The Justification Q&A/Explanation Thread

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Prufrock

Arbitrary Moderation
Following Whitefield's comments in another thread:
There is much that unites us, so why don't we spend more time in deep theological discussions about limited atonement, unconditional election, etc.
(which seemed to contain the seeds of a very good idea), I thought I would start this thread. Justification seems like a good topic to start with.

First: does anyone out there have any questions about Justification they want to ask, but perhaps are too timid or just have never gotten around to starting a thread in the wading pool? If so, ask away: it will be educational, beneficial and all around useful for us all, either to explain or to read other's explanations. Perhaps you're wondering how justification is related to faith; or what, exactly, justification really is, and how it differs from forgiveness; what is the relationship between sanctification and justification, etc. Many here will be more than happy to answer, and I'm sure it will develop some useful conversation for all.

If no one chimes in soon, I'll post a distillation of Vermigli, or Calvin, or Owen's (someone's) teaching on some aspect of Justification to get it started.

Let's get some good theological discussion going, both for those on the board, and visitors.
 

Whitefield

Puritan Board Junior
Following Whitefield's comments in another thread:
There is much that unites us, so why don't we spend more time in deep theological discussions about limited atonement, unconditional election, etc.
(which seemed to contain the seeds of a very good idea), I thought I would start this thread. Justification seems like a good topic to start with.

First: does anyone out there have any questions about Justification they want to ask, but perhaps are too timid or just have never gotten around to starting a thread in the wading pool? If so, ask away: it will be educational, beneficial and all around useful for us all, either to explain or to read other's explanations. Perhaps you're wondering how justification is related to faith; or what, exactly, justification really is, and how it differs from forgiveness; what is the relationship between sanctification and justification, etc. Many here will be more than happy to answer, and I'm sure it will develop some useful conversation for all.

If no one chimes in soon, I'll post a distillation of Vermili, or Calvin, or Owen's (someone's) teaching on some aspect of Justification to get it started.

Let's get some good theological discussion going, both for those on the board, and visitors.

A collection of quotes (not too long, or at least broken up) from various sources with an introduction as to why you think they are important would be helpful to me. I'm always trying to collect for my data base various key quotes on Reformed subjects.
 

Scottish Lass

Puritan Board Doctor
A concise (paragraph or less) explanation of how justification differs from forgiveness would be helpful.
 

Prufrock

Arbitrary Moderation
Lance, if no one else does, I'll put together a collection of quotes on various aspects of justification from the Reformers and Systematicians which you might find useful.

Anna,

A simple way to explain the difference between the two, and one that you could use yourself to explain this very easily and basically to non-theologically studied people, is as follows. Consider a court-room where a man is charged with theft. 1. To say that the man is pardoned is to say that it is acknowledged he has broken the law, and yet the punishment or consequences of this act are remitted. 2. To say the man is justified is to say that he has actually fulfilled the law, and the law has nothing against him. For instance, had Adam continued in a state of innocence and fulfilled the Covenant of Works, we would not say that he had been pardoned (for there is simply nothing from which he needs forgiveness), but rather that he was justified: he fulfilled the law's demands, and was treated accordingly.

-----Added 4/1/2009 at 05:01:55 EST-----

The two are closely related for us, however; as Turretin says, "God does not remit our sins and afterwards impute righteousness, but he first imputes righteousness and afterwards on account of that imputed righteousness remits our sins."

Thus, for us sinners after the fall, justification involves the forgiveness of our sins, but is not limited to this. It consists of both our being treated as righteous on account of the imputation of Christ's righteousness (adopted as Sons and given a right unto life), and our forgiveness or pardon on account of that same righteousness.
 

CharlieJ

Puritan Board Junior
I have a question! The doctrine of the active imputation of Christ's righteousness has been questioned periodically both by those inside and outside of the Reformed community. One particular question is this: if Christ's righteousness is imputed to us, why does the Bible seem to speak of faith itself as what is imputed.

For example:

Romans 4:5 And to the one who does not work but trusts him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness,
 

Jon 316

Puritan Board Sophomore
MaCarthur, (John) in his Daily Reading Bible notes says that when a Christian sins, he is still justified but he needs to be forgiven afresh. I guess this means until a saint confesses his sins and repents he is justified but not forgiven for the unconfessed sins? Or is that just too confusing?
 

Prufrock

Arbitrary Moderation
Charlie, Good question! the Reformed exegetes usually explain that faith is taken as synecdoche for the object of faith.

Thus, Bullinger can write "Faith is righteousness;" though he later states more precisely, "The righteousness of faith; that is, the righteousness of Christ the immaculate lamb, which is communicated to us by faith."
 
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VictorBravo

Administrator
Staff member
I have a question! The doctrine of the active imputation of Christ's righteousness has been questioned periodically both by those inside and outside of the Reformed community. One particular question is this: if Christ's righteousness is imputed to us, why does the Bible seem to speak of faith itself as what is imputed.

For example:

Romans 4:5 And to the one who does not work but trusts him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness,

I read Romans 4:5 to plainly state that righteousness is imputed, not faith. Imputed means, more or less, to reckon or acknowledge as a matter of fact--after the fact. Maybe it would help to look at that sentence closer:

Faith. . . counted. . . .righteousness.

It looks like it is saying that the fact that he has faith is put on the books (counted) as if he were righteous.

In other words: the righteousness is deemed to be an actual fact of record. That's precisely what imputed righteousness is. He wasn't righteous in himself, but in reviewing the legal record, we see that he was in fact accounted to be righteous. And the only way that could happen was because of faith.

Edited to change "decreed" to "accounted".
 

VictorBravo

Administrator
Staff member
MaCarthur, (John) in his Daily Reading Bible notes says that when a Christian sins, he is still justified but he needs to be forgiven afresh. I guess this means until a saint confesses his sins and repents he is justified but not forgiven for the unconfessed sins? Or is that just too confusing?

I haven't read him on that, but I do think it is unnecessarily confusing. It does raise a whole 'nother issue regarding the duty to forgive, and whether God owes us that duty. (No, I don't think he owes us that duty, BTW).

A better way of looking at it, I think, is that we have a duty to repent and confess our sins, and that we always fall short. Nevertheless, faith justifies.
 

Prufrock

Arbitrary Moderation
By way of further explanation of the excellent question Charlie posed for us:

If faith itself were that which is our righteousness (strictly considered), then most Pauline argument would become absurd. Since faith is commanded by the law (which comprehends all our duty), it could be said -- contra Paul -- that we are justified by the law if faith were considered efficiently. Thus we need to understand faith to justify as an instrumental cause, not an efficient cause. As an instrumental cause, faith cannot be said to be the substance of, or that which is counted as our righteousness.

John Ball treats of this very precisely, yet briefly in one of the first chapters of his Covenant of Grace.
 

MW

Puritanboard Amanuensis
If faith itself were that which is our righteousness (strictly considered), then most Pauline argument would become absurd. Since faith is commanded by the law (which comprehends all our duty), it could be said -- contra Paul -- that we are justified by the law if faith were considered efficiently. Thus we need to understand faith to justify as an instrumental cause, not an efficient cause. As an instrumental cause, faith cannot be said to be the substance of, or that which is counted as our righteousness.

Very perceptive! It also begs the question as to what becomes the appropriating means of faith as righteousness since faith cannot be its own means of appropriation; and at this point Arminians suggest all sorts of things which all boil down to make righteousness dependent on him who wills and runs.
 

Prufrock

Arbitrary Moderation
It also begs the question as to what becomes the appropriating means of faith as righteousness since faith cannot be its own means of appropriation; and at this point Arminians suggest all sorts of things which all boil down to make righteousness dependent on him who wills and runs.

This reply called to mind a passage from Rutherford, which I was unable to locate. I thought it was in his Covenant of Life Opened, but it must be in some other work. Regardless, while looking, I was reminded of this passage from Covenant of Life, with which you will be far more familiar than I am, but which I will post anyway so you have an excuse to read some Rutherford:

It is true, Rom. 4.9, that faith is said to be imputed to Abraham for righteousness, but it is not meant of the act or work of believing, that was counted for Abraham's formal righteousness; there should be no room left to the satisfaction of Christ, reckoned to be ours: if all the righteousness of God (Rom. 10:3, 1 Co. 5:21, Phil. 3:9) should be turned over in an act of believing, mixed with much doubting and in our sinful disobedience.... [Regarding the Arminians] For if our righteousness and inherent obedience may be of grace esteemed formal righteousness before God, by a free Evanglick paction and an act of God's free will, then the Lord might have esteemed the eating of an apple, or any act of obedience to be our formal righteousness; and so Christ died in vain to become our righteousness, where an act of sinful man, or a deed of the law, even the Law of Faith, is sufficient.
....
Faith imputed doth well bear the sense of the object that faith lays hold on, as our righteousness: (Rom. 3:21) Now the righteousness of God without the Law is manifested. What righteousness of God? v.22 – Even the righteousness of God through faith of Jesus Christ unto all. Now if the righteousness of God is manifested without one Law, to wit, the of works, why not without another Law, of faith and of inherent Gospel-righteousness? And what need that Christ should die, if the act of believing should be that precious righteousness of God, and that according to the Law of faith? This by the way. As hope is put for the object hoped for? As Rom. 8:24 – Hope that is seen is not hope, that is, the thing possessed, the salvation which we have in present possession, is not hoped for. Co. 1:5—For hope's sake laid up in heaven, that is, the thing hoped for. For the grace of hope is not laid of up in heaven.
...
&c.
 

KMK

Administrator
Staff member
'Imputation', of faith does not even make sense does it? Kind of like 'pardon' of uncleanness.
 

Prufrock

Arbitrary Moderation
'Imputation', of faith does not even make sense does it?

Good point, Ken. Very true. Unless, that is, one means by this that "faith is counted as being his righteousness;" which, as above, though perhaps allowable grammatically, is not allowable theologically.

You've noted an all-too-prevalent misunderstanding. Since we've stopped using words like "imputation" we've also forgotten what they mean; and so it seems imputation is often understood to mean "a donation," or "bestowal" or some such thing, which would make it perfectly allowable to say "faith is imputed to us by God." Indeed, faith is given to us by God; but it would be nonsensical to say it is imputed to us by God (unless we merely wanted to say that God has observed that we have faith; but this would be pointless).
 

KMK

Administrator
Staff member
'Imputation', of faith does not even make sense does it?

Good point, Ken. Very true. Unless, that is, one means by this that "faith is counted as being his righteousness;" which, as above, though perhaps allowable grammatically, is not allowable theologically.

I guess so, but this kind of language is foreign to me. I guess I need to read more Arminian theology.
 

Whitefield

Puritan Board Junior
'Imputation', of faith does not even make sense does it? Kind of like 'pardon' of uncleanness.

James Buchanan uses this phraseology in his The Doctrine of Justification:

Prop. XXV. We are justified by Faith, and Faith is counted, or imputed to us, for righteousness; but Faith is not itself the righteousness on account of which we are justified.

The PDF of Buchanan's work can be found here.
 

CharlieJ

Puritan Board Junior
Good point, Ken. Very true. Unless, that is, one means by this that "faith is counted as being his righteousness;" which, as above, though perhaps allowable grammatically, is not allowable theologically.

I wonder if the Greek of the passage helps some here. Faith is accounted εις δικαιοσυνην. I wonder if the use of a teleological preposition, rather than a substitutionary preposition like αντι or υπερ, directs away from an understanding of faith being credited in the place of righteousness, and toward the idea of faith being "unto" something. Considering that faith is the subject of the verb, I think that's the best one can do grammatically.
 

py3ak

Unshaven and anonymous
Staff member
Maybe a little far afield, and so it can be reserved for later, but I have been wondering if the Moravians held to the same doctrine of justification as the Arminians.

Here is Wesley's record of some Moravian preaching on the topic.
 

Prufrock

Arbitrary Moderation
I wonder if the Greek of the passage helps some here. Faith is accounted εις δικαιοσυνην. I wonder if the use of a teleological preposition, rather than a substitutionary preposition like αντι or υπερ, directs away from an understanding of faith being credited in the place of righteousness, and toward the idea of faith being "unto" something. Considering that faith is the subject of the verb, I think that's the best one can do grammatically.

Charlie,

That one is tempting, but hard to substantiate philologically. For instance, see the following similar cases of the "logizomai ___ eis ____" construction. In the LXX, see 1 Sam. 1:13 "And Eli considered her to be a drunk woman;" or Isaiah 40:17, among others. Within the New Testament, a few such cases may be found in Romans itself: 2:26, "Shall not his uncircumcision be counted for circumcision?" Or, 9:8, "But the children of the promise are counted for the seed." In all of these the meaning approaches that of simple predication.

I think the theological and exegetical arguments will be stronger.
 

Prufrock

Arbitrary Moderation
Among others, Poole, in his Synopsis, in Romans 4 (which will one day soon appear in English, D.V., thanks to the Matthew Poole Project), speaks very well of this (if you will pardon the quick and rough translation):

But faith is said to be imputed for righteousness (pro justitia), not materially, from the dignity of faith, nor as the materia subjecta of justification, for this the righteousness of Christ alone, which is ours by faith; but rather, organically, or as the instrumental cause which apprehends the righteousness of Christ. The “for righteousness” (eis diskaiosynen) designates the effect of the imputed faith. Faith, considered alone, or “the believing” was imputed to him for righteousness, i.e., to the cause of righteousness (obviously, the instrumental cause) by Metynomy of the effect for the cause. Thus, “this is life eternal (John 12:50, 17:3), i.e., the cause of life.
 

Ex Nihilo

Puritan Board Senior
I have an exegetical question. Based on the rest of Scripture, I feel that I have a basic idea of what James 2:24 is not saying. However, I don't think I have a strong understanding of what the passage is saying:

You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone.

What should I say to a non-Reformed or Catholic friend who cites this verse? How can I explain it without appearing to explain it away?
 

Prufrock

Arbitrary Moderation
While waiting to see someone more qualified give a superb answer (or, barring that, until I have time to give a meager answer), I'll pose the following wonderful passage from Manton's commentary, wherein he with a few words expresses many interpretations of the orthodox regarding the relationship between James (in this passage) and Paul, giving approval to all these opinions:

Though the orthodox differ somewhat in words and phrases, yet they agree in the same common sense, in reconciling James and Paul, thus, while some say, Paul disputes of the cause of justification, and so excludeth works; James of the effects of justification, and so enforceth a presence of them: and others say, Paul disputeth of how we are justified, and James how we shall evidence ourselves to be justified; the one taketh justification for acquittance from sin, the other for acquittance from hypocrisy; the one for the imputation of righteousness, the other for the declaration of righteousness. Or as others, Paul speaketh of the office of faith, James of the quality of faith; Paul pleadeth for saving faith, James pleadeth against naked assent; the one speaketh of the justifying of the person, the other [of the justifying] of the faith.

-----Added 4/2/2009 at 05:11:39 EST-----

How can I explain it without appearing to explain it away?

This is great, by the way. I think we are too often reserved about James 2, and try hiding it as though it could damage our cause. When understood and taught properly, it should be proclaimed as freely and boldly as any passage from Paul.
 

Ex Nihilo

Puritan Board Senior
This is helpful.

If James sees the need to clarify that justification is evidenced by both faith and works, doesn't the James passage weigh against an FV-ish conflation of faith and works? That is, if faith = faithfulness, it wouldn't make much sense to talk about "faith by itself, if it does not have works."

I don't mean to misrepresent the FV or the NPP, so perhaps this isn't applicable, or is an oversimplification.
 
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cih1355

Puritan Board Junior
Is it true that even though conversion involves both faith and repentance, the instrument that receives justification is faith, not repentance?

I was asking because I've always heard that conversion involves both faith and repentance and that faith is the sole instrument that receives justification.
 
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Prufrock

Arbitrary Moderation
Is it true that repentance is not the instrument that receives justification?

Correct. Faith alone is the sole receptive instrument of justification. But both stand in necessary relations to the covenant.
 
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Prufrock

Arbitrary Moderation
This is helpful.

If James sees the need to clarify that justification is evidenced by both faith and works, doesn't the James passage weigh against an FV-ish conflation of faith and works? That is, if faith = faithfulness, it wouldn't make much sense to talk about "faith by itself, if it does not have works."

I don't mean to misrepresent the FV or the NPP, so perhaps this isn't applicable, or is an oversimplification.

I may be misreading your question, but yes. I think the very fact that James' letter exists is one of the strongest arguments against NPP formulations. They claim that no one in Paul's day would have seen faith as an opposing principle to works; and yet, it seems James had to write an entire letter correcting a misunderstanding that resulted from this distinction.
 

Ex Nihilo

Puritan Board Senior
This is helpful.

If James sees the need to clarify that justification is evidenced by both faith and works, doesn't the James passage weigh against an FV-ish conflation of faith and works? That is, if faith = faithfulness, it wouldn't make much sense to talk about "faith by itself, if it does not have works."

I don't mean to misrepresent the FV or the NPP, so perhaps this isn't applicable, or is an oversimplification.

I may be misreading your question, but yes. I think the very fact that James' letter exists is one of the strongest arguments against NPP formulations. They claim that no one in Paul's day would have seen faith as an opposing principle to works; and yet, it seems James had to write an entire letter correcting a misunderstanding that resulted from this distinction.

I don't think you're misreading -- that's exactly what I meant! Thanks for making something comprehensible out of my mushy language. :lol:
 

MW

Puritanboard Amanuensis
Paul refers to the justification of a sinner's person, while James speaks of the justification of a religious man's faith.
 

VictorBravo

Administrator
Staff member
'Imputation', of faith does not even make sense does it? Kind of like 'pardon' of uncleanness.

I wanted to come back to the oddness of the sound of "imputation of faith." I had to wait until I got home to look at my old 1928 Websters and it confirmed my hunch.

The modern use of "impute" means to reckon, put on the account of, or, technically in law, to state that a circumstance or fact is regarded by the law as occuring even if it in fact did not.

In the tax realm, for instance, imputed income is income the IRS taxes you for, even if you haven't actually received the money. One example would be imputed interest income on a loan that was made without interest. (Yes, this really happens).

So, under current usage, one fact or condition is imputed (reckoned) to be another. We would say, under that use, the fact of proper faith imputes righteousness.

But old Webster tells me that imputed, in a rare and obsolete usage, means "regard, or take account of" as the subject instead of being reckoned as an object. In that case, one can say that faith itself is imputed (or regarded) as righteousness.

See how that is saying the same thing? In the first example, righteousness is the thing imputed (righteousness is placed on the account of the one with faith), in the second, faith is the thing imputed (regarded to be accounted as righteousness). I think the whole "imputation of faith" question rises from the fact that the word "impute" has now taken on a more restricted meaning.

By the way, this happens a lot. Ever notice how the Puritans say that some set of facts "infer" a conclusion? This American would never say that. Rather, I'd say that they "imply" the conclusion. But, sure enough, the word "infer" has historically been used for both.
 
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