Justification by the Good Work of Faith Alone?

Discussion in 'Baptist Theology & Bible Study' started by Brian Bosse, Aug 14, 2009.

  1. Brian Bosse

    Brian Bosse
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    I would like to discuss the act of justification (δικαιοω) relative to those who believe that faith is a good work flowing from a new (regenerate) heart. Leon Morris in The Apostolic Preaching of the Cross says on page 252…

    When the Bible speaks of being justified by God (Romans 2:13; 3:20; 3:24; 3:26; 3:28; 3:30; etc…), I think it is safe to say that it is speaking of being brought into a right relationship with God; that is to say, that we are given the status of being “right” with Him. The idea is forensic in nature. God is the Judge, and we are in the dock. His legal (forensic) declaration that we are in right relationship with Him is the act of justification.

    The question I want to focus on has to do with the grounds for this justification. Specifically, what is the difference between “justification by works” and “justification by faith alone”? To begin, I am going to make the provocative statement that the ground for our justification is works. :eek: Don’t throw stones, yet. In light of this provocative statement, one question that naturally follows is “Whose works are the grounds for our justification?” There are two answers considered…

    (1) Christ’s Works - Because of the work of Christ, those who are in union with Him receive the benefits of that work; namely, they are justified before God. The instrumental means of establishing this union with Christ is faith alone. So, those who are “justified by faith” are trusting in the work of Christ as the basis for such a forensic declaration.

    (2) Our Works - Those who try to become right with God based on their own works of righteousness, these are the ones who are properly said to be seeking “justification by works.” That is to say, their own works of righteousness make up the foundation or basis for their justification. So, when the Bible speaks of “justification by works,” it means is that a person is using his own “works” as the basis for his forensic justification.

    With that said, in answer (1) above faith is not the basis for justification. Rather, the basis for justification is the work of Christ. Faith is simply the instrumental means of establishing the necessary union by which Christ’s work becomes the foundation for our justification. If this distinction is correct, then faith can be a work without turning (1) into (2). As such, those who hold to faith as being a good work flowing from a new (regenerate) heart do not imply that justification is by works. One can say that the good work of faith is simply the instrument by which we lay hold of Christ, and it is His righteousness that is the basis for our justification. All of this is properly called “justification by faith alone.”

    Sincerely,

    Brian
     
    #1 Brian Bosse, Aug 14, 2009
    Last edited by a moderator: Aug 14, 2009
  2. Brian Bosse

    Brian Bosse
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    ****BUMP****

    This thread is intended to interact with those who say things like...

    It is my position that these criticisms are off base. The argument presented above is my attempt at explaining in what sense they fall short.

    Sincerely,

    Brian
     
  3. Allan

    Allan
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    I'm not understanding you here, - you have issue with the point, faith is not a work (Rom 4:3-6). How so?

    Faith is not a work, nor it is a 'good work' that procedes from something because even then - it remains a work.

    A work, is a work, is a work. No matter good, bad, or ugly, we are not save by 'works' but by faith.

    Faith, in scripture is never seen as work but is in fact always contrasted against it.
     
    #3 Allan, Aug 15, 2009
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  4. Brian Bosse

    Brian Bosse
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    Hello Allan,

    Even though I do think faith is a good work that springs from a regenerate heart, my point is not that. The argument that some on this board are making is that *if* faith is a work, then this means justification is by works. I am trying to make the point that their argument falls short. As such, this thread is *not* about whether or not faith is a work, but rather is about the consequences involved regarding justification *if* faith were a work. My point is that *if* faith is a work, this does not entail that the person is "justified by works" in the Romans 4:4 sense.

    Before moving forward, can I ask you a favor? Before you start criticizing my position, would you mind showing me the courtesy of first understanding my position? My position will be considered understood when I say to you, "Yes, Allan, that is my position and I feel you do understand." This way we are not talking past each other. I, certainly, will show you the same courtesy. Is that fair?

    Part #1

    Hopefully, the above ground rules are agreed to, and I will move forward assuming that they are. It is my position (as articulated in my opening post) that when the Scriptures speak of "justification by faith alone" and "justification by works" there is a subtle difference between the function of 'faith' and the function of 'works' in those phrases. 'Faith' in the phrase "justification by faith alone" is acting as an instrument; whereas, 'works' in the phrase "justified by works" acts as a basis or foundation. When the Scriptures speak of someone trying to be justified by their works, it is speaking of someone who is trying to be forensically declared "right with God" on the basis of his works. However, when the Scriptures speak of someone who is "justified by faith," it is speaking of someone who is declared "right with God" not on the basis of his works, but rather on the basis of Christ's work. This person enjoys this status because of his union with Christ. He comes into this union by the instrumental means of faith. So, 'faith' functions differently in the phrase "justification by faith alone" than 'work' functions in the phrase "justification by work."

    Key Point #1: The basis or foundation upon which the Judge declares someone justified is works - either the work of Christ or the work of the individual.

    Key Point #2: 'Faith' and 'works' do not function the same way in the phrase "justified by 'X'." 'Faith' in the phrase "justified by faith" is the instrument by which we enter into the union with Christ and enjoy the benefits thereof - one benefit being declared 'right' before God; whereas, 'work' in the phrase "justified by works" is the foundation or basis by which one is seeking to be declared "right with God."

    Part #2

    The basis for what comes next is the assumption that Key Point #2 is correct. If faith is in fact a work, then the phrase "justified by faith alone" does not mean that someone is going to God on the basis of his work (faith) for his justification. What it means is that the person is using this good work of faith as the instrument by which he comes into union with Christ. Because of his union with Christ, the believer *still* looks to the work of Christ as the basis and foundation upon which his hope rests. As such, even if faith is properly a work, it is improper to say that this person is seeking justification on the basis of his works.

    Key Point #3: If faith is properly called a work, this does not entail that the person exercising faith is using faith as the basis or foundation for his justification. The basis or foundation for his justification is the work of Christ. The work of faith is simply the instrument by which he lays hold of Christ.

    Sincerely,

    Brian
     
    #4 Brian Bosse, Aug 15, 2009
    Last edited by a moderator: Aug 15, 2009

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