Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Justification: Wherein, Then Do We Disagree?

From The Church Society:

"The fact is that Rome teaches Forgiveness through Sanctification, while Scripture teaches Sanctification through Forgiveness. Rome confuses Justification and Sanctification, and says that the former is by the infusion of grace and includes both remission and renovation. But this is really to rob the soul of the objective ground of righteousness and confuses spiritual acceptance with spiritual attainments. Not only so, it tends to base Justification on our own merit. Justification in the Scriptural sense is independent of and anterior to the spiritual state or condition, which, however, necessarily follows. [6] It must, therefore, be evident that between the doctrine of Justification as taught in our Article and that inculcated by Rome, there is “a great gulf fixed,” as indeed, our great theologian Hooker clearly teaches."
“Wherein, then, do we disagree? We disagree about the nature of the very essence of the medicine whereby Christ cureth our disease; about the manner of applying it; about the number and the power of means which God requireth in us for the effectual applying thereof to our soul’s comfort. … This is the mystery of the Man of sin. This maze the Church of Rome doth cause her followers to tread when they ask her the way of justification.” [7]
Footnote [6] “Protestants claim that justification is complete from the first. The father of the parable does not leave his prodigal son outside the house until he has shown his repentance by his works; but he goes forth to meet him, and falls upon his neck and kisses him, and has the best robe put on him, and a ring on his finger, and shoes on his feet, and kills for him the fatted calf. The sinner is not taken back into the Divine favour by degrees, cautiously and grudgingly, but he is restored to all his privileges as a child of God. This is the only way to make the work of sanctification, which immediately begins, complete. It is a work which can go forward only after the relation of fatherhood and sonship is fully re-established. It is only by such love that the sinner’s love can be made perfect. ‘We love Him because He first loved us’ (1 John 4:19),” (Stearns, ut supra, p. 447


  1. Romans 6:14–”for sin shall not have the dominion over you, for you are not under the law but under grace.” I read that as saying that sin shall not reign over a justified person, because that person is justified.

    Jason Stellman (Dual Citizens, Reformation Trust, 2009, 143) suggests that such a reading is a non-answer. I quote from p 143: “According to this view, under law means under the condemnation of God’s moral law, and under grace speaks of the deliverance from this condition. Some problems arise from this view…. When Paul spoke to those saints in the churches of Galatia who desired to be under the law, was he talking to people who longed to be under the condemnation of the law? When Paul wrote that Jesus was born under the law, did he mean that Christ was born under the condemnation of the law? “

    Stellman continues: “Furthermore, if under law and under grace are existential categories describing an individual’s condemnation or justification, then Paul’s argument is a non-sequiter. It is not justification but sanctification that frees us from the dominion of the sin.”

    Stellman’s reading of Romans 6 is common to many Reformed people today. They tell us that “freed from sin” in Romans 6:7 cannot mean “justified from sin” because this chapter is about sanctification and not about justification.

    It seems to me that this is simply begging the question, and without some attention to Romans chapter six, I will be guilty of simply begging the question the other way.

    My answer: Paul’s answer was that the false teachers were under the condemnation. If you go their way, Christ will be of no profit to you. The gospel does not tell people that they WANT TO be damned. The gospel says that THEY WILL continue to be damned when they trust in anything else but Christ’s death (and resurrection) for the elect. That death (and resurrection) alone, apart from our works enabled by the Spirit (be those works of Torah or works of new covenant) is the gospel.

    Stellman’s second question—-”When Paul wrote that Jesus was born under the law, did he mean that Christ was born under the
    condemnation of the law? My answer is yes. Gal 4:4: born of the law to redeem those under the law cannot mean only that Christ was born under the jurisdiction of Moses to get Jews free from that jurisdiction. Of course jewish bondage under the law is in view, but it’s part of the more basic pattern of all humans being condemned by the “curse of the law”.(Gal 3:13) .

    Yes, Christ was born under the condemnation of God and God’s law. To see this, we need to attend to the first part of Romans 6 before we rush to the second part and conclude that it has to be about a sanctification that makes it just for God to justify the ungodly. Romans 6:10 says that “the death He died to sin”

  2. Benjamin Keach, The Marrow of True Justification: The Biblical Doctrine of Justification Without Works, Solid Ground Books, Birmingham, Alabama USA, 2007, p 80—”None have an evangelical righteousness, but those who are justified before they have it. Christ is our legal righteousness by a proper imputation of His righteousness to us, and only then is our evangelical righteousness also.

    “Once we are justified, we need not inquire how a man is justified after he is justified. God has not appointed this personal evangelical righteousness, in order to our Justification before Him, though He has appointed it to evidence our Justification before others.

    “By that righteousness of Christ which is out of us, though imputed to us, the Justice of God is satisfied; therefore all Works done by us, or inherent in us, are excluded in our Justification before God.”