These statements were adopted by the Consistory of Trinity Covenant Church and presented to the South Central Classis of the RCUS, meeting in Mitchell, South Dakota, March 25,26, 2003. They were sent on to the spring meeting of the Synod of the RCUS along with an overture to declare the teaching of Norman Shepherd on justification as heretical.
1. That it is heresy and contrary to the Gospel of Jesus Christ to say that the salvation of the elect is in any way based upon works of righteousness that they perform in any part of their life, but is solely based on the righteousness of Jesus Christ, which is received by faith alone. BC XXIV
2. That it is heresy to say that the phrase “righteousness of faith” when used in terms of justification means the good works that Christians perform; rather, it means the perfect righteousness of Christ which is imputed to the elect through faith. BC XXIV
3. That it is heresy and contrary to the Gospel of Jesus Christ to say that when the Apostle Paul writes in Galatians 5:6 “For in Jesus Christ neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision; but faith which worketh by love” that he means that true faith is made alive by works. Instead, the holy Apostle means that love proceeds from true faith as its certain fruit. BC XXIV
4. That it is heresy to say that when the Apostle James writes in James 2:20 that “faith without works is dead” that he is teaching that works must be added to faith for justification; instead, this passage teaches that dead faith is no faith at all, but simply a carcass. It is heresy to say that faith is made alive or effective by works, as though faith does not truly connect the soul to Christ, and if connected to Christ, something of the sinner must be added to Christ. It is true to say that faith vitally connects the soul to Christ so that life flows to the sinner from Him, so that faith alone is sufficient for all things. BC XXIV
5. It is heresy to construe the conditions of the covenant in such a way as to think our Lord Jesus Christ is not a complete Savior; that His active and passive obedience is insufficient for our salvation as though we must add something of ourselves to His righteousness. Rather, the Gospel teaches that our righteousnesses are as filthy rags, that we access true righteousness by faith alone, whereby also we are given the Spirit of Adoption so we can truly call God our Father.
6. It is heresy to say that this faith which alone accesses the righteousness of Christ is the obedience of covenant keeping. It is indeed true that the elect have been predestined to be conformed to the image of Christ, yet faith is not this image of Christ, but only the beginning and seed thereof. Though living faith must result in works of thanksgiving [HC 64], yet faith must be distinguished from its fruit as does the apostle Paul in all of His writings. For if faith is confused with works, grace will be lost among us, as the Apostle says, “Therefore it is of faith, that it might be by grace” [Rom. 4:16]. It is God who works in us both to will and do of his good pleasure, so that neither in its origin, in its progress, nor in its fulfillment is there anything of ourselves in our salvation, but all is of Christ who is the Author and the Finisher of our faith. BC XXI
7. It is heresy to say that Adam’s sin of eating the fruit was not the source of sin and death in the world, whereby all of his seed are condemned apart from their own deeds; so also, it is heresy to say that the complete and perfect obedience of Christ, the Last Adam, is not the source of life and redemption to all His seed, apart from their own deeds. The blood of our Redeemer fully satisfies for all our covenant-breaking and failure, so that the Scripture is fulfilled, “Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin.”
8. It is heresy to say that any curse can rest upon the elect of God as if the promised blessing to the Fathers has not been fulfilled in Jesus Christ. Rather, the Gospel teaches that those who believe are not condemned, that Christ took the curse upon Himself, that the promises of God are yea and amen, and that everyone who believes on Christ shall not come into condemnation, but is passed from death unto life. Further, whom the Lord loves He chastens, but this chastening is not a curse but evidence that we are true sons of God. Though the non-elect may dwell in the church, yet no eternal blessing comes to them for they abide in unbelief under the curse of Adam’s sin. HC I