Justification (2 of 4) Reformed - Ralph P

This post is from Ralph P he can be found on twitter @ralphprovance
Read this before reading on, just to see what is going on here.  Note: these posts are guest posts and may or may not reflect my views.  -Jay
Also out of fairness to all, I am going to delay Matt L, and Connie W's post till monday and tuesday, simply because blog traffic is low on the weekend.  So lucky Matt gets monday which happens to be the highest traffic day for this blog.
Surely shall one say, in the Lord have I righteousness. (Isaiah 45:24)
He hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in him. (2 Corinthians 5:21)

Martin Luther said that “Justification by faith alone is the article by which the Church stands or falls on.”  John Calvin said that it is the “main hinge on which religion turns.”  Leon Morris said “Understand justification and you understand everything that matters.”

The purpose of this brief study is to explain the glorious doctrine of justification from a Reformed perspective. There have been volumes written by many brilliant men of God over the years covering every aspect of this doctrine.  It is a topic that demands a great deal of diligence in study so we may grasp an understanding.  Again, this paper will be a “surface level” overview.

John Murray defined justification as “a constitutive act whereby the righteousness of Christ is imputed to our account and we are accordingly accepted as righteous in God’s sight. Justification is both a declarative and constitutive act of free grace.” (Redemption Accomplished & Applied p.124)

There are three areas where the doctrine of justification from a Reformed perspective differs from other traditions, i.e. Lutheran, Methodist, Orthodox, Pentecostal and Roman Catholic. They are in that 1. Justification is divinely monergistic; 2. Justification is a one-time event (not a process); 3. Justification is permanent.

Reformed Christians hold to the fact that there isn’t anything that we can do to cause or earn our justification. We are dead in our sins (Eph 2:1). We have a heart of stone (Eze 36:26). We are completely unable to exercise any saving faith apart from the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit. Once we are “born again/regenerated” by the Holy Spirit, God grants to us the gift of faith that we may repent.  It is then that Christ’s righteousness is imputed to us and we are justified. This is part of the “ordo salutis,” or the order of salvation.  The ordo salutis as held by those of the Reformed tradition is as follows- 1) election, 2) predestination, 3) gospel call 4) inward call 5) regeneration, 6) conversion (faith & repentance), 7) justification, 8) sanctification, and 9) glorification. (Rom 8:29-30.)  This is in opposition to those that hold to a synergistic view of justification.  While the views vary slightly within Protestantism, the general ordo salutis is 1) outward call 2) faith/election, 3) repentance, 4) regeneration, 5) justification, 6) perseverance, 7) glorificationThey state that we are able to exercise “inherent” faith and work in conjunction with God to be born again. Never is our faith the cause of our justification in the New Testament. That would be a “work” and therefore something to boast in (Eph 2:8,9).  An examination of the Greek text shows we are justified “pistei, dia pisteos, ek pisteos, kata pistin, epi te pistei,; “by, through, upon, according to” faith. Never are we justified “dia pistin” or “because” of it. Faith is our act, coming from a new heart, but not our work.  We must never look to ourselves, anything that we do, as grounds for our justification. 

Those of the Reformed tradition hold to the belief that justification is an instantaneous event, only occurring once.  God, the just Judge (Psalm 96:13), legally declares the sinner righteous because of the imputation of Christ’s righteousness.  It is a legal declaration, a “forensic justification.”  It is not that the sinner is made righteous; but that he is seen as righteous because of Jesus.  Martin Luther framed the idea well with the phrase “simul iustus et peccator,” “At the same time, just and sinner.”  This is in stark contrast to the Romanist understanding.  They hold that justification is not a one time declaration of Christ’s righteousness to the sinner but a process that is conditional upon the ongoing work of man. This is why Rome is confused about the doctrines of justification and sanctification.  Rome holds that there are three main sacraments necessary for justification and ultimate salvation. The sacraments allegedly give grace to an individual and help to maintain him in a state of sanctifying grace. They are baptism, penance, and the Eucharist/mass.  In fact, according to the Roman Catholic Canons and Decrees of the Council of Trent, “If any one saith that the sacraments of the New Law are not necessary unto salvation...and that without them, or without the desire thereof, men obtain from God, through faith alone, the grace of justification...let him be anathema.”  This statement by the Roman Catholic Church denies the clear teaching of Scripture.  The grounds for our justification can only be found in Christ alone. (Romans 3:24; 5:9,19; 8:1; 10:4; 1Cor 1:30; 6:11; 2Cor 5:21; Phil 3:9)

The final distinctive of the Reformed tradition, as relating to justification, is that our justification is permanent.  This means that we can never lose our salvation.  It is known as the “Perseverance of the Saints.”  It stands in contrast to every other religious tradition which says that our salvation can be lost by either a mortal sin (Catholic) or a loss of faith (Arminian.)  If our salvation is entirely of God, and not of any work of man, then how can we lose it?    As a Reformed Baptist, I hold to the creedal statement of the 1689 London Baptist Confession.  I believe that it summarizes the doctrine better than I ever could.  It states “Those whom God hath accepted in the beloved, effectually called and sanctified by his Spirit, and given the precious faith of his elect unto, can neither totally nor finally fall from the state of grace, but shall certainly persevere therein to the end, and be eternally saved, seeing the gifts and callings of God are without repentance, whence he still begets and nourisheth in them faith, repentance, love, joy, hope, and all the graces of the Spirit unto immortality; and though many storms and floods arise and beat against them, yet they shall never be able to take them off that foundation and rock which by faith they are fastened upon; notwithstanding, through unbelief and the temptations of Satan, the sensible sight of the light and love of God may for a time be clouded and obscured from them, yet he is still the same, and they shall be sure to be kept by the power of God unto salvation, where they shall enjoy their purchased possession, they being engraven upon the palm of his hands, and their names having been written in the book of life from all eternity. (John 10:28,29; Phil 1:6; 2Tim 2:19; 1John 2:19; Psalms 89:31,32; 1Cor 11:32; Malachi 3:6)
We are kept by the power of God, if we are in Christ!

1 comment:

Jay Miklovic said...

Thanks again for the post, and the well thought out, and scripture laden defense of reformed justification.

Am I correct in stating that the reformed understanding puts Salvation / New Birth / justification together as one 'event'.

I am trying to get my mind around the differing views. It seems that Matt and Dawn affirm an universal atonement/justification that is applied by faith. Whereas you hold a limited atonement where faith is a product of election. Am I correct in this?

It seems that the Wesleyan, Lutheran, and Reformed positions all take an objective stance on justification itself, and in some sense Connie's perspective does as well. Where your post diverges from the other three is that you do not see justification as universal. Right?