Person and Work of Christ Recap

Posted by on Jan 2, 2015 in Featured, Person and Work of Christ

Person and Work of Christ Recap

indexOver the month of December, we have posted many articles here at Servants of Grace as part of a series on the person and work of Christ. The purpose of this series is to help our readers this holiday season to think through the doctrine of the person and work of Christ.

This series has aimed to help you grow not only in your knowledge of Christ and His work, but also how this particular doctrine is under attack. To this end, our contributors have aimed to help you understand who Christ is, what He has done, and what He demands out of us today. As we conclude this series, I encourage you to check out these posts. Maybe you read one or more of them, or none of them. Either way, I pray that Christ will become more precious to you in 2015.

I hope this series has encouraged you, exalted in King Jesus, and has helped you grow in the grace of God.

Here are the articles in order:

1)      How can Jesus be God and man? Part 1 by Matt Perman

2)      How can Jesus be God and Man Part 2 by Matt Perman

3)      How can Jesus be God and Man Final by Matt Perman

4)      Three Critical Truths about Redemption by Brian Hedges

5)      Christ and His Session by Nate Palmer

6)      Christ’s Humanity is the Shape of our Salvation by Jonathan Tomes

7)      Three Critical Truths about the Incarnation by Dave Jenkins

8)      The Centrality of the Cross by Dave Jenkins

9)      Understanding the Gospel: Justification by Matt Perman

10)  What does the Bible Teach about the Incarnation? By Dave Jenkins

11)  How to deal with guilt, condemnation, and shame with the gospel by Dave Jenkins

12)  Humanity Participates in Divinity by Jonathan Tomes

13)  Six Things Christ Accomplished in His Death by Matt Perman

14)  Christ our Substitute by Dr. Thaddeus Williams

15)  The Meaning of the Cross by Dr. Thaddeus Williams

16)  Christ, Forgiveness, and the Cross by Dr. Thaddeus Williams

17)  What is the doctrine of justification? By Matt Perman

18)  Why Justification by Faith Alone is Necessary for Good Works by Matt Perman

19)  The Death of Christ on the Cross by Dave Jenkins

20)  Three Critical Truths about Propitiation by Chris Poblete

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Three Critical truths about propitiation

Posted by on Dec 26, 2014 in Featured, Person and Work of Christ

Three Critical truths about propitiation

The purpose of this series is to help our readers this holiday season to think through the doctrine of the person and work of Christ.


Where do we find this word?

The word propitiation is found in a few different books of the New Testament:

[Romans 3:23-26] for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed, to demonstrate at the present time His righteousness, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. (Greek word hilastērion)

[Hebrews 2:17] Therefore, in all things He had to be made like His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. (Greek word hilaskomai)

[1 John 2:2] And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world. (Greek word hilasmos)

[1 John 4:10] In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. (Greek word hilasmos)

(bold emphasis added)

What does it mean?

propitiation (n) prō-pi-shē-ā-shǝn- the act of gaining or regaining the favor of; in this case, a sacrifice that bears God’s wrath and turns it to favor.

Why does it matter?

Read that definition again, and it should be crystal clear why it matters! The meaning of propitiation packs a heavy punch, a punch that is key to our understanding of the gospel—the good news of Jesus Christ. In this simple word, we see both the need for God’s wrath to be appeased (since our God is a just God) and the need for an atoning sacrifice to be offered (since our God is a merciful God).

Propitiation and the gospel

When we hear or read the word propitiation, we ought to be reminded of the gospel:

Propitiation reminds us that God is just. Sin is the high offense against a holy God. All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. And because He is righteous, just, and good, God must not let sin go unpunished.

Propitiation reminds us that God initiates. Every single one us us is born dead in our sins (Ephesians 2) and without life. There is no one perfect. Because of this sinful nature, you and I cannot justify ourselves before God. We can try, but we will fall short, every one of us. God would still be a good God if He left us in this state, ushering each of us to suffer His righteous wrath. But instead, He provided a way out for us. He initiated by sending His only begotten Son, Jesus of Nazareth, as a propitiation for our sins.

Propitiation reminds us that God is loving and merciful. Jesus Christ, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords—the only perfect sacrificial Lamb—was a willing sacrifice. In order for us to spend an eternity with our Maker, God’s wrath needed to be satisfied by a propitiation. That propitiation is Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God.

“The wrath of God was satisfied”

Jesus did not merely deflect God’s wrath (like a helmet can deflect a baseball). Jesus absorbed it. All of it. For us.

This is the reason why, in that hymn In Christ Alone, we sing:

…on that cross as Jesus died
The wrath of God was satisfied –
For every sin on Him was laid;
Here in the death of Christ I live.

You see, to say that Jesus is a propitiation “by His blood” and “for our sins” is to say what kind of Savior He is to me—the kind of Savior that satisfies God’s wrath on a cross in my stead. And because this sweet Savior died and rose, you and I can have new life in Him. This is the gospel of God’s amazing grace to sinners.

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Christmas: A Time to Turn To God

Posted by on Dec 25, 2014 in Featured, Person and Work of Christ

Christmas: A Time to Turn To God

indexIt doesn’t make much sense to celebrate the coming of Christ into the world without acknowledging the very reason he came.

He came to earth to save us from our sins and give us eternal life. It would be a tragedy to enjoy the presents, food, time with family and friends, and everything else and miss out on the real point of it all.

So if you haven’t already, it makes sense to let Christmas be a time for turning to God.

It is very simple to do so. You just need to recognize that your greatest need in all the world is to know God — forever. Sin has cut us off from that, but we can receive forgiveness simply by looking to Christ.

It takes more than just intellectually knowing that Christ died and rose again. You need to actually trust in his death and resurrection as the payment for your sins and basis of your right standing with God. When you do so, you receive forgiveness and a new life.

Forgiveness is free, but you also need to know that it changes you. It is impossible to turn to Christ and to be content with continuing to live for yourself and for purposes that are at odds with his will. To turn to Christ means taking up your cross and following him. It means ceasing to live your own life and beginning to live for him.

This is the meaning of faith and repentance. It is the way to heaven.

Here is one of the best passages in all of the Bible on how we receive forgiveness of sins and new life in Christ:

If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.” For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him. For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

So if you haven’t already, this Christmas — right now — would be a good time to turn to God. He wants you to. Complete forgiveness and new life are available for everyone.


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The Death of Christ on the Cross

Posted by on Dec 24, 2014 in Featured, Person and Work of Christ

The Death of Christ on the Cross

The purpose of this series is to help our readers this holiday season to think through the doctrine of the person and work of Christ.


The death of Christ is a much debated often heated discussion in the Church today. Paul makes it clear in 1st Corinthians 15:3, “For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures.” Paul earlier in 1 Corinthians 15:2 states that Christians are those who, “hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain.”

With the growing tide of secularism, individualism, pluralism, relativism and the lies of religion seemingly pervading the day in today’s society; a clear explanation on the Cross is not only the need of the day, but it ought to be the message which Christians are proclaiming everywhere. This examination on the Cross will challenge every believer to put in practice what they profess in addition to challenging the non-Christian to see their sin, and come to the Savior who offers forgiveness for sin.

Biblical Evidence for Jesus Death

One of the greatest needs in the Church today is to understand what Jesus has done in dying for the sins of the world. In a world that celebrates ideas, philosophies and even makes these ideas and philosophies into religions; the only constant to history has been the Cross. After all, all of history revolves around the person and work of Jesus Christ since historians have divided one part of history B.C. or before Christ, and A.D. after Christ’s death into segments that divide history. In this section the discussion will focus on the holiness of God, God creating everything good, Sin results in death, Jesus is sinless, we are sinful, Jesus became our sin, and Jesus died for humanity.

The holiness of God

Many people today think God is evil either because of their experiences or because they have been taught this lie. The Bible teaches that God is holy, without sin and altogether good. The holiness of God is the most frequently mentioned attribute of God in Scripture (Lev 19:2, Isaiah 6:3; 1 John 1:5)

God created everything good

Everything the Lord created was originally good, including human beings who were made in his image and likeness (Genesis 1:31; Eccl 7:29).

Sin results in death

Sin is the greatest diseases known to man because it kills man leaving him apart from the God who created him. The Lord is the living God and the source of life. The Bible clearly teaches that man is physically alive but spiritually dead. (Genesis 2:16-17; Romans 6:23 Eph 2:1 Col 2:13)

Jesus is sinless

Jesus is greater than every prophet and teacher because He alone was sinless. He said this about Himself and the testimony of Scripture affirms this truth. (John 8:46 Hebrews 4:15 7:26 1st Peter 2:22)

We are sinful

People today would rather not view themselves as they are or they attempt to minimize the teaching of Christianity because of all of the talk of sin from Christians. The fact is one cannot deal with reality without understanding sin. Everyone is a sinner. People today may attempt to explain away sin, or to justify their sin. All attempts to do this fail because the facts are our sin includes our words, deeds, thought, and motives. Our sin includes omission (not doing what God commands) and commission (doing what God forbids), (Isaiah 64:6 Romans 3:23 1 John 1:8).

Jesus became our sin

The very fact that Jesus died as a substitute for man’s sin should be not shocking as today people worship sports, creation, cause and the list goes. This very fact shows that everyone has a “savior” mentality whereby they pursue what they want whenever they want. While everyone is pursuing righteousness unto themselves, Jesus died on the Cross as the sinless Lamb of God. In that moment Jesus took upon Himself all the sin ever committed throughout the history of the world and died in the place of sinners for their sin. Scripture declares that on the Cross Jesus exchanged His perfection for our imperfection, His obedience for our disobedience, His intimacy with God the Father for our distance from God the Father, His blessing for our cursing and His life for our death. Isaiah 53:6, “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned- every one-to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.” Furthermore, Scripture teaches, “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (Romans 5; 2 Corinthians 5:21)

Jesus died for us

The substitionary atonement of Christ means that His death was in our place solely for our benefit and without benefit for Himself. It means that Jesus took the penalty for our sins so we do not have to suffer the just penalty ourselves. The wrath of God that should have fallen on us and the death that our sins merit fell upon Jesus. Jesus did this willingly for us. Isaiah 53:5, “But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed. “ Isaiah 53:12, “Therefore I will divide him a portion with the many, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong, because he poured out his soul to death and was numbered with the transgressors; yet he bore the sin of many, and makes intercession for the transgressors. “ Romans 4:25,” who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification.“ Romans 5:8, “8but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.“ 1st Corinthians 15:3, “For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures” 1st Corinthians 3:18, “Let no one deceive himself. If anyone among you thinks that he is wise in this age, let him become a fool that he may become wise.“ 1st John 2:2, “He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.“ Galatians 3:13, “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written,” Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree.”

The sinless Jesus literally stood in our place to suffer and die for us. In doing so Jesus is a Savior who alone can take away the curse we deserve because of our sin. The Scriptures are clear that Jesus is the only Savior who died in our place, bearing our punishment, and taking away our sin (Isaiah 53:10).

On this point some will say well that isn’t like my god who is loving and just. Isaiah 53 clearly teaches though it was the will of the Lord to crush him; he has put him to grief. The Cross of Jesus most clearly shows the love of God for sinners. John 15:12-13, “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” The death on the Cross is where God’s love is most clearly seen in all his creation. John 3:16, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believe sin him should not perish but have eternal life. Romans 5:8, “But God shows his love for us in that while we are yet sinners, Christ died for us.” 1st John 4:9-10, “In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” The bloody death of Christ is all about His love.

Among the events of the Old Testament, is the Day of Atonement or Yom Kippur, according to the regulations of the Book of Leviticus. In the Jewish calendar the Day of Atonement was the most important day. It was a day intended to deal with the sin problem between humanity and God. Of the many prophetic elements on this special day, one stands out. On that day, two healthy goats were chosen; they were therefore fit to represent sinless perfection. The high priest would slaughter one gat, which acted as a substitute for the sinners who rightly deserved a bloody death for their sins. The high priest treated the first goat as a sin offering. He slaughtered the innocent goat and sprinkled some of its blood on the mercy seat on top of the ark of the covenant inside the Most Holy Place. But the goat is no longer innocent when it takes the guilt of our sin because it is a sin offering for the people (Leviticus 16:15). The blood represents life given as payment for sin. The result is that the welling place of God is cleansed from all of the transgression and sins of the people of Israel and God’s wrath is satisfied.

The slaughter of the goat on the day of Atonement represents propitiation. Propitiation means that God’s wrath was turned away or propitiated from sinners and diverted to Jesus Christ. This was made possible because Jesus himself died in our place as both our high priest and the Lamb of God to pay the penalty for our sins (Hebrews; John 1:29). The high priest, acting as the representative and mediator between the sinful people and a holy God, would take the second goat and lay his hands on the animal while confessing the sins of the people. This goat was called the scapegoat would then be sent away to run free into the wilderness, symbolically taking their sins with it. This is the doctrine of expiation, whereby our sin is expiated, or taken away so we are made clean.

The Bible uses a dozen words to speak of sin in terms of staining our soul, defiling us, and causing us to be filthy and unclean (Psalm 106:39; Proverbs 30:11-12; Mark 7:20). The effects of sin are seen everyday and can make one feel guilty. The scapegoat illustrates for us how Jesus takes away our sin so that we can become new people who live new lives. Scripture uses a variety of verbs such as cleanse, and purify to explain this aspect of Jesus work on the Cross (Lev 16:30; Jer. 33:8; Zech 13:1; 1 John 1:7-9; Titus 2:14; Hebrews 9:14). The Bible also frequently mentions people wearing white as a symbol that they have been cleansed from sin (2 Chron 5:12; Eccles. 9:8; Acts 1:10; Rev. 3:4-5; 6:11; 7:9-14; 15:6; 19:8).

How people view the Cross today

Much of what is said on the atonement today is not only wrong it is heresy. One person from the United Kingdom calls the substitionary death of Christ “cosmic child abuse” and other Pastors support this position which has sparked a debate on both sides of Atlantic regarding the substitionary atonement of Christ. The sad thing is that the liberal position on the atonement is no position only, “I feel that the Scripture says this” which is no way for any Christian, let alone a Pastor to explain the Scriptures which they have been charged with preaching (2 Timothy 4:2). The truth of 2nd Timothy 4 becomes clearer everyday as people turn to themselves, set themselves up as their own saviors, and set up their own religion of comfort rather than taking up the Cross, dying to self, and living a holy life. The gospel is the good news of what Jesus has done.

Throughout history many people have said a lot regarding Jesus Cross. Jean-Jacques Rousseau said: “If Socrates live and died like a philosopher, Jesus live and died like a god.” Gandi said, “His death on the Cross was a great example to the world, but that there was anything like a mysterious or miraculous virtue in it, my heart could not accept.” Mark Twain said, “Jesus died to save men- a small thing for an immortal to do- and didn’t save many, anyway. But if he had been damned for the race, that would have been an act of a size proper to a god, and would have saved the whole race. John Knox said, “To remember Jesus is to remember first of all his Cross.” Friedrich Nietzsche said, “Jesus died too soon. If he had lived to my age he would have repudiated his doctrine.” Puritan John Owen said, “There is no death of sin without the death of Christ.”


The lie of today’s individualism is that one can be a “savior” when the only Savior is Jesus Christ. Ultimately the lies of our culture come down to one thing- pride. Pride is the reason why Satan fell and why man today fails to worship, honor and give glory to God who alone is worthy of honor, glory, and praise. The religion of today says Jesus is only a teacher, prophet, or a good man. Jesus is the only Savior who provides the only means to deal with man’s sin in His death on the cross. Furthermore Jesus is the only One by His resurrection who can give people new life.

The only solution is for Christians is to not be ashamed of what Jesus did on the Cross but stand on the byways, highways and marketplaces of today’s culture and proclaim the gospel. People may call you all sorts of names; ridicule you for the name of Jesus, but what is better to receive an eternal reward or earthly praise? The kind of life Jesus called believers to is one of persecution, a life of taking up one’s Cross, living the Truth, despising heresy; calling for people everywhere to repent turn from sin and live for Him now (Matthew 5-7; Luke 6, John 15). The kind of life Jesus calls believers to live is centered upon Him and His Work. Believers are to live for the glory of the One who is glorious who alone is worthy to be praised. It is to Him that belongs all honor and glory. May you be found Christian bringing glory to Him who was faithful to save you from your sins and give you new life through His death, burial and resurrection.

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Why Justification by Faith Alone is Necessary for Good Works

Posted by on Dec 23, 2014 in Featured, Person and Work of Christ

Why Justification by Faith Alone is Necessary for Good Works

Editor’s Note:

The purpose of this series is to help our readers this holiday season to think through the doctrine of the person and work of Christ.


“Justification by faith alone frees me to love my neighbor disinterestedly, for his or her own sake, as my sister or brother, not as the calculated means to my own desired ends,” writes Timothy George of why the traditional Protestant doctrine of justification by faith alone encourages rather than discourages good works.[1]  The freedom to love “disinterestedly” does not, of course, mean that we should not seek joy in loving others, but (as the rest of the sentence shows) that we do not have to love our neighbors in order to meet our own needs.  Rather, we are free to love them without ulterior motives and simply for the sake of the joy we find in their welfare, to the glory of God.

In other words, if we had to love our neighbor in order to be justified, then we could not genuinely love our neighbor because we would not be free to love him for his own sake. Rather, we would have to “use” our neighbors as a means toward securing our own ultimate fulfillment (i.e., eternal salvation)—which would hardly be the love God calls forth from us in passages like Matthew 22:37-40.[2] But if we are justified apart from good works (such as loving our neighbor), then “we are free ‘to be Christ’s unto one another,’ to expend ourselves on behalf of one another, even as Christ also loved us and gave himself for us.”[3]  Consequently, the only way to truly obey God’s command to love our neighbor, ironically, is to realize that our obedience is not necessary in order to be justified.[4]

The traditional Protestant doctrine of justification seems, therefore, to safeguard genuine love among the people of God. And this is because, at its deepest level, the doctrine of justification is the foundation of our relationship to God. John Calvin expressed this well when he wrote that “unless you first of all grasp what your relationship to God is, and the nature of his judgment concerning you, you have neither a foundation on which to establish your salvation nor one on which to build piety toward God.”

It is a very serious matter, therefore, that many modern scholars argue that the Reformers have misunderstood the doctrine of justification at a fundamental level. If these modern scholars are right, then traditional Protestants have built their love for neighbor and relationship with God on a false foundation. But if these scholars are wrong, then their own work is serving to undermine and even destroy the foundation of genuine love for people and a secure relationship with God.

[1] Timothy George, Theology of the Reformers (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1988), 73. George is speaking primarily of Luther’s doctrine in the immediate context; however, because of the fundamental continuity on the doctrine of justification among Luther, the other Reformers, and traditional Protestantism up to the present day, his statement applies to and concerns the traditional Protestant doctrine as well.

[2] To use Dr. Daniel Fuller’s helpful terminology, love for our neighbor would come perilously close to taking the form of need love rather than benevolent love if loving our neighbor was in fact necessary to be justified (i.e., to have a right to eternal satisfaction in God).

[3] George, 73.

[4] This might partially explain why Paul thinks that understanding justification by faith alone spurs us on to good deeds. For example, after expounding justification by faith alone (along with some other doctrines) in Titus 3:1-7, he then writes, “concerning these things I want you to speak confidently, so that those who have believed God may be careful to engage in good deeds.”

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What is the Doctrine of Justification?

Posted by on Dec 22, 2014 in Featured, Person and Work of Christ

What is the Doctrine of Justification?

Editor’s Note:

The purpose of this series is to help our readers this holiday season to think through the doctrine of the person and work of Christ.


What is the Doctrine of Justification?

John Calvin, the great Reformer, spoke for many when he declared that justification is “the main hinge on which religion turns.” Why is it so important? Because “unless you first of all grasp what your relationship to God is, and the nature of his judgment concerning you, you have neither a foundation on which to establish your salvation nor one on which to build piety toward God.”[1]

Such an important doctrine demands to be understood. This is an attempt to explain the essence of what Protestantism has traditionally taken to be the essence of the biblical doctrine of justification. The goal here is not defend that this understanding is correct, but rather to clarify the traditional Protestant view so that it can be more readily compared to the many divergent views in circulation today.

Charles Hodge captured the essence of the Protestant view of the biblical teaching on justification when he wrote that justification is “a sentence of life pronounced upon righteousness.”[2] There are two aspects of this definition that need unfolding if it is to be understood.

A title to eternal life

First, in justification we are accepted by God into the blessing of eternal life. He pronounces us to be in possession of His blessing of eternal life and, by this pronouncement, causes us to be in actual possession of this blessing. We are, in other words, given a title to eternal life. Just as I received a title to my car when I purchased it which made me a possessor of the car with a right to access it, so also having a title to eternal life means possessing the right to live forever in God’s blessing with access to His presence. Justification is not the experience of the blessing of life, but is rather our right to have the experience of life. In the same way, the title to my car does not consist in my driving of my car, but is that which gives me the right to drive my car.

To use another analogy, just as a key gives access to a locked door, so also justification is the granting of access to eternal life. The difference is that a key just gives you the ability to open a door, whereas justification actually brings the possession of eternal life.

The basis of basis of our title to life

Second, there is a basis upon which this title to eternal life is given. We are given a right to eternal life in justification, but why does God give us that right? That is the question answered here. The basis of our eternal life is the reason that we have a title to that life; it is the reason that we possess it.

This might appear ambiguous at first. Take the example of a courtroom. If an innocent man is on trial for murder and the court acquits him upon discovering that his fingerprints do not match those on the murder weapon, we might say that the reason he was acquitted is the coming to light of this knowledge.

That is not what we mean by basis.

For in the deepest sense, that man was not set free because his prints were not on the gun. He was set free because He did not commit the crime. The prints are simply the evidence that he was innocent, not the reason he was innocent. The fact that He was innocent, then, is the basis of his being set free (i.e., being given the right to freedom). The existence of somebody else’s prints on the murder weapon is the evidence which revealed the fact that he was innocent. It is in this sense that we are using the terms “basis” and “evidence” concerning justification.

In the same way, then, the perfect alien (i.e., outside of us as opposed to inherent in us) righteousness of Christ is the sole basis of our right to eternal life. Faith is the sole means of receiving this righteousness. A “means” is different from a “basis.” The paycheck a worker receives is given on the basis of the work he did, not on the basis of his accepting that paycheck. The acceptance of the check is the means to receiving it; the 40 hours of work he is getting paid for is the basis of the paycheck.

The faith that justifies necessarily results in an obedient life, but that obedience is in no way the means or basis of our justification. Our good works, rather, are the evidence that we have true faith and thus the evidence that we possess the righteousness of Christ—but not the basis of our title to eternal life. Just as the lack of fingerprints on the gun did not make the man innocent but revealed his innocence, so neither do our good works make us right with God but, rather, reveal that we are right with God.

Finally, a difference between the courtroom analogy and our justification should be mentioned. In the courtroom analogy, the basis of the man’s acquittal was his innocence. Our right to eternal life, however, is not based simply upon the removal of our sins in Christ but also on the positive obedience (righteousness) of Christ reckoned to our account. In justification, to use an analogy from the life of Joseph, we are not simply set free from prison, but are made rulers of Egypt. Innocence by itself would set us free from hell, but would not secure for us a title to heavenly and eternal glory. That is based upon the positive righteousness of Christ.

Concerning terms

To summarize in the words of John Calvin, a man “is said to be justified in God’s sight who is both reckoned righteous in God’s judgment and has been accepted on account of his righteousness.”[3] Justification is the reckoning of righteousness to our account and the consequent right to all the blessings that belong to perfect righteousness.

It may be disputed whether the Bible calls this “justification.” While I think it does, my greatest concern is not over the label given to the reality described above. My chief concern is that the reality itself be affirmed, whatever it is called.

For those who hold to views of justification different from that described above the question which needs to be raised is this: Are you denying that God gives us a title to eternal life on the basis (in the sense described above) of the righteousness of Christ alone, or are you simply saying that the term justification is not the best way to describe this reality? Are you using simply “justification” to refer to both the reality described above as well as our inner transformation, or are you saying that our title to eternal life is, in part, based upon (in the sense described above) the transformation that God works in us?

In a nutshell, do you affirm that our right to eternal life is based (in the sense described above) upon the alien righteousness of Christ alone received through faith alone and not at all on the moral transformation that God works in us?


1. John Calvin, Institutes, III, XI, 2.

2. Charles Hodge, Justification by Faith Alone, (Hobbs, NM: The Trinity Foundation, 1995), p. 27.

3. John Calvin, Institutes, III, XI, 2.

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