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Home arrow 50 Yrs Among The Baptists arrow Justification and Kindred Subjects: Chapter 8
Justification and Kindred Subjects: Chapter 8 PDF Print E-mail
Written by J.H. Oliphant   

"Who shall lay anything to the charge of God’s elect?" "It is God that justifieth."-Rom. viii. 33. This triumphant language shows that there is no court nor being who can bring any just charge against the elect. "Who shall lay anything?" What person or power can accuse those whom God has justified? There is no court or power above God, and hence none that can reverse his decision.

In God’s act of justifying, he declares that we are parallel with law, EQUAL TO LAW. The law is his rule by which he measures us, and he finds us what the law requires us to be. Justification is a term that has respect to law, and so "righteousness" is a term that respects law, and is the foundation of justification. Now, if justification be real and true, if God does absolutely justify us, then the doctrine of "imputed righteousness" is true, for it is certain that we do not have a righteousness that is equal to law, and in the act of justifying us God does not respect our righteousness as a ground or cause. Rom. iv. 5, "But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness." Here God is said to justify "the ungodly." The persons justified are called "ungodly" in the act of justifying; they are regarded as possessing no good quality or trait, but are esteemed as ungodly. This ungodliness is not mentioned to convey the idea that God found some just ground or cause in us why he should so justify us, but to remind us that he did not find a cause in us why he should do so.

I think the words in Rom. iii. 26, "To declare his righteousness, that he might be just and the justifier of him that believeth in Jesus," point out plainly the TRUE and ONLY ground upon which a true and just God can justify the "UNGODLY." Here is a bold statement of the doctrine of imputed righteousness, and if our justification is founded on the merits of Christ, or if it is in view of his righteousness as imputed to us, then we see how the "UNGODLY" can be justified. I will not now appeal to the experience of God’s children, but I feel assured that the people of God are conscious that they need a system wherein the "UNGODLY" are justified. The words "Now to him that worketh not" have been explained to mean, "Him that does not keep the ceremonial law." This cannot be the design of the words, for "him that worketh not" and the "ungodly" are the same, and so the person justified is esteemed as "ungodly." To be ungodly is to be destitute of godliness, and so we have it clear that in this act of justification we are not considered as good and worthy.

The expression, "Worketh not, but believeth," shows that our justification is not of works. It is not the result of a series of works, or a round of duties. This does not put man in the attitude of deserving, as having earned or deserved justification, but as being utterly unworthy of it, unless we should regard his believing as in some sense being the cause of his justification. Some have urged that faith is a condition of salvation, which we will consider hereafter. It is certain that works of all kinds are excluded from the matter of justification. The expression, "His faith is counted to him for righteousness," is evidence that we were regarded as unrighteous, and that our works do not enter into the matter as in any way forming the cause of our acceptance.

It is urged that we are "justified by faith" in the sense that faith is a TERM or CONDITION on which our salvation depends. "A man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law." ---Rom. iii. 28. Also Rom. v. 1, "Being justified by faith." I want first to assign some reasons why faith can not be the ground, or condition, on which justification is based; and then I will try to point out what is intended by those texts in which we are said to be "justified by faith."

Many places speak of "little faith," "O ye of little faith," "Lord, help my unbelief." "Increase our faith," and such texts. Now, if faith is to be understood as the condition or cause of our justification, then justification would necessarily be in different degrees, one man would be just, and another more just, according to the degree of faith, and none could be perfectly justified, seeing that none have perfect faith, for "now we see through a glass darkly." So our justification would have an imperfect cause, or foundation, whereas I think it is admitted on all hands that justification admits of no degrees. As to sanctification, we may say one man is sanctified, and another more sanctified, etc., but not so of justification. If a man be justified, he can not be more so.

Faith cannot be the cause, or condition, of justification, because this is ascribed to the righteousness of Christ, in many places. Rom. i. 17 he says, " The righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith." Here we have a righteousness sufficient to justify, separate and apart from faith, that exists independent of faith, because it is revealed TO faith. See also 1st Corinthians i. 30, "Who of God is made unto us wisdom, righteousness," etc. Here is a righteousness revealed, and it is a perfect righteousness, and capable of a justification real and true, perfect, and eternal. "And their righteousness is of me, saith the Lord." So the righteousness of God’s people is of God, Christ is their righteousness; hence it is not the office of faith to produce it. It exists aside from, and independent of faith.

Believing cannot be the CONDITION of justification, because it is not a matter in which we can act voluntarily. That is, men cannot believe as they choose about things. It is absurd to talk of men believing or not believing as they choose, but if we hold faith to be a condition of salvation, then we must needs hold that men can do as they like about believing, which is absurd. Besides, the believing of any truth is in no sense the cause of that truth. To believe in God, or to have faith in him, is to trust in him. This I suppose none will deny. When we trust in anything, even of a temporal nature, we do not suppose our trusting to give any strength or additional value to that in which we trust. Our trusting is produced by a discovery of something to trust in. We trust in Jesus when we have evidence that he is our Saviour. There is no proposition in the natural or spiritual world, which is in any sense made true by believing it.

Faith is a gift from God; it is not a mere voluntary act of man, as produced by him, but it is to be understood as one of the blessings provided for us by God, and hence it would be incorrect to call it a CONDITION of salvation. 1st Corinthians xii. 8. "To one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; *** to another, faith by the same Spirit." Gal. v. 22 We find faith to be a fruit of the Spirit. And fruit is only found where the plant is that produces it, so that men without the Spirit are without faith, and without faith it is impossible to please God. Hence, a man without faith is utterly incapable of pleasing God, but if he has the Spirit, he is already a son of God, for as many "as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God." So that if men do not have faith until they have the Spirit of God, it is too late for faith to fill the place of a CONDITION of salvation. "Unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake." "The eyes of your understanding being enlightened, that you may know what is the hope of his calling," etc. These places certainly show that faith is the effect, in some way, of a cause outside of man, and if it were an effect, it would be utterly improper to call it a condition of justification.

In Eph. i. 19 we are said to "believe according to the working of his mighty power which he wrought in Christ when he raised him up from the dead." No language could more plainly state the sentiment for which I here contend than the above. Faith is certainly the effect of a cause outside of man, and hence is not the condition of salvation.

"Faith worketh by love," and so we will invariably find faith and love associated together, and a score of texts might be cited showing that "He that loveth is born of God;" "We know that we have passed from death unto life because we love the brethren."

As to what is meant by those texts that speak of our being "justified by faith," we have seen that faith is to be regarded as a gift, and hence it is something to be thankful for, "for which our praise is due." Paul says many times over, "The just shall live by faith," Gal. iii. 11, Rom. i. 17, Heb. x. 38, and also Heb. ii. 4. I should think that in these places faith, as an instrument in the way of prevention, appropriates the blessings in God’s word and promises to our growth and strength. It receives and applies the finished righteousness of Christ, in a way to quiet our fears and to silence the accusations of conscience. The inner man receives his food by faith. The food is not produced by faith, but he receives it by faith. Paul speaks of some whom the word did not profit, "not being mixed with faith in them that heard it." The truth that we are the redeemed of God, and heirs of God, is not produced or made by faith, but these things are understood and enjoyed by faith, and in some sense we are justified in the court of conscience by faith, for conscience will accuse and condemn us until faith applies the atonement of Christ, which brings peace with God, that is, we realize in our hearts a peace. Nothing satisfies our conscience but that which satisfies law and justice, and the atonement and finished righteousness of Christ satisfies law and removes every claim against us, and when faith understands and applies this truth; peace and contentment ensue in the conscience. "Being justified by faith, we have peace with God."

But I feel sure that "faith" in Scriptures sometimes denotes that which faith embraces, that is, that the Bible attributes, in some explained sense, that to faith which is intended for Christ. A man, who believes in justification by works, pleads his works and expects justification for his works, while faith holds up Christ in all his offices to the law and says, "Here is my plea." Faith does not plead itself as a condition, but it holds up and presents Christ. In this way it shelters in Christ and hides in him from the storm of fury due sin, whereas the scheme which makes faith a "term" or condition of salvation would present faith as the ground of acceptance, but the man of faith does not plead his own works, nor yet his own faith, as the ground of his justification, but Christ alone. "Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them, because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world." Our victory is here ascribed to Jesus. "And this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith." The victory is here ascribed to faith because faith presents Christ, trusts in him, looks to him and depends on him. So the law finds the man of faith depending on Christ, and Christ is attributed to faith, and hence "it is counted to him for righteousness," and well may it be, because it pleads nothing but Christ who is our righteousness, and he is a full and sufficient righteousness. Paul asks, "Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid. Yea, we establish the law." A common charge against us, is, that our system makes null the law, because it does not offer works to the law. But here Paul holds that we, of all men, most honor the law. We "establish the law," because by faith we present Christ to the law. We hope in Christ to be delivered from the claims of law. This honors and establishes the law because it does not make an imperfect offering to the law; it presents the pure and spotless righteousness of Christ to a pure and holy law, and in this way it honors the law, whereas they who talk of our works and obedience as the ground, in any degree, of our acceptance, dishonor the law by putting it off with an imperfect offering, for our works at best are imperfect, and so he that talks of FAITH as the ground of our acceptance also dishonors the law, because our faith at best is but a dim understanding of Christ. The design here is, that the system of faith is one that presents to the law all that the law can demand, a perfect righteousness, while the opposite scheme talks much of obedience on our own part, in which the law is put off and thought to be satisfied with the filthy rags of human obedience. Paul says, "Therefore it is of faith, that is might be by grace to the end the promise might be sure to all the seed." Rom. iv. 16. "It is of faith that is might be by grace." If we are to regard faith as a condition of our salvation, it would not be sure, for whatever is conditional is uncertain and not sure, and Paul here shows plainly that faith is not a condition to be performed on our part in order to salvation, for in such a case our salvation would be as uncertain as if it depended on any other thing to be done by us. Besides, it would not be of grace, if we are to hold faith as the price of justification. "It is of faith" denotes that what faith apprehends is the atonement of Christ, which is certain in its results, and a sure ground of our acceptance and final salvation.

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