The means of salvation in Evangelicalism and the Reformed Faith

Nothing is more central to an evangelical than the way that a person comes to salvation.  To him it is very simple – “The vilest offender who truly believes, that moment from Jesus a pardon receives”.  A key evangelical doctrine that goes with this is the rejection of any role for the sacraments in receiving salvation.  This is precisely what makes evangelicalism just another version of Baptist doctrine.

If you were to ask him, he would say that this is what sole fide is all about, that salvation is received by faith alone.

If you were to go to the men who rediscovered the doctrine of sola fide at the Reformation, men like Luther and Calvin, they would tell you that that is not what is meant at all.  Faith alone is meant to oppose the idea that justification is by works – it is not that faith is the sole MEANS OF GRACE.

A man is justified by faith alone, not by works.  A completely separate issue is HOW God delivers justification and regeneration to us.  The Reformers and all of the Reformation churches agreed with one voice that the sacrament of Baptism is the usual means of conveying grace to the believer.  Baptism when rightly administered and received actually and truly conveys the grace that it signifies.  Baptism signifies justification and regeneration, and thus it conveys justification and regeneration.  There is no other way of conveying these graces mentioned in the Bible, none at all.  This is why an unbaptised child dying in infancy cannot have any assurance of salvation.  God is able to save without baptism, as in the case of Abraham, and we affirm his freedom to do so, while at the same time pointing out that God has not given us freedom to assume or teach that anyone who dies unbaptised will be saved.

Paul believed in Christ on the Damascus Road, but he had to wait for his baptism to receive the remission of his sins:

Acts 22:16 And now why are you waiting? Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord.

The purpose of this little article is not to prove the point, but to assert it.  Proof will have to wait for another day, or another publication.

Evangelicalism has at its heart an unbiblical doctrine of salvation.

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Where is the true church?

I have seen a huge upsurge in activity by Roman Catholics and the Eastern Orthodox in trying to bring Protestants into their churches.  I know of one congregation where three families have left for Orthodoxy over a short period, without warning, literally from one week to the next.

The main argument used by the internet evangelists boils down to a claim that theirs is the true church, and that we Reformed folk are called to be reconciled to our mother, Rome, or, our mother, Orthodoxy.  Jesus came to found a church, they say, and here it is!

When asked to support their claim to be the one true church, the only understandable argument seems to be, “Because we say so.  We are the true church to which Christ has given authority, so you had better listen up!”

So then, how do we identify the true church? What do we say to those who are strongly attracted by claims of ancient tradition, and an uninterrupted continuity of two thousand years?

The gospel itself has got to be the key to identifying a true church of Christ.  So then, what is the gospel?

The gospel is the account of the birth, life, death, burial, resurrection, session, and Parousia of the Lord Jesus, the Christ – with its authorized apostolic interpretation.

Here is the interpretation: The Lord Jesus was incarnate for us men and for our salvation.

That same salvation is by pure grace, a free gift, by undeserved mercy, purchased by the cross. This gift of salvation is without reference to human works of any kind, as the apostle Paul teaches us in many unambiguous passages.

It by grace that you are saved, and this not of yourselves, it is the gift of
God, not by works, lest any man should boast. (Paul the Apostle).

Any gospel that adds works of any kind to grace is an anti-gospel, and any church that does so is an anti-church.

Application: works in our day pass by the name of free will, which is simply a way of describing what a man is able to do or work by his own power and ability.  To most churches salvation is by free will, helped by grace, which is a contradiction in terms.

Therefore the RCC and EO churches have erred in setting aside the grace of God by adding works to the cross for forgiveness. Ditto all the once Protestant churches who have abandoned the gospel of free grace, such as those who follow the Billy Graham model of evangelism.

The true churches of Christ are those Reformed and Lutheran churches who steadfastly cling to the gospel of grace. Outside of this church there is no salvation, since it is there that the gospel is heard and believed, and the sacraments rightly administered – which signs and seals are ordinarily necessary for salvation as means of grace.

The is the church that is the mother of the faithful, the heavenly Jerusalem.

Imputation of the Active Obedience of Christ

As an IAOC denier, (sic), what is denied is that the Lord’s obedience to the
Torah is
imputed to us together with the satisfaction of the cross. The obedience of
Christ,
exegetically and biblically, and without a doubt, is the cross alone.

Christ’s death is his active obedience, properly speaking. See Norman
Shepherd’s
outstanding exegesis of the relevant passages.

What we *get* from the Lord’s sinless life is a sacrificial lamb without spot or
blemish,
which is the condition for the obedience of the cross.

If the IAOC as doctrinally defined is correct, it means that we have to fulfill
the Mosaic Law
to be saved, albeit a mediated obedience.

I am a Gentile, and God has never commanded the Gentiles to obey Torah! I don’t
need to
have Torah imputed to me in any form. Neither I nor my fathers have ever been
under
the Law. Its application to me in any form is redundant, null, and void.

I need to have my sins forgiven, which is a different thing.

When God forgives my sins, he in so doing declares me to be righteous, because
that is
the only alternative to being guilty. No neutral middle status. If I am now
without sin I am
necessarily righteous.

In sum, the cross is the full, perfect, and sufficient sacrifice, satisfaction,
and oblation, for
our full, perfect, and sufficient justification.

Which justification by faith alone do you mean?

The debate about justification is a delicious irony.  Those who are most voicy about being Presbyterian and Reformed, or just Reformed, like the Reformed Baptists, claim to be defending the Reformed doctrine of justification by faith alone – but they are not.

You see, there are two versions of the sola fide doctrine – one as held by the Reformers, and the other as held by the Anabaptists and modern evangelicals, and they are very different!

The original version of sola fide as taught by Martin Luther and every other Protestant leader of note links the free forgiveness of our sins to a particular way that the said forgiveness is imparted or conveyed – in baptism.  By baptism I mean baptism – you know, the sprinkling of water upon someone accompanied by the recitation of the Trinitarian formula, not some other kind of baptism that has no relation to wet water.

There can be no proper disagreement by anyone who actually reads history, the Bible, and the various Confessions.  Without handcuffing God to baptism as an inseparable means of justification, the Protestant Churches of the Reformation taught with one voice that they acknowledged one baptism for the remission of sins, and taught that those who received it worthily received at once from God both justification and the gift of the Holy Spirit.

Those who are shouting the loudest today about the need to defend justification, the pillar of the standing or falling church, people like Andrew Webb and the OPC, the “Confessionalists” within the PCA, and the rest of that sorry lot, have an entirely different version of it.  Being mystics, and having a deeply Baptistic mentality, they deny that Baptism has anything to with the imparting and conveying of grace.  The situation in the UK is the same, sadly.

Modern evangelicals of every stripe fall into this category, which is the reason that I no longer use that term to describe myself.

Here is the irony again: the so-called Federal Vision is not hereticals on justification, but their accusers and persecutors are.

The Deaf, the Stupid, and the Dishonest.

I often ask myself why I bother to debate with evangelicals, especially after I have done it yet again, and against my better judgement.  It seems to me that they are irredeemably stupid, deaf, and ignorant, despite their post-graduate degrees.

My motivation for engaging these types is to show them a better way, and to show them from their own Confessions and the Bible where their view of justification and the sacraments needs modifying, for the gospel’s sake.  I usually succeed in not saying things that I will regret through anger and frustration, and I strive to be patient and courteous.  But one of my failings has been to not know when to stop trying.

Why is it that people who are supposed to be highly intelligent are blind to this article of faith in the Nicene Creed?

I acknowledge one baptism for the remission of sins.

I am fully aware of the political implications of actually agreeing with it, having paid the price myself, but how is it that people who do not believe it allow themselves to be ordained without declaring this exception, and, when they are made aware of its meaning when in the ministry, refuse to acknowledge it?

If anyone is an evangelical it is certain before God that he does NOT acknowledge one baptism for the remission of sins.  Believing it will inevitably result in immediate loss of fellowship within one’s evangelical group, and ostracism by other evangelical ministers.  

Off to the sacerdotalist outer darkness with you!

I devoutly wish that these men and denominations would have the honestly and integrity to modify their Confessions and Standards to reflect the truth about their belief on this article.

Baptists are worse than Papists

It suddenly dawned on me two days ago why the Reformers were so hostile to the Anabaptists, and why the various Confessions repudiate both Rome and the Anabaptists.  The Anabaptists are even further away from the right view of justification by faith alone than Rome.  Yes, that’s right, the Bible believing Anabaptists and their heirs the Baptists and Evangelicals have corrupted sola fide far more than the Pope ever has.

Now that I have your attention, for those that are still here, this is the reason, from a recovering evangelical and Baptist.  

For Martin Luther, the Father of justification by faith, a man accounted an apostle by John Calvin, justification was inseparable from baptism.  To the last one left reading, it is because baptism is the usual mode of delivery for the remission of sins, the sacramental means of grace.  The controversy against Rome was that it undervalued and degraded the gift of justification given in baptism.  Justification is a full, perfect, and sufficient pardon and remission of all of our sins, past, present, and future, for those that believe.

By selling indulgences the implication is that the Christian man only has a partial remission, or, a remission that endures only a little while before needing topping-up and refreshment.  In other words our justification given in baptism is deficient, and Christ has fooled us by giving us a deficient pardon that must be added to by the works of the Church and the individual himself.  

The Bible teaches us, in utter opposition to that, that our justification is for the whole of our lives, to those who do not fall away.

The Baptists take their corruption of sola fide to a far greater extreme.  They deny that our baptism as infants is baptism at all, and they deny that we received anything remotely like a full pardon in it.  They take away completely what God has given, and say to baptized Christian people that they are outside of Christ and outside of his kingdom, that their churches are not truly churches at all.

At least the Pope did not take away the name of Christian from the baptized, and deny utterly their justification.  Compared to the Anabaptists he is a moderate.  He merely said that it was deficient, not that it did not exist at all.

The Baptists tell baptized Christians that they may not enter into membership of the Baptist’s churches, or eat the Supper, until and unless they have been submerged as conscious believers, and that justification is unrelated to baptism except by pure coincidence.

Therefore the Nicene Creed is wrong to assert that we acknowledge one baptism FOR THE REMISSION OF SINS, and the Apostle Peter must get true learning and doctrine from the submariners, and amend his misleading teaching that baptism into Christ is for the remission of sins, and the Apostle Paul wrote confusingly by saying that all who have been baptized were baptized into Christ’s death and resurrection and newness of life.

Applying this to the present furore within Reformed and Evangelical circles about the Federal Vision, it now becomes clear that those who are persecuting the FV men for corrupting full justification by faith alone are, in fact, the real heretics, because they are, almost to a man, baptistic in their theology and deny that justification is imparted and conveyed in baptism.

They are Anabaptists who deny the justification of the justified, who demand and require a mystical conversion experience, or a decision of some kind, IN ADDITION to simple faith and baptism.

Contrasting Paul and James on Justification

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Much time has been spent on reconciling Paul and James on justification. Too often James’ point is exegeted away into a vague and vacuous theory that he is just saying that works justify our justification.

While it is entirely true that works fuflill and complete our faith, James’s point is radical. He has the audacity to say that Abraham and Rahab were justified by works.

Ja 2.24 You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only.

This is the bold statement that Reformed theologians and commentators would rather die than say. After all, everyone knows that a man is justified by faith alone, apart from works, that this is the central doctrine of the Reformation, and that anyone who says different is a damnable heretic.

Here is a test of whether a man has rightly understood James: ask him if he believes that Abraham was justified by works.

There is only one correct answer, and that is yes.

My purpose in writing this article is to compare and contrast Paul and James. Both use the word group for “to justify” to mean that a man is declared righteous in God’s judgement. Almost everything else that they mean is different.

Paul is speaking of a sinner, whether Jewish or Gentile, and this means that the remission of sins is right at the heart of his usage of justification, because a sinner has to be forgiven at the same time that he is declared righteous, in the nature of the case. James is speaking of a righeous man, and takes two righteous examples, namely, Abraham and Rahab. Righteous people do not need to be forgiven, but they can still be assessed by God and declarede righteous.

Here is another point at which Reformed men baulk. After all, there is no-one righteous, no, not one, as Paul says. Well, that is only true if one is not speaking of those who have died, been buried, and then raised with Christ to walk in newness of life. Such people are truly righteous. They are not sinless, but they are righteous, because the Bible tells me so.

So then, Paul and James have different men in view – the unregenerate sinner and the converted believer.

Then there is the cause, or ground, of their respective justifications. The sinner is justified because Christ died on the cross for his sins, and he takes hold of that dual gift of forgiveness and righteous declaration by faith alone. That is sola fide

The righteous man is already in possession of the remission of his sins, and has been spiritually resurrected through baptism into Christ. The ground of his second justification is his works, plain and simple.

That does not mean that his works earn for him the remission of his sins. That honour belongs only to Christ and the cross. However, his works earn for him God’s righteous judgement that he is indeed righteous on the ground of his works.

At this point the Reformed theologian gets ants in his pants. But we have the obligation to take the Bible seriously, which means to take it at its word in its grammatical, plain sense. God spoke to Abraham after the testing in the matter of sacrificing Isaac and said:

Gen. 22:15   Then the Angel of the LORD called to Abraham a second time out of heaven, 16 and said: “By myself I have sworn, says the LORD, because you have done this thing, and have not withheld your son, your only son— 17 blessing I will bless you, and multiplying I will multiply your descendants as the stars of the heaven and as the sand which is on the seashore; and your descendants shall possess the gate of their enemies. 18 In your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, because you have obeyed my voice.”

What God calls blessing James calls justification, in a clear identification of the two things. God blessed Abraham and confirmed it with an oath because Abraham obeyed. Obedience is the stated reason for the blessing.

Can we take this text at face value and incorporate it into our theology? We had better, if we wish to remain faithful to the inerrant and inspired word of God.

Does it contradict sola fide? By no means. They are different justifications with different semantic domains, two different causes, and two different kinds of men. Pauls man is justified without working, and James’s man is justified by works and not by faith only. Paul’s justification ensures the sinners entrance into grace, and James’s justification is the completion of the sinner-become-righteous’s faith. Paul’s justification includes forgiveness, and James’s does not.