“The heirs of the Protestant Reformation have emphasized salvation by grace in general and sola fide (“by faith alone”) in particular. It was important for the church to recover the central biblical truth that we are justified by God, that this is an act of God’s grace, and that faith–apart from works–is the means by which we are justified. A related issue is the nature of works–obedience or faithfulness–in the Christian life. Evangelicals generally agree that a person enters into a covenant relationship with God by grace (even solely by grace) apart from works, but there is often much disagreement over how to construe the nature of works, or obedience, inside this covenantal relationship.
Bradley Green shows, from a close study of key Old and New Testament texts and interaction with historical and contemporary theologians, that in the new covenant, works–or obedience–will be a real and necessary God-elicited part of the Christian life. In short, “works” are “necessary” for salvation, because part of the “newness” of the new covenant is real, grace-induced, and grace-elicited obedience by its true members.
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“One of God’s key goals has always been obedience from the heart” (Page 52)
“That is, Frame argues, as I am arguing, that across the canon God saves a people by his grace. Then, once persons are in covenant relationship with the Lord, he then gives his people commands, statutes, laws, and so on. And he expects his people to obey what he communicates to them.” (Page 65)
“The latter conquering occurs only because we are united to Christ through faith alone in an indissoluble union” (Pages 28–29)
“God is rescuing and transforming a people who will love, glorify and serve him from the heart. Works, obedience and faithfulness are ‘necessary’ in that such realities are simply constitutive of a redeemed life. And such a life flows from a heart radically transformed by the grace of God. It is not, in Vos’s terms, ‘law-observance’ in the meritorious sense, but it is certainly ‘law-observance’ (works, obedience, faithfulness) ‘appropriate’ to the life of a redeemed person.” (Page 67)
“Also, I am not arguing that these ‘works’ or acts of obedience are somehow autonomous. I argue, following Philippians 2:12–13, that we truly do act, work and obey, and that at the same time it is God who is truly, efficaciously and actually eliciting and bringing about this obedience. I will also argue that this power for obedience is—ultimately—something that flows from the cross, from the gospel itself (cf. Heb. 10:10, 14), and is linked to our union with Christ.” (Page 18)
For the Christian, to know Jesus, to confess him as Lord, entails obeying him. But how does this reality relate to a plethora of complementary themes? Dr. Green addresses this question by soundings in an impressive diversity of topics . . . The canvas on which he paints is large enough to draw in a wide range of readers, all of whom will find themselves stimulated to think about these issues more precisely.
—D.A. Carson, research professor of New Testament, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School
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