The Mail Room
Letters from Volume 33

elcome to the Mail Room for Present Truth Magazine! This is where we post some of the interesting letters which we receive from our viewers. All of our viewers are invited to E-mail us your comments and views and we will post these views for all to consider!  

"Righteousness by Faith" (Part 1)

Having never intended to write you concerning your magazine, I had a sudden change of heart after reading your excellent July issue. First of all, I was unaware that Luther's "Commentary on Galatians" (1531) represented his mature thinking. The deeper I got into your article on "Righteousness by Faith" (Part 1), the more I began to realize how correct your interpretation of Luther's writings are. Then, when I read the article by the anonymous theology student, I began to see just how subtle is the difference between intrinsic (Catholic) justification and extrinsic (Protestant) justification. It is amazing that this was the main point which separated Luther from Rome.

I see now why even truly born-again Christians have been sucked into the charismatic movement, which the Roman Catholics have been so quick to capitalize on in order to further their ecumenicity. This really reinforces the importance of the right and scriptural viewpoint of the doctrine of justification by faith alone.

Richard C. Dove, Baptist

Paul in Romans 6:11-22 shows that the person who has had his sins forgiven does not commit any more sin, but "being made free from sin," he now becomes a "servant to God," with "holiness" as his new state of being, which brings intrinsic justification before God, for this man does not "yield" his bodily "members" to the commission of sin but to a holy life of "righteousness." If he is living a holy life, then he is intrinsically justified, because there is nothing in his holy life which brings condemnation to him.

James, in chapter 1, shows how a man must live continually in the law of "liberty" which he entered when he became a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ. In chapter 2, James shows that a man is "justified" by his good "works" after he has been justified by his faith in Jesus Christ. He is extrinsically justified by His faith in Christ, but he is intrinsically justified by his good works, which follow his extrinsic justification. James refers to the case of Abraham, who was justified by his faith in God's promise to give him a son, which was extrinsic justification; but then, after he had been thus justified, he was justified by his good works when he obeyed God's command to offer his son Isaac as a burnt offering, and this was intrinsic justification. He had imputed righteousness when he believed God's promise to give him a son, but he had imparted righteousness when he obeyed God's command to offer his son as a burnt offering. It is all summed up by James when he writes, "Ye see, then, how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only" (James 2:24).

What Martin Luther and the Roman Catholic Church teach is of no consequence when we have the Bible as our standard of faith and practice.

Delmar H. Bryant

Your two issues on "The Man of Romans 7" and "Righteousness by Faith" are excellent and edifying. Both of them have to do with the believer's position or status in the sight of God. That status has been made quite clear in one sentence in the Lord's prayer: "Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors." It is the prayer of a child of God addressing the "Father in heaven" and yet the prayer of a sinner asking forgiveness. Christ clearly taught that believers are both saved and sinful.

Believers are made righteous by faith in Christ, through which Christ's righteousness is imputed to them. Hence, they are justified (not sinless) by God and in God's sight. "All our righteousnesses are as filthy rags" (Isa. 64:6). Yet the God-fearing are often referred to as "righteous" because they are accounted as such by God or because of their moral character. Even so, no man is by nature moral, but carnal.

Bert Brower, Minister

Thank you for Present Truth and its timely emphasis. It is difficult for me to express my deep appreciation for your publication. I find it fascinating and interesting, and it furnishes a real spiritual insight in understanding the Scriptures.

In regard to extrinsic righteousness in your recent July issue, I recall Dr. Herschel H. Hobbs, former president of the Southern Baptist Convention, saying in a Bible conference that the ending of the Greek word dikajosune (righteousness) implies "not necessarily so." In other words, the Greek word for righteousness does not mean that the subject himself is intrinsically righteous. Rather, extrinsic righteousness is clearly implied.

Roger S. Dorsett, Baptist Pastor


My thanks to the entire staff of Present Truth for their efforts in presenting the gospel so clearly to many of us. How good it is for laymen to have access to such material without having to go through endless volumes of theology, for which we are not equipped.

Jerry Asleson

Objective Gospel

I haven't had any formal theological training, but I can see and agree with your statements concerning the objective gospel and justification by faith.

Mike Chism


The Spirit of God applied the central truth of justification to me at a very needed time. Recently I had become so infatuated with the inner life both in my thinking and reading that I began to err, unconsciously assuming that my "holiness" was the basis for fellowship, if not acceptance, with God. How many other believers must be victims of the moral emphasis! My own edging into legalism revealed the doctrinal problem that lay beneath the surface.

Jay Wegter


Sir  I have been highly impressed, provoked, stimulated and blessed by your magazine. I thank you for your scholarship, but mostly for your love of God, His Word and the whole body of Christ.

Neil Roger Roth


Your periodical is much appreciated. I like your scholarly and biblical discussions of Christian doctrine. Keep up the good work.

Richard Trost, Lutheran Pastor

Fine Distinctions?

Being a person of rather limited formal training and having come into the ministry rather late in life, I do appreciate the clear and forthright presentation of the Reformation position as it appears in Present Truth. The articles are well written, and it is obvious that the authors both know and believe in what they write.

May I, however, share with you a gnawing question which seems to surface quite frequently when reading Present Truth and which did surface in particular after finishing your excellent article in the recent issue on "Righteousness by Faith" (Part 1). I have basically two problems. The first is the so very fine distinctions which must be drawn between the Reformation position and the position of Rome. The second has to do with the fact that the "greatest" of the theological virtues seems to be given a secondary place.

While I think that I can understand and appreciate your subtle distinctions, I doubt if very many of my congregation could. It is my opinion that all truth suffers from the same source: that the "corruption of the best is always the worst." The vulnerability of pure Luther or Calvin to distortion is just as strong as for Rome, Canterbury or Eastern Orthodoxy. Indeed, the Bible itself must so suffer, as it obviously does, the terrible corruption of the very best—the very truth itself. And furthermore, when you speak of the danger of "superstition" with reference to the errors of Rome, I must say that in my everyday experience in the ministry, the superstition which comes to my attention is among those who are pretty much outside the church rather than in it. Those people who never enter a church, but who come for baptisms, weddings and burials, are the real superstitious people of these present times. Those who believe themselves the most enlightened are often the most superstitious, and I must therefore suggest that the secularists and humanists are by far more prone to superstition these days than the Romanists.

And then the matter of charity. What about the parable in Matthew 25? What about the "Not everyone who says, 'Lord, Lord!' . . . "? It just does seem to me that at the great day of judgment, the fellow in the pulpit, no matter how pure his doctrine may be, will—or at least may—not be in nearly as secure a position as some rather unschooled soul who has just given a cup of water to a thirsty traveler on the road. Christendom has suffered more from lack of charity than from errors in doctrine. The great filioque controversy which divided East from West had so little to do with the truth and so much to do with an opportunity on the part of the Western church to act in charity toward their Eastern brothers in Christ. While I do not wish to discredit your position and would not dare to challenge the correctness of your arguments, the real issue is: Out of what kind of womb does the church bare a Mother Theresa of Calcutta? And alas, as long as Luther has a problem with the letter of St. James, I'm afraid I'll be having a certain problem with Luther.

Daniel H. Goldsmith, Vicar

Needed Input

Sir  I have read all of your magazines from the inception of Present Truth. I can't begin to describe all the vast reaches of theology you and all the writers in the magazine have opened up to me. It is probably an understatement to say that your insights (or the revival of old truths) are a much-needed input into the life of the church today.

Luther said in his "Table Talk" that "no man living can properly distinguish between the Law and the Gospel . . . only the Holy Ghost knows this." No doubt Dr. Martin was probably speaking subjectively here with reference to the "exposing" and "comforting" power the Heiligen Geist effects (cf. John 16:8-11) through and in conjunction with His two words of law and promise.

Werner Elert in his book, Law and Gospel, says that the law can never merely be a rule of life, because its proper function is that of making sin apparent, i.e., "the law always accuses" (cf. Rom. 3:20; 5:20; 7:7; Gal. 3:19, 24). He points out that as long as each of us still possesses the old Adam (cf. Rom. 7:14f; Gal. 5:17), the law's spiritual and prime function will be the destruction of the old man and not the construction of the new man. Incidentally, it was these same lines of thought (cf. Luther's "Commentary on Galatians") that caused Luther to coin his famous phrase, simul justus et peccator. It is a strange fact that while the law tells us what God's will is (legislative), it at the same time is pointing a finger of destruction and wrath (even to Christians) because we do not fully keep it (juridical). This is why Luther could say, "When I look to myself all is flesh, i.e., sin, but when I look to Christ all is righteousness."

To make the law merely legislative or a guide for Christian living is to miss the point Paul labors to show in Romans and especially Galatians. As Elert puts it, "the Law is God's juridical activity," i.e., judgment in the life of every man.

Gentry E. Busenburg

Likes Approach

I believe that Present Truth breathes a congenial air of the truth of the gospel. Your approach to doctrines such as election is both humble and Pauline—"For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified." This determination separates reverent devotion to the truth of Christ from specious biblical extrapolation and invention.
James J. Ludwig

College Student, Kansas


It is all well and good to know the matters you constantly go over. But a few studies are enough for mastering the things you forever and tiringly repeat. I lose interest in the same matters always gone over and over in mostly the same dull manner.

Otis R. Anderson
Rhode Island

Central Article

Although I have written in the past, taking issue with Present Truth's eschatology and occasional use of neo-orthodox quotations, I must compliment you on your continuing emphasis on justification by faith. It is always tempting to "major on minors" theologically. It is refreshing to have you continue to major on the central article of the Christian faith.

Bryan G. Upton

Practical Doctrine

It was only a week ago that I borrowed a copy of your magazine from my brother-in-law. As a former Roman Catholic, the Reformation themes which you so brilliantly illuminate reinforced my opinion that "justification by faith" is indeed a practical doctrine deserving to be the center of Christian living (i.e., in its portrayal of the finished and continuing work of Christ on the believer's behalf).

Ralph N. Parish
New Jersey


I recently was given a copy of Present Truth magazine and was very impressed with the truly Christ-centered nature of the contents. The magazine is so refreshing after reading publications distributed by highly biased denominational organizations. How we need more truly gospel-centered publications in this day when Satan is corrupting churches and Christians all over!

Bob Crawford


I find Present Truth to be the finest Christian magazine I receive. It has solid biblical and theological content with a good degree of depth. It is such a relief to receive a magazine that is not fifty percent advertisements. Your articles are timely and vital to the health and future of the church. While I do not agree with everything in the magazine all the time, I do find that it really causes me to think and to discover where I really stand on issues not completely settled. Keep up the fine work. Present Truth is greatly needed among all Christians.

Forrest Long, Minister

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