Dr. A. H. Strong, in the "Relation of Justification to Faith," wrote:
A. We are justified by faith, rather than by love or by any other grace:
(a) not because faith is itself a work of obedience by which we merit justification, for this would be a doctrine of justification by works,
(b) nor because faith is accepted as an equivalent of obedience, for there is no equivalent except the perfect obedience of Christ,
(c) nor because faith is the germ from which obedience may spring hereafter, for it is not the faith which accepts, but the Christ who is accepted, that renders such obedience possible, but
(d) because faith, and not repentance or love or hope is the medium or instrument by which we receive Christ and are united to him. Hence we are never said to be justified dia pistin, = on account of faith, but only dia pisteos, = through faith, or ek pisteos, = by faith. Or, to express the same truth in other words, while the grace of God is the efficient cause of justification and the obedience and sufferings of Christ are the meritorious or procuring cause, faith is the mediate or instrumental cause." (pg. 160, 161)
Strong, a moderate Calvinist, states the correct Calvinistic and Baptist view about union with Christ being first in any sound ordo salutis. And, in that tradition, he says that the Bible teaches that men are joined to Christ "by faith." Thus, faith precedes everything connected with salvation, though faith is the result of God's working through the Spirit and the word. This view of faith being the means of union with Christ, and with justification and salvation, is clearly taught in scripture. For instance, Paul wrote: "...whatsoever is not of faith (relative to salvation - SG) is sin." (Rom. 14: 23) From this proposition it is deducible that all is from faith, since whatever is not from faith is sin. The word "sin" here is "hamartia" and literally means to "miss the mark," and involves faulty aim. Thus, a salvation that is "not of faith," as Hardshellism and many non-Christian religions teach, misses the mark of truth. According to Hardshellism, justification, regeneration, santification, and salvation are "not of faith," and therefore Hardshellism makes the foregoing things to be "sin," an error.
A "regeneration" that is not from or by faith leads to the absurdity that there are regenerated people who cannot please God, for Paul says that "without faith it is impossible to please God" (Heb. 11: 6).
Union with Christ is by faith, by coming to him with the heart. In chapter 11 of Book 3 of his Institutes, John Calvin wrote:
"I trust I have now sufficiently shown how man’s only resource for escaping from the curse of the law, and recovering salvation, lies in faith; and also what the nature of faith is, what the benefits which it confers, and the fruits which it produces. The whole may be thus summed up: Christ given to us by the kindness of God is apprehended and possessed by faith, by means of which we obtain in particular a twofold benefit; first, being reconciled by the righteousness of Christ, God becomes, instead of a judge, an indulgent Father; and, secondly, being sanctified by his Spirit, we aspire to integrity and purity of life."
Calvin recognized, of course, as do all Calvinists, that there is an eternal mystical or virtual union between Christ and the chosen people. In God's eternal decree of election the people chosen are joined together, in the mind of God, with Christ their appointed Head. This union does precede faith and salvation. However, actual union in time occurs at the point a soul is brought to faith in Christ. Calvin also appropriately places union with Christ ahead of justification and sanctification, the latter including regeneration.
Paul wrote: "...he that is joined unto the Lord is one spirit." (I Cor. 6: 17) Marriage is one of those kinds of union that the scripture adopts to describe the union that exists between Christ and his church bride. (Eph. 5: 23-33)
"Wherefore, my brethren, ye also are become dead to the law by the body of Christ; that ye should be married to another, even to him who is raised from the dead, that we should bring forth fruit unto God." (Rom. 7: 4)
Saved people are people who have been "joined" or "married" to the Lord, who are "bone of his bone, and flesh of his flesh."
Paul also spoke of Christ being made to "dwell in your hearts by faith." (Eph. 3: 17)
Throughout the scriptures people "believe in (Greek "eis," or "into") Christ." Faith is the medium by which Christ is entered and possessed. Without this possession and union with Christ, there is no salvation.
Strong mentions, as have others, such as Berkhof, that scripture never says that men are justified "dia pistin" but "dia pisteuo." Had the biblical writers believed that "by faith" meant that justification was based upon faith, they would have used "dia pistin," the accusative case inflection. Thus, the Hardshell accusation that those who teach that justification is "by faith" must teach that faith is the ground or foundation for justification, is without merit.
Craig Hawkins, on the same point, wrote:
"Another point of misunderstanding that some have is regarding the role and relationship of faith to justification. It is not our faith or the faith of the individual believer that justifies, but God who justifies by grace through faith. That is, faith is what is called the instrumental means or cause of salvation, not what is termed the efficient cause. As J. I. Packer rightly remarks: “Paul says that believers are justified dia pisteos (Rom. 3:25), pistei (Rom. 3:28), and ek pisteos (Rom. 3:30). The dative and the preposition dia represent faith as the instrumental means whereby Christ and his righteousness are appropriated; the preposition ek shows that faith occasions, and logically precedes, our personal justification. That believers are justified dia pistin, on account of faith, Paul never says, and would deny.” Packer also remarks: “faith is…personal trust and confidence in God’s mercy through Christ; that it is not a meritorious work, one facet of human righteousness, but rather an appropriating instrument, an empty hand outstretched to receive the free gift of God’s righteousness in Christ….”
Hawkins then cites B.B. Warfield:
"It is, accordingly, solely from its object that faith derives its value. This object is uniformly the God of grace…Jesus Christ, God the Redeemer, is accordingly the one object of saving faith…The saving power of faith resides thus not in itself, but in the Almighty Saviour on whom it rests…It is not faith that saves, but faith in Jesus Christ…faith in any other saviour…brings not salvation but a curse. It is not, strictly speaking, even faith in Christ that saves, but Christ that saves through faith. The saving power resides exclusively, not in the act of faith or the attitude of faith or the nature of faith, but in the object of faith…" ("Justification – A Right Relationship with GOD" by Craig S. Hawkins see here)
Thus, the argument by Oliphant that those who teach that justification is "by faith" teach that faith is the ground or foundation of justification is without merit.
"I want first to assign some reasons why faith can not be the ground, or condition, on which justification is based; and then I will try to point out what is intended by those texts in which we are said to be "justified by faith."
Many places speak of "little faith," "O ye of little faith," "Lord, help my unbelief." "Increase our faith," and such texts. Now, if faith is to be understood as the condition or cause of our justification, then justification would necessarily be in different degrees, one man would be just, and another more just, according to the degree of faith, and none could be perfectly justified, seeing that none have perfect faith, for "now we see through a glass darkly." So our justification would have an imperfect cause, or foundation, whereas I think it is admitted on all hands that justification admits of no degrees." ("Justification and Kindred Subjects: Chapter 8" - See here)
But, though faith is the "condition" for justification, it is not the "ground" of it. Oliphant, however, thinks that if faith be a condition, it must therefore be the foundation, or the meritorious "basis" for it.
Oliphant's argument is that whatever results from faith cannot be "perfect," for faith is always imperfect. But, this is untenable. Has he not affirmed that faith is the gift of God? God gives an imperfect faith for imperfect results? Oliphant also again affirms that faith being a "condition" makes faith the "foundation" of justification and salvation, but this is false. The righteousness of Christ is the efficient cause of justification, but faith is the instrumental cause.
It is also once again apparent how Oliphant has to resort to such logical arguments to prove his doctrine rather than to express statements of scripture. He denies that justification is by faith because it is not logical, in his mind, and not because he can refute it by scripture.
"So the righteousness of God’s people is of God, Christ is their righteousness; hence it is not the office of faith to produce it. It exists aside from, and independent of faith."
Yes, it is "of" God, but it is "by" faith. Faith does not "produce" the justifying righteousness of Christ, but merely receives it. It is amazing that Oliphant and the Hardshells fail to see these simple things. Oliphant is very frank in affirming that the righteousness of Christ "exists independent of faith," which is contrary to the whole of Romans chapter four. The scriptures teach that sinners are justified by faith but Hardshells say apart from faith.
Elder Joe Holder, Hardshell apologist, wrote:
"The Bible speaks of justification by the blood of Christ, by grace, by faith, and by works. Many sincerely attempt to make every statement in the Bible on justification refer to eternal justification. Justification is the New Testament term for a judge's verdict of "Not guilty." In our judicial system there are many different courts to hear and judge the large variety of issues which must be adjudicated. A traffic violation and a mass murder should not be heard by the same court. Applying this principle to the New Testament teaching on justification, we can see the eternal court of justice which heard the evidence against the elect and declared the "Not guilty" verdict at the resurrection of Christ, based on his death and the grace of God, Romans 4:25. Yet in the same chapter, we can see the court of conscience, before which Abraham was justified by works, Romans 4: 3. Paul did not teach that a dead effortless faith is acceptable any more than James taught that eternal justification is by works." (Chapter 5, "Justification By Faith" - see here)
Thus, according to Hardshellism, being justified by faith pertains only to the "court" of the believers conscience. But, this is not what Paul taught. This was shown in the last chapter where Paul does not make justification by grace to be a different justification from that which is by faith. The whole purpose of this paradigm of justification is to affirm that justification by faith is not necessary for being eternally saved. But, where there is no justification by faith, then there is no "peace with God" (Rom. 5: 1), and thus one is not reconciled to God, and is still his enemy.
Holder and the Hardshells fail to understand that the realization of pardon and justification in the conscience occurs when one is actually justified and regenerated. In this experience the conscience is cleansed by the application of the blood of Christ. At the same time that God declares that a sinner is justified, at the same time the sinner experiences peace with God. Or, to state it according to the Hardshell paradigm, when the court of Heaven declares the sinner acquitted, the sinner's "court of conscience" receives and welcomes the verdict.
Not only does Romans chapters three through five show that the same justification is under consideration, but so does the Book of Galatians.
"Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified." (Gal. 2: 16)
"But that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, it is evident: for, The just shall live by faith." (Gal. 3: 11)
This "justification" is "in the sight of God." And, it is "by faith." "We have believed," said Paul, "that we might be justified by the faith of Christ."
In closing this chapter, let us notice these verses:
"Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life." (John 5: 24)
"And by him all that believe are justified from all things, from which ye could not be justified by the law of Moses." (Acts 13: 39)
Who is justified? The believer in Jesus. Who is condemned? The one who does not believe in Jesus.