Thursday,  15 November 2018  7:20 a.m.

Justification and Vindication

By R. Scott Clark (re-published with permission)


One of the more disturbing aspects of the Federal Vision program is its doctrine of final justification. Let’s be clear here: Protestants have no such thing. We do not not equivocate (use the same word in two senses at the same time) when we use the word “to justify.” It is too important.

When we say, “justify” we mean, “a divine declaration of righteousness.” The basis or ground of this declaration is the actual, perfect, condign merit and perfect righteousness (active and passive obedience) of Jesus which is imputed to all those who believe, i.e., who are “receiving and resting” in Christ and his finished work for us. God is right to declare us righteous, because the terms of justice have been fulfilled by Christ. By the way, our doctrine of justification does not, therefore, make justification a “legal fiction” as the papists and moralists (i.e., the FV) like to say. We have a real, actual basis for our righteousness before God. It is not “grace and cooperation with grace” or Spirit-wrought sanctity within us. Christ’s righteousness for us was and is real, actual, intrinsic, and perfect and it is imputed to all who believe sot that all believers are reckoned as perfectly righteous before God.

It’s only a legal fiction if God does not have the right to impute Christ’s righteousness to us, and clearly both the FV and the Papists believe in imputation—though they might not realize it. The papists and moralists both teach a form of imputation in their doctrine of congruent merit. In medieval theology, merit was said to be congruent when a work was not wrought within one by the Spirit and therefore lacked perfection. In congruent merit, God is said to have covenanted to impute perfection to those who do their best, “to those who do what is in them, God will not deny grace” (facientibus quod in se est, Deus non denegat gratiam). The FV movement ends up teaching a version of this when they try to include our good works in the ground or instrument of justification. They realize that our works aren’t perfect, therefore they argue that God imputes perfection to them.

So, both critics of the Protestant doctrine of justification concede the fundamental point at issue: imputation. Thus, it’s not a question whether imputation but what will be imputed and to whom. Protestants say that Christ’s real, actual, perfect righteousness is imputed. Rome and the FV say that our best efforts are imputed.

This also means that R. C. Sproul was right (no pun intended—the FV fellows have been hotly critical of R. C. for misleading the assembly by his speech) when he said on the floor of the PCA GA that...

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