Growing Together in the Light

A place for Friends and others to explore Quakerism. A place where, in the Light that comes from God, we may all grow and where we may hope to find a unity that underlies our diversity of language.

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Location: Arlington, Massachusetts, United States

Raised a Friend, I am currently a member of Fresh Pond Meeting in Cambridge, Mass. I am also active in Salem Quarterly Meeting and in New England Yearly Meeting.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Destruction, Resolution and Justification

Friends,

I am still saddened by the tragedy still unfolding in Kenya. But I am also heartened by the responses of Friends and others in Kenya and around the world in responding to the situation. Mary Kay Rehard has created a blog Kenya News where she is collecting news and information about the situation there, with particular emphasis on the Society of Friends. I am continually amazed at the ability of the web and the people on it to collect information from so many seemingly remote and unlikely places and to make it available. Continue to pray for the people of Kenya, their country and Friends there. See how you are led to respond. Mary Kay's page has links to a number of organizations that are providing humanitarian relief.


I have never been one for making New Year's resolutions but this year I did. I have slacked off on posting to this blog this fall. My resolution is to be more intentional and regular about posting again. As part of that, I want to finish up with my on again, off again, series on Barclay's Apology. So, with that for justification, I will turn to what Barclay has to say about justification.


No little theological ink has been spilled on the subject of justification. Justification is the act or process of being made acceptable to God. For some later Protestants, including some Friends in the Holiness tradition, justification refers to God's act of accepting you and then Sanctification is the process whereby your life is brought into line with God's will. In Barclay's theology justification and sanctification were a single process. As Barclay says in this proposition:


As many as resist not this Light, but receive the same, it becomes in them a holy, pure, and spiritual birth, brining forth holiness, righteousness, purity, and all those other blessed fruits, which are acceptable to God, by which holy birth, to wit, Jesus Christ formed within us, and working his works in us, as we are sanctified, so are we justified in the sight of God, according to the apostle's words: “But ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God” (1 Cor. 6:11).


Note that this formulation totally sidesteps the entire debate of whether we are justified by faith or by works. We are justified by the working of the Holy Spirit if we do not resist this work. The result of the work of the Spirit in us is that we will bring forth good fruit in the form of good acts. We are not justified by the mere performance of good acts. But acts done as the fruit of the spirit working in us may be a means by which we are changed. The acts of faithfulness have a way of working on us inwardly as well as on the world outwardly. Justification and sanctification are a process that continues over time as we are brought into greater and greater conformance to what God would have us be.


Barclay does not minimize the importance of Christ's atonement on the cross. This was important because it obtains forgiveness for past sins and makes the grace of God's work within us available to us. Likewise he mentions Christ's work in offering intercession for us (Romans 8:34). This is for our conversion during our day of visitation and for our continued faithfulness after our conversion. It is then the growth of the Seed of Christ within us that purifies, justifies and sanctifies us. What is not effective for justification are works and rituals carried out under the Law or out of self-will.


He summarizes his entire position in the last section (Section XIII) of his discussion:

And to conclude this theme, let none be so bold as to mock God, supposing themselves justified and accepted in the sight of God, by virtue of Christ's death and sufferings, while they remain unsanctified and unjustified in their own hearts, and polluted in their sins, lest their hope prove that of the hypocrite, which perisheth. Neither let any foolishly imagine that they can, by their own works, or by the performance of any ceremonies or traditions, or by the giving of gold or money, or by afflicting their bodies in will worship and voluntary humility, or foolishly striving to conform their way to the outward letter of the law, flatter themselves that they merit before God, or draw a debt upon him, or that any man, or men, have power to make such kind of things effectual to their justification, lest they be found foolish boasters and strangers to Christ and his righteousness indeed. But blessed forever are they, that having truly had a sense of their own unworthiness and sinfulness, and having seen all their own endeavours and performances fruitless and vain, and beheld their own emptiness, and the vanity of their vain hopes, faith, and confidence, while they remained inwardly pricked, pursued, and condemned by God's holy witness in their hearts, and so having applied themselves thereto, and suffered his grace to work in them; are become changed and renewed in the spirit of their minds, passed from death to life, and know Jesus arisen in them, working both the will and the deed; and so having "put on the Lord Jesus Christ," in effect are clothed with him and partake of his righteousness and nature; such can draw near to the Lord with boldness, and know their acceptance in, and by him; in whom, and in as many as are found in him, the Father is well pleased.


The situation in Kenya, in Iraq, in the United States, certainly holds up to us our need for forgiveness. We certainly see that we cannot resolve the conflicts before us by ourselves. May it be not just as as individuals but our societies that can find themselves changed and renewed in the spirit.


Blessings to all


Will T



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