Covenant Protestant Reformed Church
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Gospel Truth of JustificationThe Gospel Truth of Justification
by David J. Engelsma

Proclaimed, Defended, Developed

£24.00+ £2.40 (P&P) = £26.40
528 Pages
Hardback
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AD 2017 marks the five-hundredth anniversary of the Reformation of the church of Jesus Christ. In 1517 the Reformer Martin Luther affixed the ninety-five theses to the door of the church in Wittenberg, Germany, the act by which Jesus Christ began His reformation of his church. Essential to this Reformation was the gospel-truth of justification by faith alone.

The book is a thorough explanation of the divine, saving act of justification and a vigorous defence of the doctrine, not only against the old heresies of Rome and of Arminianism, but also against the contemporary attacks on justification by the New Perspective on Paul, Evangelicals and Catholics Together, and the Federal Vision.

Originally conceived by the author as a polemical work against the modern attacks on, and departures from, the truth of justification, the book became instead a thorough, systematic and largely positive treatment of the doctrine. Instead of contending with the theologians, it instructs Reformed and Presbyterian believers, including perhaps some ministers, in the truth that is the heart of the gospel and that, therefore, bears on all the other truths of the gospel. The book explains justification as imputation; that justification is by faith; the essential importance of justification’s being by faith “only;” the meaning of justification’s being “by the faith of Jesus;” the assurance of faith, with particular reference to the error of much of Puritanism; the “when” of justification, including a careful, moderate and biblical defence of eternal justification; the origin of justification in the counsel of the covenant; the merit of Christ’s active obedience; the still controversial relation of Paul and James; the necessary relation of justification and election; and more.

The book is permeated with biblical exposition and the doctrine is founded upon Scripture. Although not mainly polemical, the book throughout defends justification by faith alone, especially against contemporary false doctrines and teachers. It names names. This alone makes the book worthwhile. For the present-day Reformed churches and theologians, facing an assault on the gospel truth of justification that threatens and undoes everything that the Reformation confessed and for which the Reformers contended, either fall into a cowardly silence or subtly compromise the fundamental gospel truth. Thus, there is a great falling away (unto perdition)—not of the “liberal” Protestant churches, which became apostate long ago and are ready, if not eager, to fall into the embrace of Rome—but of the Reformed and Presbyterian churches that still have a reputation of “conservative” and orthodox.

Nevertheless, the book is more than a contemporary defence of justification against modern heresies and heretics, including the New Perspective on Paul, the Federal Vision, N. T. Wright and Norman Shepherd. It is also more than only a historical commemoration of the sixteenth-century Reformation’s stand on behalf of the truth of justification by faith alone. These two features alone would make the book timely.

In two respects the book can justly, if audaciously, claim to be a development of the doctrine that was the heart of the Reformation. First, contemporary heresies have occasioned development of the doctrine, for example, the ultimate grounding of justification in the counsel of the covenant. Second, the book is a systematic, thorough, concentrated treatment of justification. The Reformers worked the truth of justification into their commentaries, theological treatises on various subjects and polemical works. They did not, so far as I am aware, produce a work devoted strictly to justification in a systematic, concentrated, thorough treatment of the doctrine.

The RFPA contributes to the commemoration of the Reformation, therefore, not only by remembering the gospel truth of justification, but also by explaining the doctrine to a new, much later generation of Protestant believers, by defending it against contemporary foes and by developing it further.

At such a time as this, a work that echoes Luther’s “here I stand” with specific regard to the fundamental doctrine of the Reformation is not only appropriate, but necessary. Clearly, unequivocally, creedally, biblically, the gospel truth of justification by faith alone, without works—any works, all works! Only the alien, perfect work of the Son of God in our flesh, Jesus the justifying Christ of God! Received by faith alone! Luther—to whose memory the book is dedicated—would be glad.