Audio: Exposition of the Nine Points (Pt 8): Defining Grace and Faith

Exposition of the Nine Points (pt 8)-Defining Grace and Faith

We reject the errors of those:

  1. who teach that Spirit-wrought sanctity, human works, or cooperation with grace is any part either of the ground of our righteousness before God or any part of faith, that is, the “instrument by which we embrace Christ, our righteousness” (BC 22-24; HC 21, 60, 86);
  2. who define faith, in the act of justification, as being anything more than “leaning and resting on the sole obedience of Christ crucified” or “a certain knowledge” of and “a hearty trust” in Christ and His obedience and death for the elect (BC 23; HC 21);

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  1. Great point. How does one break a gracious covenant exactly?
    I agree that these are “wolves” and this should not really come as a surprise. Paul warned the Ephesian elders to look out for wolves among them (the elders) who would rise up to devour the flock.
    As you have said a number of times, the real test of our NAPARC churches is will they have the courage and fortitude to enforce discipline against those who teach this false doctrine. This is not simply a matter of difference. Either I am justified soley by the righteousness of Christ imputed to my account, received by faith alone (which is God’s gracious gift to a regenerated sinner) or I am doomed. As is usual with this type of false teaching, the comfort of the Gospel is lost. Good news is now “Good luck.”

  2. I was only able to listen to half, but amen. The image of the corpse is powerful. I remember my professor at New Saint Andrews using the same metaphor for our condition (as opposed to Armenian or RC view). Justification is God reviving a bone-dry corpse – we can’t add a thing, neither at the beginning, middle, or end. Thank goodness (or rather God!) we don’t have to “maintain” our salvation – because we’d ALL be goners at the Last Day.

    • Daniel,

      Keep listening and/or reading. Yes, FVists can say orthodox things but, as we saw with the first 30 seconds of Wilson’s sermon, they can also contradict themselves, especially under the heading of “covenant theology.” In support of that move, however, they often redefine faith and grace and especially the “covenant of grace.” For more than 30 years Norman Shepherd, one of the godfathers of the FV movement has been making all the other graces which accompany faith not mere evidence and fruit of faith but constitutive of faith. This is the Roman error. He agrees with Trent that anyone who says that sanctity is nothing more than fruit or evidence of justification is anathema.

      If I may say, you are naive about what the FV is and is about. Consider this language from the 2007 FV statement under the heading, “Reformed Catholicity:”

      We affirm that justification is through faith in Jesus Christ, and not through works of the law, whether those works were revealed to us by God, or manufactured by man. Because we are justified through faith in Jesus alone, we believe that we have an obligation to be in fellowship with everyone that God has received into fellowship with Himself.

      Notice what’s missing here: the faith alone. The word “alone” appears but it is placed strategically to avoid affirming the Reformation faith. They affirm that justification is by faith. So does Trent. They deny it is “through the works of the law.” So does Trent. So far all they’ve denied is Pelagianism. They’re still holding hands with Trent. When they do use “alone,” they don’t say “faith alone” in Jesus but rather they say “faith in Jesus Christ alone.” Once more they agree with Trent. See how slippery they are? This is about the uniqueness of Christ not about the nature of faith as the sole instrument. Then they affirm, in effect, that we’re in fellowship with Rome (or with whomever).

      We deny that correct formulations of the doctrine of sola fide can be substituted for genuine faith in Jesus, or that such correct formulations can be taken as infallible indicators of a true faith in Jesus.

      When they say “sola fide” they only say to deny that being orthodox on sola fide is a sufficient condition for justification. By that’s helpful. Had we not the FV wizards to warn us against “dead orthodoxy” we would never have known to watch out for it.

      When they do use “faith alone” in something like the traditional sense it occurs as part of their denial of the covenant of works!

      Just as an aside, in one of the more bizarre passages in this remarkable document categorically rejects the historic Reformed distinction between law and gospel:

      We deny that law and gospel should be considered as a hermeneutics, or treated as such. We believe that any passage, whether indicative or imperative, can be heard by the faithful as good news, and that any passage, whether containing gospel promises or not, will be heard by the rebellious as intolerable demand. The fundamental division is not in the text, but rather in the human heart.

      What makes this passage so bizarre is that for all their noise and bluster about the “objectivity” of the covenant here they take a radically subjective turn in their hermeneutic. It’s not the text that is either law or gospel but rather the human heart — our subjective experience of the text makes it what it is. Really? That’s passing strange! So, if my heart is right then “do this and live” becomes gospel? Really?

      What great beacons of the Reformation!

      Your family moved to Moscow for that?

      The good news is that now that you’re in the States there are lots of other places where you can actually still find Reformation preaching and teaching. It’s not too late Daniel. Wilson hasn’t succeeded in building a wall around Moscow. Be warned. It didn’t take the East Germans very long to build their wall.

      Finally, when they get to faith alone, they both affirm it AND fundamentally subvert it in two consecutive paragraphs. This is why I call them wolves. Keep listening to the audio.

      We affirm we are saved by grace alone, through faith alone. Faith alone is the hand which is given to us by God so that we may receive the offered grace of God. Justification is God’s forensic declaration that we are counted as righteous, with our sins forgiven, for the sake of Jesus Christ alone.

      We deny that the faith which is the sole instrument of justification can be understood as anything other than the only kind of faith which God gives, which is to say, a living, active and personally loyal faith. Justifying faith encompasses the elements of assent, knowledge, and living trust in accordance with the age and maturity of the believer. We deny that faith is ever alone, even at the moment of the effectual call.

      The first paragraph gives Wilson cover so he can say to the John Piper’s of the world, “See, I’m orthodox.” The 2nd paragraph says to Norman Shepherd, “We’re still with you buddy. We haven’t forgotten you.”

      When they say “the kind of faith that God gives,” that’s the moralist code for “faith formed by love.” This is why you need to keep listening. For Wilson, who is arguably the most formally orthodox of the FV boys, and for the rest of the FV wizards, faith does what it does because it is what it is (made powerful by sanctification).

      For the Reformation, faith, in the act of justification, is an EMPTY hand. For the Reformation, faith in the act of justification, is made powerful not by Spirit-wrought sanctity, but by the solely by its object: Christ.

      It’s the difference between fides formata caritate and fides formata Christo and that difference is huge! It’s the difference between Trent and Geneva.

  3. DF
    Well then what are we to make of Norman Shepherd and Rich Lusk (to mention of two of the indiduals associated with Doug Wilson in the FV) who are on record declaring that ,provided that we have the right motive, works do in fact contribute instrumentally to our final justification. Likewise , what are we to make of the claims from within the FV that the ‘covenantly elect’ actually start off really justified – actually have there sins forgiven( but only in a temporary sense) along with redemptive benefits like adoption-all of this by virtue of being in union with Christ through baptism) and yet fail to achieve final justification due to a lack of ‘covenant faithfulness’.

  4. Dr. Clark,

    I’ve always wondered why the translators transliterate the hebrew names in NT, when are better English translations of their names..

    Ex. Jacob instead James
    Miriam instead Mary


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