mardi 25 avril 2017

Conversation on Justification: Introducing the Two Righteousness - Part 1

Recently I was in email conversation with A. on the concept of justification. I will be sharing my reaction of that conversation since I do not have the permission to share the other side of the argument.


Question no.1: "For you when a Christian sins (not abandon faith) and before he confess the sin for forgiveness, is he still righteous in the eyes of God?" 

As far as I can read, the bible gives two answers to this question. Allow me to preface my answer with this comment for proper context. The bible speaks of righteousness in different level and sometimes we miss the clear biblical injunction.

Number 1: Righteousness is credited by faith to unbelievers apart from actions when they come to faith

St. Paul tells us that righteousness (justification) is initially received by unbelievers who convert (i.e ungodly persons) by believing apart from actions. He used the example of Abram before his name was changed to Abraham, when he received the promise of a multitude of children (Genesis 15:6).

"However, to someone who does not work, but simply believes in the one who justifies the ungodlyhis faith is credited as righteousness." - Romans 4:5   

That is why St. Paul also said these: 

a) "For [God] has made [Jesus] who knew no sin, to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him." - 2Co 5:21 - MKJV"
b) "But whom He predestinated, these He also called; and whom He called, those He also justified. And whom He justified, these He also glorified." - Rom 8:30   

This has been recognized in theological circles for centuries as the "iustificatio impii"  which mean our initial or primary justification or our primary righteousness.

Number 2:  Righteousness is credited by faith to believers through their actions.

St. James inform his Christians audience that justification always requires an expressing faith. That expressing faith can only be recognized as such through actions. He used the example of Abraham when he wanted to sacrifice Isaac on altar.

"Our ancestor Abraham was justified by his actions when he offered his son Isaac on the altar, wasn't he? And so the Scripture was fulfilled that says, 'Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.' And so he was called God's friend. You observe that a person is justified through actions and not through faith alone.James 2:21 -24

Not only St. James recognized this form of continuous justification through faith and actions but also St. John hinted the same thing when he wrote: "Little children, don't let anyone deceive youThe person who practices righteousness is righteous, just as the Messiah is righteous." - 1 John 3:7 ISV 

Here St. John recognized that a righteous person is the person who practices righteousness. And the fact that he prefix this statement with the word, "don't be deceived", shows that people in the first century already were being deceived about this very essential doctrine of righteousness as being practiced.

We also see St. Paul in other epistle warning Christian about the deceiption of disobedience which is the opposite of righteous practices when he said these:

"Do not let anyone deceive you with meaningless words, for it is because of these things that God becomes angry with those who disobey." - Ephesians 5:6   

And we know that St. Paul spoke of the Christians community in Galatians because he diagnosed in them the presence of disobedience as it is written: "You were running the race beautifully. Who cut in on you and stopped you from obeying the truth?" - Galatians 5:7   

This level of righteousness/ justification has been known in theological circles for centuries as being the "iustificatio pii" which means the secondary justification that cause us to behave righteously.

Coming back to your question of a believers who commit sins (but did not abandon his faith) before his repentant confession of sins, is he still righteous? The biblical answer is twofold, he still has his primary righteousness which not based on actions (Roma4:5) but he does not have his secondary righteousness which is linked to the practice of righteousness. (1John3.7)

Question no. 2: "why do a christian sin again and why does he have to confess and ask for forgiveness?" 

a) Why do Christian sin again?

There is a long answer and a short answer, i will give you the short one for the time being. Believers still sins because they have not yet perfected their holiness. Once they will be perfect in holiness just as Christ is, they will sin no more. Here is how St. Paul putted it: "Then having these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all defilements of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God."- 2Co 7:1  

b) Why does a Christian has to confess his sins and ask for forgiveness?

Christians who commit sins are requested to confess their sins by the scriptures. That is why they confess their sins.

"If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." 1John 1:9  

St. John tells us couple of import information in this text:

1. "We", "Us"and "Our" are pronoun that include St. John himself among the Christians (little children) who can do the confession of sins for the forgiveness of sins if they happen to sin.
2. 'Confession of sins', 'to forgive' and 'to cleanse from all unrighteousness" are all written in the present tense, which means many years after the event at the cross.

We also know that St. Peter expected a new convert to Christianity to receive forgiveness of sins because of something that he did. St. Peter said this to this new believer, "Therefore repent of this wickedness of yours, and pray God if perhaps the thought of your heart may be forgiven you." - Act 8:22 .

And ultimately, Christian who sins should do that because they are disciples of Jesus and that Jesus himself required it as he taught his disciples how to pray by saying, 'forgive us our sins' (Matthew 6:12).

I hope this helps in clarifying some of my thoughts and views. I have written few related thoughts about these in my blog also in the past years, you can access it by click here.
The Next debate is on the following post - Part 2.

1 commentaire:

  1. Thanks for sharing this Eric. Can you include in the first question, what would happen to someone is falling repeatedly in the same sin? What would you say to someone who is sinning everyday and confessing everyday? Is he still a christian?