Archive for November 2011

The Galatian false teachers Warn Those who Won’t work for Sanctification

November 30, 2011

Galatians 2:19 For through the law I died to the law, so that I now LIVE TO God. Galatians is not only about justification but also about how we live the Christian life.

Like the Galatian false teachers, those who say “sanctification” is by works are not saying that sin causes people to lose their justification. They are not at all denying imputation. They are simply saying that there’s MORE to the Christian life than justification.

They are merely saying that you need to be sanctified also, and unlike justification, they say, sanctification IS by works. Since both justification and sanctification are the results of “union” with Christ, they remind us, we need also a “righteousness of Christ” which is now found in us.

This of course means that salvation takes time. You can’t be justified at once, because you need to be sanctified to be justified, not of course that sanctification is the basis for justification, but “union with Christ” means that you have both, and for both you need time.

The Holy Spirit giving you righteousness on the inside will depend on your working at it, and for that you need the rest of your life. And since you are not on your death bed, you need to know that your judicial success on the last day depends on your working.

The Galatians parallel is real. Both parties in the dispute are open to the idea that some in the other party are lost, never justified, not even Christians. The “you can be sanctified also (by works)” party is saying sanctification is the evidence of justification. You are not justified by circumcision, but sanctification is by circumcision, and if you won’t get sanctified (more), then that means you were never justified, because both are the results of “real” union with Jesus “the person”.

Paul is the other person in the Galatians controversy. He also thinks some in the other party may not be Christians. If you get yourself circumcised to get a blessing, it doesn’t matter if it’s for justification or sanctification, “Christ will be of no profit to you.”. Don’t do it. I warn you. Don’t attempt to be sanctified by works.

If justification is by grace but sanctification is by works, then Christ died in vain for sanctification? No, that’s not what Galatians 2:21 says. If any part of salvation is by works, then Christ died to NO purpose.

Paul doesn’t seem to be a balanced “perspectives” kind of guy. He doesn’t agree to disagree about how sanctification works. Paul doesn’t say: well, some of us are just more “gospel awake” than others who tend to be a bit “legalistic”. Paul insists: if the extra stuff (sanctification, rewards, punishments) depends on law, then Christ died in vain.

Do You Want to be More “Relevant” in Your Sanctification?

November 29, 2011

Many “Calvinists” pay lip-service to “imputation”, but they brag about being “real relational” with Christ the “person” and think that’s more important than any dull “algorithm” about imputation. They are glad that they themselves are “relevant” when it comes to their “sanctification”. To them, the “Lordship of Christ” means “sanctification” by works, so they think they have an “opportunity” to succeed or fail (and thus to be rewarded or punished).

So that you will not think I doing a caricature of “Lordship preaching”, let me quote:

SBW: “When the preponderance of my thoughts about my daily life with God are only seen from the perspective of Christ’s substitution and my unworthiness to merit his favor, not only do I miss the joy and motivation of knowing my deeds today can actually please God, but I can be left with a distant, abstract, academic view of my relationship with him.”

Mark responds: Like the Galatian false teachers, the sanctification by works teacher does not deny justification by imputation. But he does minimize justification as only one “perspective”. We live in a day when there are no more antitheses. You can say one thing, say another thing that contradicts the first thing, and then put them together as different “perspectives”.

Notice the emphasis on “my thoughts”. No longer is the question about what “sanctification” means. Nor is the writer making biblical distinctions between sanctification by Christ’s blood and sanctification by Christ’s Spirit. Instead, he wants us to think about what we are thinking. In his pietistic disregard for that which is “academic” (“distant” he writes), he wants to get to what is “actual”. Of course he doesn’t say that justification isn’t actual but he wants us to be thinking less about that and more about what’s not virtual but “real”.

Again, I am not caricaturing. I quote SBW: “I can begin to assume that it is only the perfect Christ that “God sees” (as though it were all some visual reality and not a relational reality). It is as if I am now, at least theoretically, absent from the relationship and if not absent, in some way made so irrelevant that my thoughts and actions can neither please him or grieve him in any real way.”

Mark responds: At the end of the day of course, it doesn’t matter what we want. The salvation by works teacher wants to be relevant, at least in his own “sanctification”. And of course, the thrill of victory is never so sweet unless there was a possibility of the agony of defeat. So the teacher wants to be present in his relationship with God in such a way that his “sanctification” depends on him, even though he will of course give his god the credit for his not being like those who thought they were justified but were not because they were not “sanctified”.

As I say, it doesn’t matter if I myself don’t want to be relevant in that way. It doesn’t matter if I want “free grace” all the way down, even into my “sanctification”. Isn’t the “grace” that helps us to do what we need to do to be sanctified also grace? Why insist on “free grace”? Just because I happen to want “without a cause in me” grace, that doesn’t prove that such grace is biblical when it comes to “sanctification”.

Let me continue to quote from SBW: “Scripture tells us that his redeemed children not only have a very real opportunity to actually please him, but we also have an abiding opportunity to truly displease him. We are told that when Christians, who have been declared holy in justification, choose to engage in unholy behavior as they sin in their walk of sanctification, that they “grieve the Holy Spirit of God” (Ephesians 4:30).

Mark: If I respond by asking which Christian is not sinning in their walk, doesn’t that prove that I am antinomian? Unless this preacher is making some kind of distinction between sins that we choose to sin, and sins that we sin but don’t choose, it seems to me that we all grieve the Holy Spirit by our sin. So the “opportunity to fail” is not the difference in question here. (Even though we could dispute about the potential to fail being a good thing or not!)

The question in play here is what happens when we fail. What theory of “sanctification” is more likely to make us fail less? If I fail in my “sanctification” and that makes me scared of the second coming of Christ (rewards and punishments you know), will that make me work more so that I won’t fail so much? Thus the idea of the “beauty of gospel threats”.

But notice that our salvation by works teacher is not perfectionist. He’s not promising that he will work, but only telling us that the Bible says that you will get more “sanctification” IF you do work. And also he’s suggesting that people like me, who keep looking at the perfect obedience of Christ (the “visual reality”) will not be so keen to look at (and do something about) our own lack of obedience. We will be content (and even “relaxed”) to confess that our sins are forgiven for Christ’s sake, and then go on sinning.

So he’s not saying (out loud, at least) that he won’t go on sinning. He’s merely warning that an “unbalanced” focus only on imputation and justification will get in the way of sanctification by works. People who look at everything through the perfect record of Jesus most likely will go on sinning. And he is warning us about that, and not making a claim that his own working keeps him from sinning

I quote SBW: “When Paul is exhorting the Corinthians to pursue holiness in 1 Corinthians 10, he compares them to the Israelites following their exodus from Egypt. He goes to great lengths to say that they,like the Corinthians,were graciously chosen by God as his people through the merits of another, specifically the Christ “who followed them”. BUT the instructive warning of the passage is, that in spite of the fact that by grace they were considered God’s chosen people, “with most of them God was not pleased” (v.5). Their complaining and intemperance stirred God’s displeasure toward them to the point that he responded by ending their lives”.

Mark responds: Notice again what the teacher is not saying. Like the Galatian false teachers, he’s not saying that sin causes people to lose their justification. He’s not at all denying the imputation “equation”. He’s simply saying that there’s MORE to the Christian life than justification. You can be sanctified also, and unlike justification, that IS by works.

The Galatians parallel is real. Both parties in the dispute are open to the idea that some in the other party are lost, never justified, not even Christians. The “you can be sanctified also (by works)” party is saying sanctification is the evidence of justification. You are not justified by circumcision, but sanctification is by circumcision, and if you won’t get sanctified, then that means you were never justified, because both are the results of “real” union with Jesus “the person”.

Paul is the other person in the Galatians controversy. He also thinks some in the other party may not be Christians. If you get yourself circumcised to get a blessing, it doesn’t matter if it’s for justification or sanctification, “Christ will be of no profit to you.”. Don’t do it. I warn you. Don’t attempt to be sanctified by works.

Galatians 2:21 If justification is by grace but sanctification is by works, then Christ died in vain for sanctification? No, that’s not what Paul writes. If any part of salvation is by works, then Christ died to NO purpose.

Paul doesn’t seem to be a balanced “perspectives” kind of guy. He doesn’t say: we agree to disagree about how sanctification works. He doesn’t say: well, some of us are just more “gospel awake” than others who tend to be a bit “legalistic”. Paul insists: if the extra stuff (sanctification, rewards, punishments) depends on law, then Christ died in vain.

I quote SBW: “When I recognize and affirm that in my walk of sanctification, I can in one act please God and in another displease him, my daily relationship is moved away from any category of abstraction or theory, and I come to sense the biblical reality of truly relating to God on a daily basis.”

Mark responds: Again, we have the pietistic covert antithesis. Justification: abstract theory. Working to get sanctified: reality of truly relating.

Notice the big buts used by SBW: “Our actions cannot earn or keep a place in God’s family, BUT as the graciously adopted members of God’s family, we are not dealing with an equation, or a software algorithm, we are dealing with and relating to a Person. We want our children to know they are accepted by their parents and have a secure place in our family. BUT that does not mean that their behavior doesn’t bring very real pleasure or displeasure to their mom and dad. An accepted and settled place in the family is not the same thing as whether they will bring joy or pain to our hearts today.”

Mark responds: I don’t mind saying the obvious thing. Indeed, I rejoice to repeat this. IMPUTATION BRINGS ME JOY. I GET EXCITED ABOUT IMPUTATION. IMPUTATION PUTS JOY IN MY HEART. I hope those of you who read me (often, or once in a while) know this. I am not engaging in an academic exercise of reading books and speculating about the order of salvation, or the procedure of imputation.

Not only does it give me pleasure to think of all the blessings of salvation coming to the justified elect because of the imputation of Christ’s righteousness. It is God’s pleasure to give His elect in Christ all the blessings by means of the imputation of the perfect obedience of Christ. God not only loves this means of blessing, but God is displeased with any attempts to gain extra blessings (sanctification) by means of works.

If we claim that sanctification by works is not in competition with justification by Christ, we are idolaters, who love the works of our hands more than Christ. We are idolaters who say that what Christ has done is not enough to get us everything, but we can get “more” if we work for it.

I do not know a single person who claims that it is enough to only know doctrines ABOUT Christ. Every person I know who professes to be a Christian says that we must “believe in” the person identified by the doctrines. We all agree that doctrine is not sufficient.

But preachers who dismiss as “academic” and “abstract” the doctrine of justification and imputation presume to give us a doctrine about a difference between “equations” and “relational reality” that will not bear biblical scrutiny.

It’s a cheap rhetorical trick. If he says FIRST that he has the “relational reality” and “truly relates”, then you don’t get to say that what he has is just as abstract an equation. Works=sanctification.

The good news is not simply who Christ is but also what Christ’s finished activity did which obtained a righteousness for His elect. This righteousness is not simply Himself. Christ always was Himself. Christ always was righteous. Christ came to do something, and He got it done. Christ died because of the sins of the elect, even their sins after they are justified.

Any perspective that finds “relational reality” in the person of Christ and leaves behind imputation by grace when it comes to sanctification is a religion that flatters humans in their ignorance of the gospel. It does not demand that the sinner know and submit to the true gospel. It makes imputation a mere “perspective”, and an abstract “algorithm” at that.

Multiple perspectives do not demand that sinners repent of all the false gospel. They allow sinners to think that they can still be saved by works. Because sanctification is most definitely a part of salvation, and if you teach sanctification by works, you still give man a chance to be saved by works.

Instead of pointing our consciences to the righteousness obtained by Christ which satisfies God’s law, the “relational reality to the person” doctrine POINTS US AWAY FROM IMPUTED RIGHTEOUSNESS. We are told to stop emphasizing the past activity of Christ so that we can “know the person” now in the present.

Nobody comes along and says that justification is not by grace. But they do say that our “sanctification” is caused by our cooperation. Like the Galatian false teachers, they make the gospel the death of Christ PLUS you being changed so that you BOTH believe and work.

The message of His justifying death plus your “sanctification by works” by message is really at the end a message about you. Instead of a gospel which is about Jesus and not about you, this false gospel of “sanctification by works” does not want you to be “absent from the relationship”. This false gospel puts you back into the equation.

Harold Senkbeil, “In its most blatant form heresy claims that we must place our own good works into the balance to give us a favorable standing before God. Its subtle form seems more attractive. God does all the work in justification, but we finish the work in our sanctification.

“We may be declared right by God’s judicial decree through faith alone, but then it is up to us to perform the works of love and obedience that true holiness requires. This error makes justification merely the first stage of sanctification. God get us on the path of holiness and then we continue. God starts and we finish…” (Justified; Modern Reformation Essays on the Doctrine of Justification, p96)

I very much denounce any part of “dispensationalism” which says that there is a “second chance” to be saved by sight after the second coming. That is a real heresy. John Macarthur seems to hold on to that worst part of “dispensationalism”. But he also has jettisoned the valid concern of “dispensationalism” to not mix law and grace.

This mixing of the old and the new, of law and grace, is often done in opposition to “dispensationalism”. Dan Fuller in The Unity of the Bible (1992, Zondervan,181): “In commenting on Genesis 2:17 -do not eat from that tree–Calvin said, `These words are so far from establishing faith that they do nothing but shake it.’

Dan Fuller: “I argue, however, that there is much reason for regarding these words as well suited to strengthen Adam and Eve’s faith.In Calvin’s thinking, the promise made in Genesis 2:17 could never encourage faith, for its conditionality could encourage only meritorious works. ”

Let me make sure you know who is saying what, Phil! In the paragraph before, I was quoting Dan Fuller. Now, in this paragraph, I will quote John Calvin (who Fuller is quoting): “FAITH SEEKS LIFE THAT IS NOT FOUND IN COMMANDMENTS.”

Dan Fuller responds to Calvin and rejects it: “I have yet to find anywhere in Scripture a gospel promise that is unconditional.”

Now, Phil pay attention! Daniel Fuller quotes Jonathan Edwards: “We are really saved by perseverance…the perseverance which belongs to faith is one thing that is really a fundamental ground of the congruity that faith gives to salvation…For, though a sinner is justified in his first act of faith, yet even then, in that act of justification, God has respect to perseverance as being implied in the first act.”

Sacramental Union and Communion with Christ?

November 29, 2011

Those who would defend Constantine and slavery must also always defend the rituals of Christendom. I refer to the “federal vision” deconstruction of any difference between water and union with Christ.
They also reject any difference between ritual Lord’s Supper and union with Christ.

Some of these traditionalists will defend almost anything old (slavery, the confederacy), just so long as it is anti-“liberal”.
Unwilling as individuals to return to the Roman Catholic Church, despite a common faith in salvation by works, the more consistent federal visionists (theonomic postmillenialists) plan an end of exile by means of ordained violence.

The next time they are Constantine they promise to do it better. They will get baptized right away. They will have their entire families baptized right away. They will not wait.

But they will do this “take-over” in the name of conservatism. As inductive theologians, they remind us that even what Constantine did in the past was a result of God’s sovereign providence. And thus they dream of a liberal-free future in which cross-bearing will no longer be necessary.

Federal vision folks are trying to sell us a narrative in which the visibility of the kingdom of Jesus has to do with the traditional rituals inherited from Augustine and others who used violence in the name of God.

If we are going to escape the ideology of ritual Christendom , we need to talk about the sacramental errors of John Calvin, Martin Luther and all who define the Lord’s Supper as something God does instead of as the human obedience of Christians.

The fight about sacramentalism is a fight about politics, because it’s a fight about judging saved and lost. Sacramentalists want to hand out grace without judging saved and lost. They want to include you in their “the church” and then tell you it’s God’s will and not your decision.

Sacramentalists don’t trust liberals because they see that suspicion of the nation-state might also mean skepticism about their big broad “the church”. The majority culture always opposes any attempt of the “sects” to judge who is saved. Forget trying to know who is brother or sister, and come to the sacrament!

Ecclesiastical antinomians want to say that “sacrament” is a secondary issue and not a gospel issue. But when you refuse the political responsibility of judging saved and lost in terms of knowing and believing the gospel, then you have opened the way for assuming that everyone handed out the sacrament (or listening to the “minister’s” sermon) is a Christian.

Do we see everyone with whom we talk as already Christians who simply need to know more (of what we know)? Or do we evangelize because we know that not all Christ’s sheep are not justified yet?

Do we think of church as one universal church which includes saints now living in heaven (to whom we pray or not, is not the only issue) or do we think of local fellowship around a table which is closed to those who do not yet obey the gospel?

For many folks, being more romantic about ritual Christendom means also being more open to “deification”. The “federal vision” way down this path usually begins with II Peter 1:4 (become partakers of the divine nature) and ends up making justification by Christ’s death merely one result of “union with Christ”.

Just as the word “sacrament” is left undefined or given multiple definitions, so also the idea of “union with Christ” is left undefined or given various (unbiblical) definitions in ecumenical discussions.

What does it mean to be in Christ, and how is it different from Christ indwelling us? This is the kind of question we need to begin asking. Does this indwelling in Christ have anything to do with being handed the sacrament? Certainly Calvin thought so.

We need to read Calvin on this, to see what he did and did not believe. Calvin, for example, only believed in union with the humanity of Christ, and did not teach an union of human creatures indwelling God But Calvin’s anti-rational streak, which cannot explain and refuses to explain, becomes very mystical when it comes to “sacrament”. (See Bruce McCormack and Michael Horton essays in Tributes to Calvin).

Does the Bible teach that God effects “union with Christ” by means of water, or with bread and wine? NO. My opinion is that we baptists will never get away from that sacramental idea until we get away from the idea that “union with Christ” is only about regeneration.

As long as our categories for judging saved and lost are “regenerate” and “unregenerate”, we will be assuming (even if we don’t define things) that “union” means regeneration and that union/regeneration precedes justification.

II Corinthians 5—If anyone is in Christ, there is a NEW CREATION. The old has passed; the new has come.”

The “new creation” is not first of all about regeneration but about a legal change of identity It’s not gradual; it’s an either or. The new creation is not brought about by a “sacramental feeding on Christ” but by God’s imputation of what God did in Christ in His death and resurrection.

Christ is here, yes, but not in some different way because of water or bread and wine. And also, Christ is not here, not yet, and we believe and obey and hope, waiting for the day when Christ will be here.

Christ is not now coming down from heaven as He will someday, and we are not now going to heaven, no matter what the “minister of the sacrament” might say.

So how then are the justified elect in Christ? They are in Christ legally. The old has passed. The legal verdict has already been declared. One day, at the resurrection, there will be visible evidence of that verdict.

No ritual is a sign from God that we in particular have been united to Christ. Even if our children were to eat the “sacrament” with us, still that’s no seal that either we or our children have been justified or that God is our God.

Beware of Gaffin’s “Mysterious Math”

November 27, 2011

Salvation by works is the problem.

The unionists (Gaffin) say
1.”definitive sanctification” and “progressive sanctification” are also by grace, not by works.
2. But then they also say that the “grace-works” antithesis is removed once you are “united” and justified.
3. And then finally they say that justification is not by synergy, but that sanctification is by synergy.

p73, Gaffin, By Faith Not by Sight—“Here is what may be fairly called a synergy but it is not a 50/50 undertaking (not even 99.9% God and 0.1% ourselves). Involved here is the ‘mysterious math’ of the creator and his image-bearing creature, whereby 100% plus 100% =100%. Sanctification is 100% the work of God, and for that reason, is to engage the full 100% activity of the believer.”

My conclusion is not about motives about the results of this kind of “unionism”.
1. Justification is not seen as part of the “union”.
2. “Union” is defined by antithesis so that “union” is not justification, not sanctification, not any of the benefits, but rather the presence of the person of Christ (naked, alone, without His benefits).
3. “Union” is nevertheless conditioned on “faith”, and faith means not only Christ already indwelling but already a “break with sin”, and that “freedom from sin” is defined NOT IN FORENSIC TERMS but in ontological terms.
4. The Holy Spirit’s work in us is read into Romans 6. Christ’s “break with sin” is read out of Romans 6. Justification is left out of “union”, and “sanctification” is put back into “union” and not seen as only a result. The second Adam theme is being confined to Romans 5.
5. So supposedly we have this “double grace”, and sanctification is by grace also. But also sanctification is a synergy, where works by grace are different than works without grace, and thus sanctification by grace is by both grace and works.

Beware of “mysterious math”.

Dead To Sin, Romans 6

November 25, 2011

Romans 6 is about Christ the public representative of the elect first being under condemnation, sin and death.

Romans 6:7 “For one who has died has been justified from sin. 8 Now since we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. 9We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death NO LONGER has dominion over him. 10For the death he died HE DIED TO SIN once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. 11So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.12Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. 13 Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness. 14For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.”

Christ was never under grace and is still not under grace. Christ was under the law because of the imputed sins of the elect. Romans 6 is about Christ’s condemnation by the law and His death as satisfaction of that law. Christ after His resurrection is no longer under law.

The death of the justified elect is that VERY SAME legal death. The resurrection of the justified elect in Romans 6 is the result and evidence of that justification from being under law.

Christ was never under the power of sin in the sense of being unable not to sin. Christ was always unable to sin. The only way Christ was ever under the power of sin is by being under the guilt of sin. The guilt of the elect’s sin was legally transferred by God to Christ.

Christ’s death to sin was death to the guilt of sin, and since the elect are united with a death like his, the death of the elect is also a death to the guilt of sin. And this is what Romans 6:7 teaches: “For one who has died has been justified from sin.”

Yet many commentators tell us that “set free from sin” must mean the elect’s transformation by grace and by the Spirit so that the justified elect cannot habitually sin (or that their new nature cannot sin) They tell us that justification was in chapter five and that chapter six must be about something more if it’s to be a real answer to the question “why not sin?”.

But Christ was never under the power of habitual sin or any sin, and the death of the elect is like His death.

Romans 6:10, “For the death He died He died to sin.” When the elect consider themselves dead to sin and alive to God, they think of themselves as dead to the guilt of sin. Death to the guilt of sin means legal life before God.

Romans 6:14 does not say, For sin shall not be your master, because the Holy Spirit has changed you so that you cannot habitually sin, but only occasionally and always with repentance. Romans 6:14 says, “For sin shall not by your master, because you are not under law but under grace.”

Christ also died to purchase every blessing, including the giving of the Spirit and our believing the gospel. But it is not believing which frees the elect from the guilt of sin. It’s being legally joined (Romans 6 says “baptized into” not “baptized by the Spirit into) to Christ’s death (He instead of the elect for whom He died) that frees the justified elect from guilt.

Some Christians are Not “Gospel Wakeful”, and Some Are?

November 20, 2011

I Corinthians 5:20—“we implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.”

As ambassadors FOR Christ, we command all who hear, “’be ye reconciled”. Even though II Cor 5 is addressed to Christians only, the message taken by Christians to the lost is not for the elect only. The “be ye reconciled” is for those who have not yet been already justified.

Some “high Calvinists” don’t have a category for lost elect people. They would tell you that you were never lost, but that you only didn’t know you were already saved.

Many pastors (who are not Calvinists at all) like to say to people who are still legalists: some of you didn’t know the motives and how reconciliation worked, but you were already reconciled.

The elect have already been judged at the cross; everybody else will be judged, since all will be judged. But not all who were judged at the cross have been “baptized into that death” yet by God’s legal imputation. Since this is so, we should NOT talk to people assuming that they are Christians even though they don’t know the gospel yet.

To those who are still ignorant of the gospel, we don’t talk only about gratitude and freedom. Yes, we tell them that those for whom Christ died are thankful and free and pleasing to God. But we also tell them: if you don’t know the gospel and believe it yet, then you should be shut up to nothing but legal fear.

If Christ did not die for you, you should be afraid. Being afraid won’t save you. But legal fear is the reasonable response to not knowing the gospel. Because not knowing the gospel means knowing that you are not yet justified.

I do not want to preach terror to Christians. But we must not assume that people are Christians.

Do we address the people in church as if we are all elect, who have been believing some form of the gospel all along? “Close as in horseshoes”? Or do we say: some or all of you may need to be reconciled. Nobody is born reconciled. Let’s not presume. Let’s not beg the question.

Jerry Bridges, p34, Transforming Grace—“if you are trusting TO ANY DEGREE in your own morality, or if you believe that God will somehow recognize any of your good works as a reason for your salvation, you need to seriously consider if you are truly a Christian.”

Paedobaptists Ignore Many Aspects of the Old Covenants

November 18, 2011

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 covenants.  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…”

Not all of Israel is Israel or ever was the Israel who will be justified before God.   Yes, conservative paedobaptists do “believe in” church discipline.  More conservative paedobaptists only baptize infants of the first generation. They still attempt to determine if parents are believers before they will baptize their children. In this way, they attempt to avoid a nominal church, even if those now-believing parents were infant baptized by Unitarian Anglicans or Roman Catholics.

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 a 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 a less subjective claim to “certainty”; the difference is that paedobaptists have TWO kinds of church membership. So I ask –does the new covenant have two kinds of membership?

It is simply not true that believer water baptism encourage many rebaptisms during “crises of assurance.”   But believer water baptism does advocate that those water baptized have assurance of salvation.

But assurance–for credobaptists or for paedobaptists– should not be based on our continuing to meet “covenant conditions”. I Peter 3:21: “an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Christ.” Gospel assurance does not come from a promise of ours to get busy and to keep working enough! “Dead works” come from that.

“Feeling that one must match the experiences of others” is not an error isolated to baptists. Believer baptism is no solution to a puritan produced (the practical syllogism) crisis of assurance: only the imputed death of Christ gives a person peace with God.

A crisis of assurance can be a good thing!. It’s not a good thing to “join  church” without ever asking about the “object of faith” . 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 put conversion into question 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? Ask your local paedobaptist this question. And for extra credit, ask: Are the infants born to paedobaptists Christians in a better position after “water baptism” than the infants born to 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  conversion” to communion. Those who don’t know that they are justified are encouraged “to abstain”, at least in  some 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 some paedobaptists’ practice of the Lord’s Supper shows that.

Yet many paedobaptist accuse all baptists of being some kind of “dispensationalist”.  In Acts  there is no second generation “born of Christian parents”. From this silence, some even infer that the second generation must have been water 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  water 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 covenant.

Did Christ Die For Everybody But Not for Anybody’s Sins?

November 18, 2011

In Taste and See (Multnomah,1999, p325), John Piper endorses the conditional false gospel. “Christ died for all sinners, so that IF you will repent and believe in Christ, then the death of Jesus will become effective in your case and will take away your sins. ‘Died for you,’ means that, if you believe, the death of Jesus will cover your sins. Now, as far as it goes, this is biblical teaching.”

Piper then goes on to disagree with Arminians for not teaching that Christ died to purchase faith for the elect. But he does not disagree with Arminians about propitiation and substitution and punishment. Piper’s false gospel does not teach that Christ was specifically punished for the elect alone. It still only has a punishment in general, to be assigned later to those who believe.

But can we call Piper an Arminian, since he does insist that Christ also died for the elect to give them something extra that He will not be giving the non-elect? It does not matter what we call Piper’s false gospel, if we see that it misses being gospel

The false gospel fails to report that Christ was punished specifically for the elect, and thus it will be heard every time as saying that there was enough punishment done to Christ to save even people who will nevertheless end up being punished.

Thus, even though it has punishment, this false gospel is not about punishment that REPLACES punishment for all whom Christ intended to save. We might call it “respresentative” punishment but we cannot call it “substitutionary” punishment. We could call it “penal” justice but with the qualification that no specific person’s sins were ever legally transferred to Christ. Indeed, the false gospel denies that any specific penality (let alone guilt) for anybody sins was transferred to Christ until “faith causes justification”.

The false gospel says that Christ died for everybody (but the fallen angels?) but it denies that this punishment was for the sins of anybody in particular. So “dead for you” means that now you have an open door, an opportunity to do something with Christ’s death which will lead to your salvation. And the false Spirit taught by the false gospel supposedly will help the elect to believe this false gospel.

They Want Us To say that the Atonement was Already Our Justification, Because They want to Delay the Atonement Until Our Justification

November 15, 2011

The accusers of John Owen claim that those who teach substitution only for the elect should agree that the elect can go free before they are converted and believe the gospel. They want to put those who teach effective atonement in that box, so they can then deny that the death of Christ is the effective difference between saved and lost.

This is not only a tactic against definite atonement. This is what many “Calvinists” have sincerely come to believe—if the cross has no efficacy to set free before faith and without faith, then the cross has no legal efficacy by itself. They locate the efficacy, the reality of “atonement” not in propitiation, not in Christ’s bearing the sins of the elect, but only in the efficacy of “regeneration” and an “union with Christ” which is not legal but is instead transformation by the Spirit.

These folks don’t think there’s any “double jeopardy” until after a person has been married to Christ by faith. Then, and only then, they say, could you say that two persons were dying twice for the same sins of one person. So “union with Christ” comes to mean that you can stop counting, that you can stop talking about imputation when you talk about the justice and righteousness of God.

These folks have confused the accomplishment of atonement with the application of the atonement.Not only have they minimized the legal application of the atonement, they have collapsed accomplishment and application into one, as if there were no atonement before justification.

Thus the attempt to put John Owen in a box. Either say that the justification was at the atonement, or agree with them that the atonement is not until the justification.

And thus they stand in front of churches, elect and non-elect (covenant children and non-covenant children), and teach everybody that “Christ is dead for you” . But according to them, that “died for you” doesn’t necessarily mean that Christ has died to propitiate God for your sins.

Wittmer’s Response to Rob Bell–What Did Christ Really Do for Those Who Won’t be Saved?

November 14, 2011

Christ Alone, Edenridge Press, 2011 (preface by Michael Horton)

Among the Arminian “evangelical” answers to Rob Bell’s popular book Love Wins, Michael Wittmer’s Christ Alone was one of the better written and more focused reflections. Dr Wittmer has written several other books in recent years, not least Heaven is a Place on Earth. Wittmer probably would not describe himself as an Arminian, and might even think of himself as some kind of Calvinist. But his theology shows the false hope of any “gospel” which claims that Christ died for all sinners but then makes the salvation of sinners depend on something else besides Christ’s death.

Since I have already agreed that Wittmer would not think of himself as an Arminian, I want to keep that label on hold and have you hear Wittmer for yourself. On p 138, he summarizes: “We stand in God’s courtroom, guilty for Adam’s sin and for our own, awaiting God’s just sentence of condemnation. But before the sentence can be read, the Son of the Judge steps forward and announces that he wishes to be damned to hell in our place. Contrary to Bell, this Son is not rescuing us from his evil Father, for it was the Father who sent the Son to save us. Neither is this a bipolar God who loves unrepentant sinners while they are alive and then switches gears at their death…God is just, so he will punish those who die under his wrath. But he lovingly sent his Son to bear His wrath in their place.”

What should we say to this summary? Should we label Wittmer an Arminian for saying that the Son bore God’s wrath for those who will end up dying under God’s wrath? Should we ask why Michael Horton is endorsing this false Christ and this false gospel? Should we comfort ourselves at the fact that Wittmer is not a Barthian or an universalist, and that he teaches conversion, and a transition from wrath to God’s favor?

My response to Wittmer is very much the same as his to Bell. This is “not enough gospel”. (p146) If the cross does not add anything to the non-elect but more wrath, then for the non-elect the death of Christ is no gospel at all.

I wish Wittmer could hear his questions to Bell come back to himself. On p 147, Wittmer concludes: “if there is no looming threat of wrath and hell, then there is little for God to do except be generally kind to everyone.” I agree with this logic. Not even the elect are born safe, except in the decree of God. The wrath of God abides even on the elect until they are justified by means of Christ’s death. Even the elect need to hear and believe the gospel. But I want to think about that phrase “for God to do”.

What does God need to do? What has God done for those who are saved that God has not done for those who will not be saved? Since Wittmer is an “evangelical” and does not think of himself as an Arminian, he does not speak of what Christ has done for the elect and what Christ has not done for the non-elect. (Even though the Confessions to which Michael Horton subscribes speak of that difference, in his preaching that difference is given no attention.)

Evangelicals want to stick to what they can agree on. Sin and wrath are real. God really had to do something about this if anybody would “possibly” be saved. Whatever it was that Christ did was done for all sinners. This is why I am asking evangelicals like Wittmer to listen to themselves when they talk back to Rob Bell.

Listen: p146–“If the cross doesn’t add anything that we couldn’t already learn from Jesus’ life and ministry, and if Jesus’ words and deeds don’t tell us anything we couldn’t already learn from nature, then forcing Jesus to go to the cross seems to be a genuine case of divine child abus…The God of Love Wins (title of book by Rob Bell) doesn’t win because the stakes are so low that there is little for him to win.”

So what’s the difference between the God of Wittmer and the God of Rob Bell? First, since wrath is real, there is something to win and something to lose. Second, the God of Wittmer, who dies for all sinners, even those on whom God’s wrath will ultimately abide, does win some. And plus, on top of that, even the ones the God of Wittmer loses, God attempted to win, because Christ died for them.

Or as evangelical Lewis Sperry Chafer explained the message: Christ died for all their acts of sin, so they won’t die for any acts of sins, but many of them will die for their “attitude of sin”, since they thought they were too good to need what Christ did for them. Since they think they don’t need what Christ did for them, then Christ’s death won’t do anything for them.

Both Wittmer and Bell have pointed to the possibility of “divine child abuse”. Bell is Socinian enough to put grace in competition with justice, and to deny that there is any real forgiveness if Christ had to die for God to forgive. Wittmer is not a Socinian, and thus suggests that Bell’s Christ had no reason to die.

But what was the point of Christ dying for the non-elect? Wittmer is very clear that he thinks that Christ did die for everybody. Wittmer is very very clear that he thinks that not everybody will be saved. Even though Wittmer is not at all clear about elect and non-elect, he does not tell us the point of Christ dying for those who will not be saved.

What did Christ “really do”? If Christ died the same for those who will be saved as Christ died for those who won’t be saved, what in the end did Christ “really do” even for those who will be saved? Certainly Christ’s death was not decisive for salvation, but in what way does Wittmer think Christ really did anything for all sinners, as one step (needed along with others) to a rescue from His wrath?

If God was going to change the hearts of some sinners, and cause them to be born again, and that was going to save them, why was it necessary for God the Father to give the Son to die? If the Son dies to take away wrath for everybody, but the wrath is not taken away, what did the Son’s death “really do”?

Like most evangelicals, Wittmer has a “strings attached” gospel, a “however” gospel. Instead of telling the truth to everybody that God doesn’t love everybody, he thinks the responsibility of everybody depends on God having loved everybody and Christ having died for everybody.

I do not disagree with him about the need to preach the gospel to everybody. I do not disagree with him about the terrible condition of all sinners who do not hear and believe the gospel. I disagree with him about what the gospel is. Here’s his explanation (p138): “However, if we fallen creatures don’t accept God’s love, either because we think we are too good to go to hell or because we think God is too good to send us there, then we will learn too late, that our false assurance of safety is the very thing which has made us unsafe.”

No, Mr Wittmer, we were born unsafe, we started out lost, and the false Christ you preach has made nobody safe. The false Christ you preach is an idol, somebody you say really did “something” but that “something” depends on our attitude to make it work.

This is a yes and no complicated “bait and switch” gospel. You are not safe. But Jesus really needed to die for you all to make you all safe. And God loves you, and Jesus really died for you. But. Still you are not safe yet.

No wonder Rob Bell accuses the false god of evangelicalism with being one who changes from love to wrath when his love in unrequited. Yes, there is an objective legal transition from wrath to favor when God’s elect are justified and adopted in history, but God’s love for the elect had no beginning and God never loved the non-elect. But Wittmer promises everybody a deal, an offer: if we change our attitude and agree that God is right to have wrath toward us, and agree that we need Christ to die for us, then……what?

Either Christ already died for us or not. Wittmer is assuring us all that Christ already died for us all. And he wants to tell us that this death “really did something”. If we come knowing that we are sinners and needing to be saved, if we come with the right attitude, “then we will find that we have a merciful and holy God, an advocate who justly emptied all the wrath our sins deserved, but who in mercy poured it out upon himself.” (p138)

But what about if we don’t come with such a right attitude? What about if we come like Rob Bell comes? Well, Christ already died and His death already really did something. But we can’t say what that was. Even though God emptied all the wrath on the Son, still there seems to be some more wrath left for many for whom Christ died.

Now we could get philosophical about if this is the same wrath which was for our sins which was already emptied on Christ, or if it’s new wrath not about our acts of sins but our wrong attitude in what we do with what Christ did for us, but in any case, it’s still wrath and what did Christ’s death really do about it?

Surely Christ’s death was not to condemn anybody because, as Wittmer has explained, we all already started out condemned. Perhaps Wittmer would tell us that Christ did something extra for those who will be saved, that it had “multiple purposes”, and that it purchased the new birth for some. But in any case, we are left with the question of those who will not be saved. Wittmer is still an “evangelical” and so he is sure that Christ died and really did something for these folks. But what?

Romans 8:32–“He that spared not His own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things.”