Is Faith a Work?

The question comes (paraphrasing):

Since Scripture says, “believe,” (e.g. Acts 16:31) it seems that we are commanded to believe. If the command to believe is an imperative and an imperative is “law,” and if the answer to the command “believe” is faith, then faith must be a type of obedience. If so, aren’t faith and obedience essentially the same thing?

Ursinus wrote:

The chief and most important parts of the first principles of the doctrine of the church, as appears from the passage just quoted from the Epistle to the Hebrews, are repentance and faith in Christ, which we may regard as synonymous with the law and gospel. Hence, the catechism in its primary and most general sense, may be divided as the doctrine of the church, into the law and gospel.

First we must get our categories right. According to Ursinus repentance is a corollary to “law” or “do this and live” and faith is a corollary to “gospel,” or “Christ has fulfilled the law for you who believe.” According to Ursinus, there are ways in which the law and the gospel agree and ways in which they are opposed to each other:

The gospel and the law agree in this, that they are both from God, and that there is something revealed in each concerning the nature, will, and works of God. There is, however, a very great difference between them….

Both the command to “do and live” and the command “believe” reveal the will of God. They are both imperatives. What this means is that not every biblical imperative is “law.” It is true that, in the controversy with the covenantal moralists (Federal Vision, NPP, Norman Shepherd) I have often said that the law says “do” and the gospel says “done.” Strictly speaking that it is true but it is also true that one must use some language to communicate to another that, in view of the demands of the law, one must satisfy the law oneself or by another. The announcement that another, a Mediator, has satisfied the demands of the law is in the indicative mood. The call to believe, to receive, to accept for oneself, to rest in the truth of that announcement is in the imperative.

There is a false premise in the initial question. If all imperatives are “law” then the imperative “believe” is a law and the act of faith must be “obedience.” The false premise is this: if imperative, then law. This doesn’t follow. Yes, both the law and the gospel have conditions and imperatives but they are not the same conditions nor are they the same imperatives. The gospel offer is conditional: “Come to me all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest.” The words “come to me” are in the imperative mood but there are fundamental differences. First,

The law was engraven upon the heart of man in his creation, and is therefore known to all naturally, although no other revelation were given. ” The Gentiles have the work of the law written in their hearts.” (Rom. 2:15.) The gospel is not known naturally, but is divinely revealed to the Church alone through Christ, the Mediator.

There is another major difference between them.

The law teaches us what we ought to be, and what God requires of us, but it does not give us the ability to perform it, nor does it point out the way by which we may avoid what is forbidden. But the gospel teaches us in what manner we may be made such as the law requires: for it offers unto us the promise of grace, by having the righteousness of Christ imputed to us through faith, and that in such a way as if it were properly ours, teaching us that we are just before God, through the imputation of Christ s righteousness. The law says, ” Pay what thou owest.” ” Do this, and live.” (Matt. 18:28. Luke 10:28.) The gospel says, ” Only believe.” (Mark 5:36.)

Notice please how Ursinus relates law and gospel in this instance. Both the law and the gospel “teach” us something but they teach us different things. The law teaches what is required but does not offer anything. The gospel teaches not what God demands but how we may be righteous before God. This is the distinction between “do” and “done.”

There are other ways in which the law and the gospel are similar and distinct. The law has promises. It promises life to those who obey it perfectly. The gospel also has promises, but it promises life to those who trust in the person and work of the Substitute, Jesus. To sinners, the law, relative to justification, only kills. The gospel, relative to sinners gives life. As Ursinus says, “they differ in their effects.”

The imperative “believe in Christ and in his finished work” is a gospel imperative. Ursinus acknowledged that the law requires a general sort of belief, “by requiring us to give credit to all the divine promises, precepts and denunciations, and that with a threatening of punishment, unless we do it” but the gospel imperative urges us to trust, receive, and rest in Christ and his finished work and out of that faith to “commence new obedience.” The gospel imperative “commands us expressly and particularly to embrace, by faith, the promise of grace.”

Thus, “do” and “believe” are both commands but they have different conditions and promises. This is why Witsius reminded us that faith is called a “condition” only improperly. Properly it is, as the Belgic Confession says, the “instrument” of justification. Faith is fundamentally a different response to the imperative “believe” than “obedience” is to the command “do.”

The response to the command “believe” is to trust in the finished work of Christ. The answer to the imperative is to rest in and Christ and to receive him alone for righteousness (WCF 11; HC 21, 60; BC 22-24). The object of law-keeping is my obedience. This doesn’t fundamentally change if we substitute the words “Spirit-wrought sanctity” or “grace and cooperation with grace.” In other words if the terms of the condition refer, in any way, to my law-keeping or my obedience, even Holy Spirit-wrought obedience by grace and cooperation with grace, we’re not talking about the gospel but rather we’re talking about the law. This is how the Reformation understood the Roman soteriology of grace and cooperation with grace and “faith formed by love.”

The object of faith, however, is Christ. The power of faith is Christ. The virtue of faith is Christ. Faith, per se, has no virtue (power). What Shepherd and the FV and the rest of the moralists do not understand (as Arminius and the Remonstrants didn’t understand) is that the moment one fills faith with virtue, one has conceded the entire Reformation. This is the point of Bob Godfrey’s essay in CJPM on sola fide v faith formed by love. The FV and the rest of that lot are selling “faith formed by love.” In contrast, the Belgic Confession 24 says explicitly that we are not justified by faith formed by love, “for by faith in Christ we are justified, even before we do good works.” In the language of the Reformation, “good works” stood for “Spirit-wrought sanctity” or “faith formed by love.”

Because they do not understand the distinction between Christ’s obedience for us alone for justification and his his work in us in sanctification, they continue to seek a way to build sanctification, Spirit-wrought sanctity and obedience, into faith in the act of justification. Having got on the papist treadmill of “covenant faithfulness” they shall never be able to get off because they have accepted a series of false premises. The Protestant refuses to get on the treadmill of grace and cooperation with grace, of justification by Spirit-wrought sanctity.

The Spirit works faith in our hearts through the preaching of the gospel. Faith is not a condition, it’s an instrument. Faith does answer a command but faith isn’t a work. It’s an anti-work because it has no inherent goodness or righteousness or power. Faith, per se, in justification is nothing. Only Christ counts in justification.

Another way to put this is to say that what makes faith “living” in justification is not Spirit-wrought sanctity but Christ, the object of faith. This is the answer to the repeated FV demand that faith be “living:” We do not accept your definition of living as sanctity. If my justification depends upon my sanctity I shall never be justified because I shall never be perfectly sanctified. The FV solution to this problem is to take us back to the medieval doctrine of congruent merit whereby God is said to impute perfection to our best efforts (facientibus quod in se est, Deus non denegat gratiam). We reject congruent merit utterly as an insult to the finished work of Christ. BC 22 says,

to say that Christ is not enough but that something else is needed as well is a most enormous blasphemy against God– for it then would follow that Jesus Christ is only half a Savior. And therefore we justly say with Paul that we are justified “by faith alone” or by faith “apart from works.”

Jesus’ merits for us are perfect (condign). We do not stand before God in any way on the basis of anything other than the perfect righteousness of Christ imputed to us and we receive that righteousness in no other way than by faith defined as resting, receiving, or trusting Christ and in his finished work.

That’s why Protestants say “sola fide.”

You can read more about this here and in Covenant, Justification, and Pastoral Ministry.

More resources here.

The URC’s Nine Points are here.

[This post first appeared on the HB in 2008]

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  1. The question “paraphrased” up at the top seems to beg the question. No one is saying that faith and obedience are synonymous or “the same thing.” I think what Pr. Wilson’s been arguing is that with respect to the command, faith must be understood as obedience. It’s not because faith (in that specific respect) is obedience that it justifies – it justifies because it connects us to Christ, who alone is our righteousness before a holy God. It seems to me that by a sleight of hand you’ve turned that into a law/gospel issue and labeled it Romanism. Now, I can understand such a label (and, indeed, would agree with it) if anything in the sinner was the basis of or reason for justification, but that simply not going on.

    I think you, just like Pastor Lane, are not picking up Pr. Wilson’s argument: a command is either obeyed or it’s not. God commands us to believe, so which is it? In believing (that great “anti-work” – some terminology I missed in my theological readings) are we obedient or disobedient to God’s command?

  2. Dr. Clark,
    Great stuff, it is so refreshing to read your stuff, it clearly and passionately illustrates God’s truth and the Reformed understanding of this truth. I get very energized by your conviction to the truth, keep up the great work.

  3. Isn’t knowing God to be the only true God in the category of faith? Isn’t this what is required under the First Commandment? If so, then we find the demand to have faith in God explicitly in the category of Law.

  4. As so Ursinus’ language – I think I like it! But, I guess due to my general obtuseness, I don’t know which passage Ursinus specifically you mean. As to the Law/Gospel comparison – it’s good, if incomplete. Almost all the L/G discussion I hear coming out of WTS is only in terms of the first use of the Law. I tend to agree with Calvin that the 3rd use is more primary for the Christian – it’s his life in Christ.

    In any event (not to stray too far afield), the paragraph above that seems to be of the most interest to me, and the one I’d like to understand better is the one that starts with “The response to the command ‘believe’ is to trust…” I don’t know that I understand this: “The object of law-keeping is my obedience.” Would you mind helping me out a bit?

  5. Dr. Clark,

    This article is essentially a giant side-step. You say,

    Both the command to “do and live” and the command “believe” reveal the will of God. They are both imperatives. What this means is that not every biblical imperative is “law.”

    The issue isn’t whether the obedience of faith is “law” or not. The command to “do and live” and the command to “believe” are the same command. The only “doing” that results in life is believing. And you either believe (and obey) or you don’t (and disobey). The notion of “law” does not need to be present in order for the concept of obedience to be present. To be clear, it isn’t the act of believing which is the ground of salvation for that can only ever be the person and work of Jesus. Law, as a biblical category, has no place at all within the mechanics of salvation. Ursinus is incorrect in thinking that repentance is synonymous with law if only for the simple reason that repentance is part of the process that results in salvation.

    As for what is the issue, let me echo Tim’s question. You say, ” The gospel imperative “commands us expressly and particularly to embrace, by faith, the promise of grace.”” So what are we doing when we embrace, by faith, the promise of grace? Are we obeying the command to do so? If not, then what are we doing? What is it called when you do what you are commanded (even if it isn’t by your own strength or quality of character)? You say, “The response to the command “believe” is to trust in the finished work of Christ.” Okay, so what is it called when we do just that?

    Also, I don’t know of any FV advocates, or sympathizers, that would disagree with your final paragraph.

  6. Ron,

    Go back and read Ursinus’ distinction more carefully.

    Jared, you’ve ignored the distinction between the condition of the law and the condition of the gospel.

    Tim, are you being clever or do you really not understand the difference between the condition of the gospel and the condition of the law?

    Honestly boys, I think this is the best I can do. My advice is to re-read more slowly.

  7. Scott
    As Godfrey can confirm, what you are seeing in the defenders of Wilson and even Wilson himself, is the exact type of thing Shepherd resorted to during the upheaval in the 70’s at WTS. Getting them to admit their errors at any level is like nailing the proverbial jello to the wall.

  8. With all due respect, Dr. Clark, I have read it and re-read it, but I don’t see where it addresses the faith demands of the First Commandment. If the Law explicitly commands faith, how can faith be an exclusive corollary to “Gospel”?

  9. Also, I noticed a slight misrepresentation in this statement:

    “The FV and the rest of that lot are selling ‘faith formed by love.'”

    This is not true. Shepherd makes it clear in Thesis 27 of his Thirty-four Theses on Justification in Relation to Faith, Repentance, and Good Works that, “The Roman Catholic doctrine that faith merits (congruent merit) the infusion of justifying grace, and that faith formed by love performing good works merits (condign merit) eternal life contradicts the teaching of Scripture that justification is by grace through faith apart from the works of the law.”

  10. Scott,

    Thanks, this is helpful (as Ursinus always is). I suppose in our attempts to maintain a clear distinction between Law and Gospel (in keeping with the Reformed tradition) we should guard against facile descriptions or identifications of each Word from God. Law can’t be simply equated with ‘imperative’ or ‘threat’, the gospel message sometimes comes equipped with both! I think you find an example of this in Hebrews 2.1-3, where the author exhorts his readers to ‘pay much closer attention’ to the message of salvation, and warns them that they will not ‘escape’ if they ‘neglect so great a salvation’. I would identify this as Gospel–imperative, threat, and all. The command is not to get busy observing God’s commands (the audience–that is, Jews–were, after all, among the more law-observant communities to be found). Nor is the threat death for failing to observe the law. The command is ‘listen up’ to the reality that Christ, the true high priest, has ‘made purification for sins’ on our behalf. The threat of death will only be realized if one resists the command to stop working and hear the good news of Christ’s fulfillment of the law on behalf of sinners. This imperative and threat do not, if rightly understood, cast the sinner back upon herself, forcing her to discover in herself some grounds for vindication before God. This imperative and threat call the sinner from herself, and require her to dwell upon what Christ has done for her.

  11. Dr. Clark,

    I’m not ignoring the distinction at all, rather I’m saying the distinction, as you are constructing it, is irrelevant to the question. As Tim has pointed out, the question you ask is not the question to be asking; no one in the Reformed community (FV or not) would say that faith is a work in as much as “work” is connected to law which is connected to sin and death. The point is that all imperatives/commands can only be either obeyed or disobeyed regardless of whether “law” is involved. You say,

    In other words if the terms of the condition refer, in any way, to my law-keeping or my obedience, even Holy Spirit-wrought obedience by grace and cooperation with grace, we’re not talking about the gospel but rather we’re talking about the law.

    This is your fundamental mistake. In your scheme “law-keeping” (which is really just self-righteousness) is not and, for whatever reason, cannot be separated from “obedience.” I think you are right in saying that the object of faith is what makes faith alive but the evidence of that life is Spirit-wrought obedience (initially demonstrated in a positive response to the command to believe), hence it is a necessary element. If there is no Spirit-wrought obedience (i.e. there is no faith) then the object of faith is not Jesus (because, in fact, there is no faith at all). It is important to keep in mind, I think, that there are two kinds of law: the law of love (which is the gospel and life) and the law of works (which is self-righteousness and death). You are either a slave to one or the other, you are obedient to either one or the other. The former can only obtain via the gift of God (by grace through faith) while the latter obtains as the initial reality of being fallen.

    You say that faith is a response to a command but that it isn’t a work. Okay, so how does that keep such a response from being described as obedience? What other descriptors are there for doing what one is commanded to do? To describe the response of faith as obedience does not necessitate the presence of law-keeping as you seem to be implying. I wholly agree that faith is passive in justification, it simply receives the righteousness of Jesus; but this doesn’t change the fact that faith is an obedient response to God’s command to believe. Here’s the way it looks to me: justification is the result of faith which is the result of Spirit-wrought obedience (i.e. me having faith), which is the result of election. We see that faith is the instrument (not ground/basis) of justification and that having faith is the only prerequisite for such a declaration. The justification I have is even not on the basis of my faith, it is on the basis of the person and work of Jesus alone. My faith, however, is a result of Spirit-wrought obedience wherein God has regenerated my heart and I have responded (obediently) to His command to repent and believe. None of this makes faith a work and even if it was a work it would be God’s and not ours.

  12. Pastor Johnson, I’ve notice a distinct lack of willingness from anyone “Reformed” to learn and admit errors. One of the consistent pitfalls of the Reformed faith is intellectual pride, against which we all need to be on guard, no?

    Pastor Clark, I’m not trying to pull any fast ones. I do see many and great distinctions ‘twixt the condition of the law and that of the gospel. I’m not arguing to the contrary. Honestly (and this is why I’m quite interested in discussing this with you), I think we’re talking past each other because we’re thinking in different categories. Would you take a look again at the second (and final) paragraph of my last post? I’m all anticipation to discuss that with you.

    Thanks for your time, pastor.

  13. Tim,

    this discussion has been going, on and off, for 30 years. Countless pages of books and articles have been written and still some folks want to approach the doctrine of justification as if it’s all up in the air.

    Is the Reformed doctrine of justification susceptible to re-formulation? No. Could we become clearer about what we believe? Yes. Has the FV controversy helped us? Yes and no. It’s forced us to go back to sources and to stop making the assumption that “we all know” what we’re talking about but the FV boys haven’t added a thing to our understanding. In that sense this isn’t an open question.

    It’s not like the churches have not spoken on this. They have. On the fundamental issues this question is done.

  14. Pastor Clark, why are you not engaging with me? My name’s at the top of your last post, but nothing in the post has to do with what I’ve asked or even said. I’m quite honest when I say I’d like to learn from you. I think I’ve a great deal to learn from you. I’m not trying to antagonize you or be a jerk; I want to understand better than I do. Thus, I’d value a discussion with you a great deal.

    So you don’t have to scroll back up, I’ll copy that question here:
    In any event (not to stray too far afield), the paragraph above that seems to be of the most interest to me, and the one I’d like to understand better is the one that starts with “The response to the command ‘believe’ is to trust…” I don’t know that I understand this: “The object of law-keeping is my obedience.” Would you mind helping me out a bit?

  15. Tim,

    I’m not engaging with you because you haven’t paid attention to what I wrote. This is what I hate about internet discussions. People don’t pay attention. I know it’s a long post but re-read it slowly and carefully.

    What did I say is the premise that I don’t accept? You haven’t dealt with that. I’m not going to repeat myself endlessly.

  16. Ooh! *raises hand* I know this one! The premise you said you do not accept is, “if imperative, then law.”

    I get that. But would you accept the premise, “If one of the Ten Commandments, then law?” Because that is a premise in my attempted interaction with this post thus far.

    HC 94 states that the First Commandment requires us, among other duties, to “trust in [God] alone”. Isn’t the imperative to trust in God alone in the category of “faith”? But there it is in the “Law”. What are we to do with this? How does this comport with the L/G distinction? Perhaps you or someone else have already addressed this elsewhere and if so, I’ll be happy to check out a link or book reference. I promise to read it slowly. 🙂

  17. Hi Aaron,

    Good to hear from you. Hope all is well. I’m looking forward to seeing the fruit of your research. Please send us an electronic copy. We’ll print it out and have it bound for the library collection. We’re developing quite a nice collection of alumni MA theses and PhD dissertations/theses.

    RE the post, can’t we describe the imperative you cite as an example of the tertius usus legis?

  18. Having SLOWLY reread the WHOLE, LONG post, here’s my response. Maybe this will be worth interacting with:

    Your initial statement of the question is, so far as I can tell, misleading and inaccurate. No one that I have read lays out the line of reasoning that you do in your statement of the question. No one says “aren’t faith and obedience basically the same.” If that’s what you think people of “the other side” have been arguing, you also might need to slow down and reread. So, the post starts off with clear misconceptions about the nature of the question.

    From there, you go ahead and debunk a “false premise” in the question that all imperatives are “law” (undefined, other than “do this and live” and the like). Here it is again: that’s not been argued by the other side. I’ve personally argued (following Pr. Wilson) that a command (imperative), by it’s nature, is either obeyed or it’s not, not that all imperatives are “law.” No one, in this immediate discussion with Prs. Lane and Wilson, has put this in the Law/Gospel categories until you did, which I think confuses the issue, as it adds another layer.

    Now to the paragraph I’ve asked you to explain thrice, and which I still don’t think I understand, even though I’ve read it time and again at various speeds and in different shirts. You say, “[I]f the terms of the condition refer, in any way, to my law-keeping or my obedience, even Holy Spirit-wrought obedience by grace and cooperation with grace, we’re not talking about the gospel but rather we’re talking about the law.” Here, I think, is the crux. Let me start where I agree with you: justifying faith is of a different and more specific character than a general faith that simply believes God. Justifying faith connects us, as a mere instrument, to the risen Christ, our righteousness. Faith is a gift of God, worked in the heart by the Spirit. Neither faith itself, nor any part of it, not anything worked in the sinner (say, regeneration) is counted to us as righteousness, but rather Christ himself is our righteousness, and faith merely receives, trusts, and rests in Christ alone. I think we happily agree here.

    Here’s where I detect some variance between us: God gives us faith, but does he believe for us? Is the act of faith, while not the basis of our justification, not our act. An imperative requires a response of obedience. How is faith, then, not and act of obedience to the gospel imperative? You say, “[I]f the terms of the condition refer, in any way, to…my obedience…, we’re not talking about the gospel but rather we’re talking about the law. I think this is clearly misses the mark. I think it might be better stated that if any thing other than Christ’s righteousness is the basis of my justification, then I believe another gospel. Clearly, the Westminster divines (XI.1) knew that there were human aspects involved in justifying faith (e.g., the act of believing and other evangelical obedience), but they just didn’t count toward justification. Those aspects are present, but don’t matter – they’re not imputed to us and they’re not he basis of our standing before God. The Westminster fellas say those things are there, but don’t factor in. You say if they’re in any way there, that the gospel’s overturned.

    I hope that gives us somewhere to go. I’m still quite interested in dialog with you.

  19. Ron, trusting in God generally can be distinguished from trusting in him for salvation. I can read God’s word, believe he exists, believe he calls me to have no other Gods before him, believe he punishes sinners (all by common operations of the Spirit), and STILL not be justified. So, as Ursinus was quoted as saying above, there’s a general faith required by the Law, but a specific faith required for salvation via the Gospel.

  20. Tim,

    I was answering an email question. Someone did put the question that way.

    This is another thing I hate about this debate: “You don’t understand us.”

    Fine. Whatever.

    I don’t and I don’t care.

    The gospel is what it is. Faith is what it is. Justification is what it is. Either you believe it or you don’t.

    Faith in the act of justification is only resting, receiving, a certain knowledge and a hearty trust. Finis.

    I don’t have time or interest in long drawn out discussions. I’ve been doing it for 8 years and everything I think I’ve said too many times in too many places.

  21. Faith is not a work that ‘we do’, but clearly “a gift of God”.

    Jesus’ conversation with Nicodemus make that quite clear, as well.

  22. To his credit, Dan Fuller knew he was disagreeing with Calvin. Dan Fuller didn’t “admit it”, but he was self-conscious to point out himself where he differed. Even though I agree with Calvin, I quote from Dan Fuller’s Unity of the Bible (p 181):

    “In commenting on Genesis 2:17 -do not eat from that tree–Calvin said, `These words are so far from establishing faith that they do nothing but shake it.’ I argue, however, that there is much reason for regarding these words as well suited to strengthen Adam and Eve’s faith

    Fuller: “In Calvin’s thinking, the promise made in Genesis 2:17 could never encourage faith, for its conditionality could encourage only meritorious works. `Faith seeks life that is not found in commandments.’ Consequently, the gospel by which we are saved is an unconditional covenant of grace, made such by Christ having merited it for us by his perfect fulfillment of the covenant of works.

    Dan Fuller comments: “I have yet to find anywhere in Scripture a gospel promise that is unconditional.”

    More from Unity (p310): “If Abraham was not declared forgiven until ten years later, was he still a guilty sinner when he responded positively to God’s promises in Genesis 12:2-3 and also during the following years up until 15:6?”

    Fuller (p313): “Paul would have agreed with James that Abraham’s work of preparing to sacrifice Isaac was an obedience of faith. He would have disagreed strongly with Calvin, who saw obedience and works as only accompanying genuine faith…James’ s concern in 2:14-26 was to urge a faith that saves a person, not simply to tell a person how they could demonstrate their saving faith…Calvin should have taught that justification depends on a persevering faith, since he regarded Abraham as already justified before Genesis 15:6.”

    As far as I can tell, Tom Schreiner’s proposals about perseverance are not different from what Dan Fuller wrote back then. Many who would disagree with “federal visionists” seem to be “covenantal moralists”. There is a heritage which goes from Jonathan Edwards to John Piper and Richard Gaffin.

  23. Turretin (chapter 8, p 89): “Let the exclusives be examined and the thing will be clear–’We conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law’ (Rom 3:28); ‘not of works’ (Eph 2:8); ‘knowing that a man is NOT justified by works of the law but by the faith of Jesus Christ. (Gal 2:16)’. The particle is adversative (Matt 12:4; 24:36; Mark13:32; John 17:12; Rev 9:4; 21:27) from the opposition of faith and works, which displace each other.”

  24. Would it be accurate to say that although faith is required by the law, the way it functions in the gospel is not as a covenant of works? And if so, how might that work exactly?

    The Marrow Men, in their answers to the twelve queries, seem to differ somewhat from Ursinus (if I understand you correctly). They say faith is required by the law, citing for example the Larger Catechism on the first commandment. Further:

    “we cannot see how the contrary doctrine is consistent with the perfection of the law, for if the law be a complete rule of all moral, internal, and spiritual, as well as external and ritual obedience, it must require faith and repentance as it does all other good works.”

    “If the law does not bind sinners to believe and repent, then we see not how faith and repentance, considered as works, are excluded from our justification before God.”

    “The teaching that faith and repentance are gospel commandments may yet again open the door to antinomianism, as it sometimes did already…. History tells us that it sprung from such a mistake, that faith and repentance were taught and commanded by the gospel only, and as they contained all necessary to salvation, so the law was needless.”

    Yet obviously they excluded faith as a work, though the format of the queries makes it difficult to trace out their reasoning (or maybe I’m just dense).

    Any thoughts, Professor Clark?

    • Louis,

      You write of “The Marrow men” but I’m not sure whom or what you are quoting. Are you quoting the Marrow of Modern Divinity?

      I don’t think that the Marrow Men differed from Ursinus in substance. The question I have, based on your quote, is whether Ursinus and the sources quoted are using “law” in the same sense. It can be used historically to refer to Moses or it can be used theologically to refer to a mode of revelation (e.g., “do this and live.”)

  25. Faith (trust) is determined by it’s object.

    We all have faith in something(s).

    But faith in Christ is a “gift of God”. We CANNOT muster it up of our own volition.

    ” who were born not of blood, Nor of the will of the flesh, NOR of the will of man, but of God.”
    – Gospel of John 1:13

  26. “…the moment one fills faith with virtue, one has conceded the entire Reformation.” Well said, Dr. Even I understand that.

    Rich the Baptist 🙂

  27. We are all called to keep the law, yet we are all unable. We are all called to believe the gospel , yet we are all unable. God regenerates His elect and then the first act committed by his elect (in the regenerated condition) is one of obedience to the gospel by saying ” I believe”. Finially , we are able to do good works.

    Well….. , that`s a laymans view of it all.

    • Hi Ron,

      The layman’s view is HC 21, right?

      Q. 21. What is true faith?

      A. True faith is not only a certain knowledge, whereby I hold for truth all that God has revealed to us in his word, but also an assured confidence, which the Holy Ghost works by the gospel in my heart; that not only to others, but to me also, remission of sin, everlasting righteousness and salvation, are freely given by God, merely of grace, only for the sake of Christ’s merits.

      The obedience of faith is that it trusts in another. It’s a gift, a grace, an instrument wrought in us by the Spirit, through the gospel.

  28. According to Romans 4:5, faith alone is “not works”. The point of faith alone is “grace alone”. “To the one who does NOT work but trusts Him who justifies the ungodly, it is counted as righteousness.”

    And according to Romans 9:11, we cannot say grace alone without saying “for the elect alone”. “Though they were not yet born and had done nothing good or bad-in order that God’s purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of His call.”

    There’s an important connection between “not because of works” and election. When “Reformed” people attempt to leave out the “for the elect alone” and discuss the gospel without talking about election, then mostly all they can do is say “not because of works but because of faith alone”.

    Most “Reformed” people began by believing in a faith alone gospel, and they still believe in a faith alone gospel but now they add that the faith came from God,

    But true faith is hearing produced by God by means of the gospel. The power is in the true gospel, not a false gospel. I Corinthians 1: 18, “for the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved, IT is the power of God.”

    It is not enough to talk about election, if election is simply to make sure that some sinners have faith alone. If the object of the faith alone is a false gospel which says that Christ loves everybody and desires to save everybody but that faith is some kind of condition of this salvation, then this faith alone is not in the true Christ but is instead in faith alone.

    We don’t bring faith to the true gospel, because the true gospel brings faith (hearing) to the elect.To see this clearly, we need a message which tells us about God’s election.

    Romans 1:16, “the gospel is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes.” Evangelicals understand this as teaching that salvation is conditioned on faith alone. Evangelicals don’t understand the gospel.

    God’s idea of election goes along with God’s idea of not works. Romans 9:11, “In order that God’s election might continue, not because of works.” Romans 11: 5, “So too at the present time there is a remnant chosen by grace. But if it by grace, it is no longer by works; otherwise grace would be no more grace.”

    Paul writes about an elect remant in order to explain what he means by faith. Paul does not regard faith as a substitute for works.

  29. Hello Scott

    It seems to me that I`m in accord with HC21. Is what I said innacurate?

    I do understand how there can be confusion, how some may think that faith is a vehicle they need to jump into when it approaches. We are all called to seek the Lord, yet we can`t.

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