A Birdseye View of the Gospel in One Big Sentence

  Kevin DeYoung: One of the clearest and most comprehensive statements of John Witherspoon’s theology can be found in his Essay on Justification ( 1756) where he sets out to defend justification by the imputed righteousness of Christ and ends up giving this big, broad, glorious summary of the gospel:   The doctrine asserted in the above and other passages of Scripture may be thus paraphrased: that every intelligent creature is under an unchangeable and unalienable obligation, perfectly to obey the whole law of God: that all men proceeding from Adam by ordinary generation, are the children of polluted parents, alienated in heart from God, transgressors of his holy law, inexcusable in this transgression, and therefore exposed to the dreadful consequence of his displeasure; that it was not agreeable to the dictates of his wisdom, holiness and justice, to forgive their sins without an atonement or satisfaction: and therefore he raised up for them a Saviour, Jesus Christ, who, as the

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The greatest personal question ever asked

  “Justification by faith is an answer to the greatest personal question ever asked by a human soul: ‘How shall I be right with God? How do I stand in God’s sight? With what favor does he look upon me?’ There are those, I admit, who never raise that question. There are those who are concerned with the question of their standing before men but never with the question of their standing before God. There are those who are interested in what ‘people say’ but not in the question of what God says. Such men, however, are not those who move the world. They are apt to go with the current. They are apt to do as others do. They are not the heroes who change the destinies of the race. The beginning of true nobility comes when a man ceases to be interested in the judgment of men and becomes interested in the judgment of God.” J. Gresham Machen,

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Three Ways Our Deeds Relate to Our Salvation

  John Piper: One effect of close attention to Scripture is that sweeping generalizations become problematic. This is notably true of the way our works (including our attitudes and words and behavior) relate to our salvation. The biblical texts relating to this issue are many and diverse, but not contradictory. If you take any one of them and treat it as the whole picture, you will almost surely lead people astray. For example, Paul rejoices that we are “justified by faith apart from works of the law” (Romans 3:28). I take that to mean that anything we bring to Christ other than faith has no part in the ground (Christ) or the instrument (faith) of our justification. This is a glorious truth, and our life hangs on it. But if we carelessly speak of justification as having no relationship to works, or if we generalize about salvation being apart from works of the law, we lead people away from the

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Only Jesus Is Enough

Eric Costa: We don’t often live with a functional understanding of biblical justification and sanctification. We often try—usually subconsciously—to attain feelings of assurance, satisfaction, or righteousness in our sanctification. “If I can perfectly confess and repent of this sin… If I can just figure out how to change my life in this way… If I can just achieve a certain level of sanctification, then it will be enough.” We can invest a lot of hope and effort in our sanctification in order to obtain what we’re only supposed to get from our justification: that joyful sense of assurance, satisfaction, and righteousness that comes vicariously through Jesus Christ, by his grace alone. You cannot truly and perfectly diagnose your own sin, in order to feel that “enough-ness” about your confession and repentance. You cannot understand how you’re supposed to change to the degree where you will feel that “enough-ness” about your sanctification. What you can achieve will never be enough. You’re

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Justification

A collection of quotes from chapter five of John Murray’s Redemption Accomplished and Applied: If we are to appreciate that which is central in the gospel, if the jubilee trumpet is to find its echo again in our hearts, our thinking must be revolutionized by the realism of the wrath of God, of the reality and gravity of our guilt, and of the divine condemnation. That justification does not mean to make holy or upright should be apparent from common use. When we justify a person we do not make that person good or upright. When a judge justifies an accused person he does not make that person an upright person. He simply declares that in his judgement the person is not guilty of the accusation but is upright in terms of the law relevant to the case. In a word, justification is simply a declaration or pronouncement respecting the relation of the person to the law which he, the judge,

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Fully pleasing to him

Ray Ortlund: “. . . so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him.”  Colossians 1:10 We should not be afraid of this clear biblical teaching.  It does not counteract the gospel in our lives; it is the sweet fruit of the gospel in our lives. The good news of justification by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, apart from all our works, is thrilling.  The message of forgiveness, acceptance, adoption, all by radical divine grace — I never get tired of hearing it and preaching it.  It is oxygen to me.  Every day.  I hope it means that to you too. But this grace is also a power that transforms.  It both reassures us and changes us.  Both/and.  How else can we account for the New Testament? “Try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord.”  Ephesians 5:10 “We ask and urge you in the Lord Jesus, that as you received from us how

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Just and Justifier

George Smeaton: The design or final cause which God had in view in the whole matter of the atonement is next subjoined: that He might be just, and the justifier (Rom. 3:26). The allusion is to the concurrence or harmony of these two perfections of God. The word JUST, applied to God, means that He asserts just claims and inflicts just punishment. It is a perversion of language to interpret the term as if it could mean anything else than justice in the ordinary acceptation of the word among men made in the image of God. The contrast in which it is placed to divine forbearance, and the allusion to the propitiatory, allow no doubt as to its import Justice seemed to slumber during that period of forbearance; now it is displayed. But this determines the character of the atonement Such language would be unmeaning, if it were not admitted that the atonement is in the proper sense of the word a

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The cross and criticism

“In light of God’s judgement and justification of the sinner in the cross of Christ, we can begin to discover how to deal with any and all criticism. By agreeing with God’s criticism of me in Christ’s cross, I can face any criticism man may lay against me. In other words, no one can criticize me more than the cross has. If you thus know yourself as having been crucified with Christ, then you can respond to any criticism, even mistaken or hostile criticism, without bitterness, defensiveness, or blame shifting. Such responses typically exacerbate and intensify conflict, and lead to the rupture of relationships. You can learn to hear criticism as constructive and not condemnatory because God has justified you.” — Alfred Poirier “The Cross and Criticism” The Journal of Biblical Counseling (Vol. 17, No. 3, Spring 1999) 17 (HT: Of First Importance)

Justification and Sanctification: What’s the Problem?

Matt Smethurst: The relationship between justification and sanctification—between being pronounced righteous in a moment and being made righteous over a lifetime—is delicate, complex, and altogether crucial to grasp. “Sanctification is always properly built on justification,” says Bryan Chapell in a new roundtable discussion with Kevin DeYoung and Rick Phillips. Still, he explains, we can make two mistakes concerning what motivates our obedience—denying either a plurality of motivations on the one hand or a priority of motivations on the other. “We’re never in danger of talking about grace too much,” DeYoung insists. “But we can talk about grace in a truncated, reductionistic way.” We must take great care, then, to deal faithfully with the Bible’s multiplicity of motivations, resisting the tendency to flatten certain texts, while at the same time never becoming “suspicious of grace.” Phillips cautions against rhetoric that suggests sanctification is a “tag on” to justification—little more than “being excited about justification.” Rather, he says, sanctification is a “twin grace with justification, each resulting from union

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In Christ Your Sin Is Publicly and Legally Cancelled, Nailed Up for All to See

John Owen: Sin being removed, and righteousness bestowed, we have peace with God—are continually accepted before him. There is not any thing to charge us with: that which was, is taken out of the way by Christ, and nailed to his cross—made fast there; yea, publicly and legally cancelled, that it can never be admitted again as an evidence. What court among men would admit of evidence that has been publicly cancelled and nailed up for all to see it? So has Christ dealt with that which was against us; and not only so, but also he puts that upon us for which we are received into favor. He makes us comely through his beauty; gives us white raiment to stand before the Lord. This is the first part of purchased grace wherein the saints have communion with Jesus Christ. In remission of sin and imputation of righteousness does it consist; from the death of Christ, as a price, sacrifice,

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10 Errors to Avoid When Talking about Sanctification and the Gospel

Kevin DeYoung: With lots of books and blog posts out there about law and gospel, about grace and effort, about the good news of this and the bad news of that, it’s clear that Christians are still wrestling with the doctrine of progressive sanctification. Can Christians do anything truly good? Can we please God? Should we try to? Is there a place for striving in the Christian life? Can God be disappointed with the Christian? Does the gospel make any demands? These are good questions that require a good deal of nuance and precision to answer well. Thankfully, we don’t have to reinvent the wheel. The Reformed confessions and catechisms of the 16th and 17th centuries provide answers for all these questions. For those of us who subscribe to the Three Forms of Unity or to the Westminster Standards this means we are duty bound to affirm, teach, and defend what is taught in our confessional documents. For those outside these confessional

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Our Position and Practice of Holiness

“Thus, true believer, you are holy before God in Christ, and yet you must cultivate holiness in the strength of Christ. Your status in holiness is conferred; your condition in holiness must be pursued. Through Christ you are made holy in your standing before God, and through Him you are called to reflect that standing by being holy in daily life. Your context of holiness is justification through Christ; your route of holiness is to be crucified and resurrected with Him, which involves the continual ‘mortification of the old, and the quickening of the new man’ (Heidelberg Catechism, Question 88). You are called to be in life what you already are in principle by grace.” — Joel Beeke, Puritan Reformed Spirituality (HT: Joe Thorn)

Christology in the 21st Century: A Discussion

Justin Taylor posts: Below is a panel hosted by Ligonier at the 2013 PCA General Assembly, with Sinclair Ferguson, Robert Godfrey, Ligon Duncan, Richard Pratt, and R.C. Sproul, moderated by Steve Nichols. They talk through the following: What is the biggest theological battle today and for the next generation? (00:00:00) What advice would you give to the next generation of pastors, especially church planters, as they try to address contextualization, Christology, and similar issues? (00:08:30) What might we learn from history about the parallel rising of Christianity and Islam? (00:11:35) What role does Christology play as we see the needs of the global church? (00:16:00) How do we guard against the various distortions when it comes to the person of Jesus? (00:22:40) Discussion on the work of Christ pertaining to justification and imputation. (00:30:45) The panel shares thoughts on substitutionary atonement, and how it is going to be an issue in the next generation. (00:41:52) Is the church in danger

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Does Grace Make You Lazy?

Tullian Tchividjian: The gospel doxologically declares that because of Christ’s finished work for you, you already have all of the justification, approval, security, love, worth, meaning, and rescue you long for and look for in a thousand different people and places smaller than Jesus. The gospel announces that God doesn’t relate to us based on our feats for Jesus but Jesus’ feats for us. Because Jesus came to secure for us what we could never secure for ourselves, life doesn’t have to be a tireless effort to establish ourselves, justify ourselves, validate ourselves. He came to rescue us from the slavish need to be right, rewarded, regarded, and respected. He came to relieve us of the burden we inherently feel “to get it done.” The gospel announces that it’s not on me to ensure that the ultimate verdict on my life is pass and not fail. This means you don’t have to transform the world to matter, you don’t have

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Irresistible Grace

John Piper in Bloodlines: We have seen this in regard to our humanity-wide depravity (point one of Calvinism), and in regard to Christ’s atonement of a people from every race and tribe (point three of Calvinism), and in regard to God’s gracious, unconditional election of a people out of this depravity and through this atonement (point two of Calvinism). And we have seen that the way we participate in that salvation is through justification by faith alone. This faith comes into being through conversion—that is, through being united with Jesus by faith so that we die with him and rise with him to a new life of faith and love. … God overcomes our depravity and our rebellion and grants us the gift of faith and repentance. This is often called irresistible grace. We believe that when Christ died to obtain his church (Eph. 5:25), he obtained for her not only the grace that results from faith (like forgiveness and

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More than we ever dared hope

“The gospel of justifying faith means that while Christians are, in themselves still sinful and sinning, yet in Christ, in God’s sight, they are accepted and righteous. So we can say that we are more wicked than we ever dared believe, but more loved and accepted in Christ than we ever dared hope — at the very same time. This creates a radical new dynamic for personal growth. It means that the more you see your own flaws and sins, the more precious, electrifying, and amazing God’s grace appears to you. But on the other hand, the more aware you are of God’s grace and acceptance in Christ, the more able you are to drop your denials and self-defences and admit the true dimensions and character of your sin.” — Tim Keller Paul’s Letter to the Galatians: Living in Line with the Truth of the Gospel (Redeemer Presbyterian Church, 2003), 2 (HT: Of First Importance)

Justification and Regeneration

Dane Ortlund: Seems to me there are roughly four camps when it comes to the question of how to put together the gospel with our ongoing growth. Maybe we can put all four in terms of their unification of the objective/legal/pardoning/external side of salvation (which for simplicity’s sake we’ll call justification [J]) with the subjective/mystical/empowering/internal side (which for simplicity we’ll call regeneration [R]). 1. Unbelievers (neither J nor R). No focus on either justification or regeneration. Full-blown functional Pelagianism and Socinianism without knowing it. 2. The Christian Buzz Lightyears (R, not J). A focus on regeneration to the neglect of justification. Overly optimistic. Anthropologically naive. Historically known as ‘Neonomian.’ Forgets that even the regenerate continue, in many ways, to be hard-wired to self-generate, even a little bit, God’s approval. Focuses on the ongoing need for the work of the Spirit to the neglect of the ongoing need for the work of the Son. I think the German Pietists Franke and

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What saving faith looked like in Cornelius

“So Peter opened his mouth and said: ‘Truly I understand that God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him.’”  Acts 10:34-35 Ray Ortlund: Peter’s point is not that Cornelius had earned his way into God’s good graces by his own highmindedness or performance.  His point is that Cornelius, the Gentile, did not have to become a Jew to be kosher with God.  As a Gentile in Christ, Cornelius was clean and complete, for God shows no racial or national partiality. But Peter’s words say more.  “Anyone [of any race or nation] who fears God and does what is right” is acceptable to God.  Again, this is not legalism.  This does not displace the life and death of Jesus.  But it is moral sincerity.  It is the mentality that lies at the foundation of gospel faith and repentance.  It is not a moral demand made of God, but it

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Instantaneous and Complete

“The justification of a sinner is instantaneous and complete. . . . It is an all-comprehending act of God. All the sins of a believer, past, present, and future, are pardoned when he is justified. The sum-total of his sin, all of which is before the Divine eye at the instant when God pronounces him a justified person, is blotted out or covered over by one act of God. Consequently, there is no repetition in the Divine mind of the act of justification; as there is no repetition of the atoning death of Christ, upon which it rests.” –William G. T. Shedd, Dogmatic Theology, Volume 2 (New York: Scribner’s, 1891), 545 (HT: Dane Ortlund)