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Posts Tagged ‘Christ’s Merit’

Romans 1:17 & the imputation of God’s inherent righteousness?

by Hershel L Harvell Jr.

A few weeks ago I blogged an article which was entitledThe ‘Word of God’ and quotes from Reformers via social media,” you can read that article here, which consists of three parts. In part three I made mention of a minister friend, of whom I respect and love, which had a problem with the term ‘eloquence,’ as used by ministers to describe one who is fluent in the scriptures. You can read that article here.

My minister friend and I, even though we are friends on Facebook, usually interact on Linkedin. Whatever quote I place up on Facebook, I also place on Linkedin, Tumblr, and Twitter. My friend usually finds fault with my quotes, but does not interact with them on any other platform except for Linkedin and because Linkedin is like Twitter, in that it restricts the amount of characters one can use in a post, then I have to place my reply here, because my wordpress posts also blog to Linkedin when they go out.

Even though my minister friend is a particular Baptist, nevertheless he finds fault with much of what is held to within particular Baptists and Reformed Baptists circles and finds fault with much that is written in historic Reformed creeds and confessions. For instance, even though both the Westminster Confession[1] and the 1677/89 London Baptist Confession[2] state that, “The moral Law doth for ever bind all, as well justified persons as others, to the obedience thereof,” nevertheless this he rejects. (I hope I did not misrepresent him here, but believe that I have stated his view correctly, namely, that he rejects a moral law which all men are obligated to obey).

The controversial point on which I am writing now, has to do with the righteousness of Christ imputed to the believer once he is regenerated and places faith in Christ. I placed up an article several days ago entitled, “Justification and Imputation,” wherein the writer of said article stated, “he died the death and bore the wrath of God that we deserved. This is the imputation of Christ’s passive obedience in which he freely submitted to the Father by becoming the atoning sacrifice for our sins,” and again, “From his birth to his death, he was tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. We failed. He did not. We disobeyed. He perfectly obeyed the Father. Thus we are declared righteous based on his merits alone by the imputation of his active obedience.

Whereby my minister friend commented on this article, “The Bible does not teach imputation of obedience but of righteousness. His obedience (which cannot be separated into “active and passive”) was the foundation of the imputation of His righteousness.

My response was: “What righteousness would be imputed to the sinner, if it is not the obedience of Christ which he wrought by keeping the law for us?” and then I quoted the 1677/89 London Baptist Confession of Faith whereby it states: “Those whom God Effectually calleth, he also freely justifieth, not by infusing Righteousness into them, but by pardoning their sins, and by accounting, and accepting their Persons as Righteous; not for any thing wrought in them, or done by them, but for Christ’s sake alone, not by imputing faith it self, the act of believing, or any other evangelical obedience to them, as their Righteousness; but by imputing Christs active obedience unto the whole Law, and passive obedience in his death, for their whole and sole Righteousness, they receiving, and resting on him, and his Righteousness, by Faith; which faith they have not of themselves, it is the gift of God.[3] I also stated that the article is not separating the righteousness which has been imputed to us, into active and passive, but is distinguishing them, or distinguishing what Christ has wrought for us, namely in his living an obedient life in our stead, and then dying on the cross in our stead and that the Bible teaches both his active obedience and his passive obedience.

Whereby my minister friend responded: “The righteousness of Christ is imputed to the saints, not obedience. The confessions are wrong. The Bible does not teach obedience to be imputed……He was born under the law, was obedient to the Father in all things. As man, He earned the right (as being without sin) to stand in our place. As God, He imputed His divine righteousness to us that we could be reconciled to God.

In the above comment my minster friend stated that the righteousness of Christ is imputed to the saints, not Christ’s obedience, yet turns around and states that Christ was born under the law, and was obedient in all things, whereby he earned the right to stand in our place. Wherein I believe that he is saying that Christ’s perfect obedience to the law does nothing towards an imputed righteousness, but only makes Christ worthy to stand in our place on the cross and worthy to pay the penalty for our sins. And by so doing, as God, He imputes His divine righteousness to us.

My final comment was and I am paraphrasing: “Ok, I will look into that more brother. Though I am settled in my mind that what Christ wrought in obedience to the law, in our stead, was the righteousness imputed, nevertheless I will give your view some thought and study, for I am open minded and am still learning and still reforming. God bless.

You see I am fair in dealing with individuals on social media. I am also fair in dealing with individuals in person. I am willing to consider a view and to search a view out. I try to be as the Bereans were and search the scriptures to see if these things be so. However, it is hard to search a view out, which cannot be found. (When I say it can’t be found, I mean that the view that Christ’s inherent righteousness, as God, is imputed to the believer upon regeneration and believing in Christ by faith, cannot be found. However, there are some that deny an active obedience of Christ, which is imputed to the believer after regeneration and accepting Christ by faith. These groups will be listed at the end of this article). I have many commentaries (when I say many, I mean many: which will be shown by quoting Puritans that some have probably never heard of) and I have found absolutely no one who holds the view that Christ’s inherent divine righteousness is imputed to the sinner. Therefore, to say that the confessions are wrong, then he is also saying that everyone in the history of the Church was wrong, seeing that I can find no one who states that the inherent righteousness of Christ, as God, was imputed to those who possess faith. So this is the crux of the matter. This is the decisive, pivotal point on which this disagreement hinges. Is the righteousness imputed to us a righteousness which Christ merited or was it Christ’s inherent divine righteousness as God? When we use the term sola fide we are saying that justification is by faith alone in the righteousness of Christ alone. But what is meant by the righteousness of Christ alone? This is what we shall look into in the remaining part of this article.

To begin, I will quote from R. C. Sproul:

“Christ’s mission of redemption was not limited to the cross. To save us he had to live a life of perfect righteousness. His perfect, active obedience was necessary for his and our salvation. He earned the merit of perfect righteousness, not only for his own humanity, but for all those whom he redeems. Christ perfectly fulfilled all demands of the law, meriting by his active obedience the blessing promised in the old covenant.”[4]

Is the above quote Biblical? Can we find any place in scripture which teaches that Christ’s obedience was the merit which justifies us? Of course we can.

Rom 5:18 Therefore as by the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life.

Rom 5:19 For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous.

In the verses above we see a contrast between the offence of one, namely Adam, with the obedience of another, which was Christ. Whereas Adam’s actions brought judgment upon all of humanity, Christ’s perfect obedience in his life and death brings justification of life on all who place their faith in him. Where Adam failed in keeping God’s law, Christ succeeded. These two verses are reiterating the same thing, yet are using different words to state the same thing. Repetition was common among Hebrew writers in order to emphasize what was being said. Thus Paul uses the words ‘righteousness of one‘ in verse 18 and in verse 19 uses the words ‘obedience of one.’ This is speaking of Christ’s work. His obedience or righteousness is a free gift. Calvin says on Romans 5:19:

“For the meaning is — As by the sin of Adam we were alienated from God and doomed to destruction, so by the obedience of Christ we are restored to his favor as if we were righteous.”[5]

John Owen says on these verses: In this place, [Rom. v.] ὑπακοή, verse 19, and δικαίωμα, verse 18, are the same, — obedience and righteousness. “By the righteousness of one,” and “by the obedience of one,” are the same. But suffering, as suffering, is not δικαίωμα, is not righteousness; for if it were, then every one that suffers what is due to him should be righteous, and so be justified, even the devil himself. The righteousness and obedience here intended are opposed τῷ παραπτώματι, — to the offence: “By the offence of one.” But the offence intended was an actual transgression of the law; so is παράπτωμα, a fall from, or a fall in, the course of obedience. Wherefore the δικαίωμα, or righteousness, must be an actual obedience unto the commands of the law, or the force of the apostle’s reasoning and antithesis cannot be understood. Particularly, it is such an obedience as is opposed unto the disobedience of Adam,— “one man’s disobedience,” “one man’s obedience;” — but the disobedience of Adam was an actual transgression of the law: and therefore the obedience of Christ here intended was his active obedience unto the law; — which is that we plead for. And I shall not at present farther pursue the argument, because the force of it, in the confirmation of the truth contended for, will be included in those that follow.[6]

But is this righteousness ‘from God’ or ‘of God?’ Here we turn to Romans 1:17:

Rom 1:17 For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith.

Here it is manifestly clear that the righteousness which is revealed is from God. It is not his inherent righteousness, wherein God is righteous, but is called his righteousness because it originates from him. It is God’s method of saving sinners. Let us look at the Greek word which was translated ‘righteousness‘ here:

Thayer’s Greek-English Lexicon of the NT– righteousness- δικαιοσύνηdikaiosunē

1) in a broad sense: state of him who is as he ought to be, righteousness, the condition acceptable to God

1a) the doctrine concerning the way in which man may attain a state approved of God

1b) integrity, virtue, purity of life, rightness, correctness of thinking feeling, and acting

2) in a narrower sense, justice or the virtue which gives each his due

Part of Speech: noun feminine

Strong’s Hebrew and Greek Dictionary-righteousness- δικαιοσύνη dikaiosunēdik-ah-yos-oo’-nay

From G1342; equity (of character or act); specifically (Christian) justification: – righteousness.

Vincent’s Word Studies δικαιοσύνη γὰρ Θεοῦ ἐν ἀυτῷ ἀποκαλύπτεται).

Rev., more correctly, therein is revealed a righteousness of God. The absence of the article denotes that a peculiar kind of righteousness is meant. This statement contains the subject of the epistle: Righteousness is by faith. The subject is not stated formally nor independently, but as a proof that the Gospel is a power, etc. This word δικαιοσύνη righteousness, and its kindred words δίκαιος righteous, and δικαιόω to make righteous, play so important a part in this epistle that it is desirable to fix their meaning as accurately as possible.

John MacArthur– Better translated, “righteousness from God.” A major theme of the book, appearing over 30 times in one form or another, righteousness is the state or condition of perfectly conforming to God’s perfect law and holy character. Other terms from the same Gr. Root also occur some 30 times and are usually translated “justified,” “ justification” or similarly. Only God is inherently righteous (Deut. 32:4; Job 9:2; Psalm 11:7; 116:5; John 17:25; Rom. 3:10; 1 John 2:1; Rev. 16:5) and man falls woefully short of the divine standard of moral perfection (Rom. 3:23; Matt. 5:48)…..Rom. 3:21– This righteousness is unique: 1) God is its source (Is. 45:8); 2) it fulfills both the penalty and precept of God’s law. Christ’s death as a substitute pays the penalty exacted on those who failed to keep God’s law, and His perfect obedience to every requirement of God’s law fulfills God’s demand for comprehensive righteousness.[7]

So by these definitions we see that the righteousness that is from God is that righteousness by which he justifies his elect. It is Christ’s righteous deeds wherein he fulfills the law in our stead. It is the merit of Christ, which is given to us, so that we are as righteous as Christ himself. If Christ’s inherent righteousness, as God, is the righteousness imputed to us, then Christ did not have to live for thirty-three years on this earth before he died in our stead to pay the penalty of the law for us. He could have just came to the earth, as a man, and go straight to the cross. Therefore, when we say that we are saved by works, then we are saying that we are saved by the works of another, namely, the works or merit of Christ. My minister friend stated that Christ earned the right, as man, to stand in our place. So he distinguishes what Christ done in his humanity from what Christ does as God. He only allows what Christ earned or merited in obedience to the law, as only being applied to himself, so that he earns a merit that only benefits his humanity and makes him worthy to die for mankind. Yet, when it comes to the righteousness which is imputed to us, my minister friend then turns to Christ’s divinity and insists that Christ’s inherent righteousness as God, is the righteousness imputed to us. But why make this distinction. I mean if you are going to hold the view that Christ’s inherent righteousness as God is the righteousness imputed, then why not also hold to the righteousness of God as being that righteousness that would make Christ worthy to stand in our place without having to live under the law. I mean if it is Christ’s righteousness, as God, that is imputed, then his righteousness, as God, would have given him the right to stand in our place. However, the law would not be satisfied. Someone had to obey the law perfectly in our stead, in order to inherit the blessing promised in the covenant or law, and this Christ done on our behalf.

Now I will quote from men throughout the history of the Church in order to show that the righteousness which is imputed to us, is not Christ’s inherent righteousness, but that righteousness or merit which he obeyed the law in our stead.

Martin Luther– Here, too, “the righteousness of God” must not be understood as that righteousness by which he is righteous in himself, but as that righteousness by which we are made righteous (justified) by Him, and this happens through faith in the gospel. Therefore, Blessed Augustine writes in the sixteenth chapter of his book On the Spirit and the Letter. “The righteousness of God is that righteousness which he imparts in order to make men righteous. Just as that is the Lord’s salvation by which he saves us.” He says the same thing in the ninth chapter of the same book. The righteousness of God must be distinguished from the righteousness of men which comes from works—as Aristotle in the third chapter of his Ethics clearly indicates. According to him, righteousness follows upon and flows from actions.[8]

Augustine– Romans 3:21 Does this then sound a light thing in deaf ears? He says, “The righteousness of God is manifested.” Now this righteousness they are ignorant of, who wish to establish one of their own; they will not submit themselves to it. Romans 10:3 His words are, “The righteousness of God is manifested:” he does not say, the righteousness of man, or the righteousness of his own will, but the “righteousness of God,”—not that whereby He is Himself righteous, but that with which He endows man when He justifies the ungodly. This is witnessed by the law and the prophets; in other words, the law and the prophets each afford it testimony. The law, indeed, by issuing its commands and threats, and by justifying no man, sufficiently shows that it is by God’s gift, through the help of the Spirit, that a man is justified; and the prophets, because it was what they predicted that Christ at His coming accomplished. Accordingly he advances a step further, and adds, “But righteousness of God by faith of Jesus Christ,” Romans 3:22 that is by the faith wherewith one believes in Christ for just as there is not meant the faith with which Christ Himself believes, so also there is not meant the righteousness whereby God is Himself righteous. Both no doubt are ours, but yet they are called Godʹs, and Christʹs, because it is by their bounty that these gifts are bestowed upon us. The righteousness of God then is without the law, but not manifested without the law; for if it were manifested without the law, how could it be witnessed by the law? That righteousness of God, however, is without the law, which God by the Spirit of grace bestows on the believer without the help of the law,—that is, when not helped by the law.[9]

John Gill– For therein is the righteousness of God revealed,…. By the righteousness of God“, is not meant the essential righteousness of God, the rectitude of his nature, his righteousness in fulfilling his promises, and his punitive justice, which though revealed in the Gospel, yet not peculiar to it; nor the righteousness by which Christ himself is righteous, either as God, or as Mediator; but that righteousness which he wrought out by obeying the precepts, and bearing the penalty of the law in the room of his people, and by which they are justified in the sight of God: and this is called “the righteousness of God”, in opposition to the righteousness of men: and because it justifies men in the sight of God; and because of the concern which Jehovah, Father, Son, and Spirit, have in it. Jehovah the Father sent his Son to work it out, and being wrought out, he approves and accepts of it, and imputes it to his elect: Jehovah the Son is the author of it by his obedience and death; and Jehovah the Spirit discovers it to sinners, works faith in them to lay hold upon it, and pronounces the sentence of justification by it in their consciences.[10]

Albert Barnes’ Is the righteousness of God δικαιοσύνη Θεοῦdikaiosunē Theou.. There is not a more important expression to be found in the Epistle than this. It is capable of only the following interpretations.

(1) Some have said that it means that the attribute of God which is denominated righteousness or justice, is here displayed. It has been supposed that this was the design of the gospel to make this known; or to evince his justice in his way of saving people. There is an important sense in which this is true (Romans 3:26). But this does not seem to be the meaning in the passage before us. For,

(a) The leading design of the gospel is not to evince the justice of God, or the attribute of justice, but the love of God; see John 3:16; Ephesians 2:4; 2 Thessalonians 2:16; 1 John 4:8.

(b) The attribute of justice is not what is principally evinced in the gospel. It is rather mercy, “or mercy in a manner consistent with justice,” or that does not interfere with justice.

(c) The passage, therefore, is not designed to teach simply that the righteousness of God, as an attribute, is brought forth in the gospel, or that the main idea is to reveal his justice.

(2) A second interpretation which has been affixed to it is, to make it the same as goodness, the benevolence of God is revealed, etc. But to this there are still stronger objections. For

(a) It does not comport with the design of the apostle’s argument.

(b) It is a departure from the established meaning of the word “justice,” and the phrase “the righteousness of God.”

(c) If this had been the design, it is remarkable that the usual words expressive of goodness or mercy had not been used. Another meaning, therefore, is to be sought as expressing the sense of the phrase.

(3) The phrase “righteousness of God” is equivalent to God’s “plan of justifying people; his scheme of declaring them just in the sight of the Law; or of acquitting them from punishment, and admitting them to favor.” In this sense it stands opposed to man’s plan of justification, that is, by his own works: God’s plan is by faith. The way in which that is done is revealed in the gospel. The object contemplated to be done is to treat people as if they were righteous. Man attempted to accomplish this by obedience to the Law. The plan of God was to arrive at it by faith. Here the two schemes differ; and the great design of this Epistle is to show that man cannot be justified on his own plan, to wit, by works; and that the plan of God is the only way, and a wise and glorious way of making man just in the eye of the Law. No small part of the perplexity usually attending this subject will be avoided if it is remembered that the discussion in this Epistle pertains to the question, “how can mortal man be just with God?” The apostle shows that it cannot be by works; and that it “can be” by faith. This latter is what he calls the “righteousness of God” which is revealed in the gospel.

To see that this is the meaning, it is needful only to look at the connection; and at the usual meaning of the words. The word to “justify,” δικαιόω dikaioō, means properly “to be just, to be innocent, to be righteous.” It then means to “declare,” or treat as righteous; as when a man is charged with an offence…..That the phrase is to be understood of the righteousness which Christ has procured by his obedience and death, appears from the general sense of the original term δικαιοσύνη dikaiosunē. Mr. Haldane in a long and elaborate comment on Rom 3:21, has satisfactorily shown that it signifies “righteousness in the abstract, and also conformity to law,” and that “Wherever it refers to the subject of man’s salvation, and is not merely a personal attribute of Deity, it signifies that righteousness which, in conformity with his justice, God has appointed and provided.[11]

Robert Haldane– The word rendered ‘righteousness,’ Romans 1:17, and in the verse before us, signifies both justice and righteousness; that is to say, conformity to the law. But while both of these expressions denote this conformity, there is an essential difference between them. Justice imports conformity to the law in executing its sentence; righteousness, conformity in obeying its precepts, and this is the meaning of the word here. If these ideas be interchanged or confounded, as they often are, the whole scope of the Apostle’s reasoning will be misunderstood. In various parts of Scripture this phrase, ‘the righteousness of God,’ signifies either that holiness and rectitude of character which is the attribute of God, or that distributive justice by which He maintains the authority of His law; but where it refers to man’s salvation, and is not merely a personal attribute of Deity, it signifies, as in the passage before us, ver. 21, that fulfillment of the law, or perfect conformity to it in all its demands, which, consistently with His justice, God has appointed and provided for the salvation of sinners. This implies that the infinite justice of His character requires what is provided, and also that it is approved and accepted; for if it be God’s righteousness, it must be required, and must be accepted by the justice of God. The righteousness of God, which is received by faith, denotes something that becomes the property of the believer. It cannot, then, be here the Divine attribute of justice, but the Divine work which God has wrought through His Son. This, therefore, determines the phrase in this place as referring immediately not to the Divine attribute, but to the Divine work. The former never can become ours. This also is decisive against explaining the phrase as signifying a Divine method of justification. The righteousness of God is contrasted with the righteousness of man; and as Israel’s own righteousness, which they went about to establish, was the righteousness of their works, not their method of justification, so God’s righteousness, as opposed to this, Romans 10:3, must be a righteousness wrought by Jehovah. As in 2 Corinthians 5:21, the imputation of sin to Christ is contrasted with our becoming the righteousness of God in Him, the latter cannot be a method of justification, but must intimate our becoming perfectly righteous by possessing Christ’s righteousness, which is provided by God for us, and is perfectly commensurate with the Divine justice…..The death of the Son of God serves to magnify the law, by demonstrating the certainty of that eternal punishment, which, if broken, it denounces as its penalty. There are no limits to eternity; but when the Son of God bore what was equivalent to the eternal punishment of those who had sinned, He furnished a visible demonstration of the eternal punishment of sin. But if nothing beyond the suffering of the penalty of the law had taken place, men would only have been released from the punishment due to sin. If they were to obtain the reward of obedience, its precepts must also be obeyed; and this was accomplished to the utmost by Jesus Christ. Every command it enjoins, as well as every prohibition it contains, were in all respects fully honored by Him. In this manner, and by His sufferings, He fulfilled all righteousness…[12]

John OwenFrom the foregoing general argument another does issue in particular, with respect unto the imputation of the active obedience or righteousness of Christ unto us, as an essential part of that righteousness whereon we are justified before God. And it is as follows:— “If it were necessary that the Lord Christ, as our surety, should undergo the penalty of the law for us, or in our stead, because we have all sinned, then it was necessary also that, as our surety, he should yield obedience unto the preceptive part of the law for us also; and if the imputation of the former be needful for us unto our justification before God, then is the imputation of the latter also necessary unto the same end and purpose.” For why was it necessary, or why would God have it so, that the Lord Christ, as the surety of the covenant, should undergo the curse and penalty of the law, which we had incurred the guilt of by sin, that we may be justified in his sight? Was it not that the glory and honour of his righteousness, as the author of the law, and the supreme governor of all mankind thereby, might not be violated in the absolute impunity of the infringers of it? And if it were requisite unto the glory of God that the penalty of the law should be undergone for us, or suffered by our surety in our stead, because we had sinned, wherefore is it not as requisite unto the glory of God that the preceptive part of the law be complied withal for us, inasmuch as obedience thereunto is required of us?[13]

Arthur W. Pink The “righteousness of Christ” which is imputed to the believer consists of that perfect obedience which He rendered unto the precepts of God’s Law and that death which He died under the penalty of the law. It has been rightly said that, There is the very same need of Christ’s obeying the law in our stead, in order to the reward, as of His suffering the penalty of the law in our stead in order to our escaping the penalty; and the same reason why one should be accepted on our account as the other… To suppose that all Christ does in order to make atonement for us by suffering is to make Him our Saviour but in part. It is to rob Him of half His glory as a Saviour. For if so, all that He does is to deliver us from Hell; He does not purchase Heaven for us” (Jonathan Edwards).[14]

Elnathan Parr– The righteousness whereby we are justified in the sight of God, is called often by Paul “The righteousness of God”:

1. Because it is given us of God

2. Because it is approved of God

3. To distinguish it from man’s righteousness Romans 10:3

4. To these I add, because it is a most perfect righteousness, even such a one, with which God himself can find no fault with

5. Because it was in; and performed by a person, which was God…….

In Paul’s time the question was, Whether our own works, or the satisfaction of Christ, severally or jointly, were the cause of meritorious justification….But now the Papists go further, and call the whole doctrine into question……They say that our opinion is absurd, as that a man should be justified by so light a thing as faith, without satisfaction for our faults…..We answer, that we teach satisfaction, but performed by Christ, not by ourselves….[15]

Andrew Willet– There is a justice of God, wherein he is righteous and just in himself: as Psalm 11:7 ‘The righteous LORD loveth righteousness,’ but this the apostle speaketh not of: the essential justice of God is not communicated to us by faith. There is a justice distributive in God, whereby he rendereth to every man according to his works: Origen understandeth this justice of God: but this is not the justice, whereby a man is justified to salvation, for if the Lord should mark what is done amiss, no man should be able to abide it Ps. 130:3…..Theodoret understandeth the perfect justice of Christ, whereby he satisfied the wrath of God for our sins, and accomplished our redemption: and this perfect justice of Christ is revealed in the gospel, but the apostle speaketh evidently of such justice, whereby a man is justified before God, which is not that perfect justice inherent in Christ, but the applying unto us by faith,….because by his obedience we are justified.[16]

I could keep quoting comments from theologians of the past, however, I believe that these will suffice to show that the righteousness of Christ which is imputed to those who place faith in Christ, is that righteousness or merit of Christ, whereby he kept the law in our stead. This is called Christ’s active obedience. I will now briefly list several groups who deny the active obedience of Christ.

Arminianism

The doctrine of Christ’s active obedience has usually been denied by Arminians. One of the primary groups to which Owen argued against in his ‘The Doctrine of Justification by Faith,’ was of the Arminian persuasion and he argued for the doctrine of Christ’s active obedience over and against the corrupt views held by that system. The other two positions Owen refuted with this same treatise was Socinianism and Roman Catholicism. So well known was Owen’s opposition to these three positions, that on his tombstone in Bunhill Fields, London, are inscribed the audacious words, “The Arminian, Socinian, and Popish error, those Hydras, whose contaminated breath, and deadly poison infested the church, he, with more than Herculean labour, repulsed, vanquished, and destroyed.”

Louis Berkhof states that the Arminian view of justification only places man “in the position of Adam before the fall.”[17]

Calvinism

Some within the Reformed community, particularly writers associated with the Federal Vision theology, have objected to the traditional formulation of this doctrine, because of its basis in the covenant of works and the idea of merit. James B. Jordan argues that the “transformation… achieved by Jesus was not something ‘earned’ like a weekly allowance.[18] “What is transferred to the believer is not Jesus’ “works and merits” but his “glorified and resurrected life in the Spirit.[19]

Dispensationalism

Some who hold to a dispensational hermenutic deny the doctrine of Christ’s active obedience. On what basis did God impute or “put” righteousness on our account? The basis is the sufferings of Christ on the cross, according to some dispensationalists like Charles Ryrie.

“The sufferings of Christ in His death have been labeled His passive obedience in classical Protestant theology. This passive obedience stands in contrast to Christ’s active obedience which refers to the obedience exhibited during His lifetime. . .. The sufferings of Christ’s life, though real, were not atoning…. Strictly speaking, then, only the sufferings on the cross were atoning. It was during the three hours of darkness when God laid on Christ the sins of the world that Atonement was being made”[20]

Above and beyond that most dispensationalists hold to an Arminian soteriology. All one has to do is go to Dallas Theological Seminary’s website and view their statement of beliefs and they will see that they affirm that faith precedes regeneration.[21]

New Covenant theology

Some adherents of New Covenant Theology have also been critical of this imputation, on the basis that the sinless life of Christ merely qualified him to be the perfect substitute on behalf of humanity. Christ’s keeping of the law proved that he was righteous, rather than making him righteous.[22]

Thus we see that those who reject the view of Christ’s imputed righteousness, contained in the terms ‘active’ and ‘passive’ obedience, have deviated from classical orthodox theology. Those who reject this doctrine can be placed in one of the groups above or into one that is similar to those above.

I will end this article with a quote from J. Gresham Machen:

As he lay dying, J. Gresham Machen, the American Presbyterian theologian, sent a final telegram to his friend John Murray containing the words, “I’m so thankful for the active obedience of Christ. No hope without it.[23]


Footnotes:

[1] The Westminster Confession of Faith- Of the Law of God, ch. 19, point 5.

[2] The 1677/89 London Baptist Confession of Faith- The Law of God, ch. 19, point 5.

[3] The 1677/89 London Baptist Confession of Faith- Of Justification, ch. 11, point 1.

[4] R. C. Sproul- Faith Alone: The Evangelical Doctrine of Justification, Baker Book House Company, Grand Rapids, MI., 1995, p. 104.

[5] John Calvin- Institutes of the Christian Religion, Translated by Henry Beveridge, Hendrickson Publishers, Inc. 2008, (2.17.3) p. 342.

[6] John Owen- The Doctrine of Justification by Faith- Chapter XII. The imputation of the obedience of Christ unto the law declared and vindicated

[7] The MacArthur Study Bible- By Word Publishing, a division of Thomas Nelson, Inc., 1997, Commentary on Romans 1:17 & Rom. 3:21, pgs. 1692-1693; 1698.

[8] Luther Lectures on Romans edited by Wilhelm Pauck- The Westminster Press, John Knox Press, Louisville, Ky., 2006, p. 18.

[9] Augutine- On the Spirit and the Letter, Chapter 15 [IX.] The Righteousness of God Manifested by the Law and the Prophets, Commentary on Romans 3:21-22, Downloaded from the internet, https://wisdomhomeschooling.com/images/courses/continuedgreatbooks/augustineonthespiritandtheletter.pdf

[10] John Gill’s Exposition of the Bible- Romans 1:17

[11] Albert Barnes’- Notes on the Bible, Comment on Romans 1:17.

[12] Robert Haldane- Exposition of the Epistle to the Romans, Comment on Romans 3:21.

[13] John Owen- The Doctrine of Justification by Faith- Chapter XII. The imputation of the obedience of Christ unto the law declared and vindicated

[14] Arthur W. Pink- Doctrine of Justification- Chapter 5- Its Nature

[15] Elnathan Parr- The Works of that Faithful and Painful Preacher Mr, Elnathan Parr Bachelor in Divinity, Minister in Suffolk, London: Printed by G. P. for Samuel Man, dwelling in Paul’s Churchyard, at the Signo of the Swanne, 1633, Commentary on Romans 1:17.

[16] Andrew Willet- Hexapla, That is, A Sixfold Commentary upon the Most Divine Epistle of the holy Apostle S. Paul to the Romans, Printed by Cantrell Legge, Printer to the University of Cambridge, 1611, Commentary on Romans 1:17.

[17] Berkhof Systematic Theology, 515.

[18] James B. Jordan, “Merit versus Maturity: What did Jesus do for us?” in Steve Wilkins and Duane Garner (eds.), The Federal Vision (Monrone: Athanasius, 2004), 158.

[19] Jordan, “Merit versus Maturity,” 195.

[20] (Charles Ryrie, Basic Theology, Colorado Springs: Chariot Victor, 1999, p. 282).

[21] Article VII—Salvation Only Through Christ…’We believe that the new birth of the believer comes only through faith in Christ’……..Article VIII—The Extent of Salvation…’We believe that when an unregenerate person exercises that faith in Christ’ https://www.dts.edu/about/doctrinal-statement/

[22] Examining the Imputation of the Active Obedience of Christ by Geoff Volker and Steve Lehrer.

[23] John Piper, J. Gresham Machen’s Response to Modernism

The Wednesday Word: I know I am Saved Because…..

December 12, 2018 7 comments

I know I am saved because I was chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world (Ephesians 1:4).

I know I am saved because the Eternal God became a man for me (1 Timothy 3:16).

I know I am saved because it was promised that Jesus, the God/Man, would save me (Matthew 1:21).

I know I am saved because Jesus lived for me and credited His perfect life to me (1 Corinthians 1:30).

I know I am saved because Jesus became a wrath offeringfor me (Romans 3:25).

I know I am saved because Jesus has given me the gift of eternal life (John 10:28).

I know I am saved because Jesus is the Shepherd who has never lost a sheep (John 18:9).

I know I am saved because Jesus is the Lawyer who has never lost a case (John 10:27-30).

I know I’m saved because Jesus is the Champion who has never lost a battle (Hebrews 2:10).

I know I am saved because I have been justified… declared not guilty and credited as being righteous (Romans 5:1).

I know I am saved because I have been reconciled unto God by the death of His Son (Romans 5:10).

I know I am saved because Jesus redeemed me. He bought and paid for me at the cross. I have redemption in Him (Ephesians 1:7).

I know I am saved because Jesus was buried for me (I Corinthians 15:4).

I know I am saved because Jesus rose from the dead for me (1 Corinthians 15:4).

I know I am saved because Jesus ascended into Heaven for me (Luke 24:50-51).

I know I am saved because Jesus was made a surety of a better testament for me (Hebrews 7:22).

I know I am saved because Jesus sat down in cosmic authority for me (Hebrews 10:12).

I know I am saved because Jesus, my High Priest, ever lives to make intercession for me (Hebrews 7:25).

I know I’m saved because Jesus intercedes to ensure all the benefits of His death are applied to me (Hebrews 7:25).

I know I am saved because the work Jesus finished on earth, He continually presents in heaven on my behalf (Hebrews 9:24).

I know I am saved because Jesus ever lives to save me to the uttermost (Hebrews 7:25).

I know I’m saved because his intercession for me is always successful (Romans 8:34-39).

I know that I am saved because the Father always hears the Son (John 11:42).

I know I am saved because Jesus is the Author of my faith. He began it (Hebrews 12:12).

I know I am saved because Jesus is also the finisher of my faith. He will finalize it! (Hebrews 12:12).

I know I am saved because nothing can separate me from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:38-39).

I know I am saved because the Bible declares; “Who shall lay anything to the charge of God’s elect? It is God that justifies. Who is he that condemns? It is Christ that died, yea rather that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God who also makes intercession for us” (Romans 8: 33-34).

I know I am saved because by one offering He (Christ) has perfected forever them that are sanctified (Hebrews 10:14).

I know I am saved because Jesus has purged my sins (Hebrews 1:3).

I know I am saved because my sins are forgotten (Hebrews 8:12).

I know I am saved because my sins are put away (Psalm 103:12).

I know I am saved because my sins are behind God’s back (Isaiah 38:17).

I know I am saved because my sins are cast into the depth of the sea (Micah 7:19).

I know I am saved because the Lord Yahweh has said, “I, even I, am he that blotteth out thy transgressions for mine own sake, and will not remember thy sins” (Isaiah 43:25).

I know I am saved because Jesus has promised to come back for me (John 14:3).

I know I’m saved because Jesus never lies (Numbers 23:19).

I know I am saved because;

“My hope is built on nothing less

Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness

I dare not trust the sweetest frame

But wholly lean on Jesus name.

On Christ the solid rock I stand

All other ground is sinking sand.”

And that’s the Gospel Truth!

Miles Mckee

www.milesmckee.com 

Salvation is not by our own merit, but is of the Lord alone

October 26, 2015 2 comments

Spurgeon 3Effectively, it all comes of God; and I am sure we must add, meritoriously. We have experienced that salvation is wholly of him. What merits have I? If I were to scrape together all I ever had, and then come to you and beg all you have got, I should not collect the value of a farthing among you all. We have heard of some Catholic, who said that there was a balance struck in his favor between his good works and his bad ones, and therefore he went to heaven. But there is nothing of the sort here; I have seen many people, many kinds of Christians, and many odd Christians, but I never yet met with one who said he had any merits of his own when he came to close quarters. We have heard of perfect men, and we have heard of men perfectly foolish, and we have thought the characters perfectly alike. Have we any merits of our own? I am sure we have not, if we have been taught of God. Once we thought we had; but there came a man called Conviction into our house one night, and took away our gloryings. Ah! we are vile still. I don’t know whether Cowper said quite right, when he said, —

“Since the dear hour that brought me to thy foot
And cut up all my follies by the root
I never trusted in an arm but thine —
Nor hoped but in thy righteousness divine!”

I think he made a mistake, for most Christians get trusting in self at times, but we are forced to own that “salvation is of the Lord,” if we consider it meritoriously.

Charles H. Spurgeon- God Alone the Salvation of His People-A Sermon Delivered On Sabbath

Chapter 35-Justification

August 27, 2014 2 comments

Justification

No doctrine of Scripture is more important than that of justification. It involves the whole method of the salvation of sinners. It is vitally connected with all other fundamental doctrines. A correct conception of it cannot exist when other truths are ignored, or only partially received. The opinions held upon this point control in great part the theological views in general of all Christian individuals and parties. The importance of a correct knowledge of what God has taught on this subject cannot therefore be exaggerated.

The discussion of this doctrine will be best presented by a definition of the word Justification, accompanied by proof of the several statements involved in that definition.

Justification is a judicial act of God, by which, on account of the meritorious work of Christ, imputed to a sinner and received by him through that faith which vitally unites him to his substitute and Saviour, God declares that sinner to be free from the demands of the law, and entitled to the rewards due to the obedience of that substitute.

I. It is a Judicial Act of God.

That God is its author is emphatically declared by Paul in Rom. 8:33; “It is God that justifieth.” As he is the lawgiver and judge so must he also be the justifier.

The act is not one of sovereignty, as is election, because he does not justify merely of good pleasure, but because the demands of the law have been met. Yet his act is free, and of grace, because it is of his own choice that he accepts a substitute, and because Christ and his meritorious work have been graciously secured and given by God himself. See Rom. 3:24.

The virtue of the act consists in its being his judicial act. Any one might perceive or declare the demands of the law to be satisfied upon knowledge of that fact. Any one might proclaim that the rewards of Christ’s merit have been secured. But, whether declared of the value and efficacy of Christ’s work in itself or of its application to an individual, such a declaration would not be justification. It only becomes so when uttered by God in his capacity as Judge. All others could only recognize or declare the fact. The declaration of the judge sets the sinner free from all demands of the law, and confers upon him all the blessings appertaining to this new condition.

This judicial act of justification is made necessary because the law has been broken. One who has completely fulfilled the law needs not to be justified. His position before the law is that of one personally just or righteous; not of one that is justified, or declared righteous, or treated as such, though not personally so. He may be said to be justified, because recognized or treated as such, though the ground of such action is that he is personally just. Thus the term “justified” is properly applied to the doers of the law, and that of “just” denied to the mere hearers of the law in Rom. 2:13. But while the terms may thus be used of one personally just, he, nevertheless, needs no such justification, because his righteousness is not questionable. His position, like that of those who fully obey human laws, is recognized without any special act affirming it.

Hence it is that the Scriptures so commonly use the word “just,” dikaios, of one who is, in some one or in all respects, perfectly conformed to the law by his own acts, and who is, to that extent, therefore, personally holy, applying the term not to men only or even to Christ, who was made under the law, but also to God himself. See Matt. 1:19; 5:45; 9:13; Luke 23:50; Acts 3:14; 7:52; 22:14; Rom. 3:26. This usage has given rise to the opinion of some that justification is not simply a judicial act, but that it involves holiness in the one justified, and in the case of justified sinners an infusion of holiness in the act of justification.

But that this is an error is obvious,–

1. From the fact that justification is presented as the opposite of condemnation (Rom. 8:33, 34), and not of sinfulness. Condemnation is never spoken of as the infusion of a corrupted nature, and consequently justification would not involve that of a holy nature.

2. That the justified are not declared in Scripture to be free from sin or possessed of holy natures, but are represented as still struggling against sin, and not only sin which arises from outward temptations, but that proceeding from the motions of sin within.

3. The change of nature which causes that of character is called in the Scriptures “regeneration,” and differs essentially from justification. The former is the special work of the Holy Spirit. The latter is the act of God the Father. That is an effect wrought inwardly, which develops itself in a continuous and progressive process which the Scriptures call sanctification. If justification includes an infused righteousness as the opposite of sinfulness, then it includes sanctification, and there is no ground for the scriptural distinction between them.

4. The usage of other words in connection with justification shows it to be a forensic act. The term “righteousness,” dikaiosune, which, like “righteous,” dikaios, is used in connection with personal righteousness, as of God in Acts 17:31, and of Christ “the Faithful and True,” Rev. 19:11, and of the martyrs in Heb. 11:33, and of human obedience to the law in Rom. 10:3, 5; Phil. 3:6, 9, is, in connection with God’s justification of sinners, applied, though chiefly by the Apostle Paul, to “the righteousness which God bestows or accepts,” and which is imputed to the sinner or reckoned to his account.

Another term, dikaiosis, signifies “the act or process of declaring righteous,” viz., justification.

The word dikaioma, which means “that which is declared righteous,” and hence a statute or command, as something which the law of God declares to be a righteous requirement, is used in connection with justification for “the deed by which one declares another righteous, and is partially equivalent to dikaiosis.”

The principal word which is used for expressing the nature of God’s action in justification is dikaioo, “to justify,” which means everywhere “to declare righteous,” “to regard and represent as righteous,” and not “to make righteous” in the sense of conferring personal righteousness.

This usage of terms shows plainly that justification is a judicial act of God, in which he does not confer holiness, but only declares the relation occupied to the law by the one who is in Christ.

 

II. The Ground of this Justification

It is manifest from what has already been said that the justification of the sinner must depend on something not personally his own. The Scriptures teach that it is due not to his own good works but to the meritorious work of Christ which is imputed to him, or put to his account. 

1. They teach us negatively that it is not due to his own good works.

(1.) They expressly deny that justification can be by the works of the law. Rom. 3:20; Gal. 3:11; Eph. 2:9.

(2.) They assert that, could it thus have been attained, Christ’s death has been useless. Gal. 2:21; 5:4.

(3.) Sinfulness is declared to be the condition of every man, which excludes the possibility of works untainted by sin. Rom. 3:10.

(4.) The law is said to demand such complete obedience that “whosoever shall keep the whole law and stumble in one point, he is become guilty of all.” James 2:10.

(5.) We are told that “if there had been a law given which could make alive, verily, righteousness would have been of the law.” Gal. 3:21.

(6.) It is likewise stated as necessary to the certainty of attaining salvation that “it is of faith that it may be according to grace.” Rom. 4:16.

These statements show that, not only are men not saved by works alone, but not even by works combined with grace. Justification cannot arise, therefore, from the good works of men. Not even has its condition been so modified that a partial obedience can be accepted, whether this stands alone or is supplemented by, or is supplementary to the merits of Christ. Something entirely outside of man must constitute the basis of justification.

2. The word of God declares this outside something to be the meritorious work of Christ.

(1.) In general

(a) By declaring that the righteousness of God is connected with our relations to, or belief in Christ. Rom. 3:22, 26; 5:1; 10:4; 1 Cor. 1:30.

(b) By stating that redemption is in Christ Jesus. Rom. 3:24.

(c) By setting him forth as the only foundation of salvation.

(d) By asserting salvation to be found only in Christ. Acts 4:12.

(e) By asserting a definite relation between our sin and Christ, and his righteousness and ourselves. 2 Cor. 5:21.

2. More specifically by connecting the salvation and justification of man with Christ’s merits.

This may be shown.

(a) In connection with his sufferings, or what is usually called his passive obedience.

1. Christ is presented as “the Lamb of God,” John 1:29, in evident allusion to the sacrificial offerings of the olden days, and Paul speaks of him as one “whom God set forth to be a propitiation, through faith, by his blood.” Rom. 3:25.

2. He is presented as one who has died for us. Rom. 5:6, 8; 8:34; 14:15; 1 Cor. 8:11; 2 Cor. 5:14, 15; 1 Thess. 5:10; and specifically as having died for our sins. 1 Cor. 15:3.

3. We are said to be justified by his blood (Rom. 5:9), and reconciled by his death (Rom. 5:10), and by his cross (Eph. 2:16).

(b) Our justification is due also to the active obedience of Christ, and not to passive obedience only.

1. Righteousness involves character, conduct and action, even more than suffering endured as penalty. The sinlessness of Christ is therefore plainly taught, and especially in connection with imputation. 2 Cor. 5:21.

2. The gracious salvation he brings is said to establish the law.

3. He assures us, that he came to fulfil the law. Matt. 5:17.

4. The obedience of Christ is not only contrasted with the disobedience of Adam, but is declared to be the means by which many shall be made righteous. Rom. 5:19.

It thus appears, that the ground of justification is the whole meritorious work of Christ. Not his sufferings and death only, but his obedience to, and conformity with the divine law are involved in the justification, which is attained by the believer. The question is here sometimes asked, how the active obedience of Christ can avail to us, when he was himself a man and under the law, and owed obedience personally on his own behalf. The answer to this is twofold, in each case depending upon the doctrine of the incarnation of the Son of God. On the one hand, the position was one voluntarily assumed by the Son of God. He was under no obligation to become man. He was not, and could not be made man without his own consent. In thus voluntarily coming under the law, his obedience would have merit to secure all the blessings connected with the covenant, under which he assumed such relations. But besides this, the fulfillment of the law would not simply be that fulfillment due by a mere man, which is all the law could demand of him on his own behalf, so that the merit secured is that due to the Son of God, thus as man rendering obedience to the law. That merit is immeasurable and is available for all for whom he was the substitute.

 

III. The Imputation

This meritorious work of Christ, called in the Scriptures “the righteousness of God,” is imputed by God to those whom he justifies, as the ground or cause of their justification. It is reckoned to their account. They are treated as though they had themselves done that which Christ has done for them.

This imputation is in accordance with the action of God throughout the economy of human affairs. Adam as the representative of man sinned, and his sin has been imputed to all of his descendants, and they are treated as though personally sinners. Christ stood also as the representative of his people and their sins were imputed to him and he was treated as though personally a sinner. Likewise his righteousness is imputed to them, and they are treated as though personally righteous.

In each of these cases there is, however, no such transfer as makes one personally what he is representatively. It is not the imputed sin of Adam which makes men personally sinners. The corrupted nature is one of the natural consequences of that sin, and is a punishment of it. So the imputation of our sin to Christ did not make him personally a sinner. He was still of himself “the holy and righteous one.” In like manner, the imputation of Christ’s righteousness does not make man holy and righteous personally. In each of these cases it is only relation to the law which is expressed.

 

IV. The Relation of Faith to Justification

It is not every sinner that is justified. It is the believer in Jesus. An important inquiry, therefore, is as to the relation of faith to justification. The Scriptures teach that faith is reckoned for righteousness. Rom. 4:5, 9.

By this is not meant, that faith is accepted in the place of righteousness as the cause of justification, for, as we have seen, that place is occupied by the meritorious work of Christ. Nor is it meant, that the righteousness of God has so lowered the law, that something less than obedience can be accepted by him as a full satisfaction of that law; because the demands of the law have not been lowered but have been completely fulfilled by Christ. Besides this would be to make of faith a work, by which salvation is secured, and the Scriptures deny that it has this character. Rom. 4:16. “We are never said to be justified, dia pistin, on account of faith, but only dia pisteos, through faith, or ek pisteos, of faith, eis pistin, unto faith, and epi te pistei, by faith. The fact that faith is counted for righteousness shows, that in itself it is not righteousness and has no merit, but it only so “reckoned on the ground of something outside of itself, viz.: the saving work of Christ.”

It is evidently so reckoned, because by faith the sinner appropriates to himself the work of Christ, and becomes vitally united with him. Faith may, therefore, be regarded as the condition upon which justification is bestowed upon those to whom Christ is presented as a Saviour, to be received and rested upon for salvation. “Faith,” says Dr. Charles Hodge, “is the condition of justification. That is, so far as adults are concerned, God does not impute the righteousness of Christ to the sinner, until and unless he (through grace) receives and rests on Christ alone for salvation.” Sys. Theol. Vol. 3, p. 118. It is a condition which has in it no merit in itself, but which only seizes upon merit in another. It is also an act of the sinner, to which he is graciously disposed and led by God himself through the power of the Holy Spirit.

 

V. The Relation of Works to Justification

We have already seen that works cannot enter meritoriously into justification as its procuring cause. But the Scriptures evidently associate works in some manner with justification. Paul himself says that “love is the fulfillment of the law,” Rom. 13:10, and declares that that which avails in Christ Jesus is “faith working through love,” and that “the whole law is fulfilled in one word, even in this, thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.” Gal. 5:6, 14. There is here an evident correspondence with, if not allusion to, the frequent teachings of our Lord, and especially to his answer to the Pharisee about the great commandment of the law. Matt. 22:34-40.

The teaching of the apostle James, is not, therefore, to be held to be opposed to the other Scriptures when he speaks of a justification by works. His language is very strong. He says that “faith apart from works is dead.” He asks, “was not Abraham, our father, justified by works, in that he offered up Isaac, his son, upon the altar?” He inquires, “thou seest that faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect,” and especially declares, “ye see how that by works a man is justified and not by faith only.” James 2:20, 21, 22, 24.

What then is the relation of works to justification?

1. Certainly not as a procuring cause, or a meritorious ground. The faith with which James associates works, and upon a level with which he seems to place them, does not itself occupy this position.

2. The works are not such as precede justification or are contemporaneous with it, and hence cannot be a cause, nor even a condition such as we have seen faith to be. Even in the case of Abraham the justifying work referred to occurred long after the justification which he attained by faith. Compare Rom. 4:9-11; Heb. 11:8; Gen. 15:6; 17:1-27; 22:1-19.

3. The works are referred to as means of manifesting as well the faith as the justification claimed to be by faith. James 2:18.

4. The apostle’s object is to deny the living character of any faith which has not wrought with works and has not been perfected through works.

It is thus evident that works occupy the position of subsequent, not antecedent, accompaniments of justification. They manifest that justification has taken place, because they are invariable consequence. They do this, however, not before man only, but God also, and consequently he, as well as man, perceives them, and because of them the believer performing these good works is justified before God. But such justification is not that actual justification which takes place in connection with faith, which is the judicial act of God declaring the relation of the believer to the law, but that declarative or manifesting justification, which cannot exist except as the result of the actual justification, but which is so inseparably connected with the latter that by its presence, or absence, the existence or non-existence of justification is distinctly established.

 

VI. The Benefits Included in Justification

The benefits conferred by justification are many.

1. Freedom from the condemnation of the law. This includes:

(1) Forgiveness of all sin. Not for the past only, but throughout the Christian’s life.

(2) Discharge from his relation to the law as a rule of bondage, for which is now exchanged his service to it in the newness of the spirit. Rom. 7:6.

(3) Peace with God,–assured peace,–because dependent on the merits of Christ and not those of himself.

These and all other blessings which may be included under the general idea of pardon are necessary results of justification.

2. But justification confers righteousness as well as pardon. Not only are sins remitted but men are made partakers of the righteousness procured by Christ which is imputed to them. They are thus recognized before the law as righteous persons, not simply as persons pardoned for breaking the law, but as those who are rewarded for having fulfilled all its demands.

3. But there are other blessings which arise from the relation to Christ of those whom God justifies. That relation was shown in the chapter on Faith. It is a vital and spiritual as well as a legal and federal union between Christ and his people. By virtue of this they are identified with him in his relation to God as their Representative and Covenant Head, and are made partakers of all the blessings which he has obtained as an inheritance. It is thus that they are adopted into the family of God and become his sons and daughters; thus are they sanctified by the Holy Spirit partly in this life, and progressively advance until complete holiness shall be theirs in Heaven. Thus also do they persevere in the divine life, being preserved or kept by God through faith unto complete salvation. By the same act of faith which is the condition of justification is secured by those united to Christ, the privilege of complete participation in the rewards of their federal head. They shall be heirs with him, shall reign with him, shall be partakers of his glory. No imagination can compass the reward which shall be theirs together with Christ. The Scriptures seem to teach that whatever Christ shall be or possess in his human nature they also shall be and possess.

 

VII. The Time of Justification

We may finally inquire into the time at which justification occurs.

1. It does not occur periodically but is a single act, and not one repeated with reference to new sins. This arises from its nature as an act of God declaring the relation of the believer to the law and from the ground of that act, the never failing merits of Christ. The pardon which the Christian seeks of God is that of a child for offences against a father’s love, and not of a culprit before an avenging judge. The sufferings which Christians endure are not avenging punishments for sin, but chastisements from a Father who chastises those whom he loves and scourges those whom he receives.

2. It is an instantaneous and not a continuing work as is sanctification. It is God’s act declaring the sinner’s relation to the law. That sinner is under condemnation until justified. As soon as justified his condemnation ceases. He cannot be partly condemned and partly justified. He is under condemnation until brought into that condition which secures his justification. When that moment comes God must justify.

3. But when is that moment? The Scriptures teach that it is when man believes. It is in the moment of trust in a personal Saviour.
It was not at the time that Christ finished his work and laid the foundation of justification in his merits and satisfaction. By these justification was secured but not bestowed. It was not in Eternity as is Election by which the subjects of the future justification were chosen. It is at the moment of belief when faith, which is its condition, is experienced. Then is consummated that which was purposed in eternity and which was made possible and certain by the work of Christ. The hour of faith was even the period of justification before the incarnation of Christ because of the faith which rested personally upon him through the promises of God, and the acceptance by God of the meritorious work of Christ as though already existing because of the absolute certainty that it would be performed.

 

Rev. James Petigru Boyce, D. D., LL. D.,–Abstract of Systematic Theology–First published in 1887