Protestant Reformed Church
7 October, 2007
thy way, O LORD; I will walk in thy truth:
heart to fear thy name" (Ps. 86:11)
Morning Service -
Gideon, Mighty Man of
The Reformation in Ophrah
I. God’s Orders for the
II. Gideon’s Obedience in
III. The People’s
Opposition to the Reformation
104:8-14; 57:1-5; 115:1-11
Evening Service - 6:00 PM
The Only Begotten Son of
Lord’s Day 13; John 1:1-18
I. The Meaning
II. The Significance
104:15-21; 89:23-29; 2:6-12
For audio cassettes of the
worship services or CDs of the sermons, contact Sean Courtney
Quotes to Consider:
C. F. Kiel on Judges 6:25-32: "In order to be
able to carry out the work entrusted to him of setting Israel free, it
was necessary that Gideon should first of all purify his father’s
house from idolatry, and sanctify his own life and labour to Jehovah
by sacrificing a burnt-offering."
David J. Engelsma: "Reformation, like charity,
begins at home. It is a principle of the kingdom of God in both
testaments that the man who exercises rule in the kingdom must have
his own house in order. The New Testament bishop, for example, must be
‘one that ruleth well his own house’ (I Tim. 3:4). By having Gideon
begin his work with this deed, God also instructs Israel that the
fundamental deliverance is Israel’s deliverance form the worship of
idols, not the deliverance from the oppression by Midian" (Unfolding
Covenant History, vol. 5, p. 73).
Announcements (subject to God’s will):
The second offering this morning will be for the
Congratulations to Ivan & Lily Reid on the
birth of their first grandchild, Grace Olivia, this past Monday.
Alison Graham’s father, Ian Bann, was
hospitalised on Tuesday and is being treated for blood clots in the
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 will continue with II Timothy 1:6ff, including Timothy’s
Offerings: General Fund - £704.93.
£1,000 (building fund), £40 (website).
The Reformed Witness Hour next Lord’s Day
(8:30-9:00 AM, on Gospel 846MW), is entitled "Husbands, Love with
Purpose" (Eph. 5:25-27).
Women’s Bible Study starts next week Tuesday,
16 Oct., 10:30AM, at the Murrays.
Reformation Day Lectures: "Lessons from the
Reformation for Today" Fri., 26 Oct., 7:30 PM in Portadown Minor Town
Hall and Fri., 2 Nov., 8 PM in Ballymena Protestant Hall Fri., 9 Nov.,
7:30 PM in Limerick School Project building
Website Additions: 11 chapters of
Believers and Their Seed were added in Dutch. 5 Italian
translations from Herman Hoeksema’s
Righteous By Faith Alone on Romans 9 were added, as were 14
Portuguese translations including "Keeping God’s Covenant and the
Antithetical Life" by Prof. Hanko.
This is part of the 15th e-mail sent by Prof.
Engelsma to the forum on justification.
The Bible and the Reformed confessions teach that
justification is an act of God that He performs and that we receive
"by," that is, "by means of," faith in Jesus Christ. Faith is the
instrument through which God gives us (by imputation) and we receive
the righteousness of Christ.
Scripture teaches the same truth concerning faith
as the means of justification, but from another, important viewpoint,
when in the Greek original of the New Testament it affirms that our
justification is "out of" faith as the source of justification. Not
only the preposition meaning "by means of" but also a preposition
meaning "out of" are used in Galatians 2:16, as I demonstrated in the
last instalment. That justification is "out of" faith accords with the
very nature of faith itself, as we saw earlier.
Faith is essentially (that is, in distinction from
faith as the spiritual activity of knowing and trusting in Christ) a
bond of union with Christ—what Reformed theology has called the
"mystical union." So the Heidelberg Catechism
describes faith in Q. &A. 20, before it goes on to define true faith
as knowledge and confidence: the graft of union and communion with
Christ. This understanding of the very essence of faith is based on
John 15:1ff., where Jesus describes His disciples relation to Him in
the figure of the living connection between a vine and its branches.
In accordance with its very essence as a bond of
communion with the risen, exalted Christ in heaven, faith receives the
righteousness of Christ, indeed Christ Himself as the righteousness of
the guilty but believing sinner. To say it differently, in accordance
with the very nature of his faith as a bond of union with Christ, the
believing sinner finds the source of his justification in faith.
There is also another aspect of faith that makes
it, in the wisdom of God, the fitting means and source of
righteousness. Faith is the utter and total renunciation of all work,
effort, worthiness, and inherent quality in and on the part of the
sinner himself regarding righteousness with God. This is no
insignificant aspect of the prominent contrast in the New Testament
between believing and working, for example, in Romans 3 and 4 and in
It is of the very nature of true faith that for
righteousness with God it renounces the sinner’s own works and
striving; the good works that faith does indeed perform; the sorrow
over sin that always accompanies the activity of faith; its own
renouncing of all human works and effort; and the activity of faith
itself. For righteousness with God, faith knows only Christ and rests
upon Christ alone. In marvellous accordance with what faith is by
God’s creation, justification is by and out of faith.
A clear understanding especially of faith’s being
the source of justification (justification out of faith),
inasmuch as faith has Christ for its object, is necessary for the
right, orthodox explanation of a crucially important text regarding
justification. I refer to Genesis 15:6: "And he [i.e., Abram] believed
in the LORD; and he counted it to him for righteousness." Obviously,
this text describes Abram’s justification. Plainly too, it describes
justification as a judicial act. Jehovah "counted" Abram’s faith for
righteousness. Justification changed Abram’s legal standing before
God; it did not effect a change of his moral and ethical condition.
God "counted," or "reckoned," righteousness to believing Abram; He did
not infuse righteousness into him.
Genesis 15:6 is the first of the great Old
Testament passages the apostle adduces in defence of justification by
faith in Romans 4. He quotes the text in verse 3. We should have the
entire passage in mind: "What shall we say then that Abraham our
father, as pertaining to the flesh, hath found? For if Abraham were
justified by works, he hath whereof to glory; but not before God. For
what saith the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted
unto him for righteousness. Now to him that worketh is the reward not
reckoned of grace, but of debt. But to him that worketh not, but
believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for
righteousness" (vv. 1-5).
The passage reveals beyond any shadow of doubt that
justification is a strictly legal act of God, an act that changes the
sinner’s legal position before the Judge and the law. The apostle uses
the verb to describe justification that variously means "counted,"
"reckoned," and "imputed." These are all legal terms, as is the verb
the apostle uses in the passage.
The passage also makes plain, so that every
believing child of God can understand, regardless of all clever
corruptions of the teaching by false churches and heretics, that
justification is by faith and by faith alone. Abraham was not
justified by works (v. 2). The deepest reason is that the justified
sinner must give glory to God, but if justification is at all by works
the sinner can and will boast of himself (v. 2). If one works for
justification, justification and the salvation that depends on
justification are not of grace. In this case, God merely pays the
sinner the debt He owes him (v. 4). For father Abraham justification
was by believing (v. 3; the quotation of Genesis 15:6). One who
believes for righteousness does not work; he renounces all working and
works (v. 5). Indeed, one who believes for righteousness believes "on
him that justifieth the ungodly" (v. 5). The believing sinner always
consciously and really has the position of an ungodly person in
himself, a person without any godliness and goodness in the matter of
his righteousness with God, a person who appears before the Judge
without a single good work of his own to present to the Judge on his
own behalf. That God justifies the ungodly is nothing more than the
apostle’s rendering into theological truth what Jesus taught in the
parable of the Pharisee and the publican, particularly the publican’s
plea for justification, "God, be merciful to me the sinner" (Luke
18:13; my translation of the Greek).
All of this I have carefully laid out in earlier
What very much concerns us now is the relation
between justification and faith in Romans 4:1-5 and in Genesis 15:6,
which the apostle quotes and explains in the Romans passage.
Genesis 15:6 states that Jehovah God counted "it"
to Abram for righteousness. "It" in the text refers to Abram’s faith,
mentioned in the first part of the text. Jehovah counted Abram’s faith
for righteousness. In Romans 4:1-5, Paul therefore says the same. On
the basis of Genesis 15:6, which reveals the truth concerning Abraham,
who is the father of all believers, Paul affirms that the believer’s
"faith is counted for righteousness" (v. 5).
In general, the apostle teaches that justification
is not by works. If faith is counted for righteousness, our works are
not counted for righteousness. If justification for Abraham and for us
all is by faith, it is not by works. This is exactly what the apostle
teaches in the passage: "to him that worketh not" (v. 5). Indeed, the
implication is that all who work for justification, all who make their
own works, regardless what kind of works they are, part of their
righteousness with God are not and will not be justified. This points
up the gravity of the issue we are discussing. This shows the
seriousness of the false doctrine of justification by works as taught
by Rome, by Arminians, and by the contemporary heretics of the Federal
Vision. The effect of their teaching is that sinful men and women work
for justification and rest at least in part upon their own works and
effort for righteousness with God. All who do are and will be
condemned by God the Judge. to be continued ...