Saturday, October 16, 2010

Therefore, we are justified when:


Therefore, we are justified when, put to death by the law, we are made alive again by the word of grace promised in Christ; the gospel forgives our sins, and we cling to Christ in faith, not doubting in the least that the righteousness of Christ is our righteousness, that the satisfaction Christ wrought is our expiation, and that the resurrection of Christ is ours. In a word, we do not doubt at all that our sins have been forgiven and that God now favors us and wills our good. Nothing, therefore, of our own works, however good they may seem to be, constitutes our righteousness. But faith alone in the mercy of and grace of God in Christ Jesus is our righteousness.

- Philip Melanchthon (1497-1560), Loci Communes Theologici


4 comments:

Ed said...

"You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone (James 2:24)."

Matt Perkins said...

Hey Ed,
I had a feeling you might be throwing a proof-text my way sometime soon. I will admit that this passage from James is one that I've struggled with for a long time. If I were to just think of definitions of words like "faith" and "justification" like I normally do and then read this passage perhaps I would come to the conclusion that maybe you are trying to argue for. I must ask though, what is that conclusion? Do you really believe that your own works merit God's favor. Does God owe you something because of your works? Was Jesus' life, death and resurrection not enough to save you and now you must contribute something out of your own inherent goodness to save yourself? Is that what you are suggesting in quoting this passage apparently as a counter-point to Melanchthon's words? If you can put that much hope and trust in your own works - that they are such that you can bring them before the Father and have Him be your debtor and owe you salvation then you are in a very different place than I am in considering my own works. Perhaps I am sorely misstating your position though and if that's the case I apologize.

So there are a number of things I can do with this passage from James. I can't do what the liberals are so often wont to do with passages they don't like, that is just say James was wrong about this and ignore it. No, I believe that this verse is just as much inspired by the Holy Spirit as every other verse I find difficult in Scripture. So at this point, acknowledging the verse’s truthfulness and authority over me, I could conclude that James is saying something which contradicts the clear writings of Paul and the gospels. But I believe the same Spirit which inspired Paul, John, Luke and the other writers also inspired James, therefore they cannot be in true disagreement, although it may appear that way on the surface and I will admit that in this case it does appear that way.

So therefore I conclude that when James uses the words "faith" and "justification" he is using them in a manner differently from Paul. I see also that many other Christian men throughout history reached the same conclusion including Melanchthon and Wesley. Wesley wrote, “Ye see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only - St. Paul, on the other band, declares, A man is justified by faith, and not by works, Rom 3:28. And yet there is no contradiction between the apostles: because, They do not speak of the same faith: St. Paul speaking of living faith; St. James here, of dead faith. They do not speak of the same works: St. Paul speaking of works antecedent to faith; St. James, of works subsequent to it.”

Anonymous said...

Happy Sabbath, brothers~

What do you make of 1st Peter 1:17?
"Since you call on a Father who judges impartially according to each one's works, conduct yourselves in fear during the time of your stay on earth."

I am going to stay out of this one; just want to hear what you think--if anyone feels like replying;)

I hope everyone has a good week...

~SP

Matt Perkins said...

Hey SP,
I think this passage from 1st Peter is very different from the James passage for two reasons. First, James specifically uses the word “justification” while Peter does not. Second, James also talks about a kind of “faith,” a dead faith, in opposition to “works” in the attainment of salvation. Here Peter is only saying that we will be judged in some way according to our works. No Evangelical or Reformed Christian would deny this truth as it is repeated many times in Scripture. Peter isn’t speaking here of works meriting salvation or as the cause of salvation, I think what he is saying is that our works or deeds will reveal the disposition of the heart which is the result of the saving grace of God poured out in such a heart. In his commentary Calvin wrote, “In this place faith also is included in the work,” agreeing that there is no opposition set up between "faith" and "works" here as there seems to be in James.
Thanks for the comment!