Archive for December 2011

Nobody’s Born In Christ, Everybody’s Born in Adam

December 22, 2011

Romans 5:12 Therefore,just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin,and so death spread to all men because all sinned—

Romans 5 does not directly say that “all sinned in Adam”. Nor does this chapter ever use the word “imputation”. But the sin of verse 12 is not the result of death. The death is the result of “because all sinned”.

We look to the context in chapter 5 to see how it is that the all sinned. We all sinned because of the representative sin of Adam.
Adam was our substitute. We don’t need to sin ourselves to be condemned to death.

We are condemned to death because Adam sinned for us, as our representative. We are not guilty based on our corruption. Corruption is mediated to us because we are guilty. We do sin of course but before we did we were already constituted sinners. We were all born legally guilty in Adam.

Romans 5:13 “for sin indeed was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not counted where there is no law. 14 Yet death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sinning was not like the transgression of Adam, who was a type of the one who was to come.”

It’s not only infants who died who did NOT sin like Adam. Everybody who died after Adam’s first sin but before the Mosaic law was given did NOT sin like Adam. Yet because of Adam’s sin, all these people died.

But didn’t these people live a while and then die? Why did they get to live even a little if they were born guilty? Genesis: in the day you eat, you will surely die. The death is sure, but not yet executed upon all those represented by Adam.

“Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” ”Truly I say to you today you will be with me in Paradise.” Luke 23:43 Jesus did not wait until after He died to promise the justified thief that He would remember him. The promise to be with Jesus in paradise is sure, even on this day when Jesus died.

“David foresaw and spoke about the resurrection of the Christ, that he was not abandoned to Hades, nor did his flesh see corruption. This Jesus God raised up.” Acts 2:31

Romans 5:16 “For the judgment following one trespass brought condemnation, but the free gift following many trespasses brought justification. 17 For if, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ.”

Imputation is not first of all about the punishment of sins. Imputation is about the bearing of guilt. Infants who die have been imputed with Adam’s sin, and that doesn’t mean they only bear the punishment of Adam’s sin. Legally they sinned when Adam sinned.

So how did the elect die when Christ died? Again, the logical inference is by the imputation (legal transfer) of what their representative accomplished. What did Christ get done? What did Christ finish? Christ died for the sins of the elect imputed to Him.

Not only did God impute the sins of the elect to Christ, but God also imputes the death of Christ (this good and just death, because of sins) to the elect, in time and individually, one by one as God justifies these elect. This is talked about in the next chapter of Romans. Chapter 6 of Romans, like chapter 5, does not use the word “imputation”. But that is the basic meaning of “being placed into” or “planted into” Christ’s death.

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How Could “Dead Works” Prove that You are Alive?

December 14, 2011

Hebrews 6:1 Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection; not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God,

Hebrews 9:14
How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?

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 “dead works”. And our “dead works” are sins.

Romans 8:13– “Put to death the deeds” includes putting to death assurance by works and blessing by works. Before I was converted by God to the true gospel, I had read this text only in terms of morality.

Certainly we are commanded to be moral. But morality can be done in the flesh. But we should not use Romans 8:13 to create doubt and legal fear in Christians. 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”, assurance is from believing on what Christ did for the elect with His death on the cross and NOT from our “mortification”. Living by the gospel is confidence in the gospel. So I agree that Christians have doubts and degrees of assurance, but I no longer think that we get assurance ALSO by works.

Romans 10:1-3. There are many Arminians who oppose “Lordship salvation” and assurance by works but these Arminians will not submit to the righteousness of God. They only want to talk about grace, but they don’t talk about for whom Christ died or about the fact that God does not give grace to everybody. These Arminian antinomians only want to talk about “no performance”, because they don’t believe the truth about Christ’s performance for the elect.

I would suggest that these Arminian antinomians inherently still think they have “established their own righteousness”. The difference between these Arminian decisionist and the Calvinist “neonomians” is only that the Arminians think they already did what they needed to do to make Christ’s death work for them. The neonomians, on the other hand, thank their god for continuing to prove to themselves that Christ’s work was for them.

When I was still unconverted, I spent all my time talking about “new covenant”. I failed to see the main thing. The only solution to our lack of performance is the death of Christ. This means we need to tell the truth. There is no solution for us if Christ did not die for our sins.

Our faith does not satisfy God. Only the death of Christ satisfies God. Only those sinners legally identified by God 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. Faith in the false gospel leaves people lost. Faith in the true gospel is a result of the righteousness, and the righteousness of God is the death of Christ for the elect.

Election Is Only “Unto Salvation”, So It’s Not Part of the Gospel Itself?

December 12, 2011

Ephesians 3:9-11 “To make all even gentiles see what is the communion 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.”

Sometimes we are told that “election is not salvation” because election is “only UNTO salvation”. Folks like to explain to us that “election is not the gospel” but instead what causes people to believe the gospel.

I want to criticize these often assumed 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 intended 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.

Christ’s righteousness is the cause of the elect’s believing. This means that we cannot say that election without the righteousness is the gospel. It also means that we cannot say that the righteousness without election is the gospel.

Those who deny that election is in the gospel think they can talk about the righteousness of Christ without saying that this righteousness was only obtained for the elect. The effect of this cover-up is that they end up teaching that the work of the Spirit in the sinner causing the sinner to believe is not a result but the cause of Christ’s work working.

These folks may say: let’s just talk about the cross before we get into the whole election thing. But ironically, they end up not glorying in the cross but putting the Spirit’s work in the sinner in the determinative place. This is the great danger of saying that “election is not the gospel” but only that which makes sinners believe the gospel. I know some people only say that because they have heard other people say it, and it sounds good. But you need to think before you begin repeating what I say!

The texts I have quoted from Ephesians will not support leaving election out of the gospel and salvation. But folks want to leave out election because they don’t want to talk about non-election.

It is wrong to say that non-election is only conditioned on sin and the sinner. Both those elected and those not elected are sinners. If sin were the cause of non-elect, then all sinners would not be elect. God’s justice is no less sovereign than God’s grace.

If we try to take God’s sovereignty out of God’s justice, then there would be no reason for either election or non-election. If we attempt to leave God’s election out of God’s gospel, then there would be no good reason for why some sinners are saved and others are not.

God’s 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.

Schreiner Still Running to Win the Prize

December 11, 2011

Run to Win the Prize, 2010, Crossway, Thomas R. Schreiner

This little book is from lectures given at Oak Hill College in London. It’s a summary of the thinking found in the book Schreiner wrote with Caneday,The Race Set Before Us (2001, IVP). Schreiner again engages in some special pleading for a “paradox” (p73) in which works are necessary but also for not focusing on these works but on Christ.

How it’s possible to rationally live in that paradox is not so clear. Words like “premeditation” and “intention” play a big part in the double talk.

I would NOT say that Schreiner’s thesis comes from the “new perspective” or the “federal vision” There’s no need to go to NT Wright or James Jordan to make his case. Schreiner quotes Jonathan Edwards against John Calvin to argue that works of faith are necessary for justification.

The book Free Justification by Steve Fernandez has mostly been ignored (not heard of) by the Reformed mainstream because it dares to criticize Caneday and Schreiner.

I share the amazement of Don Garlington (who wrote a book on perseverance from the new perspective and got fired for it) that Schreiner seems to be getting a free pass on this. Whether you think Schreiner is right or wrong, it’s difficult to see the big difference between what Schreiner is writing and what Norman Shepherd and Garlington wrote.

Schreiner sees justification as being in two parts of one “whole”: the already and not yet, both the imputation of Christ’s righteousness and also our running to win the prize. All true Christians have transformed hearts, he argues, and thus they also persevere because that is what their new nature does. And “union” with Christ means that we can now focus also on what the Christian does.

Schreiner explains that the biblical warnings ensure that believers will keep running. If they don’t,they will then know that they were not really believers.

Schreiner is denying Calvin’s distinction between law and gospel. Now of course, if you are a Westminster revisionist, you don’t think Calvin has that distinction. But at any rate, Schreiner thinks he is reading the warning texts differently than he thinks Calvin did.

Schreiner does disagree with the federal vision distinction between covenant and election, even though that’s a very old distinction in many Reformed paradigms. But on the question of perseverance as condition (not as evidence alone), Schreiner is on the same page as Garlington.

I read I John 3 in the context of Cain and Abel: two states. I do not buy the “habitual” tenor reading: if we habitually are denying that we are habitual sinners, then we are habitually liars. You see, it’s simple, it’s the verbs! (I think Carson’s commentary on I John 3 will read the text as “ideal” of what should be.)

Habitual failure to do good works is not only evidence of the fact that the justified are sinners. Habitual failure to do good works is also habitual sin. How much is enough?

I think Schreiner’s practical answer is to notice that you are doing as well as the people around you, but stay careful to say that this is mere “byproduct” and that, at the end of the day, the most important place you want to sit is on what Christ’s blood got done.

But You Still Got to Get Running Harder. Than You Are Now.

Why We Must Avoid Coalitions with “Evangelicals” who Teach Conditional Atonement

December 9, 2011

No alliance with Lutherans and “evangelicals” should keep us silent
about Jesus dying for the sheep and not the goats. Why then do so many Reformed preachers talk about the “indicative done” in the context of “you” and never in terms of the Westminster Confession: “for all those whom the Father has given the Son” ?

The problem cannot be a “sectarian” sociology which thinks of the
church as only those who profess to be justified and regenerate. Reformed Confessions teach that the covenant community must by nature and should include some of the non-elect for whom Jesus did not die and who will not believe the gospel. We also know good and well that not every baptized member even of a “sectarian” community is one for whom Christ died. Only those for whom Jesus died have a righteousness which answers the demands of God’s law.

Being “pastoral” gives no preacher the right to assure all his
hearers that Christ will not be a judge to them. Only the bloody death of Jesus Christ(not the sermon or the sacrament)has for the elect(and has not for the non-elect)silenced the accusations of God’s law.

Obeying the gospel is not the condition of salvation, but a blessing
made certain for the elect by the righteousness of Christ. It is not for sure that “you” who are in attendance will be saved. Salvation is promised to all who believe the gospel of salvation conditioned on the blood alone.

The antithesis (not by works in us) will do no good if we “flinch at
this one point”. If we do not confess particular atonement, then the
people who hear will not look outside themselves for the righteous difference which pleases God. If Jesus Christ died for everybody but only “enabled God” to save those who meet further conditions, then people will certainly look to themselves for the difference between lost and saved.

The only way you can tell people that the gospel is “outside of you”
is to tell them that the gospel they must believe to be saved EXCLUDES this believing as the condition of salvation. The only condition of salvation for the elect is Christ’s death for the elect. Unless you preach that Christ died only for the elect, you encourage people to make their faith into that “little something” which makes the difference between life and death!

I am not looking for something “classical” enough to influence
people to join a coalition. Do we believe that the glory of God in the gospel means that all for whom Christ died will certainly be saved? Or has that truth become too “rationalistic” for us? Would that perhaps take the grace of God out of the hands of those who hand out the sacrament and reserve it for the Father who has reserved a people for himself and given them to Christ? (Romans 11:4-6)

The glory of God does not depend on human decisions, and the gospel
must not become a victim of “evangelical” coalitions which agree not
to talk about the extent of the atonement, and thus condition
salvation on what God does in the sinner.

Some Legalist “Calvinists” Have Outgrown the Gospel When It Comes to “Sanctification”

December 7, 2011

The legalist Calvinists of course are careful to say that their “sanctification” by their own obedience is not by “their own strength”. But for “sanctification”, they don’t trust the blood they trusted for justification. Though they know they are not yet perfect, they are now trusting Christ “in them” for their “sanctification”.

These legalist Calvinists are less concerned now with the “benefit” of justification (forgiveness of sins) and more interested (they say) in the Benefactor Himself, Christ in them, the person. And thus they equate “sanctification” with their “good works”, which they think they Holy Spirit is producing in them by means of “union with” the resurrected Christ.

Either have enough of these works, the legalists say, or you will not have evidence that you saved. These legalists do not test their works by their doctrine of righteousness. Most of them think you can be wrong about the doctrine of the righteousness revealed in the gospel (justification), and still give evidence by works of one’s salvation. They raise doubts about those who oppose “Lordship salvation”, but not about sincere hard-working Arminians.

As Hebrews 9:14 and Romans 7:4-6 teach us, that a person not yet submitted to the righteousness revealed in the gospel is still an evil worker, bringing forth fruit unto death.

Since both the Arminian and the legalist Calvinist agree that not everybody will be saved but not about how many sinners Christ died for, they both get assurance from the “tenor of life” of the professing believer.

Indeed, unless we are universalists or fatalists (some Primitive Baptists are both), we cannot avoid the search for evidence. But we need to see that the evidence is submission to the gospel, which involves knowledge about election, imputation and satisfaction. It is a waste of time to talk about other “evidence” unless a person knows what the gospel is. Only after a person knows what the gospel is, can we then ask if that person judges by that gospel.

We first test ourselves to see if we have excluded works as being any part of our righteousness before God. To include the works (done they say with the help of the Holy Spirit) in the righteousness is evidence all by itself that a person still believes a false gospel.

Along with legalism comes indifference about the question of election and about the truth that Christ did not die for the non-elect. Such things don’t matter to the legalist, since what got done on the cross is not enough anyway for the legalist.

There are many false gospels and only one true gospel. There are many different ways to be “legalist”. Either you are a legalist or you are not.

The only way NOT to be legalist is to know that the law demands perfect righteousness and that the gospel joyfully explains how Christ satisfied that demand for the elect. One certain result of the righteousness earned by Christ is that the elect will believe this gospel and not any false gospel.

The workers who came before the the judgment in Matthew 7 were sure that their works were enough. They don’t know if their works (even though helped along they think by the Holy Spirit) are satisfactory.

They were not antinomians and they were not insincere. They probably believed in election also (or at least the unconditional right of Israel to the land!). But instead of pleading a Christ who got done a perfect righteousness, they pleaded their “sanctification”

They didn‘t say they had “faith alone”. They were not into “easy believism”. They didn’t say that their obedience was a “second step” of gratitude added to their faith. They avoided the law/gospel antithesis that the legalist “the covenant” folks want us to avoid. They thought they were safe.

Yet despite their false assurance, they were lost. Why? Was it because they lacked enough “sanctification” or was it because they trusted in the false gospel? That’s a trick question: they were lost because they were born lost, and they never were rescued and we know that because they never believed the revealed gospel.

No End Runs Around God’s Laws

December 2, 2011

In our day many folks think they have escaped legalism by simply eliminating any antithesis between law and gospel. Thus they want to divide up Christ’s righteousness to BOTH the “instead of us” AND also to the “in us”.

They instruct us to stop looking only at the past and at the cross, and begin to look also to the salvation of the Holy Spirit in us (and thus the future work of Christ in our “activity”)

Though law and gospel are not the same thing, they are not opposed because they never claim to have the same function. Law says what God demands. The gospel says how Christ satisfied that demand for the elect.

The law never offered life off probation. Only one sin puts you under its curse. No matter how many acts of obedience you have to the law, the law never promises everlasting life.

The “end of the law” is Christ completing all that the law demanded, so that there is no remainder left for the Spirit enabled Christian to do. The gospel says DONE. The gospel does not say “to be done by the life of Christ in the elect”.

We must not attempt to eliminate the law/gospel antithesis by the abolishment of law or by saying that God now has a new and easier law. That kind of “dispensational adjustment” is not only antinomian but also still legalistic. –

The idea of some kind of “end run” around God’s law, so that God now changes the game and “cuts us some slack” and calls that grace, this misses what the gospel says about Christ’s satisfaction of the law for the elect.

Christians sin, and therefore their activity cannot ever satisfy the law. But God’s laws will not go unsatisfied. God is not a prisoner of His laws, but God does have a Holy nature and His laws are an expression of that nature, and God will always act justly. Only Christ therefore could ever satisfy God’s laws. The wages of the sins of the elect was Christ’s death. God’s law demanded that death.

The law is not the gospel and it never was the gospel. Romans 11:5–”So too at the present time there is a remnant, chosen by grace. But if it is by grace, it is not on the basis of works; otherwise grace would not be grace.”