Asia-Pacific International University (AIU)
The Postmodern “Sacramental and Experiential Presence”
Vs. Justification by Faith
presented in partial fulfillment
of the requirements for the Course
RELP 494 Issues of Pastoral Work
Table of Contents
Prologue ................................................................................................................................ 1
Causes and Consequences of Postmodern Philosophy........................................................ 3
Justification by Faith ........................................................................................................... 7
Definition of Faith..................................................................................................... 8
Sanctification ...................................................................................................................... 12
A Process ................................................................................................................. 12
An Inward Change ................................................................................................. 13
Why the Distinction? .............................................................................................. 15
Justification by the “Postmodern Presence” ..................................................................... 20
All Roads Lead to Rome ......................................................................................... 20
Justification by Sacrament Equals Justification by Works .................................. 24
Justification by Creation ........................................................................................ 26
Catholic and Lutheran Examples ................................................................... 26
Seventh-day Adventist Examples .................................................................. 29
”Unless One is Born Again…” (John 3:3). ............................ 30
What Does 2 Corinthians 5:17 Mean? ................................... 31
The New Creation of the Heart............................................... 32
1 Corinthians 6:11: A Problem? ............................................ 33
Conclusion .......................................................................................................................... 35
Epilogue .............................................................................................................................. 37
Bibliography ....................................................................................................................... 40
The current thinking does not allow the biblical concept of the theology of the cross,
which includes justification by faith. Linwood Urban states in A Short History of Christian
Thought that current people have largely abandoned the biblical teaching that “Christ’s death
on the cross could be an adequate satisfaction for human sin.”
In the postmodern time, the
emphasis of theology and thinking has shifted from God to man. People want God to be
infused to them, and they want to have a certain experience (or many types of experiences).
They want to feel God’s presence, that, they say, justifies them, or they want to be justified by
an act. The common element for these two longings is justification by an experience. The
heart or foundation of this teaching is that people are saved by works, as will be shown in this
paper. Moreover, one of the examples of this postmodern trend of experiences, which is
brought forward, is justification by sacraments and/or by creation.
By seeking for justification by an experience, the Christian world is going back, and
already have gone back, to Roman Catholic teaching, as will be shown in this paper. Because
of the postmodern influence, people want salvation and experiences in communities; and
many churches seek for sacramental experiences of God’s presence infused into the
participants, as they believe to happen.
This research paper argues that (1) the postmodern theology is based on communal
focus, experiential focus, and deconstruction of the basis on Scripture; (2) justification and
sanctification need to be demerged; (3) the Christian postmodern world has gone back to
Roman Catholic teaching of infused righteousness; (4) the postmodern view believes in
. Linwood Urban, A Short History of Christian Thought, rev. ed. (New York: Oxford
University Press, 1995), 124.
justification by human works; and (5) the postmodern theological thinking unbiblically
merges justification and sanctification.
The paper stands on the Sola Scriptura, Tota Scriptura, and Analogia Scripturae
principles of interpretation, which mean that the Bible is used as the sole authority of God’s
truth, all the Scriptures are used as equal participants in the study, and the Bible is a consistent
theological book, which is not contradicting itself.
Causes and Consequences of Postmodern Philosophy
An important background for the current trend of infused righteousness, is postmodern
In the context of this subject, at least three aspects of postmodern thinking are
being discussed here: (1) Communal focus; (2) experiential focus; and (3) deconstruction of
the basis on Scripture.
Norman Gulley writes in his Systematic Theology,
Fractured through dysfunctional homes, many postmoderns have a need for
community, whether they realize it or not. Many grew up in a single-parent
households and languished emotionally through the absence of the other parent. This
is the generation raised on MTV, Internet, Nintendo, and films.
Gulley continues that Stanley Grenz’ theology meets the twisted needs of postmodern people,
as they seek for truth from communities, rather than from Scripture.
theologies” dominate today.
Experience is the second factor in the mindset of postmoderns. This has affected on
evangelicals, as well.
A very influential proponent of experience-based Christianity was
. People often disagree on what postmodernism is. With the help of Kevin Hart’s
elaborations, and in relation to theology and this study, postmodernism is, at least, the
abandonment of objective truth (and objective goodness and righteousness), and the
embracement of subjective experiences and “moments of presence,” and getting tapped into a
“power” that is “everywhere”, finding God and truth from being, and transforming humanity
to “the next stage of our existence.” Kevin Hart, Postmodernism: A Beginners Guide
(London, UK: One World, 2004), 1-19, 28, 33. In this way, “postmodern” in this study
includes also postmodern theology and post-structuralism. Hart, 22. Moreover, the meaning
of postmodernism and postmodern theology are elaborated more in the three aspects of
postmodern thinking discussed in this paper, and in this paper as a whole.
. Norman R. Gulley, Systematic Theology, vol. 1, Prolegomena (Berrien Springs, MI:
Andrews University Press, 2003), 492. The terms “postmodern” and “postmodernism” are
used interchangeably in this paper, even though “postmodern (time)” means the historical
period after World War 2. Hart, 20.
. Gulley, Systematic Theology, vol. 1, 492-493.
. Gulley, Systematic Theology, vol. 1, 133.
. Gulley, Systematic Theology, vol. 1, 133-135.
Adolf von Harnack. He saw that the core of Christianity was in the experience and
practicality, not in doctrines.
The third point is the deconstruction of the biblical basis of Christianity, which
becomes obvious from the second point, already. However, one insight needs to be added
here, and that is the postmodern theology’s rejection of the Bible as the revelation from God.
For example, Karl Barth was a major leader of Protestant theology towards an existential
understanding of God’s Word and revelation. He taught that the Bible is only a witness of
revelation, not God’s revelation in itself.
Barth saw that God’s Word is rather a dynamic
event that continually becomes God’s Word than a text, and he defined “revelation” as “the
Word of God itself in the act of its being spoken in time.”
He also believed that this
“revelation” equals the person of Jesus Christ,
as a “present Jesus”, whom people today get
as a personal encounter and experience.
In Barth’s theology, we can see an influence from
Aristotle’s view of knowledge and truth.
. Adolf Harnack, What is Christianity?, trans. Thomas Bailey Sanders (New York:
Harper & Row, 1957), 146-151.
. Karl Barth, Church Dogmatics, vol. 1.1, The Doctrine of the Word of God
(Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1975), 117-118; Karl Barth, Church Dogmatics, vol. 1.2, The
Doctrine of the Word of God (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1975), 500-501.
. Barth, Church Dogmatics, vol. 1.1, 117-118.
. Barth, Church Dogmatics, vol. 1.1, 119.
. Barth, Church Dogmatics, vol. 1.1, 4, 12, 118-120.
. Aristotle believed that reality or nature of things is not something transcendent but
part of the mind. He thought that truth of things come by “mental experiences,” because our
experiences are “images” of these “things.” Aristotle, De Interpretatione 1.16a; Great Books
of the Western World, vol. 8, Aristotle I, ed. Robert Maynard Hutchins, trans. W. D. Ross
(Chicago: William Benton, Encyclopædia Britannica, 1952), 25; “The Correspondence
Theory of Truth,” Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (May 28, 2015), accesses February 5,
2019, https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/truth-correspondence/. Thus, Barthian philosophy
parallels Aristotelian philosophy in a way that both believe that truth is “revealed” by
When it comes to the sacramental experience, Thomas Aquinas influenced it
massively by marrying Christian faith and Aristotle’s philosophy.
Aristotelian philosophy to explain the instrumental power of the sacraments for causing
Bernhard Lohse writes that in the 13th century,
[t]he theological systems of the great Scholastics, notably that of Thomas Aquinas,
delineate further the theological significance of the sacraments… they “contain”
grace and infuse it into man. On man’s side full saving faith is not necessary; it is
sufficient not to interpose an obstacle.
Thus, we can see the deep roots of Western thought in the understanding of reality from
Greek philosophy, how it effects into human experience, as well as how metaphysical reality
is infused into man by an experience, which Aquinas attached to salvation and justification of
Back in the time of the beginning of the Reformation, when Protestantism was
growing towards the Light, namely the Bible, it tended to find answers to reality and salvation
from the Word of God, not from Greek philosophy. Reformers believed in imputed and
imparted righteousness, which will be explained below, but Catholicism believed and believes
in infused righteousness. Infused righteousness through the papal system includes all the
three aspects of postmodern thinking, which are communal focus, experiential focus, and
deconstruction of the basis on Scripture. At this point of the study, it is good to look at what
. Gulley, Systematic Theology, vol. 1, 198.
. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica 3.62.4; Bernhard Blankenhorn, “The
Instrumental Causality of the Sacraments: Thomas Aquinas and Louis-Marie Chauvet,” Nova
et Vetera, English Edition 4, no. 2 (2006): 255–94, accessed February 1, 2019,
. Bernhard Lohse, A Short History of Christian Doctrine (Philadelphia: Fortress
Press, 1978), 259.
the Bible teaches about justification by faith, and sanctification, before analyzing the
postmodern theology more closely.
Justification by Faith
“Justification” (from the root צדק in Hebrew; δικαιόω in Greek) is mainly a forensic
On the cross, God delivered the general and legal justification, which means that
Jesus carried the sins of the world, shed His blood, and died because of the sin and sins of the
world (Rom. 3:24; 5:9; 2 Cor. 5:18-19). Romans 5:1 states, “Therefore, having been justified
by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (NASB)
In other words,
justification happened in the past, on the cross of Calvary.
However, Jesus arose from the dead and ascended to heaven, where He continued and
continues His salvific work for humanity. In addition to Golgotha, justification means the
legal act which God does in the heavenly sanctuary for those individuals who want to receive
salvation and justification by faith (Isa. 6:5-7; Zech. 3:1-5; Rom. 4:25; Hebr. 2:16; 4:14-16;
5:1-6; 6:19-20; 7:25; 8:1, 2, 12; 9:14; 1. John 2:1-2).
He does it in a way that He approves a
. Francis Brown, S. R. Driver, and Charles A. Briggs, The Brown-Driver-Briggs
Hebrew and English lexicon: Coded with Strong’s concordance numbers (Peabody, MS:
Hendrickson Publishers, 2005), s.v. “ צדק ,” 841-843; F. Wilbur Gingrich, Shorter Lexicon of
the Greek New Testament, ed. Frederick W. Danker, 2nd ed. (Chicago: University of Chicago
Press, 1983), BibleWorks v.10, s.v. “δικαιόω.”
. There is a variant reading in manuscripts as א, A, B, and C, which have the word
ἔχωµεν, instead of ἔχοµεν. Barbara Aland, Kurt Aland, Johannes Karavidopoulos, Carlo M.
Martini, and Bruce M. Metzger, eds., Nestle-Aland – Novum Testamentum Graece, 28th
revised ed. (Stuttgart: Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, 2012), 489. This variant changes the
translated reading as follows: “Being justified therefore by faith, let us have peace with God,
through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Rom. 5:1, DRA, emphasis added). However, older
manuscripts are not necessarily more authentic ones; and, according to the context, Paul
establishes reconciliation already done in the past by Jesus’ death (e.g. 5:6, 10, 18), not
reconciliation in the present or future by some other means. “The verbs which follow are all
in the indicative mode, making definite assertions, do not exhort.” Kenneth S. Wuest, Wuest’s
Word Studies from the Greek New Testament for the English Reader, vol. 1, Mark—
Romans—Galatians—Ephesians and Colossians: Romans in the Greek New Testament
(Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1973), 76.
. This means that an individual’s choice plays a part in justification by faith, which
means that the doctrine of unconditional election, where God chooses some people to be
saved and some to be lost without their personal choice, is not biblical.
repentant sinner when he or she believes that the life and death of Jesus is imputed (counted
for) his or her sins and sinful being. This is called justification by faith. The Scripture states
that “the righteous man shall live by faith” (Rom. 1:17, NASB), that Abraham was considered
righteous when he believed in God’s promise (Rom. 4:9-21),
and that God justifies us when
we believe it to happen by the blood of Jesus Christ (Rom. 3:25; 5:1, KJV; cf. Gal. 2:16).
Righteousness by faith means the same as justification by faith when the context discusses
about the judicial act.
Justification is not only a forensic act or God does not only act legally, but the Lord
also restores the person’s broken relationship with Him. Basically, this means that God is not
only a judge and attorney, but He is also the heavenly Father, as Blazen states, as well.
However, justification does not happen inside of a human being in a way that God would see
righteousness inside of him or her, and then declare one righteous. It would be righteousness
by human-ontological righteousness, not righteousness by faith into other Man’s
righteousness. Justification by faith is a relational reality. God restores the broken
relationship objectively and through a relationship. This relationship is faith. Next, we will
study of what does this faith and relationship consist of.
Definition of Faith
We are justified by faith. Hebrews 11:1 defines faith as follows, “Now faith is the
substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” (Heb. 11:1, KJV) The
. It is important to realize that Abraham was justified by faith personally, not by a
community, and not by an ecclesiastical sacramental power to forgive sins, as church is
considered to hold today, as will be shown below.
. Ivan T. Blazen, “Salvation,” in Handbook of Seventh-day Adventist Theology,
Commentary Reference Series, vol. 12, ed. Raoul Dederen (Hagerstown. MD: Review and
Herald, 2000), 278-279; Ivan T. Blazen, “The Grace that Justifies and Sanctifies,” in
Salvation: Contours of Adventist Soteriology (Berrien Springs, MI: Andrews University
Press, 2018), 302.
obvious question follows, what is this “substance,” or “assurance,” (NASB, RSV) (ὑπόστασις
in Greek), that is faith? Friberg analyses ὑπόστασις “as the objective aspect and underlying
reality behind anything, with the specific meaning derived from the context.”
words, faith is a reality and objective. God does not see faith in us and declare us righteous
because of any reality that He sees in us, because our faith includes a subjective side of it, and
it is not the ultimate reality of merit. “There is danger in regarding justification by faith as
placing merit on faith. When you take the righteousness of Christ as a free gift you are
justified freely through the redemption of Christ,”
Ellen White writes. Reality lies only in
Christ. From this we can suggest that both justification and faith are objective and not only
human-ontological realities. This means that faith is like God’s “ladder”, which God “built”,
to God (John 6:29; Gen. 28:12). God gives us our faith as a gift in Christ (John 1:51). Even
repentance is a gift (Acts 5:31; 11:18). Our, human beings’, part is to choose to have faith
after God has given information about the faith (Rom. 10:17). Our faith plays
a part in salvation (Mark 5:34), but it becomes real only when it has its beginning and end in
Christ’s faith. Jesus and the Holy Spirit are the Ones who influence and give the whole
content for faith (Mark. 5:25-34). Our faith is drawn from God, and it comes back to God. In
justification by faith, faith from God is imparted for human being as this “ladder” to God, but
justification does not happen in human being but in the heavenly sanctuary. Faith does not
include justification or righteousness, but it is an instrument that God uses to give an
assurance to a person that he or she is justified. The focus is on Jesus.
. Timothy Friberg, Barbara Friberg, and Neva F. Miller, Analytical Lexicon to the
Greek New Testament, Baker's Greek New Testament Library (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2000),
BibleWorks, v.10, s.v. “ὑπόστασις.”
. Ellen G. White, Faith and Works (Nashville, TN: Southern, 1979), 25.
. George R. Knight, Sin and Salvation: God’s Work for and In Us (Hagerstown,
MD: Review and Herald, 2008), 73-74.
As faith is relational, not only theoretical, it includes works, as James writes (James
2:14-26). The apostle wants to explain in his epistle that faith is not just intellectual. This
becomes clear from his letter, which discusses mainly about practical things. James teaches
that faith becomes visible (v. 22) and alive (v. 26) by works. He goes as far as saying, “You
see that a man is justified by works, and not by faith alone” (2:24, NASB). According to the
principle that the Bible does not contradict itself, and the principle that the Bible explains
itself, by “justification of works,” James must mean the witness to the surrounding people
about that the believer of Christ has been justified and lives the new life in the relationship
with Him. Jesus himself said, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has
sent.” (John 6:29, RSV) James is discussing about the consequences of justification and the
content of faith, because faith is like an arm which constantly holds on to God’s
righteousness, and is reflected in the acts of the believer. This is called “faith working
through love” (Gal. 5:6, NKJV). Romans 2:13 even states that “the doers of the law shall be
justified (Rom. 2:13, KJV). This means that the justified keep the commandments of God,
which, in their experience, leads to situation when they need justification over and over again,
because the law of God is like a mirror that shows the true nature of humanity and the true
character of persons (James 1:22-25; Rom. 3:20). The law of God is continually a part of the
believer’s life, because the relationship with God brings the bright character of God
constantly in sight. Through the relationship, God works inside the believer, and the
character of God shines from the character of him or her. This is called imparted
righteousness. Both passive righteousness (sacrifice of Christ) and active righteousness
(obedience of Christ)
are imputed to human beings who accept them as their salvation. The
believer needs Jesus’ imputed righteousness all the way (Matt. 5:7; John 6:29; Luke 17:10;
. Norman R. Gulley, Systematic Theology, vol. 3, Creation, Christ, Salvation
(Berrien Springs, MI: Andrews University Press, 2012), 684.
18:9-14) until Christ comes again and changes his or her vile body into glorious, heavenly
body (Phil. 3:21). Salvation by faith begins from justification by faith and ends to
justification by faith.
In conclusion, faith can be divided into justifying faith and sanctifying faith (the
consequence of justification by faith, which James was talking about). Faith is like a
relationship between the believer and God, but even the relationship—the relationship
between the Participants of the Holy Trinity—is imputed and imparted to us. We need our
own faith, as well, but even it is a gift, and it is not the ultimate reality, but only a hand that
reaches to the ultimate reality: God. Michael Marsh writes,
It is often said that the most important thing in the Christian religion is the believer’s
relationship with the Lord. But as important as that is, it is not the most important
thing. The most important thing is Christ’s relationship with God. This is the
believer’s guarantee of acceptance unto eternal life. Justification is based on this
reality which is completely outside believer. It is the righteousness or relationship of
Another. The believer is not accepted because of his faith—even though he will not
be accepted without it. He is accepted because Another is accepted. He is declared
righteous because Another is righteous on his behalf.
. Michael D. Marsh, Magnum Opus: Lost Writings on Justification by Faith by
Little Known Theological Giant Michael D. Marsh, Original Writings, ed. David Leone
(USA: RTC Ministries, 2019), 15. Marsh also writes that only in Christ is the reality of life
(Col. 3:3-4), the reality of righteousness (and wisdom, redemption, and sanctification) (1 Cor.
1:30; Col. 2:3), the reality of faith, strength, and victory (Rev. 14:12; Gal. 2:16, 20; Rev. 5:12;
12:10; 1 Cor. 15:57), the reality of the righteousness of God and the law (Phil. 3:9; Rom.
10:4), the reality of forgiveness and blotting out sin (Eph. 1:7; Heb. 1:3; 9:26; Isa. 44:22-23),
and the reality of justification and acceptance (Rom. 4:25; Eph. 1:6). Marsh, 327.
As one gets the Holy Spirit into his or her heart, as the Spirit develops the character of
the receiver of Him, and as He effects the good works in the Christian’s life, we are talking
about sanctification. Sanctification differs from justification in, at least, two points: (1) It is a
continuing process; and (2) it happens inside of the sanctified person.
Sanctification is a continuing process, but justification is a once-and-for-all act in the
heavenly sanctuary. Of course, God sanctifies momentarily in and from the heavenly
sanctuary, as a declaration and by the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 6:11; Hebr. 10:14), because the
concept of sanctification means separating for holy use in Hebrew and Greek languages.
However, sanctification is also growing in Christ (1 Peter 2:2-3; 2 Peter 3:18; Eph. 4:12-
6:24). This is the reason that one has to repent one’s sins and make a choice for Jesus before
one is baptized (Acts 2:38), which is as sign of the beginning of new life in Jesus (Rom. 6:1-
14). When the believer is baptized, he or she has already been justified. After justification,
sanctification begins in his or her life (Rom. 6:4). The Bible says, “But now having been
freed from sin and enslaved to God, you derive your benefit, resulting in sanctification, and
the outcome, eternal life.” (Rom. 6:22, NASB) By giving the Holy Spirit, God shows that He
has already approved the repentant sinner, who has now been converted (Acts 2:38; 15:8, 11).
By this, one does not mean prevenient grace, the prework of the Holy Spirit, when He pulls
the person towards Jesus before the conversion, forgiveness of sins, and baptism (John 6:44;
Acts 10:47); but one means that the Holy Spirit comes more powerfully into the life of the
. William Holladay, A Concise Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament:
Based upon the Lexical Work of Ludwig Koehler and Walter Baumgartner (Leiden: Brill,
2000), BibleWorks, v.10., s.v. “ קָדַשׁ ;” Walter Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New
Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, ed. Frederick W. Danker, 3rd ed. (Chicago:
University of Chicago Press, 2000), BibleWorks. v.10, s.v. “ἁγιάζω.”
one who approves justification by Jesus, takes Jesus as his or her personal Savior, and
chooses to live through faith to Christ (Matt. 10:32-39; Gal. 5:13-26). As a consequence, his
or her character starts to become refined and becomes refined more abundantly little by little
(Phil. 1:9; 3:12-16; Titus 2:11-14; John 10:10), and it does not stop refining, as it does with
those who reject the appeals of God (Matt. 12:30-45). The Holy Spirit inside of the person
sanctifies the morality, intellect, emotions, etc. of the person’s character (Eph. 4:12-6:24;
Rom. 6; Gal. 5:16-25; 1 Thess. 4:1-8). In this way sanctification is a growth, creation, and
renewing process by the Holy Spirit, who’s personality and function (the main role in
salvation of man) are clearly separated from the personhood and function (the main role in
salvation of man) of Jesus Christ in the Bible (e.g. Rom. 8:4-7, 11-14, 26-27; Gal. 5:22-23;
Eph. 3:16; 4:8, 12, 13).
One is justified and sanctified through faith. Sanctification is a growing need for
justification. By sanctification, as mentioned, the believer sees his or her deficiency clearer
and clearer in the light of God’s character and nature. This happens because the life of
sanctification is also a cooperation with God (1 Peter 1:14-17; Phil. 2:12). When a person
realizes that his or her works are not perfect, then the person understands that he or she needs
justification, which is that God sees him or her as perfect through the perfection of Christ. As
a consequence of justification and forgiveness in the heavenly sanctuary, God sends His Holy
Spirit, and the believer gets a new power to live well, to be obedient to God and His Word,
and follow God’s law, until he or she needs forgiveness of sins and justification again, even
though he or she is refined. This is the human experience of sanctification.
An Inward Change
A person is not being justified by sanctification but by justification. Similar to
justification, sanctification happens by God’s proclamation, as well, as was mentioned.
However, the second way that sanctification differs from justification is that sanctification
happens inside of the believer. Wuest states,
Furthermore, there is a difference between having peace with God and having the
peace of God in the heart. The first has to do with justification, the second with
sanctification. The first is the result of a legal standing, the second, the result of the
work of the Holy Spirit. The first is static, never fluctuates, the second changes from
hour to hour.”
The Holy Spirit inside of the person is called imparted righteousness. Nevertheless,
Holy Spirit does not infuse into man, but the righteousness stays as God’s righteousness, and
does not become the person’s righteousness, because God causes all the good works in and
through the believer (Gal. 2:19-29; Phil. 2:13). God’s people are righteous in its full
meaning, purity, and sinlessness only through Jesus’ perfect, imputed righteousness.
A human being is not justified by that what is inside of him or her because of two
things. Firstly, one’s insides produce one’s works (Matt. 12:33-37; Mark. 7:21-23). In other
words, the insides of a man are equal with his works. Secondly, human beings are sinful and
cannot produce infinitely good works with the cooperation with God (Jer. 17:9; Rom. 3:9-18;
7:14-25). A God’s child chooses to do good, and cooperates with God’s Spirit inside of him
or her, but there is still the human part involved with everything he or she does, which is why
one cannot be justified by one’s insides, the sanctification process, and/or works. One can be
justified only by Jesus, who is a separate Person outside of him or her. Justification through
Jesus’ substitution means that Jesus substitutes the whole being of man. The Bible makes it
clear that no one is justified through the good works, as it says that “no human being will be
justified in his [God’s] sight by works of the law,” (Rom. 3:20, RSV) and that “we conclude
that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law,” (Rom. 3:28, KJV) and that “by
grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not
. Wuest, 76.
as a result of works, that no one should boast” (Eph. 2:8, 9 NASB). Salvation by faith begins
from justification by faith, goes through sanctification by faith, and ends to justification by
Why the Distinction?
Why is it important to make a distinction between justification and sanctification?
Why is it important to demerge experience and legal reality? After all, the 28 Fundamental
Beliefs of the Seventh-day Adventists use the concept of “experience of justification”.
kind of expression is legitimate if (1) one understands that justification happens in the
heavenly sanctuary, not inside of the person; if (2) one realizes that after the justification the
Holy Spirit informs to the person that his or her sins have been forgiven and he or she have
been justified; if (3) one knows that this information and reality is what causes the human
experience; and if (4) one does not mingle human works and merits into it.
In practical life, often, the distinction between justification and sanctification is not so
important, and both justification and sanctification can be put under the concept of
“forgiveness,” as Ellen White does in Thoughts From the Mount of Blessings.
other contexts she writes about the imputed righteousness of Christ as the foundation for the
whole salvation, as the only hope for human beings, as the starting point for Christian life,
and as the prerequisite for receiving the Holy Spirit and the new birth in Christ.
. “The Experience of Salvation,” in Seventh-day Adventists Believe… A Biblical
Exposition of Fundamental Doctrines, 2nd ed., General Conference of the Seventh-day
Adventists (Boise, ID: Pacific Press, 2005), 137.
. Ellen G. White, Thoughts From the Mount of Blessings (Mountain View, CA:
Pacific Press, 1896), 114.
. White, Faith and Works, 25, 103; Ellen G. White, Selected Messages, vol. 1
(Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald, 1958), 360; Ellen G. White, The Desire of Ages
(Mountain View, CA: Pacific Press, 1898), 175-176; Ellen G. White, “Christ's Sacrifice for
Us,” Signs of the Times, September 24, 1902.
a clear distinction between the two concepts, by saying, “The righteousness by which we are
justified is imputed; the righteousness by which we are sanctified is imparted. The first is our
title to heaven, the second is our fitness for heaven.”
She believes that Jesus’ imputed
righteousness is the one that saves us in the end, when Jesus comes.
Moreover, in the
context of Thoughts From the Mount of Blessings, Ellen White is discussing about
forgiveness, not only justification. She states, “The one thing essential for us in order that we
may receive and impart the forgiving love of God is to know and believe the love that He has
Here she clearly mentions the imparting of God’s forgiving love, which, also
according to her writings mentioned above, is sanctification. Justification includes
forgiveness but is not only forgiveness, and sanctification includes forgiveness but is not only
forgiveness. This is why, forgiveness can be used from both concepts, separately or together.
Obviously, this does not mean that then justification equals sanctification, or has to include
sanctification, or vice versa.
. Ellen G. White, Messages to Young People (Hagerstown, MD: Review and
Herald, 1930), 35.
. Ellen G. White, “The Price of Our Redemption,” Youth Instructor, May 31, 1900.
. White, Thoughts From the Mount of Blessings, 114.
. How about the following Mrs. White’s statement? “Justification means the saving
of a soul from perdition, that he may obtain sanctification, and through sanctification, the life
of heaven. Justification means that the conscience, purged from dead works, is placed where
it can receive the blessings of sanctification.” Ellen G. White, Manuscript 113, 1902. Because
the text is talking about the conscience, does not this mean that justification happens inside of
us, as well? Before jumping into a conclusion, we have to know that, firstly, Ellen White
states that justification is imputed, not imparted, and certainly not infused. Secondly, the text
is discussing about spiritual things, not anthropological things. Thirdly, she says that
conscience is placed outside of us, because, qualitatively, righteousness is outside of us, in
Jesus. After all, the Bible says that “where your treasure is, there will your heart be also,”
(Matt. 6:21) Similarly, our heart and conscience is spiritually moved to Jesus and in Jesus as
we are justified. This research paper believes and argues that in this text, Ellen White is
discussing about the title to become the child of God, after which one can receive the
blessings of sanctification. After all, she writes, “God spared not His own Son, but delivered
Him to death for our offenses and raised Him again for our justification. Through Christ we
may present our petitions at the throne of grace. Through Him, unworthy as we are, we may
Often, many cannot tell the exact time when they have been born again, because the
Holy Spirit has worked gradually in their hearts.
However, this does not take away the fact
that justification is not a happening in their hearts but is an act in the heavenly sanctuary. The
distinction can be crucial, because if God would declare us righteous by something that is
inside of us, even if it is imparted righteousness, we would start looking for an inward
“experience of justification” with some marks of justification (sanctification) as justification
from single moments in time and from ourselves, and we would mix up justification and
sanctification; and, we would not understand that justification is a sure promise from God,
received by faith, not by experiences, feelings, or searching through our psyche. A healthy
self-examination is appropriate many times, but our feelings of confidence or the lack of it
during the process or after it does not define our status before God. As we remember, faith is
mainly an objective substance, as Ellen White believed, as well. “Let us therefore come
boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of
need.” (Heb. 4:16, KJV) This boldness comes only from the assurance that righteousness is
in Christ; and Christ and His throne of grace are in heaven. God does penetrate time and
space for us, and He is with us on earth, but, still, He has given us His Word as the rule of
faith, on which we can only trust.
In summary, we are justified by Jesus’ blood, and nothing in ourselves, in the
heavenly sanctuary. Even the imparted righteousness does not have an effect to justification,
because God’s Spirit in us comes a part of us. Any part of human being offered for one’s
obtain all spiritual blessings.” Ellen G. White, Testimonies for the Church, vol. 5 (Mountain
View, CA: Pacific Press Publishing Association, 1989), 221, emphasis added. Ellen White is
talking about qualitative and spiritual realities.
. Ellen G. White, The Desire of Ages, 172; Jo Ann Davidson, “Wind and the ‘Holy
Wind’: Divine Assurance of Salvation,” in Salvation: Contours of Adventist Soteriology, 366,
justification is looked as impure in heaven as offering “creature merit” for one’s justification.
It is looked as a treason in heaven.
This study looks at the question of justification qualitatively. Justification happens to
us, but not qualitatively inside of us. We are justified only by Jesus’ infinite righteousness,
which qualifies in the eternal standard and reality of God’s character, ontology, and law, and
which is stainless.
We receive the imparted righteousness by the receiving of the Holy Spirit only as a
consequence of justification by faith. Repentance is needed before justification by faith, and
justification by faith is needed before receiving the Holy Spirit (Mark 1:15; Acts 2:38;
Eventually, when Jesus comes, His children have been sanctified, but they still need
Jesus’ imputed righteousness in order to be glorified. In justification, we get the title for
heaven. It is an objective reality, but still as real, even more real, than our experiences. We
can look into the true reality by faith, through God’s Word. Through faith in God’s Word and
promise, we can see that when we repent, we are forgiven. “The decisive word of God alone
brings peace to the soul and joy to the heart because God’s word is greater, more reliable,
than our heart.”
This is why we cannot ultimately rely on “experiences of justification”.
However, forgiveness is more than just a judicial act, because the heavenly Father personally
. White, Faith and Works, 24.
. It is true that Paul in some texts lists justification and sanctification in different
orders (Rom. 8:30; 1 Cor. 1:30; 6:11); however, this does not make it legitimate to infuse the
two into one in function. Romans 8:30 only skips over sanctification, which is not a change of
order. 1 Corinthians 1:30 is not discussing about justification-sanctification order in a
believer’s life, but the aspects that are already in Christ. Moreover, the list can be an emphatic
or a structural order. Perhaps “wisdom” is parallel to “sanctification,” and “righteousness” to
“redemption.” However, the list is not a systematic study of the order of justification and
sanctification in a person’s salvation. 1 Corinthians 6:11 will be discussed with detail below.
. Hans K. LaRondelle, Christ Our Salvation: What God Does for Us and in Us
(Mountain View, CA: Pacific Press, 1980), 44-45.
adopts us back to His family, and gives us a new name (Luke 15:10-32; 1 John 3:1; Rev.
We experience justification in a way that we experience the results of it, because God
lets us see through the eyes of faith into the heavenly sanctuary. Nevertheless, justification
must be demerged from inward change, experience, and even experience of God’s presence,
because it partly happens in man. This is why it brings the danger of creature merit. And this
is why justification happens outside of us, in the heavenly sanctuary, where the reality exists
only in Jesus Christ, the Righteous One.
. White, Faith and Works, 103.
Justification by the “Postmodern Presence”
All Roads Lead to Rome
Many things have changed after the Reformation. Protestantism has been lured back
to Catholicism in the belief about justification. The Catholic Church believes that
justification “is not remission of sins merely, but also the sanctification and renewal of the
This is called infused righteousness.
The Church also confesses that by the
sacrifice of the priest in the Eucharist, people receive forgiveness and absolution for their
or the Eucharist “wipes away venial sins.”
The Catholic Church has not changed its doctrines, because it believes in the
infallibility of the Church.
After the Council of Trent (1545-63) was The First General
Council of the Vatican (Vatican I, 1869-70), which purpose “was, besides the condemnation
of contemporary errors, to define the catholic doctrine concerning the church of Christ.”
Vatican II (1962-65) did not change the dogmas of Vatican I. Vatican states that “The
. General Council of Trent: Sixth Session, Decree on Justification, vii, Papal
Encyclicals Online, accessed February 5, 2019,
. General Council of Trent: Twenty-Second Session, Doctrine on the Sacrifice of
the Mass, Papal Encyclicals Online, accessed February 5, 2019,
. Catechism of the Catholic Church, 188.8.131.52.1394, accessed February 5, 2019,
. The Catholic Church believes that the dogmas that have been established by
Ecumenical Councils and/or by the pope’s ex cathedra are unchangeable. New Advent
Catholic Encyclopedia, s.v. “Infallibility,” accessed February 5, 2019,
. Decrees of the First Vatican Council, Introduction, Papal Encyclicals Online,
accessed February 5, 2019, http://www.papalencyclicals.net/councils/ecum20.htm.
Second Vatican Council neither changed nor intended to change this doctrine [the official
Catholic doctrine on the Church], rather it developed, deepened and more fully explained
This means that the Catholic Church has not changed its faith, but Protestant churches
have compromised their faith.
After Adolf von Harnack’s deconstruction of biblical foundationalism arouse a
theologian called Paul Tillich, who was influenced by existentialism and Harnack himself.
In his Systematic Theology, Tillich tried to deconstruct both “sacramental self-salvation,” and
“doctrinal self-salvation,” as he called them. He thought that in “Lutheran Protestantism the
phrase ‘justification by faith’ was partly responsible for the distortion of doctrine into a tool
of self-salvation. Faith as the state of being grasped by an ultimate was distorted and became
the belief in doctrine.”
However, Tillich did not seem to know that also doctrines are
important, because they construct the objective truth (2 Tim. 2:15-19; 3:13-17; 4:3-4; Titus
1:9-14). Faith includes doctrines (Jude 1:3-4). It is interesting that Tillich saw “the
sacramental presence of divine… in opposition to self-salvation.”
Moreover, Tillich stated
that justifying faith is an act, which happens in man.
Thus, Tillich, partly, led the Christian
thinking back to Roman Catholicism.
. Responses to Some Questions Regarding Certain Aspects of the Doctrine on the
Church, Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, accessed February 6, 2019,
. Gulley, Systematic Theology, vol. 1, 375; Norman Wayne Mathers, “Paul Tillich’s
Life, Thought, and German Legacy: (1886-1933),” PhD diss., University of Pretoria, Faculty
of Theology/Church History & Polity (2009), 2, 15, accessed February 6, 2019,
. Paul Tillich, Systematic Theology, vol. 2, Existence and the Christ (Chicago, IL:
The University of Chicago Press, 1957), 85.
. Tillich, Systematic Theology, 85. Tillich does not use the words “forgiveness” or
“sin” a single time in the section, which deals with justification and salvation. Ibid., 176-180.
. Tillich, Systematic Theology, 178.
Salvation by sacraments has infiltrated into Protestantism in different forms. The
Catholic charismatic movement has successfully reached Protestant charismatics by
emphasizing the charismatic experience, while, at the same time, teaching justification by
sacraments, mainly the “baptism of the Spirit.”
A historical moment was when the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification
between the Lutheran World Federation and the Catholic Church was made back in 1999. It
states, “Together we confess: By grace alone, in faith in Christ’s saving work and not because
of any merit on our part, we are accepted by God and receive the Holy Spirit, who renews our
hearts while equipping and calling us to good works.”
This is a crafty setting of words,
because, firstly, it states “by grace alone,” not “by faith alone,” which was part of the beliefs
of the Reformation’s legacy. Secondly, it states “in faith in Christ’s saving work,” not “by
faith in Christ’s justifying works, death, and blood.” Thirdly, it connects the receiving of the
Holy Spirit with justification, as the document asserts itself that justification includes the
imparted “renewing mercy,”
which, as was explained, is part of sanctification. Fourthly,
this joint statement makes it possible to join justification by sacraments under it.
After the 1999 document, more joint declarations have been made between the same
two churches. From Conflict to Communion document was published in 2013. It states
. Victor Budgen, The Charismatics and the Word of God: A Biblical and Historical
Perspective on the Charismatic Movement, 2nd ed. (Durham, England: Evangelical Press,
. Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification By the Lutheran World
Federation and the Catholic Church, The Lutheran World Federation, 15, accessed February
. Joint Declaration, 17. See also Joint Declaration, 26.
At its seventh session, the Council [of Trent] presented the sacraments as the ordinary
means by which ‘all true justice either begins, or once received gains strength, or, if
lost, is restored.’ The Council decreed that Christ instituted seven sacraments and
defined them as efficacious signs causing grace by the rite itself (ex opere operato)
and not simply by reason of the recipient’s faith.
Vatican I decreed the same belief about sacraments.
Another document, Declaration on the
Way: Church, Ministry, and Eucharist, which was made in 2015 between the Catholic Church
and the Lutheran Church, asserts that we are saved by the Church’s Eucharist.
Finnish document, Communion in Growth: Declaration on the Church, Eucharist, and
Ministry, states to believe that the forgiveness of sins happens by the Eucharist.
Justification and sanctification are confused together, and the Catholic ecclesiastic-
communal aspect is brought into the picture. This is true also in the Finnish document, as it
states, “Justification is about growing as a member of this body”
All of these subsequent
. From Conflict to Communion: Lutheran-Catholic Common Commemoration of
the Reformation in 2017, Report of the Lutheran-Roman Catholic Commission on Unity, The
Lutheran World Federation (LWF), The Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity
(PCPCU) (Leipzig, Germany: Evangelische Verlagsanstalt GmbH, 2013), 37, accessed
February 11, 2019,
. Decrees of the First Vatican Council, 2.4, Papal Encyclicals Online, accessed
February 5, 2019, http://www.papalencyclicals.net/councils/ecum20.htm.
. Declaration on the Way: Church, Ministry, and Eucharist, Committee on
Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops,
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (Minneapolis: Augsburg Fortress, 2015), 94,
accessed February 4, 2019,
. Communion in Growth: Declaration on the Church, Eucharist, and Ministry, A
Report from the Lutheran-Catholic Dialogue Commission for Finland, Evangelical Lutheran
Church of Finland, Catholic Church in Finland (Helsinki: Grano, 2017), 36, 37, accessed
February 11, 2019,
. Communion in Growth, 24.
documents of the Joint Declaration are based on the Joint Declaration. We can see that this
theology uses concepts of justification and sanctification interchangeably, which is not
biblical. However, is salvation by Eucharist a salvation by human beings’ works, or does
Christ just use the Church, when, it is claimed, we could say that the Eucharist brings
salvation from Christ?
Justification by Sacrament Equals Justification by Works
The postmodern mindset, which finds it difficult to appreciate the theology of the
cross, wants to see justification and reconciliation as a cooperation between God and man.
For example, Linwood Urban, Professor of Religion in Swarthmore College, sees
reconciliation as a cooperation of God’s contribution and human beings’ offering.
Finnish document follows this theology. However, it argues that the Lutheran/Catholic
Eucharist is not justification by one’s own works because it happens in the context of the
sacramentality of the Church.
Nevertheless, according to them, the claimed justifying
sacramentality of the Church is being interceded by the Eucharist. This is not biblical,
because Abraham was justified by faith personally, not by a community, and not by an
ecclesiastical sacramental power to forgive sins, as church is considered to hold today.
Jesus Christ personally forgives sins in the heavenly sanctuary, as has been stated.
. Urban, 124.
. Communion in Growth, 66, 67.
. Luther’s Small Catechism states that people get forgiveness of sins in the
sacrament of the altar. Luther’s Small Catechism: The Sacrament of the Altar (Concordia,
1986), accessed April 15, 2019, http://catechism.cph.org/en/sacrament-of-the-altar.html.
Martin Luther, as an example of the Reformers, abandoned many Catholic doctrines, but he
was not able to get rid of the whole “baggage” of the deep and long roots of Roman
Catholicism in Europe. He saw it wise to hold on to established national church and a Lord’s
Supper, very similar to the Catholic one, perhaps, because a quicker change would have
brought even more unrest into the society. Whatever were Luther’s motives, it is not
reasonable to suggest that the classical Reformers would have been able to find all the truth
from the Bible and would have had the strength to apply all of it. Olavi Rouhe,
Moreover, the Bible speaks against justification by acts of sacraments. Paul takes the
circumcision as an example of these acts (Rom. 4). He writes,
Blessed are those whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered; blessed is
the man against whom the Lord will not reckon his sin.” Is this blessing pronounced
only upon the circumcised, or also upon the uncircumcised? We say that faith was
reckoned to Abraham as righteousness. How then was it reckoned to him? Was it
before or after he had been circumcised? It was not after, but before he was
circumcised. He received circumcision as a sign or seal of the righteousness which he
had by faith while he was still uncircumcised. The purpose was to make him the
father of all who believe without being circumcised and who thus have righteousness
reckoned to them… (Rom. 4:7-11, RSV)
Paul is saying that by the “sacramental” act of circumcision, Abraham was not justified, but
circumcision was a consequence and a mark of justification by faith. Paul writes about the
Israelites that they strived for righteousness by works, which he states to be one’s own
righteousness. He writes, “Because they did not pursue it through faith, but as if it were
based on works… For, being ignorant of the righteousness that comes from God, and seeking
to establish their own, they did not submit to God's righteousness.” (Rom. 9:32; 10:3, RSV)
Righteousness by works is thus one’s own righteousness; and righteousness by a sacramental
act is righteousness by works, as was shown.
Uskonpuhdistuksen Perillisiä (Tampere, Finland: Kirjatoimi, 2005), 149. Luther did his part;
however, the Reformation did continue after him, and old forgotten truths of the Bible were
found again; for example, when Conrad Grebel and Felix Mantz studied the Bible in its
original languages, and discovered baptism by immersion, one more step was taken in the
“purification of faith”. Rouhe, 38.
Moreover, Luther asserts, “The papists err in attributing to the sacrament, that it
justifies, ex opere operato, when the work is fulfilled.” Martin Luther, Table Talk, trans.
William Hazlitt (Philadelphia: The Lutheran Publication Society, n.d.), ccclxiii, accessed
April 16, 2019, https://www.ccel.org/ccel/luther/tabletalk.txt. This suggests that Luther did
not believe that justification happens in the altar, because it is already fulfilled on the cross.
Justification by Creation
Catholic and Lutheran Examples
Karl Barth was driven towards the Catholic mindset of justification. Catholic
theologian Hans Küng claimed that Protestant justification by faith and Catholic justification
are eventually identical, as he dialoged with Karl Barth.
Küng writes, “It is to be
presupposed that the justified man is truly just—inwardly in his heart. At this point Barth
does side with Trent against the Reformers.”
Barth answered in his letter to Küng that Küng
was right in all of his reproduction of Barth’s views.
Barth writes that he does not believe
that justification is only “a verbal action,” but that inward justification happens as it is
“created,” when man is “made righteous,” and old man is replaced “by a new and obedient
Donald W. Wuerl, the Archbishop of Washington stated, “Flowing from the Eucharist
is not just the remembrance of the death and Resurrection of Christ but the strength we derive
from it to be a whole new creation, people alive with the Holy Spirit with the power to bring
about God’s kingdom of truth, justice, compassion, kindness, peace and love.”
. Hans Küng, Theology for the Third Millennium: An Ecumenical View (New York:
Doubleday, 1988), 267.
. Hans Küng, Justification: The Doctrine of Karl Barth and a Catholic Reflection
(London: Burns & Oates, 1964), 225.
. Küng, Justification, xvii.
. Karl Barth, Church Dogmatics, vol. 4.1, The Doctrine of Reconciliation
(Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1975), 95. Küng quotes these points. Küng, Justification, 67.
. Donald W. Wuerl, The Institution of the Holy Eucharist, Gift of God, Quèbec,
Monday, June 16, 2008, Vatican.va, accessed February 8, 2019,
words, Wuerl sees sacraments as a life giving and sustaining power.
Conflict to Communion document states,
Furthermore, according to the Catholic reading, Luther’s doctrine of ‘forensic
imputation’ seemed to deny the creative power of God’s grace to overcome sin and
transform the justified. Catholics wished to emphasize not only the forgiveness of
sins but also the sanctification of the sinner. Thus, in sanctification the Christian
receives that ‘justice of God’ whereby God makes us just.
Also, the Joint Declaration states, “The justification of sinners is forgiveness of sins
and being made righteous by justifying grace, which makes us children of God.”
declaration continues that justification includes “salvific and creative working” in the
communion between God and man.
In other words, the sacrament is a creative act for
Catholics and Lutherans (at least for those leaders of these churches, who made the
documents and agreed on them).
As an example from the academic field, Niels Henrik Gregersen from the University
of Copenhagen sees that creation is “the unspeakable unification of God and world, creator
and creature,” that happens every day.
I wish to argue that the idea of a union between Christ and the believer (so rightly re-
emphasized by modern Finnish Luther research) finds a correlate within Luther’s
doctrine of creation. According to Luther’s understanding of the eucharist, of blessing
and of vocation, there exists also, what one might [call?] a unio Creatoris et
creaturae, which has a similar structure as the unio Christi et fidei, though not
necessarily the same full content.”
. The Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2.1072, 1074, accessed February 6, 2019,
. From Conflict to Communion, 48.
. Joint Declaration, 27.
. Niels Henrik Gregersen, “Grace in Nature and History: Luther’s Doctrine of
Creation Revisited,” Dialog: A Journal of Theology 44, no. 1 (Spring 2005), 23, Academic
Search Complete, EBSCOhost (accessed January 24, 2019).
. Gregersen, 20.
Basically, Gregersen claims that creation is similar to justification and justification is similar
to creation, and he attaches this creative power and unification to the Eucharist, as he says,
“Most significantly, it is in the interaction between nature and human beings that the
substances of nature are transformed into active events and may become bearers of divine
meaning and even redemption.”
However, Luther does not agree with Gregersen, as he
states that justification does not happen in the Eucharist, as was asserted above.
connecting of justification or redemption with creation in human experience comes close to
Process theology, which educates that Jesus’ death and resurrection do not save man, but
“creative power” does, which leads into full unity of mankind, and to a mystical, cosmic
“power of life”.
Barth, Gregersen, the Lutheran Church, the Catholic Church, and Process theology
miss the point. Firstly, justification in the heavenly sanctuary, as stated, is no less real
happening than a human experience on earth, but the true reality. Faith is “the evidence of
things not seen,” (Hebr. 11:1, KJV) and, precisely, by faith into Jesus’ justifying act outside
of us we are justified; faith, not experience, is evidence for this act. God gives experiences, as
well, but they are not the foundation of justification and salvation by faith; faith is. Secondly,
we are not “made righteous” in justification,
which would be infused righteousness.
Thirdly, “creation” of the new man is sanctification, not justification, as has been explained.
Moreover, an inward Christ or a creation by Christ that is in the matter, as justification, are
. Gregersen, 24.
. Luther, Table Talk, ccclxiii.
. David L. Smith, A Handbook of Contemporary Theology: Tracing Trends &
Discerning Directions in Today’s Theological Landscape (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1992),
. Knight, Sin and Salvation, 79.
basically pantheistic or panentheistic concepts, and they move away from the biblical concept
that justification is a reality that happens in Christ. The Holy Spirit is the One who
communicates between the heavenly sanctuary and the one being justified; and He creates this
union (unio) between Christ and the believer; but justification happens in heaven.
Seventh-day Adventist Examples
In addition to the Christians mentioned above, some Seventh-day Adventists have
confused justification and sanctification. Hans K. LaRondelle writes, “However, justification
implies more than mere a legal transaction. The righteousness of Christ is a transforming
power, ‘it is a principle of life that transforms the character and controls the conduct.’”
Here, LaRondelle quotes Ellen White from a context that discusses about genuine repentance
and reformation of the heart, not justification as such.
As stated, it is true that justification
is not only a judicial act; however, it does not give the right to confuse it with sanctification.
Ivan T. Blazen mixes justification and sanctification together, as well.
“Justification, in the full Pauline sense, implies the concept of sanctification as moral growth
predicated upon the believer’s transfer to the lordship of Christ.”
Blazen even calls the right
relationship of Christians with one another justification, which he calls “justification as
All of the Bible verses that he uses to defend this claim (Luke 15:1, 2; Rom.
. LaRondelle, 47.
. White, The Desire of Ages, 555.
. The author of this paper is a Seventh-day Adventist, and he argues that Blazen's
teaching about justification does not represent the whole view of Seventh-day Adventists.
See, for example, Richard Davidson, “Justification by Faith According to the Old Testament:
In the Footsteps of the Reformers,” Andrews University Faculty Publications 859 (2017),
accessed August 16, 2019, https://digitalcommons.andrews.edu/pubs/859/.
. Blazen, “Salvation,” 284.
. Blazen, “Salvation,” 284. Blazen does not say that he is talking about
sanctification in this section of his article, and the title of the paragraph is “Justification as
Community,” which suggests that he is discussing about justification only.
12:4; 15:7; 1 Cor. 12:12, 13; Gal. 3:26, 28; Eph. 2:13-19; 4:4, 5), are not discussing about
He no less refers to James and the Gentiles eating together as justification
However, as we have studied, eating together—even a “sacramental eating”—
and being together as Christians do not justify.
”Unless One is Born Again…” (John 3:3). Blazen also argues that justification
means human-ontological creation, and he states that in justification “the power of God is
present,” and “eternal life is already present” in the person.
It is true that God creates a new
heart to the one who is born again. However, are being born again and being justified by God
the same thing? What is this new birth, that God gives to them who accept Him as their Lord
Firstly, it must be stated that creation, in the human reality and pattern—and here we
are discussing about the human reality and pattern, because Blazen uses the concept of “in the
person”, and refers to Galatians 6:15 and Romans 6:4—is something we can see and
experience, but justification in the heavenly sanctuary is not. As stated, we can experience
the consequences of justification but not the actual justification in the heavenly sanctuary.
Secondly, only after justification, the conversion, and conscious choosing of Jesus, God gives
the Holy Spirit as a sign of righteousness by faith (Gal. 3:2, 14), and then a person is a new
man or a new woman. Paul uses an expression “baptism into Jesus Christ” as a figure of
speech of the new birth (Rom. 6:3). Even before the actual new birth, there exists some kind
. The fact that in salvation in Christ, people come together in peace, and there is no
more Jew or Gentile, is a consequence of each person’s individual justification by faith and
the Holy Spirit’s work in the hearts of the persons, not justification per se.
. Blazen, “Salvation,” 284. This point, as well, belongs to the section under the title
“Justification as Community.”
. Blazen, “The Grace that Justifies and Sanctifies,” 307.
of influence of the Spirit through God’s prevenient grace and work in the heart of an
unbeliever (Rom. 2:4). However, only “[w]hen the promptings of the Holy Spirit are
accepted and sinners open themselves to God in faith, confession, and repentance, a divine-
human relationship begins (Rev. 3:20),” and it is “established through the new-birth
experience,” which is “known as divine indwelling, filling (Luke 1:67; Acts 2:4; 4:31; 9:17:
13:52), or baptism of the Holy Spirit (Matt. 3:11; Mark 1:8; Luke 3:16; Acts 1:5; 11:16).”
Also, Norman Gulley states that “[a]fter declaring humans as just, God imparts His Holy
Spirit as the means of sanctifying them (Rom. 15:16; 1 Cor. 6:11) for only God can create (cf.
Christ: 2 Cor. 5:17; Gal. 6:15) or restore persons to reflect the image of God damaged through
In other words, the creation of the new man in the human-ontological sphere
(pattern) happens by the Holy Spirit separately from justification. This creation in man is
imparted righteousness, as Ellen White stated. This inward working of the Holy Spirit is not
justification, because before coming to Christ and conversion, the person does not have a
conscious faith in Christ. Moreover, we are not “officially” inhabitants of the kingdom of
God unless we confess our faith publicly (Matt. 10:32-39; Joh. 5:5; Rom. 10:10).
What Does 2 Corinthians 5:17 Mean? The text states, “Therefore, if anyone is in
Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become
new.” (2 Cor. 5:17, NKJV) Blazen argues that this text discusses about both the
eschatological new life and the justification in a way that “the power of God is present to
bring life to those who are spiritually dead,” and it happens in man.
Nevertheless, the text
. Fernando L. Canale, “The Doctrine of God,” in Handbook of Seventh-day
Adventist Theology, 135.
. Gulley, Systematic Theology, vol. 3., 752.
. Blazen, “The Grace that Justifies and Sanctifies,” 306-307.
can also talk about the eschatological new life, only, and explain that God sees us as new
creatures through Christ already, even though the final transformation has not yet occurred.
The New Creation of the Heart. Galatians 6:15 says, “For neither is circumcision
anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation.” (Gal. 6:15, NASB) For the amalgamation
of creation, sanctification and justification, Blazen uses Galatians 6:15 as an evidence for his
However, in Galatians, Paul compares circumcision with the circumcision of the
heart. The circumcision of the heart is the new creation of the heart, as becomes clear from
the Scriptures by linguistic parallels (Ezek. 44:7; Rom. 2:25-29; Phil. 3:3), thematic parallels
(Rom. 6-8; Gal. 6:14), and linguistic and thematic parallels (Eph. 2:11-13). The context of
Galatians 6:15 is sanctification, practical Christian living, and walking by the Spirit (Gal. 5:1-
6:16). Sanctification is the new creation of man, because it happens in man. Romans 6:7,
which states that “he that is dead is freed from sin,” (KJV) and uses “the word ordinarily
meaning ‘to justify,’”
is not a problem, because Paul can relate back to justification, when
the believers were freed from sin. This is obvious, because the believers are not totally freed
from sin (from the sinful flesh) until the second coming of Christ.
Moreover, Blazen sees that Galatians 2:20 can be used as an evidence for that the
expression “in Christ” in the Bible would not merely include that we are legally in Christ, but
that we are in Him from the viewpoint of relationship in a way that Christ would be alive in
He argues that the context of Galatians 2:20 is only justification, which would,
in fact, either infuse or impart righteousness in man in the justification act. It is true that
. Blazen, “The Grace that Justifies and Sanctifies,” 307.
. Blazen, “The Grace That Justifies and Sanctifies,” 308. Friberg, Analytical
Lexicon to the Greek New Testament, s.v. “δικαιόω.”
. Ivan T. Blazen, “In Christ: Union with Him as Savior and Lord in Paul,” Biblical
Research Institute Release 2 (May 2005): 4, Silver Spring, MD: Biblical Research Institute,
Christ is alive through the Holy Spirit in the believer. However, against the claim that it can
be called justification, three points are given: (1) Galatians 2:16-21 is clearly the diatribe of
the epistle to the Galatians, because it compresses the whole message of the letter, because the
epistle is not discussing about justification only, but also about sanctification; (2) the very text
of Galatians 2:20 itself speaks about living in the flesh (ζῶ ἐν σαρκί, BGT), which happens in
sanctification; and (3) in addition to justification by faith, the context speaks about works of
the law (2:16) and building on the law [for salvation] (v. 18), against which, in the context of
the epistle, Paul gives the answer of justification by faith, as well as the answer of the
Christian sanctification and living “to God” (v. 19), receiving the Spirit (3:2, 14), beginning
in the Spirit (v. 3), Christ being formed in man (4:19), being born after the Spirit (4:29), and
living in Spirit (5:5; 5:13-6:16) (KJV).
Blazen argues that Galatians 4:19 means: “… until the crucified, justification-bringing
Christ shapes (determines) your existence again.” He thinks that this would defend his claim
of “the presence of justification” in justification by faith.
However, when Paul writes that
he will work for that Christ might “get the form” in his Galatian brethren, he obviously means
the whole process that is needed for Christ’s righteousness to “become part of” their thinking,
understanding of justification, faith, sanctification, and Christian living. This becomes clear
from the next verse, which continues to elaborate how Paul would want to fulfil this task, and
it becomes clear from the whole letter, which discusses about both justification and
1 Corinthians 6:11: A Problem? In this text, Paul states, “And such were some of
you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the
Lord Jesus Christ, and in the Spirit of our God.” (1 Cor. 6:11, NASB) Paul seems to teach
. Blazen, “In Christ: Union with Him as Savior and Lord in Paul,” 5.
that we are justified in the Spirit, and he seems to merge sanctification and justification. This
verse belongs to the category of hard sayings of the Bible, similarly as James 2:14-26, where,
it is claimed, James seems to proclaim justification by works. In these both texts, we need to
let the clearer texts about salvation shed their light on the unclear texts about the same
subject. By doing this, we can suggest that (1) in the context of 1 Corinthians 6:11, which
would be 5:1-8:13, Paul is talking about sanctification, practical Christianity, and fleeing from
bad habits, sinful behavior and fornication. This would mean that the context is not
discussing about justification. (2) As the context discusses about sanctification,
“justification” in the text stands for the “moral justification”, the good works as the evidence
of having been justified by faith, having been “washed,” and having been sanctified
momentarily by God’s proclamation,
similarly as James 2:14-26 talks about. (3) The text
seems to have an emphasis on “in the Spirit of God,” and “in Christ,” which would mean that
it focuses on the fact that both of these members of the Holy Trinity are involved in
justification and sanctification, even though, again, the main functions are different.
Regarding the Holy Spirit, this would mean the intercession of Him between heaven and
earth, as He, for example, informs the repentant that he or she has been justified in the
heavenly sanctuary because of what the Word of God promises. Gulley states, “Together the
Holy Spirit and Christ work in Christians, but it is always the finished work of Christ (His life
and death) which is applied.”
All of these points indicate that Paul wants to teach his fellow
brethren that we are not saved without sanctification and fleeing away from sin, which are an
evidence of justification by faith.
. White, Faith and Works, 15.
. Gulley, Systematic Theology, vol. 3, 681.
In its postmodern “development,” Christianity has shifted away from the biblical
justification by faith and the theology of the cross. Justification is sought from experiences
and works. This has moved the Christian world to Roman Catholic teaching of infused
righteousness and justification by sacrament/creation.
The roots of postmodern theology are in postmodern philosophy, which is based on
Greek philosophy. We saw that infused righteousness through the papal system includes all
the three aspects of postmodern thinking, which are communal focus, experiential focus, and
deconstruction of the basis on Scripture.
Justification happened on the cross of Calvary. Moreover, justification is the legal act
that Jesus Christ does in the heavenly sanctuary by imputing His works and death for the
repentant sinner. By faith, a person can have justification for him or her, and it is called
justification by faith. Faith is the substance, as an instrument of God, which looks into Jesus
as the only righteousness. God does not look at anything in us, not even the indwelling Holy
Spirit, in order to declare us righteous. The Holy Spirit is given as imparted righteousness
after justification. Nevertheless, Holy Spirit does not infuse into man, but the righteousness
stays as God’s righteousness, and does not become the person’s righteousness, because God
causes all the good works in and through the believer.
However, in sanctification, the Holy Spirit and the human being cooperate. This is
why, we are not justified by what is inside of us, because a part of humanity is involved with
sanctification. We must do a distinction between justification and sanctification for the
reason that we would not look into what is inside of us as the ultimate means and reality of
justification. And, we must do the distinction, because any part of human being offered for
one’s justification is looked as impure in heaven as offering “creature merit” for one’s
justification. It is looked as a treason in heaven.
Ellen White made a distinction between justification and sanctification. In
justification, we get the title for heaven. It is an objective reality, but still as real, even more
real, than our experiences. We can look into the true reality by faith, through God’s Word.
The Protestant world has been lured back to Catholicism, which believes in infused
righteousness, which means that creature merit and human works are a part of justification.
This can be seen from the belief about the Eucharist, through which, the Catholic Church and
the Lutheran Church (at least the top leadership), now, believe that people are saved. Many
believe that in justification happens an inward creation, which can be paralleled by the
biblical belief of regeneration and new birth. This is a Catholic doctrine, as well, and it has
been adopted by many Protestants. The belief stands for merging of justification and
Even Seventh-day Adventist theologians have confused and confuse justification and
sanctification in the similar way as the former examples. Hans LaRondelle made a mistake
by mixing the two. Blazen goes further and argues for “the presence of justification,” and
“the new creation of justification,” which happens in man. This, as has been shown, places
justification totally or partly inside of man, which is not biblical. Moreover, Blazen argues
that justification happens in community, which is postmodern and Roman Catholic teaching,
as well. When studied by the Scriptures, Blazen’s claims do not “hold water”.
Jesus’ sacrifice is not the core of postmodern and postliberal theology, but it is the
presence of God. John Milbank’s The Midwinter Sacrifice was a very influential piece of
postmodern theology, as The Blackwell Companion to Postmodern Theology brings its
importance at sight. Milbank writes
In the eucharistic liturgy, humanity enters in advance into the divine Sabbath, the
eschatological banquet and the cosmic nuptial, into the realm where once again we can
entirely trust our every act as good precisely because we know that it will not merely
follow our intention but be transformed and given back to us in a different and
In Milbank’s writing, we can see the belief in infused righteousness by sacrament and human
acts. It is interesting that Milbank refers to John Buchan’s novel Witch Wood, that pictures
Calvinist “justified sinners” as devil worshippers, who do not return love to God, because
they see it as irrelevant, because they see the “divine decree” as “impersonal” and
Milbank has been an influential factor in directing the postmodern Christianity
and the world back to Roman Catholicism, as, according to Hart, Milbank’s “vision of
Christendom” was that it can be “revived by participatory ontology,” and that Milbank longed
for the Medieval Catholic society.
We can see that postmodern theology sees justification by faith as “impersonal”. It
seems that the wrong doctrine of unconditional election in the modern era caused a shift to
another wrong direction in Christian thought in the postmodern era. As a consequence, the
presence of God in His person, or in some collective, mystical, ontological, pantheistic-
human presence, is longed for as a counterfeit justification. “Grace,” “the gift,” or “the
. John Milbank, “The Midwinter Sacrifice,” in The Blackwell Companion to
Postmodern Theology, ed. Graham Ward (Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2005), 127.
. Milbank, 129-130n33.
. Hart, 182, 186, 192.
Good” are “names which convey all our Western longing,” writes Milbank.
and sanctification are merged into one under these terms.
Milbank sees that we receive grace, a newly created life, as well as a total
surrendering to them, in the Eucharist.
Milbank states that Jesus did not die for “the sake of
the cosmos or the other,” but for the resurrection, which is commemorated in the Eucharist.
This kind of thinking easily nullifies Christ’s substitutionary death. Milbank’s thoughts are
perfect examples of the postmodern theology’s mindset.
Protestants are under heavy bombing from the worldwide postmodern thinking, and
under the subtle influence of the Catholic Church. Martin Luther asserted that if the doctrine
of justification by faith falls, the whole church falls.
The doctrine of infused righteousness,
and the doctrine of mixing up justification and sanctification are leading to salvation by man’s
works, which is not biblical. John Bunyan wrote,
. Milbank, 128.
. Milbank, 128.
. Milbank, 127.
. This mindset is seen in “Christian” meditation, “Christian” yoga, and “Christian”
mindfulness, as well, which are founded on the inner experience of God. This experience is
believed to happen even in a redeeming manner, as Tim Lane, Founder and President of the
Institute for Pastoral Care, states,
I believe that there is a way to practice “Christian mindfulness”—something that
connects with the secular trend, but adds a very important dimension. In my new
book, Unstuck: A Nine Step Journey to Change that Lasts, I walk through nine steps
that share some similarities to the steps above with one main difference: the presence
of a personal God, who communes with us and redeems us as we are mindful of his
presence with us in the moment. (Lane, “Christian Mindfulness?”)
In other words, Lane argues that the experience of the presence of God brings redemption.
This is salvation by experience and works, as one tries to tap into God’s presence through
meditation, as the Medieval monks strived to.
. WA 40/3.352.3; Justin Taylor, Luther’s Saying: “Justification Is the Article by
Which the Church Stands and Falls,” The Gospel Coalition, August 31, 2011, accessed March
3, 2019, https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/justin-taylor/luthers-saying/.
It is absolutely necessary that this be known of us; for if the understanding be muddy
as to this, it is impossible that such should be sound in the faith; also in temptation,
that man will be at a loss that looketh for a righteousness for justification in himself,
when it is to be found nowhere but in Jesus Christ. The apostle, who was his
craftsmaster as to this, was always “looking to Jesus,” that he “might be found in him”
(Phil. iii. 6-8), knowing that nowhere else could peace or safety be had. And indeed
this is one of the greatest mysteries in the world—namely, that a righteousness that
resides with a person in heaven should justify me, a sinner, on earth.
By faith into God’s Word, we must hold on to justification by faith, because it is
grounded on the belief about righteousness in Christ only. Justification by faith is not
sanctification, but it leads into imparted righteousness and sanctification. We need Jesus’
righteousness all the way until He comes. Justification happens outside of human being, so
that his or her heart and works cannot be infused into the purity of Jesus’ character and
righteousness. Justification by faith means being accepted as righteous by the reality that is
only in Christ. This is the corner stone of the whole biblical soteriology.
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