Justification by Christ 6

1689 Baptist Confession of Faith, Chapter 11

1._____ 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 anything wrought in them, or done by them, but for Christ’s sake alone; not by imputing faith itself, the act of believing, or any other evangelical obedience to them, as their righteousness; but by imputing Christ’s active obedience unto the whole law, and passive obedience in his death for their whole and sole righteousness by faith, which faith they have not of themselves; it is the gift of God.

Justification by faith alone is the article upon which the Church stands or falls. Martin Luther

Romans 9:13 Just as it is written, “JACOB I LOVED, BUT ESAU I HATED.” 14 What shall we say then? There is no injustice with God, is there? May it never be!15 For He says to Moses, “I WILL HAVE MERCY ON WHOM I HAVE MERCY, AND I WILL HAVE COMPASSION ON WHOM I HAVE COMPASSION.” 16 So then it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy. 17 For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “FOR THIS VERY PURPOSE I RAISED YOU UP, TO DEMONSTRATE MY POWER IN YOU, AND THAT MY NAME MIGHT BE PROCLAIMED THROUGHOUT THE WHOLE EARTH.” 18 So then He has mercy on whom He desires, and He hardens whom He desires. 19 You will say to me then, “Why does He still find fault? For who resists His will?”

The doctrine of God’s justifying sinners by His free-grace in Christ may seem like a legal fiction, but the highest moral and legal issue in the universe is His own glory. God justifies sinners for the glory of His grace and that grace is in Christ alone. God justifies sinners by Christ alone and this for His own glory and this is the most basic fact about it. As long as this basic principle is understood, grasped, and loved the doctrine of justification will not be thought of as leading to immorality or as a legal fiction. The 1689, while not stressing the unity of the person with Christ, still shows quite admirably how it is Christ alone by grace alone.

Perhaps the greatest error of our day within professing Christian circles is that of making faith out to be a work in order to be justified. When the great Reformation statement, justification by faith alone, is set out people understand that to mean that God justifies the sinner who comes up with faith on his or her own and will take them into heaven because they have faith. This is a grievous error that will damn the soul as any other form of legalism. We are not justified because we have faith, but because of Christ. We must never think of a justification by free-grace alone and by Christ alone is one that we can add our own faith to. As the 1689 points out, we are justified for Christ’s sake alone. This is a glorious truth that we must never be moved from.

Yes, the Reformers said that we are justified by faith alone, yet that great truth is not in a vacuum. One can argue with the translation of that from the Latin and many other thing, but what we must say from Romans 4:16 is that it is by faith in order that it may be by grace. The fact that justification is by faith apart from works does not mean that it is not all by grace and that includes the faith itself. While the 1689 does have solid teaching at this point, it is not complete in that it does not set out unity with Christ as the basis of the sinner’s justification by Christ. In this the 1689 is not full of error, but it is simply a shortcoming at this point.

The sinner is united to Christ and as a result of that oneness all of justification is by Christ alone. God does not impute faith to sinners, but He joins them to Christ. God does not declare sinners just because they have faith, but because they have Christ. The old teaching that regeneration precedes faith is one that should constantly ring in the ears of our soul. God regenerates dead sinners and gives them life before they have faith, though one can argue that regeneration and faith happen at the same time. But this is not the point. It is in regeneration that the soul becomes alive spiritually. However, let us never remove Christ from this formula. Christ Himself is the life of the believer. When God brings life to sinners, it is not apart from His giving them and uniting them to Christ.

It is when the sinner has Christ that the obedience of Christ to the Law is theirs and is counted as theirs. It is when the sinner has Christ that the passive obedience of Christ on the cross can be counted as theirs. We must not dismiss what God has done in eternity in Christ either, but we must never think of any benefit of Christ coming to sinners apart from God uniting them to Christ. This does not happen because of any work that the sinner can do and that includes faith. Christ Himself is their righteousness and the faith that a Christian has is because of the free-grace of God that gives faith. There is no faith apart from an object of faith and as such a person has no faith apart from being united to Christ. In regeneration and unity with Christ a person is given a believing (faith) heart which flows from Christ as opposed to being a work that obtains Christ. Faith does not come to the one who wills and runs, but it comes by the grace of God in Christ Jesus alone. If we have faith, it is because God gave Christ to us by grace and in order to give us Christ He gave us faith. Look to His grace for faith as well as all other things since all spiritual blessings come to believers in Christ.

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