Judgment according to Works, AND Justification by Faith Alone?
Chapter 49 - Thomas Manton on the Judgement according to Works
Scripture speaks of a final judgement according to works (2 Corinthians 5:10). How are we to also believe that we are justified now, by grace through faith alone?
Thomas Manton explains in his mostly sermonic work on 2 Cor. 5:10.
1. The final judgement is certain, to glorify God, show His grace to and in His people, fairly condemn the guilty, vindicate God's justice and Christ's glory, have Christ receive His inheritance/people, and have them show Him how they have used His talents.
2. All will be judged, including believers. Not condemned, but have their works examined.
3. Christ will be the judge. This assumes He is all knowing and authoritative to do so.
4. All men will be present before God, Christ and the angels, where our works will be manifest and assessed. The logistical possibility of this baffles us!
5. The judgment is according to works. Our good deeds cannot merit reward, but our sins can merit just and eternal punishment in hell. The faith of believers will be judged, using their works as evidence. This is the second justification of a believer, demonstrative, the first being declarative. This final judgment by works is not the ground of our justification, but the evidence of our faith.
6. An eternal punishment in Hell awaits unbelievers, and the sentence is irrevocable.
Many zealous reformed believers today deny a judgment according to works, thinking it contradictory to justification by faith alone. But men like Calvin and Bucer affirmed both. They even affirm a two-fold righteousness of the believer (one imputed, the other inherent), while rejecting the Roman Catholic view that makes both the ground of our justification.
This was a good and sobering chapter. It shows the Puritans were not myopically focused on justification by faith alone (JFA) so much that it twisted their reading of other Scriptures like 2 Corinthians 5:10 (or James 2). That happens sometimes today, and is the impetus for Federal Vision theology as I understand it. We don't wish to deny JFA or lessen its keystone place in our theology. Rather, we celebrate and embrace it as core to the Gospel. But the myopia I refer to is a paranoia that keeps us from affirming things Scripture affirms, or facing and teaching them as we should, just because it looks or feels to us like it might take away from JFA.
The chapter is sobering in its straight-up assertion of the justice of God in condemning men to eternal Hell for their sins against Him. There's a lengthy meditation on it. I hadn't read anything quite like it in a while, and although it is uncomfortable, it is good for the soul.