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

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.

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

  1. markmcculley Says:

    Dr. T. David Gordon in his book “Why Johnny Can’t Preach: The Media Have Shaped the Messengers” (Phillipsburg, NJ: P & R Publishing, 2009)
    “Some of the neo-Puritans have apparently determined that the purpose of Christian preaching is to persuade people that they do not, in fact, believe. The subtitle of each of their sermons could accurately be: “I Know You Think You Are a Christian, but You Are Not.” This brand of preaching constantly suggests that if a person does not always love attending church, always look forward to reading the Bible, or family worship, or prayer, then the person is probably not a believer…”

    The hearer falls into one of two categories: one category of listener assumes that the preacher is talking about someone else, and he rejoices (as did the Pharisee over the tax collector) to hear “the other guy” getting straightened out. Another category of listener eventually capitulates and says: “Okay, I’m not a believer; have it your way.” But since the sermon mentions Christ only in passing (if at all), the sermon says nothing about the adequacy of Christ as Redeemer, and therefore does nothing to build faith in Christ.

    “It is painful to hear every passage of Scripture twisted to do what only several of them actually do (i.e., warn the complacent that not everyone who says, “Lord, Lord” will enter the kingdom of heaven). And it is absolutely debilitating to be told again and again that one does not have faith when one knows perfectly well that one does have faith, albeit weak and imperfect…”

    “So no one profits from this kind of preaching; indeed, both categories of hearer are harmed by it. But I don’t expect it will end anytime soon. The self-righteous like it too much; for them, religion makes them feel good about themselves, because it allows them to view themselves as the good guys and others as the bad guys – they love to hear the preacher scold the bad guys each week. And sadly, the temperament of some ministers is simply officious. Scolding others is their life calling; they have the genetic disposition to be a Jewish mother.” (pp. 83-84)


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