Tuesday, April 04, 2006

You understand me? Catching my drift? Or am I being obtuse?

In an attempt to unpack the Kwan of our salvation, we now turn our attention to JUSTIFICATION.

The Abstract of Principles[1] defines justification in the following manner:
"Justification is God's gracious and full acquittal of sinners, who believe in Christ, from all sin, through the satisfaction that Christ has made; not for anything wrought in them or done by them; but on account of the obedience and satisfaction of Christ, they receiving and resting on Him and His righteousness by faith."

With regard to sin, humanity is cursed to the third degree.[2] This sets up our awareness of the problem: Humanity is sinful and stands under the wrath of a holy God who demands perfect obedience. Part of understanding salvation is to first understand the peril of being lost. The Apostle Paul spends essentially the first three chapters of the book of Romans (particularly 1:18-3:20) showing that everyone is sinful and under God's wrath because of it. Theologians call this total depravity, meaning that the totality of the human self is depraved, that he or she is corrupt through and through.

However, the Bible also makes us aware of the solution to our problem, a solution of God's own design and initiation: Jesus Christ rendered perfect obedience to the Law and His righteousness is credited to anyone who places his/her faith in Him alone for salvation and He bears the sinfulness of him/her as well. Thus, we see that there are two transactions for the Christian (2 Cor 5:21). He takes our sin, but we receive His righteousness. Sin brings death, but God's gift is that of eternal life for those who believe in Christ (Rom 6:23).

This salvation is by grace alone, not because of God's grace and our efforts to please Him. This salvation is through faith alone in Christ, not through (and certainly not because of) faith plus our good works. This salvation is accoplished by Christ alone, not by any other means than His righteousness imputed to the sinner and the sinner's sin imputed to the Christ on the cross. As well, we must remember that all of the glory of salvation goes to God alone,[3] since He is the author and finisher of our faith (Heb 12:2).

However, before a person can experience justification, he or she must believe. Yet, due to the biblical understanding of sin and depravity, one is not able to believe in Christ on our own (cf. John 6:44, 65). The solution to that problem is found in God as well. God must regenerate[4] the person before he or she can enter or even see the kingdom (John 3:3, 5). God must make people spiritually alive, bringing them to life from their dead state (Eph 2:1-5).

The question must be asked, however, who are those who get regenerated? Is it those that ask or those who desire it? Is it merely something based on His grace and mercy, which He gives as He sees fit, apart from anything in the creature? (cf. Rom 9:15-18) Clearly, those who receive Christ by faith are the ones who become children of God (John 1:12). However, those children are not born of their own volition and will, but of God's (John 1:13).

In fact, this choice as to who will be regenerated and who will be saved was asked and answered by God before the creation of the world. We were selected by God from among the pool of future humanity to be His children (Eph 1:4-6). He chose us not because of even some potential good in us, but according to His own good pleasure (cf. Rom 9:10-15). This choosing or predestinating was done for our good, but ultimately for His glory (Eph 1:11-12).

This choosing is called election, whereby God elects, or chooses, a people for Himself. We might define election in the following manner:
"Election is God's eternal choice of some persons unto everlasting life -- not because of foreseen merit in them, but of his mere mercy in Christ -- in consequence of which choice they are called, justified and glorified."[5]

Perhaps the most explicit passage that deals with the relationship of faith, works, and justification is Eph 2:8-10. We see here the importance of faith. Faith has also been quite concisely defined by The Abstract of Principles:
"Saving faith is the belief, on God's authority, of whatsoever is revealed in His Word concerning Christ; accepting and resting upon Him alone for justification and eternal life. It is wrought in the heart by the Holy Spirit, and is accompanied by all other saving graces, and leads to a life of holiness."

In the Protestant understanding of justification, good works are not the cause of justification; rather they are the result and by-product of faith and justification.

One last thing needs to be said about the beauty of justification and that is its Trinitarian nature. In justification we see that the Father chooses a people, whom He gives to the Son (John 6:37, 39; 10:29). The Son dies for that people (John 10:11, 14-15; 15:13). The Holy Spirit regenerates that people (Eph 2:4-5). We are thrice blessed by our triune God. Our justification ensures our glorification (Rom 8:29-30) and sets us on the journey that is known as sanctification, which we will look in an forthcoming post.

[1] The Abstract of Principles is the first Southern Baptist doctrinal statement. It was part of the original charter of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in 1858 and is still its doctrinal standard.

[2] (a) Imputed sin & guilt of Adam (Rom 5:12-21), (b) Transmitted sin nature (Jer 17:9), and (c) Personal sins of commission and omission (1 John 3:4; James 4:17).

[3] Elaboration on these "alone" themes can be seen in The Cambridge Declaration. In short, our authority is Scripture Alone by which we hold that salvation from the wrath to come is accomplished by Christ Alone & applied by Grace Alone, through Faith (in Christ & His work) Alone. Thus, we proclaim To God Alone Be the Glory!

[4] "Regeneration is a change of heart, wrought by the Holy Spirit, who quickeneth the dead in trespasses and sins enlightening their minds spiritually and savingly to understand the Word of God, and renewing their whole nature, so that they love and practice holiness. It is a work of God's free and special grace alone." The Abstract of Principles (1858) That regeneration produces a new life in Christ (2 Cor 5:17) as well as repentance that moves one to Christ. The Abstract of Principles defines repentance in the following fashion: "Repentance is an evangelical grace, wherein a person being, by the Holy Spirit, made sensible of the manifold evil of his sin, humbleth himself for it, with godly sorrow, detestation of it, and self-abhorrence, with a purpose and endeavor to walk before God so as to please Him in all things."

[5] The Abstract of Principles (1858) – For further discussion of election, read A Southern Baptist Looks at the Biblical Doctrine of Election by Ernest Reisinger.


At 05 April, 2006 01:02, Blogger M. Jay Bennett said...

Hey Gunny,

Great blog! Thanks for laying out the meaty doctrine slooge.

BTW, how do you footnote? I haven't learned how to do that yet.

One question though.

Early in the blog as you referenced the solas of the Cambridge Declaration you wrote, "This salvation is through faith alone in Christ, not because of faith plus our good works" (itallics mine). I think this could be read as "through faith" = "because of faith." I'm sure that is not what you meant, and I may be over or under thinking here. What do you think?

Also, I think the Cambridge Declaration sola on Christ, solus Christus, means because of Christ alone rather than just in Christ alone. That way emphasis is placed on the effectual nature of the atonement and not just the fact of it. Because of Christ alone is more specific than in Christ alone.

I agree that Christ is the object of our faith, so our faith is definitely in Christ. But I think solus Christus is focused on Christ's actual accomplishment of our salvation through his mediatorial work. It begins by saying, "We reaffirm that our salvation is accomplished by the mediatorial work of the historical Christ alone." So there's more of a causal emphasis, hense solus Christus, because of Christ alone.

Again, great blog! Thanks for the meat. You're going to have to teach me how to footnote sometime.


At 05 April, 2006 02:03, Blogger GUNNY said...

Jay wrote:
I think this could be read as "through faith" = "because of faith." I'm sure that is not what you meant, and I may be over or under thinking here. What do you think?

Good point, I appreciate the precision. You're right; that's not my intention, but it was ambiguous to the point that it could be taken as such. I will go back and change it in the actual post. Thanks.

Also, good point on the solus Christus. (Speaking of which, some good slooge I've seen lately on your blog of same name.) I was going for a more evangelistic slant there for the gentle reader, but you're right about the intended nature of the phrase, particularly in the CD. I'll clarify/modify that as well, brother.

Now ... if I can a few minutes to cogitate about how to wedge so much sola action into one sentence. I think I might have to borrow a little John Murray verbiage.

Footnoting ... well, you can work a bit in "Edit Html" mode, but that be a huge whippin, and hard on the eyes late at night.

My suggestion is to type up your slooge in Word, using footnotes. Then cut and paste the content of the essay, though you have to use Ctrl-V as it won't give you a "paste" option with the right click.

When you do, the post should be configured pretty much like you want. You don't actually paste the content of the footnotes, but the superscripted markers only.

You can then go into "Edit Html" mode and see the code necessary for pulling that off, if you wanted to do some within the composition of the post.

PS Let me know what you think of the post modifications, but I think you're comments have improved the content therein.

At 05 April, 2006 02:52, Blogger M. Jay Bennett said...

Looks great Gunny. That is a lot of sola's in one sentence.

I like the extra chart contrasting Roman Catholic and Protestant understandings of justification too. But I am still a little troubled by the chart's labelling of faith as the cause of justification for Protestants. I guess it can be thought of as a cause in terms of a secondary or intermediary cause, but I prefer means or intrumental language to causal language. I like to reserve all causal language with respect to salvation to God, even though I know the chart is restricted to the idea of justification and not intended to encompass all of salvation. But that's just a little quirk of mine. Pay it no mind.

Again, excellent blog. I'm looking forward to the next one on sanctification.

And thanks for the crash course on footnoting. I'll give it a try.


At 05 April, 2006 16:50, Blogger R.K. Brumbelow said...

Can I reccomend against using word for marking things up it can really cause some serious nastyness on browsers trying to look at the page.

At 05 April, 2006 17:08, Blogger GUNNY said...

I'm going back and reformatting everything, so it will be a process to get the links up and running again, particularly the Bible verses.

Jay, I feel ya on the chart, but I'm just trying to visually depict "this happens and then this" as opposed to "this & that happen and then this".


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