Open Letter on Good Works and the Final Judgment

Another response to Kinnaird has claimed that Turretin views good works solely and exclusively as the fruit of salvation, and not in any sense a necessary condition for standing at the final judgment.

This position claims that since both justification and the final acquittal are forensic, they must both be based solely and exclusively on the imputed righteousness of Christ; while since both regeneration, sanctification and glorification are transformative, they must be based solely and exclusively on infusion of grace. Therefore there are two parallel tracks in salvation: the final judgment is to justification what glorification is to sanctification.

This explains why so many object so strenuously to Kinnaird's claim that sanctification is necessary for our final acquittal.

Turretin, as we have seen, is willing to call good works "the means and way for possessing salvation," and "necessary to the obtainment of it," but these statements are in the context of sanctification and glorification. So at first blush, your read of Turretin makes sense.

And all (in this discussion) agree that good works have no instrumental role whatsoever for our initial justification.

The only question where we differ, it would appear to me, is as to whether sanctification/good works play any role at the final judgment. Is that a fair statement? Or to put it another way, what role, if any, do the believer's works play in the final judgment? You seem to be saying that our works have no role whatsoever. But the scripture regularly and consistently affirms that the final judgment will consider the actual deeds of the righteous (Psalm 62:12; Matthew 16:27; 25:31-46; Romans 2:6-16; 2 Corinthians 5:10; Revelation 20:11-15; 22:12). When you say that works are not a required condition for standing at the final day, you contradict the scriptures, which everywhere describe the final judgment as a judgment according to works.

So what do we do with the reward that is promised to those who do good? While carefully insisting that even our good works are entirely the work of God's grace, Turretin goes on to say that our good works "are ordained to a reward, both from the condition of the worker, who is supposed to be a believer (i.e., admitted into the grace and friendship of God), and from the condition of the works themselves, which although not having a condignity to the reward, still have the relation of disposition required in the subject for its possession. This condition being fulfilled, the reward must be given as, it being withheld, the reward cannot be obtained. For as without holiness, no one shall see God and, unless renewed by water and the Spirit, cannot enter the kingdom of heaven (Jn 3:5; Heb 12:14); so, holiness being posited, glory is necessarily posited from the inseparable connection existing between them." (17.4.12). Works are a necessary condition, though not an efficient or sufficient cause, of our final acquittal.

In his chapter on merit, Turretin argues that good works (properly understood as the gratuitous work of God in us) are the means to the end of eternal life--not as "a cause properly so called," but as "a relation of order and connection." (17.5.13) Our good works do nothing to add to Christ's merits, but Turretin is perfectly happy to say that at the final judgment "life is rendered to good works." (17.5.29). Of course, this is not in the same sense that death is rendered to evil works, because our works are not the ground or cause of the reward. But Turretin is willing to say that our works will indeed be "in view" at the final judgment. Our good works, gratuitously given by God, will be crowned at the final judgment (17.5.34). For Turretin, then, the open acquittal at the final judgment is not, strictly speaking, based solely upon the imputed righteousness of Christ, but also includes the good works of our sanctification. We must have a real and personal holiness in order to stand on that day.

In other words, Turretin is perfectly content to say that both justification and sanctification are in view at the final judgment. We trust solely in Christ's righteousness, as that righteousness is imputed to us in our justification, and infused in us in our sanctification.

Nonetheless there is a real difference between Turretin and Kinnaird. Turretin acknowledges that sanctification is in view at the final judgment, but you have to look carefully--given his primary concern to reject any sense of merit for our good works. Kinnaird acknowledges that there is no merit to those works, but his primary emphasis is to insist that sanctification is in view at the final judgment.

There is a huge difference in emphasis. But then again, there is a huge difference in context (as you rightly point out). Turretin is dealing with the conflict with Rome over justification; Kinnaird was dealing with people who (if their posts on the Warfield list are exemplary) are so fixated on justification that they seem to have a hard time acknowledging that sanctification is a necessary part of our salvation.


Rev. Peter Wallace