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Grace or Work?

Grace or Work?

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

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

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

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Faith Working by Love

Faith Working by Love

The issue in Paul’s epistle to the Galatians is justification. How is a guilty sinner declared righteous before God? The answer: a sinner is justified before God on the basis of the perfect righteousness of Jesus Christ received by or through the instrument of faith alone without works.

Paul preached that gospel in Galatia. The saints in Galatia had received and believed that gospel. But false teachers infiltrated the churches. They brought a different message, the message that the sinner is justified on the basis of his obedience to the law of God; or that he is justified on the basis of good works; or that he justified on the basis of faith and good works.

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August 2019 Standard Bearer preview article

“As to our good works” (2): The nature of good works as works

Works occupy a prominent place in Scripture; in fact, Scripture is from beginning to end a book of works. Scripture attributes works to the triune God, Christ, angels—wicked and holy, and men—wicked and holy. We begin our examination of the good works of the believer by considering the nature of good works and noting five general characteristics of our good works as works.

A conscious, acting subject

First, works are those deeds consciously and volitionally performed by rational, moral beings. Strictly speaking, a creature like the sky is not capable of performing works. Psalm 19:1 teaches, “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork.” The visible expanse of the heavens above us gives glory to God; however, it is not an intelligent creature consciously and willingly producing “works” of praise unto God as holy men and holy angels can do. We men are different than the creatures in the heavens above and in the earth beneath and in the waters under the earth, for God created us as personal beings with an intellect and will so that we are able to live consciously before His face performing works of service in love for Him and our neighbor. In marriage, a husband and wife are called to love each other and show it in word and deed, but if a whole week has gone by and they have not consciously performed even one considerate act towards each other, living as intimately as two stars twinkling side by side in the heavens, something is dreadfully amiss. God created us, and in Jesus Christ has recreated us, as new creatures able to do good. Consciously! Willingly! Cheerfully! Lovingly!

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In Response to 'What Must I Do?' Editorial in the Standard Bearer

In Response to 'What Must I Do?' Editorial in the Standard Bearer
The following letter was sent to the editorial office of the Standard Bearer with the request that they publish it. The editors refused to publish the letter. I publish it here on the RFPA blog as I sent it to them. I believe these issues are of utmost importance for our churches and for the readers of the blog.

________________

Letter to the Standard Bearer about What must I do?

Dear Editors of the Standard Bearer,

I am writing about the most recent editorial, What must I do?, by Rev. Koole (October 1, 2018 Volume 95, Issue 1). I find the editorial deeply disturbing for the connection that it makes with doctrinal dispute in our churches, specifically the editor’s, “fear that we tend to underestimate,” the truth of irresistible grace, and the editor’s connecting this to the “issues being discussed in the PRC of late, namely, grace and godliness—the life of good works—in the life of the child of God.”

The editor’s reference is to the doctrinal dispute in the Protestant Reformed Churches over sermons preached at Hope Protestant Reformed Church. I take issue with the editor’s characterization of this as “a discussion.” Rather, there were multiple protests and appeals filed, discipline carried out, a man deposed from office, many meetings were held, many decisions were made, some decisions overturned, and the last decision was made by Synod 2018, part of which involved a formula of subscription examination of a preacher. It is hardly “a discussion.” To describe it as such is an affront to all involved.

Continue reading...

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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...

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His Workmanship

“For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.”  Ephesians 2:10

Lest any man should boast.

God alone is God. As such he must be acknowledged by every creature.

Of him, and through him, and unto him are all things. Never is anything of us and through us. Nor is anything partly of us and through us. Hence his alone is the glory for ever and ever. And this glory must be attributed to him. He will give it to no other.

Therefore salvation is of the Lord.

It is by grace, from beginning to end by grace only; not of works, lest any man should boast.

To boast, to claim part of the glory that belongs to God only, and therefore to claim all the glory that is his alone, is the tendency of sin, the inclination of the sinful heart. “Ye shall be as gods” (Gen. 3:5) is the slogan that expresses the deepest motive of the natural man. He refuses to glorify God as God and to be thankful.

So he is always inclined to deprive God of his glory, to say that salvation is of his own works. It is hard for him to confess that sovereign grace alone is the source and ground and power of salvation. Somehow he always attempts to introduce his work into the work of God, to share in the glory of the divine work that delivers him from guilt and clothes him with an eternal righteousness, that cleanses him from the pollution of sin and sanctifies him unto the service of the living God, that lifts him out of the depth of the misery of death and hell into the glory of eternal life and heavenly bliss.

In various ways he seeks to escape the consequences of salvation by grace and to maintain that he is saved by works. Sometimes he attempts to work out his own righteousness and to make this righteousness of works the basis of his salvation. Sometimes he apparently is willing to confess that he is saved by grace, but he contends that it is works that make him worthy of this grace. But in the measure that he introduces his own works into the wonder of salvation, he deprives the God of salvation of his glory.

Man boasts.

Yet no man may boast in the presence of the Most High.

Continue reading...

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The Question of the Necessity of Good Works (10): In the Way of Repentance

The Question of the Necessity of Good Works (10): In the Way of Repentance

The question of the necessity of good works and the proper and clear explanation of that necessity of good works can be seen in the saving work of repentance. Repentance is frequently described as the work in the way of which we enjoy covenantal fellowship with God. The language that in the way of repentance we enjoy God and the fellowship of God in the covenant is contrasted with repentance being a prerequisite, or a condition, of the covenant and the...

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

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

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

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

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...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The understanding that works are necessary for believers because God regenerates believers reveals the faulty logic behind the teaching that works are necessary to obtain with God some aspect of salvation. That faulty logic is that obtaining by works is the most compelling reason to do good works, that without the incentive of obtaining with God the sinner will have no real compelling incentive to do good works, and thus that the sinner will be uninterested in doing good works. In...

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

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

At the same time the Reformed faith insists that the sinner is saved by God’s grace wholly without his own works—including especially the doctrine of justification by faith alone in which the believing sinner is justified before God in his conscience and experience by faith alone and not at all by works—it also insists that good works are necessary. It is slander to charge the defense of this position with a denial of the necessity of good works. Those who do...

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

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

It must be held firmly by every believer that his works, works of faith and done by grace, do not obtain any aspect of salvation. They do not obtain because they do not obtain the Spirit. Works are not an instrument, or a means, of salvation. Instrument and means are the same thing. Since the covenant is salvation, works are not an instrument to obtain the covenant. Since the covenant is fellowship with God, works are not the instrument to obtain,...

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