Resources On The Controversy Over “Final Salvation Through Works”

For the last several years several writers identified with the broader Reformed movement have proposed that Christians are saved initially by grace alone, through faith alone but finally through faith and works. There are two claims here: 1)  salvation is in two stages and 2)  the instruments in each stage differ. Second, some have alleged that these doctrines are the doctrines of the Reformed tradition. So we have exegetical, theological, historical, and practical questions: If one’s present salvation is merely provisional, which is logically necessary if there are two stages, what is the basis of one’s assurance? Of course assurance of faith or assurance of salvation is vitiated, and should these proposals stand, every Christian is, with Martin Luther, in a monastic cell in Eurfurt wondering if he will perform works of sufficient number and quality finally to enter heaven. Here are some resources to help you work through these questions.

  1. We Attain Heaven Through Faith Alone
  2. Faith Alone Is The Instrument Of Justification And Salvation
  3. Salvation Sola Gratia, Sola Fide: On Distinguising Is, With, And Through
  4. Saved Through Good Works?
  5. The Shield of Works? Faith, Spiritual Warfare, and Salvation
  6. Believers Are Saved And Sealed
  7. In By Grace, Stay In By Faithfulness?
  8. Heidelcast 98: Salvation, Good Works, And Conditions
  9. Baugh: Ephesians 2:8 Presents Salvation As Completed
  10. Baugh On Ephesians 2:9: Good Works Are From Not Unto Salvation
  11. Muddying The Distinction Between Justification And Salvation
  12. Heidelcast Series On Nomism And Antinomianism
  13. Justification By Faith Alone Is The Normative Reformed Doctrine
  14. Sola Fides is Not Sola Fide
  15. An Important Distinction Between Kinds And Functions Of Conditions
  16. What Is True Faith? The Romanist Condemnation Of True Faith
  17. Office Hours: The Gospel Mystery of Sanctification
  18. Brothers, We Are Not Perfectionists
  19. Machen: Salvation is By Grace Alone, Through Faith Alone
  20. Justification And Vindication
  21. Easy Obeyism
  22. Godfrey: Salvation Sola Fide vs. Salvation By Faith Formed By Love
  23. What Is True Faith? A Glorious Omission
  24. Was Calvin A Lutheran?
  25. After the Federal Vision: The Return of Moralism
  26. The Consensus of the Divines, Legalism, And The Covenant Of Works
  27. The Logic Of Fruit As Evidence
  28. Justified Through Our Faithfulness?
  29. The Reasons Christians Do Good Works
  30. Witsius And Turretin On The Necessity And Efficacy Of Good Works In Salvation
  31. Berkhof On What Sense Works Are Said To Be Necessary In Salvation
  32. Did Ursinus Teach Final Salvation And That Through Works?
  33. Daniel Fuller: The Background To The Current Salvation Controversy
  34. Calvin On Salvation By Grace Alone Through Faith Alone
  35. Why We Remember The Reformation (1)
  36. Why We Remember The Reformation (2)
  37. J. G. Vos On Salvation And Good Works in WLC 32
  38. Berkhof On Salvation And Good Works
  39. Dort: Things We May Not Say About Salvation
  40. Perkins: Grace Admits No Partner
  41. Turretin: We Do Good Works Because We Live By The Gospel
  42. Olevianus On The State Of Believers In The Judgment
  43. Hodge: Christ Fulfilled The Condition Of The Covenant Of Works For Believers
  44. The Question Is Not Whether Believers Do Good Works But Why
  45. Machen: Salvation Through Faith Vs. Salvation Through Love
  46. The Principal Acts Of Saving Faith
  47. Witsius: The Law Of Works And The Law Of Faith Are Antecedent And Consequent Conditions
  48. Goodwin: Salvation Is Through Faith Alone But Good Works Are A Necessary Consequence
  49. Goodwin: Faith Alone Is The Condition Of The Covenant Of Grace
  50. Goodwin: Faith Does It All
  51. Witsius: Good Works Are Necessary Effects And Evidences Of Salvation
  52. Believer, You Are Being Graciously Sanctified
  53. Olevianus: Salvation Is By Grace Alone Or Christ Is But Half A Savior
  54. Vos On The Role Of Works In Salvation
  55. Why Should I Love God?
  56. There Is Only One Stage Of Justification
  57. Perkins: Faith Is The Instrument Of Salvation
  58. Dort On Election, Conditions, And Fruit
  59. The Impenitent Cannot Be Saved
  60. Sproul: Why Can’t We Say Good Works Are Necessary As Evidence?

6 comments

  1. The historically sustained relentless push-back on our being ‘justified by grace’ (see Rom. 3:24. Titus 3:7) shows the spiritual battle line for the gospel once delivered to the saints, for which we must contend just as relentlessly. Our assurance is ‘Our God shall fight for us’, and that the Spirit is Lord, and is gathering God’s elect from every corner of the world.

  2. Let me ask 3 questions:

    1. Will believers appear before the Lord at the final judgment?

    2. If the answer is no, what do you do with the texts that appear to indicate believers appearing before the Lord at the final judgment?

    3. If answer is yes, then for what will they give an account? what about them will the Lord judge?

    • Heidelberg Catechism:

      10. Will God suffer such disobedience and apostasy to go unpunished?

      By no means, but He is terribly displeased with our inborn as well as our actual sins, and will punish them in just judgment in time and eternity, as He has declared: “Cursed is every one who continues not in all things which are written in the Book of the Law to do them.”

      12. Since then by the righteous judgment of God we deserve temporal and eternal punishment, how may we escape this punishment and be again received into favor?

      God wills that His justice be satisfied; therefore we must make full satisfaction to the same, either by ourselves or by another.

      38. Why did He suffer “under Pontius Pilate” as judge?

      That He, being innocent, might be condemned by the temporal judge, and thereby deliver us from the severe judgment of God, to which we were exposed.

      46. How do you understand the words: “He ascended into heaven”?

      That Christ, in the sight of His disciples, was taken up from the earth into heaven; and continues there in our behalf2 until He shall come again to judge the living and the dead.

      52. What comfort is it to you, that Christ “shall come to judge the living and the dead”?

      That in all my sorrows and persecutions, with uplifted head, I look for the very same one, who before offered Himself for me to the judgment of God, and removed all curse from me, to come as Judge from heaven, who shall cast all His and my enemies into everlasting condemnation, but shall take me with all His chosen ones to Himself into heavenly joy and glory.

      56. What do you believe concerning the “forgiveness of sins”?

      That God, for the sake of Christ’s satisfaction, will no more remember my sins, nor the sinful nature with which I have to struggle all my life long; but graciously imputes to me the righteousness of Christ,2 that I may nevermore come into condemnation.

      58. What comfort do you have you from the article of “life everlasting”?

      That, inasmuch as I now feel in my heart the beginning of eternal joy, I shall after this life possess complete bliss, such as eye has not seen, nor ear heard, neither has entered into the heart of man, therein to praise God forever.

      59. What does it help you now, that you believe all this?

      That I am righteous in Christ before God, and an heir of eternal life.

      60. How are you righteous before God?

      Only by true faith in Jesus Christ; that is, although my conscience accuse me, that I have grievously sinned against all the commandments of God, and have never kept any of them, and am still prone always to all evil; yet God without any merit of mine,4 of mere grace, grants and imputes to me the perfect satisfaction, righteousness, and holiness of Christ,7 as if I had never committed nor had any sin, and had myself accomplished all the obedience which Christ has fulfilled for me; if only I accept such benefit with a believing heart.

      61. Why do you say that you are righteous by faith only?

      Not that I am acceptable to God on account of the worthiness of my faith, but because only the satisfaction, righteousness and holiness of Christ is my righteousness before God1 and I can receive the same and make it my own in no other way than by faith only.

      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 divine law; but even our best works in this life are all imperfect and defiled with sin.

      63. Do our good works merit nothing, even though it is God’s will to reward them in this life and in that which is to come?

      The reward comes not of merit, but of grace.

      64. But does not this doctrine make men careless and profane?

      No, for it is impossible that those who are implanted into Christ by true faith, should not bring forth fruits of thankfulness.

      Belgic Confession art. 37:

      Finally we believe, according to God’s Word, that when the time appointed by the Lord is come (which is unknown to all creatures) and the number of the elect is complete, our Lord Jesus Christ will come from heaven, bodily and visibly, as he ascended, with great glory and majesty, to declare himself the judge of the living and the dead. He will burn this old world, in fire and flame, in order to cleanse it.

      Then all human creatures will appear in person before the great judge—men, women, and children, who have lived from the beginning until the end of the world.

      They will be summoned there by the voice of the archangel and by the sound of the divine trumpet. For all those who died before that time will be raised from the earth, their spirits being joined and united with their own bodies in which they lived. And as for those who are still alive, they will not die like the others but will be changed “in the twinkling of an eye” from “corruptible to incorruptible.”

      Then “the books” (that is, the consciences) will be opened, and the dead will be judged according to the things they did in the world, whether good or evil. Indeed, all people will give account of all the idle words they have spoken, which the world regards as only playing games. And then the secrets and hypocrisies of men will be publicly uncovered in the sight of all.

      Therefore, with good reason the thought of this judgment is horrible and dreadful to wicked and evil people. But it is very pleasant and a great comfort to the righteous and elect, since their total redemption will then be accomplished. They will then receive the fruits of their labor and of the trouble they have suffered; their innocence will be openly recognized by all; and they will see the terrible vengeance that God will bring on the evil ones who tyrannized, oppressed, and tormented them in this world.

      The evil ones will be convicted by the witness of their own consciences, and shall be made immortal—but only to be tormented in the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels.

      In contrast, the faithful and elect will be crowned with glory and honor. The Son of God will “confess their names” before God his Father and the holy and elect angels; all tears will be “wiped from their eyes”; and their cause—at present condemned as heretical and evil by many judges and civil officers—will be acknowledged as the “cause of the Son of God.”

      And as a gracious reward the Lord will make them possess a glory such as the heart of man could never imagine.

      So we look forward to that great day with longing in order to enjoy fully the promises of God in Christ Jesus, our Lord.

  3. What a tremendous treasure we Reformed have in our Three Forms of unity, to provide us with a firm foundation in sound doctrine. False teachers are trying to scare us with the threat of being judged, when Christ returns, that we will be judged on the evidence of our works for our final right standing before God. But the truth is that Christ has already been judged in the place of those who trust in Him, and vindicated. So are His people, and they will join Him in glory on the last day. We can look ahead to that day with full confidence because we are as righteous as Christ himself. There is your true incentive to do good works.

  4. “For the last several years several writers identified with the broader Reformed movement have proposed that Christians are saved initially by grace alone, through faith alone but finally through faith and works.”

    I’m pretty sure I know the name of one of these writers, but would you list a few names? It’s not always straight forward to spot who’s teaching this since they use reformed language but have a different working definition of some key terms.
    Thanks!

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