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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: God’s Hidden Face

By Pastor Joseph Terrell

Grace Community Church of Rock Valley, IA

I will wait for the Lord, who is hiding His face from the descendants of Jacob. I will put my trust in him. ~Isaiah 8.17

Child of God, do you not find that your most difficult times are those in which the Lord “hides His face”? When God leads a child of His into some deep sorrow of life – some sickness, reversal of fortune or some great loss – such sorrow is bearable if his child can say with confidence, “Even if He leads me through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for my God is with me!” If we sense that God is present with us, we fear no harm even if thousands upon thousands are opposed to us.

But God purposefully hides His face from His people. He withdraws the tokens of His presence. He lets our minds become clouded with doubts. He allows a fog of emotional distress to hide His presence with us. We cannot see Him for He has hidden Himself. The thought that God would hide himself from us only serves to strengthen our distress for we conclude that He would not do so if He loved us.

We surmise that any gracious thought of God toward us would certainly lead to His bestowing rich temporal blessings upon us – “smiling down from heaven” so to speak. But our experience teaches us differently. Sometimes at the very point at which it would seem most helpful to us for God somehow to affirm His presence with us He becomes invisible. He hides. We call out, yet it seems no one is listening. We read His Word yet it seems no one is speaking. We feel horribly closed off and alone

We are all familiar with lighthouses. They serve to warn ships of the location of the shoreline so as to prevent them from crashing on the rocks. But, what of foggy nights when the light cannot be seen? A lighthouse is useless in a dense fog until the ship is too close to avoid danger. At such times, a fog horn is sounded. It may not be as cheering as the light on a clear night. But it tells the captain of the ship all that the light could tell him. It assures him that those concerned for the safety of the ship are still there. And it provides him with the information necessary to avoid the shallow waters of destruction.

The Lord Jesus did not say, “My sheep see my face and they follow me.” He said, “My sheep HEAR MY VOICE, and they follow me.” His voice is the gospel. It is the gospel to which we must ever be attentive. Who knows, our seeking to “see Him” may be the very reason He has hidden His face. We have sought subjective experience rather than objective truth. So He hides His face so that we will be forced to listen to His voice. When we cannot see, let us listen carefully.

When the light is obscured by the fog of our natural selves or even by providential circumstances, let us listen. And as we listen, let us wait, knowing that the face of the Lord will once again appear to our hearts. His voice assures us that He is near and this gives us hope that, in time, He shall appear. And as we wait, let us trust. Sometimes, we do not “see His face” for very long stretches of time. In this our faith is tested. We walk by faith, not by sight. We must simply trust His word – His voice – or we will despair of His goodness and seek our safety elsewhere. God grant that in seasons of no sight, we will content ourselves with the sound of His voice.

(Joseph Terrell)

www.miles mckee.com 

God changes not in his plans

December 5, 2016 2 comments

3. Impress’d on his heart it remains. Then again, God changes not in his plans. That man began to build, but was not able to finish, and therefore he changed his plan, as every wise man would do in such a case- he built upon a smaller foundation and commenced again. But has it ever been said that God began to build but was not able to finish? Nay. When he hath boundless stores at his command, and when his own right hand would create worlds as numerous as drops of morning dew, shall he ever stay because he has not power? and reverse, or alter, or disarrange his plan, because he cannot carry it out? “But,” say some, “perhaps God never had a plan.” Do you think God is more foolish than yourself then, sir? Do you go to work without a plan? “No,” say you, “I have always a scheme.” So has God. Every man has his plan, and God has a plan too. God is a mastermind; he arranged everything in his gigantic intellect long before he did it and once having settled it, mark you, he never alters it. “This shall be done,” saith he, and the iron hand of destiny marks it down, and it is brought to pass. “This is my purpose,” and it stands, nor can earth or hell alter it. “This is my decree,” saith he, promulgate it angels- rend it down from the gate of heaven ye devils; but ye cannot alter the decree; it shall be done. God altereth not his plans; why should he? He is Almighty, and therefore can perform his pleasure. Why should he? He is the All-wise, and therefore cannot have planned wrongly. Why should he? He is the everlasting God, and therefore cannot die before his plan is accomplished. Why should he change? Ye worthless atoms of existence, ephemera of the day! ye creeping insects upon this bay-leaf of existence! ye may change your plans, but he shall never, never change his. Then has he told me that his plan is to save me? If so, I am safe.

“My name from the palms of his hands

Eternity will not erase;

Impress’d on his heart it remains,

In marks of indelible grace.”

Charles H. Spurgeon- The Immutability of God- A sermon delivered on Sabbath morning, Jan 7th, 1855

The proper study of a Christian is the Godhead

November 14, 2016 Leave a comment

Spurgeon“I am the Lord, I change not; therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed.”- Malachi. 3:6.

IT has been said by some one that “the proper study of mankind is man.” I will not oppose the idea, but I believe it is equally true that the proper study of God’s elect is God; the proper study of a Christian is the Godhead. The highest science, the loftiest speculation, the mightiest philosophy, which can ever engage the attention of a child of God, is the name, the nature, the person, the work, the doings, and the existence of the great God whom he calls his Father. There is something exceedingly improving to the mind in a contemplation of the Divinity. It is a subject so vast, that all our thoughts are lost in its immensity; so deep, that our pride is drowned in its infinity. Other subjects we can compass and grapple with; in them we feel a kind of self-content, and go our way with the thought, “Behold I am wise.” But when we come to this master-science, finding that our plumb-line cannot sound its depth, and that our eagle eye cannot see its height, we turn away with the thoughts that vain man would be wise, but he is like a wild ass’s colt and with the solemn exclamation, “I am but of yesterday, and know nothing.” No subject of contemplation will tend more to humble the mind, than thoughts of God. We shall be obliged to feel

“Great God, how infinite art thou,

What worthless worms are we!”

But while the subject humbles the mind it also expands it. He who often thinks of God, will have a larger mind than the man who simply plods around this narrow globe. He may be a naturalist, boasting of his ability to dissect a beetle, anatomize a fly, or arrange insects and animals in classes with well nigh unutterable names; he may be a geologist, able to discourse of the megatherium and the plesiosauras, and all kinds of extinct animals, he may imagine that his science, whatever it is, ennobles and enlarges his mind. I dare say it does, but after all the most excellent study for expanding the soul is the science of Christ, and him crucified, and the knowledge of the Godhead in the glorious Trinity. Nothing will so enlarge the intellect, nothing so magnify the whole soul of man, as a devout, earnest, continued investigation of the great subject of the Deity. And, whilst humbling and expanding, this subject is eminently consolatary. Oh, there is, in contemplating Christ, a balm for every wound, in musing on the Father, there is a quietus for every grief- and in the influence of the Holy Ghost, there is a balsam for every sore. Would you lose your sorrows? Would you drown your cares? Then go plunge yourself in the Godhead’s deepest sea; be lost in his immensity; and you shall come forth as from a couch of rest, refreshed and invigorated. I know nothing which can so comfort the soul, so calm the swelling billows of grief and sorrow; so speak peace to the winds of trial, as a devout musing upon the subject of the Godhead. It is to that subject that I invite you this morning. We shall present you with one view of it,-that is the immutability of the glorious Jehovah. “I am,” says my text, “Jehovah,” (for so it should be translated) “I am Jehovah, I change not; therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed.”

There are three things this morning. First of all, an unchanging God; secondly, the persons who derive benefit from this glorious attribute, “the sons of Jacob;” and thirdly, the beneath they so derive, they “are not consumed.” We address ourselves to these points.

Charles H. Spurgeon- The Immutability of God- A sermon delivered on Sabbath morning, Jan 7th, 1855

Objections to K. Scott Oliphint’s Covenantal Properties Thesis Article

by James Dolezal

Paul Helm has recently offered criticism of certain aspects of K. Scott Oliphint’s book, God With Us (Crossway, 2012), and Reformation21 has published responses by Oliphint and Nate Shannon. (1) It is striking that neither Oliphint nor Shannon offers much discussion of Oliphint’s central thesis and arguably his most innovative proposal, that God relates himself to the world by taking on “covenantal properties” in addition to his essence.(2) Shannon’s article in particular contends that Oliphint advances the Reformed commitment to Scripture by rejecting presumably corrupt elements of the classical Reformed doctrine of God. In my estimation Shannon’s criticism of the tradition is somewhat overwrought and misguided. The question of the Reformed scholastics’ doctrine of God, and especially of divine simplicity, has been settled. They deny that God can add properties to himself. (3) And while the merits or demerits of that position may be debated, the issue at hand is whether or not Oliphint’s own doctrine of covenantal properties is a suitably orthodox alternative to the classical Reformed teaching on God. It is my contention that it is not. In what follows I aim to briefly set forth what I perceive to be the leading difficulties with the covenantal properties thesis. This critique is here stated tersely for the benefit of those just tuning in. (4) My objections are theological in nature and do not require that one adhere to any particular school of philosophy.

 

 

 

Read the entire article here.

Gifts Temporal

September 29, 2014 1 comment

Spurgeon 1We shall divide God’s gifts into five classes. First, we shall have gifts temporal; second, gifts saving; third, gifts honorable; fourth, gifts useful; and fifth, gifts comfortable. Of all these we shall say, “Is it not lawful for me to do what I will with mine own?”

1. In the first place then, we notice Gifts Temporal. It is an indisputable fact that God hath not, in temporal matters, given to every man alike; that He hath not distributed to all His creatures the same amount of happiness or the same standing in creation. There is a difference.

Mark what a difference there is in men personally (for we shall consider men chiefly); one that is born like Saul, a head and shoulders taller than the rest — another shall live all his life a Zaccheus — a man short of stature. One has a muscular frame and a share of beauty; another is weak, and far from having anything styled comeliness. How many do we find whose eyes have never rejoiced in the sunlight, whose ears have never listened to the charms of music, and whose lips have never been moved to sounds intelligible or harmonious. Walk through the earth and you will find men superior to yourself in vigor, health, and fashion, and others who are your inferiors in the very same respects. Some here are preferred far above their fellows in their outward appearance, and some sink low in the scale and have nothing about them that can make them glory in the flesh. Why hath God given to one man beauty and to another none? to one all his senses, and to another but a portion? Why, in some, hath He quickened the sense of apprehension, while others are obliged to bear about them a dull and stubborn body? We reply, let men say what they will, that no answer can be given except this, “Even so, Father, for so it seemed good in thy sight.” The old Pharisees asked, “Did this man sin or his parents, that he was born blind?” We know that there was neither sin in parents nor child, that he was born blind, or that others have suffered similar distresses, but that God has done as it has pleased Him in the distribution of His earthly benefits, and thus hath said to the world, “Is it not lawful for me to do what I will with mine own?”

Mark, also, in the distribution of mental gifts, what a difference exists. All men are not like Socrates; there are but few Platos; we can discover but here and there a Bacon; we shall but every now and then converse with a Sir Isaac Newton. Some have stupendous intellects wherewith they can unravel secrets — fathom the depths of oceans — measure mountains — dissect the sunbeams, and weigh the stars. Others have but shallow minds. You may educate and educate, but can never make them great. You cannot improve what is not there. They have not genius, and you cannot impart it. Anybody may see that there is an inherent difference in men from their very birth. Some, with a little education do surpass those ‘who have been elaborately trained. There are two boys, educated it may be in the same school, by the same master, and they shall apply themselves to their studies with the same diligence, but yet one shall far outstrip his fellow. Why is this? Because God hath asserted His sovereignty over the intellect as well as the body. God hath not made us all alike, but diversified His gifts. One man is as eloquent as Whitefield; another stammers if he but speaks three words of his mother tongue. What makes these various differences between man and man? We answer, we must refer it all to the Sovereignty of God, who does as He wills with His own.

Note, again, what are the differences of metz’s conditions in this world. Mighty minds are from time to time discovered in men whose limbs are wearing the chains of slavery, and whose backs are laid bare to the whip — they have black skins, but are in mind vastly superior to their brutal masters. So, too, in England; we find wise men often poor, and rich men not seldom ignorant and vain. One comes into the world to be arrayed at once in the imperial purple — another shall never wear aught but the humble garb of a peasant. One has a palace to dwell in and a bed of down for his repose, while another finds but a hard resting place, and shall never have a more sumptuous covering than the thatch of his own cottage. If we ask the reason for this, the reply still is, “Even so, Father, for so it seemed good in thy sight.”

So, in other ways you will observe in passing through life how sovereignty displays itself. To one man God giveth a long life and uniform health, so that he scarcely knows what it is to have a day’s sickness, while another totters through the world and finds a grave at almost every step, feeling a thousand deaths in fearing one. One man, even in extreme old age, like Moses, has his eye undimmed; and though his hair is grey, he stands as firmly on his feet as when a young man in his father’s house. Whence, again, we ask, is this difference? And the only adequate answer is, it is the effect of Jehovah’s Sovereignty. You find, too, that some men are cut off in the prime of their life the very midst of their days — while others live beyond their threescore years and ten. One departs before he has reached the first stage of existence, and. another has his life lengthened out until it becomes quite a burden; we must, I conceive, necessarily trace the cause of all these differences in life to the fact of God’s Sovereignty. He is Ruler and King, and shall He not do as He wills with His own?

We pass from this point — but before we do we must stop to improve it just a moment. O thou who art gifted with a noble frame, a comely body, boast not thy self therein, for thy gifts come from God. O glory not, for if thou gloriest thou becomest uncomely in a moment. The flowers boast not of their beauty, nor do the birds sing of their plumage. Be ye not vain ye daughters of beauty’; be not exalted ye sons of comeliness; and O ye men of might and intellect, remember, that all you have is bestowed by a Sovereign Lord: He did create; He can destroy. There are not many steps between the mightiest intellect and the helpless idiot — deep thought verges on insanity. Thy brain may at any moment, be smitten, and thou be doomed henceforth to live a madman. Boast not thyself of all that thou knowest, for even the little knowledge thou hast has been given thee. Therefore, I say, exalt not thyself above measure, but use for God what God has given, thee, for it is a royal gift, and thou shouldst not lay it aside. But if the Sovereign Lord has given thee one talent, and no more, lay it not up in a napkin, but use it well, and then it may be that He will give thee more. Bless God that thou hast more than others, and thank Him also that He has given thee less than others, for thou hast less to carry on thy shoulders; and the lighter thy burden the less cause wilt thou have to groan as thou travels on towards the better land. Bless God then if thou possessest less than thy fellows, and see His goodness in withholding as well as in giving.

Charles H. Spurgeon-Sermon-Divine Sovereignty-Delivered May 4 1856

There is no attribute more comforting than the doctrine of Divine Sovereignty

September 8, 2014 1 comment

CharlesSpurgeonThere is no attribute of God more comforting to His children than the doctrine of Divine Sovereignty. Under the most adverse circumstances, in the most severe troubles, they believe that ‘Sovereignty hath ordained their afflictions, that Sovereignty overrules them, and that Sovereignty will sanctify them all. There is nothing for which the children of God ought more earnestly to contend than the dominion of their Master over all creation — the kingship of God over all the works of His own hands — the throne of God, and His right to sit upon that throne.

Charles H. Spurgeon-Sermon-Divine Sovereignty-Delivered May 4 1856

Scripture, in teaching that the essence of God is immense and spiritual, refutes the idolaters, Manichees, and Anthropomorphites

August 27, 2014 2 comments

calvin.jpg_7MA21605611-0015Scripture, in teaching that the essence of God is immense and spiritual, refutes not only idolaters and the foolish wisdom of the world, but also the Manichees and Anthropomorphites. These latter briefly refuted.

1. The doctrine of Scripture concerning the immensity and the spirituality of the essence of God, should have the effect not only of dissipating the wild dreams of the vulgar, but also of refuting the subtleties of a profane philosophy. One of the ancients thought he spake shrewdly when he said that everything we see and everything we do not see is God, (Senec. Praef. lib. 1 Quaest. Nat.) In this way he fancied that the Divinity was transfused into every separate portion of the world. But although God, in order to keep us within the bounds of soberness, treats sparingly of his essence, still, by the two attributes which I have mentioned, he at once suppresses all gross imaginations, and checks the audacity of the human mind. His immensity surely ought to deter us from measuring him by our sense, while his spiritual nature forbids us to indulge in carnal or earthly speculation concerning him. With the same view he frequently represents heaven as his dwelling-place. It is true, indeed, that as he is incomprehensible, he fills the earth also, but knowing that our minds are heavy and grovel on the earth, he raises us above the worlds that he may shake off our sluggishness and inactivity. And here we have a refutation of the error of the Manichees, who, by adopting two first principles, made the devil almost the equal of God. This, assuredly, was both to destroy his unity and restrict his immensity. Their attempt to pervert certain passages of Scripture proved their shameful ignorance, as the very nature of the error did their monstrous infatuation. The Anthropomorphites also, who dreamed of a corporeal God, because mouth, ears, eyes, hands, and feet, are often ascribed to him in Scripture, are easily refuted. For who is so devoid of intellect as not to understand that God, in so speaking, lisps with us as nurses are wont to do with little children? Such modes of expression, therefore, do not so much express what kind of a being God is, as accommodate the knowledge of him to our feebleness. In doing so, he must, of course, stoop far below his proper height.

John Calvin-Institutes of the Christian Religion-Book I-Chapter 13-Henry Beveridge Translation

An Inalienable Right to Grace?

March 24, 2014 4 comments

By R. C. Sproul

My favorite illustration of how callous we have become with respect to the mercy, love, and grace of God comes from the second year of my teaching career, when I was given the assignment of teaching two hundred and fifty college freshman an introductory course on the Old Testament. On the first day of the class, I gave the students a syllabus and I said: “You have to write three short term papers, five pages each. The first one is due September 30 when you come to class, the second one October 30, and the third one November 30. Make sure that you have them done by the due date, because if you don’t, unless you are physically confined to the infirmary or in the hospital, or unless there is a death in the immediate family, you will get an F on that assignment. Does everybody understand that?” They all said, “Yes.”

On September 30, two hundred and twenty-five of my students came in with their term papers. There were twenty-five terrified freshmen who came in trembling. They said: “Oh, Professor Sproul, we didn’t budget our time properly. We haven’t made the transition from high school to college the way we should have. Please don’t flunk us. Please give us a few more days to get our papers finished.”

I said: “OK, this once I will give you a break. I will let you have three more days to get your papers in, but don’t you let that happen again.”

“Oh, no, we won’t let it happen again,” they said. “Thank you so, so, so much.”

Then came October 30. This time, two hundred students came with their term papers, but fifty students didn’t have them. I asked, “Where are your papers?”

They said: “Well, you know how it is, Prof. We’re having midterms, and we had all kinds of assignments for other classes. Plus, it’s homecoming week. We’re just running a little behind. Please give us just one more chance.”

I asked: “You don’t have your papers? Do you remember what I said the last time? I said, ‘Don’t even think about not having this one in on time.’ And now, fifty of you don’t have them done.”

“Oh, yes,” they said, “we know.”

I said: “OK. I will give you three days to turn in your papers. But this is the last time I extend the due date.”

Do you know what happened? They started singing spontaneously, “We love you, Prof Sproul, oh, yes, we do.” I was the most popular professor on that campus.

But then came November 30. This time one hundred of them came with their term papers, but a hundred and fifty of them did not. I watched them walk in as cool and as casual as they could be. So I said, “Johnson!”

“What?” he replied.

“Do you have your paper?”

“Don’t worry about it, Prof,” he responded. “I’ll have it for you in a couple of days.”

I picked up the most dreadful object in a freshman’s experience, my little black grade book. I opened it up and I asked, “Johnson, you don’t have your term paper?”

He said, “No”

I said, “F,” and I wrote that in the grade book. Then I asked, “Nicholson, do you have your term paper?” “No, I don’t have it.” “F. Jenkins, where is your term paper?”

“I don’t have it.”

“F.”

Then, out of the midst of this crowd, someone shouted, “That’s not fair.” I turned around and asked, “Fitzgerald, was that you who said that?”

He said, “Yeah, it’s not fair.”

I asked, “Weren’t you late with your paper last month?”

“Yeah,” he responded.

“OK, Fitzgerald, I’ll tell you what I’m going to do. If it’s justice you want, it’s justice you will get.” So I changed his grade from October to an F. When I did that, there was a gasp in the room. I asked, “Who else wants justice?” I didn’t get any takers.

There was a song in the musical My Fair Lady titled “I’ve Grown Accustomed to Her Face.” Well, those students had grown accustomed to my grace. The first time they were late with their papers, they were amazed by grace. The second time, they were no longer surprised; they basically assumed it. By the third time, they demanded it. They had come to believe that grace was an inalienable right, an entitlement they all deserved.

I took that occasion to explain to my students: “Do you know what you did when you said, ‘That’s not fair’? You confused justice and grace.” The minute we think that anybody owes us grace, a bell should go off in our heads to alert us that we are no longer thinking about grace, because grace, by definition, is something we don’t deserve. It is something we cannot possibly deserve. We have no merit before God, only demerit. If God should ever, ever treat us justly outside of Christ, we would perish. Our feet would surely slip.

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Excerpt from R.C. Sproul’s contribution in Holy, Holy, Holy: Proclaiming the Perfections of God. Available in the Ligonier store.

 

 

Source [Ligonier Ministries]

Confession statement 22

Published in 1646

The Text used: There has been some updating of Old English words but otherwise no changes have been made to the original texts.

CONFESSION OF FAITH of seven congregations or churches of Christ in London. which are commonly, but unjustly, called Anabaptists; published for the vindication of the truth and information of the ignorant; likewise for the taking off those aspersions which are frequently, both in pulpit and print, unjustly cast upon them. Printed in London, Anno 1646.

XXII FAlTH is the gift of God, wrought in the hearts of the elect by the Spirit of God; by which faith they come to know and believe the truth of the Scriptures, and the excellency of them above all other writings, and all things in the world, as they hold forth the glory of God in His attributes, the excellency of Christ in His nature and offices, and of the power and fulness of the Spirit in its [His] workings and operations; and so are enabled to cast their souls upon His truth thus believed.

Eph.2:8; John 6:29, 4:10; Phi1.1:29; Ga1.5:22; John 17:17; Heb.4: 11,12; John 6:63.

The First London Baptist Confession 1644/46