18
Jan
13

What Calvinists Believe about ¨Progressive Justification.¨

For the sake of context, I want to tell you just a bit about my religious upbringing. I grew up in an INDEPENDENT, Fundamental, Baptist home. As I was growing up, my heroes were men such as Jack Hyles and John R. Rice. I had memorized well the Romans Road and the Sinner’s prayer. Once a sinner had “prayed to receive Jesus,” I knew how to give him assurance of his salvation, based on his decision. I would tell him/her they were secure for eternity no matter what they did and that if they ever doubted their salvation they were “calling God a liar,” since he had said, “Whoever has the Son has life.” Surely, they had the Son since they had just invited him into their hearts. I never considered the possibility that their decision may not have been faith at all.

I would have fought anyone over the doctrine of “Once saved, always saved.” What I hadn’t yet realized is that you have to be once saved to be always saved. Faith in Christ is not a mere decision we make and move on. It is a life long commitment to follow him and obey him. It is also a life long commitment to forsake all hope of righteousness based on our following and our obedience.

I have said that to say this–I am not ignorant of this sort of mind-set. I have been there, and had great difficulty working my way out of it. I finally came to grips with the fact that the same Bible that teaches the absolute certainty of the true believer’s final glorification, also teaches the absolute necessity of the believer’s perseverance in faith to the end.

Many of those addressed in the NT Scriptures who were in trouble in their walk, were having difficulties because they were in danger of turning to some ground of hope other than Jesus Christ. Some are trying to make the issue about the necessity for obedience in the Christian life. This is not the issue. There is no question that believers are called on to obey. The issue is whether a person can truly trust Christ fully and depend on some other ground of hope, even to a slight degree, at the same time. Nor is the issue whether believers can merit or maintain their justification in the process of sanctification. It would not only be impossible to do so but absolutely unnecessary to do so. The genuine believer is as justified before God the first moment he believes as he will ever be.

I have been a Calvinists for almost 45 years and have never heard or read another Calvinist who used the term ¨progressive justification¨ except in contrast to our doctrine of justification. For example, A.A. Hodge wrote concerning the points of difference between Protestants and Romanists on the subject of justification, “As to the nature and office of faith. We say that it is the instrument; they the beginning and root of justification. 4th. They say that justification is progressive. 5th. That it may be lost by mortal sin and regained and increased through the sacrament of Penance, and completed in Purgatory.” (Outlines of Theology, p. 511).

I would only require a little thought to understand that Calvinists cannot believe in progressive justification. Consider the following:

1. We believe God justifies the ungodly (See Rom. 4:5). If we could in any way progress beyond the state of being ungodly and became as righteous in God’s sight as he requires for our full justification, we would no longer be candidates for such a declaration.

2. We believe justification before God is based on the imputed righteousness of Christ. This is a righteousness that is wholly outside us. We can have no contribution to it. We do nothing to produce it and could do nothing to render it more perfect.

3. The moment we trust God’s promise to save us through Christ redemptive work, God declares us as spotlessly righteous in his sight as is Christ himself.

4. Since we did nothing to merit the justified state in which we now stand as believers, nothing we do now can increase or diminish our right standing before God. Our standing before God has nothing whatsoever to do with our works of obedience either before or after conversion.

We do believe not every professing Christian has been justified. Our works of obedience and the confessed ground of our confidence before God after our initial profession evince the state of our souls before God. The true believer speaks of current confidence in Christ for the justification of his soul, not of some decision he made years ago. A person who truly trusts in Christ is a person who will continue to trust him to the end of his life. Does the true believer have to try to muster up enough faith so that he won’t be lost if he stops believing. No. If God has ever granted him faith, he [God] will continue to produce that faith to the end.

There are certain miscreants who seem intent on spreading their prevarications about Calvinistic beliefs. It matters not how often they are confronted with their lies, they continue to scatter them like handfuls of bad seed. God will reward such enemies of the gospel for their hatred for and distortion of his good news.

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1 Response to “What Calvinists Believe about ¨Progressive Justification.¨”


  1. January 18, 2013 at 1:44 pm

    Randy – you keep on giving me reason to come back here 🙂 Very good delineation between biblical justification (what we Calvinists know to be true) and the ditches on either side of that narrow road. My church begins a Sunday School teaching on the Order of Salvation this Sunday, which I posted about here last fall: http://defendingcontending.com/2011/09/27/order-of-salvation-ordo-salutis/


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