Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Gaffin on Future Acquittal and Present Justification

From Richard Gaffin, "The Vitality of Reformed Systematic Theology," in The Faith Once Delivered (P&R, 2007), 16-7:

For justification, it is fair to say that, in general, Reformation theology has grasped, at least intuitively, the escathological "now" empathically asserted, for instance, in Romans 5:1 and 8:1. It has perceived with sound instinct that the verdict pronounced on believers, declaring them righteous and entitled to eternal life, involves, judgment, already realized, that is final and irrevocable. But it has been much more inhibited, no doubt because of polemics with Rome, in recognizing and incorporating into its doctrinal formulations the still-future aspect of justification clearly implied if not explicitly taught in the New Testament. The Westminster catechisms, for instance, confess that believers will be 'openly acknowledged and acquitted in the day of judgment.' Such language is thoroughly forensic, and acquittal is at the heart of justification.

The integral tie between that future acquittal and present justification needs to be made clear. As a single justification by the sole instrumentality of faith and based exclusively on the imputed righteousness of Christ, the one is the consummation of the other, as its open manifestation. For now until Jesus comes, the believer's justification is most certainly settled and certain but not uncontested. Romans 8:33-34, for instance, is clear in that regard. The faith that justifies perseveres in love (Gal. 5:6). No doubt, as so often in our theologizing, the proverbial razor's edge between the truth of the gospel and serious error presents itself here, a narrow ledge that will have to be negotiated with care.


Kyle said...

Dr. Lucus,

Thanks for this post. I appreciate Gaffin's emphasis on the inbreaking, yet eschatological structure of Paul's gospel, which includes a 'single justificaton by the sole instrumentality of faith and based exclusively on the imputed righteousness of Christ.'

Do you know if he furthers his idea about a distinction between judgment 'according to works' (κατὰ τὰ ἔργα) in Rom 2.6, which Paul seems to affirm, and a justification 'by works' (ἐξ ἔργων e.g. Rom 4:2) which Paul flatly denies? I have heard Gaffin comment on the distinction between the prepositions (κατὰ/ἐξ) before and am would like to find it developed in writing.

Sean Michael Lucas said...

Hi, Kyle: I don't recall if/where Gaffin deals with this; I'm sure he did in the midst of various OPC happenings through the years, but I haven't run directly across it recently. If I do, I'll post it. I simply ran across this quote while reading this new book and thought it worthwile...sml

Brian said...


It can be found in Gaffin's _By Faith Not By Sight_. I don't have it with me, so I am unsure of the page number. However, if you check the index for Romans 2 references you will find it.