Covenant Protestant Reformed Church
Bookmark and Share

JUSTIFICATION: THE HEART OF THE GOSPEL

 

Contents

Justification By Faith AloneRev. R. Van Overloop
Introduction
What Justification Is
How Justification Is Ours
Peace With God

Justification and Good WorksProf. D. Engelsma
Introduction
The Attack on Justification on Behalf of Good Works
The Truth of James 2
The Relation Between Justification and Works

Justification and the BelieverRev. W. Langerak
Introduction
Justification Establishes the Righteousness of God and Our Legal Relationship to All Things
Justification and Our Relationship to the Church
Justification and Our Relationship to the World: Our Flesh and Sin
Justification and Our Relationship to the World: The Natural Creation
Justification and Our Relationship to God: Peace
Justification and Our Relationship to God: God-Glorifying Worship and a Thankful Holy Life


Preface

This booklet presents, in printed form, three speeches that were given at the 2006 Winter Conference sponsored by the Evangelism Committee of the First Protestant Reformed Church of Holland, MI. The theme for this conference was "Justification: The Heart of the Gospel."

This theme was chosen in light of the fact that many today, even in conservative Reformed circles, are denying a fundamental truth of the Reformed faith, namely, justification by faith alone. Justification is being redefined. The word "alone" has been dropped. It is said that man is justified by faith and by works.

We express our appreciation to the three speakers for their timely lectures, which clearly confront and combat the errors with regard to the doctrine of justification.

We trust that making these speeches available in booklet form will serve to remind the reader of the importance of holding to this truth—a truth which is, indeed, at the very heart of the gospel of God’s grace and salvation in and through the Lord Jesus Christ.

May God be pleased to use this as a means to keep us steadfast in the faith. May it serve His glory, as well as the salvation and comfort of His people.

The Evangelism Committee of the
First Protestant Reformed Church of Holland, MI
3641 104th Avenue, Zeeland, Michigan 49464
(616) 748-7645
www.hollandprc.org


Justification by Faith Alone

Rev. Ronald Van Overloop

 

Introduction

It is my privilege to speak to you this evening on a most important subject. It is objectively important because it was the material principle of the Protestant Reformation of the 16th century, and it remains such in Reformed churches. It is subjectively important for every child of God because it is knowing how I am right before God.

Martin Luther maintained that this truth was the difference between a standing and a falling church. If a church upholds the truth of justification by faith alone, then in Luther’s judgment it was a standing church. If they did not, then it was falling. The importance of the truth of justification by faith alone is also evidenced in the fact that thee two creeds which arose out of the Reformation, the Belgic Confession and the Heidelberg Catechism, maintain and defend this truth, and they do so in precise, powerful, and comforting terms: Heidelberg Catechism, Lord’s Days 23, 24, 51 and Belgic Confession 22-24.

The importance of this truth can also been seen in the kind of attention Satan gives to it. Throughout the history of the church Satan has attacked the truth of justification by faith alone. Some of his most deceptive attacks have been and are made when he distorts the language, using the words "justification by faith," but making them mean something different. Most often Satan attacks the use of the word "alone." Those who identify their position as "federal vision" are attacking this fundamental and precious truth, doing so in a most deceptive way. They will speak of the fact that justification is by faith and that it is through grace, but they add that justification is not only by faith, but also by the works which flow from faith. The result is that justification is not by faith alone!

And the importance of the truth of justification by faith alone is experienced. It was in the life of Martin Luther. And every believer has times when he wonders how he can stand before the holy God whose eyes will not behold iniquity. Every believer is aware of his sins and of the presence of great sinfulness within. We ask, How will I know when the great day of judgment comes that I can stand before that judgment seat without terror? Then everything that I have done, said, and thought will be exposed. How can I look forward to that day with a comfortable sense of God’s favour? How do we gain such assurance when my conscience accuses me that I have grossly transgressed all of God’s commandments? How can I have this assurance when others point out my errors? How can I stand before God? How does He receive me? The answer to these penetrating questions is found only in the truth of justification by faith alone. This truth is the heart of the gospel as far as the experience of every child of God is concerned.

 

What Justification Is

What is justification? Herman Hoeksema defined it as an act of the grace of God, whereby He imputes, puts on the legal account of one who is guilty and condemned but elect His perfect righteousness in Christ, acquitting him of all his guilt and punishment on the grounds of the merit of Christ’s work, and giving to this sinner the right to eternal life. Justification is a part of salvation from sin in Christ as God applies salvation to each of His elect.

Our creeds speak of justification in the same way. Both the Belgic Confession and the Heidelberg Catechism describe justification as a work of God in the experience of a believer. Scripture declares, "And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose. For whom he did foreknow, He also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom He did predestinate, them He also called: and whom He called, them He also justified: and whom He justified, them He also glorified" (Romans 8:28-30). This passage speaks of justification as a work of God—His legal declaration in the consciousness of the elect, called, believing sinner. When we speak of justification tonight, we will be speaking of it as a part of the work of God in saving every elect sinner, giving to them salvation from sin in Christ. Justification is God declaring to the consciousness of His regenerated and called children that they are forgiven and righteous.

God by His Spirit speaks to the consciousness of the humbled and broken sinner of His act of changing his legal position before God, the Judge, from a state of guilt to a state of innocence. God speaks to the repenting sinner of His work of having justified him in Christ. Jesus’ parable of the Pharisee and the Publican concludes with the publican going "to his house justified." The Pharisee and the publican went to the temple to pray. The Pharisee stood and prayed with himself, "God I thank Thee, that I am not as other men are." The publican found a place in a far corner and there He humbly pleaded for mercy—God’s undeserved pity for a miserable sinner. God spoke to the consciousness of that broken, humble sinner, working in him an awareness that God had done something for him. The humble sinner left the temple justified, rejoicing in the knowledge and assurance of his justification. Justification is the humble sinner hearing God declare that his legal status before the holy and righteous Judge is changed from one of guilt to one of innocence. Believing what God had spoken by His Spirit to his consciousness, the publican went home no longer beating his breast as he did in the temple, but happy with the blessedness of justification.

While God’s declaration of the justification of His elect children took place once at the cross of Christ, the justification which takes place in the consciousness of His children occurs repeatedly. Every time the sinner repents, God gives the humbled sinner the knowledge that all his sins and sinfulness are forgiven for Jesus’ sake. Why it is that the children of the heavenly Father are taught to pray repeatedly: "forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors"? In answering this question our spiritual fathers use the language of justification in the Heidelberg Catechism: "be pleased for the sake of Christ’s blood not to impute to us poor sinners, our transgressions, nor that depravity, which always cleaves to us" (A. 126). Every time we pray the fifth petition of the Lord’s Prayer we are asking our Father in heaven to justify us, that is, not to impute to us our sins and the sinfulness which lies within us. Justification is repeated, not because God’s act of justifying is imperfect, but because the sinner repeatedly sins and needs to be told, over and over, that his sins are not imputed to him.

There are two major elements in God’s declaration of an elect sinner’s justification. The one is negative and the other is positive. The first element of justification is that God instructs the elect ungodly that he is forgiven, delivering him from all the guilt and shame of his sins. The sinner knows that he is only worthy of condemnation and his conscience condemns him (Luke 18:13). But God declares him to be forgiven—perfect innocent. Listen to the Heidelberg Catechism. "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, grants and imputes to me, the perfect satisfaction, righteousness and holiness of Christ; even so, as if I never had had, nor committed any sin" (A. 60). God forgives. He takes away my condemnation, the penalty I deserve, the shame that comes with the penalty, and the consciousness of the guilt which drove the publican to beat his breast in the far corner of the temple. God declares that our sin is gone. He declares that in His judgment we are no longer worthy of being condemned. For what can a justified sinner be condemned? His sin is gone. Long ago a catechism teacher taught me that to be justified means "just-as-if-I’d-never-sinned." The Heidelberg says, "As if I never had had, nor committed any sin."

The second element of justification is God declaring to the consciousness of the elect sinner that he is righteous. Simply put, to be righteous is to be right in God’s sight because God’s law has been perfectly fulfilled. God declares that in Christ the believing sinner has fulfilled His law (Romans 5:19). It does not matter what my sight sees or what others say they see in me. Righteousness is that God declares that I have done what is right. Again, the Heidelberg Catechism puts it very well: "as if I had fully accomplished all that obedience which Christ has accomplished for me" (A. 60). It is the reality of this second element of justification which makes the simple definition of justification (just-as-if-I’d-never-sinned) simplistic, because it does not speak of righteousness. Justification means that God declares one to be righteous. This is a real righteousness. God, the perfect Judge declares the elect, regenerated, called sinner to be righteous. The justified sinner is aware that he is worthy to be condemned to everlasting damnation, but God, out of His own good pleasure, merely of grace, for the sake of Christ declares this sinner to be perfectly righteous, and thus worthy of intimate friendship with God, both now and eternally in heaven. The present relationship with God is that the justified one is a child of God, graciously adopted into His family. And he is an heir of eternal life. Children are heirs, co-heirs with Christ of everlasting life with God.

We must say one more thing about the righteousness which God reckons to the account of the justified. It is God declaring one to be righteous by imputation. This is not yet God making him righteous by infusing or by renewal. This latter is sanctification which always follows justification. The righteousness which is ours in justification is something which God, as the Judge, declares to be ours legally, by imputation. The righteousness which God gives to the sinner is only the righteousness of Jesus. We have none. And this righteousness is nothing less than God’s righteousness. "By the deeds of the law shall no flesh be justified in His sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin. But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets: even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe" (Romans 3:20-22). It is the righteousness of God—His own righteousness. God’s own perfect righteousness is reckoned on our account because of the perfect work of Jesus Christ.

Jesus earned this absolutely perfect righteousness. He did so by His perfect obedience to God’s law and by His suffering all the penalty of our sins. In His life and suffering Jesus was made to be sin for us. He was reckoned among sinners. Our sins were imputed to Him, so He carried every one of our sins and all of our sinfulness. He came into the likeness of our sinful flesh in order to bear the wrath of God for all of our sins. Romans 4:25 declares that He was delivered unto death because of, on account of, our offences. His work of bearing God’s wrath was a perfect work, performed out of loving obedience to God. This merited forgiveness and righteousness. He fully paid our debt and He earned for us such perfect righteousness that God had to raise Him from the dead. Jesus no longer belonged under death and in the grave. Every one of our sins and all of our sinfulness was forgiven.

Even as Jesus was delivered to death on account of our offences, so He was raised from the dead on account of our righteousness. His resurrection is proof that He had fully paid for all of our sin. When we see the empty tomb, then the Spirit communicates to us the truth of forgiveness, full and free. Our conscience may say the opposite. It may want us to look at all of our sins and to stare at the spiritual cesspool of sinfulness out of which all our sins arise. This would make us doubt our salvation. But the gospel points to the cross and the resurrection of Jesus Christ. His tomb is empty. He paid it all. We are justified. We are righteous.

 

How Justification Is Ours

How is justification ours? How do we know that we are righteous? How does God communicate it to us? How do we experience it? By faith alone! Faith is the means or instrument by which God imputes to the guilty sinner the righteousness of Jesus Christ. And faith is the means or instrument by which the guilty sinner experientially knows and enjoys his innocence and peace with God.

The Heidelberg Catechism presents the subject of justification after it treats the things one must believe. It arrives at the truth of justification with this question, What does it profit you now that you believe all the truths expressed in the Apostles’ Creed? Its beautiful answer is, "That I am righteous in Christ, before God." It is not whether I am righteous before other humans. They are going to have a harder time believing that I am righteous. They, like my conscience, see that I still sin, that I still do things wrong. But God says, "You are righteous before Me, and you are so righteous that you are an heir of eternal life."

Faith is that gift of God in the regenerated and called sinner, whereby the sinner is ingrafted into Christ and whereby he embraces and appropriate Christ and all His benefits, relying on Him. Faith embraces the declaration of the divine Judge. Faith appropriates to oneself the forgiveness in Christ and the righteousness of Christ.

Faith is a most fitting instrument to give to us the knowledge of our justification. It is so because faith is a believing and not a working. To say "faith" is to say "no work." Faith is the opposite of works. Faith is a gift of God, not of works, lest any man should boast (Ephesians 2:8-9). Faith is the bond which unites one with Christ. God objectively unites all the elect to Christ in election. When God regenerates the elect, then He objectively engrafts us by faith into Christ. This is the power of faith. This power of faith becomes active, so those who are objectively engrafted into Christ, subjectively hold to Him. They embrace Him, or "abide in Him" as Jesus says in John 15. Faith knows and trusts Christ for righteousness. It embraces Jesus Christ as He is proclaimed in the gospel. We trust Him Whom we believe. I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to take my sin, to pay for it all, and to earn righteousness which He puts onto my account. Faith simply believes—holding for truth that which God has revealed in His Word.

So how am I right in the sight of the perfectly holy God? This is the question which burns in every guilty sinner. This was Luther’s burning question. If the seraphim of Isaiah 6 were compelled to hide themselves and their faces before the thrice-holy God, then how can I stand before Him? Faith says, "I stand before Him, not on the basis of sight, but on the basis of what God has taught me in His Word. The Bible tells me that when Jesus died, He died for sin. And when He lived, doing perfectly the will of the Father, He earned for those He represented a perfect righteousness. God, for Jesus’ sake, puts that righteousness to my account. God allows me to stand before Him in that righteousness.

Faith excludes works. Repeatedly the Scriptures declare that salvation is by grace alone through faith alone without any works of man. "Therefore it is of faith, that it might be by grace" (Romans 4:16a). "By the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in His sight ..." "For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God: being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus." "Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law" (Romans 3:20, 23-24, 28). To one who works there is a reward, but it is not a reward of grace; it is a reward of debt (cf. Romans 4:4). "To him that worketh not, but believeth on Him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness" (Romans 4:5). Faith believes on Him Who justifies the ungodly, for "Christ died for the ungodly," who are without strength to do anything good (Romans 5:6). The ungodly have done nothing to deserve anything good from God. And Galatians 2:16 put it this way, "Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified."

Faith is a gift of God, not a work of man. There are many who speak of justification by faith, but they make faith to be a work of man. But the Bible and our Reformed confessions condemn such thinking. "Why sayest thou, that thou art righteous by faith only? Not that I am acceptable to God, on account of the worthiness of my faith; but because only the satisfaction, righteousness, and holiness of Christ, is my righteousness before God; and that I cannot receive and apply the same to myself any other way than by faith only" (Heidelberg Catechism, Q. & A. 61). Faith is not the righteousness, it is only the way God gives His righteousness to His people. Faith is not a work of man, but a gift of God. Therefore we may never think that faith makes one worthy or is of any merit before God. God so works in us to will and to do of His good pleasure (Philippians 2:13), so that when we believe, then it is still a work of God and not of us. Human works do not make up any part of our justification before God. Good works flow from our salvation, but in no way do they earn salvation or make us righteous before God. "Why cannot our good works be the whole, or part of our righteousness before God? Because, that the righteousness, which can be approved of before the tribunal of God, must be absolutely perfect, and in all respects conformable to the divine law; and also, that our best works in this life are all imperfect and defiled with sin" (Heidelberg Catechism, Q. & A. 62). "What! Do not our good works merit, which yet God will reward in this and in a future life?" Yes, our good works do receive a reward, but "this reward is not of merit, but of grace" (Heidelberg Catechism, Q. & A. 63). It is all of grace. The good works which flow out of our salvation, which God will reward, do not make up the least part of our righteousness. When we stand before God now and in the judgment day, we may not think that it is ever because of something we have done. We do stand before God in righteousness, but it is all of grace through faith, without any works of man.

Precisely because faith clings Christ, we look away from ourselves and to Him. We cannot add to His perfect work. Faith in Christ declares that it is all of Him and nothing of us. If our works could add or help in our salvation, then our sins would detract from it. We are righteous before God only because He graciously justifies. He makes the imputation and the declaration of judgment. We cannot earn it and we cannot lose it. We are justified by faith without works. Then we can have peace with God!

 

Peace With God

Because justification is by grace alone through faith alone, there is peace with God (Romans 5:1). This is not just peace, but wonderful peace with God. Between God and us there is fundamental agreement and subsequent good will.

This peace is not something I will have or might have, but it is something I have now. The present possession of this blessed peace is experienced in the way of remembering that we are justified by faith alone through our Lord Jesus Christ. If we would only consider our sin, then we would lose the sense of peace with God. The devil loves to have us focus on our sin. He uses our conscience and other humans to point out our sins and our sinfulness. He wants us to think that we are not good enough. He wants us to compare ourselves to others, because this invariably makes us consider our works. He just wants us to look away from the cross of Christ. The devil loves to make us know such guilt that we can find no way out, but stay guilty and condemned. Over against the devil, God wants His children to experience guilt, but only as that which drives us away from the merit of works to the merit of the cross of Christ. For God guilt is the doorway through which we must pass in order to come into the awareness of being justified.

We are justified by faith through our Lord Jesus Christ. We must look at Him, and keep looking at Him. His perfect work is the only thing that can merit complete forgiveness and perfect righteousness. Faith in His cross and His resurrection assures us of justification. And so real is this forgiveness and righteousness that no one can or may lay a charge against us. "If God be for us, who can be against us? He that spared not His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things? Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God’s elect? It is God that justifieth" (Romans 8:31-33). If we are not justified, then we are condemned. And so the apostle continues, "Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us" (Romans 8:34). God makes us look at Christ’s work to assure us of freedom from condemnation and the possession of justification. "Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died." Christ, our representative head, died for us. But there is more, "yea rather, that is risen again." Remember that we already learned in Romans 4:25 that Jesus was raised for our justification. It gets better, "Who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us." At God’s right hand Jesus intercedes for us, pleading the riches of the merits of His cross, so God declares us justified. There is nothing that can separate us form the love of God and from our righteousness in Christ. That is why we have peace with God!

Forgiveness and righteousness are ours according to the riches of God’s grace (cf. Ephesians 1:7). It is not according to the measure of our repentance nor of the exercise of our faith. God’s forgiveness is according to the riches of His grace. His grace is the only standard. Faith knows that we are God’s children by adoption, possessing every right of children, including an eternal inheritance. And faith knows that our righteousness can never be lost and that we are heirs of eternal life. Standing in His grace we rejoice in hope of the glory of God (Romans 5:2).

Peace with God is the ability to rejoice. We rejoice that we are not our own, but belong to our faithful Saviour in life and in death. We need never be tormented by the thought that we do not measure up or are not good enough. Instead we have confidence in approaching God, our conscience free "of fear, terror, and dread" (Belgic Confession 23). The only acceptance that matters is God’s, and we are "accepted in the beloved" (Ephesians 1:6). When God loves His beloved Son, then we may know that we are accepted in Him and loved for His sake.

Therefore, believe on the Lord Jesus Christ. That is all that Paul had to say in answer to the Philippian jailor. Exercise your God-given faith to lay hold on Christ and His perfect work. Abide in Him. Realize how completely forgiven and perfectly righteous you are. This is the peace that passes all understanding. Then, O sinner, you may go home justified!


Justification and Good Works

Prof. David J. Engelsma

 

Introduction

What a grand gospel truth is justification by faith alone. What a blessed gift of God to us is justification by faith alone. And what a blessed work of the Spirit of Jesus Christ in our consciousness is justification by faith alone.

Justification is the strictly legal act of God as judge in which He forgives the sins of the one who believes in Jesus Christ and reckons him righteous on the basis alone of the obedience of Jesus Christ in the stead of this sinner. This is how David describes justification in Psalm 32:1-2, where he proclaims the blessedness of the man to whom God imputes righteousness without works. "Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin." And this is how the apostle Paul describes justification, with appeal to this passage in the Psalms, in Romans 4:5. "To him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted [or imputed, or reckoned] for righteousness."

The sole basis of this act of God the judge pronouncing the ungodly but believing sinner righteous is the obedience of Jesus Christ in the sinner’s stead. The basis is both Christ’s lifelong obedience to the law of God, and Christ’s death as complete and perfect satisfaction of God’s justice regarding the elect sinner’s guilt. Paul writes in Romans 5:19 that it is by the obedience of one, that is, Jesus Christ, that many are "constituted" (not, "made," as is the translation of the Authorized Version there) righteous, just as all of us were constituted guilty by "one man’s disobedience." The only righteousness that avails in the heavenly courtroom with God the judge, Who is awesome in His holiness, is the righteousness worked out by God Himself in the obedient life and death of His own incarnate Son, Jesus Christ.

This righteousness, is God’s own righteousness, as Paul teaches in Romans 3:25: Especially in the propitiation of the cross, God declared His righteousness. In Romans 10:3, the charge of the apostle against the Jews, and against all who in any way whatever make their own obedience in whole or in part, their righteousness with God, is that they are "ignorant of God’s righteousness" and go about to "establish their own righteousness;" their sin is that they do not submit themselves to the righteousness of God.

This righteousness, which is God’s own, and the only righteousness that avails with God so as to obtain the verdict, "innocent," and so as to throw the doors to eternal life open to the sinner, this righteousness, I say, is granted to the sinner by means of faith, and by means of faith only. This is the teaching of the apostle in Romans 3:28: "We conclude that a man is justified by faith, without the deeds of the law." Faith in Jesus Christ is the means, the instrument, by which the sinner receives righteousness by imputation, so that his standing with God the judge is that it is as if he had never sinned, as if he had himself perfectly obeyed the law of God, and as if he himself had completely paid for all his sins and merited eternal life. Inasmuch as Romans 3:28 contrasts faith with "the deeds of the law," the apostle in fact teaches that justification is by faith alone.

When Martin Luther translated Romans 3:28 by the word allein in German, that is the word "alone," rendering the text, "a man is justified by faith alone without the deeds of the law," he captured the meaning of the Holy Spirit and translated the text correctly.

This understanding of Romans 3:28, Galatians 2:16, and other texts, namely, that these texts teach that we are justified by faith alone, is confessional with all Reformed people. Q. & A. 60 of the Heidelberg Catechism, for example, answers the question "How art thou righteous before God?" this way: "Only by a true faith in Jesus Christ."

What a grand gospel truth this is. It is the heart of the biblical gospel, declared Luther and the entire Protestant Reformation. Calvin agreed, calling justification by faith alone, in his Institutes, "the hinge on which all religion turns."

As a purely gracious act of God, justification by faith alone glorifies God. The righteousness of a sinner, upon which all blessing and salvation depend, is God’s free gift. The righteousness of the sinner before God is God’s own righteousness worked out by God in the incarnation and atoning death of His Son. Inasmuch as the act of justifying, the obedience that is the basis of the justifying, and even the faith itself of the sinner by which he receives righteousness, are God’s free gift in sovereign grace, justification points to God’s eternal election in grace as the source of justification, and magnifies the grace of God.

As a purely gracious act of God, justification by faith alone affords peace to the believer. "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," I am confident that I am righteous before God on the basis of the obedience of Christ. This is the testimony of the Heidelberg Catechism in Q. & A. 60. Without justification by faith alone, depending on even one good work of our own, "we would always be in doubt, tossed to and fro without any certainty, with our poor consciences continually vexed," we confess in Article 24 of the Belgic Confession.

Where now does this truth of justification by faith alone leave the good works of the justified believer? Is there still a place at all for good works? Is this place of good works an important place, even a necessary place? Or are good works, and the call to perform good works, excluded, or perhaps minimized? The question is this: What is the relation between justification by faith alone and good works?

This, my friends, is an important question in itself, apart from any controversy over the issue. The same gospel that excludes good works from justification includes good works in the salvation of us by the Spirit. The same gospel that warns us against bringing good works into justification warns against leaving good works out of our lives.

Adding to the urgency of a right understanding of the relation between justification and good works is the attack on justification by faith alone by determined foes of that truth. This attack on justification by faith alone is raised, allegedly, on behalf of good works. The urgency is heightened today in the community of Reformed churches by an attack on justification by faith alone in the name of an emphasis on good works from within the Reformed churches themselves. Indeed this attack on justification by faith alone is raised by prominent, influential, Reformed theologians, seminary professors, and ministers of the gospel. These men are spokesmen for a movement known as the "federal vision," that is literally "covenant vision," because it is the development of a certain doctrine of the covenant. Basic to this covenant doctrine is an attack on justification by faith alone. This attack is defended as a promotion of good works in the life of the Christian.

This attack on justification by faith alone is found today in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, the Presbyterian Church in America, the United Reformed Churches, and the Orthodox Christian Reformed Churches. Not only is the attack on justification by faith alone found in these churches, but it is also tolerated by these churches. Not only is it tolerated by these churches, but in the case of at least three of these churches the attack on justification by faith alone has been upheld by the major assemblies—by classes, presbyteries, and synods.

 

The Attack on Justification on Behalf of Good Works

The main attack on the gospel truth of justification by faith alone by its foes in every age is the argument that justification by faith alone weakens, if it does not destroy altogether, zeal for a holy life of good works.

At the outset, we should recognize the seeming validity of this charge. Justification by faith alone asserts that the works of the sinner who is justified do not at all enter into the justification of the sinner. Not all the good works he may do, and not one of the sinful works he has done, be that sinful work never so gross, enter into his justification by God. On the basis of this doctrine, the carnal mind, the fleshly thought, the natural man says, "This inevitably results in carelessness of life on the part of those who embrace this doctrine."

Up to the present hour, three notable champions of good works, as they like to have us believe, have arisen, who oppose justification by faith alone, because the doctrine is harmful to good works.

The first of these foes of justification by faith alone is the Roman Catholic church. At the Reformation, and ever after, Rome has condemned the truth of justification by faith alone as destructive of zeal for holiness of life. It is to this charge by Rome that the Heidelberg Catechism is responding in Q. 64: "But doth not this doctrine (that is, the doctrine of justification by faith alone) make men careless and profane?" I do not take Rome’s pretended concern for holiness of life and for good works seriously. Nor should anyone take Rome’s pretended concern for good works seriously. When Rome puts on her pious face and displays concern lest Reformed Protestants come short of holiness, I laugh, out loud. That that foul church at the time of the Reformation should have criticized Protestantism for unholiness was a joke. That that church of widespread sodomy and buggery, who covered up the iniquity at the highest levels, until the secular press blew the whistle on their perversions, should censure Reformed Christians for carelessness is ludicrous. That the church that accepts Ted Kennedy and most of the mafia as members in good standing, and who will give those men fine funeral masses when they die and perish eternally, should even utter a peep about justification and good works is sheer hypocrisy. But we are interested in Rome’s charges, because they are the very same charges that are always raised also by the other enemies of justification by faith alone. Indeed, Rome’s charges are the very same as those that were raised against the apostle Paul himself when he was proclaiming the doctrine of justification in the epistle to the Romans.

The second noteworthy attack on justification, supposedly because the doctrine is hurtful to holiness of life and good works, comes from the Arminians. This is not so well known among us because we concentrate on their denial of election, efficacious atonement for the elect alone, sovereign grace, and the perseverance of the saints. But the Arminians denied justification by faith alone also. And they denied it, as they said, because they saw it as detrimental to human responsibility and the life of holiness. The Canons of Dordt refer to this aspect of the Arminian heresy in Head II, Rejection of Errors 4, where they condemn the error that "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." John Wesley was a true son of James Arminius and Simon Episcopius in his denial of justification by faith alone as destructive of John Wesley’s idea of holiness.

The third notable assault on justification by faith alone has been launched in the past thirty years or so from within the Reformed churches themselves, indeed, from within Reformed and Presbyterian churches that are widely reputed to be the most conservative Presbyterian and Reformed churches. I refer to the movement that promotes a theology known as the "federal vision," a movement that is influenced by an understanding of Paul, especially in Romans and Galatians, that differs from the understanding of Paul that Luther had, that Calvin had, that the whole Reformed tradition has had, and especially that the Reformed confessions have. This is called the new perspective on Paul. Because this denial of justification by faith alone has risen within, and is nourished in the bosom of, reputedly conservative Reformed churches, and because it bases itself upon a popular, indeed the prevailing, doctrine of the covenant, this attack on justification by faith alone is the most dangerous to professing, Reformed Christians today. Indeed, I regard this heresy as the gravest threat to the Reformed faith since the Synod of Dordt.

The attack on justification by faith alone, on behalf of good works, as they say, always takes the same form, and always uses the same arguments. Whether it is coming out of the mouth of the Roman Catholic theologian, out of the mouth of the Arminian theologian, or out of the mouth of the spokesman in conservative Reformed churches for the "federal vision," the argument is always the same.

The fundamental argument against justification by faith alone is this, that a believer will be motivated to be zealous for good works only if he supposes that his justification depends on those good works, or is earned by those good works, or if he is driven by the terrifying conviction that his good works make him worthy of God’s justification of him. This is the fundamental argument. The only motivation for zeal in doing good works is the supposition that those good works are the basis or ground of righteousness, that these good works are the condition of salvation, that these good works make one worthy of eternal life. If this argument is wrong (and the gospel of Scripture says it is dead wrong), the whole argument against justification by faith alone collapses.

Related to this fundamental argument are several other perennial arguments against justification by faith alone. For one thing, so the argument runs, when Paul teaches justification by faith without the deeds of the law, or apart from the law, he is only excluding certain kinds of works—ceremonial works (such as circumcision), or works that are done in order to merit, or works that are done by unregenerated people. According to those who raise this argument, Paul does not intend to exclude from justification truly good works, works done out of love for God by the believing Christian.

Another argument goes like this. When God promises, as He certainly does, to reward our good works, the meaning is that our good works earn salvation, or make us worthy of salvation, or are the basis of our salvation in part, so that our justification is partly, at least, by good works, and not only by faith.

Then there is this argument. When the Bible teaches in II Corinthians 5:10, and other places, that our final judgment will take place "according to" our works, it means that the final judgment, which decides our eternal destiny, will be based in part on the works that we have performed. And because the final judgment will only be the public version of the justification that we experience today, inasmuch as the final judgment will be based on our works, so also is our justification today, in our own experience, justification on the basis of works.

Of special interest to us, is the argument against justification by faith alone by the men of the "federal vision." Their argument against justification by faith alone is an argument from a certain doctrine of the covenant. It is the argument that since God’s covenant with His people is conditional, that is, a covenant that depends upon the baptized child’s own faith and obedience, also justification in the covenant is conditional. That is, God’s justification of the baptized children depends on the child’s act of believing, and on the child’s lifelong obedience to God in the covenant.

Now this is not entirely new, since the notion of a conditional covenant and conditional salvation in the covenant has been found and has been defended in Reformed churches for a long time. This is the doctrine against which the Protestant Reformed Churches battled hard in the late 1940s and early 1950s. It is this doctrine of the covenant that now is being developed into a full-blown denial of justification by faith alone, and with this central gospel truth, a denial of all of the so-called "5 points of Calvinism." What is new is that the doctrine of a conditional covenant is now applied to the truth of justification with the result that men boldly deny justification by faith alone.

I have demonstrated that the "federal vision’s" denial of justification by faith alone is the development of the doctrine of a conditional covenant in my book, The Covenant of God and the Children of Believers (RFPA, 2005).

The view of justification defended by all those who attack justification by faith alone is this: justification is not strictly a legal act of God, but also a renewing, sanctifying work, actually making the sinner good. Justification, in this case, does not depend entirely upon Christ’s obedience for us and outside us, but it depends also in part upon us ourselves, upon our own obedience, and upon our own good works. And, on this view, justification does not consist only of the obedience and righteousness of Jesus Christ, the perfect righteousness of Christ made up of His lifelong obedience and His atoning death in our place; rather, the righteousness that is recognized by God in justification is also partly our own—our own imperfect righteousness, made up of our own imperfect good works.

What is the response of the orthodox Reformed faith to this attack on justification by faith alone on behalf of good works, whether by the Roman Catholic Church, by the Arminians (who are 90% or more of those professing Christians in North America who call themselves evangelicals and fundamentalists), or by the defenders of a conditional covenant?

In the first place, we respond that the attack itself upon us and our doctrine of justification confirms that we are holding the same gospel truth of justification that the apostle Paul held and confessed, especially in Romans and Galatians. Paul’s teaching on justification drew the same attack, the very same attack. "Paul," charged his opponents, "you make void the law through faith" (Romans 3:31). "Paul," they exclaimed, "you are preaching that we may and that we will continue in sin, that grace may abound" (Romans 6:1). Speaking for myself, and for the Protestant Reformed Churches, we rejoice that our confession of justification is still drawing this attack. If our confession of justification did not draw this attack, I would be worried that there is something wrong with our doctrine of justification. The confession and preaching of very few Reformed churches today concerning justification draw this attack. Very few Reformed churches are so clearly and sharply preaching and confessing justification by faith alone and salvation by free, sovereign, unconditional grace, that opponents charge them with teaching a doctrine that results in carelessness of life.

In the second place, our response to the attack is Paul’s own: "God forbid!" We do not disparage a life of good works in obedience to the law of God. On the contrary, by the teaching of justification by faith alone we establish such a life of zeal for good works.

In the third place, we do not respond to these attacks by compromising the doctrine of justification by faith alone—not in the slightest. But we defend the doctrine against the attacks. Justification is by faith alone. All our works are excluded, including our truly good works, the works that we do in the power of the Spirit of Christ. The sole basis of our righteousness with God is the obedience of Christ, and not our own obedience, not whatsoever. The only work that is our righteousness with God is the work for us of another, even Jesus Christ.

With regard to the specific arguments that are raised against justification by faith alone, we respond that when Paul excludes the deeds of the law, and the law, from justification, he is referring to all our works. Galatians 3:10, 12 prove this, for in these passages the law, about which he says in verse 11 that it has no place in the justification of the sinner, obviously refers to the entire law of God, including the ten commandments. In verse 10, Paul quotes Deuteronomy 27:26: "Cursed is everyone that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them." The "book of the law" includes all the commandments, not merely ceremonial commandments. Accordingly, when, in verse 11, the apostle denies that anyone is justified "by the law," he refers to the entire law.

Regarding the promised reward, we respond that the Bible does indeed promise us a reward for our good works. But this reward is a reward of grace, not a reward that we earn, not a reward that we deserve, and not wages that God pays us for our labours. The reward is of grace because God in His grace eternally ordained the good works that we should walk in. (Ephesians 2:10) The reward is of grace because by His death Jesus Christ earned for us the right to do good works (Titus 2:14). It is a privilege to do good works in the service of God. The reward is a reward of grace because the Spirit of Christ Himself works these works in us and through us (Philippians 2:13). The reward is a reward of grace because when God accepts them of us He first justifies, or forgives, all those good works with regard to the corruption and sin that stain every one of them. And the reward is a reward of grace because when God gives us the reward, which is eternal life and the place that we have in glory, He does that, not because He owes it to us, but in free favour (Heidelberg Catechism, Q. & A. 63).

With regard to the argument against free justification that appeals to the final judgment and to the fact that we will be judged according to our works, it is certainly true that the judgment of us on the world’s last day will be the justification of us who believe in Jesus Christ. It will be a public justification. Today, when I believe in Jesus Christ, I am justified privately. God and I know that I am justified by faith in Christ. There comes a day when I will stand before God the judge in the presence of the whole world, elect and reprobate, devils and angels, and then God will make public the justification that now is private. That justification of the final judgment will be a strictly legal act of God. It will not occur, nor does Scripture ever say so, because of our works, or on the basis of our works. But it will take place according to our works as a kind of standard. In that final judgment, the sole basis of our justification will be what it is today, namely, the obedience of Jesus Christ in our stead. Thank God for that! If this is not true, we have no hope. But in that day, the good works that we have done by the grace of God will be displayed by God, forgiven of all the corruption that tainted them, so that those works display and demonstrate the reality of God’s gracious judgment and salvation of us to the praise of God.

To the attack on justification that arises from the doctrine of a conditional covenant, we reply, first, that on the basis of a conditional covenant the denial of justification by faith alone, and of all the doctrines of grace, follows. If the covenant is conditional, justification is by faith and works. And if the covenant is conditional, so is election conditional, the atonement conditional, the salvation of a sinner conditional, and eternal life conditional.

But, second, our response is that the very fact that a conditional covenant implies justification by faith and works proves that the doctrine of a conditional covenant is false doctrine. It is the introduction into the Reformed churches of a gospel of salvation by man’s own willing and working.

Third, our response is that the covenant is unconditional. God promises the covenant to, and fulfils the covenant with Jesus Christ and all the elect in Jesus Christ out of mere grace, as Galatians 3:16 and Galatians 3:29 teach. Galatians 3:16 teaches that the covenant promise to Abraham’s seed was a promise to Christ, who is the seed of Abraham. The covenant promise never was directed to all the physical offspring of Abraham. According to Galatians 3:29, those, and only those, who belong to Christ by divine election are included in the seed of Abraham and are objects of the promise. Today the entire conservative Reformed and Presbyterian church world is put on guard by God, through the theology of the "federal vision," that the doctrine of a conditional covenant is the rejection of the gospel of salvation by grace. And the whole Reformed church world is being tested regarding the fundamental confession of the Reformed churches down through the ages, that salvation is by grace alone.

Our response to the attack on justification by faith alone, in the fourth place, is this, that we on our part charge those who teach justification by faith and works that they destroy the peace and the certainty of salvation of the child of God, that they rob God of His glory, and that they are, as Calvin accuses everyone who teaches justification by faith and works, Pharisees. Everyone who teaches and believes justification by works in any form is a Pharisee. According to our Lord, in Luke 18:14, Pharisees are not justified. How can one be justified who depends on his own sin-tainted works and dares, as Robert Trail put it, to make his own pitiful holiness sit on the throne of judgment with the precious blood of the lamb of God.

 

The Truth of James 2

I have so far deliberately bypassed the chief argument always used for justification by faith and works, and against justification by faith alone. This is a biblical argument. It is the appeal to James 2:14ff. I now want to consider the attack on justification by faith alone consisting of an appeal to James 2, and in connection with this appeal, the truth of James 2 concerning justification.

James 2, teaches that both Abraham, in offering up Isaac at God’s command, and Rahab, in receiving and saving the Israelite spies, were justified by works (vv. 21, 25). James 2 teaches that from these important events in Old Testament history, explained as justification by works, we see "how that by works a man is justified and not by faith only" (v. 24). Apparently, James 2 teaches that justification is by works, and not by faith only. And, seemingly, in chapter 2 James teaches a doctrine that is clean contrary to the teaching of the apostle Paul, who, in Romans 3 and 4, in Galatians 2, and in other places, teaches that justification is not by works, but by faith alone.

It is not surprising that the enemies of justification by faith alone make much of James 2. James 2 is the decisive passage for them all. Rome quoted James 2 to Martin Luther endlessly, until at one point, in exasperation, the Reformer dismissed James as a "right strawy epistle"—an epistle of straw (a charge he did not maintain). Similarly, the contemporary defenders of justification by works in the Reformed churches sit in James 2. This all by itself is highly significant. These defenders of justification by works in the Reformed churches line up with Rome against the gospel of the Reformation.

The explanation of James 2 by the enemies of justification by faith alone is as follows. James teaches that justification, as an act of God by which the sinner becomes righteous, is very really by the good works of the sinner, so that the righteousness of the sinner is partly his own obedience to the law of God. According to these defenders of justification by faith and works, God takes the sinner’s works into account in the act of justification. James is to be harmonized with Paul in this way, that, although both of them are speaking of justification in the same sense, they have different works in view. The works that Paul excludes from justification in Romans 3:28 are only ceremonial works, and works that are done to merit salvation. On the other hand, they say, the works that James has in view are the truly good works that proceed from faith.

This was the explanation of James 2 that Rome has always given. This is the explanation of James 2 that the advocates of the "federal vision" are now giving. Our righteousness with God is partly Christ’s obedience, and partly our own. Our justification today and in the day of judgment depends partly on Christ’s work for us and partly on our own good works. In the justifying act of God by which we become righteous, our own works enter in. His holy eye falls on them, not as sins to be pardoned, but as deeds that must be acceptable to God, to make us worthy of eternal life. And we stroll into the judgment, now and on the world’s last day, with our good works in our hands, pleading these works as deeds upon which our eternal destiny shall depend.

Is this not too terrifying to contemplate? Will you and I face the last judgment in this way? Must I die with this terrifying thought in my soul: my eternal destiny rests upon something I have done, upon myself? Is this not gross insult—the insult of self-righteous unbelief—to the perfect righteousness God has worked out in Christ?

This is not the teaching of James 2.

First of all, whatever James teaches in chapter 2, it is in harmony with what Paul teaches, because the Spirit cannot contradict Himself in the Bible. Paul is teaching about justification in the sense of a legal act of God acquitting us of guilt and reckoning us righteous. This is plain from Paul’s language in Romans 3 and 4: "imputes;" "forgives;" "to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly;" Abraham our father was not "justified by works" (Romans 4:1-8).

Second, James is speaking of justification in a different sense from Paul. James refers to the believer’s proof and demonstration of his free justification by faith alone. The man who has been justified by faith alone will show that justification. He will show it to other men. He will prove that justification to himself. And he will show that justification to God his judge. He will show his justification by the good works that always are the fruit of justification.

This has always been the explanation of James 2 by the Reformed fathers. In his commentary on James 2:14ff, John Calvin wrote that justification by works in James 2 refers to the "proof [Abraham] gave of his justification." Justification by works in James 2 means "that righteousness is known and proved by its fruits."

That this is indeed James’ meaning the passage itself shows. James is contending with church members who, although they profess faith, in fact have a "dead" faith, a faith that produces no good works at all, but is content to live impenitently in sin. James challenges this kind of church member: "show me thy faith without thy works," and adds, "I will show thee my faith by my works" (v. 18).

James himself calls attention to the fact that Abraham was justified by God’s legal act of forgiving sins, and imputing righteousness by faith alone, long before Abraham offered up his son Isaac on the mountain. Right in the middle of his doctrine of justification, James quotes Genesis 15:6: "and the Scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness." This happened many years before Isaac was born. Abraham believed the promise of God. And Abraham’s faith, apart from any works at all, including the sacrifice of Isaac, was imputed unto Abraham for righteousness.

James is teaching exactly what Jesus had taught in Luke 7:47 about the sinful woman who loved Him, because He had forgiven all her sins, and who anointed His feet with the precious ointment. "Her sins, which are many are forgiven; for she loved much." He did not mean that her love was the ground of her forgiveness. But He meant that her love was proof and evidence of the forgiveness of her many sins. That this was Jesus meaning is put beyond doubt by the second part of Luke 7:47: "but to whom little is forgiven, the same loveth little."

This is the teaching of James 2. Good works, which have no part in the sinner’s being accounted righteous before God (for this is by faith alone), are the necessary fruit and demonstration of justification. By the good works of loving gratitude to Him who has graciously forgiven their sins, Abraham, Rahab, and every true believer are justified demonstratively.

James 2, therefore, is an important passage, to teach us the right relation between justification by faith alone and a life of good works.

 

The Relation Between Justification and Works

Good works, indeed an entire, consistent life of good works—good works in personal life, good works in high school, good works in dating, good works in marriage, good works in the home and family, good works on the job, good works at church, good works in the midst of and over against the godless, depraved culture and society in which we are privileged to shine as light in the darkness—I say, good works are the fruits of justification by faith alone. They are fruits and evidences of our justification by faith alone. Our good works are not the conditions for justification, nor the basis of justification, nor the content of justification, but the fruits of it.

Good works are the fruits of justification in two ways.

First, the faith by which we are justified is a true and living faith. As a true and living faith, it unites us to the resurrected, living, Jesus Christ so that by this faith we also receive the cleansing, empowering grace of Christ to live godly lives. Whomever He justifies, them He also sanctifies. Although we are justified by faith without any works, the faith that justifies is never without its works.

Second, good works are the fruit of justification in this way, that the forgiven sinner, freed from the guilt and shame of sin, and freed therefore from death and hell, and to whom now heaven is opened up, and upon whom the smiling face of God now shines, will love his gracious Saviour. And this thankful love for God is the motive of a life of good works. Oh, it is a mighty motive for zeal for good works. This was Jesus’ teaching about the relation between justification and good works in the parable of the two debtors in Luke 7:42: "and when they had nothing to pay, he freely forgave them both. Tell me therefore, which of them will love him most?" If we are forgiven, we will love. And if we are forgiven much, we will love much. Without love for God for gracious justification, no good work is possible at all. We must hear Him say to our soul: "My son, My daughter, adopted in the cross, I freely forgive all your sins. I impute to you the righteousness of My Son." Then we will be zealous for good works—we cannot but be zealous for good works.

Fact is, and let the advocates of justification by works hear it, every work that is done out of the motive of earning, out of the motive of repaying, out of the motive of fulfilling a condition, out of the motive to make ourselves worthy, out of the motive of grounding our salvation, in order to make a universal gracious promise effective for oneself, every such work is evil, is sin. Love works in the only way pleasing to God. And love confesses the truth of salvation by grace alone. Love obeys the law. Love heeds the precepts and follows the example of Jesus in the gospel.

The preacher has no reason to fear that if he preaches justification by faith alone, the doctrine will breed carelessness in his congregation.

This is not to say that there will not be those who abuse the doctrine by showing themselves careless in their life. That some will do this explains the presence in the Bible of James 2.

It may not be overlooked that James 2 is a necessary warning concerning justification and good works. There were in the church at that time those who were loudly confessing gracious salvation, but were failing to live in good works, especially by cruelty toward their fellow church members. There still are such people in the church. I myself have contended with these people, and those were some of the fiercest conflicts in all of my ministry. Oh, how loudly they spoke of sovereign grace. But then in their lives showed no fruits of good works. The preacher and consistory must admonish them in strong language: "Do you make an orthodox confession while living wickedly? So does Satan. Wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?"

By this very admonition, written on the pages of inspired Scripture, which comes to us all, we who have a living faith are stirred up the more to a life of good works, to show our faith. This glorifies God, Who saves, not only from the punishment of sin, but also from sin’s pollution and slavery. And He saves from sin’s pollution and power in the same way He saves from sin’s guilt: by the gospel of grace, not by the law.


Justification and the Believer

Rev. William Langerak

 

Introduction

One thing yet remains in this timely and enriching conference on the subject, "Justification by Faith Alone." Previous speakers have carefully explained the truth of it. And because almost every attack upon it through the ages has taken the same form, namely by injecting the works of the sinner as a basis for our justification, these speakers have carefully distinguished between justification and sanctification, showed the necessary relationship between them, and demonstrated that justification occurs both objectively and subjectively without any respect to our works, whether good or evil, in body or soul, from the flesh or regenerated spirit. It has been shown that when it comes to justification, our works simply have no place whatsoever. What has been taught is the truth of justification as generally understood by the church for some 2000 years, but especially as developed, formulated and taught by the church of the Reformation over against the pernicious errors of Rome and the Arminians. The thing that remains in this conference is to explain the significance of this truth for the everyday life of the believer.

The general significance of this truth has already been noted. The theme of this conference uses the fond description given it by the church in the past, "the heart of the gospel." Previous speakers noted Luther called it, "the article upon which the church stands or falls" and Calvin, "the main hinge upon which religion turns." We might add that the general significance of justification is also indicated by the depth of treatment it has received by such theologians. For example, in Book Three of his Institutes, Calvin devotes nine of the 25 chapters to justification, compared with one each on faith and regeneration, and three on predestination—so much for stereo-types. He also devotes eight chapters to sanctification, reducing the charge that the Reformed have no place for good works, to outright slander. The general significance of justification was also clear from the text we read, where Scripture not only defends this truth, but calls those who try to overthrow it "dogs" and "evil-workers."

It is the purpose of this speech, however, to demonstrate from Scripture, the confessions, and Reformed writers, the specific practical benefits the truth of justification affords the believer, and to do this while demonstrating what is forfeited when any other notion of justification is entertained. Furthermore, it is my intention to concentrate on those aspects of justification that apply to our present earthly life, since previous speakers have mentioned the significance of justification for our eternal life and glory.

The practical significance of this truth for our present earthly life is important to demonstrate for two reasons. First, so that believers will be encouraged to battle with great zeal and personal cost for this truth over against error. Even at this present hour, supposedly conservative Reformed and Presbyterian leaders boldly claim that this truth as developed, formulated and taught by the church of the Reformation, is deformed, illegitimate, and diseased. In their opinion thousands of believers offered their backs to the whips, their tongues to the knives, their mouths to the gags, and their bodies to the fire not for the truth of God’s Word, but for a colossal, theological mistake made by our Reformed fathers. This most recent attack, which goes by the name "Federal Vision," does more than belittle the dear cost paid in the past by Reformed believers to maintain this truth, a despicable thing all by itself. But by assaulting the biblical truth of justification, which is indeed the very heart of the gospel, proponents rob the believer of it practical and saving benefits, and God of His glory. Believers, therefore, must know these benefits of justification for their everyday life, so they personally are moved to maintain it, even at great personal cost.

In the second place, the practical benefits of the truth of justification must be demonstrated so that believers will avail themselves of them. There is a danger that we simply view justification as a theological abstraction and the battle over it as a family quarrel over semantics. The fact is where justification is misunderstood, rejected or overthrown, there simply can be no enjoyment of the rich benefits it provides, only misery.

 

Justification Establishes the Righteousness of God
and Our Legal Relationship to All Things

To understand the significance of justification by faith alone for the every day life of the believer, it is first necessary to know what sets it apart from every other aspect of salvation. What is it that makes justification the heart of the gospel, the main hinge upon which religion turns, and the article upon which the church stands or falls? If you suppose the reason is that justification most clearly reveals the sovereign discretion, grace, and mercy of God in salvation apart from the will, worth, and works of men, you would be mistaken. It is true the doctrine of justification clearly reveals these things, but not exclusively or even primarily so. God’s electing love, enlivening regeneration, transforming sanctification, and indeed every part of salvation equally reveal that God saves apart from the will, worth, or work of the sinner. It could even be argued that election more clearly reveals the divine prerogative in salvation, or that sanctification more clearly reveals the divine power in salvation, or regeneration the passivity of man under God’s work.

What sets justification apart and gives it its unique significance is this: Of all the aspects of salvation we enjoy, justification reveals and extols the legal right of the triune God, i.e. His righteousness both within His own being and in His dealings with mankind. And this issue of God’s righteousness is fundamental for the enjoyment of salvation in the Christian life and is what makes justification the heart of the gospel.

God’s righteousness refers to the truth that within His own being and in all His dealings with the creation, particularly mankind, the triune God acts according to the standard of His own ethical goodness. Implied also is the right of God to insist upon and maintain that standard. The righteousness of God is not appreciated much anymore in the churches today. In fact, it would be fair to say that failure to honour it underlies most movements to reject the truth of justification. Churches today may be interested in personal improvement and even deliverance from misery. But as Abraham Kuyper once charged, the whole matter is merely one of "calling for the assistance of the Great Physician, who receives His fee and then is discharged with a few thanks. The question of right does not enter into the matter at all; so long as the sinner is made holy, all is well."1

God’s righteousness is basic to the Christian faith. It is an essential perfection of God’s own being and activity; if God were unrighteous or act unrighteously, He would not be God. Consider also that along with knowledge and holiness, it is a perfection God communicated to man when He created him in His own image, and is a perfection He immediately restores by Christ in the new man. In addition, the person and every work of Jesus Christ has as its purpose to reveal the righteousness of God. On the cross, rather than let sin go unpunished, God punished the same in His beloved Son, would accept only the sacrifice of His righteousness as satisfaction for sin, and rewarded Him righteously with highest honour and glory for His work. The Heidelberg Catechism teaches Jesus was provided to restore us to righteousness (Q. & A. 16), suffered to obtain for us righteousness (Q. & A. 37), died to satisfy the righteousness of God (Q. & A. 40), and arose and ascended to make us partakers of that righteousness (Q. & A. 45 & 49). He, Jesus Christ, the mystery of godliness, was even Himself justified in the Spirit (I Tim. 3:16) to reveal God’s righteousness.

Should it surprise us then that justification, the forensic, juridical, and legal act of God declaring us righteous on the basis of the cross, is the heart of the gospel? It is so because it establishes God’s righteousness. It reveals God to be the Lawgiver who establishes right and wrong, the Judge who determines what is in conformity with that law, and King who rules in righteousness, punishing or rewarding according to His law. And since it establishes God’s righteousness, it reveals the wonder of His grace in justifying men. As Herman Bavinck put it, "What God most strictly condemns in His holy law, namely the justification of the wicked (Deut. 25:1), what He says of Himself He will never do (Ex. 23:7), that He nevertheless does. But He does it without jeopardizing His righteousness. This is the wonder of the gospel."2

The further significance of justification, then, is that because it reveals God’s righteousness in establishing a relationship with us, it serves as the legal basis for every relationship of the believer. Abraham Kuyper rightly noted, "Right regulates relations. Right is the basis especially of interpersonal relationships. All are first established and developed on a legal basis, that of right."3 And so, our justification serves as the basis for our relationship to the world, relationship to sin, to death, to the law, to the church, to every member of the church, to every member of the world, but especially to our relationship to God. There can be no relationship with God apart from justification, and no subsequent change in our condition by God unless there is first a change in our status, that is our legal relationship to God, the legal right of God over us.

Kuyper again: "It is evident that regeneration, calling and conversion, yea, even complete reformation and sanctification, are not sufficient. For although these are very glorious and deliver you from sin’s stain and pollution … yet they do not touch your juridical relation to God. Every member of the church must … realize his juridical position to God, now and forever, that he is not merely man or woman, but a creature belonging to God, absolutely controlled by God, and guilty and punishable when not acting according to the will of God."4

We will now examine more closely the significance of justification for the believer in these relationships.

 

Justification and Our Relationship to the Church

Justification is basic to our relationship with the church of Jesus Christ. First, it implies that right church membership is essential. To enjoy the benefits of justification by faith alone, one must be a member where it is taught and believed. The reason is that justification is received by means of official worship. By his words in worship, the publican was justified, and by his words in worship the Pharisee was condemned (Matt. 12:37). Christ’s declaration that one is justified is heard only through the right and official preaching of the gospel by ministers called and sent. Christ must speak, for only God can forgive sins. Only God can justify. And he chooses to do so through preaching. Besides, preaching that has at its heart the declaration sinners who believe in Christ are justified, is the primary mark of the true church.

The importance of justification for church membership explains why Luther called it the article upon which the church stands or falls. A true church is one that preaches justification by faith alone, and nothing contrary to it. A church that will not and does not preach justification by faith alone is no church. Where justification by faith alone is rejected and another form of justification is taught, there simply can be no justification of sinners. It may have the form of pure religion and undefiled, but it justifies no member.

In this regard, I think that preaching which declares sinners justified some other way, is no different than a radical Muslim cleric who teaches his followers they are received into the favour of God for killing infidels by detonating a suicide bomb strapped to their waist. It may be believed so that some give up their life for this cause, but what they preach simply does not happen. So also, where the preacher declares that one is justified by faith and works of faith, no one is justified. They can declare it, but it simply isn’t true.

As regards our relationship to the church, justification also serves as the basis for our essential unity as members of the church and right judgment of one another. It is in this connection that Calvin spoke of the judgment of love or charity. He noted that because unholiness and hypocrisy always exist in the church and in every member, sanctification all by itself cannot be used as a mark of the true church, or any member for that matter. Judgment must be according to love, that is, according to how we ourselves would be judged by other believers in the light of God’s gracious justification of us. This is what Jesus was referring to when He said, "Judge not according to appearance, but judge righteous judgment" (John 7:24), and "with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged" (Matt. 7:2). We should keep that in mind in our dealing with one another. We are even required to pray, "Forgive us our sins, as we forgive the sins of others."

The reason justification serves as the basis for our unity, and of right judgment of one another is because it is the great equalizer in the church of Jesus Christ. Justification is the legal basis for spiritual equality. The Westminster Catechism takes note of this significant fact: "Justification doth equally free all believers from the revenging wrath of God and that perfectly, in this life, that they never fall into condemnation. Sanctification is neither equal in all, nor in this life, perfect in any" (Q. & A. 77). Justification is the one thing that all members of the church, from little children to the oldest saints, share in common. There will be differences in race, gender, gifts, social standing, economic position, and education. There will be differences of growth in sanctification—children who spiritually mature early and adults who are yet spiritually children—but all must be viewed and treated as equals on the basis of their justification.

 

Justification and Our Relationship to the World: Our Flesh and Sin

The doctrine of justification is also significant for our relationship to the world and things that belong to it. Justification changes our entire relationship to the creation, to the law, to sin, and to members of the world. This change in our relationship to the world and the things in it, is indicated in Scripture. The operative phrase is that we "are dead to" them. By this Scripture means that our legal relationship to them is severed so that they no longer have any right over us, while at the same time a new relationship is established with Jesus Christ so we can derive all life and benefit from Him.

We note in the first place that Scripture teaches justification changes the relationship to our own flesh, which has its origins in this world, and the sins which have their source in our flesh. Justification makes us dead to sin and the law of sin in our flesh. For example, I Peter 2:24 says Christ "bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness." And Romans 6:1-2: "Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?"

Justification, then, is the basis, possibility, and certainty of sanctification, the deliverance from the actual power of sin in our flesh. Justification and sanctification, then, are necessarily and inseparably related; the relationship is that of legal to actual, status to condition, right to reception, imputation to indwelling. And they are necessarily and inseparably related exactly because it is God that justifies. Justification gives the believer the right to be delivered from the dominion of sin. Through it the right of sin to reign in his flesh is legally overthrown. And, since justification occurs through means of faith—the living, organic connection to Jesus Christ established by God—the believer certainly will be delivered from the power of sin. This explains why the Heidelberg Catechism can so boldly proclaim that it is impossible that the doctrine of justification by faith alone makes men careless and profane (Q. & A. 64). Because of their relationship to Christ by justification through faith, the believer is now dead to sin so that it is impossible that the life of Christ fail to actuate them to a new and godly life. Justification does not depend upon sanctification, but is the legal basis and certainty of it.

That one is justified does not mean sin is dead in the flesh of the believer. That should be clear not only from our experience, but Scripture. Job talked of the iniquities of his youth and that he abhorred himself because of his sin. While David speaks of his integrity in Psalm 7:8, he also confesses his iniquity and his depravity in Psalm 51. "Behold, I was shapen in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me." And the apostle Paul, a justified saint, remarked, "With the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin" (Rom. 7:25).

The believer must also recognize the presence of in-dwelling sin because faith is counted for righteousness in the man who "believeth on Him that justifieth the ungodly" (Rom. 4:5). I believe this to be true, even when speaking of subjective justification. The benefits of justification are experienced continually in our lives not only when we humbly confess our past sin and depravity, but especially when we confess that while justified and sanctified saints, we remain sinners in our flesh. We must accept personal responsibility for our depravity and the sin that issues forth from it like a flood. Otherwise, we become "the whole" who have no need of the physician and "the righteous" who have no need for repentance" (Mark 2:17-18). In the words of Calvin, "to obtain Christ’s righteousness, we must abandon our own righteousness … The heart cannot be open to receive God’s mercy unless it be utterly empty of all opinion of it’s own worth" (Institutes 3.11.3; 3.12.7). An example is the publican, who was justified when he cried out, "Be merciful to me, a sinner"—not, "be merciful to me, who used to be a sinner."

The above, explains why the Heidelberg Catechism includes an entire section on our misery prior to the section on our deliverance where justification is proclaimed. A Reformed preacher does not skip this section and simply go on to preach our deliverance with the attitude, "Well, this stuff about sin, our misery, and depravity is something we used to be and used to need deliverance from." It, too, is there for our comfort; it is there so we properly evaluate ourselves as we are by nature because it is necessary to enjoy justification. It is necessary because Jesus delivers and gives righteousness to the poor, the needy, the oppressed, the humble, the mourning, the weary and heavy laden, the hungry and thirsty after righteousness. Even the justified, regenerated, and sanctified apostle Paul could still confess, "Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief" (I Tim. 1:15). Bavinck made the point this way: "Even though the believer shares in the forgiveness of sins (justification) he must consciously, from day to day, keep appropriating it by faith in order to enjoy the assurance and comfort of it. It is true that there are many who continue to live on the basis of a bygone experience and are content with that, but such is not the Christian life."5

Understanding justification’s change in our relationship to sin (that we are dead to sin, but sin is not dead in us) is also important so we do not minimize sin or God’s law. Previous speakers have pointed out the striking fact that those who attack the truth of justification on the basis that it hinders the performance of good works, generally do not uphold the standard of God’s law or hold it in high esteem themselves. This was true of the self-justifying Pharisees who paid lip service to the law in Jesus’ day. This was true of the Arminians and followers of John Wesley. There is a reason for this. If one is justified in part by his works according to the standard of God’s law, then that standard must be attainable. Otherwise no sinner can be justified. The result of such thinking invariably is that the perfection demanded by the law is lessened, either by saying the law only demands perfect outward performance, or that God accepts imperfect performance as the basis of justification. Striking too, that when this is done, good works in the eyes of men become evil in the eyes of God, since they are not fruits of thankfulness for our justification, but are means to attain justification. This phenomena also explains the complaint voiced by the Presbyterian theologian, John Murray. "Far too frequently we fail to entertain the gravity of our sin against God. This is the reason why this grand article of justification does not ring the bells in the innermost depths of our spirit. This is the reason why the gospel of justification is to such an extent a meaningless sound in the world and in the church of the 20th century."6

 

Justification and Our Relationship to the World: The Natural Creation

As regards the significance of justification for our relationships in the world, justification also is the basis for the believer’s relationship to the natural creation. Being justified, we are also made dead to the world in that sense. However, we must quickly add that at the same time we are reconciled to the world, which is also redeemed in Christ. That is brought out in two texts in II Corinthians. In chapter 4:14-15, Paul says one benefit of justification is that all things are now for your sakes. And in chapter 5:17-18, he says, "If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation."

What does this all mean? First, the believer is made dead to the world in the same sense that he is made dead to sin. We are dead to the affects of every evil. They simply cannot change our relationship to God. The evil works for our benefit, enlivening the new man and crucifying the old. Satan, even when tempting us, serves our Lord. This is what Calvin was referring to, when in the context of justification, he remarked that although we are redeemed from a world that otherwise confines and oppresses us, all things now work together for our good" (Institutes 3.15.8). Our comfort is not simply in God’s providence. Our comfort, as the Heidelberg Catechism teaches, is that the God of providence is my Father, who established that new adoptive relationship when I was justified (Q. & A. 27). Bavinck again: "The earmark of the justified is that in the midst of oppression and persecution to which they are exposed on every hand in the world, they put their trust in the Lord and seek their salvation and blessedness in Him alone. Nowhere is there any deliverance for them, neither in themselves nor in any creature, but in the Lord their God alone."7

This fact explains why, immediately after teaching that "it is God that justifies," Paul asks those comforting rhetorical questions, "Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword" (Rom. 8:36)? Being justified, they are all either averted by God our justifying Father, or they are turned to our profit. Either way, once justified, providence and the world, and even the evil of this world serves our salvation.

Secondly, this truth of justification by faith means that our attitude toward the things of this earthly creation is changed. As Colossians 3:2-3 teaches: "Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth. For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ." Or I John 2:15: "Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world." This attitude toward the world that is the result of our justification, is captured by Paul in Philippians 3:8 we read earlier: "I count [since I am justified] all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Jesus Christ my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung." Calvin called this attitude a real contempt for this life, adding, "Indeed there is no middle ground between these two. Either the world must become worthless to us, or hold us bound by intemperate love of it" (Institutes 3.9.1-2).

Thirdly, justification also establishes the right use of the world by the believer. It is important to remember that this contempt we are to have for the world is not absolute since the creation is being redeemed, and given for our benefit as justified believers. Hence, justification serves as the basis for what we call Christian liberty. As Bavinck put it so well, "The believer who is justified in Christ is the freest creature in the world."8 This connection probably explains why in his section on justification Calvin also treated the subject of Christian liberty. He saw that since we are dead to the world on the basis of our justification, Christian liberty condemns any unbiblical restrictions upon the use of the good things in this creation. Since we are dead with Christ from the rudiments of this world, while living in it we are not subject to ordinances such as touch not, taste not, or handle not (Col. 2:20). Calvin says of those who want to restrict the use of this creation to such laws or even their necessary use, that they "fetter the consciences more tightly than does the Word," and "deprive us of the lawful fruit of God’s beneficence" (Institutes 3.10.1).

As regards the lawful use of this present creation by the justified, Calvin is helpful when he gives us two main principles to live by. The first is that we use this creation as though not using it, or enjoy the gifts of it as though not having them. The operative attitude for Calvin is indifference. For him, adiaphora were truly the things indifferent, i.e. can only be used lawfully when we are indifferent to them or, to use biblical language, we are dead to them. Secondly, Calvin taught that being justified, we must use and enjoy the creation conscious that we are stewards who must give an account to our Father in the day of Christ.

 

Justification and Our Relationship to God: Peace

We move finally to the significance of the doctrine of justification for our relationship to God.

In the first place we notice that justification is the exclusive means by which we are reconciled to God, that is, by which we enjoy any peaceful and blessed relationship to God. Negatively, that means those who justify themselves are not and cannot be reconciled to God. We are now not so concerned with those who would do so by excusing their sin, but those who attempt to attain justification on the basis of their own works, either in whole or in part. It makes no difference what kind of works they try to make a part of their justification—whether works supposedly performed by an unregenerated person, or good works supposedly done with a sanctified heart. One who believes they play some part in their justification, simply is not justified, either in actuality or the experience.

Bavinck again: "You either have all of Christ’s righteousness or none of it. You cannot get a part of it and fill in the rest ourselves." In Luke 18:44, Jesus declared frankly to the Pharisees who attempted this, that they were not justified. His sharp word to all who use their works as the basis for their righteousness before God, is this: "Ye are they which justify yourselves before men; but God knoweth your hearts: for that which is highly esteemed among men is abomination in the sight of God" (Luke 16:15). The result of self-justification is everlasting death under the wrath of God. "The man who doeth those things shall live by them," that is he will not live at all but die by them (Rom. 10:5). The official judgment of the Reformed is that "if we should appear before God, relying on ourselves or any other creature, though ever so little, we should, alas! be consumed" (Belgic Confession 23).

But for those who believe that they are justified by means of faith alone, the pre-eminent benefit is peace with God, according to Romans 5:1. About this text Calvin remarked, "There Paul says that no peace or quiet joy are retained unless we are convinced we are justified by faith. Those that prate that we are justified by faith because being reborn we are righteous by living spiritually, have never tasted the sweetness of grace" (Institutes 3.13.5).

Justified, we have peace with God because he removes the guilt of sin from our conscience. Peace with God as regards guilt from sin is what Luther so desired and what drove him to inquire as to what Scripture says. Trying to achieve righteousness through works, he was terrified in his own conscience. But forsaking all that and being justified by faith, all that was taken away.

Then too, we are granted peace with God, because he grants unto us the right to enjoy every blessing in Jesus Christ. Justification is the basis for our adoption as His sons and daughters to enjoy all the rights and privileges of the inheritance which is His kingdom, and to live in conscious fellowship with Him which is the covenant of grace. This ought to thrill every one of us this evening who love God’s covenant, that fellowship with God we enjoy and receive being justified.

 

Justification and Our Relationship to God:
God-Glorifying Worship and a Thankful Holy Life

Finally, we note that justification is the basis for proper worship, heartfelt praise, honour, and glory of God, whether by word or deed. Without justification, there can be holy living in thankfulness, which is a form of worship. Calvin noted this too. After calling justification the main hinge upon which religion turns, he goes on to explain why: "Unless you first grasp what your relation to God is and the nature of His judgment concerning you, you have neither a foundation upon which to establish your salvation, nor one on which to build piety toward God" (Institutes 3.11.1). Here, Calvin turns the tables on all advocates of justification by works, faith and works, or faith and the works of faith. Against their charge that the doctrine of justification by faith alone hinders a holy life, he rightly claims that without it men cannot and will not live piously.

History confirms this assertion. For whenever the doctrine of justification by faith alone is overthrown, rejected, or minimized, members of the church become more unholy and profane (as one previous speaker already noted). The reason is that a holy life is the fruit of thankfulness to God for His free grace in justifying us. Whenever we believe we have some part, though ever so small, in our justification, we cannot be thankful to God. Instead we will not only be proud and complacent, but, as Calvin claims, "attempt to our great harm to filch from the Lord the thanks we owe his free kindness" (Institutes 3.13.1).

There can be no real worship, heartfelt praise, honour and glory to God, with a doctrine of justification by faith and works—only self glory. Or as Scripture declares, "If Abraham were justified by works, he hath whereof to glory; but not before God" (Rom. 4:2). And this is abhorrent in the sight of God, for it robs him of the glory of his righteousness. Calvin again: "Whoever glories in himself, glories against God. Man cannot without sacrilege, claim for himself even a crumb of righteousness, for just so much is plucked and taken away from the glory of God’s righteousness" (Institutes 3.13.2).

But when we believe we are justified by faith alone, there will be true and acceptable thanksgiving, praise, honour and glory to God expressed in our lives and in worship. This occurs because, as we stated earlier, when God justifies us, He establishes and causes us to experience in the most wonderful way his righteousness, which in turn magnifies and extols his grace. This is why Scripture calls the gospel of righteousness a glorious gospel. The Lord’s purpose in bestowing righteousness upon us graciously in Christ through justification by faith alone is "to declare His own righteousness" (Rom. 3:26). He wills that every mouth be stopped and all the world be rendered guilty before Him (Rom. 3:19ff.), because as long as man has anything to say in his defence he detracts from God’s glory.

Without being justified by faith alone, there can be no confidence before the righteousness of God either. Calvin again: "One can easily and readily prattle about the value of works in justifying men. But when we come before the presence of God we must away such amusements. How shall we reply to the heavenly judge when He calls us to an account. Let us envisage for ourselves that Judge. Not as our minds naturally imagine Him, but as He is depicted for us in Scripture. By whose brightness the stars are darkened, by whose strength the mountains are melted, by whose wrath the earth is shaken, whose wisdom catches the wise in their craftiness, besides whose purity all things are defiled, whose righteousness not even the angels can bear, who makes not the guilty man innocent, whose vengeance when once kindled penetrates to the depths of hell. Let us behold Him, I say, sitting in judgment to examine the deeds of men. Who will stand confident before His throne? The answer is the man who is justified by faith alone and only that man" (Institutes 3.12.1).

All these benefits for the justified believer as regards his relationship to God are summarized in one of the most beautiful passages of the Reformed confessions: "The result of being justified freely by His grace is that the believer ascribes all glory to God, humbles himself before God, and acknowledging ourselves such as we really are, relies and rests upon the obedience of Christ crucified alone. This gives us confidence in approaching to God, freeing the conscience of fear terror and dread. Therefore, as Hebrews 4:16 puts it, we may come boldly unto that throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need" (Belgic Confession 23). And if these were the only benefits of justification by faith alone, it should be enough to motivate us to fight hell itself for this doctrine. And many have.

We conclude with a fitting quote from Martin Luther: "Whoever departs from the article of justification does not know God and is an idolater. For when this article has been taken away, nothing remains but error, hypocrisy, godlessness and idolatry, although it may seem to be the height of truth, worship of God, and holiness." Give thanks to God for this unspeakable gift.

_________________________

1 Abraham Kuyper, The Work of the Holy Spirit (Chattanooga, TN: AMG, 1995), p. 375.
2 Herman Bavinck, Our Reasonable Faith (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1956), p. 450.
3 Kuyper, The Work of the Holy Spirit, p. 376.
4 Kuyper, The Work of the Holy Spirit, p. 377.
5 Bavinck, Our Reasonable Faith, p. 463.
6 John Murray, Redemption Accomplished and Applied (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1955), p. 117.
7 Bavinck, Our Reasonable Faith, p. 446.
8 Bavinck, Our Reasonable Faith, p. 468.