Friday, July 25, 2008

Justification - Part I

The Westminster Confession of Faith (1646) describes Justification thus:

I. Those whom God effectually calleth, he also freely justifieth: not by infusing righteousness into them, but by pardoning their sins, and by accounting and accepting their persons as righteous; not for any thing wrought in them, or done by them, but for Christ's sake alone; not by imputing faith itself, the act of believing, or any other evangelical obedience to them, as their righteousness; but by imputing the obedience and satisfaction of Christ unto them, they receiving and resting on him and his righteousness by faith; which faith they have not of themselves, it is the gift of God.

II. Faith, thus receiving and resting on Christ and his righteousness, is the alone instrument of justification; yet is it not alone in the person justified, but is ever accompanied with all other saving graces, and is no dead faith, but worketh by love.

III. Christ, by his obedience and death, did fully discharge the debt of all those that are thus justified, and did make a proper, real, and full satisfaction of his Father's justice in their behalf. Yet inasmuch as he was given by the Father for them, and his obedience and satisfaction accepted in their stead, and both freely, not for any thing in them, their justification is only of free grace, that both the exact justice and rich grace of God might be glorified in the justification of sinners.

IV. God did, from all eternity, decree to justify the elect; and Christ did, in the fullness of time, die for their sins and rise again for their justification; nevertheless they are not justified until the Holy Spirit doth, in due time, actually apply Christ unto them.

V. God doth continue to forgive the sins of those that are justified; and although they can never fall from the state of justification, yet they may by their sins fall under God's Fatherly displeasure, and not have the light of his countenance restored unto them, until they humble themselves, confess their sins, beg pardon, and renew their faith and repentance.

VI. The justification of believers under the Old Testament was, in all these respect, one and the same with the justification of believers under the New Testament.


Someone who wants a more detailed explanation of Justification by Faith in practice, within a consistently Reformed perspective should read the Sum of Saving Knowledge.

The London Baptist Confession of Faith (1689) has substantially the same definition:

1. Those whom God effectually calleth, he also freely justifieth, not by infusing righteousness into them, but by pardoning their sins, and by accounting and accepting their persons as righteous; not for anything wrought in them, or done by them, but for Christ's sake alone; not by imputing faith itself, the act of believing, or any other evangelical obedience to them, as their righteousness; but by imputing Christ's active obedience unto the whole law, and passive obedience in his death for their whole and sole righteousness by faith, which faith they have not of themselves; it is the gift of God.

2. Faith thus receiving and resting on Christ and his righteousness, is the alone instrument of justification; yet it is not alone in the person justified, but is ever accompanied with all other saving graces, and is no dead faith, but worketh by love.

3. Christ, by his obedience and death, did fully discharge the debt of all those that are justified; and did, by the sacrifice of himself in the blood of his cross, undergoing in their stead the penalty due unto them, make a proper, real, and full satisfaction to God's justice in their behalf; yet, inasmuch as he was given by the Father for them, and his obedience and satisfaction accepted in their stead, and both freely, not for anything in them, their justification is only of free grace, that both the exact justice and rich grace of God might be glorified in the justification of sinners.

4. God did from all eternity decree to justify all the elect, and Christ did in the fullness of time die for their sins, and rise again for their justification; nevertheless, they are not justified personally, until the Holy Spirit doth in time due actually apply Christ unto them.

5. God doth continue to forgive the sins of those that are justified, and although they can never fall from the state of justification, yet they may, by their sins, fall under God's fatherly displeasure; and in that condition they have not usually the light of his countenance restored unto them, until they humble themselves, confess their sins, beg pardon, and renew their faith and repentance.

6. The justification of believers under the Old Testament was, in all these respects, one and the same with the justification of believers under the New Testament.


Earlier reformation documents have similar discussions. For example, the Thirty-Nine Articles (1571), include Article XI, on the justification of man:

We are accompted [accounted] righteous before God, only for the merite [merit] of our Lord and sauiour [savior] Jesus Christe [Christ], by faith, and not for our owne workes [own works] or deseruynges [deservings]. Wherefore, that we are justified by fayth onely [faith only], is a most wholesome doctrine, and very full of comfort, as more largely is expressed in the Homilie [Homily] of iustification [Justification].


I would reproduce the referenced Homily, but (a) it is not short, and (b) it is not entirely sound (particularly the parts relating to the effect of baptism on infants who die in infancy). (Those who wish to read the Homily may find it here (link).)

The Belgic Confession (1618) discusses Justification as follows, in Article 23, The Justification of Sinners:

We believe that our blessedness lies in the forgiveness of our sins because of Jesus Christ, and that in it our righteousness before God is contained, as David and Paul teach us when they declare that man blessed to whom God grants righteousness apart from works.

And the same apostle says that we are justified "freely" or "by grace" through redemption in Jesus Christ. And therefore we cling to this foundation, which is firm forever, giving all glory to God, humbling ourselves, and recognizing ourselves as we are; not claiming a thing for ourselves or our merits and leaning and resting on the sole obedience of Christ crucified, which is ours when we believe in him.

That is enough to cover all our sins and to make us confident, freeing the conscience from the fear, dread, and terror of God's approach, without doing what our first father, Adam, did, who trembled as he tried to cover himself with fig leaves.

In fact, if we had to appear before God relying-- no matter how little-- on ourselves or some other creature, then, alas, we would be swallowed up.

Therefore everyone must say with David: "Lord, do not enter into judgment with your servants, for before you no living person shall be justified."


The Augsburg Confession (1530) likewise discusses justification in Article IV, Of Justification:

Also they teach that men cannot be justified before God by their own strength, merits, or works, but are freely justified for Christ's sake, through faith, when they believe that they are received into favor, and that their sins are forgiven for Christ's sake, who, by His death, has made satisfaction for our sins. This faith God imputes for righteousness in His sight.


This post focuses on the primary confessional documents that describe the Reformed faith. The Lord Willing, in a next post I will turn to some more particular explanations.

-TurretinFan

1 comment:

natamllc said...

TF

just a brief comment, seeing when I quote what I will quote, as I ponder what is read, it takes my breath away and shuts down my self justifying mind quickly!

Thanks again for being spot on!

I am being strengthened but exhausted mentally when I, the meat at the table cooked well and delivered hereon, ready to eat, eat!

Oh, the quote then, from the "Sum of Saving...":

I. THE almighty and eternal God, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, three distinct persons in the one and the same undivided Godhead, equally infinite in all perfections, did, before time, most wisely decree, for his own glory, whatsoever cometh to pass in time: and doth most holily and infallibly execute all his decrees, without being partaker of the sin of any creature.

Ok, wow! Why one would stand up to that is way past my pay grade and incomprehensible to me! I wilt when reading such revelation put down in writing by a man!

I guess the next better thing would be the "Angel of the Lord" bringing me likewise dispatched to John, His Word, cf. Rev. 1:1.

And to a degree, better still, no, best, God speaking directly to me as He has done to others from time to time, men of God, and Christ Himself, along with His disciples, as is recorded here:

Joh 12:28 Father, glorify your name." Then a voice came from heaven: "I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again."