Many years ago, John and I had the interesting opportunity to hear a heretic formally and systematically espouse his heresy. We just happened upon the occasion and were quick to take advantage of it.
This man had an ‘updated’ view on justification. I am not sure whether the ‘new’ understanding of justification has coalesced into a single view, or whether there are variations on the theme. In any case, I can outline quickly what this man said.
He taught there is an ‘initial’ God-given justification, but then a ‘final’ justification dealing with our works. (Romans 2:13, supposedly) But never fear, biblical Christian. These works are founded in grace/gratitude and wrought utterly through grace/gratitude! In other words, they are grace/gratitude-works, not work-works. It’s just that, well, they are the foundation of this second justification, and you will not get into heaven without them.
Oh dear. What he seems to have given with one hand he has taken away with the other. This is no essentially new doctrine, but the tired old heresy of grace plus works – nothing to do with the Protestant understanding of justification at all.
Nothing but wordplay and obfuscation.
I remember asking a very astute pastor about the sometimes Roman Catholic view of the mass not being a repeated sacrifice, but rather one sacrifice which enters into an “eternal moment”. I expected a lengthy response from him, but he just looked at me and said, “What kind of nonsense is that?”
Touche! (Sorry I don’t have an accent to put over the e) And to the point here, as well.
This heretic showed an utter obliviousness to the active obedience of Christ. Christ, two thousand years ago, was born a Jew so that he could obey the law fully on our behalf. He did that and sealed both active and passive obedience (his sacrificial death) with, “It is finished.” Literally, a done deal.
It is really not a difficult concept, is it?
So what is really the issue?
It is also an age-old one:
“Yet because of false brothers secretly brought in – who slipped in to spy out our freedom that we have in Jesus Christ, so that they might bring us into slavery – to them we did not yield in submission even for a moment, so that the truth of the gospel might be preserved for you.” (Galatians 2:4-5)