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Justification by Faith

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    II

    Some have thought, and Luther was among them, that there is a conflict between Paul and James on the subject of justification. But that is not the case. It is true that Paul says, in Romans 3:28, that we are justified by faith without the deeds of the law, that is, without works. But that is altogether “for the remission of sins that are past.” See verses 23-26. Over the past, or for remission of past sins, our actions or obedience can have no influence whatever. Justification for sins past leaves the individual passively just before God; as Adam was just before God at his creation. He had not sinned; neither had he done any good. He had yet to form a character for himself. The God of love had created him with capacities, and given him opportunities, for the formation of a character. The past was all of the free act and gift of God. The future rested with himself.JBF 8.1

    James (chap. 2) is not speaking of the past—of that over which our actions have no control. He is speaking of the formation of character by our own actions. This is all accomplished after we are justified by faith. And when Paul speaks of the future—of the formation of character—he exalts works as highly as James does. Thus, in Philippians 2:12, he writes:—JBF 9.1

    “My beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.”JBF 9.2

    And this, again, shows the distinction between justification for past offenses, and salvation. Paul would never write, Work out your own justification, using the term as it is used in Romans 3, for it is impossible to do it. Such justification is by faith alone. But salvation is not by faith alone; it is by patient continuance in well-doing, seeking for glory, honor, and immortality, that we obtain eternal life. That this plan is perfectly consistent with free grace will be shown hereafter.JBF 9.3

    But we must notice more fully the question, What does, and what does not save us? And,JBF 9.4

    1. We have seen that justification will not save us. By this we mean justification without any further work. He that is justified will be saved only if he endures to the end; if he patiently continues in well-doing; if he works out his own salvation with fear and trembling; if he adds to his faith, virtue, and all the Christian graces. Therefore the fact that he is or has been justified by faith is not a sufficient ground of assurance that he will be finally saved. Paul took this same view. Of his being, or having been, justified by faith no one could have a better assurance; yet he said; “But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection; lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway.” 1 Corinthians 9:27. The Revised Version of this text reads; “But I buffet [Gr. bruise] my body, and bring it into bondage; lest by any means, after that I have preached to others, I myself should be rejected.”JBF 9.5

    2. The death of Christ does not save us. Let not the reader think that we undervalue the death of Christ; we fully believe that there is no remission without the shedding of blood, and that the precious blood of Christ alone cleanses from all unrighteousness. But we wish to correct an error into which very many have fallen; an error which, we doubt not, has proved fatal to thousands. We say on this point, as we said of justification, the fact that Christ died for man is no ground for assurance that he will be saved. If it is, then it gives assurance that all will be saved, for he died for all. “How can I be lost,” inquires one, “since Christ has died to redeem my soul?” But he surely “tasted death for every man.” Hebrews 2:9. How, then, can any man be lost? That position is the very corner-stone of Universalism; an error full of deadly evils. Peter says of some that they deny the Lord who bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction. 2 Peter 2:1. No, we do not undervalue the death of Christ. But we would prevent or correct a perversion of an important truth by which the truth is made the ground of a false hope.JBF 10.1

    But the hymn is triumphantly quoted; “Jesus paid it all.” And then again the question is asked: “How can I be condemned, or lost, if Jesus paid all my debt? I must be free, for God is not so unjust as to demand a second payment of the same debt.” We are not surprised when a Universalist asks this question, and makes this statement. It is quite appropriate to his position, and very necessary to his conclusion. And we must add, that, if the premise be correct, then his conclusion is unavoidable. But neither premise nor conclusion is correct.JBF 11.1

    The error of that position lies in the fact that it makes no distinction between debt and crime. One may be compared to the other; and a case of debt may be used to illustrate (in part) criminal relations. But they are not the same. A crime is not of the nature of a debt; is no evidence of the existence of a crime.JBF 11.2

    It is true that a debt cannot be justly collected a second time. And it matters not whether it be paid by the debtor himself or by his friend; the principle holds good in either case. When the debt is paid he is no longer a debtor; no claim stands against him. But when a man commits a crime-a murder, for instance-and another volunteers to suffer the penalty, and lays down his life for that crime, the perpetrator of the crime is no less a criminal than he was before. His guilt remains; and if the declaration be strictly carried out, “He will by no means clear the guilty,” Exodus 34:8, such an one would surely fall in the Judgment. If a debt be paid the debtor must go clear. But Christ did not die for man so that all must be saved for whom he died; but that they may be saved. The error which we would expose and correct really leaves no room for pardon. If my friend pays my debt, then my creditor does not forgive me the debt. Now if, in like manner, Christ pays our debt; if our sins are simply debts which may be and are paid by our substitute, then there can be no forgiveness. But the death of Christ answered no such purpose. As before said, his death makes our salvation possible but not necessary. Because he died for us God can forgive us without infringing on his infinite justice. It must appear evident to every one that if we are pardoned with, out a substitute, without any infliction of the penalty of our past sins, then justice is robbed of its due; for sin ought to be punished. That there is forgiveness in the gospel cannot be denied; and that the death of Christ was to answer the demand of infinite justice is plainly stated; “Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; to declare, I say, at this time his righteousness; that he might be just, and the justifier of him that believeth in Jesus.” Romans 3:24-26. It is in this manner that the justice of God is vindicated, and we may be pardoned for the sake of our Surety. It is by such means that “Mercy and truth are met together; righteousness [justice] and peace have kissed each other.” Psalm 85:10.JBF 11.3

    But, while the apostle states very emphatically that it is through faith in his blood that remission is given, he, with equal clearness, shows that the death of Christ does not save the sinner. In Romans 5:10, in this same argument on justification, he says; “For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life.” As we said before, the fact that Christ died for man does not at all insure his salvation. He must be reconciled to God by the death of his Son, and if thus reconciled (which is a voluntary work), and not otherwise, he may be saved by his life; that is, by the intercession of Christ as a priest.JBF 13.1

    The main ground of this error, that the debt is so paid that the work of salvation is already completed, lies in the statement, now so generally believed, that the atonement was made on the cross of Christ. The proof in the Scriptures is abundant that the slaying of the offering, or sacrifice, did not make atonement. It was preparatory to making the atonement. After the offering was slain the priest took the blood into the sanctuary, and there made the atonement. See Leviticus 4, and others, for special atonements, and Leviticus 16 for the general atonement, on the “day of atonement” for all the people. It may indeed be affirmed that Christ is both the sacrifice and the priest. This we admit; but he is not both at the same time. That is, he was not acting as a priest when he died on the cross. We have not space here to enlarge on this subject, but will notice a few points in Paul’s masterly argument to the Hebrews:—JBF 13.2

    1. The sanctuary of the new covenant is in Heaven.JBF 14.1

    2. The priesthood of Christ is in Heaven-not on the earth. Please read Hebrews 8:1-5.JBF 14.2

    3. Christ entered into Heaven by his own blood to appear before God for us. Hebrews 9:24, 25. We remark that the atonement was always made in the sanctuary, the offering was never slain in the sanctuary.JBF 14.3

    4. The offering of Christ conformed strictly to the types in this respect. “For the bodies of those beasts, whose blood is brought into the sanctuary by the high priest for sin, are burned with out the camp. Wherefore Jesus also, that he might sanctify the people with his own blood, suffered without the gate.” Hebrews 13:11, 12. He shed his blood without the gate, but as a priest he is set down on the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the Heavens; a minister of the sanctuary and true tabernacle, which the Lord pitched, and not man. It is the blood that atones; the blood cleanses; but it is the priest who presents that blood before the shekinah who makes the atonement. In this is seen the harmony of the divine plan according to Paul’s words in Romans 5:10; reconciled to God by the death of his Son, which death makes salvation possible to the applicant; saved by his life, or priesthood, whereby the atonement is made, by which salvation is positive, fixed, certain. Not all for whom Christ died will be saved; but all for whom atonement is made, whose sins are blotted out, will be saved.JBF 14.4

    There are so many errors extant on this subject that we need to guard against misapprehension on every point. It may be supposed that, in distinguishing between justification and salvation, we hold that even though a man be justified, if he dies in that state he may not be saved. But we hold to no such thing. A state of justification is a state of salvation, as far as present salvation is concerned, of which we have spoken. And if this justification be retained to the end of one’s probation, it results in his final salvation. But “patient continuance in well-doing” is necessary to retain it. The fact that those who have obtained the precious faith are exhorted to make their calling and election sure, is evidence that it may be lost. Of this, however, we shall speak more at length.JBF 15.1

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