God Does See Sin, Even in the Justified Elect, by Flavel

Numbers 23.21—“He hath not beheld iniquity in Jacob, nor seen perverseness in Israel.” Jeremiah 50.20, “In those days, and in that time, saith the Lord, the iniquity of Israel shall be sought for, and there shall be none; and the sins of Judah, and they shall not be found: for I will pardon them whom I reserve.”

It is true, and we thankfully acknowledge it, that God sees no sin in believers as a judge sees guilt in a malefactor, to condemn him for it; that is a sure and comfortable truth for us: but to say he sees no sin in his children, as a displeased father, to correct and chasten them for it, is an assertion repugnant to scripture.

(1.) It is injurious to God’s omniscience, Psalm 139.2, “Thou” (saith holy David), “knowest my down-sitting, and my up-rising, and understandest my thoughts afar off, and art acquainted with all my ways.” Job 28.24, “He looketh to the ends of the earth, and seeth under the whole heavens.” Prov. 15.3, “The eyes of the Lord are in every place, beholding the evil and the good.” Psalm 33.14,15, “From the place of his habitation he looketh upon all the inhabitants of the earth; he fashioneth their hearts alike, he considereth all their works.” He that denies that God seeth his most secret sins, therein, consequentially denies him to be God.

(2.) This assertion is inconsistent with God’s providential dispensations to his people. When David, a justified believer, had sinned against him in the matter of Uriah, it is said, 2 Sam. 11.27, “the thing that David had done displeased the Lord:” and, as the effect of that displeasure, it is said, chapter 12.15. “The Lord struck the child that Uriah’s wife bare unto David, and it was very sick.” Among the Corinthians some that should not be {573} condemned with the world, were judged and chastened of the Lord for their undue approaches to his table, 1 Cor. 11.32.

Now, I would ask the Antinomians these two questions. Question 1. Whether it can be denied, that David, under the Old Testament, and these Corinthians under the New, were justified persons; and yet the former stricken by God in his child, with its sickness and death; and the latter in like manner smitten by God in their own persons; and both for their respective sins committed against God; and yet God saw no sin in them? Did God smite them for sin, and yet behold no sin in them?

How God, upon confession and repentance, can be said to put away his people’s sins (as Nathan there assures David he had done) when in the mean time he saw no sin in him either to chastise him for, or to pardon in him? Do you think that God’s afflictions, or pardons, are blindfold acts, done at random? How inconsistent is this with Divine dispensations.

“He hath not beheld wrong against Jacob, nor hath he seen grievance against Israel.” So that the meaning is not, that God did not see sin in Israel, but that he beheld not with approbation the wrongs and injuries done by others against his Israel; and shews at large, by divers solid reasons, why the Antinomian sense cannot be the proper sense of that place, it being cross to the main tenor of the story, and truth of God’s word; which shews, that God often complained of their sins, often threatened to avenge them; yea, did actually avenge them by destroying them in the wilderness.

Balaam himself, who uttered these words unto Balak, did not so understand them, as appears by the advice he gave to Balak, to draw them into sin, that thereby God might be provoked to withdraw his protection from them.

As for Jeremiah 50.20, many expound the sin there sought after, and not found, to be the sin of idolatry, which Israel should be purged from by their captivity, according to Isa. 27.9. But sound expositors are agreed, that by the not finding of Israel’s and Judah’s sin, is meant no more, but his not finding those obligations against them to eternal punishment which their sins had put them under.

Some antinomians say, that though there was pardon under the old covenant yet it was but gradatim, and successively, as they offered sacrifices. If a man had sinned ignorantly, until he brought a sacrifice, his sin lay upon him, it may be a week, a month’s distance between before they could have their pardon. If this were the state and case of all God’s Israel under the Old Testament, why do these men affirm, that God can see no sin in a believer? and why do they expound the words of Balaam so contradictory to this their other opinion?

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10 Comments on “God Does See Sin, Even in the Justified Elect, by Flavel”

  1. markmcculley Says:

    if you are justified, you are forgiven of your sins before you ask, and even if you don’t ask. This is not saying it’s wrong to ask, but in our ‘confession”, we agree with God (against ourselves) not only about our sins but also about the gospel..

  2. markmcculley Says:

    Benjamin Keach, The Marrow of True Justification: The Biblical Doctrine of Justification Without Works, Solid Ground Books, Birmingham, Alabama USA, 2007, p 80—”None have an evangelical righteousness, but those who are justified before they have it. Christ is our legal righteousness by a proper imputation of His righteousness to us, and only then is our evangelical righteousness also.

    “Once we are justified, we need not inquire how a man is justified after he is justified. God has not appointed this personal evangelical righteousness, in order to our Justification before Him. By that righteousness of Christ which is out of us, though imputed to us, the Justice of God is satisfied; therefore all Works done by us, or inherent in us, are excluded in our Justification before God.”

    Paul Helm–Justification is not a mere threshold blessing; something which applies to people at their conversion and not subsequently. It is operative at all times, an, objective, perfect, judicial death of Christ, which is complete that is the ground of Christian assurance. So there is a sense in which the JUSTIFIED SINNER never leaves the law-court in which the judge declares them righteous for Christ’s sake. We need that declaration of forgiveness always to stand, and never to be relegated into something over and done with, or requiring to be supplemented by some other righteousness God now works in us. The one declaration of justification, grounded in Christ’s righteousness, must be enough o carry the believer to the final judgment and to vindicate us there. Once justified, always justified. A justification that requires in addition a faithful life makes no sense and gives no joy.

  3. markmcculley Says:

    Romans 6:9 “We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. 10 For the death Christ died He died to sin, once for all, but the life He lives he lives to God. 11 So you also must impute yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.

    The first command in Romans tells Christians to count themselves dead to sin, to “reckon yourselves” dead to sin.

    It’s important to not forget that imperative. But it’s even more important to remember that we don’t make the indicative come true by obeying the imperative. The justified elect do not become dead to sin because they count themselves dead to sin. Nor do the justified elect become dead to sin because they are daily dying to sin.

    On the contrary, the justified elect are commanded to count themselves dead to sin because Christ has died for them as their representative and substitute. Christs died for the elect so that they ARE dead to sin, as soon as they are legally “baptized into this death”.

    There are not two different “deaths to sin”. Christ’s death to sin becomes by imputation the justified elect’s death to sin. It’s one and the same death. It’s Christ death as satisfaction to God’s law. The death to sin of Romans Six is not the regeneration or renewal of the justified sinner.

    But there are two different imputations, two different countings. The justified elect impute themselves as dead to sin, declare themselves dead to sin, but their imputing and declaring are not what cause Christ’s death to sin for the elect. Nor is it their counting themselves dead to sin that which transfers righteousness from Christ to them.

    It is not their imputing themselves dead to sin which creates an exchange of their sin to Christ. Christ already died for the elect. Christ already did not die for the non-elect.

    There are two imputations, one by God’s agency and the second by human agency as a result (not condition) of God’s imputing. For the sake of completeness, we should also remember that God not only credits the sin of the elect to Christ but also credits the death of Christ to the elect. In addition God once credited the sin of Adam to all humans.

    And don’t forget the second command in Romans. 6:12–”Let 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. 14 For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.”

  4. markmcculley Says:

    1. how should we forgive? and 2. if we don’t forgive, will that prove we never believed ? but 3. if we make our forgiveness conditional on the sinner (which God does not), then we can think we are meeting the conditions of salvation WITHOUT ACTUALLY FORGIVING

    Tianqi Wu The parable of unforgiving servant is not threatening the believer that God will revoke forgiveness if they don’t forgive their brothers but is describing by a human analogy how sinful it would be to not forgive your brother when you have been forgiven by God.

    1, in the parable, the master forgives monetary debts, but not sinful conduct (the servant being unmerciful)

    2, in the parable, the master’s forgiveness of debt is by master’s absorption of the loss which he can change mind about later, not by an complete, settled payment by a mediator.

    Some of those who divide sin into sin against law and sin against grace, says sin against law is forgiven, IF you do not sin against grace. Some of them also say God can change his mind about the value of Christ’s death for you based on your response.

  5. markmcculley Says:

    The duty to obey King Jesus is not determined by ability or lack of ability. The gospel teaches us that elect sinners who do NOT do their duties will nevertheless be “saved” from God’s wrath because of legal identity with Christ’s death for elect sinners.
    God is both just and the justifier of elect sinners. Elect sinners believe the gospel in which the sins of gospel believers are not imputed to those sinners.
    Pietists exempt non-Christians from the commands of the Sermon on the Mount on the basis of their inability. That exemption is not necessary in order to make the vital distinction between law and gospel. Christ’s law is not changed by human inability to keep it. And Christ’s law is not the gospel. Whatever ability we may claim, none of us is obeying the Sermon on the Mount. But this is no excuse.

    if we says the kingdom is only on the inside, in our hearts and in our new ability, we ignore the external commands of the King who was standing among the disciples and who is coming back to earth.

    Christ’s kingdom is coming in the age to come, but also Christ’s kingdom is coming in this age, and Christ’s kingdom does not come from violent force, because Christ’s kingdom in this world is not from this world.

    Hebrews 2—Now in putting everything in subjection to him, he left nothing outside his control. At present, we do not yet see everything in subjection to him. But we see him who for a little while was made lower than the angels, namely Jesus, crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death

    There are not two kinds of Christians, carnal Christians and higher life Christians. All Christians believe the true gospel and reject the carnal idea of salvation conditioned on the sinner. And all Christians are carnal, because they are all still controlled by sin, because none of them has stopped sinning yet. And no Christian is living in heaven now without a body.

  6. markmcculley Says:

    God covers and hides the sins of the justified elect
    Isaiah 38: 17 Indeed it was for my own peace
    That I had great bitterness;
    But You have lovingly delivered me from the pit of corruption,
    Isaiah 43: 25 “I, even I, am the one who wipes out your transgressions for My own sake, And I will not remember your sins.”
    Hebrews 8: 12 For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more.”
    Hebrews 10: “Their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more.

  7. markmcculley Says:

    False generalization by Phil Johnson–” All those who deny that Christ’s law-keeping is imputed are teaching that redemption is accomplished by the setting aside of the law’s absolute demands, not by Christ’s satisfying the law.”
    I don’t think that Christ was watered as our substitute
    But I do think there could be other motives for our being watered (don’t ask me which, I don’t care).
    I don’t think Christ’s law keeping is a substitute for our obeying the law.
    But I do think that Christ’s death is a substitute for our needing to (or being motivated to) keep the law as a means of obtaining blessings,.

    Because i do think Christ’s death means our not being under the law.

    But I do NOT think that our not being under the law means that we cannot sin by disobeying the law of Christ.

    There was no Jewish law that commanded Christ or anyone else to be baptized with water . Christ was not offering obedience to the Jewish law, His water baptism was necessary, but the question is: In what way was it necessary? The Bible does not teach that His water baptism merited part of the righteousness which is imputed to the elect. The Bible does not teach that his incarnation or his resurrection or his resurrection status or his physical circumcision is part of the righteousness which is imputed.

  8. markmcculley Says:

    J I Packer warns us : “There have been pneumatic antinomians who have affirmed that the Holy Spirit within us directly prompts us to discern and do the will of God, without our needing to look to the law to either prescribe or monitor our performance. The idea is that those who live in Christ are wholly separated from every aspect of the pedagogy of the law. So now we live, they say, not by being forgiven our constant shortcomings, but by being out of the law’s bailiwick altogether; not by imitating Christ, the archetypal practitioner of holy obedience to God’s law.”

  9. markmcculley Says:

    Statement about Obedience to God
    Taken from one of the messages of a 10 part series called REAL Lordship Salvation:
    Yet another reminder so Lordship Salvationists will not have an accusation against Gospel of Grace Ministries –
    We believe there is no excuse for sin and that we are exhorted NOT to sin or grieve the Holy Spirit.
    We believe that God chastises His people when they sin.
    We believe that after God’s sheep believe the gospel they are to obey all New Covenant commands through faith, working by love.
    We believe the word of God to teach we are to –
    – bear fruit,
    – do good works (God has ordained the works and energizes them)
    – repent of all sin, confess all sin
    – loves the brethren, our neighbor and even our enemies
    We believe that “faith without works is dead” and that God’s people are to be a people zealous of good works.
    We believe that good works, done by faith and in love, are pleasing to God, because we do them knowing we are only accepted in Christ.
    We here believe and teach that God-given faith has action behind it. It’s not just dormant. It affects the believer’s life.
    The just SHALL LIVE by faith.
    There is a sacrifice of self-involved wherein we serve God and others.
    This means those that have faith are all ministers – servants.
    We are bought with a price and not our own.
    Having said that we believe that NO PART of salvation is conditioned on us and because Christ met all the conditions for the complete salvation of His sheep.
    We here uphold a sanctification that is definitive, complete and monergistic, all done by sovereign grace.
    We believe as we grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ we grow down – in humility, seeing ourselves as unworthy in all we are and do.
    We will have a growing sense of a reverential fear of the Lord by being afraid to be accepted in some OTHER WAY besides in Christ ALONE.
    This is REAL Lordship Salvation – Salvation is of the LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS from start to finish. https://www.facebook.com/notes/scott-price/statement-about-obedience-to-god/10154419750390735

  10. markmcculley Says:

    Mark Seifrid—-Calvin is able to speak of the condemning function of the Law with the same vigor as Luther himself ( Institutes 2.7.1-7). Yet in his eagerness to resolve the question of the unity of Scripture, he speaks of the Law as ….not bringing death but serving another purpose. According to this perspective, Law and Gospel do not address the believing human being in radically different ways, but only in differing degrees according to the measures of “grace” present within them. ….

    The embedding of the Law within grace qualifies law’s demand—while the Law works the death of sinners, it has a different effect on the righteous. For the Reformed the Law is no longer a “hard taskmaster,” who exacts full payment. It rather urges believers on to the goal of their lives, exciting them to obedience. In describing how the regenerate experience the Law, Calvin appeals directly to Psalms 19 and 119.

    Calvin regards the Law as addressing the believer as a regenerate person. This “regeneration” is not fully effective in us, but weak and impeded by the “sluggishness” of the flesh. —Calvin regards regeneration to effect a new state within the human being, which is partially present and active. The “flesh” is present as a power that exerts partial influence on us. For Calvin, the most important function of the Law lies in its speaking to us as regenerate persons, urging us onward to the goal that lies before us. In speaking to the regenerate, the Law has lost its condemning function–: it no longer works our death, but only furthers the new life which is partially present in us already.

    Luther finds a radically different anthropology in Scripture. The old, fallen creature exists as a whole alongside the new creature, who is likewise a whole. The picture of the human being is either darkness or light, without any shading of tones. There is no “intermediate state” in which we receive instruction but escape condemnation. In so far as the Law deals with our salvation (and does not merely guide our outward conduct), it pronounces our condemnation. The Law speaks even to us who are regenerate as fallen human beings. Being a Christian means again and again, in all the trials and temptations of life, hearing and believing the Gospel which overcomes the condemnation pronounced on us by the Law and by our own consciences in which that Law is written.

    Psalm 119 strikingly ends on the same note as Rom 7:24: “I have gone astray like a lost sheep. Seek your servant! For I do not forget your word” (Psalm 119:176). The whole psalm is summarized in this closing statement. The one who delights in the Law of God, who recounts it, meditates on it day and night, and clings to it, nevertheless does not yet know it in his heart and experience, and repeatedly appeals to the Lord to teach him. As he implicitly confesses in the opening of the psalm, his ways are not yet “established” in keeping the Lord’s statutes. He still is ashamed when he considers them (Psalm 119:5-8). In view of these petitions and the closing of the psalm, there is good reason, contrary to usual practice, to render the whole of Psalm119:9 as a question: “How shall a young man purify his way? How shall he keep it according to your word?” This petition recurs in varying forms, as the psalmist looks beyond the Law to the Lord, whom he asks to teach, instruct, and revive him (e.g., Ps 119:12, 18, 25-26, 29, etc.). The condition of the psalmist is not essentially different from that of the believing Paul, who likewise delights in the Law of God, but finds a different Law at work in him that makes him a prisoner of sin. What the psalmist sought from the Lord (and undoubtedly in faith received) is found, Paul with joy announces, in the crucified and risen Christ (Rom 7:25). In Psalm 19, too, the psalmist, even after his exalted praise of the Law confesses that a saving work of God beyond the Law is necessary in his heart: “Who can discern (their) errors? Make me innocent of hidden sins. . . . Then I shall be blameless and innocent of great transgression” (Ps 19:11-13). Admittedly, Psalm 1 lacks this element of confession. But the shadow of the cross lies across this psalm: who among us can claim to be that person here and now? As the psalm itself suggests in its promise that “his leaf does not wither,” the path of the righteous one whom it describes leads through testing and trial on its way to the “season” of fruit (Psalm 1:1-6).

    The sins of which we are aware, dangerous though they may be, are not the most dangerous ones. These hidden faults are more deeply rooted in our person and being than we can imagine, and finally consist in the desire to do away with God and to possess that which properly belongs to our neighbor.

    Admittedly, this perspective robs “progress” of its ultimacy. The goal and end of the Christian life is given to us already at its beginning in Jesus Christ. But this displacing of “progress” from its place of primacy prevents us from taking upon ourselves burdens that we were never meant to bear. What those need who do not feel themselves to be sinners is the careful, gentle, yet direct exposure of their sins—not merely the faults of our society or problems in our culture but the root sins of self seeking, pride, lust, envy, greed by which we deny God and mistreat one another


    om Mark Seifrid of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary:

    perspectives-on-our-inner-struggle” Paul does not speak of the Christian struggle with sin in Romans 7. He describes a battle already lost, long ago in Adam. Nevertheless, in sheer wonder, the long-lost battle has been decided in our favor by God in Christ. The Christian is thus called to walk the very narrow path marked by the intersection of the new creation with the present fallen world. On the one side we are subject to the danger of the despair that loses sight of God’s work in Christ. On the other hand, we are subject to the danger of a pride that falsely supposes that the power of salvation is now ours, if only we realize its potential. Such a pride in its own way also loses sight of God’s work in Christ. It brings a ‘therapeutic Christianity’ that turns outward achievements, whether individual, corporate, or social, into a measure of spiritual progress and a mark of the presence of the kingdom. It does not see that what has been accomplished in Christ is located abidingly in Christ, not in ourselves. Our salvation, and therefore all true progress, both individual and corporate, does not rest in our hands…

    As Paul tells the Philippians, progress is a progress in faith (Phil 1:21). It is not a turning inward but a being-turned-outward. It is hearing the address of the gospel afresh within the changing circumstances of life. To use Paul’s language, it is again and again ‘reckoning yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus’ (Rom 6:11)… Not only the first step but every step of Christian progress begins with Paul’s sober and realistic confession in Rom 7:25b […with my flesh I serve the law of sin]. It begins with the acknowledgment that as long as we remain in this body and life the unhappy truth that we ‘serve the law of sin’ remains.”

    -Mark A. Seifrid, Perspectives on Our Struggle with Sin


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