Wednesday, 6 May 2009

The Courage to Be Protestant

Scott Clark makes the point that to divide initial justification and final justification disqualifies one from bearing the honourable title "Protestant". To insist on two stages of justification in this manner is a Papist error.

In N.T Wright's latest book, he presents justification in just this way when he describes it as being declared "in the right" now, through faith, and being declared "in the right" on judgement day according to the whole life lived. Nowhere does NTW give an explanation as to HOW this works.

Is God the god of bait and switch? By no means. Does God say, "I forgive you and forget your sins by grace through faith apart from works" before saying at the judgment "Okay, when I said you were saved by faith apart from works, I didn't really mean it. Now, let's take a look at your performance. Oh dear..." If this is were the case, assurance of salvation would be impossible. One could never say, "There is now NO condemnation." You would need to take a pair of scissors to John 5:24 "Truly, truly I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgement, but has passed from death to life." (ESV)

It seems that many "Protestants" view God as a Protestant in this life and a Papist at the Great White Throne.


Nick said...

Mat 12: 36But I tell you that men will have to give account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken. 37For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned."

Here is final judgment right here and the Bible calls this being "justified." Obviously there is an "initial" justification, so there we now have evidence of both an "initial" and a "final." Paul says while his conscience is clear he is not yet justified in 1 Cor 4:4, he must wait until judgment day.

Wout said...

Our natural inclination is to want to be justified because of what we do. It is so hard to accept there is nothing we can contribute to justification--it is all Christ.

Nick Mackison said...

Nick, I agree we'll be justified by our words. Romans 10:10 says "For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved."

I think 1 Cor. 4:4 could be viewed of as a kind of vindication. The word 'commendation' in verse 5 supports this.

Wout, I'm there dude.

Nick said...

I don't think Rom 10 is referring to the final judgment as Mat 12:36f is, but if so then I don't see how it helps your case.

1 Cor 4:4 is speaking of the final judgment, the term itself is used. I don't see where vindication causes a problem, because that's what a judge does.

Nick Mackison said...

Nick, if 'justification' and 'saved' in Romans 10 doesn't refer to final judgement, then in what sense can we be said to be justified or saved at all?

Nick said...

"Nick, if 'justification' and 'saved' in Romans 10 doesn't refer to final judgement, then in what sense can we be said to be justified or saved at all?"

There are three senses in which "save" is used in Scripture, past tense (have been saved), future tense (will be saved), and present tense (eg "work out your salvation"). These three apply to the Christian at different stages of their journey. The future tense only happens after death (final judgment), so it cannot apply now. When a person is said to be "saved" in the past tense, that means they have entered into a relationship with Christ, they are ingrafted into the Vine. If they remain in the Vine till the very end, they will be saved in the future sense, where they are permanently safe. Before then, they can still be cut off and lose their initial salvation.

Paul speaks of this as becoming adopted, as an adopted son you are heir to the estate, HOWEVER you don't actually inherit the estate until you grow up to full maturity. If you fall away before reaching maturity, you are no long heir to the estate.