The Reformers and Major Evangelical Theologians
on the Necessity for Repentance and Sanctification
A Refutation of the Misrepresentations of the Teaching of the Reformation by Roman Catholic Apologists
By William Webster
It has been the consistent assertion of Roman Catholic apologists from the time of the Reformation up to the present day that the Reformation teaching of faith alone (sola fide) means the repudiation of the works of sanctification. This is a complete misrepresentation and a clear indication of either profound ignorance of Roman Catholic apologists of Reformation teaching or of purposeful misrepresentation. While the Reformation teaching of faith alone means a repudiation of all works as necessary for meriting justification, it is not a repudiation of works in general. The Reformers unanimously insisted on the necessity for the forsaking of sin and a commitment to the works of love, holiness of heart and obedience as part of the overall work of salvation. They never taught that a person could be justified and not be sanctified. There is not one Reformer or any Protestant theologian who has been true to the teaching of the Reformers who has denied the necessity for the new birth and the works of sanctification as a fruit of faith. They have consistently affirmed in the strongest possible terms the necessity for regeneration, repentance and sanctification as part of the overall work of salvation. They clearly state that if there is no repentance from sin and the ongoing reality of obedience and good works in a person’s life there is no salvation or justification. The professed faith is a dead faith. The following quotations from the major Reformers and Reformed theologians are provided as documentation of this truth as a means of setting the record straight and of aiding those individuals who are sincerely interested in truth in developing an accurate understanding of what the Reformers and Reformed Protestantism have historically taught. These quotations first of all list statements from major Reformers followed by the comments of major Reformed theogians on the subjects of Repentance and Sanctification.
The Necessity for Repentance
Even though we have taught in part how to possess Christ, and how through it we enjoy his benefits, this would still remain obscure if we did not add an explanation of the effects we feel. With good reason, the sum of the gospel is held to consist in repentance and the forgiveness of sins (Luke 24:47; Acts 5:31). Any discussion of faith, therefore, that omitted these two topics would be barren and mutilated and well–nigh useless…Surely no one can embrace the grace of the gospel without betaking himself from the errors of his past life into the right way, and applying his whole effort to the practice of repentance…Can true repentance stand apart from faith? Not at all. But even though they cannot be separated, they ought to be distinguished (Institutes of the Christian Religion. Found in The Library of Christian Classics (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1960), Volume XIX, Book III, Chapters 1, 5, pp. 592-593, 597).
The Hebrew word for ‘repentance’ is derived from conversion or return; the Greek word, from change of mind or of intention. And the thing itself corresponds closely to the etymology of both words. The meaning is that, departing from ourselves, we turn to God, and having taken off our former mind, we put on a new. On this account, in my judgment, repentance can thus be well defined: it is the turning of our life to God…When we call it a ‘turning of life to God,’ we require a transformation, not only in outward works, but in the soul itself. Only when it puts off its old nature does it bring forth the fruits of works in harmony with its renewal. The prophet, wishing to express this change, bids whom he calls to repentance to get themselves a new heart (Ezek. 18:31).
Outward uprightness of life is not the chief point of repentance, for God looks into men’s hearts. Whoever is moderately versed in Scripture will understand by himself…that when we have to deal with God nothing is achieved unless we begin from the inner disposition of the heart (emphasis mine). (Institutes of the Christian Religion. Found in The Library of Christian Classics (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1960), Volume XIX, Book III.3. 5-6, 16, pp. 597-598, 609-610.
Huldrych Zwingli (the Swiss Reformer):
The second part of the gospel, then, is repentance: not that which takes place for a time, but that which makes a man who knows himself blush and be ashamed of his old life, for one reason because he sees it ought to be altogether foreign to a Christian to waste away in those sins from which he rejoiced to believe that he had been delivered…Therefore when Christ and John and the Apostles preach, saying, ‘Repent,’ they are simply calling us to a new life quite unlike our life before; and those who had undertaken to enter upon this were marked by an initiatory sacrament, baptism to wit, by which they give public testimony that they were going to enter upon a new life. (Commentary On True and False Religion (Durham: Labyrinth, 1981), pp. 131–132)
It is a quality of the Kingdom of Christ that in it the repentance of sinners must always be preached. Hence where the kingdom of Christ has truly been received, there it is necessary that the sins of all be severely rebuked, that men may give themselves up completely to the kingship of Christ in order to be cleansed from their sins and endowed with the spirit of righteousness…Thus it is a hollow mockery that those who do not make a wholehearted effort to do the things that are pleasing to the heavenly Father should declare themselves citizens and members of the Kingdom of Christ. (On the Kingdom of Christ. Found in The Library of Christian Classics (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1969), Volume XIX, p. 219)
Thomas Watson (seventeenth century puritan theologian):
Repentance is of such importance that there is no being saved without it…It is a great duty incumbent upon Christians solemnly to repent and turn unto God…That religion which is not built upon this foundation must needs fall to the ground.
Repentance is a grace required under the gospel. Some think it legal; but the first sermon that Christ preached, indeed, the first word of his sermon, was ‘Repent’ (Matt. 4.17). And his farewell that he left when he was going to ascend was that ‘repentance should be preached in his name’ (Luke 22.47)…Repentance is not arbitrary. It is not left to our choice whether or not we will repent, but it is an indispensable command. God has enacted a law in the High Court of heaven that no sinner shall be saved except the repenting sinner, and he will not break his own law.
Some bless themselves that they have a stock of knowledge, but what is knowledge good for without repentance? It is better to mortify one sin than to understand all mysteries. Impure speculatists do but resemble Satan transformed into an angel of light. Learning and a bad heart is like a fair face with a cancer in the breast. Knowledge without repentance will be but a torch to light men to hell. (The Doctrine of Repentance (Edinburgh: Banner, 1987), pp. 12–13, 59, 77)
The Westminster Confession of Faith:
Repentance unto life is an evangelical grace, the doctrine whereof is to be preached by every minister of the gospel, as well as that of faith in Christ. By it a sinner, out of sight and sense, not only of danger, but also of filthiness and odiousness of his sins, as contrary to the holy nature and righteous law of God, and upon the apprehension of his mercy in Christ to such as are penitent, so grieves for and hates his sins, as to turn from them all unto God, purposing and endeavoring to walk with him in all the ways of his commandments. (The Westminster Confession of Faith, Chapter XV, Sections I and II. Cited in A.A. Hodge, The Confession of Faith (Edinburgh: Banner, 1958), p. 210)
The manner in which faith and repentance are coupled together in Scripture plainly shows that, as faith is implicitly present in repentance, so repentance is implicitly in faith. (Systematic Theology (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1980), pp. 606-607)
John R. DeWitt:
Repentance is the first conscious step in a person’s experience of the divine grace, the entrance for all believers into life, hope, and salvation…Repentance—the repentance of which the Scriptures speak as a godly sorrow, the repentance which is unto life—is not only a persuasion of sinfulness, but it is also, and very distinctly, a turning from sin…Everywhere the Word of God reminds us that repentance is not simply honesty with oneself, or even the open confession of one’s sins; it must also lead to a forsaking of them. If it does not do that, if it is only the fear of punishment and of hell, only a trembling before the just judgment of God, without at the same time the purposing to turn away from sin and to undertake a new obedience to God, then it is not repentance at all. (Amazing Love (Edinburgh: Banner, 1981), pp. 66,74-76)
The essence of repentance consists…in our actual turning from all sin unto God. This is that practical turning or ‘conversion’ from sin unto God, which is the instant and necessary consequence of regeneration. It is a voluntary forsaking of sin as evil and hateful, with sincere sorrow, humiliation, and confession; and a turning unto God as our reconciled Father, in the exercise of implicit faith in the merits and assisting grace of Christ…Repentance unto life can only be exercised by a soul after, and in consequence of, its regeneration by the Holy Spirit. God regenerates; and we, in the exercise of the new gracious ability thus given, repent…If genuine, it infallibly springs from regeneration and leads to eternal life. (The Confession of Faith (Edinburgh: Banner, 1958), pp. 212–213)
Hence it is that repentance is the burden of evangelical preaching…Repentance…is the great, immediate, and pressing duty of all who hear the gospel. They are called upon to forsake their sins, and return unto God through Jesus Christ. The neglect of this duty is the rejection of salvation. For, as we have seen, unless we repent we must perish…Though repentance is a duty, it is no less the gift of God. (The Way of Life (Edinburgh: Banner, 1959), pp. 153, 166-169)
The apostasy of man summarily consists in departing from the true God, to idols; forsaking his Creator and setting up other things in his room…The gods which a natural man worships, instead of the God that made him, are himself and the world…When we say that natural man are not willing to come to Christ, it is not meant that they are not willing to be delivered from hell; for without doubt, no natural man is willing to go to hell. Nor is it meant, that they are not willing that Christ should keep them from going to hell. Without doubt, natural men under awakenings often greatly desire this. But this does not argue that they are willing to come to Christ: for, not withstanding their desire to be delivered from hell, their hearts do not close with Christ, but are averse to him…They are not willing to take Christ as he is; they would fain divide him. There are some things in him that they like, and others that they greatly dislike; but consider him as he is, and he is offered to them in the gospel, and they are not willing to accept Christ; for in doing so, they must of necessity part with all their sins; they must sell the world, and part with their own righteousness. But they had rather, for the present, run the venture of going to hell, than do that…He is a Savior appointed of God; he anointed him, and sent him into the world. And in performing the work of redemption, he wrought the works of God; always did those things that pleased him; and all that he does as a Savior, is to his glory. And one great thing he aimed at in redemption, was to deliver them from their idols, and bring them to God. (The Works of Jonathan Edwards (Edinburgh: Banner, 1974), Volume 2, Discourse: Men Naturally are God’s Enemies, pp. 132, 138-139)
The repentance which, in any case, God requireth absolutely, is that which is internal and real, in sincere conversion unto himself, accompanied with the fruits meet for such repentance…A new heart and a new spirit, or real internal conversion unto God, by the grace of the covenant, is required in this repentance, as the renunciation and relinquishment of all iniquities must be the fruit of it. (The Works of John Owen (Edinburgh: Banner, 1967), Volume 8, pp. 635–636)
Evangelical repentance is repentance of sin as sin: not of this sin nor of that, but of the whole mass. We repent of the sin of our nature as well as the sin of our practice. We bemoan sin within us and without us. We repent of sin itself as being an insult to God. Anything short of this is a mere surface repentance, and not a repentance which reaches to the bottom of the mischief. Repentance of the evil act, and not of the evil heart, is like men pumping water out of a leaky vessel, but forgetting to stop the leak. Some would dam up the stream, but leave the fountain still flowing; they would remove the eruption from the skin, but leave the disease in the flesh. (Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit (Edinburgh: Banner, 1970), Volume 35, p. 127).
By repentance we are to mean, not merely sorrow for and hatred of sin, but also the inward turning away from it to God, with full purpose of new obedience. By original sin we are to mean not merely adherent but also inherent sin, not merely the sinful act of Adam imputed to us, but also the sinful state of our own souls conveyed to us by the just judgment of God. When so understood, it would seem sufficiently clear that we must ‘repent of original sin.’ The corruption that is derived by us from our first parents comes to us, indeed, as penalty; but it abides in us as sin, and must be looked upon as sin both by God and by enlightened conscience itself…And thus it appears, that so far from its being impossible to repent of original sin, repentance, considered in its normative sense—not as an act of turning away from this sin or that sin, but of turning from sin as such to God—is fundamentally just repentance of ‘original sin.’ Until we repent of original sin, we have not, properly speaking, repented in the Christian sense at all. For it is characteristic of heathen thought to look upon sin atomistically as only so many acts of sin, and at repentance also, therefore, atomistically as only so many acts of turning away from sinning; the Christian conception probes deeper and finds behind the acts of sin the sinful nature and behind the specific acts of repentance for sins the great normative act of repentance for this sinful nature. He only, then, has really repented who has perceived and felt the filthiness and odiousness of his depraved nature and has turned from it to God with a full purpose of being hereafter more conformed to his image as revealed in the face of Jesus Christ. (Selected Shorter Writings – 1 (Nutley: Presbyterian & Reformed, 1970), pp. 279-280)
The most common (Old Testament) word for conversion, means to turn, to turn about, and to return…The word clearly shows that, what the Old Testament calls conversion, is a return to Him from whom sin has separated man…True conversion is born of godly sorrow, and issues in a life of devotion to God, II Cor. 7:10…Conversion marks the conscious beginning, not only of the putting away of the old man, a fleeing from sin, but also of the putting on of the new man, a striving for holiness of life. In regeneration the sinful principle of the old life is already replaced by the holy principle of the new life. But it is only in conversion that this transition penetrates into the conscious life, turning it into a new and Godward direction. The sinner consciously forsakes the old sinful life and turns to a life in communion with and devoted to God…(Conversion is) a conscious turning from sin unto God…In the case of adults…conversion is absolutely essential (for salvation)…Conversion is necessary in the case of adults in the sense that its elements, namely, repentance and faith must be present in their lives.
If we take the word conversion in its most specific sense, it denotes a change that takes place once and cannot be repeated…Conversion consists in repentance and faith, so that faith is really a part of conversion…There is no doubt that, logically, repentance and the knowledge of sin precedes the faith that yields to Christ in trusting love. (Systematic Theology (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1939), pp. 480-481, 483, 485, 491-492)
The Necessity for Sanctification
Through faith in Christ, therefore, Christ’s righteousness becomes our righteousness and all that he has becomes ours; rather, he himself becomes ours. Therefore the Apostle calls it ‘the righteousness of God.’ in Rom. 1:17: For in the gospel ‘the righteousness of God is revealed…as it is written, “The righteousness man shall live by faith.” ’…This is an infinite righteousness, and one that swallows up all sin in a moment, for it is impossible that sin should exist in Christ. On the contrary, he who trusts in Christ exists in Christ; he is one with Christ, having the same righteousness as he…Therefore this alien righteousness, instilled in us without our works by grace alone—while the Father, to be sure, inwardly draws us to Christ—is set opposite original sin, likewise alien, which we acquire without our works by birth alone.
The second kind of righteousness is our proper righteousness, not because we alone work it, but because we work with that first and alien righteousness. This is the manner of life spent profitably in good works, in the first place, in slaying the flesh and crucifying the desires with respect to the self, of which we read in Gal. 5:24: ‘And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.’ In the second place, this righteousness consists in love to one’s neighbor, and in the third place, in meekness and fear toward God…This righteousness is the product of the righteousness of the first type, actually its fruit and consequence…This righteousness goes on to complete the first for it ever strives to do away with the old Adam and to destroy the body of sin. Therefore it hates itself and loves its neighbor; it does not seek its own good, but that of another, and this its whole way of living consists. For in that it hates itself and does not seek its own, it crucifies the flesh. Because it seeks the good of another, it works love. Thus in each sphere it does God’s will, living soberly with self, justly with neighbor, devoutly toward God. (Two Kinds of Righteousness. Taken from Martin Luther’s Basic Theological Writings (Minneapolis: Fortress, 1989), pp. 156–158)
From all this it is easy to perceive on what principle good works are to be cast aside or embraced, and by what rule all teachings put forth concerning works are to be understood. For if works are brought forward as grounds of justification, and are done under the false persuasion that we can pretend to be justified by them, they lay on us the yoke of necessity, and extinguish liberty along with faith, and by this very addition to their use they become no longer good, but really worthy of condemnation. For such works are not free, but blaspheme the grace of God, to which alone it belongs to justify and save through faith. Works cannot accomplish this, and yet, with impious presumption, through our folly, they take on themselves to do so; and thus break in with violence upon the office and glory of grace.
We do not then reject good works; nay, we embrace them and teach them in the highest degree. It is not on their own account that we condemn them, but on account of this impious addition to them and the preverse notion of seeking justification from them. It is not from works that we are set free by the faith of Christ, but from belief in works, that is from foolishly presuming to seek justification through works. Faith redeems our consciences, makes them upright, and preserves them, since by it we recognise the truth that justification does not depend on our works, although good works neither can nor ought to be absent…(Concerning Christian Liberty. Found in Luther’s Primary Works (London: Hodder & Stroughton, 1896), Henry Wace and C.A. Buchheim Ed., , pp. 275-277, 288)
Paul is here (1 Corinthians 12–13)…demanding love in addition to faith. This is what he does elsewhere in all his letters, demanding good works from believers, i.e. the justified…And when he says that he who has all faith but no love is nothing, he is right. For although faith alone justifies, love is also demanded…But love does not justify because no one loves as he ought. Faith, however, justifies…There is also the passage in James 2:17: ‘So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead.’ He did well to say this, for he was reprimanding those who thought that faith is merely a historical opinion about Christ. For just as Paul calls one type of faith ‘true,’ and the other ‘feigned,’ so James calls the one kind ‘living’ and the other ‘dead.’ A living faith is that efficacious, burning trust in the mercy of God which never fails to bring forth good fruits. That is what James says in ch. 2:22: ‘Faith was completed by works.’…Therefore, the whole point that James is making is that dead faith…does not justify, but a living faith justifies. But a living faith is that which pours itself out in works. For he speaks as follows (v. 18): ‘Show me your faith apart from your works, and I by my works will show you my faith.’ But he does not say: ‘I will show you works without faith.’ My exposition squares most harmoniously with what we read in James: ‘So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead.’ Therefore, it is obvious that he is teaching here merely that faith is dead in those who do not bring forth the fruit of faith, even though from external appearances they seem to believe. (Love and Hope. Found in The Library of Christian Classics (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1969), Volume XIX, p. 112)
Christianity is freedom because those who do not have the Spirit of Christ cannot in any way perform the law; they are rather subject to the curse of the law. Those who have been renewed by the Spirit of Christ now conform voluntarily even without the law to what the law used to command. The law is the will of God; the Holy Spirit is nothing else than the living will of God and its being in action (agitatio). Therefore, when we have been regenerated by the Spirit of God, who is the living will of God, we now will spontaneously that very thing which the law used to demand…Those who are in Christ are led by the Spirit to do the law and they really act by the Spirit. They love and fear God, devote themselves to the needs of their neighbor, and desire to do those very things which the law demanded. They would do them even if no law had been given. Their will is nothing else than the Spirit, the living law. (Loci Communes Theologici. Found in The Library of Christian Classics (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1969), Volume XIX, p. 123)
Thomas Cranmer (the English Reformer):
The first entry unto God, good Christian people, is through faith; whereby…we be justified before God. And, lest any man should be deceived for lack of right understanding thereof, it is diligently to be noted that faith is taken in the Scripture two manner of ways. There is one faith which in Scripture is called a dead faith, which bringeth forth no good works, but is idle, barren, and unfruitful. And this faith by the holy apostle St. James is compared to the faith of devils, which believe God to be true and just, and tremble for fear, yet they do nothing well, but all evil. And such manner of faith have the wicked and naughty Christian people; ‘which confess God,’ as St. Paul saith, ‘in their mouth, but deny him in their deeds, being abominable and without the right faith and in all good works reprovable…This dead faith therefore is not that sure and substantial faith which saveth sinners…The true, lively, and unfeigned Christian faith…is not in the mouth and outward profession only, but it liveth, and stirreth inwardly in the heart. And this faith is not without hope and trust in God, nor without the love of God and of our neighbours, nor without the fear of God, nor without the desire to hear God’s word, and to follow the same in eschewing evil and doing gladly all good works. (A Short Declaration of the True, Lively and Christian Faith. Found in The Library of Christian Classics (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1966), Volume XXVI, pp. 272–273)
All Holy Scripture agreeably beareth witness that a true lively faith in Christ doth bring forth good works; and therefore every man must examine himself diligently, to know whether he have the same true lively faith in his heart unfeignedly or not; which he shall know by the fruits thereof…A man may soon deceive himself, and think in his own phantasy that he by faith knoweth God, loveth him, feareth him, and belongeth to him, when in very deed he doeth nothing less…Some peradventure phantasy in themselves that they belong to God, although they live in sin; and so they come to the church, and shew themselves as God’s dear children. But St. John saith plainly: ‘If we say that we have any company with God, and walk in darkness, we do lie.’…Deceive not yourselves, therefore, thinking that you have faith in God, or that you love God, or do trust in him, or do fear him, when you live in sin; for then your ungodly and sinful life declareth the contrary, whatsoever you say or think. It pertaineth to a Christian man to have this true Christian faith, and to try himself whether he hath it or no, and to know what belongeth to it, and how it doth work in him…Let us therefore, good Christian people, try and examine our faith, what it is: let us not flatter ourselves, but look upon our works, and so judge of our faith, what it is. Christ himself speaketh of this matter, and saith: ‘The tree is known by the fruit.’ (A Short Declaration of the True, Lively and Christian Faith. Found in The Library of Christian Classics (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1966), Volume XXVI, pp. 277, 280–281)
John Hooper (English Reformer):
It is no profit to say sole faith justifieth, except godliness of life follow, as Paul saith: ‘If ye live according to the flesh, ye shall die. (A Declaration of Christe and His Offyce. Found in The Library of Christian Classics (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1966), Volume XXVI, p. 206
Why, then, are we justified by faith? Because by faith we grasp Christ’s righteousness, by which alone we are reconciled to God. Yet you could not grasp this without at the same time grasping sanctification also. For he ‘is given unto us for righteousness, wisdom, sanctification, and redemption’ (1 Cor 1:30). Therefore Christ justifies no one whom he does not at the same time sanctify. These benefits are joined together by an everlasting and indissoluble bond, so that those whom he illumines by his wisdom, he redeems; those whom he redeems, he justifies; those whom he justifies, he sanctifies. But, since the question concerns only righteousness and sanctification, let us dwell upon these. Although we may distinguish them, Christ contains both of them inseparably in himself. Do you wish, then, to attain righteousness in Christ? You must first possess Christ; but you cannot possess him without being made partaker of his sanctification, because he cannot be divided into pieces (1 Cor. 1:13). Since, therefore, it is solely by expending himself that the Lord gives us these benefits to enjoy, he bestows both of them at the same time, the one never without the other. Thus it is clear how true it is that we are justified not without works yet not through works, since in our sharing in Christ, which justifies us, sanctification is just as much included as righteousness. (Institutes of the Christian Religion. Found in The Library of Christian Classics (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1960), Volume XIX, Book III, Ch. XVI.1, p. 798)
To prove the first point—that God justifies not only by pardoning but by regenerating—he (Osiander) asks whether God leaves as they were by nature those whom he justifies, changing none of their vices. This is exceedingly easy to answer; as Christ cannot be torn into parts, so these two which we perceive in him together and conjointly are inseparable—namely, righteousness and sanctification. Whomever, therefore, God receives into grace, on them he at the same time bestows the spirit of adoption [Rom. 8:15], by whose power he remakes them to his own image…The grace of justification is not separated from regeneration, although they are things distinct. (Institutes of the Christian Religion. Found in The Library of Christian Classics (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1960), Volume XIX, Book III, Chp. XI.6,11; pp. 732, 739)
When, therefore, Divine Majesty formed the plan of redeeming man, it did not intend that the world should persist and become inveterate in its wickedness. For if this had been the plan, it would have been better never to have sent a redeemer than to have sent one under such conditions that after redemption there should be no change from our former diseased state. It would have been laughable if He to whom everything that is ever to be is seen as present had determined to deliver man at so great a cost, and yet had intended to allow him to immediately after his deliverance to wallow in his old sins. He proclaims, therefore, at the start, that our lives and characters must be changed. For to be a Christian is nothing less than to be a new man and a new creature (II Cor. 5:17). (Commentary On True and False Religion (Durham: Labyrinth, 1981), p. 120)
The Scottish Confession of Faith from the mid sixteenth century represents the views of John Knox and the Protestant Church on the necessity for sanctification:
So that the cause of Good works we confess to be, not our free will, but the Spirit of the Lord Jesus who, dwelling in our hearts by true faith, brings forth such good works as God hath prepared for us to walk into: for this we most boldly affirm, that blasphemy it is to say that Christ Jesus abides in the hearts of such as in whom there is no spirit of Sanctification. And therefore we fear not to affirm that murderers, oppressors, cruel persecuters, adulterers, whoremongers, filthy persons, idolators, drunkards, thieves, and all workers of iniquity, have neither true faith, neither any portion of the spirit of Sanctification, which proceedeth from the Lord Jesus so long as they obstinately continue in their wickedness. For how soon that ever the spirit of the Lord Jesus (which God’s elect children receive by true faith), takes possessionin the heart of any man, so soon does He regenerate and renew the same man; so that he begins to hate that which before he loved, and begins to love that which before he hated…But the Spirit of God, which giveth witnessing to our spirit, that we are the sons of God, makes us to resist the devil, to abhor filthy pleasures, to groan in God’s presence for deliverance from this bondage of corruption; and finally, so to triumph over sin that it reign not in our mortal bodies…The sons of God…do fight against sin, do sob and mourn, when they perceive themselves tempted to iniquity; and if they fall, they rise again with earnest and unfeigned repentance. And these things they do not by their own power, but the power of the Lord Jesus (without whom they are able to do nothing) worketh in them all that is good. (The Confession of Faith, Cap. XIII, The Cause of Good Works. Found in John Knox’s History of the Reformation in Scotland (New York: Philisophical Library, 1950), Volume II, p. 263)
The Westminster Confession of Faith:
The principal acts of saving faith are, accepting, receiving, and resting upon Christ alone for justification, sanctification and eternal life, by virtue of the covenant of grace. (The Westminster Confession of Faith. Found in A.A. Hodge, The Confession of Faith (Edinburgh: Banner, 1958), p. 204)
Now, every Christian who really has experienced the grace of Christ must, unless very greatly prejudiced, recognize the fact that this work of sanctification is the end and the crown of the whole process of salvation. We insist upon and put forward distinctly the great doctrine of justification as a means to an end. It is absolutely necessary as the condition of that faith which is the necessary source of regeneration and sanctification; and every person who is a Christian must recognize the fact that not only will it issue in sanctification, but it must begin in sanctification. This element must be recognized as characteristic of the Christian experience from the first to the last. And any man who thinks that he is a Christian, and that he has accepted Christ for justification when he did not at the same time accept Christ for sanctification, is miserably deluded in that very experience. He is in danger of falling under the judgment of which Paul admonishes when he speaks of the wrath of God coming down from heaven upon all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, and with special reference to those who ‘hold the truth in unrighteousness. (A.A. Hodge, Evangelical Theology (Edinburgh: Banner, 1976), p. 297)
Sanctification notes a holy dedication of heart and life to God: Our becoming the temples of the living God, separate from all profane sinful practices, to the Lord’s only use and service. (The Works of John Flavel (Edinburgh: Banner, 1968), Volume II, Sermon I, The Method of Grace, p. 19)
Justification is only one step, an initial step, in a process. And the process includes not only justification but regeneration and sanctification and ultimate glorification. Justification and forgiveness of sins are not ends in and of themselves; they are only steps on a way that leads to final perfection…Some Christians persist in isolating these things, but they are not isolated in the Scriptures…We cannot divorce justification and forgiveness from other parts of truth…God does not justify a man and leave him there. Not at all! If God justifies a man, God has brought that man into the process…And unless we are giving evidence of being in the process and of being perfected by it, there is but one conclusion to draw—we have never been in the kingdom at all, we must go back to the very beginning, we must repent and believe on the Lord Jesus Christ. (Darkness and Light: An Exposition of Ephesians 4:17-5:17 (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1982), pp. 350-351, 353)
Technically the term justification does refer to the declarative judicial act of God and not to the person who receives the benefit of this declarative act and is said to be justified. The declaration changes the status of the believer and not his or her nature. However, as John Gerstner relentlessly points out, it is not a declaration about or directed toward people who are not changed in their constituent nature. God never declares a change in the status of people who are unchanged in nature…The antinomian error (assumes) that God justifies people who are and remain unchanged. All who are justified possess faith. Faith abides as a necessary condition for justification. All who have faith are regenerate. Reformed theology sees regeneration as a necessary condition for faith. All who are regenerated are changed in their natures. It is not change in our nature wrought by regeneration or our faith that flows from it that is the ground of our justification. That remains solely the imputation of the righteousness of Christ. But that righteousness is not imputed to unbelieving or unregenerate persons. (Justification by Faith Alone, Don Kistler, Ed. (Morgan: Soli Deo Gloria, 1995), The Forensic Nature of Justification, pp. 43-45)
John Gerstner offers the following clarification of the Protestant teaching in light of Roman Catholic misrepresentations:
Romanists have always tried to hang antinomianism on Protestantism. They seem incapable even of understanding ‘justification is by faith alone, but not by the faith that is alone,’ though that formula has been present since the Reformation.If this were a true charge it would be a fatal one. If Protestantism thought that a sinner could be saved without becoming godly, it would be an absolute, damning lie. His name is ‘Jesus’ for He saves His is people from their sins, not in them. And He saves His people not only from the guilt of sin but from its dominating power as well. If a believer is not changed, he is not a believer. No one can have Christ as Savior for one moment when He is not Lord as well. We can never say too often: ‘Justification is by faith alone, but NOT by a faith that is alone.’ Justification is by a WORKING faith.Why does Rome continue to make that centuries–long misrepresentation of justification by faith alone? Because:
First, she knows that faith without works is dead.
Second, she hears Protestantism teach justification by faith alone ‘apart’ from works.
Third, she doesn’t listen when Protestantism explains that ‘apart from works means ‘apart from the merit of works,’ not ‘apart from the presence of works.’
Fourth, she hears some Protestants, who also misunderstand Protestantism, teaching ‘easy–believism.’
Fifth, she knows ‘easy–believism’ is an utterly overwhelming argument against Protestantism (which it would be it were true).
Let me explain, therefore, once again what the Protestant biblical doctrine of justification by faith alone apart from works means. Justification with God is apart from the merit of works. That does not mean that justification is apart from the existence of works. Christianity teaches justification apart from the merit of works. Easy–believism teaches justification apart from the existence of works. Faith without the existence of works is dead…Faith with the merit of works is legalism. (Justification by Faith Alone, Don Kistler, Ed. (Morgan: Soli Deo Gloria, 1995), John Gerstner, The Nature of Justifying Faith, pp. 113–115)
These quotations should be sufficient to dispel the false assertions and misrepresentations of Roman Catholics of the teaching of the Reformers and the Reformation on the meaning of sola fide. Such quotes could be multiplied many times over. These given are just a sampling. Let the misrepresentations cease. The Reformers affirmed what Scripture itself teaches: Salvation includes not only the truth of the imputed righteousness of Christ Himself for justification, but also the necessity for regeneration, repentance and the works of sanctification.