Hence in opposition to that Sinai Law which ran upon those terms Do and Live, under the dispensation of the New, we hear so often of Believe and be saved, and he which believeth have everlasting Life, Mark 16.16.
Joh.3.16, 36. Not that believing now, taketh the place of doing in the Old Covenant; for then it must be our righteousness unto Justification, Gal 3.12. Rom 10.5., whereas that which justifieth is called, the righteousness of Faith, ver.6. and Phil.3.9. and therefore Faith is distinct from that righteousness it self, is not the least Atome of it: therefore, not our believing, but the obedience of Jesus Christ, is that which cometh in the room and stead of that doing for Life intended in the Law.
Some think the righteousness of Jesus Christ, or his active obedience in our stead, needless; unless as a part of his satisfaction for sin; because (say they) the law requires not of us both suffering and obedience. I Answer, the Law, as a Covenant of Works, required suffering in satisfaction for sin, and as it belongeth to the Covenant of Grace, so it requireth perfect obedience (to be fulfilled by Jesus Christ) as the condition of the Justification and Life of sinners.
Jason Punches of Somerset Reformed Fellowship pointed me to a great little article on the Law/Gospel Distinction written by Michael Horton of Westminster Seminary California. Here’s a taste:
While the Law continues to guide the believer in the Christian life, Calvin insists that it can never be confused with the Good News. Even after conversion, the believer is in desperate need of the Gospel because he reads the commands, exhortations, threats, and warnings of the Law and often wavers in his certain confidence because he does not see in himself this righteousness that is required. Am I really surrendered? Have I truly yielded in every area of my life? What if I have not experienced the same things that other Christians regard as normative? Do I really possess the Holy Spirit? What if I fall into serious sin? These are questions that we all face in our own lives. What will restore our peace and hope in the face of such questions? The Reformers, with the prophets and apostles, were convinced that only the Gospel could bring such comfort to the struggling Christian.
Without this constant emphasis in preaching, one can never truly worship or serve God in liberty, for his gaze will always be fastened on himself–either in despair or self-righteousness–rather than on Christ. Law and Gospel must both ever be preached, both for conviction and instruction, but the conscience will never rest, Calvin says, so long as Gospel is mixed with Law. “Consequently, this Gospel does not impose any commands, but rather reveals God’s goodness, his mercy and his benefits.” This distinction, Calvin says with Luther and the other Reformers, marks the difference between Christianity and paganism: “All who deny this turn the whole of the Gospel upside down; they utterly bury Christ, and destroy all true worship of God.”
He also includes this gem from J. Gresham Machen:
“According to modern liberalism, faith is essentially the same as ‘making Christ master’ of one’s life…But that simply means that salvation is thought to be obtained by our obedience to the commands of Christ. Such teaching is just a sublimated form of legalism.”
You can read the rest of the article here.
Do the Westminster Standards teach Merit? More importantly, do the Scriptures teach Merit? What is Merit? Did Christ merit anything by His work on earth? Was Adam, in God’s original arrangement with him, justified by works, or through faith? There are some who deny a meritorious arrangement with Adam, denying the existence of a “Covenant of Works.” Pastor Wes White tackes these questions and responds to the erroneous claims of the Joint Federal Vision Profession in this post:
In order to answer the question of whether the Westminster Standards teach merit, we must know what merit is. So, what is merit? Merit is defined in the dictionary as worth. As a verb, to merit something is to deserve something.
With that definition in mind, we can now consider whether the Westminster Standards teach merit. If you search the Westminster Standards, you will find that it does use the word “merits” in reference to Christ. Westminster Larger Catechism Q. 55 says that Christ appears in our nature before the Father in heaven “in the merit of his obedience and sacrifice on earth.” Thus, Christ’s obedience and sacrifice on earth was meritorious, and it is Christ’s will that the merit of His obedience and sacrifice would be “applied to all believers.”
You can read the rest of Pastor White’s excellent post here.
Just in time for Valentine’s Day, here’s a post about love! Is “love” the only rule of conduct for Christians? How do we define love? How do we practice love? To answer these common questions, we must turn to Scripture. In response to claims that God only commands love, Gordon H. Clark writes:
Theology is the crux of the matter, for ethics depends on theology. Instead of a God who gives moral laws, [Dr. Joseph] Fletcher [, Professor of Social Ethics in the Episcopal Theological School at Cambridge, Massachusetts] acknowledges a god who commands nothing but love. Now, one can wax eloquent and plausible about love. One can even sound devout and Christian, but if we are logical and rational, we must analyze the position to see exactly what it means.
It is not clear that Fletcher knows what he means by love. He quotes Tillich that the law of love is the ultimate law because it is the negation of law. But his paradoxical statement contains no positive information. Fletcher tells us also that “Christian love is not desire… it is an attitude.” But this statement too is negative and devoid of specific information. Later he says that love and justice are the same. “Justice,” he says, “is Christian love using its head, calculating its duties.” But Fletcher does not tell us what justice is or how we are to use our heads. Beyond this, Fletcher makes several other statments about love. But even if some of them should happen to be true, none of them shows how love can justify any action, even any good action, let alone disobedience to God.
The point I wish to make is not merely that love all by itself does not justify murder, theft, and perjury. The important point is that love all by itself does not justify any action. Morality cannot be based on love alone because love alone gives no guidance whatever. As a quotation a moment ago showed, the Scriptures may require us to love God but how we are to love God is spelled out in detail: “If ye love me, keep my commandments.” Without the specific and detailed instruction of the commandments we could never know how to express our love for God.
The fact is, Fletcher has trouble even with the command to love. When he rejects “all revealed norms or laws but the one commandment to love God in the neighbor,” he misquotes the commandment he refers to and omits the one on which it depends, namely, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.” Now a man doesn’t have to be a Christian. A man may adopt any principles he pleases if he can rationally defend them. But what kind of a Christian is it that accepts a garbled Second Commandment while rejecting the First from the same authority?
You can read the rest of this lecture, “The Puritans and Situation Ethics,” here.
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Here are some helpful comments from Gordon H. Clark which answer the question of how one can know good works from evil ones. Emphasis in bold is my own.
What then are good works? Are they those actions a benevolently intentioned gentleman may happen to enjoy? Is a substantial donation to an orphanage, hospital, or church a good work? Strange as it may seem to non-Christians, and even to uninstructed Christians, the answer is that these actions are not necessarily good. They may be good; but again they may not be. What then makes a work or action good?
Two requirements must be fulfilled before an act can properly be called good. The [Westminster] Confession says, “Good works are only such as God hath commanded in his holy word, and not such as, without the warrant thereof, are devised by men out of blind zeal, or upon any pretense of good intention.”
The first part of this section teaches that unless we had the Bible, it would be impossible to know what is good and what is evil. To be sure, the heathen know that there is a distinction between right and wrong; and they regularly violate their consciences; but they do not know in particular what acts are right because their consciences are unenlightened. The Biblical revelation is essential to a knowledge of what works are good (“Good Works,” Essays on Ethics and Politics, p. 104; originally published in The Southern Presbyterian Journal, February 9, 1955.).
Not only do denominations differ over their interpretations of various Biblical doctrines, but also within each denomination individual members have their personal peculiarities. Therefore when ministers assemble for a sedate colloquium or college students get together for a friendly bull session, and a question on Biblical doctrine arises, the discussion is bound to be interesting.
Within the past year two such meetings took place-one almost exclusively of ministers and professors, the other almost exclusively of students. It may not be so surprising that the subject of divine guidance and right conduct was taken up at both meetings, but it is worthy of note that in the first meeting a minister from a liturgical and rather formal denomination and in the second meeting some students from much more informal groups, expressed similar sentiments on the Christian’s relation to the law of God. It may also be worthy to note that few of the ministers agreed with the minister, while most of the students agreed with the students. Continue Reading