Matt’s Opening Statement-Debate on Justification

Matt’s Opening Statement:
Debate on Justification


1]This debate answers the most important question that anyone can find an answer to: What does the Bible teach on what I must do to be saved? As we hold to the inerrancy of God’s word, and all of what it teaches is true, we must be careful to dissect everything it says on this issue. In a debate limited in space we must summarize. On this issue there are a whole panorama of passages that must be considered and given full consideration. When these passages are given full weight, my position, that faith and works are necessary for our salvation, wins out.

2]As we address this vital issue, we must first understand what the problem is. Mankind has been tainted with Adam’s original sin (Gen. 3, Rom. 5). We are bent towards sin, and it is only God’s redeeming grace that can rescue us from its bondage. It is only in the person of Jesus that we are rescued from sin’s clutches. Ronnie will argue that the way that we can be justified in God’s eyes, is through the instrument of faith alone, and the only way that our holiness will be sufficient in God’s eyes, is if Christ’s righteousness is legally imputed to our account. He will argue that good works are important, and even necessary to show that we indeed are saved, but can never be the grounds of our justification. Ironically, this view actually makes Christ’s death insufficient to cleanse us from sins’ bondage. The Bible teaches however, that in justification Christ does accomplish this cleansing. Though we don’t work to earn our salvation, as nothing we do on our own power merits any grace at all before God, once we are justified fully by this grace, we become God’s children whose loving relationship with the Father produce works and obedience which do become necessary for salvation.


3]What was the purpose for God sending us his Son? Jesus is our Savior, but what does he save us from? Jesus himself gives us the answer when he tells his apostles that he came to set us free from the bondage of sin. Jesus says in John 8:34-37:

“Truly, truly, I say to you, every one who commits sin is a slave to sin. The slave does not continue in the house for ever; the son continues for ever. So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed.” Jesus shows us that he did not merely come to forensically declare us free from sin, but to make us really free from sin’s bondage, and his sons and daughters who really walk in his righteousness. This explanation of his mission follows upon the heels of his declaration of how we are saved, Jn. 8:31-32:

Jesus then said to the Jews who had believed in him, “If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples, 32 and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free." We can remain his disciples only if we continue in Jesus’ word. Jesus, brings us salvation, as sons. If we get entailed in sin, we are no longer his disciples.

4]Our justification is based on our adoption in Christ, to conform to Christ’s image. Through Christ we are empowered to become children of God (Jn. 1:12). Justification is not a courtroom relationship (the forensic view of the relationship that Ronnie holds), but a Father-Son relationship (Gal. 4:4-9). That is why if we sin in small matters, he disciplines us so we can partake in his holiness (Heb. 12:5-12). However, God recognizes that there are sins that lead to death (mortal) as well (1 Jn. 5:16-17, Heb. 12:13-17). Some sons can disinherit themselves by their actions (Lk. 15:24), although God continues to call them back (Lk. 15:32). The Bible tells us that the inheritance is conditional: Rom. 8:17: "and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, PROVIDED WE SUFFER WITH HIM IN ORDER THAT WE MAY ALSO BE GLORIFIED WITH HIM" (See also 1 Jn. 3:10). He rewards his sons with the inheritance of eternal life. Those who mortally sin against God disinherit themselves from God’s kingdom by their actions (Gal. 5:21; Eph. 5:6; 1 Cor. 6:9-11; 1 Jn. 3:10). Notice in these passages the term inheritance is used in reference to eternal life, not forensic language. As it is an adoptive sonship, we have a covenantal relationship with the Father. We obey him because we love the Father and want to please him. God rewards faithful sons with eternal life out of his Fatherly love.

5]What is grace, and what does salvation do? The apostle Paul spells this out clearly in Tit. 2:11-14: Grace is God’s unmerited favor, also divine power:

"For the grace of God has appeared for the SALVATION of all men, 12training us to renounce irreligion and worldly passions, and to live sober, upright, and godly lives in this world, 13awaiting our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, 14who gave himself for us to redeem us from all iniquity and to purify for himself a people of his own who are zealous for good deeds."

6]Did Jesus come to give us a forensic imputation of righteousness so that we are automatically saved once justified? After telling us that the grace that brings salvation makes us live soberly and righteous lives (vv. 12), Paul gives us God's purpose in sending his Son: redemption from iniquity, purity and a zeal for good works. The very purpose in sending us his Son is holiness being reflected in our lives (v. 11-14), IN THE CONTEXT OF SALVATION. These works are salvific.

7]An essential question that must be answered in this debate is, “Does God declare us righteous and the process of making us righteous is only an effect of salvation", or “does God really make us righteous in justification”? Is Christ’s death sufficient to cleanse us, or insufficient to do so? Paul elaborates, Rom. 5:17-19:

17If, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ. 18Then as one man’s trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one man’s act of righteousness leads to acquittal and life for all men.19 For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by one man’s obedience MANY WILL BE MADE RIGHTEOUS.

Notice the effects of the fall and the effects of justification in Jesus. Man was ontologically MADE UNRIGHTEOUS through the fall of Adam. As my opponent is a Calvinist, he will surely agree with Paul that through Adam’s fall, man is made unrighteous. The effect of man’s justification is much more, a true reigning in grace (v. 17). Ronnie will say that sanctification and being made righteous is important but not the cause of one’s justification. However, Paul declares that what God declares, he makes. Just as the fall of Adam makes one a sinner, through Christ one is MADE RIGHTEOUS. Justification is thus not a forensic declaration of righteousness, but an actual infusion of righteousness into the believer to make him righteous. In this realm of grace, it is incumbent upon the believer to maintain that righteousness through obedience and works through the Holy Spirit. That is what Christ’s grace is for.


8]If we look at the words of the Bible, the issue is in some sense a no-brainer. If one says that one is justified by faith alone, and works do not justify, then one explicitly contradicts the Bible. The Bible nowhere says that one is justified by Faith Alone, but explicitly declares to the contrary. James 2 says:

20Do you want to be shown, you shallow man, that faith apart from works is barren? 21Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he offered his son Isaac upon the altar? 22You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by works, 23and the scripture was fulfilled which says, “Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness”; and he was called the friend of God. 24You see that A MAN IS JUSTIFIED BY WORKS AND NOT BY FAITH ALONE.

9]I cannot improve on James words. The debate question is “is one justified by faith alone or faith plus works.” James answers the question in v. 20 that without works, faith is barren and in verse 24 explicitly denies Ronnie’s proposition. Case closed. Works are A CAUSE of one’s justification. James explicitly writes that Abraham is justified by works (v. 21). If one has a good faith, isn’t faith complete? On the contrary, James writes that works complete faith. This fulfills when Abraham was earlier justified in Genesis 15 (See also Heb. 11:8, Gen. 12), and shows that justification is a process of obedience within grace. Next James explicitly writes that Abraham was not only justified by works, but is not justified by faith alone. I win. Ronnie loses. Ronnie must answer James and I will respond to any attempt to say that James does not mean what he says.


10]Paul does explicitly write in Romans 11:6:
“But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works; otherwise grace would no longer be grace.” Is Paul contradicting James here? No. Whenever Paul says that works are not salvific, it is those works done outside of God’s grace. When man attempts to approach God outside of his grace, when he attempts to make God owe him salvation, those works are of no avail. This is exactly the works Paul condemns in Romans 11:6. Paul does not write that faith working through love is not salvific (as he specifically writes that works added to faith justifies (Gal. 5:6). If one looks at the context of the kind of works that he speaks of, Paul writes of Israelites, who even though they heard from the prophet Elijah on who the true God was, (Rom. 11:5) bowed their knees and worshipped Baal. Those who have ‘hardened hearts’ and have a ‘spirit of stupor’ (Rom. 11:7-8) operate outside God’s grace. I do not say, “You need to worship a false god and have a hardened heart and those are works that save you.’ Yes, Paul writes that works done outside of the realm of grace, profit nothing. This includes any kinds of work where one attempts to earn salvation from God (Eph. 2:8-9, Rom. 3:28, Rom. 4:2, Tit. 3:3-5), etc. The Catholic Church teaches that no one can earn salvation. I am sure Ronnie will bring up such passages to ‘prove’ Sola Fide, but they do no such thing. Once within God’s grace, works and obedience are in fact necessary to attain salvation. Every time that Paul writes about non-salvific works, it is always when those works are not done in grace.

11]Ronnie must prove not that works outside of grace are unsalvific (which is exactly what Rom. 3:28, 4:2, Eph. 2:8-9, Rom. 11:6, etc. show), but that in God’s grace, the only instrumental means of salvation is faith alone. If Paul writes of faith alone, it must suffice for salvation. Paul instead writes that if you have a live faith that can even move mountains, but have not love, you are nothing (1 Cor. 13:2). If the instrumental means of salvation is faith alone, you would at least get salvation, which is not nothing. In fact, Paul writes very clearly that works done within grace is salvific and are not only demonstrative, but required to achieve salvation. Rom. 2:6-13: 6For HE WILL RENDER TO EVERY MAN ACCORDING TO HIS WORKS: 7to those who BY PATIENCE IN WELL-DOING SEEK FOR GLORY AND HONOR AND IMMORTALITY, HE WILL GIVE ETERNAL LIFE... 9There will be tribulation and distress for every human being who does evil, the Jew first and also the Greek, 10but GLORY AND HONOR AND PEACE FOR EVERY ONE WHO DOES GOOD, the Jew first and also the Greek... 13For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous before God, but THE DOERS OF THE LAW WHO will be justified.

12]Paul here specifically condemns faith alone theology and shows that works are necessary for salvation. God gives eternal life as a reward for our works (v. 7). We must be a doer of the law, through God’s mercy (Rom. 2:4). He rewards according to works (v. 6), doing good (v. 10) and we must be a doer of the law in order to be justified (v. 13). Works are a instrumental cause of salvation.

13]Paul elsewhere writes the end of good works is salvation: Gal. 6:8-9:For he who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption; but HE WHO SOWS TO THE SPIRIT WILL FROM THE SPIRIT REAP ETERNAL LIFE. And let us not grow weary in well-doing, for in due season we shall reap, if we do not lose heart.


14]How does God decide who gets to heaven? Although of course we must look at what the rest of the Bible says, judgment scenes in the Bible give us the answer. If our view is correct, it will line up with the judgment scenes in the Bible, where the grounds for salvation or condemnation are given. A telling passage answers for us - Matt. 25:31-46:

31"When the Son of man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne...34Then the King will say to those at his right hand, 'Come, O blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; 35FOR I WAS HUNGRY and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me,... 37Then the righteous will answer him, 'Lord, when did we see thee hungry and feed thee, or thirsty and give thee drink?38 And when did we see thee a stranger and welcome thee, or naked and clothe thee?39 And when did we see thee sick or in prison and visit thee?' 40And the King will answer them, 'Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me.' 41Then he will say to those at his left hand, 'Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; 42FOR I WAS HUNGRY AND YOU GAVE ME NO FOOD, I WAS THIRSTY AND YOU GAVE ME NO DRINK, .... 45Then he will answer them, 'Truly, I say to you, as you did it not to one of the least of these, you did it not to me.' 46And they will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life."

15]Notice that Jesus nowhere says, ‘well, you go in, because you have my righteousness imputed to your account through faith alone. These things only demonstrate to others that you believed me” Instead, the very grounds he gives are good or bad works. He says “Inherit the kingdom, FOR I WAS HUNGRY...” He talks to them as sons, who will inherit based on sonship and good works. Because they did these good works, they inherit heaven. This reflects Paul in Romans 2 and Galatians 6. Those who were condemned, ignored those who were hungry and the grounds for their condemnation is their lack of good works. Any view that says Faith Alone is the grounds for one’s justification explicitly contradicts our Lord’s very words in Matthew 25:31-46. No imputed righteousness even hinted at here. Why not?

16]This view of judgment goes along with our Lord’s earlier teaching on the matter. After saying that we must take up our cross for our salvation, Mt. 16:24-26, he says: “27For the Son of man is to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he WILL REPAY EVERY MAN FOR WHAT HE HAS DONE.” Every man will be judged, go to heaven or hell based on what they have done. Jesus reiterates this elsewhere. See Mt. 7:16-25. After Jesus speaks of the necessity of believing (Jn 5:24) he says a few verses later, in contradiction to faith alone theology: 28Do not marvel at this; for the hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice 29and come forth, THOSE WHO HAVE DONE GOOD, TO THE RESURRECTION OF LIFE, and THOSE WHO HAVE DONE EVIL, TO THE RESURRECTION OF JUDGMENT.

17]John shows these same grounds in the book of Revelation, 20:12-13: 12And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Also another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, by what they had done. 13And the sea gave up the dead in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead in them, and ALL WERE JUDGED BY WHAT THEY HAD DONE.

18]Peter writes of the same, 1 Pet. 1:17:
And if you invoke as Father him who judges each one impartially according to his deeds, conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile.
Our eternal destiny is based on our deeds, however, it as sons according to grace (1 Pet. 1:13-17). Peter declares that we must add to faith, as faith alone doesn’t suffice. This coincides with what Peter declares in his next letter, 2 Pet. 1:5-10: 5For this very reason make every effort to SUPPLEMENT YOUR FAITH WITH VIRTUE, AND VIRTUE WITH KNOWLEDGE, 6and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, 7and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. 8For if these things are yours and abound, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9For whoever lacks these things is blind and shortsighted and has forgotten that he was cleansed from his old sins. 10Therefore, brethren, be the more zealous to confirm your call and election, for IF YOU DO THIS you will never fall; The only way we can pass the judgment is if we add to faith, as if we do not, we will fail.

19]We see in numerous judgment scenes in the Bible, the criteria for going to heaven or going to hell is deeds done in Christ. These scenes give us absolutely no idea that the basis of our salvation is Christ’s imputed righteousness ascribed forensically to our account via the instrument of faith alone. If Ronnie is correct, then it is incumbent upon him to explain why the judgment scenes that give as their basis for one’s salvation/damnation is their works. Ronnie must give us passages IN JUDGMENT SCENES which show Christ’s imputed righteousness is the basis for this condemnation/salvation. It is not sufficient to say, “this is about who gets more rewards in heaven,” as these scenes give the differentiation between going to heaven and hell, not merely degrees of rewards/punishment. All theorizing about what Paul or Jesus mean elsewhere is rendered erroneous if the theory doesn’t match up with these judgment scenes. Here the rubber meets the road.


20]Is attempting to keep the commandments something that demonstrates we are already saved or is it a means of salvation? Jesus himself was asked the following question, Mt. 19:16-17:
16And behold, one came up to him, saying, "Teacher, what good deed must I do, to have eternal life?" 17And he said to him, "Why do you ask me about what is good? One there is who is good. IF YOU WOULD ENTER LIFE, KEEP THE COMMANDMENTS." Jesus plainly answers that in order to enter eternal life, we must keep the commandments. Jesus doesn’t say, “Well, I know that you can’t keep the commandments. What you need is to get my righteousness imputed to your account.” He takes as a matter of fact that we can keep the commandments and says that if we want to be his friend and abide in his love we must do so (Jn 14:15, 15:10, 14).

20]The apostle John also clearly speaks of the ability and necessity of sons to keep the commandments: 1 Jn 2:4-5: “He who says "I know him" but disobeys his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him; but whoever keeps his word, in him truly love for God is perfected. By this we may be sure that we are in him.” In order to stay in Christ we must keep the commandments, as keeping it is not burdensome (1 Jn 5:2-3). John clearly writes that our communion with Christ is dependent upon our obedience (1 John 1:6-7; 2:29; 3:7-10; 3:22-24; 4:20-21).

21]Paul also writes of the necessity of keeping the commandments (1 Cor. 7:19). In fact, we are able to keep the righteous requirement of the law (of the Spirit) through the Holy Spirit: Rom. 8:2-4: 2“For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set me free from the law of sin and death. 3For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do: sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, 4IN ORDER THAT THE JUST REQUIREMENT OF THE LAW MIGHT BE FULFILLED IN US, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.” Thus, it is not Christ’s righteousness being imputed to us fulfilling the just requirement of the law, but his grace empowering us.

22]We will face God based on what we have done, and the idea that our sins will be covered over by an imputation of Christ’s righteousness is a lie:
Rev. 22:12: "Behold, I am coming soon, bringing my recompense, TO REPAY EVERY ONE FOR WHAT HE HAS DONE." Everyone will get judged on what they have done in order to determine their final destiny. There is no covering over of an imputed righteousness for anybody.


23]We have seen that the Bible shows that God makes us righteous through Christ (Rom. 5:19). He does not merely declare us so. The basis for our salvation is our sonship in Christ. As he makes us righteous through his grace, the very purpose of sending his son for the sake of salvation was to purify us from sin and set us free from its bondage (Jn. 8:32-36, Tit. 2:11-14). Works and obedience are absolutely required for salvation (Jm. 2:14-26, Rom. 2:6-13). James explicitly contradicts Ronnie's proposition. Judgment scenes in the Bible show that works of obedience or disobedience sends us to damnation or salvation (Mt. 25:31-46; Rev. 20:13). Keeping the commandments in his grace are necessary for salvation (1 Jn. 2:3; Mt. 19:17). Causative. Finally, Faith Alone theology contradicts not only Jesus, James, John, and Peter, but also Paul.

24]Paul gives us a good summary of how one attains salvation: Phil: 2:12-16 "12Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; 13for God is at work in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure. 14Do all things without grumbling or questioning, 15that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, 16holding fast the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain." It is God’s grace that empowers us to work out our salvation. It is as children (v. 15) that we must hold fast the word of life in order to attain salvation. Works are thus causative.

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