Sunday, September 02, 2007

Distinction between Justification and Sanctification

Paul Helm has a good post on Calvin's Stroke of Genius in articulating the Reformed distinction between justification and sanctification. I agree with the distinction, and I think it is impossible to explain the charge of antinomianism that Paul had to respond to (Rom. 3.7-8; Acts 21.21; Jas. 2.14-26) if he was merging sanctification and justification.

But a larger problem that looms on the Reformed side is how one integrates eschatology into their understanding of justification and sanctification. Calvin never covered this point as far as I can tell, and I have noticed a number of Reformed authors implying or insisting that to attribute to justification a not-yet or future element is tantamount to embracing a Tridentine view of justification. However, I submit that justification has a future element (see Rom. 2.13-16, 10.9-10, Gal. 5.5, etc) and many commentators such as G.Vos, G.E. Ladd, H. Ridderbos, and L. Morris have appropriately articulated it. I think there is fundamental misunderstanding in some circles that to postulate a future or not-yet dimension to justification is to engage in a double-justification - one by faith and another by works (as Martin Bucer held) - or to see justification as a process of becoming just (e.g. Trent). But this is hardly a necessary corollary; eschatology pervades the entire matrix of Paul's theology, ethics, and view of ministry. It is not to be feared or explained away.


Andrew said...

I think it is impossible to explain the charge of antinomianism that Paul had to respond to (Rom. 3.7-8; Acts 21.21; Jas. 2.14-26) if he was merging sanctification and justification.

I would have thought that the New Perspective explains that perfectly. Paul was teaching that Gentiles converts need not follow the Judean ancestral customs. Hence the Judeans got upset.

A distinction between sanctification and justification seems totally unwarrented on either linguistic or contextual grounds.

Tony Stiff said...

Great post, people typically believe that there isn't much development within Reformed soteriology but your post and the people involved with its area of develop is a good example to the contrary.

Thanks. Tony Stiff said...

Clearly the editors made a mess of Romans 3.19 - 'Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those under the law, so that every mouth may be silenced and the whole world held accountable to God.' If the law only spoke to those under the law, i.e. Jews, then it hardly applied to everyone and could not be used to hold everyone accountable to God. Romans was written to Jews. Only Jews understood Jewish law. So 3.19 could not have been about the law. I suggest it was about the Spirit thus:'whatever the Spirit says, it says to everyone, so that everyone may be held accountable to God.'

And 3.7 was about the Spirit also thus:'Someone might argue, "If my spirit of deceit (not, my falsehood) enhances God's Spirit (not, truthfulness) and so increases his GLORY, why am I still condemned as impure (not, a sinner)?" ' To a Jew, God's glory was God's Spirit - the Shekinah glory that descended in the sanctuary. And what mattered to a prophetic Jew was purity of spirit. Only God's Spirit could cleanse a person from the spirit of deceit.

Anonymous said...

Dr. Bird,

Thanks for the post. You mentioned Romans 2:13 and Reformed authors who have helpfully articulated the future aspect of justification. Since much debate surrounds Romans 2:6 and 2:13, I was wondering who you would recommend as a good read on that passage. Thanks!