Tuesday, December 04, 2007

A final justification by works?

From John Owen, Communion with the Triune God, ed. Kelly Kapic and Justin Taylor (Crossway, 2007), 263:

"But the works we do after we received Christ are of another consideration. Indeed, they are acceptable to God; it pleases him that we should walk in them. But as to that end for which we receive Christ, they are of no other account than the former. Even the works we do after believing--those which we are created unto in Christ Jesus, those that God has ordained that believers 'should walk in them'--as to justification and acceptance with God (here called salvation) are excluded. It will one day appear that Christ abhors the janglings of men about the place of their own works and obedience, in the business of their acceptation with God; nor will the saints find any peace in adulterous thoughts of that kind."


Michael said...

Ya, that sure is a breath of fresh air. I'm glad that he is very clear as to what those Christian good works don't do--namely--profit towards our justification and acceptance before a God who demands perfect obedience to the law!

Dustin said...

Owen deals with the relationship between justification by faith and the role of a personal righteousness (i.e., good works) at the last judgment in Volume 5, Chapter VI, pages 152-62 from the Banner of Truth (edited by Goold) edition.

I find the following quote to parallel and clarify the one given above.

“3. God has not appointed this personal righteousness in order unto our justification before him in this life, though he have appointed it to evidence
our justification before others, and even in his sight; as shall be declared. He accepts of it, approves of it, upon the account of the free justification of the person in and by whom it is wrought: so he had 'respect unto Abel and his offering'. But we are not acquitted by it from any real charge in the sight of God, nor do receive remission of sins on the account of it. And those who place the whole of justification in the remission of sins, making this personal righteousness the condition of it, as the Socinians do, leave not any place for the righteousness of Christ in our justification.”
[V:159, Owen's italics.]

Sean Michael Lucas said...

Dustin: Yes, this additional quote from Owen is helpful. And actually goes to the point I was trying to make in reference to Declaration #9of the PCA Study Committee report--i.e. final justification/vindication, which is proleptically declared to us in the present as we receive Christ by faith, is not based on, conditioned upon, or accounted upon our obedience, but only upon the finished work of Jesus. That does not negate the point that Owen (and James 2 and the WCF 33, for that matter) makes here, which is obedient works have an evidential aspect that "justifies" in the sight of others and even God's. Thanks, sml

Anonymous said...

To quote that great theologian and scholar, Keith Green:

And my friends,
the only difference between the sheep and the goats,
according to the Scripture,
is what they did...
and didn't...

Keith Green, The Sheep and the Goats, on The Ministry Years Volume 2: 1980-1982 (Sparrow Records 1988).

Anonymous said...

I know I am a little late on this discussion, but what do you make of Owen here?

'Suppose a person freely justified by the grace of God, through faith in the blood of Christ, without respect unto any works, obedience, or righteousness of his own, we do freely grant, --(1.) That God does indispensably require personal obedience of him; which may be called his evangelical righteousness. (2.) That God does approve of and accept, in Christ, this righteousness so performed. (3.) That hereby that faith whereby we are justified is evidenced, proved, manifested, in the sight of God and men. (4.) That this righteousness is pleadable unto an acquitment against any charge from Satan, the world, or our own consciences. (5.) That upon it we shall be declared righteous at the last day, and without it none shall so be . And if any shall think meet from hence to conclude unto an evangelical justification, or call God's acceptance of our righteousness by that name, I shall by no means contend with them. And wherever this inquiry is made, --not how a sinner, guilty or death, and obnoxious unto the curse, shall be pardoned, acquitted, and justified, which is by the righteousness of Christ alone imputed unto him--but how a man that professes evangelical faith, or faith in Christ, shall be tried, judged, and whereon, as such, he shall be justified , we grant that it is and must be, by his own personal, sincere obedience' (The Doctrine of Justification by Faith, ch.6, in The Works of John Owen, 5:159-160, emphasis mine).

I am no puritan scholar, but from my reading it seems that while affirming the righteousness of Christ as the sole, causal grounds for our acceptability before God, in this quote, Owen leaves room in his discourse for stronger statements regarding the relationship between final justification and 'evangelical' works--stronger than many would want to allow. In fact, it seems that one could even conclude from this statement that as evidence, they are a necessary condition; and thus works are necessary for final justification.

But like i said, i am not puritan scholar and may be misunderstanding the old english.

-Kyle Wells