Two Justifications?

Institutes of Elenctic Theology, Volume 2 Some in broader evangelicalism (New Perspectives on Paul) and in broader Reformed circles (Federal Vision) have talked about a future justification based on works in a way that is out of step with historic Reformed theology.  Of course, the Reformers debated Rome over this issue as well.  Francis Turretin (d. 1687) described the historic Reformed “sola fide” position well:

“Although our justification will be fully declared on the last day (our good works also being brought forward as the sign and proof of its truth, Mt. 25:34-40), still falsely would anyone maintain from this a twofold gospel justification – one from faith in this life (which is the first); the other (and second) from works on the day of judgment (as some hold, agreeing too much with the Romanists on this point).”

“The sentence to be pronounced by the supreme Judge will not be so much a new justification, as the solemn and public declaration of a sentence once passed and its execution by the assignment of the life promised with respect to an innocent person from the preceding justification.”

“Thus it is nothing else than an adjudicatory sentence of the possession of the kingdom of heaven from the right given before through justification.  And if works are then brought forward, they are not adduced as the foundation of a new justification to be obtained then, but as signs, marks, and effects of our true faith and of our justification solely by it.”

Francis Turretin, Institutes of Elenctic Theology, vol. 2, p. 687.

shane lems
hammond, wi

9 thoughts on “Two Justifications?”

  1. Reblogged this on Involuted Speculations and commented:
    Very helpful quote from Francis Turretin regarding the erroneous doctrine of dual justification espoused by those who embrace the heretical doctrine of justification espoused by N.T. Wright and his admirers (e.g. Doug Wilson, Richard B. Gaffin, Federal Visionists, etc).


  2. The importance of this short blog post is way out of proportion to its size. The “New Perspective/View” of Paul on justification (Sanders, Dunn, et al.) along with N. T. Wright’s “Fresh View” twist on it are indicted by these three brief paragraphs you cite from Francis Turretin’s Institutes of Elenctic Theology. I am a fan of Turretin, by the way, but my reasons for this are a subject for another time. That being said, these modern academics’ attempts to “reinvent the wheel” present less that is “new” or “fresh”, and more that smacks of resurrections of an old Roman wheel rolling on a Roman road that leads straight back to Romanism. The relevance of Turretin’s work on this and other subjects for our day may be seen in the echoes to be found in current publications by Piper, Horton and others who have been contending against the popularity of the “New Perspectivites” in the ivory towers of falsely so-called scholarship.

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  3. You may wish to take a look at Greg Beale’s “A New Testament Biblical Theology” (pp505ff.) for a defense of two justifications. There he tries to argue that this is the traditional view – extraordinary!! This doctrine of two justifications is very pervasive, not just in NP and Federal Vision, but among a lot of standard Reformed people. There are theologians in Presbyterian colleges in Australia who do not even think this is a problem. Now people are even defending a ‘protestant’ purgatory (see John Stackhouse); all this is the product of failing to understand Justification bu faith. What has happened to the Reformation.


  4. Martin,
    Can you flesh out a little more of Beale’s thought for those of us who do not own his work? Your post leaves a negative perception of Beale on an important topic of orthodoxy. Is he saying more than Turretin – good works as evidence of saving faith? Thank you.


    1. Hi Michael,
      I will directly quote:
      “We have seen that believers’ bodily resurrection is a visible, consummative, end-time manifestation of their end-time, unseen, presently justified status. ‘Good works’ are part of this final ‘manifestive justification’. A few texts speak of a future end-time justification of Christians. For example, Rom. 2:13 says: ‘For it is not the hearers of the Law who are just before God, but the doers of the Law will be justified.'” (p. 505)
      “It may be surprising to some to learn that it is not uncommon in the Reformed tradition of what has been called variously a ‘twofold justification,’ or a past justification by faith and a subsequent justification by works, or a first justification’ and a ‘second justification’. (p. 506)
      “…good works are absolutely necessary at the last eschatological judgment in order to demonstrate and thus vindicate that someone has truly believed in Christ and been justified…” (p.525)
      Calvin had a few thoughts on Rom. 2:13: “They who pervert this passage for the purpose of building up justification by works, deserve most fully to be laughed at, even by children.”
      To be fair, Michael, the problem here could be use of language. Clearly the resurrection and probably good works are evidence of Justification, and the public manifestation of it. But I fail to understand why these good works would be used at the judgment day to manifest justification, and not throughout a person’s life. I think that whenever we use justification with regards to whatever happens at the last day, we can only create confusion. So speaking of second or final justification is problematic, unless one actually wants to state that faith, resurrection and good works are all necessary for final justification. In that case, we are not justified by faith alone.


      1. I have much appreciation for Beale so I just turned to p.505 to see what passage led him to say this. In his footnote he sends us to Owen and Heppe and actually cites Turretin so, giving him the benefit of the doubt, I don’t think he is using Turretin against Turretin. Concerning Rom 2:13, I myself would not use it as Beale did; I think Lee Irons did good work on that in his paper on that verse. I find 1 Jn 3:2 to be a Johannine parallel to Paul’s Rom 8:19-25 and suspect it is better to speak of our adoption as sons – regeneration – being manifest (justified in the eyes of all creation) on the last day. The Spirit witnesses to us inwardly of our sonship now (Rom 8:16-17; 1 Jn 3:1) and assures us of our eternal life through the promise of the gospel (Rom 8:31-39; 1 Jn 2:1-2) and by his sanctifying work in us whereby he conforms us to the image of Christ who suffered in this old creation (Rom 8:4-18, 28-29; 1 Jn 2:28-29; 3:3 note the theme of the world’s hatred of us in 1 Jn).


  5. Martin,
    Thanks for the extended quote. My interpretation is that he is departing from the substance of Turretin and the WCF at worst or using very unhelpful language at best.


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