Protestant Reformed Church
Lord’s Day, 11
"Unto him be
glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout
world without end. Amen" (Ephesians 3:21)
Service - 11:00 AM
Election of the Church (1)
the Source of the Church
25:4-10; 77:14-20; 65:1-5; 132:7-14
Service - 6:00 PM
Election of the Church (2)
the Fountain of the Church’s Blessings
II. The Four
87:1-7; 78:1-6; 78:67-72; 33:10-12, 18-22
cassettes of the worship services, contact Sean Courtney
Quote to Consider:
The Scottish Confession (1560) - Chapter 16, Of
the Kirk: "As we believe in one God, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost; so
do we most constantly believe that from the beginning there has been,
now is, and to the end of the world shall be, a kirk: that is to say, a
company and multitude of men chosen of God, who rightly worship and
embrace him, by true faith in Christ Jesus,who is the only Head of the
same kirk, which also is the body and spouse of Christ Jesus; which kirk
is Catholic that is, universal because it contains the elect of all
ages, all realms, nations, and tongues, be they of the Jews, or be they
of the Gentiles; who have communion and society with God the Father, and
with his Son Christ Jesus, through the sanctification of his Holy
Spirit; and therefore it is called the communion, not of profane
persons, but of saints, who, as citizens of the heavenly Jerusalem, have
the fruition of the most inestimable benefits: to wit, of one God, one
Lord Jesus, one faith, and of one baptism; out of the which kirk there
is neither life, nor eternal felicity. And therefore we utterly abhor
the blasphemy of them that affirm that men which live according to
equity and justice shall be saved, what religion that ever they have
professed. For as without Christ Jesus there is neither life nor
salvation, so shall there none be participant thereof, but such as the
Father has given unto his Son Christ Jesus, and those [that] in time
come unto him, avow his doctrine, and believe into him (we comprehend
the children with the faithful parents). This kirk is invisible, known
only to God, who alone knows whom he has chosen, and comprehends as well
(as said is) the elect that are departed (commonly called the kirk
triumphant), as those that yet live and fight against sin and Satan as
shall live hereafter."
Announcements (subject to God’s will):
We welcome Mihaela Olteanu from Bucharest,
Romania, to our services.
The Standard Bearer and Beacon Lights
are in. There are still some copies of the special Protestant
Reformed Theological Journal on the covenant.
PM at the Murrays
7 PM with the
PM at the Hamills.
Membership Class: Tuesday, 7:30 PM at the
Our Mid-Week Bible Study on I Thessalonians
1:2-10 will be held Wednesday, at 7:45 PM at the manse. A study guide by
Rev. C. Hanko is available for £2.50.
The Reformed Witness Hour next Lord’s Day, 18
Feb. (8:30-9:00 AM, on Gospel 846MW) is entitled "I Am the Light of the
World" (John 8:12).
Last Week’s Offerings: General Fund - £632.25.
Building Fund - £855.00. Donations: £20 (pamphlets), £3 (books).
Website: 4 new Portuguese translations are
Lecture: S. Wales, Friday, 2 March,
"Homosexuality: What Does the Bible Teach?"
PRC News: Rev. Dick declined the call to the
This is part of the most recent e-mail from Prof.
Engelsma on justification.
In the divine act of justification, God actively does
not impute, or reckon (legally, or judicially), to one the guilt of his
sin and sinfulness. This is forgiveness of sin. In the same divine act,
God imputes, or reckons (legally, or judicially), a perfect
righteousness, a standing before the Judge, of having perfectly met and
satisfied every demand of the holy law of the Judge. This is the gift of
In the divine act of justification, God does not
infuse righteousness into the sinner, so that he becomes a good man
morally and performs good works. God certainly does make His people
morally good, so that they perform good works. This is an important
aspect of the full salvation Christ has won for them and bestows upon
them by His renewing Spirit. But this is not the act of justification.
This is not any part of justification. This is excluded from
justification, and from any sound, orthodox explanation of
justification. The renewing of the sinner by the Holy Spirit is the
divine work of sanctification. This work always accompanies
justification and follows it, as Jesus showed when He said to the woman
taken in adultery, after He had justified her, "Neither do I condemn
thee" (this was her justification; note well, it was a declaration by
the Judge concerning her legal standing before the Judge, that the law
of God had no outstanding claim against her, implying that she stood in
relation to the law as having perfectly satisfied it), "Go, and sin no
more" (John 8:11). This last word of Jesus, "Go, and sin no more,"
accomplished a divine work in her, sanctifying her, so that she would
not again commit adultery in the deed, or delight impenitently in the
thought and desire, but walk in holiness of life, obeying the law of
"Go, and sin no more" always accompanies and follows
"neither do I condemn you." But it is distinct from the act expressed in
"neither do I condemn you." And it follows the "neither do I condemn
I pointed out last time that the Reformation creeds
are at pains to describe justification as not involving the "infusion"
of righteousness into the sinner. I referred to WCF
11.1, where the creed, defining justification, explicitly denies that it
consists of, or involves, "infusing righteousness into them."
Why did the Reformation insist that justification is
not, and does not at all involve, changing the sinner’s moral, spiritual
condition, but is strictly the change of the sinner’s legal standing
before the holy law of God?
And why must Reformed churches insist on this today?
One reason is simply the meaning of the biblical word for
"justification", as explained by Scripture itself in Psalm 32 and Romans
4:1ff. in the words "impute," "reckon," and "count." The words and truth
clearly concern legal standing and declaration of innocence, not at all
the moral change of a person.
A second reason is that at stake is the all-important
matter of the content, or identity, of the righteousness that is imputed
to the sinner in justification. Justification is the imputation to the
sinner’s account of perfect righteousness. Whose righteousness is this?
Whose obedience to the law is reckoned to the account of the sinner in
justification? Who has satisfied every demand of the law upon the
sinner, so that this full satisfaction is made over legally to the
All those who teach that justification is partly the
work of Christ’s Spirit in a man making him morally good, so that he
performs some good works, go on to teach that these good works are part
of the righteousness, part of the obedience, part of the satisfaction of
the law, that make up the man’s righteousness before God the Judge. This
denies that the righteousness with which alone the guilty sinner is
justified is the obedience and satisfaction of Jesus Christ in the
sinner’s stead and on his behalf.
The doctrine of the Reformation was that the
righteousness of the sinner in justification is exclusively the lifelong
obedience and atoning death of Jesus Christ in the elect sinner’s stead,
as His substitute. In justification, God reckons this righteousness,
that is, the righteousness of Jesus Christ, to the sinner’s account as
the sinner’s own legally.
I return to this, but I mention this now to indicate
the essential importance of the teaching that justification is not the
infusion of righteousness. To teach this is to deny that Christ alone is
The reason why the Reformation so vehemently defended
justification as strictly imputation, not at all infusing, as the change
of legal standing, not the change of moral condition, is this. To teach
justification as partly God’s work in the sinner making him holy, so
that he performs good works, always serves the teaching that in
justification the sinner’s own good works are part of his righteousness
with God, part of his righteousness in the sense of his being forgiven
and deserving of eternal life.
This was the doctrine of the Roman Catholic Church at
the time of the Reformation, as it is the doctrine of Rome today.
Justification, as officially defined by Rome at the Council of Trent, in
the sixth session, in the "decree of justification," is the work of God
in someone who is willing and cooperates with the grace of God of
regenerating him so that he believes with a faith that brings forth good
works. Both the death of Christ which is the object of his faith and the
good works of charity that faith produces are the man’s righteousness in
the divine work of justification.
In chapter 7 Rome denied that justification is
strictly the legal act of forgiving sins: "Justification ... is not
remission of sins merely, but also the sanctification and renewal of the
inward man, through the voluntary reception of the grace, and of the
gifts, whereby man of unjust becomes just."
Showing and arguing that justification is not the
Reformation’s doctrine of imputation, in chapter 10 the Council of Trent
went on to say that justification is a work of God in a person that
increases during his life: "they [those who have begun to be justified
by believing and doing good works], through the observance of the
commandments of God and of the Church [sic], faith co-operating with
good works, increase in that justice which they have received through
the grace of Christ, and are still further justified."
The heresy in the reputedly conservative Reformed and
Presbyterian churches in North America known as the federal vision
likewise teaches that justification is partly God’s act of forgiving the
sinner and partly God’s work in the sinner making him morally good, so
that the sinner’s righteousness with God, in the biblical act of divine
justification, is partly the obedience of Christ for him and partly his
own good works that he does by the power of the Spirit within him.
Both Rome and the federal vision teach that
justification is in part the infusing of righteousness. Both deny
vehemently that justification is strictly and exclusively the imputation
of righteousness that changes one’s legal standing from guilt to
innocence. The doctrine of the federal vision is Roman Catholic
doctrine, impure and simple, except that the men of the federal vision
deny the Roman teaching that the good works of the sinner "merit." But
this denial makes no fundamental difference. To teach that justification
is the infusing of righteousness and that the sinner’s own good works
are partly his righteousness with God in justification is to get into
bed with Rome. I remind the forum that the doctrine of the federal
vision is spreading unchecked in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, the
Presbyterian Church in America, and the United Reformed Churches. I
remind the forum also that the federal vision is the natural development
of the doctrine of a gracious, but conditional covenant of God with all
the physical children of believing parents.
to be continued ...