John Owen on Justification
Chapter 31 - Justification
John Owen wrote a 400 page work on justification by faith alone in 1677.
Closely linked to God's glory, a key distinction is whether justification happens within and by us (the Roman view), or whether it is declared and given to us by imputation. The object of our faith is Christ but also the Father who sent Him (pg 494; John 12:44). Our faith doesn't earn justification, though it is required.
Rome says justification is twofold, first at your baptism, and second by good works in this life. This always leaves open the possibility that your justification is not complete in this life, destroying assurance.
Justification rests on the imputation of Christ's work to us. It is argued by some that this doctrine was not present in early Reformers until later scholastics like Owen. But Calvin certainly comes close in his Institutes 2.17.5. Our union with Christ makes imputation possible, and the death of Christ procured our union, justification, imputation, forgiveness, and more.
Imputation causes our justification, Owen said, opposing Richard Baxter who said it is our faith that brings about justification. Baxter says God changed His requirement for us in the new covenant from keeping the law to trusting Christ. But the moral law remains required for us and is met by Christ's imputation of it to us.
Any condescending grace present in the covenant of works before the fall wouldn't have led to our justification. But in the covenant of grace, justification is all of grace, by faith alone apart from works.
Romans 5 highlights the imputation of righteousness to us by contrasting it with the imputation of Adams sin to humanity.