Grace and Justification

Grace and Justification

Seeing that our subject covers such an extensive field, I have thought it best to confine myself for the purposes of our discussion tonight to the exposition of a few concepts from a portion of Holy Scripture, viz. Romans 3:21-28.

Starting directly from the Word of God gives me certain very definite advantages.

(a) First, it gives me the opportunity of stating that the Reformed Churches confess to have no other convictions and do not wish any other ground and source for their beliefs than what is given in the Holy Scriptures. Especially since we have gathered here tonight to consider this vitally important subject, we should not occupy ourselves with the thoughts and teachings of man, but with the teaching of God’s Word alone. Of course, I do not pretend that the Reformed Churches have always remained true to their own confessions and that there is not much that is being taught in certain Reformed Churches that does not comply with the Word of God. But I do stress the fact that sola Scriptura is no mere slogan to us and that we at least have pledged ourselves to this approach, that we listen to the Word of God alone and let our thoughts be taken into captivity by Jesus Christ and His living Word.

(b) Secondly it gives me the advantage of stating clearly our position as far as the ecumenical movement and discussions with other churches are concerned. We want to stress that the Word of God should remain the basis and norm of ecumenical discussions. We are not unwilling to be drawn into ecumenical discussions and we do not state beforehand that there is nothing that we can learn from others. We do not pretend to be infallible. But we want to be confronted by the Word of God and to learn from the Word of God. If there are corrections to be made in the Reformed confessions of faith, they must be made on the ground of the teaching of the Word of God. The Reformed Churches do not consider themselves bound to Calvin or even to the Reformed tradition. But we do hold that we are bound by the infallible Word of God and we are willing to listen to anybody confronting us with the Word of God as the only rule and basis of our faith.

(c) Thirdly, by starting from a text I have the advantage of remaining true to my calling as Verbi Divini Minister. What you are going to hear tonight is therefore rather a sermon than a theological treatise. I do not underestimate the value of the theological systems of thought that have arisen during the ages and I know that it would be naïve to believe that we can expel all philosophical terms and trends from our theological thinking. But l do believe that we should keep as close to the Word of God and to the simplicity of the Gospel as possible, especially in our ecumenical conversations, in order to ensure that we do not discuss differences in philosophical approach or even try to persuade one another to conform to a new philosophical approach, but concentrate on the real issue: our differences as far as the interpretation of the Word of God is concerned.

After this lengthy introduction, I can now proceed to our subject. I shall try to state the Reformed view on grace and justification by underlining a few words and concepts given in the verses which I have read from the letter to the Romans.

  1. First, I want to stress these significant words in Romans 3: 23 – “For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” These words form the background against which Paul is proclaiming the Gospel of justification. They are of great importance, because we can never grasp the meaning of the Biblical message of grace and justification without noting how strongly the utter sinfulness and corruption of man is emphasised. It is not without purpose that Paul began his letter by writing on the sin and corruption of the pagan world (I: 18 ff.) and then went on by exposing the much deeper corruption of the Jews who thought themselves to be righteous and well pleasing to God (2: 1 ff.). He had one purpose in mind, and that was to drive home the truth that all have sinned and come short of the glory of God. In this respect, no distinctions can be drawn between men, for there is no difference (3:22). Nobody who-ever he may be can stand before God in any other position than that of a total sinner, of some-one guilty in all respects, of a man that can only be the object of God’s wrath and punishment.

We have only to read the portion 1: 18-3: 20 again to convince ourselves that no excuses are made. Paul depicts the miserable state of man without the grace revealed in Jesus Christ, without soft-pedalling men’s utter corruption. Even where mention is made of the fact that the heathen are continuously being confronted by the revelation of God in the works of His hands (1: 19-20) and that there is a moral consciousness in the mind of the heathen that shows that “the work of the law is written in their hearts” (2: 15), that obviously is not being said to diminish the totality of their corruption, but to drive home the fact that it is utterly inexcusable to suppress the knowledge of God and His law as the heathen continually and without exception always do. It is not that Paul does not recognise the possibility of some natural knowledge and some natural goodness in man outside of Jesus Christ, but he calls both the natural knowledge and the natural goodness of man in question. These things are enough to make man inexcusable, but Paul never even considers the possibility that they can form a sort of preparation for the true knowledge of God and true righteousness. They are placed by him under the curse of God, because they always go in the wrong direction. They serve to deepen the gulf between man and God, not to bridge it. They serve as a trench for man to hide himself before God, as weapons used by man to defend himself against God. They conceal to man the real depth of his wretchedness.

Nowhere is this shown more clearly than in what Paul says of the Jews. Paul never denied that the Jews had much zeal for God (cf. 10: 2), but he said that that zeal sprang from the unregenerate heart of the natural man and therefore it served as a means of preventing the Jew from really coming to God. It supplied him with a ground for his boasting; it led him in the way of self-righteousness; it closed his eyes to his real need and made him sin in a far more serious sense than the heathen. The point of Paul’s argument in chapters 2 to 3 is exactly that the Jew who criticizes the heathen is not only guilty of the same things that he condemns in the heathen, but that he stands in the dock himself and is condemned by God even before the heathen, because the iniquity of the boasting Jew is far more serious than that of the heathen. What, after all, are the sins of the heathen compared to the sins of the Jew who thinks that he is acceptable to God, that he does not need grace, that he deserves something before God? Is not that the heart of all sin, the eritis sicut Deus, the enmity against the grace of God? When Paul says that the foolish heart of man is darkened (1: 21), it is an expression that compels us to say that all the light in man was changed into darkness by sin, that the very centre of man’s life, the heart, has become corrupt. This is true of heathen and Jew alike.

Why does Paul stress this point so strongly before he goes on to preach the Gospel of justification? Because he wants us to realise that man is nothing more than a total sinner before God. He “comes short of the glory of God”, that is: the splendour of God’s presence and communion that was given to the good creation of God and will be shared by those who will inherit the glory of God’s Kingdom. When Paul uses these strong expressions, he desires us to realise that the salvation which he proclaims is a gift of God that is given to man from above, from outside of him, and that there is absolutely nothing in man that can form the ground for this unexpected and undeserved gift. Paul never suggests that there may be some good part in man that does not need redemption and does not fall under the Judgment of God.[1] He does not imagine the question as to what extent man may be described as having a free will that might in some respects be the basis for a doctrine of co-operation between man and God in the act of salvation. His words give us no room for speculations concerning how far the fact that fallen man is still a human being and a creature of God can be stretched to procure some form of human merit in the process of salvation. He simply calls the whole man with his knowledge, morals and free will into question. He proclaims the Gospel that Christ died for the whole man, not just for a part of him. He proclaims the Gospel that God justifies the ungodly (4: 5). That has nothing to do with pessimism and a degrading of human nature. That is simply the counterpart of the message that man can only be saved by the grace of God revealed in Christ Jesus. We should not try to stop short of that by denying the total corruption of man in some sense.[2]

  1. With that remark I have reached the second phrase that I wish to stress, and that is the following clause in Romans 3: 24: “but they are justified for nothing by His grace.” Let us look here more closely at the last words: for nothing and: by His grace. With the word grace Paul touches upon the corner-stone of his whole argument and message in this Epistle and in all his writings. It is a most fruitful undertaking to study all the places in the Epistle to the Romans where the word grace occurs and to see how Paul refers to the grace of God at all the decisive points in his letter. But what does he mean by grace? It is impossible, of course to give a detailed exposition of what Paul teaches on grace, but I am sure that we grasp the heart of the matter if we state that to Paul (and for that matter, in the Word of God) the grace of God, is His favour, the favor Dei, the kindly feeling or goodwill of God which flows forth from his eternal love and manifests itself as His unconditioned and undeserved kindness towards those that have in no way any claim to it. That is why Paul loves to speak about the grace of God to sinners, to the ungodly. God’s grace is always unearned favour, or otherwise it is no longer grace. Paul likes to contrast grace to opheilema (debt) and erga (works) to show that as soon as the reality of grace is brought into consideration, the possibility is removed of speaking of any merit of man before God, in whatever refined form that may be viewed. The most clear-cut expression of this truth is given by him in Romans 11: 6 where we read: “And if by grace, then it is no more of works; otherwise grace is no more grace.” That is why we read in Romans 3:24 these significant words which we have underlined: for nothing, by his grace. The mere concept of grace is incompatible with any concept of merit. The whole Gospel of Paul turns on this pivot that the redemption of man is in no way conceivable unless it is understood as a sheer gift of grace.

When we study the concept of grace we are, however, not only convinced that grace denotes the unearned favour of God, but also that grace is the personal kindness and goodwill of God. That is why the New Testament always associates grace with the Person and work of Christ. God’s grace is revealed in Christ. In Christ as God Incarnate we encounter God Himself as the gracious, loving and merciful God who reaches out to fallen man. The grace of God is not “something” which God gives to man; it is nothing other than God Himself. There can be drawn no distinction between the gift of grace and the Giver Himself. The Gift of grace is not something that can be detached from God. It is Jesus Christ who is God, in the flesh. When Paul speaks about the grace of God, it is always clear that he has in mind the deed of God’s love in giving Himself to us in Jesus Christ.

When we read in Romans 3:24 that man is justified for nothing by His grace, we must understand that it means that the justification of man comes to pass through the personal kindness of God, manifested in the gift of His only begotten Son for the salvation of those who in no way deserved it nor had any claim to it. The following verse explains the way in which this deed of grace was accomplished: Christ paid the price on behalf of man and was made a propitiation for our sins. The grace of God is the eschatological deed of God whereby He once and for all gave His Son for the redemption of man, so that a new situation was created in which it is possible for men to become children of God who live in the sunshine of His grace. Everything that was necessary to make this a reality is included in the concept of grace, because it is the grace of God alone that forms the source and basis of all His gifts to man. That is just another way of stating that everything that was necessary for the redemption of man was given to him in Jesus Christ, who is in Person the revelation of the grace of God. Therefore it is clear that whatever we may say about grace, we must always take care not to separate grace from Jesus Christ.[3]

What a pity that the teaching of the Church was influenced so deeply by the Greek understanding of grace! That gave rise to the idea which was current even in the writings of the Apostolic Fathers, that grace was a supernatural quality or a pneumatic potency infused into the soul – an idea that simply cannot be found in the Holy Scriptures. It was precisely this concept of grace that influenced the later teachings of theologians who spoke about the grace of God as a power that can be described in quantitative terms as though it were a physical entity of which a man can possess. It was even possible to discern many graces and to make use of the concept of the various means of grace as though grace were something that required to be dispensed. It might be possible to explain why this happened and it might even be possible to explain that the way in which this concept of grace was treated was meant to secure the truth that the grace of God is no powerless sentiment but His almighty love that did something and brought about something, not on the Cross alone, but also in the hearts and lives of men.[4] Yet it remains a pity that the word grace was used in that sense and that in this way the true meaning of grace was overshadowed by a strange concept. If we want to be Biblical theologians, we should speak of the grace of God in a strictly personal sense and keep in mind that it may not be detached from Jesus Christ. If we do that, we will be able to show more clearly that even what happens in the life of man as the fruit of the gift of God’s grace, is the direct result of a personal relationship between that man and Jesus Christ through the Holy Spirit, and is in no way conceivable as something of an impersonal character.

  1. We must pay attention now to a third concept, and that is justification, because we read in vs. 24 that man is justified freely by God’s grace. When Paul speaks of the redemption of sinful man, he uses a set of legal terms all derived from the same Greek root and denoting one aspect or other of the reality that the just God deals with sinners devoid of al justice in such a way that they are justified despite their injustice.

When Paul speaks about the justice or righteousness of God, he uses the term against the background of the Old Testament.[5] In the term as used in the Old Testament two different notions were combined. First, the righteousness of God is His attribute of inner justice. God is the truthful judge who upholds His law and maintains order and rightfulness. While God is Lord over all, He has the right to demand that His will shall be done and to punish those who transgress. The first chapters of the letter to the Romans show clearly that Paul preached with deep conviction the punitive justice of God. Otherwise his teaching  on the wrath of God becomes meaningless, and it would be impossible to explain why he says that God will render to every man according to his deeds, and without respect of persons (2: 6-11). When Paul therefore states that the righteousness of God is revealed, as he does in 3: 21, we can be sure that this meaning of the righteousness of God must be included in whatever explanation of that word we are going to give. But there is a second notion contained in the Old Testament usage of the word righteousness. That is his attribute of God’s faithfulness to Himself, to His purpose and His will. This aspect of God’s righteousness is manifested in His upholding His covenant with His people, even though they may break it from their side. That was the ground on which Israel could appeal to the righteousness of God to deliver them, even though they knew that they deserved the punishments that they were receiving. God’s righteousness is thus more than a punitive justice: it is also His faithfulness that is manifested in His putting man “in the right” before Him, in the deliverance of man from the guilt and power of evil and thus in vindicating the covenant between Him and His people.

When Paul says that God justifies sinners, he means that God acts as a Judge who in a court of law declares sinners to be righteous and without blame, although it is quite clear that they are guilty in every respect. That would seem to be a deed that cannot be reconciled to the fact that God is just and righteous. How can God declare sinners to be righteous? The expression used by Paul in 4: 5, that God justifies the ungodly, must have been an offence to everybody who believed in the punitive justice of God. That is the reason why Paul takes pains to explain that it is exactly in this deed of God that His righteousness is revealed. First, that holds true of the concept of righteousness as God’s faithfulness to Himself and His cause. In the redemption of sinners God puts them in the right before Himself and vindicates His covenant. He delivers man from the powers of evil, from the guilt and power of sin and thus asserts the right over against the unrighteousness as such. But that holds true also of the concept of righteousness as God’s punitive righteousness. Paul explains this by pointing to Jesus Christ.

He uses two concepts to show how God vindicated His justice even in the justification of sinners. The first is the concept of redemption, used in vs. 24. The word translated by redemption is apolytrosis, which means a ransom or a price.  This word may contain a reference to the price paid for the deliverance of slaves or prisoners of war, but it is better to think of it in terms of the Old Testament law that a price could be paid under certain circumstances to save the life of a person who had to die for his transgression (cf. Exodus 21: 30). By using this concept Paul indicates that the death of Christ was a price paid for the redemption of sinners who otherwise had to die for their sins. We may point to texts like Mark 10: 45 and 1 Timothy 2: 6 to illustrate that this teaching of Paul is in harmony with the whole New Testament. The second concept used by Paul is that of Christ as a propitiation for our sins through His blood (vs. 25). It is impossible to ignore the idea of sacrificial blood shedding contained in this expression. It brings with it the truth of the vicarious suffering of Christ to atone for the sins of others. Isaiah 53 comes to our mind.

By using these two conceptions Paul could illustrate how God even in the act of justifying the ungodly vindicated His justice. He punished Christ in their stead. He did take sin seriously. The grace of God does not mean that He ignored sin or in some sort of petty way closed His eyes to sin and gave a pardon that was tantamount to ignoring justice. The grace of God meant that He Himself paid the price that was demanded by His justice. Therefore, Paul can write in vs. 28 that God declared His justice, that He might be just and at the same time the justifier of them who believe in Christ.

The point of all this is that the declaration of righteousness of those who are in Christ does not depend on the fact that they are righteous in themselves. It is not an analytical judgment, but a pure forensic and synthetical judgment, based on the redemptive work of Christ alone. It is clear from our context that Paul does not think of justification in any other terms than as the mighty deed of God’s grace revealed in the cross and resurrection of Christ. The justification of sinners took place when God poured out His wrath upon Jesus Christ, judged our sins in Him and then accepted His offering as sufficient, so that in His resurrection He was justified and we in Him (Romans 4: 25).

The justification of sinners is given in Christ. He is the Head of the new covenant. He represented His whole people as their Substitute. He was made sin in their place and arose from the dead for their justification. In this respect, Romans 5:12-21 is most illuminating, because it shows clearly that Christ as the Second Adam represented His people in such a way that He could deliver them once and for all. When He died on the cross they died with Him, when He rose again, the shared in His resurrection.

  1. A fourth word demands our attention at this stage. That is the word faith. No less than four times, Paul mentions faith within the context occupying our attention. That makes it clear how important a place faith occupies in Paul’s teaching on justification. Indeed, justification according to Paul can only be conceived as a justification through faith or by faith. In vs. 28 we read: “Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law.”

What does Paul mean when he speaks of faith? That is best illustrated in Romans 4 where he speaks about the faith of Abraham. There it is obvious that faith is the response of man to the promise of God, a response that consists in the acceptance of what God bestows on him and in the trust that God really does what He promises. Nowhere does Paul give any definition of faith or any analysis of the psychological phenomena connected with faith. Of course, it is not denied that it is man who believes and that the whole man with all his psychological and sensual functions is involved in the act of faith, but that is not stressed by Paul. What is important is the fact that faith is essentially the grasp that the promise of God has on man.  Faith must be understood from the side of the Object to which it is directed.[6] It is totally determined by its Object. It has no value. Faith is no achievements giving a man any ground for boasting. It is no good work accomplished by man, with or without the assistance of grace. It is not the correct inner disposition of man after which he should strive, in order to be acceptable to God. It is exactly the opposite of all these possibilities. Paul contrasts it expressly to works. It is remarkable that Paul does not say that God justifies the believers, for in that case it would have been possible to conclude that it is man’s faith that forms the ground for his justification. He says that God justifies the ungodly. When Paul teaches that man is justified by faith, he does not mean that it is faith that justifies him, but he means that God justifies him through grace alone and that faith is the only possible response of man to what God has given him out of free grace. It is acceptance of what God gives, it is assent to what God says, it is reliance on what God does, it is the way into man’s heart and life which the Word of God’s promise procured for itself. That is why Paul elsewhere calls faith a gift of God (Ephesians 2: 8). To be sure, faith in the promise of God is no human possibility. It is the result of the revelation of God coming to man and finding for itself an ear that will hear, an eye that will see, a heart that will trust.[7] If, therefore, Paul says in Romans 4: 5: “But to him that worketh not, but believeth on Him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness”, we are not entitled to understand that as though Paul ascribes to faith as such the value of being equivalent to the good works that would have been enough to deserve salvation. No, we simply must interpret it in this sense that his faith is counted as righteousness because it is based on the promise of God. The grace of God revealed in His promise calls forth a response from the heart of man, but that response is in no way ground for what God is giving through His grace. It is the empty hand stretched forward to accept what God gives. It is the need that looks to God for His provision.

In the light of these remarks, faith does not bring about the justification of man, but only accepts it. The justification of man is a forensic deed of God accomplished once and for all on the cross and in the resurrection of Christ. While Christ died for our sins and while He as the substitute bore the wages of sin, God justified all that are in Christ, all the members of His body, all the partakers in the covenant of grace. In the proclamation of the gospel of grace this justification is making its way into the lives of those who were in Christ when He died on the cross, and is accepted through faith. They are called to put their trust in Christ and are at the same time drawn irresistibly to Him by the Spirit of God. When they accept Christ by faith, they accept with Him the total justification, which includes the remission of their sins and the imputation of the full righteousness of Christ. We may speak of the necessity of faith for justification, because the teaching of the Scriptures is clear on this point, that we are justified by faith and that without faith it is impossible to please God (Hebrew 11: 6). But at the same time, we must remember that faith is in no way meritorious or the ground of the justification. Faith is the point of contact where the justifying grace of God touches the sinner to let him share in the full blessing of God’s salvation which was planned from eternity, realised in the death and resurrection of Christ and proclaimed in the Gospels [8]

  1. That brings us to our last point. We want to underline the words of Romans 3:28 – “a man is justified by faith without the works of the law” – and pose the question: Does not that mean that justification makes no real difference in the reality of man’s life? It is not the doctrine of justification by faith alone the licence for a man to claim that he has been justified by faith in Christ, and meanwhile to continue in his life of sin? Is not this doctrine the end of moral claims of the gospel? It is not strange that this question is being put and that it has always made its way into all discussions on justification. Paul had that experience too. The Jews and other ill-disposed people tried to ridicule his teaching by saying that it would lead to a complete moral chaos because he held an antinomian viewpoint. Paul seems to be particularly sensitive to this charge, for he takes it into consideration more than once and devotes quite a large portion of his letter to the Romans to the refutation of it (chapters 6-8).

Although Paul stated clearly that a man is justified without the works of the law, he at no time taught anything that could be interpreted in an antinomian way. Justification indeed brought a new reality in man’s life. When Christ died on the cross and rose again, something of a most decisive nature happened. Not only did He pay the price for the guilt of sin, but He also broke the power of sin. He bought us with a price, as is stated in 1 Corinthians 6: 20. We are brought under a new regime. If Christ is, as Paul teaches, the Representative of His people, the Head of his body, then whatever Christ accomplished by His death and resurrection also becomes the property of those belonging to Him. That is what Paul illustrates by his teaching that we died with Christ on the cross and rose again with Him. It is impossible for a man to believe in Christ and thereby to accept the righteousness of Christ, without accepting at the same time the death of Christ to sin and the resurrection of Christ in a new life. It is impossible to confess that you have faith in Christ and at the same time to remain in sin. On this point, there is no difference between Paul and James who states in his letter that “by works a man is justified and not by faith only” (James (2 :24). Rightly understood, the works of which James speaks are the fruits of the faith of which Paul says that a man is justified by faith without the works of the law. Faith without works is a dead thing but the works that flow forth from faith cannot be called “the works of the law”, because they are not meant to be a fulfilment of the law to deserve salvation. They are the “works of faith”, works of gratitude and obedience, works of love to God. It is exactly these works that we find mentioned in Matthew 25 where it is taught clearly (as is done elsewhere in the New Testament, especially in the letters of Paul) that God will judge us according to our works. That does not mean that we are judged according to our works in the sense that our works form the ground for our justification – in which case it would have been directly opposite to what Paul teaches in Romans 3: 28 – but that we are judged according to our works because our works proof decisively whether we have faith or not. Our works bear testimony to the reality of our justification through faith, but they could not stand the test of God’s judgment if they were to be taken as “the works of the law”, that is: works that were intended to deserve salvation for us.

Perhaps this is the place to make a remark as far as the concept of reward is concerned.[9] In the New Testament, as in the Old, we find many assurances that God will reward those that seek after Him and obey Him. This has been interpreted as a clear proof that there is some merit in our works and that it cannot be said that our works do not deserve anything in the judgment of God. But this interpretation cannot be upheld in the light of the Scriptures. Of course, it is true that God will reward those that trust and obey Him, but that reward is not meted out according to merit, but according to grace. It is true that even our best works and for that reason also our faith, must be “filthy rags” in the light of God’s judgment (Isaiah 64:6) and as without any merit (Luke 17: 10). The blood of Christ must cover our best works. Even our good works need forgiveness. It is out of sheer grace that God rewards us for our faith and obedience and that He judges our works of faith as the proofs of our faith in Christ, but that does not mean that either our faith or our good works are meritorious and thus are the ground for our justification. The reward that God gives to His children is but another manifestation of the same loving-kindness of the Father that gives freely to His children on the ground of His eternal mercy, not on the ground of their merit.[10]

The Biblical emphasis on works of faith and the reward that is given to those that serve God is not meant to make us believe that a man is justified because of his own righteousness, whether this is thought of as brought about by his own efforts or by his efforts supplemented by grace. This emphasis serves as a spur to those called to the glory of God to live worthy of the grace that has been given to them. It fulfils the same function as the many imperatives given to the children of God in the Bible. They are admonished to grasp the full meaning of their salvation from the guilt, but also from the power of sin and therefore to live as men that have been quickened from the dead (Romans 6 :13). That is the meaning of the old distinction between justification and sanctification. Justification is the deed of God whereby He declares a man righteous out of sheer grace, just because of the righteousness of Christ. Sanctification is the deed of God whereby He through His Holy Spirit renews man to the likeness of Christ. But although it is possible to distinguish between justification and sanctification, it is not possible to separate them from each other. Sanctification is included in justification. God does not justify a man without at the same time granting him the true righteousness of Christ that renews and changes his life. While it is clear from the Scriptures that sanctification can never be the ground for our justification, it is also clear that justification cannot be without sanctification, because both are included in the one work of Christ for our sake. That is why sanctification may be regarded as the proof of the authenticity of the justification. If there is no sign of good works or renewal in the life of those that claim to be saved by grace, it is obviously questionable whether they have been saved at all. On this point, Paul bases his reputation of the charge that he teaches a cheap grace. In this way, he can remain true to his message that man is justified by faith without the works of the law, and yet to maintain the necessity of good works as the fruits of our faith.

This is, I believe, the point that the Reformer wanted to get clear. This is the point that still stands between the Reformed Churches and all those that try to find some place for the merit of man or at least for a meritorious co-operation between man and God in the process of salvation. On this point, we are not prepared to give way, because I believe that here we stand on the firm basis of the Holy Scriptures that are infallible and the only rule for our faith.

WD Jonker
[Artikel deur WD Jonker in die Ned. Geref. Teologiese Tydskrif, Deel ix(3), Junie 1968, 132-143]

[1] This is worked out beautifully in the article by T. F. Torrance, justification: Its Radical Nature and Place in Reformed Doctrine and Life”, in: Theology in Reconstruction, 1965, pp. 150 ff.

[2] Even the most biblically minded Roman theologians still try to procure some place for the possibilities of man. Cf. M. Schmaus, Katholische Dogmatik III, 2, 1956, pp. 279 ff., Hans Küng, Rechtfertigung, 1957, pp. 150 ff., especially pp. 180 ff.

[3] Cf. Torrance, The Roman Doctrine of Grace from the Point of View of Reformed Theology, op. cit., pp. 181 ff.

[4] Cf. Küng, op. cit., pp. 199 ff.

[5] Cf. C. H. Dodd, The Epistle of Paul to the Romans, 3rd Impression, 1963, pp. 75 ff., Sanday-Headlam, The Epistle to the Romans, 5th Edition, 1950, pp. 34 ff., H. N. Ridderbos, Romeinen, 1959, pp. 35 ff., A. J. Venter, Analities of Sinteties?, 1959, pp. 168 ff.

[6] Cf. G. C. Berkouwer, Geloof en Rechtvaardiging, 1949, pp. 80 ff.

[7] By stressing that it is God’s revelation that creates the possibility for itself to be accepted by man, we wish to exclude any idea that man has this possibility within himself, in which case it would be meritorius if he used this possibility to respond to the revelation of God. Cf. Schmaus, op. cit., p. 282, who asserts that fallen man still has an ear and an eye to hear God’s Word and see His glory.

[8] This is the reason why we have objections against the statement of Küng, that faith is the subjective realization of the objective justification which was effected on the Cross. It is better to avoid the distinction between objective and subjective justification, because it may easily lead to a special concern about this “subjective realization” which in turn leads to a concern for the part played by man in this subjective process, etc. Cf. Ming, op. cit., pp. 252 ff.

[9] Cf. G. C. Berkouwer, Verdienste of Genade? 1958.

[10] Cf. John Calvin, Institutes, III, XVIII.