20
Oct
12

Perfect Obedience to God’s Law–The Standard for Justification.

I thought it might be helpful to examine a couple of the assertions Paul Dohse has made concerning the doctrine of justification before God in the light of Scripture.

His position is:

1. It is not Christ’s righteousness but God the Father’s rightousness that is imputed to the sinner. He offers Romans 8:30 as a proof-text for this belief.

2. God’s law does not require the sinner’s perfect obedience for his justification.

3. Romans two has nothing to do with justification but describes the direction of the believer in sanctification.

4. There is no real revealed standard for justification. That is, God does not require a perfect obedience from sinners.

This is what he wrote:

“But Paul makes it clear: God imputed a righteousness that is “apart from the law.” I assume he is referring to Romans 3:21.

The question we should ask here is whether Paul says “God imputes a righteousness that is apart from the law” or “the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law?” It is, of course, my view that the latter is what the apostle actually intended. The righteousness God demands cannot be defined apart from His revealed truth. The reality is, whatever God does within the bounds of his holy character is righteous. He is not subject to any standard that has been imposed on him externally. Who is to say “there is unrighteousness with God?” Now we must ask, is it possible for a mere human being to be conformed to the undefined standard that characterizes God’s righteousness? Are we to believe that God makes us absolutely holy, as he is, so that whatever we do is indisputably righteous? Of course not! The clear teaching of the Scriptures is that God holds us accountable to obey his law, that is, his revealed will. As far as mere human beings are concerned, there is no righteousness that is “apart from the law,” i.e., God’s revealed will.

There are two separate and distinct issues under consideration in Romans chapters two and three. If we fail to distinguish between those two issues, we are bound to misunderstand Paul’s teaching on justification before God. In fact, a clear and unmistakable contradiction would exist between Romans 2:13 and Romans 3:20. If both these verses refer to the basis of justification, his teaching would be that justification is through DOING what the law demands and NOT through DOING what the Law demands at the same time. Such a contradiction is unthinkable. The question, then, is not whether justification before God is based on perfect conformity to his law. Paul makes that clear in chapter two of Romans. The reason no sinful human being will be justified by the law is not that the law cannot declare righteous those who obey it, but that there are no members of Adam’s race who obey it as God has demanded they obey it. That is to say, it is not that the law is unable to justify anyone; it is that the law is unable to justify sinners.

The next question I would ask is, What does the apostle mean by “the righteousness of God” in this context. I believe this phrase refers not to an attribute of God, but to God’s activity in justifying sinners or in other words, God’s righteous method of justifying sinners. Consider how Paul uses this term in Romans 10: 2-3 speaking about his desire for Israel’s salvation. He wrote “For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge, For being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and seeking to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness.”

If the phrase, “the righteousness of God” refers to God’s method of justifying sinners, the question here is not whether sinners are justified by law keeping or apart from law keeping. The question is whether it is in the Law or in the gospel that this method, the righteousness of God, is manifested. The answer is that though the Old Testament Scriptures bore witness to this method of justification, by types, shadows, and promises, the full-blown gospel was not manifested by the Law. This manifestation is made “apart from the Law.”

2. Paul D. wrote: “The author cites Romans 2:13 as a standard for justification regarding believers, but it is not. That verse speaks of the direction of the saved, and not the perfection in comparison to those who are unsaved. This is clear if you observe the preceding text in 2:6-11:”

Were it not for the context of the passage he cites, I might be inclined to agree with his assessment of the passage. It is clear to anyone who is acquainted with the New Testament Scriptures that there is a clear directional difference between the justified and the unjustified, but the context of this passage makes his view of the passage impossible.

To see this, one must only ask, What is the point the apostle is arguing in Romans 1:18-3:20? It is almost universally recognized that the apostle is here demonstrating the universal necessity for justification before God. His specific point in Romans two is God’s impartiality in judgment. It does not matter who you are, how or in what nation you were born, what rituals have been performed for you, how much you know, to what religion you adhere, how respectable you are or how indignant you can be about the sins of others, you will all be judged by God’s righteous standard. The apostle refers to God’s “righteous judgment” three times in the verses immediately preceding the passage in question. The issue is clearly judicial in nature.

There are several questions that cry out for an answer in light of Paul D’s assertion:

1. If these verses are talking about sanctification, what consideration moved the apostle to introduce that concept in a passage that is clearly dealing with the universal need for justification?

2. What level of “persevering continuance in well-doing” is necessary to enable the sinner to stand justified in the “righteous judgment of God” in which God will render to each one according to his works? Is close good enough? Suppose a person does the best he can and only offends in one point of the law, will that be good enough?

3. Why does the apostle write, “the doers of the Law will be justified,” if these verses are talking about “the direction of the saved,” that is, sanctification? Do believers ever reach a level of obedience in sanctification that merits justification?

4. If “persevering continuance in well-doing” describes “the direction of the saved,” would that not indicate that sanctification precedes justification? Paul D. has made a big deal over justification being a “done deal.” Now we have to move on to sanctification. The apostle wrote, . . . the doers of the Law WILL BE justified.” Would that not indicate that the order would be a persevering continuance in well-doing that indicates the direction of the saints, i.e., doing the Law and THEN they will be justified? This is the exact opposite of what Paul D. has argued. Do we not believe that the moment a sinner believes the gospel, he has eternal life? This passage says God WILL GRANT eternal life to those who follow the path described. If these words describe the direction of the believer and not God’s inflexible and impartial standard of judgment for all people, would we not have to conclude that God did not grant eternal life until the end of that life-long pattern of well-doing?

5. If this passage does not describe God’s righteous standard of judgment, is there any standard and if so, where is it stated?

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13 Responses to “Perfect Obedience to God’s Law–The Standard for Justification.”


  1. 1 vendlerius
    October 20, 2012 at 7:45 pm

    It seems to me that Mr. Dohse is an angry man lashing out at anyone who is Reformed. I understand that he feels that he was mistreated by his former church, and if the allegations that he makes are true, then rightfully so.

    What Mr. Dohse fails to recognize is that Reformed theology did not do this do him any more than Jesus Christ did this to him. As you point out, he shows a great deficiency in understanding the very people and doctrines that he is attacking. Furthermore, he does not hesitate to impute beliefs to people that his subjects themselves would recoil in horror from the very notions he ascribes.

    • October 20, 2012 at 7:55 pm

      You are exactly right. He has gone, from fighting New Calvinism, to fighting, Calvinism, to fighting the imputed righteous of Christ to the believer, to deciding to fight the “organized church.” He is now starting his own church, of which he will be the pastor. I can only assume it will be disorganized.

  2. October 21, 2012 at 1:04 pm

    The title says it all. The standard for justification before God is perfect obidience to God’s law. There are two options for meeting that standard – human endeavor or Christ’s perfect obedience on behalf of those for whom He died. Trust in human obedience, still tarnisned with sin and rightly labeled ‘filthy rags’, and that judgment will be harsh indeed.

    Joh 3:18 “Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.”

    Rom 8:1-2 “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.”

    To say that Rom 2:13 ia speaking of anything BUT the standard for justification is to stand the verse on it’s head, denying the plain meaning of the text. One does not even need the context for that – a context which confirms what it states plainly.

    That’s my two cents.

    • October 21, 2012 at 1:34 pm

      Well stated, as usual, my good friend. If a person acknowledges that 1. The law, i.e., God’s revealed will, is the standard for human righteousness, and 2. that perfect, continual and inward conformity to that standard is the only kind of obedience he can declare to be “righteous” in his sight, he must acknowledge that sinful human beings can only be righteous in God’s sight by the imputation of the righteousness of a perfect human being. How else can God declare the “ungodly” to be righteous but by imputing to their account Christ’s perfect, continual and inward obedience to his revealed will?

  3. 6 Andrew
    May 27, 2013 at 7:22 pm

    2 Corinthians 5:21

    King James Version (KJV)
    21 For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.

    I would really like to see how you explain this verse then. This is the crux of true Christianity. Christ did not live the perfect life so that his perfect life could be imputed to us, He lived a perfect life as a perfect man so that God’s righteous requirements for a perfect sacrifice could be met and therefore the righteousness of God could be imputed to fallen man simply by faith in Jesus. IN CHRIST the righteous requirements of the law were met, therefore there is therefore now NO CONDEMNATION for those who are IN CHRIST. Because we are covered by His blood, not by His life. A holy God now looks at me as a born-again believer as completely righteous IN CHRIST.

    Cmon, you people really believe this stuff? Wake up before it is too late! It’s like the old hymn says, “What will you do with Jesus, neutral you cannot be, someday your heart may be asking, what will He do with me?”

    • May 27, 2013 at 8:59 pm

      Andrew,
      To answer your question briefly re: 2 Cor 5:17 I believe the verse teaches that God imputed the sins of all who will believe the gospel to Jesus and treated him as a sinner so that he might impute Christ’s righteousness as defined by his fulfilling all righteousness in submission to the Law under which he was born (the righteousness of God in the sense that it was the righteousness God required). Believers stand as righteous in God’s sight because we are united to him who has been declared righteous in God’s sight.

      Perhaps you could tell me how you think the Scriptures define “righteousness.” When God tells us what he requires of sinners, he tells us to “Do justice, to love mercy and to walk humbly with our God.” What, in your view, does it mean to “Do justice?” How does the Bible define justice? If God requires that of me, how can I produce that? The Bible also says, “there is not a just man on the earth who does good and does not sin.” How can a man be just before God. . . .? Forgiving my sin places me in a neutral position; it does not declare me righteous. The gospel is that Christ is our righteousness, not merely that he is the sacrifice for our sins.

      Perhaps you would like to define “the righteousness of God” you believe has been imputed to the account of believers. My view is that God’s righteousness is whatever God has chosen to do within the bounds of his holiness. Is that what you think has been imputed to us?

      What we need is a human righteousness since we are human sinners. That righteousness, in my view, is defined as perfect, continual and intermal obedience to God’s revealed will.

      If all sinners needed to be redeemed from sin was a death, why did Jesus need to be born under the Law?
      He would have needed nothing more than to have been born and crucified. God already knew him to be a perfect sacrifice. He had nothing to prove in terms of his suitability as a substitute. He kept the Law because keeping the Law is what defined righteousness.

      Unless I am mistaken, I have seen your comments at Paul’s Passing Thoughts. If you are parroting his erroneous views, you need to know that he has totally distorted our position on this issue. No one who is a true Calvinist believes that justification is progressive or that we have to wait until the final judgment to find out if we have been truly justified. He will stand before God to answer for the lies he has told. You might want to get your story straight before you help him spread those lies.

  4. 8 Andrew
    May 27, 2013 at 7:32 pm

    “The blood of Jesus Christ, His Son, cleanses us from ALL SIN”. I don’t see anything here about the life of Jesus Christ cleansing us, I see once and for all Justification through His BLOOD. If Christ’s life is imputed to us daily, then justification is a daily thing, and it is no longer a gift, but a work that we perform by striving to earn this imputation… then I guess we have a “sit-down” at the Great White Throne to find out if we did it good enough… this is heresy and goes completely against the meaning of a blood sacrifice for sin.

    • May 27, 2013 at 8:27 pm

      Andrew,

      Thanks for stopping by and asking your questions. I think it would be best if you would read the rules for commenting before responding to my comments or making any further comments yourself. One of those rules is that you must state another person’s position before attempting to comment on it or answer it.

      You have grossly misrepresented the position I have taken here concerning the imputation of Christ’s righteousness. The following are the areas you have mis-stated.

      1. Jesus’ life is not imputed to us. It is his righteousness as defined by the Law that is imputed to us. Paul clearly states that Jesus is made “righteousness” unto those who are in him (see-1 Cor 1:30; 2 Cor 5:21). Righteousness is defined in Scripture in terms of conformity to God’s law. It is not the hearers of the Law who will be justified but the doers of the Law. How can any law breaker be justified before God if not by an imputed law keeping i.e., righteousness. Justification declares us not only to be not forgiven but positively righteous in God’s sight. In other words, God declares us to have kept the Law perfectly.

      2. Perhaps you can point to the statement I have made that indicated that Christ’s life is imputed to me daily so that justification is a daily thing. I simply don’t believe that. I believe I stand righteous before God because I have been justified once and for all through the redemptive work of Christ.

      3. No one here believes we have to “strive to earn this imputation.” I’m not sure what you might have read here that gave you the idea I believe such a heresy. Perhaps you could point out what gave you that idea.

      It might be a good idea for you to understand what a person is saying before you declare it to be heresy.

      If you would like to respond to something I actually claim to believe, I would be happy to respond to your objections and engage you in discussion.

      Thank you again for your contribution.

  5. May 27, 2013 at 8:02 pm

    Andeww, who has said that Christ’s ‘life’ is imputed to us?

  6. 11 Andrew
    May 27, 2013 at 9:08 pm

    “The title says it all. The standard for justification before God is perfect obidience to God’s law. There are two options for meeting that standard – human endeavor or Christ’s perfect obedience on behalf of those for whom He died”

    This is your own quote. It implies to me that Christ’s perfect obedience, i.e. his perfectly lived life, is what is imputed to a person and is how a person “perfectly keeps the law”. No man, other than God as man, has ever kept the law perfectly in this life, nor will any man ever do so. In reality, our sin is imputed to Christ, as in, Christ truly BECAME our sin, bore it in His own body on the cross, so that we might become the righteousness of GOD in HIM. The Bible says God took the law and nailed it to the cross with Christ. So God no longer sees us a sinners under the law, but as new creations IN CHRIST. Our sin is imputed to Christ, God’s righteousness is imputed to us, justification is accomplished. Done. This is not from me, this is the verse I quoted. We become the righteousness of God IN CHRIST because He became our sin, bore it in His own body, not because He lived perfectly for us. He lived perfectly so He could be the perfect sacrifice to take away sin. Our old self that was under condemnation by the law is dead, crucified with Him, we are a new creation able to please God in Christ with our actions/works, no longer under the law but under grace. We participate in our own sanctification, justification is a done deal, the two are not performed together. What Mr. Dohse is rightly railing against is the fusion of justification and sanctification as if they were one and the same, when they most certainly are not. If I live by faith only for sanctification, then there is no need to live a progressively holier life, in fact it is impossible to live a holy life, because Christ already did it for me, so why bother? Sanctification has nothing to do with my works because Justicification has nothing to do with works, and the two are one and the same… Total depravity means total depravity, even after “salvation”. Nothing I can ever do will be considered “good” by God. Christ performed all the works I ever need do. So my faith is in Christ for continual justification thru Christ’s perfect life, and my faith is in Christ for sanctification as well… this is so wrong and unscriptural, why bother writing a single epistle that describes how we are to accomplish holy living… No need for a new birth in Christ so I can live a life pleasing to God.

    This quote is directly from the article above. ” Now we must ask, is it possible for a mere human being to be conformed to the undefined standard that characterizes God’s righteousness? Are we to believe that God makes us absolutely holy, as he is, so that whatever we do is indisputably righteous? Of course not!”

    In Christ we are absolutely perfectly justified. How can we be IN CHRIST and not be cosidered perfectly justified by God? And yes, our lives are a pursuit of holiness once we become justified, the goal being God’s absolute holiness, which will be accomplished in Heaven, too bad we have to cling to the remnants of our sinfulness here in our mortal bodies on earth.

    Hebrews 10:14
    For by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy.

    • May 27, 2013 at 9:58 pm

      Andrew,

      Why don’t we discuss one issue at a time. Perhaps you could begin by telling me how you think the biblical writers would define the “righteousness” God requires of us?

  7. May 27, 2013 at 9:30 pm

    Andrew,

    If you would like to discuss what I believe and have stated here, you are quite welcome to continue. I must insist, however, that you state my position, not what you think my position is. For example, you wrote, [parroted Paul D.] “We participate in our own sanctification, justification is a done deal, the two are not performed together. What Mr. Dohse is rightly railing against is the fusion of justification and sanctification as if they were one and the same, when they most certainly are not. If I live by faith only for sanctification, then there is no need to live a progressively holier life, in fact it is impossible to live a holy life, because Christ already did it for me, so why bother? Sanctification has nothing to do with my works because Justicification has nothing to do with works, and the two are one and the same… Total depravity means total depravity, even after “salvation”. Nothing I can ever do will be considered “good” by God. Christ performed all the works I ever need do. So my faith is in Christ for continual justification thru Christ’s perfect life, and my faith is in Christ for sanctification as well… this is so wrong and unscriptural, why bother writing a single epistle that describes how we are to accomplish holy living… No need for a new birth in Christ so I can live a life pleasing to God.”

    This is just part of the bilge you are regurgitating from Dohse which has no resemblence to reality whatsoever. In his warped mind, he probably believes he is the Crusader who will save the gospel from the heretical New Calvinists. The reality is that he is theologically ignorant and inept. I have pressed him for quotations that demonstrate that Calvinists believe what he alledges. I has yet to provide one. I challenge you to read what I have written and find one place where I have suggested that e.g. justification and sanctification are one and the same. Or that after justification we can do nothing that is considered “good” by God. If you are going to make these allegations, you need to be able to back them up. If you can’t, you need to keep your comments to yourself. Let’s talk about things Calvinsts really believe; not about what some ignorant bumpkin in Ohio claims we believe.


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