Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Justification is a Friend to the Heart and to Holiness

Many have charged the doctrine of imputed righteousness of producing an antinomian spirit.  If, it is reasoned, there is nothing left for the believer to do in order to inherit eternal life, then there is no motive for holy living.  Therefore this doctrine can't possibly be the correct doctrine regarding our justification.  Sure we must believe, they say, but we must continue to be righteous in order to maintain our right standing with God.  However, the shoe is on the other foot.  It is a denial of imputed righteousness that actually produces the antinomian spirit.
A couple of questions must be asked at this point.  1)  What type of righteousness does God demand from the christian?  2)  Can that type of righteousness be achieved by a christian?  To the first, it is clear that they only type of righteousness that God will accept is a perfect one.  He is holy and cannot look upon even the slightest whisper of unrighteousness with approval (Hab. 1:13).  To accept a less than perfect righteousness is to profane His name and to deny His glory (2 Tim. 2:13).  Secondly, it is clear that a mere mortal cannot achieve this.  Even if we were to grant that all sins are put away with at the type of conversion to Christ, and that the slate is clean moving forward, all the works of righteousness that we perform are continually shot through remaining corruption.  "All our righteousness is as filthy rags" Isaiah 64:6.  Filthy rags is not a currency that God recognizes.  Only the spotless righteousness of Jesus Christ imputed (credited) to the believer at the moment of faith and repentance.  A denial of this produces an antinomian (anti-law) spirit.  It denies part of God's law (i.e. that part that demands perfect obedience) and replaces it with it's own standard (i.e. a standard that accepts imperfect and corrupt obedience).  A denial of imputed righteousness produces antinomianism in the form of legalism.  However to accept imputed righteousness is to find all the reason we need to pursue holiness from the heart.   We are freed from comparing our selves amongst ourselves for the righteousness that God demands and instead we look to Christ.   Herman Bavinck remarks on this point:

"To correctly assess the benefit of justification, people must lift up their minds to the judgment seat of God and put themselves in his presence.  When they compare themselves with others or measure themselves by the standard that they apply to themselves or among each other, they have some reason perhaps to pride themselves in something and to put their trust in it.  But when they put themselves before the face of God and examine themselves in the mirror of his holy law, all their conceit collapses, all self-confidence melts, and there is room left only for the prayer: "Enter not into the judgment with your servant, for no one living is righteous before you." (Job 4:17-19; 9:2; 15:14-16; Ps. 143:2; 130:3), and their only comfort is that "there is forgiveness before you, so that you may be revered." (Psalm 130:4)   [Herman Bavinck Reformed Dogmatics Vol. 4 Holy Spirit, Church, and New Creation (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic 2008) pg. 204