Justification à la John Calvin
Justification remains a controversial doctrine. New Testament scholars are reexamining Paul's teaching. Lutherans and Roman Catholics have produced aJoint Declarationon the topic. The excerpts from John Calvin's writings below give us a glimpse into the Reformation doctrine of justification by faith.
Calvin taught clearly about justification by faith and the assurance that this can bring us. But what did he mean by justification?
We explain justification simply as the acceptance with which God receives us into his favour as righteous men. And we say that it consists in the remission of sins and the imputation of Christ's righteousness. (Institutes 3:11:2)
Justification means that God accepts us as righteous, but this does not mean that we can just continue to sin. Justification always goes hand in hand with sanctification.
As Christ cannot be torn into parts, so these two which we perceive in him together and conjointly are inseparable—namely, righteousness and sanctification. Whomever, therefore, God receives into grace, on them he at the same time bestows the Spirit of adoption, by whose power he remakes them to his own image. (Institutes 3:11:6)
Therefore Christ justifies no one whom he does not at the same time sanctify. (Institutes 3:16:1)
The reason that they always go together is that we have them both by being united to Christ.
Now, both repentance and forgiveness of sins—that is, newness of life and free reconciliation—are conferred on us by Christ, and both are attained by us through faith. (Institutes 3:3:1)
Our righteousness is not in us but in Christ, … we possess it only because we are partakers in Christ. (Institutes 3:11:23)
We say that faith justifies, not because it merits righteousness ...