Justification, Part 2

You’ve heard it said before — especially those of you who cut your theological teeth on the Scofield Reference Bible — that in the New Testament God saves sinners by grace but in the Old Testament salvation is by works. Ironically, there is some truth to that. Just keep reading for a line or two more. Before the fall in the garden God related to Adam by way of a covenant of works.

To him was given the promise of eternal life as the reward for perfect obedience to the laws and commands of God. In this way God’s law was given for the justification of the righteous. God’s law can either justify or condemn. This, of course, is the problem after the fall. None are righteous, not even one and therefore God’s Law only condemns. When it speaks, we do … Read More »


With the Reformation fresh in our minds I thought it would be good for us to consider a crucial element of the Reformation, namely the doctrine of justification. We will use Buchanan’s The Doctrine of Justification as our guide if you would like to follow/read along.

In the Word, sacraments, and prayer, we are brought back to the source of our life…

Justification is an act of God’s free grace, wherein he pardons all our sins, and accepts us as righteous in his sight, only for the righteousness of Christ imputed to us, and received by faith alone (WSC 33). Speaking of this, Buchanan noted that this is “surprising, startling, and affecting us strangely, as if it were almost too good to be true (p. 2).

So important was this that Martin Luther described it as articulus stantis vel cadentis — the article of faith … Read More »

The Reformation Service

This week we raise and hopefully answer the question: Why do we pause to remember the Protestant Reformation each year?  Let me suggest three reasons why.  First, we do so to emphasize our catholicity.  To answer the question like that is somewhat ironic because historically the Reformation was the watershed event that severed the Protestants from the Roman Catholics.  By catholicity I don’t mean “Roman Catholic.”  Rather, I mean, in the most rudimentary definition of the word, unity.  That is what “catholic” means.  When I became the pastor of New Life in October 2005, the Reformation service was one of the first things that I organized.  Each year we host an evening worship service in which like-minded churches join together to celebrate their unity centered around the truths of the Reformation as codified in the reformed confessions and around the … Read More »

Sola Fide: Faith Alone

Most religions and religious movements have formal and material principles from which authority is derived and by which doctrines are summarized, respectively. Usually the formal principle is a text(s) while material principles tend to be the summary or central teaching(s) of the religion or the movement. The material principle of the Reformation is sola fide. This, no doubt, was what Luther was getting at when he called justification by faith articulus stantis aut cadentis ecclesiae – the point of belief which determines whether the Church stands or falls. Likewise, G.C. Berkhouwer,

The confession of divine justification touches man’s life at its heart, at the point of its relationship to God. It defines the preaching of the Church, the existence and progress of the life of faith, the root of human security, and man’s perspective for the future.

Sola fide is the … Read More »

What’s Your Name?

It’s a very old practice for the minister to ask parents or sponsors bringing an infant to be baptized what the child’s name is. Specifically, “What is the Christian name of this child?” To us modern westerners it sounds strange. Is the minister that disconnected that he doesn’t even know the child’s name? We tend to ascribe a name at birth. I have a hunch they did the same thing in the early centuries of the church and in Israel as well. But the formal naming of the child was tied to circumcision in the Old Testament (Luke 1:59) and to baptism when it replaced circumcision in the New Testament. Evidence suggests that adult converts often changed their names at baptism. What this suggests, then, is that for Christians baptism is the beginning. It all starts here, in the water. … Read More »

Confession of Faith or Pledge of Allegiance?

The recent NFL controversy—which is spreading to other venues too—concerning the appropriate posture during the national anthem got my mind running in so many different directions.

First, there is the liturgical path I went down. We are liturgical beings and therefore we need structure and order and routine. It’s just what we do. It’s who we are. It’s all around us if we will look around and see. We need it. We crave it. As such the national anthem serves as the liturgical call to worship of all American sporting events. Very interesting, to me at least.

Rather than merely parroting some words passed down through the generations,our confession of faith is a pledge of allegiance to king Jesus.

Second, I got thinking about the nature of this national anthem itself—this cultural call to worship—and what protests to it signified. Far more than … Read More »

Fencing the Table: The Lord’s Supper. Who May Come?

With very rare exceptions, the answer to the question: “Who may come and partake of the Lord’s Supper?” is universally answered with the word: Christians. That is, there would be very few who say it doesn’t matter if someone is a Buddhist or Muslim or an atheist. Come as you are. All are welcome. Very, very, very few would hold to that position. That said, while the majority of Christendom would reserve the table of the Lord for Christians, defining who and/or what a Christian is, is another thing altogether. And the difficulty of that definition then manifests itself in differing approaches to what is called fencing the table. Some want to build a really big wall to keep people that don’t belong out. Others not so tall or no wall, at all.

The no-wall-at-all position is called Open Communion. I’ve … Read More »


Every Sunday we gather for worship because we believe God will do exactly what He promised. He calls us together every week promising to cleanse us from our sins, speak to us in His word, hear our prayers and praises, feed us at His table, and send us out into the world under His blessing. As we gather, God renews His covenant with us so that we may live each day in communion with Him and with one another. Because we trust His promises, we come together expectantly looking to our Triune God to work on and in us that we might work for Him.

In his book Dismissing Jesus: How We Evade the Way of the Cross, Doug Jones suggests that one of the ways of the cross—that is of following Jesus—is the “Way of Community.” He suggests that,

The way … Read More »

The Wrath of God, Part 2

To be sure, Romans 1:18-32 is about God’s wrath. Paul leads out with that in 1:18, connecting it to what has already been highlighted about God’s righteousness being extended in the gospel of Christ. The reason we desperately need God’s righteousness is because we are sorely lacking in the righteousness department and “because (for) wrath is being revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth” (1:18). That stipulated, an equally important theme in Romans 1:18-32 is worship. Summed up in 1:24-25: Therefore, God gave them up in the lusts of their heart…because they exchanged the truth of God for a lie and worshipped and served the creature rather than the creator, who is blessed forever!” Amen. And again in 1:21: “They did not honor him.” And 1:23: “and exchanged the glory … Read More »

Covenant Promise, Covenant Renewal

Thousands of years ago, God called a man named Abram to leave his home, his country and his family and promised to bless him and bless all the families of the earth through him. That covenant promise has been fulfilled in the person and work of Jesus Christ, the descendant of Abram, who forgives sins through His death and resurrection, and is in the process of restoring the divisions of the human race, restoring men and women to the glory for which were made.

Because we trust His promises, we come together expectantly

Every Sunday we gather for worship because we believe God will do exactly what He promised. He calls us together every week promising to cleanse us from our sins, speak to us in His word, hear our prayers and praises, feed us at His table, and send us out … Read More »