John Owen on Debating Justification

1.  This doctrine is for people who take their sin seriously.  People who are either hiding from God or blaming God are going to have a very hard time understanding or appreciating it.  If a person has not been deeply convicted of their sins, they are not really the kind of people you can learn much about justification from.

2.  The reason we talk about justification is to answer the question, “How does God forgive our sins, receive us into his favor, declare us righteous, acquit us from guilt, remove our curse, turn his wrath away from us, and give us a title and right to eternal life?”

If we look at what the Bible teaches about justification with any other purpose, we are going to be distracted from the purpose the authors of Scriptures talked about it. 

To quote Owen, “It is the direction, satisfaction, and peace of consciences of men and not the curiousity of notions or subtlety of disputations which is our duty to design.”

Again, “It is alone the relief of those who are in themselves unrighteous, guilty before, obnoxious and liable to the judgment of GOd – that we inquire after.”

3.  The core issue is whether we are justified by something within ourselves, like faith or repentance or becoming a better person, good works or whether it is something outside of us like the obedience, righteousness, satisfaction and merit of Jesus Christ?

It has to be one or the other and when we talk about justification this is the issue we are considering, which of these should people who are convicted of their sins rely upon in their relationship with God.

4.  We have to work hard at understanding exactly what the Bible teaches about this subject.

“For the doctrine of justification is the directive of Christian practice, and in no other evangelical truth is the whole of our obedience more concerned, for the foundation, reasons and motives towards God is contained therein.” 

(Chew on that.  That is an awesome quote.  There is no truth more practical and more vital to your everyday relationship with God than the fact that you are justified one hundred percent completely by a righteousness outside of yourself – that of Jesus Christ!)

One thought on “John Owen on Debating Justification

  1. That’s better than a bowl of Wheaties to start the day! Thanks for the comfort from God’s word and for writing about a very complex issue in a plain and understandable way.

    I’ve been thinking lately how the doctrine of justification, when rightly understood, helps us not only in our relationship with God, but in our relationships with others.

    When I’m tempted to unjustly criticize a brother or despise him in my heart because of a difference in understanding of the Scriptures or a persistent (or maybe just perceived!)weakness, I remember God’s word in Rom 8:33, Rom 14:4 & 10.

    If God has justified him, God will sanctify and glorify him. God will make him stand and I need to be careful that my thoughts and words are helping him to that end.

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