Saturday, February 12, 2011

What Is Reformed Theology?: Sola Fide (Part 2)

     "He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him" (2 Cor. 5:21).

     "Now to the one who works, his wage is not credited as favor, but as what is due.  But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited as righteousness . . . " (Rom. 4:4-5).  Emphasis mine.  

     "The Lord Jesus, by His perfect obedience and sacrifice of Himself, which He through the eternal Spirit one offered up unto God, hath fully satisfied the justice of God, procured reconciliation, and purchased an everlasting inheritance in the kingdom of heaven, for all those whom the Father hath give unto Him."  Chapter 8:5 of the 1689 London Baptist Confession.
(Hebrews 9:14; Hebrews 10:14; Romans 3:25-26; John 17:2; Hebrews 9:15)

     In our next video on Reformed Theology, R. C. Sproul continues to focus on the central issue of the Reformation.  Though the Reformers had many contentions with the Roman Catholics, no issue was as hotly disputed than that of justification.  The crucial question in the 16th century struggle was simply, how can a holy and righteous God view sinners as just in His sight?  This has been the pressing question concerning man since the Fall and the Reformers recovered the good news of the biblical gospel!
     Roman Catholic theology taught that justification came through infused grace.  Specifically, in the sacrament of infant baptism, God's grace was said to be infused into the soul and was kept perpetually unless the person committed an egregious mortal sin.  The committing of a mortal sin then led the perpetrator to multiple necessary steps in the Catholic system in order to reestablish the infused grace of God to the individual.  By contrast, the Reformers stance on justification by faith alone was based on the biblical doctrine of imputation, which is a legal/forensic concept of a transfer of an account to another.  Specifically, a doctrine that many theologians deem the double imputation of justification: 
  1. God imputes/charges our debt of sin to Christ.
  2. God imputes/credits Christ's perfect obedience to the law to us.  
     What a difference in how the Catholic Church views the doctrine of justification compared with Protestants.  Instead of an immediate and continual righteous verdict that God declares through the means of faith in Christ, Rome viewed justification as something that was contingent upon the individual . . . a status that could be lost through mortal sins, and a process of establishing an internal subjective righteousness that may also need refinement through thousands of years in Purgatory in order to finally meet God's approval.  What a spiritual hamster wheel! If we are looking to be justified or sanctified by what we do, when is our goodness ever going to be good enough to please a holy God?  Contrastingly, the Reformers returned to the biblical gospel, which wonderfully proclaims that while we are still sinners, God imputes Christ's record to our account by faith in Him.  Michael Horton explains our debt to God and justification in Christ,
It would be similar to an average daily laborer thinking he can pay off the national debt of the United States.  We not only have a lack of funds; we have an abundance of debts.  So we need two things in order to settle the account with God.  We need a payment of all the debts.  And then we need a full line of credit.  God requires both: Negatively, we must be guilty of no sins, but positively, we must also be just as morally perfect, righteous, and holy as God Himself.  The glass must not only be empty of unrighteousness; it must be full of righteousness.  This is where the popular definition of justification--"just as if I'd never sinned"--falls short.  Rather, it is just as if I'd never sinned and had, instead, loved God and my neighbor perfectly all my life" (Michael Horton, Putting Amazing Back into Grace: Embracing the Heart of the Gospel.  BakerBooks, 2002. p. 142.).  Horton's emphasis.
     Good news for all who trust in Jesus!  Good news that cannot be assumed, and good news worth fighting for!  Since the Fall of man, God has always saved His people by grace through faith in His Redeemer.  And, when our nation's most well known and influential pastor describes the gospel as "God giving us a do-over like when taking a mulligan in golf" the evangelical church is in crisis mode concerning an understanding of the biblical gospel whether we know it or not.

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