Gospel Truth of Justification (5): Polemical

The apostle Paul, after addressing the churches of Galatia in verses 1-5, immediately administers a rebuke to them with the expression, “I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel: which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ” (Galatians 1:6, 7).

John Calvin, commenting on verse six of this opening chapter of Galatians, observes that the apostle Paul’s “greatest severity of language is directed...against the false apostles.”[1] Writes Calvin,

He [Paul] charges them [false apostles] with the additional crime of doing an injury to Christ, by endeavoring to subvert his gospel. Subversion is an enormous crime. It is worse than corruption. And with good reason does he fasten on them this charge. When the glory of justification is ascribed to another, and a snare is laid for the consciences of men, the Saviour no longer occupies his place, and the doctrine of the gospel is utterly ruined (emphasis mine, AJC).[2]

In defense of the truth of justification by faith alone, the apostle Paul used polemics. In Galatians 1:8, the inspired apostle Paul pronounces a curse upon them which “preach any other gospel unto you than that which we preached unto you.” He states again emphatically in the next verse, “If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed.”

Polemics is the activity of identifying, opposing, fighting against, and destroying false teachings, either in doctrine or walk. It is spiritual warfare (2 Corinthians 10:3-5). The word itself comes from the Greek word polemos, meaning “war.” That the true church militant carries on war against false teachers and their teachings should not surprise or offend members of the church. God declared this war. In the garden of Eden God declared, “I will put enmity between thee [Satan] and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel” (Genesis 3:15). This war has been ongoing since the beginning of time. In the New Testament, Satan continues his attack upon the church, so that Peter warns, “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour” (1 Peter 5:8). He attacks the church, as Paul warned the elders of Ephesus upon his departure (Acts 20:28-30), by sending “grievous wolves...in among you, not sparing the flock.” Jude exhorts the beloved to “earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints” (v. 3). Why? “For there are certain men crept in unawares, who were before of old ordained to this condemnation, ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ” (v. 4). The apostle Peter warns the saints that as “there were false prophets also among the people....there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies” (2 Peter 2:1).

Knowing the truth and defending it is of utmost importance to Reformed believers, especially officebearers, for as Calvin observes, “To know what are the leading points of the gospel, is a matter of unceasing importance,” for “when these are attacked, the gospel is destroyed.”[3]

(Protestant) Reformed officebearers, upon signing the Formula of Subscription, vow that they “heartily believe” the doctrines contained in the Heidelberg Catechism, Belgic Confession and Canons of Dordt to be in full agreement with the Word of God.” Further, they “promise...diligently to teach and faithfully to defend the aforesaid doctrine.” Moreover, they “declare”....that they will “not only reject all errors that militate against this doctrine”—particularly those doctrines condemned at the Synod of Dordt—but that they are “disposed to refute and contradict these, and...exert [them]selves in keeping the church free from such errors” (emphasis added).[4]

Equally clear is the section of the Church Order, a minor confession, dealing with the responsibilities of the officebearers of the church. Article 18 states, “The office of the professors of theology is to expound the holy scriptures and to vindicate sound doctrine against heresies and errors” (emphasis added).[5] Article 55 of the Church Order, following upon Articles 53 and 54, which require of professors, ministers, elders, and deacons that they subscribe to the Reformed confessions, reads, “To ward off false doctrine and errors that multiply exceedingly through heretical writings, the ministers and elders shall use the means of teaching, of refutation or warning, and of admonition, as well in the ministry of the Word as in Christian teaching and family-visiting.”[6]

The author, in penning the contents of Gospel Truth of Justification: Proclaimed, Defended, Developed, is necessarily polemical. The author, holding the office of professor emeritus of theology in the Protestant Reformed Churches, is bound by the Reformed confessions and the Church Order. To avoid polemics in writing on the truth of justification by faith alone would be a shameful dereliction of duty.

The author is also properly polemical. First, in the book he addresses particular errors which are a genuine threat to God’s people. Second, Engelsma addresses serious, confessional, and fatal errors. None of the errors are imagined or invented. Third, the author in his polemics is fair, allowing the advocates and defenders of false doctrine to speak for themselves. He does not “put words in their mouths,” nor does he take their words out of context. Their positions are given ample space and accurately cited. Finally, in refuting heresies, the author is motivated by love for God and the glory of his name. He writes,

Nothing, not even impenitent idolatry or sodomy, would so defile the heavenly choir as th[e] attribution of the glory of salvation to the saved sinner. To the redeemed in heaven forever, as to the saints now on earth, comes the effectual call, “Praise our God, all ye his servants, and ye that fear him” (Rev. 19:5). From the great multitude in heaven, as from the true church in the world today, comes back the response, “Let us...give honour to him” (v. 7) (p. 331).

Next time, a brief summary of the heresies and errors refuted and why this defense of justification by faith alone is necessary.

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[1] John Calvin, Commentaries on the Epistle of Paul to the Galatians, trans. William Pringle (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1998) 1:29.

[2] Calvin, 1: 31.

[3] Calvin, 1:31.

[4] Formula of Subscription, in Confessions and Church Order, 326.

[5] Church Order of the Protestant Reformed Churches, in Confessions and Church Order, 386.

[6] Church Order, in ibid., 397.

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This article was written by Aaron Cleveland, a member of Hope Protestant Reformed Church in Grand Rapids, Michigan. If you have a question or comment for Aaron, please do so in the comment section.

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Gospel Truth of Justification - A Review (1): Timely

Gospel Truth of Justification - A Review (2): Comforting

Gospel Truth of Justification - A Review (3): Comforting and Confessional

Gospel Truth of Justification - A Review (4): Instructive

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Gospel Truth of Justification (4): Instructive

Good sermons edify. That is, they are instructive and spiritually build up the hearers. When, according to their professors, students in the Protestant Reformed Theological School are deemed ready, they are licensed to speak a word of edification in the churches. When sermon critic committees bring their reports to synod regarding the sermons given by seminarians at their synodical exams, a judgment is made whether or not the sermons are edifying. A primary responsibility of elders in their oversight of the minister is ensuring that his preaching is edifying. The congregation must be built up, grow in their understanding of the Reformed faith and be encouraged in a godly and antithetical walk.

This attribute of edification is a must in theological writing as well. And the believing reader of Gospel Truth of Justification will be edified! If the material in this book was the subject matter of a seminary course, I doubt that the material could properly be treated in one semester. The author treats the truth of justification from every possible angle and leaves no stone unturned. The wise reader, willing to receive instruction, “will be yet wiser” and the “just” reader, willing to learn, “will increase in learning” (Prov. 9:9).

Limiting myself, there are three particular aspects of justification covered in this book, that I would like to highlight in this post. The first is that, as the Reformed confessions clearly teach, justification is a legal act of God whereby the perfect righteousness of Jesus Christ is imputed to the account of the elect sinner (p. 93). That justification is “strictly a legal act of God” that dramatically changes “the justified sinner’s standing before God the just judge,” (p. 94) makes plain what justification is not. “Justification is not the infusion of righteousness into the sinner” (p. 94).

That justification is not the act of God that makes the sinner holy is important to maintain. Why? “Basic to the heresy of justification by works as proclaimed both by the Roman Catholic Church and by the federal vision is the teaching that justification is, at least partly, the infusion of righteousness. This doctrine of justification enables both Rome and the federal vision to conclude that God justifies sinners partly by their own good works, which they perform by virtue of the infusion, and that the righteousness of justified sinners…is at least in part the sinners’ own good works” (pp. 94, 95).

Further, it is important to maintain that justification is not the infusion of righteousness into the sinner because this is to confuse justification and sanctification. Sanctification is the distinct “saving work of God within sinners that makes them obedient, that imparts the obedience of Jesus Christ to them so that they begin to be good and to do good, that infuses obedience into them” (p. 111). Confusing justification and sanctification has the harmful effect of robbing the people of God of their joy and peace. It detracts from the obedience of Jesus Christ as the complete righteousness of the believing sinner, as though the obedience of the sinner must be added to the obedience of Jesus for the sinner’s righteousness with God” (pp. 112, 113). Always the sinner will ask himself, “Have I done enough, have I worked hard enough to please God?”

A second aspect of justification worthy of highlighting is the connection between advocating a conditional covenant and a denial of justification by faith alone, without works. In the chapter entitled “Paul and James,” Engelsma explains that in “conservative” Reformed and Presbyterian churches the root of the denial of justification by faith alone is “their emphatic teaching of a conditional covenant” (p. 432). Their claim is that proclaiming justification by faith alone will make men “careless and profane,” will lead to “antinomianism” and threaten “a responsible, zealous, holy life” among members of the churches (pp. 432-435). Therefore, in order to combat this “alleged fear,” a conditional covenant must be preached. The conditions of faith and faith’s good works must be met, motivating (scaring) the believer to obedience.

This reasoning is warned against in Article 24 of the Belgic Confession, which reads in part, “Therefore it is so far from being true that this justifying faith makes men remiss in a pious and holy life, that on the contrary, without it they would never do anything out of love to God, but only out of self-love or fear of damnation.” The Heidelberg Catechism in Lord’s Day 24, Q & A 64 states, “But doth not this doctrine make men careless and profane?” “By no means; for it is impossible that those who are implanted into Christ by a true faith should not bring forth fruits of thankfulness.”

Engelsma leads the reader to the one reason the justified Christian brings forth good works and leads a holy life: “love for God.”

Love for [Christ], and for the God who gave him as our redeemer (as we realize in the gift of justification by faith alone), motivates us to serve him and God—gladly, willingly, freely, wholeheartedly, sacrificially—in thankfulness. Only this motivation of the Christian life is pleasing and acceptable to God. This motivation of the truly Christian life is worked and secured only by the gospel truth of justification by faith alone (p. 441).

Finally, the relationship between justification and election is worthy of highlighting. Engelsma calls this a “close, necessary, and significant” relationship (p. 455). “Election,” according to Canons 1.7 includes the bestowal upon the elect of “true faith, justification, and sanctification.” Canons 1.9 teaches that “election is the fountain of every saving good, from which proceed faith, holiness, and the other gifts of salvation.” The author points out that among those saving goods is justification. And the “faith” mentioned is the instrument of justification. “That some receive the gift of faith from God” teaches Canons 1.6, “proceeds from God’s eternal decree [of election].” To deny that justification by faith alone has its source in God’s eternal election is gross heresy.

This is the doctrinal sin of federal vision theology which denies that election is the “fountain of every saving good,” including justification, in the covenant (p. 469, author’s emphasis).  The federal vision denies that election governs the covenant and, consequently, teaches that “the will of the baptized child does govern the covenant. Hence justification is by faith as a condition and by works!” (pp. 469, 470).

This “alleged fear” of election by contemporary foes of election is exposed by the Bible and the Reformed creeds. Writes Engelsma, “In reality, what troubles the foes of election, particularly as the fountain of justification, is that election leaves no place for their determination that the will of the sinner himself shall be the source of all his salvation....Heretics desire that justification be by the works of the sinner” (p. 473).

Again, as is the case throughout the book, the author is bold to identify heresy that contradicts the Reformed confessions, tear it up by the root, and positively set forth the truth according to the Reformed confessions.

That the contents of Gospel Truth of Justification are polemical, that is, hostile to heresy, will be the subject of the next post.

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This article was written by Aaron Cleveland, a member of Hope Protestant Reformed Church in Grand Rapids, Michigan. If you have a question or comment for Aaron, please do so in the comment section.

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Gospel Truth of Justification - A Review (1): Timely

Gospel Truth of Justification - A Review (2): Comforting

Gospel Truth of Justification - A Review (3): Comforting and Confessional

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Gospel Truth of Justification - A Review (3): Comforting and Confessional

Last time we ended intending to take up the matter of assurance of justification. To doubt whether one is justified is to doubt whether one is saved. In the name of a “quest for full assurance,” reputedly Reformed theologians promote a doctrine of doubt.[i] These reputedly Reformed theologians promote the Puritan and nadere reformatie (further reformation) theology of doubt. They deny that faith is, essentially, assurance.

I quote again from Mark Jones' book, Antinomianism: Reformed Theology's Unwelcome Guest, on the topic of assurance. He writes,

Following the outline of questions provided by Joel Beeke, there are a number of areas in the doctrine of assurance where the Puritans recognized the need to be specific. The first question considers whether the seed of assurance is embedded in faith. Faith and full assurance of faith are not strictly synonymous. Our faith does not save; only Christ saves, who is the object of faith. Of course, there is always some degree of assurance in faith, but the main issue is whether full assurance is of the essence of faith. As Beeke notes, “They differentiate between the faith of adherence to Christ and the faith of assurance (or evidence) in Christ, whereby the believer knows that Christ has died specifically for him.”[ii]

Mark Jones is a disciple of influential Puritan theologian Dr. Joel R. Beeke.[iii] Beeke is a proponent of the Puritan—not Reformed—doctrine of assurance, that is, assurance by quest. The word “quest” in the title of Beeke's book on assurance, The Quest for Full Assurance, is telling. A quest, according to the dictionary, is a “long or arduous search for something.” To embark on a quest for assurance, is to work for assurance, making the Puritan doctrine of assurance a form of salvation by works.

Both Beeke and Jones appeal to a conditional covenant in defense of their doctrine of assurance. Writes Jones in his chapter on assurance, “The antinomians could not give a role to good works in assurance, other than to say that they are frequently dangerous signs, because of their denial of conditions in the covenant of grace, their view that Christ repented, believed, etc., for his people, and their view that God sees no sin in his people” (emphasis mine, AJC).[iv]

Beeke states,

From the believer's side, however, there is in Puritan thought also a conditional dimension of the covenant which plays a critical role in assurance. “The absolute promises are laid before us as the foundation of our salvation....and the conditional as the foundation of our assurance.” The conditional promises are inseparable from the believer's daily renewal of the covenant by means of prayer, meditation, and worship. Particularly the sacraments serve as important seasons for covenant-renewal. “To gather up assurance from the conditions of the covenant,” wrote Thomas Blake, “is the highest pitch of Christianity.”[v]

In the Beeke-Jones schema of assurance, flowing from a belief in a conditional covenant, the decisive factor in the believer obtaining assurance is the working (questing) of the believer to gather up assurance.

In comforting contrast to the Puritan doctrine of assurance is chapter twelve, Assurance of Justification, in David Engelsma's Gospel Truth of Justification. In the first paragraph of that chapter, he writes,

An aspect of justification that is often overlooked is the assurance of its righteousness and therefore of salvation. The reality of justification includes that the Spirit of the justifying Father of Jesus Christ assures everyone whom the Spirit justifies that he is justified. This assurance is an essential element of the act of justification itself. Not only is the elect, believing sinner justified, but he also knows that he is justified. In fact, the conjunction “but” in the preceding sentence is misleading. It can leave the impression that justification is one thing and assurance of justification another. The truth is that justification is, essentially is, the assurance of justification by faith alone. If the believing sinner is not sure of his righteousness with God, he has not been justified by faith.

Throughout this chapter the author, in response to the “Puritan theology of doubt” (p. 213), demonstrates how the “Reformed confessions....plainly teach justification as the assurance—the personal assurance—of forgiveness and righteousness” (p. 217). Answer 21 of the Heidelberg Catechism, for example, in defining faith, “the faith by which one is justified, makes the personal assurance of justification an element of faith's essence” (p. 217). In part Answer 21 states, “True faith is....an assured confidence, which the Holy Ghost works by the gospel in my heart; that not only to others, but to me also, remission of sin, everlasting righteousness, and salvation are, freely given by God, merely of grace, only for the sake of Christ's merits.” Engelsma also brings Q&A 59 and A 60 of the Heidelberg Catechism along with Article 23 of the Belgic Confession to bear on the topic of assurance.

At the end of the chapter Engelsma issues a sharp warning.

Whoever charges Calvin and the Reformation with error on this doctrine [that justification by faith alone is assurance of righteousness with God, p. 222], taking his stand with Puritanism and the further reformation, finds himself in agreement with Rome on one of the most fundamental issues of the sixteenth-century Reformation of the church, as this issue is authoritatively settled in all the Reformed, indeed Protestant, creeds. His error is nothing less than a denial of justification by faith alone, the very heart of the gospel of grace (p. 223).

Not only in the chapter about assurance of justification, but throughout the book, the doctrine of justification by faith alone is defended by examining the Reformed confessions. This is important because the fiercest opponents of justification by faith alone arise from within Reformed and Presbyterian churches. And these opponents are Reformed officebearers who are bound to the Belgic Confession, Heidelberg Catechism and Canons of Dordt by virtue of signing the Formula of Subscription, just as Presbyterian churches have a similar document binding their officebearers to the Westminster standards.

Engelsma copiously uses the Reformed confessions, in fact he begins with the confessions, in defense of justification by faith alone, in chapters 5-7 especially. This is commendable. Constantly, the Reformed believer must be reminded of the contents and value of these confessions. And, “with the confessions, the Reformed laity are able to discern and withstand heretical teachings” (p. 71).

Next time, Lord willing, I hope to look at the instructive value of the book.

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[i] Jones, Mark. Antinomianism: Reformed Theology's Unwelcome Guest? (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing Company, 2013), 106. 

[ii] Ibid., 101, 102.

[iii] Dr. Joel R. Beeke is pastor of the Heritage Reformed Congregation of Grand Rapids, MI, founder and president of the Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary in Grand Rapids and author of The Quest for Full Assurance: The Legacy of Calvin and His Successors (Banner of Truth, 1999). In that book Beeke argues that "full assurance of personal salvation constitutes the well-being or fruit of faith rather than the essence of faith" (p. 276).

[iv] Jones, 109.

[v] Joel Beeke, in an address entitled "Assurance of Faith," given to the Student Society and found on the website of the Free Reformed Churches of North America. http://frcna.org/resources/student-society-speeches.

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This article was written by Aaron Cleveland, a member of Hope Protestant Reformed Church in Grand Rapids, Michigan. If you have a question or comment for Aaron, please do so in the comment section.

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Gospel Truth of Justification - A Review (1): Timely

Gospel Truth of Justification - A Review (2): Comforting

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Gospel Truth of Justification - A Review (2): Comforting

Another aspect of the truth of justification by faith alone as proclaimed, defended, and developed in this book, is the comfort that it brings to the believing child of God. Corruptions of justification by faith alone make light of man's sinfulness and “the awesome holiness of God” (p. 489). Engelsma paints a vivid picture of “standing before the holy God in judgment according to divine justice” (p. 489).

One who contemplates standing before the holy God in judgment according to divine justice, all his life opened up, all his motives exposed, all his secret thoughts and desires made known, all the spoiling of his best works by a grievous coming short of perfect love for God and the neighbor, to say nothing of the words and deeds spoken or done in secret in outright violation of the law of God—such a man or woman makes up his or her sanctified, wise mind that on that great day and in that awesome courtroom he or she will raise one plea, and one only: “God be merciful to me the sinner!” That is, “Forgive me, and declare me righteous for the sake, only for the sake, of the perfect obedience of Jesus Christ, whom thou thyself hast given to be my righteousness, especially in his suffering and death.”

One who has even the slightest knowledge of the holiness of God has his mind made up, in all sincerity, that he will bring in the final judgment absolutely nothing of his own obedience and no work of his own as his righteousness upon which the verdict of the Judge must depend (pp. 489-490).

As the author repeatedly points out throughout the book, the believer standing daily in the courtroom of God and entering the judgment at the moment of death “plead[s] the merits of Jesus Christ, and those only” (p. 405). “The idea of marching into the courtroom of the final judgment waving these little, defiled things [the believer's good works—AJC] as deserving what awaits him is to him (and this also is grace) not only the height of wickedness, but also the height of absurdity” (p. 402).

Comforting to the Reformed believer are three truths concerning justification by faith alone that are clearly set forth in the Reformed confessions. In fact, the confessions so clearly set forth the “gospel truth of justification” that, writes Engelsma, “No Reformed teacher has any excuse for deviating from the right doctrine of justification. No Reformed church member has any excuse for being misled by heretical teachers. No Reformed church has any excuse for approving or even tolerating a false doctrine of justification” (p. 92).

First, justification is the legal act of God whereby the perfect righteousness of Jesus Christ is imputed to the account of the elect sinner (p. 93). Abhorring all of his own good works, the believer boldly stands in God's divine courtroom and hears the declaration, “Not guilty, for the sake of Jesus Christ and him crucified! Righteous, with the perfect righteousness of Jesus Christ, which by this declaration I impute to you!” (p. 116).

It cannot be emphasized enough that the righteousness of justification is “wholly and exclusively the doing and dying of Jesus Christ outside the justified sinner....it is a righteousness accomplished for us by another, not at all a righteousness worked within us, taking form as our own efforts” (p. 118). The author reminds the reader that Luther described this as an “alien” righteousness (p. 119).

The second comforting truth regarding justification is that justification is by faith only, completely excluding the sinner's works (p. 95). “The works of the justified sinner that are excluded in justification, the Reformed confessions identify as all the sinner's works, especially the good works that proceed from a truth faith by the operation of the indwelling Spirit of Christ” (p. 98). Again, what believer dares even to contemplate coming into God's courtroom waving “little, defiled things” as deserving the Judges' pronouncement, “righteous!”

A third comforting truth of the gospel truth of justification properly understood is that faith is the “means, or instrument, by which the justified sinner receives the righteousness of another” (p. 100). In other words, justification is unconditional. “The confessions deny that the sinner's activity of believing is itself his righteousness with God, is regarded by God as the sinner's righteousness, or functions as a condition that the sinner performs to make himself worthy of justification” (p. 101). As Engelsma is at pains to point out, the Reformed confessions thoroughly condemn justification “on the condition of faith” as the heresy of Arminianism (p. 101). The Reformed believer confesses the obedience of Jesus Christ as the sole ground of his justification. Nothing else.

That faith is a condition the sinner performs in order to receive the saving benefits of Christ's works is a grievous error. Yet some, under the banner of Reformed, promote this error. Take, for example, Mark Jones, who writes, “The Reformed held firmly to the view that the elect have no role in impetrating their salvation. That honor belongs exclusively to Christ. But in the application of salvation, man plays a role. Thus, the application of justification depends on faith. Faith is an antecedent condition to receiving the blessings of justification, adoption, and sanctification” (p. 63). Further, Jones writes, “The covenant of grace may be unconditional in its origin, but ultimately it requires that conditions be met on man's part because Christ's death was a moral cause” (p. 63). Later, on page 64, Jones identifies “faith” as one of the conditions.[1]

Along with this error is joined the comfort-robbing false doctrine, characteristic of Puritanism, that those who are justified by faith alone doubt their justification and “remain in doubt whether they are saved” (p. 210). This will have to wait for next time.

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[1] Jones, Mark. Antinomianism: Reformed Theology's Unwelcome Guest?, Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing Company, 2013. Those who have read the Acts of Synod & Yearbook of the Protestant Reformed Churches in America (2017) will be aware of Mark Jones' book.

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This post was written by Aaron Cleveland, a member of Hope Protestant Reformed Church in Grand Rapids, Michigan. If you have a question or comment for Aaron, please do so in the comment section.

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Gospel Truth of Justification - A Review (1): Timely

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Gospel Truth of Justification - A Review (1): Timely

With the recent publication of Gospel Truth of Justification: Proclaimed, Defended, Developed by David J. Engelsma, the Reformed Free Publishing Association has sent a bold witness of the truth of justification by faith alone into the world. This witness comes particularly to the Reformed church world, both to true and apostatizing churches. God will always have witness to his truth, even to the very end of the world. As apostasy in the church world increases, the witness of the true church and God's servants must become bolder. This book serves the witness of the church regarding the heart of the gospel: justification by faith alone.

That we are justified by faith alone is of great comfort to the believer. Knowing this Satan and his minions, throughout the history of the church, have attempted to make this doctrine odious to God's people. The enemies of the church know very well that if they corrupt the heart of the gospel—the doctrine of justification by faith alone—by adding the works of the law, they have succeeded in corrupting all of Christian doctrine. Hence the importance of maintaining this truth.

After reading this book, there are six adjectives that I jotted down that express why I think this book is a must read for all those who love the Reformed faith. First, the contents of this book are timely. The year 2017 marks the five-hundredth anniversary of the beginning of the Protestant Reformation. It certainly is appropriate that a book be published explaining the heart of the divide between the Roman Catholic Church and the true churches of the Reformation.

Making the contents of the book even more timely is the fact that many reputedly conservative Reformed and Presbyterian churches, claiming for themselves to be the disciples of John Calvin and Martin Luther, have travelled far down the road back to Rome by embracing the Romish corruption of the doctrine of justification, that is, justification by faith and works. This contemporary corruption of justification is known as the federal vision. Anyone who has read Engelsma’s writings knows that he is probably this heresies fiercest opponent. He continues and develops his bold unmasking of this heresy in Gospel Truth of Justification.

Perhaps the Protestant Reformed readers of this blog would be tempted to dismiss the timeliness and worthiness of such a lengthy book (528 pages) on the subject of justification. While we may acknowledge threats to the doctrine of justification by faith alone "out there" and lament what we see happening in other denominations, certainly we are in no danger of losing the truth of justification by faith alone within the PRC, or so we may naively think. To adopt this complacent attitude would be to ignore recent history within the PRC. The doctrines of justification and sanctification (and their relationship), election, conditions, and the place of good works in the lives of God’s people were all discussed at the 2017 Synod of the PRC. And weighty decisions were taken. The Protestant Reformed believer has a solemn duty to understand the doctrine of justification by faith alone thoroughly. In the providence of God, this book, addressing all of the aforementioned subjects, has come to publication in the year 2017. Timely!

If you have not already picked up this book and worked your way through it, do so now. Your efforts will be greatly rewarded. Next time, I hope to address the comforting aspects of this publication.

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This post was written by Aaron Cleveland, a member of Hope Protestant Reformed Church in Grand Rapids, Michigan. If you have a question or comment for Aaron, please do so in the comment section.

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In review: Gospel Truth of Justification

Gospel Truth of Justification: Proclaimed, Defended, Developed, David J. Engelsma. Reformed Free Publishing Association, 2017, 528 pages. Reviewed by Rev. John Marcus.

Who would have thought that the gospel truth of justification by faith alone would be under attack today in churches that have their heritage in the Protestant Reformation? Yet Engelsma makes plain that such is exactly the case, even as we celebrate the five-hundredth anniversary of the Reformation. The current controversy concerning justification is so critical to the gospel that we do well to learn to defend the truth against the lie that spreads itself throughout the church world.

Anyone who is intimidated by the word justification in the title of this book and has the notion that such a book must belong only in seminaries and pastors’ studies is sorely mistaken. This book belongs not only in the homes of those who care for the truth of the gospel, but also in their hands as they read every page. It belongs in the hands of members of faithful churches as a means by which God may protect the church. It belongs as well in the hands of members of churches that have not faithfully maintained the truth, so that they might begin once again to stand for the truth. And it belongs in the hands of those who have wavered concerning the truth of justification, so that they might learn the truth and repent of any errors they have held.

Gospel Truth of Justification is a sound and helpful exposition of the basic truth of justification by faith alone. The author covers the truth of justification from multiple angles, so that by the time one is finished with the book, he or she should have a thorough knowledge concerning justification, the “main hinge upon which religion turns” (as Calvin called the truth of justification). Engelsma quotes the Reformed and Presbyterian creeds to demonstrate the definition of justification as “God’s pardon of the guilty sinner—the forgiveness of sins—delivering the sinner from eternal damnation. It is also the gift to the sinner of a righteousness that makes the sinner worthy of eternal life and glory.” He shows that the creeds and scripture clearly teach that justification is 1) by imputation, not by infusion of righteousness; 2) a legal act that changes the sinner’s legal standing before God; 3) by faith alone apart from the good works that proceed from faith; 4) not based on faith itself as an act that substitutes for good works; and 5) based “wholly and exclusively [on] the righteousness of Jesus Christ.”

The book is especially valuable because it exposes the errors of ancient and modern heretics alike. One of the strengths of Engelsma’s work is that he helps the reader see errors hidden in the words of the most smooth-talking heretics. For the benefit of rooting out error and warning God’s people, he is not afraid to name names. In characteristic fashion he takes aim at various errorists, showing what they teach and then demolishing their arguments one by one. He deals with the related errors of the Roman Catholic Church; the Arminian heresy; the heresy of federal vision, which is rooted in the doctrine of a conditional covenant; and the new perspective on Paul, all of which deny justification by faith alone apart from works.

Lastly, the book is valuable for Engelsma’s development of the doctrine of justification as he unfolds the truth to reveal more of its beauty to sinners saved by grace. Some helpful topics discussed are assurance of justification; when justification takes place, including a discussion of eternal justification; the place of Christ’s active obedience in justification; the reward of good works; the harmony between the inspired apostles Paul and James in Romans and James, respectively; the tight connection between election and justification; and the relationship of justification to the final judgment.

This book deserves to be widely read and discussed. A hearty thanks to the author for his defense of the gospel truth. Above all, thanks be to God for his unspeakable gift.

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Book Review: The Reformed Baptism Form (3)

The Reformed Baptism Form: A Commentary, B. Wielenga, trans. Annemie Godbehere, ed. David J. Engelsma. Reformed Free Publishing Association, 2016, 425 pages. Reviewed by Rev. Nathan J. Langerak.

Wielenga throughout the commentary deals with the text of the baptism form. That is the strength of his commentary. The text as it was in use in his day differed at certain points from the official text adopted by the Synod of Dordt. At places he suggests emendations and changes to the text used in his day, in order to bring it into conformity with the official text. Of note is Wielenga’s comments on the words “or witnesses” in a question to the parents. This phrase is a remnant of Roman Catholic theology and practice in the administration of baptism. This phrase is also included in the English received text. The practical relevance of his comments is that in the administration of baptism today these words should be omitted as an intrusion into the form.

Wielenga also deals extensively with disputed phrases. By means of them those in the Dutch Reformed churches who disagreed with the doctrine of the form tried to foist another covenantal doctrine on the form. He devotes a particularly long section to the phrase in the question to parents, “sanctified in Christ.” In explaining this long-disputed phrase, he is at his scholarly, theological, and polemical best. He points out that in his day this issue was already two centuries old. It was not two centuries old because the baptism form was unclear on what it meant by “sanctified in Christ,” but on account of the exegetical dishonesty and dogmatical agenda of many theologians when they explained the baptism form. Wielenga proves that the baptism form can mean nothing else by this language than that the children of believers are really, internally, and savingly united to Christ and sanctified in him and that the phrase does not mean merely to be set apart in an outward way or placed in a better position to be saved.

He also contradicts and condemns as “Arminian” the opinion that this phrase means real, internal sanctification and that it refers to “all of the children” of believers, not only to the elect children of believers (311). This position that he criticizes as Arminian is a popular doctrine of the covenant promoted today in Reformed churches, in which all the children are said to be incorporated into Christ and sanctified internally by him. Necessarily this means that the promise of God, the grace of God, the Spirit of God, and the covenant of God ultimately fail in many cases.

Wielenga accuses those who taught these things of reading their own theology into the form. About this reading of one’s theology into the form in order to deny the clear teaching of the form, he says,

Some people may have a different view of the doctrine of baptism. They may call the position of the compilers [of the baptism form] untenable…Let them be frank and say, “I do not agree with it”…But do not fudge on the matter. Our exegetical [explaining the plain meaning of the form] conscience objects to someone’s eisegetical [reading one’s theology into the form] doctrine of baptism, in order to support it with the authority of this legacy of our fathers. This must be stopped. (320)

The dispute over the covenantal doctrine of the form has not and still today is not driven by simply explaining the words of the form, but by a “clash between system and system” (315). To interpret “sanctified in Christ” as referring to a mere objective, or outward, setting apart is the result of a dishonest imposition of a foreign system on the form. To interpret “sanctified in Christ” as referring to all children brought for baptism and not the elect only is the imposition of Arminianism on the form. These other views imposed on the form belonged to the church in her “decline” and were introduced in “the days of ecclesiastical backsliding” and espoused a sacramental and covenantal doctrine “that was openly detested and contested by our fathers,” a doctrine “that in the century of the Reformation was already held by the Socianians and Anabaptists and later by the Remonstrants and rationalists” (317).

That just such a covenantal doctrine, exposed by one’s interpretation of this crucial phrase as a mere setting apart, is in fact widely held in Reformed churches explains the strange phenomenon that churches with Reformed in their names and that use the baptism form have rapprochement with Baptists, who condemn the baptism of infants. And some of these Reformed churches even allow membership to those who do not bring their children for baptism. Long gone is the conviction of the Reformed faith toward Baptist theology as expressed in article 34 of the Belgic Confession: “Therefore we detest the error of the Anabaptists, who are not content with the one only baptism they have once received, and moreover condemn the baptism of infants”—a detestation that manifests itself in a visible separation from them and vocal condemnation of their false doctrine. Wielenga points out that the covenantal doctrine of these ecclesiastically backslidden Reformed churches and the Baptists is basically the same. By teaching that the phrase means merely an external setting apart in an external covenant, they regard baptism “as some kind of confessional act…It is nothing other than a symbol of transition from paganism to Christianity, a sign of faith and conversion or promise of obedience” (317).

Whoever would explain this phrase properly, Wielenga insists, “must consider the form from the situation in which it emerged and regard it against the background of the covenant view that it encompassed” (317). The situation out of which the form emerged was the Reformation’s and ultimately the Synod of Dordt’s teaching of salvation by sovereign and particular grace, a salvation governed by the truth of election and reprobation. Whoever will understand the form’s covenantal doctrine and will be faithful to it cannot espouse a covenantal doctrine that contradicts and ultimately overthrows the Canons’ teaching about sovereign grace, that God is gracious to his elect people alone. In the preaching of the gospel that precedes the sacrament and in the administration of the sacrament itself, God does not offer or promise grace to the reprobate, much less incorporate them into his covenant. That situation out of which the form came gave rise to the doctrine of the covenant found in the form. This doctrine Wielenga explains by quoting Herman Bavinck: “Election and church, the internal and external side of the covenant…held together as much as possible” (316). Wielenga explains this as the position of those “who sought as long and as closely as possible to maintain the unity of election and covenant (315). Covenant controlled by election is the covenantal doctrine of the baptism form. The question of one’s doctrine of the covenant is ultimately not a question only of a covenantal doctrine but a question of the doctrine of grace and the truth of God. Is the grace of God and thus also the God of that grace a failure who promises to all and fails to come through for many? Or is he the sovereign God of scripture who sits in the heavens and does all his pleasure?

I do not pretend that Wielenga confesses with perfect clarity all the points of doctrine about the covenant as they are now confessed in the Protestant Reformed Churches. The doctrine of the covenant has been developed since Wielenga, particularly through the fierce battle for the truth of sovereign grace in the covenant that was waged in the late forties and early fifties in the Protestant Reformed denomination against the very view of the covenant that Wielenga calls Arminian, that the promise of God is made to all the baptized. By means of that painful controversy the “unhappy and largely infertile baptismal dispute” and the “wicked confusion,” which it created for centuries in Reformed churches and which is noted and lamented by Wielenga, was settled and the truth won (321). The current unhappy dispute that exists and the wicked confusion that are being created today can be settled in no other way than by adopting the covenantal view of the form: the covenant is controlled by election.

No honest reader can possibly read this book and suppose anything else than that this basic doctrine of the covenant taught in the Protestant Reformed Churches is the basic doctrine of the baptism form and of the worthies who adopted it. One might disagree with it, but let him be honest and say that, as Wielenga exhorts. Any other view of “sanctified in Christ” than that espoused by Wielenga, Kuyper, and Bavinck and their spiritual heirs, who teach that the words mean internal sanctification of the elect children of believers, is “out of place in the baptism form and is also not in keeping with the doctrine of the covenant that predominated in the church of the Reformation” (326).

May the commentary serve the promotion of the covenantal theology of the Reformation and of the Reformed fathers, and let the reader judge whether his or her theology is Reformed, like that of the baptism form.

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Rev. Nathan Langerak is pastor of the Protestant Reformed Church in Crete, Illinois. Rev. Langerak was asked by the RFPA to write a book review on this title.

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Book Review (Part 1)

Book Review (Part 2)

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Book Review: The Reformed Baptism Form (2)

The Reformed Baptism Form: A Commentary, B. Wielenga, trans. Annemie Godbehere, ed. David J. Engelsma. Reformed Free Publishing Association, 2016, 425 pages. Reviewed by Rev. Nathan J. Langerak.

For those who still love the truth of the covenant in the baptism form, the translation and publication of this commentary are significant. The commentary can be read with great profit. Wielenga in the main is sound in his exposition of the baptism form. Take for example his exposition of the form’s teaching of the antithesis: By his being incorporated into Christ, of which baptism is sign and seal, the world has become his enemy and he has become enemy of the world. The water of baptism was a sign to him of an irreconcilable antithesis (245). This thrills and instructs the Reformed believer. Throughout Wielenga gives new life to old, familiar phrases that, if they have not bred contempt through their familiarity, are frequently read over without much thought. His practical warnings against using baptism out of custom—parents who are so concerned about the baptism gown but do not exchange a single word about the significance of the sacrament—and against parents who wait for relatives and put off the sacrament so long that the baptized child might well reach up to shake the baptizing minister’s hand should be taken to heart and not rejected out of hand as mere opinion from a bygone era. Without doubt, the lover of Reformed covenantal doctrine who reads this commentary will come away with a new appreciation for and many fresh insights into the language of the form.

Once or twice Wielenga strays from the language of the form and gives his opinions. Then Wielenga makes statements with which the Protestant Reformed Churches and any right-thinking Reformed man would strongly disagree. Wielenga writes about Esau and God’s covenant, “The promise and seal in baptism of the washing away of sins through Jesus Christ was also to the Edomite, but he simply disregarded its admonition…God established the covenant with him also, but he brusquely broke this covenant” (54–55). This is bad and an anomaly in his commentary. Indeed, just prior to this statement and throughout the commentary, he makes clear that the object of the promise of baptism is the elect. In another instance when he explains the upbringing of children, he strays into the error of common grace: “Clothing, cleaning, taking care of the young child are outside the promise of baptism. They are all based on creation, not on re-creation. The life of human beings, as long as they have not come to the years of discretion, reveals itself exclusively as an animal life, which belongs to the realm of common grace” (350).

These stumbles bring up a particularly helpful feature of the commentary, the editor’s footnotes. Wielenga included some footnotes in his commentary. The translator provides a few footnotes. The editor includes many more. The footnotes are a worthy, worthwhile addition to the commentary. These notes are of differing kinds. In some the editor explains some obscure Dutch phrase, idiom, or person. In others, and these are by far the most helpful, the editor comments on the covenantal theology taught by Wielenga, making clear the issues and how they bear today on questions regarding the covenant. Adding to the value of the notes is that in many of them the editor does his own original translation work or brings his knowledge of the covenantal questions and contemporary controversies to bear on the issues raised by Wielenga. For instance, when the editor responds to Wielenga’s comment about the promise being made to Esau, he translates from Kuyper’s untranslated work, The Doctrine of the Covenants. Kuyper clearly contradicts the position espoused by Wielenga: “The covenant of grace is absolutely not an uncertain covenant, but on the contrary an absolutely certain covenant that only and exclusively has the elect in view.” Kuyper also criticizes as “Arminian” the idea that the promise of baptism is given to all the baptized children (57). In other notes the editor points the reader to helpful resources for further study. The notes are an invaluable aide for the reader. They allow him to grasp easily the arguments in more difficult places and point him to the contemporary relevance of the baptism form and its doctrine.

...to be continued

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Rev. Nathan Langerak is pastor of the Protestant Reformed Church in Crete, Illinois. Rev. Langerak was asked by the RFPA to write a book review on this title.

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Book Review (Part 1)

Book Review (Part 3)

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Book Review: The Reformed Baptism Form (1)

The Reformed Baptism Form: A Commentary, B. Wielenga, trans. Annemie Godbehere, ed. David J. Engelsma. Reformed Free Publishing Association, 2016, 425 pages. Reviewed by Rev. Nathan J. Langerak.

The Reformed Free Publishing Association must be commended for publishing an English translation of the valuable commentary on the Reformed baptism form by Dutch, Reformed minister Bastiaan Wielenga. The original work was a thorough examination of the Reformed baptism form used by Reformed churches in the administration of baptism. He wrote the commentary in the first decades of the twentieth century. The work long existed in only its original Dutch. Thanks to the work of the translator, editor, and publisher the English-speaking church world can now read and profit from Wielenga’s excellent commentary.

If she were alive today, I would give Annemie Godbehere my hearty thanks for applying her considerable translation skills to this book. This is Dutch theological writing that is worthy of the time and effort she expended on it. As the English poet Ben Jonson wrote, “Such bookes deserve translators of like coate, as was the genius wherewith they were wrote. And this hath met that one.”

Wielenga, a disciple of Abraham Kuyper, taught the Reformed truth of sovereign grace. Wielenga wrote for his people not for scholars. He wrote to edify the churches not to garner laurels from his colleagues. His commentary is clear and faithful in its exposition, simple and poetic in its expressions, moving in its exhortations, scholarly in its comment and controversy, and generally sound in theology. All of these come out clearly in an English translation that is both accessible to the average reader and free of Dutch idioms that frequently can jar English sensibilities and obscure the plain meaning. Because of this the book reads well, and the chapters of this substantial book fly by as one reads.

I commend the editor for his excellent work in bringing the translation to completion and seeing it through to publication. There is an obvious attention to detail that went into and must go into publishing a book, a large book, a theological work, and besides all that a translation. There is an evident concern for the reader that he be able to follow the argument. His skill with the Dutch and thorough acquaintance with the subject matter are all easily discerned.

This extensive labor by translator and editor is enhanced by the attractive hardcover, gilded lettering, sturdy binding, fine fonts, and easy layout of the book by the publisher.

The publication of this commentary comes at an important time in Reformed church history. Many Reformed churches are overrun by false covenantal theology, which is being and has been used to overthrow the gospel of saving grace and the salvation of many. That covenantal theology at its essence teaches that God makes his covenant with all the children of believers, elect and reprobate. Its proponents hate predestination and now have revived the old Arminian war against predestination, especially and emphatically denying that predestination must govern the covenant of grace. Besides the gross false doctrine involved in their erroneous covenantal theology, the end result of this doctrine is that the gospel truth of justification by faith alone is overthrown and the damning heresy of justification by faith and works is taught.

This commentary shows conclusively that there is only one covenantal doctrine of the Reformed baptism form, of the worthies who wrote and adopted the form, and of the churches that used it. The Reformed churches early taught this doctrine as their official doctrine of the covenant. The form is the oldest Reformed creed, and as such it carries great weight concerning the question of what covenantal doctrine is Reformed. The commentary proves that the Reformed covenantal doctrine is the doctrine that teaches that election governs the covenant and the promise of the covenant. The sovereign God of the covenant makes his covenant only with the elect children of believers. He incorporates them only into Christ Jesus so that they are sanctified in him, gives to them alone the promise of salvation in Christ, seals that promise to them by baptism, and effectually works that salvation in them until he presents them in heaven among the assembly of the elect in life eternal.

The commentary also demonstrates that this covenantal doctrine, which is the only one that harmonizes with the Reformed doctrine of salvation taught in the three forms of unity, was under constant assault from Baptists and especially from the abysmal Puritan theology that infiltrated the Dutch churches from England, especially through William Ames, Willem Teelinck, and other theologians of the nadere reformatie, whose basic and serious theological error is that assurance is not of the essence of faith. This false theology became lodged in the Dutch church world and waged constant warfare on the doctrine of the covenant taught in the baptism form, insisting always that it is Reformed and seeking to claim the distinguished Reformed pedigree of the baptism form.

The conflict became sharpest in the practical question of whether parents were to regard their children as regenerate or unregenerate. That conflict frequently masqueraded as a conflict over presupposed regeneration. The proponents of Puritan theology often accused the Reformed of the error of presupposed regeneration for teaching that the parent must raise his child as a regenerated believer and that God ordinarily regenerates the children of believers in infancy. Behind these disputes, which were cast in the form of what view of their baptized children parents ought to take, were deeply theological issues about the nature of the covenant of grace, the objects of God’s promise, and the reality of God’s saving work in the hearts of infants, who without their knowledge are received unto grace in Christ. Wielenga shows that this strange doctrine has no basis in the covenantal view of the baptism form.

The form’s covenantal doctrine is still under relentless assault today. The present-day disciples of the nadere reformatie and of the Puritans in their covenantal theology still plague the Reformed covenantal scene and still seek to latch onto the form for support and standing for their erroneous theology. In many places the covenantal view of the baptism form has been cravenly surrendered to its foes or mercilessly smothered by its enemies and replaced by a covenant of conditional promises made with elect and reprobate alike.

Perhaps this dreadful reality of the state of covenantal theology in the Reformed church world explains the astounding silence and lack of fanfare at the occasion of this significant publication, especially among the churches of NAPARC and their theologians, which have the baptism form as part of their Reformed heritage. Apparently, there is nothing to celebrate, because even Wielenga’s comparatively mild explanation of the form’s covenantal doctrine is far from the covenant doctrine of the majority of apostatizing Reformed churches and theologians. These churches have, officially in many cases, repudiated this covenantal doctrine and the creedal doctrine of grace with which it harmonizes.

...to be continued.

________________

Rev. Nathan Langerak is pastor of the Protestant Reformed Church in Crete, Illinois. Rev. Langerak was asked by the RFPA to write a book review on this title.

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Book Review (Part 2)

Book Review (Part 3)

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In Review: Called to Watch for Christ's Return

Called to Watch for Christ’s Return, by Martyn McGeown. Jenison, MI: Reformed Free Publishing Association, 2016. Pp. 286. [Reviewed by Rev. Ryan Barnhill]

Called to Watch for Christ’s Return began as a series of sermons preached by the author on the Olivet Discourse, a speech in which “Jesus proclaims his second coming, an event with which history will come to a dramatic and sudden close” (ix). These sermons covered Matthew 24:1-31, dealing with the signs of Christ’s coming—deceivers, the preaching of the gospel, the great tribulation, and more. These sermons also dealt with Matthew 24:32-25:46, treating the subject of watching for Christ’s return—the unknown time of his return, Christ’s coming as in the days of Noah, parables associated with his coming, and more. These sermons comprise the content of the book. We are thankful that these fine sermons have reached a wider audience through their publication in book form.

The main strength of Called to Watch for Christ’s Return is its exegetical precision and richness. The material is always mined from the text. Concepts are carefully defined and developed, and difficult passages are lucidly explained. Especially does this clarity of exegesis become important in passages that deal with such matters as the abomination of desolation (Matthew 24:15-20) and the unknown time of Christ’s return (Matthew 24:36). Such passages are often misinterpreted, leading to a host of errors. Thus, proper, sober interpretation is critical in these kinds of difficult passages.McGeown’s work is a needed and timely contribution to the study of eschatology (the end times), for two reasons. First, there are so many today teaching unbiblical ideas about the end of the world. Called to Watch for Christ’s Return interacts with these systems of thought, dismantles them, and plainly sets forth the biblical, Reformed, amillennial position. Second, we live in the last days, and that alone makes this book important. We must know what to expect in these last and evil days, we must be admonished to watch for the coming of our Lord, and we must be comforted.

McGeown’s work is necessarily polemical. That is, it is a work which exposes and refutes the errors. Advocates of both postmillennialism and premillennial dispensationalism seek to find evidence for their views in Matthew 24 and 25. Postmillennialism teaches that the Olivet Discourse—at least some of it, if not all of it—is a reference exclusively to the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70. This interpretation is fundamental to the postmillennial position, lest the events of which Jesus speaks interfere with postmillennialism’s future golden age. In contrast, premillennial dispensationalists claim that the Olivet Discourse refers exclusively to the future—not to AD 70, but to a future Jerusalem and a future temple. Negatively, the author exposes these errors, and demonstrates how a sober interpretation of Jesus’ teaching pulls the rug out from under these millennial systems. Positively, McGeown sees Matthew 24 and 25 as a blending of the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70, on the one hand, and Jesus’ second coming, on the other hand. The destruction of Jerusalem is a type or picture of Jesus’ second coming. This view, the amillennial view, and this view alone, does justice to Jesus’ words.

In a book on watching for Christ’s return, one would expect not only polemics, but also pointed instruction and warning for believers. After all, we are all prone to spiritual slumber instead of watching for Christ’s return. The command of scripture to watch for our Lord’s coming is a weighty command, and the author conveys it well: “Watch! Christ is coming. Let us not be found sleeping when he returns, but looking for his return. Let that watchfulness begin today if it has not been our habit before, so whether he comes on the clouds or calls us in death, we will be ready to meet him” (214). Called to Watch for Christ’s Return is a stirring call to stay vigilant in these last and evil days.

The book is also comforting and warm, an approach that arises from the author’s pastoral heart for God’s people who live in the perilous days prior to Jesus’ coming. This warm tone characterizes the entirety of the book, and climaxes in the last chapter; any reader’s heart will thrill in reading this last chapter, which explains, in part, the glories of the new heavens and the new earth. Read and meditate upon this breathtaking description of heaven: “Death, sin, and the curse will be absent—forever banished from the new creation. We will enjoy spiritual joy and satisfaction in abundance, for we will enter into the fullness of our inheritance. Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit! That is life, eternal life, life that lasts forever and has no end. Life with Christ. Life in the presence of God, fellowshipping with him. That is blessedness and joy! That is worth waiting for! Do not fear the judgment day. Do not be weary with watching and waiting. But pray, even for that great day” (280).

Our Lord is coming. Watch. Watch—by reading. Called to Watch for Christ’s Return, as a faithful exposition of Jesus’ words, will instruct you, arm you against the errors, comfort you, and quicken your hope. Come, Lord Jesus, yea, come quickly. 

 

If you have not yet ordered your copy of this book, do so today! 

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