"Man as restored - His Justification"

Vaclav's picture

H.C.G.Moule in ‘OUTLINES OF CHRISTIAN DOCTRINE ‘ch.8 The Doctrine of man; sub ch. 3. Man as restored

(1) His justification. The word "justify" is frequent in Scripture, not only in doctrinal connexions (see, e.g., Exod. xxiii. 7; Deut. xxv. 1; Prov. xvii. 15). The great passages for its doctrinal application are the first half of the Epistle to the Romans, part of the Epistle to the Galatians, and Jas ii. 14-26. It is clear everywhere that the essence of the idea is judicial acceptance; not pardon merely, but a verdict of the law’s contentment with the person. The quality of such contentment will vary with that of the law. Human law, speaking broadly, demands a minimum; abstinence from positive and exterior disobedience. And its acquittal accordingly avouches this and no more. Divine spiritual law demands in its nature a maximum; supreme love of God and unselfish love of men. And so its "justi- fication" avouches that the person examined contents it in these respects. But how can this actually be, when "in the sight of God no man living shall be justified" (Psal. cxliii. 2) on his own merits? Here comes in the mystery and fact of the application of the merits of Christ (see above, p. 81), the substituted Victim, valid Representative, and Covenant-Head, of "all who come to God by Him" (Heb. vii. 25). The great justification-argument of the Roman Epistle is in effect this: that such is Jesus Christ, the sacrificed Son of God, and such is the relation, to believing sinners, of the propitiation He wrought in death, that they for His sake, being personally guilty and de-meritorious, are accepted with unreserved contentment by the eternal law as its fulfillers. That this amazing but holy paradox is meant is shown by the fact that the truth did from the first suggest the perversion (meaningless, without a real counterpart in the thing perverted) that it favored moral license (Rom. iii. 8, vi. 1). And the Apostle meets this, not by modifying the paradox, but by placing it unmodified (ch. vi.) in organic connexion with the other truth of concurrent spiritual life. Pauline justification, isolated for study, is the acceptance of the sinful person, believing, irrespective, (in this isolation) of any consideration whatever but the sacrifice of Jesus Christ accepted by faith.

This grandly simple and heart-moving view of justification has been impugned from many quarters. Thus, it has been held that by "the works of the law," or more simply by "works," is meant, not personal morality of practice, but either Judaist observances or morality practised in the definitely Pharisaic spirit. But that the phrase goes far deeper is plain from Rom. iii. 19, 20 with the previous context. There "the works of the law" are defined by their contraries, enumerated vv. 9-18. And it thus appears that these "works of the law" are-seeking after God, fearing God, doing good, right use of the tongue, reverence for human life, and the like. The practical issue of the argument is, that the eternal standard in such things is such that personal obedience on the part of fallen man always and fatally falls short, by whatever intervals. And the eternal law, in its nature, knows no compromise; so that acceptance before it, in a saving sense, is hopeless for man on his merits, even if his merits are only a part of his plea. And the deep need is met, not partially, but wholly, by the sacrifice of Christ, by Christ the Propitiation, appropriated as such by faith.

Again, the simplicity and depth of the truth have been weakened by disturbing the simplicity of the idea of faith. To has been held that faith is a short expression for true Christianity; faith, or credence, along with its assumed results of obedience and piety. This was the view, in essence, of Bishop Bull, cent. xvii. And most other theories impugning the view above given as the Pauline view, run up ultimately into this. But a full study of the word "faith" in Scripture, and in common human speech, will, we think, be conclusive the other way. Particularly, our Lord’s use of it (e.g. Matt. vi. 30, viii. 10) gives it an essential connexion with the idea of personal reliance. Such reliance, by the nature of the case, assumes an underlying credence of, or assent to, expressed or implicit statements. But its vital characteristic is an act of accepting reliance, not on immediate evidences but in immediate trust. The woman of Canaan shows her faith by invincible trust in Jesus against all appearances.

St. James’ words (ii. 14-26) are undoubtedly a grave problem on the other side. But we believe the solution lies in the fact that by "faith" St. James means orthodox credence (ii. 19), not personal reliance; and that in this meaning he does not give his own view of faith, but takes his opponents on their own ground. One thing is practically certain, that St. James is cautioning his leaders, not against ultra-Paulinism, but against Rabbinism, with its tenet that the Orthodox Jewish "confession of faith" (Deut. vi. 4) was a passport to life eternal.

The large scale, of revelation on this subject in the Pauline Epistles warns us that, while both Apostles convey infallible truth, the bearing of St. James’ words should be inferred from St. Paul’s, rather than the other way.

Again, it has been held that while the simplest doctrine of Justification by Faith applies to the Christian’s first entrance on the new life, a more complex doctrine applies to the sequel. The man is welcomed in for the mere sake of Christ the Propitiation. He is allowed to remain, he is held in acceptance, because, of his regenerate obedience, or because of it concurrently with the first ground. The deepest answer to this, apart from explicit Scripture, lies, we think, in the inmost consciousness of all true believers, of many varying types of thought, when brought at any moment of their course face to face with the Eternal Holiness. At such moments of intuition it is seen, or rather felt and known, that something "not ourselves," absolute and perfect, availing in the legal sphere, must stand between the man and the "fiery law." Psal. cxliii. 2, for the true Christian as for the true Israelite, alone expresses the soul’s conviction then. From this, point of view there is no room for a "first and second justification;" the first by faith in the Propitiation only, the second on the ground of our obedience too. "I know whom I have believed" (2 Tim. i. 12) is a word as fit for the latest as for the earliest conviction of the saint. See too, by all means, Phil. iii. 9, with its whole context.

The words of the dying Hooker are in point: "Though I have, by His grace, loved Him in my youth, and feared Him in my age, and laboured to have a conscience void of offense… yet if Thou, O Lord, be extreme to mark what is done amiss, who can abide it? And therefore, where I have failed, Lord, show mercy to me; for I plead not my righteousness, but the forgiveness of my unrighteousness, for His merits who died to purchase pardon for penitent sinners." [20]

Nothing is more essential to a full view and humble enjoyment of our salvation than a reverent hold on the divine paradox of Justification by Faith, as (speaking broadly) that paradox was brought into the foreground of Christian thought by Luther, and as it will be found in our Eleventh Article, illustrated (as the Article directs) by the "Homily of Justification," i.e., the third Homily of the First Book. See, too, Hooker’s great sermon On Justification. That paradox is only the correlative of the glorious fundamental of the Gospel, "Christ is all." In the full view of what Scripture says of His all-precious Sacrifice, it will be less a tenet than an instinct to remit the whole weight of our acceptance to Him as our Propitiation, and to recognize faith, that is, a trustful acceptance, as deep as it is absolutely simple, as that which on our side puts us into contact with the Propitiator. Not our sufferings or sacrifices unite us savingly with His, for our acceptance. He is all, and we sinners accept Him as He is.

A few words may come in here on the Imputed Righteousness of Christ. This phrase, once widely accepted, and not least by such Anglicans as Andrewes and Beveridge (cent. xvii.), is now much disputed, and even repudiated. But it rests securely upon Rom iv. 6, with its context. There has been a tendency to over-refinement upon it; a too elaborate distinction between our Lord’s active keeping of the moral law and His awful suffering beneath the penalty of our sins; the one considered as supplying our defects, the other as meeting our violations. But this is not the essential view of the phrase; and we see this all the more as we remember (above, p. 83) the profound connexion between the obedience of our Lord’s life and the merit of His Passion. The essential of the phrase is just this, that the Son of God, as the supremely meritorious One, as infinitely satisfactory to law, is, before the law, and for the purposes of law, accepted, reckoned as the believing sinner’s substitute. The man, incorporated in Him, is counted, reputed, as involved in His whole merit, as the Lord was counted, reputed, as involved in the man’s sin. His merit is thus imputed, that is to say, set down, to the man.

Alike for his defects and his violitions,-which intimately run up into one idea of anomia (1 Joh. iii. 4), i.e., non-correspondence to the holy law,-the man involves himself, or rather consents that he should be involved, in that perfect merit. As thus involved, he stands accepted. His ground of justification and peace is not only not his own "works," but not even (as some hold) the presence of Christ in him, taken along with its eternal development in prospect. It is Christ for him, in the quite different region of merit, of law.

We do not repeat here what we have said above (p. 132), on the connexion of this sacred paradox of free justification with our Union with Christ. But the subject is all-important, and calls for the devout attention of the Christian. To the last, the ultimate rationale of the Atonement of our Lord, and so of our acceptance through faith on its account, "goes off into mystery." But within the circle of light and revelation on the subject lies the fact that the effectual application of the Atonement is for the living members of the living Head of the mystical Body, one with their Lord in an unspeakable reality of conjunction; and that it is faith, the acceptance of Christ for salvation by the awakened soul, which from our side is the nexus of that union. Faith is ipso facto entrance into Christ. And in Christ, the Propitiation, resides perfect merit for acceptance before God, for all that are "found in Him" (Phil. iii. 9).

Meanwhile it is abundantly revealed that the justified man, while decisively and continuously accepted before God from this point of view, is, from other points of view, under paternal discipline, liable to paternal displeasure and correction (see, among the wealth of references, 1 Cor. xi. 29-32; Heb. xii. 5-11; and cp. Deut. viii. 5; Psal. xciv. 12). And not only so, but (p. 44) the justified man, if he is not only to stand accepted before God, but to enjoy the bliss of the fact, must, as a spiritual condition, "walk humbly with his God," in regenerate obedience. The act, and yet more the habit, of admitted and willing sin is fatal to personal assurance in that sense.


My comments on 'Man as restored - His Justification'

The Doctor's picture

The definition of 'propitiation' is 'Satisfying the righteousness of a holy God, thereby making it possible for Him to show mercy righteously.' or 'that 'satisfaction' or 'appeasement' by which it becomes consistent with His character and government to pardon and bless sinners.' Therefore, man is restored to fellowship with God by the simple fact that Jesus died, shed His blood and through faith, we have been pardoned, much like the thief on the cross of in Luke 23:39-43. This man was born in sin, his mother conceived him in sin and he lived his life in darkness, but the simple faith he showed when he said in verse 42 '"Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.', he was instantly restored....not by his own merits, but through simple faith. The thief’s life was exchanged for Christ’s life. He did not have to come down and change his life, do well, follow the law or pray. He only had to 'believe God...' and then this was '...appointed unto him for righteousness.' as Galatians 3:6 would say. Vaclav, like you said 'Faith is ipso facto entrance into Christ. And in Christ, the Propitiation, resides perfect merit for acceptance before God, for all that are "found in Him" (Phil. iii. 9).

We are the thief on the cross and by our simple act of faith; we have 'perfect merit for acceptance before God'. Why do we suppose that we have to be better men and women and change our life or situation, in order to be justified man is not only to stand accepted before God, but to enjoy the bliss of the fact, must be a spiritual condition, as we should walk humbly before our God. How many believers in the Lord Jesus have believed that until we have changed ourselves and made our lives better, then we can come to Jesus? ALL of us? Jesus wants us to come to Him as we are. I was listening to a sermon by Pastor Leon Fontaine and he summed it up in this. "We can all come to Him in all our messed up lives, our disasters...come just as we are." We don't need to change ourselves to be accepted in the beloved (Eph 1.6). Just come to Him...plead not my righteousness, but the forgiveness of my unrighteousness, for His merits who died to purchase pardon for penitent sinners.

You are right...."Christ is all."