Eternal Justification

“Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Rom. 5:1

“Being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him.  For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son…”

Rom. 5:9-10

And you hath He quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins…  according to the prince of the power of the air…  we…  were by nature the children of wrath, even as others.”

Eph. 2:1-3



Order of Contents

Articles  22





Eternal Justification, the belief that the elect are justified from eternity and through their whole lives are legally righteous before God, is the first stepping stone to hyper-calvinistic antinomianism.

Rom. 5:1-11 is one of Paul’s main arguments against eternal justification.  The context is explicitly about justification.  The passage says that the elect person is under the common judicial wrath of God (Rom. 5:8-10) until they are converted and are only justified upon the instrument of faith, which occurs in time.  Then, and only then, according to Rom. 5:1, does a person have peace with God.

The near-only proof-texts used for eternal justification are Eph. 1:3-4 & Rom. 9:7-23, which speak of God eternally choosing the elect unto salvation.  Upon these passages it is claimed that the elect person is never under the wrath or legal judgment of God for sin.  These passages, however, in context, speak of eternal election (choosing), not of justification, which two things are very different in many particulars:

(1) God’s decree is an eternal purpose to effect future events which are not yet effected, grounded upon God’s free pleasure.  God’s decree of election is an eternal, free, unconditioned act of God choosing which persons to bestow salvation, and all the means to it, upon; whereas,

(2) Justification is a temporal, instantaneous, declaration and act of God grounded in the legal imputation of Christ’s righteousness upon the sinner’s spiritual union unto Christ through the instrumental means and condition of faith.  

Compare Westminster Larger Catechism #12, 32 69 & 70.

Eternal Justification breeds many further erroneous corollaries, such as:

– that elect persons are never under the Covenant of Works in Adam;
– that the Covenant of Grace is wholly eternal and is in no way conditional (contra WLC #32);
– that God only loves the elect and only hates reprobate creatures;
– that for assurance one is to simply wait for the Holy Spirit to reveal to them that they are elect and hence justified already;
– that faith is simply a passive recognition of this, has no active quality, and is not an instrument of receiving Christ;
– that sanctification is wholly forensic and instantaneous, and does not include a real definitive and progressive change, etc.

The Westminster Confession, 11.4 pre-empted this cesspool of errors in stating that:

“God did, from all eternity, decree to justify all the elect;[l] and Christ did, in the fullness of time, die for their sins, and rise again for their justification:[m] nevertheless they are not justified, until the Holy Spirit doth in due time actually apply Christ unto them.[n]

[l] Gal. 3:8. 1 Pet. 1:2,19,20. Rom. 8:30
[m] Gal. 4:4. 1 Tim. 2:6. Rom. 4:25
[n] Col. 1:21,22. Gal. 2:16. Tit. 3:3-7

God’s eternal decree is to justify believers through faith in time.




About the 1600’s

Mason, Matthew – The Significance of the Systematic and Polemical Function of Union with Christ in John Owen’s Contribution to 17th Century Debates Concerning Eternal Justification  2005  70 pp.  a Master’s Thesis

McKelvy, Robert – “‘That Error and Pillar of Justification’: Eternal Justification”  Preview  being ch. 10 of Drawn into Controversie: Reformed Theological Diversity and Debates within Seventeenth-Century British Puritanism  Buy  pp. 223-62



Ames, William – Section 9 of Ch. 27, ‘Of Justification’  1639  1 page  in The Marrow of Sacred Divinity

Rutherford, Samuel

The Trial and Triumph of Faith  (1645)

Sermon 24, ‘Justification not Eternal’, pp. 358-363

Sermon 18, ‘Christ’s Satisfaction Performed on the Cross for Sin is not Formally Justification, but Only Causatively, Fundamentally, or Meritoriously’, pp. 210-213

A Survey of the Spiritual Antichrist, pt. 2

Ch. 18, ‘That we are not Justified until we Believe’

Bedford, Thomas – Ch. 3, ‘A Brief Answer to the Arguments of H. D. by him brought to prove Justification before Faith, i. e. before the act of Believing’  1647   pp.  in An Examination of the Chief Points of Antinomianism

Woodbridge, Benjamin – ‘Justification by Faith: or, a Confutation of that Antinomian Error, that Justification is before Faith; being the sum & substance of a sermon’  ToC  1652

Woodbridge (1622-1684) was a reformed puritan.

Burgess, Anthony – Lectures 20-22, ‘Whether Pardon of Sin be Immanent or Transient Act of God, and whether it be Antecedent to our Faith and Repentance.  The Contrary Proved, viz. that God does not Justify or Pardon us Before we Believe and Repent’  1655  32 pp.  in The True Doctrine of Justification Asserted and Vindicated, from the Errours of Papists, Arminians, Socinians, and More Especially Antinomians  EEBO  pp. 185-216

Lawson, George – p. 304 of Ch. 22, ‘Of Justification by Faith in Christ’  1659  2 paragraphs  in Theo-Politica, or, a Body of Divinity containing the Rules of the Special Government of God  Buy

Dickson, David – pp. 92-93 of Ch. 11, ‘Of Justification’  1662  2 pp.  in Truth’s Victory Over Error: or the True Principles of the Christian Religion  Buy  being the first positive commentary on the Westminster Confession.

Owen, John – Ch. 5, ‘About Justification before Believing’  †1683  3 pp.  in The Death of Death in the Death of Christ, in Works, 10.449-451

Flavel, John – ‘Appendix 2, Error 1’  1691  13 pp.  in Planelogia: A Blow at the Root of Antinomianism  Here is an easier to read version.



Edwards, John – p. 782 of Theologia Reformata: or, The Body and Substance of the Christian Religion, vol. 1  1713

John Edwards (1637–1716) was a reformed Anglican, the son of Thomas Edwards, who wrote the famed book ‘Gangraena’ in the 1640’s.

Dixon, Anthony – ‘Eternal Justification Unmasked, being the substance of a sermon’  1790  24 pp.  Printed in England.

This sermon is excellent.  The sermon is on Abraham being justified by works, according to James 2:21.  Dixon takes it in the traditional Protestant sense, that believers’ works declare and demonstrate them to be just, contra those who say that they are justified but have no works to prove it.



Fuller, Andrew – pp. 759-760 of Antinomianism Contrasted with the Religion Taught and Exemplified in the Holy Scriptures  †1815  2 pp.  in Works, vol. 2 of 3, pp. 759-760

Girardeau, John – pp. 101-107 of ‘The Federal Theology: its Import and its Regulative Influence’  1884  7 pp.  in Memorial Volume of the Semi-Centennial of the Theological Seminary at Columbia, South Carolina

Girardeau, a southern presbyterian minister and professor, is especially helpful in delineating how Christ’s seed were virtually justified in Christ at the cross and Resurrection.

Buchanan, James – pp. 251-252 of Lecture 9, ‘Justification; the Proper Nature of the Blessing’  1867  2 pp.  in The Doctrine of Justification

Bavinck, Herman – ‘Justification in Time or Eternity?’  6 pp.  in Reformed Dogmatics, 4.214-219

Bavinck is especially helpful on the Dutch context, in contrast to Alexander Comrie and Abraham Kuyper who affirmed a certain eternal justification.



Pink, A.W. – Ch. 7, ‘Its Objects’  19 paragraphs  in The Doctrine of Justification

Berkhof, Louis – ‘Eternal Justification’  1950  31 paragraphs  from Systematic Theology



Zaspel, Fred – ‘The Doctrine of Eternal Justification: a Critique’  n.d.  14 paragraphs

Zaspel is a particular baptist minister.

Fahy, Paul – ‘The Controversy Over the Doctrine of Eternal Justification’  2005  35 pp.  Appendix 1 on p. 13 is ‘Argued Texts’, App. 2 on p. 17 is ‘Quotes from Eminent Theologians’ and App. 3 on p. 29 is ‘The Arguments of John Gill for a Complete Eternal Justification’.

Fahy is a particular baptist minister in England.  The theologians quoted against Eternal Justification in Appendix 2 are:

Turretin, Berkouwer, C. Buck, J.P. Boyce, A.A. Hodge, Calvin, Owen, A.W. Pink, T. Goodwin, Flavel, Ames, Spurgeon, Beeke, A’brakel, Thornwell, Buchanan, Schwertley & Berkhof.

Ditzel, Peter – ‘A Rebuttal to George M. Ella’s “John Gill and Justification from Eternity”’  2009  23 pp.

Ditzel is a particular baptist.




John Murray

‘Justification’  in Collected Writings, vol. 2, p. 203

“Justification is not the eternal decree of God with respect to us, nor is it the finished work of Christ for us, when once-for-all He reconciled us to God by his death; nor is it the regenerative work of God in us, nor is it any activity on our part in response to and embrace of the gospel, but it is an act of God, accomplished in time wherein God passes judgment with respect to us as individuals.¹

¹ Buchanan, The Doctrine of Justification, 1867, pp. 251-252



“But when it pleased God, who separated me [Paul] from my mother’s womb…” [Yet Paul remained unconverted up through a portion of his adult life, persecuting Christians.]

Gal. 1:15



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The Doctrines of Grace

Unconditional Election

The Decrees of God