The Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals recently posted a video on their Facebook page of Dr. R.C. Sproul responding to a question about justification by faith or by perfect obedience. Here is the audio version of his response which is just terrific. It is vintage Sproul…
This is a transcript of Dr. Sproul’s response:
Here is a question, that in the asking of it, violates one of the most basic informal fallacies of logic: the fallacy of the false dilemma – or sometimes called the “either/or” fallacy. The question goes as follows: considering the lack of depth in much of the Church’s preaching today, please answer and expand on the meaning of this question: are we saved by faith, or by a life of perfect obedience.
Yes. We are saved by faith, and we are saved by faith in a life of perfect obedience.
The central issue in the sixteenth century between the protestant reformers – it was the issue then, it is the issue now – was the issue of what is the ground or the basis of our justification. And the Roman Catholic Church then, and now, teaches that the only way God will ever declare a person just is if that person has righteousness inhering, the latin inherens according to Trent, in his person. The person can’t have inherent righteousness without the assistance of grace, without the assistance of faith, and without the assistance of Christ. But, with the assistance of those things, by the human cooperation with those acts of grace, the person must come to the place where they are inherently righteous before God will ever declare them just.
That, to me, demolishes the good news altogether. And if that doctrine of Rome is true, I promise you I will sleep in tomorrow morning and will never glance again at the Christian faith because it is a doctrine that leaves me without hope. There is not enough time in eternity, for me in purgatory, to reach a level of pure inherent righteousness.
Thanks be to God for the gospel that tells us the righteousness by which we are justified is a righteousness that Luther called an “alien” righteousness. A righteousness that is extra nos – outside of us. It is the righteousness achieved by Jesus, and by Jesus alone, in His life of perfect active obedience.
So, the way in which I am saved and you are saved is by having faith or trusting in Christ’s righteousness. Justification by faith alone is merely shorthand for the doctrine of justification by Christ alone.
The only righteousness that will stand the scrutiny of God on the day of judgement is a perfect righteousness – and the only person who has ever achieved that is Christ.
Without the clothing of His righteousness I am without hope and without a gospel.
—Dr. R.C. Sproul