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BY JOSEPH AGAR BEET
We have seen that each of the Four Gospels represents Christ as teaching, plainly and conspicuously and frequently, that God frowns on all sin and smiles only on THOSE WHO OBEY His com mands ; and that this teaching was re-echoed, with equal plainness and emphasis and frequency, by Paul. On the other hand, we have seen that both Christ and Paul taught, in plainest and most emphatic language, that God receives into His favour as heirs of eternal blessedness ALL those WHO BELIEVE the good news announced by Christ. The apparent contradiction involved in these statements demands now our best attention. The emphatic and repeated teaching of the various writers of the New Testament forbids us to accept ar/ satisfactory any solution which does not maintain each statement in its full force. Moreover, the former state ment is demanded by the supreme majesty of the Moral Law which will tolerate no infringement of its rights. On the other hand, nothing less than the full pardon involved in the latter statement will supply the "9
1 30 J USTIFICA TION THR UGH FA ITH. [PART 1 1. deep need of guilty and helpless humanity. For the harmony underlying the claims of justice and the word of mercy, we now seek. The harmony will be found in the object-matter of saving faith, i.e. in the nature of the good news which, as a condition of His favour, God requires us to believe. This object-matter of faith is, as we have already seen, not a mere statement about God but an announcement of what God will do for those who believe. In other words, saving faith is a belief, not of a doctrine, but of a wonderful promise. In this truth we shall find the solution we require. The moral teaching of Christ compels us to believe that God smiles only on those who obey His commands. This being so, it is psychologically impossible for us to believe that God receives us into His favour until we are ready to FORSAKE SIN ; or to believe that God smiles upon us while we are content to continue in sin. For, manifestly, no one can be saved against his will. In other words, the Law which says, with an authority we cannot question, " the soul which sins will die," makes saving faith impossible except to those who are willing to give up sin. Moreover, a sad experience has revealed to us our utter inability to render the obedience which God requires. Consequently the promise that God will receive into His favour all who believe the Gospel involves a promise that He will work in them the obedience He requires. And justifying faith becomes an assurance not only that God now receives into His favour us who believe the good news of salvation
LECT. XIV.] FAITH AND WORKS. 131
but also that from the moment we believe He will GIVE US POWER TO CONQUER SIN. It is also evident that we cannot continue to exercise saving faith unless we actually turn from sin. For we cannot believe that God smiles on us while we do that on which He frowns. In another volume I hope to show that Christ claims the active and unreserved devotion of all whom He rescues from the penalty of their past sins. To those who know this, belief of the good news announced by Christ involves readiness to yield to Him the homage He demands. This homage involves abandonment of all sin. We now see that the moral teaching of Christ, re echoed by the law written on the hearts of all men, guards from perversion the Gospel of Christ, by making faith, which is a condition of salvation, impossible except to those who purpose to forsake sin, and abiding faith impossible except to those who actually conquer sin. In other words the moral law compels those who love sin to disbelieve the promise of God, and thus keeps them outside the number of those for whom the Gospel announces salvation. It closes every gate to forgiveness except that which leads away from all sin. In Lect. XI. we have seen that the fundamental Gospel of Paul is expressed in the phrase, " a man is justified by faith apart from works of law." So Rom. iii. 28, 30, Gal. ii. 16 twice. On the other hand, in Rom. ii. 13 he writes, "not the hearers of law are righteous with God ; but the doers of law will be
132 JUSTIFICATION THROUGH FAITH. [PART II. justified." In close harmony with this hst passage, we read in Matt xii. 37, after a reference to the day of judgment, "by thy words thou wilt be justified and by thy words thou wilt be condemned." Similarly, James ii. 21: "was not Abraham justified by works when he offered Isaac his son upon the altar ? " We have here a present and preliminary justification through faith and a final justification by works. These TWO JUSTIFICATIONS are in complete harmony, and are closely connected. The present justification by faith would be worthless were it not a genuine anticipa tion of the final award of the great Judge. And this final approbation is conditional (cp. Rom. ii. 7) upon continuance in good works. Moreover, as I hope to show in another volume, through faith we obtain not only the present favour of God but also power to walk in the path of obedience. In other words, the two justifications represent the two lines of teaching now before us. In the New Testament these two lines of teaching, the safeguard and the doctrine to be guarded, are most closely interwoven, especially by Paul. After stating, in Rom. i. 16, 17, his fundamental doctrine of righteous ness through faith, he adds in ch. ii. 2-13 the moral safeguard just noted, before he proceeds to expound at full, in ch. iii. 21 iv. 25, his central doctrine. Similarly, after asserting and defending the same doctrine in Gal. ii. 16 v. 12, he adds in ch. v. 13 vi. 10 an assertion of inevitable and exact moral retri bution. And the conspicuously evangelical teaching of
LECT. XIV.] FAITH AND WORKS. 133 the Fourth Gospel receives its moral counterpart, not only in the conspicuous moral teaching of the First Gospel, but in the plain and strong teaching of I John ii. 29 iii. 10. Already, in Lect. X., we have seen that both Christ and Paul assume that all men have sinned and are now, unless saved by Christ, treading a path of sin. And we have now inferred from God s anger against sin that none enjoy His favour except those who turn from sin and serve God. This turning from sin to serve God is in the R.V. of Ps. li. 13, Acts xv. 3, James v. 19, 20 described as CONVERSION or beingconverted. And the words so rendered are frequently used as a condition of salvation. So Isa. Iv. 7 : " Let the wicked forsake his way and the unrighteous man his thoughts ; and let him .return to the Lord, and He will have mercy upon him, and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon." And Jer. iii. 12, 22, iv. I, xviii. n, xxiv. 7, xxxv. 15, xxxvi. 3, 7, and elsewhere frequently. Also Matt. xiii. 15, "lest they should turnagain and I should heal them;" Acts iii. 19, ix. 35, xi. 21, xiv. 15, xv. 19, xxvi. 18, 20, where we have the phrases, repent and turn-again, turn from these vain things to God, turn them from darkness to light. So I Thess. i. 9, " how ye turned to God from idols, to serve a living and true God ;" also i Peter ii. 25. In Gal. iv. 9 we have a retrograde turning to the weak and poor elements of the world. Closely connected with the word rendered turn-again or convert, and with forgiveness of sins, we find in
134 JUSTIFICATION THROUGH FAITH. [PART II. Acts iii. 19, xxvi. 20, and in Mark i. 4, Luke ill. 3, xxiv. 47, Acts v. 31 a Greek word always rendered REPENT. It is connected with faith in Mark i. 15, " repent and believe in the Gospel," and in Acts xx. 2 1 ; and is conspicuously a condition of salvation in Luke xiii. 3, 5, " except ye repent, ye shall all in like manner perish." This word now demands attention. According to its form, the Greek word so rendered denotes an afterthought or change of mind ; and in this sense it is occasionally used in classical Greek, and by the Lxx. So in i Sam. xv. 29 in reference to God, " He will not turn nor repent, because He is not a man that He should repent ; " and in Jer. iv. 28, " I have spoken and I will not repent, I have sworn and I will not turn away from it." On the other hand we read in Jer. xviii. 8, " If that nation concerning which I have spoken turn from their evil, I will repent of the evil which I thought to do to them : " so v. 10, "I will repent of the good wherewith I said that I would benefit them." Almost the same words in Jonah iii. 10, iv. 2 : cp. Joel ii. 13, 14. The apparent contradiction is easily explained. Since all God s purposes are good, He cannot change them. Change of purpose is human, not divine. But in order to assert, in strongest possible language, that God s treatment of men is conditioned by their own action, Jeremiah represents God as saying that if men will turn from sin He will turn from His purpose to punish them. The same word denotes in Wisdom xi. 24, xii. 10, 19, Sirach xliv. 16 a moral change of mind. And in this
LECT. XIV.] FAITH AND WORKS. 135 sense it is used in Matt. iii. 2, Mark vi. 12, Luke xiii. 3, 5, xv. 7, 10, Acts ii. 38, iii. 19, xvii. 30, Rom. ii. 4, without further specification as itself conveying an idea sufficiently definite. In Acts viii. 22, Heb. vi. i, Rev. ii. 21, 22, ix. 20, 21, xvi. ii we have the sins from which, (or in 2 Cor. xii. 21 the sins about which,) men did or did not mentally turn away. Elsewhere we have the aim of repentance. So Matt. xii. 41, Luke xi. 32, "to the preaching of Jonah," i.e. to do as he bid them ; Acts xi. 1 8, "repentance to life ; " ch. xx. 21, "towards God;" 2 Cor. vii. 10, "repentance for salvation;" and 2 Tim. ii. 25, " for knowledge of the truth." Inasmuch as the word rendered repent denotes etymologically a change of mind and this meaning satisfies its use wherever found, whereas the word rendered turn-again or return or be-converted denotes merely a turning round towards some definite object, it is best to understand this last word as including the entire change inward and outward which God requires, and the word repent as denoting only the inward turning to God. If so, we may define REPENTANCE, as used in the New Testament, to be A SINNER S PURPOSE TO FORSAKE SIN AND SERVE GOD. That repentance, thus understood, is a condition of salvation, is asserted or implied in the passages quoted above. And, even apart from these passages, the abso lute necessity of repentance for salvation is implied in the entire moral teaching of the Bible. For if, as we are compelled to believe, God smiles only on those who do right, and if, as Paul assumes and our hearts re-echo,
136 JUSTIFICATION THROUGH FAITH. [PART II.
apart from Christ all men arc pursuing a wrong path, the present favour of God can be obtained only by those who deliberately resolve to forsake sin and henceforth obey God. Indeed, without such resolve the law written on the heart forbids us to believe that we possess His favour. For it is psychologically impossible to believe that God smiles on us while we are treading a path which He forbids. Consequently, without repentance there can be no genuine faith, and therefore no justification. In other words, repentance is not another condition of salvation in addition to faith, but is already implied in the condition of faith. This explains the important position of repentance in the passages quoted above as an essential condition of salvation, and the still more frequent mention of faith as the one condition. In Rom. ii. 4 Paul blames a supposed objecter for not knowing that God is leading him to repentance. Yet in spite of this divine leading the man in question has still (v. 5) an " impenitent heart." This evidently means, according to Greek idiom, that God is exerting upon him a real influence tending to repentance, but that in consequence of his resistance to it the influence is without result. This general statement and the appeal based upon it imply that upon all men God is exerting this influence. For if there were an excep
tion it might be the man to whom Paul speaks. Moreover, that apart from such divine influence re pentance is impossible, Christ teaches in John vi. 44 : " no one can come to me except the Father . . . draw
LECT. XIV.] FAITH AND WORKS. 137 him." So v. 65 : " no one can come to me except it be given to him from the Father." According to this teaching, repentance is a work and gift of God. So 2 Tim. ii. 25, " if peradventure God may give them repentance." Similarly Acts v. 31, "to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins;" and ch. xi. 18, "to the Gentiles God has given repentance to life." All this implies that upon all men God is exerting an influence prompting them to resolve to forsake sin and henceforth to serve God ; that apart from this divine influence none will or can even in heart turn to God ; but that the actual effect of this influence depends upon man s self-surrender to it. In other words, repentance is God s work in man : but impeni tence is altogether a result of man s resistance to divine persuasion. In close harmony with the above, Paul writes in Phil. i. 6 " He who has begun in you a good work will complete it ; " and in ch. ii. 13, " it is God who works in you to will and to do for His good pleasure." And the teaching of the entire New Testament asserts or assumes that, from the earliest desire for better things to final victory over the last enemy, salvation is entirely a gift and work of God, a result of divine influences brought to bear on man and in man and on all men ; but that the actual effect of these influences depends entirely on man s free surrender to them. In another volume I hope to show that salvation in all its stages is an accomplishment of a deliberate and eternal purpose of God.
138 JUSTIFICATION THROUGH FAITH. [PART I i. It is now evident that the announcement of forgive ness which we have traced to the lips of Christ does not conflict with the demands of the Moral Law. In our next volume we shall find that this announcement aids the fulfilment of the commands of the Law in a way so remarkable as to reveal the common source of the Law and the Gospel
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