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Posts Tagged ‘Justification’

Dagg BK 7 Chapter III

When the Scriptures speak of Christ’s blood as the ground of our justification, his obedience is supposed: and, on the other hand, when his obedience is mentioned, his sufferings are supposed. His obedience to the precepts of the law would not have sufficed, if he had not also endured its penalty: and if, while enduring his sufferings, he had not loved God with all his heart, his sacrifice would have been polluted. A lamb without spot was needed; and perfect obedience was therefore necessary to render his offering acceptable. His active and passive obedience are both necessary to make a complete salvation; and when only one is mentioned in the Scriptures, the other is supposed.

In being made under the law, Christ became our substitute; and his obedience and sufferings are placed to our account, as if we had personally obeyed and suffered, to the full satisfaction of the law. We are thus justified by the righteousness of Christ imputed to us: “He who knew no sin, was made sin for us, that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.”[77] Our sins were imputed to Christ when he died for them; and his righteousness is imputed to us when we receive eternal life through him. He was treated as if he had personally committed the sins…..

Read the entire article at Founders Ministries.

The Most Important Question One Can Ask!

By Roger Duke

“Of Justification”

There are many important questions that should be asked concerning the possible paths one’s life should take. These questions must be considered, especially in the light of “characteristic … key events … which compose the essential[s] of human existence, such as birth, growth, emotionality, aspiration, conflict, … morality”3 and even death. No one single question is more important than: How can a sinful person be in right standing with a Holy God? This “must ever be a question of intense interest.”4 It is fundamental to any contemplative and sober-minded person—especially one concerned with their soul’s ultimate destination. It can be asked in theological parlance; “How can [a righteous] God justly account an ungodly [hu]man righteous[?]”5 It is profoundly, pointedly personal; “How can I be right with or just before God?”6 The Baptist Catechism simply asks: “What is justification.”7 This article will seek to shed light on this Bible truth from The Baptist Confession of Faith,8 and…..

Read the entire article at Founder’s Ministries.

John Owen on the Imputation of Christ’s Active Obedience

by Michael Brown

Introduction

In 1677, when John Owen (1616-1683) published his book, The Doctrine of Justification by Faith through the Imputation of the Righteousness of Christ; Explained, Confirmed, and Vindicated, the Protestant doctrine of justification was still engulfed in controversy. “In my judgment,” said the English Calvinist, “Luther spake the truth when he said, ‘Amisso articulo justificationis, simul amissa est tota doctrina Christiana.’ And I wish he had not been a true prophet, when he foretold that in the following ages the doctrine hereof would be again obscured.”[1] As a Reformed theologian, Oxford University Vice-Chancellor, and Congregationalist pastor, Owen defended the Protestant and confessional doctrine of justification against Arminianism, Socinianism, and Roman Catholicism.[2] Indeed, The Doctrine of Justification by Faith was primarily a repudiation of these three positions, particularly Socinianism.

These were not, however, Owen’s only opponents on this subject. While Protestants in the seventeenth-century generally understood the formal cause of a believer’s justification to be the imputed righteousness of Christ, not all agreed on the precise definition of that imputed righteousness. At the Westminster Assembly (1643-1649), for example, the majority believed that the imputed righteousness of Christ included both Christ’s active and passive obedience. A small minority, however, affirmed the latter but denied the former. Among these were the Assembly’s first prolocutor, William Twisse (1578-1646), and the theologian Thomas Gataker (1574-1654).[3] While Owen was not present at the Westminster Assembly, he was nevertheless fully committed to the majority view….

Read the entire article here.

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

Joy Because of Justification

by Erroll Hulse

WE have seen that humiliation because of sin is the first experience of Christianity and without it there can be no salvation. The good news of the Gospel is for sinners only. The self-righteous cannot be saved because they trust in themselves and their own works. The degree to which sinners will experience conviction and feel their guilt varies. After conversion the experience of humiliation because of sin can be intense as is seen in many examples — Job, Isaiah, Peter and Paul. The depth of humiliation has a profound effect upon the believer, particularly with reference to understanding and practising the doctrines of grace. Spurgeon put it this way:

Hardly a glimmer of the humbling truth of our natural depravity dawns on the dull apprehension of the worldly-wise, though souls taught from above know it and are appalled by it. In divers ways the discovery comes to those whom the Lord ordains to save. . . . There is a vital connection between soul-distress and sound doctrine. Sovereign grace is dear to those who have groaned deeply because they see what grievous sinners they are. Witness Joseph Hart and John Newton whose hymns you have often sung, or David Brainerd and Jonathan Edwards, whose biographies many of you have read.1

Also we have observed that the new birth takes place after, before or during conviction, i.e. in some cases it might precede, in other cases it might follow. That the new birth precedes saving faith and saving repentance is fundamental to the Reformed faith, but, again as we have seen, it has always been a matter of debate as to how much conviction or preparation goes on in a sinner before the new birth is wrought by the Holy Spirit. Some believe in more preparatory work prior to the new birth than others. Jonathan Edwards in his writings……

Read the entire article here.

Justification and Imputation

by Persis Lorenti

On October 31, 2017, many Christians celebrated the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation. My church held a service where several pastors spoke on the theological importance of this historical event, namely the recovery of the doctrine of justification by faith alone through grace alone in Christ alone for God’s glory alone. This indeed is a wonderful truth that is the ground of the gospel. What then is the ground of justification? The doctrine of imputation.

Apart from God’s intervention, Romans 3:23 is true for every man, woman, and child. We have fallen short of the glory of God, and we have fallen in two respects. We are guilty of breaking the law, which is a capital offense. (Gen. 2:16-17) God cannot sweep our sin under the rug and maintain His holiness. Therefore, sin must be punished. (Ps. 5:4-6, Heb. 10:26-31) We are also guilty of not keeping the law. (Deut. 5:29-33) God our Creator rightfully demands perfect obedience, but our best efforts are filthy rags. (Is. 64:6) Therefore, these two mammoth obstacles must be dealt with in order for us….

Read the entire article at Reformation21.

Benjamin Keach on Justification

by Tom Nettles

Editor’s Introduction

Benjamin Keach (1640–1704) became a Baptist at age 15, preached as a General Baptist, and suffered persecution, imprisonment, and the pillory for his convictions as a Baptist. After serving as an elder in a General Baptist congregation from 1668-1672, he became a Particular Baptist minister and founded the church at Horse-lie-Down in Southwark in London. He spent the remainder of his years as a zealous preacher of the gospel, an effective polemicist, a theoretician on principles of biblical interpretation, a poet, a hymn-writer, and a writer of allegory. His clear and bold defense of the doctrines of grace was informed by his previous years as an Arminian. He lived with sincere conviction that the doctrine of justification by faith was indeed the doctrine on which the church stands or falls. His sermons and expositional writings were filled with explanations of the centrality of this doctrine to a proper understanding of the grace of God.

In an exposition of Luke 7:42, “And when they had nothing to pay, he frankly forgave them both,” Keach had an applicatory section explain how grace reigns through righteousness. Grace is not elevated in an unjust way………..

Read the entire article at Founders Ministries.

Justification and the Old Perspective

by Jeffrey Stivason

Charles Spurgeon’s famous quip goes something like this, “I love to proclaim these strong old doctrines, that are called by nickname Calvinism, but which are surely and verily the revealed truth of God as it is in Christ Jesus.” We might say something similar about justification. We may describe it as the Reformed perspective or Protestant perspective on justification but it is nothing other than the truth of God revealed in Scripture. In this article, I simply want to point out the constituent elements of the doctrine of justification and make reference to their Biblical support.

First, we must affirm that man is fallen in Adam……

Read the entire article at Reformation21.

Justification and the New Perspective

Jeffrey Stivason

The New Perspective now feels old. Or to say it differently, it has gained stability in the academy and in the church. Tom Wright, its leading salesperson, is as intelligent as he is winsome. He also has the instincts of a pastor. Hence the Everyone’s Commentary, which has quickly become a staple in the church, is reaching, well, everyone! The New Perspective is leaching into the pews at an accessible rate. So, as we think about justification I think it’s a good idea that we address the New Perspective on Paul (NPP).

Let me begin by saying that Robert Cara, Provost, Chief Academic Officer and Hugh and Sallie Reaves Professor of New Testament at Reformed Theological Seminary, has gifted the church with a book titled, Cracking the Foundations of the New Perspective. It is a text meant to equip pastors who are ill-equipped to answer arguments rooted in Second Temple Judaism made by advocates…..

Read the entire article at Reformation21 

Why Evangelicals Must Engage Roman Catholicism

As I speak to different audiences and at various conferences, the question comes back over and over again: why should Evangelicals bother engaging Roman Catholicism? Let me suggest four reasons.

It’s a Global Issue

Wherever you go in the world – North and South, East and West – you will find people who call themselves Roman Catholics and with whom all of us will interact in one way or another on matters of faith. You will also encounter the Roman Catholic Church through its institutions and agencies: parishes, schools, hospitals, charities, movements, etc. According to the 2020 edition of the Pontifical Yearbook, Catholics around the world amount….

Read the entire article here