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Grace or Work?

Grace or Work?

“And if by grace, then it is no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then it is no more grace: otherwise work is no more work.” Romans 11:6 

What do you desire? To be saved by grace or by works?

That is the question. Shakespeare would say: To be or not to be, that is the question. And it fits here too. To be or not to be in the arms of God unto all eternity. Tremendous question.

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Baptism Now Saves Us: An Assured Conscience

So what is the status of a baptized person in the Roman Catholic Church? His sins have been removed, but “concupiscence” remains. In Roman Catholicism, concupiscence is a moral weakness, a tendency toward sin, which is itself not sin and which can be resisted by grace (grace that God gives to everyone through the sacraments and through the good works of piety of a faithful church member). But the Bible teaches that all sinners (even believers) have a sinful flesh, a totally depraved and corrupted nature, which is not only inclined to all evil, but is itself evil, and which can do nothing good. This sinful nature exists in all sinners, although in believers it has been dethroned. Nevertheless, even in believers the flesh is still very active and produces in us all kinds of evil. Without a biblical understanding of sin, the Roman Catholic will lack a proper understanding of salvation: neither water baptism nor the power of free will (even when coupled with God’s grace) can deliver us from the “filth of the flesh.”

Why then does the Bible speak this way, linking the reality of salvation to the sign of baptism? Reformed theologians speak of the sacramental union, for in the Bible there is a close connection between the sign (baptism) and the thing signified (the washing away of sin in the blood of Christ). The Heidelberg Catechism asks about this sacramental union, “Why then doth the Holy Ghost call baptism ‘the washing of regeneration,’ and the ‘washing away of sins’? God speaks thus not without great cause, to wit, not only thereby to teach us that, as the filth of the body is purged away by water, so our sins are removed by the blood and Spirit of Jesus Christ; but especially that by this divine pledge and sign he may assure us that we are spiritually cleansed from our sins as really as we are externally washed with water” (Q&A 73).

The relationship between the sign (baptism) and the thing signified (salvation) is not one of identity. They are not the same, nor does the sign become the reality. A sign cannot be the reality; otherwise, it is not a sign. A sign cannot become the reality, otherwise it ceases to be a sign. Nevertheless, sometimes the Bible gives the name of the thing signified to the sign itself, because God would have us associate the reality with the sign.

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The Question of the Necessity of Good Works (9): Clear Explanations

The Question of the Necessity of Good Works (9): Clear Explanations

Because the proper answer to the question of the necessity of good works is so closely connected with the church’s confession of the truth of the believers’ gracious salvation, and because wrong answers to this question end up denying this truth, there is no room for ambiguous language in answering this question. Especially is this ambiguous language to be deplored in a misguided and ill-informed attempt to impress upon the people of God the necessity of doing good works. This necessity,...

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The Question of the Necessity of Good Works (7): Losing the Sense of God’s Favor

The Question of the Necessity of Good Works (7): Losing the Sense of God’s Favor

The Canons of Dordt, doing their part to exhort on the believer the necessity of good works, warn the believer sharply in 5.5: By such enormous sins…they [true believers] very highly offend God, incur a deadly guilt, grieve the Holy Spirit, interrupt the exercise of faith, very grievously wound their consciences, and sometimes lose the sense of God’s favor for a time, until, on their returning into the right way of serious repentance, the light of God’s fatherly countenance again shines...

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The Question of the Necessity of Good Works (6): Fruits of Faith

The Question of the Necessity of Good Works (6): Fruits of Faith

The first part of the Reformed faith’s answer to the question of the necessity of good works is the truth of Christ’s gracious renewal of the redeemed and justified believer. Because God renews him he must do good works. His good works do not obtain anything from God, but they are the necessary testimony of his gratitude that God requires of him and by which God is praised. Besides this and following from it there are other considerations. The Heidelberg Catechism’s...

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Grace or Work?

“And if by grace, then it is no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then it is no more grace: otherwise work is no more work.” —Romans 11:6  What do you desire? To be saved by grace or by works? That is the question. Shakespeare would say: To be or not to be, that is the question. And it fits here too. To be or not to be in the arms of God unto...

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The Charge of Antinomianism (8): Assurance by Works

The Charge of Antinomianism (8): Assurance by Works

The book by Mark Jones, purporting to be a tool to discover antinomianism in the preaching and teaching of ministers and in the faith of believers, turns out to be a full-blown attack on the doctrines of grace. This attack continues with his assault on the precious Reformed doctrine of assurance. Because the Reformed faith teaches that salvation is by grace alone through faith alone and not by works, it gives assurance and comfort to the child of God. Such is...

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