Protestant Reformed Church
Lord’s Day, 27
"Make a joyful
noise unto God, all ye lands:
Sing forth the
honour of his name:
praise glorious" (Ps. 66:1-2)
Morning Service - 11:00 AM
God’s Magnifying His Word
Psalms: 145:1-8; 119:129-136; 19:7-13; 138:1-6
Service - 6:00 PM
The Mortification of the Old Man
Catechism, Lord’s Day 33; II Corinthians 7
I. A Profound
; 119:137-144; 32:3-6; 51:4-10
cassettes of the worship services or CDs of the sermons, contact Sean
Quotes to Consider:
Martin Luther: "I have covenanted with my Lord
that he should not send me visions or dreams or even angels. I am
content with this gift of the Scriptures, which teaches and supplies all
that is necessary, both for this life and that which is to come."
Jonathan Edwards: "You all have by you a large
treasure of divine knowledge, in that you have the Bible in your hands;
therefore be not contented in possessing but little of this treasure.
God hath spoken much to you in the Scriptures; labour to understand as
much of what He saith as you can. God hath made you all reasonable
creatures; therefore let not the noble faculty of reason or
understanding lie neglected. Content not yourselves with having so much
knowledge as is thrown in your way, and receive in some sense
unavoidably by the frequent inculcation of divine truth in the preaching
of the Word, of which you are obliged to be hearers, or accidentally
gain in conversation; but let it be very much your business to search
for it, and that with the same diligence and labour with which men are
wont to dig in mines of silver and gold."
C. H. Spurgeon: "When God speaks, either from the
pulpit or from His Word, I hold it to be my duty to keep silence. Even
while we sing the glories of our God, our soul stands trembling; but
when He speaks forth His own glories, who is he that dares to reply? Who
is he that shall lift up his voice against the majesty of heaven? There
is something so majestic in the voice of God, that when He speaks, it
commands silence everywhere, and bids men hear."
Gerrit Vos: "Now then, when God has sought you
out, and entered your heart by His Word, Spirit and grace, you are
blest. Then the earth and all its treasures cannot charm you any more.
Oh yes, we have our flesh with us, and it lusts after the things of the
earth not only, but also after sin and corruption. But we crucify our
flesh, we hate ourselves for Christ’s sake, and we mortify the deeds of
the body. Then we do not hunger for heaven for heaven’s sake. Oh no. We
long for heaven for God’s sake."
Announcements (subject to God’s will):
The Standard Bearers (1 & 15 April) are
available today on the back table.
Women’s Bible Study meets this Tuesday, 29 April,
at 10:15 AM at the Murrays.
Tuesday: Membership Class at the Hallidays at
Offering: General Fund - £600.70. Donations:
£160 (tapes), £4 (CDs), £38.18 (Limerick).
The Reformed Witness Hour next Lord’s Day
(8:30-9:00 AM, on Gospel 846MW), is entitled "Fighting Under the Banner
of Our Ascended King" (Ex. 17:8-16).
Upcoming Lecture: Friday, 9 May, in S. Wales,
on "The Antichrist."
This is part 1 of the 20th e-mail from Prof.
Engelsma on justification.
As I indicated in the last instalment, we turn now to
the fundamental confession of the Reformation, and truth of the gospel,
that the justification of the sinner before the righteous God is by
faith only. The word "only" in the confession concerning
justification is our specific concern. What does this word establish
about justification? What does this word rule out in the matter of
justification? How does this word necessarily safeguard, not only the
truth of justification, but also the gospel of grace in its entirety?
At the heart of the sixteenth century Reformation of
the church by Jesus Christ was the gospel-truth of justification by
faith only, and at the centre of this heart was the word "only." Denial
of the word "only" in the confession that justification is by faith only
is rejection and loss of the gospel of salvation by grace. Denial of the
word "only," therefore, is the mark of the false church. And denial of
the word "only" is, in spiritual practice, the unbelief of the Pharisee
in Jesus’ parable of the Pharisee and the publican, which unbelief
leaves the Pharisee unjustified and renders him condemned.
The quotation of Calvin in the last instalment makes
plain that the Reformers regarded their inclusion of "only" and the
Roman Catholics’ denial of "only" as the fundamental issue between them
and Rome. Rome likewise was convinced that the word "only" was the main
issue. Therefore, Rome was outraged when, as they viewed it, Luther
inserted the word "only" in his translation of Romans 3:28. Whereas the
Greek text is that accurately translated by the Authorized Version, "a
man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law," Luther’s German
translation read (in English translation): "only [German: allein] by
In light of the fundamental importance, then and now,
of the word "only," particularly with regard to one’s interpretation, if
not translation, of Romans 3:28, it is significant that Norman Shepherd,
longtime professor at Westminster Seminary in Philadelphia and father of
the Federal Vision heresy now entrenched in the reputedly conservative
Reformed churches in North America, has written that Luther was wrong to
interpret Romans 3:28 as teaching that a man is justified only by faith.
Shepherd’s objection is not to Luther’s alleged "insertion" of a word
into the translation that does not occur in the Greek original, but to
Luther’s understanding of the text. Shepherd objects to the word "only"
in the confession of justification by faith. Thus, Shepherd comes down
on the side of Rome in the matter of justification: justification is by
faith "and"; justification is by faith and by the good works of the
Deny "only," and one commits himself to "and"—and
works. Deny that Romans 3:28 is teaching justification by faith only,
regardless whether one "inserts" the word in the translation, or simply
understands the text as clearly implying "only," and one reads the text
as teaching justification by faith and by the good works faith performs.
The Reformed confessions teach justification by faith
only. Question 60 of the Heidelberg Catechism asks, "How are you
righteous before God?" The answer is: "Only by a true faith in Jesus
In Article 22 ("Faith in Jesus Christ"), the
Belgic Confession states that "we justly say with Paul, that we are
justified by faith alone."
The Thirty-nine Articles of the Church of
England confess that "we are accounted righteous before God, only for
the merit of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ by faith, and not for our
own works or deservings. Wherefore, that we are justified by faith only,
is a most wholesome doctrine, and very full of comfort, as more largely
is expressed in the Homily of Justification" (Art. 11).
The Westminster Confession of Faith declares
that "faith, thus receiving and resting on Christ and his righteousness,
is the alone instrument of justification" (11:2).
The Reformed creeds, reflecting the doctrine of John
Calvin and officially expressing the Reformed faith’s teaching on
justification, expose the falsity of the "big lie" that advocates of the
Federal Vision are now trying to foist on the Reformed churches, not
without success. The "big lie" (I deliberately borrow the phrase from
the lexicon of Nazi Germany, particularly from the head of the
propaganda ministry, Josef Goebbels, who cynically—and often
successfully—practised the tactic of convincing Germans and the whole
world of whatever falsehood it was that Hitler wanted them to believe by
trumpeting the big lie boldly and often and by every means)—the "big
lie" of the Federal Vision is the announcement that Calvin differed from
Luther on justification, so that Calvinists differ from Lutherans on
justification. According to the men of the Federal Vision, who as
heretics are also liars, Luther taught justification by faith alone, but
Calvin taught justification by faith and certain good works. According
to the men of the Federal Vision, a staunch, uncompromising confession
of justification by faith alone is Lutheran, not Reformed. The Reformed
rather teach justification by faith and by works, that is, the false
doctrine always taught by Rome and being taught today by the men of the
That this is a lie—a big lie—can be discovered by
everyone simply by reading Calvin on justification in his Institutes.
Evidently the men of the Federal Vision suppose that God’s people cannot
or will not read for themselves. That it is a lie that Calvin differed
from Luther on justification, as that the Reformed at the time of the
Reformation differed from the Lutherans on justification, is proved from
the Reformed confessions, which express perfectly clearly that Calvin,
whose influence on the confessions is acknowledged by all, agreed with
Luther (as Calvin stated many times in his writings) on justification by
faith only. The Reformed confessions express in language that is as
plain as the sun in the heavens, that justification is by faith only. Do
the men of the Federal Vision suppose that we are ignorant of our
confessions? But it is the nature of the tactic of the "big lie" that it
proclaims loudly and boldly a falsehood that is outrageous, contrary to
all the evidence, overpowering any doubt and all convictions to the
contrary by the sheer force and boldness of the telling of the lie.
One of the most influential of the Federal Vision men
in this regard is the Presbyterian theologian, Peter A. Lillback. In his
recent book on the covenant-doctrine of John Calvin, he argued that
Calvin differed from Luther on justification. Lillback argued this
miserable case from what he proposed as Calvin’s doctrine of the
covenant. Since Calvin (according to the [mis]reading of Lillback)
taught a conditional, gracious covenant with all the children alike, a
covenant dependent on the faith and works of the children, Calvin also
taught justification by faith and by the good works that faith performs.
According to Lillback, confession of justification by faith alone is a
Lutheran, not a Reformed, doctrine. I reviewed this book critically, and
exposed the "big lie," in the Protestant Reformed Theological Journal
a few years ago (Nov. 2001) ("The Recent Bondage of John Calvin: A
Critique of Peter A. Lillback’s The Binding of God").
Leading Orthodox Presbyterian and Presbyterian Church
in America churchmen rewarded Lillback for his book, which they praise
to the skies, by making him president of Westminster Seminary in
The Reformed confessions explicitly teach
justification by faith only. They teach it often.
to be continued ...