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More Thoughts on Justification

Selected Comments from the “Justification” panel discussion today at the Together for the Gospel conference:
We can get a problem when we use terms from the Bible as jargon:
We say “saved” “salvation”, but the Bible uses every tense (past, present, future) of the Greek word, so salvation applies to all of redemption from justification to santification to glorification, but we often confusingly use the word salvation when we mean justification.
We are getting into trouble because evangelicals are starting to use the word justification the way the Romans use it. (Sproul)
Evangelicalism today is largely antinomian in its morality, and people are trying to redress the problem by redoing the doctrine of justification, as if the doctrine is the cause of our current low morality (which it is not).
The biggest issue for most churches is easy-believism, where decisional evangelism gives you a false promise and a false assurance, where justification is assumed.
If the average evangelical pastor would be held captive by terrorists and would need to give an adequate definition of to escape alive, well, we’d have a lot of dead pastors.  —Mohler
I preached a sermon on Romans 12:1-2 entitled “Don’t give your heart to Jesus; He wants more than that!” —Duncan
Salvation gets reduced to an emotional experience which is mere affection for Jesus; there is nowhere in the Scripture that we are saved by mere affection for Jesus.  —Mohler
Pastors reduce the gospel to its most emotional and affective dimensions, and rob it of its objective reality.  –Mohler

Whatever text you’re preaching, make a bee-line to the Cross.   —Spurgeon

The first most widespread pervsersion of the doctrine of justifcation in this culture is “justification by death”—  once I die God will justify and accept me.
The second most widespread perversion is “justification by works”— our congregations still are trying to earn their way into heaven.    —Sproul

Who’s afraid of the wrath of God when we preach that God loves us unconditionally?   —Sproul

Sin and the wrath of God go together; you can’t have a Biblical doctrine of sin without the wrath of God.  –Mohler
Most of the people who soft-pedal sin think the sin problem is a problem without, and not a problem within.  –Mohler
I can’t even think of having a conversation about justification with most televangelists even though they would call themselves evangelicals.   —Dever
“We believe in sin, but it’s not a big deal, Jesus already took care of that on the Cross, we want to focus on people having a dynamic life now.”  —quote from televangelist
But on the day of judgement, that message will evaporate, sin has got to be a part of the message.  —Duncan
People have a stilted view of sin.  We have a responsibility to show the ugliness of sin.  Start with the misery that sin brings, then bring it back to the sin, and show how that sin looks to God.   —-Duncan
If you look back to the Puritans, they preached sin to believers, they preached mortification, and that is missing now.  —Mohler
“sin was a problem, but now it’s not because I’m in grace”— the typical attitude of evangelicals now  —Mohler
Pastors think there must be a light tone thoughout the message which makes it impossible to discuss serious matters such as sin.  —Dever
We read one of the Commandments each Sunday at our church. The Law drives us the Cross, and continues to reveal to us what is pleasing to God and shows us His character.  –Sproul
Each member at our church has to take five vows including one admitting that he is a sinner without hope and that Christ is his only hope.   —Duncan
The most insignificant sin that has ever been committed would ruin the entire cosmos, for it would mar the perfection that God created to reflect His glory.  We steal God’s glory by every sin.  We do not grasp the weight of our sin.
Until we can bring home the ugliness of sin, Satan has another weapon in his locker.  —Duncan
The single most important thing I do to awaken people to the gravity of sin is to increase their understanding of the character of God.  –Sproul
Hybels polled people and found people left church because they were bored; well, there is no record in the Bible of anyone personally encountering God and being bored.  Our job is to present God in the fullness of His character.  –Sproul
One of the most effective evangelistic series our church has ever done is when I preached through everyone that God executed for sin.   —Mahaney

Justification and Preaching

These are my notes from Dr. R. C. Sproul, Sr.’s message today from the Together for the Gospel Conference:

The Importance of Preaching on Justification By Faith Alone  sola fide

Nothing thrills me more than to have an opportunity to encourage pastors.
It’s not our soldiers alone who are in harm’s way, it’s the ministers of the Gospel who are in harm’s way every day.
This (justification) is the article on which the church stands or fall— Luther
Furthermore, this is the article on which I stand or fall.  (Sproul)
This is the hinge on which everything turns. —Calvin
sole fide is the Atlas on which the whole of Christianity rests, and if Atlas would shrug, then the whole of Christianity would fall to the ground and shatter.  —J. I. Packer

However, that is not the current assessment, justification is often thought to be a tempest in a teapot, a minor issue.
This minimalist attitude should not be surprising to us, this lessening of the importance of the justification of faith.

 Luther warned the church, “In every generation the Gospel will have to be reaffirmed, for if you preach the justification of faith boldly and accurately, it will produce conflict.”

With the lessening of the significance of sola fide, there is also a growing lack of understanding of the true nature of sola fide as well.
One of the best ways to understand sola fide is to understand the Roman view and how the Reformation started:
Rome taught, and continues to teach, that justification is sacredotal— it is administered through the church, through the sacraments.
In the Roman view, the grace of justification, the righteousness of Christ, is infused, poured into the soul through Baptism, but it still requires the person to cooperate and assent to the grace to such a degree that you actually become righteous before God.
When a person commits a “mortal” serious sin, one’s justification is lost, even though faith might remain, and the righteousness must be regained through another sacrament, penance (made of confession, absolution, and works of satisfaction).  Works of satisfaction produce congruous “fitting” merit to regain the righteous state.
So often Protestants don’t understand Roman salvation in saying that it is faith vs. works, but Rome believes that faith is the foundation and root of justification, it is a necessary condition for justification, but not a sufficent (only) condition.  Protestants says that faith is a sufficent condition, it is all you need for justification.  The difference is not between faith vs. works but faith plus works vs. faith alone.  Rome says yes, you need Christ’s righteousness for justification, but you also need your own as well.

The controversy over the instrumental cause in justification:
When a sculptor creates a statute, the tools that he uses are the instrumental cause
Rome says the means, the tool, that causes justification is baptism and penance
The Reformation says the only instrumental cause is faith, the faith is just a tool in the hand of God, it has no virtue in itself.
It’s not our righteousness, but the imputation of Christ’s righteousness, a righteouness outside of us, to us that justifies us.
That’s why Luther said that we are both saint and sinner, which Rome rejects as a lie.
Gentlemen, I beg you, don’t ever negotiate the imputation of Christ’s righteousness, because without Christ’s righteousness, all we have to offer God is our own filthy rags of our own righteousness.
We have to contend with our all for this doctrine.
Without His righteousness I am naked, I am foul in the sight of God.

We are not justified by the doctrine of justifcation by faith alone.  We can believe, we can contend for this doctrine but still not possess true saving faith.  The doctrine doesn’t save, it just describes what does save us.

Before my conversion I didn’t know about the doctrine of justification; but I heard someone explain the gospel, and I went into my room overwhelmed with my sin and overwhelmed with the understanding I was utterly lost apart from Christ, and I got down on my knees, and I didn’t recite a catechism, I prayed, and I got off my knees justified.

I love my Catholic friends, but I weep for their gospel, for it is a bad gospel, a false gospel, it is no gospel at all.
Quoting the latest Catholic catechism, if I die tonight with “any impurities on my soul,” I must go to purgatory where I may have to spend millions of years until I got rid of every impurity of my soul.  Is that good news?  No.
Here is the good news:  I despair of my own righteousness, I acknowledge my sin, and I put my trust in Christ and Christ alone, and the instant I do that, all that He is, and all that He has, is mine.  And now I am not justified, not for today, not for this week, not until I commit another sin, but for all eternity.  Is there any better news than that?

This doctrine is easy to get in our head, but not so easy to get in our bloodstream.  So we must continue to preach this doctrine over and over and over again.