This Week's Focus Passage

Titus 3:7 ‘Being justified by his grace, we might be made heirs.’

I thought that we were justified by faith! What goes on here? Has not Paul clearly stated, in Romans 5:1, Being therefore justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Did the apostle write to the church at Rome telling them that they were justified by faith, and then later write to his follower, Titus, that we are justified by grace? How do we justify—excuse the pun—these statements one with the other? Indeed, are we justified by grace, or is it by faith? There was been a publication issued in 1930 by Eerdmans Publishing Co. at the behest, it appears, of a number of theologians in the Grand Rapids, Michigan community and colleges, which brought together two lectures that were delivered by Patrick Fairbairn of the Free Church of Scotland. They were, each of the two, on the subject of the Prophetic, or Future, Prospects of the Jews. The first of these was written by Rev. Patrick Fairbairn in 1840 while the second was published in 1867, more than twenty-five years later by Dr. Patrick Fairbairn of the Free Church College in Edinburgh, Scotland. The re-publication of these two items in one single volume was intended for the sake of making comparison of these chronologically spaced teachings of this highly esteemed pastor and theologian to witness just how greatly his views had changed. The 1930 volume was titled, ‘Fairbairn vs. Fairbairn. Should we consider putting Paul’s teaching on justification from Romans and Titus together and call it Paul vs. Paul? Of course not! The obvious distinction is that the apostle Paul wrote under inspiration; Patrick Fairbairn did not!

Still, there appears on the surface something of an inconsistency between Paul and Paul. The solution to the ‘apparent’ inconsistency is not difficult to learn. Gordon Clark has offered his own understanding of this beautifully exciting Pauline passage, bringing both grace and faith under his purview:

“The early events of salvation in or for an individual Christian include not only regeneration, repentance, and faith, but also justification. We are justified by means of faith and by faith alone. Justification is a forensic or judicial act of God by which he not only pardons us but also accepts us as righteous in his sight, only for the righteousness of Christ imputed to us and received by faith alone. Accepting us as righteous makes us sons of God and joint-heirs with Christ. The subjective side of this is that we have a hope of eternal life. This phrase could be translated, ‘made heirs of eternal life according to hope.’ All of which is ‘by that one’s [his] grace.’” [bold underlining mine].

Consider an analogy. If we should be spared from robbery, or worse, by the interruption of a police officer with his service weapon drawn, is it the police officer, or is it his service weapon, that has been the cause of our being spared? Is it not truly both? We have been spared by the intervention of the police officer. It is all of grace then; “regeneration, repentance, and faith, but also justification” It is ‘all of grace’ and under that glorious grace of God are each of these blessings; the new birth granted by the regenerating power of God, the Holy Spirit; the gift of repentance through which we are enabled to respond to the gospel call, even that spoken by Christ when He came preaching the gospel, Repent ye, and believe in the gospel. (Mark 1:15) We may not only repent, but may believe through the gift of faith also received because of the grace of God. These gifts are received by the new heart given at regeneration according to the new covenant promise found in Ezekiel 36:26: Regeneration promised; a new birth, a new heart of repentance and of faith.

Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to  be an apostle, separated unto the gospel of God, which he promised afore through his prophets in the holy scriptures, concerning his Son, who was born of the seed of David according to the flesh, who was declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead; even Jesus Christ our Lord, through whom we received grace and apostleship, unto obedience of faith among all the nations, for his name’s sake; among whom are ye also, called to be Jesus Christ’s.—Romans 1:1-6

We see here in Paul’s salutation to the church in Rome, something of that which theologians have called the Ordo Salutis, if we may employ that term here, or the ‘order of salvation.’ In this particular, we are attempting to make the point that the grace of God shown His people due to the merit of Jesus Christ, in both His active and His passive obedience, is the proximate ground, or cause, of the regeneration of ; those for whom Christ laid down His life at Golgotha. The regeneration, or the new birth, i.e. the new creation is the point at which the gifts of repentance and faith are given. We learn of this in Acts 5:31, where it is written,

Him [Jesus] did God exalt with his right hand to be a Prince and a Saviour, to give repentance to Israel, and remission of sins.

And Paul attests the same grace of God in his epistle to the Ephesians, in that well-known verse, 2:8, for by grace have ye been saved through faith. Both repentance and faith are gifts from God through His grace; Being therefore justified out of [by, or through] faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore we may say as Paul wrote to Titus, Being justified by his grace, we might be made heirs, keeping in mind of course that our Lord has appointed faith as the instrument, or the mediatorial means through which justification is attained. It is through faith, according to the exercise of faith, or, out of faith, as the margin reads. These all point at faith as being necessary unto justification, yet at the same time a gift from God. This, once again, reminds us of the pithy statement of Augustine of Hippo, “Give what you command, and command what you will.” God commands repentance, and He Himself provides what He commands; He gives repentance. God commands faith, and He Himself provides that faith; He grants faith to believe.

David Farmer, elder

Fellowship Bible Church


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