05 November 2008

Righteous Freedom

{This originally appeared as an editor's Coram Deo (the only one I've written) in Tabletalk 28.4 (April 2004): 2}

The early sixteenth century witnessed a reformation regarding the role of Jesus’ goodness and faithfulness in redemption. But moments such as these — moments of clarity — rarely last that long. Within a generation, the righteousness of Christ was forced once again to share the stage with human goodness.

Such decline in doctrine is by no means remarkable, and it should serve to remind us of an unfortunate truism in this fallen world. John Calvin knew it all too well. Hinting at his anxiety over the future of his home church in Geneva, he wrote, “It is not strange that today the authority of God’s servants, whom he has furnished with excellent and wonderful gifts, protects and preserves the church. But once they are dead, a sad deterioration will promptly begin, and impiety now hidden will erupt without restraint.” 

Sad words, indeed. Today, we face this same dilemma, as there are those who place the proper emphasis on Christ’s righteousness, while at the same time many sneak a works-based righteousness through the back door.

For this reason, now is a good time to devote an entire month of
Tabletalk to this foundational and profoundly practical doctrine. From Christ’s humble service to his redeeming faithfulness, each article this month strives to direct us toward our only sure hope in redemption: the righteousness of the living Savior. Without his work alone on our behalf, we could not even cast a shadow upon the threshold of the invisible church, let alone cross it. 

Underlying this work of Christ in our stead is the inexhaustible grace of God. Redemption is not to be viewed as a single, specific instance of religious conversion. It is the whole Christian journey, and it is accomplished and applied by nothing less than the grace of our covenant Lord. 

Those who challenge this idea that God irresistibly draws believers to himself contend that he would not demand repentance from us if we were not already able to do it without special grace. Surely, they say, God would not hold us responsible for something we cannot do. The Reformers, however, taught differently. They, like Saint Augustine before them, entreated God to command whatsoever he will and grant whatsoever he commands. They recognized that their reliance, their sole foundation, rested upon sovereign grace.

Join in our study of this life-enriching doctrine as we seek to live
coram Deo and shake-off the cold, iron shackles of our churches’ Pelagian captivity. 

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