Justification

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In Appreciation of Reformation Day

Posted by on 31 Oct 2012 | Tagged as: Justification, Martin Luther

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God.

Ephesians 2:8

Consistent readers of this blog know that I am deeply committed Evangelical. Especially in the area of soteriology (i.e., theology of salvation), I am convinced that the Evangelical understanding of how we are saved is the biblical message. Without question during the Middle Ages, the church in the Western world lost the New Testament understanding of salvation of faith alone through grace alone in Christ alone. Anglican theologian, Alister McGrath elaborates:

The late Middle Ages saw the church going through a period of real doctrinal confusion. People were not sure what they believed. They weren’t sure why they believed it, either. The result is that the church of the period really lacked any sense of certainty about what they believed and why they believed it.

There arose a whole generation of Christians who really didn’t understand what the Gospel was all about. That was enormously important for a whole range of things. One of the great themes of the doctrine of justification is this: It answers the question, “What must I do to be saved?” That is a real question for a lot of people. It is an important question. It is a question that needs to be answered. Yet in the late Middle Ages, people weren’t certain how to answer that question at all. What must you do to be saved?

Alister McGrath, “The State of the Church Before the Reformation,” Modern Reformation (March/April, Vol. 3, No. 2, 1994): 4-11.

In certain denominational and theological circles, it is popular to trash Martin Luther. Luther is blamed for everything from denominational division to Nazi persecution of the Jews to the lack of holiness in the American church. However during the Middle Ages, the Holy Spirit used Martin Luther to recover the gospel message. Most of us would not know Christ today if it were not for Luther’s commitment to biblical truth: faith in Christ’s finished work on the Cross is the means by which which we are made right with God (i.e., justification).

Since we are justified by faith alone, it is clear that the inner person cannot be justified, freed or saved by any external work or act, and such works, whatever they may be, have nothing to do with the inner person. Therefore, only ungodliness and unbelief of the heart make a person a condemned servant of sin — this cannot be caused by any external work or act of sin.

It follows that it ought to be the primary goal of every Christian to put aside confidence in works and grow stronger in the belief that we are saved by faith alone. Through this faith the Christian should increase in knowledge not of works but of Christ Jesus and the benefits of his death and resurrection.

Martin Luther, The Freedom of the Christian (Minneapolis, MN: 2008), 55.

I appreciate Reformation Day because without it, I would not be saved.

Faith Alone in Christ Alone

Posted by on 27 Sep 2012 | Tagged as: Faith, John Piper, Justification, Martin Luther

Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has become a child of God.

1 John 5:1 NLT

Faith is a response of the heart which receives what God has already done for me in Christ. Faith is relying on God’s character, standing on God’s promises, believing God’s Cross, and obeying God’s Spirit with a certainty that surpasses physical sight and human reasoning.

In my heart, I am assured that God’s faithfulness will bring God’s Word to pass in my circumstances, intervening in my life, and meeting my needs. Faith says that Christ’s shed blood is more than sufficient to forgive my sins, Christ’s death on the Cross defeats Satan’s hold on my life, and Christ’s glorious resurrection conquers the world’s influence, the flesh’s control, sin’s grip, and death’s defeat over me.

Faith, if it is to be sure and steadfast, must lay hold upon nothing else but Christ alone, and in the conflict and terrors of conscience it has nothing else to lean on but this precious pearl Christ Jesus. So, he who apprehends Christ by faith, although he be terrified with the law and oppressed with the weight of his sins, yet he may be bold to glory that he is righteous. How? Even by that precious jewel Christ Jesus, whom he possesses by faith.

Martin Luther, Commentary on Galatians (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books,1998),99.

Faith is looking away from ourselves to another. Faith is total dependence on another. When faith stands in front of a mirror, the mirror becomes a window with the glory of Christ on the other side. Faith looks to Christ and enjoys him as the sum and judge of all that is true and good and right and beautiful and valuable and satisfying.

John Piper, “Assessing Ourselves With Our God-Assigned Measure of Faith, Part 1.”

(HT: Ray Ortlund)

Grace Has Visited You

Posted by on 25 Oct 2011 | Tagged as: Justification

For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith.

Phil. 3:8-9 ESV

Justification by faith is God’s acceptance of us to be in right standing by the righteousness of Jesus Christ being accounted to each of us, sinners. Justification is an immediate legal work of God in which he forgives all our sins, counts Christ’s righteousness as our own, and declares us righteous in his sight.

If you have come to rest in the righteousness of Christ and have quit trying to parade your own, you know grace has visited you.

Paul David Tripp, Twitter feed

Faith Is God’s Work in Us

Posted by on 24 May 2011 | Tagged as: Faith, Good Works, Justification, Martin Luther

Faith

And God, who knows the heart, bore witness to them, by giving them the Holy Spirit just as he did to us, and he made no distinction between us and them, having cleansed their hearts by faith.

Acts 15:8-9

Faith is a response of the heart which receives what God has already done for us in Christ. Faith is relying on God’s character, standing on God’s promises, believing God’s Cross, and obeying God’s Spirit with a certainty that surpasses physical sight and human reasoning. Faith ignores bad circumstances, negative feelings, or discouraging thoughts to stand on God’s word and walk in his ways (Isa. 55:8-9). In short, faith simply believes what God says is true.

True faith passively receives the benefits of Christ’s victory on the cross resulting in active obedience to Christ’s commands and acquiescence to the leading of the Holy Spirit. Saving faith does not involve meriting salvation by human work. However, genuine faith will bear good fruit: an expression of the life of Christ in us. Good deeds are not the foundation of our acceptance with God, but the correct response and fruit of a living relationship with him.

Faith is God’s work in us, that changes us and gives new birth from God. (John 1:13). It kills the Old Adam and makes us completely different people. It changes our hearts, our spirits, our thoughts and all our powers. It brings the Holy Spirit with it. Yes, it is a living, creative, active and powerful thing, this faith.

Faith cannot help doing good works constantly. It doesn’t stop to ask if good works ought to be done, but before anyone asks, it already has done them and continues to do them without ceasing. Anyone who does not do good works in this manner is an unbeliever. He stumbles around and looks for faith and good works, even though he does not know what faith or good works are. Yet he gossips and chatters about faith and good works with many words.

Martin Luther, Martin Luther’s Definition of Faith: An Excerpt, “An Introduction to St. Paul’s Letter to the Romans,” Luther’s German Bible of 1522.

 

 

What of Justification and Sanctification?

Posted by on 28 Apr 2011 | Tagged as: John Stott, Justification, Sanctification

Righteous Status and Growth in Holiness

It will be counted to us who believe in him who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord, who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification.

Romans 4:24-25

Justifying grace is God’s undeserved, loving commitment to rescue us from his wrath and judgment. In Christ, God delivers us from sin and transports us into his loving kingdom of forgiveness.  Justifying grace calls us to trust Jesus Christ as our savior, the one who has taken all our sin and just judgment upon himself. When we trust Christ by faith, his work of forgiveness begins by releasing us from our debt, transforming our hearts, and freeing us to live for him.

When we look to Christ in faith and believe that his death was our death and that his punishment was our judgment, we receive by God’s grace his righteousness. This righteous declaration is forensic in that the legal charges against us have been dropped and we have been declared in right standing with God. To be credited as righteous is to be conferred a legal standing of being forgiven and no longer liable to punishment.

Sanctifying grace is Jesus being the desire, ability, and power in us to respond to every life situation according to the will of God. Jesus is our desire for he works in us a hunger for holiness. Jesus is our ability for he enables us to make godly choices. Jesus is our power for he strengthens us to overcome the world, the flesh, sin, death, and the devil. Grace is the person, Jesus, living his life in and through us empowering us to live a righteous and holy life (2 Cor. 9:8, 2 Cor. 12:1-10, Titus 2:11-14). Sanctifying grace is Jesus living his life in us: this is the normal Christian life (1 Jn. 4:9).

Justification describes the position of acceptance with God which he gives us when we trust in Christ as our Saviour. It is a legal term, borrowed from the lawcourts, and its opposite is condemnation. To justify is to acquit, to declare an accused person to be just, not guilty. So the divine judge, because his Son has borne our condemnation, justifies us, pronouncing us righteous in his sight. ‘Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus’ (Rom. 8:1).

Sanctification, on the other hand, describes the process by which justified Christians are changed into the likeness of Christ. When God justifies us, he *declares* us righteous through Christ’s death for us; when he sanctifies us, he *makes* us righteous through the power of his Holy Spirit within us.

Justification concerns our outward status of acceptance with God; sanctification concerns our inward growth in holiness of character. Further, whereas our justification is sudden and complete, so that we shall never be more justified than we were on the day of our conversion, our sanctification is gradual and incomplete. It takes a few moments only in court for a judge to pronounce his verdict and for the accused to be acquitted; it takes a lifetime even to approach Christlikeness. (paragraph editing mine)

John Stott, Your Confirmation, rev. edn. (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1991), 38.

HT: Langham Partnership

 

Consummate Glory in God

Posted by on 04 Apr 2011 | Tagged as: Early Church Father, Justification

 

Glorifying God

Sing, O heavens, for the Lord has done this wondrous thing. Shout for joy, O depths of the earth! Break into song, O mountains and forests and every tree! For the Lord has redeemed Jacob and is glorified in Israel.

Isa. 44:23 NLT

Glory is the manifested presence and power of God in our lives and through his church. Glory is pictured in the Bible as the bright, shining radiance that surrounds God’s ineffable perfection. Glory is the presence of God in all his faultlessness, beauty, sinlessness, holiness, majesty, power, sufficiency, and love.

How do we glorify God? First, we need to be mindful that we cannot add to God’s glory. Second, glorifying God means to acknowledge his perfect presence, to value him above everything, and to make him known to all. Last, glorifying God involves heartfelt thanksgiving for his grace and trust in his infinite love.

Basil the Great stated that we glorify God when we reject performance orientation and receive Christ’s righteousness. God is exalted when we turn our backs on our “good works” accept Christ’s righteousness as our own. Receiving Christ’s righteousness is being made right with God–our justification. Justification is an immediate work of God in which he forgives our sins, counts Christ’s sinlessness as ours, and declares us right in his sight. God is most glorified when we look to the Cross for our salvation.

What is true glory and what makes a man great?

‘In this,’ says the Prophet, ‘let him that glories, glory that he understands and knows that I am the Lord’ (Jer. 9:24).

This constitutes the highest dignity of man, this is his glory and greatness: truly to know what is great and to cleave to it, and to seek after glory from the Lord of glory. The Apostle tells us: ‘He that glories may glory in the Lord,’ saying: ‘Christ was made for us wisdom of God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption; that, as it is written: he that glories may glory in the Lord’ (1 Cor. 1:30-31).

Now, this is the perfect and consummate glory in God: not to exult in one’s own righteousness, but, recognizing oneself as lacking true righteousness, to be justified by faith in Christ alone.

Basil the Great, 330-379, Homily on Humility 20.3.

HT: Trevin Wax

 

His Righteousness

Posted by on 25 Jan 2011 | Tagged as: Evangelical, Justification, Keswick Convention

Righteousness: Being Right With God

For I am not ashamed of this Good News about Christ. It is the power of God at work, saving everyone who believes—the Jew first and also the Gentile. This Good News tells us how God makes us right in his sight.

Rom. 1:16-17 NLT

When we look to Christ in faith and believe that his death was our death, and that his punishment was our judgment, and that his blood shed is our forgiveness, we receive by God’s grace his righteousness. This righteous declaration is forensic in that the legal charges against us have been dropped and we are declared in right standing with God. To be credited as righteous is to be conferred a legal standing of being forgiven and no longer liable to punishment.

Justification is an immediate work of God in which he forgives our sins, counts Christ’s righteousness as our own, and declares us righteous in his sight. Christ’s righteousness is not only declared to be our righteousness in heaven, but this righteousness also transforms our life here on earth. The Reformation tradition is unwavering: the imputed righteousness of Christ is a free gift; it cannot be earned. It can only be received from a grateful heart by faith alone

Righteousness apart from the law; righteousness apart from human doings; righteousness apart from man’s deserving; righteousness given freely to those who do not desire it. Righteousness streaming from the heart of God because of the nature of His being. This is the theme of the Word of God. Look into your own heart and see whether you are trusting, even in a small fraction, in something that you are doing for yourself, or that you are doing for God, instead of finding that you have ceased from your works, and are resting on the righteous work that was accomplished on the cross of Calvary.

Righteousness that you must choose by abandoning any hope of salvation from anything that is in yourself, or could produce by yourself; God’s own righteousness, and the only righteousness that can produce practical righteousness in you.

Donald Grey Barnhouse, “Righteousness Without the Law,” in Daily Thoughts from Keswick: A Year’s Daily Readings, ed., Herbert F. Stevenson (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1980), 364.

Laying Hold of the Promise

Posted by on 21 Aug 2010 | Tagged as: Faith, Justification, Martin Luther

The Promise of Salvation in Christ

Consequently, he [Jesus] is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.

Heb. 7:25

Saving faith believes God’s word and actions in Jesus Christ while staking our lives on His promises.  Faith relies on God’s guarantee in Christ that all our sins have been forgiven, forgotten, and defeated. We are now bound in covenant to Christ placing our lives in his hands. His covenant is an binding promise that the Lord God will love us unconditionally all the days of our lives.

True faith passively receives the benefits of Christ’s victory on the cross resulting in active obedience to Christ’s commands and acquiescence to the leading of the Holy Spirit. Saving faith does not involve meriting salvation by human work. However, genuine faith will bear good fruit: an expression of the life of Christ in us. Good deeds are not the foundation of our acceptance with God, but the correct response and fruit of a living relationship with him.

More than merely mentally ascending to the basic facts of the gospel message; saving faith involves life-changing repentance, heart-felt surrender, and supernatural empowerment to obey. Saving faith grabs hold of the promise that all that Christ did on the Cross is more than sufficient for our salvation and more than powerful to change our lives.

Faith alone lays hold of the promise, believes God when He gives the promise, stretches out its hand when God offers something, and accepts what He offers. This is the characteristic function of faith alone. Love, hope, and patience are concerned with other matters; they have other bounds, and they stay within these bounds. For they do not lay hold of the promise; they carry out the commands. They hear God commanding and giving orders, but they do not hear God giving a promise; this is what faith does.

Faith is the mother, so to speak, from whom that crop of virtues springs. If faith is not there first, you would look in vain for those virtues. If faith has not embraced the promises concerning Christ, no love and no other virtues will be there, even if for a time hypocrites were to paint what seem to be likenesses of them.

Martin Luther, Luther’s Works: Lectures on Genesis, Vol. 3 (1961)

HT: Miscellanies

No Condemnation: The Story of William Herschel

Posted by on 17 Jun 2010 | Tagged as: Ben Witherington, Justification, The Cross

He Took Our Place

Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.

Rom. 8:1 NASB

Justifying grace is God’s undeserved, loving commitment to rescue us from his wrath and judgment. In Christ, God delivers us from sin and transports us into his loving kingdom of forgiveness.  Justifying grace calls us to trust Jesus Christ as our Savior, the one who has taken all our sin and just judgment upon himself on the Cross.

Justification is his acceptance of us in the sight of God to be in right standing by the righteousness of Jesus Christ being accounted, credited, and positionally granted to us. To be credited as righteous is to be conferred the legal standing of Christ’s sinlessness making us free from the condemnation of sin, the fear of death, and the accusations of the devil. The imputed righteousness of Christ is a free gift; it cannot be earned. It can only be received from a grateful heart by faith alone.

The story is told of William Herschel. As a young boy he loved military music, and growing up in Hanover in Germany he joined a military band. When his nation went to war, he was one of those leading the military band. As a young man he was totally unprepared for the horrors of war, and the result was that before long he deserted his military unit and fled the battle scene during an intense period of fighting.

He fled to England, and began to pursue further training in both music and science. Thinking he was in the clear, he grew and prospered in his new country. In fact he made various scientific discoveries that made him famous, and he gained great renown for his musical abilities. However, after Herschel came to the British Isles, another Hanoverian also came to live there—George who in fact became the King of England. King George knew of Herschel’s past desertion of the army and summoned the great musician and scientist to appear before the royal court. Herschel went with fear and trembling, and when he arrived in the palace he was told to wait a considerable time in an ante-chamber to the throne room. Then finally, one of the King’s servants came to Herschel and handed him a document and told him to read it.

He opened it with fear, only to discover that it read ‘I George pardon you for your past offenses against our native land’. George had pronounced the verdict of no condemnation on William Herschel, and in fact the document went on to say that for his outstanding service to humankind as a musician and a scientist, he was now to become Sir William Herschel: he was to be knighted! He had gone from criminal to honored dignitary in an instance, quite apart from what he might have deserved according to German law (the penalty for desertion was death). Paul is saying that this is what God’s pronouncement of pardon does for all of us who accept it. It not only removes the source of alienation; it places us in a favored relationship with God.

Ben Witherington III, Grace in Galatia : A Commentary on St. Paul’s Letter to the Galatians (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1998), 195.

Purgatory No More

Posted by on 02 Feb 2010 | Tagged as: Justification, Roman Catholic Church, Sin, The Cross

The Cross Cleanses Our Past, Present, and Future Sin

The blood of Jesus, his Son, cleanses us from all sin.

1 Jn 1:7 (NLT)

Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life.

Jn 5:24 (NASB)

The Roman Catholic doctrine of purgatory teaches that guilt remains for sin committed in this life. Something must be done for believers to rid them of sin’s stain before they enter in God’s perfected glory. A purging, cleansing fire is provided in purgatory to rid sinners of that impurity. These “punishments” are temporary and fulfill the needed payment for unrepentant sin. After an undesignated time in purgatory, the believer is released and allowed to enter heaven’s eternal bliss.

The Reformers of the church decried this doctrine as adding to Christ’s finished work on the Cross. Christ’s work on Calvary dealt with the guilt of all our past, present, and future sin (1 John 1:7). The doctrine of justification states that we are accepted by God through faith because of Christ’s sacrifice (Rom. 3:21-26). Nothing more needs to be done for our forgiveness, Christ paid the price for all, repeat all, our sin. We cannot do anything that can adequately pay for our sins, even endure a fiery purging. However, the sinless Christ who died in our place bore our punishment and suffered our just judgement, he paid it all by his perfect life and death (Heb. 10:19-22).

I agree with the Reformers: the doctrine of purgatory diminishes the Cross. The doctrine of purgatory displays an incomplete understanding of the Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection.

The only purgatory wherein we must trust to be saved is the death and blood of Christ, which if we apprehend with a true and steadfast faith, it purges and cleanses us from all our sins, even as well as if He were now hanging upon the Cross.

Bishop John Jewel, “Homily Concerning Prayer,” quoted in Philip Edgcumbe Hughes, Theology of the English Reformers (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1965), 64.

I do believe and confess that Christ’s condemnation is my absolution, that his crucifying is my deliverance, his descending into hell is my ascending into heaven, his death is my life, his blood is my cleansing and purging, by whom only I am washed, purified and cleansed from all my sins, so that I neither receive nor believe any other purgatory, either in this world or in the other, whereby I am purged, but only the blood of Jesus Christ, by which all are purged and made clean forever.

Bishop John Hooper, quoted in Philip Edgcumbe Hughes, Theology of the English Reformers (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1965), 65.

HT: Ray Ortlund

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