While wading through the snow yesterday during my Sabbath constitutional, I listened to the Reformed Forum’s interview with Mark Jones about his book on antinomianism. Again, questions surrounding justification and sanctification are still in play. At one point in the discussion, in relation to the notion that good works are filthy rags, Jones remarked that good works, of course, will not stand up in the court of justification. He stopped there but that had me scratching my head. Is there a court room of sanctification? If the problem with Lutheranism and its Reformed friends is an overly forensic understanding of the gospel, then where on earth did court of (the renovative) sanctification come from?
Richard Sibbes to the rescue (from Jones’ book):
I say there are two courts: one of justification, another of sanctification. In the court of justification, merits are nothing worth, insufficient; but in the court of sanctification, they are ensigns of a sanctified course, so they are jewels and ornaments. (45)
This may help to raise the stakes of sanctification for those who for some reason want to see a grander account of salvation than justification alone, though Sibbes sounds more like the counting house than the court room. But is it not the case that the only way you get into the court of sanctification (if such a court does exist) is through the court of
sanctification justification? And at the end of the day, isn’t the court of justification the one where perfection is required and where good works cannot
merit pardon of sin, or eternal life at the hand of God, by reason of the great disproportion that is between them and the glory to come; and the infinite distance that is between us and God, whom, by them, we can neither profit, nor satisfy for the debt of our former sins, but when we have done all we can, we have done but our duty, and are unprofitable servants: and because, as they are good, they proceed from his Spirit; and as they are wrought by us, they are defiled, and mixed with so much weakness and imperfection, that they cannot endure the severity of God’s judgment. (CF 16.5)