Simul Justus Et Peccator – Justification in Sin a False Reformed/Calvinist Doctrine | Jesse Morrell

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Simul Justus Et Peccator

Justification in Sin a False Reformed/Calvinist Doctrine

By Jesse Morrell

There is a false teaching of “justification” today which says that you can remain in your wickedness and sin and yet be just in the eyes of God. It’s a doctrine of the Calvinist Reformers. They taught “simul justus et peccator” which is Latin for “simultaneously just and sinner.” This false doctrine teaches that you are justified or righteous while you are actually unrighteous – that a sinner is just and right while in fact being unjust and unrighteous. In other words, a believer is justified or just and righteous in the eyes of God even while in the commission of wicked acts and deeds. We also call this the doctrine of “sinning saints” or “carnal Christianity.” And “simul justus et peculator” or being righteous while you are sinning is said to be “the essence” of the Reformed view of justification and “the very heart of the Gospel.”

The Apostle Paul is slandered by having the doctrine of “simul justus et peculator” credited to his name. But when Paul taught the doctrine of justification by faith, or faith being imputed as righteousness apart from works of the Torah, was Paul really teaching that a believer who lives unrighteously in practice is legally righteous in their position? Certainly not. Paul taught that a man is not justified or righteous in the eyes of God by committing works of the law like circumcision, etc. A circumcised Jew, who does not have faith in the promises of God, is unrighteous in God’s eyes because it is not works of the law that God imputes as righteousness but faith in His promises that He imputes as righteousness.

Abraham was justified before the Torah even existed and so Paul argued that the Gentiles do not need to keep the Jewish Torah to be saved. Abraham believed God and his faith in God was imputed or considered by God to be righteousness. And it was by faith that Abraham obeyed God. And so, justification by faith apart from works of the law means that we do not need to be circumcised and follow all of the external regulations of the Torah to be justified or righteous but rather, if we put our faith in Christ, God will impute or consider our faith as righteousness and our faith will result in us living a righteous life.

The doctrine of justification by faith to Paul did not mean that you can live unrighteous by faith. Rather, it teaches that believers are made righteous by faith. The debate between justification by faith and justification by works was a debate on the question, “What does God constitute or define as righteousness?” And Paul argued that it was not works of the law like circumcision that made a person righteous before God but rather faith and trust in the promises of God, such faith that resulted in good works, purification of heart and life, working by love, keeping His moral law, overcoming the world, etc.

It is a perversion of scripture and a slander upon the Apostle Paul to say that he taught the doctrine of justification in sin instead of justification from sin. If you look at what Paul said in 1 Cor. 6:9-11, you will see what Paul meant by his use of the word “justified.” He clearly did not teach justification in sin:

“Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you: 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 Corinthians 6:9-11

A few points to consider about these verses.

First, notice that “the unrighteous” are not described as merely being unrighteous in their “position,” but as being unrighteous because of their practice of sins like fornication, adultery, stealing, drunkenness, etc. The reason they were unrighteous in position was because they were unrighteous in practice. A man is unrighteous because of his actions and deeds. A man who is characterized by these sins is “unrighteous” and so the counter-part of this, known as “the righteous,” are those who are not engaging in said behavior. Those who are “righteous” are not drunkards, fornicators, homosexuals, etc, at least not anymore.

Second, note that Paul wrote this to believers and said of them, “and such were some of you.” He did not tell them, “You still are drunkards and fornicators in your practice, but because you believe in Reformed doctrine you are now righteous in your position before God.” Paul was not saying, “Though you still are homosexuals and commit homosexuality every single day of your life, in the eyes of God you are not homosexuals at all but are perfectly righteous to Him because you give mental ascent to Calvinist theology.” He states that the Corinthians used to practice these sins but now they do not. They were drunkards, fornicators, homosexuals, etc, but they are not anymore. Thus, those who are saved have actually had a change of moral character – a transformation of heart and life. They do not live as they used to live. They are new creatures with new hearts and walk in newness of life.

Third, note that the reason Paul said that they “were” these types of sinners but no longer are is because they have been “washed,” “sanctified,” and “justified” in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of God. Calvinists like to make a distinction between justification and sanctification and say that when a sinner believes they are justified in the eyes of God but they still have lots of sins in their life and so they are slowly and gradually sanctified throughout their life – though they will always sin every day of their life until they die no matter what. Yet, here Paul spoke of the believers sanctification as just as complete as his justification.

Paul was not teaching that a sinners believes in Jesus and gets saved, then maybe a few months later he repents of his fornication, and then maybe a few years later he repents of his stealing, etc. No! The Corinthians had completely repented of all these old sins that they used to walk in and they walk in them no more! They have been washed (pure), sanctified (dedicated to God), and justified (righteous in heart and life).

Now, it is possible to backslide into your sins instead of living by faith. Every day we need to make choices as we face temptation and we must overcome by faith to remain sanctified and justified by faith. But when a person is truly saved, they have repented of all their sins and determine in their hearts to sin no more. Moral purity of heart is received at conversion but Christian maturity of mind continues to grow throughout the rest of our lives.

It is not that the saved believers in the Corinthian church were justified in their sins and now are being slowly and gradually sanctified from their sinning. The Greek word here for “sanctified” is “ἁγιάζω” which means dedicated and consecrated to God. The Greek word for “holy”, which is the same word used for “saint,” is “ἅγιος” And so to be “sanctified” (ἁγιάζω) means you have become a holy saint (ἅγιος). At true conversion the Corinthians were made holy saints of God but consequence to that, there was behavior in the church amongst members that Paul felt necessary to confront and correct, to remind them of what God has done in their lives and to warn them “Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived.” Believers need to be exhorted and encouraged to continue in the faith and in a holy life, lest they backslide into sin and depart from the faith, and these types of exhortations Paul often did with the churches he started (Acts 13:43, Acts 14:22; Gal. 5:4, 5:20-21; Col. 1:23; 1 Tim. 1:19, 1 Tim. 4:1).

True believers, at conversion, repented of their sins unto a holy life dedicated and consecrated to the Lord. If a man has not repented of all his sins at conversion and is not consequently living a holy life, he is in fact a false convert and had nothing more than a false conversion. Conversion is not a weak decision to trust in a set of doctrines but a radical decision to trust Christ with your life and soul. And I fear that many hold to the doctrine of “simul justus et peculator” for the simply reason that they are false converts. They have not repented of their sins and “believed unto righteousness.” They name of the name of Christ but have never departed from iniquity. Their faith in Christ has not made them holy or righteous in practice. They still walk in darkness and are workers of iniquity yet think that Christ’s blood covers their compromised lives. They hold to a mere doctrine of atonement and trust that they are unconditionally saved by their acknowledgment of such a doctrine, but they have not such trust or faith in Christ that they choose to obey God rather than sin on a daily basis.

This is the True or False Convert Test:

“And hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments. He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him.” 1 John 2:3-4

Fourth, the word justified is “δικαιόω” and is associated with other words like “δικαίωσις” (justification), δικαίωμα (justification, righteous act), “δικαιοσύνη” (righteousness), “δίκαιος” (just, righteous).

The Bible says, “And they were both righteous [δίκαιος] before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless” (Luke 1:6.) And, “Then Joseph her husband, being a just [δίκαιος] man…” (Matthew 1:19). When it says that these people were righteous or just, it means that they were justified. A man who is sinning is not living a justified life because he is not living a righteous life. There is nothing justified about being unjust and nothing righteous about living unrighteously. A man who is living a just and righteous life is, by definition, a justified man. And this justified life, of course, comes by grace through faith.

Justification is not merely being declared righteous legally while you remain in your wickedness and sins. That is the hope and the dream of false converts who do not repent of their sins. They want to think that they are “justified” and “righteous” while they are actually unjust and unrighteous. But biblical justification is when you are actually made just and righteous. The Bible says “Little children, let no man deceive you: he that doeth righteousness [δικαιοσύνη] is righteous [δίκαιος], even as he is righteous [δίκαιος]” (1 John 3:7). “Being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness [δικαιοσύνη]” (Rom. 6:18).

BDAG says, “In the context of 1 Cor. 6:11, ἐδικαιώθητε means you have become pure.” And so when Paul spoke of being justified or justification he was referring to this radical experience through which a person is made pure and righteous in heart and life by faith in Jesus Christ. When a man puts his faith in Christ, God imputes his faith as righteous and his faith results in righteous living. And so a man is justified by faith. That is, a man is made actually righteous in his heart and life and before God by his faith in Jesus Christ. By faith, believers are made righteous in both their position before God and their practice of life and never one without the other.

Fifth, notice that Paul uses the words washed, justified, sanctified interchangeably to describe the same experience of how the Corinthians “were” unrighteous in their living but now they are not. Paul is using washed, sanctified, and justified as types of synonyms to describe the same experience – a change of moral character.

Paul was not saying, “You are drunkards in your practice but God justifies you in your sins and declares you to be sober men and imputes sobriety to you even though you actually are not sober at all.” Paul was not saying, “Though you fornicate every day in your practice, you are sexually pure before God in your position.” No! A thousand times no! Paul was saying that since they were justified, they are no longer drunkards and fornicators! Justification is not a mere doctrine but an experience. They were actually made just – transformed and changed to become righteous in their practice.

My encouragement to you today is this:

If you think that you have a fictitious righteousness before God while you remain in your sins then you must repent and truly put your faith in Christ and then you will be made actually righteous in your heart and life.

Maybe you did repent of your sins and were made righteous when you first got saved but have since backslide into sins and comforted yourself in your impenitence with false doctrines like “simul justus et peccator.” If that is the case, you have departed from the faith and need a fresh justification. Completely repent and truly believe and be entirely justified today! If you are a believer who backslide into sin, don’t excuse and justify your sins with false doctrine. Rather, repent and the Lord will forgive you anew!

Beware, as this was Paul’s warning to the church “Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived”.   He did not say this to unconverted sinners but to exhort and warn those who had been saved.

If you think that God declares you to be righteous in your position while you are actually unrighteous in your practice, think again. God cannot lie. God cannot declare the impenitent to be repentant, the unholy to be holy, the unrighteous to be righteous, and the unjustified to be justified. Don’t question and slander God’s rectitude and veracity to excuse your sinning! God will only declare you to be righteous if you are actually made righteous by faith in Christ. God will only impute your faith as righteousness if you actually have righteous faith.

And if you are dreaming that God does not see your sins but looks upon you in your wickedness and sees perfect righteousness because you claim to trust in Christ, think again. God sees all things and He calls you to repentance. There is a real, dramatic, radical, life-changing justification available to you through real faith in Jesus Christ – not a mere mental agreement with a statement of faith but a trust in Christ which results in a holy and obedient life. Saving faith is proven or shown by holy living. By faith in Christ you can be made actually righteous. By faith in Christ you can be actually justified. By faith in Christ you can become a new man! By faith in Christ, you don’t have to living in the bondage of daily sinning until you die! What good news! What a glorious gospel!


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8 Responses to Simul Justus Et Peccator – Justification in Sin a False Reformed/Calvinist Doctrine | Jesse Morrell

  1. Just like sanctification is when you are actually made sanctified, so also justification is when you are actually made just. Justification means made righteous.

  2. Steve White says:

    Because you never fully love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind and strength, or your neighbor as yourself, you are never perfected in this life. That is the requirement, perfection (Matt 5:48) therefore by God’s law you still qualify as a sinner till the day you die. You are never fully sanctified in this life, and never fully righteous in your life, because the record of your life is not perfect. You need a substitute who did fulfill the law perfectly (Mat 5:17-20), it is therefore Christ’s righteousness counted towards us by which we are justified. (Phil 3:9; Rom 4:5,6,13 ; Gal 2:21; 2Cor 5:21; Isa 61:10)

    Teaching an imputed righteousness does not lead to licentiousness, because the Holy Spirit is at work in beleivers. We have a new heart and new desires to obey, and so it is impossible that we would nor bring forth fruit of thankfulness (Mat 7:18; John 15:5)

    • But the Bible never says that its standard is impossible or unattainable. Jesus simply said go and sin no more and be perfect and never said that you can’t. And the Bible nowhere says that Christ’s personal obedience to the law is imputed to believers. Not one scripture says that. It says our faith, which results in good works, is imputed as righteousness. If we were justified by imputed works of the law, that would be justification by works of the law.

  3. Steve White says:

    Your problem is that you have too low of a view of God’s holy law! In order to think that you are pulling it off you have to lower it considerably.

  4. Benjamin R. says:

    Jesse, I think you are either misunderstanding or misrepresenting the Reformed position. No Calvinist that I am aware of teaches this. In fact, one of the points of contention with the Remonstrance was that those who are justified by faith will continue in that faith to the end. This was the essence of perseverance of the saints. If one goes out from us, he was not of us. We certainly don’t lose our salvation, but neither do we work for it! The faith that is given to the sinner to believe the gospel and live righteously comes to us as a gift of God. None of it is of ourselves because all of our works and righteousnesses are filthy rags!Christ’s mediating work before the Father ensures our eternal security! He is pleading His righteous, atoning, blood-bought sacrifice before the Father. Christ is the Author and Finisher of our faith. This is not to say that we never sin; but if any man sin, we have an Advocate with the Father! This is the Reformed position. We are to work out our own salvation, for it is God that works in us! It is a great paradox, but every reformed theologian that I know of believes this.

    • Does the Reformed position teach that you can go a day without sinning? According to the Westminster Catechism, the answer is no. It teaches that we cannot help but to daily break His commandments. If that were the case, then justification by faith would mean justification in sin – since we can’t help but to sin every day.

      “Simul Justus Et Peccator” is the expression the Reformers used – Simultaneously just and a sinner. I first heard this expression from a Calvinist.

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