David Westerfield

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Tag: justification Page 1 of 2

A Permanent Alien Righteousness

“For since the law has but a shadow of the good things to come instead of the true form of these realities, it can never, by the same sacrifices that are continually offered every year, make perfect those who draw near.” – Hebrews 10:1

“When he said above, ‘You have neither desired nor taken pleasure in sacrifices and offerings and burnt offerings and sin offerings’ (these are offered according to the law), then he added, ‘Behold, I have come to do your will.’ He does away with the first in order to establish the second. And by that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.” – Hebrews 10:8-10

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David Phillips on Justification from 2005 (MP3)

Classic Dave, preaching on Romans 4 and justification …

His Delight is in the Law of the Lord

‘…his delight is in the law of the LORD…’ (Psalm 1:2)

Though this certainly means delighting in his word as a whole, this verse gives specific reference to the law. The blessed one of God, the one in God’s favor, delights in the commandments of God and doing them, for it is to this he has been saved. For the one blessed of God, no longer is obedience a burdensome task of trying to find acceptance with Him (justification) since that has already been obtained through Christ and His work through faith, granted as a gift. Christ has provided the righteousness necessary to stand in the Father’s presence, out of His sheer mercy. But now, having been accepted, obedience stems from the joy of the believers heart, because of God’s work on his behalf. The one in God’s favor delights in obedience out of the overflow of His heart.

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Legalism Light

Legalism is quite a charge. When someone is imposing a legalistic vision upon others, they are saying that unless they do certain things, they are out of God’s salvific favor. Christ + something = justification. So when a person is charged with this, it is serious business. You’re stating that they are preaching a false gospel. Galatians is a case study.

Many times, however, believers who are like-minded on many core, essential things, yet butt heads, sometimes vigorously, over what Christians should or shouldn’t be doing as a result of their salvation, lay this charge of legalism against the other. In all fairness, legalism is probably not always the right term to use. You can usually discern what they’re trying to get at when using the term, overstated though it may be, but legalism is a high charge and doesn’t necessarily fit. The problem though is that there is some truth to the charge, but not exactly in the same way. It needs some redefining.

Whereas legalism puts the “offending” persons’ relation to God in question, legalism light puts the offending persons’ relation to the community in question. In other words, if you don’t do X, well, this isn’t the place for you. Or, since we’re with these people now, doing X, we can’t hang out together. It may not be so overt, just implicit in action. I have a hard time seeing how this squares with what I’ve been reading from Paul on unity among believers in 1 Cor 1:10-17 and 1 Cor 3:1-15.

The Gospel-Centeredness of John Calvin – The Gospel as the Foundation Unto Progressing in Holiness

Excerpted from the Institutes of the Christian  Religion, Book III, Chapter XV, Section 5, Christ as the Sole Foundation, As Beginner and Perfecter.

The below section from Calvin’s Institutes is an excellent summary of the foundation of Gospel-centered sanctification (progressing and maturing in holiness). Any other application of teaching apart from this foundation is basing our progression in the faith, at some level, upon our own working and toiling to “be good” (which is an oxymoron in light of Scripture), as opposed to submitting ourselves to His sovereign working in us of what is already true of us by the declaration of our justification before God’s throne. Living in light of what is already true of us in Christ is itself the motivation unto holiness. As Albert Mohler pointed out in his talk from the Together for the Gospel conference in 2010, “The Reformation was all about the recovery of The Gospel; the means of reforming the church was The Gospel.” This excerpt from Calvin is a perfect summary of what this means.

Only by a constant orientation to the Gospel, in particular that Christ is our righteousness (having none of our own with which to offer God in exchange for the eternal life of our souls), are we going to progress in holiness. Any other teaching is using law as a means unto progression in holiness which results in burnout, deadness, legalism, and oddly enough, legalism itself actually winds up resulting in the worst forms of license. The law was given by God to expose how far we fall short, not an instrument to motivate us unto holiness. It is an instrument whose design is to bring us low, to bring us into humility before God, so that we see how great the love of Christ is in the Gospel, that He Himself fulfilled the law in our place, died our death in our place, and rose again to seal, give life, and confirm all He has accomplished in our place. He is righteousness. Calvin shows us just how great this Gospel is and how it is the only true motivator unto holiness.

“…Christ, when we acknowledge Him, is given us to be our righteousness [1 Cor. 1:30]. He alone is well founded in Christ who has perfect righteousness in himself: since the apostle [Paul] does not say that He was sent to help us attain righteousness but Himself to be our righteousness [1 Cor. 1:30]. Indeed, he states that “He has chosen us in Him” from eternity “before the foundation of the world,” through no merit of our own “but according to the purpose of divine good pleasure” [Eph. 1:4-5, cf. Vg.]; that by His death we are redeemed from condemnation of death and freed from ruin [cf. Col. 1:14, 20]; that we have been adopted unto Him as sons and heirs by our Heavenly Father [cf. Rom. 8:17; Gal. 4:5-7]; that we have been reconciled through His blood [Rom. 5:9-10]; that, given into His protection, we are released from the danger of perishing and falling [John 10:28]; that thus ingrafted into Him [cf. Rom. 11:19] we are already, in a manner, partakers of eternal life, having entered in the Kingdom of God through hope. Yet more: we experience such participation in Him that, although we are still foolish in ourselves, He is our wisdom before God; while we are sinners, He is our righteousness; while we are unclean, He is our purity; while we are weak, while we are unarmed and exposed to Satan, yet ours is that power which has been given Him in heaven and on earth [Matt. 28:18], by which to crush Satan for us and shatter the gates of hell; while we still bear about with us the body of death, He is yet our life. In brief, because all His things are ours and we have all things in Him, in us there is nothing. Upon this foundation, I say, we must be built if we would grow into a holy temple to the Lord [cf. Eph. 2:21].”

Louis Berkhof on Justification

Excerpt from Summary of Christian Doctrine by Louis Berkhof

1. The Nature and Elements of Justification. Justification may be defined as that legal act of God by which He declares the sinner righteous on the basis of the perfect righteousness of Jesus Christ. It is not an act or process of renewal, such as regeneration, conversion, or sanctification, and does not affect the condition but the-state of the sinner. It differs from sanctification in several particulars. Justification takes place outside of the sinner in the tribunal of God, removes the guilt of sin, and is an act which is complete at once and for all time; while sanctification takes place in man, removes the pollution of sin, and is a continuous and lifelong process. We distinguish two elements in justification, namely: (a) The forgiveness of sins on the basis of the righteousness of Jesus Christ. The pardon granted applies to all sins, past, present, and future, and therefore does not admit of repetition, Ps. 103: 12; Isa. 44:22; Rom. 5:21; 8:1, 32-34; Heb. 10:14. This does not mean that we need no more pray for forgiveness, for the consciousness of guilt remains, creates a feeling of separation, and makes it necessary to seek repeatedly the comforting assurance of forgiveness, Ps. 25:7; 32:5; 51:1; Matt. 6:12; Jas. 5:15; I John 1:9. (b) The adoption as children of God. In justification God adopts believers as His children, that is, places them in the position of children and gives them all the rights of children, including the right to an eternal inheritance, Rom. 8:17; I Pet. 1:4. This legal sonship of believers should be distinguished from their moral sonship through regeneration and sanctification. Both are indicated in the following passages: John 1:12, 13; Rom. 8:15, 16; Gal. 4:5, 6.

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It is God Who Justifies

“Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies.” – Romans 8:33

Recently, I have been in great need of repeating Gospel promises to myself, almost continually, otherwise my heart has seemed to slip very quickly into bitterness, misery, spiritual depression, anger, and the like. I’m not sure why, but it has been so. “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9). Not me. Knowing Romans 8 to be chock full of promises from God, fulfilled in Christ, I read it and came across this one headline truth that I need pounded into my head and my heart. Romans 8:33 above.

This one statement sums up what the Gospel is about, namely it is God who justifies. The whole Bible itself can be summed up in that one central truth. I don’t justify my existence, or my works, or my interactions with others; God does, more precisely Christ does, and even more precisely in the cross and resurrection. Of course the Bible goes much further than just this simple statement that it is God who justifies. But if you could sum it up, I don’t know how much better you can get. This is what distinguishes the Gospel from all other truth claims of various religions, for each one is all about justifying yourself through what you do. And it is the one central truth I need headlined in my heart when the weight of sin and my own unbelief clouds my vision.

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For the Sake of My Family: Marriage – Piper and Taylor

Excerpt from What God Requires, Christ Provides by John Piper and Justin Taylor

I have a family to care for. My marriage must survive and thrive for the good of our children and the glory of Christ. God designed marriage to display the holy mercy of Christ and the happy submission of his church (see Eph. 5:21-25). Here the doctrine of justification by faith and the imputed righteousness of Christ can be a great marriage saver and sweetener.

Marriage seems almost impossible at times because both partners feel so self-justified in their expectations that are not being fulfilled. There is a horrible emotional dead end in the words, “But it’s just plain wrong for you to act that way,” followed by “That’s your perfectionistic perspective” or “Do you think you do everything right?” or by hopeless, resigned silence. The cycle of self-justified self-pity and anger can seem unbreakable.

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Justified By Faith or Through Faith?

UPDATE: I’ve reconsidered some of the things I originally wrote in this entry and come to understand that Scripture itself, apart from people in general, speaks of both being saved “through” faith and “by” faith and meaning the same thing. The important distinction I wanted to make here was that faith itself a gift granted by God, not something we conjure up out of our dead, sinful hearts. We’re saved by God through faith, a faith that He gives. And at the same time, we’re saved by that faith, for without it, we’re lost.


The distinction between these two ideas may seem like a minute point to contest in the world of theology. But each understanding has dramatic implications for how we view our justification before God. If on the one hand we view ourselves as being justified by faith, we will see it as the ground of our justification, where our doing and willing is what saves us. From talking to many believers, it seems this is how many of us view our justification or standing before God. Yet if on the other hand we view ourselves as having been justified through faith, then we see that our justification itself, and the faith required to obtain it, all rests on Christ’s work alone.

Now of course, many people simply say we are saved by faith and the mean the same thing as through faith. I’m not here to contest that. I’m speaking here of the theological difference of these two words, because each changes our perspective on it once pondered, I believe.

If our faith is the ground of our justification, then we can often wonder if we’re believing correctly or coming to Christ in the right way (which I have often had to dismantle as a concept for a few friends who doubted they had actually believed). But if we see that our justification is rooted purely upon the work of Christ to justify us by the power of His blood alone, then we see that faith is God’s instrument to bring us to Himself; that is to say that faith is a gift of God, not something we work up from within our sinful, unregenerate human nature. Regeneration precedes faith, or the new birth of the Holy Spirit spoken of in John 3 causes, or comes before, or immediately gives rise to faith, not vice-versa.

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When You Can’t Beat ‘Em Yourself …

… Have your big scholarly brother step up and speak for you. 🙂

(Original): http://www.ivpress.com/cgi-ivpress/book.pl/review/code=3863 – I find some of these surprising and others not so much.

(Archive): http://www.westerfunk.net/archives/christianity/Justification%20-%20N.T.%20Wright%20-%20Endorsements/

In speaking of N.T. Wright’s new book, Justification: God’s Plan and Paul’s Vision, responding to and critiquing Piper’s defense of justification, entitled, The Future of Justification, itself critiquing Wright’s understanding of justification, McLaren says, “John Piper, it turns out, has done us all a wonderful favor. In writing the critique that invited this response, he has given Bishop Wright the opportunity to clearly, directly, passionately and concisely summarize many of the key themes of his still-in-process yet already historic scholarly and pastoral project. Wright shows–convincingly–how the comprehensive view of Paul, Romans, justification, Jesus, and the Christian life and mission that he has helped articulate embraces ‘both the truths the Reformers were eager to set forth and also the truths which, in their eagerness, they sidelined.’ Eavesdropping on this conversation will help readers who are new to Wright get into the main themes of his work and the important conversation of which it is a part. And it will give Wright’s critics a clearer sense than ever of what they are rejecting when they cling to their cherished old wineskins of conventional thought.” —Brian McLaren, author A Generous Orthodoxy

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