The doctrine of justification by faith alone on the ground of Christ’s imputed righteousness remains under direct attack in various quarters. As someone who wrote his PhD dissertation on the doctrines of justification in Richard Baxter and Benjamin Keach, I am convinced that modifying the biblical doctrine is a serious theological error. As a pastor of a local church, I have observed how the doctrine of justification humbles the proud, strengthens the fainthearted, gives assurance to the fearful, encourages vulnerable and motivates self-sacrificing love. To deny this doctrine is to deny the very heart and power of the gospel. May the Lord bring theological clarity on this doctrine for the sake of His own glory and for the good of His beloved bride.
Scriptural Reasons Denying Justification is a Serious Error
1. To deny justification is to deny the heart of the gospel…
2. To deny justification is to stumble…
3. To deny justification is to receive the Bible’s curse…
4. To deny justification is an offense that warrants church discipline…
…In spite of all the passages cited above, some believe that justification by faith alone is a secondary or tertiary doctrine. They say, “We may be justified by faith alone, but we’re not justified by believing justification by faith alone.” Using that rationale, they go on to say a person may be saved without believing this crucial doctrine. But consider three points in response to that assertion.
1. Paul says no such thing when dealing with those who were denying the biblical doctrine of justification…
2. To believe in justification by faith alone is to believe that Christ alone saves…
3. Such an assertion undermines the faith itself when applied to any other central doctrine of Christianity…
It has been a great joy and a blessing to be among the dear brothers and sisters of First Baptist Church of the Lakes in Las Vegas for their annual Reformation Conference. Below you will find the links to watch [YouTube playlist] or listen to the sermons that were preached on that occasion by Dr. Pretlove, Dr. Gonzales and myself.
Pretty much the entire program was related to Roman Catholicism today, looking at the synod meeting in Rome, the reports on the discussions therein, a little bit of Jason Stellman’s “unmitigated disaster” meme, and then, the last portion of the program, I interacted with Douglas Wilson’s FVism [Federal Vision-ism] regarding Rome, and pounded on the theme, “It’s the Gospel” over and over again.
The YouTube videos below are taken from a seminar given by Dr. James White on Saturday & Sunday, February 7, 8, 2009, at the Sola Conference at Countryside Bible Church in the Dallas area.
The first video is an overview of the historic and present day attacks against the doctrine of sola fide (justification by faith alone). Lasting approx. 72 minutes, this presentation is excellent for both its clarity and insight concerning the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
The second video (below) lasts approx. 55 minutes and is entitled “Living Out Sola Fide.”
TITLE: THE MARROW OF TRUE JUSTIFICATION, OR JUSTIFICATION WITHOUT WORKS (1692) Benjamin Keach
Read by Jeff Massey
Benjamin Keach was a leader among the 17th century English Particular Baptists and a pastor of a Particular Baptist Church meeting at Horsly-Down, Southwark for 36 years. He also represented the church at Horsly-Down at the 1689 General Assembly, which adopted what has become known as the Second London Baptist Confession.
In this first reading from The Marrow of True Justification, Benjamin Keach explains why the Doctrine of Justification by Faith in Christ Alone is ‘the very pillar of the Christian Religion.’ Then Keach gives the scope and coherence of Romans 4:5, so that his hearers might ‘understand the design and main drift of the Holy Spirit therein.’
In this second reading from The Marrow of True Justification, Benjamin Keach answers the false and erroneous teachings of some men concerning the great Doctrine of Justification. He refutes the teachings of the Papists, Socinians, Arminians, Quakers, and some men, such as Richard Baxter, who were looked upon as true preachers of the Gospel by many, but who wrongly insisted that ‘sincere obedience’ must be joined to faith in order for a man to be justified.
In this third reading from The Marrow of True Justification, Keach gives the scriptural proofs and arguments to confirm the doctrine that all works done by the creature are excluded from justification. Keach also shows that the false notion that men can be justified by works has its real origin in our corrupt natural reason and is part of the wisdom of this world.
In this fourth and final reading from The Marrow of True Justification, Keach provides further scriptural proofs and arguments to confirm the doctrine that all works done by the creature are excluded from justification. Keach also shows that the Doctrine of Justification by Faith in Christ Alone does not lead to lawlessness (Antinomianism).
For those who may have heard of Norman Shepherd but don’t know the problems with his theology, Brandon Adams has provided a helpful summary using quotes from Shepherd’s own lectures. These issues are not restricted to Presbyterianism, however, but have surfaced in the writings of some who claim the 1689 Confession. Adams writes,
Norman Shepherd taught a false gospel of works righteousness at Westminster Theological Seminary in the 70s by arguing good works are instrumental to justification. When asked in their ordination exam how we are justified, graduates were answering “by faith and works”. When asked who taught them that, they said Professor Shepherd. He paved the way for the Federal Vision.
In 2002, Shepherd delivered 4 lectures titled “What’s All the Fuss?” regarding his views on justification:
The thrust of his lectures is to show that the Bible does not teach a works-merit paradigm. He presents his position as the “faith-grace” or “covenantal” paradigm and he opposes this to the “works-merit” paradigm.
In lecture 1 he insists that the biblical doctrine of justification consists in forgiveness of sins only… It does not provide a righteousness not our own, it only forgives our sins. And forgiveness alone is insufficient to eternally save anyone. It merely makes us eligible for eternal life… We are in the same position as Adam in terms of our need to obtain eternal life. The only difference is that when we sin, it is forgiven. But our works play the same role as they did for Adam before the fall. This is contrary to the London Baptist Confession.
With all of that in mind, it is particularly troubling to see people continue to recommend Greg Nichols’ book as a faithful representation of the system of doctrine taught in the London Baptist Confession. Nichols’ book is idiosyncratic and not representative of the confession, nor its signatories (see, for example, here and here). Confessional Reformed Baptists should stop recommending his book as representative of our confessional views.
The similarities between much of what Nichols writes and what Shepherd teaches is striking…
Pastor Brian J. Mann of Catherine Lake Baptist Church has written a short post expressing concern regarding the embrace by many of the practical works of Richard Baxter, particularly his book, The Reformed Pastor.
If you have not already been exposed to Richard Baxter, the time may come that someone may speak of him as gold, and it shall do you well to be informed on the matter–at least a bit. Most know Baxter by his book entitled: The Reformed Pastor. This book’s title is actually misleading because it does not mean “reformed” as we know it concerning a covenantal view and doctrines of grace, but rather simply “renewed.” Baxter speaks of the need to reform or renew pastoral ministry via closer examination of members in the churches. The idea sounds quite attractive, but the motives are questionable.
This is because theoretic or marrow theology necessarily impacts practical and pastoral theology. Just as a person in the pew can be motivated out of guilt to do this or that, so can the pastor. And in the case of the Reformed Pastor, Baxter sets forth what was reputed to be the best thing since sliced bread of the time to many. However, it is far from accurate to say all or even most accepted Baxter’s practical works in addition to the marrow of his theology built thereupon.
Baxter did not believe Christ was his righteousness, but that his faith and works contributed to his salvation not much different than Rome. Those such as John Owen and Robert Traill spoke against this theology…
Baxter’s Reformed Pastor teaches us the lesson that just because something is called something it does not mean it is really that thing which it is called. The title as mentioned is misleading, the book is informed by a teacher that has a historically erroneous view of the law and of justification; and goes so far to deny the doctrines of grace. There is no restriction in reading a work like the Reformed Pastor, but if you are like me, you wish you had been informed when you first received such a book. We are living in times when all that is hailed as reformed is not necessarily truly reformed. That which professes godliness, does not always produce godliness. I find this matter important for pastors, because pastors lead churches, and if the pastor is not doing what he does based on good doctrine and reason, the same is likely to be passed on to those he is teaching. The heart does matter. And doctrine does impact what we do. Therefore, it is not to say we cannot get something out of books that are motivated by wrong theology, but we should read with discernment and be concerned enough to question if the marrow of theology is wrong in a person’s life, should we not also question the practical theology as well? If what a person believes is not biblical, then should we accept what a person says to do? Jesus spoke of Pharisees, to listen to what they say, but do not practice what they practice. Many make the opposite case for Baxter: Don’t listen to what he teaches, but just do what he says. I find this to be very questionable. Christians are not people who are to simply do something without being informed and empowered by a true gospel… No matter how reputable a person is that recommends the Reformed Pastor, we have biblical principles that have authority above that person.
I’m grateful for the post, since while many people are aware of Baxter’s Reformed Pastor and Christian Directory, few are aware of his denial of all imputations (Adam’s, ours, Christ’s), denial of justification by faith only, and affirmation of justification by works of inherent righteousness.
We use the word adoption very casually today. We speak of adopting pets, books, and highways. Yet the word has a far nobler significance. Adoption is the permanent placement of a child in a family with all its rights and privileges. God has forever placed us in his family. He has forever made us his children. He has forever changed our legal status. He has forever granted us an inheritance. He has forever lavished his love upon us. A Hope Deferred probes the depths of this wonderful reality by unfolding the six blessings of adoption as found in Romans 8. It intertwines these blessings with an account of one family s journey to international adoption a journey encompassing twenty years, four continents, and countless joys and sorrows. The result is a valuable glimpse into the essential relationship between adoption, affliction, and the fatherhood of God over his people.
How long, O Lord? is a piercing Biblical cry which Stephen and Alison Yuille lived over many years of praying that God would give them children. In the end, God granted them two daughters, and a deeper knowledge of His fatherly love in Jesus Christ. This book is a precious mosaic of personal stories and biblical teaching that go straight to the heart. —Dr. Joel R. Beeke
Author Bio – J. Stephen Yuille resides in Glen Rose, Texas, with his wife, Alison, and their daughters, Laura and Emma. He is the Teaching Pastor at Grace Community Church and Adjunct Professor of Practical Theology at Redeemer Seminary in Dallas. He is the author of The Inner Sanctum of Puritan Piety (2007), Puritan Spirituality (2008), Trading and Thriving in Godliness (2008), and Living Blessedly Forever (2012).
In the eight lectures below, Pastor Jeff Smith, a lecturer and board member of Reformed Baptist Seminary, provides an overview and critique of the NPP. First, he identifies its main proponents, primary tenets, and subtle attractions. Then he refutes its primary claims and teachings through careful exegesis and theological reflection. In closing, Smith highlights several important implications and draws some vital applications from the study. These lectures serve as part of the curriculum for one of Reformed Baptist Seminary’s courses on polemics. Enjoy!
Evan D. Burns, over at the Andrew Fuller Center for Baptist Studies, writes:
October 31, 1517 ought always to be remembered as the sacred day when the Spirit of God used the German Augustinian monk, Martin Luther (1483-1546), to launch the Protestant Reformation. Luther was a prophetic voice that took no prisoners with his theological assertions. His theological persuasion and unbreakable dissent emerged from his knowledge of the Hebrew and Greek Scriptures. The Reformation was the rediscovery of the Word. And it was through the languages that Luther unearthed the treasure of the gospel: justification by faith alone.
The following excerpts from his commentary on Galatians exemplify his zeal for this doctrine…
I decided to dedicate the entire program today to reviewing the first call Michael Brown took on The Line of Fire on Tuesday. It seemed to provide an excellent basis for actually addressing the most important elements of this controversy. I didn’t expect to take the whole hour, but, that’s what happened! Hopefully our listeners will find this a useful discussion. Here’s the audio of the program: