Saturday, November 29, 2008

Does faith create justification?

I was asked that question almost a year ago. It is fair question. I could even add a corollary question - is there a righteousness that is independent of my faith?

To the question: Does faith create justification?
My answer: No.

Is there a righteousness that is independent of my faith that is out there?
My answer: Yes.

However, to explain why my answers are such, I can not deal with these two questions separately but I must explain in such a way that the two questions are answered simultaneously; when we consider the question in the light of Christ and His Cross, the questions are simultaneously answered.

Firstly, our story or oops, his story: Jesus Christ, the Son of God lived a perfect sinless life and gave himself as a ransom for the sins of the world. The nature of this Christ is that he is the Just One and The Righteous One, the One that can stand before the Father - perfect, he is the Justified One.

Faith simply grabs a hold of what is already there - it grabs a hold of the Christ - the Righteous One who paid the sins of the sinner. This is to me why faith justifies, it justifies because it is grabbing a hold of the Justified One, the Righteous One. That is why faith is reckoned as righteousness because it is grabbing a hold of the Righteous One.

That is why, to the question - does faith create justification? My answer is NO. It receives what is already there - the Justified One/ Christ our Righteousness.

That is why also, to the question - is there a righteousness that is outside me that is independent of my faith - I answer with a YES, Jesus Christ our Lord is that ever Righteous One. He stands ever outside me that is why I (we) can use him in front of the Law of God that condemns me(us). The question is not because faith receives, for faith can receive anything, rather, the question is what does it receive? Faith lays hold of the Righteous One as his righteousness.

Do you see any discussion of UOJ there in that explanation? I certainly don't and I suggest neither do the BoC editors need such construction to assure us of God's forgiveness of our sins.

First from the BoC, AP IV, 291-2
The Gospel shows another way. It compels us to use Christ in our justification. It teaches that through him we have access to God through faith and that we should set him, the mediator and propitiator, against the wrath of God. It teaches that by faith in Christ we received the forgiveness of sins, reconciliation, and victory over the terrors of sin and death.
Faith alone accepts the forgiveness of sins, justifies, and regenerates...As we have already stated, we teach a man is justified when, with his conscience terrified by the preaching of penitence, he takes heart and believes that he has a gracious God for Christ's sake. This faith is accounted for righteousness before God (Rom 4:3-5)

See also SD III, 13.

Let me further quote Jacob Heerbrand (in R. Preus' Justification and Rome)

....We are not justified by faith insofar as it is a quality in us, as again the enemies of God's grace, the Neo-Pelagians, falsely accuse us of teaching, namely, that the unrighteous are justified when they have a certain idea (or rather dream) that they are righteous. No, we are justified by faith in so far as it apprehends Christ who for us was made righteousness by God, sanctification and redemption, and insofar as faith is concerned applies Christ's merit to itself.

I highlighted some portion above in that quote because I found that comment interesting and perhaps worthy of reflection.

How about Abraham Calov, Apodixis Articulorum Fidei (again in R. Preus' Justification and Rome)?

Although Christ has acquired for us the remission of sins, justification, and sonship, God just the same does not justify us prior to our faith. Nor do we become God's children in Christ in such a way that justification in the mind of God takes place before we believe.


Anonymous said...


I'm with you.

We are justified apart from our faith.

Faith is the mechanism that God employs for us to believe that we are justified.

"Who is the gospel for? Those who hear it."

Why do some believe it and some don't? Who knows?! God knows!
(and He ain't talking)

The whole idea of 'election' just rankles people. We just have to resolve every tension and have things work out according to our generous reason. God will have none of that.

He is God, after all, and what He says, goes. And that is pretty much it.

LPC said...


My reading is that there is the Just One that stands outside me and I am justified only when my faith grabs a hold of what that Just One did - paid for my sins.

He is the sacrifice, and he is blameless, hence he is the innocent one who died in my place. God imputes his guiltless life into me as the HS delivers the Law/Gospel

Faith simply appropriates the Just One and faith too is a gift of God created by the Gospel - created by means of grace.


Anonymous said...


I see. I think we differ then, in our understanding of the scriptures.

I believe that all your sin is forgiven and you therefore you are justified. You have His imputed righteousness.

Now, that said and done... ("It is finished.") you believe it?

If not, then that justification does you no good whatsoever.You have, in a sense, rejected that justification...but that doesn't make your justification any less true.

If you believe it, by faith, then you've got it.

If a man sitting in a jail cell is suddenly pardoned and the jail cell door is opened and he is free to go, but out of fear or he just doesn't believe it, he decides to stay in the cell. His pardon is still true and good, even though he doesn't believe it.

Maybe that isn't the best analogy, but do you see my point?

LPC said...


There seem to be a slight difference on the use of the word justification and how one is justified.

Also I am being accutely precise in my use of atonement/reconciliation vs justification. The two are not the same.

I consider them distinct but related, yet different categories of how God deals with us.

Have a look again at the quotes I provided in the above and tell me if you think they are Biblically sound.

UOJ says that at the cross God declared the whole world as righteous, innocent of the charges of his Law.

So UOJ teaches that believe in the fact that you are already justified and so you are - you get what you believe.

Rather I see that at the Cross, Jesus paying for the debt I owe. This is precise language - Christ died for sinners of whom I am the chief.

The Law says I am guilty but the Gospel says my guilt has been paid for by Christ. At the point of faith this is what I am conscious off, and not of my justification. Yet The Bible says I am justified through faith in that Atonement because that faith is grabbing a hold of the Righteous One. It is a gift because it receives the merits and person of the Righteous One.

Jesus is our all - our righteousness and sanctification.

I get the point of the analogy but I am bound to modify it.

The man in jail is not suddenly pardoned and declared forgiven. Rather the man is told that Joe Bloggs is taking over the time he needs to spend in jail - he will take the punishment and suffer for him. Mr. Bloggs is voluntering to be incarcerated on his place.

The man is told the reason the jail door is being opened and him being released is because of Joe Bloggs's transaction with the Judge.

Have a look at what Luther said in the LC...
But all the points which follow in order in this article serve no other end than to explain and express this redemption, how and whereby it was accomplished, that is, how much it cost Him, and what He spent and risked that He might win us and bring us under His dominion, namely, that He became man, conceived and born without [any stain of] sin, of the Holy Ghost and of the Virgin Mary, that He might overcome sin; moreover, that He suffered, died and was buried, that He might make satisfaction for me and pay what I owe, not with silver nor gold, but with His own precious blood. And all this, in order to become my Lord; for He did none of these for Himself, nor had He any need of it. And after that He rose again from the dead, swallowed up and devoured death, and finally ascended into heaven and assumed the government at the Father's right hand, so that the devil and all powers must be subject to Him and lie at His feet, until finally, at the last day, He will completely part and separate us from the wicked world, the devil, death, sin, etc.

38] For neither you nor I could ever know anything of Christ, or believe on Him, and obtain Him for our Lord, unless it were offered to us and granted to our hearts by the Holy Ghost through the preaching of the Gospel. The work is done and accomplished; for Christ has acquired and gained the treasure for us by His suffering, death, resurrection, etc. But if the work remained concealed so that no one knew of it, then it would be in vain and lost. That this treasure, therefore, might not lie buried, but be appropriated and enjoyed, God has caused the Word to go forth and be proclaimed, in which He gives the Holy Ghost to bring this treasure home and appropriate it to us. 39] Therefore sanctifying is nothing else than bringing us to Christ to receive this good, to which we could not attain of ourselves.


Anonymous said...

"The man in jail is not suddenly pardoned and declared forgiven. Rather the man is told that Joe Bloggs is taking over the time he needs to spend in jail - he will take the punishment and suffer for him. Mr. Bloggs is voluntering to be incarcerated on his place.

The man is told the reason the jail door is being opened and him being released is because of Joe Bloggs's transaction with the Judge."

OK. That is correct. But if the man still does not believe all of that, he is still free to go, Joe Bloggs doesn't change his mind because the man refuses to leave the cell...or does he?

The Holy Spirit opens hearts and minds to hear (really hear it) the gospel.

But that in no way diminishes the justification that was accomplished for all and declared as such.

Sometimes I am a bit slower when it comes to this stuff than the average please be patient with me. Maybe there is another way you could frame it?

Thanks L.P.C.!

- Steve

LPC said...


Indeed, the man may still refuse to leave the jail house, but that does not negate the fact that a transaction has been made by Bloggs to the Judge.

The HS is still bringing that message of peace to people.

However, forgiveness and justification are not equivalent terms. Forgivenss is when God imputes our sins to Christ as in Joe Bloggs and the man in jail.

What do you think the Judge would do to the man who refuses to leave the jail?

Would not the Judge say this man is silly or wicked because his pride is keeping him away from the benefit of which Bloggs earned?

Would not the Judge says, serves you right for your lofty pride - go rot in jail?

I can tell then that the Judge would not call that blaspheming man righteous. AT a minimum the Judge will call that man a fool, correct? That man is confirmed in his un-righteousness because he refuses to believe the payment.

Thanks SM.


Brent Gordon said...

Good points Gentleman,
I think on a topic like this one might get a little too "Calvinistic" about the matter. In such a course, the focus isn't trying to determine when and how the "Angels got on the head of a pin".. the point that I think has been made and is first , is that Christ has taken this all onto himself at his good pleasure for people who don't deserve it. Paul says that the power of Salvation is the plain telling of that news. The Holy Spirit then leads the elect to believe it. How and "what if " scenarios are not profitable in that landing on a conclusion that satisfies reason is kind of 'bird watching', interesting but.......
Lift high the cross of Christ in spite of man's "free will"... Christ, in the power of his Word and sacraments, will draw sinners to himself to be reconciled back to God.
Good site!
Thanks for sharing,

LPC said...


It is really the story of God's rescue operation.

As you said - I am firmly convinced that the story (the Gospel) itself is the power of God to save.

We just need to be mindful of the right story.


Anonymous said...

I am with you guys, Tickmann, and L.P.C..

God is in charge. He does the saving of man who is already condemned.

When man refuses to leave the cell, it is his own darn fault, but when he does leave the cell, all glory and honor go to God and Him alone.

Forgiveness without justification. Let me think on that a bit.

Anonymous said...

I see it. But I pray that it happens as infrequently as God deems.

I pray that His Spirit will usher them out of those opened cell doors.

LPC said...



The kindness of God leads people to repentance.


Anonymous said...


"The kindness of God leads people to repentance."

And another Amen from me!

God's elect are brought out of the foolishness not by their own decision, or wisdom, or even faith...but by God.