“The Doers of the Law Will Be Justified”

Posted by on October 26, 2012 in Exegesis, Featured, Gospel, Holy Spirit, Justification, Law, Romans, Sanctification, Sola Fide | 56 comments

Since the issue has arisen here recently, I’d like to comment on a well-known and controversial passage: Romans 2:13. To set the text in context, Paul leads up to the passage we’re considering by saying:

He will render to each one according to his works: to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life; but for those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury. There will be tribulation and distress for every human being who does evil, the Jew first and also the Greek, but glory and honor and peace for everyone who does good, the Jew first and also the Greek. For God shows no partiality. For all who have sinned without the law will also perish without the law, and all who have sinned under the law will be judged by the law (Rom. 2:6-12).

One thing to note here is that there is no mention whatsoever of “perfect law-keeping” or “spotless obedience.” Instead what the apostle says is that there are two groups of people who will be judged on the last day according to their works. One group will receive wrath and fury because of their self-seeking and refusal to obey the truth. The other group will also be judged according to their works, but they will receive eternal life, and the reason Paul gives for this is not that they were legally perfect (either through their own or someone else’s perfect obedience), but because they patiently do good, and thereby seek for immortality. So to read this passage as though it were setting forth a covenant-of-works kind of arrangement according to which absolute perfection is demanded is to ignore what Paul says and put different words in his mouth.

Further, the prior context is “the riches of [God’s] kindness and forbearance and patience… [which] is meant to lead you to repentance.” If this were a hypothetical arrangement intended only to set forth a way of salvation that sin has now made impossible, then why would Paul couch his words in the language of repentance (for which, last I checked, sin is a necessary prerequisite)?

We now come to the verse in question, which reads:

For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous before God, but the doers of the law who will be justified.

If context means anything (and I’m told it does), then the “doers of the law” in v. 13 are not a group of non-existent sinless law-keepers, but rather those who seek immortality by patiently doing good. The question that arises, then, is whether any such people actually exist in the world.

Paul seems to think so. In the very next few verses he writes:

For when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law. They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them on that day when, according to my gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus (vv. 14-16).

A couple things to note here. First, Paul refers to this message as “his gospel” and not, as many would prefer, “the law that precedes the gospel that he will eventually get to in the next chapter.” Secondly, note that he begins v. 14 with the word, “… the doers of the law will be justified. For the Gentiles…” Beginning an argument in this way (by building on what was just established) is not the kind of thing one would do if what he had just got through saying was hypothetical and not normative. In other words, if there are no “doers of the law,” then there are no people on earth to whom Paul could appeal to illustrate what they’re like. But this is precisely what Paul is doing by appealing to these Gentiles: he is illustrating the kinds of people he has in mind when he writes of the doers of the law.

This cannot be emphasized enough: If v. 13 were hypothetical rather than normative, then Paul’s argument would be as silly as my saying to an often tardy co-worker, “Hey, if you want to be on time, you should do what my Uncle Bill does and teleport to work,” and when my co-worker says, “Your uncle teleports to work?” I respond, “No, I don’t really have an uncle. Plus, teleporting is scientifically impossible.” If you’re going to suggest something impossible, you can’t appeal to a real-life person to illustrate it. And if the person you appeal to in order to illustrate a suggestion is real, then it follows that the suggestion is not impossible.

What are these Gentile doers of the law like? Paul explains:

So, if a man who is uncircumcised keeps the precepts of the law, will not his uncircumcision be regarded as circumcision? Then he who is physically uncircumcised but keeps the law will condemn you who have the written code and circumcision but break the law. For no one is a Jew who is merely one outwardly, nor is circumcision outward and physical. But a Jew is one inwardly, and circumcision is a matter of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter. His praise is not from man but from God (vv. 26-29).

Again, if no one “kept the precepts of the law” and thereby “rendered his uncircumcision as circumcision,” then the argument would make no sense. The actual existence of these Gentiles is the key to Paul’s whole argument.

But how can there be actual Gentiles who fit Paul’s description, who “keep the precepts of the law”? He tells us quite clearly that they do so because the work of the law is “written on their hearts” and thus they are not “Jews outwardly,” but “Jews inwardly,” whose circumcision is not the Old Covenant, Mosaic kind that is characterized by “the letter.” Rather, their circumcision is “a matter of the heart, by the Spirit.”

And as I hope to show in my next post, the conversion of Cornelius in Acts 10 is a perfect illustration of Paul’s argument in Romans 2. But to conclude my point here, Paul teaches quite plainly (1) that justification has a future aspect to it, (2) that it is according to our works, and (3) that those works are not the result of perfectly obeying the letter of the Mosaic law, but come rather from the New Covenant work of the Spirit who (as Rom. 5:5 says) infuses the love of God into our hearts.

56 Comments

  1. And FYI, because I have been buried by spam lately, I set things up where the first comment you make from now on needs to be approved by me, and after that you’re good to go.

  2. Jason,

    Yes, indeed. When Paul points the finger at the Gentiles in ch. I, it is a way- and a very devastating one at that-of deflating pretensions to superiority that some of the Jews may have had because God chose Israel to bring salvation to the nations. The Gentiles, who had turned away from the clear revelation of God in the “book of nature”, are contemptible reprobates, but the Jews, who enjoyed enormous advantages as the recipients of God’s special oracles, are just as bad; because they do the same despicable things that the Gentiles practice. They are hypocrites as well as reprobates. He caps it all quite succintly in vs. 9 of ch. 3 where he writes “What then? Are we Jews any better off? No, not at all. For we have already charged that all, both Jews and Greeks are under sin.” Then, he goes on to quote Psalm 14.

    How then can a digression upon a hypothetical and thus, entirely unreal, case of Gentile faithfulness advance Paul’s argument? Paul could have leveled Jewish presumption quite well merely by pointing out that the Jews “practice the very same things” for which they held the pagans in contempt; there is no need here to resort to hypothesis.

    -Hygelac

  3. Here’s how I would have understood Paul as a Presbyterian: “Not so fast, you Jews! You think you’re superior to the Gentiles, but keep in mind that if you insist on approaching God on the basis of your works, then it’s absolute perfection that he demands.”

    I can understand seeing the text in that way, but I think it is a largely inherited interpretation driven by a theology that just needs Paul to be saying certain things in order for the theology to hold together.

  4. I’m just a dude, but one of the reformed/Protestant, or whatever, types.

    I honestly don’t see an answer to the disagreements over what role our works play towards our salvation, between the two sides (cats and prots). The question seems too paradoxical. Kind of like if I tried to convince my fellow prots, of the baptist/arminian kind, about my persuation of my more deterministic outlook.

    But of course, I’m just a dude. I can totally understand someone who held a more Catholic view of works to reject the reformed view, because they are incompatible. Do we honestly think we are uncovering ‘new light’ here out in the blog world? Just so readers know, when I wonder about those topics which in tend to think are more paradoxical, I ask my Presbyterian pastors for good books. And I do like to read both sides. But hey, that’s just me. Maybe you all are ‘cutting ergs out here, on blogs. And so, with that, I will pipe down. But those are my honest thoughts.

    Peace of the Lord.

  5. *cutting edge

  6. Andrew B,

    I honestly don’t see an answer to the disagreements over what role our works play towards our salvation, between the two sides (cats and prots). The question seems too paradoxical.

    Well in one respect you’re right, for if there is no principled way to arrive at an interpretation of Paul that transcends mere human opinion about what one thinks a text means (a problem to which Sola Scriptura falls prey), then at the end of the day there really isn’t any way to resolve the disagreement. It’s just he said / she said.

    Still , my aim is not to beg the question by appealing to Magisterial authority, but rather to show that the Catholic position is the most plausible since it makes the most sense out of the most data.

    Do we honestly think we are uncovering ‘new light’ here out in the blog world? Just so readers know, when I wonder about those topics which in tend to think are more paradoxical, I ask my Presbyterian pastors for good books. And I do like to read both sides. But hey, that’s just me. Maybe you all are ‘cutting edge out here, on blogs. And so, with that, I will pipe down. But those are my honest thoughts.

    If other people are engaging in discussion that you don’t find particularly fruitful, it’s OK to just walk away and not participate. But to constantly ask everyone what their purpose is can come off as condescending. Just saying.

  7. Thanks, for the response. You are right. I don’t want to be condescending.

  8. Jason, so glad that you have come home to the Catholic Church. I am currently going through the RCIA process myself. If I understand your conversion story correctly I believe me and you had a very similar experience….. The Bible made me Catholic! The Church desperately needs more people like yourself to do some credible exegesis of scripture that resonates so strongly to protestants. God Bless you, I enjoyed this article!

  9. Hi Jason,

    I decided to post a briefer comment on your previous post instead of sending a longer email, because if I keep trying to get it perfect, I fear I will never send anything at all. Would you mind taking a look back at the previous post and responding to my comment? Thanks!

  10. Hey Jason,

    As a convinced Protestant am I supposed to disagree with any of this? Personally, I can affirm everything that you say here. Moreover, I can think of plenty of Protestants who would take v. 13 as normative and follow a line of thought that is similar to what you lay out here.

    Hope you are doing well!

  11. Hey Michael,

    Good to hear from you! It’s late and I just got in, so I’ll respond in the morning.

    ‘Til then….

  12. Michael,

    As a convinced Protestant am I supposed to disagree with any of this? Personally, I can affirm everything that you say here. Moreover, I can think of plenty of Protestants who would take v. 13 as normative and follow a line of thought that is similar to what you lay out here.

    I am glad to hear this (and I could have guessed it of you and others who are favorable toward the Federal Vision).

    Here’s the rub, though: According to the first sentence in the WCF on justification, “Those whom God effectually calleth, he also freely justifieth: not by infusing righteousness into them. . . .” But in my piece, I argue that justification is indeed by Spirit-wrought works, since the Spirit infuses the love of God into our hearts. The Confession continues, saying that justification happens:

    . . . by accounting and accepting their persons as righteous; not for any thing wrought in them, or done by them, but for Christ’s sake alone; not by imputing faith itself, the act of believing, or any other evangelical obedience to them, as their righteousness; but by imputing the obedience and satisfaction of Christ unto them, they receiving and resting on him and his righteousness by faith.

    I think this paragraph is pretty clearly contradicted in my post, don’t you? So if you can’t find anything to disagree with in my post, then I would be curious to know if you consider the WCF to be incorrect here.

  13. Great article. My 2 cents would be to also emphasize that the problem Paul was addressing in Romans was not Pelagianism, but a Jew-vs-Gentile elitism. And if Pelagianism is not the hermeneutical lens by which to read Romans, then it makes no sense to read any sorts of Covenant of Works into it.

    And following the Scripture-interprets-Scripture rule, texts like James 1:19-25 sound very similar to Romans 2:12ff, without any notion of hypothetical perfect lawkeeping.

    p.s. If able, you should enable the comment option of “Email me of follow-up comments”.

  14. Nick,

    I think you’re right about choosing the proper lens. I have been going round and round with Lutheran Jason Loh at Green Baggins, who simply cannot understand “law” in any sense other than “God’s eternal commands that need to be obeyed for justification.” It’s maddening!

  15. As you know, a simple substitution of “God’s eternal commands” where Paul uses the term “nomos” will almost never render an intelligible statement. The use of nomos in Galatians (esp Ch 3) is most decisive in this regard. The only definition of nomos that makes sense is “Mosaic Law”. I think it was Jeff Cagle that conceded to me once that nomos in Galatians was surely the Mosaic Law, but then he added that Romans was dealing with another issue so Galatians could not be used as a guide to interpret Romans.

    I’ve found that one can only come realize this is if they’re willing to sit down and take the time to objectively look at the evidence (i.e. look at the verses where Paul uses nomos). Baggin’ the Question simply isn’t being true to oneself. All Catholics ask is that a person be true to themself, to do their own homework.

    Astonishingly, in the recent book The Law Is Not of Faith, look what was admitted in Chapter 8:

    PAGE 249:
    “Few contributions to Pauline studies in the last several decades are more important than THE NOW WIDELY RECOGNIZED lexical reality that for Paul, [ho nomos, ‘the law’] means `the Sinai covenant’ far more consistently than it means anything else. As DOUGLASS MOO has said: `What is VITAL for any accurate understanding of Paul’s doctrine of law is to realize that PAUL USES NOMOS [LAW] MOST OFTEN AND MOST BASICALLY OF THE MOSAIC LAW.` That is, Paul uses the term VERY DIFFERENTLY THAN THE TERM LATER CAME TO BE USED in Christian theology, ORDINARILY to denote something like Gods’s demand. Again, Moo is right to correct this notion: `As we have seen, THE REFORMERS, AS MOST THEOLOGIANS TODAY, use `law’ to mean anything that demands something of us. In this sense, `law’ is a basic factor in all human history; and man is in every age, whether in the OT or NT, confronted with `law.’ What is crucial to recognize is that THIS IS NOT the way in which Paul usually uses the term nomos.'”

  16. Jason,

    How do you think Romans 2:13 “For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous before God, but the doers of the law who will be justified” can be reconciled with this verse: “You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace” (Galatians 5:4)?

    Are there two meanings of “law” here?

  17. Nick,

    Doug Moo rocks the casbah (he came and spoke at WSC while I was a student there). The problem is that if you pay attention to what he’s saying, the whole law/gospel hermeneutic should go right out the window.

    The problem with a lot of Reformed theologians (which your citation demonstrates) is that on the one hand they recognize how obvious Moo’s and others’ position is on the law, and yet they remain beholden to systematic categories that just can’t hold up to biblical scrutiny.

  18. Christie,

    How do you think Romans 2:13 “For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous before God, but the doers of the law who will be justified” can be reconciled with this verse: “You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace” (Galatians 5:4)?

    Are there two meanings of “law” here?

    Thanks for your comment.

    The key is in how Paul illustrates his meaning in Rom. 2. The “doing of the law” that leads to justification in that passage is one that bypasses Moses altogether. He shows this by appealing to Gentiles “who do not have the law by birthright,” and yet who nonetheless somehow “keep the precepts of the law” and “render their uncircumcision as circumcision.” The way they do this is not by being more meticulous than the Jews, but by having a “righteousness that exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees.” This righteousness, as Paul says in Phil. 3, is “not our own from the law,” but is the result of the NC gift of the Spirit who makes us “Jews inwardly.”

    This is the exact opposite of the Judaizers in Gal. 5 who seek their righteousness from Moses, as evidenced by urging the Galatians to be circumcised.

    So the overall point Paul is making is that the Spirit brings about what the law pointed to all along, and he does it without Moses.

  19. Hi Jason,

    Interesting article! It’s definitely given me something to think about today.

    I am curious for your take on something: in what way were the Gentiles keeping the law, despite their having never heard it? I don’t think you could argue that they were using the appropriate sacrifices, but perhaps they were fulfilling what Jesus called the weightier parts of the law by doing justice and caring for their neighbors? I’m inclined toward that answer, as there are things that other nations could never have done according to the Law unless they have been specifically instructed by Moses (or someone else) to do them. Your thoughts?

  20. I think Cornelius’s conversion is instructive here, for he seems to fit Paul’s description in Rom. 2 pretty well. Luke says of him that he gave alms, prayed constantly, and cared for the poor, and that his good works ascended as a memorial before God. In other words, he “continued patiently in doing good, seeking for glory, honor, and immortality.”

    And what does Peter say to Cornelius when they meet? “God shows no partiality [anticipating Rom. 2:11], but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is accepted by him.”

    So I think it has everything to do with love of neighbor and nothing to do with Mosaic sacrifices.

  21. Jason,

    I’m totally picking up what you’re laying down, but I have a lingering question about how to link up Acts 10 with Rom 2. Specifically, what do you make of the fact that Cornelius’s good deeds as a God-fearer were done before hearing the Gospel and receiving the Spirit? In fact, those deeds are what “earn” Cornelius the angelic revelation to send for Peter so he can hear the Gospel. But in Rom 2, I tend to be persuaded by the reading that identifies the Gentiles in question as Gentile believers, who have been inwardly circumcised by faith. I believe I recall you once saying you also hold to this reading. (St Thomas Aquinas seems to prefer it as well in his Romans commentary, so we’re in good company.)

    I recognize that the point of Acts 10 is not to spell out an ordo salutis — the point is, of course, Gentile inclusion in the New Covenant, which is so “astounding” (see v. 45) that the Holy Spirit has to descend visibly on the Gentile believers in order for the circumcised believers to receive them into the Church through baptism. That’s the high drama of the chapter. But I am still puzzling through the details of how this fits with Rom 2. If you’ll suffer some Scholastic language (I know you’re trying to keep things basic and biblical, which I appreciate for the sake of this discussion): Cornelius’s good works seem to be responses to actual graces preceding justification; the Rom 2 Gentiles who don’t have the law by nature but fulfill its requirements (if I’m right in taking them to be believers) already have the indwelling Spirit as the principle of their good works.

    If you’d like to defer this to your next post on Cornelius, I’m cool with that.

    best,
    John

  22. John,

    Thanks for your comment.

    I have a lingering question about how to link up Acts 10 with Rom 2. Specifically, what do you make of the fact that Cornelius’s good deeds as a God-fearer were done before hearing the Gospel and receiving the Spirit? In fact, those deeds are what “earn” Cornelius the angelic revelation to send for Peter so he can hear the Gospel. But in Rom 2, I tend to be persuaded by the reading that identifies the Gentiles in question as Gentile believers, who have been inwardly circumcised by faith. I believe I recall you once saying you also hold to this reading. (St Thomas Aquinas seems to prefer it as well in his Romans commentary, so we’re in good company.)

    You mean Thomas is in good company because of how awesome we both are, and he gets to agree with us.

    Yes, I have struggled a bit with the same issue as well. I wonder if the matter can be resolved by considering things from both an ordo- and historia salutis perspective. For example, on the day of Pentecost in Acts 2 we have “believers” receiving the outpouring of the Spirit. Now good men like Martyn Lloyd-Jones have argued that the fact that people described as believers are receiving the Spirit subsequent to their initial conversion proves that the baptism of the Spirit is something over and above mere faith.

    The way we should respond to this is by pointing out that he is highlighting something unique in the historia salutis and turning it into a normative element of the ordo. So just because Pentecost happened to people who were already believers doesn’t mean that this is a pattern for all time. In fact, subsequent to Acts 2 people receive the Pentecostal gift of the Spirit upon trusting in Christ without having to tarry for it. Like the incarnation and resurrection, Pentecost is a unique event not to be repeated in the exact same manner.

    The same could be true with Cornelius. Obviously the Gentiles Paul spoke of in Rom. 2 came much later than Cornelius’s conversion. So it is possible that Cornelius, as the first true Gentile to receive the Spirit, was a kind of prototype for all Gentiles, without the unique historical circumstances of his conversion having to be precisely reproduced.

    Just a thought. Feel free to revisit this after I publish my post on Cornelius.

  23. Jason,
    I don’t know that I’m all that FV sympathetic. I have appreciated some of the FV writers, but I don’t always agree with them either.

    Regardless, one does not have to be FV (or sympathetic to the FV) to hold that Paul is speaking about real people in Romans 2:13. Dr. Gaffin has argued for that position. It is also the view of Dr. Schreiner. There are many others as well. It’s simply the straightforward and most likely meaning of the text.

    Now does my general agreement with your take on Romans 2 put me at odds with the WCF and its teaching on justification?

    I certainly don’t believe so.

    As you know, the WCF does not really deal with eschatological/final justification in its exposition of the doctrine. Rather, the WCF is focused on justification as it occurs at the beginning of the Christian life when a person is converted to Christ. It is justification at conversion that is in view. And with this in mind, I think the WCF’s teaching on the doctrine is very good and very scriptural.

    The WCF teaches us that when a person is converted to the Lord they are justified (ie there sin is forgiven on account of Christ’s sacrifice), and this justification is through faith and not by way of works. I completely agree with this! That is exactly what Paul shows us in Romans 3-5, in Galatians, and in Philippians 3. The forgiveness of our sins (justification) is by the blood of Christ, and it is through faith. As Paul says, we are “justified by his blood.”

    So, I’m quite happy to affirm those portions of the WCF that you cite. Those sections are not dealing with the eschatological justification of Romans 2 which you are writing about.

    Now when the WCF does address the subject of final justification (or the last judgment), it is absolutely clear about judgment according to works. As you know, chapter 33 teaches that “all persons that have lived upon earth shall appear before the tribunal of Christ to give an account of their thoughts, words, and deeds; and to receive according to what they have done in the body, whether good or evil.”

    I believe that the WCF”s teaching on this point is biblical, and is in keeping with my understanding of Romans 2.

    So, while I am a happy to affirm what you have said about Romans 2, I am also happy to affirm what I find in the WCF (and the 3FU).

  24. Gentles,

    This is a little off topic, but, with respect to the obsolescence of the Mosaic sacrifices, it is interesting to note that the very acts which made Cornelius eminent in the Church of Jerusalem were sacrifices that truly pleased the Father: “But to do good and to communicate forget not, for with such sacrifices God is well pleased.” (Heb. 13: 18). This echoes the Temple imagery of I Pet 2 which describes the Church as a “spiritual house” and holy priesthood, offering “spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” I Peter may also have a veiled liturgical sense to it, insofar as a reference to the Eucharist is implied in the words “if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good.” This may be nothing more than a borrowing from the Psalter; however, even Reformed theologians, like R. C. Sproul, believe that Heb. 6: 5,6 refers to the Eucharist (i.e. those “who have tasted the heavenly gift”).

    Anyhow, it fascinates me to see a rather explicit allusion to the Communion table (with telling sacerdotal implications) right in the middle of the pericope which ends with vs 16 of Heb. 13: “Be not carried about with diverse and strange doctrines. For it is a good thing that the heart be established with grace, not with meats, which have not profited them that have been occupied therein. We have an altar, whereof they have no right to eat which serve the tabernacle.”

    It would be strecthing things a bit to posit a causal relation between the Christian altar and the performance of those sacrifices which please God in Heb. 13; but it does imply that through the altar, or, rather, through the sacrament whose locus is that altar, the heart “is established with grace.”

  25. Michael,

    … one does not have to be FV (or sympathetic to the FV) to hold that Paul is speaking about real people in Romans 2:13. Dr. Gaffin has argued for that position. It is also the view of Dr. Schreiner. There are many others as well. It’s simply the straightforward and most likely meaning of the text.

    Agreed. It is interesting that so many old school Presbyterians/TRs (if not all of them) deny that this is the most plain meaning of the text. Gotta wonder what’s driving the denial, since it just seems so obvious.

    Now does my general agreement with your take on Romans 2 put me at odds with the WCF and its teaching on justification?

    I certainly don’t believe so.

    It’s all in how you read it, I guess. Speaking for myself, I am convinced that if I were to set forth my understanding on Rom. 2 and show how it fits in with my broader soteriology, every member of the Westminster Assembly would fart in my general direction.

  26. Michael Saville,

    I’m curious as to what you think of what Jason has said about how the Westminster Assembly might, er, react to his reading of Rom 2. In two parts:

    1 – Do you think he’s right? I feel quite certain that Calvin would have had at least that violent a reaction, but I don’t know as much about 17th-century Calvinists. If you think Jason is wrong, I’d love to be pointed toward some evidence. Did any of the Assembly members write Romans commentaries?

    2 – If Jason is right, what’s at stake for you? I mean, what’s the point of holding on to this particular historic document if you have to interpret it against its own grain (i.e., against the intention of its drafters)? The tenacity with which some Reformed have clung to the WCF honestly baffles me. They do not claim that its drafters had any special sacramental or magisterial authority, nor were they deputed to the task by some such authority. There’s just the conviction that they got the Bible right. That already brings a boatload of problems, but never mind that for now. The question is, if that’s the basis of allegiance to the WCF — that its drafters read the Bible right — and it turns out that maybe they, along with Calvin, didn’t read the Bible right on final justification as reflected in passages like Rom 2, then what do you see as the consequences for your own adherence to the WCF?

    This is an honest question. I’ve never been, like, “legit” Reformed, and so I’ve never professed allegiance to the WCF. But I know a lot of good and honest people who do, and I’d really like to understand better why they cling to it so fiercely even when some fancy dancing is required to show how it doesn’t contradict their opinions.

    best,
    John

  27. It would seem that the case of Cornelius in Acts 10 models the exmample of Romans 4 and Abraham. As the common Catholic argument goes, Abraham believed and followed God prior to Genesis 15:6, demonstrating his justification at 15:6 could not have been a once-and-for-all event. Similarly, Cornelius had faith and was walking with God prior to hearing the Gospel, where he was undoubtedly justified at, but it would be Pelagianism to say he was not saved until hearing the Gospel.

  28. Nick,

    Thanks — interesting connection! Could you expand on what you mean by saying that “it would be Pelagianism to say he was not saved until hearing the Gospel”? Because it would imply that his prayers and almsgiving were found pleasing apart from grace? Or for some other reason?

    best,
    John

  29. Hygelac,

    This is a little off topic, but, with respect to the obsolescence of the Mosaic sacrifices, it is interesting to note that the very acts which made Cornelius eminent in the Church of Jerusalem were sacrifices that truly pleased the Father: “But to do good and to communicate forget not, for with such sacrifices God is well pleased.” (Heb. 13: 18). This echoes the Temple imagery of I Pet 2 which describes the Church as a “spiritual house” and holy priesthood, offering “spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” I Peter may also have a veiled liturgical sense to it, insofar as a reference to the Eucharist is implied in the words “if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good.” This may be nothing more than a borrowing from the Psalter; however, even Reformed theologians, like R. C. Sproul, believe that Heb. 6: 5,6 refers to the Eucharist (i.e. those “who have tasted the heavenly gift”).

    Anyhow, it fascinates me to see a rather explicit allusion to the Communion table (with telling sacerdotal implications) right in the middle of the pericope which ends with vs 16 of Heb. 13: “Be not carried about with diverse and strange doctrines. For it is a good thing that the heart be established with grace, not with meats, which have not profited them that have been occupied therein. We have an altar, whereof they have no right to eat which serve the tabernacle.”

    It would be strecthing things a bit to posit a causal relation between the Christian altar and the performance of those sacrifices which please God in Heb. 13; but it does imply that through the altar, or, rather, through the sacrament whose locus is that altar, the heart “is established with grace.”

    This is all really good. It would be interesting to do a kind of thorough NT study on Eucharistic imagery and tie it in with acceptable sacrifice. You’re definitely on to something here!

  30. Hygelac,

    I agree — good stuff. To add to the weight of the connection you’ve drawn between Heb 13 (which I agree bears reference to the Eucharist) and Cornelius, consider how the angel’s words to Cornelius in Acts 10.4 echo those of the Archangel Raphael to Tobit in Tob 12.12. In the Second Temple period, it is apparent that works of mercy — almsgiving in particular — were already viewed in sacrificial-cultic terms. This is already visible in Proverbs and certain of the Prophets, but it becomes especially clear in Tobit and Sirach. Gary Anderson has written on this, as well as how it is taken up in Jesus’s teaching, in chapter 9 of Sin: A History, as well as a number of articles. Note, too, that 1 Tim 6.14 uses technical terminology from the sacrificial cult (“without spot or blame”). Lastly, I think you’d really enjoy looking at Augustine’s City of God 10.1-6, where he plots out the very trajectory of sacrifice — opera misericordiae — Eucharist that you seem to be indicating. Great stuff!

    best,
    John

  31. John,
    I think it’s pretty clear that Reformed theologians over the centuries have taken Paul to be speaking hypothetically when he speaks in Romans 2:13 of the “doers of the law” who will be justified. This was certainly the view of Calvin. It was the view of the old Reformed commentators such as Haldane and Hodge. So, yes, the “hypothetical view” has been pretty universally held in Reformed circles.

    The “normative view” of Romans 2:13 is definitely seems to be newer in our circles. As far as I can tell, it has only been held by more recent “Reformed” interpreters such as Cranfield, Hendriksen, Ridderbos, Schreiner, and Gaffin.

    Would the Westminster Divines like this view? Perhaps not. They held to the other view, and its possible they may have seen this view as a threat to the Protestant doctrine of justification.

    However, what matters is the confession that they wrote. And as I indicated, I don’t think that the confession precludes this interpretation of Romans 2. It simply is not addressed in the WCF’s teaching on justification. Our concern is with what the WCF actually says about justification. And what it says, I am happy to affirm.

    If Jason is right that holding this view runs contrary to the WCF, then the best for a person to do would be try to change the WCF or adopt a different confession. To have an unchangeable confession is completely contrary to the fundamental principles of Protestantism. If we think the confession is wrong, we should seek to change it, write a new confession, or adopt a different one.

  32. Thanks, Michael.

    best,
    John

  33. John S #28,

    You asked me:

    Could you expand on what you mean by saying that “it would be Pelagianism to say he was not saved until hearing the Gospel”? Because it would imply that his prayers and almsgiving were found pleasing apart from grace? Or for some other reason?

    The argument is basically this: Galatians 3:8 and Hebrews 11:8 prove Abraham heard the Gospel and had saving faith as early as Genesis 12, and he even “called upon the name of the Lord” (12:8), which Paul says is the heart of justification (Rom 10:13). Thus, it’s impossible that Abraham was not justified until Genesis 15:6 as Calvinists claim by pointing to Romans 4*.

    Now here is what Acts 10:1f says:

    1 At Caesarea there was a man named Cornelius, a centurion in what was known as the Italian Regiment. 2 He and all his family were devout and God-fearing; he gave generously to those in need and prayed to God regularly.

    Clearly, this follows a similar model to that of Abraham’s situation. We know Cornelius didn’t hear the full fledged Gospel until Acts 10:34ff, to which he clearly was justified when he assented to the Message. But Cornelius was not converting to belief in the One True God in 10:34ff (or even in v4!), he was already a devout believer. This requires that he was justified some time before 10:34ff, since it’s impossible to do these things outside of a state of grace (except in the case of conversion, which he wasn’t doing). The same thing happened with many Jews in the Gospels and Acts who were already devout and God-fearing (and thus in a state of grace), but they still had to accept the Gospel.

    *James White responded to this argument by saying Abraham’s belief in Gen 12 onward was akin to “a lot of people who obey general things in this life” and that “that does not mean they’ve entered into a relationship with God and accepted God’s promises.”

  34. Thanks, Jason! I’m going to look more at these passages soon.

  35. Nick,

    I think Dr. White’s opinions, namely, that Abraham could only obey the Lord in some vague, non-salvific sense, and that he wouldn’t truly come into relationship with God until ch. 15, is refuted clearly enough from the texts of both Genesis 12 and Heb. 11.. With repsect to the latter, I was particularly struck by the nature of the Divine promise itself-a promise demanding obedience which is anything but “general”. It is both supernatural and eschatological, and as such requires a faith which is beyond the capacities of an unbeliever to muster.

    So, for example, we read in Heb. 11: 8, 9 that “By faith, Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed… he sojourned in the land of promise as a stranger in a strange country..” In vs 10, we get a fuller glimpse of the eschatological reality behind this promise, for it says that Abraham “looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God. And a few verses later the mysterious city (which is finally arrived at in 12 : 22 with the “city of the Living God” ) is revealed as the better, “heavenly country”which Abraham, “the stranger and Pilgrim on earth”, had seen afar off and embraced.

    Unless I’m entrirely off target this is the same promise that the Jewish Christians had recieved at their baptism. Iow, it is a peculiarly Christian promise; and I percieve a thematic connection between their faithful search for it (“For here we have no continuing city, but we seek one to come.”) and that of Abraham, who, among other faithful witnesses “died in faith, not having recieved the promises, but having seen them afar off…confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.”

    But as to the reality of Abraham’s relationship with God prior to Gen. 15, the desire of the promised heavenly country, manifested in a life which refused to be at home in this present world, was enough to establish it: “These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. For they that say such things declare plainly that they seek a country…But now they desire a better country, that is a heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their called their God: for he hath prepared for them a city.”

    It seems to me that seeing afar off, being persuaded of and embracing the promises (not to mention regarding “the land of promise” itself as a strange, alien place) typifies Abraham’s life starting with Gen. 12. At least that appears to be the point of Heb. 11: 8-10. It isn’t until vs. 12 that we actually come upon an allusion to the promise of Gen 15: 5,6.

    Does this make sense or is it hopelessly lame?

  36. Jason wrote: “He tells us quite clearly that they do so because the work of the law is “written on their hearts”

    So how do you suppose the law got written o their heart? This is by the grace of God in conversion where a person is justified before God. And in all whom this happens they keep the law.
    Therefore since it is impossible that one who is converted by grace alone not keep the law, we can closely link the two illustratively by saying to correct the Jewish error of saved by birth, ethnicity, and are not living an obedient life, Paul tells that that is not adequate. They must be doing the works. because all people who have been converted by the Spirit and are justified, will keep the law and do good works. Its not that the works cause or merit the justification but that one who is not keeping the law has not been justified.
    This is clear simple and evidence by being consistent with other passages. James points out another perspective. I can’t see your heart or faith so the only way I can see that you have been justified is by the works you do. If you continue in sin you have not been converted and so are not justified. That is why so many scriptures tell us we cannot be justified by works, but it is by faith. Works manifest conversion and are always there so they can cause us to see evidence of one has been justified. Else it would contradict that we have been saved by grace alone, through faith and that not of ourselves. And even our works are done by faith, The just live by faith, as you pointed out because the works are never perfect enough to justify. Nor can that add any merit toward justification because they are sinful, tainted with indwelling sin. It is all of grace, all of God, and man responds because of the new heart and desires given at conversion.
    We are justified based on Christs works only, His atonement for sin and His righteous life imputed to us.

  37. Hygelac,

    I’d say you’re right on target. That’s why I strongly appeal to Galatians 3:8, since most people don’t realize it says the Gospel was preached to Abraham in Genesis 12 – a perfect compliment to Hebrews 11:8.

  38. Hi Don,

    So how do you suppose the law got written o their heart? This is by the grace of God in conversion where a person is justified before God. And in all whom this happens they keep the law.

    I agree.

    Therefore since it is impossible that one who is converted by grace alone not keep the law, we can closely link the two illustratively by saying to correct the Jewish error of saved by birth, ethnicity, and are not living an obedient life, Paul tells that that is not adequate. They must be doing the works. because all people who have been converted by the Spirit and are justified, will keep the law and do good works. Its not that the works cause or merit the justification but that one who is not keeping the law has not been justified.

    Obviously (since we’re not Pelagians), our own law-keeping cannot merit for us anything saving from God, so there’s no disagreement there. But that doesn’t get at the point, which is that Cornelius’s works were not natural, but supernatural and the result of God’s grace. As I said in the post, Cornelius was not simply a pagan whose works got God’s attention—he clearly had already been the recipient of God grace on some less-than-complete level.

    But we also need to keep in mind that what Paul means by “justification” in Romans 2 is not something that fits very easily with the Reformed definition of that term. Paul is referring to something future, something that occurs on the last Day (and not some once-for-all past event). Verse 16 makes this clear.

    This is clear simple and evidence by being consistent with other passages. James points out another perspective. I can’t see your heart or faith so the only way I can see that you have been justified is by the works you do.

    The issue for James is not so much what he can see, but what can save. That’s why he begins his discussion by asking if faith alone can “save.”

    If you continue in sin you have not been converted and so are not justified. That is why so many scriptures tell us we cannot be justified by works, but it is by faith. Works manifest conversion and are always there so they can cause us to see evidence of one has been justified. Else it would contradict that we have been saved by grace alone, through faith and that not of ourselves. And even our works are done by faith, The just live by faith, as you pointed out because the works are never perfect enough to justify. Nor can that add any merit toward justification because they are sinful, tainted with indwelling sin. It is all of grace, all of God, and man responds because of the new heart and desires given at conversion.

    There are also “so many scriptures” that teach that by continuing in sin we lose the grace we once had. The rest of this paragraph consists of you simply telling me what you believe. But we know each other, Don, and I know very well what you believe about these things. I am making an exegetical argument from Romans and Acts, and you aren’t refuting that by simply reiterating your position.

    So I would be curious how you would respond to my actual argument.

    We are justified based on Christs works only, His atonement for sin and His righteous life imputed to us.

    This utterly contradicts Romans 2:13, which is the whole point of this discussion.

  39. Jason, James is very clear when taken in context of all scripture. James is not saying that it is not faith only that saves us. He is saying that faith that does not produce works is not saving faith.
    So it is not that we are not saved by faith alone, but we are not saved by a faith that is alone without accompanying works. Fruit will be there if the tree is good.
    So to exegete the text of James properly and consistently we see that James does not address being saved by faith alone, but speaks to a person who has faith and no works. the faith alone he speaks of is a faith with no works like the demons have.
    Please see that this is the only way the passage can be interpreted and not as though he said we are not saved by faith alone, only faith. that is a twisting of this scripture.

    Romans 2:13 can best be understood as an idiom. We are justified, we are being saved, we will ultimately be saved. The fact the words are used interchangeably is not a proof alone. The context of the passage must be considered. Paul is speaking about a specific group of people and their mindset and seeking to speak in terms that will reach them and help them get their error. To press this beyond the context and force a systematic theology grid on it is wrong. It contradicts what he clearly says in other places.
    Rom 8:30 Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified ; and whom He justified , these He also glorified. NKJV
    Note these are all past tense so what should we make of these. Have we been glorified already then? Of course not. It is a manner of speaking. It is a discussion of the process not a statement about when it happened in human time. God is not limited by space and time as we are and often speaks of things in different tenses.
    Sometimes a passage speaks with a tense that is correct and other times the tenses are from a sovereign perspective as future or past when they are not in human terms.
    We must use care not to force on a text what is not there consistently as in the case of tenses.
    scripture speaks of being saved as past tense, ongoing and future also. But salvation is not identical with justification. In this sense we understand salvation to be the umbrella of justification, definitive sanctification and ongoing, as well as glorification. So we can say we will be saved and we can say we have been saved depending on which aspect of it were are thinking of. Justification being so closely related Paul takes liberty with the word and uses it in the same way. We have been justified, but we will experience and aspect of our justification in the future at the judgement seat when the “pronouncement” is made, you were justified, so enter. The penalty was paid by Christ on the cross and satisfaction was made then. So in terms of time and space we can say we were justified when the penalty was paid. We can also look to the future but this says nothing about our works having anything to do with the justification, other than manifesting that it has taken place. The clear passage interprets the less clear. We are not justified by works.

    Gal 2:16 knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law but by faith in Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, that we might be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law ; for by the works of the law no flesh shall be justified.

    Eph 2:8 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God , 9 not of works, lest anyone should boast. NKJV

    If works had a part in justification or salvation in the sense of being converted, then we could boast. It would not be: by faith not by works…
    the above passages alone are sufficiently clear alone, but they certainly interpret the phrases Paul uses to counter the Jewish thinking. The whole letter is one, and you can’t cut parts out and make a theology of them apart from the whole letter and all of scripture.

    It is so clear that I can see no way one can miss this unless they are blinded by God. It is clear and any English or Greek teacher would have to agree. Even considering the debate over the subject that gift refers to. but grace is gift so to say the gift is a gift has no meaning so it must be faith is the gift. Only when one wants to see it another way to support their preconceived belief can it be considered to mean anything else.

    There is not one passage that says we lose salvation. You misinterpret the scripture like a dispensational, literal when even impossible to be literal. Which is literalistic not literal.
    But John is clear, the reason one departs from the faith is not because they lost their salvation or grace, but because they never had it, they were what the scripture calls false brethren, tares, etc. 1 John 2:19 They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us. KJV

    John says no doubt! If they had been converted there is no doubt, they would have continued. Unquestionably, no other way about it, if converted they would continue. Thus we see, preservation and perseverance is absolutely part of salvation.

    I may not understand you but it seems you contradicted yourself when you agree with me there is no merit in works, then later say we are not saved by faith alone. If we must do works to be saved then they are part of what saves and therefore have merit or a part in, contribute to, our salvation. Rather than as I have explained it above, James is not speaking about saved by faith alone, but by faith that is alone and doesn’t produce fruit, works. I hope you can see this now.

  40. Don,

    James is very clear when taken in context of all scripture. James is not saying that it is not faith only that saves us. He is saying that faith that does not produce works is not saving faith.

    So it is not that we are not saved by faith alone, but we are not saved by a faith that is alone without accompanying works. Fruit will be there if the tree is good.

    So to exegete the text of James properly and consistently we see that James does not address being saved by faith alone, but speaks to a person who has faith and no works. the faith alone he speaks of is a faith with no works like the demons have.

    Please see that this is the only way the passage can be interpreted and not as though he said we are not saved by faith alone, only faith. that is a twisting of this scripture.

    So your interpretation of James is “the only way this passage can be interpreted”? That’s quite a claim, Don!

    Since this thread is not about James I’ll just remark in passing that I do not believe James is talking about a certain quality of faith (saving) that is inevitably accompanied by works versus a lesser kind of faith (non-saving) that isn’t. His illustration of the body and spirit makes that reading unlikely. Faith is faith, just like a body is a body. But if a body has no spirit, it may be a body, but it is a dead body, and likewise, faith without works is faith, but dead faith. “Faith alone” is precisely what James means when he speaks of “dead faith” which cannot save.

    Romans 2:13 can best be understood as an idiom. We are justified, we are being saved, we will ultimately be saved. The fact the words are used interchangeably is not a proof alone. The context of the passage must be considered. Paul is speaking about a specific group of people and their mindset and seeking to speak in terms that will reach them and help them get their error. To press this beyond the context and force a systematic theology grid on it is wrong. It contradicts what he clearly says in other places.

    Not sure what you mean about a “systematic theology grid” here. And you still haven’t addressed the main point of my argument about the Gentiles.

    And your MO seems to be to constantly turn from whichever passage we’re talking about and refer me to things written elsewhere. But I would prefer sticking to the texts under consideration rather than being told that “other verses” contradict me.

    But salvation is not identical with justification. In this sense we understand salvation to be the umbrella of justification, definitive sanctification and ongoing, as well as glorification. So we can say we will be saved and we can say we have been saved depending on which aspect of it were are thinking of. Justification being so closely related Paul takes liberty with the word and uses it in the same way. We have been justified, but we will experience and aspect of our justification in the future at the judgement seat when the “pronouncement” is made, you were justified, so enter. The penalty was paid by Christ on the cross and satisfaction was made then. So in terms of time and space we can say we were justified when the penalty was paid. We can also look to the future but this says nothing about our works having anything to do with the justification, other than manifesting that it has taken place. The clear passage interprets the less clear. We are not justified by works.

    Again, all you’re doing here is telling me what the Reformed position is, which is not an argument. I know that the Reformed position denies that justification is future but rather is a once-for-all past event with future ramifications (sanctification being one of them). But unfortunately, Paul speaks quite clearly (yes, this is one of those clear passages and not an unclear one) about future justification. And even if this is just an “idiom,” Jesus made it plain that on the day of judgment we “will be justified” by our words.

    If works had a part in justification or salvation in the sense of being converted, then we could boast. It would not be: by faith not by works…

    Yes, our initial justification is not by works of any kind. But the question is whether we can increase in it, and whether our final justification is according to works.

    the above passages alone are sufficiently clear alone, but they certainly interpret the phrases Paul uses to counter the Jewish thinking. The whole letter is one, and you can’t cut parts out and make a theology of them apart from the whole letter and all of scripture.

    Don, I am not making a theology out of anything. The theology I hold to is that of the Church that Christ founded and has been believed by the faithful for 2,000 years. It is Reformed theology that is novel here, please remember.

    There is not one passage that says we lose salvation. You misinterpret the scripture like a dispensational, literal when even impossible to be literal. Which is literalistic not literal.

    Don, it doesn’t matter which texts I adduce, you will simply not agree that they say what I understand them to say (the Vine and the branches, for example). If all you want to do is argue, I would suggest you move along.

    I may not understand you but it seems you contradicted yourself when you agree with me there is no merit in works, then later say we are not saved by faith alone. If we must do works to be saved then they are part of what saves and therefore have merit or a part in, contribute to, our salvation. Rather than as I have explained it above, James is not speaking about saved by faith alone, but by faith that is alone and doesn’t produce fruit, works. I hope you can see this now.

    All you “explained above” was that you believe certain things to be true, without offering any exegetical case for it. This is just table-pounding.

    But to your point, our initial justification (which normally happens in baptism) is completely without any works by us. We then increase in that justification by Spirit-wrought love of God and neighbor.

    PS – If you comment further, please keep them to a manageable length, and perhaps stick to one topic at a time. Also, a little more punctuation would make things easier!

  41. You cannot increase in justification. It is a standing, You are either innocent or guilty. there is no partial guilty or partial pardoned. you have either been pardoned or you have not. you either have been accounted just, righteous or you haven’t.
    What happens to a person who is partly just? you make the words meaningless. God requires perfection. We either are or we aren’t. there is no room for any imperfection. this obviously has nothing to do with our personal lives because we can’t undo sin by doing good. we still have sinned. so it can only be a legal standing. And that is either given or not. there is no partial, or adding to it, or more of it. It is a yes or no decision. Perfect or not. righteous or not.
    To exegete a text we must understand hermeneutics. We know that God in scripture often speak in different ways that appear to contradict. Sometimes from a sovereign perspective sometimes from the perspective of human responsibility.
    Sometimes in anthropomorphic language. Sometimes symbolic or allegorically. One must understand from which perspective the scriptures are speaking. Jesus says we will give account for the words we speak. Yes there is a judgment. but at the judgement the JUST will be seen under the blood and payment of Christ as innocent, and with the imputed righteousness of Christ, as perfect.
    So this judgment is of those who do not have that righteousness imputed to their account.

    Also the scriptures speak warnings to the hearers. But we know that a person once given a new nature, made a new creature, can’t be un-born again, un-elect from the foundations of the world, so they were either elect or not. Thus we know the warnings are given as a means of grace from the human responsibility perspective and also because we know there are tares in the visible church. the warning goes out to them.
    If this is not clearly discerned then the confusion yo have will arise and block one’s ability to see the truth that is consistent and harmonizes with all scripture.
    This is an error of many who seek to understand the scripture.

    Of course James is making a distinction in kinds of faith. James points out this intellectual belief is what the devils have but is not saving. Saving faith is distinguished because it brings about works in a person, it compels them, it is not I believe there is a pot of gold over there but I am not going to bother to walk over and get it. that is not believing. If you really believed it you would act on it.
    saving faith is a trusting, not mere agreement with the fact. So James explains this for the purpose of exposing this belief that does not save. It is to help people who think they believe but the belief they have does not compel them move them so it is not saving faith and they are NOT justified. They are not partly justified or needing more justification they have no justification. this is clear, pure logic, irrefutable.
    One must pervert language to see it any other way. It is irrational.
    Look for the purpose to know the meaning of a text. Why was James teaching this? There is no reason to teach it if it is as you choose to see it. What is the point? this is consistent with Jesus parables and also 1 John who says do not be deceived, if you continue to sin you are not converted, if you don’t keep the commandments you are not saved, you don’t love God. Not that you are partially justified and just need more of your own works to merit more justification. that doesn’t even have meaning. e can increase in personal righteous living and desires, but we are either perfectly righteous legally before God or we are not. We are just or not, it is sanctification, personal holiness of life that increases and that does not justify, but is worked out in one who has been justified.
    Please interact with the hermeneutics I have raised in the last 2 posts. Tenses not being literalistic and these matters posted. And this is interacting with Rom. because we must compare scripture with scripture to see if it is consistent or not. It all has to agree and harmonize. If not, then our understanding is off.

    Also remember for the 1st 1500 years many of the gentile converts did not read, or did not have copies of the scriptures, even the Jews didn’t. They were read to by their elders or priests. And so their understanding of the scriptures may have been quite different than that of common church members today.
    The fact that the RC priesthood held to some doctrines does not mean the common member believed the same, ever heard the teaching, or agreed with it. Those true converts in the midst of error may have no where to go, may not have a voice to speak up as Luther, but they knew saving faith and had it. Not the faith of demons that is not accompanied by obedience, but is alone.
    Faith that is alone is not saving, but we are saved by faith alone, and that faith bears fruit of works in us.
    in hopes this helps bring clarity to how we determine the meaning of scripture, and what really was believed by saints of history though there were false teachers among them as prophesied.

  42. Also consider that 93% of American Roman Catholics do not believe or agree with or follow the teaching on birth control. for 2000 years not only members of the RC have not known, believed, agreed with all the doctrines of the hierarchy but many priests disagree and even have taught contrary to RC doctrine. Some have gone to RC prisons for teaching the need to be born again and a more evangelical gospel.

    So it is quite possible there has always been a faithful remnant in the RC even though its head is in error.
    Luther just became outspoken and sought correction in the church back to scriptural doctrine and historical teachings of the Augustinians.

    Just like you Jason though you may seek a way to convince yourself on some doctrines I am sure you do not agree with all the doctrines of the RC.
    So the fact that the system has existed for 1700 years is no validation of any of its teachings. Just that uneducated or at least non-scholastic common people have stayed and continued to give financially to it. Their strong guilt works system and ability to offer a sense of pardon to their unconverted members who believe such error have maintained the system. But take no comfort in it validating truth.

    The RC is such a mish mash of different beliefs all over the world there is no one RC doctrine as believed and taught by all priests or believed by all members. It is as differentiated as protestant churches. It just has the outward exterior and appearance of unity.
    So yes there may have been converted people in the RC
    and they may not have held to works salvation, they may have known salvation was by grace alone, through the gift of faith alone, and that faith caused them to bear fruit not just the slavish fear and guilt.

    Something to consider wouldn’t you agree?

  43. Don,

    You cannot increase in justification. It is a standing, You are either innocent or guilty. there is no partial guilty or partial pardoned. you have either been pardoned or you have not. you either have been accounted just, righteous or you haven’t.

    You’re just table-pounding here, reiterating your position without regard for (or perhaps awareness of) the position you’re opposing.

    In the Tradition of the Church, justification is tied in to our participation in the divine life and is not merely a legal issue of forensic guilt or innocence. Until you take this into account, all you’re doing is begging the question by assuming a Protestant understanding of this issue and faulting non-Protestants for not ascribing to it.

    What happens to a person who is partly just? you make the words meaningless. God requires perfection. We either are or we aren’t. there is no room for any imperfection. this obviously has nothing to do with our personal lives because we can’t undo sin by doing good. we still have sinned. so it can only be a legal standing. And that is either given or not. there is no partial, or adding to it, or more of it. It is a yes or no decision. Perfect or not. righteous or not.

    Again, you’re just assuming the entire Protestant paradigm and using those lenses to judge the Catholic position. This is not profitable.

    In Catholic theology, being righteous has everything to do with the presence of God’s love in the heart (which fulfills the law). Righteousness is not a matter of the letter, but of the Spirit, as Paul says in Rom. 2 (the very passage we’re considering).

    Jesus says we will give account for the words we speak. Yes there is a judgment. but at the judgement the JUST will be seen under the blood and payment of Christ as innocent, and with the imputed righteousness of Christ, as perfect.

    So this judgment is of those who do not have that righteousness imputed to their account.

    Again (and again and again), all you’re doing is repeating what you think while offering no reasons or proof whatsoever.

    You had said earlier that Paul is not speaking of future justification in Rom. 2, and I responded by referring you to Matt. 12 where Jesus clearly is: the context is the day of judgment, the issue is justification, and the criterion is our words which will either justify or condemn us. By simply reiterating that imputation of alien righteousness is true is completely unhelpful.

    Also the scriptures speak warnings to the hearers. But we know that a person once given a new nature, made a new creature, can’t be un-born again, un-elect from the foundations of the world, so they were either elect or not. Thus we know the warnings are given as a means of grace from the human responsibility perspective and also because we know there are tares in the visible church. the warning goes out to them.

    You’re assuming that election and regeneration are co-extensive, which is not a theologically neutral assumption, Don. If you truly want to dialogue here you need to familiarize yourself with the position you’re attempting to refute.

    I was going to interact with the rest of what you wrote about James, but I don’t really see the point. You appear to be unaware of any other hermeneutical options other than your own—in fact in your last comment you claimed that your view is the only one possible. I directed you to James’s analogy of a body without a spirit, and you ignored that and chose rather to wave your hands and pound the table, repeating question-begging assertions over and over again.

    You’re a good guy, Don, but until you bring yourself up to speed on opposing points of view, any profitable dialogue is impossible. I would urge you to pick up a book like Not by Faith Alone by Sungenis in order to get you acclimated to the Catholic position before we continue this any further.

  44. Then if it is only a semantic difference and you want to make justification mean sanctification you can do that.
    Or blur the two words, but it is not even logical. The word just means something. As in court one is either just or not.
    So why would the RC create a whole new definition of the word, a religious different meaning from what the word actually means?
    Doesn’t that seem confusing to you?
    Scripture does not force that meaning on the word as it is used.

    I am aware of the RC teaching, but I am asking you show how it fits consistently with all of scripture because there is no contradiction in the word. God knew what He meant. He is not the author of confusion.

    I have shown you the need to look at what the error in the mind of the listeners was that the author seeks to correct and prevent. It is clear what the thinking was and also what the purpose of the letter was. If we come up with an interpretation that does not fit the thinking of the listener or the purpose, then we have an out of context errant interpretation. I have showed other scriptures and the error being corrected and the purpose of the letters.

    Where in scripture does love in the heart without perfect behavior merit righteousness before god, totally satisfy His righteous demand, holiness, and justice?
    Christ came to not just be a sacrifice for sin but to fulfill the PERFECT righteous demands of the law.
    So yes perfection is required as well as being from a perfectly loving heart that loves the Lord will their hear soul and mind. That is why we need to be saved, and a savior who did fulfill perfect righteousness for us because a loving heart is not enough. Love alone does not merit salvation nor does imperfect love and imperfect righteousness.

    And since Christ was perfect we have nothing to fill up or add to his work for our justification before God.
    Was Christ’s work incomplete or imperfect? Really? We have to help get ourselves saved? He is not THE savior then, just a partial savior. Work out your own salvation yes, but the word does not say work out your own justification. It merely states the justified people will live righteous lives and do good works. They do this out of love and thankfulness, not to get justified, merit salvation, add to Christ’s work to help save themselves. That is not anywhere in scripture.

    You have chosen not to interact with my views, nor my hermeneutics, nor my rebuttal to your appeal to the use of future tense, nor the correlating texts, nor my response to your appeal to the longevity of the RC as a reason to trust their doctrine.
    You have only accused me of table pounding when I have sited scripture and provided a basis for interpretation. You have not refuted or answered. I know what other RC teachers believe, I don’t need to arrogantly be dismissed and schooled off to a book. I have read books and spoken with well educated priests.
    Now I am interacting with you. To see what you believe in relation to the specifics I have stated, I am not just reiterating reformed dogma table pounding.

    Simply say you don’t want to take the time to respond, or else I am left with the thought you have no response to the issues I have sited, you haven’t considered them or don’t care.
    It seems you have implicit faith in the RC teachers in spite of their gross heresies, usurping the place of Christ in confession for pardon, and depriving people of the sense of adoption by God by teaching believers would do better asking a person who has died to pray for them rather than knowing they have direct access as sons of God and brothers of Christ. Christ taught that His mother was no more special or to be heard by Him than any other believer whom He called mothers and brothers.

    You trust in the RC as God’s only church or means of grace for understanding the word. But can you tell me why Rome more than any other church Peter established or supported in all his travels and letters. As if the RC was the 1st church, only church established by Peter or best church of all churches by the 3rd century. By what authority is it determined that it is the church we should trust instead of any of the others Peter may have started. Because it became large dominant, stayed around? To me it is the broad path not the narrow. The broad path will always be there as well.

    I seriously wanted to hear responses to these concerns to see if there are legitimate explanations or other reasons that might satisfy me to be tolerant of this view, and I have received none, which again confirms there is nothing new, nothing I haven’t already heard from the RC doctrine defenders, nothing that is sound Biblical consistent contextual exegesis or even logic, confirming me more in the truths I hold and that RC has no real sound exegesis or hermeneutic for their teachings.

  45. Don,

    Please believe me when I tell you that your comments here display a lack of understanding of what the Catholic Church teaches on a number of issues. Now, you can do with that observation what you like, it’s up to you. But I trust you can understand my reluctance to get into a long, drawn out debate with you under these circumstances.

    Concerning your claim (which is theologically loaded) that we are to get at the meaning of, say, Paul’s statements about justification simply by the lexical method, I would refer you to this article:

    http://www.calledtocommunion.com/2010/02/the-tradition-and-the-lexicon/

    If you read it, you will understand where Catholics are coming from when we insist that justification involves the infusion of agape.

  46. I read it, nothing new. As I said, if you choose to have implicit faith in men, sinful men who can make mistakes, even though they claim to be in the church, then you do not follow the scriptures. Scripture warns us not to follow false teachers. It warns us there will be false teachers in the church and how to recognize them and not to follow them.
    God tells us the word is how we determine who is telling the truth and which teachers are false.
    So if we are to follow men regardless how much they tell us not to use a dictionary or the obvious meanings of the scriptures but to follow them instead, that would be the most obvious sign of a deceiver.
    The false church, the wide path, has been there as long as the true church.
    There is no reason to assume that the false teachers who developed a following and deviated more and more from the truth of the word are a tradition to follow higher than the plain scriptures themselves.
    And we are not discussing hard to understand passages. We are speaking of the easiest, most clear aspects of the basics of the gospel. Romans is the basic teaching to new Christians to establish them in the basics truths of the faith. To move away from the traditions of the Jewish church and fathers who also had erred and left the truth.
    The fact that the true church was smaller than the wide path to destruction is no surprise. The fact the false church is richer, larger more prominent is no surprise of evidence of faithfulness.
    The remnant of true believers in Israel was small in comparison to all and the same has been true of the new covenant church. Though the numbers throughout history are large it has always been a remnant. A small group of pilgrims in exile not the lofty group out front that we see of the heretical RC.
    When has the majority been right?
    God tells us the OT is our example to learn from. And we learn not to follow the majority, the teachers who love prominence, etc.
    So when we see very clear and gross errors accepted and tolerated like their dealing with Mary instead of as Christ said these are my mother and brother, driving people to the priest to confess and ask forgiveness and seek forgiveness in their work of penance instead of going to Christ then we see clearly a false body that has taken the place of Christ. Cheated people of their adoption and acceptance with their Father and union with Christ as His bride. Such basic and important glories.
    The RC has darkened God rather than glorified and magnified Him in the eyes of its followers.
    Is it any wonder they discouraged their people from even reading the word on their own, studying the word with elders, but merely doing alms and taking a perverted sacrament that does not follow the pattern of the word, after they had eaten then they took the cup, not merging the two into one.
    They spoke in Latin so that most could not understand anything that was spoken of the word, their secret language to confuse the ignorant rather than feeding them with the word and causing them to desire to read and grow by the word developing the mind of Christ.
    They did not bring people to the light but hid it under a basket and kept the people in darkness and slavish fear of the RC.
    Oh what evil to appeal to a dictionary to know the meaning of the words God used in His word. Don’t think, don’t learn the language just trust the cult leader.

    Yes God has made the scriptures plain and clear enough in the basics than one can understand them who understands language, the definition of words.

    And yes Justification flows from His love to us and causes us to love Him and obey. But our love does not save us or justify us. It is a result of His love, we love Him because He loved us.
    So yes we can look to history as God has preserved His church where the writings are still extant, but He did not promise that the writings of men and the church would all be preserved or free of error, only His word.
    So much of the writings of true ministers may be lost.
    But that which does exist, though useful as an aid, is not superior to the word itself. We judge the teachers and writers by the word. It is the only Spirit inspired writing and authority for us. The others are subservient.
    If not how would anyone know which teacher to follow and which to reject.
    Has the RC been free of error, no false teachers in her midst? Preserved perfect? No need to correct or rebuke any of them because they taught error.
    Of course not.
    And how did the earliest teachers know when their early teachers were wrong? by tradition? no there were no traditions yet. So why would God ordain one method of truth in the early days then switch?
    The whole purpose of the councils was because the teachers differed. And what was the authority to come to conclusion, tradition. No of course not. It was the word itself.

    And which early church would the early believer follow. What made Rome the primary church or only church and most correct teachers to whom only the true meaning of the scriptures was revealed?
    Does this even make sense. Which teachers? The largest agreeing body?
    Did God work through the bloody emperors to advance the church growth, is that God’s method to grow His church? That is how the RC church grew as it was forced on people by a wicked government.
    I dare say God would avoid such means so that He got the all the glory by the foolishness of preaching.

    All in all the RC church fails the test Christians are given as who to follow, which teachers to mark as examples; and fits the warnings of who to avoid.
    If there is one thing made very clear in scripture it is that though there will be a judgment of works, justification was accomplished by God, by the atonement, and the means of faith given to the chosen ones.
    Just as God chose only from the Jews to have the gospel and conversion and left all other people without hope, so also He chose those He would show mercy to from the foundations of the world.

  47. Jason,

    I have been watching the debate in the comments with you and Don, and it would seem to me that you are perhaps as guilty of restating the same thing over and over (I believe you called it “table-pounding”) as you say Don is. So let’s just say you have both hardened your positions and you have argued to an apparent stalemate.

    However, I do find something in what Don said, that the RC position on this is flawed with respect to trying to assign degrees of justification, as a “later” view would seem to suggest. Since justification is a binary thing (you are or you aren’t), trying to attach works to justification (or degrees to justification) would seem to be opening the Roman Catholics to the question of “how many works will get you finally saved”. If our works flow from the Spirit, as you seem to agree, then wouldn’t this “final” justification be a trial of how effective the Spirit was? That seems a little strange. If, however, we are justified when we are saved, truly saved (and we as human observers don’t always know if someone is truly saved or deceived/deceiving), and the works that we do flow from the Spirit (and you seem to agree), then it would it would flow, and Paul seems to agree, that Christ’s death on the cross renders us not guilty in the eyes of God. Therefore, the sentence is “not guilty”. It is not “not guilty but I might change my mind”. This seems to me to be the biggest argument against what you (and, as you suggest, the RC church) is saying. Our rendering by our works is not another shot at guilty/not guilty, an appeals court, as it were.

    I would like to hear your response. I would like Don to correct me if I misread him as well. As a disclaimer, I know neither of you. I am only commenting because I feel empowered by the fact that I stayed in a Holiday Inn Express last night.

    Jerry

  48. Jerry,

    Thanks for your comments.

    I have been watching the debate in the comments with you and Don, and it would seem to me that you are perhaps as guilty of restating the same thing over and over (I believe you called it “table-pounding”) as you say Don is. So let’s just say you have both hardened your positions and you have argued to an apparent stalemate.

    I disagree. What I have offered are exegetical arguments from biblical texts, arguments which Don has largely ignored. But what is more telling is the fact that he displays little familiarity with the Catholic position on the issues under discussion. Now, he may secretly be an expert, I don’t know. But when a person is unable or unwilling to present his opponent’s position in a way that his opponent deems fair and accurate, it shuts down profitable discussion before it can even begin.

    However, I do find something in what Don said, that the RC position on this is flawed with respect to trying to assign degrees of justification, as a “later” view would seem to suggest. Since justification is a binary thing (you are or you aren’t), trying to attach works to justification (or degrees to justification) would seem to be opening the Roman Catholics to the question of “how many works will get you finally saved”. If our works flow from the Spirit, as you seem to agree, then wouldn’t this “final” justification be a trial of how effective the Spirit was? That seems a little strange. If, however, we are justified when we are saved, truly saved (and we as human observers don’t always know if someone is truly saved or deceived/deceiving), and the works that we do flow from the Spirit (and you seem to agree), then it would it would flow, and Paul seems to agree, that Christ’s death on the cross renders us not guilty in the eyes of God.

    Therefore, the sentence is “not guilty”. It is not “not guilty but I might change my mind”. This seems to me to be the biggest argument against what you (and, as you suggest, the RC church) is saying. Our rendering by our works is not another shot at guilty/not guilty, an appeals court, as it were.

    In Catholic theology, justification is tied with our participation in Christ and receiving his sanctifying grace. The NT is very clear that we are to “grow in grace,” and that “God gives more grace,” and that we each ought to serve God “in accordance with the measure of grace given to us.” So it seems to me that your objection (that one either is justified or he is not) would apply equally to the command to grow in grace. If justification cannot be increased in, then why is it that grace can? If God’s grace is simply his unmerited favor toward you because of the imputation of Christ’s righteousness, and if justification is therefore impossible to increase in, then what do you make of these passages?

    As to your objection that the CC seems to make God into a judge who constantly changes his mind, again, the exact same charge could have been leveled against Paul when he warned the believing saints that if they practiced certain things they would not inherit the kingdom, or against Jesus, when he told his disciples that the branches “in him” that proved fruitless would be cut off and cast into the fire.

    So until you offer objections that couldn’t equally apply to Jesus and the apostles, then I won’t really sweat them that much. Or, until you can show that Jesus and the apostles, in the texts I cited and in others, turned around and assured their hearers that the warnings issued don’t apply to true saints (even though that’s who most of the epistles are addressed to), then the objections will continue to sound hollow to me.

  49. Jason please re-read you thread from where I jumped in. As if it was a church court.
    I gave you scripture and comparative scripture. I gave you context, background, errors in the minds of listeners, purpose and I used the dictionary to point out the Real meaning of words then challenged you to do the same exegesis which you did not.
    Instead You said we don’t need exegesis and lexicons the best hermeneutic is no hermeneutic but to have implicit faith in the church fathers and tradition.
    So then I give you argument as to why that is inadequate and how it can be fallible and then you say I gave no exegesis.
    Which is it man? Is it that some original historic fathers were ordained of God to tell us the scriptures but no one now is adequate to exegete the word or find old errors, except when those current teachers go into a council then they all of a sudden can exegete and whatever they come out with with we all accept again for a few hundred years and do not question or exegete again?

    Do you see the circular and errant reasoning is such a process?
    Secondly do you see that it takes the word away from the believer and puts it in the hands of old fathers only?

    Also as you ask me to provide scripture for what I say instead of just arguments, I do but what good is it because you say only the fathers know the secret meaning of the scriptures so no matter what scripture I show you say it doesn’t matter.

    and yet you never once offer scripture that instructs the church to not do its own exegesis but to rely on past fathers. Where do you get that that is the highest authority over the word?

    And lastly you say I do not present a fair representation of the RC doctrine, well that is only because you do not consider my representation of RC doctrine to be a fair one. and I do not consider RC doctrine to be able to be represented fairly because it is not fair.
    I call it implicit faith because that is what you have done in the above process. Now you may disagree, but Jason you were taught hermeneutics and exegetical principles in seminary and you know how to work with the scripture and even the English or Greek language to understand what is meant in a paragraph or whole letter.
    And to say no need for exegesis if it brings us to a different conclusion that the traditions of men and councils.

    But God prophesied there would be false teachers, and a religion on the wide path that leads to destruction. So we must have a way to check to see if the teachers are false or true, if that group of churches and teachers were false or true.
    And the early church members had to have a way, as did the early fathers have the ability to exegete. So why would the elders now not have that same ability. Is not only the canon closed by all gifts of teaching and exegesis closed too?

    It is nonsensical to use the English word JUST and say you can be more or less just as the previous commenter noted also.
    As for more grace, there is nothing in scripture that says the more grace, growing in grace has anything to do with justification. How can you make that link as if that is the only thing grace does is justify?

    Here are some examples of grace that is not related to our just standing before God but some of the other many ways grace is given and what it is used for :
    1 Peter 4:10 As every man hath received the gift, even so minister the same one to another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. KJV

    Heb 12:28 let us have grace , whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear: KJV

    Heb 4:16 16 Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace , that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need. KJV

    Eph 4:7- But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift. 8 Therefore He says:
    “When He ascended on high, He led captivity captive, And gave gifts to men.” NKJV

    Eph 3:8 To me, who am less than the least of all the saints, this grace was given, that I should preach among the Gentiles NKJV

    2 Cor 9:8 And God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance for every good work. NKJV

    2 Cor 8:19 And not that only, but who was also chosen of the churches to travel with us with this grace , which is administered by us to the glory of the same Lord, KJV

    2 Cor 8: 6 So we urged Titus, that as he had begun, so he would also complete this grace in you as well. 7 But as you abound in everything — in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in all diligence, and in your love for us — see that you abound in this grace also. NKJV

    1 Cor 15:10 I labored more abundantly than they all, yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me.
    NKJV
    And finally as clear as can be, when referring to justification with God, so we can now have a right standing before God and commune with Him, which we could not do if we were not already made just:

    Rom 11:5 Even so then, at this present time there is a remnant according to the election of grace. 6 And if by grace, then it is no longer of works; otherwise grace is no longer grace. But if it is of works, it is no longer grace; otherwise work is no longer work. NKJV

    If it is of works, it is not of grace. In fact the 2 are incompatible. You can not have works adding to grace because it removes the grace if works are counted.

    2 Tim 1:9 who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works , but according to His own purpose and grace which was given to us in Christ Jesus before time began, 10 but has now been revealed by the appearing of our Savior Jesus Christ, NKJV

    Even if one were to say this speak not of individuals but of the body, it is irrelevant because individuals were justified. They were justified before time began. Grace was given to us then. It has not been revealed. Not awaiting to be revealed. Has been revealed. His own purpose in and grace which was given to us, Past tense, before the word began.
    Shall we overthrow the grace and plan or God? Shall we in space and time undo what was already accomplished before time.
    The fact time even enters in at all for man’s finite understanding must humble us before the omniscient Creator and cause us not to lean on our own understanding or that of our Fathers, but to simply accept what we cannot understand. Time before time. How it was done, has been done, been accomplished is finished and yet to be completed.
    We do not understand God or how God works out side of time. Let us then rest in what God reveals.
    We were made just.
    And he gives more grace to us for gifts of the Spirit to serve one another and for our works which have no part in the initial grace that justified us. Amen.

  50. Don,

    In addition to the sheer length of your comments and overall lack of punctuation and paragraph breaks (which makes you very difficult to understand), it is statements like this that make me want to ignore you:

    You said we don’t need exegesis and lexicons the best hermeneutic is no hermeneutic but to have implicit faith in the church fathers and tradition.

    (And that’s just a few lines in to your most recent tome.) This just reinforces again for me the fact that you’re not here to dialogue, but to wave your hands and argue. If you want to be taken seriously, you need to change your approach.

  51. Jason,

    You make a very good point about the difference between a purely forensic view of justification and one that is “participationist”, (i.e, which understands salvation as an act of God, who recreates us via incorporation into the human nature of the Word made flesh). But for that very reason, I wonder if might be better to understand soteriological justification according to the category of new creation, rather than the law court? No one can deny that we are saved by grace through faith as the gift of God; on the other hand even Paul understands that this unmerited gift is a true recreation of our fallen humanity in Christ, and that in him we are supernaturally endowed to do works which are pleasing to the Father:

    “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.”

  52. Hygelac,

    You make a very good point about the difference between a purely forensic view of justification and one that is “participationist”, (i.e, which understands salvation as an act of God, who recreates us via incorporation into the human nature of the Word made flesh). But for that very reason, I wonder if might be better to understand soteriological justification according to the category of new creation, rather than the law court? No one can deny that we are saved by grace through faith as the gift of God; on the other hand even Paul understands that this unmerited gift is a true recreation of our fallen humanity in Christ, and that in him we are supernaturally endowed to do works which are pleasing to the Father:

    “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.”

    Yes, absolutely. It’s more about family room than about court room to be sure. In fact, one of the fathers (I can’t remember who) remarked that it is precisely here where the secular concept of dikaioo falls short of the ecclesial one. In a law court a judge is able to declare only, but his declaration cannot effect what he declares. But God’s Word is living, powerful, and performative, meaning that when he declares something to be true, it becomes true.

    And this is one of the reasons why the solely lexical method of doing theology is insufficient.

  53. Jason,

    I would argue that a purely lexical criterion, based upon OT case law, is insufficient for determining the nature and scope of soteriological justification, whether Catholic or Protestant. While it is true that dikaioo is properly understood as a declaratory recognition of the justice of one party in OT legal disputes, its soteriological usage takes in the idea of gift or donation-and, specifically, the donation of a righteousness belonging to another, whether infused or imputed. At that point the analogy between justification in its legal and soteriological senses reaches the breaking point; for it cannot be imagined that the OT magistrate awarded the party he judged to be in the right a gift of imputed or infused justice, which came from a third party. It’s seems to me that a more fruitful way of understanding soteriological justification is to investigate how the NT describes the nature of the gifts one recieves in salvation, the effect they have on the soul who believes and is baptized, the obligations they place on him and, finally, their divine telos.

    In any case, the late Dr. Eric Mascall summarized

  54. Oops, as I was saying Dr. Mascall gave the world as fine a description of participationist soteriology as I have read in the foreward to his “Christ, The Christian and the Church.”

    “I have attempted in this book to exhibit the Incarnation of the Son of God as the foundation and the unifying principle of the life and thought of both the individual Christian and the Church of which he is a member. That in Jesus of Nazareth human nature is permanently and inseparably united to the Person of the Eternal Word, that by baptism men and women are recreated by incorporation into the human nature of Jesus and recieve thereby a real communication of the benefits of His Passion, that sanctification is the progressive realization in the moral realm of the change that was made in the ontological realm by baptism, that incorporation into Christ is incorporation into the Church, since the Church is in its essence simply the human nature of Christ made appropriable by men.”

  55. I may have to add that bad boy to my xmas list.

  56. Dear Steve (transferring from the Zechariah and Elizabeth thread),

    In response to my suggestion that you lay out an exegetical argument that Rom 2 is hypothetical and not normative, you wrote:

    The [first?] few chapters of Romans show us that no one is up to it.

    If all you mean by this is “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom 3.23), then I doubt you’ll find anyone in disagreement here. But I take it that you mean more than that — you also mean that you subscribe to the hypothetical interpretation of Rom 2.

    Now, I don’t think I’m out on too much of a limb in supposing that everyone involved in this conversation has read Romans multiple times, and that most, if not all, have studied it with care. And yet many of us believe that the normative reading of Rom 2 is the better one. So if you want to persuade us that it’s hypothetical — specifically, that the folks St Paul describes in vv. 6-7, 10, and 13 do not in fact exist — you’ll have to defend that view instead of merely stipulating it.

    For myself, I’ll start by saying “Second!” to Jason’s argument in the post above. I was going to make my own case, but his is succinct and cogent, so I’ll just throw my weight behind it and ask you to offer a counterargument. I browsed back through the comments and, while one finds Protestants agreeing with the normative reading but attempting to show that it is not fatal to their system, I didn’t find any arguments for the hypothetical construal. (If there is one and I missed it, let me know!) That’s what I’m asking you to provide.

    best,
    John

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