Here is an exchange on a very crucial point on the doctrine of salvation:
- is faith a condition TO SECURE justification and eternal life, or
- is faith a condition TO DECLARE and attest and prove justification and eternal life?
What do you believe? What does your church believe?
Benjamin Keach declared that "faith is a condition to declare and attest and prove justification and eternal life."
Some RBs marshaled Keach's words to teach that faith a condition TO SECURE justification and eternal life!!! Many Reformed Baptist churches in Malaysia insist that faith is a condition to secure justification and eternal life.
Below is part of a longer exchange...
Read and decide for yourself who speaks the truth.
(By God's grace, I was instrumental in gathering the Ipoh East church. The church was covenanted in Nov 2001. I ministered to the church for several years, and taught the church the gospel of grace. Eventually, they rejected the gospel truth, and terminated my pastoral oversight because of doctrine.)
From: sing lau
Date: Sun, 07 Jan 2007 23:30:52 +0800
To: Ton & IEC
Subject: Re: Keach 's question
ton: For the sake of being objective, let me put on your glasses and try read Keach's statements the way you do: i.e.
I get real worried when you want to be objective, and put on my 'glasses.' I thought you deserve a reply for your objectivity.
ton: sing wrote, "I understand Keach answer as, "The gospel requires faith as a condition to declare and attest and prove justification and eternal life."
Yes, this is what I have said, and I will show you that the rest of what Keach said in his Ans. is in PERFECT and OBJECTIVE harmony with this... just keep on my 'glasses' to your eyes... don't put on yours yet.
ton: Therefore: "Yea, faith is a condition to declare and attest and prove justification and eternal life (by way of order), and in this sense creation is a condition to declare, attest and prove salvation..." Keach
You are EXACTLY right my brother. You are OBJECTIVE and LOGICAL here... and I believe for once you are honest with Keach's words. But the reason you REJECT the simple truth that your LOGIC and REASON compel you to state is because of your deficient and inadequate understanding of the doctrine of salvation that Keach and other signers understood, and your mistaking the meaning of 'creation.' The explanation is simple, if you will accept it.
Let's recall Keach's Q & A again:
Que. But doth not the gospel require faith as a condition of justification and eternal life?
Ans. Yea as a condition of connection by way of order...and in this sense creation is a condition of salvation, if a man be saved, he must be created; so if a man believe, he shall be saved; believing is a condition of connection.
Let's consider Keach question:
Keach Q: "But doth not the gospel require faith as a condition of justification and eternal life?
My answer: Yes, most certainly! The gospel does require faith as a condition of justification and eternal life.
My question: In what sense does the gospel require faith as a condition of justification and eternal life?
My answer: "The gospel requires faith as a condition of connection to declare and attest and prove justification and eternal life." That's what Keach said.
Your answer, if I gather rightly, would be something like: "The gospel requires faith as a condition of to obtain/secure justification and eternal life." Correct me if I state your belief inaccurately.
My question: In what sense - as 'a condition of connection by way of order' - is creation a condition of salvation?
Before answering, we need to settle one thing:
- what is the 'creation' as a condition of salvation? The statement, 'if a man be saved, he must be created' provides the answer. '... if a man be saved' presupposes that that man already exist. Then the 'creation' is none other than the new creation/new birth at the "effectual calling to grace and salvation" of that man by the free grace of God (1689.10.1). By this creation, the salvation that has been legally secured for that man by Christ at the cross, is applied to him personally. Without this spiritual creation, there is no application of the salvation to him personally; and when there is no application of the salvation to him personally, there would be no declaration and attestation of the salvation that had been secured for him by Christ at the cross.
My answer then: In the same sense that faith as a condition of justification and eternal life - the gospel requires creation as a condition to declare and attest and prove the salvation that was already secured."
Just as FAITH is the condition of justification and eternal life, EVEN SO, IN THE SAME SENSE, CREATION is a condition of salvation already accomplished by Christ."
Justification (applied) & eternal life (regenerated) needs faith to declare and attest and prove its reality. Without FAITH there is NO declaration and attestation and proof of prior justification and eternal life. Faith is a necessary condition for that purpose - to declare and attest and prove justification and eternal life in a man.
Salvation secured (by Christ for all His elect) needs the new creation for the salvation to be manifested in the elect personally. Without the new CREATION there is NO declaration and attestation of the prior Salvation secured by Christ for the elect. Creation is a condition for that purpose.
FAITH is a condition of CONNECTION by way of order...
FAITH is a condition that CONNECTS Actual Justification & Eternal Life on the one hand and Justification Declared & Eternal Life Manifested on the other.
CREATION is a condition of CONNECTION by way of order...
CREATION is is condition that CONNECTS Salvation Secured Legally on the one hand and Salvation Applied Personally on the other.
Salvation applied (Justification and Eternal Life) requires FAITH as a condition --- of connection by way of order --- to declare and attest the Salvation already applied.
Salvation Secured Legally --- CREATION - Salvation Applied Personally --- FAITH - Salvation Declared.
ton: It is not about declaring or attesting or evidencing- it is by way of order. The pieces are put in place- faith is one of those pieces that God has placed as a condition of connection, in a particular order. So Effectual calling (quickening, regeneration, faith) - justification - sanctification - glorification: by way of order. Faith is there purely by way of order (not causality) God has ordained that for faith to be given and manifested before justification and eternal life is actually and fully given to the elect.
The 1689 says: Effectual calling embraces Justification (applied), Regeneration and Adoption... by way of ORDER. Yours is by way of DISORDER! You refuse the plain ORDER stated there.
In your 'way of order', faith as the CONNECTOR is not only in the WRONG PLACE... it serves the WRONG PURPOSE.
In your 'way of order', you puts faith as a condition of eternal life. I am really surprised and puzzled that a RB man ended up embracing this thoroughly unbiblical and utterly Arminian idea. And it is a nonsense by any common sense: a man without eternal life can't possibly act spiritually in order to obtain eternal life. One might as well get a physically dead man to do something, like winking his eye, in order for him to receive life!
ton: Keach's analogy: If a man is to be Actually justified faith must be there in this order: Faith - Justification - Eternal life.
If you insist in saying that Keach believes that Faith precedes eternal life, since faith is a condition of Eternal life, then you have contradicted all that Keach affirmed in the 1689.
A consistent and harmonious interpretation is this: Keach says that faith must be there for the declaration and attestation of Justification (Actual) and Eternal life by the free grace of God.
The order is this: Justification (Actual) & Eternal Life by free grace - FAITH - Justification (Actual) & Eternal Life declared and attested. Without Faith, there is no declaration and attestation and proof of Justification (Actual) and Eternal life.
ton: If a man is to be Saved, he must first be created in this order: Creation (existence) - salvation.
"If a man is to be saved" implies that the man already IS... so the creation spoken of is the new creation in Christ at the effectual call to grace and salvation. It is BASIC, sir! Your prejudice has blinded you!
ton: There is no contradiction to the CoF. I fear you are the one jumping to conclusion the moment you read justification-faith being in the same sentence, viz /it has to mean declarative otherwise there goes my theology!! ;-)
You insist that Keach believe that Faith is a condition to Actual Justification and Eternal Life, in this you have plainly and openly made Keach to CONTRADICT what he publicly affirmed to be his beliefs in the 1689 CoF
Justification by the faith OF Christ is Actual/Applied Justification.
Justification by the believer's faith IN Christ is Declarative Justification, the faith declaring and attesting and proving the Actual Justification and Eternal Life by free grace. I fear you failing to rightly divide the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation.
ton: Please read Keach again, not as if Keach is writing a systematic theology book, but as a preacher to his congregation in plain English.
And you keep arguing from his sermon to contradict his public statement of faith in the 1689. Shouldn't you be understanding his sermons in light of what he stated publicly and solemnly as his confession of faith??? O you are putting the cart before the horse!
Why do you insist on interpreting Keach to believe something - faith is a condition to eternal life - that is openly repudiated and rejected by the 1689 Confession (of which Keach was a chief mover and signer), that is so against reason and common sense, and so contrary to Holy Scriptures? Scripture repeatedly say, 'whoever believes HAS eternal life' - i.e. one believes because he has eternal life. You believe the reverse, and insist on making Keach believe as you do. I find it very curious that you persist in rejecting a simple and consistent alternative way of understanding Keach.
ton: To the ears of his (Keach) hearers, "if a man believe, he shall be saved" means just that. Do you honestly think that his hearers will understand him to mean, "if you believe it is an evidence that you have already be saved"? (just in case you are ready to draw your 'temporal salvation' guns- note the question refers to eternal life).
You are just presumptuous that Keach is speaking of eternal life... as though he believes the nonsense that a man without eternal life, i.e still dead in trespasses and sins, is able to believe in order to get eternal life. Tony, you are thorough Arminian on this point... and you insist in making Keach one too!
It is basic and fundamental truth that only those with eternal life shall hear and believe is a ACCEPTED truth in Keach's time. The Arminian's lie is universally condemned. The reverse would be true today. Today, even RBs believe that a spiritually dead person in a state of condemnation can believe in order to have eternal life. And you defend the same lie... and want to make Keach believe the same lie!
The world has certainly changed, hasn't it???
You have disclosed much through these exchanges, and I do want to thank you heartily for it.
[I am sending this because I am including this reply in the booklet. ]
"And some believed the things which were spoken, and some believed not" Acts 28:24
Date: Sat, 13 Jan 2007 17:39:37 +0800
To: Ton and IEC
Subject: Keach's Confession of Faith 1697 - XIII Justification
ton: I think Keach and Gill are not in agreement on this point. Although in many points they are in agreement.
I've not once heard Keach said that justification is received in the conscience by faith (strange omission isn't it?). The PB are usually very precise in their wordings (so was Gill)- if they wanted to differentiate actual justification with declarative justification, using words like "Actual Justification is not before faith" to mean Declarative would be out of character.
Based on plain reading of Keach- that's precisely what he meant and it falls very well in line with the Confession statements. Justification by faith is the statement of the Reformers, and they don't mean Declarative. Nothing to argue with the Catholics about if it is Declarative. Keach and the Particular Baptists had no fight with the Reformers on Justification. Ames para 15 talked about Declarative, and hinted at Actual (please read carefully). Actual Justification before faith is the doctrine of the 'Antinomians' which the Particular Baptists are keen to distance themselves.
Actual (vital/applied) Justification before faith is the doctrine of the Particular Baptists. Actual Justification in eternity is a doctrine of those commonly labelled as 'Antinomians.' The Particular Baptists who believed in Actual Justification by God's free grace in time, and without and before faith, were wrongly and commonly caricatured and maligned as believing in Actual Justification in eternity. Therefore the Particular Baptists were keen to distance themselves from Antinomians.
Your observation that the PBs are usually very precise in their wordings is true indeed. That's is why you should read them with more care.
Actual (vital/applied) Justification by grace is logically and chronologically PRIOR to Declarative Justification by faith. This is SO PLAINLY STATED in Keach's CoF, 1697.
XIII. We do believe Justification is a free Act of God's Grace, through that Redemption which is in Christ, (who, as our Head, was acquitted, justified, and discharged, and we in him, when he rose from the Dead) and when applied to us, we in our own Persons are actually justified, in being made and pronounced righteous, through the Righteousness of Christ imputed to us; and all our Sins, past, present, and to come, for ever pardoned; which is received by Faith alone. And that our Sanctification, nor Faith itself, is any part of our Justification before God; it not being either the Habit, or Act of Believing or any Act of Evangelical Obedience imputed to us, but Christ, and his active and passive Obedience only, apprehended by Faith: and that Faith in no sense tends to make Christ's Merits more satisfactory unto God; but that he was as fully reconciled and satisfied for his Elect in Christ by his Death before Faith as after; otherwise it would render God only reconcilable, (not reconciled) and make Faith part of the Payment or satisfaction unto God, and so lessen the Merits of Christ, as if they were defective or insufficient. Yet we say, it is by Faith that we receive the Atonement, or by which means (as an Instrument) we come to apprehend and receive him, and to have personal Interest in him, and to have our free Justification evidenced to our own Consciences.
(Rom 3:23-26; Eph 1:6,7; Tit 3:7; Rom 5:15-18; 1 Co 1:30; 2 Co 5:21; Acts 3:39; 2 Co 5:21; Phil 3:7-9; Rom 10:5)
I hope you have read Keach's word carefully.
The part I highlighted as red, ending with the word 'pardoned' and SEMICOLON (o, yes, the PBs are VERY PRECISE in their punctuation too!)
This portion speaks of when a condemned man ACTUALLY receives Actual Justification... when the righteousness of Christ is applied to him by God's free grace, when he was INCAPABLE of faith. The semicolon (;) after the word 'pardoned' inform us that Actual Justification is distinct and separate and is prior to what follows. The CAUSE is distinct, separate and prior to the EFFECT. There is no place whatsoever for faith in the Actual Justification.
The few words after the SEMICOLON - 'which is received by Faith alone.
This portion described when a child of God ACTUALLY receives Declarative Justification... when by faith he receives the righteousness of Christ. His faith DECLARES his justified state by God's free grace.
In the rest of the paragraphs he painstakingly excludes 'faith' from having the remotest role in the Actual Justification, and painstakingly acknowledges the absolute necessity of faith in the Declarative Justification.
ton: "I've not once heard Keach said that justification is received in the conscience by faith (strange omission isn't it?)."
In the Confession above, Keach declares, "Yet we say, it is by Faith that we receive the Atonement, or by which means (as an Instrument) we come to apprehend and receive him, and to have personal interest in him, and to have our free Justification evidenced to our own Consciences."
Keach states here that our free Justification (i.e. Actual) is evidenced to our own consciences by faith. I don't know if this is exactly what you have in mind.
I have not read them saying "Actual Justification is not before faith." Those are your words - and I know what you want them to mean. I have read the Particular Baptists saying "Actual Justification rightly stated... proving, none of the elect are Actually Justified before Faith."
'Actual' is an adjective, qualifying the noun Justification; 'actually' is an adverb qualifying the verb 'justified.' There are different and distinct aspect of justification: Legal at the cross, Actual went applied, Evidential/declarative at faith. Each ACTUALLY happens at distinct and separate time.
'Actual Justification' [as used by Buchanan, and clearly distinguished from his use of Declarative Justification] is a technical term stating what God does in pronouncing a condemned dead person righteous... Actual Justification actually/really takes place in time and not in eternity, by God's free grace and without faith.
Actual Justification by grace is logically and chronologically PRIOR to Declarative Justification by faith. I have read them saying "Actual Justification rightly stated... proving, none of the elect are Actually Justified before Faith" - This was written in answer to those who raised the objection against them and falsely attacked them as Antinomians, "that if justification is before faith, then faith is needless and useless."
They write in reply, affirming that Actual Justification is before and without faith, and that Declarative Justification is by faith; therefore faith is NOT needless or useless, as slandered and caricatured. It is needful and useful, it being the alone instrument to declare and attest Actual Justification that has taken place by God's free grace.
'Declarative Justification' actually takes place in time too, and by faith alone. Therefore no one is ACTUALLY Declared Justified until he believes - that is the subject dealt with in the 'Narrative.' The words 'Actual Justification' in the title is about when the Declarative Justification ACTUALLY happens, by faith and not without or before faith. It is important to see the SENSE of the words used in its context... not their sound or sight.
May the Lord bless you to see the truth.
By grace, I remain
your brother in Christ,
Date: Sun, 21 Jan 2007 22:45:29 +0800
To: Ton & all in IEC
Subject: keach and justification
Brother Ton, (and members of IEC),
This is one last attempt to show you that you have gravely misunderstood Benjamin Keach, and remain in error.
You quoted Keach thus,
Quest. But doth not the gospel require faith as a condition of justification and eternal life?
1. Yea as a condition of connexion by way of order, as one thing dependeth on another (as our author observes) in logic, if a creature be a man, he is a rational creature; or if God be the first cause, he is the _Creator of all things. and in this sense (saith he) creation is a condition of salvation, if a man be saved, he must be created; so if a man believe, he shall be saved; believing is a condition of connexion_, a state of grace, is thus a condition of a state of glory, by way of connexion in the promise, but one is not the federal condition of another, but both come in as the gift of grace. In this sense the covenant contains all the conditions of order and dependence in the exhibition and performance; the hearing the word is the condition of faith, but hearing is not a federal condition; so the giving the Spirit is the condition of our union with Christ and of faith, and faith the condition of our receiving of pardon, and living a holy life - and holiness the condition of seeing God, and of having eternal life; but these kinds of conditions are federal entitling conditions to the promise, but are contained in the promise, and denote the connexion and dependence of one promise benefit with another.
2. Though faith be required of them that are saved, yea, and repentance, regeneration, holiness, and a new heart also; yet these blessings are all promised in the covenant, as part thereof. but faith itself is no federal condition, but only serves to show what God will do for, and work in such that he as an act of free grace will save.
From hence we may see how woefully blind they are, who assert faith, repentance, and sincere obedience are not only federal conditions of justification, but also are the matter or material cause thereof. And this is to buy the pearl indeed with our own money.
[empahsis is mine, sing]
First, let me say that I don't claim to understand everything Keach said in the quotes above. However, certain things are quite plain and without controversy.
Let me make one final attempt to reason with you concerning what Keach said is the biblical relationship between faith and actual (vital/applied) justification.
Keach mentioned at least THREE ways in which faith is seen as related to Justification (vital/applied)
1. Faith is understood by some as the "matter or material cause" of Justification. Simply stated, this view elevates faith to the same level with the righteousness of Jesus Christ. Of course, you are wise enough to reject this as error. Those who see faith in this manner is described by Keach as 'woefully blind' concerning the gospel truth of Justification.
This view may be indicated as:
Righteousness of Christ/Faith --- Justification
2. Faith is seen by others as the "federal condition" of Justification. Faith is a necessary condition that the unjustified condemned dead sinner must have in order to be Justified. This view does distinguish faith from the righteousness of Christ, but this view insists that there must be faith first before the righteousness of Christ is imputed to the condemned. From all that you have written, I understand that you hold to this view.
Keach plainly declares, "faith itself is no federal condition." Those who see faith in this manner is described by Keach as 'woefully blind' concerning the gospel truth of Justification. How woefully blind they are who assert that faith is a federal condition of justification - only the woefully blind believe that the unjustified condemned can meet this federal condition.
This view may be indicated as:
Faith --- Righteousness of Christ imputed --- Justification (Faith is the federal condition of Justification).
All your reading of Keach has not led you to the truth. Instead, you have misrepresented Keach in many ways.
3. Faith is seen by Keach as the "condition of connexion by way of order" of Justification. Put simply, faith is a condition of connection by way of order to declare and attest the Justification that has taken place by God's free grace. In exactly the same SENSE, faith is the condition of connection by way of order to declare and attest the eternal life that has been born by God's free grace.
This view may be indicated as:
Righteousness of Christ imputed --- Justification + Eternal Life --- Faith (the instrument to declare and attest and prove the Justification and Eternal life already bestowed by God's free grace.)
SDC holds to this third view.
God, by His grace, freely justifying the elect when in their state of condemnation and death IS THE CAUSE. They, the justified ones, receiving and resting on Christ and His righteousness by faith IS THE EFFECT.
The CAUSE is distinct and separate and prior to the EFFECT.
Read 1689.11.1 and it is abundantly clear.
Brother, unless and until you get these basic and fundamental points into your head, you will keep going on in your confusion.
1. God imputing the righteousness of Christ to a person under the condemnation of death is Actual Justification. (an elect under the condemnation of death, i.e. unjustified, is dead and cannot possibly believe.)
2. God imputing the faith of a believer to him for righteousness is Declarative Justification. (A justified person who believes Declares and Attests that he is already in the state of grace and salvation - justified, regenerated and adopted. Faith declares and attests to that fact)
If your faith is before justification (Actual), you have made faith a federal condition of justification (Actual), the error of which is roundly condemned and censured by Keach.
A representative of the early Particular Baptist and respected by Calvinistic men of other denominations declared, "... no man is evidentially and declaratively justified until he believes." And this is nothing about Actual Justification by grace. This is all about Declarative Justification by faith.
You have opposed the truth to this day.
Thanks for listening. I have discharged my duty.
"And some believed the things which were spoken, and some believed not" Acts 28:24
Date: Sat, 03 Feb 2007 00:31:41 +0800
Subject: A Circular Letter on Justification by Philadelphia Baptist Association in 1785
Members of Ipoh East Church, and Brother Tony particularly,
You may wish to read a Circular Letter on Justification issued by the Philadelphia Baptist Association (with the 1689 BCoF as its doctrinal standard) - the first and the most influential Baptist Association of Particular Baptist churches in North America - to all its member churches in Oct 1785. The whole Letter is pasted below after my signature. It is also attached.
I quote a short paragraph here:
Third. Our justification is by some ascribed to faith as an instrumental cause. Strictly speaking, we apprehend faith as no cause at all in this momentous procedure, but rather an effect. It is true, the scriptures frequently mention a justification by faith. By such expressions it is evident the object, and not the act, of faith is designed; the object of faith is Christ and his righteousness; this the believing soul lays fast hold on. Faith is the eye which discovers, the hand which receives; espying a Saviour's worth, charmed with his merit, the believer is so enraptured as to cast away all his heavy burden, falls at Messiah's feet, confides in the promise, and pleads atoning blood: "With the heart man believeth unto righteousness," Rom. x. 10. It is beautifully noticed by one of our very first and most orthodox writers. "The reason why any are justified is not because they have faith; but the reason why they have faith is because they are justified." If justified faith as a work performed by us or a grace wrought within us; where would have been the necessity of the death and resurrection of Jesus? Faith is that precious grace, by which we do in a certain manner put on the righteousness of the Lord's anointed, and receive the greatest of all blessings from the God of our salvation. "It is grace (saith one) which quarrels much with human pride and make its only boast of Sharon's rose; and never was meant to be our justifying righteousness in the sight of God, else it would learn to boast." Faith says, "In the Lord have I righteousness;" and tells a sinner, "I cannot save thee; thou are saved by grace through faith." The grace of Jesus, and that alone brings salvation; and the sinner, through faith as an instrument, puts in his hand, is enabled to reach the rich donation; just as a beggar, by his empty cap stretched forth, receives an alms. We proceed," [red bold emphasis mine, sing]
May the Lord enlighten you what the Particular Baptist forefather DID ACTUALLY believe. Whether you agree with them or not is a separate matter.
By grace, I remain
your brother in Christ,