This blog is devoted to discussing the pursuit of eternal life.
Discussion and participation by readers is desired,
but contributions should correlate to the book,
The Race Set Before Us: A Biblical Theology
of Perseverance & Assurance

Thomas R. Schreiner
& Ardel B. Caneday

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Nick's Question about Justification Now and Not Yet--Part 3

The following is lifted from The Race Set Before Us, 161-162, where Tom and I provide an overview of the apostle Paul's theology of salvation.

Always orienting his view of salvation eschatologically, that is toward the last day, Paul announces in his gospel that God has revealed his righteous judgment in the “present time” (Rom 3:21-26). God has already begun his good work in us (Phil 1:6), by calling us to believe “in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead” (Rom 4:24). God has brought the verdict of the Day of judgment forward, into the midst of redemptive history, for God has graciously revealed his righteousness through the gospel (Rom 1:17), which announces that God’s obedient son, Jesus Christ (Rom 5:19), has already appeared in the flesh (Rom 1:3f) and has already borne God’s wrath for us by becoming a sin offering on our behalf (Rom 8:3). Because God condemned his own Son in our place, he has already rendered his judgment, vindicating his own righteousness, so that he now justifies all who embrace Jesus Christ (Rom 3:26). Thus, God already gives the eschatological gift of righteousness in advance of the Day of judgment (Rom 5:17). Therefore, as far as the believer is concerned, the verdict of God’s judgment is already in, though the Day of judgment has not yet arrived. The verdict is acquittal (Rom 5:1; 8:1). This verdict is irrevocable for all whom God has called to believe (Rom 8:30), for because Christ Jesus died and was raised and now intercedes for us, God’s verdict is final; God will not hear any further charges against his chosen ones, for his verdict stands (Rom 8:34).

True as it is that Paul’s gospel announces that God’s judgment is already rendered in Christ at the cross, the apostle never relinquishes the Old Testament eschatological orientation toward the coming Day of judgment, for God’s Son has come and he will appear again to call everyone to judgment (Acts 17:31). For Paul, justification remains fundamentally the eschatological verdict of acquittal. For while God has already revealed his righteousness by subjecting his own Son to his wrath (Rom 3:25), God discloses his final justice at the present time only in the gospel which explains what God did in Jesus Christ on that dark and dreadful day of his death to save sinners. For while God presently reveals his wrath against human unrighteousness “from heaven” (Rom 1:18), that is from a distance and not as he will in the last day, he restrains his wrath in the present time as he patiently abides those who spurn his kindness. Those who snub God’s kindness accumulate wrath against them in preparation for the day of God’s wrath when he will reveal his righteous judgment (Rom 2:5; cf. 12:14-21) and will execute judgment in keeping with the secrets now concealed in human hearts (Rom 2:16).

We who believe in Jesus Christ receive God’s righteous verdict of forgiveness before the Day of judgment arrives, but not publicly as we will in the Day of judgment when his justice and wrath will come upon all who disobey the gospel and will also give us relief from our present afflictions (2 Thess 1:5-10). Though it is true that God has summoned us all to give account of ourselves (Rom 14:12), the Day of judgment has not yet arrived in which the eternal Judge will announce his verdict in keeping with our deeds, until that day, we now stand justified in God’s courtroom by faith only. By his Spirit whom he gives to all who believe, already God secretly speaks acquittal, life, peace, reconciliation, and adoption (Rom 5:1-11; 8:1-17). Therefore, Paul admonishes us who believe to fasten our gaze upon the Day of judgment in hope that we shall receive the promised salvation (Rom 2:6-10; 8:23-25; 13:11-14). For the Day of judgment is the day of salvation for all who believe. It is the day of redemption (Rom 8:23; Eph 1:14; 4:30). It is when our adoption as God’s children will be complete (Rom 8:23). It is the point of entrance into eternal life (Rom 2:7; 6:22; Gal 6:8). It is the day of salvation that has drawn closer than when we initially believed (Rom 13:11), the day when salvation will be ours (Phil 2:12; 1 Thess 5:8, 9) and when God will reveal our justification which we now have secretly by faith as he crowns us with justification, openly and publicly (2 Tim 4:8). For, while we already have received God’s justifying verdict by faith, by faith we yet await through the Spirit the hope of receiving this same verdict in that day (Gal 5:5).

The above, I believe, is an accurate summarization of an integrated biblical theology of Paul's teachings concerning salvation, featuring justification. I believe that it represents what we ought to be preaching. I also beleive that it is the kind of theology that needs to embraced by systematic theologians. It also seems to me that it represents something close to the kind of theological expression or formulation that is necessary to correct the warring factions that rally around forceful speaking personalities, such as, N. T. Wright and John Piper.

1 comment:

Travis McGowen said...

Dr. Caneday,

I wanted to say thank you for posting your understanding of justification and the Piper/Wright debate. I have been blessed by both men and I am sadden by the heat that is being generated.

Also, thank you for explaining the difference between your position on perserverance and that of Doug Wilson. I have a friend who goes to Wilson's church and after I read TRSBU, I talked to him about it. He explained Wilson's view and I was left confused. The only thing that I could determine was that his understanding of perserverance was based on his understanding of the covenant.

Lastly, TRSBU has been a great help to me since I read it two years ago. Although my small mind does not fully comprehend everything in the book, nevertheless, I have been greatly helped by it.