Protestant Reformed Church
Lord’s Day, 19
"Happy is he
that hath the God of Jacob for his help,
whose hope is
in the Lord his God" (Ps. 146:5)
Morning Service -
Marriage, the Mystery of Christ and the Church [download]
I. Its Application to Sexual
II. Its Application to
III. Its Application to
Divorce and Remarriage
145:15-21; 50:16-21; 45:10-15
Evening Service - 6:00 PM
Dead Faith (4)
Abraham Justified By Works (II) [download]
I. The Key Words
II. The Great Work
III. The Three Conclusions
146:1-10; 37:3-9; 119:1-8
Quotes to Consider:
John Calvin on James 2:21: "The Sophists lay hold
on the word justified, and then they cry out as being victorious,
that justification is partly by works. But we ought to seek out a right
interpretation according to the general drift of the whole passage. We
have already said that James does not speak here of the cause of
justification, or of the manner how men obtain righteousness, and this
is plain to every one; but that his object was only to shew that good
works are always connected with faith; and, therefore, since he declares
that Abraham was justified by works, he is speaking of the proof
he gave of his justification. When, therefore the Sophists set up James
against Paul, they go astray through the ambiguous meaning of a term.
When Paul says that we are justified by faith, he means no other thing
than that by faith we are counted righteous before God. But James has
quite another thing in view, even to shew that he who professes that he
has faith, must prove the reality of his faith by his works."
Announcements (subject to God’s will):
Please leave the back two rows of chairs which
are on the carpet for those with small children.
Tuesday, 4:30 PM - Jacob Buchanan
Tuesday, 5:30 PM - Jamie & Debbie Murray
PM - Campbells at the manse
AM - Beginners OT Class at the manse
Midweek Bible Study meets this Wednesday, 7:45 PM
at the manse. We will study I Peter 1:7-9 on rejoicing with joy
The Reformed Witness Hour next Lord’s Day
(8:30-9:00 AM, on Gospel 846MW), is "The Return of the Gospel of Grace."
Ladies’ Bible Study meets next Tuesday, 28
October, at 10:15 AM at the Murrays.
Offerings: General Fund - £760.60. Donations:
£213.45 (Limerick), $1,000 (website).
Lectures: "The Reformation’s Teaching on the Church"
Town Hall, Thursday, 30 Oct., 8 PM
Protestant Hall, Friday, 31 Oct., 8 PM
School Project, Friday, 5 Dec., 7:30 PM
South Wales, Friday, 12 Dec., 7:15 PM
Website Additions: 25 Italian, 6 Afrikaans, 3
Croatian, 1 Portuguese, and 1 Tagalog (Filipino) translations were added
to the website this week.
PRC News: Rev. R. Kleyn (Trinity, MI) declined
the call to the Philippines. Rev. VanOverloop (Byron Center, MI)
accepted the call to Grace PRC. Calvary PRC (Hull, IA) will call from
their new trio of Revs. R. Kleyn, W. Langerak (Southeast, MI) and Smit
(Lacombe, Canada). Trinity PRC’s website has a collection of fine
resources on the diaconate.
This is part 1 of the 25th e-mail by Prof.
Engelsma on justification
In the previous instalment, I explained that aspect
of the doctrine of justification consisting of the basis of
justification, namely, the substitutionary lifelong obedience and the
substitutionary suffering and death of Jesus Christ. Shorthand for this
is simply reference to the cross of Christ, but the cross as
substitutionary satisfaction of the justice of the righteous God by the
Son of God in human flesh in the place of and on behalf of the elect
I deliberately express this as I do: "that aspect of
the doctrine of justification."
An integral part of the gospel-truth of justification
is the cross of Christ as the necessary basis of God’s verdict in the
consciousness of the elect believer by means of the God-worked faith of
the believer, "not guilty!"
Such is the relation of justification and the cross
that to corrupt the truth of the one is necessarily to corrupt the truth
of the other, to deny the one is necessarily to deny the truth of the
Because Arminianism corrupts and thus denies the
truth of the cross, it also corrupts and denies the truth of
justification. Arminianism denies the cross by teaching that, in His
love for and desire to save all men without exception, God sent Christ
to the cross to die for all men without exception. Since all men are not
saved, the clear and necessary implication of the Arminian doctrine of
the cross, according to Arminianism’s own admission, is that Christ’s
death was not substitutionary satisfaction. What it was on the Arminian
view varies from heretic to heretic. The great Arminian exponent of the
meaning of Christ’s death at the time of the Synod of Dordt (1618-1619),
Hugo Grotius, explained Christ’s death as God’s terrifying illustration
and example to us all what God could do to us if He wanted to. This then
moves us to repent and believe, so that we are saved. Most of the
Arminians at the time of Dordt held this "governmental theory" of the
death of Christ.
Regardless what theory defenders of universal
atonement hold, they all deny, and must deny, that Christ’s death was
satisfaction of the justice of God in the stead of those for whom He
died. (If this is what Christ’s death was, all those for whom He died
will be, and must be, saved, but Arminianism denies this.)
Denying the cross of Christ, Arminianism necessarily
also denies justification. Unfortunately, this is not as well known as
it ought to be. The reason in part is that the holy Synod of Dordt
concentrated on the five errors concerning grace that the Arminians had
opposed in their written objection to the gospel of grace, and these
five errors did not include justification. Nevertheless, the heresy of
the Arminians at the time of Dordt included a novel teaching about
justification. The erroneous teaching was that in His act of justifying
God accepts the faith of the sinner as the ground and basis of
forgiveness. The sinner’s act of believing is his righteousness with
God. Some work has to earn or merit righteousness with God. According to
Arminianism, it is not Christ’s suffering. Therefore, it is the work of
the sinner: his believing.
Although the Canons of Dordt do not devote a
separate chapter to the Arminian error regarding justification, they do
refer to the false doctrine of the Arminians concerning justification.
Significantly, this reference, and condemnation of the error, occur in
the chapter treating of Christ’s death. "Error 4" of the second head of
chapter of the Canons exposes the Arminian error concerning
justification. Occurring as it does in the chapter on the death of
Christ, this exposure of the Arminian error concerning justification
indicates that the Arminian error concerning justification is part of
the Arminian heresy concerning the atonement of Christ.
"Error 4: [The true doctrine having been explained,
the Synod rejects the errors of those ...] who teach that the new
covenant of grace, which God the Father, through the mediation of the
death of Christ, made with man, does not herein consist that we by
faith, inasmuch as it accepts the merits of Christ, are justified before
God and saved, but in the fact that God, having revoked the demand of
perfect obedience of the law, regards faith itself and the obedience of
faith, although imperfect, as the perfect obedience of the law, and does
esteem it worthy of the reward of eternal life through grace."
Dordt rejected this doctrine with appeal of one of
the great passages on justification, which we have already considered in
the course of this study of justification, Romans 3:24-25. The Canons
continue: "For these contradict the Scriptures: Being justified
freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: whom
God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood (Rom.
3:24-25). And these proclaim, as did the wicked Socinus, a new and
strange justification of man before God, against the consensus of the
A heretical doctrine of the death of Christ
necessarily involves a heretical doctrine of justification. This
heretical doctrine of justification necessarily makes some act or work
of the sinner himself his own righteousness with God.
Our age is one in which the heresy of universal
atonement has triumphed among so-called evangelicals, charismatics, and
fundamentalists. All also proclaim a heretical doctrine of
justification, departing radically from the gospel of the Reformation
and Holy Scripture.
The relation between justification and its basis in
the cross of Christ also implies that error regarding justification
entails error regarding the cross of Christ. If justification is
conditioned on the faith and obedience of the sinner, so that his acts
are partly his righteousness with God, also the cross of Christ was an
atoning death for more people than are actually saved by it—a death for
all, conditioned on their faith and obedience. And if Christ’s death was
for all, although all are not saved, Christ’s death was not
The denial of the cross by means of a false doctrine
of justification is an error that is now being introduced into
evangelical and even conservative Reformed and Presbyterian churches
today. In a way, it is a new heresy, although it is rooted in an old
I refer, first of all, to the "New Perspective on
Paul." The leading and most influential proponent of the error is the
English, Anglican theologian N. T. Wright. He is exerting tremendous
influence upon conservative theologians in North America. Several years
ago, I attended a conference sponsored by the Christian Reformed
seminary in Grand Rapids at which Wright spoke for a day and a half on
the book of Romans. Several hundred ministers and professors of theology
from every supposedly conservative church and seminary in North America
were present. No doubt, others besides myself were opposed to Wright’s
teaching (among other errors, he said explicitly that his doctrine of
justification meant, and was intended to mean, union and communion with
the Roman Catholic Church—something he has also written in his books).
But the vast majority agreed with him. The crowd gave him a standing
ovation at the end (I sat, and scowled).
Wright denies that justification in Paul (Galatians
and Romans) is God’s forgiveness of sins by faith alone (the Reformation
got it wrong). In keeping with his denial of justification by faith
alone, Wright attacks the doctrine that God punished Christ on the cross
as "a crude theory," and openly teaches that Christ died for all men
without exception. I document this from Wright’s book, What Saint
Paul Really Said, in my book,
The Covenant of God and the Children of Believers: Sovereign Grace in
the Covenant (RFPA, 2005), and do not repeat all this here.
to be continued ...