Thursday, July 05, 2007

"Just Men Made Perfect": White as Snow, or Snow-Covered Dung?

"Lady Mo," from the HCR forum asked me the following question:
Could you explain infused righteousness and how you may or may not believe it is supported biblically? and what is your interpretation of imputed righteousness and how you may or may not believe it is biblical?
This is a difficult question to answer because it requires that several terms be defined (such as justification, sanctification, salvation, regeneration, righteousness, infused, imputed, etc.) and because different Protestants understand "imputed righteousness" in different ways. I will try to be as faithful to the Protestant doctrine as possible, but I'm sure that despite this someone out there will feel that I've misrepresented their position. I am sorry about that. Also, this is my first time really digging into this debate, so please forgive my rookie mistakes.

First off, here is the Catholic definition of the various terms in question (as I understand them):
  • Justification: Act of being put in right relationship with or status before God. It is a return to friendship with him.
  • Sanctification: Act of being made truly clean by the grace of God. Sanctification makes us a "new creation."
    [Note: Justification and sanctification are co-extensive. In other words, one naturally includes the other.]
  • Salvation: Eternal beatitude with God. Salvation is only obtained when the soul dies and enters heaven.
  • Regeneration: Another name for "sanctification" or being "born again."
  • Righteousness: Another name for "justice." To be made "righteous" is to be made "just." Also, justification makes us righteous.
  • Infused righteousness: The righteousness of Christ "infused" or burnt deep into us, in a way that penetrates our very being and changes us.
  • Imputed righteousness: The righteousness of Christ declared to be ours in a legal sense, without making us intrinsically and substantially righteous as he is righteous. This righteousness covers our sin but does not eradicate it.
Catholics believe in infused righteousness and consider it the biblical doctrine, as opposed to imputed righteousness. We belief that justification, although it does have a legal component in that a declaration is made regarding the status of a person before God, is such that he who is declared clean is actually made clean by the declaration. In other words, he who is justified is sanctified.

This is, first, because God said about his word, "it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and prosper in the thing for which I sent it" (Isa 55:11). In other words, his word is active and effective. David Linden, a Protestant theologian, says that "in justification, God declares the sinner righteous; in this forensic doctrine, God does not make the sinner righteous, but gives him first a standing with Himself" (here). But, if God's word is active like Isaiah says it is, then when God declares someone righteous that person is actually made righteous by the declaration. Otherwise, God's word would return to Him empty.

Besides this, I wonder about two verses that I think may show that when a man is justified, he is likewise cleansed of his sin:

1 Cor 6:11 And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.

Heb 12:23 and to the assembly of the first-born who are enrolled in heaven, and to a judge who is God of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect,

In the verse from Corinthians, Paul seems to be speaking of 1 event with three results. In my opinion, the event is baptism, since Paul speaks of baptism in other places in this letter (cf. 1 Cor 1:14-16; 10:1-4) and in his other letters too (cf. Rom 6:4; Gal 3:27; Col 2:12; Tit 3:5-6; Heb 10:22). But, regardless of the cause, washing, sanctification, and justification are the result and they go hand-in-hand here, so that if you received one you also received the other two. Paul even seems to use these words interchangeably, as if each word is a different way of speaking of the same result. It appears from this that he who is justified is also sanctified. Paul's point here is to remind them of the Spirit of Christ that they have received. They should be above the actions he is condemning them for.

In the passage from Hebrews, we see that he who is just is also perfect. Now, is anyone perfect who is simply declared clean yet remains dirty? Is that perfection? If you read the context, the image is of heaven. We know of heaven that no unclean thing shall enter it (cf. Rev 21:27), yet just men are found there. It follows from this that the just are also clean, and in the truest sense of the word.

Now, I the response to this could be that justification, which is forensic, does not clean, but sanctification, which comes later, does clean. But can we really say that there's a time in a man's life when he is justified before God yet still sinful? Justification and sin are mutually exclusive. Does God simply turn a blind eye to man's sin and pretend it's not there, or does He actually eradicate sin, washing us with his blood and making us white as snow?

Everything I know about his grace tells me that when we receive it, we are cleansed by it. This quote from the New Advent article on sanctifying grace sums it up well [with slight alteration to fix the Scripture citations]:
This [the Catholic] view is entirely consonant with the teaching of Holy Scripture, for the Biblical expressions: "blotting out" as applied to sin (Isa 43:25; 44:22; Acts 3:19), "exhausting" (Hebrews 9:28), "taking away" (2 Sam 12:13; 1 Chron 21:8; Mic 7:18; Psa 10:15; 103:12), cannot be reconciled with the idea of a mere covering up of sin which is supposed to continue its existence in a covert manner. Other Biblical expressions are just as irreconcilable with this idea, for instance, the expression of "cleansing" and "washing away" the mire of sin (Isa 1:18; Ezek 36:25; 1 Cor 6:11; Rev 1:5), that of coming "from death to life" (Col 2:13; 1 Jn 3:14); the removal from darkness to light (Eph 5:8). Especially these latter expressions are significant, because they characterize the justification as a movement from one thing to another which is directly contrary or opposed to the thing from which the movement is made. The opposites, black and white, night and day, darkness and light, life and death, have this peculiarity, that the presence of one means the extinction of its opposite. Just as the sun dispels all darkness, so does the advent of justifying grace drive away sin [. . .].
It appears from all this that infused righteousness is the biblical doctrine, and imputed righteousness is not. I hope that this will suffice as an introductory response to your question. Thank you for your patience. If you would like to read more about the Catholic position on infused vs. imputed righteousness, see the following articles: Pax Christi,


Lady Mo said...

and Lady Mo said:

This is a great doctrine: the imputation the of righteousness of God in Christ through faith apart from works of the law. May it be cherished and savored by the work of the Spirit, and may it bring life, glory and peace with God to the lives of those that disregard what 2,000 years of history has proven, and what Paul dedicated a whole chapter (Romans 4) expositionally expounding on, and what tens of thousands of 1st century Christians were strengthened by. That’s how important and crucial justification by faith alone is. Because anything outside of that is nothing more, less than heresy, for it does not line up with the great work of redemption that Christ wrought on the cross. How can we then in turn diminish and undermine what makes us right with Him?

Its not God seeing a righteousness in us, something that we have done or helped us do, but rather its faith being reckoned as righteousness - an alien righteousness - God’s righteousness through Christ, which is credited to our account THROUGH faith. The faith is NOT the righteousness that we provide as the basis of our justification. That brings God no glory and robs us of peace with God, as Romans 5:1 states. “Therefore having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” If our righteousness rest on the merit of us, the fullness of the glory of God’s grace is diminished and the peace that God means for us is likewise diminished, even if the righteousness that we work for is from God (which is not the case). So, those two things are at stake when we speak of our legal standing before God - justification.

Imputation of a righteousness, belongs to another, we did not perform, it is imputed to us, through faith apart from the work of the law. There is a clear, distinct difference between imputation and infusion. A difference that if one would humble oneself and submit to God’s Word, one would find Truth, and may it set you free from the bondage of human tradition. We need to get this right in order that we don’t miss out of the fullness of God, or of God entirely.

“You must be reckoned perfect before you can make head way in becoming good. You must be counted perfect, before you can make the first baby step in becoming good. And it happens by faith, uniting you with Jesus Christ who wrought out a perfect righteousness…so that we are complete in Him and able to make little steps of progress in becoming like Him in this world.” -John Piper

Faith unites us to Jesus, so that when God the Father looks at us, what He sees is the union - faith - of the soul with Christ. And in the union He sees that what is true of Christ is true of us, since Christ satisfied the Father. And since faith is the unifying element of that, He says, “I count the faith as the righteousness.” But faith ISNT the righteousness, Christ has the righteousness and it is imputed to us through the unifying element called faith. The bible says just that.

vs. 6 and 11 of Romans 4, Paul says “…God imputes righteousness apart from works” and “…righteousness might be imputed to them also” (some texts may say “credit”, same thing). Romans 3:21,22 “But now apart from the law, the righteousness of God has been manifested, being witness by the law and the prophets even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ to all and on all who believe.“ Again, faith is not the righteousness.

2 Corinth 5:21 one of the most important verses of the atonement and of the righteousness of God, “God made Him who knew no sin, to be sin on our behalf so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” Notice a double imputation. Christ - knew no sin - God made Him to be sin, so our sin was credit to Christ (the first imputation). In turn, we become the righteousness of God. We had no righteousness, He is the perfect righteousness, and in Him, His righteousness become ours (the second imputation), as our sin becomes His. What could be more comforting that a life of sin is perfectly traded with an eternal existence of righteousness of Christ? He gets my sin, dies for them, and I get His righteousness and live in it, forever. That is the only thing that brings the fullness of glory of God and peace with Him. And faith sees it, savors it and rests in it. So believe it.

1 Cor. 1:30 “But of Him you are in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God - and righteousness and sanctification and redemption-”

“The only way the Holy Spirit kindles the fire of faith in a people is by setting His match to the kindling of Truth. And if they don’t know it, there is no fire, no faith, no salvation, no church…He‘s not going cause any people to move to Christ apart from Truth. Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of Christ. It comes no other way.” -John Piper

Analogy: If I were to tell my child that he couldn’t go to a football game until his room were clean, and he procrastinates carelessly until the last minute its time for him to get on the bus to go to school. While he is gone, I go to his room and clean it for him perfectly. I mean, dusting, vacuuming, scrubbing, folding clothes, ironing, hanging up clothes on plastic hangers, making up his bed…the whole nine yards. He later comes home from school and about 5 minutes before his intended time to leave to head to the game, he realizes he forgot to clean his room. With sincere humility, he hangs his head, confesses he didn’t clean his room, and apologizes, is submissive, and takes the deserved consequence that he will not be able to go to the game. And I say to him, “I will credit your apology as a clean room. You can go to the game. I said this morning, that if this room were not clean tonight, you can go to the game…the room is clean, its your room.” When I say that, I do not mean the apology is any part of the clean room. It isn’t. I cleaned the room. Sheer grace, pure grace. I did it all. And if its anything I did it. I mean, in my way of reckoning, in my grace as his mother, I connect his broken spirit as the unifying element with the promise made to a clean room - he can go to the game. I simply reckon it to be so. The room is clean, it his room, and I count his apology as a clean room, go to the game. I do not mean, the apology is the clean room. Therefore when Paul says, “God reckons Abraham’s faith as righteousness, he doesn’t mean the faith is the righteousness. He means, Christ performs the righteousness, it is pure grace when He looks upon our faith as the uniting element, and He says “for faith’s sake I will count Christ’s righteousness as your righteousness, so that you will inherit the promises made.

What will you pay for the knowledge and assurance that your legal standing before the Judge of the universe is as secure as the righteousness of His son? You would pay anything. But the glorious thing about it is, you cant pay anything. It is a gift and its free. If you would just see it, savor it and cherish it, you will know a peace with God that surpasses all understanding. You will be a secure person in Christ, justified and complete in Him

lady mo said...

Lady Mo also said:


Thank you so much for responding back so thoroughly. There is so much in that response, that I will have to go one step at a time in replying. I think I will start by giving a definition of each term so that we could contrast both views, and then maybe, we can go from there.

Justification: The basic forensic Gr. word describes a judge declaring an accused person not guilty and therefore innocent before the law. Throughout Scripture it refers to God's declaring a sinner not guilty and fully righteous before Him by imputing to him the divine righteousness of Christ and imputing the man's sin to his sinless Savior for punishment. It comes from the Gr. word for "righteous" and means "to declare righteous." It provides for the positive righteousness man needs to be accepted by God. God declares a sinner righteous solely on the basis of the merits of Christ's righteousness.

Romans 3:24 reads "being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus"

Is 53:5 "But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniqities; The chastisement of our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed."

this shows the substitution of The Suffering Servant for our sin. Christ was the recipient of God's wrath on sinners, and we have peace with and of Him through the chastisement He suffered. The stripes that caused His death brought salvation to those for whose sins He died. None of it is by our merit and virtue. It was our sins that He died for, for a perfect being would only suffice as the propitiation. Therefore, since none is righteous, all deserving death and wrath, then its just that...none is righteous. For if man were, then there would be no need for Christ's work on the cross. And even after being recipents of grace, we still fall short of His standards. We still sin. We still break God's law (the 10 Commandments. line your life up against them and see how you still do. Then examine that in light of one's claim of being righteous vs a declaration of righteousness).

Romans 4:5 "But to him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness"

"accounted" also translated to "imputed."

check out verse 6 "just as David also describes the blessedness of the man to whom God imputes righteousness apart from works"

verse 8 "blessed is the man to whom the Lord shall not impute sin"

verse 11 "and he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had while still uncircumcised, that he might be the father of all those who believe, though they are uncircumcised, that righteousness might be imputed to them also."

*also read verses 23, 24*

each verse provided contrasts the undeserving/unmerited righteousness with our sin, showing that is not anything that we earn and it is not of ourselves. but the righteousness is of faith.

if we in turn literally become righteous, man is in need of no Savior, and He gets no glory in that. What would be the need of the Holy Spirit after the act of salvation if we are now righteous. Sanctification would make no sense, sin would be eradicated from our lives, we would be able to love God perfectly and worship Him perfectly. Things like confessional wouldnt make any sense either. What is there to confess, for we are righteous as He is righteous.

Ok Sanctification: the inward spiritual work which the Lord Jesus Christ works in a man by the Holy Spirit, when He calls him to be a true believer. He separates him from his natural love of sin and the world, puts a new principle in heis heart, and makes him practically godly in life.

"Christ gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto Himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works" Titus 2:14

"Christ hath reconciled (you) in the body of His flesh through death, to present you holy and unblameable and unreproveable in His sight"

so in justification and sanctification, Christ is the one who undertakes both graces given to us. Heb 2:11 "He that sanctifieth"

Salvation: is a delivering from sin, unleanness, the devil wrath, this present evil world, enemies and eternal death. it is obtain through regeneration by the work of the Trinity. The Father judging our sin, The Son making the payment of our sin, The Holy Spirit empowering and directing the Son, and sealing His people until the day of redemption. When one becomes saved, the evil inclination is removed and a new nature replaces it. *Ezekial 36*

"In Him you also trusted, after you head the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in who also, having believed you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise"

(there are a lot of Scrips I can give you about salvation. its an act that takes place here on earth that we may have access into glory after death, rather than it "only obtained when the soul dies and enters heaven."

John 3:3 "Unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God."

Regeneration: another word for "born again"

Ez. 36:26 "I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh."

the new heart signifies the new birht. the spirit indicates the governing power of the mind which directs thought and conduct. outside of this transformation, we are not fit for the kingdom. we have to be divinely made new creatures for "the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God" 1 Cor 6:9. Without being born again or regenerated we are Romans 3:10-18 people.

ok, this was a lot. i will stop here for now. lol

thanks for this dialouge. I hope it continues productively!

Much Love To You Man,

*notes taken from the Word of God, MacArthur, JC Ryle and Packer*

jswranch said...

Correct my error, but shouldn't this be a 'both/and' issue over an 'either/or' issue?

Some of your quotes:

-We belief that justification, although it does have a legal component in that a declaration is made regarding the status of a person before God, is such that he who is declared clean is actually made clean by the declaration. In other words, he who is justified is sanctified.

So God declares us righteous (imputed) and makes us righteous (infused), right? It is both.

This reminds me of one of Jimmy Akin's other articles that a Catholic can affirm Sola Fide depending on the deffinition.

Also, two verses that might fit into this discussion could be 2 Cor 5:17, and Gal 2:20.

Keep up the good work,

phatcatholic said...

jswranch...........i agree, as reflected in the words that you cited.

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