Tony asked:

<<Just out of curiousity, what do you believe about "imparted righteousness Marc?">>

Marc replies:

It is interesting that you would bring this up at this time; I was about to post a letter that a subscriber to OTC received to show the true Christians on this List a good example of the belief of salvation conditioned on what God does in the sinner. A perfect lead-in, Tony!

Salvation is only based on IMPUTED righteousness, not IMPARTED righteousness. Many think of the heresy of salvation based on imparted righteousness as an exclusively Roman Catholic heresy; however, as you will see in the letter below, this is a "Protestant" heresy as well. What I will do is paste in the letter and then paste in the letter with my commentary. I hope this will be helpful for those of you who believe the true gospel to see the insidiousness of this heresy and to be ready to give an answer.

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<<Here is what I have presently come to believe concerning justification in my study of the Sacred Scriptures. I write this in the spirit of Eph 4:14-16. Here is one joint's supply ( v.16) I believe Biblically the word justify can have two meanings. 1. To make something into what it is not. To make something wicked into something that is righteous. Paul is a perfect example. He was a persecutor of the church; and God made him into the hardest working apostle. This justification happens at regeneration and faith. It can only be accomplished by God through Jesus' redemptive and regenerative work. I seek to be justified by Christ. Only he can take me from being a most wicked sinner and make me into one who is a slave to righteousness, obeys the law, has a pure heart , is freed from sin, and loves God and others. I could never be justified by the deeds of myself. What I mean is I can never reform my ways so that I now live obediently. This is completely impossible for any and all sinners. No sinner can ever make himself righteous. What is impossible for man is possible for God. God in Christ can make me a righteous man. This is where faith comes in. When we see the necessity of holy living and the impossibility of holy living we are doomed beyond compare. Yet, God in Christ can make the disobedient obedient, and the wicked righteous. Those who believe God can do this, through Jesus, call upon Him in faith, "God be merciful to me the sinner". My faith is that Jesus through His death, resurrection, intercession, Holy Spirit and Word will make me into a righteous, obedient man. Only He can do this. Yet I believe He can. God's grace does not prove vain. 1Corith 15: 1-7. 2. Justification can also have to do with declaration. Declaring what something already is. Abraham was justified by works. His works declared what he was - a righteous man. Works declare what a man is. A tree is known by its fruit. A good tree bears good fruit. Works, like fruit, indicate or declare the type of person someone is, whether an evil or righteous person. On the great day of judgement everyone's deeds will declare whether they are righteous or wicked. Only the doers of the law will be declared righteous. So, when I say only the doers of the law will be justified this is what I mean. On the great day of judgment only those who are obedient to God will be declared righteous. Can the righteous judge declare something holy that is not? Thus I believe God in Christ makes one righteous so that He can declare him righteous. Some would say this is confusing justification with sanctification. If justification and sanctification are two separate and distinct things not to be confused, I have the following questions: 1. II Corinthians 3:18 "But we all with unveiled face beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord the Spirit." Why does Paul call this the ministry of justification ( v. 9) rather than the ministry of sanctification? 2. Romans 6:16 "Do you not know that when you present yourselves to someone as slaves for obedience, you are the slaves of the one whom you obey either of sin resulting in death or of obedience resulting in righteousness" ( justification) ? Why does Paul say obedience results in justification; should he have rather said "resulting in sanctification" ( v 19 ) ? 3. Why does the author of Hebrews seem to use the word sanctification as Paul uses justification ( see Heb. 5: 9 and 10:10)? In conclusion I believe that justification at regeneration and faith is God making the sinner holy. I believe that justification by works is simply our works and or the Great Judge stating what we are. Abraham was justified by works. Abraham's works declared that he was a righteous man. James 2; 14-26 is post regeneration. Abraham according to the flesh was not justified by works. Romans 4:1-5 is pre-regeneration. Chronologically, Abraham in flesh was not justified (made or declared righteous) by works, he trusted God. God made him righteous, he now is justified(declared righteous) by works. God made him righteous; his works declared him righteous. The works of a righteous man are not from himself but from God. He labors yet not him, but Christ working in him.>>

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His first definition of justification is very seriously flawed. Instead of seeing that it means being declared righteous apart from works, he sees that it means being made righteous in one's character and conduct. This shows me that he does not understand justification by imputed alien righteousness.

Examples from his letter:

<<Paul is a perfect example. He was a persecutor of the church; and God made him into the hardest working apostle.>>

Paul's being the "hardest working apostle" is in no way God's justification of Paul.

<<Only he can take me from being a most wicked sinner and make me into one who is a slave to righteousness, obeys the law, has a pure heart , is freed from sin, and loves God and others.>>

Obedience to the law and loving God and others is in no way God's justification of His people. It is interesting that he includes "slave to righteousness" and "freed from sin" in this list; he obviously thinks that this has to do with his character and conduct.

<<I could never be justified by the deeds of myself.>>

Sounds like an orthodox statement in and of itself. However, what follows shows that he is not orthodox:

<<What I mean is I can never reform my ways so that I now live obediently. This is completely impossible for any and all sinners. No sinner can ever make himself righteous. What is impossible for man is possible for God. God in Christ can make me a righteous man. This is where faith comes in. When we see the necessity of holy living and the impossibility of holy living we are doomed beyond compare. Yet, God in Christ can make the disobedient obedient, and the wicked righteous. Those who believe God can do this, through Jesus, call upon Him in faith, "God be merciful to me the sinner". My faith is that Jesus through His death, resurrection, intercession, Holy Spirit and Word will make me into a righteous, obedient man.>>

This is scary. He first says that no sinner can ever make himself righteous, which sounds totally orthodox. But then he says that God can make him righteous, and he goes on to talk about holy living and obedience. In fact, he equates justification into being made obedient. This is deadly.

<<So, when I say only the doers of the law will be justified this is what I mean. On the great day of judgment only those who are obedient to God will be declared righteous.>>

This is the heresy of final glory based on works.

<<Can the righteous judge declare something holy that is not? Thus I believe God in Christ makes one righteous so that He can declare him righteous.>>

He has no concept of legally imputed alien righteousness. This is works to the core. He is saying that it is not Christ's righteousness that is the cause of final glory; it is the righteousness that is worked in the sinner. Even though he says that the sinner cannot make himself righteous and needs God to make him so, this is still salvation conditioned on the sinner -- salvation conditioned on what the sinner is enabled to do.

<<Some would say this is confusing justification with sanctification.>>

In most places in Scripture, sanctification is something that is an accomplished thing that happens at regeneration. But it cannot be confused with justification. Justification is a legal declaration of righteousness; sanctification is being set apart. Many in Presbyterian/Reformed circles hold to the heresy that a Christian becomes more and more fit for heaven through what they call "sanctification." This is heresy; a believer is just as fit for heaven when he is a newborn Christian as he is when he is a mature Christian. It is not our doing that makes us fit for heaven; it is Christ's doing.

<<In conclusion I believe that justification at regeneration and faith is God making the sinner holy.>>

And from what he said previously, "making the sinner holy" has to do with the sinner's works.

<<God made him righteous>>

And from what he said previously, "made him righteous" does not mean a legal declaration of righteousness based on Christ's imputed righteousness.

<<The works of a righteous man are not from himself but from God. He labors yet not him, but Christ working in him.>>

This is the subtletly of the heresy. He claims it's all of God and that his works are not from himself. Yet he bases God's judging him as righteous on the works that God enables him to do rather than the righteousness of Christ alone.


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