R.C. Sproul – What Does „Simul Justus et Peccator” Mean?

rc sproul 2via LigonierMinistries

Perhaps the formula that Luther used, that is most famous and most telling at this point is his formula „Simul Justus et Peccator”. If any formula sumarizes and captures the essence of the reformation view, it is this little formula. ‘Simul’ is the word for mwhich we get the English word simultaneously. Or, it means, at the same time. Justus is the latin word for just or righteous. Et means and. Peccator means sinner. And so, with this formula, Luther was saying: In our justification, we are one and the same time righteous or just and sinners.

Now, if he were to say that we are at the same time and in the same relationship just and sinners, that would be a contradiction in terms. But, that’s not what he was saying. He was saying: From one perspective, in one sense, we are just. In another sense, but, different perspective we are sinners.

How he defines that is simple. In, and of ourselves, under the analysis of God’s scrutiny, we still have sin. We’re still sinners. But, by imputation, and by faith in Jesus Christ, whose righteousness is now transferred to our account, then we are considered just, or righteous. This is the very heart of the Gospel. Will I be judged, in order to get into heaven, by my righteousness? Or by the righteousness of Christ? If I had to trust in my righteousness to get into heaven, I would completely and utterly despair of any possibility of ever being redeemed. But when we see that the righteousness that is ours by faith is the perfect righteousness of Christ, then we see how glorious is the good news of the Gospel.

The good news is simply this: I can be reconciled unto God, I can be justified by God, not on the basis of what I did, but on the basis of what’s been accomplished for me by Christ. But, at the heart of the Gospel is a double imputation. My sin is imputed to Jesus. His righteousness is imputed to me. And, in this twi fold transaction, we see that God, who does not negotiate sin, who doesn’t compromise His own integrity with our salvation, but, rather punishes sin fully and really, after it has been imputed to Jesus, retains His own righteousness and ‘HE IS both JUST and THE JUSTIFIER’, the apostle tells us here. So, my sin goes to Jesus, His righteousness comes to me, in the sight of God.

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