Friday, August 30, 2013

Forgiveness of Sins and Righteousness...

Gospel truths that the most saintly Christian never outgrows:

"The sum of the Gospel is, not without good reason, made to consist in repentance and forgiveness of sins; and, therefore, where these two heads are omitted, any discussion concerning faith will be meager and defective, and indeed almost useless. 
"... nothing belongs more peculiarly to God than the forgiveness of sins, in which our salvation consists. 
"... Thus we simply interpret justification, as the acceptance with which God receives us into his favor as if we were righteous; and we say that this justification consists in the forgiveness of sins and the imputation of the righteousness of Christ. 
".... in the Epistle to the Romans, he proves, by the testimony of David, that righteousness is imputed without works, because he declares the man to be blessed "whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered," and "unto whom the Lord imputeth not iniquity," (Romans 4:6; Psalm 32:1, 2.) There he undoubtedly uses blessedness for righteousness; and as he declares that it consists in forgiveness of sins, there is no reason why we should define it otherwise... 
"Thus the Apostle connects forgiveness of sins with justification in such a way as to show that they are altogether the same; and hence he properly argues that justification, which we owe to the indulgence of God, is gratuitous. Nor should it seem an unusual mode of expression to say that believers are justified before God not by works, but by gratuitous acceptance, seeing it is frequently used in Scripture, and sometimes also by ancient writers. Thus Augustine says: "The righteousness of the saints in this world consists more in the forgiveness of sins than the perfection of virtue," (August. de Civitate Dei, lib. 19, cap. 27.) To this corresponds the well-known sentiment of Bernard: "Not to sin is the righteousness of God, but the righteousness of man is the indulgence of God," (Bernard, Serm. 22, 23 in Cant.) He previously asserts that Christ is our righteousness in absolution, and, therefore, that those only are just who have obtained pardon through mercy."
John Calvin, Institutes 3.11

Trustworthy saying...

"For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another. But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. The saying is trustworthy, and I want you to insist on these things, so that those who have believed in God may be careful to devote themselves to good works. These things are excellent and profitable for people." [Titus 3:3-8]

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Inward and Outward Evidences of Grace...

From John Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress - Stage Five:

Faithful: Then Faithful stepped forward again, and said to Talkative, Come, what cheer? How is it now?

Talkative: Thank you, well: I thought we should have had a great deal of talk by this time.

Faithful: Well, if you will, we will fall to it now; and since you left it with me to state the question, let it be this: How doth the saving grace of God discover itself when it is in the heart of man?

Talkative: I perceive, then, that our talk must be about the power of things. Well, it is a very good question, and I shall be willing to answer you. And take my answer in brief, thus: First, where the grace of God is in the heart, it causeth there a great outcry against sin. Secondly-

Faithful: Nay, hold; let us consider of one at once. I think you should rather say, it shows itself by inclining the soul to abhor its sin.

Talkative: Why, what difference is there between crying out against, and abhorring of sin?

Faithful: Oh! a great deal. A man may cry out against sin, of policy; but he cannot abhor it but by virtue of a godly antipathy against it....

Faithful: A work of grace in the soul discovereth itself, either to him that hath it, or to standers-by.

To him that hath it, thus: It gives him conviction of sin, especially the defilement of his nature, and the sin of unbelief, for the sake of which he is sure to be damned, if he findeth not mercy at God’s hand, by faith in Jesus Christ. This sight and sense of things worketh in him sorrow and shame for sin. Psa. 38:18; Jer. 31:19; John 16:8; Rom. 7:24; Mark 16:16; Gal. 2:16; Rev. 1:6. He findeth, moreover, revealed in him the Saviour of the world, and the absolute necessity of closing with him for life; at the which he findeth hungerings and thirstings after him; to which hungerings, etc., the promise is made. Now, according to the strength or weakness of his faith in his Saviour, so is his joy and peace, so is his love to holiness, so are his desires to know him more, and also to serve him in this world. But though, I say, it discovereth itself thus unto him, yet it is but seldom that he is able to conclude that this is a work of grace; because his corruptions now, and his abused reason, make his mind to misjudge in this matter: therefore in him that hath this work there is required a very sound judgment, before he can with steadiness conclude that this is a work of grace. John 16:9; Gal. 2:15,16; Acts 4:12; Matt. 5:6; Rev. 21:6.

To others it is thus discovered:

1. By an experimental confession of his faith in Christ. 2. By a life answerable to that confession; to wit, a life of holiness-heart-holiness, family-holiness, (if he hath a family,) and by conversation-holiness in the world; which in the general teacheth him inwardly to abhor his sin, and himself for that, in secret; to suppress it in his family, and to promote holiness in the world: not by talk only, as a hypocrite or talkative person may do, but by a practical subjection in faith and love to the power of the word. Job 42:5,6; Psa. 50:23; Ezek. 20:43; Matt. 5:8; John 14:15; Rom. 10:10; Ezek. 36:25; Phil. 1:27; 3:17-20.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Justification Based on Real Works of Righteousness...

... but not ours!

Scott Clark doing what he does so well - dispelling myths.  He does so in a post today by means of explaining the biblical doctrine of justification in contrast with the Federal Vision error of final justification. Christians have a real righteousness, one wrought through works of obedience, that is the basis for God declaring them justified.  It is a righteousness that is not far off, nor a legal fiction.  Scott writes,
When we say, “justify” we mean, “a divine declaration of righteousness.” The basis or ground of this declaration is the actual, perfect, condign merit and perfect righteousness (active and passive obedience) of Jesus which is imputed to all those who believe, i.e., who are “receiving and resting” in Christ and his finished work for us. God is right to declare us righteous, because the terms of justice have been fulfilled by Christ. By the way, our doctrine of justification does not, therefore, make justification a “legal fiction” as the papists and moralists (i.e., the FV) like to say. We have a real, actual basis for our righteousness before God. It is not “grace and cooperation with grace” or Spirit-wrought sanctity within us. Christ’s righteousness for us was and is real, actual, intrinsic, and perfect and it is imputed to all who believe sot that all believers are reckoned as perfectly righteous before God...

So then, what about on that last day when we shall stand before God? Will there be a final justification in judgment that rests at least partially upon our works done in this life?  Is justification secure for the believer who's life's works are lacking in righteousness?  Scott explains,
The phrase, “openly acknowledged and acquitted” refers to the Protestant doctrine of vindication before God and man at the last day. It is only the justified who shall be acknowledged and acquitted and they are just who are clothed with the perfect (condign) righteousness and merit of Christ. We dare not stand before God on the basis of anything wrought in us or anything done by us because it is all imperfect, it is all tainted, it is all corrupted and none of it meets the unbreakable standard of God’s righteousness: “cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the book of the law” (Gal 3:10). This is why the Protestants universally rejected the notion of congruent merit, because it denies the divine righteousness. God does not overlook sin and he doesn’t act arbitrarily. He acts according to his nature and his nature is just.
That is why Paul says, “having been justified” and “there is therefore now no condemnation….” Justification is done. Christ’s righteousness is done. The latter is the basis for the former, and it is just and right for God to reckon it so and to reckon us righteous who trust in him who fulfilled all righteousness. Remember, the question isn’t even whether we are to believe in imputation since both papists and moralists believe in imputation. The question is whether we’re to confess the Protestant, confessional, and biblical version of imputation or some other.
Because we are righteous in Christ, we shall be vindicated at the judgment. There is no such thing as “initial” justification as distinct from “final” justification. We are justified now and we shall be vindicated then.
Read the whole thing HERE.

Monday, August 26, 2013

The Old Life Controversialist...

Over at Old Life, run by a reportably blustering-bigoted-blogger (comment @ August 22, 2013 at 10:47 am), Darryl Hart has another post where he shows no sign of backing away from the issues at hand. He thus remains a target for those who wish to write him off as no more than a contentious rabble-rouser. Oh well.

I just don't think Jason and the Callers get Darryl (understatement alert). They're a bit flummuxed concerning his contentious assaults on their Roman Catholic one-true-church paradise paradigm, which assault is really a defense of Reformed Protestantism against the Callers' claims. Well if I can, I'd like to add my two cents as to the apparent necessity of Hart's controversial bent.  DGH is someone writing these blog posts purposefully for the good (faithful are the wounds of a friend, Prov. 26:7) of brothers that have gone astray and for those who might be tempted to do so. A commitment to the truth of Scripture necessitates a certain militancy, a posture out of step in our can't-we-all-just-get-along modern age. And rather than supply my own deep thoughts in support of that contention, I think it best to let DGH (this post is all about him), who apparently has become known in some circles as one who can’t string together a cogent argument if his life depended on it (Stellman comment), provide a cogent argument in his own words (with a little help from his friends...).

Excerpts from the essay Make War No More? by D.G. Hart (Always Reformed: Essays in Honor of W. Robert Godfrey)-
When Machen wrote that liberalism was un-Christian he did so within the context of a church, the PCUSA, which functioned very much like a old boys' club where accusations of infidelity were not only in bad taste but also constituted a breach of the ninth commandment...
 Machen's defense of militancy went in two directions.  The first was to argue for the civil necessity of intolerance. The state, he wrote, was an involuntary organization and so citizens, by virtue of being born into it were forced to be members of it whether they wanted to or not.  For the state, therefore, "to prescribed any one type of opinion or any one type of  opinion or education for its citizens" was the crassest form of intolerance. In other words, the modern state was ideally a tolerant society. But churches were different. By nature churches and other kinds of voluntary organizations were inherently intolerant or else they would "cease to exist..."
The second argument for combativeness was to go to Scripture itself... he defended intolerance again but this time linked it directly to the gospel. He declared,
  • To pray for tolerance without careful definition of that of which you are to be tolerant, is just to pray for the breakdown of the Christian religion; for the Christian religion is intolerant to the core. There lies the whole offense of the Cross--and also the whole power of it. Always the gospel would have been received with favor by the world if it had been presented merely as one way of salvation; the offense came because it was presented as the only way, and because it made relentless war upon all other ways.
... The offense of the cross and the claims of Christ upon the believer made it impossible for the church and the Christian individual to avoid controversy, "Show me a professing Christian of whom all men speak well, and I will show you a man who is probably unfaithful to His Lord"... A Christian who avoids argument," he argued, "is not the Christianity of the New Testament..."
 Of course, for many conservative Protestants outside the Reformed world, the OPC's militancy was peculiar, idiosyncratic, and uncharitable. But as Ned B. Stonehouse explained, the OPC's point in fighting was, much like Machen's, to defend the truth against error. "Controversy," Stonehouse wrote, "lays bare sins and weaknesses which must be deplored and overcome. But controversy is also a necessary feature of the life of the Church of Christ as it wages its battle for the truth." In fact, "only a dead or moribund church" would be without controversy in "days of unbelief and ungodliness, of doctrinal indifferentism and lukewarmness and compromise." Consequently, disputes within the church, according to Stonehouse, would actually be the basis for encouragement.  Folks who do not see the error of their position would, of course, think that controversy with them, at least, was wrong and unnecessary. But if the foundation of Christianity could be found in the "proclamation and defence of the truth of God regardless of consequences," then to the degree that the OPC shared this conviction it would always be engaged in on controversy or another...
But Machen knew that militancy was not simply part of his heritage at Old Princeton. It was part and parcel of being a follower of Jesus Christ.  As he told Westimentster students in 1931, 
  • I we face the real situation in the church and in the world, and decide, despite that situation, to stand firmly for the gospel of Christ, we shall be very likely indeed to find ourselves engaged in controversy. But if we are going to avoid controversy, we might as well close our Bibles, for the New Testament is a controversial book practically from beginning to end. The New Testament writers and our Lord himself presented truth in sharp contrast with error, and indeed that is the only way in which truth can be presented in any clear and ringing way.
In other words, to engage in controversy is not merely to be one of Machen's warrior children. It is to belong to the church militant.

Friday, August 23, 2013

What makes a good marriage?

Read a book or do an online search (such as herehere, or here) on the above question and you'll get no lack of advice and markers as to a good marriage, most of which (not all) are helpful and some certainly grounded in truth and common sense concerning relationship.  Any who care about their marriage seek out, from time to time, helps like these because there is no marriage immune from relational difficulties, disappointments and hurts. Building a good marriage isn't easy.  Many indeed have what could be labeled as marital problems and even severe breaches of marital faithfulness.  And that sadly has been the status-quo since Adam and Eve were cast out of the garden.  Could it be that one can have a good marriage and yet it's not free from hurts and difficulties? Does the idyllic problem-free marriage even exist?  As to say, if only each partner were to carry their 50% by heeding the rules of good relationship and adhere to their respective responsibilities then a bubble of marital bliss would envelop them throughout the years, i.e. live perfectly.  The only problem with that scenario is the inconvenient reality that intrudes again and again--both spouses are sinners.

Having done some marriage counseling in both private practice and church settings for a time in the 1980s-90s and being married for almost forty years, I'm interested to find any new insight or help that may come along. Being married to a fallen individual isn't easy.  Just ask Mrs. The World's Ruined!  With that in view, I was blessed as I read the book Family Vocation: God's Calling in Marriage, Parenting, and Childhood by Gene Veith and Mary J. Moerbe.  In the section on marriage the authors, rather than offering some new innovation or ten-easy-relational-steps, point back to something old, something simple yet hard, something grounded in the reality of our flawed humanity and God's mercy as revealed in Scripture which the best of marriages never outgrow:
Specifically, wives struggle because they are sinners married to sinners, and are also sinners under the authority of a sinful husband.  As sinners themselves, wives may resist and strike out against their husbands.  Husbands have struggles and temptations as sinners and as sinners with authority over a wife.  They may be tempted to abuse or belittle the authority God gave them, authority intended for loving service.  Sin is ultimately the reason for discord within marriage--not just the sins of one or the other, but given the one-flesh unity of married couples, sin that entwines and entraps them both.  And the solution to sin is forgiveness.
We cannot emphasize enough the centrality of forgiveness within marriage.  When God uses marriage language, he is speaking of the gospel, so the passages are replete with forgiveness, emphasizing love and mercy.  Marriage is the great proving ground for forgiveness.  The greater the intimacy between two people, the greater the knowledge of faults and weaknesses, and thus the greater occasions for forgiveness.  This is more than a precursory "No harm done; it doesn't matter; no apology needed."  Forgiveness exists exactly because harm is done.  Something was wrong, but forgiveness allows the relationship to move on.  Forgiveness is a huge aspect of our relationship with each other and our relationship with our Lord.  In fact, Jesus--who, remember, is present in our neighbor--connects his forgiveness with our forgiving each other.  We are to pray, "Forgive us our debts as we also have forgiven our debtors" (Matt. 6:12).
Spouses should make a practice of forgiving each other.  But forgiveness, like Christ's forgiveness, must be a free gift.  We cannot coerce forgiveness, nor can we presume that anyone is owed forgiveness...
Spouses should also realize that in this fallen world, not all problems can be solved.  A cross cannot be made to disappear by applying some simple formula or technique.  A cross has to be borne... A problem, such as a disagreement, may indeed have a solution.  But something like grief or a disability or an intransigent characteristic of one's spouse cannot be "fixed" but only borne...
Suffering, though, does not have to be borne alone.  The hidden blessing of suffering is that it calls forth mercy, that is to say, love.  One of the glories of marriage is that it offers daily occasions to "bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ" (Gal. 6:2).
Sin and forgiveness, suffering and love, sacrifice and reconciliation come together and find resolution in the cross.  That of Christ, that of vocation, and that of Christ hidden in vocation--this is what it means to bear the cross. [pp. 99-100]

Monday, August 19, 2013

“Who are you to tell me that your morality is more right than mine?”

From this Commentary post by Peter Wehner, journalist and Christian Peter Hitchens gives his answer:
I would say the source of morality is not me. I’m merely informing you of another authority that seems to have a good deal more force than I could ever command. But in the end, of course, the illusion of self-authority—which has been one of the major developments of the past 100 years—has persuaded people that they need no such thing. And not only that they don’t need the concept of the deity, but that they actively want there not to be such a thing, which is one of the reasons the new atheism is such a passionate, intolerant and in many cases, rather unpleasant phenomenon. The people who have adopted it actively want there not to be a god. They know that if there is a god then that god must be a source of authority. If a purposeful creator made the universe in which we live, it would be idle to imagine that you could ignore that creator’s desires as to how you should live.
Wehner continues:
But as C.S. Lewis put it in Mere Christianity, while some of what we learn is mere convention (like whether we drive on the left or right side of the road), much of what we learn is (like mathematics) based on real truths. “If no set of moral ideas were truer or better than any other, there would be no sense in preferring civilized morality to savage morality,” Lewis wrote, “or Christian morality to Nazi morality.”

Sunday, August 18, 2013

A Thought: Apostolic Pre-credo baptism?

The Scriptural record: The Twelve Apostles were baptized by John the baptist before they were yet called by Jesus and had first believed in Him.  They hadn't even been introduced to the Lamb of God!  Their's was a pre-faith baptism and their only baptism as far as we know. There is no record of their re-baptism post-faith. That given, their one-time, pre-faith baptism, by God's grace, was indeed effectual unto their salvation through faith.  It seems their subsequent faith in Jesus confirmed the sign and seal of their baptism given by God under John, which flowed from God's sovereign and wholly gracious election in Christ. They didn't choose Jesus and then announce their choice and commitment via baptism.  They were baptized... and Jesus their Savior having already chosen them, effectually called them to Himself (John 15:16; Eph. 1:4).

Thursday, August 15, 2013

How is Christ our righteousness?

Dr. S.M. Baugh:
Christ, by being "born under the law" (Gal. 4:4), personally fulfilled all of the law's demands as our convenant Mediator or Surety. This is how Christ is "our righteousness": his righteous, perfect keeping of the law in every particular is imputed to me as a fee gift (Rom. 5:17). Paul does not develop this point in our Galatians 5:1-6 passage, but he does express it when he says: "For through the Spirit, by faith, we ourselves eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness" (Gal. 5:5). I believe this principle of substitutionary mediation is expressed even more strongly--if succinctly--when Paul shows our complete identity with Christ in his death and in his life earlier in Galatians:
  • For through the law I died to the law, so that I might live to God. I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not nullify the grace of God, for if justification were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose. (Gal. 2:19-21)
Paul makes absolutely clear in the Galatians 5 passage that the two ways of righteousness are mutually exclusive: one either appropriates the gift of our Mediator's righteousness for which we hope and eagerly await through the Holy Spirit by faith (v.5; cf. Rom. 5:17; 2 Cor. 5:21) or one attempts to acquire that standing derived from the "works done by us in righteousness" (Titus 3:5).  The latter is what the law of Moses commands: perfect performance by the individual, and there can be no admixture of circumcision and Christ (Gal. 3:3).  Ironically, Paul says in Romans 7:6 that we in Christ have been severed from the law, but he says in Galatians 5:4 that those who come under the law have been "severed from Christ".
Furthermore, verse 4 unequivocally shows that there is no "gracious" fulfillment of the law which God accepts as a substitute for perfect and entire performance of its commands by the obligated person (v. 3). Paul says that all who would attempt to be justified by law have necessarily fallen from grace, since "grace" in this use is tied to the appropriation of the benefits of Christ's substitutionary mediation through faith and received as a gift (e.g., Eph. 2:8). The law here is tied to personal obligation without mediation; hence it is not "gracious" in this sense.  This is what Paul had already communicated in brief in Galatians 2:21 where he links divine grace only to Christ's substitutionary death whereas justification through personal law-keeping is antithetical to and a vitiation of grace. [The Law Is Not Of FaithGalatians 5:1-6 and Personal Obligation, pp. 276-277]

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Covenant of Works or of Grace: a matter of mediation

In his essay Galatians 5:1-6 and Personal ObligationDr. S.M. Baugh explains a key difference between the covenant of works and the covenant of grace.  As emphasized in the last post, perfect law keeping is the only basis for someone to be declared "justified" before the law of God.  The covenant of grace doesn't abrogate the requirement for perfect works.  Rather, it is in the covenant of grace that a mediator (the substitute law-keeper Jesus) is uniquely provided by God as the sole basis for the ungodly to receive justification by grace through faith, not as a result of their personal works but Christ's.  Dr. Baugh makes this point in this comment on Galatians 5:3: "My analysis, then has shown that Paul says that the law imposes an exacting obligation to fulfill all of its commandments and statutes personally.  One must finish off performance of the whole law as the only alternative to Christ's mediation and divine grace" (p. 275).  Earlier in the essay he explains the key difference between the two covenants:
The issue of the opposition between the covenants of works and of grace and the resolution of the common confusion surrounding these terms is that "grace" in the term "covenant of grace" and "works" in the "covenant of works" point to something very specific, namely, to whether there is substitutionary mediation in the covenant arrangement or not.  The antithesis of these covenantal commitments does not revolve around issues of God's beneficence, whether there are conditions in the covenant or not, or even the benefits of covenant relationship, but rather their difference focuses on the very narrow issue of who comes under obligation in the covenant to fulfill its stipulations: the human covenant partner himself (covenant of works) or a mediator on his behalf (covenant of grace).  This idea is expressed admirably by the seventeenth-century Dutch theologian Herman Witsius (1636-1708), who says:
  • "In the covenant of works there was no mediator: in that of grace, there is the mediator Jesus Christ... In the covenant of works, the condition of perfect obedience was required, to be performed by man himself, who had consented to it.  In that of grace, the same condition is proposed, as to be, or as already performed, by a mediator.  And in this substitution of the person, consists the principal and essential difference of the covenants."
When the Mosaic law was enacted with the blood of the covenant in Exodus 24 (cf. Heb. 9:18-21), the covenant people twice recognized that they must personally fulfill the obligation imposed in this covenant: "All the terms that the Lord has spoken we will do" (Ex. 24:3) and "All that the Lord has spoken we will do, and we will be obedient" (Ex. 24:7).  In consequence, the term "covenant of works" should be thought of as a covenant of personal obligation whereas the "covenant of grace" is best seen as a covenant of mediation or even a covenant of substitutionary performance.  This is what we see in our target passage, Galatians 5:1-6.
[The Law Is Not Of FaithGalatians 5:1-6 and Personal Obligation, pp. 262-263]

Westminster Larger Catechism:
 Question 31: With whom was the covenant of grace made?
Answer:  The covenant of grace was made with Christ as the second Adam, and in him with all the elect as his seed.

Question 32: How is the grace of God manifested in the second covenant?
Answer: The grace of God is manifested in the second covenant, in that he freely provideth and offereth to sinners a mediator, and life and salvation by him; and requiring faith as the condition to interest them in him, promiseth and giveth his Holy Spirit to all his elect, to work in them that faith, with all other saving graces; and to enable them unto all holy obedience, as the evidence of the truth of their faith and thankfulness to God, and as the way which he hath appointed them to salvation.

Question 70: What is justification?
Answer: Justification is an act of God's free grace unto sinners, in which he pardons all their sins, accepts and accounts their persons righteous in his sight; not for any thing wrought in them, or done by them, but only for the perfect obedience and full satisfaction of Christ, by God imputed to them, and received by faith alone.

Question 71: How is justification an act of God's free grace?
Answer: Although Christ, by his obedience and death, did make a proper, real, and full satisfaction to God's justice in the behalf of them that are justified; yet inasmuch as God accepts the satisfaction from a surety, which he might have demanded of them, and did provide this surety, his own only Son, imputing his righteousness to them, and requiring nothing of them for their justification but faith, which also is his gift, their justification is to them of free grace.

Question 72: What is justifying faith?
Answer: Justifying faith is a saving grace, wrought in the heart of a sinner by the Spirit and Word of God, whereby he, being convinced of his sin and misery, and of the disability in himself and all other creatures to recover him out of his lost condition, not only assents to the truth of the promise of the gospel, but receives and rests upon Christ and his righteousness, therein held forth, for pardon of sin, and for the accepting and accounting of his person righteous in the sight of God for salvation.

Question 73: How does faith justify a sinner in the sight of God?
Answer: Faith justifies a sinner in the sight of God, not because of those other graces which do always accompany it, or of good works that are the fruits of it, nor as if the grace of faith, or any act thereof, were imputed to him for his justification; but only as it is an instrument by which he receives and applies Christ and his righteousness.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Justification requires perfect law-keeping...

The question is from where does one acquire this perfect obedience?  From the conclusion of Dr. S.M. Baugh's essay, The New Perspective, Mediation, and Justification:
Paul's forcefully clear focus on Christ's substitutionary mediation in Romans 5 relates to justification.  While there is room for a fuller presentation of Paul's doctrine of justification or a fuller discussion of Romans 5 (e.g., Paul's presentation of the law, imputation, transgression, Adam in 5:13-14), I concentrated here on clear and necessary conclusions from Romans 5: the righteousness resulting in divine approval at the last day comes to us as a free gift of the righteousness of Christ as the Second Adam and our mediator.  It is his obedience to the covenant stipulations of the law imputed to us that forms the only ground of our justification, an eschatological verdict rendered now in Christ.  The soteriology offered by Paul's opponents insofar as it is evidenced in Romans (and Galatians)--whether one sees it as Sander's "covenant nomism" or as any other kind of synthesis that somehow imports our works of obedience into our justification--is just what Paul's teaching in Romans 5 decisivwely undercuts.  Any synthesis makes Christ's substitutionary life and death gratuitous and undermines God's grace.
Justification is indeed based on a human obedience to the law of God, and that loving obedience was entire and perfect in every respect, but no human after Adam--being helpless, impious enemies of God (cf. Rom 39-20) who have defaced the divine image are therefor devoid of the glory of God (3:23)--did or even could ever fulfill God's holy law for righteousness, except one: the one man, Jesus Christ.  That is Paul's incontestable message in Romans 5 and has been a continuing hallmark of Reformed interpretation to this day.
[Covenant, Justification, and Pastoral MinistryThe New Perspective, Mediation, and Justification, pp. 162-163]

Westminster Larger Catechism-Question 70: What is justification?
Answer: Justification is an act of God's free grace unto sinners, in which he pardons all their sins, accepts and accounts their persons righteous in his sight; not for any thing wrought in them, or done by them, but only for the perfect obedience and full satisfaction of Christ, by God imputed to them, and received by faith alone.

Heidelberg Catechism-Question 62: But why cannot our good works be the whole, or part of our righteousness before God?
Answer: Because, that the righteousness, which can be approved of before the tribunal of God, must be absolutely perfect, and in all respects conformable to the divine law; and also, that our best works in this life are all imperfect and defiled with sin.

Heidelberg Catechism-Question 63:  What! do not our good works merit, which yet God will reward in this and in a future life?
Answer: This reward is not of merit, but of grace.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Since we have been justified by faith...

Dr. S.M. Baugh writes in his essay, The New Perspective, Mediation, and Justification:
Covenant Mediation in Romans 
We open Romans 5 conscious of entering Paul's epistle in progress, with some key notions already carefully laid down by the apostle.  All the world, both Jew and Greek, is under indictment to God's law, condemnation, and wrath (3:9, 19-20), so that only through the one mediator between God and man (1 Tim 2:5) through whose propitiatory death (3:25) and fulfilling of the law's demands can God's forgiveness and justification extend as a free gift to the profane and ungodly who put their trust in the Savior (3:26; 4:5-12; cf. 2 Cor 5:21; Eph 2:8-9; Titus 2"14).
Having Been Justified  
Romans 5 then opens with the stunning words:  "Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.  Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God" (5:1-2 ESV).  Paul says that we have now been justified and in consequence have peace, access, and standing in God's grace, which gives us sure hope for the future.  This means that God has already rendered his verdict of the last day in our favor through Jesus Christ.  Justification is accomplished.  To all appearances, this seems to be communicated rather neatly by the lead aorist adverbial (or circumstantial) participle in 5:1: δικαιωθέντες, rendered "since we have been justified."
[Covenant, Justification, and Pastoral MinistryThe New Perspective, Mediation, and Justification, pp 148-149]