Turretin: There Is No Future Justification By Grace And Works

II. However, we must premise here that God, the just Judge (dikaiokritēn), cannot pronounce anyone just and give him a right to life except on the ground of some perfect righteousness which has a necessary connection with life; but that righteousness is not of one kind. For as there are two covenants which God willed to make with men—the one legal and the other of grace—so also there is a twofold righteousness—legal and evangelical. Accordingly there is also a double justification or a double method of standing before God in judgment—legal and evangelical. The former consists in one’s own obedience or a perfect conformity with the law, which is in him who is to be justified; the latter in another’s obedience or a perfect observance of the law, which is rendered by a surety in the place of him who is to be justified—the former in us, the latter in Christ. Concerning the first, Paul says, “Not the hearers, but the doers of the law shall be justified” (Rom. 2:13); and “Moses describeth the righteousness which is of the law. That the man which doeth those things shall live by them” (Rom. 10:5). Concerning the other, he says, “The gospel is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth, for therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith” (Rom. 1:16, 17); and “Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 3:24). Concerning both, he says, “That I may be found in Christ, not having my own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ” (Phil. 3:9; cf. also Rom. 9:30, 31). Hence a twofold justification flows: one in the legal covenant by one’s own righteousness according to the clause, “Do this and live”; the other in the covenant of grace, by another’s righteousness (Christ’s) imputed to us and apprehended by faith according to the clause, “Believe and thou shalt be saved.” Each demands a perfect righteousness. The former requires it in the man to be justified, but the latter admits the vicarious righteousness of a surety. The former could have place in a state of innocence, if Adam had remained in innocence. But because after sin it became impossible to man, we must fly to the other (i.e, the gospel), which is founded upon the righteousness of Christ.

Francis Turretin, Institutes of Elenctic Theology, ed. James T. Dennison Jr., trans. George Musgrave Giger (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 1992–97), 16.2.2. (2.637).

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  1. For clarity and precision, Turretin is the source! I find this gospel confusion troubling, but I’m not surprised…sadly…

  2. Dr Clark, I wholeheartedly agree this is only one justification and that it is by faith alone. I was reading the WCF the other day. What do you make of the phrase in Chapter 16 (Good Works) that says, “that, having their fruit unto holiness, they may have the end, eternal life.”? It is at the end of 16.2. How would you interpret that phrase?

    • Bradley,

      In his Commentary on the Confession, on 16.2, A. A. Hodge wrote:

      (6.) They are necessary to the attainment of salvation, not in any sense as a prerequisite to justification, nor as in any stage of the believer’s progress meriting the divine favour, but as essential elements of that salvation, the consubstantial fruits and means of sanctification and glorification. A saved soul is a holy soul, and a holy soul is one whose faculties are all engaged in works of loving obedience. Grace in the heart cannot exist without good works as its consequent. Good works cannot exist without the increase of the graces which are exercised in them. Heaven could not exist except as a society of holy souls mutually obeying the law of love in all the good works that law requires. Eph. 5:25–27; 1 Thess. 4:6, 7; Rev. 21:27.

      Archibald Alexander Hodge, A Commentary on the Confession of Faith (Philadelphia: Presbyterian Board of Publication and Sabbath-School Work, 1869), 301–02.

      In short this is what it means to talk about “saving graces” that always accompany true faith. Did you see this post?

      Salvation Sola Fide: On Distinguishing Is, With, And Through

  3. It seems to me that if we do good works because we think they contribute evidence of our faith, for final salvation, we have not grasped the enormity of our depravity, and our total inability to please God, and therefore we have not been reduced to trusting in the imputed righteousness of Christ as our only righteousness. Our sin polluted works, of so called love, can only be an expression of love and gratitude to the God who HAS given us this great salvation.

  4. Works do not sanctify, works do not make holy. Through grace alone we are saved and through the working, the indwelling of the Spirit, we grow in sanctity and holiness. The outworking of that growth in sanctification and holiness can be observed in the works of the saved. Works are the result, the fruit of being saved, not the cause. It is the tree that bears the fruit, not the fruit that bears the tree.

  5. Dr. Neveling, amen! Because we are indwelled by the Spirit, we are gradually being conformed to the image of Christ, but the struggle with sin remains, as Paul laments in Romans 7. Our best efforts only amount to filthy rags, nevertheless they demonstrate our desire to please God, because we love Him and want to show our gratitude for this great salvation. Our flawed works are accepted by God, in this way, because we are already perfectly righteous in His sight through the imputed righteousness of Christ, through trust in Christ alone. Never can those sin stained works stand as an instrument for a right standing before God for salvation, but they are evidence to others that we are Christians and they are an assurance to us that this is true of us. Only when we are raised in glory will we be able to do works that are free of the pollution of sin, so it is presumption to add our works as coinstrumental for salvation.

  6. Yes, and Christ has done so much more! He has lived the perfect life that we cannot live, and suffered the wrath of God for all our sin so that we might be perfectly righteous in God’s sight, just as He is, when we trust iln Him alone! Don’t you find that completely mind blowing? Doesn’t it just make you love the Lord and make you want to please Him by obeying Him?

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