Sunday, July 19, 2009

Justification according to works in Scripture?

Calvin's Institutes (1559)
Book 3 of 4 - How We Receive the Grace of Christ

Chapter 17 - The Law's Promises Agree with the Gospel
6. The OT has more than one kind of promise. It talks in a merit-reward kind of way ("do this and you will live"). It also says "the Lord keeps covenant of mercy with those who love Him" - Deut 7:9; 1 Kings 8:23; Neh 1:5.
7. The first kind of promise of righteousness, based on doing the law, is sometimes called righteousness (Deut 6:25; 24:13; Ps 106:30-31). But it doesn't please God unless it observes the whole law, which never happens.
8. How do we reconcile Rom 4:3 and Gal 3:6 with Ps 106:31? Our works can only please God when they are cleansed by and based on the righteousness we have by faith in Christ - Rom 5; 3:20.
9. Any righteousness we have is impure in itself - Deut 27:26; Job 25:5; 4:18 - and depends on justification by faith to be pleasing to God.
10. Your sins must be pardoned before God will accept your works. "By faith alone not only we ourselves but our works as well are justified." See Ps 32:1-2. When Scripture speaks of men as blessed who do certain things - - this depends on their forgiveness, which depends on justification by faith alone.
11. Isn't James clear that we are justified by works? (Jas 2:21, 24) Scripture cannot contradict itself. James is speaking of a pseudo-faith, not real faith, when he says faith alone doesn't justify.
12. James uses "justify" as in "prove your righteousness," not as in "have righteousness imputed to you by doing this."
13. Romans 2:13 doesn't help them. It just means the Jews weren't justified by having the law, not that they could be justified by keeping it (Rom 2:12).
14. What about when the Psalmist asks God to look favorably on His righteousness? Ps 7:8; 17:1, 3; 18:20-21, 23; 26:1, 4, 9-11. He pleads innocence in particular matters, not absolutely throughout life. Or he pleads innocence compared to his enemies, not according to God. - 1 Sam 26:23; 2 Cor 1:12; 1 Cor 4:4. Ps 130:3; 143:2 are still true.
15. Can we be perfect? Prov 20:7; 12:28; Ezek 18:9, 21 seem to say so. But no one is perfect - our only perfection is knowing we are imperfect. Paul prays for believers' perfection - Col 1:22; Eph 1:4; 1 Cor 1:8; 1 Thess 3:13; 5:23. But this is when we appear before God, not while here on earth yet.

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