MP3 of Third Radio Interview with Professor Engelsma


If you did not have an opportunity to listen in on Monday, you can do so now by clicking the link below. Yesterday, on November 27, Prof. David J. Engelsma had a radio interview with Chris Arnzen, the national, religious radio host of Iron Sharpens Iron. This was the third interview on a book that Engelsma authored, Gospel Truth of Justification: Proclaimed, Defended, Developed. This interview was of special significance since this year is the five hundredth anniversary of the Reformation and this book was especially was intended by the Reformed Free Publishing Association and the author to celebrate that glorious work of Christ.

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TODAY! Radio Interview with Professor David J. Engelsma on Gospel Truth of Justification


 

Today from 4-6 pm EST, Prof. David J. Engelsma will be interviewed by Christopher Amzen on his radio program “Iron Sharpens Iron."

The subject will be his recent book, Gospel Truth of Justification. Visit www.ironsharpensironradio.com and click on live stream to tune in and listen from any device. The program can also be listened to by phone (563)999-9206, following the prompts and press #3 for Christian Radio.      

Be sure to tune in later today. You don't want to miss it!

 

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Gospel Truth of Justification (6): Polemical and Necessary


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Third Radio Interview on Gospel Truth of Justification with Professor David J. Engelsma

 

This coming Monday, November 27, Prof. David J. Engelsma will be interviewed by Christopher Amzen on his radio program “Iron Sharpens Iron” from 4-6 pm EST. 

The subject will be his recent book, Gospel Truth of Justification. Visit www.ironsharpensironradio.com and click on the livestream box to tune in and listen from any device. The program can also be listened to by phone at (563)999-9206; press #3 for Christian Radio when prompted.

Be sure to tune in Monday!

 

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MP3 of Radio Interview with Professor Engelsma on 'Gospel Truth of Justification' is now available!

Last week Thursday, November 16, Prof. David J. Engelsma had a radio interview with Chris Arnzen, the national, religious radio host of Iron Sharpens Iron. This was the second interview on a book that Engelsma authored, Gospel Truth of Justification: Proclaimed, Defended, Developed. This interview was of special significance since this year is the five hundredth anniversary of the Reformation and this book was especially was intended by the Reformed Free Publishing Association and the author to celebrate that glorious work of Christ.

If you did not have an opportunity to listen in on Thursday, you can do so now by clicking the link below.

  Click on the icon to listen.

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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.

_______________

[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.

________________

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.

____________________

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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TODAY! Radio Interview with Professor David J. Engelsma on Gospel Truth of Justification


Today from 4-6 pm EST, Prof. David J. Engelsma will be interviewed by Christopher Amzen on his radio program “Iron Sharpens Iron."

The subject will be his recent book, Gospel Truth of Justification. Visit www.ironsharpensironradio.com and click on live stream to tune in and listen from any device. The program can also be listened to by phone (563)999-9206, following the prompts and press #3 for Christian Radio.      

Be sure to tune in later today. You don't want to miss it!

 

Comments

Second Radio Interview on Gospel Truth of Justification with Professor David J. Engelsma

 

This week Thursday, November 16 (note the date change), Prof. David J. Engelsma will be interviewed by Christopher Amzen on his radio program “Iron Sharpens Iron” from 4-6 pm EST. 

He will also be interviewed on Monday, November 27, from 4-6 pm EST.

The subject for both of these interviews will be Professor Engelsma’s recent book, the Gospel Truth of Justification and they will build on Mr. Arnzen’s previous interview of Professor Engelsma in September 2017.

You can go to www.ironsharpensironradio.com and click on the livestream box to tune in and listen from any device. The program can also be listened to by phone at (563)999-9206; press #3 for Christian Radio when prompted.

Be sure to tune in Thursday!

 

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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.

______________

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.

____________________

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.

___________________

[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.

___________________

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.

____________________

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

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

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