Lectionary Calendar
Sunday, December 10th, 2023
the Second Week of Advent
Tired of seeing ads while studying? Now you can enjoy an "Ads Free" version of the site for as little as 10¢ a day and support a great cause!
Click here to learn more!

Bible Dictionaries

Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament

Search for…
Prev Entry
Justice (2)
Next Entry
Justification (2)
Resource Toolbox
Additional Links

1. Considerations on the history of the doctrine.-Justification by faith formulates the distinctive principle of Protestantism. It has been a war-cry and word of passion, and embodies a spiritual and theological conflict. It claimed to be an advance on the Catholic idea, as more true to apostolic experience and more adequate to the sinner’s need. It is advisable at the outset to investigate this claim as preparatory to a dispassionate analysis of the apostolic doctrine. Justification is a complex conception. Neither in Luther nor in the Council of Trent are ambiguities and inconsistencies wanting. The combatants on both sides in subsequent controversy have in consequence easily fallen into serious misunderstandings. The vital current re-animating modern religious theory is disclosing the fact,* [Note: particularly inter multos alios Ritschl in his great work, Die christl. Lehre von der Rechtfertigung und Versöhnung, Bonn, 1870-74, i. and iii.] and producing a better-proportioned perspective. Rid of the war-dust, we see clearly the salient features of the main respective positions and their conspicuous divergences. What are these? It is a rich, fresh experience Luther describes in his finest statement of his faith. The Liberty of the Christian Man. It finds no commensurate exposition in the Lutheran or Reformed Confessions. Luther himself was no theologian; and his varying expressions are difficult to harmonize. But the tendency of his teaching is plain.† [Note: For Luther’s works consult the Erlangen ed., 1826ff.; H. Wace and C. A. Buchheim, Luther’s Primary Works, London, 1896.] The character of Tridentine teaching is as plain. Luther’s is aus einem Gusse (‘of one mould’), born of an intense travail of soul. The Catholic, polemical in import and comprehensive of aspect, has in view efficient discipline of souls. Grace, according to Luther, is known in personal relationship with Christ (Com. on Galatians 2:20); it is a sense of God’s favour; it saves from God’s wrath; it saves at once and wholly by God’s free mercy, is a complete and perfect thing, conditioned upon faith, bringing with it assurance of salvation (see Against Latomus). It is, in his own words, ‘the favour of God not a quality of soul’ (ib. 489), identical with forgiveness, release from His wrath, enjoyment of His favour, a present status rather than a new character. To receive such grace is to be justified. The Council of Trent* [Note: The best ed. of the ‘Decrees’ of Trent is that of A. L. Richer and F. Schulte, Leipzig, 1853.] defines its doctrine in reference to three questions: the manner of gaining justification, of maintaining it, and of regaining it when lost through mortal sin. The answers are that it is gained in baptism, through which are received not only remission of sins but sanctification and renewal of the inner man (sess. vi. ch. 7); it is maintained by performance of good works, keeping the commandments of God and the Church, resulting in an increase of justification (ch. 10); it is regained by penance and penitential ‘satisfactions’ (ch. 14). ‘That which truly justifies the heart is grace, which is daily created and poured into our hearts’ (J. Fischer’s Refutation of Luther, 1523). Grace on this view is a Divine substance,† [Note: For the recent ideas of Catholic divines on justification see art. In CE.] ex opere operato imparted, increased by man’s aid, dependent on faith and good works as co-ordinate in worth, all part and parcel of the same idea, ‘the infusion of grace’-the novel feature in Catholic dogma. Catholic dogma, equally with Protestant, safeguards the Divine initiative and the work of Christ, but neither the honour of Christ nor individual assurance, since, concerning the former, Christ, though His righteousness is available for our salvation, is not regarded as indwelling in us as our Righteousness; and, concerning the latter, the organized machinery of means of grace brings in all the elements of uncertainty, leaving the doctrine unsatisfactory in the most crucial point, Luther’s is a purely religious conception, vastly deeper within its limits than the other, comprising not only pardon of sin and escape from the Divine wrath, but peace of conscience and assurance of salvation. Its weakest features are the idea of faith, which is limited to belief and trust in Christ’s satisfaction, apart from subjective appropriation of its experience through the indwelling Christ which faith makes possible, and the resulting unbridged chasm between justification and sanctification; and the lack of any really vital relation between the new status and the new character of the justified.‡ [Note: For Luther’s doctrinal position consult J. Köstlin. Life of Luther, Eng. tr., London, 1883, and T. M. Lindsay, Luther and the German Reformation, Edinburgh, 1900.] Judged by the standard of apostolic truth, both fall short. In the apostolic consciousness justification is more than merely God’s favour or pardon of sins: it is release from the power as well as guilt of sin, a new character, in principle at least, with the new status. Therein the Catholic opposition to Luther was justified. But the new character is erroneously regarded by Catholicism as the gradual transformation of human nature (which is sanctification), a process in this life always incomplete, and liable to be imperilled by stagnation and lapse. Nor are the Catholic formulae adequate to the profoundly spiritual and final representations in apostolic experience of the acts and operations of grace in the believing heart through the instrumentality of Christ’s Person and Spirit. This, however, is a deficiency only in theology; it is compensated for in actual religions practice in the Sacrifice of the Mass, where faith is more genially receptive and heartfelt devotion more warmly active in realizing the real presence of Christ in all His justifying force. The Mass is to the creed in the Roman system what, so to speak, ‘Hebrews’ is to ‘Romans’* [Note: See § 3, v. ‘Hebrews.’] in Pauline thought.

2. The problem of justification.-Justification is a religious problem, the answer to an interior inquiry of Christian experience. The OT cry, ‘How is man just with God?’ is deepened in the NT: ‘How is God gracious?’ and ‘How are we sure of His grace?’ That again is the problem of fellowship with God-the most engrossing of modern quests. Of fellowship with God the very foundation and certainty is justification. In consequence modern spiritual philosophy is eagerly interested. It is better equipped to cope with the exquisitely delicate character of the inquiry than any past age. The modern idea of Divine immanence in Nature and man adds immeasurably to our perception of the nature of the human spirit, its workings, their relation to the Divine Spirit; and furnishes a key to the representation and reconstruction of inner soul-processes beyond the apparatus of the older theology. The mystical emotion is its highest form, and is no exceptional super-addition to man’s nature; rather it is his natural consummation. It is not merely the secret action of the mind upon itself; while an inborn instinct, it comes to distinct form and growth from causes objective to itself, operating on it by the inworking of external and historical circumstance and the exercise and outworking of ethical faculty. Psychologically it is not of the ordinary emotive life; it is higher, inclusive of all the parts of human nature, gathering up into itself all those inner powers in whose interplay under its guidance and inspiration in one harmonious unity its life consists. In operation it is wholly personal, conscious, energetic, intensely individual. Into it enters the force of historic fact, out of it passes the power of moral life; but itself is a self inbreathing the one, out-breathing the other. The constitution of this self is the modern construction of justification. The life of that self is communion with God; justification is its origin and basis.

What is the origin?-the Divine graciousness† [Note: This in the sense of ‘grace’ Luther; cf. A. C. McGiffert, Prostestant Thought before Kant, London, 1911, p. 28.] (Luther) or Divine grace (Catholic); a ‘reckoning righteous,’ or a ‘making righteous’‡ [Note: The familiar contrast between Romanist and Protestant ideas.] by God? Neither of these alternatives standing solitary is to-day an intelligible concept applicable to the Divine or the human personality; nor is the one or the other a felt fact of religious experience, the ultimate test of every theory. These are otiose ideas, as useless as absolute ideas. God and His grace cannot be otiose. ‘He speaks and it is done.’ His grace is at once, as grace, prescient and prevenient, operans and co-operans, sufficient and efficient, and cannot be defined in merely legal or logical terms, or, in fact, in anything short of that ‘interpenetration of essence’ of God’s self or character§ [Note: The Only adequate phrase to denote the NT conception of the relation of the ransomed soul to its Redeemer.] with man’s self or character, bestowing on man’s its profoundest promise and potency; and instanter translating it into the status and character of life that is being sanctified after His image, and on His initiative. What Protestant thought clumsily encloses within two notions, ‘justification’ and ‘imputation,’|| [Note: | Imputation is specially offensive to modern ethical sensitiveness; the sense of responsibility insists that each is himself, not another.] may be regarded under one more modern-‘development.’ Then, man’s self is appreciated from the Divine standpoint, as God saw creation in its first being, not as it actually is in present attainment, nor as it will be in perfect fruition, but as it is ideally becoming when put upon the right basis and in the right atmosphere, the condition we find in ‘the stature of a perfect man’-Christ-the root and direction rather than the end or goal determining the judgment of its character. That appreciation is justification.

The faculty of self by whose exercise the new status and generation are attained is ‘faith.’ By ‘faith’ the Divine Life dwells in man’s soul and Divine truth becomes power. Faith here is more than spiritual insight, it is spiritual grasp; more than a receptive force, it is also the bestowing fact, softening the harsh independence of these two realities. The truth is that every approach of God to man has a true tendency to create the faith without which the approach can never become a real entrance. Faith is man’s welcome of Him, created in man’s heart, as the face of a friend coming towards us reclaims us for his friendship. Faith again is more than assent or trust: it is the soul’s entrance into healthy relationship to Him who is its true life; an entrance fuller or weaker according to the soul’s capacity, and ever growing with the soul’s growth. Faith thus understood widens its mental and emotional constituents. God and man underneath all obscuring media are of like nature; God is the ‘element’ of man’s true life.* [Note: St. Augustine, Confessions, i. 1: ‘Thou hast made us for Thyself, and our hearts restless till it find its rest in Thee.’] God is unceasingly solicitous in seeking man, and, finding man reciprocate, apprehends him, but as Life apprehending life, or the ocean refreshing the tide’s eddy, or the tree quickening the branch. The term ‘justification’ may be technically a juridical one, but that which it aims at expressing is in idea and fact a spiritual transaction unexpressible in forensic terms, not even conceivable as a process having acts and stages. It may better be compared to a gem† [Note: the soul us ‘pearl’ (Matthew 13:46).] having many facets, simultaneous, not successive, and glowing in enhancing splendour with every further advance into light. This is the essence of the idea in believing experience. It is also the essence of the idea in the apostolic conscience-the love of God seeking the love of man and finding it.‡ [Note: the Parable of the Prodigal Son, the perfect picture of ‘justification.’]

3. The apostolic doctrine of justification.-The apostolic doctrine is characterized by a singular originality, comprehensiveness, self-consistency, and spirituality. Its systematic statement is elaborate, developing itself consciously along three lines-experiential, historical, speculative. A careful analysis is necessary to separate its essential substance and abiding cogency from their first local form. Its originality is evident when compared with similar ideas in ethnic and Jewish religion; its comprehensive and self-consistent character by the exhibition of its contents; its spirituality by the demonstration of its purely religious validity; its permanent worth by the absoluteness with which it solves the religious problem of which avowedly it is an answer.

i. Originality.-The idea of justification does not originate with Christianity, although truly it comes to its full expression there. Wherever religion becomes personal in actual communion with God, it brings with itself inquiry as to the specific nature of the power known and felt and the peculiar character of its working in the soul. This we find occurring in religious history generally, and especially in Hebrew religion. Ethnic faiths for the most part are so lacking in belief in a personal God that the inquiry hardly anywhere attains more than rudimentary shape. Even in more advanced faiths the Divine personality is mingled with such unworthy elements that fruitful conceptions are rare. The indelible convictions won are only two: the gravity of the need, and the failure of provision to meet the need. A more positive impetus enters with Semitic religion, in whose religious observances the reception of the Divine life is increasingly the centre of attention. The growing consciousness of Divine force is mediated in the Hebrew spirit by sacrifice, prayer, wisdom, and prophetic inspiration; in the experience of suffering also very notably, as in Jeremiah and Deutero-Isaiah; in mystical union with the righteous spirit of the Law, as in the finer Psalms; and realized as pardon of sin (Psalms 32), life in God’s favour (Psalms 30), righteousness (Psalms 4, etc.), mercy, and salvation, covering all aspects of the soul’s state. ‘The Law’ at its best (Psalms 119) was spirit and life, obedience to its precepts clothing the spirit and life of man with their imperishable energy, which is none other than that of God who gave them. Pre-Christian evolution deepened the conscience in at least three directions-the difficulty in the way of justification, the possibility of its accomplishment, the mode and means of its reality. The advent of Christ, the tout ensemble of His Person and Work as one organic influence, raised the whole problem in apostolic experience and thought to an incomparably richer plane, on which, while the difficulty is enlarged, the possibilities are matured and a final mode with adequate means provided. Here the centre of gravity is Christ and His own justification (1 Timothy 3:16, Hebrews 3, 5, 6): ‘being manifest in the flesh, he was justified in the spirit.’ Wherein consists His being justified? The true answer is-in all that by which His higher origin was made known (‘His glory’ in St. John, manifested in words, works, resurrection [John 7:46 etc. John 2:11; John 3:2; John 14:11; cf. Matthew 7:29, Romans 1:4, Acts 2:36, etc.]; ‘His high-priesthood’[Hebrews 3, 5, 6]; ‘His righteousness’ [Romans 10:4, 1 Corinthians 1:30, 2 Corinthians 5:21, Philippians 3:9, etc., in St. Paul]). It is a description drawn in contrast with the preceding phrase, ‘manifest in the flesh’ and includes all by which He is proved to be the very Person He truly was.* [Note: His own use of the word ‘justified’ (Luke 7:35).] This general proof is further specialized into the events of His Death and Resurrection, its ultimate and most impressive parts, which as such procured the redemption from sin through which we are justified (Romans 5:9; Romans 4:25, Hebrews 8, 9, 10). His own justification consisted in the accomplished fact of His perfect holiness and His risen life. It is ours after the same manner; only it is His righteousness that is mediated to us to become ours, and that in virtue of our union with Him by faith (Romans 3:22-26; Romans 5). The old distress of man’s nature is irrevocably dissolved under the assured potency of the new condition in which it stands.

ii. Completeness.-The general meaning of justification is clear, nay simple; but the greatly simple is the organization of the complex. And the apostolic exposition is complex. It comprehends many elements, commands a variety of relations. It derives its material from the Apostle’s unique fellowship with the glorified Lord; and that experience, fundamentally the same in all, is varied by the diversity of individuality in each. Again, the reasoning of the apostles relates itself directly to immediate issues and is affected by the circumstances of the readers to whom it is addressed. Further, the intellectual equipment of the writers colours their statements. To all this we must add the fact that their doctrine had to establish itself on the successful displacement of two solutions already on the field, one of them strongly entrenched, viz. the ministration of the Law. The most systematic and dispassionate statement is given by St. Paul in the Epistle to the Romans, with which is to be associated the subsidiary matter (more or less disputatious) in Eph., 2 Cor., Gal., etc. Isolated references and aspects of the doctrine, more or less complete, are to be found in Acts, the General Epistles, and Hebrews. The relation of these to one another, and of them all to the Synoptic teaching of Jesus Himself, has to be adverted to.

(1) St. Paul.-Justification is by God’s grace (Romans 3:24; Romans 4:5, Ephesians 2:8, Titus 3:7), by man’s faith (Acts 13:39, Romans 5:1), by Christ’s Death (Romans 5:9), by His Resurrection (Romans 4:25). It is a justification of the ungodly (Romans 4:5, 2 Corinthians 5:19, etc.); it is not of works of the Law (Romans 3:20, Galatians 3:11, etc.), not of the law written in the heart, the uncircumcision (Romans 2:15). It is not inconsistent with judgment by works (1 Corinthians 9:27, Philippians 3:8-14). It is for remission of sins (Romans 3:25), peace with God, access into grace and hope of glory (Romans 5:1-2), righteousness (Romans 4:22; Romans 4:24; Romans 5:17; Romans 3:22, 2 Corinthians 5:21, Philippians 3:9), for life (Romans 5:18 : ‘a justification taking effect in life’), which is through the body of Christ (Romans 7:4) and by His Spirit (Ephesians 2:18, Romans 5:15; Romans 8:2; Romans 8:4; Romans 8:6; Romans 8:10-11, etc.). To the foregoing add the corroborative statement in Romans 4 as to Abraham’s justification. There are five points. Justification is by faith, not works (Romans 4:4-5), therefore by grace (Romans 4:16). Being by grace through faith, it came not through law but through promise (Romans 4:14; cf. Galatians 3:18). It is not by circumcision or outward privilege (Romans 4:9-11); it leaves no room for boasting or self-righteous confidence (Romans 3:27, Romans 4:2). According to the Apostle, justification is not an act of man but an act of God. It issues from His holy Fatherly love and righteousness, which can have no possible relation to unrighteousness but that of wrath. It is fundamentally related to believing self-surrender and trust (faith) on man’s part. It is manifested in the historical work of Jesus. Its force resides in God, the object of faith, as He in His righteousness and clemency appears in the Death and Life after Death of His Son, by whose life we are saved (Romans 5:10). This justification it not cogently interpreted as ‘a reckoning righteous,’* [Note: The meaning of the term, a Judicial word.] nor as ‘a making righteous’; it is more than the first, and other than the second. It includes the juridical features within the larger personal and spiritual, for there enter into it (a) grace and (b) faith, (c) Christ’s Spirit and (d) the believer in Christ, all in a plane of spirit and life. Here God cannot just be understood as a Judge acquitting a criminal;† [Note: To Him as Judge the situation is a legal impasse out of which there is no legal way; recourse is had to the Divine clemency.] the culprit has his position completely reversed, and is advanced to the honours and privileges to which he would have been entitled by a perfect obedience.‡ [Note: W. P. Paterson, Pauline Theology, London, 1903. p. 71.] He not only goes free from merited penalty; he is transferred in to a new freedom for righteous service, gains unrestricted admittance to the operations of grace, the right of sonship, with all the glorious future involved. All that future is here in its initial stage in germ, so that the whole is regarded as already in the potential possession of the believer, and God gives as God and Father, not after the manner of an earthly tribunal. The stress of the Pauline statement rests on the fact that he conceives the energies of the Spirit to be liberated for the believer by the justifying Death of Christ, and mediated to the believer by the present life of ‘the Lord, the Spirit’ (2 Corinthians 3:17), to whom the believer is joined to form ‘one spirit’ (1 Corinthians 6:17). It is a statement of spirit, not logic; experience and life, not legal forms.§ [Note: Paul uses metaphors, some drawn from juristic terminology, others from the ceremonial on the Great Day of Atonement. These metaphors are to be interpreted not in separation but in their combined cumulative effect, if the comprehensive character of his idea is to be maintained.]

The Apostle proceeds next to plead for its efficacy by contrasting it with two earlier attempts in the history of the race to restore man’s righteousness-attempts which had miserably failed. There was first the working of the natural conscience in the Gentile world. There is a light of nature which offers knowledge sufficient to impress on men the fact that their just due to God is full obedience to His will. By their wilful disobedience that light that was in them had been turned to darkness, with the result not of heightening the possibilities of human nature, but rather of increasing its unrighteousness, in fellowship with the god of this world, the Devil; and now the world was lying in wickedness under God’s wrath (Romans 1:22; Romans 1:25; Romans 3:9-10, Galatians 3:22, Ephesians 2:2), and, in the individual heart, earnestly endeavouring to keep from its contamination, the conflict proved the prepotency of sin (Romans 7). Then there was the moral conscience trained under the Law of Moses. It was designed to remedy the moral disaster of the natural conscience. Was it successful?-It had been most ineffectual. Law could ‘not make alive’ (Galatians 3:21) either in its precepts or in their sanctions. It might furnish an ideal of right and deepen the consciousness of sin, and it might educate to a higher type of virtue. It could also, on the contrary, incite to larger disobedience and to fresh vices. Its rigours working on sensitive souls tended to paralyze the will. But the only solution must lie in re-inforcement of the will. In Christ alone was that end won. He is ‘the Wisdom and Power’ of God, to them who believe, ideal and motive force in one Spirit. Nothing short of the religious conscience renewed by Him could suffice. The religious conscience begins in one subjective act on man’s part, the act of faith. It is preceded or accompanied by repentance, but it is itself the simple, childlike, submissive, enthusiastic, unconditional self-surrender of the man’s whole being, intellect, affections, purpose, to the will of God in Christ.* [Note: We are not here concerned with the ‘Rabbinic’ form of St. Paul’s argumentation nor with the character of his judgment on Gentile and Jew, but only with his thought.]

(2) St. James.-The Epistle of St. James emphasizes two practical consequences of faith. (a) It works in the heart as a new law, obedience to the perfect, royal law of liberty (James 1:25; James 2:8). The point here is the contrast between the external compelling force of the older Law and the internal impelling force of the new, the ‘word’ in the heart, able to save the soul (James 1:21). (b) It works in the conduct as good works. The controversy that has arisen over the supposed antagonism between St. Paul and St. James is barren, and need not detain us. ‘Faith’ and ‘works’ have two different connotations in the two instances. St. James means by ‘faith’ not self-surrender so-much as mental assent, and by ‘works’ not the legal deeds enjoined by the Law, but acts of mercy and kindness prompted by the law of love in the soul. The motive and interest of the two apostles differ; there is no room for opposition. Faith to St. James, as to St. Paul, is the pre-condition of good works, and the condition of acceptance with God. Like St. Paul also, he sees justifying energy active in the concrete circumstances of life-‘a man is blessed not through but in his deed.’ Further, there is no suggestion of merit in these good works of faith. The sub-apostolic age was not slow to materialize both ‘the new law’ and the ‘merit of works,’ but St. James is not responsible.† [Note: For a different view of St. James’s position, see Piepen-bring, Jésus et les Apôtres.]

(3) St. Peter.-From the speeches (Acts 3) and First Epistle we gather three features. (a) In justification the pardon of sins and clearing of guilt are explicitly connected with Christ’s sufferings (Acts 3:18 f., 1 Peter 1:19; 1 Peter 2:24); also, as the righteous suffering for the unrighteous, Christ ‘brings us to God’ (1 Peter 3:18). (b) The gift of grace is the result of Christ’s Resurrection (1 Peter 1:21); it is the ground and guarantee of the new life and of the gift of strength to overcome Satan. (c) The coming of grace into the heart finds its necessary complement in the life of love for the brethren. In the Second Epistle both freedom from sins and the power to work the righteousness of God depend upon faith in and knowledge of Christ (2 Peter 1:5; 2 Peter 1:9). Knowledge here is akin to the Johannine idea-the inner personal apprehension of the saving Spirit of Christ.

(4) St. John.-The Epistles and Apocalypse do not share in the fullness of volume of mystical idealism pervading the Gospel. Yet the essential elements are here-the unity of life with God in Christ, the significance of Christ’s Person, Death, Resurrection, fellowship with Him in ‘sonship.’ Especially emphatic is the writer on the two facts, that it is God’s love to sinners, not sinners’ love to God, that is the ground of faith and healing; that in sonship are to be included religious as well as moral ideals. In the Apocalypse the same ideas are central-but under sacrificial designations: Christ’s Sacrifice (the Lamb) and Resurrection (alive for evermore) are the source of the stream of life proceeding from the very essence of God which, received by man, is in him a life of uninterrupted sacrifice.

(5) Hebrews.-This Epistle is a continuation of the Pauline ‘apologia’ for the gospel as against the claims of the Old Covenant. What is done in Romans for grace as against law is here done for Christ’s sacrifice as against Levitical offerings. Justification by faith is expounded in connexions different from those St. Paul and St. John have in view, and the exposition stands midway between theirs, filling up an evident lacuna. Some scholars assert that the problem is here less deeply discussed, justification being narrowed to forgiveness and faith to spiritual insight apart from spiritual grasp. That would be to leave Hamlet out of the play. The author has a definite aim, and, notwithstanding an obscuring vocabulary and analogies, elaborates it admirably. His aim is to demonstrate the accessibility of God through Christ’s sacrificial work. His demonstration puts in bold relief two aspects hitherto untouched in apostolic thought: (a) justification as a subjective fact as well as an objective act; (b) the principles of its mode. The justification of Christ (above, § 3. i.) is constituted by His sinlessness, effected as a spiritual fact in His own experience. The justification of the sinner as a spiritual fact in his experience is effected after the same manner as in Christ, and by Christ: viz. in ‘the purging of the conscience from dead works to serve the living God,’ and in resisting unto blood (Hebrews 9:14 ff.). These aspects are set forth in detail and give the book its character. In both Christ and the believer the inner experience is identical (α) ‘through eternal Spirit’ (Hebrews 9:14) and (β) through their vital union: ‘he that sanctifieth and they who are sanctified are all of one’ (Hebrews 2:11). The word ‘sanctify’ is used in this Epistle in its Hebraic sense of ‘consecrate.’* [Note: the NT use of ‘saint’-one or the covenant-people, the potentially holy-of whom moral qualifications are asserted not as a fact but as a duty. See F. J. A. Hort, The First Epistle of St. Peter, I. 1-11. 17, London, 1898, p. 70.] Just as in St. Paul the justified are accepted and become members of the Body of Christ, so in virtue of membership in the New Covenant, the believer, according to Hebrews, is set in right relation to God, receives forgiveness, cleansing of conscience, and is ἁγιαζόμενος, even τετελειωμένος: ‘by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified’ (Hebrews 10:14). The faculty in man rendering this possible is faith, whose full content it takes ‘hope’ (Hebrews 6:19, Hebrews 7:19), ‘obedience’ (Hebrews 5:8; Hebrews 5:11), as well as ‘faith’ (Hebrews 11:1), to express. It is not merely spiritual perception of the unseen; it is rather the power of soul which makes the unseen future present, the unseen present visible, and by so doing unites us to Christ in His present and future plenitude (Hebrews 10:38-39), from whom flows the transforming influence creative of the graces of life which are never separated from faith nor faith from them.

The efficacy of His Sacrifice rests fundamentally on the majesty of His Person. His High-Priestly act is an expression of the eternal Spirit of the Divine love. By it He has destroyed every barrier of sin which lay between man and God. He has, as the sin-offering for humanity, freed all men potentially from the guilty consciousness of sin, and brought Christians to the heavenly rest of God. The emphasis is on what follows, viz.: ‘the entering within the veil,’ less the surrender of His life than its presentation within the veil, implying that the love and merciful kindness of God, which were manifested in time and in the earthly ministry, are eternal and changeless principles perpetually operative on our behalf. This must ultimately be the ground of our acceptance and the assurance of our life in communion with Him. The benefits and efficacy of His perfect Sacrifice are conditioned by our attitude of faith and trust.

(6) The apostolic doctrine in relation to Christ’s teaching.-Is the apostolic teaching a necessary consequence of Christ’s self-witness? Yes; if certain considerations be kept in view. We see, e.g., that it was not drawn by conscious deduction. It is an original construction derived from life, from their experience of Christ revealing Himself in them (Galatians 1:16), as Christ’s is from the manifold fruitfulness and insight of His own sublime Personality. Then we see it elaborated under stress of the Judaistic and Hellenistic environment of that age, in the endeavour to establish and justify itself in the intellectual atmosphere of the nascent Church-life. It was not possible to accomplish this with success except by a process which should display the hidden significance of what at first seemed so simple, and is so simple to simple hearts.* [Note: As, e.g., in Christ’s teaching.] That age, however, was not simple-hearted;† [Note: , for a popular description, M. Arnold’s Obermann.] it was a highly intellectual, profoundly perplexed, saddened age, sobbing its heart out in weakness; requiring accordingly the doctrine that would strengthen and comfort with effect to be in the mould of its own speculation and intuition. Christ’s teaching is a plain, positive statement on the practical religious plane, delivering itself as easily as the flow of the stream, in conflict only with the hindrances of indifference and want of faith. That attitude characterizes the General Epistles, which are close echoes of the Master’s style, and directed to the same general consciousness of religion as His was. It is otherwise with the Pauline and Johannine Epistles: in them we have the underlying universal quality and principle of His teaching disclosed, beaten out inch by inch on the hard anvil of bitter controversy (Pauline); or reflecting the more lambent genius of the mystic (Johannine). The differences are great, but they are not oppositions, nor vitiations. The same facts are looked at and loved, by means of the same great powers of soul, and within the same great principles and convictions.‡ [Note: , for an able vindication of this view of the relation of the apostolic doctrine to Christ’s, J. Denney, Jesus and the Gospel, London. 1908.] Nor must we forget that since Christ’s Person is the source of this inspiration and enlightenment, their statement is coloured throughout its whole extent by that all-pervading fact. It is a fact which leaves the writers free to be careless of superficial harmonizations, conscious as they are of the substantial unity below all apparent divergences and dissonances. That unity is impressive; its outlines strong and vivid. In contrast with Gentile wisdom and Jewish Law, which were both powerless to redeem men from sin, Christ stands out as Saviour. He is the answer to the age-long cry, ‘How shall man be just with God?’ He is ‘the new and living way’ of access into God’s presence (Hebrews 10:20), as He Himself claimed (John 14:6). By Him is proclaimed ‘the forgiveness of sins’ (Acts 13:38). He is exalted to give forgiveness (Acts 5:31), and gives it (Ephesians 1:7, Colossians 1:14, etc.). He has broken down the ‘wall of partition’ (Ephesians 2:14) and ‘rent the veil’ of the Temple (Matthew 27:51, Mark 15:38, Luke 23:45). He has effected ‘so great salvation’ (Hebrews 2:3) in His own body on the tree (1 Peter 2:24), by eternal Spirit (Hebrews 9:14), in Himself and for Himself, as the Author and Finisher of our faith, really, vitally, consciously, not with a dull sense of unintelligible burden, but wholly rationally, intensely spiritually, in an experience where the issues are of life and death, fought out in a fiery heat of thought and emotion, of deeply moving religious conscience. The apostolic consciousness has caught the rich impress of this travail of soul. It sets it forth for mankind in varying form and mode-the picture of the great and guiltless sorrow bearing the sins of the world, and, in bearing them, bearing them away. As the soul of the age was sobbing itself out, here a nobler soul shares the fellowship of its suffering and of all suffering, but not in weakness; for the pain is fully faced and taken up into conscious life, there to be transmuted into abiding life. Thus was Christ justified; thus are we.

iii. Spirituality and absoluteness.-Justification is a purely religious problem. The apostolic solution is purely religious. Its spirituality may be vindicated by reference to its source, its ground, its results.

(a) Grace the source.-Justification presupposes the election of grace (q.v. [Note: quod vide, which see.] ), to which is traced its unconditional freeness (Romans 3:24, Ephesians 1:7), its plenitude (Colossians 1:14, Romans 5:17, etc.), its Divine provision (1 John 4:10, Romans 5:8; Romans 5:10). The riches and freeness of God’s grace are manifested in the redemption they provide. It is a manifestation in which there is nothing else than a free, unprompted, unsolicited expression of God’s own nature and love to mankind. It is conditioned by nothing in man but man’s clamant need, by nothing in God but His own holy love. Men are not pardoned on account of their faith or by their faith. Pardon already is in God’s attitude toward them; what they have to do is to realize it by faith, and enjoy its blessing.* [Note: Theology even in its most dreary day never made faith the operative but simply the instrumental cause of justification.] Nor does God pardon because of Christ’s satisfaction. Christ’s sacrifice is the outcome of His forgiving mercy. It does not create or impel God’s love, it displays it (Romans 5:8; Romans 5:10). The Atonement, so far from being inconsistent with the Fatherhood of God, is its most distinct proof. Faith in Christ’s atoning love only makes more conspicuously clear God’s paternal love, for it is the marvellous way He took to struggle down through human experience to give us healing. This assured love of God is the living root of the justified life;† [Note: Calvin’s Institutes, in which justification is related to predestination: ‘comprehension of the divine purpose creating confidence in the elect’ (bk. iii. ch. 2).] in its amplitude all are pardoned it they would only realize it in actual standing. It is the cause also of confident and bold access to God (Ephesians 3:12, 1 John 2:28; 1 John 3:21) and the ceasing from confidence in the flesh (Philippians 3:3). Assurance of the Divine love in the forgiveness of sins already contained in it the whole idea of salvation, and holds together all the parts of the Divine life in their necessary nexus: the justification of the sinner before God and the principle of freedom for the consciousness of the justified subject himself in all his relations.* [Note: It is the permanent worth of Luther’s doctrine to have set forth these two points with passionate cogency (The Liberty of the Christian Man).] In that principle lies securely embedded, along with our acceptance by God, our assurance of salvation.† [Note: Not the same as assurance of the love of God.] Starting from God, who from eternity has been beforehand with us, held by His predestinating love, creating, calling, pardoning, we raise our fabric of life in continual growth for eternal glory (Romans 8:31-39). All along it is of God’s initiative, of grace; all along it is an appeal to faith; man’s dependence is absolute.

(b) Christ’s mediation the ground.-Here the apostolic teaching assumes the form of a three-fold presentation; (α) Christ’s righteousness is made peace; (β) Christ’s blood is made obedience; (γ) Christ’s life is made presence. The first in Pauline, the second that of Hebrews, the third Johannine-in such a way that, while each of the three has its predominant element as thus classified, we are not to suppose that each has no affinities with the others; on the contrary, the fullness of troth is in each, but ranged around the predominant element of each type.

(α) The new righteousness.-‘Christ is made unto us righteousness’ (1 Corinthians 1:30); ‘he is our peace’ (Ephesians 2:13-16). The argument is in Romans 3:10; Romans 3:19-24, and proceeds by a winding course through the following chapters to the eighth. There are three kinds of righteousness: ‘God’s righteousness,’ ‘our own righteousness,’ and ‘the righteousness of faith.’ Before God’s righteousness no man can stand. The attempt was made through His Law, given by Moses. The result was a self-righteousness that failed to bring peace between God and man for two reasons-firstly, the righteousness of the Law consisted in our own unaided obedience; and secondly, that self-righteousness was the condition of our acceptance with God. It contained all the elements of uncertainty of salvation. It was ineffectual. There is another righteousness never lost sight of under the Old Law, which has now appeared in Jesus Christ. By Him it is made ours. Presented in Him, it awakes in the sinner penitence and faith-a love of Christ’s holiness, a hatred of his own sinfulness; this by God’s grace. There is nothing in the self-righteousness of the righteousness of the Law to bridge the chasm between God and sin. The provision for that end is the very thing provided in Christ. How so? In Christ God gives His own righteousness, which is the end and meaning of all faith. He who receives it in initio receives it virtually in extenso; such is the mode of God’s gift of it. The condition of possible or future righteousness is the right attitude or intention of mind towards actual present unrighteousness. It is possible to justify or accept as right only that attitude which at the time is the nearest right possible for the person. In the initial moment of contrition, the only possible and right posture of the sinner is that consciousness of himself which could not be the beginning of his hatred of sin if it were not to the same extent the beginning of a love of holiness. Where this exists in truth and sincerity, even though it be but the beginning of an infinite process, it is possible and right to accept and treat as right that which as yet is only a first turning to and direction towards right (cf. 1 John 1:8-10). Thus the righteousness of faith begins with our sense of sin and experience of impotence, and God’s loving acceptance of this repentance in us is the condition, starting-point, and earnest of a righteousness in us which is maintained and increased through Christ’s, in whom we see revealed all the presence and power of God in us, and in consequence all the power in ourselves necessary to its actual attainment and possession. Faith in Christ as our righteousness can justify us because it is based on the one condition in ourselves of becoming righteous-a loyal disposition-and the one power without ourselves to make us righteous-the righteousness of God. The grace of God in Christ makes the sinner righteous, by enabling him to make himself righteous. It starts the process by regarding and treating as righteous the penitent believer:* [Note: For a full discussion see DuBose, The Gospel according to St. Paul, chs. 6 end 7.] ‘justifying freely through grace by faith.’

(β) The new obedience.-‘He learned obedience by the things which he suffered’; ‘the obedience of faith’ (Hebrews 5:8, Romans 5:19; Romans 16:26, Hebrews 3:14; Hebrews 4:11; Hebrews 10:7; Hebrews 10:23-24; Hebrews 10:12). A. B. Bruce† [Note: HDB, art. ‘Hebrews,’ vol. ii. p. 333.] has made the invaluable suggestion that by the author of Hebrews the blood of Christ has been translated from body to spirit, and as such enters into heaven, and is available for our benefit. The blood of Christ, says St. John, is ever actively cleansing us from all sin (1 John 1:7). That blood-spirit becomes to us the law of all life because it is the law of the Spirit of life itself (Romans 8:2). Obedience to that law clothes us with its power. How so?-Manifestly not simply as a general consequence of that which Christ has done for us, as if we found ourselves through the Atonement on the Cross under such changed relation to God as enables us to approach Him at will. That view is little distinguishable from the main position of Rationalism (Socinianism), whose central conviction is the assumption of a general order of Divine forgiveness independent of Christ, in accordance with which pardon is bestowed on the condition of the active obedience of faith. Ritschl‡ [Note: Rechtfertigung und Versöhnung, ch. viii.] has demonstrated the hollowness of this assumption. Both ‘faith’ and ‘obedience’ lose their peculiar quality: for faith becomes merely assent to past teaching or trust in past acts; and obedience, instead of being motived by faith in the sense of surrender to Christ’s spirit, is merely conformity to certain legal requirements. Nor is it enough to go a step further, and to conceive that Christ by His Death established a fund of merit of which we can on certain conditions make ourselves participants (Romanism). Scriptural figures of speech there are that seem to give some warrant to such a view of a spiritual reservoir of grace which waits only for our willingness to dive into it.

Faith’s view of the High Priest’s intercession in heaven will correct such notions. Nay, the narrow notion of faith may become a snare to us. It is, we admit, the first condition in our conscious looking for the new spirit of life. But we must not confound the possession of the condition with the bestowal of the gift, or make our qualification to receive supersede the act of the Giver. Something far more effectual happens. As we invoke His intercession, we do not merely awake an ancient memory; we hear a living voice and see a living form, our Advocate and Comforter, against every accuser (Romans 8:33-34), and discern them reproduced in our hearts by His Spirit ‘who maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered’ (Romans 8:26-27). It is God that justifieth. It is the Son risen for our justification.

(γ) The new presence.-‘It is expedient that I go away; for I will send the Spirit’ (John 16:7, Acts 1:8); ‘Ye have an unction from the Holy One and know all things’ (1 John 2:20; 1 John 2:27); ‘If our heart condemn us not, then have we confidence toward God’ (1 John 3:21); ‘I saw in the midst of the Church the Son of man all glorious’ (Revelation 1:13-18). St. John views the justified life as a new life in the deepest sense-not a doctrine merely for the mind to embrace; not an event simply to be remembered with faith; not the constitution only of a new order of spiritual relations for fallen man; but a new power into the very centre of human nature, the power of a new Divine principle. Because of this new principle it is a new creation, a new creation which indeed does not annihilate the old but transmutes it, and fulfils it-a process possible because the principle of the new is, if not continuous with the organic principle of the old, still consistent with that principle, the Logos being the cosmic counterpart of the Spirit. That new power, new principle, in the very centre of humanity is Spirit, presence. How so? By organic, living, universal development. Christ’s force was not intended to stop in the person of one man to be transferred soon after to heaven. Nor was it intended to be a fund or quantum to be applied subsequently in the way of outward imputation. It goes forth to heal and justify the world, not as something standing beyond itself and by a power external. He gathers humanity rather into His own Person, stretches over it the law of His own life, so that it holds in Him as its root. Into this new order of existence we are not transferred wholly at once. We are apprehended by Him, in the first place, only, as it were, at a single point. But this point is central. The new life lodges itself, as an efflux from Christ, in the inmost core of our personality-the inmost self (above, § 2, ‘Problem of justification’). Here it becomes the principle or seed of our sanctification, conceived always not as a substance but as personal, a presence; Christ is in the soul as a magnetic centre (John 12:32), producing in its life continually an inward nisus in the direction antagonistic to sinful impulse, a process which, if continued, will at last carry all in the soul its own way, as the soul’s forces increasingly yield themselves in their totality to the totality of His Presence. The soul thus grows into His very nature. It is with reason that Schleiermacher speaks of the communication which Christ makes of Himself to believers as moulding t

Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Justification'. Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/​dictionaries/​eng/​hdn/​j/justification.html. 1906-1918.
adsFree icon
Ads FreeProfile