Still Waters Revival Books - Justification - Salvation and Evangelism - Puritan Hard Drive

Chapter 2

The Way of Salvation

At the heart of the controversy between Rome and historic Protestants is a dispute over the way of salvation. In speaking of salvation, we note that the term "salvation" encompasses a wide range of important topics, and it is important to distinguish between various aspects of redemption.

Since the fall of mankind, the human race stands in need of salvation (or deliverance): deliverance from the guilt of sin, and also deliverance from the power of sin. From the biblical doctrine of justification, we learn the divine provision whereby sinners are delivered from the punishment due to the guilt of their sins. From the doctrine of sanctification, we learn the means whereby God delivers sinners from the reigning power of sin.

Of course, there are other facets of redemption, such as election, effectual calling, glorification, etc. Obviously the subjects of redemption are interrelated to one another; but they are not identical, and should not be confounded. Even though the various aspects of salvation bear a close relationship to one another, the scriptures clearly distinguish between them. In several places within Paul's epistles, the apostle maintains a clear distinction between justification and sanctification. For example: "But ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God" (1 Cor. 6:11; cf. Rom. 8:30; 1 Cor. 1:30). [1]

Another closely related topic is the nature of regeneration, or the new birth. Those whom God regenerates are given repentance, faith, and inward renewal so that they strive for godliness.

With the foregoing considerations in view, we wish to assert several important truths which bear on the state of Roman Catholicism and modern evangelicalism.


Centuries ago, the patriarch Job exclaimed, "How should man be just with God? For he is not a man, as I am, that I should answer him, and we should come together in judgment. Neither is there any daysman betwixt us, that might lay his hand upon us both" (Job 9:1, 32-33). Even so, Job later expressed the sublime confidence of resting in his redeemer: "For I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth; and though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God: whom I shall see for myself, and mine eyes shall behold, and not another" (Job 19:25-27).

The utterances of the patriarch illustrate well both the need for, and the sufficiency of, the work of our redeemer, Christ Jesus. Whereas no ordinary man could act as our mediator, yet there is good news of redemption: "there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus; who gave himself a ransom. God was manifest in the flesh" (1 Tim. 2:5 -6, 3:16).

A crucial question every man must ponder is how he can be just before God. This is a legal question, pertaining to our guilt as sinners. We are all guilty; there can be no denial of that fact. "There is none righteous, no, not one" (Rom. 3:10). We have nothing of merit to bring before God to improve our standing, for "we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags" (Isa. 64:6). If we remain in this guilty state, we must suffer the punishment due for our sins, which is everlasting torment in hell. Truly our case is desperate.

Moreover, we need more than forgiveness for the guilt of sins committed. If we would appear before the holy Lord of glory, we need a positive righteousness, not just a pardon for our offenses. Thus the case is clear: if we are to stand just (or righteous) before God, we must obtain righteousness from a source outside ourselves.

Let us, then, give praise unto God: through his wondrous plan of redemption, such a righteousness is found in Christ! In Christ alone may we find the righteousness we inherently lack. "For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him." He "was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification" (2 Cor. 5:21; Rom. 4:25). Thus is he called, "The Lord our righteousness" (Jer. 23:6; 33:16).

Christ Jesus provides the sole ground of righteousness for redeemed sinners. "When he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high" (Heb. 1:3).

This truth is at the foundation of historic Protestant theology; hence the slogan, " Solus Christus!" The Westminster Shorter Catechism (#33) summarizes: "Justification is an act of God's free grace, wherein he pardoneth all our sins, and accepteth us as righteous in his sight, only for the righteousness of Christ imputed to us ."

Essentially, then, justification is a forensic (or legal) concept. The sinner is declared righteous, based solely upon the righteousness of another, even Christ Jesus. The righteousness of Christ is the ground of salvation.

Human Depravity

We have already spoken of the remedy for the guilt of sin. But mankind has another problem as well. Since the fall of Adam, every human being born by ordinary generation has inherited a corrupt nature, an evil heart.

The Bible is absolutely clear about the wicked nature of mankind. Men are totally unwilling to seek God; their wills are wholly inclined to evil. "There is none that seeketh after God." "The carnal mind is enmity against God" (Rom. 3:11; 8:7). The human will is not free, precisely because it is enslaved to evil. While men are able to choose from a range of different actions, their native power to choose righteousness was lost at the fall.

Moreover, even if men were inclined to seek God, their understanding is so darkened that they cannot grasp the truth of God: "there is none that understandeth." "The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned" (Rom. 3:11; 1 Cor. 2:14).

Men are inherently incapable of contributing anything favourable to God, for "there is none that doeth good, no, not one" (Rom. 3:12). "Can the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard his spots? then may ye also do good, that are accustomed to do evil. " (Jer. 13:23).

There is a simple explanation for this total inability on the part of mankind. Natural men are spiritually dead, "dead in trespasses and sins" (Eph. 2:1), wholly incapable of the motions of living creatures. They can neither perceive, understand, nor respond to the spiritual verities which surround them. These dead men need life, spiritual life; they need to be "born again" ­ born spiritually.


Earlier we mentioned regeneration, or the new birth. The expression "born again" has been bantered about prominently within "evangelical" circles in recent years, but the terminology is often employed without adequate definition. Yet, a mistake regarding the nature of regeneration can be critical, resulting in a horrendous distortion of the doctrine of salvation.

The Second Helvetic Confession describes the new birth in the following manner: "In regeneration the understanding is illuminated by the Holy Spirit, that it may understand both the mysteries and will of God. And the will itself is not only changed by the Spirit, but it is also endued with faculties, that, of its own accord, it may both will and do good." [2]

Among the fruits of regeneration are faith and repentance. These graces are the results of God's work within the sinner; they are not the cause of the new birth. The inherent state of mankind is rebellion against God ­ enmity, ignorance, and unbelief. In order for sinners to exercise faith and repentance, the Spirit of God must convince us of our sin and misery, enlighten our minds in the knowledge of Christ, renew our wills, and persuade and enable us to embrace Jesus Christ as he is freely offered in the gospel.[3]

Unlike the imputed righteousness of Christ, which is external to the sinner, faith and repentance are the works of God within the sinner. Nevertheless, these internal works are totally gracious, in no way flowing from the actions, merit or the ability of the redeemed sinner.

Scripture teaches that salvation is "by grace through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast" (Eph. 2:8-9). Thus, even faith is a gift; faith is not an action taken by the sinner of his own innate ability. Salvation is "not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that showeth mercy" (Rom. 9:16). The empowerment is sovereignly granted by the Spirit of God. "But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God" (John 1:12-13; cf. 3:6-8).

Justification by Faith

We now move to the relationship between justification and faith. Simply stated: faith is God's appointed instrument whereby the sinner receives justification. Faith is not the ground of justifi cation, for the only ground of justification is the imputed righteousness of Christ. [4] The Westminster Shorter Catechism (#33) states this doctrine well: "Justification is an act of God's free grace, wherein he pardoneth all our sins, and accepteth us as righteous in his sight, only for the righteousness of Christ imputed to us, and received by faith alone. " We can see this principle in the text already referenced, "For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of your selves: it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast" (Ephesians 2:8-9).

Moreover, the doctrine is asserted from the example of Abraham, "he believed in the Lord; and he counted it to him for righteousness" (Gen. 15:6). Abraham's faith is expounded by Paul in Romans 4:2-5: "If Abraham were justified by works, he hath whereof to glory; but not before God. For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness. Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt. But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness."

Saving Faith

We cannot leave this discussion without considering the nature of saving faith. The term faith needs to be defined by its scriptural use. In the language of the New Testament, the noun form is faith, the verb form is believe.

In biblical terminology, the word believe means much more than mental assent. Saving faith is more than a bare acknowledgment of a few historical facts about Jesus of Nazareth. After all, "the devils also believe, and tremble" (James 2:19). Theologians have often referred to this belief as historic faith, in order to distinguish it from saving faith. [5]

The Bible also describes a temporary faith: an inadequate belief which is illustrated in the parable of the soils. Some people hear the word of God, "which, when they hear, receive the word with joy; and these have no root, which for a while believe, and in time of temptation fall away" (Luke 8:13).[6]

As noted, the patriarch Abraham is held forth in scriptures as an example of saving faith. Abraham not only believed God, but he trusted in the promises of God, resting upon the Lord alone as his redeemer. As Jesus declared, "Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day: and he saw it, and was glad" (John 8:56).

Historic Protestants have given a clear testimony about the nature of saving faith. "Faith in Jesus Christ is a saving grace, whereby we receive and rest upon him alone, as he is offered in the gospel."[7]

This definition preserves the distinctive quality of trust ("receive and rest upon him alone"), which is an essential aspect of genuine faith. Likewise, this description points to another critical aspect of faith: the content of our belief. We must rely upon the Christ of the scriptures, not an imaginary Christ made to suit the fancies of men.

It makes little sense to profess belief in Jesus of Nazareth, if we then discard the biblical teaching concerning him. Yet, that is precisely what multitudes have done throughout the centuries: they embrace heretical notions about Jesus, thereby resting in "cunningly devised fables" (2 Pet. 1:16), rather than exercising true faith in the Christ of the Bible.

For example, Jehovah's Witnesses, following the Arians of old, deny the deity of Christ, imagining him to be merely a created being. Similarly, Mormons, by exalting humanity, deny the uniqueness of Christ's person, by asserting the divinity of all mankind. These are "damnable heresies" (2 Pet. 2:1), revealing the corrupt "faith" of the adherents to these false religions.

Regarding his person, our Lord himself declared, "If ye believe not that I am he, ye shall die in your sins. Before Abraham was, I am" (John 8:24, 58). By using the covenant name of God (cf. Ex. 3:14), and applying it unto himself in this context, Jesus clearly indicates that belief in his deity is a fundamental component of saving faith.

If it is essential for us to rest upon Christ alone "as he is offered to us in the gospel," then it is necessary for us to know and embrace the truths concerning him in the scriptures. For "faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God." (Rom. 10:17).

How is Christ presented in the gospel? Reformation preachers enunciated the biblical teaching that "Christ, as our redeemer, executes the office of a prophet, of a priest, and of a king."[8] As the consummate prophet, Jesus reveals to us the very being of God, and the way of salvation (John 1:18). As priest, Christ "was once offered to bear the sins of many," "to make reconciliation for the sins of the people" (Heb. 9:28, 2:17). He is the Lord Jesus Christ, and he will reign "till he hath put all enemies under his feet" (1 Cor. 15:25). Any presentation which neglects, distorts, or denies these truths regarding Christ is not biblical preaching; it will leave hearers in danger of believing in a false Christ.

The Relationship Between Faith and Works

In defending the doctrine of justification by faith alone, we stated that the sinner's faith is the gift of God ­ the fruit of regeneration. Likewise, when the Spirit of God regenerates a man, the man's inner being is transformed. "Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new" (2 Cor. 5:17). The redeemed sinner is progressively renewed after the image of God, "in righteousness and true holiness" (Eph. 4:24). Thus, the true believer will exhibit a change of heart by his good works.

Saving faith inevitably leads to good works. Note the relationship between faith and works in God's redemptive design. "For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them" (Eph. 2:8-10).

As noted earlier, justification should not be confounded with sanctification; but neither should it be divorced from sanctification, as if redemption involves one to the exclusion of the other.[9] The redeemed sinner's deliverance from the guilt of sin evokes a desire to be free from the power of sin as well. Therefore, the genuine believer pursues "holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord" (Heb. 12:14).

Fatal Errors of Roman Catholicism

The foregoing presentation is only a cursory reminder of major truths connected with the doctrine of salvation. Nevertheless, the issues raised provide a basis for evaluating both Roman Catholicism and contemporary evangelicalism.

With reference to Rome, we may note several fatal deviations from biblical teaching.

1. Rome explicitly denies the doctrine of justification by faith alone, pronouncing an anath ema upon those who hold to this principle. The 9th canon of the Council of Trent says: "If any one saith, that by faith alone the impious is justified, in such wise as to mean, that nothing else is required to cooperate in order to the obtaining the grace of Justification, and that it is not in any way necessary, that he be prepared and disposed by the movement of his own will: let him be anathema."[10]

Many of Trent's other anathemas are hurled at caricatures of Protestants, while some of the denunciations are directed toward heresies which Protestants themselves abhor. Regardless of the "straw men" that Trent created to serve as a target, it is absolutely clear that the council (and thereby the Romish church) rejected the call of Protestants to embrace the biblical doctrine of justification by faith. This fact has been made the subject of so much discussion, both historically and recently, that we shall not dwell on it here.[11]

2. Rome has corrupted the gospel by confounding justification and sanctification. Justification is viewed as a process, begun at baptism, in which the sinner becomes righteous through infused grace. According to Trent, "That justice which is called ours, because that we are justi fied from its being inherent in us, that same is (the justice) of God, because that it is infused into us of God, through the merit of Christ."[12] In other words, the forensic nature of justification is jettisoned. The imputed righteousness of Christ is not sought; instead, an inherent righteousness is required for the sinner to improve his state of justification.

Roman Catholics speak of faith and grace in relation to justification. To the casual non -Romanist, this may sound very similar to the words used by Protestants. But when one begins to examine how the terms are defined, and the relationship they bear to one another, radical differ ences become apparent.[13]

Since Romanists view justification as a process within a man, they go on to assert that Christians, "through the observance of the commandments of God and of the Church, faith co -operating with good works, increase in that justice which they have received through the grace of Christ, and are still further justified."[14]

Underlying this Romish view of salvation is a faulty view of the inherent state of fallen mankind. While Romanists will acknowledge that mankind was damaged at the fall of Adam, the Romish system of salvation is a practical denial of the inherent inability of men to contribute to their redemption.

We have previously shown that the unregenerate man is ignorant, unwilling, and incapable of contributing to his salvation. Yet, to speak of man's "faith co-operating with good works," as a factor in justification, is to make man a partial saviour of himself. In practical terms, this consti tutes a works righteousness. "For they being ignorant of God's righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God" (Rom. 10:3).

This perversion of the doctrine of salvation (by Rome) has been widely documented. We will not dwell on it here, but merely remind our readers of this fatal corruption of the gospel. [15]

3. Rome teaches that grace is obtained through the sacraments: that is, the process of "justification" is furthered by performance of the rites of the church. In the Romish system of salva tion, grace is mediated through the Church via the sacraments. Hence the followers of Rome depend upon the rituals of the church in their redemption.

The Council of Trent speaks of "the most holy sacraments of the church, through which all true justice either begins, or being begun is increased, or being lost is repaired." [16] This is the essence of sacerdotalism.

Baptismal regeneration is asserted, for Trent claims that the merit of Christ "is applied, both to adults and to infants, by the sacrament of baptism." [17] The assertion is made that, through baptism, the original sin of Adam is taken away and remission is granted for all sins which have been committed prior to baptism. After baptism, a man may fall from the state of justification; in that case, he may seek restoration through the sacrament of penance.[18]

In this sacerdotal system, adherents can never really obtain assurance of final salvation or perseverance. Therefore, they seek to increase their justice through the sacrament of the eucharist (the Mass). Based on the doctrine of transubstantiation, the Mass is held forth as an actual resacrifice of Christ, possessing propitiatory merits which are dispensed by the church to the living and the dead.[19]

Thus, while Romanists claim that salvation comes from God, they contend that saving grace is channeled through the rites of the church.The ultimate effect of Rome's sacerdotalism is to make the institutional church the mediator between God and man; the church and her priests usurp the role of Christ.

From the foregoing discussion, it should be clear that Roman Catholicism has exchanged the biblical gospel for another gospel. The Romish Church has denied the forensic nature of justification; it has rejected the scriptural teaching of justification by faith; it has confounded justification and sanctification; they have sought regeneration by the performance of ecclesiasti cal rites.

Fatal Errors of Contemporary Evangelicalism

We've noted some of the fatal flaws of Roman Catholicism. But our examination of the issues cannot stop with Rome; modern evangelicals also subvert the doctrine of salvation by grace.

If Rome is denounced for its doctrine of baptismal regeneration, then contemporary evangelicalism must be criticized for its practice of decisional regeneration. This error may take two prominent forms: (1.) mass meetings where hearers are asked to come forward at the "invitation" (or altar call) in order to register their decision for Christ (an action often equated with faith or regeneration); and (2.) the one-on-one method of Pelagian evangelism where the "convert" is told to recite a "sinner's prayer," after which he is solemnly assured of his salvation and exhorted not to doubt his favourable standing before God. (No doctrine of papal absolution was ever stated with more certainty). Both of these methods exhibit a complete misunderstanding of the biblical way of salvation.

This style of mass evangelism is sometimes called "Billy Graham Evangelism," because of the most famous modern practitioner of the technique. It dates back to the 19th-century practices of the heretical American evangelist, Charles Finney. [20]

The one-on-one form of decisionalism has been greatly popularized by Campus Crusade's Four Spiritual Laws, and other programs of lay evangelism, such as Evangelism Explosion. If these techniques were restricted to fringe sects of free-will baptists, our criticisms would be quite limited. Yet, it is a sad commentary on the state of modern American religion, that these sorts of "gospel presentations" are pervasive in "evangelical" circles. These practices of evangelism are even tolerated and approved within "reformed" denominations.

1. These techniques betray an erroneous view of the human will. The practitioners of these methods inevitably give the impression (and sometimes openly state) that the sinner's will is determinative in salvation ­ in spite of the biblical declaration that election "is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that showeth mercy" (Rom. 9:16).

The heresy of free will is implicit within the language commonly employed by evangelicals when they exhort men to "accept Christ as Saviour." This expression is not found any place in scripture; it communicates a false notion of the sinner's sovereignty in conversion, and it also helps to confound historic faith with saving faith. Given the sinful state of mankind, the pertinent question is not whether we "accept Christ," but whether God accepts us.

Evangelicals will speak of the guilt and effects of sin, thereby asserting that man was dam aged at the fall of Adam. Yet, much like Rome, contemporary evangelicals deny the inability of fallen mankind, because they elevate the human will as the determinative factor in regeneration.

The heresy of free will has appeared many times in church history. When Pelagius espoused free will in the fourth century, he was opposed by Augustine. At the time of the Protestant Refor mation, the Reformers vigorously opposed the advocates of free will. [21] In the 17th century, the Synod of Dordt recognized the association between Pelagianism and the tenets of Arminianism; the Synod condemned the Arminians for bringing "again out of hell the Pelagian error" of free will.[22]

Based upon the doctrine of free will, the evangelistic techniques of decisionalism were introduced by the 19th century American preacher, Charles Finney. Through Finney's influence, "evangelicalism underwent a major change in meaning. His Pelagianism subverted the Reformation's understanding of grace precisely because it denied the Reformation's view of man."[23]

Anyone who truly believes in free will does not understand the fallen condition of mankind, and thus does not affirm the true nature of God's grace in salvation. God sovereignly draws his elect to Christ, as Jesus declares, "All that the Father giveth me shall come to me" (John 6:37). Because of the native inability of mankind, "No man can come to me, except the Father draw him" (John 6:44). The believing response of some hearers to the preaching of the gospel flows strictly from God's sovereign grace. "For who maketh thee to differ from another? and what hast thou that thou didst not receive?" (1 Cor. 4:7). "As many as were ordained to eternal life be lieved" (Acts 13:48). It must be sovereign grace, or it is not really grace at all. Evangelicals effectively deny the grace of God in salvation, inasmuch as they appeal to the sinner's will as determinative in salvation.

We know that decisionalists often decry sovereign grace, claiming it destroys efforts at evangelism. Historically, this is simply not the case. The Protestant Reformation was, in essence, a vast evangelistic effort, with a heavy emphasis on preaching. The reformers realized, however, that "without God's gracious interposition the preaching of the gospel will always be fruitless. God's sovereignty undergirds evangelism; it does not undermine it." [24]

2. The exercise of the sinner's will ­ making a decision ­ is equated with faith. The "deci sion" is viewed as the means to regeneration; "faith" is said to precede or produce regeneration and forgiveness of sins. Faith is seen as the cause of regeneration, not the fruit of it: hence, our description of this doctrine as decisional regeneration. Indeed, in this scheme of things, "faith" practically becomes the ground of justification, since converts are told to rest their assurance upon their decision for Christ. Thus, when evangelicals claim to believe in justification by faith alone, they often mean something radically different than the historic Protestant doctrine. [25]

3. The nature of conversions is rarely examined. Many persons confuse mental assent with faith; temporary faith is not distinguished from saving faith. One result is that many who make a profession of faith later fall away, and they are then categorized as "carnal Christians." [26]

At root, the scriptural doctrine of saving faith is almost completely absent among modern evangelicals. It has been replaced by spurious forms of faith, what Reformation Protestants would have called historic faith and temporary faith.

Due to the techniques of decisionalism, spurious professions should be expected. The practitioners of these evangelistic methods spend so much time preparing the mood of the audi ence, telling anecdotes, and pressing for decisions, that Christ is rarely preached in the fulness necessary for hearers to make an intelligent profession of faith. The hearers are exhorted to place their "faith" in an unknown Saviour ­ a person whom they know too little about to rest upon for salvation.

By contrast, Christ must be preached and known "as he is offered in the gospel:"[27] that is, in his offices of prophet, priest and king. The confusion in respect to the person of Christ has reached such alarming proportions, that a debate has erupted among evangelicals over "the lordship controversy." The puritan preacher Thomas Manton summarizes the root problem:

"Many would admit Christ to be their advocate to plead for them, but not their king to rule over them."[28]

As we noted earlier, genuine faith not only possesses a right understanding of Christ's person; it is joined with other saving graces which will never be found in these "carnal Chris tians" who populate the pews of modern evangelicalism. In the Bible, justification precedes sanctification, and the two concepts cannot be divorced, as though the one will exist to the exclusion of the other.[29]

4. Many contemporary evangelicals confound justification with regeneration; like Rome, they confuse the legal (external) nature of justification with the inward work of God in renewing the sinner. In the past two decades, there has been an enormous emphasis on the necessity of being "born again."[30] This focus has led to an over-emphasis on the experiential aspects of salvation, to the virtual exclusion of the forensic nature of justification. The result is that the doctrine of justification has been eclipsed by a doctrine of "letting Jesus into your heart." That is, the external basis of justification (by Christ's imputed righteousness) has been replaced by a quest for the inward experience of being "born again." [31]

It is significant to note that the older Protestant doctrinal formulations placed the discussion of regeneration solidly within the context of the broader scope of redemption. For example, the Westminster Confession has no separate chapter on regeneration; instead, regeneration is covered under the subject of effectual calling, and then only by way of a description. [32] Later, as the standards move to the subject of sanctification, further reference is made to regeneration: "They who are effectually called and regenerated, having a new heart and a new spirit created in them, are further sanctified really and personally, through the virtue of Christ's death and resurrection, by his word and Spirit dwelling in them."[33] By setting forth regeneration in relation to effectual calling and sanctification, the Westminster Standards avoid an imbalanced portrayal of the doctrine.

Of course, most contemporary evangelicals do not embrace the biblical doctrine of regeneration as the sovereign work of God. Therefore, neither the biblical doctrine of regeneration, nor the biblical doctrine of justification have much currency in contemporary evangelical circles. There is quite a contrast between reformation preaching and modern preaching. Reformed preachers sought to impress hearers with their need for deliverance from the guilt of sin; modern preachers try to lure converts with the benefits they will experience by making a decision for Christ. The former preaching was God-centered and objective in nature; modern preaching is man-centered and subjective in focus.

From the foregoing discussion, it should be clear that contemporary evangelicals have exchanged the biblical gospel for another gospel. They have subverted the grace of the gospel by asserting human ability (free will) to obtain salvation. They have confounded justification and regeneration; they have sought regeneration by the performance of religious rituals (the alter call, the sinner's prayer).


Thus we see that both contemporary evangelicals and Roman Catholics subvert the biblical way of salvation. Both oppose the scriptural doctrine of redemption, as espoused by the Protestant Reformers. The solemn words of the apostle apply to both evangelicals and Roman Catholics together: "But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed" (Gal. 1:8).

Footnotes for Chapter 2

1. "Wherein do justification and sanctification differ? Although sanctification be inseparably joined with justification, yet they differ, in that God in justification imputeth the righteousness of Christ; in sanctification his Spirit infuseth grace, and enableth to the exercise thereof; in the former, sin is pardoned; in the other, it is subdued: the one doth equally free all believers from the revenging wrath of God, and that perfectly in this life, that they never fall into condemnation; the other is neither equal in all, nor in this life perfect in any, but growing up to perfection." Westminster Larger Catechism, #77.

2. Second Helvetic Confession, Chapter 9. The English translation here is taken from Philip Schaff, The Creeds of Christendom, 6th edition (1931; rpt. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1983), vol. 3, p. 846. For proof of the definition, the confession cites Jer. 7:33, Ezek. 36:27, John 8:36, Phil. 1:29; 2:13.

3. Cf. Westminster Shorter Catechism #31.

4. For an excellent discussion on the role of faith, see Joel R. Beeke, "Justification by Faith Alone (The Relation of Faith to Justification)," chapter 3 of Justification by Faith Alone (edited by Don Kistler; Morgan, Pa.: Soli Deo Gloria, 1994), pp. 53-105.

5. For an example of a standard exposition on different kinds of faith, see Thomas Manton, "Faith," in A Body of Divinity (1692; rpt. Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 1992), pp. 215-20.

6. There are other forms of inadequate faith illustrated in scripture, such as the superficial belief of people who witnessed miracles, acknowledged the supernatural elements they saw, but yet lacked a genuine faith in Christ (cf. Acts 8:13, 21-23).

7. Westminster Shorter Catechism #86.

8. Westminster Shorter Catechism #23.

9. See note 1 above.

10. Cited from Schaff, Creeds of Christendom, vol. 2, p. 112.

11. Doctrinal statements regarding justification can be found in the Protestant creeds, the writings of the reformers, and Puritan sermons. Historic surveys on justification may be found in James Buchanan, The Doctrine of Justification: An Outline of Its History in the Church and of Its Exposition from Scripture (Edinburgh, 1867) and William Cunningham, "Justification," Chapter 21 of Historical Theology (1862; rpt. Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 1979), vol. 2, pp. 1-120. Recent treatments of the subject may be found within the following works: Don Kistler, ed., Justification by Faith Alone (Morgan, Pa.: Soli Deo Gloria, 1995); John MacArthur, Reckless Faith: When the Church Loses Its Will to Discern (Wheaton: Crossway Books, 1994).

12. Council of Trent, "Decree on Justification," chapter 16; cited from Schaff, Creeds of Christendom, vol. 2, pp. 108-09.

13. "That a sinner may be saved, the scriptures declare that he must be both justified and sanctified: the Romanists, as if one of those were by requisite, call that 'justification,' which in scripture is 'sanctification;' and that which in scripture is "justification," they admit not, as distinct from inherent righteousness.

"The apostle Paul, who most insists upon the doctrine of justification, delivers these two as distinct things, (1 Cor. 6:11, and elsewhere). He ascribes justification commonly to the blood of Christ (as in the text [Rom. 3:24], and Rom. 5:8-9); sanctification to the Spirit of Christ (Titus 3:5).

"However, the Papists' promiscuous use of words might be tolerated, if they did not confound the things, and contend that we are formally justified by that which is the form and essence of sanctification, namely, inherent righteousness. The danger is that which the apostle would have the Jews avoid, when he expresseth his hearty desire that they might be saved: 'For they being ignorant of God's righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God' (Rom. 10:3)." David Clarkson, "The Doctrine of Justification is Dangerously Corrupted in the Roman Church," in Select Works of the Reverend and Learned David Clarkson (1675; London [Wycliffe Society], 1846), p.472.

14. Council of Trent, "Decree on Justification," chapter 10; cited from Schaff, Creeds of Christendom, vol. 2, p. 99.

15. See notes 11 and 13 above.

16. Council of Trent, "Decree on the Sacraments." Cited from Schaff, Creeds of Christendom, vol. 2, p. 118.

17. Council of Trent, "Decree on Original Sin," section 3. Cited from Schaff, Creeds of Christendom, vol. 2, p. 86.

18. See Council of Trent, "Decree on Justification," sections 3-4, 14. In Schaff, Creeds of Christendom, vol. 2, p. 90-91, 104-05.

19. See Council of Trent, "Doctrine on the Sacrifice of the Mass," section 2 In Schaff, Creeds of Christendom, vol. 2, p. 90-91, 179-80.

20. Michael Horton makes a passing reference to Finney as he discusses the popularization of Pelagian evangelism. In a footnote he states: 'Charles Finney denied original sin, the substitutionary atonement, the necessity of supernatural grace in the new birth, and argued that the doctrine "of justification by an imputed righteousness is another gospel."' See Horton's essay, "What Still Keeps Us Apart?" in John Armstrong, ed., Roman Catholicism: Evangelicals Analyze What Divides and Unites Us (Chicago: Moody Press, 1994), pp. 262-64, p. 266 (note 13).

21. It is worth noting that three of the major reformers wrote book-length treatises against free will. In The Bondage of the Will (1525), Luther contended against the free-will teaching of Erasmus; Calvin wrote a treatise Concerning the Eternal Predestination of God (1552) against the free will doctrine of Pighius; Knox denies free will in his Answer to a Great Number of Blasphemous Cavillations Written by an Anabaptist, and Adversary to God's Eternal Predestination (1560). This point of unity among the reformers demonstrates just how far modern evangelicals have departed from the doctrines of the Protestant Reformation.

22. Canons of the Synod of Dordt, 2nd Head, rejection 3. Cf. 1st Head, "Of Divine Predestination," rejection 4; 2nd Head, "Of the Death of Christ, and the Redemption of Men Thereby," rejection 6; 3rd and 4th Heads, "Of the Corruption of Man, His Conversion to God, and the Manner Thereof," article 2, article 10, rejection 7, rejection 9; 5th Head, "Of the Perseverance of the Saints," rejection 2.

23. Gerstner, John H. "The Theological Boundaries of Evangelical Faith," in The Evangelicals: What They Believe, Who They Are, Where They Are Changing. Edited by David F. Wells and John D. Woodbridge. (Nashville: Abingdon, 1975), p. 27.

Gerstner adds: "The price which has had to be paid is a diminished doctrine of grace. Although contemporary evangelists have recoiled from some of Finney's distortions, the evangel is still presented as being of divine origin but it is seen as needing human cooperation for its realization. The initiative of God in disposing man to receive the gospel is not only seen as unnecessary but some view it as pernicious since the freedom of man is thereby violated. The dilemma of relating man's moral inability to his ethical responsibility is not new to this generation of evangelicals, nor are some of the solutions that have emerged. But it is clear that the view common to the Protestant Reformers, which was held with remarkable unanimity, has undergone serious modifications" (p. 28).

24. Gerstner, John H. "The Theological Boundaries of Evangelical Faith," p. 28.

25. Part of the confusion over terminology is caused by a belief in universal atonement. Since modern evangelicals generally believe that Christ has died and paid the price for all the sins of every man (both elect and reprobate), the substitutionary death of Christ cannot be the determina tive basis of one's standing before God. Therefore, the sinner's decision, in accepting Christ, is made the determining factor in the application of redemption. In a very real sense, then, the sinner's decision is the effective cause of salvation.

26. For a refutation of the "carnal Christian" theory, see Ernest C. Reisinger, What Should We Think of the Carnal Christian? (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 1978).

27. Westminster Shorter Catechism #86; see also, "Saving Faith," pp. 6-8 above.

28. A Body of Divinity (1692; rpt. Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 1992), p. 188. He adds, "Say not, as those Jews, 'We have no king but Caesar,' no king but our lusts. Submit to Christ willingly. All the devils in hell submit to Christ; but it is against their will; they are his slaves, not his subjects. Many would have Christ their saviour, but not their prince; such as will not have Christ to be their king to rule over them, shall never have his blood to save them" (p. 191).

29. See note 1 above.

30. This exhortation could be useful, if evangelicals adhered to the scriptural doctrine of regen eration as the sovereign work of God's Spirit. Instead, most evangelicals see the new birth as the result of the sinner exercising his will.

31. John Armstrong relates an interesting incident which illustrates this point. 'I will never forget the first time I led a young man into a decision, not realizing then that such evangelistic methodology is more Roman Catholic than genuinely evangelical, only to ask him the so-called follow-up question, "Where is Christ right now?" He answered happily, "I have received Him into my heart in prayer with you, just as I receive Him into my heart every time I take the Mass." ' (Armstrong, "The Evangelical Moment?" Chapter 13 of Roman Catholicism: Evangelicals Analyze What Divides and Unites Us, pp. 306-07). Stating his uneasiness with modern evangelism, Armstrong expresses many legitimate criticisms. Yet he fails to follow through with the implications of his observations. After all, if both Rome and evangelicals have corrupted the gospel, why should either group be regarded as a true Christian church? See chapter 4 below for a discussion of such issues.

32. Confession, 10:1; Larger Catechism #67; Shorter Catechism #31.

33. Confession, 13:1.

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Copyright ©1995 by Kevin Reed