Is faith active or passive? Is being pregnant a status or a process?

To get some background you might want to visit this post:

Mark Horne » Blog Archive » No nanosecond needed.

It seems to me that just as people get confused about how justification and sanctification cannot be confused (the good news is that they really can’t be), they also get confused about whether faith is active or passive.

Faith is obedient. Thus the church has always taught: According to Chapter 11, Paragraph 1 of the Westminster Confession of Faith, for example, faith is an act of “evangelical obedience.” Furthermore it is always one act of obedience among others in the justified person.

Paragraph two of the same chapter states that faith is “not alone in the person justified, but is ever accompanied with all other saving graces, and is no dead faith, but worketh by love.” “Dead faith” is a direct appeal to James 2 and “worketh by love” is a direct appeal to Galatians 6. Both passages are about justification and the Westminster Confession uses those passages in a chapter that is about justification. There is no way anyone can claim that these passages are about some kind of parallel soteriological scheme so that they are not about the same justification. Galatians 6 and James 2 are dealing with the same issue, according to the Confession.

But wait! Does this mean that we are justified by works? Of course not. We are justified by the righteousness of Christ imputed to us and received (as Christ is received) only by faith.

3. Christ, by his obedience and death, did fully discharge the debt of all those that are thus justified, and did make a proper, real, and full satisfaction to his Father’s justice in their behalf. Yet, inasmuch as he was given by the Father for them; and his obedience and satisfaction accepted in their stead; and both, freely, not for anything in them; their justification is only of free grace; that both the exact justice and rich grace of God might be glorified in the justification of sinners.

4. God did, from all eternity, decree to justify all the elect, and Christ did, in the fullness of time, die for their sins, and rise again for their justification: nevertheless, they are not justified, until the Holy Spirit doth, in due time, actually apply Christ unto them.

Faith discharges no debt. Faith does not satisfy the Father’s justice regarding our sin. Christ and Christ alone does all that.

And for that very reason no one needs to try to deny or disguise the fact that faith is obedient. In fact, trying to do so, besides being a hideous attack on the grammar of every language, demonstrates that one is not thinking about justification and Christ’s imputation in a correct way. It will lead to people trying to be “passive” enough, inactive enough, to say that they have true non-working faith. In that direction lies madness.

The way to make sure that people don’t make faith into a meritorious work is to emphasize the work of Christ. Nothing but the blood of Jesus washes clean our sin; our faith does not do that. When the Bible says that God cleanses our hearts by faith (Acts 15.9), it is because faith receives Christ, not due to any alleged merit in the obedience of faith.

See also: The “Moral Law” commands “accepting, receiving, and resting upon Christ alone for justification, sanctification, and eternal life”

One thought on “Is faith active or passive? Is being pregnant a status or a process?

  1. Pingback: Mark Horne » Blog Archive » Obedient Faith no threat to Protestant doctrine: it IS Protestant Doctrine

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