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Throughout this week I will be walking through the five questions Francis Turretin tackles in his chapter on “Sanctification and Good Works” (Seventeenth Topic). Here are the five questions, slightly modified for ease of understanding:

  1. How does sanctification differ from justification?
  2. Can we fulfill the law absolutely in this life?
  3. Are good works necessary to salvation?
  4. Can justified believers do that which is truly good?
  5. Do good works merit eternal life?

Today we come to Question #3: Are good works necessary to salvation?

If you’ve never read Turretin, you are really missing out. He’s not the easiest writer, and he doesn’t write the loftiest prose. But he is exceedingly careful. He defines his terms, dissects various opinions, and always makes clear what’s the real question he’s trying to answer.

So it’s not surprising that Turretin begins his discussion by noting that there are three main views when it comes to the necessity of good works. Some are like modern Libertines, who make good works arbitrary and indifferent. Others are like ancient Pharisees, who contend that works are necessary to justification. In trying to hold the middle ground between these two extremes, Turretin maintains, in keeping with “the opinion of the orthodox,” that good works are necessary but not according to the necessity of merit (XVII.iii.2). In other words, the question before us is not “whether good works are necessary to effect salvation or to acquire it of right” (we’ll get to that in the fifth question), but whether good works are “required as the means and way for possessing salvation.” It is in this last sense that Turretin affirms the necessity of good works (XVII.iii.3).

According to Turretin, the necessity of good works is proved from: (1) the command of God, (2) the covenant of grace, (3) the gospel, (4) the state of grace, and (5) the blessings of God. In the covenant of grace there are still stipulations and obligations (conditions, if you will). There are duties man owes to God and blessings that are connected to the exercise of these duties, even if–and this is important–God is the one who sees to it that these duties are carried out. Heaven cannot be reached without good works (Heb. 12:14; Rev. 21:27), which it is such good news that he who began a good work in us will be faithful to complete it (Phil. 1:6).

To insist on the necessity of good works is not to become a legalist or a neonomian. “Although we acknowledge the necessity of good works against the Epicureans,” Turretin observes, “we do not on this account confound the law and the gospel and interfere with gratuitous justification by faith alone. Good works are required not for living according to the law, but because we live by the gospel; not as the causes on account of which life is given to us, but as effects which testify that life has been given to us” (XVII.iii.15).

This question about the necessity of good works has often perplexed Christians. If, on the one hand, we say no, good works are not necessary, we can hardly make sense of the warnings and moral imperatives of the New Testament. But if we say good works are necessary to salvation, it can sound like we’ve suddenly made heaven the product of our effort and obedience. But that’s not what Hebrews 12:14 means, nor what Turretin means. Read carefully this paragraph:

Works can be considered in three ways: either with reference to justification or sanctification or glorification. They are related to justification not antecedently, efficiently and meritoriously, but consequently and declaratively. They are related to sanctification constitutively because they constitute and promote it. They are related to glorification antecedently and ordinatively because they are related to it as the means to the end. (XVII.iii.14)

That’s a mouthful, but really crucial and really wonderful. Good works are inextricably linked to justification, sanctification, and glorification, but they are related in different ways. Good works come after justification as a result and a declaration. Good works are identified with sanctification as its definition and cheerleader. And good works come before glorification as God’s appointed means to a divinely secured end. Or as Turretin puts it, “grace is glory begun, as glory is grace consummated” (XVII.iii.14).

Huh, I guess the guy does put out some lofty prose once in awhile.

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27 thoughts on “Five Questions about Sanctification and Good Works: Are Good Works Necessary to Salvation?”

  1. Neville Briggs says:

    So Turretin says; Works can be considered in three ways: either with reference to justification or sanctification or glorification. They are related to justification not antecedently, efficiently and meritoriously, but consequently and declaratively. They are related to sanctification constitutively because they constitute and promote it. They are related to glorification antecedently and ordinatively because they are related to it as the means to the end. (XVII.iii.14)

    What on earth could that mean ?? I have no idea. In one paragraph eight words with five syllables !!
    Didn’t Jesus say that His yoke is easy and His burden is light.

    Maybe the apostle John wasn’t as smart as Turretin and such highly educated professors, John could only say
    ” For this is the love of God, to keep His commandments, and His commandments are not burdensome, because everything that is sprung from God overcomes the world. And this, our faith, is the victory which overcomes the world ”

    I can understand that.

  2. WoundedEgo says:

    While faith is the BASIS, there are also CONDITIONS. The conditions are things that one can do and must do but that will not secure the forgiveness of sins. These are things like:

    * forgiving others:

    Mat_6:15 But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.
    Mat_18:35 So likewise shall my heavenly Father do also unto you, if ye from your hearts forgive not every one his brother their trespasses.
    Mar_11:26 But if ye do not forgive, neither will your Father which is in heaven forgive your trespasses.

    * water baptism (assuming one is able)

    Mar_16:16 He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.

    * coming to or returning to obedience (repentance):

    Luk_13:3 I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.
    Luk_13:5 I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.

    Act_20:21 Testifying both to the Jews, and also to the Greeks, repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ.

    True repentance has corresponding actions:

    Act 26:20 Instead, I first told the people in Damascus and Jerusalem, then all the people in Judea—and after that the gentiles—to repent, turn to God, and perform deeds that are consistent with such repentance.

    That is what James is saying. He’s saying that while it is only on the BASIS of faith that one is justified in the paradigm of “justification by faith” there are CONDITIONS, one of which is repentance, which as corresponding actions. And it is appropriate to surmise that James has all of the CONDITIONS, including water baptism and forgiving others in his “corresponding actions” that he referred to as “works”.

    To recap:

    * the BASIS of justification by faith is faith alone
    * the CONDITIONS of justification by faith include forgiving others, returning to obedience and water baptism
    * the CONDITIONS do not secure justification apart from faith
    * faith does not secure justification apart from the CONDITIONS

  3. Kern says:

    Are good works necessary for salvation.? Why do you have to make it so complicated? Answer NO.

  4. J_Bob says:

    One might look at Matt.7:21
    Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.

    It points out that words are one thing, actions are another.

  5. Jim says:

    It seems some cannot understand the gospel of FREE grace. Martyn Llloyd Jones comments on Romans 5:1 are excellent here as he speaks concerning Paul not mentioning justification in Romans 8:29 but quoting Paul says those whom he justified are glorified.Sanctification has nothing to do with it! QUIT trying to mix the two brother. When God saves you through the blood of Jesus you want to follow Jesus – and you will follow Jesus as a tenor of life. I am disappointed in the continual rant that I am hearing from some. I fear that the gospel is more often complained about leading to a life of libertineism than being preached by some. On a personal note, I am a mess, my sins have been far too many but praise God, the blood of Jesus cleanses me from all my sin and clothes me in his righteousness. And one day, one glorious day, there will be no more sin and I will shine forever clothed in his righteousness. As Lewis said, if we could see me as I am going to be then we would be tempted to worship. And its ALL of GRACE.

  6. Kraig says:

    If good works are not necessary for “obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls” (to use a phrase from 1 Peter), then neither do bad works hinder the same. But surely you would not say that someone who says “Lord, Lord” at the judgment but spent their life murdering, raping, stealing, slandering, and so on — and never genuinely repented even in the last hour — surely you would not say that such a person would still be saved. You are right, however, that it isn’t complicated. It is absolutely necessary that the genuineness of our faith be made evident by good works — the “obedience of [that comes from/is produced by] faith” (to use a phrase from Romans 1).

  7. Kraig says:

    You are right, we are a mess as we battle indwelling sin! But when you say, “When God saves you through the blood of Jesus you want to follow Jesus – and you will follow Jesus as a tenor of life,” — you admit that a consistent presence (“tenor of life”) of good works/obedience (“follow Jesus”) is necessary (“necessary”) when God saves you because now, being a born again new creation in Christ, you want to (and therefore will) obey your Lord. So you also answer in the affirmative: Yes, good works are necessary for salvation. If there are no good works — if a person does not follow Jesus as the tenor of life — then there is no salvation.

  8. Mark says:

    “This Talkative is not aware of; he thinks that hearing and saying will make a good Christian, and thus he deceiveth his own soul. Hearing is but as the sowing of the Seed; talking is not sufficient to prove that fruit is indeed in the heart and life; and let us assure ourselves, that at the day of Doom men shall be judged according to their fruits. It will not be said then, Did you believe? but, Were you Doers, or Talkers only? and accordingly they shall be judged. The end of the world is compared to our Harvest, and you know men at Harvest regard nothing but fruit. Not that any thing can be accepted that is not of faith, but I speak this to show you how insignificant the profession of Talkative will be at that day.” John Bunyon, Pilgrim’s Progress

  9. Jim says:

    I am not saying that good works are necessary. I am saying they are a fruit in some meausre and result of saving faith. I will be and am completely accepted by what Jesus has done for me. It is an alien righteousness. The tenor of my life is towards him now, yes, but everything I do has enough sin in it to damn me. My life is changed, by God’s grace, but that change is never ever ever my plea or hope before God. I fear many get sanctification and justification out of order here and measure their acceptance by their doing and not his doing and dying. I don’t want to negate the necessity of change and repentance but they do not render us acceptable. They too fall short. I find it so interesting that when Paul is encountering the charge of antinomianism he does not jump right into a diatribe of commands that we must do but rather only repeats the gospel. The gospel will produce fruit in measures but dont make the fruit the issue. Let it be tasted and enjoyed. Paul said to stand fast in the liberty with which Christ has set you free. Rest in Him.

  10. Galant says:

    From where come a man’s actions and the course of his life? Is it not his heart? Outside of compulsion (and some times in spite of it) does a man not do that which he wishes?

    If the New Covenant in Christ’s blood is a covenant which grants a new heart of flesh in place of a heart of stone, upon which are written the laws of God, then considering the first truth, should not a new heart result in new actions and a new course of life?

    And if such a new course is not found outworking, or, moreover, if even the desire for such a new course is not found present, might we not question the presence of a new heart within?

    And can a man, by working hard change his own heart within himself? Or instead, does he find that in battling against himself, he is unable to effect change? Certainly the imperfect tool can never create a perfect work but in the hands of a perfect master.

    Or consider the redemption of Ruth. Could she do anything to bring about her own redemption? She could not. Nor could her mother in law. Instead she had to turn to another, a kinsman redeemer, who would work without fail, to obtain Ruth’s redemption. What then followed that redemption? Did she leave, with or without her mother in law, to pursue a new life with her new found freedom and a gift of wealth? No. Although redeemed her redemption then and forever onwards was found in her permanent connection to, and relationship with, Boaz. The method of her redemption was relationship – marriage – and all that entailed. The story does not tell us but we can safely assume that Ruth would take on her role in the wealthy household of Boaz, bearing him children and working in His home. Could or would any less be expected from, or acceptable for, a wife? No. This was her redemption – to form part of the household of Boaz. Did the work she did for the family or family business somehow earn or payback her redemption? No! That is an abhorrent thought! Moreover, it would be ineffective, what Boaz paid for Ruth was not a fixed price that could be earned. It was in fact himself, his future, in choosing her as a wife and the one to bear his sons. She could never in any way earn or pay for that. What then? She could only give herself to him in both duty and love and joy. The love of Boaz, relationship with him and the success of his household would be both her redemption and her joy; as was his love and as went his household so to went her fate. What’s more, whatever work she did to prosper that household, to grow it and to deepen Her relationship with Boaz, all of that would therefore only further her own enjoyment and prosperity in that relationship and household. So then, her work was proper to that household as part of it but also a blessing in benefiting from the growth of that household.

    The work of a Christian is the same. We are saved not by stipend but by relationship and family – by purchase and adoption. The work of the Christian is nothing more than the family business, proper to the family and household of God, it is both proper to any member of that household (a duty of the member and also therefore an identifying mark for them) and yet also beneficial in that we only grow closer to our redeemer, the groom of the church, and in the growth and success and joy of that family.

  11. Darcy says:

    Connecting works with salvation should always be rigorously evaluated. I think that all of us are tempted to elevate our works above the cross especially when we raise the necessity of works. This is what Paul warned about in Galatians(in a more specific context).

    If works are necessary what are we to do with last minute conversions? The criminal with Jesus in Luke 23 does no good works and asks Jesus to remember him. That’s it. Jesus said he would enter in and presumably he died not long after that.

    I think that God’s grace has always been hard for us to accept and we continually want to add to salvation. The good news is that it is all God’s grace.

  12. Gabo says:

    Dude, consider the source! Wikipedia says that Turretin ” In Paris he also studied philosophy under Roman Catholic Pierre Gassendi.”. Turretin had Roman Cathiloc influences that naturally mixed (erroneously) justification with sanctification. Do you realize this? Why do so many young pastors see the necessity to go back to Rome for our theology? Please remember the blood shed by the reformers for the sake of sola fide, sola gratia, sola scriptura, sola cristus and sola deo Gloria! Only God deserves the glory, even the glory for the “good works” we seem to do.

  13. John Hutchinson says:

    “Are good works necessary to salvation?” The problem with the historical Reformed / Evangelical position is the befuddled conflation between Justification and Salvation. The two are not the same, as Scriptures clearly discerns. “Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God.” (Romans 5:9). Works and/or sanctification are necessary for Salvation but not for Justification. But how is works/sanctification for Salvation necessary without works/sanctification being an additional condition for Justification above the merits of Christ and His Atonement. The answers from the Reformed / Evangelical tradition are ultimately incoherent and ephemeral upon close scrutiny.

  14. CB Campano says:

    Our women are doing a study in James and this is, of course, a topic of great interest. In a discussion with my pastor about this he sent me this gem by J. G. Machen (parenthetical comments are mine):

    “The faith that James is condemning (dead faith with no fruit) is not the faith that Paul is commending (saving faith trusting in the merit of Christ alone)” and ‘’the works that James is commending (good works as fruit coming from the root of faith) is not the works that Paul is condemning (work done to earn favor with God).”

    I asked our women a couple of weeks ago “what is the opposite of grace (as it relates to salvation)? I believe a good answer is “not good works but meritorious works.” There is a vast difference between good works and works righteousness which to me seems to be at the heart of this discussion.

  15. CB, Machen was wrong and so are you. We are justified apart from all our works. Owen on James:

    “(3.) That they [James and Paul] do not speak of justification in the same sense, nor with respect unto the same ends.
    (4.) That as unto works, they both intend the same, namely, the works of obedience unto the moral law.


    (3.) They speak not of justification in the same sense nor unto the same end; it is of our absolute justification before God, — the justification of our persons, our acceptance with him, and the grant of a right unto the heavenly inheritance, — that the apostle Paul does treat, and thereof alone. This he declares in all the causes of it; all that on the part of God, or on our part, concurs thereunto. The evidence, the knowledge, the sense, the fruit, the manifestation of it in our own consciences, in the church, unto others that profess the faith, he treats not of; but speaks of them separately as they occur on other occasions. The justification he treats of is but one, and at once accomplished before God, changing the relative state of the person justified; and is capable of being evidenced various ways, unto the glory of God and the consolation of them that truly believe. Hereof the apostle James does not treat at all; for his whole inquiry is after the nature of that faith whereby we are justified, and the only way whereby it may be evidenced to be of the right kind, such as a man may safely trust unto. Wherefore, he treats of justification only as to the evidence and manifestation of it; nor had he any occasion to do otherwise…

    (4.) As unto “works,” mentioned by both apostles, the same works are intended, and there is no disagreement in the least about them; for as the apostle James intends by works duties of obedience unto God, according to the law, — as is evident from the whole first part of the chapter, which gives occasion unto the discourse of faith and works, — so the same are intended by the apostle Paul also, as we have proved before. And as unto the necessity of them in all believers, as unto other ends, so as evidences of their faith and justification, it is no less pressed by the one than the other; as has been declared.”
    -The Doctrine of Justification

  16. That “works are necessary for salvation” “should not be taught, defended, or excused, but be thrown out of our churches and repudiated as false and incorrect”

  17. John Hutchinson says:

    Dear Brandon:

    Either you are right or I am right. Either you are apostate or I am apostate. Either your position directly deposits you to hell or mine directly deposits me to hell. The antimony is that stark and irreconcilable.

    Works are neither necessary nor effectual for justification, which is the moral / legal moral / legal basis for Salvation (“the right (ἐξουσίαν – exousian) to become children of God” – John 1:12). In that no human deed, whether before or after conversion, is immune from the faintest speck of ethical imperfection and since a scrupulously exact and exacting Justice demands ethical perfection in order for works righteousness, in part or in whole, to be valid, only the blood of a perfect God-man Christ is efficient and sufficient. Add any extra condition, which cannot be successfully met, and one subtracts from and negates the conditional equation of Justification.

    However, justification is not salvation. Justification involves the moral / legal basis of Justification for Salvation in a God who intends to govern the cosmos by righteousness and justice (Ps 97:2). However, salvation involves the power (dunamis) of God. And the terms of justification are different from the terms of salvation . (Chafer’s “Terms of Salvation” is a clear and erroneous conflation of justification with salvation.)

    It is not the person who has faith in Christ’s blood who is justified and thereby saved, but the person who has faith in Christ in His totality – trusting in the virtue and wisdom of His assertions, counsels, commandments etc. (“he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus” – Rom 3:26 – not one who merely has faith in Jesus’s Atoning sacrifice) Faith in Christ in His totality, even if imperfectly is necessary in order to navigate “through many dangers, toils and snares” of life and its circumstances and endure to the end with his faith intact even in the sole effectuality of His Atoning sacrifice.

    In Rom 5.9, it states we are justified by Christ’ blood, but we are saved by Christ. But we are not merely saved by His direct if invisible intervention but by practicably trusting (leaning upon) the virtue and value of His counsels in order to navigate those many perils. Salvation is an experiential dynamic, whereas Justification involves a rational mechanic. We abide by all the other counsels, because in the end, such abidance protects even our capacity to keep our faith in Him. (“Fight the good fight of faith” in TImothy) This abidance does not require perfection, because it has no ethical or judicial merit in Justification. However, it has ontological and experiential value in surviving life circumstances with our faith intact, even if such faith suffers much stumbling. Obstinate and persistent failure to abide by His counsels, when pressed, often initiates a psychological dynamic which undermines even our ability to retain core and essential salvific articles of faith (Heb 6). For, as those in the Christian walk may have noticed, all of the Full Counsel of God seems to have an intimate and integral logical relationship with the Cross. And repudiating a core principle in small matters has the potential to be applied against the essentials of Christianity. (e.g. If you do not forgive, neither will your God in heaven.) And the dynamics of Hebrews 6, 10 or Parable of the Sower (re. rocks and weeds) comes into play, which only demonstrates that the self-identified convert never had faith in Christ Jesus (as a Person and in His totality), rather than the reductionist talisman of His Atoning Blood.

    This screed does not do full justice to the argument and I am sure that it has been imperfectly expressed. However, the thrust of the differentiation between Justification and Salvation and their respective Terms are cursorily set out.

  18. Justification saves me from the wrath of God. The good works I do as a result of God’s work of sanctification in me (saving me from the power of sin) do not save me from His eternal wrath. Contrary to Piper, justification does not depend on sanctification.

    “Justification is at once complete in the imputation of a perfect righteousness, the grant of a right and title unto the heavenly inheritance”

    “There is a justification of convinced sinners on their believing. Hereon are their sins pardoned, their persons accepted with God, and a right is given unto them unto the heavenly inheritance. This state they are immediately taken into upon their faith, or believing in Jesus Christ. And a state it is of actual peace with God. These things at present take for granted; and they are the foundation of all that I shall plead in the present argument. And I do take notice of them, because some seem, to the best of my understanding, to deny any real actual justification of sinners on their believing in this life. For they make justification to be only a general conditional sentence declared in the gospel; which, as unto its execution, is delayed unto the day of judgment. For whilst men are in this world, the whole condition of it being not fulfilled, they cannot be partakers of it, or be actually and absolutely justified. Hereon it follows, that indeed there is no real state of assured rest and peace with God by Jesus Christ, for any persons in this life. This at present I shall not dispute about, because it seems to me to overthrow the whole gospel, — the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and all the comfort of believers; about which I hope we are not as yet called to contend.”

  19. John Hutchinson says:

    Brandon. You are not addressing the issue. In regards to justification, I have absolutely no essential difference of opinion. And quoting past theologians, even if they are good and faithful, as if they are infallible magisterial authorities, is itself a danger.

    However, justification is not salvation. And you are studiously not addressing that distinction. And one’s Justification is dependent upon faith upon Christ that endures unto the end. (“But the one who endures to the end will be saved” (Matt 24:13). And the faith that has the correct object and is true in its essence and steadfastness will endure unto the end. The question in the working out of our salvation is whether those elements are valid in ourselves. And life circumstances are sent to sift out the validity of those components in ourselves.

    If your faith is ultimately only in the blood of Christ (as per justification), rather than in Christ including His blood, you will not endure.

    If your faith is ultimately upon priestly mediators, whether those mediators take the form of ecclesiastical magisteriums, Catholic or Reformed or Baptistic, instead of the God of Scriptures, you will be sent tests to either wean you from these ecclesiastical mediators or your faith will fail. For all ecclesiastical traditions contain error, being but human constructs.

    If your faith is ultimately in the priestly mediator of your mind and reason, (as per Charles Templeton), and you initially believed because the truth of Scriptures appeared to conform to your reason for a while, you will fail and fall away when Scriptures takes a counter-intuitive turn.

    If your faith is found to be ultimately in the priestly mediator of your psyche or qualia (subjective conscious awareness), and Scriptural truths are true, only when you can feel or sense their verity (as per Kierkegaard or the charismatics as extreme expression of subjectivity is truth, truth is subjectivity), your faith will fail and you will fall away when your psyche has a dry spell or is besieged by strange mental attacks.

    If your faith is only affirmation, and that which you claim that you believe does not become the premises upon which you predicate your will and conduct, you will have been found to have not faith in Christ at all, and you will have misunderstood the essence of the nature of faith. This is the meaning of the James 2:14-26 passage, which rivaling Hebrews 11, gives a philosophical definition and the psychological/ontological dynamics of faith and how faith directly and deliberately leads to works.

    For all of our decisions and actions are operating upon some set of premises that we indeed trust (Heb 11:1 – hypostasis which literally means a substratum foundation upon which we stand – the English translators have messed the Greek up bad). And a hyper-introspective mind might be able to determine upon what premises he truly leans on or relies. However, if your actions are inconsistent with your affirmations, you will have been proven to actually not have faith in those affirmations.

    What MacArthur and Piper are addressing are those people who think that if they but believe the blood of Christ saves them, rather than merely being the judicial grounds upon which they are justified, and do not practicably trust in the whole of Christ; such will be found to be not in Christ. Actions, which are premised on the full counsels of the Christ of Scriptures, not as a means of merit in Justification but because of the faith in the goodwill and wisdom of those counsels because of the Person who counsels them, will be found to have faith in Christ. Those who do, their works may be evidence of their faith (although we are not privy into the motivations behind those actions of actions).

    However, my argument is that if one does not trust Christ in His totality, to the best of their ability, albeit imperfectly and often with a lot of humming and hawing and stumbling, there is something in that lack of faith which will experientially undermine the faith that they once had in the blood of Christ for their justification/salvation; because ultimately their faith was not upon Christ but upon the talisman of His blood; because ultimately the faith that they had when they supposedly came to Christ was not the faith in Christ outlined in Scriptures.

    And God, in the eschalon, will judge according to deeds. However, for those who claim to have faith in Christ, God’s judgment of deeds will be based on whether our deeds were premised on actual practicable trust upon the Christ of Scriptures and His counsels. This judgment according to deeds differs from judging based the works-righteous merit of those deeds. One deeds will become barometric indicator as to whether we are indeed operating upon faith in Christ, whether indeed we have that faith that we claim we have.

  20. So, John Hutchinson, are you looking forward to Judgement Day or not? Do you think that you have trusted Christ in his totality to the best of your ability? How do you know?

  21. John Hutchinson says:

    As I claimed in the first comment, this is a rough sketch of the argument, and not the most careful in the writing. Of course, one does and can not trust Christ in his totality to the best of one’s ability. And if I depended upon that for my Justification, I would be tough out of luck. My meaning in ‘the totality of Christ’, is ‘the full range or scope of Him and His counsels’.rather than in just one or two selective and convenient theological truths (i.e. Atonement) concerning Him.

    The aspects of the Christian walk, which are above and beyond faith in Christ’s merits in the Atonement, are necessary, not in fulfilling the judicial requirements in justification, but for the pragmatic purposes of salvation; that is in order to survive the trials and tribulations of life and keep one’s faith unto the end. In this, one need not be perfect, because a true relationship is one of sonship and discipline, not of subject and justice. And the ultimate and long term purposes of God in sanctification are to inculcate in us a free will consent to abide by His counsels.

    The dynamics of salvation are experiential, not forensic. The forensic or judicial requires perfection. But the salvific is experiential and one merely needs to survive, faith intact, and indeed probably strengthened by the various ordeals. Survival and salvation does not require perfection with God any more than survival or salvation in common usage requires doing everything right.

    However, a persistent resistance and/or negligence to the counsels of God etc (Heb 6, 10 et al) has an inherent and insidious and accumulative rational and/or psychological effect of actually weakening an apparent faith in the essentials to the point of dissipation, overthrow or heretical-level deviation. Failure to trust Christ in totality of scope, rather than in just one or two theological truth (i.e. Atonement) will undermine a person’s ability to retain that belief (a.k.a. endure) unto the end, even in the essentials. And it will be found that that person had never genuinely placed their trust in Christ, even if imperfect; but in something which is less than trust in Christ. They had therefore never truly come to commit to faith in Christ in the full scope of His totality. Life’s tribulations are the means to sift that out. Of course this is a dynamic struggle by which an active God contends with each human being, according to His will and counsel. And in that contention, people may truly have come to faith in Christ as Scriptures defines it, later than they originally thought.

    The point is to show how faith in Christ’s merits in His Atonement is all that is necessary in Justification. However, all the other aspects of the Christian walk, and the armor of God are necessary for the purposes of salvific survival, although they have no judicial merit because of their imperfection. And the experiential observation is that an obdurate lack of faith in Christ in His fullness has insidious experiential effect of destroying a faith that appeared to have been once.

    This is where, I believe, John Piper is going when he says: “And salvation is a larger reality than justification. Justification is one aspect of salvation. There are other aspects of it that are not “apart from works” but are, in fact, dependent upon (though not merited by) works.”

    Works are not necessary for Justification and add nothing (but detract); but they are necessary for salvation for their pragmatic natural effects of helping or hurting faith.

    This is all at a pastoral and immanent plane of existence. The monergistic elements are not denied. However, adding the monergistic aspects, too soon in explanation, often confounds the understanding of these things at the level that we are to actually operate.

  22. Melissa says:

    A slow and careful reading will show that the title of the article is, “Are Good Works Necessary TO Salvation, not FOR salvation. There is a difference. It would do some of you good to read the article carefully, with a teachable heart, to discern what the author is actually saying.

  23. Richard UK says:

    Melissa hi

    Could you kindly explain the difference between ‘for’ and ‘to’ in this context

    Also what does ‘necessary’ mean in this context? I’m certainly struggling to be clear

  24. maica neces says:

    Thoughtful piece , Just to add my thoughts if people require a WV DoR IT-141 , my secretary filled out and faxed a blank document here

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Kevin DeYoung

Kevin DeYoung is the senior pastor at Christ Covenant Church in Matthews, North Carolina. He is chairman of the board of The Gospel Coalition, assistant professor of systematic theology at Reformed Theological Seminary (Charlotte), and a PhD candidate at the University of Leicester. Kevin and his wife, Trisha, have seven children. You can follow him on Twitter.

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