Paul D asked me: “David, what could possibly be so hard to understand about the law condemning the unsaved and being a light for the path of the righteous?” (in the combox on his post Indicative of What Ails the SBC: Johnny Hunt Denies the New Birth at Ohio Men’s Summit at PPT)

That statement is perfectly fine.  The trouble always begins with the word “justification.”  (There’s no point in beating around the bush, so let’s get right down to it.)  To speak of “justifying” a sinner is to justify his sinful lifestyle and thus to say that continuing in sin is Ok.  It is anti-repentance.  The proper term is not “justification” but “salvation.”  Justification is not a step in a process of salvation, some “golden chain,” but the absolute antithesis and enemy of salvation.  For anyone who feels “justified” goes on in sin and cannot ever pursue holiness.  While he who is saved from sin, ceases to sin, he who is “justified” sins with full gusto.  That’s why Jesus never spoke of “justification” (aside from “by your words you will be justified or condemned” speaking of the account we must give at Judgement).  There was no “justification” in Jesus’ theology because he knew he didn’t come to die to give your pastor the right to rape your daughter and still go to heaven because he was “justified.”   The angel told Mary that Jesus was being born to “save his people from their sins” not to “justify” them in their sins.  That word is where it all goes awry. We’ve wasted 1500 years arguing over one stupid word that never should have entered our theological vocabulary at all. That word has been one long wild goose chase, and I for one am done with it.

Although, if you want to know what I believe the epistular Paul actually meant by it, see What did Paul mean by “justification by faith and not by works”?

He could have chosen a better word, obviously, like the word we tend to use today. We speak of a believer as a “valid candidate” for baptism, where he used the phrase “justification by faith” to describe the idea that one becomes a valid candidate for baptism on the basis of faith.  Paul’s own concept of “justification” has nothing to do with “justification.”  He just used the wrong word; he used a word but gave it an entirely different meaning.  He was bad at that.  That’s what happens when you’re writing in a language that’s not your native language, unfortunately.  But there’s no reason for us to be stuck with this word just because Paul was bad at Greek.

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