18
Jul
13

Context–A Case Study

There is probably no factor more important for understanding any life situation or any body of literature than context. Taken out of context, a situation or a statement can be made to mean anything a person wishes it to mean.

This morning, Paul Dohse reposted a post from last year about the difference between John Calvin’s and J.C. Ryle’s views of justification and sanctification. By this post he demonstrated that if he can do nothing else well, he is a master of deceit. To his credit, he did cite the source of his quotations, but I suspect he thought no one would check out the original source. His contention is that Calvin conflated justification and sanctification so that he believed in “progressive justification.” In case you are unfamiliar with that term, it refers to the Roman Catholic doctrine that God infuses grace to the faithful, enabling them to obey more and more so that they are progressively more righteous which righteousness forms the ground of their justification. Of course, he was also trying to show that J.C. Ryle disagreed with Calvin because he stated that we should not “mingle or confuse” justification and sanctification. In reality, both Calvin’s and Ryle’s statements are taken out of context and forced to mean something completely different from what they truly believed. The following is a copy of Paul’s repost:

Paul’s Passing Thoughts
JC Ryle Verses John Calvin on the Separation of Justification and Sanctification

Posted in Uncategorized by paulspassingthoughts on April 20, 2012

“Christ cannot be torn into parts, so these two which we perceive in him together and conjointly are inseparable—namely, righteousness and sanctification. Whomever, therefore, God receives into grace, on them he at the same time bestows the spirit of adoption [Romans 8:15], by whose power he remakes them to his own image. . . Yet Scripture, even though it joins them, still lists them separately in order that God’s manifold grace may better appear to us.” — John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion (Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1960), Bk. 3, chap. 11, sec. 6).

“But the plain truth is, that men will persist in confounding two things that differ–that is, justification and sanctification. In justification the word to address to man is believe–only believe; in sanctification the word must be ‘watch, pray, and fight.’ What God has divided let us not mingle and confuse” (JC Ryle, Holiness: Introduction).

The following is a fuller quotation from Calvin’s Institutes that includes the quotation that Paul lifted from it:

For, in the whole of this discussion, the noun righteousness and the verb to justify, are extended by Osiander to two parts; to be justified being not only to be reconciled to God by a free pardon, but also to be made just; and righteousness being not a free imputation, but the holiness and integrity which the divine essence dwelling in us inspires. And he vehemently asserts (see sec. 8) that Christ is himself our righteousness, not in so far as he, by expiating sins, appeased the Father, but because he is the eternal God and life. To prove the first point—viz. that God justifies not only by pardoning but by regenerating, he asks, whether he leaves those whom he justifies as they were by nature, making no change upon their vices? The answer is very easy: as Christ cannot be divided into parts, so the two things, justification and sanctification, which we perceive to be united together in him, are inseparable. Whomsoever, therefore, God receives into his favor, he presents with the Spirit of adoption, whose agency forms them anew into his image (Emphasis and Italics mine).

I would like you to consider with me Calvin’s statement in context. I would urge you to read the entire chapter in C.I. so that you can get the full context. As we look at the fuller quote I have cited here, there are three aspects of it I would like you to take into account. First, please consider what Osiander was arguing. Secondly, consider Calvin’s answer to Osiander, and thirdly, consider Calvin’s answer to a supposed objection.

1. Osiander was arguing that the ground of justification before God is not only the righteousness of Christ freely imputed to us but by grace imparted to or infused to us.

For, in the whole of this discussion, the noun righteousness and the verb to justify, are extended by Osiander to two parts; to be justified being not only to be reconciled to God by a free pardon, but also to be made just; and righteousness being not a free imputation, but the holiness and integrity which the divine essence dwelling in us inspires. And he vehemently asserts (see sec. 8) that Christ is himself our righteousness, not in so far as he, by expiating sins, appeased the Father, but because he is the eternal God and life.

2. Calvin’s answer to him is that the ground of justification is the imputation of righteousness alone.

Thus it is said, in Paul’s discourse in the Acts, “Through this man is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins; and by him all that believe are justified from all things from which ye could not be justified by the law of Moses,” (Acts 13:38, 39). You see that after remission of sins justification is set down by way of explanation; you see plainly that it is used for acquittal; you see how it cannot be obtained by the works of the law; you see that it is entirely through the interposition of Christ; you see that it is obtained by faith; you see, in fine, that satisfaction intervenes, since it is said that we are justified from our sins by Christ. Thus when the publican is said to have gone down to his house “justified,” (Luke 18:14), it cannot be held that he obtained this justification by any merit of works. All that is said is, that after obtaining the pardon of sins he was regarded in the sight of God as righteous. He was justified, therefore, not by any approval of works, but by gratuitous acquittal on the part of God. Hence Ambrose elegantly terms confession of sins “legal justification,” (Ambrose on Psalm 118 Serm. 10). (Book 3. Chapter 11, #3)(Emphasis and Italics mine).

Calvin clearly taught that the ground of justification is an alien righteousness that God imputes to the sinner’s account, and that once justified, his standing before God is perfectly righteous. How could anyone read such a statement and believe Calvin taught that a believer’s obedience in sanctification in any way contributes to his justification?

3. Calvin states Osiander’s objection as follows: To prove the first point—viz. that God justifies not only by pardoning but by regenerating, he asks, whether he leaves those whom he justifies as they were by nature, making no change upon their vices?

It was in answer to this objection that Calvin wrote the words Paul cited out of context in an effort to show that Calvin conflated justification and sanctification. “The answer is very easy: as Christ cannot be divided into parts, so the two things, justification and sanctification, which we perceive to be united together in him, are inseparable. Whomsoever, therefore, God receives into his favor, he presents with the Spirit of adoption, whose agency forms them anew into his image.” In other words, of course God does not leave those whom he justifies as they were by nature, making no change upon their vices. The reason for this is that both these works of God result from the believer’s union with Christ and, to quote Calvin, “as Christ cannot be divided into parts, so the two things, justification and sanctification, which we perceive to be united together in him, are inseparable.” If God declares a person righteous in justification, he will not stop until he has conformed that person to his image in Christ.

Justification and sanctification must be distinguished from one another, but they can never be separated. They must be distinguished for several reasons: 1. They have different concerns. Justification concerns the believer’s forensic or judicial standing before God–Its concern is a righteousness that is objective, i.e., totally outside the believer. Sanctification has nothing to do with a believer’s judicial standing before God. It can neither affect nor effect his justification. It concerns his personal, internal holiness and results from the internal work of God’s Spirit. 2. The result from different aspects of Jesus’ redemptive work. Justification results from Jesus’ death for the believer. Sanctification results from the believer’s death with Christ 3. Justification is instantaneous and complete the first moment a person believes. Progressive sanctification is gradual and never complete until the believer is glorified. 4. Justification has nothing to do with a believer’s works of obedience. Sanctification enlists the believer’s cooperation in obedience to the imperatives demanded by the objective accomplishments of Jesus’ redeeming work. These and other distinctions must always be maintained.

That said, we must never think justification and sanctification can be separated. That is to say a person cannot exist for whom Christ died who did not also die with him to the dominion of sin. This is the meaning of Calvin’s words, “Christ cannot be torn into parts. . . .” The point of union between justification and sanctification is not direct so that they can in any way be confused or conflated. The point of connection is the believer’s union with Christ. Jesus accomplished both the believer’s justification and his sanctification, so that unless Jesus can be torn into parts, justification and sanctification cannot be separated.
This is exactly what J. C. Ryle believed. He wrote,

He who supposes that Jesus Christ only lived and died and rose again in order to provide justification and forgiveness of sins for His people, has yet much to learn. Whether he knows it or not, he is dishonoring our blessed Lord, and making Him only a half Savior. The Lord Jesus has undertaken everything that His people’s souls require; not only to deliver them from the guilt of their sins by his atoning death, but from the dominion of their sins, by placing in their hearts the Holy Spirit; not only to justify them but also to sanctify them. He is, thus, not only their “righteousness” but their “sanctification.” (I Cor. 1:30). ( J. C. Ryle, Holiness. 27-28. Available online at http://www.ccel.org).

Paul accused me of taking this quote out of context. Please access the online copy of Ryle’s work and read the entire context. The following is another quotation from the same page.

(1) Sanctification, then, is the invariable result of that vital union with Christ which true faith
gives to a Christian.—“He that abideth in Me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit.”
(John xv. 5.) The branch which bears no fruit is no living branch of the vine. The union with Christ which produces no effect on heart and life is a mere formal union, which is worthless before God. The faith which has not a sanctifying influence on the character is no better than the faith of devils. It is a “dead faith, because it is alone.” It is not the gift of God. It is not the faith of God’s elect. In short, where there is no sanctification of life, there is no real faith in Christ. True faith worketh by love. In constrains a man to live unto the Lord from a deep sense of gratitude for redemption. It makes him feel that he can never do too much for Him that died for him. Being much forgiven, he loves much. He whom the blood cleanses, walks in the light. He who has real lively hope in Christ, purifieth himself even as He is pure. (James ii. 17-20; Titus i. 1; Gal. v. 6; 1 John i. 7; iii. 3.)

All Ryle is saying is that to separate justification and sanctification would require that Christ be torn in half. It would “make him only a half Savior.” To me, that sounds exactly like Calvin’s view.

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4 Responses to “Context–A Case Study”


  1. July 18, 2013 at 2:24 am

    What we have here is evidence that both Calvin and Ryle knew what they were talking about, regards justification and sanctification, and that Dohse doesn’t.


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