Berkhof: If We Lose This, It Is All Over

Justification takes place once for all. It is not repeated, neither is it a process; it is complete at once and for all time. There is no more or less in justification; man is either fully justified, or he is not justified at all. In distinction from it sanctification is a continuous process, which is never completed in this life.

Louis Berkhof | Systematic Theology (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1938), 513–14.


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  1. Not only that, but it (justification) is not, as is commonly portrayed, bartered with faith, as if works don’t “procure” it, but something else would, as if it’s the searcher who is told to “so get/acquire that and offer that, because it works.” Faith is not an offer we make to God, to get salvation. It’s not, as a famous author’s no book avers, the one good thing we can “do.” Did Abraham scheme in Genesis 15, as if to ask himself, “I wonder what God would take, to give me righteousness in return?”

    • That is such an excellent point. Justification is by Christ alone, not some agreement, where we do our part. “Faith is not an offer we make to God, to get salvation,” as you put it. It is the empty hand, that grasps the salvation Christ, alone, provides. If we really understand how impossible it is to do anything to justify ourselves before God, which is our lost and miserable condition, we will want to obey the one who has done all for our justification, not try to do our part, because that is impossible. Heidelberg 30 says it so well, “No”! if Christ is not our perfect Saviour, so that we look to something outside of Christ alone, that is a denial of the gospel.
      In Genesis 15 God promises to provide all the stipulations of the covenant with Abraham and his children, in the faith, both to obey and suffer the consequences of Abraham’s failures to obey. Abraham then shows a willingness even to sacrifice his own son, not as part of the agreement, but in willing gratitude to the God that does all the the covenant requires.

  2. “When the article of justification has fallen…This is the chief article from which all other doctrines have flowed…it alone begets, nourishes, builds, preserves, and defends the church of God, and without it the Church of God cannot exist for even an hour.”
    Martin Luther as quoted by J. Boice

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