Tag Archives | faith

Justification by Works and Faith in 1 Clement

Clement of RomeWhile reading through 1 Clement, I found a nice example of justify (δικαιόω) being used in two different senses (in very close proximity), which nicely parallels its use in the New Testament.

Justified by Works

In this first example, Clement is calling his readers to personal holiness and speaks of their being justified by works (ἔργοις δικαιούμενοι). He seems to have in view a demonstration rather than imputation of righteousness.

30 Seeing then that we are the portion of the Holy One, let us do all the things that pertain to holiness, forsaking slander, disgusting and impure embraces, drunkenness and rioting and detestable lusts, abominable adultery, detestable pride. (2) “For God,” he says, “resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” (3) Let us therefore join with those to whom grace is given by God. Let us clothe ourselves in concord, being humble and self-controlled, keeping ourselves far from all backbiting and slander, being justified by works and not by words [ἔργοις δικαιούμενοι καὶ μὴ λόγοις]. (4) For he says: “He who speaks much shall hear much in reply. Or does the talkative person think that he is righteous? (5) Blessed is the one born of woman who has a short life. Do not be overly talkative.” (6) Let our praise be with God, and not from ourselves, for God hates those who praise themselves. (7) Let the testimony to our good deeds be given by others, as it was given to our fathers who were righteous. (8) Boldness and arrogance and audacity are for those who are cursed by God; but graciousness and humility and gentleness are with those who are blessed by God.

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Edwards on Faith and Works in Justification

Justification by Faith Alone by Jonathan EdwardsIn my estimation, Jonathan Edwards’s Justification by Faith Alone contains one of the most important and misunderstood1 evangelical discussions on the relationship between faith and works as they pertain to justification and salvation. Delivered in 1734 and first published in 1738, it may be found in 1:622–54 of his two-volume Works (Worcester rev. ed.),2 4:64–132 of his four-volume Works (Worcester ed.), 5:351–452 of his ten-volume Works (Dwight ed.), 19:147–2423 of his twenty-six volume Works, as an individual volume, and online in as many as seven different places.

As I continue my discussion on whether evangelicals, who affirm sola fide, are forced to sweep the passages that insist on holiness and good works under the rug, I turn to Jonathan Edwards, against whom no informed person would make such an accusation, as you can see for yourself in the quotations below. Except for the first, all of these selections come from his third and fourth sections, which discuss evangelical obedience and answer objections. I’ve bolded the most relevant portions.

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Footnotes

  1. If you’re concerned about Edwards’s view on sola fide, Don Kistler’s post on the Puritan Board is a helpful clarification.
  2. Cf. Amazon, CBD, Logos, and WTS Books.
  3. Or 19:143–242 including the editor’s preface.
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The Story of Zac Smith

I encourage you to invest four-and-a-half minutes of your day watching this powerful and moving video about Zac Smith’s cancer, faith, and God.

The Story of Zac Smith from NewSpring Media on Vimeo.

Here are his concluding comments: “This I do know. If God chooses to heal me, then God is God, and God is good. If God chooses not to heal me and allows me to die, God is still God, and God is still good. To God be the glory.”

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The Merit of Faith: Genesis 15:6 in JPS

jps.jpgI just received the JPS Bible and Torah Commentary Collection (9 volumes) from Logos and started “thumbing” through a couple of the volumes. I’m glad I picked it up. It looks like a valuable series—primarily for what it reveals about modern Judaism’s understanding of the Tanakh.

As I expected, though, I’m going to disagree with many of the interpretations that it defends. Nahum Sarna’s interpretation of Genesis 15:6, for example, is disappointing on several levels.1

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Footnotes

  1. Nahum M. Sarna, Genesis, The JPS Torah commentary (Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 1989), 113.
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Wright, Scripture, and Jesus

N. T. WrightI recently read a response from N. T. Wright (Wikipedia) to an individual with concerns about Wright’s views on a variety of subjects. Toward the beginning of Wright’s response appears this statement, which piques my curiosity and strikes me as odd:

I believe firmly and passionately in scripture, and even more firmly and passionately in Jesus himself.

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Daily Justification?

In anticipation of part two of “When Was Abraham Justified?” and particularly the explication of what exactly Genesis 15:6 means if it does not designate the point at which Abraham was converted and justified, I’d like to bring up the related issue of the frequency of forensic justification before God. Most evangelicals today speak of justification as a one-time act that takes place at the moment when saving faith is first exercised. This declaration is unique, unalterable, and unrepeatable.1

I was surprised a year or two ago to find out that Luther and Calvin didn’t see it quite that way, or at least didn’t always express it that way. Rather, they acknowledged the necessity of thinking of justification as an ongoing and continual experience and perhaps a repeated occurrence. This is to be carefully distinguished from a process whereby the justified individual becomes progressively more justified than he was before, increasing in his righteous status. Luther and Calvin both affirm that the believing sinner is just as forensically righteous when he first believes as he ever will be. The real issue is whether justification should be considered a one-time, unrepeatable act whereby God imputes Christ’s righteousness once and for all to the believer’s account or whether it should be connected to faith as often as it is exercised so that the believer may be said to be justified repeatedly.2

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Footnotes

  1. Surely justification by works, about which James speaks, and future justification should also be brought into the discussion at this point, but I must resist heading in that direction—at least for now.
  2. At the heart of this question are the meanings of and relationship between justification and imputation, which take shape in these two main issues: (1) whether justification is a declaration of righteousness to be distinguished from imputation or whether imputation is a subset of justification (or perhaps whether they are identical), and (2) whether imputation is best viewed as an accounting term of crediting (which would suggest one-time and unrepeatable) or whether it carries the idea of reckoning or considering (which would lend itself to repeated occurrences.
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When Was Abraham Justified? | Part 1

AbrahamWhen was Abraham justified? This might seem like a rather elementary question with an obvious answer: Abraham was justified when he believed the Lord and the Lord reckoned it to him as righteousness, which is recorded in Genesis 15:6. Certainly Paul’s use of this text in defense of justification by faith apart from works in Romans 4 and Galatians 3 confirms that Genesis 15:6 was the precise point of Abraham’s justification, doesn’t it? This is probably what most people assume. This is what I thought—prior to giving it some careful consideration.

I’m now convinced that Abraham was already justified prior to the events recorded at the beginning of Genesis 15. In this post I’d like to give some arguments in favor of this position, and in the next post I will answer objections and respond to potential problems.

As I see it, the main issue hinges on one central point:

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