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
Order in Public Worship
95:1-8; 78:49-54; 87:1-7; 122:1-9
Service - 6:00 PM
Be Thy Name
Catechism, Lord’s Day 47; John 17
96:1-8; 78:55-60; 18:1-7; 113:1-9
For audio cassettes of the worship services, contact
Sean Courtney (firstname.lastname@example.org)
CPRC website: www.cprc.co.uk
Announcements (subject to God’s will):
All are invited to the manse after the
worship service this evening.
Catechism: Monday, 5:30 PM at the Murrays,
7:00 PM with the Campbells. Thursday, 7:00 PM at the Hamills.
Membership Class: Tuesday, 7:30 PM at the
Our Mid-Week Bible Study will be held
Wednesday, at 7:45 PM at the manse. We will study I Thessalonians 2 on
Paul’s message and motives.
The Reformed Witness Hour next Lord’s Day, 18
March (8:30-9:00 AM, on Gospel 846MW) is entitled "I Am the True Vine"
In view to the Lord’s Supper on 25 March, we will
have preparatory next Lord’s Day evening.
Last Week’s Offerings: General Fund - £747.55.
Building Fund - £324.40. Donations: £50 (building fund), £50 (website),
CPRC Website: "The Covenant: God’s Tabernacle
with Men" by Herman Hoeksema is now on-line in Italian. 2 Portuguese
articles and 11 ecumenical creeds (Belarusian, Croatian, Lithuanian,
Latvian, Welsh) have also been added.
Notices: Lectures on "Homosexuality, What Does the Bible Teach?"
23 March, 7 PM, Limerick Youth Service, Limerick
11 May, 8 PM, Ballymena Protestant Hall
This is the 9th e-mail from Prof. Engelsma
I intend briefly to treat two distinct aspects of the
central gospel-truth of justification in this instalment. The first is
the truth, basic to the biblical doctrine of justification, that in the
act of justification God imputes righteousness. I can be brief about
this because I have already explained imputation and demonstrated it
from Scripture, particularly from the end of Romans 3 and the beginning
of Romans 4.
The reason why I return to this is that denial of
imputation is an essential aspect of the related heresies of the New
Perspective on Paul (NPP) and the Federal Vision (FV). According to the
NPP, promoted in conservative circles both in Great Britain and in North
America especially by the reputedly evangelical Anglican bishop N. T.
Wright, and the FV, flourishing in some of the supposedly most
conservative Reformed and Presbyterian churches in North America,
becoming righteous is not a matter of imputation. As I documented in a
recent article on "The Covenant of Creation with Adam" in the Fall, 2006
issue of the Protestant Reformed Theological Journal, these movements
deny that Adam’s sin was imputed to the human race, that Christ’s
obedience is imputed to sinners, and that our guilt was imputed to
Christ. There may be the stray defender of the FV who is at present
somewhat hesitant to swallow the denial of imputation whole-hog, but
this is the position of the movement as such. Indeed prominent
representatives of the FV mock at imputation as a shuffling around of
the figures in a heavenly accounting book.
Denial of imputation by Reformed and Presbyterian
ministers and theologians, and even by evangelical theologians, should
be recognized for the radical break with the Reformation and all the
Reformation creeds that it is. This is obvious and remarkable apostasy
regarding original sin, the substitutionary atonement of the cross, and
justification. It is a revelation of the weak spiritual condition of the
churches to which these men belong that they not only have not
disciplined these men, but also have protected them and approved their
doctrine when laymen brought charges against them. Further, even when
Reformed theologians in North America do not go on record as agreeing
with the NPP and the FV, they write that there are good things to be
learned from these movements and regard the men of these movements as
basically good Reformed or evangelical brothers with a different
The movements deny imputation!
If there is no imputation, Adam’s guilt is not
reckoned to the account of the entire human race. If Adam’s guilt is not
reckoned to the race, humans do not come into the world totally depraved
of nature, for the depravity in which all are conceived is judgment upon
the race and every member, except Jesus. If the race is not thus sinful,
why the need for the Saviour—the Saviour who is God Himself in the
flesh? If the sin of the elect of all nations was not imputed by God to
Jesus Christ, what was He doing on the cross? What was His death? And if
the obedience of Christ is not imputed to the believer, how does the
believer become righteous, and what is his righteousness with God?
Denial of imputation does not merely "correct" the
Reformation at some point, but is the wholesale rejection of the
Reformation. Denial of imputation is the creation of a new religion, a
religion radically different from that presented in the Reformation
creeds. Denial of imputation involves, well, a New Perspective on
Paul—an entirely new perspective on the theology of Paul in its
We should be clear why the NPP and the FV deny
imputation. We should understand the argument of the NPP and the FV. In
fact, the reason for the denial of imputation is two-fold. The reason is
spiritual. The men of the NPP and the FV object to the humbling judgment
of the word of God upon them and all others by the doctrine of the
imputation of Adam’s sin to the race, including the reality of total
depravity. With this, the reason is that they are offended at the cross,
every bit as much as was the old liberalism, which railed at the
doctrine of substitutionary atonement as "butcher-shop theology."
But the theological argument is that salvation in the
Bible, especially in Paul’s writings, is not the legal matter that the
Reformation taught (as well as all the creeds by which these Reformed
men are bound). Rather, according to them, salvation in Paul is a matter
of being united to Christ by the Holy Spirit. In this living union with
Christ, the believer shares everything that Christ has and is, including
righteousness. He shares righteousness, not by a divine act of
imputation, but by being part of Christ, who is righteous.
Union with Christ is salvation, not imputation.
This union with Christ, the NPP and FV teach, is the
reality of the covenant. Both these movements are movements that
emphasize the covenant, as I never tire of pointing out. This is a
reason for their popularity in Reformed circles, where the covenant has
always been held in honour, even when it was not understood.
In viewing the covenant as fellowship with God in
Christ, the movements are right. In seeing union with Christ as a main
teaching, even the main teaching, of Paul, the movements are also right.
As you read the epistles of Paul, make a note of it, how often the
apostle says that we are "in Christ," usually in these words, but in
other words as well. Very often, the meaning is our living, spiritual
union with Christ by the Spirit who dwells in us, although we were also
"in Christ" in the eternal decree of election (Eph. 1:4) and, legally,
in His suffering and dying in that He represented us at the cross.
The Reformation creeds do full justice to the living
union with Christ. True faith itself, according to the Heidelberg
Catechism, is a being "ingrafted into Him [Christ]," where the
Catechism has its eye on John 15:1ff., the truth of our being united to
Christ as branches are to a vine (Q. and A. 20). There is a very
forceful statement of our living union with Christ in the Heidelberg
Catechism’s explanation of the Lord’s Supper: Believing partaking of
the Supper is not only to "obtain the pardon of sin and life eternal,
but also, besides that, to become more and more united to His sacred
body by the Holy Ghost, who dwells both in Christ and in us; so that we,
though Christ is in heaven and we on earth, are notwithstanding flesh of
His flesh and bone of His bone; and that we live and are governed
forever by one Spirit, as members of the same body are by one soul" (Q.
& A. 76).
The Westminster Larger Catechism confesses
this spiritual union in Questions and Answers 65 and 66: "What special
benefits do the members of the invisible church enjoy by Christ? The
members of the invisible church by Christ enjoy union and communion with
him in grace and glory. What is that union which the elect have with
Christ? The union which the elect have with Christ is the work of God’s
grace, whereby they are spiritually and mystically, yet really and
inseparably, joined to Christ as their head and husband; which is done
in their effectual calling."
I suspect that churches which have not done justice
to the truth of salvation’s being essentially union and communion with
Christ, and with God in Him, by a right doctrine of the covenant, have
opened themselves up to being led astray by the NPP and FV, which
emphasizes union with Christ.
to be continued ...