By Grace: Mighty Grace, Abiding Grace

For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God.”

— Ephesians 2:8


Mighty grace.

For grace is also the power of God by which we are delivered from the dominion of sin and death.

Reconciliation alone is no salvation, nor could it possibly lead to salvation if the operation of grace ceased at the cross. It must be applied, so that from darkness we are translated into life, from sin into righteousness, and with cords of love we are united again with the heart of God.

How could this be accomplished?

Will we say that from the cross onward salvation is the work of man? That God has done his part, and now man must realize what God has accomplished? Or will we allow the grace of God and the will of man to mix, harmoniously and sweetly to work together to perfect the salvation manifested on the cross of Christ? Will we say that on God’s part he is willing to save all men, that he offers the reconciliation accomplished on the cross to everyone with the intention to save everyone, and that for the rest it depends upon the choice of man’s will?

God forbid!

The riches of his grace must be revealed.

By grace are we saved.

Through faith we are saved. It is not on condition of faith, a condition that man must fulfill if God is to bestow the blessings of salvation on him. There are no conditions unto salvation at all. It is not because of faith, as if faith were the new work required to obtain salvation. There is no work unto salvation—not even faith or the work of faith.

For by grace are we saved, through faith.

Faith is the means unto salvation.

It is the spiritual tie that unites us with Christ, the spiritual faculty whereby we know him, taste him, long for him, trust in him, rely on him, appropriate him, live out of him as the young tree draws its life-giving sap out of the ground through its roots.

Through faith.

It is God’s means, a means of grace, a power that is wrought in our inmost hearts by the mighty grace of God. By grace you are saved, through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God.

By grace he unites us with Christ.

By the power of grace he quickens us together with him, making us new creatures. By grace he calls us, powerfully, irresistibly, sweetly, out of darkness into the light of the gospel. By grace he implants the faith in us whereby we embrace the Christ of God and all his benefits.

It is not of ourselves; it is God’s gift.

Salvation is of the Lord.

Wonderful grace.

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Abiding grace.

For we are saved.

Because it is by pure and sovereign grace that we are saved, we will surely be saved even unto the end of eternal glory.

Always salvation is of the Lord; never does it become of us. Always it is by grace; never does it become of works. Even as it is in free, divine, absolutely sovereign grace that he chose us and ordained us to become conformed according to the image of his Son; and even as it was by that same grace that he reconciled us unto himself through the death of his Son; and even as it was pure grace that wrought the faith within us whereby we lay hold on the Christ of God; even so it is by grace that we are preserved unto the final salvation that will be revealed in the last time.

By grace we are preserved.

Through the power of that gracious preservation we persevere.

For on the one hand, even our perseverance is not by works, nor on account of works, nor by virtue of our cooperation with the grace of God. It is of pure grace. Yet on the other hand, this preserving grace of God is not a power that remains external to us, so that we are passively, unconsciously perhaps, carried into glory. It is a power within us that causes us to hold on to the God of our salvation.

Grace preserves, and we persevere.

Who shall separate us?

Unchangeable grace!

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This is the third and final part of Chapter 19: By Grace taken from the book All Glory to the Only Good God by Herman Hoeksema, edited by David J. Engelsma.

Previous articles: By Grace,   By Grace: Blessed Grace

 

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By Grace: Blessed Grace

For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God.”

— Ephesians 2:8

 

Blessed grace.

For by grace are we reconciled unto God.

The same grace that motivated the Most High to ordain us unto salvation, according to which it was his purpose to make us lovely even as he is lovely, explains why he reconciled us unto himself through the death of his Son.

Saved we are by grace.

This means that we were lifted from the deepest depth of sin and shame, of guilt and condemnation, of corruption and death, to the highest possible bliss of eternal righteousness and life and glory.

Saved we are.

Created we were with all the elect in the first man Adam, who was made a living soul; who had life, but not in himself; who lived without being the lord of life; whose glory was corruptible, whose righteousness could be lost, whose life was mortal, and who was of the earth earthly. In him we violated God’s covenant and became guilty, liable to death and damnation, subject to corruption, children of wrath. Our condition was hopeless as far as we were concerned. For in Adam we could sin, but we could never pay a ransom for our sin; we could die in him, but we had no power to regain life in God’s favor; we could turn away from the Fount of life, but never could we return to him. We could only increase the guilt of our sin every day, through every word we spoke, by every deed we performed, with every breath we took. Enemies of God we were, hating him and hating one another.

Saved we are.

Saved by grace, by free and sovereign grace.

For even then, when we were dead in sin, objects of God’s righteous wrath, who could never be restored to the favor of God unless we would willingly take the way through the depths of hell, he loved us and reconciled us unto himself.

Us he reconciled. Do not express this differently. Do not say that he reconciled himself to us, for to reconcile is to restore a relation of love and faith and friendship that has been violated and broken, the relation of the covenant. On his part that relation was never violated. He is the eternal I AM, who changes not. With an eternal, immutable, sovereign love he loved his own, even when they were rebels. Us he reconciled. Us he restored to that state in which we were the proper objects of his favor and blessing, the state of eternal righteousness.

For such is reconciliation: restoration to favor in the way of perfect justice.

Justice required satisfaction, and satisfaction of the justice of God with respect to our sin could be accomplished only by a voluntary act of perfect obedience even unto death. Not merely to suffer the punishment for sin is satisfaction. Even the damned in hell suffer the agonies of death, yet they do not atone for their sins. God demands that we love him. This means that the sinner who violated God’s law and trampled underfoot his covenant must love God in his righteous wrath, love him in death and hell, if ever the sinner is to atone.

This act of perfect obedience we could never perform.

Reconciled we are by grace.

For when in sovereign grace he chose us and ordained us to be conformed according to the image of his Son, he chose us in him. By grace he ordained his Son to be the head of the church, to become flesh, to assume the burden of our sin and guilt, to enter into our deepest woe, to become sin for us, so that we could become the righteousness of God in him.

By grace he was sent into the world.

By grace he chose the way of suffering and death, the way through the depth of hell, there to lay upon God’s altar the sacrifice that would be sufficient to satisfy the justice of God.

God was in Christ reconciling the world unto himself.

That he could show forth the riches of his grace.

For by grace we are saved.

By grace only.

....to be continued.

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This is the second part of Chapter 19: By Grace taken from the book All Glory to the Only Good God by Herman Hoeksema, edited by David J. Engelsma.

Previous article: By Grace

 

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By Grace

 

 

 

 

For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God.”

— Ephesians 2:8

 

FOR!

Let us not overlook this little but significant word.

For by grace are ye saved. The conjunction presents the truth expressed as a reason for something else, an explanation of something that has been mentioned in the context. It informs us that this statement does not stand alone, that it is not an isolated truth that one can accept or not accept without much effect for the rest of the content of his faith, a truth that one can either deny or confess as of little or no practical significance and importance.

For by grace are ye saved.

It means that salvation by grace and by grace only is an indispensable condition for something else, a ground, a foundation, without which that something else cannot stand. Denying it is like destroying the foundation of an edifice: you pull down the whole structure. It is like cutting away at the root of a tree: you kill the tree.

That for which this statement is the reason can be read in the immediately preceding verse: “That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus.”

God is rich in mercy.

And he saved us. Even when we were dead in sins, he quickened us together with Christ, and raised us up together with him, and made us sit together in heavenly places.

All this in order to show the exceeding riches of his grace. Through our salvation the riches of his grace must be displayed.

But how is this possible unless salvation is by grace?

By grace only.

In grace your salvation has its source.

For the eternal fountainhead whence the whole blessed stream of your salvation gushes forth is sovereign election.

Chosen you are unto salvation before the foundation of the world. And the motive of God’s election of his people is grace—sovereign, absolutely free grace.

Pure grace.

Nothing else determined God in predestinating you unto conformity to the image of his Son. There are those who find in man the reason and the determining factor of God’s election. They too would emphasize that salvation is all of grace, not of works. It is grace that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, and grace that you may become partaker of the blessings of salvation in him. They speak too of election unto glory. Only the elect actually become heirs of eternal salvation. But election? According to them, is it also of mere and pure and sovereign grace? Ah, no! It is not of grace, say they, but of works. Yes, of works, though they themselves would use other terms to describe their view of election. Is it not an election of works that teaches that God found or foresaw in the elect a willingness to accept Christ and the terms of his salvation, in distinction from others whom he foreknew as stubborn and unwilling to come to Christ?

Then it is not of grace. Then it was man, his goodness, the foreseen choice of his will to receive Christ that determined God’s choice. Then it is not grace that makes the elect acceptable to and beloved by God in his eternal counsel, but it is some element of goodness in man that induced the Most High to prefer him above others. When God shows forth the riches of his grace in the salvation of the elect, they will always be mixed with this excellence of man.

But God forbid!

For you are saved by grace.

This implies that your salvation is of God from beginning to end, from its eternal source in the counsel of God to its final manifestation in glory in the day of Christ.

Grace ordained you unto salvation. This signifies not that God’s election is arbitrary, but that it has its reason and motive in God alone. Of him are all things. God is gracious. Full of grace is he in himself, apart from any relationship with or attitude toward the creature, for he is good, the sole good, the implication of all infinite perfections. As the supreme and only and infinitely good, he is the perfection of all beauty. He is pleasant and altogether lovely, and there are pleasures at his right hand forevermore. Eternally he is attracted by his own beauty, for he is God triune, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. Of the Father, through the Son, in the Spirit, God knows himself, beholds himself, his grace and beauty, and inclines unto himself in eternal and infinite divine favor.

This infinite loveliness and divine pleasure in his own beauty is God’s grace.

By grace you are chosen.

By the knowledge of and attraction to the loveliness of his own perfection, God was divinely urged to ordain his people—a people who would be perfect as he is perfect, lovely as he is lovely, for whom he has foreknown, them he also did predestinate to be conformed according to the image of his Son—a people upon whom he looked with eternal good pleasure, a people in whom he would show forth the infinite riches of his grace, a people who would taste that the Lord is good.

For by grace are you saved.

....to be continued

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This is the first part of 'Chapter 19: By Grace' taken from the book All Glory to the Only Good God by Herman Hoeksema, edited by David J. Engelsma.

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John Piper Denies Justification by Faith Alone

John Piper is a well-known (celebrity) pastor and widely thought of as a leader in Reformed circles.[1] Thus, any subtle errors that he teaches are all the more dangerous and in need of exposure. This is even more the case when his errors pervert justification by faith alone, one of the cardinal doctrines of scripture. Those who seek to learn from Piper must be aware that Piper subtly denies the doctrine of justification by faith alone in a way that aligns him with the deadly heresy of the federal vision that is sweeping through Reformed and Presbyterian churches today. Piper recently betrayed his heretical doctrine of justification by faith and works in his foreword to a book by Tom Schreiner on justification. In the foreword Piper agreed with Schreiner’s controversial and heretical language (I paraphrase), “one becomes right with God by faith alone, but does not attain heaven by faith alone.”

Here are some links for those who are interested in the mini-controversy caused by Piper’s comments.

  1. A defense of Piper by Mark Jones: Jones mentions that he is aware of criticism of Piper’s foreword but does not provide any references.
  2. A thorough rejection of Piper’s teaching by R. Scott Clark.
  3. Another defense of Piper by Rick Phillips.

Let me get right to the heart of the issue.[2] Piper speaks about what is sometimes distinguished as initial and final justification. Piper cleverly avoids using the term justification. Because if he did use the term he would have to admit that he believes in initial justification is by faith alone but final justification by faith and works. Thus, Piper denies justification by faith alone. It really is that simple. Piper’s error is identical to the error of Richard Gaffin and others who have defended and taught the federal vision heresy now for several decades.

The basic error of Piper is that he denies that the ground for being “right with God” is the meritorious work of Jesus Christ alone. In final justification God’s declaration that the sinner is “not guilty” and “righteous” is announced only if he has fulfilled the condition of doing good works. So Piper clearly denies that Christ’s work alone is the ground for final justification.

But even in initial justification Piper’s teaching presents faith as a ground for God’s act of justifying a sinner. In Reformed orthodoxy justification by faith alone does not mean that a sinner is declared right with God because he believes. Faith is not a condition upon which justification depends. Rather, faith is the only instrument by which a sinner appropriates the perfect righteousness of Christ. Therefore, the doctrine of justification by faith alone, properly understood, means that Jesus Christ’s work is the only ground for the justification of a sinner, and faith is the instrument through which the sinner receives Christ’s righteousness.  But Piper speaks of faith as a “condition” for being right with God. He writes, “There are other conditions for attaining heaven, but no others [besides faith] for entering a right relationship to God.” If Piper would see that faith is never the ground for justification but only the way in which a sinner receives the righteousness of Jesus Christ, he would understand that there is no way that works could ever enter into either initial or final justification.  Piper’s view that faith is the condition for being right with God (initial justification) opens the door for him to bring works in as a ground for attaining heaven (final justification).  

At the very least those who are defending Piper should admit that the fact such defenses of his foreword are necessary indicate that Piper expressed himself in a confusing way. And this confusion is indefensible. Why is it so difficult for Reformed theologians to maintain that justification is by faith alone, based on the work of Christ alone, by God’s grace alone? And why is it so difficult to conclude that anyone who creates confusion about these issues denies justification by faith alone? If Piper held to the orthodox view of justification by faith alone he would be able to express himself simply and clearly. There is no reason for confusion here. This truth of scripture is clearly stated in our Reformed confessions. But Piper does not use the language of our Reformed Confessions. Thus one can only conclude that Piper denies justification by faith alone.

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[1] John Piper is NOT Reformed, as is irrefutably explained here: http://heidelblog.net/2013/11/is-john-piper-reformed-or-holding-the-coalition-together/.

[2] In his defense of Piper, Rick Phillips takes a position that disagrees completely with my analysis of Piper’s statements.  I have decided not to respond to Phillips for the sake of keeping this post brief.  As evidence that my understanding of Piper’s teaching on justification is correct I cite this critique of Piper by John Robbins.

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Our blog writer is Rev. Clayton Spronk, pastor of Faith Protestant Reformed Church in Jenison, MI. If there is a topic you'd like Rev. Spronk to address, please contact us

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