Justification and Union with Christ

Today we welcome Dr. Michael S. Horton and Dr. Lane G. Tipton to the program to discuss justification and its relation to union with Christ. Dr. Horton is Professor of Systematic Theology and Apologetics at Westminster Seminary California. He is the author of many books on a variety of theological topics—two of which that are germane to our discussion today are Covenant and Salvation: Union with Christ and The Christian Faith: A Systematic Theology for Pilgrims on the Way. Dr. Tipton is Charles Krahe Professor of Biblical and Systematic Theology at Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia, PA. He has co-edited Revelation and Reasons: New Essays in Reformed Apologetics and Resurrection and Eschatology: Essays in Honor of Richard B. Gaffin, Jr.

In Christ the Center episode 200, Dr. Tipton spoke about the doctrine of union with Christ. In the course of the interview, Tipton drew out what he saw as implications of the views presented by Dr. Horton in his book Covenant and Salvation: Union with Christ. In Christ the Center episode 207, Dr. Horton responded to the remarks. We are delighted to welcome both men to the program to continue the conversation together.

The views and opinions expressed in this interview are solely of the individuals and are not the views of Reformed Forum or any other organization affiliated with the participants in this interview.


Participants: , ,

Christ the Center focuses on Reformed Christian theology. In each episode a group of informed panelists discusses important issues in order to encourage critical thinking and a better understanding of Reformed doctrine with a view toward godly living. Browse more episodes from this program and learn how to subscribe.

128 Responses

  1. I want to apologize for the audio quality in a few places of this recording. We called Dr. Horton on his telephone over Skype. We were fighting with speakerphone feedback and some connectivity issues, but we were able to work through them.

    1. Thank you for bringing these two men together to have this important discussion. But it really is a shame that the connection was so bad. There are any number of places where Dr. Horton’s vocal is simply too garbled to follow fairly. Very frustrating…

      1. E. Burns

        Indeed the audio of Horton was very poor. I must say the equivocating I heard was on the part of Dr. Tipton. So many times he was the one re-wording or putting words in Horton’s mouth. Dr. Horton makes it abundantly clear and in fact affirms the historic Reformed Ordo Salutis and Union with Christ. He is clear that all & all it is of , through and by Christ. One hour into the program we hear Camden clarifying with a question that makes crystal clear Horton believes… “The ground/source is the person and work of Jesus Christ.” Really it is astonishing that the Forum & Westminster Philly folks can’t seem to take yes for an answer. Let us once again be reminded that all this started from accusations (via the vehicle of the Forum) by Tipton against Horton . Accusations that , despite Tipton’s now downplaying of them, indeed did mis-characterized Horton as “Lutheran like” or “Semi- Pelagian”.

        Again, it is as if Tipton would not take yes for an answer in terms of Horton’s many affirmations on points of agreement. Which is why I say where the practical rubber meets the road of all this is that Tipton is more focused on experience while Horton is more focused on the objective. Tipton just was not feeling it and has expectations of Horton and those holding to his theology that are not right. Hyper concerned about antinomianism. As I have mentioned before those highly influenced by a Edwards type theology seem fine with all this. I have concerns about it. One concern is that the undue spotlight on “us, my sanctification, my experience” creates an ethos within Christians that is rightly outlined in this D.G. Hart post…………… http://oldlife.org/2011/03/desiring-god-enough/

        I believe that the archetechtonic structure of the theology in Tipton has a great leaning in the Edwarnian experience driven direction. Which is probably why folks like that are super comfy with coalitions and Calvinistic Baptist and have a hyper critical eye towards anything they deem”Lutheran.” After all their version of what Reformed is the last word.

        I want to say again, let’s work out our Salvation, let’s talk about sactification, let’s be holy, let’s talk about union with Christ and our call to obedience, but let’s keep the spotlight on Christ’s person and work not ours. Dr. Horton does a much better job of that and is on the right side of this debate.

    2. Wow, just listened to this. Bottom line, MH believes that one’s conversion occurs upon believing in his own justification in the proclamation of “you are justified.” But “you are justified” is not the gospel! We should preach the gospel to the lost yet we should never preach “you are justified” to the lost. Limited atonement forbids it as does the fact the elect aren’t justified prior to conversion. We only see that message preached to the church, but it’s not for conversion but for assurance and sanctification.

  2. “Once the forensic, elocutionary act of justification is spoken then there is a host of perlocutionary effects. These perlocutionary effects are the sum total of the new creation… Justification is a performative utterance… it is the elocutionary alpha point for the entire redemptive reality applied to believers… I saw ontological source, communicative source… not as infalisative language… as expressing the architectonic structure of his ordo salutus as it depends on justification as an elocutionary speech act that brings all these perlocutionary effects…”

    — Lane Tipton explaining Mike Horton’s view (while discussing Justification and Union with Christ in the most recent Reformed Forum. [18-19 minute mark])

    Was mine the only mind that exploded? 😀

  3. Jonathan Brack

    Well done Camden. This helps move the discussion forward. I would love to hear a more exegetical discussion take place between the two positions.

  4. Frank Aderholdt

    Isn’t this Episode #212, and not #213? (I have every CTC episode numbered, titled, and dated on two different hard drives.)

    1. dadams

      Are you factoring in the missing episode 19? I think it was 19 that got lost when RF switched servers or something…I could be wrong though.

    2. admin


      You are extremely perceptive! I thought I might be the only person who paid attention to the episode numbers. #212 comes out next week. It’s with Rick Phillips on the historical Adam.

  5. Richard Bush

    Thanks for the discussion. Don’t worry about the audio quality, we will still listen. Which of the two new books on Union are being recommended the most, Billings or Letham.

  6. Very good! Thanks for this episode. It really brought clarity to the debate.

    One passing thought: It seems Horton wants to emphasize the word, specifically the forensic declaration, in our salvation, whereas Tipton wants to emphasize the Spirit’s work, specifically uniting us to Christ, in our salvation. Word and Spirit.

    Also, I think Dr. Horton’s idea of the word bringing forth the new creation (i.e. regeneration) is another way (perhaps not the best way) of describing effectual calling.

    1. E. Burns

      Yes good observation. Another way to say it is that Horton is a bit more focused on what God does and prefers the spotlight on His work and attributes, while Tipton is more focused on what we do, our response, our obedience to God, etc. Or Tipton is more focused on experience while Horton is more focused on the objective.

      1. E.,

        Thanks for the response, but I disagree a bit with your rewording. I think Dr. Tipton heavily emphasized the foundational work of Christ (historia salutis) for the entire ordo salutis (application of redemption). To say that the difference is an emphasis on God’s work vs. human work is inaccurate. I think Bill Snodgrass has it right below. The issue pertains to justification’s relationship to union with Christ in the ordo salutis. Is justification contemplated strictly within the context of covenantal and solidaric union with Christ by faith, or is there a proclamation of the gospel we call justification that occurs outside of union and brings union in its wake as a perlocutionary effect?

    2. E. Burns

      Yes good observation. Another way to say it is that Horton is a bit more focused on what God does and prefers the spotlight on His work and attributes, while Tipton is more focused on what we do, our response, our obedience to God, etc. Or …. Tipton is more focused on experience while Horton is more focused on the objective.

      1. E. Burns


        (PS….Sorry for the 2 posts, not my intent) Thanks for the conversation and this program. I respectfully disagree. You guys have been formulating an argument (beating a drum) for months hammering home the point via the ethos of Union, Sanctification, transformation, “Hole in Our holiness” etc. All the while the clear unspoken culprit was Mike Horton and Westminster West types. Now it is culminating in this program. I will stand by my description of the basic differences between Horton and Tipton. That is indeed how it plays out on a rubber meets the road layperson level. The architectonic structure and tone/emphasis that you, Forum and Westminster Philly have been putting forth is one which gives concerns toward a primacy focus put on what we do,our response and our experience. Praise the Lord for those good things like our obedience or our experience in His sanctifying work within us and our Spirit led cooperation in it. Praise the Lord for our sanctification in Christ and let’s talk of our responsibility and call to obedience, but lets keep the spotlight on what God does in Christ. Horton and others simply do a better job at that than the Westminster Philly camp.

      2. E.,

        Thanks for sharing your perspective. I regret to hear you think we’re attempting to emphasize our response and obedience over Christ’s person and work and the Spirit’s application of it to us. To say that the Spirit’s work in our lives is about the salvation from both guilt and corruption is not to emphasize our response in the slightest. Historia salutis (the accomplishment of redemption) is the sole ground of ordo salutis (the application of redemption). That has been our cadence throughout all of our episodes. In that sense, I struggle to see how human experience becomes the architectonic structure in such a formulation.

        But I thank you for sharing your take on what we’ve been doing. I only regret that we have not sufficiently conveyed our intent to you. I pray that all of us can come to greater clarity as a result of these conversations and comments.

  7. Bill Snodgrass

    It was a very edifying discussion in terms of tone and clarification of views. Agreed differences include the primacy of the forensic [Horton] as over against the primacy of the solidaric [Tipton]. Jay, I think the point to consider is that Horton tends to place the forensic declaration before imputation, understood as an ordo category.

  8. Carlton

    Right on, Camden. An issue for me is Dr. Horton’s description of a declared/preached/objective word of “justification” consisting in the announcement that “your sins are forgiven” and lying suspended above, and antecedent to, my faith in Christ. As I heard him, this announcement-justification is the source or ground of the new creation, including my new birth, faith, and reception of (a second type of?) justification by faith alone in the context of union with Christ.

    As I’ve thought about it, first, do we really want to announce “your sins are forgiven” to a mixed congregation? Second, isn’t such an announcement only true as saving faith is exercised and righteousness is imputed? Third, isn’t the “announcement” we really want to make much richer than merely “your sins are forgiven”, as glorious as that is? Fourth, shouldn’t we keep the term “justification” firmly fixed in the context of union, not antecedent to it as the cause of union, so as not to tear Christ asunder (as Calvin put it)? Fifth, I very much appreciate Dr. Horton’s willingness to discuss his books and the air of charity and balance of discussion RF promotes!

  9. Jan Mathys

    Between Tipton’s incredibly contemptuous demeanor and half of Horton’s words being garbled over Skype, this was difficult to listen to.

  10. Bill

    I’ve listened to this episode and I’m aware of the by listening other of episodes of the background that led to this discussion. I do appreciate the concerns Dr. Tipton still has about Mike Horton’s theology.

    Now having said this I do have a more serious concern about Dr. Tipton’s theology. I will challenge that Lane (Dr. Tipton) believes in salvation by grace through faith alone in Christ alone. Although he claims he does, and he’s in full agreement on this with Horton, I have to question it. He clearly says that we are united to Christ in effectual calling through faith and that justification and sanctification are two benefits we obtain from union.

    Now let us contrast what Lane teaches with what the apostle Paul teaches. Roman 1-5 teaches that we are saved / justified by grace alone through faith alone.in ‘Christ alone. Paul talks about salvation, justification, union but he specifically excludes good works (sanctification) from salvation. Romans 4:5 “To him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness”.. Paul excludes good works from salvation, but he includes faith (union) and justification in salvation. Same happens in Ephesians 2.

    Good works are evidence of our union with Christ, of our salvation and of our justification, but they are subordinated to them in that they are the fruit (produced) by them. Elevating good works to a benefit that is on par with justification as Lane Tipton does utterly contradicts scripture and elevates good works to a status that effectively destroys grace of Jesus Christ, Romans 4:5 “To him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness”.

    1. Tim Goodman

      Bill, Huh? Have you not been following all the discussions? Let’s not reduce sanctification to our good works by equating them. Our good works are the fruit and evidence of the progressive ongoing aspect of sanctification. Otherwise, what do you do with verses like 1 Corinthians 1:2; 6:11 and Hebrews 2:11. There is an aspect of our sanctification that has already taken place when we were united to Christ by faith. The corrupting power of sin has been broken.

      1. Bill

        Excellent point Tim. I agree 100% with you, the instant we trust in Christ for salvation, when we accept Christ’s work on the cross as sufficient, immediately the power of sin is broken, God gives us the ability to obey the law to a much greater extent than we had before we trusted in Christ. The chains of sin are loosened and sin’s power is nolticeably diminished. If we look at this aspect of sanctification, I have to admit that it is part of the gospel. The gospel liberates from both the penalty and power of sin, and it does so instantaneously when we believe Christ. And if we are speaking of this instantaneous / definitive (as Tipton calls it) sanctification, it is certainly part of the gospel. God does not justify who he doesn’t sanctify, and both happen at the moment we receive Christ by faith.

        Now maybe I totally misunderstood Dr. Tipton but I got the impression he was talking about progressive sanctification. And progressive sanctification is dependent on both justification and definitive sanctification. So it comes after both justification and definitive sanctification. So progressive sanctification is never on par with justification and definitive sanctification, it’s a benefit that is derived from both of them.

    2. I agree, Bill. In fact, Article 12 of the 39 Articles of Religion makes it clear that sanctification follows after imputed justification by faith alone and is not and never will be “equal” with justification even through “union with Christ.” The Reformed Anglican view is that living faith has a valid profession of faith, which it calls a “living faith”. This is way different from equating the two. Furthermore, Calvin’s doctrine of union with Christ is by the instrument of faith, which itself is the only basis for justification OR sanctification.

      Article XII
      Of Good Works
      Albeit that good works, which are the fruits of faith and follow after justification, cannot put away our sins and endure the severity of God’s judgement, yet are they pleasing and acceptable to God in Christ, and do spring out necessarily of a true and lively faith, insomuch that by them a lively faith may be as evidently known as a tree discerned by the fruit.

      Any protest against the idea that justification is foundational is really to capitulate to a confusion of sanctification with justification. If you doubt this, read Articles 9-18 in the 39 Articles.

      Sanctification is always and forever imperfect. Justification is perfect and imputed.


  11. I spoke with Dr. Horton’s assistants about Skype prior to our series of recordings, and they urged me to simply call him on the telephone. Dr. Horton preferred to speak on speakerphone. It’s a shame, but speakerphones don’t lend themselves to good audio quality. Moreover, we’re connecting from PA to CA. If we’re able to record a follow-up, I’d like to do one of the following:

    1) Have Dr. Horton speak over Skype either with a headset or studio microphone.
    2) Have Dr. Horton’s audio recorded in a studio while he is also on speakerphone. That way the studio audio can be sent to us later to replace what we have through the telephone.

    I understand your sentiment and we’ll do everything we can to bring you excellent audio. I spent hours cleaning up the recording. I’m able to follow just fine.

    1. David

      As garbled as it was at times, I think it was a great achievement getting those two guys together to discuss this issue further. I think anyone who listened to the two previous episodes in the series would have been able to follow along without too much trouble.

  12. Mark G

    It is a good service to the church for Tipton to question the use of speech act theory categories and definitions to explain ordo salutus categories. I’m not against using philosophy but the use of speech act theory to structure salvation is an innovation that needs to be questioned, clarified & explained. I seriously doubt that it is helpful to use contemporary linguistic theory to frame and define salvation. I suspect it is unbiblical. However, I am open to Mike Horton clarifying what he means.

    1. Mark G

      I think one must at least be very careful to underscore differences between man’s speaking and God’s speaking if one is going to co-opt. speech act theory to explain God’s speaking. God’s speaking always accomplishes exactly what he intends. Also, God’s word is effective because of who He is, because of His nature. There is no force independent of God in His speaking, in the “words” themselves. God’s revelation is supernatural. The response of hearer’s of God’s speaking respond in accordance with His divine will. God never has to mould his speaking in order to get the response he wills. I don’t believe God’s speaking is ever an illocutionary speech act. Given all these things I think it is confusing at best to frame God’s speaking in terms of speech act theory categories; locutionary acts, illocutionary acts, and perlocutionary acts. At best this would seem to lead to confusion.

      Mike Horton is also promoting “speech act preaching.” I also have concerns as to whether this is helpful. Preaching is effective because of the work of the Holy Spirit and the Word. There is nothing else like this in human linguistic communication.

      By the way, just an FYI, Dr. Tipton is not the first to voice concerns regarding the use of speech act theory to describe God’s speaking.

      1. Mark G

        I think there are some differences between Van Til using Hegelian terminology and believing the doctrine of the trinity may serve as a solution to the problem of the one and the many, and Mike Horton’s attempts to organize God’s speaking along the lines of speech act theory. AND, I say that as one who used to be convinced that Van Til seemed to be imposing Hegelian ideas on biblical doctrine. I think that notion has been largely debunked. Not so with God’s speaking as understood in light of speech act theory. That’s why I suggested the burden is on Horton to “prove” this move is biblical and helpful.

      2. Jan Mathys

        check out “covenant and eschatology” – in fact, many of his white horse inn discussions and books have made this both biblical and clear.

  13. Jan Mathys

    I find myself becoming frustrated that Tipton simply says that EVERY major Reformed theologian prioritizes union w/Christ over the forensic, without providing a single reference, at least outside of the confessions. It’s easy to make claims. SO many church historians from R. Muller to Van Asselt have rejected this thesis as utterly ridiculous (to make another claim). Can you have them on the program?

    1. Jared Oliphint

      He didn’t give page numbers because of the format of the discussion (thought they could easily be provided), but if you listen he mentioned Calvin multiple times, Flavel, Owen, Goodwin, Vos… I’m all for healthy criticism, but please let it be informed. We’re fully aware you’re not convinced of what Tipton has said but let’s raise the standard for why.

      1. Jan Mathys

        I understand that he mentioned names. I am saying that this proves nothing. For example, “the Reformed tradition, from Olevianus to Owen to Turretin, believed in life on other planets.” As I said, this proves nothing, which is why it makes no sense to me that Tipton used it several times. In fact, it was Horton, in this interview, and in the preceding interview, that gave substantive quotes that illustrate the maturity of the orthodox milieu on this subject who have steered in a completely different direction, quotes which were never engaged with.

    2. Jared Oliphint

      If names prove nothing, why mention Muller and Van Asselt? And if names mean nothing, why mention that Horton gave quotes? Did it mean nothing when Horton mentioned Berkhof, Hodge and Vos? No, you don’t want to offer a critique that undercuts your own point. Also, as stated in the beginning, this particular episode depended on the two previous episodes on this topic, and there you’ll find plenty of specific references, both biblical and within the tradition and confessions.

      1. Jan Mathys

        the difference is, horton provided quotes. however, is it contradictory for me to mention muller and van asselt? i can concede that 🙂 of course the opinions regarding union with christ that these two men have represented, in my knowledge at least, have all been in informal discussions, not in print. yet, the word on the street is that muller is working on a book regarding the history of the doctrine of union with christ. good discussion, Jared. do you attend WTS?

  14. Robert A Lorzer

    Well done. Thank you for continuing this discussion. I increase in respect for both Mike and Lane after each broadcast. What I found most helpful in the discussion is Lane’s clearer grounding of union in the forensic categories of the historian by seeing the ground for union in the historical active and passive obedience of Christ imputed to us. I hadn’t heard that clearly stated in the prior discussion. This is what Mike was referring to in the proclamation of the gospel (albeit through confusing and novel uses of speech-act theory). What I still am not clear on in Lane’s presentation (and would appreciate some future addressing of it) is whether or not he sees the priority of justification and that being the sole legal ground of sanctification within the ordo. The whole discussion seemed to progress one-sidedly with Mike on the defense (probably due to Mike’s response to Lane’s objections right out the gate rather than focusing the discussion more on the differences between their views) rather than hearing an exegetical (preferred) delineation and argument of the forensic vs solidaric ground of the ordo.

    With that said, I do think overall there was more clarification of what divides these two positions currently in reformed confessionalism and it was good to hear an intelligent and calm discussion of this vital concern for the church. Thank you both for your contributions and thank you Camden for this wonderful platform.

  15. Bob L.

    Can someone help me understand Dr. Horton’s view? It is not too often that I cross paths with those who are sympathetic to Horton and also able to explain his view to me. Here is my two part question:

    If justification causes one’s union with Christ, does that mean the person who is justified is still in Adam when justified from the guilt of Adam?

    Or is the justified person not in Adam nor in Christ, and therefore stands covenantally neutral in regards to Adam’s and Christ’s respective federal headships at the point of justification?

    Thanks for the help. I don’t get into this debate very often, but this is one point where I have difficulty understanding Dr. Horton’s view.

    1. David

      No, Horton does not view jusitification as taking place outside of Christ. At the end of the discussion, it seemed to me that where he still differed from Tipton was in viewing justification as the forensic ground of sanctification.

  16. Bob L.,

    Your questions are based on assumptions that aren’t the position of Horton. Rather than having to defend Horton against that which he doesn’t hold I would suggest reading his systematic as a starter to better understand his teaching on this matter.

    1. As a professor of Reformed apologetics, this is a major feature of Dr. Horton’s theology. Bob is asking about basic covenantal identity—often found under the heading of the “antithesis.” This notion is replete in Dr. Horton’s work on covenant theology. For Dr. Tipton and others involved in this comment thread, the critical question turns on when justification happens relative to a person’s basic covenantal identity. Is he justified while still under the covenant of works, while united to Christ and in the covenant of grace, or in some in-between status?

      1. Camden, are you saying that Dr. Horton teaches that “justification causes one’s union with Christ,” as Bob L. proposes?
        Horton on justification and sanctification: Both gifts are given in union with Christ. At no point is either something that we attain by cooperating with God. He gives it all, in Christ, through faith alone.”

        Horton affirming : “everyone from Calvin, Vermigli, Knox, Bullinger, Zanchi, and Owen all the way to Berkhof held that while we receive all spiritual blessings in union with Christ, the forensic (Christ’s mediatorial work and forensic justification) is the source or basis of personal renewal and sanctification.

        So, I think questioning Bob L’s assumption is valid despite whatever concerns you have. Sometimes I get the impression that this is about em-PHA-sis, and it is only the right em-PHA-sis that is truly reformed. If only Horton would say it this way…

  17. Bill

    I believe to reach consensus on a go forward basis it’ll be required to clarify some of the language. First and foremost Lane needs to make clear that justification and definitive sanctification (but not progressive sanctification) are two equally simultaneous gifts that are received when we are united with Christ by faith. Both the guilt of sin is removed and the power of sin is broken.

    Now it is paramount if there is any hope to reach consensus on this topic of Union with Christ that progressive sanctification if defined as the performance of good works be excluded from the gospel, and be clearly identified as the fruit of the gospel (justification and definitive sanctification). Otherwise there will not be agreement, we can not live the gospel as Michael Horton several times teaches in his books, we can only believe the gospel. We can live and obey the Law, but we can only believe the gospel. We are saved by believing the gospel. We can safely say that anybody that rejects definitive sanctification has effectively joined the antinomian camp, and anybody that includes active obedience (progressive sanctification) in salvation has joined the legalist camp.

    Progressive sanctification will thus be grounded on both justification and definitive sanctification. I believe we all should be able to agree with this.

    1. Bill you said:

      “Lane needs to make clear that justification and definitive sanctification (but not progressive sanctification) are two equally simultaneous gifts that are received when we are united with Christ by faith. Both the guilt of sin is removed and the power of sin is broken.”

      I’m not sure that Lane could have been anymore clear on that one! He develops that idea at length in the lectures he gave at our church on Union With Christ. He also address 1 Cor 15 as well in the Sunday sermon. Those lectures are available here at Reformed Forum.

      1. Bill

        Thanks Jim for pointing this out. Lane’s lectures are amazing. First thanks so much to everybody at reformedforum, I found this site a few weeks ago and I’ve learned a lot. Keep up the amazing work! Props to Lane as well.

        Now I said Lane needs to be clearer because Michael Horton seemed to have been caught off guard, it looked to me that he was not fully aware of some of the language that Lane used. For instance Mike Horton alluded to definitive sanctification as a modern development brought by Murray, and that it could have been combined with regeneration, I got the impression he was not very familiar with the doctrine. It would take somebody to listen to a few of the previous episodes at reformedforum to become familiar with definitive sanctification. I think Tipton used the word sanctification many times, and I believe that many interpreted it as including progressive sanctification. This is what I meant by Lane Tipton should have been clearer, he should have used definitive sanctification instead of sanctification.

    2. Jonathan Bonomo


      I have to agree with Jim. I’d say that if you think Tipton isn’t clear on that issue based on what he’s already said, then there’s probably nothing he can say in the future that would convince you otherwise. What you’ve said he needs to make clear is in fact *exactly* what he teaches.

      1. E. Burns

        I was thinking the same thing only from the Horton side of the fence. How could Horton be more clear? It was as if while his agreement was in sync with the spirit of Tipton’s concerns nonetheless Horton’s answers were just not hitting the emphasis Tipton required.



        Once again Dr. Horton does a fine job and I see nothing that is out of accord Biblically or confessionally.

      2. Eric,

        I heard Horton loud and clear when he affirmed that justification only happens within the context of union with Christ. I also heard him when he said justification is always by faith. But then he continues to affirm a form of justification that is the proclamation of the forgiveness of sins and acts as the forensic basis—even the source—of effectual calling and the rest of the ordo salutis. Effectual calling is the Spirit’s work that produces faith (cf. Westminster Shorter Catechism 31-32). Hence, in my understanding Dr. Horton is requiring that the illocutionary act of justification produces its own necessary preconditions.

        We cannot speak of justification as the forgiveness of sins in any meaningful sense apart from faith, which itself cannot be spoken of apart from the effectual calling that produces it. At one point, Dr. Horton claimed that he was speaking of the illocutionary act of justification only within the category of historia salutis. But this simply will not do. Christ’s justification in historia salutis is strictly Christ’s justification (1 Tim 3:16). It is not a proclamation of the forgiveness of sins, but a vindication of Christ’s righteousness.

        That you for pointing us back to Dr. Horton’s related posts, but they do not answer this question either. In fact, they raise other questions we can get into at a later point.

      3. Bill

        Jonathan, all I was referring to is that Lane could have used the word definitive sanctification instead of sanctification during this program. It would have made things clearer.

  18. Bill

    And I also should have said this way we can accept that 1 Corinthians chapter 15:3 where Paul summarizes the gospel

    “For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures”

    So both the power and penalty of sin (justification and definitive sanctification) are included when Paul says Christ died for our sins. this is the gospel we believe and by which we are saved. However salvation is instantaneous (and includes both definitive sanctification and justification) the moment we believe the gospel, so progressive sanctification ought to be excluded from salvation. Otherwise salvation becomes a process, like Rome teaches, salvation for the Reformers was instantaneous and excluded progressive sanctification (active obedience by the believer) which is actually the fruit of salvation.

    1. Actually, Bill, for the Reformers Justification was immediate and once and for all with no progressive elements to it at all. It was an exclusively forensic category. Salvation, however, is understood in a broader sense than justification. You seem to be identifying Justification with Salvation. Not all of salvation is forensic, but there is also an aspect of salvation which transformative as well (e.g., regeneration, sanctification – both definitive and progressive, and glorification).

  19. Jan Mathys

    “The doctrine of justification is directive of Christian practice, and in no other evangelical truth is the whole of our obedience more concerned; for the foundation, reasons, and motives of all our duty towards God are contained therein.” Lutheran or Reformed quote?

    1. Jan Mathys

      Or this: “The proposal of the gospel, according unto the mind of God, is hereunto supposed; that is, that it be preached according unto God’s appointment: for not only the gospel itself, but the dispensation or preaching of it in the ministry of the church, is ordinarily required unto believing.” Lutheran or Reformed?

      1. Mark G

        I want to play too!

        Who said this? Reformed, Lutheran?

        As an illocutionary speech-act, the Logos is not only an externalization of divine thoughts but the incarnation of God’s command and promise.

  20. AP

    What do we have to do to get Dr. Lane Tipton to publish a Systematic Theology? He would do a great service to the Reformed tradition by doing this. If anyone on this blog has direct contact to Dr. Tipton, please pass on the request, although I’m sure he gets this all the time.

    1. He’s working on a book on union with Christ. He also is under contract for a book on Trinitarian theology. I’m unaware of any estimates on the publication dates, however. Send him your encouragement. Maybe they’ll hit the presses a little bit sooner!

  21. Mr. Egging it on

    I wonder if Horton would agree to a second round with strictly exegesis talk. I am guessing Horton won’t but Tipton would. What do you guys think? Do want to hear a 2nd round with more exegesis?

    1. Mark G

      I think future discussion needs to focus on exegesis with less on historical theology except where this would advance understanding of biblical teaching. Second, there needs to be a critical analysis of the use of speech act theory (SAP) in Mike Horton’s theology. By critical I mean informed discussion of what the theory is, how it’s being used by Horton, its strengths, weaknesses, and concerns. Lane Tipton voiced concerns about the use of SAT by Horton (i.e., SAT structuring Horton’s theology) several times in the discussion but for whatever reason he did not address the concerns.

  22. Bill

    I believe a second round with both Mike Horton and Lane Tipton would be useful but the goal should be to bring consensus, unity to the body of Christ in this issue.. As I said earlier there is one way to do it, but it’d require for both parties to speak the same language. Agreement on the following framework would do just that:

    1) Salvation is by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. By faith we receive Christ and we instantaneously the new believer receives justification and definitive sanctification. Faith or faith union with Christ liberates both from the guilt and power of sin.

    2) Good works follow salvation, i.e. progressive sanctification is grounded in both justification and definitive sanctification.

    Every reformed and lutheran would agree with the above framework where in step 1 it’s encompassed faith and in step 2 good works. Lane Tipton, Michael Horton, and Tullian Tchividjian would have no problem with the above framework. Right now there’s disagreement because the language that this people use is different, But if we keep it simple we’ll realize that there’s no substantial theological differences, just differences in language.

    Now the guys that would have a problem with the above will be true antinomians, like some dispensationalists because they adhere to the carnal christian theology they’ll reject the above formula claiming it’s possible for a christian to be no different from an unbeliever. Also legalists will have a problem as well because they will want to mix faith and works, and make works a part of faith.

    1. Mark G

      I don’t think the differences are over words and phrasing. It is difficult to have consensus when you have two different “alpha points”!

  23. David

    If there is further discussion, I would love to see what Dr. Horton expresses here (on the White Horse Inn blog) subjected to further scrutiny and either shown to be correct or incorrect:

    However, there is still a lingering notion that even on this important question that most historical theologians believe to have united the churches of the Reformation, Lutheran and Reformed views of justification are radically different. In the “Lutheran” paradigm, justification is the central dogma and sanctification flows out of it; in the “Reformed” paradigm, the mystical union has priority, with no logical dependence of sanctification on justification.

    If I may be so bold, this is an arbitrary construct that has no support in the primary sources. There is no point in a brief blog post to offer a syllabus of quotations, but everyone from Calvin, Vermigli, Knox, Bullinger, Zanchi, and Owen all the way to Berkhof held that while we receive all spiritual blessings in union with Christ, the forensic (Christ’s mediatorial work and forensic justification) is the source or basis of personal renewal and sanctification. Vos expressly says that this is the emphatic Reformed position: “In Paul, the mystical is always subordinated to the forensic.” Same as Berkhof, Hodge, et al..

    A case needs to be made for the new view that if we receive justification and sanctification together in our union with Christ, sanctification cannot have any relationship to justification. That case has not been made, in my view, but assumed. This means that any talk of sanctification being grounded in our justification is dismissed as “Lutheran.” Ironically, many who have followed Norman Shepherd (directly or indirectly) along this path have jettisoned justification altogether. The Federal Vision controversy springs to mind.

    1. Jared Oliphint

      David, if you listened to the episode these exact points were addressed specifically. Tipton and Horton interacted on the Lutheran/Reformed distinction, primary source support, that exact Vos quote, and the justification/sanctification relation while distancing from Federal Vision and Shephered from the outset.

      1. David


        Maybe I could have expressed myself more clearly. I actually think that Dr. Tipton has been clearer and more persuasive in this debate than Dr. Horton has. I’m not denying that Dr. Tipton has done a good job defending his position. If you look at my other comments on this thread you’ll see that I appreciate him. I don’t know whether Dr. Horton is convinced yet though. What I’m saying is simply that I want to see further discussion of the issue and hopefully further resolution in one direction or the other. This seems to me to be the crux of the disagreement, it’s obviously a substantial disagreement, and I’m sure more could (and will) be said from both sides.

      2. David

        In other word, what Horton says “is an arbitrary construct that has no support in the primary sources,” Tipton says has all the support in the primary sources. I just want to hear more from both sides.

  24. Bill

    You see David, this is what I was just saying. Horton speaks a different language. I’m sure when he talks about forensic justification, he is including definitive sanctification there as well. Lutherans do the same, and many reformed do the same. As Horton mentions in the interview definitive sanctification is a new terminology that came into play with Murray. So he has not adopted it in his language. Because of it when Horton talks about justification, he doesn’t mean the forensic only but he also includes definitive sanctification in justification. For Horton sanctification refers to progressive sanctification only, and justification refers to both definitive sanctification and justification. So justification has both an instantaneous renovative as well as forensic component, I am sure Horton does not deny the renovative, otherwise how can he say that good works (progressive sanctification) always follow justification.

  25. Tony

    Let me add my “thanks!” for your work in bringing Drs. Tipton & Horton together for this discussion. I’m about 50 minutes in so far.

    What I’d love to hear sometime is the “pastoral payoff” of each perspective. How would you counsel a Christian who is struggling with sin, and his remaining corruption is such that he wonders whether he truly belongs to Christ? IOW, how would each perspective work out in a pastoral context with someone who feels the weight of remaining sin?

    In my view, there is a “pastoral priority” to justification in such cases – i.e., Christ’s work for you, removing your guilt & clothing you with His righteousness – that seems lost in this very technical discussion. Of course, Romans 6 and union with Christ should also enter the discussion BUT doesn’t a contrite, guilty Christian need to be reminded first and foremost of “Christ for you” a la Romans 3-5, 8:31-39, etc (not to mention Heidelberg Catechism 1)?

    Perhaps the good doctors would be willing to work out some of the pastoral implications of “union priority” v. “justification / forensic priority” in a future discussion.

    1. Mark G

      True, True, Tony. But what also encourages me is to know that I serve a risen Christ, my great high priest and king, in the heavenly holy of holies. What Christ did for himself in his life, death, and resurrection he now does for me through faith by the work of the Holy Spirit who tabernacles with me. In Christ I have been transferred from darkness into the kingdom of the Son. I am no longer in the first Adam; I am in the ultimate eschatos Adam. And, what I now participate in by faith I will then know by sight.

  26. Bill

    Here’s Warfield, who uses the same language as Michael Horton and yet in my opinion means exactly the same thing as Lane Tipton from a practical perspective. What they have in common is that faith is both forensic and renovative, good works (sanctification) follows faith. Warfield more emphatically that Michael Horton affirms that sanctification follows justification. From http://markmcculley.wordpress.com/2012/01/10/warfield-says-sanctification-from-justification/

    “Justification and sanctification are thought of as parallel products of faith. This is not, however, the New Testament representation. According to its teaching, sanctification is not related to faith directly and immediately, so that in believing in Jesus we receive both justification and sanctification as parallel products of our faith; or either the one or the other, according as our faith is directed to the one or the other.

    Sanctification is related directly not to faith but to justification;
    and as faith is the instrumental cause of justification, so is
    justification the instrumental cause of sanctification. That which binds justification and sanctification together is not that they
    are both effects of faith – so that he who believes must have both –
    because faith is the condition of both alike.

    Nor is it even that both are obtained in Christ, so that he who has Christ, who is made to us both righteousness and sanctification, must have both because Christ is the common source of both. It is true that he who has faith has and must have both; and it is true that he who has Christ has and must have both. But they do not come out of faith or from Christ in the same way.

    Justification comes through faith; sanctification through
    justification, and only mediately, through justification, through
    faith. So that the order is invariable, faith, justification,
    sanctification; not arbitrarily, but in the nature of the case.”

    B.B. Warfield, “The German Higher Life Movement,” in Perfectionism, vol. 1, p 362

    1. Jan Mathys

      justification as “instrumental cause”? sanctification “through justification”? i’m not really seeing how Tipton would agree with any of that, nor the Owen quotes above. ad fontes, again and again.

  27. Steve


    This is all very interesting – and thank you Tony for your question regarding what implications these two views would have in ministering to those believers who are struggling with assurance. I had a related set of questions that kept ringing around in my head while listening to this talk:

    What implications regarding each view may change the way we share the gospel with non-believers? IOW…. Does the wording (and emphasis) of the gospel message change at all depending on which view one holds to? Or, am I completely missing the point……

    possible example?

    “In Christ, your sins have been forgiven, therefore, believe” vs. “If you believe in Christ, your sins will be forgiven.”


  28. Thank you Bill, for this and your other posts on defining terms. I do think this is helpful. I come back to what E. Burns wrote that some do not seem to want to take yes for an answer from Dr. Horton. There is a difference in emphasis in the two men. And as you and others have shown, that of Dr. Horton is well within the mainstream of the Reformed tradition. Sometimes I get the impression that some are more interested in defending and proving Dr. Tipton right (Reformed) and Dr. Horton wrong (not Reformed), rather than finding commonality and consensus between the two views.

  29. Dave Sugg

    I agree that this was a great discussion, and did help clarify a number of issues. One of the remaining problems in my mind is the equivocation on the use of terms “ground,” “source,” etc. in the discussion. I felt that Dr. Horton and Dr. Tipton meant different things in how they were using these words. Any ideas on how this can be better clarified?

    Also, I think we need to start a glossary section on the site. This episode in particular was loaded with jargon, which at times seemed to get in the way of the each side understanding the other.

  30. Robert A. Lotzer

    I think one way forward on this important subject would be to bring in some fresh voices altogether. Two folks come to mine: J. Todd Billings and John Fesko, either one could perhaps speak to the differences between Horton and Tipton and move the discussion further both exegetically and historically. Here is a quote from Billings’ newest book on the subject “Union With Christ: Reframing Theology and Ministry for the Church” (Baker, 2011):

    “Although adoption should not be the only rubric under which justification is considered, consider how the language of adoption can help to illuminate the role of justification. For any adoption to be valid, in the ancient world as well as our own, the adoptive parents must have legal rights to the child. The child cannot just start acting like the child of the new parents. That new relationship is secure only when it has a legal basis. When “forensic” pardon is received in Christ, sinners are acquitted of their guilt and are legally adopted as children. The legal dimension is indispensable — and it is what provides the context for sanctification as a transformative process by the Spirit” (p. 27).

    The last sentence is especially a solid restatement of the Reformed position par excellence. While both justification and sanctification are ours through union with Christ as the duplex gratia the restorative work of God’s child doesn’t make sense until the child is legally his through adoption. I’ve found J. Todd Billings’ work very helpful in seeing more clearly through the Horton-Tipton discussion, the book mentioned above and his previous work: “Calvin, Participation, and the Gift: The Activity of Believers in Union with Christ. I would highly recommend both books for those who are interested in delving deeper and wider into this discussion by seeing the ramifications of a clear, Reformed ordo worked out in the Christian life.

  31. James L.

    Thanks Robert! That was a very helpful quote. This is exactly how I understand things. I think J. Todd Billings is breath of fresh air, here, because, as far as I can tell, he doesn’t have a dog in this debate. I think this is the way, Cornel Venema, read’s Calvin, as well, in “Accepted and Renewed in Christ”:

    “Within the framework suggested by his formula that justification and sanctification are two distinct, yet inseparable, parts of God’s grace in Christ, Calvin sometimes, when he wants to define with greater precision the relation between them, refers to sanctification as both an “effect” (consequentia, effectus) and an “inferior cause” (causa inferior) of justification…Calvin acknowledges an order between justification and sanctification. Justification is the basis or the presupposition for sanctification, and sanctification is the the telos, consequence, or effect of justification…Calvin expresses his understanding of sanctification as the effect or consequence of justification in a variety of ways.. [quoting Calvin] ‘the righteousness of works […]is the effect of the righteousness of faith, and the blessedness which arises from works is the effect of the blessedness which consists in the remission of sins […]. WE SHOULD CONSIDER HERE THE ORDER OF CAUSES AS WELL AS AS THE DISPENSATION OF THE GRACE OF GOD'” (emphasis mine, p. 172-173)

    All of this is to say that I agree wholeheartedly with Robert. A triangulated perspective with a third, less interested, party will help further the discussion and keep it from turning into a “east vs. west” debate.

  32. David


    When Billings speaks of “a transformative process by the Spirit” and you speak of “the restorative work of God’s child,” I think you are speaking of progressive sanctification and not definitive, correct? Is there any disagreement between Billings, Tipton, et. al. on the indispensability of justification for progressive sanctification? (I don’t think so, but I’m still trying to gain clarity myself.)

    1. Robert A. Lotzer


      I take it that Billings is describing what is termed “progressive sanctification” however, I think to separate sanctification in terms of “definitive” and “progressive” is less than helpful and is not they way the Reformed confessions speak of sanctification at all. To make a distinction “within” the discussion of sanctification is one thing, to so far separate one from the other and then make one coincide with justification while the other follows it is confusing at best, dangerous at worst. Why do it? Is there an exegetical reason to state the relationship of justification and sanctification this way? Or rather, is there a new hidden theological agenda driving this construction? I am *always* leery of innovation in theological language. It’s not that I think it can never changed, but there must be a good reason for the change and that I haven’t seen.

      Rather, I think it introduces unnecessary confusion into the relationship between justification as the legal ground and sanctification as the fruit of that new condition. If one then wants to speak of “definitive” and “progressive” why not do so after the legal has already been established as the logical order of salvation? You could even say that justification is the ground of “definitive” and “definitive” is the new relational ground of “progressive” but even here I think this language would be introducing both an unnecessary and confusing division.

      When I hear these multiple qualifications and divisions, not only do I react negatively to the non-confessional, innovative theological impulse, but I cringe thinking that the ordinary, living-breathing sheep of God have to discern where their hope and ground of assurance lies. I’m only a pastor and dare to speak in the upper chambers of academia, but it is already difficult enough to preach Christ and Him crucified to God’s people Sunday after Sunday and convince them that their hope and assurance is not in them but in the glorious, finished work of Jesus Christ without adding another unnecessary theological qualification that can lead them to ever, even for a brief second, take their eyes of the author and perfecter of their faith, Jesus Christ.

      Justification + Definitive Sanctification -> Progressive Sanctification = unhelpful, unnecessary, confusing theology, IMHO.

      1. Mark G

        Definitive sanctification deals with passages treating sanctification as already completed; e.g., I Cor 1:2, I Cor 6:11, II Tim 2:21. It’s dealing with the eschatology of sanctification, it’s already – not yet perspective for which there is scriptural warrant. I don’t think it can be easily dismissed.

      2. Mark G

        Just a thought on your preaching concern which I do appreciate. I don’t think it is difficult to understand that, to put it in kind of Paulinesque terms, you have been sanctified therefore BE sanctified. You have a great high priest in heaven who continually offers priestly service to God on your behalf. By virtue of your union with Christ, being Spiritually seated with him, put on clean garments and offer pure sacrifices to God in the heavenly holy of holies. It is inconceivable that we could approach God in the heavenly holy place in filthy rags. The service that we now render by faith we will then render by sight when Christ returns.

      3. Robert A. Lotzer

        David and Mark G.,

        I think my point has been misunderstood. Thank you for the opportunity to clarify by thoughts. I am not saying that a division between “definitive” and “progressive” is entirely wrongheaded with the category “God’s WORK of free grace”. I think Murray’s treatment can help clarify how sanctification should be understood, grounding the progressive element in the definitive sanctification of Christ.

        However, what I find confusing and unhelpful (perhaps dangerous?) is to then separate the “definitive” and “progressive” from one another and then join one aspect of sanctification to justification as the duplex gratia and then having separated the one work of God to join the “definitive” to justification, “God’s ACT of free grace”.

        It is this construction I find helpful, which I am not aware of appearing in Reformed theology until Gaffin, i.e., the innovation I am concerned about.

        I think one of the problems here is the confusion of the work of Biblical Theology and Systematic Theology. There is a reason why “union with Christ” has no distinct confessional article in our Reformed confessions. Union with Christ helps us to explain the “historia” acts of salvation in “redemption accomplished and applied” but it is too general a term to make the fine distinctions in Systematic Theology as are done in our confessions by making a distinction between the “act” of God and the “work” of God. These are distinctions important in Systematics where we also make distinctions between “chronological” and “logical” order and priorities. So, in confusing these two ways of doing our theology, surely having a vital connection between them, but yet two different ways of doing theology is why I think there is so much confusion in this difference. Also, by confusing the methods of BT and ST, we end up making statements in our theological abstractions can lead to deadly thinking and therefore practice in our Christian life, as when someone who isn’t as careful as Gaffin or Tipton might teach something like sanctification as being the ground of our justification (PLEASE NOTE: I am not saying either Gaffin or Tipton teach this . . . my point is that confusing these categories can result from those who don’t understand the careful clarification and make such statements.)

        Even Murray was very clear that the legal/forensic is the context and ground of sanctification and that ground is justification. He then went on to divide sanctification into “definitive” and “progressive” but separately and distinct from his discussion of justification. He was careful to do this so as not to confuse the distinct categories of “justification” and “sanctification” which is how you do ST. Then our ST limits will protect us from BT saying something contrary to our theological reflections of our Reformed Confessions.

        I hope that helps clarify my thinking in regards to previous posts.

  33. David


    Thanks for your response and your take on the distinction within sanctification. The reason I asked my question, and the thing I am still trying to figure out, is whether or not your Billings quote (which I agree accurately echoes the Reformed tradition) is compatible with the Gaffin/Tipton paradigm for connecting the ordo salutis to the historia salutis. As I understand Gaffin, he is saying that in the historia, Christ’s resurrection is His justification, adoption and sanctification and that similarly, the believer’s union with Him in the ordo–his made alive with Christ–is his participation in each of those benefits simultaneously and without priority. If Gaffin is correct, then I suppose this would be the exegetical reason for making justification coincide with definitive sanctification. Given what you say above, I am wondering: Would you (and/or Billings) accept Gaffin’s basic paradigm, or would you want to reject it, or modify it?

  34. Bill

    I agree with Robert. Definitive sanctification is a dangerous theological innovation of the 20th century. In a spirit of reconciling Horton and Tipton’s views I thought it was mainly a difference in language or emphasis but overall both were teaching the same doctrine. Now I’m seeing some real theological dangers in this doctrinal innovation of definitive sanctification.

    First of all Christ\s purpose was to pay the penalty for sin so that the sinner would be acquitted on judgment day. Against thee only have I sinned says David in the psalms, sin is first and foremost an offense against almighty God.that needs to be atoned for, and for this purpose Christ came into the world. Our sin is imputed to Christ and Christ’s righteousness is imputed to us, the gospel is about imputed righteousness and not infused righteousness (sanctification). It’s not about both.

    When we start teaching that faith both justifies (imputes righteousness) and sanctifies (infuses righteousness in the believer) we are going down a slippery slope. We are taking away from Christ’s righteousness that comes by faith and adding our own righteousness as well, Once this has been admitted we will start asking the question, do I have enough infused righteousness? Am I sanctified enough? Is my faith genuine or I don’t have enough good works? And this is clearly unbiblical. I should only look to Christ’s righteousness as the object of faith, not at my own righteousness. So faith is the direct cause of justification, but it does not directly cause definitive sanctification.

    Now justification is the direct cause of sanctification. Once the sinner is unconditionally forgiven, this justification produces or is the antecedent cause of sanctification.

    Warfield was absolutely correct in ruling out sanctification as coming directly from faith.:

    Wesleyan holiness groups, pietism, roman catholics, and pentecostals have made sanctification by grace alone through faith alone the core of their doctrine. Joel Osteen’s church is full people that believe faith gives them power, for them faith means overcoming the corruption of the flesh as well as the penalty for sin. The right doctrine is that faith doesn’t look inside us (our own righteousness or corruption), it looks at Christ’s perfect righteousness, and it has Christ as its only object. Justification comes through faith. Sanctification comes through justification. Only when we grasp the seriousness of our offense, only when we grasp the depth of our sin, only when the sinner is aware that he is in danger of capital punishment and is heading to hell, it is at this point that grace can be grasped and Christ apprehended in the forgiveness of sins. Freed from the penalty of sin (justified) sanctification in the christian follows, the christian is sanctified by being freed from the law’s penalty, by being brought to a sate of grace.

    Faith removes the penalty of sin, it does not remove the inner corruption in man. Sanctification is the consequence of being free from the penalty of sin. Although the law is holy and perfect, far from being able to remove sin, it causes it to increase as Paul teaches in several passages. Christ by fulfilling the requirements of the Law, removes the penalty of sin. It is this removal of the penalty of sin apprehended by faith that produces sanctification. Grace can be defined as not being under the condemnation of the law, a man is either under the law or in a state of grace.

    Romans 7:8 – 7:11
    8 But sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, produced in me all kinds of covetousness. For apart from the law, sin lies dead. 9 I was once alive apart from the law, but when the commandment came, sin came alive and I died. 10 The very commandment that promised life proved to be death to me. 11 For sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, deceived me and through it killed me.

    Romans 8:3 – 8:4
    3 For God has done what the law, )weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, 4 in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.

    1. I want to offer a few clarifying points and questions relative to your comments. I think you misunderstand the basic features of the doctrine of definitive sanctification as taught by John Murray, Richard Gaffin, and Lane Tipton. For a short description, you can read Murray’s article in his Collected Writings or listen to Lane Tipton at http://reformedforum.org/rfs13/. I don’t expect you to agree with what they say, but we should at least be able to represent the view accurately.

      In short, definitive sanctification is the breach in sin’s power. Murray’s exegesis of Romans 6:1-7 is helpful at this point. If you reject this notion of the crucifixion of the old man, I’m curious how you interpret this passage. Some argue that justification mortifies the old man. Yet this understanding compromises the very forensic nature of justification. For justification would no longer be a forensic declaration that changes one’s state, but a transformative work that alters one’s condition.

      Although I greatly appreciate your concern to maintain the integrity of justification by faith alone, you are protecting against a faulty understanding of definitive sanctification. To argue that the Spirit breaks sin’s power in the believer’s life does not compromise the ground of justification in any way. The ground of justification always remains the imputed righteousness of Christ which is received by faith alone. Faith, works, infused righteousness, etc. never affect the believer’s status before God nor contribute or merit anything in any way.

      It also appears that you conflate faith with justification. Granted, faith is the instrument of justification, but it is important to distinguish the two. You write:

      Faith removes the penalty of sin, it does not remove the inner corruption in man.

      Faith does neither. Faith is the instrument by which the believer is justified. But it’s also the instrument by which the Spirit sanctifies (cf. Acts 26:18). How else would you be sanctified? Sanctification (definitive or progressive) cannot be identified exhaustively with good works. Sanctification is first and foremost the work of the Spirit to apply Christ’s death and resurrection to the one that has faith in Jesus Christ.

      …the gospel is about imputed righteousness and not infused righteousness (sanctification). It’s not about both.

      If the gospel is only about justification, then you have no “good news” for your indwelling sin. In that case, Christ has done nothing for you in terms of conforming you into his image or bringing you to consummation. But praise God that the gospel is about all the blessings we receive in Christ Jesus (Eph 1:3). It also includes the reality of our Spiritual resurrection already and the hope of the bodily resurrection to come.

      To be quite honest, I’m happy and relieved that His Spirit is working within me to put sin to death. Though I’m acquitted through my justification and accepted as a son through my adoption, I’d still like the Lord to continue to work in my life. I consider all of it the good news of the gospel.

      1. Camden,

        You ended your comments with, “To be quite honest, I’m happy and relieved that His Spirit is working within me to put sin to death. Though I’m acquitted through my justification and accepted as a son through my adoption, I’d still like the Lord to continue to work in my life. I consider all of it the good news of the gospel.”

        Up to that point I find myself in agreement (although what is defined as ‘definitive sanctification’, I think, is already included in regeneration). But in these words above you seem to be saying that ‘my loving my neighbor’ (as the Spirit works in me) is part of the gospel. Are you including our good works, i.e. progressive sanctification, as part of the gospel?


      2. Jack,

        There are different ways “gospel” is being used here. Narrowly speaking, I would define the gospel in terms of what Paul said he delivered as of first importance in 1 Cor 15:3-7. The gospel is Christ’s life, death, resurrection, ascension, and session for sinners. In short, the gospel is the person and work of Christ (historia salutis). Yet people often speak of the gospel in a broader sense, that is, in the sense of the “good news” of what Christ has done, is doing, and will do for us. In that sense, the Spirit’s work in applying Christ’s death and resurrection to the believer is certainly part of the gospel (cf. WLC 75). The future bodily resurrection and glorification of believers is also part of the gospel. I consider it all part of the Spirit’s unified work in making us into the image of Christ—righteous and holy co-heirs (forensic, renovative, and filial aspects).

        Your question is very important, and I’m glad you raised it. Maintaining this broader view of the gospel in no way imports Spirit-wrought good works as meritorious. But, in the broader sense of simply “good news,” I would still consider believer’s good works as part of God’s overall plan for our conformity to the image of Christ (Eph 2:10) even while I affirm they are all filthy rags (Isa 64:6). The good works aren’t the gospel proper, but the fact that the Spirit is moving the believer to do good works is a function of historia salutis being applied (ordo salutis).

        Do you agree? I want to be as clear and precise as possible.

  35. Bill

    Warfield saw the same dangers I just outlined From http://markmcculley.wordpress.com/2012/01/10/warfield-says-sanctification-from-justification/

    “Justification and sanctification are thought of as parallel products of faith. This is not, however, the New Testament representation. According to its teaching, sanctification is not related to faith directly and immediately, so that in believing in Jesus we receive both justification and sanctification as parallel products of our faith; or either the one or the other, according as our faith is directed to the one or the other.

    Sanctification is related directly not to faith but to justification;
    and as faith is the instrumental cause of justification, so is
    justification the instrumental cause of sanctification. That which binds justification and sanctification together is not that they
    are both effects of faith – so that he who believes must have both –
    because faith is the condition of both alike.

    Nor is it even that both are obtained in Christ, so that he who has Christ, who is made to us both righteousness and sanctification, must have both because Christ is the common source of both. It is true that he who has faith has and must have both; and it is true that he who has Christ has and must have both. But they do not come out of faith or from Christ in the same way.

    Justification comes through faith; sanctification through
    justification, and only mediately, through justification, through
    faith. So that the order is invariable, faith, justification,
    sanctification; not arbitrarily, but in the nature of the case.”

    B.B. Warfield, “The German Higher Life Movement,” in Perfectionism, vol. 1, p 362

  36. Bill

    John Bunyan wrote in his salvation experience how justification produced sanctification. It was his grasping of the forensic that produced the renovative. It is the instant man is freed from the law’s penalty, that temptations weaken and sin loses its power. Justification produces sanctification. From http://www.founders.org/journal/fj59/editorial.html

    John Bunyan:
    One day as I was passing into the field…this sentence fell upon my
    soul. Thy righteousness is in heaven. And me thought, withal, I saw
    with the eyes of my soul Jesus Christ at God’s right hand; there, I
    say, was my righteousness; so that wherever I was, or whatever I was
    doing, God could not say of me, he wants [=lacks] my righteousness,
    for that was just [in front of] him. I also saw, moreover, that it
    was not my good frame of heart that made my righteousness better,
    nor yet my bad frame that made my righteousness worse, for my
    righteousness was Jesus Christ himself, “The same yesterday, today
    and, and forever.” …

    Now did my chains fall off my legs indeed. I was loosed from my
    afflictions and irons; my temptations also fled away; so that from
    that time those dreadful scriptures of God [e.g. Hebrews 12:16 –17]
    left off to trouble me; now went I also home rejoicing for the grace
    and love of God.

    This is the believing sinner’s great hope—to see his righteousness
    firmly, securely resting at the right hand of God the Father in the
    person and finished work of Jesus Christ His Son. To have such a
    faith-directed vision is to be set free.

  37. Bill

    Camden wrote:
    “If the gospel is only about justification, then you have no “good news” for your indwelling sin. In that case, Christ has done nothing for you in terms of conforming you into his image or bringing you to consummation. But praise God that the gospel is about all the blessings we receive in Christ Jesus (Eph 1:3). It also includes the reality of our Spiritual resurrection already and the hope of the bodily resurrection to come.”

    In Hebrews were Christ’s perfect sacrifice is explained to the jewish people and the old testament sacrifices are referenced, the reference is made to the atonment of sin, satisfying the penalty of sin. The atonement refers to the guilt and just penalty for sin, it does not refer to personal renewal. In the old testament is the same, the purpose of the sacrifices was not to renew the sinner, but to put the sinner in a right standing with God (justify the sinner), to appease God’s wrath. Christ died to atone for sin, not for directly renewing us internally. Renewal or sanctification follows, but is always mediated by justification. The removal of the penalty of sin produces renewal (loosens the power of sin).

  38. Robert A. Lotzer

    Jack Miller wrote:

    (although what is defined as ‘definitive sanctification’, I think, is already included in regeneration)

    This is very helpful. This is what I was describing in my previous response of a confusion between BT (Biblical Theology) and ST (Systematic Theology) as two distinct, yet interrelated methods of doing theology.

    What Murray is doing in making a distinction between “definitive” and “progressive” is using a BT insight to help explain a ST point — our sanctification (which is progressive as the WORK of God’s free grace, not ours) is grounded in the imputation of Christ’s righteousness (already completed sanctification) in order to help explain that sanctification is monergistic not synergistic.

    But to then leave that discussion of “sanctification” and try to reinsert that mini-discussion (species) into the larger “ordo” (genus) gets confusing because the theologian then has to decide where to place “definitive” and where to place “progressive”. The confusion comes when “definitive” is then placed with justification in the ordo and “progressive then follows on its heels.

    You can see what happens when your BT method gets jumbled with your ST method and the two methods are not kept separate from one another. Of course, they can each give us help at getting at the one Scripture and theology, but they approach them differently.

    Here is the crux of the issue: in ST approach to “definitive” sanctification we are dealing with Christology – the work that Christ accomplishes as prophet, priest, and king. This is the category of what Murray would speak of as “Redemption Accomplished.” Traditionally, in regards to what Gaffin-Tipton mean by “definitive sanctification,” Reformed theologians have rooted in the pactum salutis, not the unio mystica. Christ is fulfilling the obedience to the Father through his active and passive obedience.

    But once we move to a discussion of the “ordo salutis” we are no longer in the category of Christology regarding the work of Christ – we are discussing Pneumatology or the application of the work of Christ by the Holy Spirit to the believer. “Definitive Sanctification” is not part of the “ordo” because it would be an illogical step to discuss – calling, regeneration, conversion, justification (which are applications of Christ’s work) TO THEN go back to Christ’s work in “definitive sanctification” AND THEN return to application to speak of “progressive sanctification. This is neither logical, nor chronological and because BT and ST are being confused it SOUNDS as if something regarding the restorative/transformative work of the Holy Spirit is being equated with the legal/forensic grounding of those gracious benefits.

    What is usually understood by “definitive” is what Christ does for us in His work and that work of Christ which fulfills the Covenant of Redemption is imputed to us as the grounding of all the benefits of Christ. As Calvin stresses, that work of Christ is no use to us as long as Christ is outside of us – but nevertheless that work is already completed. It is then Christ in us where we move the entire discussion to the “order of salvation” in the Holy Spirit’s application to the elect of the Father. At that point in our theological enterprise (ST) the “definitive” is no longer under direct study — that is already complete in our Christology. What then becomes the focus is what has now been called “progressive” which is grounded in our justification and can never be coterminous with justification. Thus the logical priority of the forensic ground of our sanctification.

  39. Mark G

    So Robert, are you saying Jack Miller’s comment about definitive sanctification being part of regeneration is an example of the method/category confusion you are concerned about? That seems to be the case because you later place definitive sanctification in a Christological category and regeneration in the ordo category with calling, conversion, etc. Just want to confirm that I am understanding.

    1. Robert A. Lotzer

      Mark G.

      No, I actually don’t agree with definitive sanctification being a part of regeneration. I’m sorry. I meant to address that in my comment but forgot by the time I sent it.

      I think that would be equally confusing, even though Calvin spoke of regeneration as including the whole salvation applied, I think the later Reformed distinctions are much more helpful in what we think of the as the typical later Reformed ordo.

      My point of agreement with Jack Miller’s comment, is that “definitive” is already taken up and included BEFORE we discuss ordo issues. That was the full extent of my agreement. I prefer the Confessional ordo (calling, justification, adoption, sanctification) over these other unnecessary distinctions.

      BTW, to be fair in the debate on CTC, I don’t think Horton’s language of proclamation of Gospel as “justification” is helpful either. I understand what he is saying and in general agreement with the thrust of his argument but I think it is because we are not sticking close to confessional language in making theological points that so much confusion is going about.

      I do not think it is all about confusing language or misunderstanding of what is being said. After all, these are both professors at highly prestigious seminaries. They out to be able to communicate clearly and understand one another clearly. We saw this sort of sloppy analysis in the Norman Shepherd debates. Every time a point was made and disagreed upon both sides came to the table and claimed “oh, well he wasn’t clear” or “you just misunderstood what he was saying.” I think a lot of that approach is laziness, cowardly, and deceptive.

      I do believe we have two different approaches to the ordo coming out of Westminster West and East. We shouldn’t sugar coat it but investigate, study, and do the hard work to see who is coming up with the best theological understanding of the Scriptures and our Reformed tradition. It’s possible that both are wrong, but it is also clear that both can’t be right. It’s up to the ecclesiastical community to make that decision and for both of them to keep presenting their exegetical, theological, historical, and confessional arguments to help us in that ecclesiastical community to understand and decide which best expresses our Reformed Confession.

  40. Re: regeneration and definitive sanctification. My aside was less than exact. But my thought is to draw a distinction between definitive sanctification and progressive sanctification without creating a separative category following justification. Simply seeing the application of Christ’s definitive breaking of the dominion of sin as a simultaneous benefit received instantaneously by faith at the time of regeneration (along with justification, adoption…), not as a separate step. But I’m probably out of my depth to go much further. I do find myself in agreement with the concerns and direction of Robert Lotzer’s comments. Thanks.

  41. Bob McDowell

    I’m glad you had the two guys talking to each other rather than about each other.

    I couldn’t follow what Horton said because of the audio.

    It would be great to have Horton & Tipton write point-counterpoint type articles in tandem about this to really clarify this.

  42. Camden,

    Thanks for getting back to me. I do basically agree with what you wrote in your last comments above. Your initial words that I questioned seemed to put progressive sanctification in the “gospel proper” with the closing sentence, I consider all of it the good news of the gospel. I agree it is indeed “good news” that the Spirit is working in us unto conformity with Christ as God predestined, but not that it is part of the good news.

    The way I understand it is that the subjective (yet real) part of God’s work in the believer is distinct from the free promise which was kept and accomplished entirely by Christ’s life, death, resurrection, and ascension, even though that subjective working is indeed connected as a sure and holy effect. That accomplishing of God’s promise in Christ is the glad tidings – the gospel – and it is that to which faith looks, is strengthened and finds salvation (Rom. 1:16). I think the term “gospel” can sometimes be used in too loose a fashion. By including everything of God’s working in it, the term loses meaning and focus, thereby confusing faith as to where it should to look.

    From Calvin’s Inst. 3:2.29 –
    Free promise we make the foundation of faith, because in it faith properly consists. For though it holds that God is always true, whether in ordering or forbidding, promising or threatening; though it obediently receive his commands, observe his prohibitions, and give heed to his threatening; yet it properly begins with promise, continues with it, and ends with it. It seeks life in God, life which is not found in commands or the denunciations of punishment, but in the promise of mercy. And this promise must be gratuitous; for a conditional promise, which throws us back upon our works, promises life only in so far as we find it existing in ourselves. Therefore, if we would not have faith to waver and tremble, we must support it with the promise of salvation, which is offered by the Lord spontaneously and freely, from a regard to our misery rather than our worth. Hence the Apostle bears this testimony to the Gospel, that it is the word of faith, (Rom. 10: 8.) This he concedes not either to the precepts or the promises of the Law, since there is nothing which can establish our faith, but that free embassy by which God reconciles the world to himself.

    Thanks again…

  43. Thanks for this episode. One lingering question I have is how can Horton embrace Berkhof’s comment about justification before regeneration and faith and yet at the same time reject Berkhof’s active and passive distinction? Take away that distinction and you take away Berkhof’s understanding of justification before faith. IOW, you can’t reject that distinction and still appeal to Berkhof.

  44. Bill

    One last thing to mention about this episode. Something that was missing is a definition of good works. Some people confuse christian works with civil righteousness. Being a good husband, parent, working hard, helping others, all this as desirable as it is can be equally be performed by unbelievers. The unbeliever has free will as far as performing good works, both the lutheran and reformed confessions recognize this. Man however has no free will as far as believing the gospel. He needs to be born again.

    A believer can commit homicide like David did, and be forgiven, while an unbeliever may never commit homicide yet be condemned by God. Blessed is the man whom God does not impute his sin. A believer may sleep with a prostitute like Sampson did, while an unbeliever may be a loyal husband that never had sex outside marriage in his whole life. While Sampson is mentioned as a saint in Hebrews, the unbelieving loyal husband will eternally perish. This is why the new testament calls the Corinthians saints, though fornication abounded. They were saints because they were set apart for God, not because of their good works. Civil righteousness has is not sanctification, unbelievers can and do perform good works that help society better than christians in many instances.

  45. Bill

    Since it hasn’t been defined what good works are as I said in my last post, I will do it. Good works are those grounded in justification, christians are justified sinners. They sin daily, yet the sin is not imputed to them. They have repented and love God with their mind. Sanctification is not the active performance of works, which the unbeliever can perform as well, but works that are performed by a regenerated mind. Sanctification i’s not about performance of good works, but the attitude towards the lack of performance of good works that makes you a christian. Paul who calls himself the chief of sinners elsewhere says it perfectly in Roman 7. Wit regard to sanctification It is the interpretation of Romans 7 that differentiates the Reformers (lutherans and calvinists) from aarminians, anabaptists, and roman catholics. .I’m wondering whether Tipton would call himself chief of sinners

    Romans 7:14 to 7:16
    14 For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am of the flesh, (sold under sin. 15 For I do not understand my own actions. For do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. 16 Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good.

    Romans 7:25
    “25 Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.”

  46. It seems to me, at the risk of sounding like an antinomian, that IF salvation is ultimately dependent on the “whole ordo salutis” taken together, THEN the entire debate with Rome over justification by faith alone is simply a matter of semantics. My salvation does not in any way depend on my degree or level of obedience to God’s moral law. However, regarding my testimony before men (James 2) and having a valid profession of faith in the church, I do bear forth the fruits of a progressive sanctification. All of the saints of the Old Testament were miserable sinners: David was a liar and a murderer and an adulterer, Abraham was an adulterer, a liar and a polygamist, Moses was angry with God, and on and on. Noah? A drunk! Yet all of these men are called righteous. If they are righteous by law keeping, then it would seem to contradict what Scripture actually says about their character. They were in fact righteous by means of faith. Their track record is spotty. Since God does not lower the standards of God’s law (Matthew 5:17-21, 48; Romans 3:23) salvation must be by faith alone. It is faith that justifies and sanctification that results–and that sanctification can never be the cause of forgiveness even after conversion. The first use of the moral law is not just applicable prior to conversion–it applies AFTER conversion as well.

    Although I was glad to hear Dr. Tipton affirm that the basis for union with Christ is justification by faith alone, it seems to me that any overemphasis on sanctifification while pragmatically ignoring the doctrine of an objective and imputed righteousness still begs the question. The Westminster Confession clearly says that even the elect can temporarily fall from their assurance because God can remove sanctifying grace (progressive) in order to humble them. Take heed when ye think ye stand lest ye fall. Both Scripture and history bear this out.

    The unconverted already understand the law. What they do not get is the Gospel and grace. It is God’s mercy alone that anyone at all is saved. If that’s Lutheran, so be it. And let’s not forget that Luther said that nothing happens by contingency. If God foreknows what will happen–including the fall–then it is God’s will. Salvation viewed from the perspective of God’s sovereignty can only render us speechless and without any room for boasting. We all deserve hell. That’s why God can and does save people at the beginning of their lives and at the very last in their death beds. Works are not necessary for salvation. They are pleasing to God only because of faith, not because they are meritorious whatsoever.

    Matthew 20:8-16

    Sincerely in Christ,


  47. Bill

    Romans 11:
    “5 So too at the present time there is )a remnant, chosen by grace. 6 (But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works; otherwise grace would no longer be grace.”

    Galatians 2
    21 I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose.

    Can scripture be more clear? In Romans 11 it says salvation is by grace and not works, otherwise grace would no longer be grace. Ephesians 2, we are saved by grace through faith. Scripture is talking about salvation (not only justification) in these passages, salvation excludes works. So if sanctification involves good works as Tipton says, well guess what, sanctification is not part of biblical salvation.

  48. Bill

    And this is the good news, that our salvation does not depend on our works. We have no righteousness of our own, and only those that trust in Christ’s imputed righteousness and not in their good works are accepted by God on account of Christ.

  49. Bill

    Let me finish up by saying that although sanctification (good works) is not part of salvation, the same can not be said of justification. Justification is theologically equivalent to salvation. When Paul talks about salvation in Romans 3 to 5 he’s actually using the word justification as equivalent to salvation. This is why recently the local alliance church in the city I live put a 3-part series of sermons:entitled salvation, sanctification, and healing. For the alliance church healing would be the third benefit of faith union with Christ. The Westminster confession has salvation (justification), sanctification, and adoption. The alliance church has salvation (justification), sanctification, and healing. Also when I read Calvin’s institutes he covers salvation in the chapters on justification. So Calvin, like Paul and Luther, consider salvation and justification as equivalent.

    Now how can Tipton say that salvation (justification) is equally important with sanctification, it’s beyond me. How can good works (sanctification) that add nothing to salvation be as important as salvation itself (which is of grace alone instead of works)? This is a theological mistake of biblical proportions to say the least. It is what it is but until this doctrine is abandoned by Westminster Seminary East, they will be churning out more Norman Shepherd’s and federal visions. Norman Shepherd may have been fired but the doctrine that produced his theology is alive and well.

    Justification is not a mere declaration from God that has the same value as our good works. Justification is salvation and it comes from faith. Calling justification a benefit that has the same value as our good works (sanctification) is downgrading God’s saving work in justification and giving our own works (sanctification) the same value.

    1. Jared Oliphint

      Third Question: The Necessity of Good Works
      Are good works necessary to salvation? We affirm.
      Francis Turretin, Institutes of Elenctic Theology, Vol. 2, Seventeenth topic, 3rd question.

      It’s a good section to read for a nuanced answer that much of this discussion is missing.

  50. Bill

    And I don’t care if Tipton says sanctification is by grace through faith (which I agree with by the way). But it’s still our own works, and they can never be as important as salvation (justification) or a benefit that is at the same level as salvation (justification).

  51. Bill

    The lutheran confessions (Solid declaration of the Formula of Concord) condemns those that state that good works are necessary for salvation. Articles 22 to 29 condemn the heresy that good works are necessary for salvation http://www.bookofconcord.org/sd-goodworks.php.

    22] But here we must be well on our guard lest works are drawn and mingled into the article of justification and salvation. Therefore the propositions are justly rejected, that to believers good works are necessary for salvation, so that it is impossible to be saved without good works. For they are directly contrary to the doctrine de particulis exclusivis in articulo iustificationis et salvationis (concerning the exclusive particles in the article of justification and salvation), that is, they conflict with the words by which St. Paul has entirely excluded our works and merits from the article of justification and salvation, and ascribed everything to the grace of God and the merit of Christ alone, as explained in the preceding article. 23] Again, they [these propositions concerning the necessity of good works for salvation] take from afflicted, troubled consciences the comfort of the Gospel, give occasion for doubt, are in many ways dangerous, strengthen presumption in one’s own righteousness and confidence in one’s own works; besides, they are accepted by the Papists, and in their interest adduced against the pure doctrine of the alone-saving faith. 24] Moreover, they are contrary to the form of sound words, as it is written that blessedness is only of the man unto whom God imputeth righteousness without works, Rom. 4:6. Likewise, in the Sixth Article of the Augsburg Confession it is written that we are saved without works, by faith alone. Thus Dr. Luther, too, has rejected and condemned these propositions:

    25] 1. In the false prophets among the Galatians [who led the Galatians into error].

    26] 2. In the Papists, in very many places.

    27] 3. In the Anabaptists, when they present this interpretation: We should not indeed rest faith upon the merit of works, but we must nevertheless have them as things necessary to salvation.

    28] 4. Also in some others among his own followers, who wished to interpret this proposition thus: Although we require works as necessary to salvation, yet we do not teach to place trust in works. On Gen. 22.

    29] Accordingly, and for the reasons now enumerated, it is justly to remain settled in our churches, namely, that the aforesaid modes of speech should not be taught, defended, or excused, but be thrown out of our churches and repudiated as false and incorrect, and as expressions which were renewed in consequence of the Interim, originated from it, and were [again] drawn into discussion in times of persecution, when there was especial need of a clear, correct confession against all sorts of corruptions and adulterations of the article of justification.

  52. Well, it is odd that John Calvin himself does not say that good works are necessary to salvation. In fact, Calvin says that good works are only necessary for a valid profession of faith before men and the church. Before God good works count for nothing. The idea that good works have any merit regarding salvation undermines any assurance we might be able to have before God. Calvin says:

    Calvin on James 2:18-26: Justification by Faith Manifests Works

    11. But they say that we have a still more serious business with James, who in express terms opposes us. For he asks, “Was not Abraham our father justified by works?” and adds “You see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only,” ( [James 2:21, 24] ). What then? Will they engage Paul in a quarrel with James? If they hold James to be a servant of Christ, his sentiments must be understood as not dissenting from Christ speaking by the mouth of Paul. By the mouth of Paul the Spirit declares that Abraham obtained justification by faith, not by works; we also teach that all are justified by faith without the works of the law. By James the same Spirit declares that both Abraham’s justification and ours consists of works, and not of faith only. It is certain that the Spirit cannot be at variance with himself. Where, then, will be the agreement? It is enough for our opponents, provided they can tear up that justification by faith which we regard as fixed by the deepest roots:45 to restore peace to the conscience is to them a matter of no great concern. Hence you may see, that though they indeed carp at the doctrine of justification by faith, they meanwhile point out no goal of righteousness at which the conscience may rest. Let them triumph then as they will, so long as the only victory they can boast of is, that they have deprived righteousness of all its certainty. This miserable victory they will indeed obtain when the light of truth is extinguished, and the Lord permits them to darken it with their lies. But wherever the truth of God stands they cannot prevail. I deny, then, that the passage of James which they are constantly holding up before us as if it were the shield of Achilles, gives them the slightest countenance. To make this plain, let us first attend to the scope of the Apostle, and then show wherein their hallucination consists. As at that time (and the evil has existed in the Church ever since) there were many who, while they gave manifest proof of their infidelity, by neglecting and omitting all the works peculiar to believers, ceased not falsely to glory in the name of faith, James here dissipates their vain confidence. His intention therefore is, not to derogate in any degree from the power of true faith, but to show how absurdly these triflers laid claim only to the empty name, and resting satisfied with it, felt secure in unrestrained indulgence in vice. This state of matters being understood, it will be easy to see where the error of our opponents lies. They fall into a double paralogism, the one in the term [faith] , the other in the term [justifying] . The Apostle, in giving the name of [faith] to an empty opinion altogether differing from true faith, makes a concession which derogates in no respect from his case. This he demonstrates at the outset by the words, “What does it profit, my brethren, though a man say he has faith, and have not works?” ( [James 2:14] ). He says not, “If a man [have] faith without works,” but “if he say that he has.” This becomes still clearer when a little after he derides this faith as worse than that of devils, and at last when he calls it “dead.” You may easily ascertain his meaning by the explanation, “Thou believest that there is one God.” Surely if all which is contained in that faith is a belief in the existence of God, there is no wonder that it does not justify. The denial of such a power to it cannot be supposed to derogate in any degree from Christian faith, which is of a very different description. For how does true faith justify unless by uniting us to Christ, so that being made one with him, we may be admitted to a participation in his righteousness? It does not justify because it forms an idea of the divine existence, but because it reclines with confidence on the divine mercy.

    See also, section 12:

    12. We have not made good our point until we dispose of the other paralogism: since James places a part of justification in works. If you would make James consistent with the other Scriptures and with himself, you must give the word [justify] , as used by him, a different meaning from what it has with Paul. In the sense of Paul we are said to be justified when the remembrance of our unrighteousness is obliterated and we are counted righteous. Had James had the same meaning it would have been absurd for him to quote the words of Moses, “Abraham believed God,” &c. The context runs thus: “Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar? Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect? And the Scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness.” If it is absurd to say that the effect was prior to its cause, either Moses falsely declares in that passage that Abraham’s faith was imputed for righteousness or Abraham, by his obedience in offering up Isaac, did not merit righteousness. Before the existence of Ishmael, who was a grown youth at the birth of Isaac, Abraham was justified by his faith. How then can we say that he obtained justification by an obedience which followed long after? Wherefore, either James erroneously inverts the proper order (this it were impious to suppose), or he meant not to say that he was justified, as if he deserved to be deemed just. What then? It appears certain that he is speaking of the manifestation, not of the imputation of righteousness, as if he had said, Those who are justified by true faith prove their justification by obedience and good works, not by a bare and imaginary semblance of faith. In one word, he is not discussing the mode of justification, but requiring that the justification of believers shall be operative. And as Paul contends that men are justified without the aid of works, so James will not allow any to be regarded as justified who are destitute of good works. Due attention to the scope will thus disentangle every doubt; for the error of our opponents lies chiefly in this, that they think James is defining the mode of justification, whereas his only object is to destroy the depraved security of those who vainly pretended faith as an excuse for their contempt of good works. Therefore, let them twist the words of James as they may, they will never extract out of them more than the two propositions: That an empty phantom of faith does not justify, and that the believer, not contented with such an imagination, manifests his justification by good works.

    Institutes of the Christian Religion, Book III: 17:11-12

    [51 451 French, “Il suffit à nos adversaires s’ils peuvent deraciner la justice de foy, laquelle nous voulons estre plantee au profond du cœur.”—It is enough for our opponents if they can root up justification by faith, which we desire to be planted at the bottom of the heart.]

    Reasonable Christian Blog Glory be to the Father, and to the Son : and to the Holy Ghost; Answer. As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be : world without end. Amen. 1662 Book of Common Prayer
    Posted by Charlie J. Ray at 3:44 PM
    Charlie J. Ray said…
    Calvin’s Commentary on James 2:20,

    20. But wilt thou know. We must understand the state of the question, for the dispute here is not respecting the cause of justification, but only what avails a profession of faith without works, and what opinion we are to form of it. Absurdly then do they act who strive to prove by this passage that man is justified by works, because James meant no such thing, for the proofs which he subjoins refer to this declaration, that no faith, or only a dead faith, is without works. No one will ever understand what is said, nor judge wisely of words, except he who keeps in view the design of the writer.

    3:47 PM
    Charlie J. Ray said…
    As you can see, John Calvin does not teach that justification is by faith plus obedience or “Lordship” salvation. He says that true faith manifests works as a valid public profession of faith. That is a huge difference my friend. (Romans 4:4-8)

    Calvin on James 2:18-26

    As you can see, Calvin does not deny that good works are necessary nor does the 39 Articles of Religion say that good works are not necessary. But those good works are not necessary to salvation or justification. They are necessary to a credible profession of faith, which a huge difference. No one can claim before other men that they are saved if they have an empty faith with no evidences of conversion. Before God our ONLY standing for salvation is THE OBJECTIVE WORK OF CHRIST.

    This is what this dispute is about. I stand by my view that Westminster East is neo-legalistic and out of step with the Protestant Reformation as a whole. Justification by faith alone is the sine qua non of biblical Christianity and “union with Christ” is by means of faith alone.


  53. Bill

    Exactly Charlie, same as the lutheran confessions. Good works are necessary, but not for salvation. Article 21 of the solid declaration of the Formula of Concord says that good works are necessary. And then articles 22 to 29 which I cited in post above goe at length to say that they are not necessary for salvation. All the confessions (reformed, lutheran, 39 articles) are in agreement. My comment was addressed to Jared who replied to one of my previous posts quoting Turrettin and asserting that good works are necessary for salvation. Now Turretin himself admits that he’s going against the lutheran confessions and some reformed theologians (obviously he’s referring to Calvin without naming him).

    On 17th topic Turretin question 3 Turretin writes:

    “IV. Although the proposition concerning the necessity of good works to salvation (which was thrust forward in a former century by the Romanists under the show of a reconciliation in the Intermistic formula, but really that imperceptibly the purity of the doctrine concerning justification might be corrupted) was rejected by various Lutheran theologians as less suitable and dangerous; nay, even by some of our theologians; still we think with others that it can be retained without danger if properly explained.”

    Well, let me say this, Turretin by going against Luther and Calvin, and admitting in his own words he’s going against the lutheran confessions and reformed theologians, makes a serious error and sides with the Council of Trent on salvation by works against the Reformation and the Augsburg confession. Some lutherans did the same error as Turretin, and the solid declaration of the formula of concord articles 22 to 29 conddemned their wrong teaching.

  54. Robert A. Lotzer

    Don’t be too quick to discount Turretin as a heretic! You must read him carefully, for as a Reformed scholastic he makes very precise distinctions which even the slightest nuance is vitally important. On the question (3rd): The Necessity of Good Works, he writes:

    “XIV. Works can be considered in three ways: either with reference to justification or sanctification or glorification. They are related to justification not antecedently, efficiently, and meritoriously, but consequently and declaratively. They are related to sanctification constitutively because they constitute and promote it. They are related to glorification antecedently and ordinatively because they are related to it as the means to the end; yea, as the beginning to the complement because grace is glory begun, as glory is grace consummated.

    XV. Although we acknowledge the necessity of good works against the Epicureans, we do not on this account confound the law and the gospel and interfere with gratuitous justification by faith alone. Good works are required not for living according to the law, but because we live by the gospel; not as the causes on account of which life is given to us, but as effects which testify that life has been given to us.”

    There is nothing here unique to Reformed theology. Even Luther was famous for saying, “we are saved by faith alone, but not be a faith that is alone.” This is typical Reformed theology standing between the semi-Pelagianism of Rome and the antinomianism of the radicals.

  55. Robert, no one I know of here is an antinomian. In fact, I appreciate what you quoted from Turretin because it substantiates what the 39 Articles say in more succinct form. Sanctification cannot be the basis for salvation since our works are always imperfect. Justification is the only basis for salvation but a “lively” or “justifying” faith is alive and manifests good works as a result of that justification applied to the elect by the instrument or means of faith.

    If Horton’s recent critique of John Frame’s new book shows, it is the innovators who are coming up with something new. The Reformed position has always taught that good works show other men that there is a valid profession of faith. Those without that validating faith are considered either fallen temporarily into a sinful state or else unconverted or even apostate. But works themselves are not necessary to salvation since they are the result of salvation, not the cause of it. The neo-legalists do not seem to get this critical distinction.


    A Response to John Frame’s The Escondido Theology.

Leave a Reply