Protestant Reformed Church
Lord’s Day, 6
"But I will
hope continually, and will yet praise thee
more and more"
- 11:00 AM
Do Not Murder! [download]
Reading: I John 3
Catechism, Lord’s Day 40
I. Acts Not
68:7-12; 52:1-7; 36:5-11
Evening Service - 6:00 PM
The Requirements of the Seventh Commandment [download]
Reading: Ephesians 5
Catechism, Lord’s Day 41
I. Live Chastely
68:13-18; 106:24-31; 51:6-13
Stephen Murray for CDs of the sermons and DVDs of the worship
Quotes to Consider:
A. W. Pink: "It is love for God which produces
love for those who bear His image. And what is the touch-stone of my
love to God? Not rapturous feelings, nor beautiful words of devotion,
nor heartily singing His praises—but by keeping His commandments (John
14:15, 21, 24). The strength of my love for God is to be gauged by the
measure of my obedience to His Word. The same principle holds good in my
relations with the brethren—love to them will be manifested by efforts
to encourage them in the path of obedience—and that necessarily involves
rebuking them for disobedience."
Rev. Dale Kuiper: "Is it not true that movies and
television exalt that which is base and depraved, and debase that which
is exalted and good? Is it not true that watching the entertainment of
the world, its sexual presentations, its violence and bloodshed, its
blasphemies against the holy God, makes a person guilty of the sin
described in Romans 1:32, ‘Who knowing the judgment of God, that they
which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but
have pleasure in them that do them?’"
Announcements (subject to God’s will):
The second offering this morning is for our
Elder Brian Crossett leaves tomorrow for the
US to represent the CPRC at Martyn’s examination and graduation. Please
remember these men as well as the whole PRC Synod in your prayers.
Rev. & Mary Stewart travel to Limerick on
Thursday. Rev. Stewart will lead a Bible study on worship at the Cesars
in Shannon on Thursday evening and will give a lecture on "The Valley of
Dry Bones" (Eze. 37) on Friday.
The Reformed Witness Hour next Lord’s Day
(8:30-9:00 AM, on Gospel 846MW) is entitled "No Condemnation! It is
Christ That …" (Romans 8:33-34).
The Council will hold their monthly meeting
next week Wednesday, 16 June, at 7 PM at the manse.
Upcoming Meeting: S. Wales, Friday, 2 July -
"What About Israel?"
Offerings: General Fund: £743.60. Donations:
£200, £11 (CR News).
Website Additions: A German translation by
Anganeta Dyck of Prof. Engelsma’s pamphlet "Hating
the Haters of the Lord" was added to the website.
PRC News: Trinity called Rev. Marcus. Edgerton called Rev. Eriks.
Kalamazoo’s trio is Revs. Eriks, Kuiper, and De Vries. The Ibe family
has returned to the Philippines for the summer to give Vernon further
pastoral experience. Under the supervision of the two PR missionaries
and his professors, he will be leading services in Manila and Gabaldon,
teaching catechism and participating as much as possible in the work of
This is the part 2 of the 38th e-mail by Prof.
Engelsma in the justification forum.
The Reformation opposed all and any merit on the part
of the sinner, that is, all and any deserving of eternal life by his own
working and works. I quote from the Heidelberg Catechism, which
expresses the rejection and condemnation of merit on the part of the
justified and saved sinner: "How art thou righteous before God? Only by
a true faith in Jesus Christ, so that, though my conscience accuse me
that I have grossly transgressed all the commandments of God, and kept
none of them, and am still inclined to all evil; notwithstanding, God,
without any merit of mine, but only of mere grace ... imputes to me the
perfect satisfaction, righteousness, and holiness of Christ," etc. (Q. &
Also, the Belgic Confession of Faith, Article
24 (on man’s sanctification): "Therefore we do good works, but not to
merit by them (for what can we merit?), nay, we are beholden to God for
the good works we do, and not He to us, since it is He that worketh in
us both to will and to do of His good pleasure."
The Bible condemns the doctrine of human merit.
It condemns the doctrine of merit by its teaching of
justification by faith alone, for example, in Romans 3 and 4 and
Galatians (which passages I have already explained). If the sinner’s own
works are not his righteousness with God or the basis of God’s
declaration that he is righteous and worthy of eternal life, the
sinner’s own works do not merit eternal life. Since faith receives the
obedience of Christ as the sole righteousness of the justified sinner,
only the obedience of Christ in the sinner’s stead and on the sinner’s
behalf merits eternal life for the elect sinner.
The Bible condemns the doctrine of human merit by its
gospel of salvation by grace, everywhere, for example, Ephesians 2:8-9:
"For by grace are ye saved through faith ... not of works, lest any man
should boast." Grace rules out works as the cause or reason or basis of
salvation, rules out works altogether. But merit makes works a cause or
reason or basis. Therefore, grace rules out merit. Salvation is God’s
free, gracious gift to the elect sinner, not a payment owed by God or
deserved by the sinner.
The Bible condemns the doctrine of merit in such
passages as Matthew 20:1-16, Luke 15:11ff. and Luke 17:10. Matthew
20:1-16, the parable of the labourers in the vineyard, teaches that the
reward God gives to the works of His people is pure grace, not the
payment of a debt (else the ones who worked longer would have had a
claim on God for payment exceeding that given to those who worked only a
little while). Luke 15:11ff., the parable of the prodigal son, plainly
teaches that God’s reception of, and lavish bestowal of all kinds of
blessings on, the prodigal son is due to grace, not the son’s merit. And
Luke 17:10 strikes a death-blow at the doctrine of merit, for Jesus
declares that when His disciples have done all that God commands them to
do they are unprofitable servants, for they have only done their duty.
Luke 17:10 expressly demolishes one of the two
teachings that are basic to the theory of merit, namely, that one can do
more than his duty, so as to earn with God. God’s demand upon man,
including saved man, is that he love God and the neighbour perfectly
with all his being and powers. No one, though she be the mother of Jesus
or the apostle Paul or Augustine can do more than this.
Other passages of Scripture deny the other teaching
basic to Rome’s doctrine of merit, namely, that man has something of his
own to offer to God, that is, his free will. The fallen sinner has no
free will. He is dead in sin (Eph. 2:1), unable to will the good (Rom.
8:7-8), and incapable of choosing Christ (John 6:44). Everything good
that the child of God possesses and that goes into the performance of
good works, including the will that desires God, is God’s own gift to
him and gracious work in him.
Also bearing on the issue of merit is the truth that
all the good works of even the most holy child of God are tainted and
defiled with sin and, therefore, unable to merit with God.
What the rejection of merit by the gospel-truth of
justification by faith alone denies is that the sinner himself ever puts
God in his debt; that God ever owes the sinner anything because of the
sinner himself or because of what the sinner has done, much less eternal
life itself; and that salvation is payment due, rather than grace
Justification by faith alone puts the sinner’s
relation with God on the footing of grace. Who wants to stand on any
other footing? Who can?
Justification by faith alone instructs and warns
Christians not to work with the motive of meriting. All such works,
though they accomplish great things in the estimation of men and though
they gain the world’s applause, are sinful and damnable in God’s sight.
They oppose grace; they deny the sufficiency of the merits of Jesus
And what a deliverance this is! How dreadful it must
be to work under the burden of merit! No one can be sure that he is
I come back briefly to Rome’s distinction between
"condign merit" and "congruous merit." Basically this is the distinction
between works that merit by their own intrinsic worthiness and works
that merit because they please God, even though, strictly speaking, they
do not deserve the payment God gives for them.
This is one of the theological distinctions without a
difference. Whether condign or congruous, merit is condemned by the
gospel of grace, particularly justification by faith alone.
Lately, especially in defence of the teaching that
Adam in Paradise could have merited a higher, better, heavenly and
eternal life by obeying the "probationary command," Reformed theologians
have been proposing a doctrine that amounts to Rome’s doctrine of
(merely) congruous merit, that is, a work that deserves payment because
it pleases God, even though, strictly speaking, it is not worthy of the
payment. These Reformed theologians are defending the view that Adam in
Paradise could very really have merited the higher, eternal life (that
Christ in fact has earned for the elect church by His obedience,
especially His suffering and death) by virtue of the fact that his not
eating of the forbidden tree would have pleased God because God promised
Adam that He would regard the obedience of Adam as a meritorious work in
the covenant God made with Adam.
I will not say much here about this teaching
concerning Adam and what is commonly called the "covenant of works." My
concern here is the impossibility and illegitimacy of merit in the
matter of justification. Also, I have written an entire article on the
truth of God’s covenant with Adam and the error of ascribing merit to
Adam’s (conceivable) obedience in Paradise that all of you can obtain or
read online (http://www.prca.org/prtj/nov2006.pdf).
Here I only mention that Adam, a mere man, could not
have merited anything with God, much less the higher, eternal life that
Christ earned for us by His obeying. Luke 17:10 applies to Adam also.
When he did the small thing God required of him, he would only have been
doing His duty. In the way of obedience, he would have continued to live
the earthly life of Paradise.
Further, God could no more have put Himself in a
position to be indebted to Adam than He could deny Himself. God indebted
to a mere man?
Those Reformed theologians who are teaching today
that Adam could have merited by his obedience are saying that it was
possible, and is conceivable, that Adam and therefore the entire human
race might have earned eternal life; might have put God in their debt
forever regarding the highest and best life; might have obtained eternal
life as payment (be it by "congruous merit"); might have stood in the
matter of the most glorious salvation on the footing of their own works.
Thus, they show that they have no fundamental objection to the
wickedness that lies at the very heart of merit: man indebting God; God
owing man; man inheriting eternal life as payment, rather than grace.
They are perfectly agreeable to the idea, and possibility, that the
entire human race might have enjoyed eternal life, not as a gracious
gift, but as a deserved payment.
These Reformed theologians (I name some of them in
the article, "The Covenant of Creation with Adam," referred to above)
argue that just as Christ, the second Adam, merited with God, so also
Adam the first must have been able to merit with God. The men of the
Federal (Covenant) Vision, on the other hand, argue that just as the
first Adam could not merit so also Christ did not merit with God. Both
The Reformation and all the Reformed creeds teach
that Christ merited, that is, really earned, our salvation and eternal
life with God by His lifelong obedience and atoning death. Article 22 of
the Belgic Confession describes true faith this way: "Faith ...
embraces Jesus Christ with all His merits." Those Reformed theologians
who deny that Christ merited are unfaithful to the creeds they have
sworn to uphold.
Christ merited. Christ’s works earned with God.
Christ merited eternal life for Himself and His church.
But Christ was not a mere man. He was God in the
flesh. God in the flesh can merit for guilty sinners. Christ could offer
to God something of His own: His Godhead in an obedience and suffering
He Himself as the eternal Son of God did not owe. Christ could perform
works not demanded of Him: suffering and death that He Himself
personally did not owe to the justice of God. As the Psalm states, He
restored that which He took not away (Ps. 69:4).
We believers stand in our relation with God on the
footing of the merits of Christ, which are all ours by faith in Him.
Is this not liberating?
Is this not comfort in life and death?
Does this not move us to praise and serve this gracious
God with all our powers?
Is this not the motive of doing good works?
Cordially in Christ,