The Highway
Posted By: gotribe Just as if I'd always obeyed - Mon Mar 16, 2009 12:16 PM
There's a quote from Jerry Bridges that has been making the rounds over the past few days. I get a squirmy feeling when I read it, but I seem to be the only one who thinks this may not be quite right:

"Justified" is not "Just as if I'd never sinned." That is a great truth. But it is actually better than that: "Just as if I'd always obeyed." God has credited the very righteousness of Jesus Christ to every believer. - Jerry Bridges (from a recent message at PCRT 2009 Sacramento)

While I do believe that God has, indeed, credited the very righteousness of Jesus Christ to every believer, I'm not sure that is the same thing as saying it is "just as if I'd always obeyed."

If it were truly as if I had never sinned and I had always obeyed, then why would Christ need to intercede for me before the throne of God? Is it not rather that we are clothed in His righteousness and we have been forgiven rather than the idea that all our past is totally expunged? Even when we are glorified with Christ, will we ever really experience salvation as if we had lived a perfect life? If so, from whence would our eternal praise to the Lamb come?

So many prominent men are rejoicing in this phrase that it makes me wonder if I have misunderstood justification. I'm afraid I haven't phrased my question very well. I hope that you can figure out what I'm trying to express.
Posted By: gotribe Re: Just as if I'd always obeyed - Mon Mar 16, 2009 12:48 PM
Still thinking about this and maybe I can express myself a little clearer now.

If justification is a declaration, then can it be said to be intrinsically "owned" by the subject so much so that it is as if the person had always been in the state that has now been declared? Would it not be better to say that the righteousness of Christ has been imputed to us, even though we have been inwardly unrighteous all our days? I got out my Berkhof Systematic theology and he states:

it is "to declare forensically that the demands of the law as a condition of life are fully satisfied with regard to a person."

Is there a difference between what Jerry Bridges is saying and what Berkhof has stated. It would seem to me as if there is.
(I just read back through this post and maybe I haven't expressed myself any clearer after all!)
Posted By: hisalone Re: Just as if I'd always obeyed - Mon Mar 16, 2009 7:58 PM
I think you were very clear and absolutely right. Jerry Bridges is wrong if he is saying that it is as though we never sinned. We are sinners declared righteous, the sin hasn't disappeared, it is just that Christ's Blood atones for it, makes us acceptable to God. God will always know that we were sinners saved by grace, washed by the blood of the lamb, so how can it be as though we never sinned? If that were the case, even God would have forgotten it. Now it isn't something He dwells on, as the word says Ps. 103:12 it is as far as the east is from the west, but it is never entirely forgotten and so we always live with that stigma to the glory of His Name! Thank you for bringing it to our attention, I probably would have just read over it and never gave it much thought in effect agreeing to error.
Posted By: afollowerofJesus Re: Just as if I'd always obeyed - Mon Mar 16, 2009 9:20 PM
Hello to all,

I am new on the forum and due to time constants I must be brief. I think that the poster "hisalone" has hit the point right on. Luther had it right with his well known statement, "Simul justus et peccator"...that is to say (We are) at the same time saint and sinner.

For more information on this subject please see the below link:

Posted By: Pilgrim Re: Just as if I'd always obeyed - Mon Mar 16, 2009 9:44 PM

I think Bridges IS saying the same thing, although perhaps differently in order to gain more of a hearing? or whatever...

The key here is "forensic declaration", i.e., in the heavenly court, the Judge, God Himself pronounces that the one for whom Christ has died and whom the Spirit has given faith and which has resulted in being made in union with Christ by believing on Him, is righteous. What does it mean to be DECLARED righteous? "just as if no sin has been committed", or "just as if full and perfect obedience has been rendered". These are simply flip sides of the same coin.

The imputed righteousness of Christ IS positively: "the full and perfect obedience of the law" OR negatively: "without transgression of the law". The declaration isn't referring to the actual acts of the individual but rather his/her legal status based upon the righteousness of another, Christ Jesus. The sins committed are real. Thus "afollowerofJesus" rightly referred to Luther's classic utterance (and my signature wink) simul iustus et peccator.

Bottom line: I think Bridges is okay with that statement but perhaps his reason for using it might be questionable?

In His grace,
Posted By: MarieP Re: Just as if I'd always obeyed - Mon Mar 16, 2009 11:00 PM
I am with Pil, though I don't see why his use of it might be questionable. Of course, he's the best one to tell us why he is using it). But that's not really the point. The problem most have with the definition of justification as "just as if I'd never sinned" is because it leaves out imputation, a doctrine that is very important because a denial of it, in my thinking, leads to neonomianism/New Perspectivism. We not only do the things we shouldn't do but we also don't do the things we should do! Jesus, Thy blood and righteousness, my beauty are, my glorious dress!
Posted By: Pilgrim Re: Just as if I'd always obeyed - Tue Mar 17, 2009 12:15 AM

I was pondering this thread over dinner and it dawned on me that maybe, just maybe that due to the recent influx of NPP, FV, etc., Bridges' words just might have been very, very apropos. Why? Because the proponents of the FV heresy deny not only imputation but also that which is imputed; the active obedience of Christ. A denial of the imputation of Christ's active obedience, i.e., His perfect keeping of the law, essentially denies salvation itself. For it is Christ's perfecting keeping of the law which is imputed to us; that which we are clothed with and declared to be righteous before God. As I mentioned in another thread some time ago, there has been for some time an over-emphasis, if that is possible, on the "passive obedience" of Christ, i.e., His vicarious substitutionary death at the expense of the equally important "active obedience" of Christ.

"Thy blood and righteousness" encompasses BOTH the passive (blood) and active (righteousness) obedience of our Lord Christ. BigThumbUp

In His grace,
Posted By: Paul_S Re: Just as if I'd always obeyed - Tue Mar 17, 2009 2:06 AM

I'm going to agree with the growing consensus here that Bridges is accurate. I'm not a fan of the "cute" treatment of theological words which use acronymns or, as here, semi-puns--in which "justified" is profaned to "just-as-if-I'd"--as mnemonic devices when those are unrelated to the etymology of a word--much more profitable to look at the whole "justificare" issue--but Bridges didn't start this one, he's taking the by-now-mindlessly-repeated evangelical phrase as a given and correcting its imbalance.

I know that I have gone in my reforming life from saying that the justifying declaration is "not guilty" to "innocent" to "just/righteous" with a growing awareness of the centrality of double imputation, the active half of which is sadly underpreached these days. So to the degree that Mr. Bridges is highlighting and restoring that balance, good for him! And I'm sure he uses fuller terminology at some point.

For those who love the inimitable style of R.C.Sproul, here's a short clip of his on Justification and Imputed Righteousness which makes the same point between 2:27 and 4:30.
Posted By: hisalone Re: Just as if I'd always obeyed - Tue Mar 17, 2009 11:18 AM
I still have a problem with what was quoted, now I must admit I don't have it in full context. I grasp the forensic idea, but the forensic idea is that we have been absolved of all guilt in the matter of sin, it isn't as though we always obeyed except in semantics. Our acceptance before God is Christ's righteousness, His perfect obedience which atoned for our sin. That is what makes us acceptable to God. Why are we counted righteous today? Not because of the impution of Christ's righteousness, unless He keeps reimputing it since we all sin daily, but because our lives are hidden in Christ, He still is and continues to be our hope and salvation, He is our righteousness. What Jerry said is almost as though we didn't need Christ anymore, since we are already perfect we can discard the sacrifice! We need Christ day by day. I believe in eternity, we will still be aware of our previous rebellion against God, that it is only Christ who makes us acceptable to God the Father, and that we will be just as dependent on His righteousness through eternity as we are for our breath on earth today. I may not be communicating this very well, what I am trying to say in effect is that we have only been made clean, not equal to Christ in obedience. We will forever be dependent on Christ's righteousness to the praise of His Holy Name! Worthy is the Lamb who was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!! Rev. 5:12
Posted By: chestnutmare Re: Just as if I'd always obeyed - Tue Mar 17, 2009 12:33 PM
Could it be that you confuse justification and sanctification? It is true as you point out that although justified, believers continue to be tempted and fall into sin. However, it is the work of the Holy Spirit to sanctify us, preparing us for glory that continues until the Lord takes us home. As Pilgrim and afollowerofJesus explained above, a believer is "simul iustus et peccator," simultaneously justified and a sinner. Thus a believer can say that he is ALREADY holy, as he is justified by Christ, and at the same time NOT YET made holy in this life.
Posted By: hisalone Re: Just as if I'd always obeyed - Tue Mar 17, 2009 1:02 PM
It isn't that I don't believe we are not counted holy and it isn't confusing justification and sanctification. I know I have difficulty conveying my thoughts. It is the addition of saying "just as though we always obeyed". It may be just semantics, but my understanding is that we are made right with God because of Christ's sacrifice, we aren't turned into "Christ" or seen as the same as Christ by imputation, for no better way to put it. However we are in Christ, He alone is the object of God's pleasure, we benefit because of our being united with Christ, and in that respect we are the recipients of God's pleasure and fellowship. Sorry if I'm not too clear, I know what I'm thinking, I just don't know how to say it clearly.
Posted By: Pilgrim Re: Just as if I'd always obeyed - Tue Mar 17, 2009 1:38 PM
Originally Posted by hisalone
I grasp the forensic idea, but the forensic idea is that we have been absolved of all guilt in the matter of sin, it isn't as though we always obeyed except in semantics.... Why are we counted righteous today? Not because of the impution of Christ's righteousness, unless He keeps reimputing it since we all sin daily, but because our lives are hidden in Christ,
Let's say we give you the benefit of the doubt and chock up this statement above to an innocent inability to convey what you are really thinking. grin Now, the error here is serious indeed for it fails to do justice to the biblical teaching concerning "imputation". VERY briefly, and by way of reminder... justification is "a judicial act of God, in which He declares once for all, on the basis of the righteousness of Jesus Christ, that all the claims of the law are satisfied with respect to the sinner." (Berkhof, Systematic Theology, p. 513, italic portion is inserted by me) Notice what is satisfied; the "claims of the law". This includes both sins of commission as well as sins of omission. This declaration is infinite in scope; "once for all", i.e., past, present and future. Again, this is a LEGAL matter, how one stands before God in regard to the law. It has to do with a person's STATUS and nothing to do with a person's actual STATE.

You can probably and hopefully see why Rome reacted with such vehemence against this truth and charged Luther and all true Protestants with teaching antinomianism. But this is a false charge in that ... and now mind me well here, when I say that ONLY a true Calvinist can give the biblical truth in reply to this charge ... The same sovereign God Who brings a dead sinner to life in regeneration, irresistibly brings a sinner to Christ, creates faith in the soul, and declares the sinner justified through that exercised faith, also is the very same sovereign God Who has determined to sanctify that sinner throughout his life here on earth and eventually glorify him to the praise of His holy name. "Salvation is of the Lord" (Jonah 2:9). Salvation encompasses the end as well as the beginning and all the means necessary to that end.

Scripture gives us a beautiful and accurate picture of what justification and sanctification is in Zechariah:

Zechariah 3:1-7 (KJV) "And he shewed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the LORD, and Satan standing at his right hand to resist him. And the LORD said unto Satan, The LORD rebuke thee, O Satan; even the LORD that hath chosen Jerusalem rebuke thee: [is] not this a brand plucked out of the fire? Now Joshua was clothed with filthy garments, and stood before the angel. And he answered and spake unto those that stood before him, saying, Take away the filthy garments from him. And unto him he said, Behold, I have caused thine iniquity to pass from thee, and I will clothe thee with change of raiment. And I said, Let them set a fair mitre upon his head. So they set a fair mitre upon his head, and clothed him with garments. And the angel of the LORD stood by. And the angel of the LORD protested unto Joshua, saying, Thus saith the LORD of hosts; If thou wilt walk in my ways, and if thou wilt keep my charge, then thou shalt also judge my house, and shalt also keep my courts, and I will give thee places to walk among these that stand by."

The Puritans had a very helpful ditty, if I man say so, which I believe often helps in such matters that have to do with justification and sanctification: "Justification qualifies us for heaven. And, Sanctification prepares us for heaven." BigThumbUp

Does this help? shrug

PS. Although written to counter the heresy of NPP and FV, Philip Eveson's book is a most valuable work as a true biblical teaching concerning justification. I would encourage everyone to read it. You can find it here: The Great Exchange.

In His grace,
Posted By: hisalone Re: Just as if I'd always obeyed - Tue Mar 17, 2009 1:50 PM
Pilgrim, I have no disagreement with anything you said. I think the difference is being "clothed" with Christ and being accounted the "same" as Christ, does that help my explanation? Check my previous post and you'll see more what I'm trying to say.

Posted By: Pilgrim Re: Just as if I'd always obeyed - Tue Mar 17, 2009 2:03 PM
The being "clothed" is synonymous in Scripture with "imputation". They are both referring to that 'alien righteousness'. The declaration says that the sinner IS perfectly righteous in regard to the law and shall ever be so on the basis of Christ's imputed righteousness... simul iustus et peccator.

In sanctification, there is that transformation toward being conformed to that perfect righteousness of Christ even while the justified sinner is considered and declared to be perfectly righteous.

Thus, Bridges' statement is in full accord with these biblical truths. I have no problem with it other than what Paul_S mentioned for using such little "aids" often leads to misunderstanding and superficiality in one's understanding, especially in these fundamental and complex biblical doctrines.

Perhaps you can try and phrase your disagreement with Bridges' statement in another way?

In His grace,
Posted By: hisalone Re: Just as if I'd always obeyed - Tue Mar 17, 2009 2:17 PM
I think we are in agreement, it is just how Bridges said it, again, I don't have the whole context. I think I was "fairly" clear in what I was trying to say. Now and forever, the glory is all Christ's, we will be given glorified bodies, we'll share in His glory, but our glory will always be a reflection of Christ's, not something "inherent" in us as though we never sinned, otherwise, we rob God of His glory so to speak. Bridge's way of putting it is almost as though to imply we are "equal" with Christ, at least that is how I read it. As I said, I never would have questioned it until gotribe brought it to our attention, just made me think more in depth on the statement and where it could lead us in our thinking.
Posted By: Pilgrim Re: Just as if I'd always obeyed - Tue Mar 17, 2009 2:35 PM
Originally Posted by hisalone
Bridge's way of putting it is almost as though to imply we are "equal" with Christ, at least that is how I read it.
Methinks you are misreading Bridges. In the forensic (legal) sense, we ARE "equal with Christ"... the believer is declared to be righteous and ever shall be righteous on the basis of Christ's imputed righteousness. Since Christ's righteousness is 'covering' the believer, he is therefore "equal with Christ" in that sense. This is the doctrine of justification.

And those who have been truly justified will infallibly go on in sanctification whereby they are made holy and are partakers of Christ's divine nature, albeit in part in this life. In sanctification our disposition towards holiness is increased, having been changed in regeneration, which thus produces the good works which in themselves are decidedly imperfect yet accepted by our Father as we are united in Christ.


This unique doctrine in a special way
distinguishes the church from all other
nations and religions....[Justification] is the
pinnacle and chief bulwark of all teaching
and of the Christian religion itself; if this is
obscured, adulterated, or subverted, it is
impossible to retain purity of doctrine in
other loci. On the other hand, if this locus
is securely retained, all idolatrous ravings,
superstitions and other corruptions are
thereby destroyed (Loci Theologici II, p. 443)

In His grace,
Posted By: gotribe Re: Just as if I'd always obeyed - Tue Mar 17, 2009 5:43 PM
Thanks, everyone, for all the input and the clarification. I knew that if I brought my 'confusion' and my question here, it'd be a safe place to get "sorted out."

I think it may have been MarieP who pointed out that my confusion was between justification and sanctification. I was hanging up on the idea that it is as if I always obeyed and missed factoring in the forensic aspect of justification. It's good to be straightened out when you need it!

Posted By: Paul_S A providential application - Sat Mar 21, 2009 3:33 PM

I thought you might be pleased to hear that the specific content of your thread came up in my presence 2 nights ago. I had mentioned in another thread -- Request for help with Doctrinal Debate -- that I would be going over the basics of Justification by Faith Alone with the men who will be arguing the affirmative. Bearing in mind that these are going to be very primitive, short debates, and that the men are not only fairly recent believers but that almost all of them go to different churches, the main goal has been to get the men themselves to drink deeply from Romans 3-5, Galatians 2-3, Philippians 3, as well as finding other supporting passages--and I must say I have been blessed with the intensity with which they have pursued their study.

Thursday night I was offering counterarguments to get them to sharpen their responses, and again was pleased that, while they are not ready to take over for James White, they are quite appreciative of the doctrine of the double imputation and seem quite ready to defend it -- against our poor covenant teens, who have to try to argue the negative!

After our work session one of the men asked, "what would you say to someone who says "Justification means just-as-if-I'd never sinned"?". I silently gave thanks for your putting this thread up and immediatly gave the Bridges riposte--which I had not heard before this thread. Of course I then filled in the holes and explained, that both aspects were essential, but one is heavily under-emphasized these days; but I will admit it was nice to have the quick rejoinder as a segue to the more in-depth explanation.
Posted By: gotribe Re: A providential application - Sun Mar 22, 2009 12:24 PM
Glad it was beneficial!
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