The Doctrine Of Justification

It’s a new year but I want that old time religion!john_gill

John Gill explains the heart of the Gospel – the doctrine of justification:

Justification is an act of God’s free grace, whereby he clears his people from sin, discharges them from condemnation, and reckons and accounts them righteous for the sake of Christ’s righteousness, which he has accepted of, and imputes unto them. Some very excellent divines have distinguished justification into active and passive.

Active justification is God’s act, it is God that justifies;

passive justification is the same act, terminating on the conscience of the believer;

active justification is strictly and properly justification,

passive justification is improperly so;

active justification precedes faith,

passive justification is by faith.

Again, justification may be considered either in foro Dei, and so it is an eternal, immanent act in God: or in foro conscientiae, and so it is declarative to and upon the conscience of the believer; or in foro mundi, and so it will be notified to men and angels at the general judgement.

The Everlasting Covenant of Redemption

covenant02

God the Father is the contriver of the scheme and method of our justification; he was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, not imputing their trespasses; (2 Cor. 5:19) he drew the model and platform of it, which is Nodus Deo vindice dignus. It would have remained a puzzling question to men and angels, how should man be just with God? had not his grace employed his wisdom to find out a ransom, whereby he has delivered his people from going down to the pit of corruption; which ransom is no other than his own Son, whom he sent, in the fullness of time, to execute the scheme he had so wisely formed in his eternal mind which he did by finishing transgression, making an end of sin

 

, making reconciliation for iniquity, and bringing in an everlasting righteousness; which righteousness, being wrought out by Christ, God was well pleased with, because hereby his law was magnified and made honourable; and, having graciously accepted of it, he imputes it freely to all his people, and reckons their righteous on the account of it.

God the Son, as God, is the co-efficient cause of it, with his Father. As he has equal power with him to forgive sin, he also has to acquit, discharge, and justify from it. As Mediator, he is the Head and Representative; in whom all the seed of Israel are justified; as such, he has wrought out a righteousness, answerable to the demands of the law, by which they are justified; and is the Author and Finisher of that faith, which looks unto, lays hold on, and apprehends that righteousness for justification.

God the Holy Ghost convinces men of the weakness, imperfection, and insufficiency of their own righteousness to justify them before God; he brings near, and sets before them, the righteousness of Christ, and works faith in them to lay hold on it, and receive it; he intimates to their consciences the justifying sentence of God, on the account of Christ’s righteousness, and bears a testimony to and with their spirits, that they are justified persons; and hence the saints are said to be justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God; (1 Cor. 6:11) but this testimony of the Spirit is not so properly justification in itself, as an actual perception of it, before granted, by a kind of a reflex act of faith, as Dr. Ames expresses it. Now this is the part which Father, Son, and Spirit, severally bear in justification: the Father has contrived it, the Son has procured it, and the Spirit applies it. 

 

One Last Thing

It is an act of God’s free Grace: Being justified freely by his grace. (Rom. 3:24) It was grace that resolved on, and fixed the scheme and method of justification: and which called and moved Christ to engage as a surety for his people; and which sent him, in the fullness of time, to work out a righteousness for them. And then it was grace in God to accept of this righteousness for them, and to impute it to them, and bestow faith on them to receive it; especially will all this appear to be free grace, when it is considered that these persons are all by nature sinners, and ungodly ones; yea, many of them the chief of sinners.

It is universal and not partial. All God’s elect are justified, and that from all things, as in our text, that is, from all their sins, and are freed from all that punishment which is due unto them. The whole righteousness of Christ is imputed to them; by being hereby justified, they are perfect and complete in him.grace

 It is an individual act, which is done at once, and admits of no degrees. The sins of God’s elect were laid at once on Christ, and he made satisfaction for them at once. God accepted of Christ’s righteousness, and imputed it at once unto his people, who all have their sins and transgressions forgiven at once. The sense of justification, indeed, admits of degrees: for the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; (Rom. 1:17) but justification itself does not. There are several fresh declarations, or manifestations, or repetitions of the act of justification; as at the resurrection of Christ; and again, by the testimony of the Spirit to the conscience of the believer; and last of all, at the general judgement, before men and angels. But justification, as it is an act of God, is but one, and is done at once, and admits of no degrees; and is not carried on in a gradual and progressive way as sanctification is.

 It is equal to all, or all are alike justified. The same price was paid for the redemption of one, as for another; and the same righteousness is imputed to one, as to another; and, like precious faith, is given to one, as to another though not to all in the same degree, yet the weakest believer is as much justified as the strongest, and the greatest sinner as the smallest. Though one man may have more sanctifying grace than another, yet no man has more justifying righteousness than another.

It is irreversible and unalterable. It is according to an immutable decree, which can never be frustrated. It is one of God’s gifts, which are without repentance: it is one of the blessings of the covenant of grace, which can never be broken. The righteousness by which the saints are justified is an everlasting one; and that faith, by which they receive it, shall never fail: And though a righteous man may fall into sin, yet he shall never fall from his righteousness, nor shall he ever enter into condemnation, but be eternally glorified.

 Justification, though it frees persons from sin, and discharges them from punishment due unto it, yet it does not take sin out of them. By it, indeed, they are freed from sin, insomuch that God sees no iniquity in them to condemn them for it. Though he sees and beholds all the sins of his people, in articulo providentiae, in respect of providence, and chastises them for them; yet in articulo justificationis, in respect of justification, he sees none in them; they being acquitted, discharged, and justified from all. Nevertheless sin dwells in them For there is not a just man upon earth that liveth and sinneth not. (Eccl. 7:20)

It does not destroy the law, nor discourage a careful performance of good works. It does not destroy the law, or make it void; no, it establishes it; for the righteousness by which we are justified, is every way commensurate to the demands of the law; by it the law is magnified, and made honourable. Nor are persons, by this doctrine, discouraged from the performance of good works; for this doctrine of grace teaches men, That denying ungodliness, and worldly lusts, they should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world. (Titus 2:11, 12) To conclude: If your souls are under the powerful and comfortable influence of this doctrine, you will, in the first place, bless God for Jesus Christ, by whose obedience you are made righteous: You will value his justifying righteousness, and make mention of it at all proper times; you will glory alone in Christ, and will give the whole glory of your justification to him; and will be earnestly and studiously desirous of having your conversations as become the gospel of Christ, and this truth of it in particular.

(complete article here)

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The Great Exchange

The Great Exchange and Forensic Justification in the Early Church Fathers

by Craig Truglia of Orthodox Christian Theology
The Great Exchange

Some Catholics and Eastern Orthodox like to say Martin Luther invented the concept of the “Great Exchange.” The Great Exchange, in short, teaches that Christ bore the punishment for our sins, thus satisfying God’s need for justice, but at the same time credited us Christ’s righteousness.

A graphic representation of what 2 Cor 5:21 amongst other Scriptures teaches about the Great Exchange.

The Scripture is abundantly clear that Chris bore the penalty for our sins:

But He was pierced through for our transgressions,
He was crushed for our iniquities;
The chastening for our well-being fell upon Him,
And by His scourging we are healed (Is 53:7).

My Servant, will justify the many,
As He will bear their iniquities (Is 53:11).

Yet He Himself bore the sin of many,
And interceded for the transgressors (Is 53:12).

When you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions, having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us, which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross (Col 3:13, 14).

To doubt that Christ bore our iniquities and paid their penalty on the cross, is in my mind, is completely unthinkable. Being that there are Catholic apologists that for whatever reason reject this plain statement of fact, my response to them is that this is not an idea Luther invented.

The Epistle to Diognetus, written in the second century, understood the ramifications of Christ baring the burdens of our sins, if not also crediting us His righteousness:

He Himself took on Him the burden of our iniquities, He gave His own Son as a ransom for us, the holy One for transgressors, the blameless One for the wicked, the righteous One for the unrighteous, the incorruptible One for the corruptible, the immortal One for them that are mortal. For what other thing was capable of covering our sins than His righteousness? By what other one was it possible that we, the wicked and ungodly, could be justified, than by the only Son of God? O sweet exchange! O unsearchable operation! O benefits surpassing all expectation! that the wickedness of many should be hid in a single righteous One, and that the righteousness of One should justify many transgressors (Chapter 9)!

The underlined is where we may infer that the Epistle taught the positive imputation of Christ’s righteousness. However, because it is inferred it is not convincing to Catholics or Eastern Orthodox who find it hard to believe that unrighteous men like us can really be credited fully righteous as Christ.

It is not an idea that is explicit in the Scripture. We may infer it from passages that speak of us being “in Christ” and others such as Eph 5:31-32 which speak of the Church’s literal union with Christ. The idea is, if the Church (with its believers) are literally one with Christ, they my be accounted as righteous as Christ upon judgment.

Indeed, this is an interpretative stretch, but one that appears justified by 2 Cor 5:21 which states, “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” Christians are not merely made righteous or credited as righteous in a theoretical sense, but really “become the righteousness” specifically “of God” and not their own, an “alien righteousness.”

Now, Catholics and Eastern Orthodox reject this for legitimate interpretive reasons, but also because of its ramifications. If believers are in union with Christ, and this happens upon faith in Christ, then good works wrought in holiness really do not make one more righteous in any way. Instead, it is Christ’s righteousness that really makes us righteous, not us conforming or doing something in accord with Christlikeness. Hence, we can be really unchristlike, but be accounted fully as righteous as Christ due to our union with Him.

This does not mean that by necessity all Christians achieve equal awards in heaven. The Scripture mitigates against this as does the interpreters of the early church, specifically Jerome in his letters against Jovanian.

However, it does mean that our justification is a completed act because of what Christ done, not an ongoing event. Our union with Christ does not increase in time, rather it gets consummated specifically upon Christ’s second coming.

This is why Protestants teach “Forensic Justification,” which in short means that justification is a completed and not a ongoing act. We simply can point to Scripture that uses the words “believed” and “justified” in the past tense to show that the event already occurred. Catholics and Eastern Orthodox accuse of of preaching a novelty. However, let our argument be based upon the Scripture and not tradition, because we are not the first to traditionally to espouse the idea. Cyril of Jerusalem writes:

Oh the great loving-kindness of God! For the righteous were many years in pleasing Him: but what they succeeded in gaining by many years of well-pleasing , this Jesus now bestows on you in a single hour. For if you shall believe that Jesus Christ is Lord, and that God raised Him from the dead, you shall be saved, and shall be transported into Paradise by Him who brought in there the robber. And doubt not whether it is possible; for He who on this sacred Golgotha saved the robber after one single hour of belief, the same shall save you also on your believing (Catechetical Lecture 5, Chap 10).

Chrysostom concurs in his exegesis of Rom 3:26:

He does also make them that are filled with the putrefying sores of sin suddenly righteous. And it is to explain this, viz. what is declaring, that he has added, That He might be just, and the justifier of him which believes in Jesus. Doubt not then: for it is not of works, but of faith: and shun not the righteousness of God (Homily 7 on Romans).

Now, because all of this seems a great deal more theoretical than the negative imputation of our sins onto Christ, Catholics and Orthodox will accuse us Protestants of coming up with an innovation. I must respectfully disagree.

For one, Augustine interpreted 2 Cor 5:21 as teaching the positive imputation of Christ’s righteousness:

He does not say, as some incorrect copies read, He who knew no sin did sin for us, as if Christ had Himself sinned for our sakes; but he says, Him who knew no sin, that is, Christ, God, to whom we are to be reconciled, has made to be sin for us, that is, has made Him a sacrifice for our sins, by which we might be reconciled to God. He, then, being made sin, just as we are made righteousness (our righteousness being not our own, but God’s, not in ourselves, but in Him); He being made sin, not His own, but ours, not in Himself, but in us, showed, by the likeness of sinful flesh in which He was crucified, that though sin was not in Him, yet that in a certain sense He died to sin, by dying in the flesh which was the likeness of sin; and that although He Himself had never lived the old life of sin, yet by His resurrection He typified our new life springing up out of the old death in sin (Chapter 41, Handbook on Hope, Faith, and Love).

Many Protestant interpreters like to say that Jesus Christ was fully obedient to the letter of the Jewish Law, henceforth fulfilling the Law and its righteous requirements on our behalf. Not all ECFs affirmed this idea, but Athanasius did and he writes specifically that it is this righteousness that is credited to the Church:

It is necessary therefore it is necessary to believe the Holy Scriptures to confess him who is the first fruit of us to celebrate the philanthropy of him who assumed our nature to be struck with wonder at the great dispensation to fear not the curse which is from the Law for Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the Law Hence the full accomplishment of the Law which was made through the first fruit must be imputed to the whole mass (Athan Synops Sacr Script lib vii in Epist ad Rom Oper vol ii p 125, see link here).

Jerome concurs:

Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law being made a curse for us Properly He was not under the curse because in all things He perfectly fulfilled the Law And therefore in the matter of debt our debt has been paid off by his curse so that He should set free from all obligation those who pass over to faith (Comment in Epist ad Galat iii, see link here).

Chrysostom also concurs, stating in his comments on Rom 8:4–

For the righteousness of the Law, that one should not become liable to its curse, Christ has accomplished for you.

Now there is more on the topic, but I think I have shown enough from both the Scriptures to justify Protestant doctrine and tradition to show that our doctrine is not an innovation. In fact, I would say that the burden of proof is on those that would teach that righteousness is infused into a believer and not a completed event:

An eternal rest remains to those who in the present life have wrestled legitimately which rest is given not according to the debt of works in way of just retribution but is bestowed to the grace of an abundantly bountiful God to who have hoped in Him(Basil, Homily on Psalm 104, see link here).

An eternal rest remains. It is a completed state, it is not a state that continues and grows over time. To God, the author and perfecter of our faith, be the glory forever. Amen.

 

Five reasons why the law cannot condemn the believer

lawfrom True Christian Freedom by Samuel Bolton:

All this the apostle puts plainly: ‘Who is he that condemneth? it is Christ that died’ (Rom. 8. 34). He sets the death of Christ against all the charges that can be brought. It is evident that the court of the law cannot condemn the believer:

(1) Because that court is itself condemned; its curses, judgments, and sentences are made invalid. As men that are condemned have a tongue but no voice, so the law in this case has still a tongue to accuse, but no power to condemn. It cannot fasten condemnation on the believer.

(2) Because he is not under it as a court. He is not under the law as a covenant of life and death. As he is in Christ, he is under the covenant of grace.

(3) Because he is not subject to its condemnation. He is under its guidance, but not under its curses, under its precepts (though not on the legal condition of ‘Do this and live’), but not under its penalties.

(4) Because Christ, in his place and stead, was condemned by it that he might be freed: ‘Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us’ (Gal. 3. 13). It may condemn sin in us, but cannot condemn us for sin.

(5) Because he has appealed from it. We see this in the case of the publican, who was arrested, dragged into the court of justice, sentenced and condemned. But this has no force because he makes his appeal, ‘God be merciful to me a sinner’ (Luke 18. 13). He flies to Christ, and, says the text, ‘He went down to his house justified’. So the court of the law (provided that your appeal is just) cannot condemn, because you have appealed to the court of mercy.

Eternal Union & Tobias Crisp

John Gill:john_gill

The only writers, in the times referred to, that I have met with, who assert even union before faith, are Richardson (Answer to Dr. Homes, p. 111-12), and Crisp (Christ Alone Exalted, Vol. I, Sermon VII, p. 104, Vol. III, Sermon VII, p. 597, 599, 600; Sermon VIII p. 609, 614-617), who yet speak not a word of eternal union; neither do they, or the writers above-mentioned, professedly treat of the doctrine of union in any sense, but only take notice of it as it falls in their way. I read their books with greedy expectation of frequently meeting with the doctrine of eternal union, in hopes of finding arguments for the confirmation of it, and of receiving more light into it, which I believe to be an eternal truth. Eternal union was so far from being a subject much insisted on in those times, as you say, that I do not find it was insisted on at all.
As to the notion of sin’s doing a believer no harm, Eaton, Saltmarsh, Simpson, and Town, say nothing of it; nor have they any thing like it, that I have met with, in their writings; and I could easily fill up whole pages with passages out of them in which they express their abhorrence and detestation of sin, and their great regard to a holy life and conversation.

Richardson and Crisp are the only writers, in those times, that I have observed to make use of any expressions of this kind. As for Richardson, he has but one single passage which looks any thing like this notion, that sin does a believer no harm; which is this (Justification by Christ Alone, p. 21): “If all things work together for our good, then, says he, all falls, pains, diseases, crosses, afflictions, &c. do us no hurt, but work for our good; all things work for our good (Rom. 8:28).” And yet this is no more than what many sound divines have said, who never were charged with Antinomianism; when they assert, that all things, even the sins of God’s people, are overruled by a kind and good Providence for their good, as their afflictions and crosses are; and by falls into sin doing no hurt, he means the hurt of punishment, as is evident from the whole of his reasoning and argument in that place. He clearly hints, in many places, at the hurt that comes by sin, with respect to a believer’s peace and comfort, the damage it does to others, and the dishonor it brings to God; “Be afraid to sin, says he (Counsels, p. 98), and use means to prevent it; consider God hath forbidden it (Rom. 6). Consider sin in the nature of it, in the root and fruit of it: it is the price of blood; there is no true sweetness in sin, no contentment no satisfaction in it, why you should desire it? it fills the soul with wounds, sorrow, bitterness, shame; let experience speak.” And, in another place, he says (Counsels, p. 150-51): “We should be afraid to sin, 1. because it is forbidden by God. 2. It is dishonorable to him. 3. It encourageth others to sin. 4. It will fill our souls with sorrow to sin against so loving a Father and to dishonor him, &c. Having sinned, if but in the least measure, we should be so fain from covering it with any pretence or excuse, that we should abhor it, and ourselves for it, with the greatest detestation?” And elsewhere he says (Divine Consolations, p. 245); “Be sure ye allow yourself in no sin, but in the strength of God hate and abhor, with the greatest indignation, all sin, and the appearance of it; it is better to die than to sin. There is that which accompanieth sin, which strikes at a believer’s peace and comfort; it will damp, straiten, and oppress the soul; it will hinder their comfort, joy, and peace in God, unless God doth wonderfully strengthen their faith in him; we find by experience, that sin is a lett to our faith and comfort, it having often unsettled and disquieted us in our peace and comfort, though we ought not to he so.”

Crisp is the only writer that expresses himself freely and largely on this subject:, and with the least guard (Christ Alone Exalted, Vol. I. Sermon X, p. 157; Vol. III. Sermon I, p. 509-14; Sermon II, p. 528-29; Sermon III, p. 46, &c.); and yet when he says, that “believers need not be afraid of their sins, his meaning is not, that they need not be afraid of sins committed, as Hoornbeeck, Witsius, and Chaunecy, have justly observed; and when he says, that “the sins of believers can do them no hurt: by hurt he means, the hurt of punishment, penal evil, or the penal effects of sin which believers are freed from, and therefore shall never enter into a state of condemnation, Christ having bore their sins, and made satisfaction to justice for them; but then he speaks of sin, in its own nature, as odious and dreadful to believer’s, and of bitterness and evil, as the certain fruits of it. The Doctor, I verily believe, used these expressions in a sound sense, and with a good design; not to encourage persons in sin, but to relieve and comfort the minds of believers, distressed with sin; yet, I must confess, I do not like the expressions, but am of opinion they ought to be disused.

And now surely, Sir, this single author’s using of this expression, and that not in the gross and vile sense of it, cannot be sufficient to bear you out, in saying, that sin s doing a believer no harm, was much insisted on in those times: I can hardly think you have any reference to Archer’s book, called Comfort for Believers about their Sin and Troubles; in which the author exhorts believers not to be oppressed and perplexed for their sins: though he acknowledges that godly sorrow and true shame become them, and says, that till they have it, God will not own them. He asserts in so many words, “that we may safely say, that God is, and hath an hand in, and is the author of the sinfulness of his people.” (Horresco referens!) and what is enough to make one shudder at the reading of, he says, that “all the sins which believers are left to, they are through and because of the covenant of grace left to them; and the covenant implies a dispensation of sinning to them, as well as other things:” And adds, “By sins are they as much nurtured and fitted for heaven, as by any thing else.” All which is blasphemous, vile and abominable; and for which if I mistake not, the book was ordered to he burnt by the common hangman. I say, I can hardly think you can have reference to this author; for though he asserts this notion in the grossest sense, and in the vilest manner, yet it unhappily falls out for you, that this man was not for eternal union, but for union by faith; he frequently observes, that faith immediately unites to Christ, and is the bond of union to him, and what brings the Holy Ghost into the soul. If you had this author and his book in your eye, you should rather have said, that “union by faith, and sin’s doing a believer no harm, were much insisted on in those times.” – source