Heidelcast 199—What Must A Christian Believe? (16): Christ Returning

This is episode 16 in the series, What Must A Christian Believe? In our survey of the rule of faith, i.e., the Apostles’ Creed, we have reached the seventh article: “Whence he shall come to judge the living and the dead.” Now these can be frightening words and for some they should be after all, when we think about earthly judgment it is frightening. When the judge issues a verdict and the gavel comes down it is final. When the deputy takes you by the arm it is not a negotiation. You are going to jail. Have you ever been in a jail or a prison? It’s unnerving to hear the those doors close behind. It all sounds very final. When you go to visit, if you behave yourself, yet get to leave. If you have broken the social contract, however, you must stay. This is how we sometimes think about the final judgment. We are tempted to think that if we are sufficiently good or at least not sufficiently bad, we will pass the test. Of course, after the fall we can’t be good enough. Scripture makes that clear enough. Still, we sometimes talk to ourselves and perhaps we listen to preachers and teachers who tell us that, when it comes to the judgment, we are on our own. Of course, if you are not a believer in Christ, it is true. You are on your own but if you are trusting in Christ, it is a whole different story.



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Show Notes

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  1. Thanks very much for this episode, especially the reference to the Geneva catechism and the many other links, in particular Turretin.

    I have heard the claim that ‘justification is by faith, but judgement is according to works’ on the basis of Matt 25:31-46*, and the explanation that this functions through a judgment of works as evidence for one’s faith. On this account the sole criterion of judgement is whether one has loved Christ. Justification is by faith alone, but the validity of this faith will ultimately be judged according to one’s works (i.e. love), since after all, faith and works are two sides of the same coin (cf James). I’m told this is historic reformed theology, and also has support from the warning passages in Hebrews.

    I find this claim very unsettling. My love for Christ is feeble at best and if my faith in him will be judged according to this metric on the last day then I can’t have any certainty I will pass muster.

    It seems like the concept of works as evidence of faith (cf WCF ch33) is being interpreted as evidential grounds for a judicial verdict, instead of evidence demonstrating or vindicating a prior judicial verdict.

    Any comments on this?

    *https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/s/kavd8qcgbcfzkm9/3.2%20William%20Philip_Edited.mp3?dl=0 (at approx 28-32min)

    • Ian,

      I’ve replied to this argument at length. You can see the replies here:

      Resources On The Controversy Over “Final Salvation By Works”

      The view you describe is one of the views to which I was responding in this podcast. Our good works are fruit and evidence of our justification and our salvation but they never become more than that. They never become the ground or instrument of our justification or salvation.

      In the episode I addressed the question of the “judgment according to works.” It does not turn the judgment into a covenant of works. This is why I spent the first half of the episode (or more) explaining that the judgment is bad news for unbelievers but good news for believers. It is so because Christ has satisfied the judgment for us. We cannot pluck out a phrase and re-contextualize it thus turning the judgment into a covenant of works. This is why it’s so useful to see and hear how the Reformed churches and theologians have spoken about this issue.

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