrasts two kinds of counting. In the first, wages are counted as the reward for works; in the second, faith is counted as righteousness. This immediately raises the important question: is faith in Christ a replacement for works? Just as works are rewarded with what is due, is faith rewarded with righteousness? This is not the way Paul describes it. God is contrasting two things, not simply swapping one thing for another thing.”

I agree so far. The works are not rewarded with more works. The works are rewarded with wages. The faith is not rewarded by God counting the faith as works. But then comes the problem. Brian Vickers: “God counts one thing for what it is, but the other thing is received by grace AND IS COUNTED FOR SOMETHING ELSE.

Mark: I agree with the contrast between works and faith. But I disagree that God counts faith as the righteousness. You could say that God “swaps” wages for works, or that God rewards for works, but you should NOT say that God “swaps” faith for righteousness. Remember his question: Is faith a replacement for works? Vickers wants to say no to that. But he can’t stay consistent in saying it. Vickers does ultimately think that God counts faith as the righteousness. On p 76, he writes that ‘faith is counted for something else”

The Second London Confession (1689) addresses this question: “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 them as righteous, not for anything wrought in them, or done by them, but for Christ’s sake alone. They are not justified because God reckons as their righteousness either their faith, their believing, or any other act of evangelical obedience. They are justified wholly and solely because God imputes to them Christ’s righteousness. “

Vickers on one hand seems to know that God does not count faith as the righteousness. Thus he makes important qualifications. “Faith must not be thought of apart from its object.” Good. “Justification is not because of faith but by faith.” And then Vickers uses some more confessional language about “instrumental means” of righteousness instead of faith being the righteousness, or being counted as a substitute or an equivalent for the righteousness. And he concludes, “if faith is the righteousness in question, then faith is a work.” (p77). Again, I agree, but this won’t help much because the Arminians and the “covenantal nomists” will simply explain that faith however is NOT a work.Most of them (Arminians included) will even go on to say that faith is God’s gift to us, and therefore they will argue that it’s just for God to count faith as the righteousness.

Faith is a work. No, it’s not a work. The debate won’t take you very far. Even if the debate is about if faith comes from fallen man’s freewill contribution, the Calvinist accusation that says “well then it’s a work” does not do much because the Arminians will quickly explain that they never say it’s a work and that they know it’s not a work. In this concern that Vickers has about God accepting faith as the righteousness would make faith a work, he’s right to contrast faith and works, but he won’t get far as long as HE ALSO AGREES THAT GOD COUNTS SOMETHING (faith) FOR SOMETHING ELSE (righteousness). His explanation of “imputation” in chapter three has already brought in the false idea of God counting something for what it is not.

Remember what “imputation” is. Not that I care about that word. Use count, credit, reckon, declare, as you like, but the meaning comes down to two ideas. One, a simple analytic (forensic) declaration. We count God as just because God is just. God counts what Phinehas did as righteous because it was righteous. So all “imputing” has this “declaring what it is” idea to it. But two, in some cases, there is the idea of God ‘s sharing what belongs to one person or persons with another person or persons.

Notice, I say, in some cases. In all cases, there is forensic declaring. But in some cases, God creates (appoints, constitutes) a legal solidarity between two persons, so that what one person has also gets used to arrive at a declaring about the second person. So it’s not only judge and defendant, but a third party. In the case of Christ’s righteousness, the righteousness is the wages due to Christ for his work. The righteousness of Christ is God’s analytic declaration about what was accomplished in Christ’s death and resurrection. I don’t care if you call this metaphorically Christ’s treasury of wages. The metaphor doesn’t bother me. Salvation is by work, not our works, but by Christ’s work. I don’t care if you accuse this of being “contract talk” and “legalism” (as the Barthians like the Torrances do).

But it’s not only two parties, but a third party. God imputes Adam’s sin to all humans when they are born (Christ the God-man excepted). God. Humans. The third party is Adam. And there are not only two parties (God and the elect) but Christ the third party, when His righteousness is imputed to the elect. Romans 4:6 just as David also speaks of the blessing of the one to whom God counts righteousness apart from works:

Vickers ends up saying that God DOES count faith as the righteousness. This leaves us with an “as though” version of imputation. Even in the cases in which there is legal sharing with the third party, the relationship is not “as if”. For example, between Christ and the Trinity, in the imputation of the sins of the elect to Christ, the imputation does not cause an internal change in Christ (God forbid), but Christ really (legally, not fictionally) became guilty (under the law) until Christ died once and thus is no more under the law (Romans 6). And if you think this is ‘contract talk” and “legalism” and a bad metaphor over-used, I simply don’t care.

Vickers needs to stop thinking of imputation as God accepting faith as righteousness. But he won’t get to the bottom of the problem until he starts talking about election and the death of Christ being a particular propitiation only for the elect. He needs to ask himself: whose sins were imputed to Christ? (election) and when were those sins imputed to Christ by whom? (by God, not by sinners, by God before the propitiation, not after faith)

God Does Not Count Faith as the Righteousness, by Horatius Bonar

April 29, 2013

God reckons the believing person as having done all righteousness, though he has not done any, and though his faith is not righteousness. The work of Christ for us is the object of faith; the Spirit’s work in us is that which produces this faith: Without the touch of the rod the water would not have gushed forth; yet it was the rock and not the rod, that contained the water.

The bringer of the sacrifice into the tabernacle was to lay his hand upon the head of the sheep or the bullock. But the laying on of his hand was not the same as the victim on which it was laid. The serpent-bitten Israelite was to look at the uplifted serpent of brass in order to be healed. But his looking was not the brazen serpent. We may say it was his looking that healed him, just as the Lord said, “your faith has saved you”; but this is figurative language. It was not his act of looking that healed him, but the object to which he locked. So faith is not our righteousness.

Faith is not our saviour. It was not faith that was born at Bethlehem and died on Golgotha for us. It was not faith that loved us, and gave itself for us; that bore our sins in its own body on the tree; that died and rose again for our sins. Faith is one thing,  Jesus the Christ is another. Faith is one thing, and the cross is another. Let us not confound them, nor ascribe to a poor, imperfect act of man, that which belongs exclusively to the Son of the Living God.

Faith is not perfection. Yet only by perfection can we be saved; either our own or another’s. That which is imperfect cannot justify, and an imperfect faith could not in any sense be a righteousness. If it is to justify, it must be perfect. It must be like “the Lamb, without blemish and without spot” . God has asked and provided a perfect righteousness; He nowhere asks nor expects a perfect faith. An earthenware pitcher can convey water to a traveller’s thirsty lips as well as one of gold; nay, a broken vessel, even if there be but “a sherd to take water from the pit” (Isa 30:14), will suffice.

Faith is not satisfaction to God. In no sense and in no aspect can faith be said to satisfy God, or to satisfy the law. Yet if it is to be our righteousness, it must satisfy. Being imperfect, it cannot satisfy; being human, it cannot satisfy, even though it were perfect. That which satisfies must be capable of bearing our guilt; and that which bears our guilt must be not only perfect, but divine. It is a sin-bearer that we need, and our faith cannot be a sin-bearer. Faith can expiate no guilt; can accomplish no propitiation; can pay no penalty; can wash away no stain; can provide no righteousness.

Faith is not Christ, nor the cross of Christ. Faith is not the blood, nor the sacrifice; it is not the altar, nor the laver, nor the mercy-seat, nor the incense. It does not work, but accepts a work done ages ago. For never shall we put off that Christ whom we put on when we believed (Rom 12:14; Gal 3:27). This divine raiment is “to everlasting.” It waxes not old, it cannot be rent, and its beauty fadeth not away.

Nor does faith lead us away from that cross to which at first it led us. Some in our day speak as if we soon got beyond the cross, and might leave it behind; that the cross having done all it could do for us when first we came under its shadow, we may quit it and go forward; that to remain always at the cross is to be babes, not men.

But what is the cross? It is not the mere wooden pole, or some imitation of it, such as Romanists use. These we may safely leave behind us. We need not pitch our tent upon the literal Golgotha, or in Joseph’s garden. But the great truth which the cross embodies we can no more part with than we can past with life eternal. . I am always at the manger, and yet I know that mere incarnation cannot save; always at Gethsemane, and yet I believe that its agony was not the finished work; always at the cross, with my face toward it, and my eye on the crucified One, and yet I am persuaded that the sacrifice there was completed once for all; always looking into the grave, though I rejoice that it is empty, and that “He is not here, but is risen”.

Man, in his natural spirit of self-justifying legalism, has tried to get away from the cross of Christ and its perfection, or to erect another cross instead, or to setup a screen of ornaments between himself and it, or to alter its true meaning into something more congenial to his tastes, or to transfer the virtue of it to some act or performance or feeling of its own  Faith does not come to Calvary to do anything. It comes to see the glorious spectacle of all things done, and to accept this completion without a misgiving as to its efficacy. It listens to the “It is finished!” of the Sin-bearer, and says, “Amen.” Where faith begins, there labour ends, — labour, I mean, “for” life and pardon. Faith is rest, not toil. It is the giving up all the former weary efforts to do or feel something good, in order to induce God to love and pardon; and the calm reception of the truth so long rejected, that God is not waiting for any such inducements, but loves and pardons of His own goodwill, and is showing that goodwill to any sinner who will come to Him on such a footing, casting away his own performances.

Faith is the acknowledgment of the entire absence of all goodness in us, and the recognition of the cross as the substitute for all the want on our part. There is no dividing or sharing the work between our own belief and Him in whom we believe. The whole work is His, not ours, from the first to last. Faith does not believe in itself, but in the Son of God. Like the beggar, it receives everything, but gives nothing.  It rejoices in another, not in itself. Its song is, “Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but by His mercy He saved us.”

“He was raised again because of our justification” (Rom 4:25) is the clear statement of the word. The resurrection was the visible pledge of the righteousness obtained (and in time imputed by God to all the elect) . The doctrine of our being justified by an infused resurrection-righteousness or, as it is called, justification in arisen Christ, is a clear subversion of the Surety’s work when “He died for our sins, according to the Scriptures,” or when “He washed us from our sins in His own blood,” or when He gave us the robes “washed white in the blood of the Lamb.”

It is the blood that justifies (Rom 5:9). It is the blood that pacifies the conscience, purging it from dead works to serve the living God (Heb 9:14). It is the blood that emboldens us to enter through the veil into the holiest, and go up to the sprinkled mercy-seal It is the blood that we are to drink for the quenching of our thirst (John 6:55). It is the blood by which we have peace with God (Col 1:20). It is the blood through which we have redemption (Eph 1:7), and by which we are sanctified (Heb 13:12). It is the blood which is the seal of the everlasting covenant (Heb 13:20). It is the blood which cleanses (1 John 1:7) and  which gives us victory (Rev 12:11). It is the blood which is the purchase-money or ransom of the church of God (Acts 20:28).

“Christ in us, the hope of glory” (Col 1:27), is a well-known and blessed truth; but Christ IN US, our justification, is a ruinous error, leading man away from a crucified Christ — a Christ crucified FOR US. . The risen Christ in us, our justification, is a  theory which subverts the cross.

Are We To Sin Less to Get More Grace?

July 26, 2012

Jonathan Edwards “He That Believeth Will be Saved”, Sermons of JE,
115: “We can’t be saved without being good…All whose hearts come to
Christ will be good, and if men aren’t good, their hearts never will
come to Christ…They whose hearts come to Christ, they are joined to
Christ, and so they belong to him and therefore are saved for his
sake.”

Douglas Sweeney, “Justification by Faith Alone?, in Jonathan Edwards
and Justification, ed Josh Moody, 2012, Crossway, p148—-“God
requires all His people to cooperate with Him to increase in
sanctification. They accomplish this, however, as they abide in the
Lord, letting God govern their hearts and bear divine fruit in their
lives. For Edwards, there are levels of grace and laurels for the
godly.”

Romans 6: Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? 2 By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? 3 Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?

Romans 3: 5 “But if our unrighteousness serves to show the
righteousness of God, what shall we say? That God is unrighteous to
inflict wrath on us? (I speak in a human way.) 6 By no means! For then how could God judge the world? 7 But if through my lie God’s truth abounds to his glory, why am I still being condemned as a sinner? 8 And why not do evil that good may come?—as some people slanderously charge us with saying. Their condemnation is just.”

I know some Calvinists (I was one of them) who think it is enough to
say that God is sovereign and thus the cause of salvation .But the
truth of the gospel is not only God’s sovereignty but also God’s
righteousness. This means that the gospel is not only about the
justification of the elect sinner but also about the justification of
God.

I have no use for the “freewill theodicy”. But that does not mean that I am dismissive of efforts to justify God. To justify God does not of course mean that we make God just. Rather, it means that we declare that God is just.

When God justifies an elect sinner, it’s not only God’s sovereignty
that declares the sinner just. God is justified in justifying the
elect sinner because 1. Christ died because of the imputed guilt of
that elect sinner and 2. God declares individual elect sinners to
legally share in that death. Because of these two facts of history,
God is justified in justifying elect sinners.

It doesn’t seem fair. It doesn’t look just. The elect sinners go free. Christ, who did not sin, died. This is why we are tempted to say that the whole thing is only about God’s sovereignty and then tell people to shut their mouths and ask no questions. But the Bible itself does not take that attitude. The Bible tells us how God thinks. The Bible justifies God.

Romans 9 does not only ask: “who are you to talk back to God”. Romans
9 explains that it is inappropriate for that which is made to sit in
negative judgment on the maker. And Romans 3 and 6 deal with the
objection that God justifying sinners will cause sinners to
rationalize their sins, so that they not only say that their sins were predestined but also that they say that more sins result in more
grace.

The Romans 6 answer is that grace is either grace or not. There is not more or less grace, but either grace or no grace. More sin does not get the elect more grace, because all those God justly justifies have all the grace any other elect person has. If you have grace, then you are justified from sin, and if you don’t have grace, you are a sinner “free from righteousness” (6:20).

While unbelievers trust in “God” to help them to sin less, those who
have been delivered to the gospel know that there are only two kind of sinners —guilty sinners and justified sinners .

The theodicy of Romans 3 announces that God is true even if every man
is a liar. We justify God because God has revealed Himself. And God
has revealed that God is more than sovereign. God is Revealed as
Righteous and Just. And God’s word is justified in history by what God did when Christ gave Himself up to death on the cross because of the imputed guilt of the elect.

We were wrong: God was right and God is still right. God prevails, but it is not only a matter of “might makes right” or “sovereignty always wins”. We have no right to make a negative judgment on God, since it is God who will be making a negative judgment on many sinners. But we are called to make a positive rational judgment about God’s justice. As Isaiah 53 explains, the righteous servant will be satisfied. God will be just to Christ. And God is just to justify elect sinners for the sake of Christ.

It is idolatry to only know a God who is sovereign. The true God is
also righteous. It is unbelief and rebellion to deny that God is just. Psalm 51:4-6—“Against you have I sinned and done what is evil, so that you are justified in your words and blameless in your judgment..Behold you delight in truth…”

When we try to say, “well at least our lack of orthodoxy is only
making God look more gracious”, we need to read Romans 3:5—God is the
righteous judge of us. God takes sides with Himself. God takes sides
against sinners. And the only sinners that God justifies are the elect who God has placed into the death of Christ.

Smeaton on Romans Six

January 5, 2012

Smeaton, The Apostles Doctrine of the Atonement, p 161 : To understand what is meant by dying with Christ, we need to see the connection between the previous chapter and Romans 6. In Romans 5:12-19 Paul described our standing in Christ, and then he added “where sin abounded, grace much more abounded.” Anticipating the objection that would be made to such a view of God’s grace, Paul says, “Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound?” and then he rejects that thought with total abhorrence of the idea.

But not content with his mere “God forbid” rejection of the thought, he then goes on to prove that this type of perversion of grace could not logically follow for a reason which touches the deep elements of God’s moral government, and makes it totally impossible. Paul argues from a fact-the great objective change of relation that comes from dying with Christ.

We need to ask, then, what Paul means by these expressions that he
uses, on which he makes his point so strongly (verse 12): “dying with Christ”, “dying to sin”, “buried with Christ”, “crucified with Christ”. One particular verse of Scripture will give us a key to the meaning of the above phrases: For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. 2 Corinthians 5:14

In this passage, Paul uses two expressions interchangeably; that is, “He died for all”, and “all died in Him.” He is describing the same thing from two different points of view. The first of these expressions describes the vicarious death of Christ as an objective fact. The second phrase speaks of the same great transaction, in terms that indicate that we too have done it. So then, we may either say, “Christ died for us”, or “we died in Him.” Both are true. We can equally affirm that He was crucified for us, or we were co-crucified with Him.

We are not referring here to two acts-one on Christ’s side and another on ours. Rather,we have but one public representative, corporate act performed by the Son of God, in which we share as truly as if we had accomplished the atonement ourselves.

It is a mistake to not carry Romans 5 into Romans 6. If we carry the thought of the representative character of the two Adams from the one chapter into the other, then the difficulty vanishes.

All men sinned in the first man’s act of sin; for that public act was representative, and all Adam’s offspring were included in it. From God’s perspective, there have been but two men in the world, with the two families of which they are the heads; there have been just two public representatives.

The idea of Christ being our Surety and the representation of His atonement as the act of “one for many”, run through this entire section of Romans. But the passage we are studying (Romans 6:1-8) contains one difference as compared with other passages, and that is that here we are described as doing what our representative did.

Let us notice the expressions used in Romans 6:1-8: It is said that “we died to sin (verse 2). As this phrase is misunderstood quite frequently, we must discover what it really means. It frequently occurs in the writings of Paul in different forms, and it always alludes, not to an inward deliverance from sin, but to the Christian’s objective relation. It means that we are legally dead to sin in Jesus Christ.

This is made very clear by two other expressions occurring in the section. The first of these passages applies the same language to the Lord Himself; for He is said to have died to sin once (verse 10). Now the only sense in which the Sinless One can be regarded as dying to sin, is that of dying to its guilt, or to the condemning power which goes along with sin, and which must run its course wherever sin has been committed. He died to the guilt or criminality of sin when it was laid on Him. He certainly did not die to sins indwelling power.

The second of these phrases shows that this dying was the meritorious cause of our justification. “He that is dead has been justified from sin” (verse 7). The justification of the Christian is thus based on his co-dying with Christ; that is, we are said to have died when Christ died, and to have done what Christ did. The words undoubtedly mean a co-dying with Christ in that one corporate representative deed; that is, they mean that we were one with Christ in His obedience unto death, just like we were one with Adam in his disobedience.

Christ’s death to sin belongs to us, and is as much ours as if we had born the penalty ourselves. And the justification by which we are forgiven and accepted has no other foundation. It is noteworthy that Romans 5 describes all this in the third person, whereas Romans 6 describes it in the first person, and from our own share in it.

Paul also says in this section that our old man is crucified, or co-crucified with Him. The entire section of which this is a part is to be regarded not as an exhortation, but as the simple statement of fact; this passage does not set forth anything done by us, but something done on our account, or for our sake, by a Surety, in whose performance we participate.

It might be asked, “can’t we understand that these statements designate two separate actions, one done by Christ, and a similar or parallel one by us?” NO. The acts are not two, but one, described from two different points of view. There is not one crucifixion on the part of Christ, and a second, parallel and similar but different, crucifixion on the part of His people. There is but one corporate act—the act of “one for many.”

But what is the old man that is said to be co-crucified with the Lord? Does not this refer to our inward corruption? NO it does not. Such an explanation is untenable, as it would make the expression synonymous with the next clause which is not only bad theology but also inept reasoning. Instead, the first clause is made the condition of the second.

The old man is crucified in order that the body of sin (sin within us, or the flesh) be destroyed. Now there must be a difference between the two clauses, as the former is in order to attain the latter. The old man said to be crucified with Christ, is therefore our standing “in Adam”, which is terminated so that we have a new relationship to God in the crucified Surety.

To summarize, Romans 6:1-5 says we have been crucified with Christ, which tells us that our standing has changed from being “in Adam” (with its curse and condemnation) to being “in Christ” (with all of its blessings and benefits).

The first five verses of Romans 6 are statements of fact, then verse 6 is an exhortation, so a one-sentence summary is, “because we were crucified with Christ, we should no longer be slaves of sin.”

But to bring even more clarity to the mind of his readers, Paul says we were baptized into His death (verse 3). Christ is presented to us as laden with sin , and satisfying divine justice; and baptism, as a symbolical representation, shows our connection with Him, or rather our participation in that great corporate act which Jesus did on the cross, in the place of all His people.

We are seen as having done what He did, and to have done what He did, and to have undergone what He underwent, to satisfy divine justice. The symbol of baptism teaches this, and Paul tells us the fact that it was a baptism into His death, an emblem of oneness with Christ, or fellowship with Him in His death to sin (verse 10).

The death was the price of the life. The one was the cause, the other was the unfailing reward or consequence. The apostle declares that not only was the death of Christ a substitution in our place, but that the consequences of it being a substitutionary death are that we may be said to have done what He did. And, because of our oneness with Him, we are discharged from sin as a master.

Bavinck Opposes “Instrumental Condition” Language

December 24, 2011

As the internal call directly and immediately,without a time lapse, results in regeneration with “habitual faith,” so also does this faith include from the very beginning of its existence the assurance that not only to others but to me also forgiveness of sins has been granted. This assurance does not need to be added through a special revelation, as asserted by Rome.

When the Scriptures say of this justification in “a concrete sense” that it takes place by and through faith, then it does not intend to say that it is produced and wrought through that faith, since Jesus Christ is all our righteousness and all benefits of grace are the fruits of his labor and of his labor alone; they are entirely contained in his person and are not in any need of any addition on our part.

The terminology, that active justification takes place unto and passive justification by and through faith may have some value against nomism; but the Scriptural language is entirely adequate provided it is understood Scripturally. Saving faith directs our eyes and heart from the very beginning away from ourselves and unto God’s mercy in Christ.

Many have in later years, when the confessional power of the Reformation weakened, entered the way of self-examination, in order to be assured of the sincerity of their faith and their salvation. Thus was the focus shifted from the promise of God to the experience of the pious.

It is not we who approach the judgment of God, after self-examination, with the sincerity of our faith, in order to receive there the forgiveness of our sins; God does not sit in judgment by himself in heaven to hear the parties and to pronounce sentence, a representation which is according to Comrie, too anthropomorphic and unworthy of God. But He himself comes to us in the gospel. The foundation of faith lie outside ourselves in the promise of God; whoever builds thereupon shall not be ashamed.

It is possible for us to conceive of faith at the same time as a receptive organ and as an active force. If justification in every respect comes about after faith, faith becomes a condition, an activity, which must be performed by man beforehand, and it cannot be purely receptive. But if the righteousness, on the ground of which we are justified, lies wholly outside of us in Christ Jesus, then faith is not a “material cause” or a “formal cause.”

Faith is not even a condition or instrument of justification, for it stands in relation to justification not as, for example, the eye to seeing or the ear to hearing. Faith is not a condition, upon which, nor an instrument or organ, through which we receive this benefit, but it is the acceptance itself of Christ and all his benefits, as He presents Himself to us through word and Spirit, and it includes therefore also the consciousness, that He is my Lord and I am his possession.

Faith is therefore not an instrument in the proper sense, of which man makes use in order to accept Christ, but it is a sure knowledge and a solid confidence which the Holy Spirit works in the heart and through which He persuades and assures man that he, not withstanding all his sins, has part in Christ and in all his benefits.

This faith forms a contrast with the works of the law. It also stands opposed to the works of faith (infused righteousness, obedience, love) the moment these are to any degree viewed as the ground of justification, as forming as a whole or in part that righteousness on the ground of which God justifies us; for that is Christ and Christ alone; faith itself is not the ground of justification and thus also neither are the good works which come forth from it.

BAVINCK ON FAITH AND JUSTIFICATION
H. Bavinck, Gereformeerde Dogmatiek, Vol. IV
(4th ed.; Kampen: J. H. Kok, 1930), pp. 198-207.

With respect to the doctrine of justification there is no difference between Lutheran and Reformed theology as far as the essence is concerned; however, the doctrine does occupy a different place and does receive a different emphasis in the latter. This manifests itself first of all in the Luther pushed predestination steadily into the background, while Calvin placed it increasingly in the center and viewed justification also from that perspective.

“The Lord, when He calls, justifies, and glorifies, does nothing other than to declare his election;” it is the elect who are justified. For that reason, it is entirely correct to say that Calvin never weakens either the objective atonement of Christ or the benefit of justification; but nevertheless, his perspective results in the righteousness of Christ being presented to us much more as a gift bestowed by God than as something which we accept through faith. The objective gift precedes the subjective acceptance.

Calvin feels himself in the presence of God and placed before his judgment throne; for such a creature, humility and trusting in God’s mercy are the only proper thing; to that end are the elect justified, that they should glory in him and not in something else.

Under the influence of Socinianism and Remonstrantism, Cartesianism and Amyraldianism, there developed the neonomiam representation of the order of redemption which made forgiveness of sins and eternal life dependent on faith and obedience which man had to perform in accordance with the new law of the gospel. Parallel with this development, Pietism and Methodism arose which, with all their differences, also shifted the emphasis to the subject, and which either demanded a long experience or a sudden conversion as a condition for obtaining salvation.

As a reaction against this came the development of anti-neonomianism, which had justification precede faith, and antinomianism which reduced justification to God’s eternal love. Reformed theologians usually tried to avoid both extremes, and for that purpose soon made use of the distinction between “active” and “passive justification.” This distinction is not found in the reformers; as a rule they speak of justification in a “concrete sense.” They do not treat of a justification from eternity, or of justification in the resurrection of Christ, or in the gospel, or before or after faith, but combine everything in a single concept.

Efforts were made to keep both elements as close together as possible, while accepting only a logical and not a temporal distinction. However, even then, there were those who objected to this distinction inasmuch as the gospel mentions no names and does not say to anyone, personally: Your sins have been forgiven. Therefore it is not proper for any man to take as his starting point the belief that his sins have been forgiven.

The atonement of Christ is particular rather than universal. The preacher of the gospel can assure no one that his sins have been forgiven since he does not know who the elect are; and the man who hears the gospel is neither able nor permitted to believe this, inasmuch as he cannot be aware of his election prior to and without faith. As a result, the conclusion appeared rather obvious that the boldness to know one’s sins to have been forgiven and to have assurance of eternal salvation only came about after one has fled unto Jesus in faith. But in this manner the ground of justification shifted once again from God to man, from the righteousness of Christ to saving faith; from the gospel to the law.

If, then, not faith in its quality and activity, but the imputed righteousness of Christ is the ground of our justification, the question arises with all the more emphasis: What is then the place of faith in this benefit? Does imputation take place in the death or resurrection of Christ, in the preaching of the gospel, prior to, or at the same time as, or after faith?

The first position was asserted by the real antinomians, such as Pontiaan van Hattem and his followers. According to them justification was nothing else than the love of God which is not concerned about the sins of man, which does not require atonement in Christ, and which only needs to be proclaimed in order to enable man to believe. Faith is nothing but a renouncing of the error that God is angry and a realization that God is eternal love.

This school of thought should be distinguished sharply from the views of the so-called antineonomians who opposed the change of the gospel into a new law as well as the idea that faith was a co-operating factor in our justification, and who from this perspective sometimes came to confess an eternal justification.

Election is from eternity. The “counsel of redemption” which includes the substitution of the Mediator for his people is from eternity.
However, that is no reason to recommend speaking of eternal justification. If one says that “justification as an act immanent in God” must of necessity be eternal, then it should be remembered that taken in that sense everything, including creation, incarnation, atonement, calling, regeneration, is eternal. Whoever would speak of an eternal creation would give cause for great misunderstanding. Besides, the proponents of this view back off themselves, when, out of the fear of antinomianism, they assert strongly that eternal justification is not the only, full, and complete justification, but that it has a tendency and purpose to realise itself outwardly. This amounts really to the usual distinction between the decree and its execution.

The counsel of God and all decrees contained therein as a unit are without doubt eternal “immanent acts”, but the external works of God, creation, preservation, governing, redemption, justification, etc., are in the nature of the case “transient acts.” As works they do not belong to the plan of God’s ordering but to the execution of it.

Under the influence of Arminian and Salmurian theology, and of Pietism and Rationalism, the understanding of this actual justification gradually became that man had to believe and repent first, that thereafter God in heaven, in “the court of heaven,” sitting in judgment, acquitted the believer because of his faith in Christ.

Is By Faith Alone the Gospel, If Jesus Died for Everybody?

October 27, 2011

Josh Moody (No Other Gospel) rightly asks why the Galatians were tempted to add their works to Christ’s righteousness. Moody rightly answers that this temptation does not come from the faith which fears God, but comes from the fear which does not trust the cross to be enough to justify.

But if Jesus died for everybody, and not everybody is justified, then those who trust this false Jesus SHOULD BE AFRAID They will need to be careful to complete their faith with works, and thus we have the typical Calvinist stress on the the idea “now in the new covenant and with the Holy Spirit we can and want to do the right thing”.

Most of these Calvinists are failing to teach that Jesus Christ did NOT die for everybody. Thus they are failing to teach that Christ’s death is the only reason one person is saved and not another. Even the Calvinists who have “limited atonement” as their “shelf doctrine” are not teaching the doctrine. They are certainly not teach definite atonement as part of the gospel message, so that Spirit-enabled works are rejected as any part of the reason for “future justification”.

If you can’t go by train (because the train doesn’t go there), you have to go by car, and you can’t go by train and by car at the same time. If the only kind of atonement revealed in the Bible is definite and effectual (for the sheep, and not for those who will not believe, John 10), then there is no atonement revealed in the Bible for everybody, and you can’t have it both ways, no matter what Martyn Lloyd-Jones or anybody else tried to do.

You can say all matter of true things about the difference between law and gospel (and I have no doubt that the false teachers in Galatia did so), but you have no legitimate right to say them, if you avoid the offense of the cross being A. for the elect alone and B. being alone effectual, being the difference, since Christ’s death was not for everybody. And the true things you say about the cross, or about law and gospel, end up not being true things, just like the doctrine of the false teachers in Galatians.

You can say that Christ died for everybody and not be a “semi-Pelagian” or “soft legalist”. But if Christ’s death was the righteousness intended and obtained for everybody, then it’s not His death but our faith which must make the difference. And if that is so, we need to be very afraid.

Nobody comes along and says that Jesus didn’t need to die. They just say that Jesus died for everybody but that it doesn’t work unless the Spirit causes you to consent to it. They just say that, even if you are not elect and even if the Spirit doesn’t cause you to consent to it, Jesus loves you and died for you and offers to save you, but His death didn’t take away your guilt and it doesn’t work, because you didn’t have faith in it.

But if Jesus died for everybody, then the promise of the gospel is not about Christ alone or His death alone; and if it is about your being changed (so that grace is not cheap and Jesus is King), then salvation is not by Christ’s death. The message of His death plus your not wanting to sin anymore is really at the end a message about your not wanting to sin anymore.