Faith Itself is not our Righteousness

Today we will return to more of the thought of Francis Turretin.

“In vain, however, does Arminius contend that the righteousness of Christ is not imputed for righteousness, since it is that very righteousness itself (to wit, supposing that is not properly righteousness which is imputed to us for righteousness). He falsely confounds to impute for righteousness by gracious acceptation that which is not a righteousness and to impute to a person for righteousness which he did not have. The first sense has no place here, only the latter. Accordingly what Abraham had not is said to be imputed to him for righteousness and the righteousness of Christ is imputed to us (i.e., reckoned ours), which was not ours. Thus imputation does not deny the truth of the thing of the perfection of the righteousness, but only the truth of the possession by ascribing to a person what was not properly his.”

“What is said concerning anyone in Scripture ought to be altogether in him, but according to the manner which it teaches itself. Now the manner in which justification and salvation are ascribed to faith, does not consist in its own proper efficiency (as if our faith wrought or effected them), but they are placed only in its fiducial apprehension and applications. Nor otherwise are we said to please God by faith (Heb. 11:6) and to be purged of sin (Acts 15:9), than because it applies to us the righteousness and blood of Christ, who purges us from sins and makes us acceptable to God.”

Once again we see the importance of determining the biblical use of faith. It is clear from what Turretin has written and what he writes in the quote above that this is a slippery issue and many appear to have slipped and crashed on the rocks at this point. Not many that call themselves Calvinists believe all that Calvin wrote and certainly not all Arminians believe all that James Arminius wrote. However, it is quite interesting to note where a position will take you when that position is taken to its own logical end. If I understand Turretin’s representation of Arminius’ position correctly, it seems that Arminius believed that a person who had faith was graciously accepted by God as if it was the faith itself that pleased God. In doing so this led to his denial of the imputation of the righteousness of Christ as the very righteousness of the believer.

Arminius and so many in history as well as our day want to make faith out to be something the human does in order to obtain something from God. Indeed they say that when a person has faith it is a gracious acceptation on the part of God, but the faith is still something that the human being comes up with apart from the efficacious grace of God and it is granted righteousness by God because He is pleased to do so by grace. But this is a vastly different use of the concept of grace that is found in Scripture. It is also a very different version of the use of faith. If we agree with Arminius or those today who follow his general thought, then Turretin is correct in saying that essentially that position has God counting as righteousness (faith) that which is not righteous in and of itself. No human being can come up with a perfect faith and so if faith itself which is imperfect is counted as righteousness that would leave all human beings without a perfect righteousness.

In contrast to the faith that is counted as something and even as righteousness in and of itself, we have the biblical position of faith as an instrument. “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, 13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God” (John 1:12-13). Faith is what receives Christ and receives grace. It is only those who receive Christ by grace alone that are united to Christ and are considered as one with Him (Ephesians 5). Believers are married to Christ and are considered as one with Him on the basis of that marriage. The believer is acceptable to God only because of Christ. When a person is truly united to Christ, then the person has received Christ Himself. To be united to Christ Himself is (as marriage used to be thought of) for Him to take all of my debts and to pay them by the ransom price of Himself. When a person is united to Christ and all the debt of sin is taken away, then that person has the righteousness of Christ imputed or reckoned to him or her. But all of this is based on Christ and Christ alone who grants these things based on grace and grace alone. The use of faith is to receive Christ as the only One who can satisfy the wrath of God for my sin and as my perfect righteousness Himself. Faith cannot obtain a perfect righteousness itself or be graciously accepted as righteous by a perfectly just and holy God. However, one can receive Christ by faith and He is the perfect righteousness Himself. That is the biblical teaching.

One Response to “Faith Itself is not our Righteousness”

  1. michael Says:

    This one quote in the post above says it all so clearly for me::::>

    “[[Arminius and so many in history as well as our day want to make faith out to be something the human does in order to obtain something from God.]]”

    I am more novice than learned in these things, a johnny come lately. I have studied the Bible for over 30 years or so and only lately have I taken any time to stop and think through these things.

    I can say that you button holed it there regarding both Arminius and Turretin’s refutation of him. It is not very easy to understand this Arminius error and that seems to me the reason so many and fervently, argue against the True Reformers and what God “gave” them to “keep” alive the Biblical “use” of His Faith.

    When I stop and think about my goodness and my lust for glory, now I shudder to think I actual “mis–believed” as you say above in the portion I cite, “…. something the human does in order to obtain something from God.”

    Oh, now I do something? Me, you say? Wow, that causes me to fall apart. In fact this is such a heavy burden it caused me despair of my own soul, needlessly!

    I actually bought into that lie and “attempted” to participate in justifying myself, “….you know, because I wasn’t as bad as so and so, who they fried in the electric chair last week for that brutal double murder and rape of those two teenagers! I am only guilty of lying and I have gone back to all I lied to, God helped me remember all I lied to, and thank God none of them went to their graves before I could make things right. I know the humiliation of confessing to them that I lied to them. But my lies were little white lies. I never told a big fat bold faced lie. That was beneath me.”

    I puck just thinking about it!

    Let me post, rhetorically, 1 Peter and ask if there is in these verses any place for me to do something more than believe and receive such an inheritance from God? If there is anything more, then our beloved Francis Turretin is wrong, which he is not, and James Arminius is right and we should repent and believe Arminian thinking!

    1Pe 1:3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,
    1Pe 1:4 to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you,
    1Pe 1:5 who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.

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