Bill Blogsmith

Q. What is the chief end of man? A. Man's chief end is to glorify God, and enjoy him forever. Q. What is thy only comfort in life and death? A. That I with body and soul, both in life and death, am not my own, but belong unto my faithful Saviour Jesus Christ

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I write and illustrate, live in Oregon, love God and my family, and that's about all anyone really needs to know.

Friday, January 11, 2013

The Righteousness of God

This is a transcript of a talk by Geoffrey Paxton from 1974.  It is the finest and most complete and excellent examination of basic justification by faith I've ever read.  It is reproduced here by permission of Geoffrey Paxton.
We want to commence tonight by asking a fairly fundamental question. Really it’s an understatement to call it a fairly fundamental question because we believe that you could hardly ask a more fundamental question of anyone at any time and the question is this. Note it carefully because we chose the words carefully. First, the question: “On what basis is a person accepted by God?” Look at the question carefully. It’s a simple question. There’s not meant to be any fiendish trick in it. It's meant to be quite straightforward but the wording is chosen carefully. On what basis is a person accepted by God? It’s a merciful exam. I’ve given you a multiple choice. First of all,
  1. A life of obedience to the law which I present God 
  2. Faith in the gospel of Jesus Christ 
  3. Some other way.
Although you can’t make up your own question, you might at least provide your own answer. You might say, “I’m not happy with number one or number two so I’ll provide my own creation, as it were, in number three.” On what basis is a person accepted by God? A life of obedience to the law which I present to God; Faith in the gospel of Jesus Christ; Some other way.
Now at this point we really don’t know what we ought to do because we’ve got into some very embarrassing situations at times. We’ve been in various seminaries, as you know from the advertisement literature, and we’ve given this little exam—simple, basic, fundamental thing and we’ve had a show of hands and sometimes the professors of the college give the wrong answer. Now that becomes embarrassing because we don’t want to embarrass professors and certainly not before their students. I’m not really of the mind whether we should have a show of hands or not. Perhaps—well—it doesn’t matter, does it, really? The glorious thing about the gospel is that you’re accepted even though you’re wrong. Isn’t it really? That’s why I embrace it. It’s the only thing that I could qualify for.
Those who say number one? My goodness! Did you not hear? Number l…I think we’ve got 100% dissent. Number 2…Now don’t be like those people that are bringing the airplanes in. Either yea or nay. I’ll give you another chance. Some people, they like this. Number 2…All right, thank you. Number 3…A few original people. All right, thank you. Well, that’s interesting. Unequivocally everyone turned down Number 1. 90%, I’d say, perhaps 80% chose number 2. 10% chose number 3 and there’s another 10% that’s not choosing anything. They’re playing it safe.
Well, friends, we want to start our forum with this question because we said it’s the most basic question, the most fundamental question that can be asked of any person at any time. We believe that despite the assertions to the contrary, this is still the fundamental, cardinal question that men and women have to be asked and about which men and women have to be clear in their own minds. You’ll get this particular writer in theology who will say that the issue today is not the same as it was in the Reformation. It’s rather this and so we’ll have a proposition about New Being and this sort of thing. But we believe—it’s a simple conviction—but we believe that this is still the fundamental question that plagues the human heart. We believe that this is the fundamental question that is at the root of all else in our society today.
Having said that, let me say this—that we believe in The Australian Forum that the only correct answer to this question is number l. The only basis on which a man, a person, a woman, is accepted with God is a life of obedience to the law, which I present to God. Now, methinks that notwithstanding all the good reasons why it may be the case, we are in a minority. In this meeting tonight, anyway. But of course, you will want to say it’s because of this or it’s because of that. All right. Well, we’ll talk about it.
I’ll tell you why I think you chose number 2 or number 3. Perhaps you chose number 2 and number 3. But I’ll tell you why I think you didn’t choose number l and that is because you did not want to appear to be a legalist. Is that not true? You did not want to appear to think that we are acceptable to God on the basis of the fulfillment of the law. Most folk, we find, in our discussions choose number 2 because they think that number 2 is really against legalism. It’s legalistic to say a man or woman is accepted with God by the keeping of the law. But listen friends, number 2 is really the legalistic answer. Now, notwithstanding the reasons why….you say, “I’m confused.” And, like that university student we saw up in Minnesota with a big “K” on his back---I said, “What’s that?” He said, “I’m confused.” I said, “Confused! You don’t spell confused with a K.” He said, “You don’t know how confused I am.”
Now, you may be saying that. You may be saying, “I’m confused. You tricked us. This will be the last time I’m going to come to your forum.” Let us reason together. Let’s be quiet and think about it. You see, number 2 is really the legalistic answer and not only is it legalistic, but it is what we call antinomianism, against-the-lawism. Because, you see--what is the word for basis? This word that I underlined in your exam papers in bold black type or italics. Now what is another word for basis? Can anyone give me another word for basis? Foundation, all right, thank you. We’ll put that here. That’s a good word. Anything else? Ground, who said ground? Excellent. That’s a good synonym. Basis, foundation, ground. Right. We do not know of any interpreter of the Bible worthy of the name, of any of the great Reformers who would have ever called faith the basis or ground or the foundation on which a man or woman is accepted by God. Faith is glorious! There’s no doubt about that. Faith stands right towards the top in the thinking of Biblical Reformation Theology. There’s no doubt about it. Faith is glorious! It's rich! It's a gift of God! It’s the prince of virtues so to speak. There’s no doubt about that, but irrespective of the princely nature of faith, irrespective of how elated a position it has in the economy of God, it never has the position of the foundation or ground or the basis on which a man is accepted by God. Never! And it’s one of the great perils of the modern religious scene that we are believing and we are thinking and we are behaving upon the conviction that it’s the fact that I believe or it’s the fact that I’m born again, it’s the fact that I put my trust in Jesus that God accepts me.
I say it’s legalistic because it still offers to God or it seeks to offer to God something that is within me. Irrespective of whether we believe it was given by God or not (we’ll talk about that in a moment) but it’s something nevertheless that I do--something that’s in me--on the basis of which God accepts me. You see, some people—you may have felt this way—some people say, “Well, I chose number 2 but I want to qualify it. I want to qualify number 2 by what comes before it. You see, number 2, faith, now I don’t mean faith,” you say. “I don’t think faith is my work. I don’t think that faith is a thing that I contribute to God. Number l says a life of obedience to the law which I offer to God. Now I’m not saying that. Faith is not something I give to God. It’s not a contribution that I make. Faith is the gift of God,” you say. “In other words, faith is the result of grace.” And some people want to qualify it on that basis. But the thing is this, friends, we grant that. That faith is the gift of God “not of works lest any man should boast”. Faith is not my works. Faith is not something I give to God. But irrespective of whether faith proceeds from grace or not, faith is still not the ground on which God accepts me. Faith is still not the foundation on which God accepts me. Belief in Jesus Christ is not the foundation on which God accepts me and so you see, people say, “Well, I want to qualify it on what follows, not by what precedes it and undergirds it and gives it life, namely grace, but it’s the object, you see.” We’ve had some professors say, “Ah, if you had just put faith, I would have never taken it but because you put faith in the gospel of Jesus Christ, that’s different. Faith takes its value from its object, you see, and it’s because of the object of faith.” But listen, no Reformer and no interpreter of the Bible would ever suggest—no interpreter of the Bible worthy of the great Reformation tradition—would ever suggest that faith is the ground of acceptance with God. Faith is not the foundation on which God accepts me.

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