Norman Shepherd’s First Article, part 2

There is no other way to put this. One cannot soft-pedal it. Norman Shepherd tells an outright lie on page 57 about Godfrey’s position. Shepherd says this: “Godfrey preaches justification by faith alone, and he really means a faith that is alone. It is not a living and active faith that justifies as Shepherd says, but a faith that is all alone.” Then he quotes Godfrey on pg. 282 of CJPM, but fails to notice the most important element in the quotation, that all-important qualifier. Godfrey says this (emphasis added): “Paul really could not be clearer. Paul indeed taught that faith stands alone in receiving justification from the work of Christ.” Godfrey never said that faith stands alone in receiving sanctification. Nor did Godfrey ever say that one can be justified without also being sanctified. It is clear what Shepherd’s agenda is. If anyone does not say that someone is justified by a living and active faith in the exact terms that Shepherd uses, then that person is advocating a justification by dead faith.

The question comes down to this: what constitutes justifying faith? Shepherd says that it is a penitent, obedient faith that justifies (pg. 57). We need to be extra careful here. All sides (Godfrey included!) say that repentance is necessary to salvation. All sides (Godfrey included!) also agree that obedience is necessary. The question is this: what is the relationship of repentance and obedience to faith when it comes to justification? Another way to put it: how does faith justify? To put the question a little sharper, is it not necessary that faith be obedient, joyful, peaceful, loving, patient, etc.? Of course it is necessary. But are these things active in justification? Faith in justification receives and rests upon Christ’s righteousness. Swivel faith around to look at other things, and all of these fruits of the Spirit are present. It could definitely be argued that repentance is necessary before justification, since one could say that a person turns from sin (metanoia) by the power of God’s regenerating the heart and renewing the will. Distinct, yet inseparable. That is the relationship of repentance to faith. We would not say that one is justified by repentance. We would certainly not say that one is justified by obedience. And yet Shepherd wants to say that we are justified by a repentant and obedient faith. How does using the adjective “obedient” exclude works from being a part of justification? Just saying that “We are justified by faith- not by anything we can do to save ourselves” (Backbone of the Bible, pg. 103) does not alleviate the problem, since it is how we define justifying faith that is the issue. Shepherd can say all he wants to that we are justified by faith. But it is in his definition of faith that we see the problems.