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"...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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  • « Pressing the Issue | Main | He Tried? »

    Five Arguments Against Future Justification According to Works

    rick.jpgThis year has witnessed a publishing event of real interest to many Christians: the publication of N.T. Wright's Justification: God's Plan and Paul's Vision. Wright is widely considered the most provocative writer on justification today and the arrival of this book has deservedly garnered much attention. My purpose in this article is not to review Wright's book as a whole or even to assess his overall teaching on justification. Rather, I intend to respond to that part of his teaching that proposes a future justification by works for believers in Jesus Christ.

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    Posted by John on May 26, 2009 12:36 PM

    Comments

    The trouble with articles like this against Wright is that he is not using the term "justification" to mean "salvation". Until this is understood, his critics will argue against something he doesn't teach.

    Wonders,

    I have read many books by Wright which I have thourougly enjoyed. But if what you say is in fact true, then all NTW has to do to subdue the maelstrom he has himself started is to come out and plainly say that whatever else he means by justification, he still wholeheartedly affirms Sola Gratia, Solus Christus -- that salvation is by grace alone in Christ alone. That there is nothing we can do to either attain OR MAINTAIN our just standing before God in Christ. He work is sufficient to save completely without our help. That our works are the result of the Holy Spirit doing a work of grace in us and not something we need to do to stay in.

    That Christ is a Savior, not someone who helps us save ourselves. If he can come out and plainly explain that no work of ours before or after salvation merits anyting related to our redemption, but rather the Holy Spirit is working a post salvific sanctification in us such that Christ deserves all the glory then we would be on firmer footing.

    The key issue even deeper than justification is Christ alone.

    Ultimately, it makes no difference whether you hold that

    faith + works = justification

    or

    faith = justification + works

    In either case there is no justification apart from good works. According to the reformed view, if you don't have good works, then you don't have the right kind of faith. In other words, according to reformed theology, the equation would be

    true faith = faith + works.

    Well, there you have it. How does this not end up exactly in Rome? This is also the reason why Rome in 1998 agreed to the doctrine of justification by faith alone. For if "true faith" is really "faith plus works", well then embracing Sola Fide is really faith plus works, and Rome doesn't have to make a move. However, the reformed don't seem to realize that the phrase "faith alone" is utterly meaningless and empty words.

    AH,

    Your comment makes about as much sense as saying there can be heat without fire. Both faith and works are the result of God having does a work of grace in us because of Christ. When the order is reversed you are trusting in self-effort wholly or partly in order to be saved. That is, either attaining or maintaining your just standing before God self-exertion. It is not trusting in Jesus alone but in Jesus PLUS something else.

    "Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?" Gal 3:3

    The elect certainly must persevere in the faith, but those who have been regenerated WILL persevere because Christ preserves them. RCC and other erroneous theologies believe salvation can be lost which means that, to them, Christ is not sufficient to save completely. They are therefore still trusting in their own efforts. But the Scripture testifies that in Christ's blood, God remember not to treat us as our sins justly deserve. Condidering that we are required to love God will all our heart and our neighbors as ourselves, our "good works" even as Christians fall woefully short of coming anywhere near acceptible to God, except that Christ has sanctified them. My trust as a Christians therefore must be utterly dependent on Christ's mercy, not my works or I would have NO HOPE.

    Do you really assent to this:

    true faith = faith + works

    ?

    AH,

    You asked, "Do you really assent to this: true faith = faith + works ?"

    Thanks for your question. If you mean does salvation = faith + works the answer is yes, but not my faith and works. It is the faith and works of Christ that saves. My faith and my works have no redeeming value whatsoever.

    Unregenerate men can no more obey the gospel than the law, without Christ granting renewal of heart. The saving power of the Christ is not dependant on faith or works being addded to it; its saving power is such that faith and obedience flows from it. To trust in either faith or works is damning. The RCC premise tis that Christ is not sufficient to save completely so they must add works to it. And these works have redmeptive value according to RCC.

    Faith itself is man's act or work and is thereby excluded from being any part of his justifying righteousness. It is one thing to be justified by by grace through faith merely as an instrument by which man receives the righteousness of Christ, and another to be justified FOR faith as an act or work of the law. If a sinner, then, relies on his actings of faith or works of obedience to any of the commands of the law for a title to eternal life, he seeks to be justified by works of the law as much as if his works were perfect. If he depends either in whole or in part, on his faith and repentance for a right to any promised blessing, he thereby so annexes that promise to the commands to believe and repent as to form them for himself into a covenant of works. Building his confidence before God upon his faith, repentance and other acts of obedience, he places them in Christ's stead as his grounds of right to the promise and so he demonstrates himself to be of the works of the law and so be under the curse (Galatians 3:10)

    Paul then on Phil chapter 3:3 gives a true definition of a Christian:

    "....we are the [true] circumcision, who worship by the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh

    He calls true Christians “the real circumcision”, i.e. the true covenant people of God. There are three characteristics Paul gives of Christians found in verse 3. He says they are those who:

    1) Worship in the Spirit of God
    2) Glory in Christ
    3) And put no confidence in the flesh

    In other words, to be a true Christians means to have utterly dispaired of all hope in oneself. When the Holy Spirit does a work of grace in someone, He convicts them of their sin. Not just sins, but convicts of the fact that they are sinners by nature and can do nothing to save themselves. This means one who is brought to faith, repents of both their good works and their evil works. Both are equally worthless to God. False teaching, like Romans Catholicism, glories in something other than in Christ alone, always pointing to something that we can do; a resumé we can bring before God to curry His favor.

    So again to answer your question. It is the faith and works of Christ that saves us, not our faith or works of obedience, neither of which will ever even come close to pleasing God. IN the covenant in Christ's blood he remembers not to treat us as our sins justly deserve.

    Solus Christus (Christ alone)

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