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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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No, A Christian Cannot Recognize Muhammad as a Prophet

Islam has an ally in the Roman Catholic Church. Allah, the god of Islam, is the same as Jehovah, the God of the Bible, according to Pope Francis. Wheaton College Professor Larycia Hawkins appealed to Pope Francis when she donned a Hijab to show “support” for Muslims and asserted that the god of Islam and the God of Christianity are one and the same (my response). Now Craig Considine, a Roman Catholic Sociologist, argues that Christians can recognize Muhammad as a legitimate prophet of God—similar in status if not quite equal in status with Jesus in this article.

Considine attempts to justify his recognition of Muhammad as a true prophet by defining a prophet as “a messenger of a Higher Power who works on earth to bring justice and peace to humanity.” As a Roman Catholic Considine it is not surprising that he does not appeal to scripture to support this definition of a prophet, but it would have been helpful if he would have provided at least some explanation of how he arrived at this definition. Even if we do not appeal to scripture, Considine’s definition of a prophet proves to be untenable. The assumption seems to be that anyone who seeks “to bring justice and peace to humanity” is a messenger from a “Higher Power,” that is, a prophet. What if a member of the occult becomes a humanitarian leader? Would Considine be willing to recognize a devil worshipper as a prophet? Probably not. Clearly Considine’s definition of a prophet is too broad.[1]

But the basic problem with Considine’s argument is not his definition of what a prophet is. His basic problem is that he is not a Christian. Considine anticipates that his recognition of Muhammad as a prophet  might cause people “to question my credibility as a self-professed Christian.” He explains, “People might say, ‘Jesus is the only way. You’ve turned your back on God. You’re no longer Christian.’” It does seem that Considine is indeed contradicting John 14:6 by teaching that Muhammad offers a way to God in addition to Jesus. However, Considine more clearly demonstrates that his claim to be a Christian is false in statements that do not have to do with how he views Muhammad.

Considine denies the plenary inspiration of scripture, the divinity of Jesus Christ, and the sinlessness of Jesus Christ; all essential doctrines of the Christian faith. He writes, “Do I believe in everything that Prophet Muhammad said according to the Qur’an and hadiths? No, I don’t, but I also don’t believe in everything that Jesus or Moses said according to the Gospel or Talmud. Things kind of cancel out, even out. I accept aspects of both, but neither in their entirety.” And a little later he writes, “My mind tells me the Jesus and Muhammad have equally valuable messages. Both men shared some “truths,” but let’s be real: they were human beings. They were prone to error. They made mistakes. They missed some things.”

Christians do not reject parts of scripture, but heretics such as Marcionites and Deists do. Christians do not deny the divinity of Jesus Christ, but heretics such as Arians and Jehovah’s Witnesses do. Christians do not deny the sinlessness of Jesus, but the heretical Modernists/Liberals do. Considine is not a Christian according to the judgment of the Creeds of the Church (including the ecumenical creeds that Rome claims to adhere to).

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[1] The Heidelberg Catechism explains the biblical teaching that Jesus Christ is the “chief Prophet and Teacher, who has fully revealed . . . the secret counsel and will of God concerning . . . redemption.” A prophet is primarily a spokesman of God, sent by God to speak the truth about salvation through Jesus Christ. Muhammad did not speak the truth of God about Jesus Christ as the only Savior; Muhammad was not a prophet of God.

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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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RCC: A False Church

The pope visited the US last week with much fanfare. Pope Francis is a hit with political leftists and with a certain segment of Protestants. This is an appropriate time to be reminded of the evils of the Roman Catholic Church that Pope Francis represents. So I share with you today an excerpt from an article by Jordan Stanbridge, Why Evangelicals and Catholics cannot be Together.

As the title of the article indicates, Stanbridge is opposed to the 1994 Evangelicals and Catholics Together document that prominent evangelicals and Roman Catholics signed in a show of unity. Stanbridge views the Roman Catholic Church as an institution of the devil. Therefore, there can be no agreement between evangelicals and Rome. Click on the link above and you can read his six reasons why evangelicals and Roman Catholics cannot be together. In light of the pope’s recent visit I have decided to include Stanbridge’s condemnation of the Roman Catholic Church’s view of authority below.

Authority

It is clear therefore that, in the supremely wise arrangement of God, sacred Tradition, Sacred Scripture, and the magisterum of the Church are so connected and associated that one of them cannot stand without the others. Working together, each in their own way, under the action of the Holy Spirit, they all contribute affectively to the salvation of souls. – Catechism of the Catholic Church 95

Picture a company with three owners. They walk into a room they all have the same power. That’s what this is like in the RCC.

And although Scripture should trump any false interpretation in the RCC, the Pope and his cardinals, as well as tradition have undermined Scripture for centuries. God has not given man the right to alter His word, The Holy Spirit is in charge of illuminating the mind of His children and cause them to understand the truth. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 tells us clearly that scripture is all we need to live a life that glorifies our Creator.

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Pope Apologizes for Persecution, Still Opposed to True Reformation

This article in Christianity Today reports that Pope Francis apologized for the Roman Catholic Church’s persecution of the Waldensians during the Middle Ages. Here is an excerpt from the report that includes the apology:

“On the part of the Catholic Church, I ask your forgiveness, I ask it for the non-Christian and even inhuman attitudes and behavior that we have showed you,” Francis said during the first-ever visit by a pope to a Waldensian church. “In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, forgive us!”

The report explains that the persecution of the Waldensians (“massacre, rape, and pillaging”) took place under the orders of Pope Alexander III in the 12th century. According to a scholar quoted in the report Alexander III was unenlightened and therefore unable to recognize that the Waldensians were good Christians. This scholar contends that Pope Innocent III was more enlightened, appreciating the monastic lifestyle of Waldo and his followers. Innocent III’s response (in 1210) to the Waldensians’ success was to authorize the organization of a new religious order under St. Francis, the current pope’s name’s sake. Pope Francis, the scholar claims, could very well be Pope Waldo if only Alexander III had been more “enlightened” and appreciated the Waldensians. The current Pope, Francis, is “enlightened” and supposedly views the Waldensians as “very much Christians after his own heart.” Francis appreciates the way the Waldensians provide “service to humanity which suffers, to the poor, the sick, the migrants.”

Unfortunately the report doesn’t explain any of the doctrinal reforms the Waldensians implemented. The Waldensians believed in the supreme authority of Scripture and that the preaching of the gospel is more important than the sacraments. The Roman Catholic Church has grown to appreciate the “monastic lifestyle” and “service to humanity” of the Waldensians, but continues to despise their view of Scripture and the preaching. Pope Francis is trying to present the Roman Catholic Church as more friendly than it was in the past. But he and the Roman Catholic Church remain opposed to doctrinal reforms.

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