On Replying to Moralists (2)

  • Part 1
  • When I say “moralists” I mean primarily the doctrine that God justifies the sanctified because they are sanctified or that we are justified by grace and cooperation with grace.  This is the bottom line of the NPP. Justification is re-defined into sociology and ecclesiology and our standing before God becomes contingent upon what happens within us and not, as the Protestants had it, on what happened for us.
  • I’ve read in some discussion of the forthcoming volume by Tom Wright that the orthodox Protestants or orthodox evangelicals haven’t engaged his work. Consider these titles:

horton-covenant-and-salvationIn Covenant and Salvation Mike Horton engages extensively with the NPP and Tom Wright in particular. His engagement is exegetical, historical, and theological. If by “engaged” the internet advocates of NTW mean, “accept his assumptions and use his method to disprove him,” well, not Horton doesn’t do that but that’s an unreasonable standard. If you haven’t read this you should. It’s a brilliant treatment of the problem.

Covenant Justification and Pastoral MinistryIn this volume our faculty engaged NTW and other proponents of the NPP and it’s subsidiary or spin-off movements in the Reformed world. Several essays undermined the basic historical, exegetical, and theological assumptions of the NPP.  There are extensive bibliographic footnotes in several of the essays providing leads to other literature.


watersnppIn this volume Guy Waters, who did his doctoral at Duke with a leading proponent of the NPP replies extensively and effectively to the movement.



feskojustificationThis modern, comprehensive, treatment of the doctrine of justification deals with the NPP.

These four titles are just those that come to mind but there are several others to which one could refer interested readers such as Carson et al, eds. Justification and Variegted Nomism (2 vols) and as well as the work of several NT scholars replying to the NPP such as Seyoon Kim and Simon Gathercole to name but two.

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  1. Dr. Clark

    Do these books/resources deal with “judgment according to works” at the last day? This needs to be clearly delineated. Is this judgement an evaluation of our Spirit-wrought works and handing out of rewards, or does this somehow figure in to God’s future declaration? If the latter, then justification is really suspended until the last day, along with assurance, etc.
    Thanks for your reply.

  2. Hi Mike,

    I think the Belgic Confession and the Heidelberg Catechism are extremely helpful in answering your question.


    Article 24 – Our Sanctification and Good Works

    We believe that this true faith, worked in man by the hearing of God’s Word and by the operation of the Holy Spirit,1 regenerates him and makes him a new man.2 It makes him live a new life and frees him from the slavery of sin.3 Therefore it is not true that this justifying faith makes man indifferent to living a good and holy life.4 On the contrary, without it no one would ever do anything out of love for God,5 but only out of self-love or fear of being condemned. It is therefore impossible for this holy faith to be inactive in man, for we do not speak of an empty faith but of what Scripture calls faith working through love (Gal 5:6). This faith induces man to apply himself to those works which God has commanded in His Word. These works, proceeding from the good root of faith, are good and acceptable in the sight of God, since they are all sanctified by His grace. Nevertheless, they do not count toward our justification. For through faith in Christ we are justified, even before we do any good works.6 Otherwise they could not be good any more than the fruit of a tree can be good unless the tree itself is good.7

    Therefore we do good works, but not for merit. For what could we merit? We are indebted to God, rather than He to us, for the good works we do,8 since it is He who is at work in us, both to will and to work for His good pleasure (Php 2:13). Let us keep in mind what is written: “So you also, when you have done all that is commanded you, say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty’” (Lk 17:10). Meanwhile we do not deny that God rewards good works,9 but it is by His grace that He crowns His gifts.

    Furthermore, although we do good works, we do not base our salvation on them. We cannot do a single work that is not defiled by our flesh and does not deserve punishment.10 Even if we could show one good work, the remembrance of one sin is enough to make God reject it.11 We would then always be in doubt, tossed to and fro without any certainty, and our poor consciences would be constantly tormented, if they did not rely on the merit of the death and passion of our Saviour.12

    1 Acts 16:14; Rom 10:17; 1 Cor 12:3 2 Ezek 36:26-27; Jn 1:12-13, 3:5; Eph 2:4-6; Tit 3:5; 1 Pt 1:23 3 Jn 5:24, 8:36; Rom 6:4-6; 1 Jn 3:9 4 Gal 5:22; Tit 2:12 5 Jn 15:5; Rom 14:23; 1 Tim 1:5; Heb 11:4, 6 6 Rom 4:5 7 Mt 7:17 8 1 Cor 1:30-31, 4:7; Eph 2:10 9 Rom 2:6-7; 1 Cor 3:14; 2 Jn 8; Rev 2:23 10 Rom 7:21 11 Jas 2:10 12 Hab 2:4; Mt 11:28; Rom 10:11


    Lord’s Day 23

    59. But how does it help you now that you believe all this?
    That I am righteous in Christ before God, and an heir of eternal life.1
    1 Hab 2:4; Jn 3:36; Rom 1:17, 5:1-2

    60. How are you righteous before God?
    Only by true faith in Jesus Christ;1 that is, although my conscience accuses me that I have grievously sinned against all the commandments of God, have never kept any of them,2 and that I am still inclined always to all evil,3 yet God, without any merit of my own,4 out of mere grace,5 imputes to me the perfect satisfaction, righteousness and holiness of Christ,6 as if I had never had nor committed any sin, and as if I had myself accomplished all the obedience which Christ has fulfilled for me,7 if only I accept this gift with a believing heart.8
    1 Rom 3:21-28; Gal 2:16; Eph 2:8-9; Php 3:8-11; 2 Rom 3:9-10; 3 Rom 7:23; 4 Deut 9:6; Ezek 36:22; Tit 3:4-5; 5 Rom 3:24; Eph 2:8; 6 Rom 4:3-5; 2 Cor 5:17-19; 1 Jn 2:1-2; 7 Rom 4:24-25; 2 Cor 5:21; 8 Jn 3:18; Acts 16:30-31; Rom 3:22

    61. Why do you say that you are righteous only by faith?
    Not that I am acceptable to God on account of the worthiness of my faith; for only the satisfaction, righteousness and holiness of Christ is my righteousness before God,1 and I can receive this righteousness and make it my own only by faith.2
    1 1 Cor 1:30-31, 2:2; 2 Rom 10:10; 1 Jn 5:10-12

    Lord’s Day 24

    62. But why cannot our good works be the whole or part of our righteousness before God?
    Because the righteousness which can stand before the judgment-seat of God must be perfect throughout and wholly conformable to the Law of God;1 whereas even our best works in this life are all imperfect and defiled with sin.2
    1 Deut 27:26; Gal 3:10; 2 Isa 64:6

    63. How is it that our good works merit nothing, while yet it is God’s will to reward them in this life and in that which is to come?
    The reward comes not of merit,1 but of grace.2
    1 Mt 5:12; Heb 11:6; 2 Lk 17:10; 2 Tim 4:7-8

    64. But does not this doctrine make men careless and wicked?
    No, for it is impossible that those who are grafted into Christ by true faith should not bring forth fruits of thankfulness.1
    1 Mt 7:18; Lk 6:43-45; Jn 15:5

  3. Albert
    I’m progressively discovering the Reformed confessions. Thanks for pointing me to these treasures. Blessings in Christ.

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