Protestant Reformed Church
Lord’s Day, 17
"Happy is he
that hath the God of Jacob for his help,
whose hope is
in the Lord his God" (Ps. 146:5)
Morning Service - 11:00 AM - Sem. McGeown
Saved By Grace
II. The Means
Psalms: 29:1-6; 136:13-26; 27:4-8; 40:1-5
Service - 6:00 PM - Sem. McGeown
Zechariah’s Vision of the Golden Candlestick
Psalms: 47:1-6; 137:1-6; 19:8-11; 2:1-6
For CDs of
the sermons, contact Sean Courtney
Quotes to Consider:
Canons III/V:14: "Faith is therefore to be
considered as the gift of God, not on account of its being offered by
God to man, to be accepted or rejected at his pleasure; but because it
is in reality conferred, breathed, and infused into him; or even because
God bestows the power or ability to believe, and then expects that man
should, by the exercise of his own free will, consent to the terms of
that salvation, and actually believe in Christ; but because he who works
in man both to will and to do, and indeed all things in all, produces
both the will to believe, and the act of believing also."
J. I. Packer: "The two theologies [Calvinism and
Arminianism] thus conceive the plan of salvation in quite different
terms. One makes salvation depend on the work of God, the other on a
work of man; one regards faith as part of God’s gift of salvation, the
other as man’s own contribution to salvation; one gives all the glory of
saving believers to God, the other divides the praise between God, who,
so to speak, built the machinery of salvation, and man, who by believing
operated it" ("Introductory Essay" to John Owen’s
The Death of Death in the Death of Christ).
Announcements (subject to God’s will):
Three missionary letters are on the back table
for your reading.
Seminarian Martyn McGeown will lead our worship
services today. Martyn returns to Michigan tomorrow to continue his
training at the PR Seminary. May the Lord be with him and bless him in
his studies in the coming year.
A congregational meeting for the election of
office-bearers will be held after this evening’s worship service.
Philip Rainey’s term as elder finishes and the Council puts forward the
following nominations for the congregation’s approval: Ivan Reid as
elder (3-year term), and William Graham as deacon (3-year term).
Everyone is invited to stay for tea after this
evening’s congregational meeting.
Mr. Callender remains in the Royal Hospital in
Belfast because of an abscess which needs to be drained. Please remember
him and his family in your prayers.
The Reformed Witness Hour next Lord’s Day
(8:30-9:00 AM, on Gospel 846MW), is "Craving Knowledge" (Prov. 1:7) by
Offerings: General Fund (3 August) - £984.95;
Building Fund £415.13; General Fund (10 August) - £643.67. Donations:
£10 (C. R. News), £50 (website), £5.
PRC News: Rev. R. Kleyn (Trinity, MI) declined
the call to Providence PRC (Jenison, MI). Providence PRC’s new trio is
Cand. Bleyenberg, Rev. J. Laning (Hope, MI), and Rev. VanderWal
(Redlands, CA). Rev. VanOverloop (Byron Center, MI) declined the call to
the Philippines. Rev. VanOverloop, Rev. A. Brummel (Sioux Falls, SD),
and Elder Dave Rau have been asked by the PRC Domestic Mission Committee
to visit a group of believers in Tucson, Arizona.
This is part 2 of the 22nd e-mail from Prof.
Engelsma on justification.
Despite the subtlety of the formulation of the heresy
by the Federal Vision (FV), the doctrine of the FV is the teaching of
justification by faith and works condemned by Scripture and the Reformed
According to the doctrine of the FV, the sinner’s own
works are, in part, the means of justification. Faith is not the sole
This implies that when God justifies He has regard to
the sinner’s own working and works and that the sinner’s own works are
partly the sinner’s righteousness with God. Christ’s work in the place
of the sinner is not the only righteousness of the sinner.
Does the faith that alone justifies (instrumentally)
always work? Yes! Does it work in the matter of justification? No! Is
true faith always a working faith? Yes! Does this working constitute the
instrumentality of justification even in part? No!
In its subtle formulation of the heresy of
justification by faith and works, the FV reintroduces into the sphere of
the Reformed churches the old heresy of the Roman Catholic Church with
this difference that the FV illogically and insignificantly rejects the
notion of merit.
The ablest Roman apologists at the Reformation
defended justification by works exactly as the FV does today.
Bellarmine, for example, argued that, as Galatians 5:6 teaches, faith
works by love (look for this very same text in the explanation of
justification by the men of the FV!). Faith is "informed" by charity, or
love. Only a faith that is informed by love justifies. And it justifies
because it is informed by love. Faith, said Rome, is a working, loving
faith. This working and loving of faith belong to the instrumentality of
faith as the means of justification. The conclusion was that
justification is by faith and works.
Indeed, Rome has made this subtle formulation of
justification by works its official position in the Canons and Decrees
of the Council of Trent. I quote pertinent articles.
In Chapter 7 of the Sixth Session (on justification)
Rome confesses, "In the ... justification of the impious ... the charity
of God is poured forth by the Holy Spirit in the hearts of those that
are justified and is inherent therein: whence, man, through Jesus Christ
... receives in the said justification, together with the remission of
sins, all these gifts infused at once, faith, hope, and charity."
Canon 11 of the same Session reads, "If any one
saith, that men are justified, either by the sole imputation of the
justice of Christ, or by the sole remission of sins, to the exclusion of
the grace and the charity which is poured forth in their hearts by the
Holy Ghost, and is inherent in them; or even that the grace, whereby we
are justified, is only the favour of God: let him be anathema."
Righteousness with God for a sinner, according to
Rome, is partly Christ’s obedience, partly Mary’s and the saints’
obedience, and partly the sinner’s own obedience, although accomplished
with the help of God’s grace.
Leaving Mary and the saints out of the picture, this
is the doctrine of the FV. This is why the men of the FV openly
advertise their justification doctrine as useful for good relations with
Rome, perhaps even overcoming the division of the Reformation. And this
is why numbers of prominent Presbyterians in North America, who have
embraced Shepherd’s and the FV’s doctrine of justification, are
converting to the Roman Church.
But to this subtle doctrine the Reformation said no.
Not because the Reformers denied that faith worketh
Not because the Reformers had a tendency to minimize
the importance of faith’s working.
But because this subtle doctrine of justification,
like every other form of the heretical teaching of justification by
faith and works, thrusts the sinner’s working and works into the
matter—the grand, divine act—of justification. On this view, God has
respect in the act of justifying to the sinner’s own works, regardless
that Rome and the FV loudly declare that the sinner does these works
only by the grace of God. God has respect, specifically, to the sinner’s
own loving of God and the neighbour.
The truth of the gospel is that in the matter of
justification, all working and works of the sinner are excluded
altogether, including the working of faith.
Although faith is always a working faith—a faith that
enthusiastically loves—in justification, not the working of faith, but
only faith’s relying on the merits of Christ, faith’s receiving the
verdict of innocence, faith’s passively receiving the verdict of
innocence, is in view, is operative, is allowable.
In justification, faith’s working is excluded.
In justification, a sinner’s relying on or proposing
his working by faith is damnable. No one seeking to be justified by the
working of his working faith is declared righteous.
The subtle error of the men of the FV is exactly that
of Rome with one exception. Rome, more honestly, admits that the working
aspect of faith in justification is meritorious. The men of the FV deny
that, although the denial involves them in denying the meritorious
character of the obedience of Christ. Apart from the startling denial
that Christ earned righteousness and salvation, the denial of the merit
of the working sinner by the FV is not a substantial difference from the
error of Rome condemned by the Reformation. The essence of the error
concerning justification both biblically and in the thinking of the
Reformation was, and is, that the works of the sinner himself enter into
the act and reality of justification, regardless whether one regards
them as meritorious or non-meritorious.
I close with an analysis of the difference between
the orthodox Protestant doctrine of justification and the Roman Catholic
doctrine of justification by the Scottish Presbyterian James Buchanan.
His analysis of Rome’s doctrine will expose as well the doctrine of the
"According to the Protestant doctrine, it [i.e.,
faith] is the means of Justification, simply because it receives and
rests upon Christ alone,—because it apprehends and appropriates His
righteousness as its only plea,—because it implies an absolute
renunciation of all self-dependence, and consists in an entire and
cordial reliance on Christ as ‘the Lamb of God which taketh away the sin
of the world,’—as ‘the propitiation for our sins through faith in His
blood,’—and as ‘the end of the law for righteousness to every one that
believeth in His name.’ But according to the Popish doctrine, faith
justifies, not by uniting the sinner to Christ, and making him a
partaker of Christ’s righteousness,—but by ‘working’ in him, and
‘sanctifying’ him,—by being, in its own essential nature as one of the
‘fruits of the Spirit,’ and by producing, in its actual operation as a
vital principle which ‘worketh by love,’ a real inherent righteousness,
which is, on its own account, acceptable to God, and which constitutes
the immediate ground of his acceptance;—in short, by making him
righteous, subjectively, so that thereby, and on that account, he may be
reputed righteous, and obtain at once the pardon of sin, and a title to
Scripture does not teach justification by the working
of a working faith. Rather, Scripture teaches justification by faith
alone, apart from all working, including the working of faith.
There is one practical benefit of the truth of
justification by faith only as opposed to justification by the working
of faith. That is that the guilty sinner is not discouraged by the
unworthiness of his faith. The worthiness of unworthiness, the strength
or weakness, and the greatness or smallness of faith have nothing to do
with justification. Those who teach justification by the working of
faith direct the sinner to his own faith for righteousness and for peace
with God. This will rob him of assurance.
But the truth of justification by faith only, that
is, justification by faith apart from faith’s own working and
worthiness, directs the sinner to Christ alone and to the obedience of
In justification, the sinner must not look to his
faith, but to Christ as presented in the gospel. Like the physical eye,
faith in the matter of justification does not see itself, but only the
object outside itself.
Still less may he depend on his faith, or anything
pertaining to his faith.
Only upon Christ.
Thus being justified, he has peace with God.
Cordially in Christ,