Soteriology

From the Archives – The Importance of Justification

From Faith Pulpit, Summer 2012. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

How is a person justified before God? That was the question that ignited the Reformation. Beyond that foundational question, theologians have debated additional questions, such as “What is the importance of justification in relation to the other benefits of salvation?” and “Where does justification fit logically in relation to saving faith?” In this article Dr. Myron Houghton, senior professor and chair of the Systematic Theology Department at Faith Baptist Theological Seminary, guides us in an in-depth consideration of these significant questions.

To answer these questions about justification, we must first explore the exact nature of justification. Theologians have held two main positions: infusion and imputation.

Roman Catholic Position: Infusion

At the time of the Reformation, Catholics and Protestants differed greatly in their understanding of justification and grace. The Catholic position defined justification to include all of the benefits of salvation, making it a process. Grace was understood as a God-given ability to do good works which was infused into the person. This Catholic view is sometimes described by the words, “Christ IN us.”

The Council of Trent, the Catholic council that dealt with Reformation issues, stated in its canons on justification:

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The Gospel Way: Theologically Rooted Evangelism (Part 2)

By Sam Horn. Read Part 1.

4. We must celebrate the accomplishment of the gospel.

The gospel is also the record of God fulfilling His purposes and promises in four specific ways. By means of the gospel, God has fulfilled an ancient promise made to our first parents in the presence of their mortal enemy, Satan. Though this enemy bruised the heel of Jesus at the cross, the resurrection was the cosmic proclamation of Christ’s victory over our ancient foe.

The gospel is also the means by which God is in the process of reversing the ancient curse whose mark is death. In vanquishing death and defeating the grave, Jesus announced that eternal life is now the present possession and future hope of every dying believer. Death has lost both its power and its sting (1 Cor. 15:50–57). By means of the gospel, God has transformed death from a prison to a door by removing any cause for fear (Heb. 2:15).

Though active in this present age, Satan has been defeated and will soon be crushed under our feet (Rom. 16:20), and God will deliver His people of all ages and dispensations from the suffering, pain, and death that is our common lot in this present, evil, passing-away world (1 John 2:17). This is the good news of the gospel!

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The Lordship Salvation Issue

The Lordship Salvation Issue is surely one of those many topics where the less I say the better. Nevertheless, I do want to say something (with some sense of trepidation).

Most of my friends are non-Lordship Salvation. Many are far more informed than I am. In many ways I’m over my head, and would rather avoid division – if for nothing else to avoid embarrassing myself. So in the few discussions I’ve had, I’ve tended not to say much.

Let every person do their own study and come to their own conclusion.

I once posted a Cripplegate article in a group and was promptly informed it wasn’t representative of the LS teaching. It shouldn’t be surprising that there are nuances and differences among proponents of the camps. A non-LS fellow chimed in that LS is an even more dangerous doctrine than pretribulationism! I found that remark astonishing. Why am I not seeing this?

My two main references (I have others) on the LS issue are MacArthur’s The Gospel According to Jesus and Freely By His Grace edited by Hixson, Whitmire and Zuck. The latter is 600 pages. It would be accurate to say that I haven’t plumbed it all, and likely never will.

That said I do have some concerns re the non-LS groups. First is the following statement by one of the FBHG contributors:

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“...whatever faith is and however you might describe it, it is not a work”

"Twice recently I have heard about those who teach that faith is a work. One variation is simply that: faith is a work, and so we cannot encourage or exhort people to believe. The second variation is: faith is the first work a person does after regeneration." - Matt Postiff (See also Part 2)

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“Now, all you have to do is…” – The 7 Most Dangerous Words in Evangelism

"...while the phrase, 'Now, all you have to do is…' aims to highlight the vital truth that redemption is complete in Christ, I believe it actually serves as an unhelpful—and, at times, even dangerous—Christian catchphrase." - Facts & Trends

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Chosen for What?

Few doctrines divide God’s people like the doctrine of election. Since both the word, “election” in its various forms, plus the concept using different words is found repeatedly in the Bible, some explanation must be offered. It cannot simply be ignored.

Although there are various shades of interpretation, in the end, it boils down to two possibilities. Either election means God chose His people without reference to anything He saw in man (unconditional election), or God chose people based upon something He saw or foresaw within them (conditional election).

Since the days of the Protestant Reformation, these two concepts have resulted in two different theologies, Calvinism, which holds to unconditional election, and Arminianism which teaches conditional election. In truth, there are variations within these two camps, and some prefer to avoid either label, but there are really only two positions on election. For brevity’s sake, I will use the commonly accepted historic labels.

In this article, I will examine a text that is often claimed by both sides of the debate.

Just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love (Eph. 1:4)

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Prevenient Grace – God's "Go" Signal?

In this excerpt from his classic Lectures in Systematic Theology, Henry Thiessen explains the concept of prevenient grace:1

All Christians are agreed that God has decreed to save men, but not all are agreed as to how He does this. We must, in this connection, particularly remember that God must take the initiative in salvation, that man, even in his present helpless state, is really responsible, and that God’s decrees are not based on caprice or arbitrary will, but on His wise and holy counsel. To our mind, the following things seem to be involved in the decree to save sinners:

The freedom of man

God has a very high regard for freedom. He could have made the creature an automon, but He preferred to make him capable of choosing whether or not he would obey and serve Him. The idea of freedom appears in two forms in Scripture.

On the one hand, freedom is thought of as simply the ability to carry out the dictates of one’s nature, whether as that of a holy unfallen being or as that of a sinful and fallen one. On the other hand, freedom is conceived of also as the ability to act contrary to one’s nature. Originally the creature (both angels and man) had freedom in both senses of the term. It had the ability not to sin and also the ability to sin. With the fall, the creature lost the ability not to sin (Gen 6:5; Job 14:14; Jer 13:23, 17:9; Rom 3:10-18, 8:5-8). It is now free only in the sense that it is able to do so as its fallen nature suggests.

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