"...if anyone makes the assistance of grace depend on the humility or obedience of man and does not agree that it is a gift of grace itself that we are obedient and humble, he contradicts the Apostle who says, "What have you that you did not receive?" (1 Cor. 4:7), and, "But by the grace of God I am what I am" (1 Cor. 15:10). (Council of Orange: Canon 6)


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  • « My One Concern about the T4G Statement by Pastor John Samson | Main | Eros Spirituality Vs. Agape Faith by David F. Wells »

    Justification by Faith, Out of Date? by Benjamin B. Warfield (1851-1921)

    The following short essay was originally published in the The Christian Irishman, Dublin, May 1911, p. 71. The electronic edition of this article was scanned and edited by Shane Rosenthal for Reformation Ink. It is in the public domain and may be freely copied and distributed.

    Sometimes we are told that Justification by Faith is "out of date." That would be a pity, if it were true. What it would mean would be that the way of salvation was closed and "no thoroughfare" nailed up over the barriers. There is no justification for sinful men except by faith. The works of a sinful man will, of course, be as sinful as he is, and nothing but condemnation can be built on them. Where can he get works upon which he can found his hope of justification,, except from Another?

    His hope of Justification, remember, is of being pronounced righteous by God. Can God pronounce him righteous except on the ground of works that are righteous?

    Where can a sinful man get works that are righteous? Surely, not from himself; for, is he not a sinner, and all his works as sinful as he is? He must go out of himself, then, to find works which he can offer to God as righteous. And where will he find such works except in Christ? Or how will he make them his own except by faith in Christ?

    Justification by Faith, we see, is not to be set in contradiction to justification by Works. It is set in contradiction only to justification by our Own Works. It is justification by Christ's Works.

    The whole question, accordingly, is whether we can hope to be received into God's favor on the ground of what we do ourselves, or only on the ground of what Christ does for us. If we expect to be received on the ground of what we do ourselves - that is what is called Justification by Works.

    If on the ground of what Christ has done for us - that is what is meant by Justification by Faith. Justification by Faith means, that is to say, that we look to Christ and to him alone for salvation, and come to God pleading Christ's death and righteousness as the ground of our hope to be received into his favor.

    If Justification by Faith is out of date, that means, then, that salvation by Christ is out of date. There is nothing, in that case, left to us but that each man must just do the best he can to save himself.

    Justification by Faith does not mean, then, salvation by believing things instead of by doing right. It means pleading the merits of Christ before the throne of grace instead of our own merits. It may be doing right to believe things, and doing right is certainly right. The trouble with pleading our own merits before God is not that merits of our own would not be acceptable to God. The trouble is that we haven't any merits of our own to plead before God.

    Adam, before his fall, had merits of his own, and because he had merits of his own he was, in his own person, acceptable to God. He didn't need Another to stand between him and God, whose merits he could plead. And, therefore, there was no talk of his being Justified by Faith. But we are not like Adam before the fall; we are sinners and have no merits of our own. If we are to be justified at all, it must be on the ground of the merits of Another, whose merits can be made ours by faith. And that is the reason why God sent his Only Begotten Son, that whosoever believeth on him should not perish but have everlasting life.

    If we do not believe in him, obviously we must perish. But if we believe in him, we shall not perish but have everlasting life. That is just Justification by Faith.

    Justification by Faith is nothing other than obtaining everlasting life by believing in Christ. If Justification by Faith is out of date, then is salvation through Christ out of date. And as there is none other name under heaven, given among men, wherein we must be saved, if salvation through Christ is out of date then is salvation itself out of date. Surely, in a world of sinful men, needing salvation, this would be a great pity.

    Posted by John Samson on May 8, 2006 03:05 AM


    Whew! A perfect piece to start off my morning. Great post, Pastor Samson. I've always admired Warfield.

    God bless,

    The Aspiring Theologian

    With the now improved: Knight of the Living God: A Young Theologian's Blog

    You know, I sometimes forget the basic doctrines by getting caught up in the deeper ones. How refreshing this essay is. How much greater would our evangelism be if we continuously taught that man has NO merit on His own?! None.

    Thanks for the post. This blog is a true blessing!

    I was reading some detail about the Emergent (sp) Church this morning. I knew their methods seemed to imply that they did not accept the Reformed Theological interpretation of the gospel, but what I learned today is they teach Universalism. It states that there is no reason for Churches as we know them because all people were saved at the cross. There, then, is no need for doctrines such as Justification by Faith.

    It is beyond my understanding why our Christian Leaders can't see that this is simply another Satanic attack on the Church and it's doctrines. Without Justification by Faith a "church" is false and those in its body, more than likely, are still in their sins.

    In Christ

    Mike Ratliff

    Amen, Mr. Ratliff! "If any man preaches a gospel unto you other than that which we have preached to you, let him be accursed..."

    That's Scripture itself saying that.

    Aspiring Theologian

    The Aspiring Theologian Blog: Vote in My Poll!

    Mike, isn't the teaching of the Emergent Church just taking universal atonement to its logical conclusions?

    God Bless

    Jordan, yes I would say that you are right. My emphasis was on our Spiritual leaders in the American Church who look upon the Emergent Church as simply another part of the body. I am stating that it is heresy and our leaders don't get it.

    In Christ

    Mike Ratliff

    Hey Mike, I absolutely agree it is heresy. It seems our evangelical churches are trying to be so "tolerant" now, so all inclusive. I've experienced that with churches here in Dallas. It seems the Emerging movement might be infecting many areas of the Church right under our noses.

    As far as the atonement is concerned, I almost have to give it to the Emergent Movement for being consistent. I wish our Arminian brothers would just THINK about the implications of a "universal" atonement, and take that to its logical conclusions.

    God bless

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