Sunday, April 27, 2008
Some people think a lot when they're in the shower. Others think when they're driving. I, for some reason, tend to think about things more deeply than not when I'm playing basketball. I was playing a while back and started to think about all the erroneous doctrines of justification that people (myself included at one time) believe in. I thought it would be helpful to go through many of these here and show how they don't save anyone. At the end, I'll provide the Biblical doctrine of justification and links to resources for you to learn more about it or sharpen your understanding of it. Please comment if you're led and give ones that I haven't addressed. That's one of the main reasons for this post. It was meant to be just a few and then have more added on in the comment section. We can discuss these there. I started this list a while ago and have been slowly adding to it. I may give several updates in the near future, too, of ones that I thought of or other great ones that have been mentioned. I know there are many, many more that I haven't mentioned here.
The Erroneous Doctrines of Justification
1) Justification by Faith Plus Works
This may be the most obvious one. The Roman Catholic Church teaches that a person is justified by faith and works. In other words, a person receives grace, cooperates with it, and then becomes justified over a matter of time. This is erroneous because Paul the Apostle said,
"Even so then at this present time also there is a remnant according to the election of grace. And if by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then is it no more grace: otherwise work is no more work."
He makes a stark contrast between grace and works. He doesn't let the two intertwine. Also note what he said in regards to why there is a remnant. Paul's words are it's because of the ἐκλογή of grace.
The greek word ἐκλογή means:
1) the act of picking out, choosing
1a) of the act of God’s free will by which before the foundation of the world he decreed his blessings to certain persons
1b) the decree made from choice by which he determined to bless certain persons through Christ by grace alone
2) a thing or person chosen
2a) of persons: God’s elect
2) Justification by Athletic Ability
This one may be one that irks me the most because I'm exposed to it so often. For example, someone will see two people. Both are known fornicators. One happens to run a copy shop, the other plays wide receiver for an NFL team. The person who holds to justification by athletic ability would say of the person in the copy shop, "Oh, goodness! What a horrible person! They are lucky God doesn't send them to hell right now! How despicable! What trash!" while they would say of the professional athlete, "Well, you know how it is in professional sports. Most everyone is doing it. Thank goodness God loves everyone. We shouldn't be judgmental. I'm sure he's a good boy." When you run across the religious hypocrite that would say these two things concerning these two people based on whether one makes copies or one is well known for catching an inflated piece of leather, you've run into an idolatrous person who holds to justification by athletic ability. These are the same people who would rather debate "what would Jesus do?" but care less about what Jesus Christ has actually done. Needless to say, this is unbiblical and the person who holds to it is actually in danger of hell fire themselves. Many athletes hold to this, as well. "If I can do well in this game, I'm justified because so and so will think I am or tell me so." It's dangerous, heretical ground that all stems from people being a respecter of persons which God in no way is.
3) Justification by a Certain Amount of Money
This is another that irks me greatly. Many people think that if they meet a certain status quo, they are justified. The thing about this one (as many others) is that it is true in one respect: people who have a certain amount of money are justified by trivial, insincere people but not by God. In other words, if your annual income meets a certain limit, then "waa-lah" friends come out as if it were magic and tell you how good you are. Lose that money, then they're off to find their next meal ticket.
4) Justification by Death
R.C. Sproul says that one of the concepts he runs into most frequently is this doctrine of justificaiton by death. What does that mean exactly? Well, simply this: "Everyone who dies goes to heaven." At it's core, it's universalism, but many people hold to it today.
5) Justification by Reaching a Certain Age
There are many who hold to this doctrine, as well. Justification by reaching a certain age means that "even though so and so did terrible things, he's old so he's alright." In other words, when a person reaches senior citizenship, for example, they're justified in whatever sinful thing they do. This isn't solely held to be senior citizens, though. We see this in our culture with young adults, as well. "Well, it wasn't alright for Debbie to get drunk when she was 18, but she's 22 now so it's perfectly justifiable." Does reaching a certain age really justify anyone, though? If so, why did Christ have to die, and why is belief on Him the only way to avoid condemnation?
6) Justification by Membership to a Religious Denomination
I grew up with this one. I grew up Arminian Southern Baptist and thought that because I was, there was something wrong with everyone else. "There are other churches? This cannot be!" I was justified because of my affiliation to the Southern Baptist Church... so I thought. That's what happens, though, when there isn't enough teaching from the Bible and too much talk about the football game from Friday night or where the fish are biting, etc. For a long time, I thought that to be justified before God, I had to be Southern Baptist. Needless to say, God taught me some humility since then. That's a testament to His grace. Now, think about that for a second, though. I was trusting in my church goings/membership and not Christ. Was I truly saved? Is anyone who is not trusting in Christ's finished work on the Cross alone? It's something to think about. On a side note, recent reports came out saying that the Southern Baptist denomination is on the decline in numbers. "Oh, gosh!" Here's something these people may want to consider: There has been much talk about these numbers since they've come out; I mean it's as if someone just died, but when they host Brian McLaren or some other emergent at an event, there is little said. It just kind of goes to show you where a lot of the emphasis is there. You can almost hear one of the heads saying long ago, "lol, these people don't think... just entertain them to death... give them what they want... it's about the numbers..." Now you can almost hear the same people saying "GASP! They did the unthinkable! They actually thought their convictions through!" Of course this doesn't speak of everyone in that denomination because I know of many great brothers and sisters in there (Ascol, Mohler, etc.), but this does speak of the arrogant ones who have been worshiping their Lord and "Savior" Popularity and are now having it to come back to bite them.
"You want to grow your church? Preach the Word." - Sproul
7) Justification by Marriage
Here's a brief history on me. I got involved in relationships that I shouldn't have been a part of. I did things that I shouldn't have done (things that are only allowable in marriage.) I thought, in order to be justified from those things, I had to get married then all my past sins would be washed away merely because I got married. Many people think this, as well. Again, though, if this is true, then Christ didn't have to die so this is given as another example of an erroneous doctrine of justification.
8) Justification by Waiting a Set Amount of Time
I dated a girl who I did things with that were not faithful to God. After we broke up and I was pretty much a wreck, she told me, "Just wait a little while. Things will get better over time." Well, needless to say, without God they didn't. As Jeff Noblit says, "Time doesn't forgive sins." It's true. Many people think that if they make it a certain amount of time, everything will be ok; they will be justified. This is not the case. I was talking to someone the other day who is about 60 years old. They used to look at pornography when they were younger (about mid 20's or so). I told them that if Jesus Christ had not set them free from their sin from their 20's they still aren't free from it no matter how much they think they've gotten away with it. We got further into the conversation. Words escalated. Eventually it came to the point where they explicity said rather smugly, "Yes. I looked at them then, and I'd look at them again today." No contrition. No repentance. They have been merely living on presumption that they are justified because "they did that a long time ago." The belief of "I did that a long time ago..." never justified anyone and never will yet many are holding to that as their justification and not Christ alone.
9) Justification by Popularity
I also grew up with this one. I got involved in some sin that no one ever knew about, but I figured if I got in with the "right" crowd, I'd be justified because "bygones would be bygones."
10) Justification by Unbelief in Christ
This one may sound strange until you think it through. Professing atheists use this one often. "I don't believe in Jesus Christ so I don't have to worry about sin, hell, judgment, wrath, etc." In essence, they are saying that because they don't believe in God, then they are righteous or justified. "If God doesn't exist, then the law he gave isn't valid so I'm justified by whatever I want to do." It doesn't make any sense, does it? Well not much that I've heard from professing atheists do.
This is just a short list, as I've said, and I've left out many that I know I could have expounded upon purposely so people can expound on them in the comment section. "Justification by Being Culturally Relevant" is one that I willfully omitted that someone may want to touch on.
True Justification is by faith in Jesus the Christ alone. There is no other way to have remission for your sins. His righteousness imputed to you and your sin imputed to Him is the only way a person can have the righteousness God demands. It's a gift of God, not of works. If it was, then we all could boast ourselves.
Here are two sermons by C.H. Spurgeon that I listened to when I was first understanding what it means to be justified before God. I pray they provide the same blessing to you that they have to me if not more so.
END OF POST