This sermon was delivered during the Coronavirus “stay at home” order, and so was conducted virtually as we held our services over Zoom.
Raised for Our Justification (Romans 4:25)
CrossWay Community Church
April 12th, 2020
In A New Testament Biblical Theology: The Unfolding of the Old Testament in the New, G.K. Beale asks, “How can believers be said to be judged by works and yet be justified by faith?” (e.g., Rom 2:13; Js 2:14-26; cf. Rom 3:28)
In the process of answering his question concerning what Beale tactfully calls this “consummate, manifestive stage of justification” (i.e., the justification according to works of which scripture speaks), Beale gives the following helpful illustration to help us understand this “twofold justification.”
A mundane illustration may help to clarify. In the United States, some large discount food stores require people to pay an annual fee to have the privilege of buying food at their store. Once this fee is paid, the member must present a card as evidence of having paid the fee. The card gets the members into the store, but it is not the ultimate reason that the person is granted access. The paid fee is the ultimate reason, the card being the evidence that the fee has been paid. We may refer to the paid fee as the “necessary causal condition” of store entrance and to the evidential card more simply as a “necessary condition.” The card is the external manifestation or proof that the price has been paid, so that both the money paid and the card issued are necessary for admittance, but they do not have the same conditional force for gaining entrance. We may call the paid fee a “first order” or “ultimate” condition and the card a “second order” condition.
Likewise, Christ’s justifying penal death is the price paid “once for all” (Heb. 9:12; cf. 9:26–28), and the good works done within the context of Christian faith become the inevitable evidence of such faith at the final judicial evaluation. Christ’s work is the “necessary causal condition” for justification, and the believer’s works are a “necessary condition” for it. Jonathan Edwards helpfully referred to Christ’s work as “causal justification” and the believer’s obedience at the end of the age as “manifestive justification.” This manifestive evidence not only is part of a judicial process but also becomes evidence that overturns the wrong verdict of the world on believers’ faith and works done in obedience to Christ.
G. K. Beale, A New Testament Biblical Theology: The Unfolding of the Old Testament in the New (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2011), 506–507.
This is one of my favorite portions in Luther’s writings and one of my favorite illustrations.
The following is from Luther’s short work Freedom of a Christian.
The third incomparable benefit of faith is that it unites the soul with Christ as a bride is united with her bridegroom. By this mystery, as the Apostle teaches, Christ and the soul become one flesh [Eph. 5:31–32]. And if they are one flesh and there is between them a true marriage—indeed the most perfect of all marriages, since human marriages are but poor examples of this one true marriage—it follows that everything they have they hold in common, the good as well as the evil. Accordingly the believing soul can boast of and glory in whatever Christ has as though it were its own, and whatever the soul has Christ claims as his own. Let us compare these and we shall see inestimable benefits. Christ is full of grace, life, and salvation. The soul is full of sins, death, and damnation. Now let faith come between them and sins, death, and damnation will be Christ’s, while grace, life, and salvation will be the soul’s; for if Christ is a bridegroom, he must take upon himself the things which are his bride’s and bestow upon her the things that are his. If he gives her his body and very self, how shall he not give her all that is his? And if he takes the body of the bride, how shall he not take all that is hers?
This passage exists within The Institutes of the Christian Religion’s third book entitled “The mode of obtaining the grace of Christ. The benefits it confers, and the effects resulting from it” (especially note the “benefits” and “effects” “resulting from” grace received). In this section Calvin seeks to refute the idea that the reformers “destroy good works, and give encouragement to sin” by their doctrine of justification by faith alone. On the contrary, Calvin desires to prove that “justification by faith establishes the necessity of good works” (emphasis mine).
Our last sentence may refute the impudent calumny of certain ungodly men, who charge us, first, with destroying good works and leading men away from the study of them, when we say, that men are not justified, and do not merit salvation by works; and, secondly, with making the means of justification too easy, when we say that it consists in the free remission of sins, and thus alluring men to sin to which they are already too much inclined. These calumnies, I say, are sufficiently refuted by that one sentence; however, I will briefly reply to both. The allegation is that justification by faith destroys good works. … They pretend to lament that when faith is so highly extolled, works are deprived of their proper place. But what if they are rather ennobled and established? We dream not of a faith which is devoid of good works, nor of a justification which can exist without them: the only difference is, that while we acknowledge that faith and works are necessarily connected, we, however, place justification in faith, not in works. Continue reading