Protestant Reformed Church
Day, 18 November, 2007
eyes of the LORD run to and fro throughout the
earth, to shew himself strong in the behalf of them
heart is perfect toward him" (II Chron. 16:9)
Morning Service -
11:00 AM Prof. Hanko
The Address of the
I Thessalonians 1:1
I. To Whom
II. The Reason
III. The Blessedness
Psalms: 84:1-2, 8-12;
106:17-23; 149:1-6; 89:31-37
Evening Service - 6:00 PM Prof. Hanko
The Battle for Naboth’s
I Kings 21:1-16
I. An Important Battle
II. An Enduring
III. A Costly Struggle
IV. A Final Victory
132:1-9; 106:24-33; 69:4-9; 16:6-11
For audio cassettes of
the worship services or CDs of the sermons, contact Sean Courtney
Quotes to Consider:
Luther: "Flesh and blood are an impediment.
They merely behold the person of the pastor and brother ... They
refuse to regard the oral Word and the ministry as a treasure
costlier and better than heaven and earth. People generally think:
‘If I had an opportunity to hear God speak in person, I would run my
feet bloody.’ ... But you now have the Word of God in church ... and
this is God’s Word as surely as if God Himself were speaking to
William Perkins (1558-1602): "Thus every
[preacher’s] task is to speak partly as the voice of God (in
preaching), and partly as the voice of the people (in praying): ‘If
you take out the precious from the vile, You shall be as My mouth’
(Jer. 15:19)" (The Art of Prophesying, p. 7).
Announcements (subject to God’s will):
We welcome Prof. & Mrs. Hanko and
Bob Wendrich to our services. Prof. Hanko will be preaching for
us today and the next 2 Lord’s Days.
There are 2 issues of the Standard Bearer
on the back table today. The Beacon Lights are also available
Catechism classes: Monday, 5:30 PM at the
Murrays Monday, 7:00 PM with the Campbells at the manse Thursday,
7:00 PM at the Hamills
Membership Class: Tuesday, 8:30 PM, at the
Midweek Bible Study on Wednesday at 7:45 PM
at the manse. Prof. Hanko will lead a study on the special offices
in the church.
Offerings: General Fund - £409. Donations:
£50 (C. R. News).
Women’s Bible Study meets next week Tuesday,
27 Nov., 10:30 AM at the Murrays.
The Reformed Witness Hour next Lord’s Day
(8:30-9:00 AM, on Gospel 846MW), is entitled "A Beautiful Example of
Fearless Submission" (I Peter 3:5-6).
The next lecture in Limerick is planned
for Thursday, 17 January. Rev. Daniel Kleyn will speak on "The
Antithesis: Living Antithetically In A Technological Age."
Website Additions: 1 French ("Defense
of Calvinism as the Gospel"), 1 Filipino ("God
So Loved ..."), and 9 Portuguese translations were added to the
PRC News: Rev. R. Kleyn (Trinity,
Hudsonville) is considering the call from Calvary PRC in Hull, IA. A
special meeting of Classis West is scheduled for 5 December for the
purpose of examining Nathan Langerak, pastor-elect of South Holland
This is the 16th e-mail from Prof. Engelsma’s forum on
It is gratifying that people in various parts of
the world are asking to be included in this forum. Last week again
several names were added including one in Croatia and two in North
America. This shows interest in Reformed doctrine, specifically the
doctrine of justification.
I am explaining what the Bible, and the Reformed
faith which is based on the Bible, mean by the truth that God’s
justification of the elect sinner takes place "by faith." In the
last instalment, I considered the erroneous explanation that makes
the sinner’s act of faith his righteousness with God. This is an
especially subtle, dangerous error, because those who teach it are
loud in their rejection of works as the basis and means of
justification. By their emphatic rejection of works for
justification and their insistence on faith, even faith alone, for
justification, they deceive many. Rejecting works for justification
and insisting on faith, they seem to many Protestants to be teaching
a doctrine of justification that differs sharply from that of the
Roman Catholic Church.
But this doctrine, that faith itself as an act of
the sinner is his righteousness with God, differs as radically from
the orthodox Protestant and Reformed truth about justification as
does the doctrine of Rome. For the orthodox Protestant doctrine of
justification by faith is not that faith itself as an act of the
sinner constitutes his righteousness with God, whether in whole or
in part. It is not the Protestant doctrine that God, in grace, has
decided to regard the sinner’s act of believing as righteousness. It
is not the Protestant doctrine that faith is the basis, or ground,
of righteousness with God, any more than any other act of the sinner
is the content or ground of his righteousness with God.
Nothing in the sinner, whether working, or
repenting, or believing, is the content or ground of his
righteousness with God.
All that this subtle error does is to substitute
the sinner’s act of believing for his act of obeying the law as his
righteousness with God. It is still something that the sinner does
that is his righteousness with God.
Nevertheless, this form of the heresy of
"self-righteousness" is popular with those who profess to be
fundamentalists and evangelicals. Ask them this question: "Which of
these statements is true: ‘We are justified because of our works’ or
‘we are justified because of our faith’?"
In fact, neither of these statements is true.
Both are equally heretical.
The teaching that God regards the act of faith
itself as the sinner’s righteousness is erroneous in the following
respects. First, it makes God a liar. God decides to regard
something as righteousness which is not righteousness. Righteousness
with God for a sinner is the suffering of the full punishment of his
sins required by the divine justice and perfect obedience to the law
of God. The sinner’s act of believing is not this. It is not this
whatever. The sinner’s act of believing is his knowing Jesus Christ
as the saviour and his trusting in this Christ for salvation.
Second, this teaching miserably diminishes and disparages the
justice of God with regard to sinners. Now the divine justice is
satisfied with a cheap decision for Christ (which is all that faith
is in the thinking of those who teach that the act of faith itself
is viewed by God as the sinner’s righteousness with God). Third,
this teaching denies the cross of Christ, indeed the whole life and
ministry of the Son of God in human flesh. Now it is not the
obedience of Christ that constitutes righteousness for guilty
sinners. Now it is not the obedience of Christ that is the ground,
or basis, of righteousness with God. Rather, at least in part, it is
something the sinner himself does, an act of the sinner himself,
that constitutes righteousness with God and the basis of his
The truth is that those who regard their own act
of believing as their righteousness with God, and the basis of
justification, sin against grace as much as those who regard their
works of obedience to the law as their righteousness with God. Those
who stroll into the divine court of judgment holding up their act of
believing as the ground of their justification will be condemned as
surely as those who hold up this or that work they have done.
As I have demonstrated in earlier instalments,
the Bible never teaches that we are justified on account of,
because of, faith. Rather, it teaches that we are justified
by, or through, faith. Faith is the means of
justification. By means of our faith in Christ, we receive
justification as a free gift. Faith is the means by which we receive
(by imputation) that which is righteousness with God, that alone
which God can regard as righteousness: the lifelong obedience and
the atoning sufferings and death of Jesus Christ.
Our works are not the righteousness of
justification. Our believing is not the righteousness of
justification. Our repenting is not the righteousness of
justification. Jesus Christ in His obedience in our stead and on our
behalf is the righteousness of justification.
What then is the meaning of Genesis 15:6 and of
the apostle in Romans 4:1ff., who quotes Genesis 15:6 and applies it
to believers in the present age, when they teach that faith is
counted for righteousness? Those who teach that the sinner’s act of
faith is regarded by God as his righteousness appeal to these
passages. They explain Genesis 15:6 as teaching that God graciously
dispenses with the demand of justice that the sinner obey the law
perfectly for righteousness and graciously decides that He will be
satisfied with the sinner’s act of believing on His Son.
A glaring mistake of these false teachers is that
they ignore other, related, clear passages of Scripture on
justification that teach that righteousness with God in the matter
of justification consists of the perfect obedience of the incarnate
Christ (Rom. 3:24-26; 5:12ff.) and that the relation of faith to
God’s act of justifying is that faith is the means, or instrument,
in that God reckons the obedience of Christ to the guilty sinner by
means of faith (Rom. 3:28; Gal. 2:16).
Especially do these false teachers ignore the
plain teaching of Scripture in Galatians 2:16 (which I carefully
explained, particularly with regard to the Greek preposition ek,
"out of," in earlier instalment) and other places in the NT that
faith is the source of justification (justification out of faith)
inasmuch as faith has Christ as its object, rests in this Christ,
and finds (by imputation), as it seeks, its righteousness in Christ
In light of these biblical teachings, as well as
in light of the truth that the essence of faith is union with
Christ, Genesis 15:6 is readily understood to teach that God counted
Abram’s faith as righteousness with regard to faith’s object,
namely, Jesus Christ. The object of faith, namely, the obedience of
Christ, that is, Christ Himself as righteousness, who was future for
Abram, but known and relied on by the father of believers—the object
of faith—Christ— was counted as righteousness to Abram.
Here it is helpful to consider the preceding
context. Genesis 15:1-5 is God’s promise to Abram of the impossible
thing that he will have "seed:" "he that shall come forth out of
thine own bowels shall be thine heir ... so shall thy seed be." This
was centrally the promise of Christ. Abram believed the promise of
the Christ. Believing the divine promise of the Christ, he believed
in Christ. Believing in Christ, he was justified by God’s imputing
the righteousness of that Christ to him. This is the apostle’s
further explanation of Genesis 15:6 in the last part of Romans 4.
One more truth about faith must be mentioned
here, even though I reserve full treatment of it until later. That
is that faith itself is the gift of God to the elect sinner. Those
who make the act of faith itself a sinner’s righteousness with God
necessarily view faith as an act that lies in the sinner’s own
power, as his own contribution to salvation, as the fruit of his
free, or freed, will. Of course! If the act of faith is our
righteousness with God, it is something we ourselves produce and
offer to God. But the Bible teaches that our faith, both regarding
the ability to believe and regarding its exercise, is the gift of
That we are justified by faith, then, means that
the obedience of Christ in our stead is our perfect and complete
righteousness with God. God gives us this righteousness by
imputation by means of our faith, which knows and relies on Jesus
Christ as the object of faith.
This brings us to the consideration of the
Reformation’s grand teaching that the sinner is justified by faith
But before we take up this aspect of our subject,
I must respond to a correspondent who has argued that the faith by
which the sinner is justified is not his faith at all, but rather
the faith of Jesus Christ—to me, a very strange doctrine.
Cordially in Christ,