Jeremy Sarber

Preparing to address the ‘eternal justification’ doctrine

On day four of #100DaysToOffload, I’m thinking through the abundance of material I’ve consumed the past few weeks on the subject of so-called eternal justification. In preparation for what will likely be a miniseries on my podcast, Sunday Manuscripts, I’ve read or listened to several books, articles, and sermons that teach and defend the doctrine of eternal justification.

Arthur Pink explains eternal justification this way:

Some of the older theologians, when expounding this doctrine, contended for the eternal justification of the elect, affirming that God pronounced them righteous before the foundation of the world, and that their justification was then actual and complete, remaining so throughout their history in time, even during the days of their unregeneracy and unbelief; and that the only difference their faith made was in making manifest God’s eternal justification in their consciences.

The most prominent Reformed view of justification says faith is the means of our justification. We are, in other words, justified by or through faith. Eternal justification, on the other hand, says faith is the evidence of our justification. Faith, in other words, reveals one’s justification rather than being instrumental in it.

I agree with the former as my confession attests:

From all eternity God decreed to justify all the elect (Gal 3:8; 1Pe 1:2; 1Ti 2:6), and in the fullness of time Christ died for their sins and rose again for their justification (Ro 4:25). Nevertheless, they are not justified personally until the Holy Spirit actually applies Christ to them at the proper time (Col 1:21-22; Tit 3:4-7).

Even so, I once believed the latter view. It also happens to be the substance of an ongoing friendly debate I’ve enjoyed with a fellow pastor. Our discussion prompted my recent study and the upcoming series on the podcast. I want to accurately represent his side of the debate, so I’ve consumed as much material from his camp as possible including John Gill, William Kiffen, Samuel Richardson, John Brine, and several modern-day Primitive and Strict Baptists.

Thank you, Danny and Joshua—you know who you are—for providing me with study material, additional resources, and many thoughts to ponder.