In light of the current popular heresy called “Federal Vision” which teaches, among other things, that, contrary to what the Bible clearly states, we are justified by faith and our works of righteousness, and a recent conversation I had with a friend of mine about the nature of conversion and whether or not one can lose his or her salvation, I decided to post Louis Berkhof‘s succinct retelling of the historical and orthodox position on this matter.
“Justification is a judicial act of God, in which, He declares, on the basis of the righteousness of Jesus Christ, that all the claims of the law are satisfied with respect to the sinner. It is unique in the application of the work of redemption in that it is a judicial act of God, a declaration respecting the sinner, and not an act or process of renewal, such as regeneration, conversion, and sanctification. While it has respect to the sinner, it does not change his inner life. It does not affect his condition, but his state, and in that respect differs from all other principal parts of the order of salvation. It involves the forgiveness of sins, and restoration to divine favor. The Arminian holds that it includes only the former, and not the latter; but the Bible clearly teaches that the fruit of justification is much more than pardon. They who are justified have ‘peace with God,’ ‘assurance of salvation,’ Rom. 5:1-10, and an ‘inheritance among them that are sanctified,’ Acts 26:18. The following points of difference between justification and sanctification should be carefully noted:
1. Justification removes the guilt of sin and restores the sinner to all the filial rights involved in his state as a child of God, including an eternal inheritance. Sanctification removes the pollution of sin and renews the sinner ever-increasingly in conformity with the image of God.
2. Justification takes place outside of the sinner in the tribunal of God, and does not change his inner life, though the sentence is brought home to him subjectively. Sanctification, on the other hand, takes place in the inner life of man and gradually affects his whole being.
3. Justification takes place once for all. It is not repeated, neither is it a process; it is complete at once for all time. There is no more or less in justification; man is either fully justified, or he is not justified at all. In distinction from it, sanctification is a continuous process, which is never completed in this life.
4. While the meritorious cause of both lies in the merits of Christ, there is a difference in the efficient cause. Speaking economically, God the Father declares the sinner righteous, and the Holy Spirit sanctifies him.”
– Systematic Theology, pp 513-514 (Eerdman’s Publishing Co. 1996)
Amen & Amen
The Federal Vision heresy is not new but finds a prototype, I believe, in the Judaizers of Paul’s day who attempted to subject believers in Christ to the law in order for them to be saved. Adding the works of the law to the Gospel was and is heresy. Paul makes this clear in Romans 4 and the entire epistle to the Galatians.