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Meditative Thoughts on Good Works

I love Logos Bible Software. Several months ago I created a customized reading plan to guide me through Charles Hodge’s three volumes by the end of year. Next year I plan to work through Richard Muller’s Post-Reformation Reformed DogmaticsThe discipline of reading through rich theological and historical works in conjunction with my daily reading of Scripture has been a blessing. Often, I’m surprised by the timeliness and applicability of the sections for contemporary theological conversations. As Qohelet likes to say, “There’s nothing new under the sun.” This morning I came across this wonderful passage:

Antinomianism has never had any hold in the churches of the Reformation. There is no logical connection between the neglect of moral duties, and the system which teaches that Christ is a Saviour as well from the power as from the penalty of sin; that faith is the act by which the soul receives and rests on Him for sanctification as well as for justification; and that such is the nature of the union with Christ by faith and indwelling of the Spirit, that no one is, or can be partaker of the benefit of his death, who is not also partaker of the power of his life; which holds to the divine authority of the Scripture which declares that without holiness no man shall see the Lord (Heb. 12:14); and which, in the language of the great advocate of salvation by grace, warns all who call themselves Christians: “Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners shall inherit the kingdom of God.” (1 Cor. 6:9, 10.) It is not the system which regards sin as so great an evil that it requires the blood of the Son of God for its expiation, and the law as so immutable that it requires the perfect righteousness of Christ for the sinner’s justification, which leads to loose views of moral obligation; these are reached by the system which teaches that the demands of the law have been lowered, that they can be more than met by the imperfect obedience of fallen men, and that sin can be pardoned by priestly intervention. This is what logic and history alike teach. (Charles Hodge, Systematic Theology, 3:241)

How can the law, which brings death also be described as the way of life? How can the same letter be the path of life when it once condemned us? The difference hinges on pneumatology. The Holy Spirit applies the life, death, and resurrection to his people. While justification is a critical aspect of the ordo salutis, we receive even more than the imputed righteousness of Christ by grace alone through faith alone through the gospel. That same saving faith unites us to Christ, who has become for us “wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption” (1 Cor 1:30). When the Spirit works in and through his people (Phil 2:12–13), they obey God’s law out of love rather than servile fear or a desire to merit salvation. The life-giving Spirit (1 Cor 15:45) makes it our delight (Ps 1:1–2).

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Justin

5 years ago

It would be nice to see Reformed Forum take on the topic of “Good works” and “sanctification” and maybe even how it relates to assurance head on. Maybe get representatives from each perspective. Maybe I am out of place in suggesting such a thing, but it is such a hotly debated subject, and it seems like everyone is talking past one another, without any concern of whether or not the bruised reed is broken. I don’t think Reformed Forum is guilty of this, and it seems like it would be a lovely medium to have a couple of representatives discuss/debate it.

Perhaps my perspective is incorrect, and if so, I would happily be corrected. But the issue doesn’t seem to be as clear as either side is making it out to be. This is a hard topic, and it would be encouraging (especially to young laymen like myself) to see people respect the topic enough to discuss it.

Again, I apologize if this comment is out of place, and I thank God for the resources you guys have provided! They have been very beneficial and edifying!

In Christ,

Justin

Mark R

5 years ago

Justin — Be sure to check out Episode 200, which radically changed how I approach the whole Justification/Sanctification discussion. The most valuable insight for me was Lane Tipton calling “Union with Chirst” as the “Alpha point” from which our Justification and Sanctification simultaneously find their origin. This corrected my thinking in thinking that Sanctification follows Justification in some sort of vague succession

Justin

5 years ago

Mark G,

Thanks for pointing that one out. I’ll check it out!

Tim

5 years ago

Be curious to see your customized reading plan and how you did it Logos.

Camden Bucey

5 years ago

Go to the “Documents” section and create a new “Reading List.” It gives you a bunch of options for customizing it. I set a due date on Hodge for December 31 and read Tuesday through Saturday. It handles the rest.

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