An Important Chapter in Our History

The Controversy Over Justification By Faith Alone

Justification by faith alone is the heart of the Gospel. Believers are justified before God by grace through faith alone, based on the merits of Christ our Redeemer. Justification is God's irreversible judicial act at conversion, in which He freely pardons the believer's sins and accepts the believing sinner as righteous in His sight. God does this only on account of the imputed righteousness of Jesus Christ, received by faith (belief) alone. Justification by faith alone means that believers do not, in any sense, work for our salvation. Jesus Christ alone is our righteousness.

This foundational doctrine has been subject to the attacks of Satan throughout history – from the time of Abel (Genesis chapter 4 and Hebrews 11:4), to the error Paul dealt with in the book of Galatians, to the errors of the present day. Martin Luther called justification by faith alone "the doctrine by which the Church is standing or falling."

In recent years a new movement has emerged, attacking the doctrine of justification by faith alone in new ways. It has spread into a number of churches and denominations, including the Orthodox Presbyterian Church.

Elements of this movement go by different names, including Shepherdism, the New Perspective on Paul, Covenantal Nomism, Covenant Moralism, the Auburn Avenue Theology, and Federal Vision theology. Although they differ on particulars, all of these deny or debilitate the Biblical doctrine of justification. They have in common a doctrine of salvation depending in whole or in part on human works, rather than on the finished work of Christ alone. This movement also spreads error regarding other Biblical doctrines including the covenants, baptism, the Church, sanctification, glorification, and the last judgment.

The session and congregation of Grace Presbyterian Church have taken a firm stand against these evils, as reflected in the documents below. (Adobe Reader required.)

September 2003

Resolution on Justification by Faith Alone

Grace Presbyterian Church session's Resolution on Justification by Faith Alone.

Original Resolution

Followup Letter

November 2003

Overture to the 2004 General Assembly Regarding the Decision of the 2003 General Assembly Regarding the Doctrine of Justification by Faith Alone

An overture to the 2004 General Assembly of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church was submitted to the Presbytery of Philadelphia for its consideration. The text is available for downloading below. It was written by members of the Grace Presbyterian Church session and concerned men in other OP churches. They sought to clarify the church's damaged witness concerning the doctrine of justification by faith alone. This overture faced strong opposition in the Philadelphia presbytery, and was not passed. A nearly identical overture was proposed in the Presbytery of the Midwest, but a much weaker overture, agreeable to both liberals and conservatives and leaving the denomination in a state of apostasy, was passed in its place and ultimately approved by the 71st General Assembly.


July 2004

Dr. Jeffery A. Sheely's Letter of Withdrawal From the Orthodox Presbyterian Church


September 2004

Our Congregation's Letter of Withdrawal From the Orthodox Presbyterian Church