The Rewards of Heaven (Hodge)

Below is a helpful way to talk about justification through faith alone, by grace alone, in Christ alone and the rewards of heaven promised in Scripture (Mt. 6:4, Mk. 9:41, 1 Cor. 3:14, etc.).  They are not contradictory!  I appreciate the emphasis on grace and Christ’s work:

…Although Protestants deny the merit of good works, and teach that salvation is entirely gratuitous, that the remission of sins, adoption into the family of God, and the gift of the Holy Spirit are granted to the believer, as well as admission into heaven, solely on the ground of the merits of the Lord Jesus Christ; they nevertheless teach that God does reward his people for their works. Having graciously promised for Christ’s sake to overlook the imperfection of their best services, they have the assurance founded on that promise that he who gives to a disciple even a cup of cold water in the name of a disciple, shall in no wise lose his reward. The Scriptures also teach that the happiness or blessedness of believers in a future life will be greater or less in proportion to their devotion to the service of Christ in this life. Those who love little, do little; and those who do little, enjoy less. What a man sows that shall he also reap. As the rewards of heaven are given on the ground of the merits of Christ, and as He has a right to do what He will with his own, there would be no injustice were the thief saved on the cross as highly exalted as the Apostle Paul. But the general drift of Scripture is in favor of the doctrine that a man shall reap what he sows; that God will reward every one according to, although not on account of his works. (Charles Hodge, Systematic Theology, vol. 3, pages 244-5)

Shane Lems
Hammond, WI

No Condemnation (Hodge)

Select Sermons of Charles Hodge Here’s a nice excerpt from a sermon Charles Hodge gave on Romans 8:1 (Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. NASB):

Behold, O Christian the deed of thy inheritance.  …Jesus Christ came down from heaven to seek and save his people, to accomplish the condition on which their salvation was suspended and [say] “It is finished.” For these he has suffered and obeyed. The demands of the holiness and justice of God are completely satisfied. And since Christ has died and God has justified, who is that condemneth? Can Satan their accuser before God effect it? We answer no, because he that died, has risen and standeth at the right hand of God where he maketh intercession for us and he it is whom the Father heareth always. Can our own corruptions condemn us? We answer no because the salvation of Jesus Christ is a salvation from sin, every believer has the promise of the Holy Spirit to abide with him forever, to be in him as a well of water springing up unto everlasting life. The believers’ hold of heaven is not the grasp of his own palsied hand, it is the upholding of the Lord, it is being kept by the mighty power of God through faith unto salvation.

Charles Hodge, “No Condemnation,” in Select Sermons of Charles Hodge (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2015).

Shane Lems
Hammond, WI

Assurance and Introspection (Hodge)

 Assurance of faith is one of the great blessings of the Christian life.  To be sure, it comes and goes, waxes and wanes.  Sometimes the Christian is certain he or she is a beloved child of God.  Other times the Christian doubts whether it is so.  But assurance is something Christians should pray for, strive for, and be thankful when they have it.  Charles Hodge has a good word on the grounds, or basis, for assurance in volume three of his Systematic Theology:

Many sincere believers are too introspective. They look too exclusively within, so that their hope is graduated (or grows – spl) by the degree of evidence of regeneration which they find in their own experience. This, except in rare cases, can never lead to the assurance of hope. We may examine our hearts with all the microscopic care prescribed by President Edwards in his work on “The Religious Affections,” and never be satisfied that we have eliminated every ground of misgiving and doubt.

The grounds of assurance are not so much within, as without us. They are, according to Scripture,

(1.) The universal and unconditional promise of God that those who come to Him in Christ, He will in no wise cast out; that whosoever will, may take of the water of life without money and without price. We are bound to be assured that God is faithful and will certainly save those who believe.

(2.) The infinite, immutable, and gratuitous love of God. In the first ten verses of the fifth chapter of the Epistle to the Romans, and in the eighth chapter of that epistle from the thirty-first verse to the end, the Apostle dwells on these characteristics of the love of God, as affording an immovable foundation of the believer’s hope.

(3.) The infinite merit of the satisfaction of Christ, and the prevalence of his continued intercession. Paul, in Romans 8:34, especially emphasizes these points.

(4.) The covenant of redemption in which it is promised that all given by the Father to the Son, shall come to Him, and that none of them shall be lost.

(5.) From the witness of the Spirit, Paul says, “We … rejoice in hope of the glory of God,” because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts, by the Holy Ghost given unto us. That is, the Holy Ghost assures us that we are the objects of that love which he goes on to describe as infinite, immutable, and gratuitous. (Rom. 5:3–5.) And again, “The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit that we are the children of God.”

If, therefore, any true believer lacks the assurance of faith, the fault is in himself and not in the plan of salvation, or in the promises of God.

Charles Hodge, Systematic Theology, vol. 3 (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1997), 107.

Shane Lems

Jesus’ Resurrection and Our Justification (Hodge)

Jesus’ death on the cross is at the center of the Christian faith and at the center of the Christian’s faith.  But when we talk about Christ’s death on the cross, of course we also talk about how he was raised from the dead.  The cross and empty tomb go together; they are inseparable.  Paul says as much about Christ’s humiliation and exultation in Philippians 2:6-11.  Romans 4:25 is also clear on this: He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification (NIV).  I appreciate how Charles Hodge explained this verse:

His death and his resurrection were both necessary. His death was a satisfaction of divine justice: he “bore our sins in his body on the tree” (see 1 Peter 2:24); that is, he bore the punishment of our sins.

His resurrection was no less necessary. First, it was a proof that his death had been accepted as an expiation for our sins. Had he not risen, it would have been evident that he was not what he claimed to be. We would still be in our sins (1 Corinthians 15:17) and therefore still under condemnation. In that case our ransom, instead of being publicly accepted, would have been rejected.

And, secondly, in order to secure the continued benefits of the merits of his sacrifice, he rose from the dead and ascended on high, where he appeared before God for us. He stands at the right hand of God, always making intercession for his people and so securing for them the benefits of his redemption. With a dead Savior, a Savior over whom death had triumphed and held captive, our justification would have remained an impossibility. Since the high priest, under the old economy, not only slayed the victim at the altar but carried the blood into the most holy place and sprinkled it on the mercy-seat, so it was necessary not only that our great High Priest should suffer in the outer court, but that he should pass into heaven to present his righteousness before God for our justification.

Therefore, both as the evidence of the acceptance of his satisfaction on our behalf and as a necessary step to secure the application of the merits of his sacrifice, the resurrection of Christ was absolutely essential, even for our justification [Charles Hodge, Romans, Crossway Classic Commentaries (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 1993), Ro 4:25].

Shane Lems
Hammond, WI, 54015

Romans 8 and Certain Salvation (Hodge)

Systematic Theology, 3 Volumes Charles Hodge has an excellent summary of Romans 8 in his Systematic Theology (III.XVI.8).  In this section he gives six arguments of Paul’s proving that those whom Christ has saved will never come into condemnation.  In other words, they will be preserved.  Here’s Hodge:

The whole of the eighth chapter of the Epistle to the Romans is designed to prove the certain salvation of all who believe. The proposition to be established is, that there is “no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus.” That is, they can never perish; they can never be so separated from Christ as to come into condemnation

The Apostle’s first argument to establish that proposition, is, that believers are delivered from the law by the sacrifice of Christ. The believer, therefore, is not under the law which condemns, as Paul had before said in Romans 6:4.

His second argument is that they have already within them the principle of eternal life. That principle is the Spirit of God; “the life-giving” as He was designated by the ancient Church. To be carnally minded is death. To be spiritually minded is life and peace.

The third argument for the security of believers, is, that they are the sons of God. As many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God. That

The fourth argument is from the purpose of God. Those whom He has predestinated to be conformed to the image of his Son, them He calls to the exercise of faith and repentance; and whom He thus calls He justifies, He provides for them and imputes to them a righteousness which satisfies the demands of the law, and which entitles them in Christ and for his sake to eternal life; and those whom He justifies He glorifies.  There is no flaw in this chain.

Paul’s fifth argument is from the love of God. As stated above, the Apostle argues from the greatness, the freeness, and the immutability of that love that its objects never can be lost.

The sixth argument of the Apostle is that, as the love of God is infinitely great and altogether gratuitous, it is also immutable, and, therefore, believers shall certainly be saved.

The above list has been edited for length.  You can find the entire excellent discussion in volume 3 of Hodge’s Systematic Theology.

Shane Lems
Covenant Presbyterian Church (OPC)
Hammond, WI

Regeneration: An Act of Sovereign Grace

Systematic Theology, 3 Volumes  When a sinner who is dead in sin comes to saving faith in Christ, it is a sovereign and gracious work of God.  We cannot take even 1% of the credit for coming to Christ; we cannot pat ourselves on the back or seek an award for coming to Christ.  Instead, we stay at the feet of Jesus where we first came, realizing that from first to last it is all of grace, love, mercy, and the sovereignty of God.  In his grace, by the power of the Holy Spirit, he has drawn the Christian to Christ, enlightened the Christian’s mind, renewed his will and made him willing and able to answer the call and embrace Christ (Titus 3:5, John 6:44-45, Acts 16:14, 2 Cor. 4:6, Ezek. 36:26-27, etc; see also WLC Q/A 67).  I like how Charles Hodge noted that regeneration is an act of sovereign grace:

“No believer ever ascribes his regeneration to himself. He does not recognize himself as the author of the work, or his own relative goodness, his greater susceptibility to good impression, or his greater readiness of persuasion, as the reason why he rather than others, is the subject of this change. He knows that it is a work of God; and that it is a work of God’s free grace. His heart responds to the language of the Apostle when he says: “Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and the renewing of the Holy Ghost.” (Tit. 3:5.) Paul says of himself that God, having separated him from his mother’s womb called him by his grace. (Gal. 1:15.) There was nothing in him, who was injurious and a persecutor, to demand the special intervention of God in his behalf. So far from his referring his vocation to himself, to his greater readiness to yield to the influence of the truth, he constantly represents himself as a monument of the wonderful condescension and grace of God” (p. 707).

“…Regeneration is an act of sovereign grace. If a tree must be made good before the fruit is good; the goodness of the fruit cannot be the reason which determines him who has the power to change the tree from bad to good. So if works spiritually good are the fruits of regeneration, then they cannot be the ground on which God exerts his life-giving power. If, therefore, the Scriptures teach the doctrine of efficacious grace in the Augustinian sense of those terms, then they teach that regeneration is a sovereign gift. It cannot be granted on the sight or foresight of anything good in the subjects of this saving change. None of those whom Christ healed, pretended to seek the exercise of his almighty power in their behalf on the ground of their peculiar goodness, much less did they dream of referring the restoration of their sight or health to any cooperation of their own with his omnipotence” (p. 688-689).

Charles Hodge, Systematic Theology, vol. 2, p. 688–689.

Shane Lems
Covenant Presbyterian Church
Hammond, WI

Three Great Negations of Presbyterianism

One big part of being Reformed is being Reformed in the area of church polity and practice.  In other words, Reformed churches have a Presbyterian structure which is “re-formed” according to the New Testament model.  Charles Hodge talked about this in his 1855 address called “What is Presbyterianism?”  Here’s a nice summary paragraph from his speech:

The three great negations of Presbyterianism—that is, the three great errors which it denies are: 1) That all church power vests in the clergy. 2) That the apostolic office is perpetual. 3) That each individual Christian congregation is independent.

The affirmative statement of these principles is: 1) That the people have a right to a substantive part in the government of the Church. 2) That presbyters [elders], who minister in word and doctrine, are the highest government officers of the Church, and all belong to the same order. 3) That the outward and visible Church is, or should be, one, in the sense that a smaller part is subject to a larger, and a larger to the whole. It is not holding one of these principles that makes a man a Presbyterian, but his holding them all.

Charles Hodge, What Is Presbyterianism? An Address (Philadelphia: Presbyterian Board of Publication, 1855), 6–7.

shane lems
covenant presbyterian church (OPC)
hammond, wi