Scriptures declares, 'Not By Faith Alone.'
Consider this biblical statement in James 2:24,
"Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only."
It has always puzzled me why and who had formulated the formula - "Justification is by Grace alone, through Faith alone, in Christ alone." Why is there such a fascination with 'faith alone'?
Scriptures declares quite the opposite: "Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and NOT BY FAITH ONLY [ALONE]" James 2:24.
Scriptures declares quite plainly "NOT BY FAITH ALONE." However, very many - both the 'reformed' folks as well as the 'arminians' - insist to the contrary, i.e. 'BY FAITH ALONE.' Isn't it puzzling? Isn't something seriously wrong, somewhere!
Is it alone or not alone?
I have a simple mind, but a sound and consistent one, I hope, and see things in a logical and consistent manner. For example... consider the popular theological jargon... "Justification is by Grace alone, through Faith alone, in Christ alone." If justification is by God's free grace alone, then it most certainly cannot be by faith alone too in the same SENSE . That's double talk at best! If it is by faith alone, then how could it be also by grace alone in the same sense? This manner of talking destroys the meaning of words, and hinders honest communication and understanding. It has to be one or the other. In the nature of the case, both 'alones' are MUTUALLY EXCLUSIVE, otherwise both are mutually contradicted, and rendered meaningless. These are too obvious even to be stated. The two 'alones' CANNOT possibly be in the same sense and still remain true at the same time. Common sense and sound mind require that. Honesty and consistency would require one to say, 'Justification is by God's free grace AS WELL AS by faith' if that is what folks really want to convey.
If justification is by grace alone, then it must be by grace ALONE. 'Grace alone' excludes everything else, otherwise it is no longer 'grace alone.' To say that justification, in the same sense, is ALSO by faith alone is an example of double talk - speaking from both sides of the same mouth or an indication of confusion, or a case of bad expression, or worse, outright deceit. If justification is by grace alone, then it cannot be by faith alone too in the same sense.
'By grace alone' - if words have meaning at all - excludes justification by anything else in the same SENSE. Otherwise we end up with a case of justification which is by grace AND faith.
Let me just say that I have no sympathy for the RC's LIE that legal justification BEFORE GOD is by BOTH works AND faith. I must also state that I do not have any sympathy either for the populist LIE that legal justification BEFORE GOD is by faith alone. Both are lies of the Devil!
I do believe that our legal justification before God is by His grace alone through the righteousness of Christ alone. And BY GRACE ALONE means BY GRACE ALONE and nothing else, and THROUGH CHRIST'S RIGHTEOUSNESS ALONE means THROUGH CHRIST'S RIGHTEOUSNESS ALONE and nothing else.
If justification is by God's grace alone, then what is the biblical relationship of faith to the justification which is by God's grace alone through the righteousness of Christ alone? There is rampant confusion here. But the statement in James 2:24 is plain and clear. I am in perfect agreement with this biblical statement in James 2:24. Let's consider the plain teaching, and the implications of this simple and plain statement.
Look at this plain statement of Scriptures
"Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only."
This is a plain enough statement. There should be no problem understanding it. In its context, it is declaring at least two very obvious and basic truths:
ONE: The works, as well as the faith of the man, justify HIM, THE MAN..
Scriptures say, 'NOT BY FAITH ONLY'! It is by BOTH works and faith. That's what the text plainly declares regardless of what it means. Please don't embrace the common and popular error by saying that works justify the genuineness of the man's faith! Read the text again real slowly and carefully. It says 'a man is justified by works' - the works of the man justifies THE MAN himself, not his faith - as so commonly claimed.
TWO: The way a man's works justify him is the same way his faith justifies him.
The same verb 'justified' is applied to the SAME MAN, in exactly the SAME MANNER to both the man's 'works' as well as the man's 'faith.' That is what the text plainly declares! If one is tempted to say that works and faith justify a man differently, i.e. faith justifies the man, and works justify his faith, let him prove that the text teach such notion.
The modern reformed as well as non-reformed folks recoil from and reject these simple observations stated here. This only reveals that there is so much confusion and deficiency and inconsistency in their view concerning justification. This problem can easily be resolved when we rightly divide the word of truth on the doctrine of justification.
The different facets of justification
I suggest that the Scriptures speak of the different aspects of justification:
- there is the forensic/legal/objective justification of all the elect that is by the blood of Jesus Christ alone at the cross, when Christ righteousness was legally IMPUTED to all represent by him;
- there is the vital/personal/applied justification when Christ's righteousness is APPLIED to each elect at his effectual calling to grace and salvation by God's grace alone;
- there is the experiential justification which is by faith alone (Gen 15:1-6, Romans 4:1-8), the justification by God's free grace is experienced through faith in Christ, and evidenced by both works and faith (James 2:24). BOTH faith and works evidence the justified state!
- and there shall be the final justification at Christ's second coming. There shall be that grand vindication before the judgment throne!
This way everything is consistently biblical.
Now the questions we need to ask about James 2:24 text are these:
How do a man's works justify him?
How does a man's faith justify him?
In what sense do the works and the faith of the man justify him in exactly the same manner?
Old school refromers (WCF 11:2) declared: '... Faith is not alone in the person justified.' This means, among other things, that apart from the grace of faith there are (present tense) other graces worked by the indwelling Spirit in the person justified (past tense) by God's free grace . In a man justified by God's free grace, you will find among other saving graces, faith and good works. Faith is one of the many graces among the fruit of the Spirit, cp Gal 5:22-23
A man's faith justifies him in that his faith certifies, declares, demonstrates, evidences, proves, vindicates that he has been legally imputed (when Christ died at the cross) and personally applied (at effectual calling to grace and salvation) with the righteousness of Christ, i.e. justified by God's free grace. Faith, as well as works, justifies a man EVIDENTIALLY.
Faith does not justify FORENSICALLY, i.e. it does not secures the imputation of Christ's righteousness. Faith is NOT the instrumental means to secure the imputation of Christ's righteousness. Faith is NOT the instrumental means to secure our legal justification before God.
Faith which receives and rest in Christ for righteousness is the instrument to certify, declare, demonstrate, evidence, justify, prove, or vindicate that the person is a child of God - justified, regenerated and adopted, and indwelt with the Spirit of adoption who works those saving graces like faith, works, repentance, etc. Faith is a fruit of justification; a fruit of justification CANNOT possibly be the instrumental cause of the same justification.
EVEN SO, a man's works of righteousness justify him in that his works of righteousness certify, declare, demonstrate, evidence, justify, prove or vindicate that the person with works of righteousness IS indeed a child of God by God's free grace, i.e. already imputed with the righteousness of life, regenerated with life, adopted, and have the Spirit of adoption dwelling within to work those graces of works and faith. The justified man (personally by God's free grace) has good works. The justified man has faith. Both good works and faith are fruits and effects of legal justification before God by God's free grace. They give evidence of justified state before God.
Works do not justify in that they do not secure the imputation of Christ's righteousness. Works are not the instrumental means to SECURE the imputation of Christ's righteousness. Works are not the instrumental means to SECURE our legal justification before God. [Papists would anathematize me a 1000 times for these repudiations].
Faith does not justify in that it DOES NOT secure the imputation of Christ's righteousness. Faith is not the instrumental means to obtain the imputation of Christ's righteousness. Faith is not the instrumental means to receive our legal justification before God. [The 'reformed' as well as free-willer folks would anathematize me a 1000 and 1 times for these denials].
The works of a man, like his faith, are the instruments to declare, demonstrate, evidence, prove, or vindicate the justified state of the man. Both works and faith justify EVIDENTIALLY. BOTH works of righteousness and faith are fruits and effects of our legal and personal justification before God. That's the only way to make sense of the statement in James. Our justified [past tense] state before God by His free grace is [present tense] presently certified, demonstrated, evidenced, justified, manifested, proven, vindicated, etc by BOTH works of righteousness and faith in Christ. The evidences are twins, though both may be visibly manifested in varying degrees. A breathing person evidences the life in him by BOTH breathing and heart beats. It is never by one ALONE. However neither breathing nor the heart beats is instrumental cause of the life possessed. Both works and faith are always together as the effects of our justified state before God by His free grace.
Experiential justification by faith gravely perverted
The RCs make BOTH works and faith the INSTRUMENTAL causes of their legal justification before God. They are plainly wrong. The protestants would amputate one of the two gangrenous limbs and insist that faith is the ALONE INSTRUMENTAL cause of their legal justification before God. So also almost all the rest of Christendom. They are no less erroneous than the RCs. There must be a serious confusion somewhere.
The Bible teaches that both works and faith are evidences of the legal justification before God by His free grace. They BOTH justify a man EVIDENTIALLY, not FORENSICALLY before God. The only thing that is required to justify a guilty condemned unrighteous sinner forensically before God is the complete and perfect righteousness of Jesus Christ ALONE. "Being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus." This declaration rules out the "justification by faith alone" in the same forensic sense.
The question then is , where does the popular idea of 'faith alone' come from?
The Bible does speak of EXPERIENTIAL justification by faith alone in Christ alone. There is no other way for a child of God (therefore, already personally justified, regenerated and adopted, with the Spirit dwelling within him) to personally experience his justified state by God's free grace apart from faith in Jesus Christ alone. But this is precisely NOT what people mean when they mouth the shibboleth 'justification by faith alone.' They are insisting upon Legal Justification by their faith as the alone instrumental cause... they vehemently deny that it is Experiential Justification that is by faith in Christ alone.
In the purpose of God, it is revealed and repeatedly stated that 'faith is accounted to him for righteousness.' It is never 'works are accounted to him for righteousness.' Please take VERY careful note that 'faith is accounted to him for righteousness' IS NOT - IS NOT - IS NOT the same as 'the righteousness of Christ is accounted to him for justification.' Too many confound the two. One who cannot distinguishes this basic and fundamental difference between the two has not the basic requirement to rightly divide the word of truth. Someone has aptly said, 'Biblical distinction is the essence of sound theology.'
There is a world of difference between Christ's righteousness and a believer's faith, and the imputation of Christ's righteousness to a condemned sinner, and the imputation of the believer's faith to him.
The accounting of a believer's faith to him for righteousness, and the accounting of Christ's righteousness to a condemned dead alienated sinner (i.e. unjustified) for his legal justification before God are two completely distinct matters. It is a massive theological blunder to confound the two. There is SIMPLY NO ACCOUNTING OF CHRIST'S RIGHTEOUSNESS to a believer when he believes. The Scriptures state in the plainest way that there is imputation of the believer's faith unto him for righteousness. And there is a world of difference between the two. A man is woefully blind when he refuses to see or acknowledge the plain and obvious distinction.
God imputing a believer's faith to the believer for righteousness speaks of God blessing the believing of the believer unto the believer for him to subjectively know and personally experience the blessedness of his legal and personal justification by God's free grace while still ungodly, i.e. dead in sin and enmity against God. It is by faith in Jesus Christ alone that a child of God - effectually called to grace and salvation by God's free grace while in the state of sin and death - experiences the blessedness of his righteousness before God. No amount of good works would enable a child of God to experience the same blessedness. This is the true meaning of 'by faith alone' - Apostle Paul's thesis in Romans and in Galatians.
The meaning of the word 'to justify' must be determined by its context. It does not always mean the divine act of declaring a guilty condemned dead alien sinner righteous by the imputation of Christ's righteousness. God justifying a condemned guilty sinner, and faith justifying a believer are two very distinct and different subjects! Context may require that the verb 'to justify' mean to demonstrate, to declare, to prove, to vindicate, etc. The resurrection of Christ justified and vindicated Him as indeed the Son of the eternal God, Romans 1:4, 1Tim 3:16.
The biblical position is, "The just shall live by faith." The new school reformed position seems to be insisting, "By faith a condemned dead man shall be justified and live". Here, a simple statement declaring a fact has been entirely MIS-understood and turned into a statement making a conditional offer - that is, an offer of legal justification on the condition of faith!!! It is a simple declaration of fact that 'the just shall live by faith' - i.e. the justified ones shall live by faith. Justification by God's free grace is the cause, and 'shall live by faith' is the effect. Legal Justification precedes the ability to live by faith. It is NOT - as most commonly understood by so many, 'by faith the condemned unrighteous shall be justified and live.' It is a puzzle how a plain straight forward statement of Scriptures can be read and understood in precisely the opposite manner.
Another classic example - that repeated declaration "whoever believes has eternal/everlasting life" in the Scriptures. It is quite plain that this is a declarative statement of fact... declaring the simple and obvious fact that whoever believes HAS/ALREADY POSSESSES eternal life. It is a simple statement, declaring a certain plain fact about the believer. It is like a doctor saying, 'whoever breathes has life.' Now, NOBODY in his sound mind would understand the doctor's simple statement as meaning, "a dead man who will breathe shall have life." Yet nearly all in Christendom today understand a declarative statement of fact "whoever believes has eternal life" as a conditional statement of offer, meaning, as statement making a conditional offer, "whoever will believe shall receive eternal life." Those dead in sin without eternal life CAN NEVER believe. Life must precedes the activity of life - in the physical realm as well as in the spiritual realm. To claim otherwise is the height of folly, and irrationality.
Failure to distinguish different aspects of Justification
Legal justification before God is neither by works nor by faith. Legal justification is by God's free grace ALONE through the righteousness and blood of Christ ALONE. This evidences itself not only by works of righteousness, BUT ALSO by faith. God justified us while we were still ungodly, under the condemnation of death and were still enemies, still in rebellion against Him. The common error is that God justifies us when we believe. God justifies the ungodly - i.e. while one is in a state of condemnation, death and alienation, but faith justifies the believers.
EXPERIENTIAL justification is by faith, i.e. believing in Jesus Christ is the instrumental means to personally know and experience the blessedness of our justified (simple past tense) state by God's free grace. EVIDENTIAL justification is by faith as well as good works. Abraham is the classic example. Abraham was already a justified man by God's free grace in Gen 12-14, prior to Gen 15:1-6. He was justified by God's free grace while an UNGODLY man in the Ur of the Chaldean. All his works of obedience and righteousness in Gen 12-14 and prior to Gen 15:1-6 EVIDENCES his justified state before God beyond a shadow of doubt. (Read on this subject here: 'What thinkest thou of thy father Abraham?')
His faith (evidenced by obedience and works of righteousness) PRIOR to Gen 15:1-6 EVIDENCES beyond any shadow of doubt that Abraham was ALREADY a justified man by God when he left Ur. So many 'reformed' people who insist that Abraham was justified before God in Gen 15:1-6 must necessarily imply that Abraham in Gen 12-14 was STILL an unjustified man, therefore STILL a condemned guilty sinner before God. What blasphemy and slanders against the venerable father of all those who believe!
His faith in the promised Seed in Gen 15:1-6 was accounted to him for righteousness. God blessed his believing to EXPERIENCE the blessedness of his justified state. His faith in the promised Seed secured for him the subjective and personal experience of the blessedness of his righteous standing in Christ by the free grace of God. By faith in the promised Seed, he experienced personally the blessedness of his righteous standing before God in Christ. This blessed experience can only be attained through faith in the promised Seed alone. No amount of his prior works of righteousness enabled Abraham to attain this blessed experience. This Experiential justification is by his faith! No faith, no experiential justification. This is biblical and is consistent with the vital/personal justification by grace alone. But the common and popular error is: no faith, no legal justification. This is anti-biblical, and repudiates legal justification by grace alone.
Abraham had works of righteousness in Gen 12-14 before his faith was brought forth by the good news of the promised Seed. But his works of righteousness were not imputed to him for righteousness. His faith in the promised Seed was! Both his works of righteousness and his faith are fruits and effects of his free grace justification by God while an ungodly man in Ur. Both EVIDENTIALLY justify his righteous state before God by His his free grace while ungodly.
Both faith and works demonstrate and evidence the justified state of a man by grace. The saving grace of faith as a result of justification is a saving grace that is never alone, i.e. always accompanied by the saving grace of good works. Both are fruit of the free grace justification before God. Abraham is a classic proof of this fact. He has good works as well as faith in the promised Seed. Apostle Paul marshaled Abraham to demonstrate this fundamental truth to rebuke the regenerate Jews who have good works (they have the zeal OF God, they follow after the law of righteousness, but are woefully ignorant...) but have not trusted in the promised Seed. These were seeking EXPERIENTIAL justification in the wrong place... through their observance of the ceremonial laws. Apostle Paul told them that they will never find it through their works of keeping the ceremonial laws. Apostle Paul told them to learn from the classic example of Abraham... 'he believes and his faith was counted to him for righteousness.'
EXPERIENTIAL justification is by faith alone in Jesus Christ. The case of Abraham proves that it is 'his faith [in the promised seed] is accounted unto him for righteousness.' There is no other way. Apostle Paul put Abraham before them, and show them that Abraham had good works BOTH before and after Gen 15:1-6, he also had FAITH in the promised Seed. And if they are truly children of Abraham, they would walk like their father Abraham, and receive and rest in the promised Seed.
A believer's works and faith are EFFECTS and EVIDENCES of his justified state by God's free grace. They justify him EVIDENTIALLY - that's what James 2:24 declares.
The Mother Harlot teaches:
Legal justification before God is by BOTH faith in Christ AND works of righteousness.
Mother Harlot's daughters (amputated one of the two gangrenous limbs) declare:
Legal justification before God is by faith ALONE in Christ.
Scriptures say, and the old school baptists believed rightly:
Legal justification is by the free and sovereign grace alone through the righteousness of Christ alone; and this free grace legal justification that is applied freely and sovereign by the Spirit of God is TO BE EXPERIENCED through faith in Christ alone, and is EVIDENCED by BOTH works of righteousness and faith in Christ.
"Therefore as by the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life."
"Being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus."
This is Legal Justification in the court of God the Judge. By God's free grace one stands justified in the court of heaven, once and for all eternity.
"Being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus."
The Legal Justification through the redemption of Christ at the cross is applied to each elect personally at effectual calling, thus bringing about Vital Justification. What was legal become vital and personal. Imputed righteousness is applied personally to each elect at his effectual calling out of the state of sin and death to that of grace and eternal salvation.
"Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.'
This is Experiential Justification in the court of one's conscience. By faith in the finished work of Christ one stands justified in the court of his own conscience that he is indeed a child of God. The Scriptures declares, 'The just shall live by faith." Therefore by faith in Jesus Christ, one's conscience is confirmed and assured that he is indeed a justified man by the free grace of God.
"Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only."
This is Evidential Justification before the court of the church of Christ. By both works of righteousness and faith in Jesus Christ, one provides evidence to others that he is indeed a justified man by the free grace of God, fit to be received into the fellowship of the saints by the church of Jesus Christ.
May the God who justifies the ungodly guilty condemned sinners grant each reader light to understand the multifaceted nature of the Scriptures’ teaching on justification.
On Mar 20, 2007, at 8:57 PM, jay wrote:
I love your way of reasoning and presenting your thoughts, I believe Biblical thoughts. Could it be that Luther's strong dislike of the letter of James grew out of his failure to understand justification in the way you set forth below? And for the typical myopic view of justification that tries to put a non-existent tension between James and Paul, there is always Romans 4:2, "For if Abraham were justified by works, he hath whereof to glory; but not before God." Paul here affirms that Abraham was in fact justified by works, perfectly harmonious with what James wrote in the passage you used in your writing. I believe Paul was making exactly the same point that you so clearly set forth from James.
Distinction in the various phases of justification goes hand in hand with the PB distinctive between eternal and temporal salvation (many temporal salvations to be more accurate). Our forensic or eternal justification and our eternal salvation occur by the grace of God alone and requires no conditions or instrumentalities from us to become effective. Our temporal discipleship (in the many, many deliverances that we experience in discipleship) and our true justification by faith and by works require conditions from us and are in fact contingent on those things in us to become effective and thus to be enjoyed and experienced. If a person is confused on the distinct aspects of phases of justification, he will in all likelihood be equally confused on the question of distinct aspects of phases of salvation.
Thank you for sharing this delightful and thought-provoking work with us.
Blessings to you in the sandy seas,
It is interesting that you mentioned Luther. Questions about him has been lingering in my mind. I sometimes wonder whether it was Luther who was responsible for the error associated with 'faith alone.'
Did Luther believe faith as the instrumental cause for legal justification? Or did he believe correctly that faith is the instrumental cause for experiential justification, but those who came later pervert his teaching? When Luther was frantically doing all those 'works' in the monastery in order to be justified before God, did he think of legal justification before God or experiential justification before his own conscience?
I do believe that he was already vitally /personally justified by the free grace of God at that point. However, he has not experienced the truth and reality of his justified state because he was not seeking it through faith in Christ but his own works. And when he did believe and obtained experiential justification by his faith, did he misunderstand it as his legal justification by his faith.
I have been on this forum coming to 6 years now... and hardly heard Luther being mentioned. But he is an idol among protestants - daughters of Rome! So many Baptists love the daughters and sons of Rome better than our own Gills and company better.
On Wednesday, March 21, 2007 1:10 AM Jay wrote:
I haven't read Luther enough to give you an "expert" opinion on him or his motives, but I suspect that your assessment of him is pretty much on target. How easily we may misinterpret our experiential justification for forensic justification and thus sadly confuse both. If this were the case with Luther, it would also explain his intense dislike of the epistle of James, as I believe he termed it, that "rather strawy epistle."
On Mar 21, 2007, at 7:48 PM, Far East wrote:
I wonder if Luther even gave thought to experiential justification and/or legal justification, or maybe he lumped them together as one salvation making them equally important to destiny.
Another thought, in the form of a question, about the expressions of justification.
Am I interpreting correctly what you and Bro. Sing are saying, or am I making muddy water to apply them with reference to legal, or forensic justification being applicable to justifying by the death of Christ to give eternal life to His elect? Is regeneration the vital phase of the legal justification, or how would you say that?
In the case of experiential justification applying to a now salvation based on the legal justification?
In a natural parable, we have life and as a result of life we have opportunity to enjoy it in a variety of degrees.
One other question: Do each and all of God's elect experience the experiential phase?
I wish I knew how to ask the questions correctly.
I hope I am not intruding.
March 22, 2007 9:23:31 AM GMT+07:00 sing wrote:
Brother Far East,
I will give my sandy opinion - just shaky ones, of the quality that can't be used to make glass for mirrors.
This is how I understand various aspects justification:
- Legal aspect is by the blood of Jesus Christ at the cross, by which the righteousness of life is legally imputed to all the elect of God.
- Vital aspect is by the grace of God at the effectual calling of an elect to grace and salvation. The righteousness of Christ is actually applied/imparted to each elect personally. I understand that as the vital aspect of justification. When God the Father applies the righteousness of Christ to an elect personally, the Holy Spirit regenerates him and unite him personally to Christ, and the Father adopts and gives the Spirit of Christ to dwell in the regenerated elect. Though I believe it is in that logical order, yet all of them are simultaneously chronological at effectual calling out of the state of sin and death to that of grace and salvation.
- Experiential aspect is by faith in Jesus Christ... to be experienced throughout this earthly life.
Briefly, I understand it this way:
== Justification is decreed by the Father. This is the decretal aspect.
== Justification was accomplished by the Son at the cross. This is the legal aspect.
== Justification is applied by the Spirit at effectual call. This is the vital/personal aspect.
== Justification is experienced by faith in Jesus Christ. This is the experiential aspect.
== Justification is evidenced by works and faith. This is the evidential aspect.
== Justification is finally vindicated on the Judgment day. This is the Final aspect.
You ask, 'Do each and all of God's elect experience the experiential phase?' If experiential justification is experienced by faith in Jesus Christ... then there need to be hearing and believing the gospel, and the calling upon the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. In that light, I would say that justification is NOT experienced by each and all of God's elect. Justification is accomplished for each and all of God's elect. It is also applied to each and all of God's elect personally in due time, when they were in the state of condemnation and death. So, some experience it, and some don't; and those who do experience it, do so to a variety of degrees. Apostle Paul experienced it to a very great degree, whereas a work-righteousness regenerate Jew experienced very little.
I always marvel at the vast blessing that the PBs enjoy in this regard - they walk closest to Apostle Paul. And the PBs have rubbed some of that vast blessing to a poor lad like me. Now I am less poor.