Vol.XVI No.III Pg.7
May 1979

?You Know What?

Robert F. Turner

Bro. Turner:

Our preacher is causing a great disturbance by preaching what sounds like Baptist doctrine of faith only. Will you discuss faith, works, and righteousness in some issue? S.M.


We have discussed these things in many past issues but perhaps SM is a new reader of Plain Talk; or maybe we (like her preacher) are not communicating very well. It is very possible that the blame for "disturbance" can be equally divided between preacher and hearers. That seems to be true in the current general disturbance over these matters. Lets all calm down!

Paul says we are justified by faith (Rom. 5:1), but he is not referring to that "I've believed in Jesus since I was a little boy" faith that comes to the mind of many readers. He is not referring to that faith of the "faith, repentance, confession, baptism" sermon you have been hearing. In this and like contexts he means a submissive, obedient trust that looks to Christ for forgiveness; contrasted with a freedom from guilt on the basis of having no sin, having done perfectly all that is commanded (3:1-9-24; Gal. 3:8-14). "Justified, means being pronounced "free from guilt," and the only way we sinners can be so judged is on the basis of trust in the grace and mercy of God. That love is expressed in Jesus Christ, who died for us, that we may be forgiven of sins.

Righteousness may refer to an attribute of God (Rom. 2:5), or of one completely sin-free. Obviously, this attribute can only be applied to man on the basis of forgiveness: to one who is made "free from guilt" by a merciful God. "There is none righteous, no, not one" on the basis of their own perfect life (Rom. 3:10-f). This is where "imputation" enters the picture (Rom.4:3-f); God forgives, He treats us as though we had not sinned, when we trust in Christ for our salvation. Obedient faith is put to our account for righteousness.

Historically, theologians who denied the free agency of man, taught inherited total depravity, and that God must miraculously operate on one to "give faith" to "call the elect" — these theologians gave a fanciful twist to "imputation." They have Jesus living on our behalf, and his perfect life "imputed" to us. Any condition of doing is repulsive to them, for a depraved man, who has no free will, cannot implement his salvation. Regretfully, some of our brethren are eating at the table of such doctrines and letting it color their preaching.

Man's doing need not be confused with the proudful concept of justification through perfect doing. There is a sense in which men "work righteousness" (do what is right with God) (Acts 10:35, Rom. 6:16, Titus 2:12, Rev. 19:8). In our zeal to convince folk they must obey the Lord, and that remission of sins is at the act of obedience in baptism, and not before, we may have neglected proper emphasis upon God's grace; but we can't correct that error by teaching false doctrines in the other direction.

Proud men disturb the peace with their stubborn, half-truth humility.