Archive for the ‘Justification’ Category

Justification, Part 15

August 19, 2006

Last week I made a statement in the newsletter that evidently needs a lot more explaining. I was talking with the “pope of Seneca” (Curtis Knapp) and he thought that this statement needed a lot of explaining. Therefore, I will try to explain that statement and why it is vital to the issue of faith and justification. The statement is this: “Man cannot know that God loves Him until he loves God (see I John 4:7-10).”

We must go back and remind ourselves of what is going on. Within the context of justification we are trying to study faith. Any study of justification should have a study of faith since it is faith that is God’s instrument that He uses to justify sinners. So the study of what faith is and how it operates sheds a lot of light on the doctrine of justification by faith without works (alone). It is also imperative to study the nature of sin and repentance in order to understand the nature of sin that man must be saved from and what it is that man must turn from in repentance. The very core of sin is that man is born into a state of self-centeredness and self-love. In that state man is full of pride and enmity with God.

When man in the fullness of His pride and self-love hears a message concerning the Gospel, he assumes that God is focused and centered upon him. He hears a message that tells him that God loves him so much that He cannot live without man and so God sent His Son to die for man. All that man has to do is to believe that God loves him and that Jesus died for him and he will be saved. What I am trying to show is that the above message is contrary to the truth that sinners need to hear. It is true that God so loved that He sent His only begotten Son. It is true that God sent Christ to die in the place of sinners. However, if you read the first few sentences in this paragraph you will notice that man has not really repented from his self-centeredness and self-love. In that situation man is still focused on himself and thinks that God is focused on him too.

The result of a person who hears that message and believes is deception about the Gospel. That person is also deceived about the character of God and what true repentance is. That person may have a reformation of life and become quite religious. However, the Pharisees were quire religious and did all that they did in their religion for self and from pride. If God is focused and centered upon people in the way that people think that He is, then there is nothing wrong with people being focused on themselves either. So we have self-centered and prideful people hearing a message that is called “the Gospel” and has pretty much the same content as the true Gospel. They never hear that their real problem is that they are self-centered and prideful. Their sinful acts are sinful because they are opposed to God. But what they hardly ever hear is that their righteous acts are also sinful because from pride and self-love they are opposed to God as well. The real problem is a failure to understand the God-centeredness of God and the real nature of sin. The intent of the message of the Gospel and what the sinner is changes the whole context and intent of the message.

Let us focus back on the statement (from above) in question. Is it really true that no man can know that God loves him until he loves God? Do you see how contrary that statement is from most “Gospel” presentations today? One very popular way of presenting a man-centered form of the Gospel starts with “God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life.” So all a person really has to do is believe that God loves him and that Christ died for him and he is saved. But does Scripture really give us the authority to tell people that God loves them so much that Christ died for them? I don’t think that it does. Even without getting into many of the issues involved, we can see that there is a difference between a more general benevolence of God that He has for all and the specific love He has for those who are saved. Let us look at this in more detail.

I John 4:7-21 is the passage that we will work with. We do not have space for the whole passage, but we will look at it in a general way. First, let us look at two verses: “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. 8 The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love” (I John 4:7-8). Why should believers love one another? The reason is that love from God as the only source and that is because He is love. Then we note that everyone (yes, everyone) who loves is born of God and knows God. What an earth shaking message. All who truly love are born of God and knows God. Let that ring in our ears! However, we must not take our definition of love from the world but from Scripture. All who do not love do not know God.

Let us tie this in with justification. All who are justified are born of God and know Him. Those who are justified are adopted and are the family of God. So those who are justified are those who are born of God and know God. People are justified in order that they will be the people of God and that they will be the temple and dwelling place of God who is love. The source of love is God and the love that is shown by God as the only source of love is seen in the children of God because they are born of God and know Him.

Let us look at the next two verses: “By this the love of God was manifested in us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him.10 In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (I John 4:9-10). In v. 9 we see that the love of God was manifested. But notice that the love of God was manifested “in us.” But how was the love of God manifested in His children? Because He sent Christ (only begotten Son) into the world so that we might live through Him. So the love of God is manifested in His children because He sent His Son that they would live through Him. What did Christ do so that they might live (have eternal life)? He came to be the propitiation for their sins. Let me try to tie this together. Christ died as a propitiation (removal of wrath) so that the love of God (from vv. 7-8) would dwell in His people. Christ came in order to give life and no one can one have life apart from the love of God. Eternal life is to know God and His Son (John 17:3). Eternal life is Christ Himself (I John 5:20; John 14:6).

In light of the previous verses, let us look at a few more: “Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has seen God at any time; if we love one another, God abides in us, and His love is perfected in us. 13 By this we know that we abide in Him and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit. 14 We have seen and testify that the Father has sent the Son to be the Savior of the world. 15 Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. 16 We have come to know and have believed the love which God has for us. God is love, and the one who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him” (I John 4:11-16). If God so loved us (v. 11), we ought to love one another. How did God love man? By putting His love (love for Himself) in them. This is seen from Romans 5:5 where the love of God is poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit and our text in v. 12 where we see that if we love one another God is abiding in us. It is by this that we know that He abides in us which is His giving of the Spirit who is the One who gives the fruit of love (Galatians 5:22). When God gives His Spirit, His love is living in people as the Spirit pours out His love in those He dwells in.

The above is a very brief overview, but let us focus in on v. 16 for a moment. It is this text that speaks of man knowing and believing the love which God has for (in) us. But how does man know that he truly loves? How does a person know that he has the love of God in him? How does a person know that God savingly loves him and puts His love in him? It is when the person loves God and not self. True love is to love God for who He is and not just for His benefits. Many will have a form of love for God if they believe that God is focused on them and will give them what they want. However, to truly love God is to love Him when He brings trials and hard things into life as well. To really love God is to love Him even when it seems that He is tormenting the soul through trials. To really love God is to love His character and glory above all things. It is, then, to be like God who loves His own glory above all things. A person who loves God for who He is and the display of the beauty of His glory is a person that has had his sins propitiated and has the life and love of God in his soul. That person can know that God loves him because that person has been cleansed from sin, has the love of God in him, and therefore loves God in truth.

Can a person truly have evidence that he loves God apart from the only source of love which is God giving him a true love for God? No, there is simply no way. A person can only know that he is justified if he has the love of God in his soul. This means that when unbelievers are asked to believe that God loves them and sent His Son for them, they are being asked to believe something they cannot possibly answer “yes” in truth. Propitiation is part of justification (Romans 3:24-25) and is tied in with the indwelling love of God. One is justified by grace and part of that is through propitiation. But God sent Christ to be the propitiation so that man could have life (indwelling love and temple of Holy Spirit). Therefore, the person that is truly justified is also a person that has the life and love of God in him. No one can believe that God has propitiated His sins unless the love of God (for God) is in him. So no one can know that God loves him until he loves God.

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Justification, Part 14

August 9, 2006

In one sense we are still talking about justification, but in another sense we are talking about faith. There is no real discussion about justification without talking about faith and the nature of faith. Without question Scripture speaks of a person being justified by faith without works. Some try to interpret the statement of Scripture regarding justification in such a way that allows for works to have a part in some process of justification. Others try to say that one can believe in Christ in some way and yet never bow to the Lordship of Christ. Both views are dependent in some way on a belief in a certain kind of faith. The first view wants faith to be expressed in moral actions and say that God cannot declare a person just without this. The second view wants people to be saved by an intellectual assent to some propositions and then say that the faith a person has may never really be seen after that point. Therefore, faith is a vital part of any study of justification by faith apart from works (alone). In one sense the study of faith determines how we view justification.Let us try to look at how man comes to believe in anything at all. Interestingly enough, philosophers have struggled with this at least since Plato. There is still no consensus on how a person can even know that what he thinks he knows is true. Alvin Plantinga had an interesting insight into this when he posited that God created man with belief developing capacities. This is how people go around in life developing beliefs and can know that when their capacities are operating properly they then know what is true. So God has given man a nature within the physical realm, that is, man was given five senses and the gift of rationality by God. When these are operating properly man can know what is true (on a limited basis) within the physical realm.

Now, let us move to the spiritual realm. Man was created without sin and as such Adam was able to walk with God. However, the fall occurred and man was no longer in fellowship with God and was spiritually dead. This means that man was limited to the physical realm with his abilities and belief forming capacities. However, when man is born from above man is born of the Spirit and as such has some capacity for belief in the spiritual realm.
To have faith or belief in the spiritual realm, one must have a spiritual nature with the capacity for developing beliefs in the spiritual realm. It is the new birth that does this. One is born of the Spirit (John 3:3-8) and as such is born into the spiritual realm. The fruit of the flesh is seen in that it operates according to man-centered and physically oriented things. The fruit of the Spirit is seen in that the man now operates according to what the Spirit is doing in and through the man (Galatians 5:22).

True faith can only come from a spiritual nature. This being true, the type of faith which comes from the fleshly nature or the realm of the world is not true faith. The fleshly nature will look at Christ and interpret Christ and the cross in terms of the flesh. Another way to look at that is to understand that the person in the fleshly nature is all about self and thinks that surely God loves him and is focused on him too. He sees a glory of the cross and of Christ in one sense, and is perhaps moved to tears and even good works as a result of seeing that glory. But the glory that the fleshly person sees is the glory of self. He believes that the cross is all about him and how much God loves him, This is to say that he does not see the glory of the cross as it relates to God and His glory in truth, but he loves God and the cross only out of self-interest. The cross is meant to slay the pride and self-interest of man, but many teach it in a way that actually makes men focus on themselves in a religious way. It is still nothing but pride.

The most pervasive form of evangelism today (in Arminian and Reformed circles) is based on the fleshly, physical,
and self-centered model. People are told that they must believe in certain facts and if they do they will be saved.
However, do they believe from the fleshly and physical realm or the spiritual realm? A faith that does not come from the Spirit actually contributes to the deception of many souls. A faith or belief that is thought to be from self-interest is still nothing but selfishness and self-interest. A faith or belief that comes from the natural man is still a faith or belief based on the physical realm. This is a faith from a natural man based on natural principles. Even if the person goes on to attend church and pursue spiritual activities he or she is still dead to spiritual things and might be hardened in his or her delusion even more by the activities. A person must be born from above to enter the kingdom, that is, to have the kingdom in him and have the reign and rule of God (from the spiritual realm) guiding and ruling all that he or she does. This would include the faith and belief forming capacities.

How does a person come to faith in something? How can a person come to true faith in Christ and trust in his or her justification before God? Usually people trust in self and their own reason or their capacity for developing true beliefs. However, the person who is to have beliefs developed after the truth of God must look to the Word of God and the character of God to have a true way of developing beliefs in accordance with the spiritual realm. Let us examine the difference between true and deluded faith in this light.

A person that is still in the natural realm will always trust in himself and his own ability to determine what is true. This is nothing more than pride and independence which is the result of the fall. This person believes what is in accordance with what he wants to believe and is as he perceives his own self-interest. He believes in order to sustain his independence and pride. He may be an atheist or a thorough Theist, but he is essentially a self-centered individual. When this person is told that God loves him and has a wonderful plan for his life, he believes it because he also loves himself and has a wonderful plan for his life. When he is told that Jesus died for him he will believe this too since he thinks he is worthy enough to be died for. There are many who will take a very intellectual route to deception and even hold with virility the Reformed doctrines because they are logical and sensible. The intellectual aspect of those teachings is also something a proud man can love and be interested in. There are many who appeal to the natural man with promises of worldly riches and health. Man in his self-love loves that.

But the truth of the Gospel is that God is all about Himself. Man cannot know that God loves Him until he loves God (see I John 4:7-10). The Gospel tells man that God does not save man because man is worth it, but because God is worth it. Man is saved by grace and nothing but the grace of a sovereign God. Man must repent of his self-centeredness and his pride in order to be saved. Man must be born from above and nothing that he can do will obligate God to do this. Man must truly confess from the heart (a firm belief) that he is a worthless sinner and be broken and contrite of heart in order to be saved. Indeed, man must be delivered from any trust in himself, his worth, and his own works in order to trust in Christ alone. This, clearly, is nothing that can happen within the physical realm alone. Something must happen in the spiritual realm or man remains dead to the spiritual realm.

We must consider whether man must be delivered from any trust in himself and his natural abilities in order to have a true faith in Christ. The ramifications of this are enormous. Man must be turned from his natural way of looking at things and developing beliefs in order to have a true and biblical faith. In other words, man must not trust in himself and his own heart, he must trust in God and His Word alone (Proverbs 3:5). Man must turn from trusting in his own rationality which judges things within the physical realm to judging things by the Word of God. Even more, man must have faith in order to see things in the spiritual realm and so develop beliefs that are in accordance with the character and glory of God. After all, the person that is truly converted loves God above all other things and knows that He is the standard by which all standards are judged.

Let us try to gather this together and apply it to justification. A person is declared just by God and not by self. Romans 3 and 4 are clear that a person is justified by faith without works. So how does this work in light of the past few weekly discussions? In order to believe in Christ a person must disbelieve in self. This is usually a humbling process by which the person learns to distrust self which necessarily means that he must be turned from his pride. So as the person is turning from his pride and trust in self, he is now beginning to see things differently. Now he can see that indeed it is only the ungodly in and of themselves that God justifies (Rom 4:5) and so this person is now willing to accept the information that he is a wretched sinner. Now the sinner sees that it is not only that his good works are not enough, but that God will only justify those who do not work for salvation (Rom 4:5). So the sinner is humbled enough to see this. During this process the sinner is given a new heart and he is now able to see things in a different light. Now the Gospel is glorious to him and he does not want to contribute anything to his own salvation. Now he sees something of the glory of God in the face of Christ.

The sinner that is given new belief forming capacities in the spiritual realm now sees who he is in light of seeing the glory of God and the Gospel. The sinner now walks by trust in Christ for salvation and not in himself at all. The one who has spiritual sight also sees sin as the most hideous thing on earth. He sees and feels his own ungodliness and wants nothing but a sight and taste of the glory of God in Christ. This person who sees the glory of the cross and of the righteousness of Christ will turn from his own worth and efforts as from a poisonous viper. This is now a person who repeats Psalm 115:1 in all things: “Not to us, not to us, but to Thy name be the glory.” The belief forming capacities given this person in the spiritual realm enable this person to be justified by faith without works. This person now walks by faith and not by sight (in the natural realm).

Justification, Part 13

August 4, 2006

Two newsletters previous to this one we looked at the nature of faith and how it operates in the spiritual realm. Last week we looked at how justification by faith alone (without works) means that man is not to trust in himself at all and in fact must look upon his own efforts and works for salvation as filthy rags. This week we want to look at faith and what it sees in the spiritual realm which is another reason why it requires that man turn from any and all self-trust in biblical self-denial and repentance. When one sees the glory of God in the face of Christ (the real object of faith in the Gospel) there can be no doubt that this is what is seen by faith and faith alone since the natural man thinks of the Gospel as foolishness and weakness. Seeing the glory of God in the Gospel is the power of the Gospel to overcome the prideful and self-centered hearts of sinners and show the glory of God in a way where man turns from his own puny and putrid works (or trust in himself) to trust in Christ alone.Without traversing over the ground of what Justification is, we must ask the question as to what faith beholds and how it does so. We have previously seen that faith must be at least the sight of the soul in the spiritual realm and that faith brings its reality from the spiritual realm. Faith cannot be the act of the natural man since faith beholds things in the spiritual realm and the natural man has no spiritual capacity to see spiritual things. So what is the difference between the rational person who thoroughly understands the Gospel and even has an intellectual belief that the doctrines of the Gospel are true and the person that does not have a thorough grasp and yet believes and loves the Gospel? This, I think, gets to the heart of the real issue of true faith in Christ and His Gospel.

In the Gospels we see many people believing in Christ after they heard Him teach or after seeing Him perform miracles. But they were not converted people. Eventually, though, they fell away when the hard teachings came. We see people believing today and praying prayers and so forth. We see Reformed people explaining the doctrines of the Gospel in a way that has more doctrinal content than others, but they are still practicing evangelism just like everybody else. An Arminian can tell a basic content of the Gospel message and a Reformed person can explain a more thorough understanding of the Gospel, but neither really arrives at the real issues. Either way both camps in this sense are asking a person to pray a prayer or make a decision based on the person’s self and old nature. The Arminian will congratulate the person on making a wise choice and the Reformed person will praise God that the person made the choice. In reality, however, both have relied on the person making the choice. Faith cannot come from a natural man and it must be involved in the spiritual realm. While doctrine and the message of the Gospel are vital, they are not enough.

We can look at John 11 and get at the basic concept. Jesus waited until Lazarus died until He went to be with Lazarus’ sisters and the body of Lazarus. Jesus said regarding the sickness of Lazarus at that time, that it “is not to end in death, but for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified by it” (p. 4). After He raised Lazarus from the dead, “Jesus said to her, “Did I not say to you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?”” (v. 40). Those who believed saw the glory of God in the resurrection and those who did not have faith saw the resurrection but not the glory. Some who saw the resurrection of Lazarus even went to the head Jews and informed them. The Jews did not deny that the resurrection of Lazarus had happened, but they then wanted to kill Jesus and Lazarus so that they would not lose their positions (John 11:46, 53, 57; 12:9-11).

This is a vital point. Those with faith saw the glory of God in the resurrection and that was the point of Jesus letting Lazarus die. Faith operates in the spiritual realm and sees things that men without faith do not see. Faith sees the glory of God that men without faith do not see. The resurrection of Lazarus was an event to behold. Those without faith saw it and recognized that a man had been raised from the dead. They could not and did not understand it at all. They saw it from a self-centered perspective and it actually caused resentment and anger among them when they saw that others left the Jews and followed after Jesus.

Those with faith, however, saw things about the resurrection of Lazarus that those without faith could not see. Since faith operates in the spiritual realm, that is, the realm which God moves in the Spirit, it saw what God was doing and saw His beauty and majesty. Faith beheld the beauty of God in overcoming the power and dominion of Satan by overcoming the power of death. Faith saw the glory of Christ in that even dead men obey Christ when He speaks. Faith saw sheer grace in that Lazarus did not deserve this. Faith saw the beauty of God shining in His power over death and in causing the dead flesh and muscle to walk out right then and there. Faith saw the pleasure of God in displaying His glory as He pleased. Faith saw the goodness of God in preserving this man for his sisters. Faith saw the love of God in that Christ wept over Lazarus. Faith saw the character of God and the beauty and glory of that character when the unbelieving man saw none of that. While unbelieving man may see some of the character of God in its raw form as it acts within the natural realm, it does not see the beauty and glory of the character of God as it shines in the spiritual realm. The man who does not have faith is blind and dead in the spiritual realm and so does not see the glory of God.

We see glimmers of this in both Testaments. In John 1:14 we see who Christ really was and is: “And the Word became flesh, and dwelt [tabernacled] among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.” Christ was the very tabernacle (O.T. picture of the dwelling place of His glory) of the glory of God on earth. When people really saw Christ for Who He really was, as John says, they “saw His glory.” While it is the received doctrine among Christians that we must believe in the deity of Christ in order to be saved, surely there is more to it than simply holding to an intellectual only form of belief that Jesus Christ was and is Divine. How can we really believe that unless we see the glory of God shining through Him? We can have an intellectual belief of Christ since it is what the Bible teaches, but do we really have the belief of it from the inner man unless by faith we behold the glory of God shining in and through Christ? I don’t think so. To believe that Christ is the Son of God and the Messiah is to see something of the glory of God in Him. How could it be anything else since, as Christ told Phillip, He who has seen Me has seen the Father” (John 14:9).

We have the passage in John 12:41 which tells us that the words of Isaiah 6 were said because “These things Isaiah said because he saw His glory, and he spoke of Him.” What Isaiah saw, therefore, was the glory of Christ. This is the same glory that men are to behold as in a mirror and be transformed by it. “But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit” (II Corinthians 3:18). It is only by beholding this glory by faith that one is transformed into the image of that glory. As Paul explained in I Corinthians 1-2 the natural man does not understand the cross and the things of God. They are nothing but foolishness to them. The difference, then, is that the believing person understands spiritual things and as such beholds the glory of God in them.

This basic concept is seen clearly from II Corinthians 4:4-6. In this we see what the glory of the Gospel really is. “For God, who said, “Light shall shine out of darkness,” is the One who has shone in our hearts to give the Light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ” (II Corinthians 4:6). We should note that the knowledge of the glory of God comes to man in the face of Christ. It comes to man when God shines into the heart of man to give the light of that knowledge. But notice that it is God Himself who shines in the heart. Christ Himself is the light and so all light of the glory of God must be Christ. What does the devil have to do to keep people from believing the Gospel? “And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, 4 in whose case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving so that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God” (II Corinthians 4:3-4). The text does not tell us that the evil one tries to keep people from hearing the message of the Gospel, though he may do that in some instances, but he simply has to blind “the minds of the unbelieving so that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ.” If the evil one can keep people from seeing the glory of Christ and of the Gospel, they will not believe. Unbelievers do not see the glory. Once they see the glory in truth, they are believers.

Let me try to draw this together. True faith is not simply an act of the will, but comes from a spiritual nature given in the new birth. But more than that, true faith must behold the glory of God in the face of Christ. It is the glory and beauty of the character of God that distinguishes the believer who believes the facts of the Gospel and is saved from the unbeliever who actually believes the facts of the Gospel intellectually and yet is not saved. The biblical Gospel is all about the glory of God as displayed and seen in Christ. All who do not see the glory of God in the Gospel have not seen the true Gospel and have not believed in Christ. So the Church must wake up and do its preaching, teaching, and evangelism in a far different way. People who have an intellectual belief in the facts of the Gospel without a sight of the glory of God do not have true faith and are not saved. They are exercising a faith that comes from a fleshly nature and rests in some facts that they believe are true, but they do not see Christ in His glory. The facts are true, but to see Christ in truth is to see Him in His glory. Surely we must teach people in a way that is conducive to them seeing the glory. That is different than what the Church is doing now.

Justification, Part 12

July 27, 2006

Last time we looked at the nature of faith in the sense that faith is a spiritual act. Faith is the sight of the soul as it looks into the spiritual realm and so man is said to walk by faith when man lives according to the spiritual realm rather than the physical realm. Faith is also the way human beings receive from God spiritual gifts and spiritual strength. This is because faith is the conviction of things not seen (Hebrews 11:1) which includes God who is Spirit. So the one with faith lives by convictions obtained from the spiritual realm that come to man from God through Christ by the Holy Spirit. That must focus our minds on what comes next so we can think with great care.When men present the Gospel or talk of God’s actions today, they are primarily focused on God’s workings within this world in physical ways. The Gospel is presented as factual information alone and men are told to simply believe the information. In one sense all of that is true. Men must hear the factual information and all that they must do is simply believe. But as we saw last week, true faith operates in the spiritual realm. True faith cannot be the actions of the natural man and cannot come from the actions of the physical nature of man. True faith must operate within the spiritual realm. Faith is the trust of the soul in the glory of God in Christ and so the opposite of faith in Christ is faith in self or pride. The previous sentence has two things in it that we must deal with in order to understand biblical faith. The first thing is that true faith must see the glory of God in Christ. I hope to deal with that next week. The second is the subject of this week’s newsletter. The fact of the matter is that faith in Christ requires that man have no faith in self or anything that comes from pride. This point, I think, is utterly crucial and is exactly where modern evangelism falls far short.

Let us think through the issue a little more. I discussed this point with “pope” Curtis Knapp from Seneca, Kansas this week. He pointed out that in the parable of the Pharisee and the Publican that this point is there. The Pharisee had faith that he was accepted because of his works. The Publican had faith that he was accepted before God on another basis. As we think through this issue, we can use that parable as a guide. Man is born in a state of unbelief toward God and a seemingly unbounded pride toward himself. Man believes in himself, his righteousness, and his works. He is full of faith in himself and it is impossible (without the Holy Spirit) to convince him that his own righteousness is as filthy rags (Isa 64:6). Man will believe that Christ would die for him to make up for what he could not do, though even that is hard to convince man of. Man will believe that he is good enough for Christ to die for. He will believe that he is worthy to be saved by Christ. Man will even believe that God will save him because he (man) has done God a favor by believing in Him. But what will man not believe? That he is a most wretched sinner that is unworthy of saving. He will not believe that even his best religious works are as filthy rags. The question at this point, then, is can man believe in Christ alone without a total disbelief in himself?

Let us look at the basic teachings of justification again. The doctrine of justification by faith without works (faith in Christ alone) can be understood in different ways if we just look at the words alone. However, we want to be very careful at this point. Within the doctrine of justification we have the necessary teaching of propitiation. We can also see how this fits in Scripture from Romans 3:24-26. Propitiation is the teaching of Scripture where the wrath of God is appeased and removed from the sinner. In that Christ is the sacrifice that was offered up to God and by His suffering on the cross He paid the debt for sinners that no sinner could ever pay for him or herself. Now, let us focus again. Did Christ pay for some, all, or perhaps even most of our sins? When the Publican went home justified, was he justified because some of his sins were paid for by Christ or because all of them were paid for by Christ? If not all by Christ, then how did the Publican make restitution for even one sin?

We need to look at the issue of imputation once again. The teaching of imputation (reckoning, credited to account) is that the righteousness of Christ is credited or reckoned to the sinner. So we must ask again whether the righteousness of Christ is credited as all of the sinner’s righteousness or just part? If it is just part of the sinner’s righteousness, then where did the sinner’s righteousness come from? Is it possible for a sinner to even earn merit or righteousness before God? When the Publican went home justified, how much of the righteousness that he had was from himself? If all of it did not come from Christ, where did Publican’s part come from?

The phrase that we are using, justification by faith without works (faith alone), usually focuses on faith in Christ. That is because it is usually termed “justification by faith alone.” But what the word “alone” really means in that phrase is justification by faith without works. In our modern day, we have forgotten what those crucial little words (without works) really mean. We should also ask four other questions at this point. If a person if truly justified by faith alone (without works), then what does it mean to trust in Christ apart from works? Does that just mean that one trusts in Christ apart from his own works in the future? What does it really mean to trust in Christ alone and apart from all works at all? If we don’t believe that Christ suffered for all our sins and gives us all our righteousness, do we trust in Him alone?

Let us think of the Publican again. When the Publican was too ashamed to look to heaven and asked for mercy, what works of his own was he trusting in? The Pharisee was not saying that he trusted in his works, he was thanking God for making him moral. Could it be, then, that when a person comes to God in faith alone, then that person must not come to God trusting in anything that he has ever done, will ever do, or even trust in his own faith? In other words, for a person to truly trust in Christ alone is for that person to turn from all trust in himself and his own works. We must be very clear on this. For a person to trust in Christ and Christ alone it is a necessity that the person cannot trust in himself or anything he has done to contribute to his justification. That is the picture that the Publican gives us. That is also what it means to trust in Christ alone. The works that I am not to trust in include my former works, even my former religious works or works of righteousness, and my future works as well. I am to trust in Christ, His life, His cross, and His resurrection alone without any works of mine in the slightest.

We can look at this in kind of a reverse way in Romans 1:18-32. In that passage we see that the descent of man into sin is a continual rejection of God for the ways, wisdom, and works of self. Man suppresses the truth of God in unrighteousness (1:18). In other words, man chooses what makes him happy and chooses his ways over God’s. Man refuses to honor God as God and give him thanks (v. 21). This is the picture of man seeking his own honor and not bowing to God as provider of all things. From experience we know how hard it is for man to give up any hope in his own righteousness. We know that is because the essence of the fall of man into sin. Man has fallen into independence, pride, self-love, and self-centeredness in wanting to be like God. As Romans 3:11 & 18 puts it, man does not seek God and does not fear God. What we see is that man rejects God and trusts in himself.

Repentance is a turning from unbelief toward God and believing in God. However, we must think through that statement as well. What does it mean to believe in God? What is the state of unbelief? A state of unbelief in God is really a state of belief and faith in self. A state of belief and faith in God is a state of unbelief and trust in self. We can conclude, then, that a true repentance and faith in Christ is a turning from pride and trust in self and its righteousness to one of a resting in Christ alone for salvation. The problem, however, is what that means in practice and life. To see what I think of as my righteousness as less than righteousness is a hard step. Not only do I have no righteousness, but those acts of righteousness are as menstrual cloths (filthy rags). Remember that in the Old Testament to come into contact with blood like this meant that a person was unclean and could not be among the people or its worship for several days. It required a cleansing as well.

For a person to trust in Christ and Christ alone without works will actually require the person to look upon his best works as something that God hates in and of themselves. It requires the person to mourn over his acts of righteousness as well as his more obvious acts of sin. To come to Christ with nothing in my hands requires there to be no acts of righteousness in my hands either. In other words, humans who are born in pride (all of them) must be humbled from that pride in order for them to see their complete poverty of spirit and so their 100% need of Christ. As Jesus taught, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 5:3). The word “theirs” in the text means that the kingdom of heaven is limited to the poor in spirit. The word “poor” in that text refers to those who are totally impoverished and have no way of gaining anything either. Only those who are totally impoverished of their own righteousness truly have the kingdom of grace reigning in their hearts.

An intellectual apprehension and assent to the doctrine of justification by faith alone will not do. It absolutely requires that people be emptied of their pride and self-trust in order to trust in Christ alone. It requires that people be emptied of any self-righteousness in order to trust in the righteousness of Christ alone. If we take the doctrine of justification by faith without works seriously as the Publican did with a strong view of the depravity of man, we will see that man must be emptied of self and pride in order to trust in Christ alone. If man is not emptied of those, he will still be trusting in himself to some degree. He can’t trust in self at all to trust in Christ with all (alone). God justifies people by grace and with no cause in man but caused by Himself alone. Grace alone means grace alone.

Justification, Part 11

July 21, 2006

This week we want to look at faith as a spiritual action of the soul and relate it in the end to justification. Faith is not something that can be worked up by the natural man, but instead faith comes from the spiritual nature of man and is focused and concentrated on the reality of the supernatural or spiritual realm. “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). This text is instructive as to the nature of faith or belief. Those who believe are children of God and were born of the will of God. Faith, then, must correlate with being a child of God and being born of the will of God. Only the children of God are born of the will of God and only those born of the will of God are children of God. So faith is something that God’s children have and no one else. Without getting into the “faith precedes regeneration” debate at this moment, we can at least see that the exercise of faith is limited to the children of God who alone have true faith.Believers are said to walk by faith and not by sight (II Cor 5:7). How does this make sense in the modern world where everything is according to the senses? Because faith is that which is the sight of the soul which peers into the spiritual realm and lives by the sight of the glory of God, the believer is actually living off of something totally different than the world. The believer sees something different than the world even when they view the same actions. The believer values things in accordance with the sight of faith rather than the value system of the world. The world may operate by a system of values and morality, but it has a different reason for doing them than the believer does. Hebrews 11 is the faith chapter of the Bible. It sets out a series of people who operate by what they see with faith or by believing what God said over what the world would say according to its wisdom. It sets out Noah as being told to build an ark and so he did. He was laughed at and mocked (see Genesis) for 120 years and yet he believed that what God said determined reality rather than what had happened in the past and what others thought. Abraham let his world and headed for a world unknown because he operated by what God said rather than what good sense in the worldly view would tell him. Abraham believed what God said and so he took his son Isaac to sacrifice him, but God provided the sacrifice. Moses had it made but he chose to suffer with God’s people rather than stay and have the riches and pleasures of the world.

What Hebrews 11 and many other portions of Scripture show us is that those who believe operate by some way of knowing and seeing that is different than the world does. For example, we have Paul who was a rising star in the religious and political world. He was a very zealous man living by the traditions that he had been raised and trained it. What kept Paul going for so many years being beaten, starved, and always in danger? It was not for worldly treasures and pleasures. It was not for the honor of masses of people. But Paul saw things through the eye of faith and he lived according to the spiritual realm rather than the physical realm or the opinions of the world.

We must also ask how believers live in a way that is different than the ways of the world. “But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the Law. 19 Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, 21 envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God” (Gal 5:18-21). Those who live like the previous verses are those who live after the things of the fleshly, selfish, and sinful nature. They are guided by the principles of the world and live according to the pleasures and ideas of the world. Those who live like this show that the reign and rule of God by the Spirit is not in their hearts and so they give themselves to the things of the world. However, some people ruled by the world are also very religious. Saul was very religious and yet his heart and life were not governed by the Spirit. When the church is influenced by worldly people, it is influenced by those who are not living according to the Spirit but those who operate according to the principles of the world.

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. 24 Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit” (Gal 5:22-25). Here we see what true believers walk by. Those who live by the Spirit (have true life) take each step (walk) by the Spirit. What is walking by the Spirit after al
l if not taking each step by the Spirit? In other words, the very life in a person is there because of the Spirit and so the way of life is also of the Spirit. When the Spirit is guiding a person’s steps, the fruit of that crucified flesh and life from the Spirit is His fruit of love and the others. It is opposite of the, shall we say, fruit of the flesh. The fruit of the Spirit is simply the working of the life of God in the soul of man by the Spirit working Himself in the person. Walking by the Spirit has a direct correlation with walking by faith. The believer walks by faith when the Spirit opens the eyes of the soul so it can see with faith and then trust in what it sees.

Another passage that sheds light on the subject is from Ephesians 3. “That He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love,18 may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth,19 and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God” (Eph 3:16-19). We should notice the order of things given. We see from v. 16 that God must grant a person to be strengthened with power through the Spirit in the inner man. Okay, whatever that means we must notice the reason that the person is to be strengthened by the Spirit is so that Christ would dwell in the heart by faith. It would seem to be a correct deduction to make that the more a person has of faith the more one would have Christ dwelling in his heart. The result of Christ dwelling in the heart is that the believer is rooted and grounded in love and filled with the fullness of God.

Now we can see that faith is indeed the sight of the soul and that which enables the believer to receive Christ and His love. But the fruit of the Spirit is love. Is it possible that the work of the Spirit is to work faith so that the very fruit of the Spirit is really bringing Christ and His love into the heart of the believer? Yes, that is what these texts seem to show. If we bring in other passages from I John we could show this very clearly. But the point I am trying to drive at is that faith is indeed something which operates in the spiritual realm and, as Hebrews 11:1 points out; it is a conviction of things not seen (with the eyes). What is true for the believer as he walks the walk of faith must also be true of the new believer as well. The faith which God uses to justify is a faith that grows and is used to sanctify. But we should be able to see the nature of saving faith from the faith that a believer has.

Justification as it relates to faith is utterly vital. One can set out the doctrine of justification, have people assent to it, and all that has happened is that the people are deceived. After all, those who believe are saved and they believe that it is true. But notice something very important here. All that I have set out previous to this has been an effort to show that true belief or true faith operates in the spiritual realm. There can also be a faith of sorts that operates in the physical realm and especially in the physical realm of religion. Whenever saving faith is limited to something a human does in the material realm, it is not going to be accurate in its entirety if at all. Saving faith is more than just agreeing that certain facts are true about Jesus and the Gospel. As the Bible and the Gospel of John especially show, many people believed in Christ and yet were not saved. One can have knowledge of the facts and assent to them as true and even admire them as beautiful in one sense and still not be converted. Why is that? One, the true glory of the facts of the Gospel of the glory of God is not seen. Two, the people have not been emptied of self-centeredness and so they cannot see things from any view but the fleshly self-centered view of the world.

True faith is not just something that is determined by what one believes, it is also determined by what one does not believe or trust in. It is true that one can trust in self to trust in Christ. That is not a true faith in Christ. But for the moment what we must see is that to see and understand the Gospel requires a spiritual understanding of the Gospel and not just a recitation of the facts of the Gospel. Jesus Christ is one Divine Person in whom a fully Divine nature is united to a fully human nature. To believe in Jesus Christ requires that one see and believe in Him spiritually. To believe in Jesus Christ in truth requires that one believe things from the spiritual realm by which the Holy Spirit alone gives understanding. The faith that unites to Christ is a belief in Christ and what He actually did in His life on earth and the cross. If we limit those to the earthly realm and the flesh, we end up with a gospel focused on man and his need. That is easy to believe, but it is a false faith and a false Gospel. To be justified by faith means to trust with the whole man that justification is all of God and all about the glory of God. It means that we must not trust in self at all, but in Christ alone. This requires that the Spirit turn us from the physical realm to the spiritual realm in which we deny self and trust in self to trust in Christ alone. True faith peers into the spiritual realm and beholds the Gospel of Christ as glorious and true. It believes and does not trust in self at all. Saving faith apprehends Christ and the Gospel in the spiritual realm and so has a trust that is from a spiritual nature and not from self-centered heart and nature. True faith comes from a spiritual nature when it sees the glory of God in the face of Christ.

Justification, Part 10

July 14, 2006

One of the most puzzling things about justification to many people is the issue of faith. We want to know exactly what faith is. We want to know just how much faith I have to have. We want to know why God saves or justifies through faith. We want to know where faith comes from. We want to know so many things about faith, and we are quite uncomfortable when the discussion is about something that man cannot do for himself and is really beyond the intellectual capabilities of man to even comprehend with certainty and clarity. We must assert with Scripture that faith is a spiritual action and is something that is beyond the ability of the natural man who is dead in the spiritual realm. One must be born of the Spirit and made alive by the Spirit.To some people faith is not really apart from works, but it tells them that the works must come from faith. So when they say that they are justified by faith, what they mean is that they are justified by the works that come from faith. Others have a mixture of works that flow from faith while still others are honest and just put it plainly by saying that works themselves either save or assist in the salvation. Some (Roman Catholicism) say that the issue is that when one has faith then Christ Himself works in the human recipient the grace needed to do the works needed to be justified. However, they run into the same problem that they accused the Reformers of. If the biblical teaching of the imputation of the righteousness of Christ is considered a legal fiction, then how can they escape the same charge since it is Christ actually doing the work in human beings in order that they may be justified? We must also remember the teachings from Romans 4 that God justifies the ungodly. When a human being is declared just by God that human being is in and of himself ungodly. God declares people just only on the basis of Christ and no other basis at all. There is only one way to the Father (John 14:6) and this is through the life, works, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. There is only one way to the Father and that is because we have the Lamb of God as our sacrifice and the risen Lord as our High Priest and Mediator. Justification is by faith without works (faith alone) because human beings are only declared just on the basis of Christ alone.

In a very real sense to say that one is saved by faith and works is to say that one is saved by grace and works. In other words, any attempt to add works to faith is to add works to grace. Even more, to go to the heart of the issue, to say that one is saved by faith and works is to say that one is saved by Christ and works. Whenever we hear of a person wanting to add works to justification, we should hear them saying that salvation is by Christ to some degree and the rest by our works. That should clear the issue. Anyone who recognizes his own spiritual impotence should know from the depths of his own heart that he has no strength in the spiritual realm in and of himself. Anyone who has seen the glory of what Christ has done wants nothing to do with his own works for salvation. Anyone who has drunk at the well of living water does not want the foul water of his own works. Anyone who has delighted his soul in the glory of His grace does not want to pollute the beauty of the Gospel of grace by adding works to that. How obnoxious works are when we try to add merit for justification to them.

But this still leaves many other questions about faith itself. Many want to make faith out to be a work that they do. In other words, they think that God required works in the Old Testament but now He simply requires you to believe certain things. In the Gospel of John, for example, most translations use the word “believe” rather than the word “faith.” The word is the same in the Greek, but it is not correct in English to speak of a person “faithing.” We would have to change John 3:16 to read like this: “so that whosoever faiths would not perish.” We must not think that to believe the Gospel is the same thing as to believe a report on the news. “So Jesus was saying to those Jews who had believed Him, “If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine” (John 8:31). Here we see that some of the Jews really believed in one sense, but Jesus told them that they must continue in His word it then were truly disciples of His. We see the same issue in several places in John. We see many believing according to the text but then we see that they never really believed when they fell away. We see the same issue in Luke 8.

“Those beside the road are those who have heard; then the devil comes and takes away the word from their heart, so that they will not believe and be saved.13 “Those on the rocky soil are those who, when they hear, receive the word with joy; and these have no firm root; they believe for a while, and in time of temptation fall away. 14 “The seed which fell among the thorns, these are the ones who have heard, and as they go on their way they are choked with worries and riches and pleasures of this life, and bring no fruit to maturity. 15 “But the seed in the good soil, these are the ones who have heard the word in an honest and good heart, and hold it fast, and bear fruit with perseverance” (Luke 8:12-15).

In the interpretation of the parable given by Jesus we notice that the people in v. 12 heard the word but the devil took the word from their heart so that they would not believe. In v. 13 we see that some believed for a while, but temptation is too much for them and they fall away. In v. 14 we see that some hear but the word is choked out. In v. 15 we see the truly converted people and they are also said to hear with honest and good hearts which holds the word fast and bears fruit with perseverance. Now we can see many things from this parable. One, it appears that all believe in some way. Only the one with the good heart heard in such a way that he held it fast and bore fruit with perseverance. The text appears to be using the words “heard” and “hear” (same word in the Greek) as synonyms for believe or at least in a way to include belief. V. 15 speaks of those who have “heard the word in an honest and good heart,” but it never says that they believed. On the other hand, we see from v. 13 (the only one that the text says believed) that these believe but only for a while.

We can only conclude after seeing how Jesus uses the words in Luke 8 that to hear the word in that way is to believe. Some believe but do not persevere, while others hear the word in a good heart and do persevere. The issue, then, is certainly beyond a mere cognitive belief, but is a hearing the word from the heart. The others, to generalize, did not hear the word with anything but their ears. Whatever faith is, then, requires it to be correlated with hearing the word and also holding to it from a good and honest heart. It is not just that one has a belief that comes from an intellectual hearing and has an intellectual grasp of the facts, but it is a belief or faith that comes from hearing the word and hears from a heart that has been changed by God. After all, only God can take a fallen heart and change it to where it is good and honest.

Now, to stand back and look at the teachings of Scripture on this subject is to understand that things are different than what is commonly presented. It is not just up to man to make himself believe, but instead man must hear from an honest and good heart. Only God can give a heart like that so a true belief/faith must come from a heart that God has changed. Belief/faith, then, must have something that precedes it for a person to be able to believe. Some refer to this a “regeneration precedes faith,” but whatever one calls it we must deal with the issue that the heart has to be changed in some way for a person to hear the word and hold it fast. We must deal with faith in a way where we honestly deal with many texts of Scripture and take them all, shall we say, to heart. While thinking about faith sounds easy to many, the issue is not really all that easy.

The reason that God justifies by faith is not left to the guesswork of men. Paul gives us the answer in Romans 4: “For this reason it is by faith, in order that it may be in accordance with grace, so that the promise will be guaranteed to all the descendants, not only to those who are of the Law, but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all” (v. 16). Paul tells us that God justifies by faith for two reasons. One, He justifies by faith in order that justification would be in accordance with grace. Two, He justifies by grace so that the promise will be guaranteed to all the descendants. Just to be clear, we must note that whatever faith is it must magnify the grace of God and be in accordance with grace. What does that mean? “But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works, otherwise grace is no longer grace” (Rom 11:6). Whatever is by grace is not on the basis of works because that would make grace out to be something other than grace. A justification that includes even some works as the basis for justification destroys grace altogether. Grace is no longer grace when mixed with works.

Second, it is so that the promise would be guaranteed to all the descendants. This is a powerful reason given for why justification is by faith. This also instructs us as to the nature of justification if we will look at this and think it over carefully. How could justification be guaranteed to all the descendants if by faith but not by another way? One, if God changes the heart and gives faith then He can do this to all those that He is pleased to do so. In that way justification is guaranteed because God brings them all to faith. Two, if the promise has to be guaranteed by a means that it takes God to work then this type of faith is beyond the natural human power and capability. Justification by faith without works does not tell us how easy salvation is, it tells us that it is impossible except for God. Jesus instructed the disciples after He spoke with the rich young ruler in this manner, “The things that are impossible with people are possible with God” (Luke 18:27). Faith is not easy. In fact, it is impossible for man. We must learn that to be justified by faith is to destroy all human merit and works at all. It is all by grace, that is, by Christ. Any works added to justification for merit destroys the true Gospel of grace alone through faith alone.

Justification, Part 9

July 7, 2006

As we continue thinking about Justification, we have seen that God justifies the ungodly. It is not that we are to live ungodly lives so that we can be justified, but those who come to recognize and feel the weight of their sin and ungodliness are the ones who believe in Christ alone for salvation. How can one believe/trust/have faith in Christ alone who came for sinners and not the righteous if he does not see and feel himself as being ungodly? One question that needs to be answered has to do with the sinner knowing and feeling that he is ungodly. Is this really necessary in order to be saved?Human beings are all born in sin. Sin is a state from which pride, selfishness, and unbelief flow out of the unbelieving heart. Can a person born in sin really trust in Christ alone without knowing and feeling his own sinfulness? Can one born and practiced in pride and independence rely and trust in Christ alone without being brought from his pride to a humble and contrite heart? When Romans 4:5 sets out the shocking truth that “to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited as righteousness,” does this mean that the person has to know and feel his ungodliness in order to be justified? If not, then what does Romans 3:19 mean when it says this: “Now we know that whatever the Law says, it speaks to those who are under the Law, so that every mouth may be closed and all the world may become accountable to God.” The Law came to show man his sin so that every mouth would be closed. This sounds as if people need to know and feel their sin to the degree that their mouths are closed before the holiness of God.

“The Pharisee stood and was praying this to himself: ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other people: swindlers, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. ‘I fast twice a week; I pay tithes of all that I get.’13 “But the tax collector, standing some distance away, was even unwilling to lift up his eyes to heaven, but was beating his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, the sinner!’ 14 “I tell you, this man went to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted”” (Luke 18:11-14). Here we see a tax collector who recognized his sin and saw his helplessness before God. He did not look to his own works whether it was God working those works in him or not, but instead looked to God and His mercy alone. The result, according to Jesus, was that this man went to his house justified. The tax collector was unwilling to lift up his eyes to heaven which shows humility. He was beating on his breast which shows the inner pain of contrition. He cries out to God to show him mercy which shows that he was broken from anything that he could do. He went home justified.

What was the difference between the Pharisee and the tax collector? On the outside the Pharisee would have appeared far more attractive with his honesty, fasting, and tithing. He stood before God and thanked God that he was not as other people. The tax collector, on the other hand, saw his own sinfulness so much that he would not look to heaven and simply cried out for mercy. The Pharisee did not see himself as ungodly and so was not justified. The Pharisee, even though he thanked God for his own actions, was not justified. This should make those within Roman Catholicism and the New Perspective and Auburn Avenue Theology movements take notice. The Pharisee attributed his moral actions to God but still was not justified. God justifies the ungodly, not the outwardly moral. The people that God justify have lost all sense and claim to goodness in themselves and simply cry out for mercy. When people are emptied of their own righteousness and pride and are then able to look to Christ alone, they are declared just on the basis of the propitiatory sacrifice and imputed righteousness of Christ. That person and that person alone believes in Christ alone for everything.

Let us notice a few more things about the tax collector. He referred to himself in his plea for mercy as “the sinner.” One meaning of the Greek word here is “one devoted to sin.” This man saw himself in a true light, one who was “the” sinner and one who was devoted to sin. Here was a man who saw the enormity of his sin and knew that it was the mercy of God alone that would save him. He was not proud of anything, he just wanted mercy. Jesus told this story to bring down the pride of the Pharisees and to show just who the people are who are justified. We must learn this lesson. It is the person who knows his sin and feels in his heart that he or she is “the sinner.” This is the person who does not look to himself for anything good and simply cries out for the mercy and grace of God. That is the person who is justified, not those who are religious and righteous in and of themselves.

We can also see that Jesus came as a physician for sinners, not the righteous (Luke 5:31). Those who are righteous or healthy do not need a physician. Jesus came to deal with and bring healing to those who are terminally ill with sin. The Pharisee in Luke 18 indeed thanked God for his morality and righteous behavior. However, that meant that he was well and was not in need of a physician. God declares the ungodly just because they alone see their true sinful nature and actions and so see their need of a real physician of souls, Christ Jesus the Lord. Seeing sin as it really is puts man beyond any hope within himself and so he sees that he needs a Divine physician to have mercy on him. The tax collector saw his ungodliness and so looked to God alone to justify him.

In the story of the Rich Young Ruler we see that he also found out that sinners alone need apply for salvation. Just after the parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector, a rich young ruler came to Jesus. What did he find out regarding justification and salvation? “A ruler questioned Him, saying, “Good Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” 19 And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good except God alone.20 “You know the commandments, ‘DO NOT COMMIT ADULTERY, DO NOT MURDER, DO NOT STEAL, DO NOT BEAR FALSE WITNESS, HONOR YOUR FATHER AND MOTHER.'” 21 And he said, “All these things I have kept from my youth.” 22 When Jesus heard this, He said to him, “One thing you still lack; sell all that you possess and distribute it to the poor, and you shall have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.” 23 But when he had heard these things, he became very sad, for he was extremely rich. 24 And Jesus looked at him and said, “How hard it is for those who are wealthy to enter the kingdom of God! 25 “For it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” 26 They who heard it said, “Then who can be saved?” 27 But He said, “The things that are impossible with people are possible with God.”

The ruler that came to Jesus wanted to know what he could do to inherit eternal life. As usual, people always want to know that they can do in order to be saved. Jesus simply told him what he needed to do if he was going to save himself. But again, people look at the outward aspect of the commands and just assume that they keep them because they for the most part keep the outer part of the command. But something about that does not answer the questions of some who have an inward awakening of some kind. So Jesus went to the spiritual aspect of the commandments and stuck the sword of the Spirit into the pride and love of the ruler. The young man could not because he would not sell all that he had. Indeed he was an idolater who loved his money and wealth. He went away sad because he was unwilling to be a sinner, even a poor one. To deal with sin of the heart means that a person must deal with those sins that are in the heart. Coveting and idolatry are sins that mere confession alone is not enough, but there must be some selfdenial that is produced. It is not as if selling all that he possessed would have saved the rich young ruler, but it was in turning from them in his heart that would have demonstrated a changed heart. The rich young ruler was not willing, therefore, to turn from his sin. He was unwilling to see the depths of his sin of idolatry in loving his possessions. He was unwilling to face the fact that he was ungodly. So even though he had kept the outward commandments since his youth, he was a wretched man in his heart.

What we can learn from these biblical stories (one parable and one story of how Jesus dealt with one man) is the necessity of seeing and feeling one’s own wretchedness before God. Jesus even told why He gave the parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector: “And He also told this parable to some people who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and viewed others with contempt” (Luke 18:9). Those who are self-righteous are proud people who view others who are less righteous with contempt. This would be true of those that give credit to God for their righteous actions as well. So those who wish to be declared righteous by God should not be declaring their own righteousness. God declares sinners and the ungodly just because in that method alone does the glory of His grace shine. God does not declare sinners just so that they may exalt themselves, but so that they will exalt Him.

The doctrinal part of Justification is not a terribly hard thing to grasp. What is hard to deal with is the sinful and proud heart of men. The doctrine can be grasped by the natural mind, but the natural man in his pride and self-righteousness does not want to let go of all his righteousness. I am sure a Pharisee would have seen that he was not perfect, but he did not see or admit his own ungodliness. However, God only justifies the ungodly. The doctrine of Justification and of the Gospel is built on sinners who cannot save themselves. The Gospel only comes to the helpless and the ungodly. The reason why the true Gospel is refused by so many is that people will not relinquish the grip on their own righteousness and pride, even to some degree. Jesus did say “blessed are the poor in spirit” thus showing that people need to know and feel their own ungodliness.

Justification, Part 8

June 30, 2006

Last week we dealt with the imputation of the righteousness of Christ. While these are but very short studies, they get to the heart of the issue. A person is declared just by God on the basis of something. We can list the logical possibilities:

  1. God declares a person just by closing His “eyes” and ignoring justice
  2. God declares a person just because of what some saints have done
  3. God declares a person just because of what a sinner has done by works
  4. God declares a person just based on what God has done and what the sinner has done
  5. God declares a person just because of what God has done in the sinner through works
  6. God declares a person just because of what Christ has done in the place of sinners

As we look at those possibilities, we can ask which one glorifies God more and which one should strip pride from man more. Clearly it is # 6. Only #6 allows for salvation to be totally of grace and so gives man no basis for pride at all. In fact, man must humble himself in order to receive this gracious gift. If we meditate deeply on the subject in light of the teaching on the depravity of man and the character of God, then we can see that #6 is really the only possibility. God is perfectly just and will not just look over sin. All sin must be dealt with in a perfectly just manner. Since all so-called saints are really sinful human beings, there is no possibility that a saint could have earned his or her own salvation much less assist in the salvation of others. We can also understand that in light of a perfectly holy and just God, there is simply no possible way that a sinner can do a good work that is acceptable to God in and of himself. Once a man has sinned, there is no way for him to make up for that sin since all his future acts must be perfect to be acceptable to God. That does not allow for the possibility of man to make up for past sins. So this demands that a sinless One come in and suffer for the sins of a sinner if a sinner is going to be saved by a just God.

Then we can ask if man can even do one work that is acceptable to go into his account as righteousness. Romans 3 has something to say here: “THERE IS NONE RIGHTEOUS, NOT EVEN ONE; 11 THERE IS NONE WHO UNDERSTANDS, THERE IS NONE WHO SEEKS FOR GOD; 12 ALL HAVE TURNED ASIDE, TOGETHER THEY HAVE BECOME USELESS; THERE IS NONE WHO DOES GOOD, THERE IS NOT EVEN ONE” (vv. 10-12). True enough that the context is dealing with unbelievers. But this also describes each individual before he or she is converted. All of those sins need a perfect satisfaction and that individual needs a perfect righteousness from somewhere if God is going to declare that person just. For a person to ever enter into the gift of eternal life or salvation, that person must be declared just, that is, all of his sins must be suffered for and he must have a perfect standing of righteousness before God. This must happen for a person to be converted. In other words, it must happen at the point of conversion or no one would be able to be saved in this life.

After listing how awful man is in his sin in Romans 3:9-18, and before he goes into justification, Paul sets out verse 19: “Now we know that whatever the Law says, it speaks to those who are under the Law, so that every mouth may be closed and all the world may become accountable to God.” The Law teaches and declares the sinfulness of man so that every mouth may be closed. In other words, before a man can even understand the teaching of justification his mouth must be closed. There are no reasons and no excuses for sin before God. There is no sinner’s prayer before God except for “God, be merciful to me, the sinner” (Luke 18:13).

Romans 4:5: “But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited as righteousness.” This text also sets this out with the utmost clarity. Which individual in the above list (list of six above) qualifies in light of this verse? We can see that it is not that a person works enough to be declared just because the text says that it is for the person who does not work. We can see from the text that it is not a saint who assists in the justification of sinners, but it is God alone because the text tells us that we must believe “in Him who justifies the ungodly.” We can see that the sinner has not worked hard because God was working in him and so God declared him just because the text says that God justifies the ungodly. Surely this leaves us with nothing other than the sinner declared just by God on the basis of Christ and nothing but Christ alone. This means that the sinner is saved by a sovereign and glorious grace or “to the praise of the glory of His grace” (Eph 1:6).

As we look at the phrase “but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly,” we must be careful. This verse should give us no reason to think that we are free to sin. But, one will say, “the text does say that God justifies the ungodly and so I should be ungodly in order to be justified.” Yes, but the text also says that it is through believing or faith that God justifies the ungodly. Romans 3:31 gives the balance: “Do we then nullify the Law through faith? May it never be! On the contrary, we establish the Law.” A person that is justified by faith becomes a person that establishes the Law. God justifies (declares just based on the work of Christ alone) a person through faith and apart from works. But we must also not forget the doctrine of the new birth.

Titus 3 sets out the connection between the new birth and justification: “4 But when the kindness of God our Savior and His love for mankind appeared, 5 He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit, 6 whom He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7 so that being justified by His grace we would be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.”

Salvation is according to the mercy of God, not on the basis of deeds that man does. Man is saved by the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit. I don’t think that there would be a real argument that this text is speaking of the new birth. So we have regeneration or the new birth in v. 6 and then in v 7: “so that being justified by His grace.” Without trying to set up a chronological order or a causal connection between the new birth and justification, we can see that they are inextricably linked. So it should be clear that justification by faith alone does not lead to ungodly living. One who is justified also has a new heart and nature and so will live differently. The one that God justifies is also the one that God gives a new heart and nature to.

So we can look at Romans 4:5 where God is said to justify the ungodly and know that it does not refer to the way a person continues to live after justification. A person who truly has faith will live by that faith and that does not lead to an ungodly life. What the text does refer to is that the person that is declared just by God is ungodly in and of himself. This teaches us that no one can be justified by the works that he does and no one can be justified by God working in the person to make him righteous. God takes a sinner that is ungodly and declares that person just based on what Christ and Christ alone has done. There is no room for boasting in the ungodly person that has been justified in this way but a boasting in the cross alone. Those who were ungodly in and of themselves know that they contributed nothing to their salvation except the sin that they were saved from. Those who were ungodly and came to Christ know that their sins were all suffered for by Christ and the only reason that they are not going to hell for eternity is because Christ suffered in their place. Those who were ungodly and came to rest on Christ alone for salvation know that they had no righteousness of their own and that the only reason that they are going to heaven is because of the imputed righteousness of Christ given to them as a free gift. We must recognize that we are ungodly in order to be saved from our sin. We must see and feel our ungodliness in order to look to Christ alone for our total satisfaction for sins and for our complete and perfect righteousness. Christ does not complete or finish what sinners can’t do, He does it all and He must be trusted in for it all.

It is this teaching that exalts Christ and the glory of grace more than any other. It is this teaching that shows how helpless sinners are who can do nothing to save themselves. God takes sinners who deserve nothing but eternal wrath and saves them by grace alone. There is nothing in the sinner that will move Him to save them; there is only grace, mercy, and love as His motivation to save the sinner. God does not need to work righteousness in the sinner in order to be moved to declare a sinner just; He has all the motivations needed within Himself. This is a freeing Gospel in that God saves according to God and needs nothing in the sinner in order to save the sinner. What must happen to the sinner, however, is that he sees and feels his sin to the point that he gives up on any and all things but Christ alone. Indeed the sinner must be taught to see that he is ungodly in and of himself. The sinner must be taught that there is no hope for him unless God has mercy. The sinner must be taught to look away from Himself and to Christ alone. God saves the humble and the contrite, that is, those who see their own ungodliness and look to Him for mercy and grace in Christ without any hope in their own works or goodness.

Justification, Part 7

June 24, 2006

Last week we looked at the best way to study this great doctrine and in reality any doctrine. That way is to see oneself as a creature and a sinner in order to be humbled and broken before God. It is the sinner who feels the weight of his sin that will be able to see the clearest into the only thing that is the remedy for his case. The person that is burdened with sin and his own helplessness is able to see more of the meaning of the cross than the one who sees little to none of his sin. The same thing is true of other aspects of Justification and of the Gospel as a whole. So the person who does not feel the weight and awfulness of what sin is as against an infinite and holy God will not really understand the Gospel.As we look at the imputation of the righteousness of Christ, we should first notice how it fits with the doctrine of depravity as well. If a person understands the depths of his own depravity, he knows that Romans 3:9-19 is speaking directly to his own heart. He would know that no one is righteous and no one does good and so he would know that in his own case he is not righteous and does not do good either. Now if a person does not do good, then how can he earn any righteousness at all? If even my works of righteousness are as filthy rags (Isa. 64:6), then how am I to be righteous or to earn righteousness? To understand that the heart is the very sink of sin and that all the intents of the thoughts of the heart are evil and that continually (Gen 6:5) is to realize that earning righteousness is not an option. What is the soul to do?

It is at this point that the soul that has understood the depths of his sin begins to look for a righteousness that can be obtained apart from works. Here is where the Gospel is truly good news. When a person knows that he deserves hell and nothing but hell, the cross of Christ and His substitutionary sufferings in the place of sinners is good news. When a person sees that he not only has no righteousness but has no way of earning righteousness, the imputation of the righteousness of Christ is exceedingly good news. Trying to understand the imputation of the righteousness of Christ apart from a heart that is broken for sin is simply not possible. There may be some notional information that can be attained, but the understanding of it will certainly be lacking. Perhaps the best way to proclaim the Gospel is to teach the doctrine of depravity thoroughly. In fact, there may be no other way to teach it properly. As Jesus taught, He did not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance (Luke 5:31-32).

Romans 4:1 What then shall we say that Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh, has found? 2 For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. 3 For what does the Scripture say? “ABRAHAM BELIEVED GOD, AND IT WAS CREDITED TO HIM AS RIGHTEOUSNESS.” 4 Now to the one who works, his wage is not credited as a favor, but as what is due. 5 But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited as righteousness, 6 just as David also speaks of the blessing on the man to whom God credits righteousness apart from works: 7 “BLESSED ARE THOSE WHOSE LAWLESS DEEDS HAVE BEEN FORGIVEN, AND WHOSE SINS HAVE BEEN COVERED. 8 “BLESSED IS THE MAN WHOSE SIN THE LORD WILL NOT TAKE INTO ACCOUNT.”

We can simply ask one question of each person in this passage of Scripture. Where did righteousness come from in the case of Abraham? Where did righteousness come from in the case of David? The text teaches us that Abraham was not justified by works in v. 3. It does say, however, that Abraham believed God and it was credited to him as righteousness. So belief or faith is opposed to works. The righteousness by which Abraham was justified did not come from works, but by faith. The text simply says that it is not by works because this would give Abraham something to boast about. It does not tell us that it was God working through Abraham or anything like that, but simply that this did not come through or by works.

As we continue on in v. 3, the text clearly teaches us that righteousness was credited to Abraham. Now what does the term “credited” mean? It is the term that the Reformers and Protestants have referred to as “impute,” “reckon,” or “account.” The word is logizomai (logizomai) and is also used in Romans 4:6, 8, 11, 22, 23, 24. It is an accounting term and has the idea of reckoning or crediting to an account. The righteousness that Abraham had was something that was credited or reckoned to his account and not something that came by works. Whatever else that is said about this, it must take into consideration that the righteousness that Abraham was justified by was reckoned to him and did not come by or through works.

Verse 4 gives us one reason why righteousness does not come by works. It is because that the person who works for something is actually due a wage. Works do not produce something that comes as a favor or by grace; they produce a debt for the one worked for. So if works can be considered as being acceptable before God for justification either because of the one working doing it himself or because God enabled the person to do them to some degree, then the works make God to be a debtor and salvation becomes God’s paying a debt rather than one of grace. Any works for salvation destroys the Gospel of grace that is taught in Scripture. Ephesians 2:8-9 shows so clearly that salvation is not by works but by grace. It then goes on to show that works are what Christians are created for and God is the One who has prepared good works for His people to do. Christians are saved for good works, but not by them.

Verse 5 is a very strong verse to support this. It says that the Gospel of grace is for the one who does not work (for salvation). This text could not be clearer in this regard. The one who is declared righteous is the one who does not work for salvation. The Gospel is for those who do not work for salvation. The text then goes on and makes its point with the force of a hammer. Not only is it those who do not work for salvation who are justified, it is those who are ungodly who are declared just and credited righteousness. If this does not destroy the works for justification scheme of many, then nothing will do it. This text is a double whammy, so to speak, for any form of works for justification. Only those who do not work for justification and are ungodly are declared just. So how can a person work for justification if only those who do not work for it are declared just? How can it be held that God works in people to do works and they are then actually just if only the ungodly are declared just? To those who do not work and are ungodly but have faith are the ones who are credited with righteousness.

Where does the righteousness come from in David’s case? Verse 6 tells us that David speaks of the man who is blessed because God credits righteousness apart from works. It should be clear that the righteousness that David speaks of is not something he worked for. Notice also from verse 7 that the sins of men are not taken into account. So in the way that sins are not taken into account of some is the same way (analogically speaking) that men have righteousness reckoned to their account. So in the case of David we see that the blessed man is one who, though he is a sinner, does not have sin reckoned to his account and on the other hand has righteousness reckoned or credited to him even though he do not work for it.

Now let us back up and look at both Abraham and David. Their righteousness did not come from works and it did not come from God’s working it in them. Their righteousness was given to them or accredited to their account in some way. This way is by faith. But is faith simply a way by which man may obtain righteousness for himself? No, in the broader view of the Bible we can see that Christ is the representative of man. From Romans 5 we see that all men are born in Adam and in him all sin. When Adam sinned the whole human race fell in him and all were counted guilty of sin since he was the representative of all. But Christ is the Head of the Church and His righteousness is for all those who are in Him. So a person who has faith in Christ is part of the bride (the Church) of Christ. The bride of Christ is married to Christ and what is the brides belongs to Christ and what belongs to Christ is the brides. So the sin of the bride (humans who make up the Church which is the bride of Christ) belongs to Him and He satisfied the wrath of God in Her place. The righteousness of Christ belongs to the bride and so She is declared righteous on account of Christ. In this way, then, righteousness is said to be reckoned or credited to Her or all who believe.

What do we end up with? We end up with those who do not trust in their works and are ungodly in and of themselves being declared just by God on the basis of Christ and Christ alone. This does not mean that Christians are not to work, but they should never count the works as having merit for justification. This also puts a shine and luster on the glory of the grace of God. Salvation is all of Christ and His merits. Salvation is all from God and all display the glory of God when understood. What does that leave for man to do in terms of justification? In one sense absolutely nothing. In another sense, man must be humbled in order to lean on nothing but Christ and His works for salvation. Once again, we see that the Gospel is that which exalts God and leaves man no room for boasting. These two things help set the parameters for the truth. If God is not highly exalted and man is not humbled below the dust by a doctrine taught from Scripture, it is either not true or simply misunderstood.

Justification, Part 6

June 15, 2006

In his classic work The Doctrine of Justification, James Buchanan has a marvelous section on what the best preparation is for the study of justification. It is rather long, but it gives great insight into the spiritual nature of the doctrine and what it takes to really understand it.

The best preparation for the study of this doctrine is—neither great intellectual ability, nor much scholastic learning,–but a conscience impressed with a sense of our actual condition as sinners in the sight of God. A deep conviction of sin is the one thing need-ful in such an inquiry,–a conviction of the fact of sin, as an awful reality in our own personal experience,–of the power of sin, as an inveterate evil cleaving to us continually, and having its roots deep in the innermost recesses of our hearts,–and of the guilt of sin, past as well as present, as an offence against God, which, once committed, can never cease to be true of us individually, and which, however He may be pleased to deal with it, has deserved His wrath and righteous condemnation. Without some such conviction of sin, we may speculate on this, as on any other, part of divine truth, and bring all the resources of our intellect and learning to bear upon it, but can have no suitable sense of our actual danger, and no serious desire for deliverance from it. To study the subject with advantage, we must have a heartfelt interest in it, as one that bears directly on the salvation of our own souls; and this interest can only be felt in proportion as we realize our own guilt, and misery, and danger, as transgressors of God’s Law. The Law is still, as it was to the Jewish Church, ‘a schoolmaster to bring us to Christ, that we may be justified by faith;’ and the Law must be applied to the conscience, so as to quicken and arouse it, before we can feel our need of salvation, or make any serious effort to attain it. It is the convinced, and not the careless, sinner, who alone will lay to heart, and with some sense of its real meaning and momentous importance, the solemn question—’How shall a man be just with God?’

But more than this. As, without some heartfelt conviction of sin, we could have no feeling of personal interest in the doctrine of Justification, such as is necessary to command our serious attention in the study of it, so we should be scarcely capable of understanding, in their full scriptural meaning, the terms in which it is proposed to us, or the testimonies by which alone it can be established. The doctrine of salvation, which it taught by the Gospel, presupposes the doctrine of sin, which is taught by the Law; and the two together constitute the sum and substance of God’s revealed truth. They are distinct, and even different, from each other; but they are so related that, while there may be some knowledge of sin without any knowledge of salvation, there can be no knowledge of salvation without some knowledge of sin. As this is true of the general doctrine of Salvation, which includes deliverance from the power, as well from the punishment, of sin so it is with equally true of each of its constituent parts,–the special doctrines of Justification and Sanctification,– this only difference, that, in the one case we must have some knowledge of sin, in its legal, aspect, as guilt already incurred, in the other, of sin, in its spiritual aspect, as an inveterate inherent depravity.

It might be shown, both from the general history of the Church and from the personal experience of individuals, that, in both cases alike, partial and defective views of sin have always been associated with partial and defective views of salvation.

The ramifications of what Buchanan says are enormous. If what he says is correct, then the doctrine of Justification must be studied and heard (to have real profit) from a heart that knows and feels its sin. The doctrine of Justification is not just an academic question; it is one that deals with the depths of the heart. No one understands the doctrine of Justification who does not know and feel the plague of his or her own heart. This teaching not only will not but cannot be understood apart from a heart that knows and feels the weight of sin in the heart. Jesus came as a Physician to sinners and to sinners alone.

It is important to note what he says about partial and defective views of salvation. They come from partial and defective views of sin. If Buchanan is right, then one answer for why so many have left the historic doctrine of Justification in the modern day leave because they do not understand sin in its awfulness and hideousness. When Justification is approached with a weak view of sin or from an academic sense only, it cannot be understood in a way that saves the soul. I think that this is why people believe in baptismal regeneration, the New Perspective, or even Auburn Avenue theology.

Last week in this newsletter we looked at propitiation and how it relates to Justification. We saw that a person must be declared just before God and that the sinner cannot be just before God apart from a just satisfaction for the sin that man has committed. Christ alone can take away the wrath of God so that man’s sin can be taken away. Now, we can see if a person has a defective view of sin that he might not think that Christ has to take away all of it, but that he can take care of some of it. Another might not think of sin as being so bad that it requires Christ to take care of the sin at all. But the person who has felt his sin deeply knows that there is no other way for his sin to be dealt with justly other than the glorious propitiatory sacrifice of Christ on the cross. To feel the weight and horror of sin is to know the utter necessity of the sacrifice of Christ and the utter helplessness of man.

If a person has a hard time with the doctrine of propitiation, then the real problem is with understanding sin. Accepting a doctrine requires an understanding, yes, but it also requires a liking of the doctrine or seeing how it answers a particular need. This is also seen in the context of Paul’s teaching on Justification in Romans 3. Before Paul approached the Gospel in Romans 3:20, he taught the doctrines of sin thoroughly in1:18 through 3:19. He showed the depths of sin in man and of the need for the Gospel. Today, rather obviously, men want to start with the message of the Gospel (to some degree) and virtually ignore the teachings of Scripture on sin. Perhaps they might give some lip service to it, but they don’t really drive the teaching home in an effort for the person to be driven to despair of saving him or herself. People want to take men to Christ, in other words, apart from the tutor of the Law that Christ gave. However, without the tutor of the Law men simply cannot understand Justification.

It is when men have been to the school of the holiness of God as expressed in the Law that they see their own sins in such a way that they cry out to God for mercy. It is when men felt the weight of their sins in the Old Testament that they were to go to the Tabernacle of Temple and offer a sacrifice. These sacrifices pointed to Christ and yet they still teach us about what Christ did. Now we are to go to Christ who is the Lamb of God and lean on Him. But it is our sin that drives us there in the first place. Men who are without the tutorship of the Law will invariably have a weak view of sin and therefore of Justification.

A weak view of sin is tied in with the men wanting to understand Justification from the academic standpoint or from their intellectual understanding. It is far easier to understand the points of Justification than it is to burrow deep into one’s own soul and deal with the putrid nature of sin that is there. It is far easier to give an intellectual assent to Justification than it is to rest the entire weight of the soul on Christ for Justification. It is easier to slam the older writers for being introspective and morbid regarding sin and develop rational ways of looking at Justification rather than deal with the internal issues. This is exactly why many are dropping from the biblical doctrine of Justification and going on to “more rational ways” of understanding.

This is why I think that is far safer to study Justification as an experiential way of dealing with the soul. If the soul has not been turned to love God more than its self, it has not learned about sin from the Law and has not learned grace from Christ. If the soul has not been truly humbled where it sees that there really is no room for pride in the justified soul, then that soul has not been justified. The academic understanding may be important in its own way, but it will not humble the soul before God. Not only must the soul see that there is no room for boasting, it must be delivered from the inner boasting and the wanting people to see its humility. Truly Justification is the declaration of God that sinners are just based on nothing but Christ and Christ alone. However, the soul must be brought off of trust in itself and of the awful pride of thinking that it has some righteousness. The academic way will not do that as knowledge tends to puff people up and make them proud. The Gospel is for the humble. The Gospel is for those who have been broken and weaned from self-centeredness and self-love, not just those who are smart and study the intellectual aspects of Justification. It is, after all, the Gospel. There are few noble and few wise within the true Church.