A Brief Book Summary from Books At a Glance
by Steve West
Editor’s Note: Most of our readers will already be at least somewhat acquainted with John Owen (1616-1683), “the prince of Puritans,” but it is not likely that many have read him extensively. His works are not only voluminous – they are tightly packed and deeply considered. Owen is neither quick nor light reading!
Today we continue our year-long series of summaries of Owen’s famous works. We trust these will be of help in introducing and/or increasing your acquaintance with this giant Puritan theologian.
Summary, Part 2
The Doctrine of Justification by Faith
Chapters VI & VII
There are some who say that there is an evangelical justification based on our personal righteousness. It is true that on the basis of holy obedience and good works, believers are called righteous, but this is in regard to actual acts and not to an inherent, habitual grace. Sanctification is a distinct concept from justification, yet our sanctification can justify us before our own consciences and before the world (i.e. we can point to the fruit that comes from belonging to Christ). This reality, however, does not make our personal righteousness the source of justification before God. In fact, it cannot be, since it is not only insufficient but it comes after our justification and acceptance. Nowhere in Scripture can the language of justification be applied to this view; it is neither a justification by the law nor by the gospel. Under Christ’s blood, it is the wicked who are justified, and our own personal righteousness is never the grounds for our forgiveness or acceptance by God. Christ is both our legal and our evangelical righteousness. If any of our merit or righteousness goes towards our justification, then we have cause for boasting and salvation is not completely by grace. God will render to everyone what is their due according to their works on the Day of Judgment, but justification and eternal life come through faith in Jesus. On that day, our faith and its effects are seen, but the grounds for forgiveness and life are found in Christ alone.
Although there were people justified before Abraham, as the father of the faithful he is the subject of the first explicit record of justification. Genesis 15:6 says that he believed in God and it was accounted or imputed to him as righteousness. Thus the first declaration in Scripture about justification is that it is based on something imputed, and this is the example of how it functions for everyone who will be justified. This biblical truth of imputation is under constant attack and is scorned frequently today. There are some, thankfully, who deny the doctrine because they do not fully understand the truth, but they have genuine saving faith in Christ. They are justified by the imputed righteousness of Christ even though they misunderstand imputation as a doctrine. Imputation is the historic doctrine of the Church of England. It is the Papists and the Socinians who are the main parties who oppose the doctrine of imputation. The former exalt our own merits, while the latter tries to destroy the merits of Christ. . . .[To continue reading this summary, please see below....]
Buy the books
THE WORKS OF JOHN OWEN, VOLUME 5: FAITH AND ITS EVIDENCES