Synod 2018: Obedience and covenant fellowship

The editorial in this special Synod issue focuses on one particular issue faced by Synod 2018, namely, the place of obedience (good works) in the believer’s experience of covenant fellowship.

The issue of the place of good works in the covenant life is important because the covenant and salvation are inseparable. A Reformed man will confess concerning salvation that 1) it is all of God; 2) salvation is found in Christ alone; 3) God sovereignly saves His elect through faith in Christ alone. Likewise a Reformed man will say that 1) the covenant is all of God; 2) the covenant is established with Christ and therefore with those chosen in Him; 3) God effectually brings His elect into the covenant and gives access to fellowship with Him through faith in Christ.

—Read more in Synod 2018: Obedience and covenant fellowship by Prof. Russell Dykstra in the upcoming July 2018 issue of the Standard Bearer.

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The Question of the Necessity of Good Works (8): Uniquely Reformed Heresy

The Reformed faith teaches that the sinner is saved and delivered from his misery merely of grace, through Christ, without any merit of the sinner. The Reformed faith also insists that the same sinner who is delivered from his misery without his works—so that his salvation is not by works—must do good works.

Two things must be noted here. First, the believing sinner is saved, saved unto eternal life, without ever performing a single good work. His salvation consists in his justification in his conscience by faith alone, both the remission of his sins, original and actual, and the imputation of Christ’s perfect righteousness to him. Second, the justified sinner is also renewed by the grace of God. It is inconceivable that one whom Christ has redeemed and delivered remains in his sins; he must be renewed. The very righteousness of Christ imputed to the redeemed sinner demands this renewal. This renewal by the grace of God is the necessity of good works. From this follow other considerations regarding the necessity of good works: a testimony of gratitude and praise to God, assurance of faith by its fruits, and to win the neighbor to Christ.

The Reformed answer to the question of the necessity of good work harmonizes with the Reformed teaching of the doctrines of grace. The truth of the Reformed explanation of the necessity of good works and the doctrines of grace of which it is part must be applied to the doctrine of the covenant. The application of the doctrine that salvation is by grace alone and not by works to the doctrine of the covenant demands a simple equation in order to protect that doctrine of the covenant from heresy. That harmonization involves this simple equation: the covenant is salvation. Whatever is true of God’s gracious salvation of the sinner is true of God’s covenant. So if God in salvation only gives grace to the elect, so also in the covenant. If God in salvation says not by works, but by grace alone, so also in the covenant. Also, nothing may be taught regarding God’s work of salvation in the covenant without harmonizing that doctrine with the Reformed doctrine of salvation.

To that simple equation that the covenant is salvation must be added another: the covenant is fellowship with God. The covenant is not unto fellowship, unto salvation, or unto the experience of salvation, for that makes the covenant a means to an end. The covenant is fellowship with God. Thus the experience of the child of God in the covenant is fellowship with God. Having the covenant, he has fellowship with God. The nature of that fellowship with God is intimacy. The covenantal fellowship with God is an intimate covenantal fellowship. Having the covenant, then, the child of God also has intimacy with God. Having the covenant and covenantal fellowship with God is the experience of his salvation.

This covenant with God is an unconditional covenant. This means that fellowship and intimacy with God in the covenant are not dependent upon some work of the sinner. They are not “contingent” upon something the sinner does. That is always what a condition is. A condition is some work, or act, of the sinner upon which God, the gifts of God, or the covenant of God depends.

The orthodox doctrine of the necessity of good works harmonizes with the truth of the unconditional covenant. That orthodox explanation of the necessity of good works gives all the glory to God for the works of the sinner and properly places those works in the sinner’s salvation as the fruits of faith and not as an instrument, or a means, to obtain salvation or any benefit of the covenant. As a consequence, this explanation of the necessity of good works does not view good works as means to obtain the fellowship of God but as the way of life in which the justified and renewed sinner enjoys his life of fellowship with God.

In the way of sin there is no enjoyment of fellowship, or intimate fellowship, with God. The reason is not because by his works the believer obtains the fellowship or because those works are necessary in order to have or to lay hold on that fellowship, but because in that life of sin the believer interrupts the exercise of faith and loses the sense of God’s favor that he has by faith and the operation of the Spirit (Canons 5.5).

The fellowship is enjoyed again when God renews the believer to repentance, faith, and the favor of God in his conscience and experience based on the perfect work of Christ, and the believer again works out his salvation with fear and trembling by that faith (Canons 5.7).

The believer’s works of faith are the fruits of God’s saving work in the believer in the covenant that God establishes with him. In that life of good works the believer enjoys fellowship with God as the consequence and effect of that saving work in him, both to justify the believer and to renew him to that life of good works, that is, to work in him both to will and to do of God’s good pleasure, and as a consequence of which the believer works out his own salvation with fear and trembling. Those works are not instruments, or means, to obtain the fellowship, but they are the way along which the believer enjoys God as his God.

The believer has the covenant by faith, by faith alone. The believer has the experience of covenantal fellowship with God by faith, by faith alone. He does not have them by means of a working, obedient faith, so that faith and the works of faith obtain with God. Rather, the faith by which he has the covenant is also the faith that in the covenant works by love and is the way in which the believer enjoys God as his God.

The doctrine of the covenant has been plagued by the heresy of the conditional covenant for hundreds of years in Reformed churches. This heretical doctrine of the covenant was rejected by the Synod of Dordt in its rejection of Arminianism. The Arminians had a covenantal doctrine. The fathers of Dordt defined and rejected this doctrine when they wrote,

The Synod rejects the errors of those…who teach that the new covenant of grace, which God the Father, through the mediation of the death of Christ, made with man, does not herein consist that we by faith, inasmuch as it accepts the merits of Christ, are justified before God and saved, but in the fact that God, having revoked the demand of perfect obedience of the law, regards faith itself and the obedience of faith, although imperfect, as the perfect obedience of the law, and does esteem it worthy of the reward of eternal life through grace. (Canons 2.error 4)

Basic then to the Arminian conception of the covenant is that works are necessary to obtain the fellowship of God in the covenant of grace. Works obtain that in this life and in eternity. Works are no longer fruits of the faith that keeps in communion with Christ in all the blessings of the covenant earned by Christ, but works are instruments along with faith.

The doctrine of the covenant does not give the Reformed believer the right suddenly to become Arminian in his theology. This is what the federal vision is presently doing with the doctrine of the covenant. It is using the doctrine of the conditional covenant to overthrow the whole Reformed confession of the believer’s gracious salvation: grace to elect and reprobate, a universal atonement, works for justification, a conditional promise, an offer of grace, and the falling away of saints.

The theological instrument by which the federal vision is accomplishing this is the concept of an obedient faith. Taking the insistence of the apostle Paul in Galatians 5:6, that “in Jesus Christ neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision; but faith which worketh by love,” the federal vision is teaching that what obtains, or avails, for salvation now and in eternity is faith and the works of faith. The believer maintains and perfects the covenant of grace by his faith and the works of faith. He has fellowship with God in the covenant now and in eternity by a working faith, so that both faith and the works of faith maintain and ultimately perfect that covenant. For the federal vision it is not faith that avails for the covenant, salvation, and eternal life—a faith that is not dead but works by love, but which avails apart from those works. But faith and the works of faith are what avails for the covenant, fellowship with God, and eternal life. The availing faith is a working faith, a sanctifying faith, an obedient faith that avails by its working sanctification and obedience, in order that the believer has God in the covenant as his God and receives the perfection of that covenant in heaven. Thus salvation—which is the covenant and the experience of fellowship with God in the covenant—is by a working, obedient faith, so that faith and the works of faith obtain for the believer.

Salvation, the experience of salvation, the covenant, the fellowship of God in the covenant, the experience of that fellowship—all of which are the same thing—are not by an obedient faith. They are by faith. Faith avails. Faith avails because faith rests and relies upon Christ crucified alone, faith keeps in communion with Christ in all his benefits. And faith avails because the righteousness of faith is the perfect righteousness of Christ that avails for eternal life. Because Christ obtained all of salvation by his death, there is nothing left for works to obtain. The faith that avails is a faith that works by love. But the working of faith by love is not that which avails or obtains. We have the Spirit by the hearing of faith and not by the works of the law (Gal. 3:2).

This truth regarding how believers have the covenant, the fellowship of God in the covenant, and the experience of fellowship with God in the covenant may not be obscured by ambiguous language. Especially this ambiguous language may not be used in a misguided and ill-informed attempt to impress the necessity of good works in the covenant, so that by means of it the impression is left, if the doctrine is not explicitly taught, that works are in fact necessary for salvation.

To this I will turn next time.

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This article was written by Rev. Nathan J. Langerak, pastor of the Protestant Reformed Church in Crete, Illinois. If you have a question or comment about this blog article for Rev. Langerak, please do so in the comment section.

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Previous articles in this series:

The Question of the Necessity of Good Works (1): A Proper Starting Point

The Question of the Necessity of Good Works (2): Justification by Faith Alone

The Question of the Necessity of Good Works (3): A Real Necessity

The Question of the Necessity of Good Works (4): The Renewal of the Sinner

The Question of the Necessity of Good Works (5): Testimony of Gratitude

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

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

 

Next article in series: The Question of the Necessity of Good Works (9): Clear Explanations

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The Justified Believer

 

“The just shall live by faith.”Romans 1:7 

Righteous, or just, by faith! 

This is indeed the heart of the gospel. The apostle is not ashamed of the gospel of Christ because it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth, to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. Imagine if this gospel were merely a general, well-meaning offer of salvation! Imagine if a sinner must contribute something to his salvation! Imagine if the love of God were universal and that this love of God were dependent upon a sinner's will so that the living God could be thwarted in his desire to save! This would mean that no sinner could ever be saved, that the house of our Father would remain forever closed and empty. Salvation, then, would be wholly impossible. 

But now we are righteous by faith. And faith always stands in scripture over against works. Faith is the gift of God. And because this faith is God's gift, and we are saved, righteous by faith, our salvation is sure. And therefore the apostle can say that he is not ashamed of the gospel of Christ because it is the power of God unto salvation. 

Indeed, we are just by faith, only by faith, by means of God's gift, through Christ Jesus, the God of our salvation.

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We read here of the just or righteous. The child of God is righteous or justified. How fascinating! Is there anything in the life, the conscious life of a believer that is more fascinating, more wonderful than his justification, that he is just or righteous before God? Indeed, the experience of this wonderful gift of divine grace has fascinated the church of God throughout the ages! 

We read: "The just shall live by faith." Two interpretations are possible of this expression. On the one hand, we can understand the expression, "by faith," with "shall live." Then we read: The just shall live by faith. This is the interpretation favored by our translation. However, the words, "by faith," can also be understood in connection with "just" or "righteous." Then we would read: he who is just by faith shall live. We choose the interpretation: the one who is just by faith shall live. We connect the words, "by faith," with "just." We believe that the context demands this interpretation. Had he not written in the first part of verse 17 that the righteousness of God, our righteousness which is of God, is revealed out of faith unto faith, so that faith is the exclusive sphere in which our righteousness is revealed and experienced by us? Paul, therefore, is emphasizing here that this righteousness before God is surely a righteousness which we receive by faith. Besides, this interpretation is also in harmony with the scriptural idea of "shall live." Paul does not mean to say that we shall live by faith. But he writes that he who is just by faith shall live, forever and in heavenly immortality. 

Literally we read here of the righteous one. 

The righteous is he who is judged by God to be in perfect harmony with his law and who is also righteous in his own consciousness. The Judge of all the earth declares that he sees no guilt in him, and also declares him worthy of life everlasting. This righteousness is a legal concept. We are judged to be free of guilt and declared to be heirs of everlasting life and glory. 

How unbelievably wonderful! 

Wonderful, first of all, because of us. Fact is, we are so evil and corrupt. How weak we are and frail in the spiritual sense of the word! And, God is holy and good and righteous! He is the Judge of all the earth. When he expresses a judgment it is a true judgment. How, then, can he say he sees no sin in us, when even we know that there is so much sin in us? Secondly, there is life all about us. How contrary is this judgment of the Lord to all we see and experience! We are in a valley of the shadow of death. God declares of us that we are righteous, and we die all the day long! The Lord visits tornadoes, earthquakes, pestilences upon the peoples of the earth, also wars and the destruction they leave in their wake, and yet we claim to be righteous, free from death and heirs of life and glory! Besides, all these things are of the Lord. The world, we know, always seeks a natural cause for all these calamities. God, however, visits his wrath upon the children of men because of their sins, and these men refuse to look for the cause in themselves and from God. What folly! Sickness and death, etc., are no accidents; they are of God. And we, too, are involved in these calamities. How wonderful, therefore, in the second place is this righteous judgment of God! Thirdly, how wonderful is this judgment of God because of God! He is the supreme Judge of all the earth. When he speaks and judges, that judgment is final. There can be no appeal to another or higher court; his judgment is final! As the rock, the I AM, the unchangeable Jehovah, he never changes his judgment, cannot change it, because it is true and he can never deny himself. Let us understand this. It is God who justifieth, Paul exclaims, who shall condemn! Where in all the universe can, or will, anyone be found to dispute, counter-act, annul this divine judgment of righteousness? Once righteous, we are righteous forever! Whatever may befall us, sickness or enemy or death, once justified, we are righteous forever; nothing will be able to separate us from the love of that Judge of all the earth! What a wonderful gift, this gift of divine righteousness!

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We read literally, he who is just out of faith shall live. To be just or righteous out of faith emphasizes the fact that this lives in the consciousness of the child of God. It means that I live out of faith, draw this justification out of faith. 

How vividly this lives in the consciousness of the child of God! How wonderful is this assurance for the afflicted, harassed child of God, as he is plagued and tormented by the consciousness of his sin and guilt! He realizes his sin and guilt, is conscious of the holiness and righteousness of God, that no sinner can ever return into the fellowship of God and of his covenant, and that he can never pay even one farthing of that debt. The fellowship of God which he craves lies hopelessly beyond and outside of his reach. And now the wonderful gospel truth is flashed into his tormented soul: fear not, ye weary pilgrim, thou art just by faith; you cannot and need not contribute toward your justification; Christ did it all. Believing, trusting not in oneself, but only in God through Christ, I am justified. 

Righteous out of faith—what does this mean? O, this does not mean that we justify ourselves by means of faith. This is Rome's accursed heresy. To them, faith is the means to do all kinds of good works; and the doing of these works justifies. Neither does this mean that faith is a condition for our righteousness. God, then, knows that we can never pay for all our sin and guilt. Christ died for everybody. The Lord now accepts our faith as a substitute. We are justified if we merely believe, acknowledge our sin and the righteousness of God. However, there is no substitute for atonement; there is no substitute for the payment of all our sin and guilt. 

Now we understand what it means to be just out of faith. Christ suffered and died for all his own upon the cross of Calvary. He took upon himself the awful burden of our sin and guilt, bore God's awful wrath upon them, in perfect love and obedience. And now we receive this righteousness of Christ from God by sovereign grace. God, in Christ, calls us out of death into life; he unites us with Christ, engrafts us into him, makes us one plant with him. God lays us prostrate before him in the dust, presses from us the penitent's cry of utter anguish: O God, be merciful to me, a sinner. God leads us to the cross, gives us to see in that man of sorrows our sinbearer, our Redeemer. To him we flee; in him we trust; to him we look up; out of him we live and experience the truth: out of faith we know that we are righteous before God, only for Jesus' sake. 

How wonderful this is! How futile it would be if our righteousness were left to us! How futile if we must merit it, we who are in ourselves dead in sins and in trespasses! How hopeless would be our lot if God were to demand of us faith as a condition of salvation, something which God will accept from us as a substitute. What man is there who could possibly believe? Is not the truth that we are saved only by grace, through faith, humanly speaking, utterly devastating? No man will confess that he is lost in sin and can do nothing unto his salvation! If we are not saved by grace, we simply cannot be saved. How wonderful, however, are the mercies of our God! How wonderful that we need not do what we never could do! How wonderful it is that we are righteous out of faith, only for Jesus' sake, because God loved us, sovereignly, eternally, unconditionally before the foundations of the world!

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We shall live—of course! We read in Romans 8:32: "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?" That he who is just out of faith shall live must follow. He who spared not his own Son will surely with him also freely give us all things. If he did the one, the other must follow. He died to save us from sin and guilt and hell, and to lead us into life and glory. The purpose of his redemption was exactly that, saved from death and hell, we should be partakers of his life and glory. The fruit of his work must follow: God has justified me, declared me to be free from all guilt and to be an heir of everlasting life; surely we shall live! 

We shall live now. He who is righteous out of faith shall live immediately. Life, we understand, is fellowship and communion with God, to love him and be loved of him, to taste his life, to know and enjoy his fellowship, to say in all humble and unbelievably wonderful adoration: O God of all the earth, Thou art my God! 

And we shall also live presently. Now we have and enjoy this eternal life, this blessed fellowship with God, only in smallest principle. Now the evil we hate we do, and the good we love we practice not. But, when all this weary night is passed, with all its sin and sorrow and disappointments, all its struggles and lamenting, as we read in Romans 7:24: “O wretched man that I am, who shall deliver me out of the body of this death?” Then we shall live; then we shall be clothed in righteousness, in perfect righteousness with no more sin or death or sorrow, but an everlasting knowing, a knowing as we are known, a seeing of God face to face in Jesus Christ, in that wonderful day when God's tabernacle shall be with man. 

Indeed, the just is righteous only out of faith. 

And, just out of faith, he shall live. 

Now, and surely forevermore!

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This meditation was written by Rev. Herman Veldman published in the Standard Bearer, Volume 57, Issue 15, dated May 1, 1981.

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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

__________________

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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