The Doctrine of Justification by Faith

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This was the prior union with Christ as the psychological basis of justification. Thus the foundation of imputation became union. The offense which some found in solafideanism was that it taught acceptance by faith only. If this is so, the Arminians argued, an unsanctified man could go to heaven, and that could never be. They were partly right, since an unsanctified man can never go to heaven — without holiness.

But they were partly wrong, for one justified by faith alone is not justified by the faith that is alone. Faith is inseparably connected with works, or sanctification, or inherent righteousness.

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Once again, the error was in a failure to understand the truth. A correct objection was based on an incorrect apprehension. How often had the Reformers proclaimed with James and Paul that faith without works was dead. Justification without sanctification did not exist. As we have seen, solafideans were not opposed to inherent righteousness except as a justifying righteousness, which was precisely what Rome claimed it to be. The orthodox were as opposed — more opposed — to Antinomianism than the unorthodox.

Not understanding that solafideanism gave works a proper role, Arminians found an improper role for them. That is, they saw the work of Christ as satisfying God with the imperfect works of men. Our inadequate righteousness was made acceptable through Christ. Commenting on Arminianism, A. This, however, is a rather infelicitous way of expressing the difference. It amounts to a pun on the word impute. The imputation of faith in this contrast means regarding faith as acceptable which, by legal definition, it is not.

So it became a lapse into justification by works which were not even works. Facebook Twitter.


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Sproul Sinclair Ferguson W. Sproul R. Sproul Books That Influenced R. No Creature Merit If enough has already been said to refute the charge of often paralyzing and impeding moral effort brought against this our doctrine of justification by faith, it still remains that we call attention to two points which prove how, on the contrary, it is this very principle that guarantees to moral effort its purity and earnestness.

One of these points relates to the undeniable amount remaining, even in the regenerate, of fleshly lusts or inclination to sin. The Catholic doctrine, which makes justification dependent not upon faith, and the righteousness of Christ imputed and granted thereto, but on the actual condition of the man himself, is consequently constrained to assert of these lusts concupiscentia that they are not in themselves sinful, or objects of divine displeasure.

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Sermon of the Week: No. 1239, "A Vindication of the Doctrine of Justification by Faith"

According to this doctrine, they are allowed to remain in man that he may struggle against them, and the apostle Paul designates them as sinful only because they are derived from and incite to sin. But they only become positive sin by the concurrence with them of the human will. But how, we ask, can that which is derived from sin and incites to sin, and which is not external to the man, but internal in him, how can that be otherwise than itself sin, and therefore displeasing to God? Again, how are we to draw such a hair-breadth line of demarcation between lust and will?

If a man feels conscious of some intensely ardent desire, even if it be never shaped by a formal act of the will into a bad resolve or purpose, still, must not the will be in a measure influenced and implicated? Where does the domain of mere desire end, and that of the will begin? How easy, how almost unavoidable, the temptation to draw the line of distinction in our own favour, and to set down many lesser sins of the will to the score of mere lust or inclination!

Whereas, according to Protestant principles, the regenerate man, although waging the genuine warfare of the Spirit against the flesh, and advancing in sanctification, yet owes his justification, in God's sight, neither to his individual conduct nor character, but to that relation to Christ into which he has been brought by faith, and owing to which Christ's perfect righteousness is imputed to him.

The more pure and earnest therefore, the more ideal to use a modern expression can he now be in the work of sanctification set before him. His aim is not merely to prevent the will from formally coinciding with the evil desire, but to kill that very desire. He sorrows for and regrets not only every actual sin of thought, deed, or word, into which he falls, and which must deeply grieve him as being symptomatic of a relapse into his old disease; but every rising of a sinful desire excites in him sorrow and repentance, as symptomatic of that diseased nature that still cleaves to him, as something that must be in him most especially displeasing to God, and he feels himself so much the more bound to cling with all his energy to Christ, who of God is made to us both righteousness and sanctification.

The second point touches the merit of good works.

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We need here only to contrast the two doctrines to see on which side the essential nature of morality—unselfish love in all its purity and profundity—is best guarded. According to the Catholic doctrine, no doubt, all good that the regenerate soul is able to do, is in so far the gift of grace that it can only be done in the power of the Holy Ghost, which God has bestowed for Christ's sake. But by means of this gift so Catholics teach , a man is able to do such good works as satisfy the divine law as regards this life, and, in the true sense of the word, deserve increase of grace, eternal life, and increase of heavenly glory.

And from this ground there has sprung the doctrine of supererogatory merits, which, although not formally sanctioned by the Catholic Church, has still less been repudiated by her, but, on the contrary, practically acknowledged by the system of indulgences. This doctrine implies so are Catholics taught that they who not only do what the divine law requires, but who also follow the so-called evangelical counsels, more particularly as to voluntary poverty, celibacy, penances, etc. This sketch of the Catholic doctrine will at once convince you how dubious it is in general, and also how it degrades the true nature of vital and inward morality, to suppose that there can be any merit in man in the sight of a holy God.

If the doctrine of creature merit before a God who is absolutely almighty, and to whose love and mercy we owe all we have, if the idea that He can be indebted in any way to us, be wholly untenable, still more hopeless must the case seem when we remember that he is a holy God, in whose sight our best works are impure and imperfect.

Nor, again, does our individual character ever reach such conformity with the divine law, i. To acknowledge this in sincerity and humility, to confess the imperfection and sinfulness of all they do and are, and thus to be morally correct and just in their estimate of themselves, is rendered imperative by conscience upon all who are justified by faith. While building confidently upon Christ and his perfect righteousness, they disclaim all merit of their own in the sight of God.


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The good works they do are done not to merit eternal life, but out of thankful love to God who has given them eternal life in Christ. And while they gratefully allow that the Holy Scriptures do indeed promise a reward to good works, they look upon this reward not as a right or a thing deserved, but only as a happy result or consequence. If they persevere in faith and holiness to the end, the consequence will indeed be their blessedness in eternity; but this does not imply that they have deserved eternal blessedness.

If in this life they grow in grace, and thus in peace and true happiness, they see in this no merit of their own, they only exclaim with the apostle: "Being made free from sin, and become servants to God, we have our fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life.

Doctrine of Salvation Part 12: The Grounds, Means, and Results of Justification

Thus the Heidelberg Catechism answers the question, "Have then our good works no merit, since God rewards them in this life and that to come? I have thus endeavoured to answer both questions brought before us by our subject, and now that I have come to an end, I see too plainly how little exhaustive my treatment of it has been. God grant that I may at least have succeeded in some measure in making you feel how this doctrine of justification by faith alone truly and completely satisfies not only the requirements of deep and logical reasoning, but more especially the deeper moral need of reconciliation with God, and renewal in his image.

If I have so succeeded, I may confidently close this lecture by the entreaty that, as we all have cause to hold fast the precious privileges of various kinds conferred on us by the Reformation, so from henceforth this doctrine of justification by faith may be cherished by us as having been the very lifeblood of that Reformation, and as being, in its practical application, the chief jewel of our evangelical Church.

Volume Thirty — Article 5. Volume 30 Home. This question may be very simply answered, if only we bear in mind that Protestantism invariably insists upon justification being dependent upon faith, and understands faith as placing us in living relation to Christ. He then only is justified who is virtually related to Christ, and when this is the case, it is wholly inconceivable that a man should remain as he is, that he should not become sanctified.

For Christ, through his Spirit, lives in all the living members of the Church, which is his spiritual body, and the effect of this life is their sanctification. That this inseparable connection between justification and sanctification may be clearly and distinctly represented without identifying or confusing the two, or in any way encroaching upon the Protestant doctrine of justification as an independent moment, Calvin has shown us in the third book of his Institutes. Thus, in the eleventh chapter, and sixth paragraph, he says, "As Christ himself cannot be divided, so these two, justification and sanctification, which we receive together from him, are alike indivisible.

For whom God receives into his favour, to them he also gives the Spirit of adoption, by which power they are transformed into his image.

Justification (theology) - Wikipedia

But should we, because the heat of the sun is inseparable from its light, speak of the earth being warmed by its light, and lighted by its warmth? This comparison is well adapted to illustrate the subject, the sun both by its heat making the earth fruitful, and lighting it by its rays; here then we see a reciprocal and inseparable connection, but still reason forbids our attributing the peculiar nature of one of these processes to the other.

Paul to the facts of his personal experience. Now this renewal is not to be thought of as taking place at once, but the decisive beginning of it synchronizes with the being engrafted into Christ, and progresses continually in sanctification. The ruling motive in the souls of those who are justified by the death of Christ is the love first shown by the Lord himself, and now felt for him.

This love to God and Christ, which governs the souls of the justified, is the principle of all moral life. Again, we are not to think of this subject as though the Christian, in his own person, had a repugnance to all that was holy and good, to virtue and good works of every kind, but yet, out of personal love to God and Christ, was enabled to make the effort, and do good.

Rather are goodness and holiness God's essential nature. To love God signifies, therefore, to love the source and sum of all goodness; and to love Christ signifies to love the most perfect revelation of this goodness in the form of human life. By means of this love is that prophecy fulfilled Jer.

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