Home > final judgment, justification > Murray Conflicted on Future Justification?

Murray Conflicted on Future Justification?

Sam Waldron has been blogging a response to Lee Irons, in which Waldron defends the idea of a future justification according to works. You can find it here http://www.mctsowensboro.org/mcts-blog/author/sam-waldron/

The focus of the essay is to articulate John Murray’s view of Romans 2:13, which Waldron shares. In one of his posts, he mentioned that Robert Reymond shares Murray’s view – which got me curious. I took a look at Reymond’s Paul: Missionary Theologian and found some inconsistency:

Dr. Waldron, I hope to have time to study your posts in this series. I have to say they still raise a number of questions.

One question comes from the Reymond reference you gave here. On p. 535 Reymond says:

“Paul teaches that not only unbelievers but believers as well will be judged in the judgment of the Eschataon (Rom 14:10, 12; 1 Cor 3:12-15; 2 Cor 5:10). To those who, by persistence in doing good, seek glory, honor, and immortality, that is, to those who do good, God will grant eternal life, glory, honor, and peace (Rom 2:7, 10). The criteria of this judgment will be their works.”but later on p. 537 he quotes Murray saying:

“We must maintain therefore, justification complete and irrevocable by grace through faith and apart from works, and at the same time, future reward according to works. In reference to these two doctrines it is important to observe the following:

(i) This future reward is not justification and contributes nothing to that which constitutes justification. (ii) This future reward is not salvation. Salvation is by grace and it is not as a reward for works that we are saved.”Those two statements appear quite contradictory to me. It seems the only way to avoid contradiction would be to argue that justification and salvation do not include or consist of eternal life.

Dr. Waldron took the time to look into it and said the following:

Brandon responded by indicating that there is a contradiction between what John Murray affirms in his Collected Writings 2:221 and what he affirms in his Romans commentary on Romans 2:6 at 1:62-63.  Having investigated the matter, I discover that Brandon seems to be correct.  That is, Murray’s lecture on justification contained in the Collected Writings affirms that works only have to do with the degree of reward in glory, while in his Romans commentary he affirms that the judgment by works which has the twin consequences of eternal life and wrath is not hypothetical.  I see no way to evade the fact of some contradiction between the two statements.


Regretfully he concludes that he thinks Murray’s commentary on Romans should take precedent, meaning Murray would not affirm the second quote. I would be very curious to hear Reymond’s thoughts on this. If pointed out, would he see these things as contradictory, or did he include both of them in his book because he thought they were not contradictory?

  1. Theo K
    October 9, 2015 at 12:44 am

    Hi Brandon,

    I really appreciate all the work that you do, especially your emphasis on 1689 federalism. It has been eye opening to me!
    So, thanks!

    I have a question related to this post. I don’t know if you have covered it in another post.

    I agree that justification is by grace alone, trough faith alone in Christ alone. And that justification is an event, and it is final (not conditional).
    Taking that for granted, how do you approach the passages that speak about believers’ judgment? (Rom 14:10, 12; 1 Cor 3:12-15; 2 Cor 5:10, mentioned in your quote from Reymond)
    Does this have to do with rewards only? Are good works of believers used as a proof of the reality of their faith? Is this final judgment an open vindication? What is your understanding of the final day?

    It seems to me that these passages address the believer’s works, and not the work of Christ on our behalf.

    Again, many thanks for your good work!


    • October 9, 2015 at 7:23 am

      Hi Theo,

      I’m still working through my understanding of the final judgment. It’s not easy. Hopefully I’ll have something to post on it in the next few months. In short: At creation there was a final judgment established via the covenant of works. Adam fell, we sinned. Christ accomplished eternal life and was declared righteous at his resurrection. When we are justified, that verdict of the final judgment is given to us now. Christ’s righteousness outside of us earns our heavenly inheritance. His works are truly our works. So we need not see a reference to imputation in a passage to say that any works required of us are found in Christ. However, Christ continues to do work inside of us as well. And a just judgment will reward those works as well. So believers will receive rewards for those works that Christ does in us, but we will cast those rewards at his feet, for only he is worthy. There is also a vindication of some kind that occurs on this last day, but I still need to work out the precise nature of that. For one, we will be in our glorified/resurrected bodies prior to that judgment. Our resurrection itself is vindication, so that will be manifest visibly to all.

      Anyways, those are some things to consider. Here’s something to chew on http://www.opc.org/os.html?article_id=65

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Hugh McCann
    October 13, 2015 at 9:52 am

    Sadly, Dr Murray’s conflict seems unresolved to this day in some circles…

    Liked by 1 person

    • October 13, 2015 at 9:55 am

      Gaffin recognized tension in Murray and says he worked out those inconsistencies:

      RG : Murray in his Romans commentary, the passage in Romans 2 that runs, particularly the segment that runs through verse 11. 2:6 to 11. He understands that to be describing what will actually be the case for believers. At the day of judgment they will … when God’s righteous judgment will be … when God will give to each person according to his works … that will, in terms of verse 7 … believers will be those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality. And they will receive eternal life. That is John Murray’s teaching on that passage.

      AW : John Murray in commenting on Romans 2:13 … I believe probably to 15 … but it’s at least on 2:13. Here’s a quotation from his commentary. He says

      It needs to be noted, however, that at this point the apostle restricts himself to the judgment of condemnation. And this advises us that he is dealing now with the equity of God’s judgment of damnation as it is brought to bear upon men who fall into these two categories. This is significant. Whatever is meant by those who are >without law’ there is no suggestion to the effect that any who are >without law’ attain to the reward of eternal life.

      It’s page 69 of The New International Commentary on the New Testament – The Epistle to the Romans as published by Eerdmans.

      So … on the one hand … can you reconcile the two statements by John Murray here?

      RG : Yeah, I think … Sorry. I didn’t bring my commentary along and … [Mr. Gaffin is given a copy of the commentary from one of the panel members.] This is from page 71 on 2:13. Let me read it, what Murray says and then comment.

      It is quite unnecessary to find in this verse any doctrine of justification by works in conflict with the teaching on this epistle in later chapters. Whether any will be actually justified by works either in this life or at the final judgment is beside the apostle’s interest and design at this juncture.

      That … I think is to my mind, what needs to be highlighted here. My own view would be that following … well, my own view would be … that … I think Murray is leaving it an open question here. He’s not addressing … he is saying two things. Number one, no conflict with what Paul teaches later in the letter. Number two, whether or not there will be anyone at the final judgment justified by works – as Paul expressed there – is beside the apostle’s interest and design at this juncture. I think really it’s regrettable we don’t have Professor Murray here to ask this question because I think … my own view in the light of what he has said, and said so clearly about the judgment according to works in two … in verse six … that… it … that would argue for understanding verse 13 here in the same way as describing an actual positive outcome. But he does, as you are pointing out, back away from that. But I can’t … see I think in my own view … it is Professor Murray that is in a bit of a tension here … and the question really needs … I can’t reconcile Murray for you on that regard, which is the question I heard you asking me. And I would just accent again that in his understanding of verses 6-11, he has broken with a large number of Reformed interpreters in arguing that that describes a real judgment scenario with a positive outcome. Which is also how I would understand verse 13 … and well, you can ask Mr. Kinnaird how he understands it.

      AW : I guess my point would simply would be that John Murray did not definitively use this chapter in Romans 2 to teach … you know, a judgment for … let me say it this way, that John Murray did use his understanding in this to affirm a more traditional – if you want to say – a traditional or long held view that Romans chapter two was affirming universal condemnation more than any particular manner in which believers are justified.

      RG : Sorry about that, I do have to differ with Y
      AW : O.K., that is fine …

      RG : I think in verses 6 to 11 he does break, if you will with others, Charles Hodge, Haldane, in arguing that the judgment Aaccording to works@ is not hypothetical on it’s positive side… but will have a positive … it’s describing a positive, a real positive scenario in the case of believers. And see that I think is really the issue here. Let’s concede what Murray says about the verse 13 which … this is not … this is not a … this is a point that I am willing to be corrected on, that verse 13 does not describe an actual, an actual scenario at the final judgment. You still have the final judgment Aaccording to works@ as a reality, according to Murray.
      – See more at: http://www.trinityfoundation.org/day3_session_1.php#sthash.rrStuVrM.dpuf

      Liked by 1 person

      • Hugh McCann
        October 13, 2015 at 10:02 am

        AW = one “Aryln Wilkening”


        • Hugh McCann
          October 13, 2015 at 10:19 am

          Sorry, that is a typo (in the record, too).

          It should read, “Arlyn Wilkening.”


  3. Hugh McCann
    October 13, 2015 at 9:59 am

    Not to be to nit-picking, but this: …Murray’s lecture on justification contained in the Collected Writings affirms that works only have to do with the degree of reward in glory, while in his Romans commentary he affirms that the judgment by works which has the twin consequences of eternal life and wrath is not hypothetical. I see no way to evade the fact of some contradiction between the two statements.

    Vitiates this needless qualification: Having investigated the matter, I discover that Brandon seems [emphasis added] to be correct.

    One either discovers something or he does not. Not that someone seems (or, “appears”) to be correct. Particularly when S.W. admits that he sees, no way to evade the fact of some contradiction between the two statements. [Emphases added.]

    Needless and unhelpful weasel wording here! 😛 One wonders wherefore…

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Hugh McCann
    October 13, 2015 at 10:17 am

    BA, It seems the critical immediate and larger context of Rom. 2:13 are somewhat being ignored by our friends.

    To the first: 12 For as many as have sinned without law shall also perish without law: and as many as have sinned in the law shall be judged by the law; 13 (for not the hearers of the law are just before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified. 14 For when the Gentiles, which have not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law, these, having not the law, are a law unto themselves: 15 which shew the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts the mean while accusing or else excusing one another;) 16 in the day when God shall judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ according to my gospel.

    There it is, it appears to me. The immediate context is the gospel. Paul promises godly retribution for all the ungodly in 2 Thes. 2:7b-8: when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.

    That “obedience” is sola fide, of course. That (alone) is reckoned as/ for (complete) righteousness to the believer.

    And Romans 2:13-15 are rightly put in parentheses in order to show that all men have some vestiges of the law written on their consciences, rendering them inexcusable when they come to be judged.

    Removing the parentheses, we have: For as many as have sinned without law shall also perish without law: and as many as have sinned in the law shall be judged by the law; in the day when God shall judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ according to my gospel.

    The larger context too, is the gospel. Chapters 1-3:20 being prefatory for St Paul’s explication thereof.

    These (incl. 2:13) are setting up all men (Jews & Gentiles) as culpable, and unable to do anything meriting anything more than damnation.



    • October 13, 2015 at 10:25 am

      Gaffin isn’t ignoring the context. He’s misinterpreting it. Badly.

      So the first, justification and sanctification are inseparable. Second, there is a future dimension to our judgment. There is a future judgment that believers are looking forward to, as Paul says Romans. 2:16, “according to my gospel. ” That’s good news. – See more at: http://www.trinityfoundation.org/day3_session_1.php#sthash.hVdmnqlD.dpuf

      The fact that our secrets will be judged by a holy God is “good news” to Gaffin. I’m curious if he will maintain that position on his deathbed.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Hugh McCann
        October 13, 2015 at 10:27 am

        Amen, he agreed sadly.


      • Hugh McCann
        October 13, 2015 at 10:28 am

        Next up, “Gaffin Conflicted on Justification, Conflating it with (Progressive) Sanctification.”


    • Hugh McCann
      October 13, 2015 at 10:25 am

      Paul summarizes in Romans 3:9-20 what he’d given in shorthand in ch. 2:

      9 …we have before proved both Jews and Gentiles, that they are all under sin;
      10 as it is written, “There is none righteous, no, not one:
      11 there is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God.
      12 They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one.
      13 Their throat is an open sepulchre; with their tongues they have used deceit; the poison of asps is under their lips:
      14 whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness:
      15 their feet are swift to shed blood:
      16 destruction and misery are in their ways:
      17 and the way of peace have they not known:
      18 there is no fear of God before their eyes.”
      19 Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God.
      20 Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. October 13, 2015 at 11:11 am

    Interesting that Waldron has Christ’s reconciliation already imputed to the elect at the cross, so that he thinks they are never under the wrath (see http://www.cbtseminary.org/cbts-blog-original/on-the-accomplishment-and-application-of-redemption-in-romans-510-11–3/ ) but at the same time sides with John Murray on a future judgment for Christians to fear.

    Fesko—Not only have the blessings of the age to come been revealed but so have the curses. Paul echoes the teaching of Christ when he notes that the propagation of the gospel has a twofold effect: salvation and judgment (2 Cor. 2:16-17). “Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God” (John 3:18).

    Jesus already says: “Now is the judgment of this world; now will the ruler of this world be cast out”(John 12:31). “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth” (Rom. 1:18).

    The resurrection is not the penultimate step before the final judgment but instead is the final judgment in that it visibly reveals what has come with the first advent of Christ: the righteous are instantaneously clothed in immortality, they receive a glorified body, and the wicked are raised but are naked, they are not glorified. God need not utter a word; the condemned status of the wicked is immediately evident as is the justified status of the righteous.”



  6. October 13, 2015 at 11:32 am

    —Caspar Olevianus –“The very person of the Judge removes all our fear. For the Father handed over all judgment to the Son as the Son of Man so that He might calm our consciences and remove all terror of condemnation (John 5:22, 27). This is because we believe now that He will be the Judge, and also because with our eyes we will gaze on Him in whose body our sins have been atoned for and the entire curse removed (Heb. 9:28; Titus 2:12–14).

    Christ’s commandment and promise deliver us from all dread. The commandment is found in Luke 21[:28], “When these things begin to happen, look up and lift up your heads,” and Matthew 24[:6]: “And it will be that you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not troubled; for all these things must come to pass.” The promise is found in John 3[:18]: “He who believes in the Son is not judged or condemned.”… let us also consider that promise in 1 Corinthians 6[:2]: “Do you not know that the saints will judge the world?” And a short while later [v. 3]: “Do you not know that we shall judge angels?” Surely, since all the Articles of the Faith have been handed down to us for our comfort, this article on the judgment, too, has been handed down not to shake our faith but to build it up and establish it.



  7. markmcculley
    February 17, 2018 at 1:55 pm

    HM–That “obedience” is sola fide, of course. That (alone) is reckoned as/ for (complete) righteousness to the believer

    mark mcculley–No, God does not count faith as the righteousness. And neither does our faith do the imputing—When God places us into Christ’s death, there is faith in the gospel, but it’s not our faith that made the imputation.

    Romans 4:24-25 “IT will be counted to us who believe in Him who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord, who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised up for our justification.”

    1. Christ and His death are the IT. Faith is not the IT. Christ and His death are the object of faith. But Christ and His death are the IT credited by God.

    2. God counts according to truth. God counts righteousness as righteousness! a. The righteousness counted as righteousness is not our righteousness (not our works of faith) but legally “transferred” to us when Christ marries us, so that what is His is still His but now ours also.

    # Justification is not simply “the righteousness”. Justification is what happens when God imputes “the righteousness” to the elect.

    4. Imputation means two different things. One, the transfer, the legal sharing of what belongs to another. Two, the declaration. God is justified, declared to be just, without transfer. God is counted as just because God is just.

    Galatians 3:5-8, which quotes Genesis 15:6, tells us that Abraham believed God and it was imputed to him as righteousness. Everybody from Martin Luther to John Murray reads this as saying that faith alone is imputed as the righteousness.

    Luther reminds us that to have faith is to have Christ indwelling, and tells us that God really is pleased with the faith God has given us, and this faith is really righteous in God’s sight. But Luther does not explain how this righteous faith (produced by God in the water of regeneration) satisfies the law of God . And since Luther taught that, if you were a sinner, Christ had died for you, then Luther’s message cannot be that the elect were saved by Christ’s death alone.

    But John Murray himself not only taught that Christ died in some sense only for the elect, but also taught that faith alone for nine reasons could not be the righteousness imputed. I like his reasons, and you can look them up in his commentary on Romans. But still, at the end of the day, Murray claimed that every honest exegete would have to agree with him that Genesis 15 does teach that the faith alone is what God imputes


    • Hugh McCann
      March 12, 2018 at 3:40 pm

      Still… Romans 4:1-9
      [1] What shall we say then that Abraham our father, as pertaining to the flesh, hath found? [2] For if Abraham were justified by works, he hath whereof to glory; but not before God. [3] For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness. [4] Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt. [5] But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness. [6] Even as David also describeth the blessedness of the man, unto whom God imputeth righteousness without works, [7] Saying , Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered. [8] Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin. [9] Cometh this blessedness then upon the circumcision only , or upon the uncircumcision also? for we say that faith was reckoned to Abraham for righteousness.

      Liked by 1 person

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