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Faith itself not the cause of justification – Louis Berkhof

January 20, 2016 Comments off

Scripture never says that we are justified dia ten pistin, on account of faith. This means that faith is never represented as the ground of our justification. If this were the case, faith would have to be regarded as a meritorious work of man. And this would be the introduction of the doctrine of justification by works, which the apostle opposes consistently, Rom. 3:21,27,28; 4:3,4; Gal. 2:16,21; 3:11. We are told indeed that Abraham’s faith was reckoned unto him for righteousness, Rom. 4:3,9,22; Gal. 3:6, but in view of the whole argument this surely cannot mean that in his case faith itself as a work took the place of the righteousness of God in Christ. The apostle does not leave it doubtful that, strictly speaking, only the righteousness of Christ imputed to us, is the ground of our justification. But faith is so thoroughly receptive in the appropriation of the merits of Christ, that it can be put figuratively for the merits of Christ which it receives. “Faith” then is equivalent to the contents of faith, that is, to the merits or the righteousness of Christ.

 

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Justification – salvation is by grace through faith – JI Packer

December 31, 2012 Comments off

Clearly no one is justified before God by the law, because, “The righteous will live by faith.” GALATIANS 3:11

The doctrine of justification, the storm center of the Reformation, was a major concern of the apostle Paul. For him it was the heart of the gospel (Rom. 1:17; 3:21-5:21; Gal. 2:15-5:1) shaping both his message (Acts 13:38-39) and his devotion and spiritual life (2 Cor. 5:13-21; Phil. 3:4-14). Though other New Testament writers affirm the same doctrine in substance, the terms in which Protestants have affirmed and defended it for almost five centuries are drawn primarily from Paul.

Justification is a judicial act of God pardoning sinners (wicked and ungodly persons, Rom. 4:5; 3:9-24), accepting them as just, and so putting permanently right their previously estranged relationship with himself. This justifying sentence is God’s gift of righteousness (Rom. 5:15-17), his bestowal of a status of acceptance for Jesus’ sake (2 Cor. 5:21).

God’s justifying judgment seems strange, for pronouncing sinners righteous may appear to be precisely the unjust action on the judge’s part that God’s own law forbade (Deut. 25:1; Prov. 17:15). Yet it is in fact a just judgment, for its basis is the righteousness of Jesus Christ who as “the last Adam” (1 Cor. 15:45), our representative head acting on our behalf, obeyed the law that bound us and endured the retribution for lawlessness that was our due and so (to use a medieval technical term) “merited” our justification. So we are justified justly, on the basis of justice done (Rom. 3:25-26) and Christ’s righteousness reckoned to our account (Rom. 5:18-19).

God’s justifying decision is the judgment of the Last Day, declaring where we shall spend eternity, brought forward into the present and pronounced here and now. It is the last judgment that will ever be passed on our destiny; God will never go back on it, however much Satan may appeal against God’s verdict (Zech. 3:1; Rev. 12:10; Rom. 8:33-34). To be justified is to be eternally secure (Rom. 5:1-5; 8:30).

The necessary means, or instrumental cause, of justification is personal faith in Jesus Christ as crucified Savior and risen Lord (Rom. 4:23-25; 10:8-13). This is because the meritorious ground of our justification is entirely in Christ. As we give ourselves in faith to Jesus, Jesus gives us his gift of righteousness, so that in the very act of “closing with Christ,” as older Reformed teachers put it, we receive divine pardon and acceptance which we could not otherwise have (Gal. 2:15-16; 3:24).

Official Roman Catholic theology includes sanctification in the definition of justification, which it sees as a process rather than a single decisive event, and affirms that while faith contributes to our acceptance with God, our works of satisfaction and merit contribute too. Rome sees baptism, viewed as a channel of sanctifying grace, as the primary instrumental cause of justification, and the sacrament of penance, whereby congruous merit is achieved through works of satisfaction, as the supplementary restorative cause whenever the grace of God’s initial acceptance is lost through mortal sin. Congruous, as distinct from condign, merit means merit that it is fitting, though not absolutely necessary, for God to reward by a fresh flow of sanctifying grace. On the Roman Catholic view, therefore, believers save themselves with the help of the grace that flows from Christ through the church’s sacramental system, and in this life no sense of confidence in God’s grace can ordinarily be had. Such teaching is a far cry from that of Paul.

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Calvin justification quotes

December 29, 2012 Comments off

Scripture, when it treats of justification by faith, leads us in a very different direction. Turning away our view from our own works, it bids us look only to the mercy of God and the perfection of Christ. The order of justification which it sets before us is this: first, God of his mere gratuitous goodness is pleased to embrace the sinner, in whom he sees nothing that can move him to mercy but wretchedness, because he sees him altogether naked and destitute of good works. He, therefore, seeks the cause of kindness in himself, that thus he may affect the sinner by a sense of his goodness, and induce him, in distrust of his own works, to cast himself entirely upon his mercy for salvation. This is the meaning of faith by which the sinner comes into the possession of salvation, when, according to the doctrine of the Gospel, he perceives that he is reconciled by God; when, by the intercession of Christ, he obtains the pardon of his sins, and is justified; and, though renewed by the Spirit of God, considers that, instead of leaning on his own works, he must look solely to the righteousness which is treasured up for him in Christ. – Institutes of the Christian Religion (3.11.16)

The phrase “in him” I have preferred to retain, rather than render it “by him” because it has in my opinion more expressiveness and force. For we are enriched in Christ, inasmuch as we are members of his body, and are engrafted into him: nay more, being made one with him, he makes us share with him in everything that he has received from the Father. – Commentary on 1 Corinthians 1:5

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Justification – William Ames

November 2, 2012 Comments off

Justification by Dr. William Ames

1. Participation in the blessings of the union with Christ comes when the faithful have all the things needed to live well and blessedly to God. Eph. 1:3, He has blessed us with every spiritual blessing; Rom. 8:32, He who spared not his own son . . . how shall he not freely with him give us all things also?

2. This participation therefore brings a change and alteration in the condition of believers from the state of sin and death to the state of righteousness and eternal life. 1 John 3:14, We know that we are translated from death to life.

3. This change of state is twofold, relative and absolute (or real).

4. The relative change occurs in God’s reckoning. Rom. 4:5, And to him who does not work, but believes in him who justifies the un­godly, his faith is imputed as righteousness. 2 Cor. 5:19, God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself, not counting their offenses.

5. The change, of course, has no degrees and is completed at one moment and in only one act. Yet in manifestation, consciousness, and effects, it has many degrees; therein lie justification and adoption.

6. Justification is the gracious judgment of God by which he ab­solves the believer from sin and death, and reckons him righteous and worthy of life for the sake of Christ apprehended in faith. Rom. 3:22, 24, The righteousness of God by faith in Jesus Christ in all and upon all that believe. . . . they are freely justified by his grace . . . through the redemption made by Jesus Christ.

7. It is the pronouncing of a sentence, as the word is used, which does not denote in the Holy Scriptures a physical or a real change. There is rather a judicial or moral change which takes shape in the pronouncing of the sentence and in the reckoning. Prov. 17:15, He that justifies the wicked; Rom. 8:33, Who shall lay anything to the charge of God’s elect? It is God who justifies.

8. Therefore, Thomas and his followers are completely mistaken for they would make justification a kind of physical motion from the state of unrighteousness to that of righteousness in a real transmutation. They consider that it begins with sin, ends in inherent righteousness, with remission of sin and infusion of righteousness the motion be­tween.

9. The judgment was, first, conceived in the mind of God in a de­cree of justification. Gal. 3:8, The Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith. Second, it was pronounced in Christ our head as he rose from the dead. 2 Cor. 5:19, God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself, not imputing their sins to them. Third, it is pronounced in actuality upon that first relationship which is created when faith is born. Rom. 8:1, There is therefore no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus. Fourth, it is expressly pronounced by the spirit of God witnessing to our spirits our recon­ciliation with God. Rom. 5:5, The love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit which has been given to us. This testimony of the spirit is not properly justification itself, but rather an actual per­ceiving of what has been given before as if in a reflected act of faith.

10. It is a gracious judgment because it is given not by God’s jus­tice but by his grace. Rom. 3:24, Freely by his grace. For by the same grace with which he called Christ to the office of mediator and the elect to union with Christ, he accounts those who are called and be­lieving, justified by the union.

11. It happens because of Christ. 2 Cor. 5:21, That we may become the righteousness of God in him. The obedience of Christ is that Si.KalwiMo., the righteousness, Rom. 5:16, in the name of which the grace of God justifies us, just as the disobedience of Adam was that upliio., the offense, Rom. 5:16, for which God’s justice condemned us, Rom. 5:18.

12. Therefore, the righteousness of Christ is imputed to believers in justification. Phil. 3:9, That I may be found in him not having my own righteousness which is of the law but that which is by faith in Christ, the righteousness of God through faith.

13. This righteousness is called the righteousness of God because it is ordained, approved, and confirmed by his grace to the end that sin­ners can stand before him, Rom. 10:3.

14. This justification comes about because of Christ, but not in the absolute sense of Christ’s being the cause of vocation. It happens be­cause Christ is apprehended by faith, which follows calling as an ef­fect. Faith precedes justification as the instrumental cause, laying hold of the righteousness of Christ from which justification being appre­hended follows; therefore, righteousness is said to be from faith, Rom. 9:30; 10:6. And justification is said to be by faith, Rom. 3:28.

15. This justifying faith is not the general faith of the understand­ing by which we give assent to the truth revealed in the Holy Scrip­tures, for that belongs not only to those who are justified, nor of its nature has it any force to justify, nor produce the effects which are everywhere in Scripture given to justifying faith.

16. Neither is it that special trust (properly speaking) by which we obtain remission of sins and justification itself. For justifying faith goes before justification itself, as a cause goes before its effect. But faith apprehending justification necessarily presupposes and follows justification as an act follows the object towards which it is directed.

17. That faith is properly called justifying by which we rely upon Christ for the remission of sins and for salvation. For Christ is a suf­ficient object for justifying faith. Faith justifies only by apprehending the righteousness by which we are justified. That righteousness does not lie in the truth of some proposition to which we give assent, but in Christ alone Who has been made sin for us that we might be righ­teousness in him, 2 Cor. 5:21.

18. Therefore, words are often repeated in the New Testament which show that justification is to be sought in Christ alone: John 1:12; 3:15, 16; 6:40, 47; 14:1, 12; Rom. 4:5; 3:26; Acts 10:43;

26:18; and Gal. 3:26.

19. Justifying faith of its own nature produces and is marked by a special, sure persuasion of the grace and mercy of God in Christ. Therefore, justifying faith is not wrongly described as persuasion by the orthodox (as it often is) —especially when they take a stand against the general faith to which the papists ascribe everything. But the following should be considered. First, the feeling of persuasion is not always present. It may and often does happen, either through weakness of judgment or various temptations and troubles of mind, that a person who truly believes and is by faith justified before God may for a time think that he neither believes nor is reconciled to God. Second, there are many degrees in this persuasion. Believers obviously do not have the same assurance of grace and favor of God, nor do the same ones have it at all times. But this cannot be said of justifying faith itself, without considerable loss in the consolation and peace which Christ has left to believers.

20. Justification does not free from sin and death directly by taking away the blame or stain or all the effects of sin; rather it removes the guilty obligation to undergo eternal death. Rom. 8:1, 33, 34, There is no condemnation . . . Who shall lay anything to their charge? . . , who shall condemn?

21. Nor does it take away guilt so that the deserving of punishment is removed from sin. This cannot be taken away as long as sin itself remains. But justification does take away guilt so that its haunting or deadly effects vanish.

22. The absolution from sins is called many things in the Holy Scriptures—remission, redemption, and reconciliation, Eph. 1:6, 7— but these all have the same meaning. When sin is thought of as a bondage or kind of spiritual captivity because of guilt, justification is called redemption. When it is thought of as subjection to deserved punishment, it is called remission — also passing by, blotting out, ex­oneration, taking away, casting away, removing, and casting behind the back, Rom. 4:7; Col. 2:13; Mic. 7:18; Isa. 43:12; 38:17; Ps. 32:1, 2. And when sin is thought of as enmity against God, justification is called reconciliation, Rom. 5:10. Sometimes this is regarded as even a kind of winking at sin, Num. 23:25, and a covering of sin, Ps. 32:1, 2.

23. Not only are past sins of justified persons remitted but also those to come. Num. 23:25. God sees no iniquity in Jacob or perverseness in Israel. Justification has left no place for condemnation. John 5:24, He who believes has eternal life and shall not come into condemnation — justification gives eternal life surely and immediately.

It also makes the whole remission obtained for us in Christ actually ours. Neither past nor present sins can be altogether fully remitted un­less sins to come are in some way remitted.

24. The difference is that past sins are remitted specifically and sins to come potentially. Past sins are remitted in themselves, sins to come in the subject or the person sinning.

25. Yet those who are justified need daily the forgiveness of sins. This is true because the continuance of grace is necessary to them; the consciousness and manifestation of forgiveness increases more and more as individual sins require it; and the execution of the sentence which is pronounced in justification may thus be carried out and com­pleted.

26. Besides the forgiveness of sins there is also required an imputa­tion of righteousness, Rom. 5:18; Rev. 19:8; Rom. 8:3. This is neces­sary because there might be a total absence of sin in a case where that righteousness does not exist which must be offered in place of justifi­cation.

27. This righteousness is not to be sought in a scattered fashion in the purity of the nature, birth, and life of Christ. It arises rather, with remission of sins, out of Christ’s total obedience, just as the disobedi­ence of Adam both robbed us of original righteousness and made us subject to the guilt of condemnation.

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Romans 4:5 “…his faith is counted for righteousness.” – Calvin commentary

November 2, 2012 Comments off

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

5. But believes on him, etc. This is a very important sentence, in which he expresses the substance and nature both of faith and of righteousness. He indeed clearly shews that faith brings us righteousness, not because it is a meritorious act, but because it obtains for us the favor of God. (134) Nor does he declare only that God is the giver of righteousness, but he also arraigns us of unrighteousness, in order that the bounty of God may come to aid our necessity: in short, no one will seek the righteousness of faith except he who feels that he is ungodly; for this sentence is to be applied to what is said in this passage, — that faith adorns us with the righteousness of another, which it seeks as a gift from God. And here again, God is said to justify us when he freely forgives sinners, and favors those, with whom he might justly be angry, with his love, that is, when his mercy obliterates our unrighteousness.
(134) Some have stumbled at this sentence, — “his faith is counted for righteousness,” and have misapplied it, as though faith were in itself the cause of righteousness, and hence a meritorious act, and not the way and means of attaining righteousness. Condensed sentences will not submit to the rules of logic, but must be interpreted according to the context and explanations elsewhere found. “His faith” means, no doubt, his faith in the Promise, or in God who promises, or in him who, as is said in this verse, “justifies the ungodly:” hence what is believed, or the object of faith, is what is counted for righteousness. This accords with the declarations, — that “man is justified by faith,” Rom_3:28, and that “the righteousness of God” is “by faith,” Rom_3:22. If by faith, then faith itself is not that righteousness.
“Beware,” says [Chalmers ] , “of having any such view of faith as will lead you to annex to it the kind of merit, or of claim, or of glorying under the gospel, which are annexed to works under the law. This, in fact, were just animating with a legal spirit the whole phraseology and doctrine of the gospel. It is God who justifies. He drew up the title-deed, and he bestowed the title-deed. It is ours simply to lay hold of it…Any other view of faith than that which excludes boasting must be altogether unscriptural.” — Ed.

Bunyan’s inward man faint, but revived by Jesus Christ – Grace abounding exerpt

March 23, 2012 Comments off

255. Upon a time I was something inclining to a consumption, wherewith about the spring I was suddenly and violently seized, with much weakness in my outward man; insomuch that I thought I could not live. Now began I afresh to give myself up to a serious examination after my state and condition for the future, and of my evidences for that blessed world to come: for it hath, I bless the name of God, been my usual course, as always, so especially in the day of affliction, to endeavour to keep my interest in the life to come, clear before mine eyes.

256. But I had no sooner began to recall to mind my former experience of the goodness of God to my soul, but there came flocking into my mind an innumerable company of my sins and transgressions; amongst which these were at this time most to my affliction; namely, my deadness, dulness, and coldness in holy duties; my wanderings of heart, of my wearisomeness in all good things, my want of love to God, His ways and people, with this at the end of all, Are these the fruits of Christianity? Are these tokens of a blessed man?

257. At the apprehensions of these things my sickness was doubled upon me; for now I was sick in my inward man, my soul was clogged with guilt; now also was my former experience of God’s goodness to me, quite taken out of my mind, and hid as if they had never been, or seen: now was my soul greatly pinched between these two considerations, Live I must not, die I dare not. Now I sunk and fell in my spirit, and was giving up all for lost; but as I was walking up and down in the house as a man in a most woeful state, that word of God took hold of my heart, Ye are justified freely by His grace, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus. Rom. iii. 24. But oh! what a turn it made upon me!

258. Now was I as one awaked out of some troublesome sleep and dream; and listening to this heavenly sentence, I was as if I had heard it thus expounded to me: Sinner, thou thinkest, that because thy sins and infirmities, I cannot save thy soul; but behold My Son is by me, and upon Him I look, and not on thee, and shall deal with thee according as I am pleased with Him. At this I was greatly lightened in my mind, and made to understand, that God could justify a sinner at any time; it was but His looking upon Christ, and imputing His benefits to us, and the work was forthwith done.

259. And as I was thus in a muse, that scripture also came with great power upon my spirit, Not by works of righteousness that we have done, but according to His mercy He hath saved us, etc. 2 Tim. i. 9; Tit. iii. 5. Now was I got on high, I saw myself within the arms of grace and mercy; and though I was before afraid to think of a dying hour, yet, now I cried, Let me die: Now death was lovely and beautiful in my sight, for I saw We shall never live indeed, till we be gone to the other world. Oh! methought this life is but a slumber, in comparison with that above. At this time also I saw more in these words, Heirs of God, Rom. viii. 17, than ever I shall be able to express while I live in this world: Heirs of God! God Himself is the portion of the saints. This I saw and wondered at, but cannot tell you what I saw.

Source: Grace abounding to the chief of sinners, by John Bunyan

Jesus our righteousness before God – Grace abounding excerpt

March 22, 2012 Comments off

229. But one day, as I was passing in the field, and that too with some dashes on my conscience, fearing lest yet all was not right, suddenly this sentence fell upon my soul, Thy righteousness is in heaven; and methought withal, I saw, with the eyes of my soul, Jesus Christ at God’s right hand; there, I say, is my righteousness; so that wherever I was, or whatever I was a-doing, God could not say of me, He wants my righteousness, for that was just before Him. I also saw, moreover, that it was not my good frame of heart that made my righteousness better, nor yet my bad frame that made my righteousness worse; for my righteousness was Jesus Christ Himself, the same yesterday, and to-day, and for ever (Heb. 13.8).

230. Now did my chains fall off my legs indeed, I was loosed from my affliction and irons, my temptations had fled away; so that, from that time, those dreadful scriptures of God left off to trouble me now; now went I also home rejoicing, for the grace and love of God. So when I came home, I looked to see if I could find that sentence, Thy righteousness is in heaven; but could not find such a saying, wherefore my heart began to sink again, only that was brought to my remembrance, He ‘of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption’ by this word I saw the other sentence true (1 Cor. 1.30).

231. For by this scripture, I saw that the man Christ Jesus, as He is distinct from us, as touching His bodily presence, so He is our righteousness and sanctification before God. Here, therefore, I lived for some time, very sweetly at peace with God through Christ; Oh, methought, Christ! Christ! there was nothing but Christ that was before my eyes, I was not only for looking upon this and the other benefits of Christ apart, as of His blood, burial, or resurrection, but considered Him as a whole Christ! As He in whom all these, and all other His virtues, relations, offices, and operations met together, and that as He sat on the right hand of God in heaven.

232. It was glorious to me to see His exaltation, and the worth and prevalency of all His benefits, and that because of this: now I could look from myself to Him, and should reckon that all those graces of God that now were green in me, were yet but like those cracked groats and fourpence-halfpennies that rich men carry in their purses, when their gold is in their trunks at home! Oh, I saw my gold was in my trunk at home! In Christ, my Lord and Saviour! Now Christ was all; all my wisdom, all my righteousness, all my sanctification, and all my redemption.

233. Further, the Lord did also lead me into the mystery of union with the Son of God, that I was joined to Him, that I was flesh of His flesh, and bone of His bone, and now was that a sweet word to me in Eph. 5.30. By this also was my faith in Him, as my righteousness, the more confirmed to me; for if He and I were one, then His righteousness was mine, His merits mine, His victory also mine. Now could I see myself in heaven and earth at once; in heaven by my Christ, by my head, by my righteousness and life, though on earth by my body or person.

234. Now I saw Christ Jesus was looked on of God, and should also be looked on by us, as that common or public person, in whom all the whole body of His elect are always to be considered and reckoned; that we fulfilled the law by Him, rose from the dead by Him, got the victory over sin, death, the devil, and hell, by Him; when He died, we died; and so of His resurrection. ‘Thy dead men shall live, together with my dead body shall they arise,’ saith he (Isa. 26.19). And again, ‘After two days will he revive us: in the third day he will raise us up, and we shall live in his sight’ (Hos. 6.2); which is now fulfilled by the sitting down of the Son of Man on the right hand of the Majesty in the heavens, according to that to the Ephesians, He ‘hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus’ (Eph. 2.6).

235. Ah, these blessed considerations and scriptures, with many others of a like nature, were in those days made to spangle in mine eyes, so that I have cause to say, ‘Praise ye the Lord. Praise God in his sanctuary: praise him in the firmament of his power. Praise him for his mighty acts: praise him according to his excellent greatness’ (Ps. 150.1, 2).

Source: Grace abounding to the chief of sinners, by John Bunyan