Archive for June 2009

What Stops God from Saving with a Bare-Bones Arminian Gospel?

June 25, 2009

“Nothing stops God from regenerating and causing assent to that bare-bones truth taught by Arminians.”

Universalists always say: nothing stops God from saving everybody. In other words, even though God has revealed what He promises to do, nothing keeps a sovereign God from breaking that promise and doing something else. Another way the neo-orthodox universalists say it: God speaks in baby talk, so that we can never articulate who God is or what the gospel is anyway. So we will articulate a possibility which the fundy-Bible itself excludes!

The truth of God stops God from saving people with a lie. The glory of God stops God from denying the sufficency of the propitiation for sins by the God-man: if even one of those sins is further punished, then neither Jesus is God or the Father is God. The glory of God is the revelation of God, not only God being God, but God showing Himself by the gospel to be God!

John 5:36 “the works which the Father has gvien me to finish–the very works that I do–bear witness of Me, that the Father has sent me.”

Is it true that nothing keeps God from saving those who say that Jesus worked for all but did not finish the work for any so that the “finished work” depends on the creature? Nothing about that “bad theology” keeps God from saving such an idolater? I say that nothing keeps God from saving such an idolater, because I WAS SUCH AN IDOLATER and the way He saved me was by teaching me the gospel and that my idol god was no god and that my idol gospel was no gospel.

I know almost all “mainstream” Calvinists like to hedge: sometimes they say that God saves folks in “barebones idolatry” but that God will not keep the sheep in such darkness, but makes sure that sooner or later somebody will bring them the C explanation and that if they don’t accept it (after x amount of trying) then MAYBE (they withhold judgment) but maybe they are an idolater!

If a “barebones gospel” tries to talk about priesthood without talking about the God-man reigning and the God-man revealing the glory of God, then it denies the purpose of the gospel being proclaimed. (Eph 3:21; I Cor 2:7-14).

The wisdom of God does not remain “inarticulate”. But it is not revealed merely by study and books: understanding of and judgment by the gospel is given by the Spirit of God, for the glory of God.

Acts 17:30 says that religious people need to repent: they need to turn from their false theologies, and are commanded to turn to the specific one who is revealed and who was raised and who will judge by righteousness. He will not judge by bare sovereignty.

I agree with “nominalism” enough to say that right is right because God’s nature says it’s right and that imputation is right because God’s gospel says it’s right. But God is three persons with one unchanging being, one “nature” if you will. This means that the God-man WILL judge by what He has said is right, and what God says is right because of the revealed nature of the God who said it. The God-man will judge by “righteousness”, and that means this one specific sacrifice and no other sacrifice.

Yes, both pagans and Jews are quick to shed blood. (Rom 3) But no other blood is the gospel. Only the blood of the human who is also God, only the blood of that one person who came to save a specific people, will count for anything at the judgment. Jesus will not suddenly reverse Himself and say “nothing prevents me from repenting now”. He will say “I never knew you” to all who are ignorant of the gospel.

(John 7:24) Judge not by appearance. Jesus will judge by the gospel: Romans 2:16. There are many who sing “Nothing but the blood” who sincerely believe “nothing but the blood and my faith”.

Not by our standards: not “though he signed up with Arminians, he didn’t sign with ECT”, not “though he signed up with Catholics, he didn’t sign with the process no foresight gospel”. Not “he spoke some truth” so I better call him brother. Rather, he did not submit to the gospel, and remains in debt to do all the law.

Since God’s thoughts are not our thoughts, we need to “think God’s thoughts after Him”, and to do that we need to study the gospel. None of us yet perfectly knows and understands the gospel: to know all about the work, we would need to know all about the person; to know all about the person, we would need to know all about the work. Instead of saying “I know it all”, let us say instead: I need to know more. The reason we lack full assurance in the gospel is that we are not yet as skilled in the gospel as we need to be, nor are we as committed to LOVE IT as we need to.

II Thess 2:9 The coming of the lawless one is according to the working of Satan, with all powers, signs, and lying, and with all unrighteous deception among those who perish, because they DID NOT RECEIVE THE LOVE OF THE TRUTH, that THEY MAY BE SAVED and for this reason God will send them strong delusion, that they should believe the lie.

For some, the no-foresight god of the general baptists is a strong delusion; the strongest delusion I know is the Calvinist who speaks peace to the idolatry of the Arminian god.

“Barebones” may sound good. But it is a terrible thing to have people name the name of Jesus Christ and think they are saved when they do not yet even know anything about the rightousness of God. It is a severe thing to claim that Philip baptised the Ethiopian without telling him about the GOSPEL promise:

“He shall see His seed, He shall prolong His days, and the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper His hand. He shall see the travail of His soul, and be satisfied. by His knowledge My righteous Servant shall justify many For he shall bear their iniquities. Therefore I will divide Him a portion with the great…

The “barebones gospel” of Arminians  leaves out the glory of the God-man bringing to freedom all those for whom He was punished. It says that nothing stops God from denying His own justice/pleasure and submitting to the justice/pleasure of the creature. It says that justification depends not only on the travail of the Son but on the faith of some of the sinners for whom the Son was in travail.

It is too “barebones” to necessarily need to exclude such an unrighteous explanation. Sometruth yes, but not “gospel”. So just maybe you can say that the God-man bore iniquities without getting into the question if those iniquities are further borne by some sinners.

Is “lordship” the thing you add later to the barebones gospel? Not many Calvinists would agree. Yet these very same Calvinists agree that you can add later “the lordship of God in salvation” to the Arminian gospel by which they claimed that they were saved.

Shame on us, they posture, beating their chests to pose as the publican, we “doctrinal experts” do “growth by transfer” but those good old Arminians they sure can make a lot of Christians with their gospel! These Calvinists are adamant that the “nonlordship” gospel preached these days results in lots of false converts, but they think that the good old “gospel” preached by good old Arminians like Moody and Tozer and Wesley produced more converts to the true Christ than Calvinism ever did.

And my question: unless you are proud of your humility, why do you waste time on the “Calvinist” explanation when you could still be preaching the same Jesus you believed in when you got saved? If the “Calvinist” explanation is not about Jesus, then why does your pride insist on quibbling about it?

Why R. C. Sproul is Baffled

June 25, 2009

Sproul wrote the preface to James White’s The Potter’s Freedom (which has the easy job of proving that Geisler is a fool, but also has some good exegetical stuff, especially in Hebrews and particular atonement).

Sproul begins his preface: “I often find myself baffled as I consider the state of the church in our day.” Sproul ends his preface: “It seems that while we are all born Pelagians, most of us are reborn as semi-Pelagians. That is, we come into the kingdom as Arminians.”

That of course explains Sproul’s bafflement. He has a wrong assumption, that Arminians are Christians. I am not saying that God cannot save an Arminian. I am saying that God saves His sheep from being Arminian. Their ceasing to be Arminians is not why they are saved. But those who have been saved have ceased to be Arminians, or else they are not saved.

One problem is the “us” here. Sproul thinks he’s an “evangelical”. Evangelicals are unsaved. I am not part of any “us” which is “reborn as semi-pelagians”. That “us” is headed to destruction unless they are converted to the true gospel and to the true Christ.

Sproul still tolerates Arminianism because he still believes the lie of Arminianism. If you know him, please talk to him about the gospel. In the meanwhile, what about YOU: how much do YOU still believe the lie of Arminianism?

Think about it. “Reborn”. Who does the birthing? God does. Does God birth us with a lie and keep us in that lie? When that lie denies the very righteousness of God?


Not What Kind of Faith, but What Kind of Righteousness

June 25, 2009

Many preachers sound like they thin k faith is the righteousness God accepts.
Of course it is good to talk about what kind of faith is necessary. But before we do that, we better talk about the object of faith, and better be clear that faith is not in faith but in the righteousness of Christ.

The “new perspective” tells us that Jews (converted and unconverted) never thought that they had to be perfect or that their works were meritorious. (For the most sophisticated version of this argument, see Roman Catholic WTS trained Robert Sungenis). This is partly right. Unconverted Jews DID THINK THAT they could be accepted without merit and with imperfect works. This is what they called “grace”. It is what many “Calvinists” today call grace.

But God is BOTH just and the Savior. This is the only God there is. God has obtained a perfect righteous by the obedience and death of the God-man and God gives His loved elect every blessing on the basis of the merit, the righteousness of our God and Savoir Jesus Christ. Even the gift of “precious faith” comes from this righteousness. (II Peter 1:1)

Faith not only comes from the righteousness. True faith has as its object this righteousness. Faith in one’s regeneration is idolatry, if the object of that is not what Christ did in His death and obedience.

The righteousness of God is not faith, not even faith with the right object, the correct doctrine, and in the true God. To believe the true God’s gospel is to believe that faith and works are not the righteousness, but the fruit and effect of righteousness.

The new perspective has a distinction between works and ceremonial works. This is not new to Dunn or Garlington: it was what the Roman Catholics tried to tell John Calvin. Moo and Westerholm and Schreiner and many others have shown that all works of any kind are being excluded in the antitheses in Gal 2:16, in Eph 2:8-9, in Romans 9:11–(the children not being born, nor having done any good or evil, that the purpose of election might stand, not of works but of him who calls), in Romans 11:6 (if by grace, it is no longer of works; if of works, no longer grace.)

The contrast is not only with ceremonial works, since God justifies THE UNGODLY WHO DO NOT WORK. Romans 4 is confirmed by Romans 9:30-31. The problem is not that some sinners try to get righteousness from the law the wrong way, where others sinners obey or believe the right way.

The problem is that no sinner gets righteousness by obeying the law anyway, and that elect sinners get righteousness by imputation. And what is imputed is not faith and works, but what Christ did. By that obedience the many are constituted righteous. Romans 5:19

But that is “forensic”, not transformational.. So the new perspective attempts to ignore (but not deny, especially for the “getting in” part) the forensic part and focus on the “live of faith” transformational part. But God’s law and verdict cannot be ignored, and so the new perspective ends up teaching a future justification (never in this life) based on perseverance.

Perseverance is what the new perspective thinks God counts as the righteousness. No problem, no merit, we are still Reformed, they say, since God is the one who makes us persevere.

There are major problems here. 1. The new perspective is persevering in idolatry. His faith may continue, but the object of his faith is not the righteousness obtained by Christ’s fulfillment and satisfaction of the law, by which Christ perfected the saints. (Heb 10:14). 2. The righteousness is what Christ did, not what Christ is doing in us now. What Christ is doing in those who truly are submitted to the gospel is vital and necessary, but is not necessary for righteousness.

Christ is the end of the law for righteousness for all who believe. Romans 10:4. Christ’s finished work has finished what the law required for all the elect. That Christ was the person He was made His work the complete satisfaction it was!

Submission to the true gospel is not the righteousness. Quickening, faith, repentance, conversion are all the effects and fruit of the righteousness. But it is not possible to preach this or remember it if one does not preach that Christ died only for the elect. And even if one does preach that Christ died only for the elect, if one makes what God does IN those elect to be some of the righteousness, some of the object of faith, then one has rebelled against the rule of Galatians 6:14-16 that we are to glory only in the cross and to judge by that.

Since the unconverted do nothing but sin all the time, certainly there is less sin in those whom God has made to submit to the gospel. But this less sinning, this obeying, this submitting, none of it is the righteousness which God accepts as the reason for justifying one person (in the future) rather than another. At that future judgment of works, those who have already been resurrected and justified will not be judged;the unjustified workers shall be condemned. All their works will be judged as evil works

If faith means a life of works,.then Romans 11:6 means if works, not works, and if faith, not faith. But nobody cannot explain away the Biblical distinction between faith and works. Faith has an object not itself: faith receives righteousness, even the receiving of righteousness is the fruit of righteousness. Faith is not a work. The reason faith is not a work is not because faith is a gift of God. God causes and gives it to people so that they work also. (Eph 2:10 workmanship)

The reason faith is not a work is that faith has as it object the gospel of imputed righteousness. Faith is “unto” righteousness. Faith receives righteousness. Faith receives the atonement, the reconciliation. (Romans 5:11).

The new perspective seems to think that God forgives because of a combination of His grace and the sinner’s perseverance. Some sinners are more forgivable than others, because some sinners persevere more than others. This is self-righteousness.

God is just to forgive the elect sinners God loves because Christ obtained a righteousness which demands that these sinners be forgiven. If these sinners are not forgiven, then God is not just and the work of Christ hasn’t enough value. Every sinner God forgives will be given knowledge, commitment, faith and perseverance to abide in the true gospel.

No, the Jews (converted and unconverted) never thought they could keep the law perfectly. And yet those who were unconverted ignorantly tried to establish their own righteousness. (Romans 10:3) They said that they would be saved not by the merit of their works but by God’s “grace” accepting their works as righteousness established. They had not submitted to the righteousness revealed in the gospel. They say 1. our works God causes us to do. 2. our works are not merit. 3. our works are faith 4. God’s “grace” accepts our works as the righteousness required.

But God never has and never will accept anything as that required for justification but that GOD-righteousness produced by the God-man when He finished the work of reconciliation by His death and resurrection. Even though God works in the hearts of the elect to transform them, that transformation is a result of what Christ’s finished work. The work in the elect is the necessary result of the work for the elect. The work in the elect is not perfect, and is not the righteousness God requires.

The righteousness of faith is not faith. The righteousness of faith is the object of faith; the message to be believed is about what Christ did to satisfy the covenant will of God by which Christ the “Servant” did all that was necessary to merit every blessing for all those He was given. (John 17; Hebrews 10; Ephesians 1).

At this point, if I had been reading this when I was a proud lost Calvinist, I would have asked: do you mean “the covenant of grace”, and are you a “covenant theologian?”. I was easily distracted by many many things, and only the grace of God undistracted me so I attended to the important questions and stopped chasing all the others. I don’t care what you call it (God’s law, God’s covenant of redemption, the suretyship, whatever), but I know that the only true peace and joy found in this world is to be found by resting in what Christ did and not in my resting, not in my abiding..

The issue is not if Luther is wrong. The issue is that Christ did something for the elect and that this something that Christ did is itself (without anything added) all that is needed to guarantee and entitle the elect to every spiritual blessing in Christ. The blessings of faith, of commitment, of works, of perseverance are all results of that obedience of Christ, by which he made an end of the law for the elect FOR RIGHTEOUSNESS.

What Did You Learn When You Claim to Have Been Converted?

June 25, 2009

Question: what new doctrine did you learn from the Scripture that convinced you that you had never heard the “true gospel” before?

“>mark: I could say that all the Bible is new to me. I could say seeing that the Galatian heretics were five pointers. I could say Hebrews 9:14 on “dead works”, or I Peter 1:22-25 on conversion and regeneration. But in the interests of time, let me give you several verses from Romans.

First, Romans 1:17, I saw that the gospel reveals more than “sovereign grace”: it reveals a “righteousness”. Before when I said that freewiller Mennonites I had joined were saved by sovereign grace, I was teaching grace but not righteousness. I was saying that sovereign grace would save people even if those people continued all their life not to believe the gospel. I made the gospel a license for rebellion against the gospel.

Grace would save them even if they didn’t submit to the doctrine of substitutionary atonement. (It is quite common now for Mennonites to reject “penal atonement” in any form: even the plain clothes conservative Mennonties do it.)

Next: Romans 3:18: no fear before either eyes. I was busy teaching “no performance, no fear”. I know now that God will not deny Himself in saving sinners. I learned that God is so perfect that His demand for a perfect righteousness cannot be satisfied except by what happened outside of us at the cross, and that God will not save those who won’t submit to that truth. The only ones who submit to that truth are those whom God causes to submit to it.

>Next: Romans 6:17-20. How can I talk about that in short space? The context is Romans 5: we are not first condemned for our sinful conduct but by imputation of Adam’s sin. Even so, in Romans 6, we are not saved by OUR BETTER LIVING. We are saved by imputed DEATH: the elect for whom Christ died also died with Him, and we must reckon on this as the only condition of salvation.Next: Romans 7:5-6. I learned that you cannot use works to get assurance because works done without assurance are not pleasing to God. In John 3:17-20, the Pharisees like Nicodemus got assurance from their works. But the light of the gospel exposes our “good works” as sins.

>Next: Romans 8:13. “Put to death the deeds” includes putting to death assurance by works and blessing by works. Before I had read this text only in terms of morality. Certainly we are to be moral. But morality can be done in the flesh: in the context of Romans, preaching the gospel to yourself every day is essential in “mortification”. So I can no longer use Romans 8:13 to create doubt and legal fear in Christians. Nor James and I John.

“>To doubt that you are saved because of what you did or didn’t do is to take the focus off of what Christ did. While we need to be warned of a “dead faith”, it is not “double talk” for me to deny that assurance is from the cross and not from our “mortification”. Living by the gospel is confidence in the gospel. So I can agree that Christians have sinful doubts and degrees of assurance, but I no longer think that we get assurance ALSO by works.

“>Goodness! Next text will be my last for now: Romans 10:1-3. I saw that Arminians and Calvinists who would not submit to the righteousness of God (but only to grace and no performance), ALSO inherently were trying to “establish their own righteousness”. They were “neonomians”.

“> While I spent all my time talking about “new covenant”, I failed to see the main thing: God demanded one performance–the only solution to my lack of performance was the death of Christ. Our faith does not satisfy God. Death in hell does not satisfy God. But the death of Christ satisfies God. Those imputed with that death will be saved. Those who don’t know or submit to that gospel won’t be saved.

We must learn to have our perspective agree with God’s perspective. It is not true from  that faith is the difference between saved and lost. Faith in the false gospel leaves people lost. Faith in the true gospel is a result of the righteousness, the death of the cross for the elect.

We can’t know that we are elect before we believe the gospel (no matter how much “repentance” we produce) But we can know, and must know that the difference between saved and lost is not faith, but the righteousness revealed in the gospel. We can and must know that Christ established a righteousness for the elect (without knowing we are elect!) by God’s imputing their sins to Christ and that God imputes the death of Christ to the elect (without knowing yet if we are elect )

>Arminians say that we need to know that we were involved in the imputation. So they then say that everybody was imputed with the death, but that the death does nothing unless the sinner does something.

“>People are lost because of sins even if they never hear of Christ. But those who hear of Christ but deny that Christ’s death is what saves also deny Christ and are condemned for that sin also. This includes the Galatian heretics who believed in the resurrection and in particular redemption.

“>The context of John 3:17-20 is Nicodemus. Before I was converted, I was like Nicodemus; he was sincere and moral but only regeneration can cause a man to bring his “good deeds” into the light and call them dung.

> Question: You re-write you conversion history every time you change your doctrinesmark: no. I do not “reinterpret” my old conversion. I repudiate that old conversion as more wicked than the immorality of the non-religious. I changed Gods. Before I was an idolater who insisted on my own standard of who was saved and lost. I was not submitted to God . I took sides with myself against God.

“> I am not “re-narrating” my conversion. I am denying that I was converted when I trusted the Arminian gospel.

“>We dare not be contemptuous of “doctrine” and “theology”. Knowing God is learning to honor His glory in His every attribute; universal atonement dishonors every attribute of God. We are saved as long as believe the gospel. If we do not continue to believe the gospel, we were never saved.

“>Question: must a person wait until he is absolutely sure of salvation before he starts to obey the clear precepts of God’s word?

>mark: We cannot do our duty without assurance, cannot acceptably work without assurance. Those who say duty can be done without assurance must ignore what Heb 9:14 and Romans 7:5-6 say about “fruit unto death”.

;”>I do not have “absolute” assurance. Assurance has degrees, and depends on Bible study and attention to the gospel. But the difference between assurance by works and assurance by the gospel is not a matter of degree, but a matter of kind. Those two kinds of assurance are in competition. Assurance by works tries to say that the ground of the gospel is not works but that the ground of assurance IS…works.

“>I John 3 explains that Cain murdered Abel because Cain’s doing his duty was not accepted. He could not do his duty because he was not justified. Without faith it is IMPOSSIBLE to please God.

“>Thus we must oppose the “modesty and humility” that lacks assurance and says “I don’t doubt God but doubt me”. When you say that, then you must still think “me” has something to do with saving you. Glory only in the cross.

Election causes to believe, but Election not the Gospel?

June 25, 2009

Ephesians 3:9-11 –to make all (even gentiles) see what is the fellowship/union of the mystery, which from the beginning of the ages has been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ. To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places would be known by the called out elect the manifold wisdom of God According to the permanent purpose which He decreed in Christ Jesus our Lord

Ephesians 2:4-5 –But God, who is rich in mercy, for His great love wherewith He loved us, even when we were dead in sins, has quickened us together with Christ…

We often hear the phrase “election is not salvation” so that “election is UNTO salvation”. Or that “election is not the gospel” but that election is what causes people to believe the gospel. In this essay I want to criticize these often-stated contrasts. Of course the word “salvation” can be used in different senses.. But if the denial that “election is not salvation” is saying that the righteousness Christ earned is not for the elect until the elect believe, it makes no difference if you say that the righteousness was earned only for the elect or also for others besides the elect: In any case, it is not the righteousness which is the cause of believing. The effect of this is that Christ’s work of obedience is not the ONLY cause of salvation, so that the work of the Spirit in the sinner causing the sinner to believe becomes not a result but a condition of Christ’s work.

This false gospel will end up not glorying in the cross but putting the Spirit’s work in the sinner in the determinative place. And this false gospel, in which Christ‘s work is not the cause, will also say that “election is not the gospel” but only that which makes sinners believe the gospel.

The texts I have quoted from Ephesians will not support leaving election out of the gospel and salvation. For us to think about these verses, let us first think about time. Another common denial is that God knows about or cares time. Instead of saying that God is both outside time and inside time, the typical procedure is to deny that God is concerned with order and sequence and time.

For example, it is taught by some that people are regenerate a long time before they know or believe the gospel. Many Calvinists  teach that the sheep are no longer under God’s wrath even while these sheep now continue in ignorance of the gospel. In other words, they teach that wrath is removed at regeneration and that continued unbelief of the gospel is not a manifestation of God’s wrath.

Other Calvinists deny God’s concern with time in order to teach that God’s wrath is never ever on the elect. When I point out that this logic would deny the reality of the Trinitarian wrath of God satisfied by the God-man, the response is that we do not understand God’s relationship to time.

This kind of thinking is common: “we cannot understand God’s relationship to time, therefore your understanding of God’s relationship to time is incorrect, and our understanding of God’s relationship to time is correct.” And this affirmation is founded on another: “we cannot understand God’s relationship to sin, therefore reprobation is conditioned on sin, instead of sin being a result of reprobation.” I want to discuss this last statement in some detail, but I will give you a more correct third view right now.

It is wrong to say that reprobation is conditioned on sin: both those elected and those reprobated are sinners–if sin were the cause/condition of reprobation, then all sinners would be reprobated. The reason for reprobation is like the reason for election. God’s justice is no less sovereign than God’s grace.

If we were only thinking about God’s  sovereign justice, then there would be no reason for either election or reprobation. But the texts in Ephesians remind us that there is more to know about God than His sovereign justice: His glory is also revealed in His sovereign love and in His sovereign wrath. To know His name is to know Him as the one who has mercy on some and who hardens others.

I deny that reprobation is conditioned on sin. But this does not mean that I think that sin is conditioned on reprobation, so that God only makes sinners (ordains and predestines them to sin) in order to reprobate them. As a more consistent supralapsarian, I teach not only that sin is included in God’s purpose (so that God is not REACTING to sin, not even logically) but also that God’s very first concern is to manifest His glory in discriminating between sinner and sinner, so that election in Christ from the beginning is an election of sinners and so that reprobation outside Christ from the beginning is a reprobation of sinners.

God does not wait for sinners to sin, and then decide to pass some of them by. In the very purpose to elect and to reprobate for His glory, God determines to elect some sinners and reprobate some sinners.

BOTH election and reprobation from the outset have God as their subject and sinners as their objects. God’s choice is the first thing. Sin is not the first thing, and then God reacts. Neither is creation the first thing, and then God reacts. Sin is necessary if God is to choose between sinners. Only because of God’s choice to choose between sinners, does God ordain sin.

Enemies of the Cross Proud of Their —-

June 25, 2009

Philippians 3:18-19 For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ: whose end is destruction, whose god is their belly, and whose glory is their shame-who set their minds on earthly things.”

Notice first Paul’s weeping, his concern, his anguish, not only for those being persecuted, but also for those who are lost and are persecuting. I tell you weeping. Yes, opposition to the gospel has been predestined. Yes, God has excluded some sinners from salvation before they ever did anything bad (Romans 9). But that does not mean that God works in the means of reprobation in an identical way as God works in the means of salvation.

Nor does it mean that those who believe the true gospel should be indifferent about those who are ignorant or unsubmissive to the gospel. We can’t say: makes no difference to me if you walk away… Certainly we can’t be saying this about our spouses, our children, our parents. “Who cares anyway!” To think like that is not only “cultic” but is to give evidence of not being compelled by the love of God’s reconciliation (II Cor 5).

Love does not mean agreeing up front that ones we love are saved. But it does mean doing everything possible to live in a way that agrees with the gospel. And this means talking about the gospel, this means being willing to be questioned and tested, this means beseeching people to submit to the gospel. I tell you even weeping.

The reason I insist on talking about the gospel to the enemies of the cross is not only a macho thing to convince myself again that I believe the gospel or to persuade myself that I have courage. I must talk abut the gospel because the gospel is the only way that other people can be saved. Romans 1:16; I Cor 1:18. The doctrine of the gospel is itself the message with God’s power to save.

According to Phil 3:18-19, those who remain enemies of the cross will perish, will be destroyed.  Only God can save anybody, and God has not promised to save anybody without teaching that person the gospel. The promise of God is not to “all your children”, but to your children, as many as God will call”. Acts 2:39. God calls by the gospel. Not all who are externally called by the gospel are effectively called by God. But all who are effectually called by God are called by the gospel. (Romans 10:14-17).

The only way we can tell if our works are good fruit (instead of fruit unto death) is to make your calling and election sure. (II Peter 1) By what gospel were you called? Did the gospel you claim be called by talk about election?

Phil 3:18-19 is in contrast to 3:21. Their end is destruction; but our citizenship is already in heaven. Their end is destruction, but our end is transformation and immortality. They have their mind on earthly things; we are looking to heaven. When it says that they mind earthly things, this does not necessarily mean immoral things; it may only mean non-gospel things. It may mean somebody who thinks he used to be in this legalistic cult but is now focused on being a healthy and happy and productive member of the larger society. It may mean somebody who is in reaction to being in a group run by a guru and whose goal is to live on earth in open community.

Humanly speaking, these earthly things cause those in the “flesh”  to remain ignorant or submissive to the gospel. The glutton is not the only person who worships his belly. The preacher or the editor who will not preach the gospel and expose the false gospel in order to “keep my ministry and still have influence” is also serving his belly. His flesh may not look like the flesh of the preacher who openly teaches freewill and losing your salvation. But it’s still flesh.

Of course there is a distinction between doctrine and life, between gospel and walk. But people who have gospel doctrine will walk by that gospel. This does not mean that they are less sinful than those who teach the wicked lies of universal atonement and salvation conditioned on the sinner. But it does mean that they will love those who love the gospel, and that they will not knowingly fellowship with those who remain enemies of the cross..

Phil 3:16 Let us walk by the same rule. Let’s not practice the ungodly practice of judging only by outward appearance or by our own standard of saved and lost. Without the imputed righteousness revealed in the gospel, the person who commits one sin is no better off than the person who commits more than one sin.

It is legalism to think that we are converted because other people are less moral than we think we are. It is legalism to think that we are converted because we think we are less legalistic than we think other people are. II Corinthians 10:12 “For we dare not class ourselves or compare ourselves with those who commend themselves by themselves. But they, measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves are not wise.” Notice what the verse says: WE are NOT like THOSE people. THEY have an unrighteous standard of judgment. We are not like them. We are not in the same class as them. We judge by the gospel. We judge ourselves and them by the gospel. Even so, in Philippians 3. Paul contrasts the citizens of heaven with the enemies of the cross.

Most commentators on Philippians 3:18-19 focus on the word “belly” and assume that it means immorality and greed, not only the desire for too much food but the lust for money and sinful pleasures. They do not connect “belly” here to the desire to have one’s own righteousness from the law, even though that has been the topic of paragraphs just before. But the lust of the flesh is most subtle when it comes to legalism.

The trouble with “taste not touch not” is when people think that their tasting not and touching not brings them some blessing which the righteousness of Christ could not bring. There is nothing wrong with tasting not and touching not. Indeed, God’s law teaches us not to taste and touch what is unlawful. Simply because we do not agree with another person about what God’s law teaches is no excuse to call that person a legalist. But a person is a legalist, even if he has a right interpretation about what God’s law teaches, if that person thinks that his obeying that law brings him a blessing which the righteousness of Christ did not cause.

The unlawful desires of the flesh are most subtle when it comes to legalism. The law of God should not be blamed for legalism, even though God has predestined the abuse of the law. When a person thinks that his not tasting and his not touching brings him blessing, that person is not only a legalist but also an antinomian, because that person is thinking that God is satisfied with something less than perfect obedience and satisfaction of the law.

The only way that God can be (and IS) pleased with the good works of a Christian is that the Christian knows that these good works are blessings from Christ’s righteousness, not a supplement to Christ’s righteousness. And this distinction is not only something that God knows, or only something that smart “Reformed” theologians know. Every Christian knows that Christ’s righteousness is the only merit of every love-gift from God.

The sin which deceives us all by nature is that WE DESIRE WHAT WE PRODUCE TO BE OUR SALVATION. We will give God’s “grace” the credit for helping us produce it. We have no problem saying that “particular election” is the reason we produced it. But, like Cain, we want to take what we produced and offer it to God as some small part of what God will accept it as righteousness.

We don’t mind of God has to produce some righteousness also to supplement it and “make up the difference”. We don’t even mind if God is simply inscrutably unjust and “sovereignly” decides to not remember his justice and his threats against those who do not believe the gospel. But the one thing we want, the thing which the people who killed Jesus wanted, is the one thing Cain wanted, and that is to have God accept what we have produced and what we sincerely (even if ignorantly) offered to God.

I have been told : you are not going to tell me that I am lost just because I do not believe in definite atonement. And then they say: I know what I used to be, and I know that I am different now, that I am not what I used to be, not only morally but religiously. Now I have faith. Now I know it’s all Christ. Now I know it’s not works. Now I know it’s grace. And I just don’t even need to get into this question of who Jesus died for. And then, in contradiction to that, they say: I know he died for me because I was a sinner.

And I ask: did Christ die for all sinners? And again they say: I don’t need to get into that. And I ask: how do you know that Christ died for you? Does the grace to believe come from the death of Christ or from some other place? And they say: I don’t need to know where I got faith because I got it. And then I ask: faith in which Christ, the one whose death saves or the one who died for those who will be lost? And then they say: pharisee, cultist, enemy…..

They do not like Cain try to kill me when God respects one gospel and rejects all other gospels. But the motive for them calling me a pharisee is the same as Cain’s motive for murdering Abel. I John 3:12 explains: “why did he murder him? Because his own works were evil and his brother’s righteous.”

As the false gospel can’t see that “belly” in Philippians 3 is more than morality, neither can the false gospel understand why one person’s work are evil and another person’s work are not evil. They cannot understand that it is evil to condition salvation and blessing on works. Indeed, despite talk about election and regeneration and -in many cases- even about definite atonement, those with the false gospel still judge saved and lost by works instead of judging works by saved and lost.

Why? First, there is the ugly unheroic desire to “keep one’s ministry”, to compromise the gospel message in order to bring along a mixed congregation. Life is easier when one is not being confrontational about the gospel. Life is easier when one can first agree that all who believe in the deity of Christ are saved. Romans 16:18 “For those who are such do not serve our Lord Jesus Christ but their own belly, and by smooth words and flattering speech deceive the hearts of the simple.” I know this kind of thing is a reality; I have been in many congregations where the clergyman constantly flatters people by telling them that they are not homosexuals, not liberals, not easy believers etc. like other people are. Even the scolding kind of preachers can help their people to flatter themselves: “we must be all right because we sit here week after week and take this scolding like we need to.”

But I don’t think that the short-term pleasures of insincerity and compromise explain all the meaning of “belly” here. I don’t want to dismiss that of course. I know that when I was a lost Calvinist (for 20 years), I liked to flatter myself about not flattering myself. But I do think the “belly problem” goes deeper. The problem is that we as sinners in rebellion against God and God’s gospel like what we produce and want to offer it to God as some small reason that God blesses us.

We DESIRE that what we PRODUCE will be accepted by God. And God won’t have it. And true Christians won’t have it. And when they won’t have it, those who are lost but who profess to be Christians get mad like Cain did. Just before they rush off to have fellowship with those who will say that they are saved because of what they have produced, these lost religionists make a point of accusing those who won’t speak peace to them: YOU are the elder brother, YOU are the pharisee, YOU are the legalist!

The next phrase in Philippians 3:19 says: “whose glory is their shame”. The enemies of the cross glory in that of which we should be ashamed. We should be ashamed of all that we produce and rest only in what Christ produced before Christ sat down at the right hand on high. Instead, all of us before we are converted (if that happens) want to give God credit for helping us the creature to produce something which then obligates God the creator to save the creature who has produced it.

Most of us when we were lost didn’t call what we produced “works”. Many of us when we were lost even sincerely believed that God predestined us to have faith. But we still DESIRED to still count faith in a Satanic-produced gospel instead of the gospel revealed in the Bible.

What is all this concern about not being ashamed of the gospel? What is all this talk of glorying in things we should be ashamed of? We are not homosexuals who glory in our homosexuality. We were never murderers, or even if we were, we never gloried in it. But Paul learned both a shame and a glory which is not natural, which none of us are born with. Paul learned to glory in, to exult in, to boast in the cross, not in the flesh. He explains this in Galatians 6:14 and in Philippians 3:3 and in Romans 6.

Romans 6 is NOT saying: don’t worry about easy-believing true doctrine, because the bottom line is that Christians “reign” by now being able to produce a quality-righteousness. Romans 6:17 says: “you WERE SLAVES of sin, yet you obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine to which you were delivered.” This does not mean: were liars and thieves and never ashamed of lying and stealing. Yes, there are some who may not be even ashamed of those things. But such things were always shameful to Nicodemus (who would not come to the light lest his good deeds be exposed as evil deeds, John 3:19). Such things were always shameful to Paul, who had been zealous according to the law.

Romans 6:21 “What fruit did you have then in the things of which you are now ashamed?”

After one believes the gospel, one no longer remains an enemy of the cross, is no longer ashamed to say that Christ on the cross only died for the elect and that this death is the only difference between converted and lost. A lot of people claim to be converted who will not say that, who think that such a thing does not need to be said and should not be said. Why?

I am not of course saying that lost religionists are  insincere people who want to speak smooth words to keep everybody happy. When Paul was lost, he was not such a person. He was too zealous for that When I was lost, I was not such a person. My problem was that I desired for God and others to approve what I produced, and so I approved what they produced.

For many walk, and I tell you now even weeping, who are enemies of the cross, whose god is their belly, and whose glory is their shame. I was such a person. I was proud of my Calvinism, proud of what I thought God had given me that God had not given other Christians. Even though I knew I could not produce the righteousness God required , I worshipped another God who would save sinners without any righteousness and without any knowledge of His righteousness.

When God delivers us to the true gospel, we will no longer be pluralist about the old gospels. We will be ashamed of that in which we once gloried. We will not continue to try to praise the holy God of the Bible for saving us by means of a false gospel. We will not keep up the lie that we were still Arminians after we were converted. We will not keep up the lie that we were converted. We will no longer glory in OUR shame. Not Their shame. Not Your shame. My shame.

I have taken many words. And the second word you must know now even if I didn’t say it. Paul said it back up in chapter 3. The word is dung. Before we were converted, we thought our dung didn’t stink. See how bad our situation was!. We were PROUD OF OUR DUNG. We gloried in our…dung. We did not glory in the lies we told, we did not glory in the things we stole, we did not glory in our disrespect to our parents. But we gloried in the idea that Jesus died  for everybody but that only some people (like us) would be saved.

You are not going to tell me that a little thing like if Jesus died for everybody is such a big deal. That’s what we said when we were lost. Even when our own personal preference was to say that Jesus didn’t die for everybody, when we were lost we still didn’t think it was a big deal.

Look at what Paul called his former religion. And that is what we too will call the false gospels we used to believe. We will not remain so delicate and gentle with ourselves. The big lie will stop.

We will stop saying that our lost relatives are not lost. We will stop saying that we were not lost when we were lost. When we were lost, we were “free from righteousness”. We were servants of sin, working in vain in a religion which is at enmity with God and with which God is at enmity.

It is simply not enough to “move on” to that righteousness which Christ obtained. I must count the dung to be dung if I want to be found in Christ. When I find myself in Christ, I will no longer be able to stomach the old gospel of which I am now ashamed. I won’t be able to stomach it in other people either. That doesn’t mean that I hate those people. It means that when those people rely on the old false gospel I used to believe, that I will not agree that they are saved because they believe that old gospel. Rather I must say that them believing that old gospel is evidence that they are not yet converted. If I love them, I will tell them that. I now tell you weeping…

Simply Leaning on Your Leaning

June 25, 2009

Our children are confused today because many people use the name “Jesus” to describe their hope, but they do not describe the same person. Jesus Christ in the Bible is described as a Savior of an elect people who He calls out. But our children can easily be confused by those who say that Jesus also died ineffectively for other sinners who are not the sheep.

Is it sufficient for our children to have implicit faith? Can they say: I don’t know who this Jesus is or what He did, but I trust Him, whoever He is and whatever He did. Can they be saved through trusting Jesus even they don’t know which Jesus? Is it converting faith for them to say that they agree with whatever their parents say about Jesus? Is it converting faith for them to say that they accept as true what Jesus says, even though they do not yet know what Jesus says?

I will do whatever you say to do to be saved. If you say work, I will work. If you say, make a decision, I will make a decision. The reason that people encourage this kind of implicit faith is that their faith is still in faith: Instead of leaning on a wall or something solid, they are leaning on their leaning.

Instead of saying that Jesus died only for some and that this makes all the difference, they try to say INSTEAD that Jesus died for all “who believe in Him” and thus make the believing much more important than whatever it is that Jesus did. After all, Jesus may or may not have done all that He did for everybody, we can’t say, we won’t say, so therefore we think we can trust Jesus and be agnostic about what He did or didn’t do. This is because we think our faith is ultimately more important than the object of our faith. So our faith can have different objects, or no defined doctrinal object at all, and still we think our faith makes all the difference.

Faith in faith not only avoids the offense of agreeing with Jesus about election. Faith in faith is a denial of election. It says that not election but faith is what matters. And to try to prove this, we are reminded that nobody knows if they are elect before they have faith. But faith in the gospel is not faith in one’s own election. Faith in the gospel agrees first that Christ died as a substitute for the elect, and then faith in Christ agrees to trust for oneself this specific Christ and this specific way of salvation. Faith in the gospel agrees to exclude faith itself as the cause of salvation. Faith in the gospel agrees that faith itself is caused by what Christ did.

I Cor 15: If Christ is not raised, your faith is vain. It doesn’t matter how much faith you may have, if it is not objectively true that Jesus rose again. Your faith does not make Jesus rise from the dead. Nor does your lack of faith prove that Jesus did not rise from the dead. What Jesus did is done, regardless of your faith.

Romans 4:25 explains that Jesus was raised because of our justification. The justification of the elect is objective, even before the elect have faith. The non-justification of the reprobate is objective, no matter which counterfeit Jesus the reprobate have faith in. Reprobation is not conditioned on unbelief, because reprobation is God’s decision not to give faith.

But what if our children tell us: we just believe on Jesus, and we are neutral on this question if Jesus died for everybody or only for the elect? We must say there is only one Jesus, and we have no permission to believe in counterfeits. A Jesus who did not die only for the elect and who did not die for everybody, is a lot like Santa Claus: such a Jesus does not exist.

There are many complicated things about Jesus that we do not understand, but one thing we can understand is that it is his death which saves. We understand that this means that everybody for whom Jesus died  will be saved. We understand that this means that everybody Jesus didn’t die for won’t be saved. We can’t be neutral about Jesus dying only for some, because we can’t be neutral about Jesus being the one who really saves. Our faith does not save. We must put our faith in the real Jesus or be still lost in our sins.

the church not our children

June 25, 2009

Augustine: The field is the world, and the world is the church. Compel them to come into the covenant!

the persecuted: The earth is the Lord’s, and only the Lord can give life or compel.

Augustine: We bring both wheat and tares into the broad church, and the Lord in the end will show the difference.

the persecuted: The field is the world, and the church is NOT the world.the church is not even our children, unless the Lord who gave us our children by generation gives them to Jesus by regeneration.

Augustine: But original sin is removed, and regeneration given by infant baptism.

the persecuted: We trust neither ourselves nor your baptism.

Augustine: But the church has the power of the keys, to bring you in against your will, and to put you out as God wills.

the persecuted: We do not impute your will as God’s will

I begin with two questions. 1. Is there any ethnic dimension to the old covenants? paedobaptists have trouble conceding this, and obscure it by giving “descendants” three different meanings. 2. Is there any ethnic dimension to the new covenant? Dispensationalists have two parallel covenants, one for ethnic Israel.

The new covenant  denies  anymore ethnic dimension and does not endorse the baptism of  infants. By baptizing the infants of believers, but not infant grandchildren (to a 1000 generations!) of believers, paedobaptists stop halfway between the old and the new covenants. They put the “carnal seed” in the covenant but stop the ethnic inheritance at the second generation, where they wait again for the organic, life-giving power of the Spirit.

I am reminded of Jonathan Edwards refusing the second generation the Lord’s Supper.  The trouble with moderation is knowing when to stop! John Calvin wrote in the Institutes (IV:20:14): “There are some who deny that a commonwealth is duly framed which neglects the political system of Moses and is ruled by the common laws of nations.” Though Calvin kept a Judaized ethnic church with infant baptism to match the circumcision of the old covenant, he refused to order the magistrate by the old covenant standard.

We see how arbitrary people can be about what’s “basic continuity”. Paedobaptists may claim that Abraham has “only one true seed–the spiritual seed”. But they still can’t let go of the fact that Abraham’s “carnal seed” were circumcised. Therefore, they still think that DNA has something to do with water baptism. Those with DNA from Abraham were circumcised in the old covenant, and Paedobaptists say that those (in the first generation only) with DNA from Christian parents are to be baptized as infants.

Of course “biological descent from Abraham is never a sufficient reason for one to expect covenant blessings.” But paedobaptists say that Biological descent IS ONE REASON to expect blessing. WITHOUT biological descent, one had very little reason to expect blessing in the old covenant. I recall for you the rather strong language of Ephesians 2:12–“being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope…” The “new perspective on Paul” wants to read the Pharisee emphasis on physical descent and covenantal conditions (“works”) as simply perversion. “As if it were based on works”, they remind us (Romans 9:32).

The new perspective not only neglects the law aspect of the Mosaic covenant, but also fails to do justice to the “new individualism” of the new covenant. We do not get into the new covenant corporately by the cross, and then stay in individually by our works of faith, as NT Wright (with many others) would have it. Not all of Israel is Israel or ever was Israel. God chooses individuals to be justified at the last day, apart from any consideration either of their works or sins.

Of course serious paedobaptists do “believe in” church discipline. They “abhor a nominal church.” Conservative paedobaptists, as we have observed, only baptize infants of the first generation. Unlike liberal Anglicans like JI Packer who approve indiscriminate infant baptism, conservative presbyteries still attempt to determine if parents are believers before they will baptize their children. In this way, they would avoid a nominal church, even if those now-believing parents were infant baptized by Unitarian Anglicans or Roman Catholics.

The key word paedobaptists use against baptists here is “infallibly”. John Murray: “no organization of men is able infallibly to determine who are regenerate.” Of course. But then again, no presbytery can determine infallibly which parents are regenerate. And no preacher can infallibly preach God’s Word. And no magistrate can infallibly kill enemies. And no writer can infallibly free themselves of prejudice. We all know these things. How does that decide for us if the church includes the children of believers, or only those who profess regeneration?

Although more consistent paedobaptists practice infant communion, most paedobaptists have “criteria for adult membership”. The difference with baptists is finally not any less subjective claim to “certainty”; the difference is that paedobaptists have TWO kinds of church membership. So I ask you: does the new covenant have two kinds of membership?

It is simply not true that believer baptism encourage many rebaptisms during “crises of assurance.” It is true that believer baptism does advocate that those baptized have assurance of salvation. This assurance is not based on our feelings or works, or on our continuing to meet “covenant conditions”. I

“Feeling that one must match the experiences of others” is not an error isolated to baptists. Believer baptism is no solution to a crisis of assurance: only the death of Christ imputed can give us peace with God. But a crisis of assurance can be a good thing!. It’s not a good thing to “join the church” without ever having a crisis of assurance. But if we follow the advise of Charles Hodges and Horace Bushnell, then our children will always presume themselves to be Christians.

Of course I know many paedobaptists who do not agree with Bushnell and Hodge! Nevertheless they makes any crisis of assurance less likely by putting into the covenant infants who do not profess salvation. Are the children of Christians to think of themselves as Christians from the beginning? How does your local paedobaptist answer this question when he does infants? And for extra credit, ask: Are the infants of paedobaptists Christians in a better position than the infants of credobaptist Christians?

If someone has discovered that they did not become a Christian until after their “baptism”, then they are simply being obedient to God to disregard that previous ritual. You have to be prejudiced to call this “re-baptism”. Paedobaptists who do not practice infant communion shift the “crisis of assurance” to communion. Those who don’t know that they are justified are encouraged “to abstain”, at least in conservative paedobaptist groups.

It would be difficult for them to find this scruple in the old covenant with which they claim continuity. Passover was a family meal, with the children of the covenant included. But then again, the new covenant is different, and most paedobaptists’ practice of the Lord’s Supper shows that. Yet some of them continue to accuse us of “depriving” our infants of baptism. I am not without emotion about our topic: one thing I have attempt to deprive my two children is a distorted view of church and the new covenant.

In Acts of course there is no second generation “born of Christian parents”. From this silence, some even infer that the second generation must have been baptized in their infancy. I am not against inferring but I would like to be rational in doing so.  I  get from this silence that Acts knows nothing of two kinds of baptism.

But Acts is not silent about one important matter: we read the record there of many Jews, who having already received the circumcision symbol of the old covenant, do not rest content with that infant symbol, but are water baptized after they believe. I infer, not from silence but from this clear pattern of events, that water baptism and circumcision are not only different, but also that water baptism is not a substitute for circumcision. Circumcision has ended, not because water baptism has replaced it, but because Jesus has brought a new and life-giving covenant. Those who were circumcised were ALSO WATER BAPTISED.