The Doctrine of the Standing or Falling Soul

“If justification is confused with regeneration or sanctification, then the door is opened for the perversion of the gospel at its center."

Whoever loses sight of the truth of Scripture regarding our justification before God loses sight of the unmerited grace of God in the Gospel. When we forget about our justification by faith alone in Christ alone we inevitably put ourselves back on the “never enough” hamster wheel of good works. However, when we remember the truth of our justification before God, we live in the peace of God (Rom. 5:1) and rejoice in the hope of glory (Rom. 5:2-5) as we willingly offer ourselves as living sacrifices, holy and acceptable to God (Rom. 12:1-2).

 

“Justification is still the article of the standing or falling church.” So were the words of the late professor John MurrayOf course, Murray was playing off of Luther’s famous words, “If this article stands, the church stands; if this article collapses, the church collapses.” While seeking to explain the way in which this doctrine is perverted, Murray explained, “If justification is confused with regeneration or sanctification, then the door is opened for the perversion of the gospel at its center. Justification is still the article of the standing or falling church.” Whoever loses sight of the truth of Scripture regarding our justification before God loses sight of the unmerited grace of God in the Gospel. When we forget about our justification by faith alone in Christ alone we inevitably put ourselves back on the “never enough” hamster wheel of good works. However, when we remember the truth of our justification before God, we live in the peace of God (Rom. 5:1) and rejoice in the hope of glory (Rom. 5:2-5) as we willingly offer ourselves as living sacrifices, holy and acceptable to God (Rom. 12:1-2).

The questions regarding the doctrine of justification and its relationship to good works are no where dealt with in summary form so well as they are in the great Reformed Confessions and Catechisms. The Heidelberg Catechism and the Westminster Shorter and Larger Catechisms give us the most succinct articulations of the doctrine of justification and its subsequent related doctrines in follow Q&A format:

Heidelberg Catechism Q.&A.
60. How are you righteous before God?
61. Why do you say that through faith alone you are righteous?
62. Why can’t our good works be our righteousness before God, or at least a part of our righteousness?
63. How can our good works be said to merit nothing when God promises to reward them in this life and the next?
64. But doesn’t this teaching make people indifferent and wicked?

Westminster Shorter Catechism Q.&A.
Q. 33: What is justification?

Westminster Larger Catechism Q.&A.
Q. 78: Whence arises the imperfection of sanctification in believers?

There is no more important question you could ask yourself in this life than that regarding how you can be righteous before God. The Heidelberg answers that question so well when it says,

“Only by true faith in Jesus Christ. Even though my conscience accuses me of having grievously sinned against all God’s commandments, of never having kept any of them, and of still being inclined toward all evil, nevertheless, without any merit of my own, out of sheer grace, God grants and credits to me the perfect satisfaction, righteousness, and holiness of Christ, as if I had never sinned nor been a sinner, and as if I had been as perfectly obedient as Christ was obedient for me. All I need to do is accept this gift with a believing heart.”

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