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Arminius on the Justification of Man Before God

IX. THE JUSTIFICATION OF MAN BEFORE GOD

I am not conscious to myself, of having taught or entertained any other sentiments concerning the justification of man before God, than those which are held unanimously by the Reformed and Protestant Churches, and which are in complete agreement with their expressed opinions.

There was lately a short controversy in relation to this subject, between John Piscator, Professor of Divinity in the University of Herborn in Nassau, and the French Churches. It consisted in the determination of these two questions:

(1.) “is the obedience or righteousness of Christ, which is imputed to believers and in which consists their righteousness before God, is this only the passive obedience of Christ?” which was Piscator’s opinion. Or

(2.) “is it not, in addition to this, that active righteousness of Christ which he exhibited to the law of God in the whole course of his life, and that holiness in which he was conceived?” Which was the opinion of the French Churches. But I never durst mingle myself with the dispute, or undertake to decide it; for I thought it possible for the Professors of the same religion to hold different opinions on this point from others of their brethren, without any breach of Christian peace or the unity of faith. Similar peaceful thoughts appear to have been indulged by both the adverse parties in this dispute; for they exercised a friendly toleration towards each other, and did not make that a reason for mutually renouncing their fraternal concord. But concerning such an amicable plan of adjusting differences, certain individuals in our own country are of a different judgment.

A question has been raised from these words of the Apostle Paul: “Faith is imputed for righteousness.” (Rom. 4) The inquiry was,

(1.) Whether those expressions ought to be properly understood, “so that faith itself, as an act performed according to the command of the gospel, is imputed before God for or unto righteousness — and that of grace; since it is not the righteousness of the law.”

(2.) Whether they ought to be figuratively and improperly understood, “that the righteousness of Christ, being apprehended by faith, is imputed to us for righteousness.” Or

(3.) Whether it is to be understood “that the righteousness, for which, or unto which, faith is imputed, is the instrumental operation of faith;” which is asserted by some persons. In the theses on justification, which were disputed under me when I was moderator, I have adopted the former of these opinions not in a rigid manner, but simply, as I have likewise done in another passage which I wrote in a particular letter. It is on this ground that I am accounted to hold and to teach unsound opinions concerning the justification of man before God. But how unfounded such a supposition is, will be very evident at a proper season, and in a mutual conference. For the present, I will only briefly say, “I believe that sinners are accounted righteous solely by the obedience of Christ; and that the righteousness of Christ is the only meritorious cause on account of which God pardons the sins of believers and reckons them as righteous as if they had perfectly fulfilled the law. But since God imputes the righteousness of Christ to none except believers, I conclude that, in this sense, it may be well and properly said, to a man who believes, faith is imputed for righteousness through grace, because God hath set forth his Son, Jesus Christ, to be a propitiation, a throne of grace, [or mercy seat] through faith in his blood.” Whatever interpretation may be put upon these expressions, none of our Divines blames Calvin or considers him to be heterodox on this point; yet my opinion is not so widely different from his as to prevent me from employing the signature of my own hand in subscribing to those things which he has delivered on this subject, in the third book of his Institutes; this I am prepared to do at any time, and to give them my full approval. Most noble and potent Lords, these are the principal articles, respecting which I have judged it necessary to declare my opinion before this august meeting, in obedience to your commands.

Written by The Seeking Disciple

05/21/2013 at 8:47 PM

Scripture Speaks on the Results of Justification by Faith (Romans 5)

Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. 2 Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. 3 Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5 and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

6 For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. 7 For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— 8 but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 9 Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. 10 For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. 11 More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.

12 Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned— 13 for sin indeed was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not counted where there is no law. 14 Yet death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sinning was not like the transgression of Adam, who was a type of the one who was to come.

15 But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if many died through one man’s trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift by the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many. 16 And the free gift is not like the result of that one man’s sin. For the judgment following one trespass brought condemnation, but the free gift following many trespasses brought justification. 17 For if, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ.

18 Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men. 19 For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous. 20 Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, 21 so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Written by The Seeking Disciple

02/23/2013 at 10:15 AM

Scripture Speaks on Justification by Faith (Romans 4)

What then shall we say was gained by Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh? 2 For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. 3 For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness.” 4 Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due. 5 And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness, 6 just as David also speaks of the blessing of the one to whom God counts righteousness apart from works:

7 “Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven,
and whose sins are covered;
8 blessed is the man against whom the Lord will not count his sin.”

9 Is this blessing then only for the circumcised, or also for the uncircumcised? For we say that faith was counted to Abraham as righteousness. 10 How then was it counted to him? Was it before or after he had been circumcised? It was not after, but before he was circumcised. 11 He received the sign of circumcision as a seal of the righteousness that he had by faith while he was still uncircumcised. The purpose was to make him the father of all who believe without being circumcised, so that righteousness would be counted to them as well, 12 and to make him the father of the circumcised who are not merely circumcised but who also walk in the footsteps of the faith that our father Abraham had before he was circumcised.

13 For the promise to Abraham and his offspring that he would be heir of the world did not come through the law but through the righteousness of faith. 14 For if it is the adherents of the law who are to be the heirs, faith is null and the promise is void. 15 For the law brings wrath, but where there is no law there is no transgression.

16 That is why it depends on faith, in order that the promise may rest on grace and be guaranteed to all his offspring—not only to the adherent of the law but also to the one who shares the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all, 17 as it is written, “I have made you the father of many nations”—in the presence of the God in whom he believed, who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist. 18 In hope he believed against hope, that he should become the father of many nations, as he had been told, “So shall your offspring be.” 19 He did not weaken in faith when he considered his own body, which was as good as dead (since he was about a hundred years old), or when he considered the barrenness of Sarah’s womb. 20 No unbelief made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, 21 fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised. 22 That is why his faith was “counted to him as righteousness.” 23 But the words “it was counted to him” were not written for his sake alone, 24 but for ours also. It will be counted to us who believe in him who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord, 25 who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification.

Written by The Seeking Disciple

02/22/2013 at 11:10 AM

Arminius on the Justification of Man Before God

The Arminian must strive to defend and preach the biblical truth of justification by faith.  This is the heart of the biblical teaching on salvation through faith in Christ alone.  Our justification before God, as Arminius writes, is not a matter of works (Ephesians 2:8-9; Titus 3:5-7) but is by grace through faith.  Both Arminians and Calvinists agree in this core doctrine.

IX. THE JUSTIFICATION OF MAN BEFORE GOD

I am not conscious to myself, of having taught or entertained any other sentiments concerning the justification of man before God, than those which are held unanimously by the Reformed and Protestant Churches, and which are in complete agreement with their expressed opinions.

There was lately a short controversy in relation to this subject, between John Piscator, Professor of Divinity in the University of Herborn in Nassau, and the French Churches. It consisted in the determination of these two questions:

(1.) “is the obedience or righteousness of Christ, which is imputed to believers and in which consists their righteousness before God, is this only the passive obedience of Christ?” which was Piscator’s opinion. Or

(2.) “is it not, in addition to this, that active righteousness of Christ which he exhibited to the law of God in the whole course of his life, and that holiness in which he was conceived?” Which was the opinion of the French Churches. But I never durst mingle myself with the dispute, or undertake to decide it; for I thought it possible for the Professors of the same religion to hold different opinions on this point from others of their brethren, without any breach of Christian peace or the unity of faith. Similar peaceful thoughts appear to have been indulged by both the adverse parties in this dispute; for they exercised a friendly toleration towards each other, and did not make that a reason for mutually renouncing their fraternal concord. But concerning such an amicable plan of adjusting differences, certain individuals in our own country are of a different judgment.

A question has been raised from these words of the Apostle Paul: “Faith is imputed for righteousness.” (Rom. 4) The inquiry was,

(1.) Whether those expressions ought to be properly understood, “so that faith itself, as an act performed according to the command of the gospel, is imputed before God for or unto righteousness — and that of grace; since it is not the righteousness of the law.”

(2.) Whether they ought to be figuratively and improperly understood, “that the righteousness of Christ, being apprehended by faith, is imputed to us for righteousness.” Or

(3.) Whether it is to be understood “that the righteousness, for which, or unto which, faith is imputed, is the instrumental operation of faith;” which is asserted by some persons. In the theses on justification, which were disputed under me when I was moderator, I have adopted the former of these opinions not in a rigid manner, but simply, as I have likewise done in another passage which I wrote in a particular letter. It is on this ground that I am accounted to hold and to teach unsound opinions concerning the justification of man before God. But how unfounded such a supposition is, will be very evident at a proper season, and in a mutual conference. For the present, I will only briefly say, “I believe that sinners are accounted righteous solely by the obedience of Christ; and that the righteousness of Christ is the only meritorious cause on account of which God pardons the sins of believers and reckons them as righteous as if they had perfectly fulfilled the law. But since God imputes the righteousness of Christ to none except believers, I conclude that, in this sense, it may be well and properly said, to a man who believes, faith is imputed for righteousness through grace, because God hath set forth his Son, Jesus Christ, to be a propitiation, a throne of grace, [or mercy seat] through faith in his blood.” Whatever interpretation may be put upon these expressions, none of our Divines blames Calvin or considers him to be heterodox on this point; yet my opinion is not so widely different from his as to prevent me from employing the signature of my own hand in subscribing to those things which he has delivered on this subject, in the third book of his Institutes; this I am prepared to do at any time, and to give them my full approval. Most noble and potent Lords, these are the principal articles, respecting which I have judged it necessary to declare my opinion before this august meeting, in obedience to your commands.

Written by The Seeking Disciple

02/21/2013 at 9:29 AM

Arminius on Justification

The following is a letter written by Arminius on the subject of justification.  Arminius, as Arminians are often today, was often accused of teaching justification by works instead of the reformation doctrine of justification by faith.  Arminius clearly held to the reformed view of justification as held by the Calvinists of his day.  Arminius and John Calvin are much then in agreement over justification though they differed greatly over unconditional election and reprobation of the lost.

And now here is the letter from Arminius on the subject at hand.

The last article is on justification, about which these are my sentiments: Faith, and faith only, (though there is no faith alone without works,) is imputed for righteousness. By this alone are we justified before God, absolved from our sins, and are accounted, pronounced and declared righteous by God, who delivers his judgment from the throne of grace.

I do not enter into the question be the active and the passive righteousness of Christ, or that of his death and of his life. On this subject, I walk at liberty: I say “Christ has been made of God to me righteousness” — “he has been made sin for me, that through faith, I may be the righteousness of God in him.”

Nor yet do I refuse to confer with my brethren on this question, provided such conference be conducted without bitterness, and without an opinion of necessity, [that the partial view of any one should be generally received,] from which scarcely any other result can ensue than the existence of distraction, and of increased effervescence in the minds of men, especially if this discussion should occur between those who are hot controversialists, and too vehement in their zeal.

But some persons charge me with this as a crime — that I say the act itself of faith, that is, believing itself, is imputed for righteousness, and that in a proper sense, and not by a metonymy. I acknowledge this charge, as I have the apostle St. Paul, in Romans 4, and in other passages, as my precursor in the use of this phrase. But the conclusion which they draw from this affirmation, namely, “that Christ and his righteousness are excluded from our justification, and that our justification is thus attributed to the worthiness of our faith,” I by no means concede it to be possible for them to deduce from my sentiments.

For the word “to impute ,” signifies that faith is not righteousness itself, but is graciously accounted for righteousness; by which circumstance all worthiness is taken away from faith, except that which is through the gracious condescending estimation of God. But this gracious condescension and estimation is not without Christ, but in reference to Christ, in Christ, and on account of Christ, whom God hath appointed as the propitiation through faith in his blood.

I affirm, therefore, that faith is imputed to us for righteousness, on account of Christ and his righteousness. In this enunciation, faith is the object of imputation; but Christ and his obedience are the impetratory [procuring] or meritorious cause of justification. Christ and his obedience are the object of our faith, but not the object of justification or divine imputation, as if God imputes Christ and his righteousness to us for righteousness. This cannot possibly be, since the obedience of Christ is righteousness itself, taken according to the most severe rigor of the law. But I do not deny that the obedience of Christ is imputed to us; that is, that it is accounted or reckoned for us and for our benefit, because this very thing — that God reckons the righteousness of Christ to have been performed for us and for our benefit — is the cause why God imputes to us for righteousness our faith, which has Christ and his righteousness for its object and foundation, and why he justifies us by faith, from faith, or through faith.

If any one will point out an error in this my opinion, I will gladly own it, because it is possible for me to err, but I am not willing to be a heretic.

The preceding, then, as far as I remember, are the Articles which your excellency mentioned to me, with my explanations of them produced from sincerity of mind; and as thus sincere, I wish them to be accounted by all who see them. This one favour I wish I could obtain from my brethren, who are associated with me in the Lord by the profession of the same religion, that they would at least believe me to have some feeling of conscience towards God. And this favour ought to be easily granted by them, through the charity of Christ, if they be desirous to study his disposition and nature.

Of what service to me can a dissension be which is undertaken merely through a reckless humour of mind, or a schism created in the church of Christ, of which, by the grace of God and Christ, I profess myself to be a member? If my brethren suppose that I am incited to such an enterprise through ambition or avarice, I sincerely declare in the Lord, that they know me not. But I can confess that I am so free from the latter of these vices, as never to have been tickled, on any occasion, with even the most enticing of its snares — though it might be in my power to excuse or palliate it under some pretext or other. With regard to ambition, I possess it not, except to that honourable kind which impels me to this service — to inquire with all earnestness in the Holy Scriptures for divine truth, and mildly and without contradiction to declare it when found, without prescribing it to any one, or labouring to extort consent, much less through a desire to “have dominion over the faith of others,” but rather for the purpose of my winning some souls for Christ, that I may be a sweet savour to him, and may obtain an approved reputation in the church of the saints. This good name I hope I shall obtain by the grace of Christ, after a long period of patient endurance; though I be now a reproach to my brethren, and “made as the filth of the world and the offscouring of all things” to those who with me worship and invoke one God the Father, and one Lord Jesus Christ, in one spirit and with the same faith, and who have the same hope with me of obtaining the heavenly inheritance through the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ.

I hope the Lord will grant unto me, that they and I may meekly meet together in his great name, and institute a Christian conference about those things which appertain to religion. O may the light of that sacred and happy day speedily shine upon me. In that assembly, I engage, through the grace of God, to manifest such moderation of mind, and such love for truth and peace, as aught deservedly to be required and expected from a servant of Christ Jesus.

In the mean time [till this assembly can be convened], let my brethren themselves remain quiescent and suffer me to be quiet, that I may be at peace, and neither annoy them, nor create any uneasiness. If they entertain other thoughts concerning me, let them institute an [ecclesiastical] action against me; I will not shun or evade the authority of a competent judge, neither will I forfeit my recognizances by failing to appear.

If it be supposed that the minds of those who hear me are preoccupied in my favour, at a distance, by some politic subtlety which I display, and that the matter is so managed through cunning, as makes my brethren neither to consider it advisable to arraign me before the judges, nor to account it sufficiently safe to commit to my care the youthful students; and therefore, that the black stain which I have deserved ought to be affixed to my reputation, that my pupils and hearers may be frightened away; therefore, lest the result of this should be that the deferring of such a conference be productive of certain danger, behold I now offer myself, that I may, in company with them, address, solicit, and entreat those high personages who are invested with the power of issuing a summons for a convention of this kind, or of granting it, not to suffer us any longer to continue in this anguish and disquietude of mind, but either themselves to apply a speedy remedy, or allow it to be applied by others, but still by their order and under their direction.

I will not refuse to place myself before any assembly whatsoever, whether it be composed of all the ministers in our United Netherlands, or of some to be convoked from each of the seven provinces, or even of all the ministers of Holland and West Friesland, to which province our university at Leyden belongs, or of some ministers to be selected out of these, provided the whole affair be transacted under the cognizance of our lawful magistrates. Nor do I avoid or dread the presence of learned men, who may be invited from other countries, provided they be present at the conference on equitable conditions, and subject to the same laws as those under which I must be placed.

To express the whole matter at once — let a convention be summoned, consisting of many members or of few, provided some bright hope of success be afforded [to them], a hope, I repeat it, which I shall be able, by sound arguments, to prove destitute of good foundation. Behold me, this day, nay, this very hour, prepared and ready to enter into it. For I am weary of being daily aspersed with the filthy scum of fresh calumnies, and grieved at being burdened with the necessity of clearing myself from them. In this part of my conduct, I am assuredly dissimilar from heretics, who have either avoided ecclesiastical assemblies, or have managed matters so as to be able to confide in the number of their retainers, and to expect a certain victory.

But I have finished. For I have occupied your attention, most honourable sir, a sufficient length of time; and I have made a serious encroachment on those valuable moments which you would have devoted to matters of greater importance. Your excellency will have the condescension to forgive the liberty which I have taken to address this letter to you, as it has been extorted from me by a degree of necessity — and not to disdain to afford me your patronage and protection, just so far as divine truth and the peace and concord of the Christian church will allow you to vouchsafe.

I pray and beseech Almighty God long to preserve your excellency in safety, to endue you yet more with the spirit of wisdom and prudence, by which you may be enabled to discharge the duties of the embassy which has been imposed upon you, and thus meet the wishes of the most illustrious prince, the Elector Palatine. And, after you have happily discharged those duties, may he benignantly and graciously grant to you a prosperous return to your own country and kindred.

Thus prays

Your excellency’s most devoted servant, JAMES ARMINIUS, Professor of Theology in the University of Leyden.

LEYDEN, April 5, 1608

Written by The Seeking Disciple

06/14/2012 at 11:43 AM

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