Archive for April 2012

Why Focus Only on the Object of Faith?, by Geoffrey Paxton

April 23, 2012

The disastrous mixing of the righteousness of Christ and the regeneration and inner renewal of the believer so often starts in the revivallist’s tent. That which takes place in the believer (faith) is accorded a place alongside of that which took place for the believer (the doing and dying of Jesus Christ).

Faith is given the same rank as that which took place in Palestine. Faith is given a specific weight of its own. Faith is accorded a place in the true, saving content of the gospel. Faith cooperates in the achievement of salvation. Instead of the gospel controlling faith, faith controls the gospel.

The content of the gospel is dictated by faith instead of the content of faith being dictated by the gospel. Instead of God rewriting man’s history in Jesus Christ, man now rewrites the history of God in his existential saving appropriation. Faith cooperates in the resurrection!

Faith takes its value from its Object. There is nothing in faith itself which can commend it to God. Only Christ can save. In Luther and Calvin’s day some taught that faith may be said to justify because it is “fashioned by love.” However, this view was rejected: They should be interpreted, so they say, as referring to “faith fashioned by love,” that is, they do not attribute justification to
faith except on account of love. Indeed, they do not attribute justification to faith at all, but only to love, because they CANNOT IMAGINE THAT FAITH CAN EXIST WITH SIN.

Where does this end but with the abolition of the promise and a return to the law? If faith receives the forgiveness of sins on account of love, the forgiveness of sins will always be unsure, for we never love as much as we should. In fact, we do not love at all unless our hearts are sure that the forgiveness of sins has been granted to us.

If our opponents require us to trust in our own love for the forgiveness of sins and justification, they completely abolish the Gospel of the free forgiveness of sins. For men can neither render nor understand this love unless they believe that the forgiveness of sins is received freely.—Augsburg Confession IV.109-110.

The Lutherans also rejected the notion that faith indeed has the most prominent role in justification, but that also renewal and love belong to our righteousness before God, not indeed as if it were the primary cause of our righteousness, but that nevertheless our righteousness before God is incomplete and imperfect without such love and renewal.—Formula of Concord III.20.

Let us consider, for example, the honored “testimony meeting” within revivalism. More often than not, the focus of these testimonies is “what God is doing in my life.” So often our rationale is that this will “encourage faith.” But where does the Bible say this? Does not the Bible say that faith comes by hearing and hearing the message of Christ? (Rom. 10:17). If that which creates and sustains faith is objective to faith, why do we turn our eyes and the eyes of other
Christians to something subjective?

If forgiveness is outside the believer and the ground of acceptance is outside the believer, the focus of faith is also outside the believer. God saves us and turns us inside out. The testimony of the Bible, which the Reformers rediscovered, is that the power of God lies in the gospel.

We conclude this look at some aspects of justification in the Lutheran confessions and John Calvin by taking up an accusation that such a perspective denies the subjective element in Christian existence. This accusation is puzzling. As one reads the writers of the Bible and the works of the Reformers, it is plain that one is reading the writings of men who were excited to such a degree that words almost failed them! These men knew what it was to have a wonderful experience. They never ceased to speak and write about it.

The clash between the approach of the Reformers and so much of experimental theology is not a clash over subjective versus nonsubjective. Rather, the clash is over vastly different subjective contents. The Reformers were excited (subjective!) about the gospel which lay outside of them (Col. 3:1-3).

To honor the subjective element does not mean to be preoccupied with the subjective. Likewise, to focus on the objective does not mean to dishonor the subjective. Indeed, the subjective is God-honoring when its focus is on the objective. We will go so far as to say that those
who do not focus on the objective do not know what a real and marvelous subjective experience is! For when the subjective preoccupation of man is with the objective action of God in Christ,
the subjective dimension of human existence fulfills its creation by God.”

http://www.presenttruthmag.com/archive/XXXVI/36-3.htm

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I John Chapter Three

April 21, 2012

I John 4:17 explains that God’s election (love) is “perfected with us, so that we have confidence in the day of judgment, because as He is so also are we in the world.”

Legal justification is the only way the elect can be as He is in the world. (Check out your commentaries on this: even commentators who deny that the “fine linen” of the saints (John’s Revelation) is by imputation, even most of these commentators agree that I John 4 is about God’s love resulting in legal union with Christ and His obedience.) .

I John 3 is about the difference between a Nicodemus and a prodigal publican, about the difference between a religious Cain and a religious Abel. Think of the context. This is not about Abel having a better inside than another person! The religion of Cain is nothing but evil deeds.

The reason Cain hated Abel was that Cain wanted to glory in/ rejoice in (Phil 3:3) the deeds done by his false god IN himself. Cain refused to put to death (not count) those deeds (Rom 8:13) but instead wanted to worship a god who would accept Cain’s credit for producing life in Cain.

To pass over from death to life is to be put into the new man, to be given a new legal state, in which one’s confidence is not in what God does in you but rather in what God has done in Christ outside you. Only in this way can we be in the world as Christ was in the world.

The Cains of this world are ready for a self-examination and contrast in terms of their morality. They are Pharisees who contrast well with alcoholics and people who watch the Simpsons on TV. But these Cains “do not practice righteousness” (I John 3;10). These Cains will not come to the light, because they love darkness and the light of the gospel (God forgives sinners by Christ’s death) keeps telling these Cains that their deeds are evil. All their deeds, both moral and religious. (John 3:19).

These Cains want to thank their god not only for the deeds they do but also for putting “life in their souls”. But the true God won’t accept their thanks. And those like Abel who worship in truth won’t fellowship with that self-righteous religion. That’s why Cain hated Abel.

Christians still sin, For these same sins the wrath of God comes upon nonChristians

April 20, 2012

Ephesians 5:3 But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints. 4 Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving. 5 For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous ( that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. 6 Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. 7 Therefore do not become partners with them; 8 for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light 9 (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), 10 and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord. 11 Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them.

the pietist puritan concludes from the above

1. The wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience, and we know who they are because they continue to sin, and even on purpose.
2. In reality it makes no sense that God is going to punish the condemned non-elect for these sins and not also punish the justified elect for the same specific sins.
3. Therefore, the pietist puritan concludes that the justified elect don’t commit these sins, or at least not for long, and never on purpose.

I thank God for another gospel, one in which Christ’s life in justified sinners gives us assurance that sin shall not be our master, because we are not under law but under grace. This other good news gospel teaches us to fear God and God’s law, because we know that not even Christ in us causes us to satisfy God’s law and we trust in the death of Christ as that which answers the demands of God’s holy law.

Yes, those who are without Christ are under the wrath of God for the very same sins which we continue to commit. Our hope is not that we are no longer coveting idolaters, but that there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.

Why tell Christians not to be coveting idolaters, if Christians can’t be coveting idolaters, at least not on purpose?

Where Faith in the Gospel Is, Christ Lives, but Christ also lives in Heaven and Not Just Your Heart

April 19, 2012

Some who tell sinners to look outside themselves end up telling these sinners to look to “the sacraments” and to the priests authorized to dispense the “seals” in which the “sign is united with the reality”. But salvation from death and the forgiveness of sins are mediated realities, in which the Mediator is Jesus Christ, the great High Priest.

John 3:13 No one has ascended into heaven except he who descended from heaven, the Son of Man.[a] Footnote: Some manuscripts add who is in heaven

Some scholars think that this verse is talking about Christ’s continuing divine presence in heaven, even from the beginning of His incarnation. Maybe so. I know the verse is teaching us that no other human has gone to heaven except Christ alone. We wait for heaven to come to earth.

But right now I want to think about two other truths. Christ in His humanity is now absent from earth. We wait for Him to return. Christ in His divinity is now present also in our hearts.

Objection: God reckons this thing Christ purchased for the elect to the elect. If that’s the case, then I have to ask, where does Christ fit into that? Why don’t you talk more about real stuff, like Christ in your heart?

mark: 1. Christ being God is the imputer. Christ took the sins to Himself, and thus took the death to Himself. 2. Christ, besides being the earner who obtained all the blessings of salvation for the elect by His obedience, now does these two things. Christ both indwells (lives in) the justified and also intercedes (in heaven) for the elect.

The indwelling—- Where faith is, Christ is. Luther was right about that, but it’s a mistake to locate the righteousness in the faith, or identify the righteousness with Christ’s life inside us (as Osiander did.

The work to earn righteousness for the elect was done outside of the elect. The righteousness which resulted and which is imputed is always outside of the elect. Bunyan explained: the righteousness is in heaven. The righteousness belong not to us alone on the inside but also to all the elect. The righteousness also belongs still to Christ.

objection: Because if that is indeed the case, then to be blunt about it, we don’t even need Him anymore. He bought what we need, so now He can step back, go do whatever while God hands out what He purchased. Why would we have faith in Him? Our faith would be in what He purchased instead. How does that glorify Christ?

mark: I do think you for these questions. Of course Socinians who deny forensic justification often ask this. But you are not denying any forensic thing I am saying: you want that plus more, also Christ Himself the person living in you.

And my answer: justification is not the only thing. Christ the person is not a something to be imputed. I agree that the true Christ is given to live with the justified elect and in the justified elect. I am glad that we don’t need false alternatives, such as “HIM vs His work”. I am glad that you don’t deny “imputation” as a fiction which is not real. But I am concerned when you dismiss assent to the gospel of imputation as something less important than the “life of God in the soul of the man”.

In By Faith Not By Sight, Richard Gaffin : “Typically in the Reformation tradition the hope of salvation is expressed in terms of
Christ’s righteousness, especially as imputed to the believer…however, I have to wonder if ‘Christ in you’ is not more prominent as an expression of evangelical hope…” p110

Gaffin wants to say that both the “in us” and the “outside us” are our hope. His hope “as well” is Christ’s life in us defined as the power to avoid sin despite our “incomplete progress, flawed by our continued sinning”.

Instead of reading the “according to works” texts as having to do with the distinction between dead works (Hebrews 6:1,9:14) and “fruit for God” (Romans 7:4), Gaffin bases assurance on Christ’s life in us
evidenced by our imperfect but habitual obedience.

Gaffin follows his mentors John Murray and Norman Shepherd in taking
Romans 2:13 to be describing Christians. The hope for future
justification is not Christ’s death, resurrection, and intercession
outside us alone. His hope “as well” is Christ in you. Without
defining “sanctification” (by the blood?, by the Spirit?, or by us
working out what’s been worked in?) Gaffin warns of an “unbreakable
bond between justification and sanctification” in the matter of
aasurance for future justification. (p100)

Yes, Christ’s finished righteousness is the alone ground, he agrees, but at the same time and HOWEVER, Christ’s life in us factors in also. Gaffin cautions to remember that the obedience and avoidance of sin which factor into your assurance come from God living in you and not from you.

I agree with Gaffin that the gospel is not only about what Christ did
outside of the elect for the elect. The gospel is also about the
effectual call which results from election in Christ and atonement in
Christ.

One evidence of effectual calling in us is that the justified elect do not put their assurance in Christ’s life in them as proven by their “bearing fruit for God”. To look in us for Christ’s life is to “bear fruit for death”. Romans 7:5

If We Were Ever to Become Dead

April 18, 2012

“Died with Christ” (or “died in Christ”) means Christ died instead of the justified elect, but the result is that the person the elect used to be, that person is dead, over with, done trying to help build their own righteousness. That old person is not here now anymore. The justified elect person has nothing to gain by their works. And nothing to lose.

If we were to ever become like Christ
It would not have been us who did it
If we were to ever become dead
Christ would have killed us

We would count in a new way and not hang our future
On a divine life in us

Now that we were dead
We would count as loss
What we used to count worship

If we were to ever become dead
We would have had it Done to us
Death is suffered

What we would have lost is making outcomes
Depend on God causing us to obey
Faith always continues to need the resurrection

We do not hope for righteousness
We hope because of righteousness
We have passed from death through a death imputed

Now let’s see
If we can stand still.

Is Election a Family Secret?

April 16, 2012

In Assured by God (ed Parsons, Presbyterian and Reformed, 2006, p45),
Philip Ryken informs us that “election is a family secret”. Ryken writes: “To ask if you are among the elect is to really ask if you are in Christ. If you want to know whether God has chosen you, all you need to know is it you are in Christ.”

This sounds simple but it’s not. Which Christ? Is the Christ of people who deny election the same Christ as the Christ of the people who rejoice in election? And perhaps more to the point, is the Christ of people who “don’t know about election” the same Christ as the Christ of the people who do know about election?

It’s important to make a distinction here between knowing about
election and knowing that you are elect. I certainly agree with Ryken
that nobody can know if they are elect before they believe the gospel. But this is NOT the same thing as saying that nobody can know about election before they believe the gospel.Though Ryken teaches that election is a family secret, the Bible teaches election as inherent in the gospel, and as something to be proclaimed to all who read the Bible and who hear the gospel. (Romans 9:11)

The Christ who died only for the elect is certainly not the same Christ as the counterfeit Christ who died for everybody. Those who believe that Christ died for everybody do not believe in what the Bible says about election and therefore do not believe in the gospel.

It doesn’t matter if we say that these people (most evangelicals)
don’t know about election or if we say that they know about election
and reject it in favor of their preference for a “Jesus” who died for
everybody. In any case, they do not and cannot believe that all for
whom Jesus died will be justified. They do not believe in the
“finished” work of Christ. They only believe in a “to be determined”
work of Christ.

Of course we agree with Calvin that we shall not find proof of our
election in ourselves. But neither can we find proof of our election
in our believing a false gospel which teaches a false Christ who died
for those who will perish. Ryken writes: “Since election is in Christ, it is often best understood after one becomes a Christian…While you are outside of God’s family, you may not hear about predestination at all; once you are in the family, however, it makes the most perfect sense in the world.”

The irrational irony of this claim by Ryken is that he knows that most who claim to be now in God’s family still do not believe in election. Some of these “evangelical Christians” are open theists who deny that God even knows the future. Others of Ryken’s fellow evangelicals say that God knew ahead of time who to “elect” because God saw ahead of time who would “accept Jesus by faith”. Now it could be said that this shows that they do believe in election now, but this “election” is not the kind of election Ryken is talking about in his essay.

Ryken wants to claim that the kind of election about which he’s talking makes good sense to people after they become Christians. How then does he explain that most “Christians” still don’t know the family secret? If there were indeed an election-free gospel which one could accept and thus get oneself united to Christ, why would it be important for these Christians to learn later the “family secret”?

Of course Ryken does not question the salvation of those who don’t
learn the “family secret”. Nor does he question the salvation of those who deny the “family secret”. Nor does he pause to doubt the assurance of those who think the “secret” is that God knew ahead of time who would believe. Ryken might in general question the salvation of open theists, or even of those who teach “easy-believism carnal Christianity”, but too many of his constituents are Arminians for him to ever doubt if they have believed the gospel and with that faith united themselves to Christ so that they are now “in Christ”.

The words of Jesus Christ in John chapter 10 about the sheep hearing the voice of the Shepherd and not hearing the voice of strangers must have something to do with morality and behavior and discipleship, because to Ryken’s mind those words can have nothing to do with election. So what if a lot of Christians continue to believe that they elect themselves to salvation with their faith? Afterall, they have Ryken and other Reformed booksellers to teach them the “secret”?

But why talk about Romans 8 or John 10 when you can quote Donald Gray
Barnhouse? “Imagine a cross like the cross on which Jesus died, only
so large that it has a door in it and a sign over it: whosoever may
come….On the other side of the door, a happy surprise waits the one
who enters. From the inside, anyone glancing back can see the words on this side of the door: chosen…”

And perhaps they will find some books written by Boice, Barnhouse and
Ryken! But just to deal with the empirical reality of what
evangelicals now believe, how does Ryken explain that so many don’t
ever look back and read the word “chosen”? And why do so many still
understand that “chosen” to mean “because you chose first and God saw
you would choose”? And why do so many Christians insist that any talk
of election is not “happy” but to be rejected forever?

If I myself refuse to believe in any God who would elect some to salvation and not others, why would I want others to know the “secret”? If I myself refused to believe that Jesus didn’t love everybody and die for them, why would I think of that truth as a “happy surprise”?

Romans 9:11 “Though they were not yet born and had done nothing good or bad-in order that God’s purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of His call.”

When evangelicals like Ryken attempt to leave out the “for the elect alone” and discuss the gospel without talking about election, mostly all they can say is “not because of works but because of faith alone”.

Even if you believe the false gospel that Christ died for every sinner, “Reformed evangelicals” will tell you that God effectually called you to believe that falsehood. Of course in some Sunday School class for smarter people (or in conferences that charge you big dollars) they will explain a more educated and precise view of things which you might want to add on to what you already believe without needing to repent of a false gospel.

To get into the family you believed in a faith alone gospel and that caused you to get into Christ, and now you still believe in a faith alone gospel but now you know that the faith came from God.

Faith is hearing produced by God by means of the gospel. The power is in the true gospel, not a false gospel. I Corinthians 1:18–“for the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved, IT is the power of God.”

The true gospel needs to be proclaimed to all sinners. The gospel is only good news for the elect, but we don’t know who the elect are until they have believed the gospel. If the object of the faith alone is a false gospel which says that Christ loves everybody and died also for everybody on the wrong side of the door, then this faith alone is not in the true Christ but is instead in faith alone. But “faith alone” is not the condition of justification, and to see that, we need a message which tells us about God’s election.

Romans 1:16, “the gospel is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes.” Evangelicals understand this as teaching that salvation is conditioned on faith alone. Evangelicals don’t understand the gospel.

Election is God’s idea. This idea goes along with the idea of not works. Romans 9:11: “In order that God’s election might continue, not because of works.”

Romans 11: 5, “So too at the present time there is a remnant chosen by grace. But if it by grace, it is no longer by works; otherwise grace would be no more grace.”

Doesn’t the apostle Paul understand that you can say “not by works “ without talking about election? Why doesn’t he just say: “by faith and not by works”? Why does he bring in this idea of an elect remnant? Paul writes about election in order to explain what he means by faith. Paul does not regard faith as a substitute for works.

God imputes the righteousness revealed in the gospel to a person justified by the gospel. The “it” which is imputed by God to Abraham is the obedient bloody death of Christ Jesus for the elect alone. The righteousness of God obtained by Christ for the elect alone is imputed unto the elect alone.

Do As God Says, Not As God Does

April 10, 2012

God will judge the secrets of our hearts (Romans 2:16, Hebrews 4:12), but we humans cannot and should not try to imitate the coming apocalypse. God does some things we cannot do, and that we should not do. Sometimes we are to obey God rather than to imitate God.

Some liberals think that any notion of God being judgmental in the future only leads to violence now. But historically that is not how the “peace-churches” have understood it. Instead of reading current events as divinely right (or wrong) we quote Romans 12:19-“Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.”

In Luke 13:4-5, the Lord Jesus responded to those attempting to interpret current events: “Those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them; do you think they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem? No, I tell you, but unless you repent, you will likewise perish.” That threat from Jesus is not an endorsement of violence, nor is it an excuse for us to kill anybody.

God judging justly is one reason we are not to kill. The other reason we are not to kill is that, when the soldiers killed Jesus, “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree.” (I Peter 2:24) Liberals will tell us that this event was only humans killing another human and that God had nothing to do with it. But I Peter in context assumes that God does indeed punish His Servant for the sins of the others. Isaiah 53: “Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him; he has put him to grief; his soul makes an offering for sin…”

As I Peter 3:18 has it, “Christ suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous.” There is no need for any of us to be killing, since there is now no other sacrifice for sins. Liberals will deny that Jesus was punished for the sins of His friends, but it is that very hope which serves as the reason for patience in the face of the history which is coming toward us.

I Peter 2:21—“leaving you an example, so that you would follow in his steps…when he suffered, he continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly.”