Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Further thoughts on Justification and Sanctification...

Over the past year I've had the opportunity to lead two studies in our church - one on the Epistle to the Romans 1-8 and the other on the Epistle to the Galatians. Personally, it has been a rich and rewarding time. My understanding of God's act of "mere mercy" has grown due to, not only to the words of Scripture, but the excellent commentaries of John Stott, Martin Luther, and John Calvin, as well as several articles from Modern Reformation Magazine.  Here is what I'll simply call some further thoughts on justification and sanctification...
The Gospel of Jesus Christ is such that upon hearing and trusting in its message sinners are completely set free from all penalties and demands of the Law pertaining to sin and righteousness.  For on the cross Jesus Christ took upon himself our sin, our guilt, and the penalty of God’s just wrath.  He suffered and died willingly in our place for our sins.  This is the love of God. Thus through repentant faith we have been drawn by God to look away from our wretched selves unto Christ only, having received as a free gift of God’s grace the complete forgiveness of all our sins and the imputation of Christ’s perfect obedience to the Law, our righteousness before God.
This is our justification. 

    But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited as righteousness (Rom. 4:5)
… that He would be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus (Rom. 3:26b)
    For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the Law (Rom. 3:28)
    … nevertheless knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the Law but through faith in Christ Jesus, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, so that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the Law; since by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified (Gal. 2:16)
    He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him (2 Cor. 5:21)
    Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.(Rom.8:1).

And by this faith which looks to Christ alone, the Gospel not only frees us from any and all demands of the law required of us (which we could never perform) - no longer, through works, needing to attain or earn merit of righteousness before God - but also in this Gospel we have been delivered from the dominion of sin and death to that of righteousness and life. We are no longer under law but under grace. And this is the transforming ground upon which we stand and walk as believers.  Having become recipients of such immense mercy,  we are freed to look away from self's concerns to that of others, embracing the righteous direction of the law.  And this most especially occurs as we bear the burdens of one another, fulfilling the law of Christ - to love thy neighbor as thyself. Though we never love without imperfection (still beset by the remnant of sinful flesh) yet this spiritual service of grateful obedience, led by the Spirit, is acceptable to God by grace through faith. - The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God. (Rom. 8: 16)
This is our sanctification.

For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything, but faith working through love. (Gal. 5: 6)     
    For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. (Gal. 5: 13)
    For the whole Law is fulfilled in one word, in the statement, "YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF." (Gal. 5: 14)
    But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the Law. (Gal. 5: 18)
    If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit. (Gal. 5: 25)
For all who are being led by by the Spirit of God, these are the sons of God. (Rom. 8: 14)
    Bear one another's burdens, and thus fulfil the law of the Christ. (Gal. 6: 2)
    And those who will walk by this rule, peace and mercy be upon them, and upon the Israel of God. (Gal. 6: 16)

The Vertical and the Horizontal: Faith without works looks heavenward away from self unto Christ alone and passively receives undeserved justification.  This same faith also looks away from self to one’s neighbor to serve him by bearing his burdens, actively working through love born of the Holy Spirit.  This latter sanctifying faith flows from the former justifying faith and yet they are inseparable.  The justified sinner, who for freedom was set free by Christ, is led of the Spirit into the sanctifying path of loving his neighbor as himself.  Through the power of the Spirit he takes up his cross in grateful obedience as a servant of both God and others;  to the end that the one who believes might be conformed to the image of His dear Son. (Rom. 8: 29)

    But now having been freed from sin and enslaved to God, you derive your benefit, resulting in sanctification, and the outcome, eternal life. (Rom. 6:22)
[all Scripture verses from the NASV]

Friday, November 19, 2010

Concluding thoughts on Cranmer...

I find that I keep coming back to Ashley Null's excellent book on Cranmer's theology. Unlike his Reformed Continental contemporaries, Cranmer left little by way of published theological writings due to the demanding and difficult responsibility and role of guiding the reformation of the English Church as its Archbishop. Null's research into the voluminous notes and annotations of Cranmer have resulted in a book that helps flesh out Cranmer's mature thoughts on justification, election, repentance, baptism, predestination, and the perseverance of the saints; and thus the direction of reform he was navigating before his arrest under Queen Mary.

... by Ashley Null from the last chapter of his book Thomas Cranmer's Doctrine of Repentance:

    "Crucial to Cranmer’s argument was the renovation of the will and its affections which justification by imputation effected.  In the moment of justification God granted both faith and love.  The believer’s faith laid hold of the extrinsic righteousness of Christ on which basis his sins were pardoned.  At the same time the Holy Spirit indwelt the believer, stirring in him a love for God out of gratitude for the assurance of salvation.  Before love had been shed in a Christian’s heart, no work which he did could be considered good.  Once love had been shed in his heart, before he did any good works he was already a child of God.  Hence works could play no role in justification itself.  Rather, striving to please God out of love was the natural response to free pardon and the good works which arose accordingly certified the believer’s conscience that he was justified.  God’s gracious love inspired grateful human love.  Thus, justification was being made ‘right-willed’ by faith, not being made inherently righteous through a preparation of good works.  To protect the utter gratuity of the saving faith Cranmer appealed to Augustine’s teaching on the unconditional predestination of the elect to eternal life, although like his fellow Reformed theologians, he rejected Augustine’s views that not all those who were justified would persevere to final glory.
    "Developed and defended in the unique situation of the Henrician church, Cranmer’s Reformed theology emphasized the ‘right-will’ concomitant with justification.  As a result, he was able to continue the medieval focus on poenitentia, albeit significantly redefined by being placed within a solidly Protestant theological context.  Repentance was now turning to God (by confessing one's sins) to be turned by God (through his gift of lively faith), an act which both humbled humankind and glorified God as their only hope.  When God granted repentance as an on-going fruit of a life of godly love, the believer knew he was elected to eternal salvation.  This doctrine of repentance Cranmer sought to make the focal point of his formularies for the Edwardian church.  Nevertheless, since Cranmer’s larger theological context of predestination was hidden from view in the prayer book, just as Scotus’s similar doctrine was not apparent in the penitentials, Cranmer’s liturgy remained vulnerable to being understood as stressing salvation contingent on human response.  Consequently, much of the subsequent history of Anglican theology can be understood as a struggle to reach agreement on the proper understanding of repentance.
  "No doubt Cranmer would be disappointed by the disputes of his theological descendants, but he would have understood.  As an academic, he knew that different presuppositions often predetermined  conflicting conclusions, despite rigorous logic  being employed by both sides.  As a pastor, he realized that human frailty fought against admitting error, the necessary prelude to anyone switching perspectives.  As a sinner, he too struggled with the ever-present human tendency to put his own interest ahead of God’s glory and the advancement of the gospel.  His final answer was to put his hand in the fire and commit his life and legacy to God’s love:  its unconditional pardon, its inspiration of reciprocal love, its often invisible purposes, and its ultimately invincible plan to order all things right.  Anglicans may not find Cranmer and his prayer book so easy to love today, but his faith still offers much from which they can learn."
[pages 252-253]

Thursday, November 11, 2010

More from Machen...

More from J. Gresham Machen’s book Christianity and Liberalism... dive in, it's worth it;
Excerpts from Chapter 5 on Salvation:  

  The atoning death of Christ, and that alone, has presented sinners as righteous in God's sight; the Lord Jesus has paid the full penalty of their sins, and clothed them with His perfect righteousness before the judgment seat of God. But Christ has done for Christians even far more than that. He has given to them not only a new and right relation to God, but a new life in God's presence for evermore. He has saved them from the power as well as from the guilt of sin. The New Testament does not end with the death of Christ; it does not end with the triumphant words of Jesus on the Cross, "It is finished." The death was followed by the resurrection, and the resurrection like the death was for our sakes. Jesus rose from the dead into a new life of glory and power, and into that life He brings those for whom He died. The Christian, on the basis of Christ's redeeming work, not only has died unto sin, but also lives unto God.
    Thus was completed the redeeming work of Christ--the work for which He entered into the world. The account of that work is the "gospel," the "good news." It never could have been predicted, for sin deserves naught but eternal death. But God triumphed over sin through the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ.
    But how is the redeeming work of Christ applied to the individual Christian man? The answer of the New Testament is plain. According to the New Testament the work of Christ is applied to the individual Christian man by the Holy Spirit. And this work of the Holy Spirit is part of the creative work of God. It is not accomplished by the ordinary use of means; it is not accomplished merely by using the good that is already in man. On the contrary, it is something new. It is not an influence upon the life, but the beginning of a new life; it is not development of what we had already, but a new birth. At the very center of Christianity are the words, "Ye must be born again."
    ... Many are the passages and many are the ways in which the central doctrine of the new birth is taught in the Word of God. One of the most stupendous passages is Gal. ii. 20: "I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I that live but Christ liveth in me." That passage was called by Bengel the marrow of Christianity. And it was rightly so called. It refers to the objective basis of Christianity in the redeeming work of Christ, and it contains also the supernaturalism of Christian experience. "It is no longer I that live, but Christ liveth in me"--these are extraordinary words. "If you look upon Christians," Paul says in effect, "you see so many manifestations of the life of Christ." Undoubtedly if the words of Gal. ii. 20 stood alone they might be taken in a mystical or pantheistic sense; they might be taken to involve the merging of the personality of the Christian in the personality of Christ. But Paul had no reason to fear such a misinterpretation, for he had fortified himself against it by the whole of his teaching. The new relation of the Christian to Christ, according to Paul, involves no loss of the separate personality of the Christian; on the contrary, it is everywhere intensely personal; it is not a merely mystical relationship to the All or the Absolute, but a relationship of love existing between one person and another. Just because Paul had fortified himself against misunderstanding, he was not afraid of an extreme boldness of language. "It is no longer I that live, but Christ liveth in me"--these words involve a tremendous conception of the break that comes in a man's life when he becomes a Christian. It is almost as though he became a new person--so stupendous is the change. These words were not written by a man who believed that Christianity means merely the entrance of a new motive into the life; Paul believed with all his mind and heart in the doctrine of the new creation or the new birth.
    ... That doctrine represents one aspect of the salvation which was wrought by Christ and is applied by His Spirit. But there is another aspect of the same salvation. Regeneration means a new life; but there is also a new relation in which the believer stands toward God. That new relation is instituted by "justification"--the act of God by which a sinner is pronounced righteous in His sight because of the atoning death of Christ. It is not necessary to ask whether justification comes before regeneration or vice versa; in reality they are two aspects of one salvation. And they both stand at the very beginning of the Christian life. The Christian has not merely the promise of a new life, but he has already a new life. And he has not merely the promise of being pronounced righteous in God's sight (though the blessed pronouncement will be confirmed on the judgment day), but he is already pronounced righteous here and now. At the beginning of every Christian life there stands, not a process, but a definite act of God.
    ... That does not mean, however, that in the beginning of the Christian life God deals with us as with sticks or stones, unable to understand what is being done. On the contrary He deals with us as with persons; salvation has a place in the conscious life of man; God uses in our salvation a conscious act of the human soul--an act which though it is itself the work of God's Spirit, is at the same time an act of man. That act of man which God produces and employs in salvation is faith. At the center of Christianity is the doctrine of "justification by faith."
    ... But if Christian faith is based upon truth, then it is not the faith which saves the Christian but the object of the faith. And the object of the faith is Christ. Faith, then, according to the Christian view means simply receiving a gift. To have faith in Christ means to cease trying to win God's favor by one's own character; the man who believes in Christ simply accepts the sacrifice which Christ offered on Calvary. The result of such faith is a new life and all good works; but the salvation itself is an absolutely free gift of God.
    ... The liberty of the gospel depends upon the gift of God by which the Christian life is begun--a gift which involves justification, or the removal of the guilt of sin and the establishment of a right relation between the believer and God, and regeneration or the new birth, which makes of the Christian man a new creature.
    ... But there is one obvious objection to this high doctrine, and the objection leads on to a fuller account of the Christian way of salvation. The obvious objection to the doctrine of the new creation is that it does not seem to be in accord with the observed fact. Are Christians really new creatures? It certainly does not seem so. They are subject to the same old conditions of life to which they were subject before; if you look upon them you cannot notice any very obvious change. They have the same weaknesses, and, unfortunately, they have sometimes the same sins. The new creation, if it be really new, does not seem to be very perfect; God can hardly look upon it and say, as of the first creation, that it is all very good.
    This is a very real objection. But Paul meets it gloriously in the very same verse, already considered, in which the doctrine of the new creation is so boldly proclaimed. "It is no longer I that live, but Christ liveth in me"--that is the doctrine of the new creation. But immediately the objection is taken up; "The life which I now live in the flesh," Paul continues, "I live by the faith which is in the Son of God who loved me and gave Himself for me." "The life which I now live in the flesh"--there is the admission. Paul admits that the Christian does live a life in the flesh, subject to the same old earthly conditions and with a continued battle against sin. "But," says Paul (and here the objection is answered), "the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith which is in the Son of God who loved me and gave Himself for me." The Christian life is lived by faith and not by sight; the great change has not yet come to full fruition; sin has not yet been fully conquered; the beginning of the Christian life is a new birth, not an immediate creation of the full grown man. But although the new life has not yet come to full fruition, the Christian knows that the fruition will not fail; he is confident that the God who has begun a good work in him will complete it unto the day of Christ; he knows that the Christ who has loved him and given Himself for him will not fail him now, but through the Holy Spirit will build him up unto the perfect man. That is what Paul means by living the Christian life by faith.
    Thus the Christian life, though it begins by a momentary act of God, is continued by a process. In other words--to use theological language--justification and regeneration are followed by sanctification. In principle the Christian is already free from the present evil world, but in practice freedom must still be attained. Thus the Christian life is not a life of idleness, but a battle.
    That is what Paul means when he speaks of faith working through love (Gal. v. 6). The faith that he makes the means of salvation is not an idle faith, like the faith which is condemned in the Epistle of James, but a faith that works. The work that it performs is love, and what love is Paul explains in the last section of the Epistle to the Galatians. Love, in the Christian sense, is not a mere emotion, but a very practical and a very comprehensive thing. It involves nothing less than the keeping of the whole law of God. "The whole law is fulfilled in one word, I even in this: Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself." Yet the practical results of faith do not mean that faith itself is a work. It is a significant thing that in that last "practical" section of Galatians Paul does not say that faith produces the life of love; he says that the Spirit of God produces it. The Spirit, then, in that section is represented as doing exactly what in the pregnant words, "faith working through love," is attributed to faith. The apparent contradiction simply leads to the true conception of faith. True faith does not do anything. When it is said to do something (for example, when we say that it can remove mountains), that is only by a very natural shortness of expression. Faith is the exact opposite of works; faith does not give, it receives. So when Paul says that we do something by faith, that is just another way of saying that of ourselves we do nothing; when it is said that faith works through love that means that through faith the necessary basis of all Christian work has been obtained in the removal of guilt and the birth of the new man, and that the Spirit of God has been received--the Spirit who works with and through the Christian man for holy living. The force which enters the Christian life through faith and works itself out through love is the power of the Spirit of God. [bold added]
    But the Christian life is lived not only by faith; it is also lived in hope. The Christian is in the midst of a sore battle. And as for the condition of the world at large--nothing but the coldest heartlessness could be satisfied with that. It is certainly true that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now. Even in the Christian life there are things that we should like to see removed; there are fears within as well as fightings without; even within the Christian life there are sad evidences of sin. But according to the hope which Christ has given us, there will be final victory, and the struggle of this world will be followed by the glories of heaven. That hope runs all through the Christian life; Christianity is not engrossed by this transitory world, but measures all things by the thought of eternity.
    But at this point an objection is frequently raised. The "other-worldliness" of Christianity is objected to as a form of selfishness. The Christian, it is said, does what is right because of the hope of heaven, but how much nobler is the man who because of duty walks boldly into the darkness of annihilation!
    The objection would have some weight if heaven according to Christian belief were mere enjoyment. But as a matter of fact heaven is communion with God and with His Christ. It can be said reverently that the Christian longs for heaven not only for his own sake, but also for the sake of God. Our present love is so cold, our present service so weak; and we would one day love and serve Him as His love deserves. It is perfectly true that the Christian is dissatisfied with the present world, but it is a holy dissatisfaction; it is that hunger and thirst after righteousness which our Savior blessed. We are separated from the Savior now by the veil of sense and by the effects of sin, and it is not selfish to long to see Him face to face. To relinquish such longing is not unselfishness, but is like the cold heartlessness of a man who could part from father or mother or wife or child without a pang. It is not selfish to long for the One whom not having seen we love.
  Such is the Christian life--it is a life of conflict but it is also a life of hope. It views this world under the aspect of eternity; the fashion of this world passeth away, and all must stand before the judgment seat of Christ.