“The real use and purpose of the [Active/Passive Obedience] formula is to emphasize the two distinct aspects of our Lord’s vicarious obedience. The truth expressed rests upon the recognition that the law of God has both penal sanctions and positive demands. It demands not only the full discharge of its precepts but also the infliction of penalty for all infractions and shortcomings. It is this twofold demand of the law of God which is taken into account when we speak of the active and passive obedience of Christ. Christ as the vicar of his people came under the curse and condemnation due to sin and he also fulfilled the law of God in all its positive requirements. In other words, he took care of the guilt of sin and perfectly fulfilled the demands of righteousness. He perfectly met both the penal and the preceptive requirements of God’s law. The passive obedience refers to the former and the active obedience to the latter. Christ’s obedience was vicarious in the bearing of the full judgment of God upon sin, and it was vicarious in the full discharge of the demands of righteousness. His obedience becomes the ground of the remission of sin and of actual justification.”

From John Murray’s Redemption Accomplished and Applied, pg. 21 & 22.


Maybe a few of you are entrenched in the NPP battle, using those Holy Ghost Machine Guns for good. Maybe, like me, you hear a bit about it but read and understand only a little. I have been spending some time thinking about Luke 18:9-14 in preparation for a talk. This passage is one of those scary and amazing parables, depending which character you relate with. I also recently listened to a Piper sermon on it (“This man went down to his house justified“) . I find his thoughts on this passage intriguing and directly relevant to NPP.

He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt: 10 “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ 13 But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ 14 I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.” Luke 18:9-14 (ESV)

Piper argues that the Pharisee was NOT a Legalist (my previous understanding), because he is thanking God for his own “righteousness” and not seeking to earn favor with God on his own merit. Excerpt:

He is not presented as a legalist—one who tries to earn his salvation. That is not the issue. One thing is the issue: This man was morally upright. He was religiously devout. He believed God had made him so. He gave thanks for it. And that is what he looked to and trusted in for his righteousness before God—for his justification. And he was dead wrong. (emphasis added)

The idea that this man rightfully thanked God for working in his life, looking to God as the means to his right living and yet went home UNJUSTIFIED (verse 14) is fascinating, perplexing, and terrifying. The problem is not that his morality or religion are wrong, but that these works of righteousness are insufficient for salvation and leave him condemned in the Judgement.

This is of coarse the problem with removing the imputation. A problem that Piper clearly explains in the rest of the sermon. No matter how “righteous” you are, how much “good” is in your life even by God’s provision, Justification is on the BASIS OF CHRIST ALONE!

The summary: make sure you bring the right currency to the judgement. I can’t hear this message enough. Just thought you might enjoy reading or listening to it if you have time. I would be interested in any discussion on the implications this Pharisee’s view would have on Christian Living – What does it look like to trust in yourself?