“Saving faith is not the enemy of good works” by Michael Horton

“Saving faith is not the enemy of good works, but their only possible source.

We never offer up our good works to God for salvation, but extend them to our neighbors for their good. As a result, everyone benefits.

God, who needs nothing from us, receives all of the glory; our neighbors receive gifts that God wants to give them through us; and we benefit both from the gifts of others and the joy that our own giving brings.

Reverse this flow, and nobody wins. God is not glorified, neighbors are not served, and we live frustrated, anxious, joyless lives awaiting the wrath of a holy God.

The gospel produces peace and empowers us to live by faith. We live no longer anxious, but secure and invigorated because we are crucified and raised with Christ.

We are no longer trying to live up to the starring role we’ve given ourselves, but are written into the story of Christ.

We have nothing to prove, just a lot of work to do.Good works are no longer seen as a condition of our union with Christ, but as its fruit.

We are no longer slaves, but the children of God– co-heirs with Christ, our elder brother.

The first question and answer of the Heidelberg Catechism summarizes this faith well:

Q. What is your only comfort in life and death?

A. That I am not my own,
but belong with body and soul,
both in life and in death, 
to my faithful Saviour Jesus Christ. 
He has fully paid for all my sins with His precious blood,
and has set me free from all the power of the devil.
He also preserves me in such a way
that without the will of my heavenly Father not a hair can fall from my head;
indeed, all things must work together for my salvation.
Therefore, by His Holy Spirit He also assures me of eternal life
and makes me heartily willing and ready
from now on to live for Him.

As God’s creatures, made in His image, we are ‘not our own’ already in creation. Yet our redemption doubles this truth.

Created by God and saved by His grace, I am truly ‘not my own, but belong– body and soul, in life and in death– to my faithful Savior, Jesus Christ.'”

–Michael Horton, Ordinary: Sustainable Faith in a Radical, Restless World (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2014), 41-42.

“Solus Christus” by Michael Horton

“It is solus Christus that measures the gulf between Paul and every other system.”

–Michael Horton, Justification, Volume 2 (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2018), 2: 124.

“Grace does not exist on a spectrum” by Michael Horton

“The slightest nomism vitiates the gospel. For Paul, grace does not exist on a spectrum. Unlike a dimmer switch, it is binary: ‘grace would no longer be grace’ if works played any role as the ground or instrument of justification (Rom. 11:6).”

–Michael Horton, Justification, Volume 2 (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2018), 2: 124.

“He will build His church” by Michael Horton

“The church’s unity and catholicity do not a rise immanently within individual believers or a historical institution; they are gifts from the Father, in the Son, and by the Spirit. They are given because the triune God has elected, redeemed, and called us in Christ to belong to Him and to each other.

The church was chosen in Christ to be holy (Ephesians 1:4) and was sanctified by Christ’s life, death, and resurrection — applied by the Holy Spirit. The church’s apostolicity is grounded not in its orthodoxy or orthopraxy, but in the external Word, made fruitful in us by the Spirit.

As long as the church hears, receives, and proclaims this Word that it has been given, it is something other than a club, neighborhood association, theological school, or political action committee.

A church that, weary of its ambiguous location between the two ages, preaches another gospel or corrupts the sacraments is no longer holy, but is assimilated into the world– the age that is passing away– despite its outward forms (Galatians 1:6-9; 1 Corinthians 3:10-17).

We cannot deny that there will be those finally who hear these chilling words of Jesus Christ: ‘I never knew you; depart from me,’ although they protest that they performed wonders in His name (Matthew 7:22-23).

The candlestick of any particular church or group of churches can be removed when it ceases to bear illuminating witness to Christ in the world (Revelation 2:5). This tragic end may come upon a church not only for abandoning the doctrine of the gospel itself, but for failing to bear witness to it.

To deny that this eschatological judgment of one’s professing church is impossible by virtue of its inherent holiness and eminent history is itself a harbinger of apostasy, and it is a tendency to which all of our churches can easily succumb.

Yet we have Christ’s promise that He will build His church. Despite the church’s compromised, ambiguous, schismatic and sinful character, the covenant of redemption ensures that our unfaithfulness will not have the last word.”

–Michael Horton, The Christian Faith: A Systematic Theology for Pilgrims On the Way (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2011), 870.

“God’s gracious assault” by Michael Horton

“We do not find God; He finds us. Faith comes not by feeling, thinking, seeing, or striving, but by hearing. Proclamation does involve doctrinal and ethical instruction, of course. The law and the gospel not only kill and make alive; they direct our life and doctrine.

However, we must come to church expecting nothing less than God’s gracious assault on the citadels of our autonomy, our supposing that we could ascend to God by our theological acumen any more than by our actions.

This confrontation occurs not only in the sermon, but in the entire liturgy, including the singing, whose purpose is to ‘let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God’ (Col 3:16).

While carefully distinguishing the Spirit’s illumination of the preached Word from the Spirit’s inspiration of the canonical Word, we can affirm that the content– Christ and all His benefits– is exactly the same. This should create a sense of urgency and expectancy in our public assembly, as God addresses us here and now.”

–Michael Horton, The Christian Faith: A Systematic Theology for Pilgrims On the Way (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2011), 763.

“The most powerful thing on earth” by Michael Horton

“The Word calls us out of ourselves to be judged and justified by a proclamation that is heard by fellow sinners to whom we are joined by the faith that the Spirit gives through that proclaimed word.

Because the Spirit works through creaturely means, rather than directly and immediately, a creaturely community arises. The church does not first of all exist and then create a canon; rather, it is spoken into existence by the same Word that rules it.

In the flight from time and space to a naked encounter with God face to face, the mystical soul strives to secure salvation by its striving ascent. However, this encounter is never saving but always dangerous, because God is a ‘consuming fire’ (Heb 12:29).

The only safe route is to stop striving to ascend and receive God as He has ascended in His Son, clothed in the gospel. Though seemingly powerless and ineffective, the creaturely mediation of His Word through faltering human lips is the most powerful thing on earth.”

–Michael Horton, The Christian Faith: A Systematic Theology for Pilgrims On the Way (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2011), 761.

“Nothing less than Himself” by Michael Horton

“In grace, God gives nothing less than Himself. Grace, then, is not a third thing or substance mediating between God and sinners, but is Jesus Christ in redeeming action.”

–Michael Horton, The Christian Faith: A Systematic Theology for Pilgrims On the Way (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2011), 267-268.