Thursday, September 1, 2022

Accounted Righteous (Psalm 106)

"Then Phinehas stood up and intervened, and the plague was stopped. And that was accounted to him for righteousness to all generations" (Ps. 106:30–31).

When John Calvin read Psalm 106:30–31, he was compelled to defend the Reformation doctrine of justification only through faith in Christ. His careful response we quote at length:

“How could that one action be imputed to Phinehas for righteousness? Paul proves that men are justified by faith alone, because it is written, ‘Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness,’ Romans 4:3. In Genesis 15:6, Moses employs the same word. If the same thing may be said respecting works, the reasoning of Paul will be not only feeble, but frivolous. First of all, let us examine, whether or not Phinehas was justified on account of this deed alone. Verily the law, though it could justify, by no means promises salvation to any one work, but makes justification to consist in the perfect observance of all the commandments. It remains, therefore, that we affirm, that the work of Phinehas was imputed to him for righteousness, in the same way as God imputes the works of the faithful to them for righteousness, not in consequence of any intrinsic merit which thy possess, but of His own free and unmerited grace. And as it thus appears, that the perfect observance of the law alone (which is done no where) constitutes righteousness, all men must prostrate themselves with confusion of face before God’s judgment-seat. Besides, were our works strictly examined, they would be found to be mingled with much imperfection. We have, therefore, no other source than to flee for refuge to the free unmerited mercy of God. And not only do we receive righteousness by grace through faith … the same faith renders our works righteous, because our corruptions being mortified, they are reckoned to us for righteousness. In short, faith alone, and not human merit, procures both for persons and for works the character of righteousness.… All men are destitute of righteousness until God reconciles them to Himself by the blood of Christ; and that faith is the means by which pardon and reconciliation are obtained, because justification by works is no where to be obtained.… We are justified by faith alone.… Works possess no value in themselves, excepting, and as far as, out of pure benevolence, God imputes them to us for righteousness.”

When Calvin commented on this passage, he employed a key tool for interpretation—that you must interpret implicit passages in light of explicit passages. Why is this important when you study Scripture? Do you look up other passages when you study? Try to employ this tool as you study God’s Word.