The Christian’s Justification
If your faith is in your good deeds, the idea that being a “good person” is enough to get you into heaven, than that faith is worthless. It has no power, nor worth, to gain you entrance into the celestial kingdom. True saving faith will show itself in the obedience the redeemed give to the revealed testimony of the Lord found in the Scriptures.
After a little break due to some sickness on my account we are back at it with our Thursday looks at the Larger Catechism. We’ve gone from considering Church membership and the advantages of the body of Christ for the believer to now contemplating some of the aspects of the work of the Lord in our redemption. The first thing we are going to look at is the way God grants forgiveness of sins to the believer. Yet, as we will discover, justification is about a lot more than merely the slate being made clean, because what was wrong with us in our depravity cannot be reduced to the fact we broke some commandments. The totality of our sinfulness should never either be undersold or ignored when it comes to the salvation we have received wholly by the grace of our Heavenly Father.
In today’s help (and next week’s) we’ll explore more about how justification particularly sets the stage for all the other benefits which come from our union with Christ. Here’s todays Q/A’s:
Q. 70: What is justification?
A. 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 anything 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.
Q. 71: How is justification an act of God’s free grace?
A. Although Christ, by his obedience and death, did make a proper, real, and full satisfaction to God’s justice in the behalf of them that are justified; yet in as much as God accepts the satisfaction from a surety, which he might have demanded of them, and did provide this surety, his own only Son, imputing his righteousness to them, and requiring nothing of them for their justification but faith, which also is his gift, their justification is to them of free grace.
As with their Shorter Catechism counterparts these questions make abundantly clear that justification is in every way an act that God performs, not a cooperating effort between the deity and the sinner. As Paul says if it was not of grace, then it would be of works. (Rom. 11:6). Grace by definition is freely offered and provided. (Eph. 2:8-10). The freeness of the act has its genesis in the reality that God at no point was required either by justice or fairness or any other type of attribute to relieve us of our condemnation due to us because of sin.
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Seek the ShadeBy Rudy Hartmann — 1 year ago
It is often in structured and spontaneous pausing in the shade that we who minister are ministered to. This is a practice – one which still feels difficult. Learning to relax into the shade, and not sit there with your mind fixated on the next shot, the next thing you have to do, is a practice of relaxing into the shade and shelter of God. It’s not easy, but for you, your family, those you lead with, and those you shepherd – it’s worth it.
I still remember the feeling of confusion as we zig-zagged across the golf course near our home in Florida. To me, the pattern made no sense at all. We’d go to what seemed like a random place on each hole, irrespective to the location of our golf balls, and my father and I would sit and wait for his friends to hit.
We’d just…wait. In what seemed to be a random spot, often far away from where our next shot was. Sometimes in these moments, he would comment on the sky, or the landscaping, or something else in life. Then, after a while, he’d take us over to where I thought we should have been the whole time – our next shot.
I had to ask why we were doing this. Even as a kid, I had a very process-driven mind – hit ball, find ball, hit ball again, repeat until finished. Boom. Golf. This random pattern of pausing and indiscriminate waiting made little sense to me. I had to know.
He looked at me and said these words that I’ve never forgotten – “Rudy, I’m always trying to keep us in the shade.”
As a kid, it didn’t make sense. Who cared about the shade? Let’s get to the next shot! I actually think I saw many things that way – in fact, until a few years ago, I think it’s how I saw ministry. Process-driven – just “get to the next shot.” The next event. The next meeting, The next _______. I’d forgotten the lesson my father taught me on that course – to always seek out the shade. To find moments to break, to rest, to slow, to stop, to pause, to recover, to wait. The shade as a place to just be with Jesus, in the middle of responsibilities that are as constant as the Florida sun.
Perhaps I didn’t forget my father’s lesson – maybe I just never learned it. Much to my own detriment, I didn’t practice seeking out the shade until several years ago when I’d worn myself out to the point of despair. As has been said before, the pain of staying the same had outweighed the pain of change – which turned out to exist only in my mind.
On Dialogue in the Contemporary Presbyterian Church in AmericaBy Tom Hervey — 7 months ago
Note, I do not say this about questions of worship style, apologetic method, manner of dress, whether or not one’s church has a Sunday evening service, views of the millennium, internal administrative arrangements, confessional subscription, or other such things about which there has been internal disagreement within the PCA, but rather about cases of flagrant, impenitent, public wrongdoing. There can and should be peaceful dialogue about those other matters, (though simple tolerance is preferable in some of them, Rom. 14). But there cannot and should not be dialogue where PCA ministers have committed sins before the whole world, as is the case at present.
Dialogue occurs when two or more parties discuss their differences under circumstances in which each party is afforded equal dignity and equal opportunity to express their views, and when they do so to reach a rapprochement (in cases of conflict) or for mutual edification (where conflict is not present). Probably most people will agree on such a definition, but the question of the function of dialogue in the present, controversy-ridden Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) merits a few further reflections.
Dialogue Has Been Attempted
In 2018 prominent members of the National Partnership (NP) and the Gospel Reformation Network (GRN) met to discuss differences. Some idea of the meeting’s temper may be gleaned from the title of the GRN article relating it (“Cultivating the Bonds of Peace in the PCA”). There have been other attempts, formal and informal, in both person and via written format. For example, at the 2021 General Assembly David Strain and David Cassidy discussed differences regarding confessional subscription, while Jon Payne and David Coffin contributed differing articles at ByFaith viz. Overtures 23 and 37 at the end of 2021.
Dialogue Does Not Appear To Have Worked
Judging by the tone of “Cultivating the Bonds of Peace,” its author, GRN head Jon Payne, thought that 2018 meeting went well. Skip forward to March, 2022 and a publicly-avowed member of the National Partnership accused him and the GRN ruling council of bearing false testimony for using labels too loosely. That 2018 meeting’s restoration of peace either did not last, or else it achieved peace only between some of the members of the respective parties. So also with other attempts at dialogue: judging by the continuing controversies, they have not ushered in an era of general peace and good will in the denomination. If they have had good effects they have been limited in extent, and it is not clear that dialogue has accomplished even such limited benefits in most cases.
Dialogue Is Not Possible Between Many In The PCA
Where presuppositions and perspectives differ, the respective parties are often unable to understand each other, thus making meaningful dialogue impossible. Consider the matter of the National Partnership. Its members assert that it is merely a private forum for like-minded elders to discuss denominational polity and voluntarily coordinate their efforts regarding it. Others say it is a secret organization that seeks to alter the denomination according to its own agenda, and which to that end is working to elevate its own men to key positions within the denomination and its presbyteries after the fashion of the old Presbyterian Church in the United States’ Fellowship of Saint James. Between ‘innocent private club’ and ‘inexcusable subversive conspiracy’ is a difference of type, not merely degree. If dialogue is attempted between people whose understanding is so radically different, probably nothing will be accomplished except to create more misunderstanding and strife.
It Is Doubtful That Dialogue Is Truly Desired By Everyone
I do not accuse any of our public proponents of dialogue of such mendacity. But probably people of all opinions can agree that there are some people who simply want to argue – it is a fairly common Reformed failing, after all. In addition, I have correspondence from elders whose revelations about the inner workings of their courts and committees suggests that dialogue is certainly not always wanted under those circumstances, even in matters of great importance. And experience has often shown that when someone says he wants dialogue, what he really means is that he wants an occasion to force his views upon others: dialogue means ‘I’ll talk and you can nod your head in agreement,’ not ‘let’s chat it out together in a spirit of give and take.’
Dialogue Is Not Always Useful For Achieving Peace
As any parent (and many bosses and teachers) can attest, what is needed in many cases of conflict is not dialogue but silence, perhaps arranged and enforced by higher authority.
Dialogue Is Not Always A Duty Or Act Of Prudence And Obedience
Were Paul and Barnabas wrong to forgo gentle dialogue and instead engage in “no small dissension and debate” with the Judaizers (Acts 15:2)? No. Their opponents were wrong and were upsetting the faith of new believers by distorting the gospel (Gal. 2:4-5; 5:1-12). Dialogue would have been wrong, for dialogue implies that the respective views of the varying parties are worthy of equal audience and respect. But heresy and the truth are not equally legitimate, and they do not deserve an equal audience or respect. Where a matter is one between truth and falsehood, wisdom and folly, light and dark, life and death, obedience to Christ or obedience to the flesh, the respective options are irreconcilable, and one must predominate to the exclusion of the other. “What accord has Christ with Belial?” (2 Cor. 6:15a). In such cases the believer is not to engage in dialogue with the errant, but is to rebuke them and urge them to repentance (Gal. 2:11-14; 1 Tim. 5:20; Tit. 1:13; 2:15). If they persist in error the individual is to avoid them (Rom. 16:17; 2 Tim. 3:5; Tit. 3:10-11) and the church is to excommunicate them (Matt. 18:17; 1 Tim. 1:20).
Dialogue Is Not The Need Of The Hour In The PCA
Many people would likely agree with the last several sentences above. But many would probably disagree that they bear upon our present case. Many speak and act as though we are discussing nonessential matters of mere taste or form. I disagree. The very soul of the denomination is at stake. Consider the following example. In an article in 2021 Greg Johnson quoted approvingly a statement from Francis Spufford’s book Why, Despite Everything, Christianity Can Still Make Surprising Emotional Sense, in which he refers to “the human propensity to [expletive excised].” With Spufford this phrase is a formal concept—he capitalizes the acronym—and he uses it as a substitute for the doctrine of sin.
Now, one could say that this is just an example of nuanced, culturally-sensitive, and well-informed ministry. Johnson is providing comfort to the afflicted, and doing so in language that is understandable to people who have grown up outside of the church. The correct way of looking at it recognizes that this represents a severe offense against the holiness of God that brings the church and her ministry into disrepute (Jas. 1:26; comp. Eph. 4:29 & Col. 4:6); risks making the little ones stumble by commending bad sources and suggesting that foul language is acceptable (Lk. 17:1-2); and is evidence of an unclean heart (Matt. 12:33-37) and a bad character unfit for office (1 Tim. 3:2). Even many unbelievers would fire an employee who used such language – should the church not have a higher standard of holiness for its ministers?
In such a case what is needed is not dialogue. What is needed is for the officers of the PCA to take seriously their sworn duty to preserve the church’s purity and for Greg Johnson to be meaningfully disciplined and told that Christ’s judgment is fast-approaching and that such behavior does much harm to everyone, not least he himself. A failure to do so makes the denomination tolerant of wrongdoing, a thing which invites divine judgment (Rev. 2:20), even where an offense is hidden or has been committed by a single individual (Josh. 7:10-26).
Note, I do not say this about questions of worship style, apologetic method, manner of dress, whether or not one’s church has a Sunday evening service, views of the millennium, internal administrative arrangements, confessional subscription, or other such things about which there has been internal disagreement within the PCA, but rather about cases of flagrant, impenitent, public wrongdoing. There can and should be peaceful dialogue about those other matters, (though simple tolerance is preferable in some of them, Rom. 14). But there cannot and should not be dialogue where PCA ministers have committed sins before the whole world, as is the case at present. There is a pastor in Utah who committed obvious blasphemy; that situation does not call for dialogue, but for discipline. I know a man who was at a church with deaconesses. When he pried he was first told that they were ‘creatively complying’ with the BCO, but when he persisted he was told that they were in willful violation of it and he could either accept that or go elsewhere. Such men are rebels and oath-breaking liars; they should not be engaged in dialogue, but disciplined.
Examples could be multiplied, but the point holds true that what is needed is not high-sounding rhetoric and polite dialogue, but meaningful action. Many of us in the pews do not wish to dialogue with flagrant offenders, nor for our courts and officers to do so. Such a thing is not morally or spiritually safe (1 Cor. 15:33). We want our leaders to exercise their vows faithfully, which means punishing wrongdoing in our own midst.
Dialogue Can Only Occur When Heinous Offenses Are First Removed
The latest entry at ByFaith that calls for dialogue (as well as trust and appreciation of differences) comes from Tom Gibbs, president of Covenant Seminary. Covenant seminary employs a librarian who praises Allan Boesak, a pro-LGBT theologian who threatened to quit his church if it failed to interpret the Belhar Confession to also prohibit discrimination about sexual preferences; uses the Black Lives Matter hash tag (an organization with some concerning ideas about nuclear families); approves Calvin University retaining faculty that disagree with the CRC’s recent disapproval of homosexual sin; and has no qualms whatsoever about using foul language in various ways. Compare those last couple examples to Eph. 5:4&6: “Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking . . . for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience.”
This is the face of (theological) liberalism and creeping infidelity. It is here in the PCA at Pres. Gibbs’ institution, as well as elsewhere – check out what qualifies as holiness and pastoral humility and gentleness with the National Partnership’s founder (comp. Christ: “out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks,” Matt. 12:34) – and the question of the hour is this: what is going to be done about it? Because until the relevant parties begin to maintain holiness and discipline among those for whom they are responsible, they have no business lecturing the rest of us about trust, dialogue, and agreeing to disagree.
Tom Hervey is a member, Woodruff Road Presbyterian Church, Simpsonville, SC. The statements made in this article are the personal opinions of the author alone, and do not necessarily reflect the views of his church or its leadership or other members.
 The Fellowship of Saint James was a secret group in that denomination that included major figures who worked to strategically place the group’s preferred men in pulpits and professorships at major churches and the seminaries. It resisted inquiries into its doings and membership and asserted it was an innocent club for mutual edification, so there is uncertainty as to how decisive of a role it played in the Presbyterian Church in the United States becoming faithless.
 There is a difference between dialogue and debate: the former seeks the unification of the parties; the latter, the identification and triumph of the truth.
Spufford’s book, it must be noted, is full of vile content and heresy, and I strongly recommend against reading it.
 Note that I excised the profanity in those examples, and that the one provides a good reason why we should not get caught up in the ‘Elon Musk is great’ craze.
 The librarian in question is also a vocal Democrat: I do not criticize him for that, nor do I wish for the church and its agencies to do so.
 The video is of a sheep repeatedly getting stuck in a ditch after every rescue.
Why Are Men in Crisis?By John Stonestreet and Kasey Leander — 8 months ago
This corresponds with a dramatic crisis in terms of sociability. As Andrew Yang noted, “Roughly one-third of men are either unemployed or out of the workforce,” and correspondingly, “more U.S. men ages 18 to 34 are now living with their parents than with romantic partners.” Galloway noted an even more surprising statistic: Fewer than 1 in 3 men under the age of 30 have had sex in the last year.
Shocking though it is, that last statistic isn’t primarily about sex. Rather, it points to a deeper problem. Young men aren’t forming social bonds with real, live people, even the kinds of bonds that have historically captured their attention.
The question is, why?
Maher nods at digital technology, arguing that it keeps men away from the skills they need to form real relationships. Galloway agrees: Tinder in particular has been a “disaster,” reinforcing the lie that video game addiction and pornography already sell. Happiness, these platforms imply, does not require effort or sacrifice. Just a screen.
Andrew Yang put it this way: “Here’s the simple truth I’ve heard from many men. We need to be needed. We imagine ourselves as builders, soldiers, workers, brothers—part of something bigger than ourselves. We deal with idleness terribly.”