Posts Tagged ‘Salvation’

Having spent considerable time and energy over the last weeks and months reading John Calvin, that great Genevan Reformer, I now have the splendid opportunity to study Martin Luther as well.  And oh what a joy! It’s as if someone should’ve said to me: “If you liked Calvin (for all the right reasons, of course, not the wrong ones) well you’re going to love Luther.” And they would’ve been right of course.

The same theological, hermeneutical, homiletical, and pastoral insight which made Calvin such a dear and shining light to many, is there in its brash and bold (and yet foundational) form in Luther. And is it ever encouraging to read.  Indeed I can think of few things as delightful to the soul. However, enough already… Let’s get to some Luther quotes.  From his “What to Look for and Expect in the Gospels” (1521).

After explaining how some confuse the Gospel as merely referring to the four first books of the New Testament, Luther wrote:

There is, besides, the still worse practice of regarding the gospels and epistles as law books in which is supposed to be taught what we are to do and in which the works of Christ are pictured to us as nothing but examples. Now where these two erroneous notions remain in the heart, there neither the gospels nor the epistles may be read in a profitable or Christian manner, and [people] remain as pagan as ever.

The stout German is obviously off to a good start. But one can leave it to the ‘wild boar’ to run a royal rampage across deception and unbelief. He then defines Gospel per se:

Gospel is and should be nothing else than a discourse or story about Christ, just as happens among men when one writes a book about a king or prince, telling what he did, said, and suffered in his day. Such a story can be told in various ways; one spins it out, and the other is brief. Thus the gospel is and should be nothing else than a chronicle, a story, a narrative about Christ, telling who he is, what he did, said, and suffered–a subject which one describes briefly, another more fully, on this way, another that way.

There you have it. The gospel is a story about Christ.

He then goes on to show that this same gospel is the one we get in the Old Testament as well:

Thus when Isaiah in chapter fifty-three says how Christ should die for us and bear our sins, he has written the pure gospel. And I assure you, if a person fails to grasp this understanding of the gospel, he will never be able to be illuminated in the Scripture nor will he receive the right foundation.

Be sure, moreover, that you do not make Christ into a Moses, as if Christ did nothing more than teach and provide examples as the other saints do, as if the gospel were simply a textbook of teachings or laws. Therefore you should grasp Christ, his words, works, and sufferings, in a twofold manner. First as an example that is presented to you, which you should follow and imitate. As St. Peter says in 1 Peter 4, “Christ suffered for us, thereby leaving us an example.” Thus when you see how he prays, fasts, helps people, and shows the love, so also you should do, both for yourself and for your neighbor. However this is the smallest part of the gospel, on the basis of which it cannot yet even be called gospel. For on this level Christ is of no more help to you than some other saint. His life remains his own and does not as yet contribute anything to you.

In short this mode [of understanding Christ as simply an example] does not make Christians but only hypocrites. You must grasp Christ at a much higher level. Even though this higher level has for a long time been the very best, the preaching of it has been something rare. The chief article and foundation of the gospel is that before you take Christ as an example, you accept and recognize him as a gift, as a present that God has given you and that is your own. [emphasis mine] – Martin Luther’s Basic Theological Writings, ed. Timothy F. Lull, (Fortress Press, Minneapolis: 2005). 93-95.

Well, I don’t know how one could ever strike any more deftly at the very vitals and heart-beat of unbelief.  This penetrates to the core of all false teaching and apostasy which teaches us not to believe in Christ as everything for our salvation, but rather someone and something just shy of it.  Some thing (no matter how small or seemingly reasonable) must be left outstanding.  And just as surely one believes this then all one’s glorying in Christ and his cross falls faint to the ground.

And what’s more, the human heart, in its pride, ever resists such a free gift from our Gratuitous Benefactor and Heavenly Father. And as much as we might think we can today find evidence to the contrary, there’s nothing we like less than a free handout — and from God, least of all. It restlessly tugs against such an offer of absolute and unconditional grace. And of course our sinful hearts are joined in a distorted chorus by the world and the devil, ever providing a relentless deluge of resistance.

And yet the Gospel truly is good news… the best in the world…in all creation. May God by his mercy grant us ears to hear, and hearts to understand, how great and marvelous his love is toward us. Amen.

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aalexander2This question, I think it is true to say, is probably on the minds of many more Christians than we would like to admit.  What must I do to be saved?  How can I know I am saved? And although I know some would not have us focus so much on this question (citing the morbid introspective individualism of our times) I would go so far as to say that this inherent heart-cry of the human soul before God, and the answer proclaimed in the gospel, lies at the very center of the Christian faith!

Oh, and the answer goes against every bone of contention in our body, every seeming rule of nature, and every preconception about reality.  And yet that answer is so wonderfully, beautifully, joyously, and rapturously simple.

Below is an account of one Archibald Alexander, who later went on to become the first professor at Princeton Seminary.  He describes the great labor and anguish in which he wrestled with this understanding.  The context is during the great awakenings, where the common expectations, in some places, was that you needed an ‘experience’ in order to be sure of your salvation. People were urged to look inwards instead of outward to Christ.  This only lead to deep spiritual confusion.  Please read.

Being much dissatisfied with my state of mind, and now sensible of the corruption of my heart, I resolved to enter on a new course, and determined to give up all reading except the Bible, and to devote myself entirely to prayer, fasting and the Scriptures, until I should arrive at greater hope. My life was spent almost entirely in religious company, but our conversation often degenerated into levity, which was succeeded by compunction [regret]. Telling over our private exercises was carried to an undue length, and instead of tending to edification, was often injurious. But reserve on this subject was considered a bad sign; and on meeting, the first inquiry after salutation was concerning the state of each other’s souls.

A young women of my acquaintance, who, with others, had gone over to Bedford, appeared more solemnly impressed than most of the company. All believed that if any one had experienced divine renewal, it was Mary Hanna. One afternoon, while reading a sermon of Tennent’s on the need of a legal work preparatory to conversion, she was seized with such apprehensions of her danger, that she began to tremble, and in attempting to reach the house, which was distant only a few steps, fell prostrate, and was taken up in a state of terrible convulsion. The news quickly spread, and in a short time most of the serious young people in the town were present. I mention this for the purpose of adding that I was at once struck with the conviction that I had received an irreparable injury from the clergyman who had persuaded me that no such conviction as this was necessary. I determined, therefore, to admit no hope until I should have the like experience.

I read all the religious narratives I could procure, and laboured much to put myself into the state in which they described themselves to have been, before enjoying hope. But all these efforts and desires proved abortive, and I began to see much more of the wickedness of my own heart than ever before. I was distressed and discouraged, and convinced that I had placed too much dependence on mere means, and on my own efforts. I therefore determined to give myself incessantly to prayer until I found mercy, or perished in the pursuit.

This Resolution was formed on a Sunday evening. The next morning I took my Bible and walked several miles into the dense wood of the Bushy Hills, which were then wholly uncultivated. Finding a place that pleased me, at the foot of a projecting rock, in a dark valley, I began with great earnestness the course which I had prescribed to myself. I prayed, and then read in the Bible, prayed and read, prayed and read, until my strength was exhausted; for I had taken no nourishment that day. But the more I strove the harder my heart became, and the more barren was my mind of every serious or tender feeling. I tasted then some of the bitterness of despair. It seemed to be my last resource, and now this had utterly failed.

I was about to desist from the endeavour, when the thought occurred to me, that though I was helpless, and my case was nearly desperate, yet it would be well to cry to God to help me in this extremity. I knelt upon the ground, and had poured out perhaps a single petition, or rather broken cry for help, when, in a moment, I had such a view of a crucified Saviour, as is without a parallel in my experience. The whole plan of grace appeared as clear as day. I was persuaded that God was willing to accept me, just as I was, and convinced that I had never before understood the freeness of salvation, but had always been striving to bring some price in my hand, or to prepare myself for receiving Christ. Now I discovered that I could receive him in all his offices at that very moment, which I was sure at the time I did. I felt truly a joy which was unspeakable and full of glory.

Charles Hodge, in his Memoir, comments.

There is another lesson of a different kind suggested by the account above given. How different are theory and experience! What becomes of the boasted power of man – of his ability, plenary or natural, to repent, believe, and change his own heart? Had any miserable sophist gone to the youthful subject of this memoir, lying on the ground in his agony in the depths of the forest, and told him, ‘You can if you will’, would it not have been as much a mockery as when Satan said to Adam and Eve, ‘Ye shall be as gods’? It is well enough for men in their studies to split hairs and quibble about ability and inability, can and can’t; but when it comes to the death-struggle, these distinctions are all discarded, and a solemn, fearful consciousness of absolute helplessness is produced. And until in one form or another this sense of impotence is experienced, there is no real apprehension of the help of Christ.

Then, again, when men tell us that conversion is effected when the soul summons all its powers and determines to make God its portion, or purposes the general good, how does this agree with the experience of God’s people? Is conversion, so far as it is a conscious process, a self-determination, [as] much as it is a beholding the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ, as that glory is revealed to it through the word and by the Spirit, taking the whole soul captive in admiration, gratitude, love, and submission? Men do not create themselves; they do not come forth from the darkness of spiritual death, to behold the light of God’s countenance and the glories of the new creation, by any energy of their own. The whole change is one of which man is the subject, rather than the agent.

Taken from Princeton And Preaching by James M Garretson. (p 14-17)

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Anselm_of_Canterbury“Come, then, while life remains in you. In his death alone place your whole trust; in nothing else place any trust;….with this alone cover yourself wholly; and if the Lord your God wills to judge you, say: Lord, between your judgment and me I present the death of our Lord Jesus Christ; in no other way can I contend with you. And if he shall say that you are a sinner, say: Lord, I interpose the death of our Lord Jesus Christ between my sins and you. If he should say that you deserve condemnation, say: Lord, I set the death of our Lord Jesus Christ between my evil deserts and you, and his merits I offer for those which I ought to have and have not. If he says that he is angry with you, say: Lord, I oppose the death of our Lord Jesus Christ between your wrath and me. And when you have completed this, say again: Lord, I set the death of our Lord Jesus Christ between me and you.” – Anselm of Canterbury (1033- 1109) 

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I’ve been thinking a bit lately about justification as well as other doctrines which I believe are at the heart of the Christian faith and gospel.  One of these is the doctrine of the imputed righteousness of Christ unto the believer.  This is where Christ’s perfect righteousness, shown in his perfect obedience to God the Father during his life on earth, is given (gifted) to those who believe in him.  All of Christs good works, get credited to the sinner, who hasn’t done any good works, but merely looks to Christ alone in faith.

“And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness.” (Rom 4.5)

Now let me ask you. Do you find this idea and easy one?  Is it something you would just pass by and say “Yeah, I’ve heard that along time ago.  It’s no big deal”?  Or do you find that you’ve overlooked this concept, and that upon further investigation find it a bit out of the ordinary?  Extravagant maybe?  Amazing grace, maybe?

So let me ask you.

If the Son of God, who is beyond all things glorious and beautiful, who’s life alone is worth more to God then all the galaxies combined, who’s one drop of blood was enough to pay for the sins of the whole world, who’s works of righteousness deserve glorious rewards of riches in heaven along with eternal life; if he offered to you, with outstretched hand, all the merit of his righteousness (though you have done nothing for it, and in fact have done everything to deserve the opposite); if he offered it to you, all of this, would you take it?  Would you accept it?

Or would you wait until you had offered up enough good works of your own – your own obedience?

Well Let me tell you right now, if you attempt to work towards righteousness yourself, your efforts will prove futile though you live to be a thousand years old.  Your righteousness will never work. It will always fail.  You may try and try again.  But it will be useless.  Why?  Because you’re a sinner.  I’m a sinner.  We’re all sinners.  And what’s that got to do with anything, one may ask?  It means we’ve been infected with a disease which makes all our efforts contaminated and faulty.  What’s more, most of the time we don’t even want to do good things, let alone doing them for the right reasons. And it’s a fatal disease, with 100 percent mortality rate,  which we’ve all been infected with from birth.  So basically, (I know it sounds fatalistic) but we’re doomed.  We’re hopeless and helpless.  All going to die!

But this is where Christ’s work comes in.  In the same way that Adam’s disobedience (when he ate the forbidden fruit in garden of Eden) infected all his children with with sin and thereby brought death to them all, Christ’s OBEDIENCE has been imputed to all his children by grace and thereby brings life to them all!

“For if, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ.” (Rom 5.17)

“The free gift of righteousness.”  WOW!  That is just huge!

“Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men. For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous. (Rom 5.18-19)

So let me ask you again?  If Christ were to offer to you his obedience (with all it’s worth) free of charge — all of grace — and all you would have to do is accept the gift — would you do it?  Would you open and outstretch your hands to receive this precious gift? Or would you deny him this generosity.  Would you believe the Son of God, when he says he has “given up his life as a ransom for many,” rr would you turn away in unbelief, thinking there may be another way.  Would you recognize God’s righteous declaration that you are a sinner deserving eternal death in hell and that your only hope for salvation is in the righteousness of another — namely Jesus Christ, or would you scorn this free offer of salvation. Let me put it to you as seriously and yet as lovingly and yet as truthfully as I can… Your life depends on it.

The Word of Christ tells us,

“[T]o the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness,” (Rom 4.5)

Paul later tells us,

“It will be counted to us who believe in him who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord, who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification.” (Rom 4.24b-25)

But now to you who have believed in Christ, who have trusted in him alone for your righteousness and salvation, let me tell you take heart.  For just as surely as in your physical birth you inherited your sin nature (which I’m sure you are somewhat familiar) with all it’s debts which bring about death, so too in your spiritual birth (upon believing in Christ) you have now inherited the righteousness of Christ with all it’s merits which lead to eternal life.

This is the gospel!  And this is the grace of God to us in Jesus Christ.

“Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God.

“Let us rejoice in the hope of the glory of God” and in this way glorify Him who has done these things for us, and who alone deserves praise forevermore. Amen.

open hands

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As an addendum to my previous post “Salvation by Grace, Judgment by Works“, here are some excerpts I found on the web on the subject which I think are quite helpful.

John L. Girardeau, Southern Presbyterian minster (1825-1898):

“Salvation — the salvation of Paul and the penitent thief — is entirely of grace, the rewards of the heavenly state are all purchased by the merit of Christ alone; but the proportion in which the rewards will be administered to individuals will be determined by fatherly justice in accordance with the fidelity of the saints on earth.

In this paternal rule over God’s own house there is no element of retribution. The government is wholly disciplinary. Punishment gives way to chastisement. The Ruler and Judge is both Father and Saviour.

It is needless to say that this sort of probation is not legal in the sense that it is in order to justification. Justification is presupposed. Nor is it in order to salvation. It is in order to the degree in which glory shall be experienced.”

(Calvinism and Evangelical Arminianism, pp. 464-65)

John Murray:

“While it makes void the gospel to introduce works in connection with justification, nevertheless works done in faith, from the motive of love to God, in obedience to the revealed will of God and to the end of his glory are intrinsically good and acceptable to God. As such they will be the criterion of reward in the life to come. This is apparent from such passages as Matthew 10:41; 1 Corinthians 3:8-9, 11-15; 4:5; 2 Corinthians 5:10; 2 Timothy 4:7.

We must maintain therefore, justification complete and irrevocable by grace through faith and apart from works, and at the same time, future reward according to works. In reference to these two doctrines it is important to observe the following:

  1. This future reward is not justification and contributes nothing to that which constitutes justification.
  2. This future reward is not salvation. Salvation is by grace and it is not as a reward for works that we are saved.
  3. The reward has reference to the station a person is to occupy in glory and does not have reference to the gift of glory itself. While the reward is of grace yet the standard or criterion of judgment by which the degree of reward is to be determined is good works.
  4. This reward is not administered because good works earn or merit reward, but because God is graciously pleased to reward them.

(Collected Writings, vol. II, p. 221)

John Owen:

“There is that in the Scripture assigned unto our first justification, if they will needs call it so, as leaves no room for their second feigned justification; for the sole foundation and pretence of this distinction is the denial of those things to belong unto our justification by the blood of Christ which the Scripture expressly assigns unto it. Let us take out some instances of what belongs unto the first, and we shall quickly see how little it is, yea, that there is nothing left for the pretended second justification. For,

  1. Therein do we receive the complete ‘pardon and forgiveness of our sins,’ Rom. 4:6, 7; Eph. 1:7; 4:32; Acts 26:18.
  2. Thereby are we ‘made righteous,’ Rom. 5:19; 10:4;
  3. Are freed from condemnation, judgment, and death, John 3:16, 19; 5:25; Rom. 8:1;
  4. Have peace with him, and access into the favour wherein we stand by grace,
  5. With the advantages and consolations that depend thereon in a sense of his love, Rom. 5:1-5. And,
  6. We have adoption therewithal, and all its privileges, John 1:12; and, in particular,
  7. A right and title unto the whole inheritance of glory, Acts 26:18; Rom. 8:17. And,
  8. Hereon eternal life doth follow, Rom. 8:30; 6:23 …

And if there be anything now left for their second justification to do, as such, let them take it as their own; these things are all of them ours, or do belong unto that one justification which we do assert. Wherefore it is evident, that either the first justification overthrows the second, rendering it needless; or the second destroys the first, by taking away what essentially belongs unto it:  we must therefore part with the one or the other, for consistent they are not.”

(Works, vol. V, pp. 142-43)

Thomas Boston:

“On the General Judgment:

The book of the law shall be opened. This book is the standard and rule, by which is known what is right and what is wrong; as also, what sentence is to be passed accordingly on those who are under it …

But what seems principally pointed at by the opening of this book, is the opening of that part of it which determines the reward of men’s works. Now the law promises life, upon perfect obedience:  but none can be found on the right hand, or on the left, who will pretend to that, when once the book of conscience is opened. It threatens death upon disobedience, and will effectually bring it upon all under its dominion. And this part of the book of the law, determining the reward of men’s works, is opened, only to show what must be the portion of the ungodly, and that there may be read their sentence before it is pronounced. But it is not opened for the sentence of the saints; for no sentence absolving a sinner could ever be drawn out of it.

The law promises life, not as it is a rule of actions, but as a covenant of works; therefore innocent man could not have demanded life upon his obedience, till the law was reduced into the form of a covenant, as was shown before. But the saints, having been, in this life, brought under a new covenant, namely, the covenant of grace, were dead to the law as a covenant of works, and it was dead to them. Wherefore, as they shall not now have any fear of death from it, so they can have no hope of life from it, since ‘they are not under the law, but under grace’ (Rom. 6:14).

But, for their sentence, ‘another book is opened’ … ‘Another book’ shall be ‘opened, which is the book of life’ (Rev. 20:12). In this the names of the elect are written, as Christ said to His disciples (Luke 10:20), ‘Your names are written in heaven.’ This book contains God’s gracious and unchangeable purpose, to bring all the elect to eternal life; and that, in order thereto, they be redeemed by the blood of His Son, effectually called, justified, adopted, sanctified, and raised up by Him at the last day without sin. It is now lodged in the Mediator’s hand …

Then shall the Judge pronounce this blessed sentence on the saints, ‘Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world’ (Matt. 25:34) … This sentence is passed on the saints, ‘according to their works’ (Rev. 20:12); but not for their works, nor for their faith, as if eternal life were merited by them …

They were redeemed by the blood of Christ, and clothed with His spotless righteousness, which is the proper cause of the sentence …

And the saints will so far be judged according to such works, that the degrees of glory amongst them shall be according to these works. For it is an eternal truth, ‘He that soweth sparingly, shall reap also sparingly’ (2 Cor. 9:6). Thus shall the good works of the godly have a glorious, but a gratuitous reward; a reward of grace, not of debt; which will fill them with wonder at the riches of free grace, and at the Lord’s condescending to take any notice, especially such public notice, of their poor worthless works.”

(Human Nature in Its Fourfold State, pp. 413-18)

I found these excerpts here on a blog called “Reformation Faith Today“.

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So here I will attempt to delve just a little bit into an issue which is perhaps somewhat confusing to many Christians.  And here it is: If salvation is by grace, how then is the final judgment based on works?

To some, these two assertions seem somewhat, if not entirely, contradictory.  How do we make sense of them? Furthermore, how can we understand such doctrines (as election, justification, salvation etc) in such a way that we can have confidence that we have understood them aright and henceforth walk in assurance that we are pleasing to God in both our actions and intentions? I think that is the question on the minds of many.

“Am I saved by grace?  Yes/no? I’ve always thought it to be so.
If, however, judgment rests upon one’s works,
Just what about my salvation can I ever know?”
(A poem I just wrote… Like it?)

Let us look at a passage of scripture which has come up.  Romans 2.6-11.

“He [God] will render to each one [man] according to his works: to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life; but for those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury. There will be tribulation and distress for every human being who does evil, the Jew first and also the Greek, but glory and honor and peace for everyone who does good, the Jew first and also the Greek. For God shows no partiality.”

Now.  How do we take these verses?  Do they bring any violence to the doctrine of justification by faith alone?  Does it seem so to the reader? (again, comments are quite welcome.)

Well, I will (and must) answer flat-out and unequivocally NO.  The Bible’s teachings about rewards does not in any way contradict the Bible’s teaching about justification by faith alone.  For it is impossible for the the Word of God to be contradictory.  But in order to better understand how this is not the case here, let us look into the doctrines a little deeper.

So what is Justification? For clarification I will return to the Westminster Larger Chatachism question 70.

Answer: Justification is an act of God’s free grace unto sinners, in which he pardons all their sins, accepts and accounts their persons righteous in his sight; not for any thing wrought in them, or done by them, but only for the perfect obedience and full satisfaction of Christ, by God imputed to them, and received by faith alone.

I think it is also helpful to look at the verses that come after this.  Such as 12 and 13.

For all who have sinned without the law will also perish without the law, and all who have sinned under the law will be judged by the law. For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous before God, but the doers of the law who will be justified.”

Calvin remarks,

“He who will do these shall live in them.” The import then of this verse is the following, —“That if righteousness be sought from the law, the law must be fulfilled; for the righteousness of the law consists in the perfection of works.” They who pervert this passage for the purpose of building up justification by works, deserve most fully to be laughed at even by children. It is therefore improper and beyond what is needful, to introduce here a long discussion on the subject, with the view of exposing so futile a sophistry: for the Apostle only urges here on the Jews what he had mentioned, the decision of the law, — That by the law they could not be justified, except they fulfilled the law, that if they transgressed it, a curse was instantly pronounced on them. Now we do not deny but that perfect righteousness is prescribed in the law: but as all are convicted of transgression, we say that another righteousness must be sought. Still more, we can prove from this passage that no one is justified by works; for if they alone are justified by the law who fulfill the law, it follows that no one is justified; for no one can be found who can boast of having fulfilled the law.”

And later in Romans 3 it is made abundantly clear that none will be justified be works.

“For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.” (Rom 3.20)

“for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” (Rom 3.23)

And right there, in verse 21, perhaps the most beautiful two words ever penned “But now” come into view.

“But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,  and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.Then what becomes of our boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? By a law of works? No, but by the law of faith. For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law.” (Rom 3.21-28)

OK then.  Since it is established that we are justified uniquvicially by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone, what is the point about judgment by works?

To answer that, let’s  first look a little closer at what the judgment is. The WLC divides things into two parts,

Question 89: What shall be done to the wicked at the day of judgment?

Answer: At the day of judgment, the wicked shall be set on Christ’s left hand, and, upon clear evidence, and full conviction of their own consciences, shall have the fearful but just sentence of condemnation pronounced against them; and thereupon shall be cast out from the favorable presence of God, and the glorious fellowship with Christ, his saints, and all his holy angels, into hell, to be punished with unspeakable torments, both of body and soul, with the devil and his angels forever.

Question 90: What shall be done to the righteous at the day of judgment?

Answer: At the day of judgment, the righteous, being caught up to Christ in the clouds, shall be set on his right hand, and there openly acknowledged and acquitted, shall join with him in the judging of reprobate angels and men, and shall be received into heaven, where they shall be fully and forever freed from all sin and misery; filled with inconceivable joys, made perfectly holy and happy both in body and soul, in the company of innumerable saints and holy angels, but especially in the immediate vision and fruition of God the Father, of our Lord Jesus Christ, and of the Holy Spirit, to all eternity. And this is the perfect and full communion, which the members of the invisible church shall enjoy with Christ in glory, at the resurrection and day of judgment.

Returning to our original passage in Romans, let us look again at the first verse.

“He will render to each one according to his works.”

Calvin comments,

“But there is not so much difficulty in this verse, as it is commonly thought. For the Lord, by visiting the wickedness of the reprobate with just vengeance, will recompense them with what they have deserved: and as he sanctifies those whom he has previously resolved to glorify, he will also crown their good works, but not on account of any merit: nor can this be proved from this verse; for though it declares what reward good works are to have, it does yet by no means show what they are worth, or what price is due to them. And it is an absurd inference, to deduce merit from reward.” – Calvin

Furthermore, read the note written (I believe) by the editor.

It has appeared to some difficult to reconcile this language with the free salvation which the gospel offers, and to obviate the conclusion which many are disposed to draw from this passage — that salvation is by works as well as by faith. To this objection Pareus [I’m not entirely sure who that is] answers, that the Apostle speaks here of salvation by the works of the law, not indeed as a thing possible, which he subsequently denies, but as a declaration of what it is, that he might thereby show the necessity of a gratuitous salvation which is by faith only. And this is the view which Mr. Haldane takes.

But there is no need of having recourse to this hypothesis: for whenever judgment is spoken of even in the New Testament, it is ever represented in the same way, as being regulated in righteousness, according to the works of every individual. (See Acts 17:31 Colossians 3:24, 25; Revelation 20:12; Revelation 22:12.)

So then it is clear that we don’t have to explain away judgement by works, as if it were merely a hypthetical situation that could happen if indeed anybody could possibly do good works.  No, the judgement is a real thing that will happen and will be based on ones works.  For those whe are not justified by faith, their works will condemn them. But to those who have been justified, they will be rewarded.

So what is the point?  What benefit is there in stressing both salvation by grace and judgment by works?   We must recognize that there is much benefit in every way.

One of these is that it motivates man.  Those who aren’t saved, are motivated negatively to turn to Christ so as to avoid punishment, while those who are saved can be motivated towards greater love and obedience in hope of greater rewards in heaven.  Calvin points out,

“We may add, that though he might have briefly described, even in two words, the blessedness of the godly and also the misery of the reprobate, he yet enlarges on both subjects, and for this end — that he might more effectually strike men with the fear of God’s wrath, and sharpen their desire for obtaining grace through Christ: for we never fear God’s judgment as we ought, except it be set as it were by a lively description before our eyes; nor do we really burn with desire for future life, except when roused by strong incentives, ( incited by many fans).”

To bring the case further we can look at other passages where Paul deals with the final judgment.

In 2nd Corinthians 5:10 we read,

“For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.”

In 1st Corinthians 4.5,

“Therefore do not pronounce judgment before the time, before the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart. Then each one will receive his commendation from God.”

From the last part it is clear that there will be rewards from God (“commendation” or praise from God).

Thus, for the believer, who has drawn “near with a true heart in full assurance of faith” and has had their heart “sprinkled clean from an evil conscience” (Heb 10.22) this view of the final judgment will bring with it only anticipation of future glory.

From the way Paul talks about the judgment, it is clear that his attitude is on of anticipation.

“For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this tent we groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling, if indeed by putting it on we may not be found naked. For while we are still in this tent, we groan, being burdened—not that we would be unclothed, but that we would be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee. So we are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, for we walk by faith, not by sight. Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord. So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.”

The Christian has been saved by grace and not by works.  But he has also been saved unto good works. The difference being, now he gets to do good works. Where as before (without justification), he couldn’t even do a good work if he wanted to.  Of course, he didn’t want to at that time.  And yet now, being justified by faith, he finds that he was indeed created in Christ Jesus, before the foundation of the world, to do good works, which God has prepared in advance for him to do (Eph 2.10).

So we see then that Salvation by grace, and judgment by works are not contradictory at all.  The one is the foundation for the other.  The former makes possible the later.  And the later is built upon the former.  They are in agreement with one another and thus complementary.   If however, we don’t see this connection, if we don’t see how these two things work together, we open ourselves up to so many foul speculations and doubts upon which we will be hard pressed to find any sense in the matter.

I think the Belgic Confession is incredibly helpful here.  On Sanctification it reads,

“We believe that this true faith, produced in man by the hearing of God’s Word and by the work of the Holy Spirit, regenerates him and makes him a “new man,” (2 Cor. 5:17) causing him to live the “new life” (Rom. 6:4) and freeing him from the slavery of sin.

Therefore, far from making people cold toward living in a pious and holy way, this justifying faith, quite to the contrary, so works within them that apart from it they will never do a thing out of love for God but only out of love for themselves and fear of being condemned.

So then, it is impossible for this holy faith to be unfruitful in a human being, seeing that we do not speak of an empty faith but of what Scripture calls “faith working through love,” (Gal. 5:6) which leads a man to do by himself the works that God has commanded in his Word.

These works, proceeding from the good root of faith, are good and acceptable to God, since they are all sanctified by his grace. Yet they do not count toward our justification — for by faith in Christ we are justified, even before we do good works. Otherwise they could not be good, any more than the fruit of a tree could be good if the tree is not good in the first place.

So then, we do good works, but nor for merit — for what would we merit? Rather, we are indebted to God for the good works we do, and not he to us, since it is he who “works in us both to will and do according to his good pleasure” (Phil. 2:13) — thus keeping in mind what is written: “When you have done all that is commanded you, then you shall say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have done what it was our duty to do.’ ” (Luke 17:10)

Yet we do not wish to deny that God rewards good works — but it is by his grace that he crowns his gifts.

Moreover, although we do good works we do not base our salvation on them; for we cannot do any work that is not defiled by our flesh and also worthy of punishment. And even if we could point to one, memory of a single sin is enough for God to reject that work.

So we would always be in doubt, tossed back and forth without any certainty, and our poor consciences would be tormented constantly if they did not rest on the merit of the suffering and death of our Savior.”

So we are saved by grace, and now get to do good works — which God created us to do in the first place.

“Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. (Rom 5.1)”

“Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ. (Col 3.23-24)”


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