I Am An Uncle Again!

All my nieces and nephews are wonderful to me (including those on my wife’s side). All together, I have 46 nephews and nieces. Here is the latest one, the first-born of my twin-brother and his wife. It looks like they are going to go with Germanic names. Hans Friedrich is definitely Germanic! Interestingly, it is also the first and middle names of a German commentator, whose commentary on Hebrews I own. Well, okay, that is probably only interesting to me! ;-)  

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Faith and Obedience Unto Righteousness

Doug has continued the conversation. And I think we’re making some progress. We’re getting closer on the issue of the place of obedience in relation to justification. We agree that the ground of our justification is the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. Doug seems to be saying that it is the sole ground of our justification. I would agree with that, although I am not sure that Doug is entirely consistent on this point. I see four issues that need addressing.

First up is faith’s aliveness again. I am willing to say that faith must be alive to justify. We are not justified by a dead faith. The aliveness of faith is hence a state of faith that is always present in a justifying faith. To take up Doug’s analogy, a dead eye cannot see (although the analogy breaks down, because an eye really cannot be said to have life in itself, whereas a God-given faith most definitely does have life in itself). But in what does faith’s aliveness consist? Does it not consist in sanctification? Does it not consist in good works? Faith’s aliveness means that faith does something. This is why faith’s aliveness is not directly relevant to justification, because in justification, faith is receptive and therefore passive. Faith’s aliveness, always accompanying justification, consists in sanctification.

Second topic: words that would describe faith’s response in justification better than obedience. Ephesians 2 describes faith’s response as the gift of God. Doug will no doubt respond that it is not an either/or here, and that faith can be a gift and yet obedient. In one sense (that of sanctification) this is true. However, the problem here is that our obedience is not part of justification. Period. If we are talking about the whole of salvation, including everything from justification to sanctification to glorification, then obedience can be used, as long as it is understood that it does not apply to justification. Another example of a better way to describe faith’s response: the righteousness of God (Romans 1:17). The righteousness of God is revealed in our faith. In an apophatic way, faith can be described as “not works of the law” (as is plain in Rom. 3:21-22). Oftentimes, an apophatic way of describing something is quite helpful. Romans 4:5 is parallel in saying that faith does not work but trusts in justification. So, there are three examples of better language.

Third topic: I am very grateful that Doug stated this with regard to Romans 3: “So I exclude Spirit-filled ‘works’ from justification because the Bible teaches that we are justified by faith, and not by works of the law.” This seems to be saying that ALL our works are excluded from justification, and not merely some (such as boundary markers), or merely “rebellious” works. However, questions still remain. The way he put his puzzlement does not adequately describe my position. What does “Spirit-filled faith” mean? Do we have to be sanctified in order to be justified? What I am trying to get at here is that the eye, while having to be part of the body in order to see, does not see because it is part of the body (which is rather an always accompanying necessity, and a sine qua non), but because neural signals are sent from the eye to the brain. The mechanism of seeing is not “belonging to the body,” or else hands could see. The mechanism of seeing is what is parallel to justification in the analogy. To Tim Prussic, I would add that this very well might be the exact same thing that Wilson is trying to say. But clarity and avoidance of over-generalized terms is quite vital to a discussion on justification.

Fourth topic: Romans 6 is not talking about justification in any way, shape, or form. “Righteousness” is the word in verse 17, not justification. There is more than one kind of righteousness. There is imputed righteousness and there is infused righteousness. Romans 6:16 is most definitely talking about the latter, and not the former. There are many, many exegetical reasons for this. Firstly, the whole context is about how we live (verse 1). The emphasis in on continuance. That right there takes us out of the realm of justification and into the realm of sanctification. Secondly, the contrast between εἰς θάνατον and εἰς δικαιοσύνην indicates the continual purpose and goal of living in such a way. It is a telic use of εἰς. Such a use would be foreign to Paul’s treatment of justification, but finds an easy home in Paul’s treatment of sanctification. The tenses of the verbs also support this understanding of Romans 6. They are not aorist, but either future or present, indicating a continual process (not a one time event, such as justification would require). Verse 16 answers the future tense question of verse 15 “shall we sin?” The present tense “you are” in verse 16 also points in this direction. The righteousness is explicitly linked to sanctification in verse 19, which describes this righteousness as leading to holiness. Then, verse 21 describes the fruit of the previous way of life as contrasted with the fruit of the present way of life. Fruit is sanctification language, not justification language.