Archive for July 2012

Doug Wilson Lets God Unfold His Decrees

July 31, 2012

I don’t agree with the way that Doug Wilson can’t make a distinction between Bible covenants. Wilson assumes that two kinds of election in the Abrahamic and Mosaic covenants means two kinds of election in the new covenant.

Of course Doug Wilson is not the only paedobaptist to say “the covenant” as if that’s saying the same thing as “the gospel”. Nor is he the only paedobaptist to make a distinction between the new covenant and election. But since mono-covenantalism is his central doctrine, Wilson is more consistent than most paedobaptists in how this works out in his doctrine of assurance.

In this case, being consistent is not a good thing, because Wilson has confused his ecclesiology with the gospel itself, which means that his false gospel is about grace helping people keep the conditions of “staying in the covenant”.

Doug Wilson: “To see election through a covenant lens does not mean to define decretal election as though it were identical with covenant election. But we do not drag the decrees down into our understanding of history — we let God unfold His unchangeable decrees throughout the process of all history. The content of the ultimate decrees is none of our current business, although we cheerfully acknowledge that the decrees are really there and that they have an unchanging content.”

Wilson certainly begs the question ecclesiologically. I suppose it’s big of him to let God reveal in the Bible that there is a decretal election. When Wilson “understands” that we can’t understand decretal election, he fails to make a distinction between knowing that there is such an election, and knowing who is elect. While the Bible does not tell who is elect, God does reveal that all the elect and only the elect will believe the gospel.

But Wilson “understands” the gospel as that which does not talk about decretal election. So his gospel does not tell the good news about Christ having only died for the decretally elect, nor does his gospel tell the good news about the decretally elect hearing and believing the true gospel.

Doug Wilson: “Because of the promises of the covenant, we may deal with election on our end, which is covenant election. The decrees are on God’s end. It is important for us to know that God does what He does on His end, but we only know that He is doing it, not what He is doing.”

Doug Wilson can know if “members in the covenant” on “this end” are meeting the conditions of “the covenant” well enough to have their infants baptized in the covenant. But since Doug Wilson teaches future justification, he is saying that nobody— parents or children—can know they will always have lasting life and the forgiveness of sins.

Doug Wilson thinks that having assurance is nothing but subjective pietism, and that threats and warnings are way more useful, at least for those in the covenant.

According to Romans 9:11, we cannot say grace alone without talking decretal election”.. Of course we don’t have to use those words, but we have to explain that Christ did not die for a group to be named later. Nor did Jesus Christ die for a subset which manages (by cooperating grace) to “stay in the covenant”. Romans 9 is not only talking about the “covenantally elect”.

“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.”

Both were in that covenant. God’s purpose of election is about God’s decree. We need to see the connection between “not because of works” and decretal election. When evangelicals attempt to leave out the “for the elect alone” and discuss the gospel without talking about decretal election, they end up saying “not because of works but because of faith alone”.

Most “Reformed” folks grew up believing in a “faith alone” gospel, and now they still believe in a faith alone gospel but know in addition that the faith came to the elect from God. If the object of the “faith alone” is a false gospel which says that Christ loves everybody and died for everybody (in some “covenantal” sense?) and that “faith alone” is some kind of condition of this salvation, then this “faith alone” is not in the true Christ but is instead in “faith alone”.

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. Decretal 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.”

Does the apostle Paul not understand that you can say “not by works “ without talking about decretal election? Why doesn’t he just say: “by faith and not by works”? Why does he bring in this idea of a remnant? And this “remnant” is not the “covenantally elect”. Paul is writing about decretal election in order to explain what he means by faith. Paul does not regard faith as a substitute for works. But neither does Paul regard faith as a substitute for Christ’s righteousness.

Romans 4:4 “Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due. 5 And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted unto righteousness.”

God does not count faith as the righteousness. God counts the object of faith as the righteousness. Because the object of faith is Christ’s righteousness, not His presence in us, but His accomplished obedience even unto death.

Neither Your Faith Nor Your Works Make the Difference

July 30, 2012

Mark Dever writes, “justification is not the same kind of merely
objective act that propitiation is…Christ’s giving of Himself satisfied the demands of the Father’s judgment against us. He did it alone; we played no part in it. Justification, however, includes us and our faith in a way that propitiation did not. We must believe in order to be justified.“ (It is Well, Crossway, 2010)

I agree that propitiation and justification are different, but I would deconstruct the difference as Dever locates it. Like most Calvinists, he and Lawrence (his co-author) have not considered the idea of a “justification through faith” in which the regeneration and faith of the elect are the immediate result of God’s imputation of Christ’s death to the elect.

Of course Dever and Lawrence have heard of federal union (which they may equate with eternal justification), but they see no other alternative to a justification conditioned on what God does in the elect sinner in causing that sinner to believ

Yes, it’s true that the elect are only justified when they believe,
but it is not being honest to the truth of eternal election in Christ to say that faith is the instrumental condition of justification. But it does make Arminian evangelism easier.

Who are the we? Who are the us? The New Testament letters were written for those who were already believing the gospel. Of course this “mail for Christians” is also meant to be read and proclaimed to those who have not yet believed the gospel (elect and non-elect)

The pastors Dever and Lawrence, who first did these sermons in their
Southern Baptist church, do a good job of making a distinction between Christians and non-Christian “friends”. But they refuse to talk to these friends about election or about how the effectiveness of Christ’s death not only satisfies justice but causes the elect to believe. Instead, they tell non-Christians that they “can be” saved if they trust Jesus (even the false Jesus who died without anybody’s sin being imputed to Him at the time).

They write as if faith is the way to get sins imputed to Christ, as if the lost sinner is the one who is the imputer. On page 200, they ask:”what will you do with your sins?” On page 213, they ask: “But did Jesus die for you? It depends. Do you know yourself to be unrighteous?”

It’s NOT an addition to the gospel or an optional extra to explain the truth. Any decision to obey and to believe the gospel is also a result of Christ’s death. Christ by His death purchased for every elect sinners faith to believe the gospel

My plea is not that the lost have to learn what an Arminian is before
they can believe the gospel. My plea is that those who teach the
gospel show how Christ’s death is effective for the elect by showing
how the sins of the elect were imputed to Christ by God, and not by
the sinner.

It is well and good to tell the sinner that if she understands herself to be self-righteous, then she has a substitute. But part of
self-righteousness is any idea that we cause Christ to become our
substitute because God make us believers.

God makes the elect to become believers because the elect died in
union with Christ, so that His death is their death. This book makes
“baptism” in Romans 6 to be a symbol of our faith (instead of God
placing the elect into Christ’s death). On page 111, Lawrence writes
the assumption: “through faith, sinners like you and me are brought
into union with Christ so that our sins are credited to him.”

Why do I call this Arminian evangelism? Don’t the Arminians say that
all the sins of all sinners have already been credited to Christ, and
that this is ineffective? Well, no, Arminians would NOT agree that it’s ineffective. Arminians simply say that the whole thing is ALSO conditioned on faith. While the Calvinist disagrees with the Arminian about the source of this faith, as long as the Calvinist does not talk of a federal union in which God has already credited the sins of the elect to Christ, they can share the same gospel.

They can also agree not to mention that the non-elect sinner cannot
believe the true gospel. They can very much agree not to mention that
the non-elect CAN believe the false gospel that teaches falsely that God loves everybody and that Christ died for everybody.

Are We To Sin Less to Get More Grace?

July 26, 2012

Jonathan Edwards “He That Believeth Will be Saved”, Sermons of JE,
115: “We can’t be saved without being good…All whose hearts come to
Christ will be good, and if men aren’t good, their hearts never will
come to Christ…They whose hearts come to Christ, they are joined to
Christ, and so they belong to him and therefore are saved for his

Douglas Sweeney, “Justification by Faith Alone?, in Jonathan Edwards
and Justification, ed Josh Moody, 2012, Crossway, p148—-“God
requires all His people to cooperate with Him to increase in
sanctification. They accomplish this, however, as they abide in the
Lord, letting God govern their hearts and bear divine fruit in their
lives. For Edwards, there are levels of grace and laurels for the

Romans 6: Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? 2 By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? 3 Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?

Romans 3: 5 “But if our unrighteousness serves to show the
righteousness of God, what shall we say? That God is unrighteous to
inflict wrath on us? (I speak in a human way.) 6 By no means! For then how could God judge the world? 7 But if through my lie God’s truth abounds to his glory, why am I still being condemned as a sinner? 8 And why not do evil that good may come?—as some people slanderously charge us with saying. Their condemnation is just.”

I know some Calvinists (I was one of them) who think it is enough to
say that God is sovereign and thus the cause of salvation .But the
truth of the gospel is not only God’s sovereignty but also God’s
righteousness. This means that the gospel is not only about the
justification of the elect sinner but also about the justification of

I have no use for the “freewill theodicy”. But that does not mean that I am dismissive of efforts to justify God. To justify God does not of course mean that we make God just. Rather, it means that we declare that God is just.

When God justifies an elect sinner, it’s not only God’s sovereignty
that declares the sinner just. God is justified in justifying the
elect sinner because 1. Christ died because of the imputed guilt of
that elect sinner and 2. God declares individual elect sinners to
legally share in that death. Because of these two facts of history,
God is justified in justifying elect sinners.

It doesn’t seem fair. It doesn’t look just. The elect sinners go free. Christ, who did not sin, died. This is why we are tempted to say that the whole thing is only about God’s sovereignty and then tell people to shut their mouths and ask no questions. But the Bible itself does not take that attitude. The Bible tells us how God thinks. The Bible justifies God.

Romans 9 does not only ask: “who are you to talk back to God”. Romans
9 explains that it is inappropriate for that which is made to sit in
negative judgment on the maker. And Romans 3 and 6 deal with the
objection that God justifying sinners will cause sinners to
rationalize their sins, so that they not only say that their sins were predestined but also that they say that more sins result in more

The Romans 6 answer is that grace is either grace or not. There is not more or less grace, but either grace or no grace. More sin does not get the elect more grace, because all those God justly justifies have all the grace any other elect person has. If you have grace, then you are justified from sin, and if you don’t have grace, you are a sinner “free from righteousness” (6:20).

While unbelievers trust in “God” to help them to sin less, those who
have been delivered to the gospel know that there are only two kind of sinners —guilty sinners and justified sinners .

The theodicy of Romans 3 announces that God is true even if every man
is a liar. We justify God because God has revealed Himself. And God
has revealed that God is more than sovereign. God is Revealed as
Righteous and Just. And God’s word is justified in history by what God did when Christ gave Himself up to death on the cross because of the imputed guilt of the elect.

We were wrong: God was right and God is still right. God prevails, but it is not only a matter of “might makes right” or “sovereignty always wins”. We have no right to make a negative judgment on God, since it is God who will be making a negative judgment on many sinners. But we are called to make a positive rational judgment about God’s justice. As Isaiah 53 explains, the righteous servant will be satisfied. God will be just to Christ. And God is just to justify elect sinners for the sake of Christ.

It is idolatry to only know a God who is sovereign. The true God is
also righteous. It is unbelief and rebellion to deny that God is just. Psalm 51:4-6—“Against you have I sinned and done what is evil, so that you are justified in your words and blameless in your judgment..Behold you delight in truth…”

When we try to say, “well at least our lack of orthodoxy is only
making God look more gracious”, we need to read Romans 3:5—God is the
righteous judge of us. God takes sides with Himself. God takes sides
against sinners. And the only sinners that God justifies are the elect who God has placed into the death of Christ.

Give US This Day OUR Daily Bread, Forgive US OUR Debts, As WE—are not tax-collectors, wrote Matthew

July 21, 2012

Anti-individualism is the reigning ideology of our day.  Most political and religious self-help books end with the exhortation to find fulfillment by finding community. We meet together to be chastised again for being too concerned about ourselves alone. We are reminded that “He loved me and gave Himself for me” (Galatians 2:20) does not eliminate the greater truth that “Christ loved us and gave himself up for us” (Ephesians 5:2).

Since me does not rule out us, then us does not rule out them. And since nobody talks about elect and non-elect, the truth that Christ died for His sheep cannot be understood as denying that Christ died also for goats. So the Arminians tell us. Election yes, but not when we are talking about Christ’s death

But what about the “Calvinists” who will also not talk about election when they are talking about Christ’s death and love?  They only say, “if you put your trust in Him,” and will not spell out the antithesis between sheep for whom Christ died and goats for whom Christ did not die. They doubletalk about God’s love. On the one hand, everyone listening to them is regarded as one of the “us” who Christ loves. On the other hand, listeners are being warned that Christ’s love depends on them “putting their trust in”.

At issue here is not only the extent of Christ’s love but the nature of Christ’s love. If Christ’s love is often unrequited, then even His love for those who love Him back is of a very different nature than the biblical love which never lets go of any God gave His Son.

It does no good to say that God took the initiative, or even that God loved the unlovely. In our own relationships, one of us takes the first step. But if the other person does not respond to the first love, it amounts to nothing. Think about that. I say it quite seriously. If Christ’s love is an initiative which depends on our response, then Christ’s love amounts to nothing.

Galatians 2:20 does not say that the Son of God loved you and gave Himself for you. Nor does the text give clergy the authority to extrapolate that God loves you and gave Himself for you. Rather, the next verse says “if justification were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose.” If Christ’s love depends on you keeping the law to put your trust in Him, then Christ’s love amounts to nothing and His death was for no purpose.

A love which possibly amounts to nothing?

But am I not forgetting that God loved the unlovely? In our relationships, we love the lovely. We become lovely to those who are lovely to us. In the same way, the false gospel depends on our becoming more lovely. If we don’t become lovely enough to at least put our trust in the love of the false Christ of the false gospel, then that love fails.

What good is a love for the unlovely which depends on them becoming lovely at some point? A love which CAN amount to nothing always DOES amount to nothing. We are unlovely sinners who cannot respond to initiatives. If we think we can do one lovely thing to respond, then we presume that God is wooing us. We think God is appealing to the part of us which God finds lovely. So then, no matter what we say, we don’t really believe that God loves the unlovely. We can’t believe it.

A divine love which CAN fail amounts to a meaningless nothing, because such a love disregards the cross and the death by which Christ paid for the sins of the elect alone. Many “Calvinists” think of election and definite redemption as two different things, because they think of love and propitiation for the elect as two different things.

Not so in the Scripture! John 10 does not say that the good Shepherd loves the goats so that they can become sheep if they respond. John 10:12 says that “he who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. He flees because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep.”

Notice the antithesis. The good shepherd does not act like the hired man. The hired man’s love amounts to nothing. How do we know the Shepherd loves the sheep? “I lay down my life for the sheep.” Does this mean that the Shepherd dies as a representative of the sheep along with the sheep? No. The Shepherd is not only the leader, not only the first to die. The Shepherd dies as a substitute for the sheep. Because the Shepherd dies, the sheep do not die.  John 10 does not separate Christ’s love and Christ’s death. Christ loves those for whom He dies. Christ dies for those He loves.

So what’s my point? Christ did not die for “us” if you think “us” means everybody.. John 10 makes this clear and simple. It does not say, “If you put your trust in and believe.” John 10:26, “But you do not believe because you are not my sheep. My sheep hear my voice.” It’s not, if you put your trust in me, then you will become my sheep.

OK, many “Calvinists” reason, we also believe in election. We  know that John 10:29 tells how “My Father has given them to me”. We just don’t happen to talk about that when we are talking about Christ’s loving and dying. When we talk about Christ’s love, we stay with the “if you trust in Him”, and don’t get into the business of them not being able to trust if they are not elect. Christ knew who was not elect, but we don’t

We don’t know who‘s elect

I agree that we don’t know who is not elect. Just because a person does not now believe the true gospel does not mean that person never will believe. Any person who will one day believe the true gospel is already a sheep. Christ already loves them, and Christ already died for them. But we can say all that without leaving the door open for those who teach that Christ died for everybody.

If we do not say that Christ died for the elect and not for the non-elect, those who climb in other ways will be telling people that it all depends on “if you trust In Him”. If we don’t talk about Christ’s death and election at the same time, we ourselves will be heard preaching a love that depends on the sinner to respond.

My main point is not the motives of the These “Calvinists”. Surely some of them are hired men who know they won’t be hired if they talk about Christ not dying for the non-elect. Others of them sincerely have essentially the same false gospel as the thieves who teach a universal death conditioned on a sinner’s faith.

My main point is that Christ’s love amounts to everything! Christ’s love meant dying on the cross for those He loved, and that love is decisive. That love is not one factor among many. Christ’s love is not about making some people lovely. Christ’s love is about a death which propitiates the wrath of God against elect sinners for their sins.  God’s love gives Christ some elect individuals, and this is not ever ever ever for one moment something separate from God’s love which gives Christ to die for these elect individuals.

John 3:16

John 3:16 says “He gave His only Son, that as many as believe in Him would not perish but have eternal life.” God did not give His Son, so that everybody could believe in Him. God gave His Son, so that those who do believe in Him will not perish. God did not give His Son for them because they would believe in Him. Nor is the only thing going on in the giving of the Son the purchasing of faith for the elect, even though this is true. I Peter 1:21, “who through Him are believers” and II Peter 1:1, “to those who have been given a faith as precious as ours by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ.”

The main event in the giving of the Son is propitiation. The death of Christ does not make appeasement of God’s wrath possible if other factors fall into place. The death of Christ is the punishment required by God’s law for the sins of those God has given Christ. It is not only God’s law that requires the death. God requires the death. Never ever has God loved one individual sinner without God also requiring the death of Christ for that sinner. Never has Christ loved one sinner without Christ also needing to die for that sinner.

It’s not, if I love, then I will die for. It’s not, if I die for, then I will love. It’s always love and die for. The love was decided from the foundation of the world. The death was about two thousand years ago, but that death was decided the same as when God gave the love.  God gave elect sinners to the Son. God gave the Son for the elect sinners. We did not make the difference between us and them by putting our trust in Him. But there is a difference between us and “everyone whose name has not been written before the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb that was slain.“ Revelation 13:8.

Rejoice, names in the book

But the current ideology warns us that we won’t be ethical if we focus on individual names in a book. Even though there are some Arminians left around who are pleading with individuals to write their names in that book, most religious people today can’t be bothered to rejoice about names in a book. The current idea is not to argue about the significance of names when God loves everybody, but to move on to the need for  “community”.

The idea is that talking about guilt being appeased only makes people feel guilty. And they look back, instead of to the future. They think about themselves and their sins, instead of trying to help people. I could document this with book after recently published book.The idea is to  “keep the right balance” which ends up meaning  preach the texts without talking about election so that one Sunday we can make everybody feel guilty for killing Jesus and the next Sunday we can make people feel guilty for not being more busy for the kingdom.

The false gospel, in all its forms, has enough guilt for everybody. This is the irony of what is supposed to be good news. Even if there are no sentimental songs about us killing Jesus, whenever you tell a person that Jesus had to die for them and did die for them, but then deny that this is enough to take away their guilt if they don’t put their trust in it, you have just pushed that person further into self-righteousness.

First, they think, even though I am guilty of all those sins and Jesus had to die for them, at least I am not guilty anymore of not putting trust in. Second, they think, God depends on us so much that our sins have ruined everything so much that not even Jesus dying for all of them is enough to get rid of the problem. We assume not only that God did not ordain our sinning but that Christ’s death for sinning will not work without the sinner’s consent.

You can argue that this kind of epistemological self-awareness is not real, but I think this attitude is in the very air we breathe. It is not individualism gone bad but an idolatry of the self which cannot be cured by being busy for the kingdom.

I John 2:2

The true God is not held hostage by our sins, and the love of Christ is not frustrated by a sinner’s lack of trust. I John 2, “But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.” And -evangelical DA Carson says that world means everybody. And I say, this will not do. And Carson says, but the whole world agrees with me, not least because I have a PHD.

But I John 2:2 is not about making an offer of the false gospel to everybody, or telling them that God loves them, with extra for others in the fine print. I John 2:2 is about propitiation. Christ is the advocate, the propitiation, not only for us who are reading I John but also for the whole world. The world in this context does not include the non-elect anymore than world in John 3:16 includes the non-elect.

God gave His only Son as the propitiation taking God’s wrath so that those for whom He was given do not perish under God’s wrath. John 3:16 is about a love which keeps those loved from perishing. If Carson wants to say that God gave the Son to die for everybody and that God loved everybody, instead of doubletalk he will need to explain why the propitiation is not effective. Is it not effective for anybody?

Yes, we can discuss every text with the word “world” in it, and we will agree that it does not always mean the same thing. But when we are done with all that, the question remains: if the propitiation is for everybody, does the effectiveness of it depend on the sinner? Does the putting trust in also propitiate? It is not quite rational to accuse somebody of being a rationalist without answering that question.

Election and propitiation together

Election is God’s love, and when the Bible talks about God’s love, it talks about propitiation. I John 4:10, “In this is love, not that we have loved God but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” If the hired Calvinists leave it to the Arminians to climb in and stipulate that the appeasement of wrath will not work without our faith, then it’s inadequate for the hired Calvinists to add on that God sent His son to purchase our faith. The nature of the cross as a propitiation will not be proclaimed.

You can use the word without agreeing with the Bible about what it means. A propitiation for the non-elect amounts to nothing. Since there is only one propitiation, a propitiation for the elect which is also the same thing for the non-elect, amounts to nothing. If’s it not the same thing, then the Neo-Calvinists need to stop playing with words and tell the truth.

Do you love the gospel of election, or do you hate the doctrine and suppress it? Yes, Christ loved the church, but the church in the non-election way of talking is not individuals written in the lamb’s book, but a class of people who put their trust in. So the Neo-Calvinist does not talk about Christ not dying for the non-elect, but about Christ not dying for those who don’t put their trust in.

Many “Calvinists” want you to give yourself to Christ without knowing anything about election. They will teach you that all who give themselves to Christ were given to Christ. They justify this as being the only perspective possible to us. We have to know we believe, before we can know if we are elect. I agree that knowing our election before we believe is impossible. Knowing our election is not our warrant to believe. (See Abraham Booth, Glad Tidings). But this is no excuse for leaving the doctrine of election out of the doctrine of redemption and propitiation by the cross.

Knowing Christ without knowing which gospel?

The person who believes the true gospel knows something about election. The gospel explains that the cross is what saves. The cross is decisive. The gospel is not only that only those for whom Christ died will be saved. The gospel ALSO tells how Christ loved the elect by propitiating the wrath of God in Christ’s death. You  must know this to know the nature and purpose of Christ’s death.

You can either argue that the thief saved on the cross did not know the gospel or you can argue that there is a gospel which omits the nature and necessity of propitiation. If we begin to say that people are saved without believing the gospel, then we are contradicting John 3:16 which says that those who do not perish believe on Him. If we can know who He is and believe on Him, without knowing the gospel, then we have become liberals or universalists.

On the other hand, if there is a gospel in which the death of Christ is not the good news, in which the death of Christ amounts to nothing, then let’s not waste anymore time talking to people who are already busy in the kingdom of the resurrected Lord about scholastic debates on the meaning of Christ’s death. Can’t we all agree that Christ needed to die in order to be resurrected? Why say anything more?

Some “Calvinists” now have a gospel which not only does not know election but which is frightened by election and which redefines election to make it depend on the sinner putting trust in These “Calvinists” claim to have already known Jesus Christ when they believed the false gospel that Jesus died for all of us. .

I Never Knew You Says Jesus to People With Works

July 11, 2012

Matthew 7:21: “Not everyone who says to me, Lord, Lord, shall enter the Kingdom of Heaven, but he who does the will of my Father in Heaven.”

John Robbins

“At first glance, verse 21 seems to be saying that the decisive difference between those who are excluded and those who are admitted into the Kingdo is the difference between empty professors and actual doers of the Word. It is not those who say, Lord, Lord, but those who actually do the will of the Father, who are admitted. In verse 21, Jesus seems to be making the same distinction that James makes in 2:14: What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him?

The contrast in James is between a person who says something with his lips, but does not give evidence of his faith by his works. But, unlike James, Jesus does not explicitly mention belief in verse 21; he mentions doing and saying, asserting that doing the will of the Father in Heaven is required to get into the Kingdom of Heaven, but saying Lord, Lord is not enough.

Again, at first glance, verse 21 seems to contradict verses such as Acts 16:31: Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved…. and Romans 3:28: Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith apart from the deeds of the law; and Ephesians 2:8-9: For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast; and scores more verses that deny salvation comes by doing.

This apparent contradiction in the New Testament raises a further difficulty: Does the Bible contradict itself? Many scholars say, Yes, it does. Or if they are coy rather than candid, they say the Scriptures contain tensions and antinomies. The scholars apparently never consider the possibility that they have misunderstood the Scriptures. They are quick to attribute logical difficulties to the revealed propositions (and they add that it is pious and humble to do so), but they do not even contemplate the possibility that they might not understand the text. That would be unthinkable! Imagine! Professors and theologians not understanding the text! Impossible! Therefore, the text itself must be paradoxical.

But as Christians we ought to be humble and say, Of course the Scriptures contain no contradictions, no paradoxes, and no tensions. When we come to what seems to be a contradiction in our theology, we must check our premises, return to the propositions of Scripture, and conform our thoughts to what the non-contradictory Scriptures say.

The first glance reading of verse 21 raises still another problem: Does Jesus teach legalism? Here I am using the word legalism in its proper sense: the notion that one can obtain, in whole or in part, salvation by doing, rather than by mere belief. Norman Shepherd appeals to this verse because he believes that Jesus does in fact teach salvation by doing here. The central problem in verse 21 is the meaning of Jesus’ phrase– he who does the will of my Father in Heaven. Shepherd believes that that phrase means works. But that interpretation implies that the Bible contradicts itself. That interpretation of the phrase cannot be correct, because of what verse 22 says.

Verse 22: Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in your name, cast out demons in your name, and done many wonders in your name?

Now if we understand verse 21 as Shepherd understands it, what Jesus says in verse 22 is both unexpected and inexplicable. If Jesus’ point in verse 21 were that faith is not enough, that good works, or covenant faithfulness, or obedience is also necessary in order to be sure we are saved, then Jesus should have said something like this in verse 22: Many will say to me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, we trusted in you alone, we had faith in you alone, we believed the Bible and your words.’ But of course Jesus says nothing of the sort. Instead, he reports that many people will appear before him at the Judgment and will talk about their works, not their faith or correct doctrine. But these people-the ones who present works-will be excluded from the Kingdom of Heaven.

Let us examine this verse carefully.

First, Jesus says Many. At first glance, verse 21 suggests that there will be only a few among those who will say, Lord, Lord who will be excluded from the Kingdom of Heaven. Jesus had said, Not everyone, and, sinners that we are, we jumped to the conclusion that he meant almost everyone. But here in verse 22 he says many. Many will come before Christ Jesus and speak to him, saying, Lord, Lord, and they will be excluded from the Kingdom of Heaven.

Jesus in his mercy tells us what many will say to him in that Day: First, they will acknowledge the Lordship of Jesus Christ, addressing him as Lord. Not only will they say it once, they will repeat it: Lord, Lord. Recognizing the gravity of the situation, they will plead for their lives. This repetition of Lord may also suggest that they think they are on familiar terms with Jesus.

Next, they will ask Jesus a series of questions, calling the Christ himself as a witness in their defense. Notice that they will not directly assert that they have done good works. They will speak in interrogative, not declarative, sentences. Because of this, their defense will actually be much stronger than their own mere declarations would have been: They will call Christ Jesus himself as their defense witness. They will ask him to testify to the facts of their lives: their prophesying, exorcising, and wonderworking.

Some commentators have tried to dismiss the claims of these defendants by suggesting that they will lie or exaggerate, that they really will not have done what they will claim to have done. There is nothing in the text that supports such an accusation. That misinterpretation is a desperate device to evade what Jesus is telling us in this passage. The defendants will make no direct assertions. They will ask questions. They will address those questions to Jesus, whom they will acknowledge as Lord. They will ask him to testify to the truth of their claims. They actually will have done these things on Earth: prophesying, casting out demons, and performing wonders.

Now the fact that many people will have done these things on Earth implies several things.

First, it implies that these people are not mere professors, without works and without practice, as we may have concluded from our superficial reading of verse 21. They are not pew warmers; they are not spiritual spectators; they are not churchgoers who show up only on Easter and Christmas; they are not those who have no works. These people have many works, and they will call on Jesus himself to testify to their works on Earth. Theirs is not mere lip service; theirs is not an empty profession. They will have been very active in church and in other religious endeavors.

Second, not only are these people active in the churches, they are church leaders. They prophesy, they preach, they proselytize, they teach; they cast out demons, they exorcise; they perform many wonders -not just a few, but many. These are things publicly done, not things done in a corner or in the privacy of one’s own home.

Third, they will do all these works in the name of Jesus Christ. Notice that the defendants will use the phrase “in your name” repeatedly: They will prophesy in Jesus’ name; they will cast out demons in Jesus’ name; they will perform many wonders in Jesus’ name. They will be leaders in professedly Christian churches. They are not Buddhists, performing these things in the name of Buddha. Nor are they Hindus, performing these works in the name of Shiva or some other Hindu god. Nor are they Muslims, doing these things in the names of Allah or Mohammed. Nor are they Jews, doing these things in the name of Abraham. These are not pagans ignorant of the name of Jesus; they are professing Christians who will do all these works in the name of Jesus Christ.

Do not the Scriptures say that every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus is Lord? And do not the Scriptures say that some people will not be saved? It therefore follows that confessing Jesus as Lord is insufficient for salvation; one must also confess him as Saviour.

Now, consider the irony of the exegetical situation. Proponents of assurance by works appeal to this passage in Matthew 7 to support their view that belief alone in the Lord Jesus Christ is not enough for salvation, that we must also practice the Lordship of Christ by faithfully performing works in order to show ourselves that we are saved. Yet this passage clearly teaches that some of those who confess Jesus as Lord and perform amazing works will be excluded from the Kingdom of Heaven.

Therefore, one may acknowledge the Lordship of Christ, perform many wonderful works, and still perish. The passage is not a contrast between mere believers (who are lost) and workers (who are saved), for Jesus himself says that the workers are lost.

Let us turn our attention briefly to the sorts of works these church leaders will have done. They will have prophesied in the name of Jesus; they will have cast out demons in the name of Jesus; they will have performed wonders in the name of Jesus. Now, these are not only works; they are extraordinary and supernatural works. In fact, they are the greatest works done by men and among men, to use John Gill’s phrase. None of us, perhaps a few of us, but certainly not this writer, has done anything remotely as great or as impressive as these works. Our works are ordinary: attending church, being good neighbors, giving money to the church and to the poor, taking care of our families, and so on.

Now here is the question: If none of us has done or will do anything like the works these men will have done, and if these men are lost, then what hope is there for us? If Jesus himself turns these men out of the Kingdom of Heaven-these many men who have performed such great works in the name of Jesus-what hope have we?

The answer is, We have no hope, if, like these men, our assurance of our faith depends on our works. We will have no hope, no matter how faithful our obedience, regardless of whether we act in the name of Jesus, or whether we confess Jesus as Lord. When these church leaders give their defense at the Judgment, they will offer their works as Exhibits A, B, and C. Their plea to Jesus will be their works-works done in the name of Jesus, to be sure, but works nonetheless. And far from lessening their guilt, doing their works in the name of Jesus increases their guilt before God.

Far from teaching a message of works, Jesus warns us that anyone who comes before him at the Judgment and offers his covenant faithfulness as his defense will die the second death. What is wrong with their defense? Jesus tells us plainly: They will plead their own lives and Christian works.

What their defense should be is not their works, but the imputed righteousness of Christ. Those condemned will not mention that they are sinners saved only by the righteousness of the Man Christ Jesus. They will not deny the substitutionary atonement of Jesus Christ for his people, but their assurance will be their own idea of what “doing the will of God” means.

John Robbins, The Trinity Foundation

My hope is built on nothing less
than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.
I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
but wholly lean on Jesus’ name.

His oath, his covenant, his blood
supports me in the whelming flood.
When all around my soul gives way,
he then is all my hope and stay.

When he shall come with trumpet sound,
O may I then in him be found!
Dressed in his righteousness alone,
faultless to stand before the throne!

Are Christians Under the Abrahamic Covenant?

July 2, 2012

Galatians 3:9: “So then they which be OF FAITH are blessed with faithful Abraham.” Blessed with faithful Abraham, NOT by faithful Abraham! Abraham is not the spiritual father. We are not blessed BY Abraham, but we are blessed WITH Abraham, through the same means of grace, through Christ Jesus our Lord.

Abraham’s Covenant was strictly peculiar to himself. Neither in the
Old nor in the New Testament is it ever said that the Covenant with
Abraham was made on behalf of all believers or that the Abrahamic covenant was given to those who believe the gospel. Abraham is called the father of those who believe the gospel.

God did not promise Christians that they will have a seed. If the same Covenant promise made to Abraham is made to Christians through Abraham, then that would means that there could be no justified child of God without a seed

We must distinguish between the two kinds of promises. Otherwise we shall fall into the error of others who insist that the spiritual
blessings belong not only to the natural seed of Abraham, but to the natural offspring of Christians as well. But spiritual blessings cannot be communicated by carnal propagation. Romans, chapter 9:6- 8: “Not as though the word of God hath taken none effect. For they are not all Israel which are of Israel: Neither because they are the seed of Abraham, are they all children; but in Isaac shall thy seed be called. They which are the children of the flesh, THESE ARE NOT the children of God: but the children of the promise are
counted for the seed.”

Children of the flesh ARE NOT the children of God! The children of PROMISE, the children of GRACE, are counted for the seed! All of Abraham’s descendants did not participate in the spiritual blessings promised to him. As our Lord Jesus said in John 8:24: “ye shall die in your sins,” speaking to those who claimed to be Abraham’s seed. Nor do all the children of Christians enter into the spiritual privileges promised to Abraham. Only those who are chosen by God before the ages unto salvation. And who they are cannot be known until they believe.

Galatians, chapter 3, verse 7: “Know ye therefore that they which are of FAITH, the same are the children TEKNON of Abraham.” The infant is not of faith. The natural descendants of Abraham are not of faith. Only believers are the children of Abraham. Some may be the SPERMA , but they are not the children.

What then is the Covenant of Abraham? The great thing that the Covenant of Abraham secured to Abraham was that HE, and not anyone else, but that HE WOULD HAVE A SEED. When God made the Covenant, He said, “YOU ARE GOING TO HAVE A SEED!” And THEN THROUGH YOUR SEED the nations of the earth will be blessed. So the Covenant was given to Abraham to secure for him a seed, and that God would be the God of that seed.

Now that’s not applicable to Christians. It cannot be said that this Covenant refers to Christians. Christians have no warrant whatsoever in the Word of God that God will be the God of their seed. He only saaid He would be the God of Abraham’s seed. Who are the seed of Abraham? True believers, through THE SEED, Christ, singular. It is not promised to Christians that they will have a seed.

The Abrahamic covenant promised that Abraham himself would have a seed, and that God would be the God of that seed. It is something like the promise that God made to Phinehas, when He said that you will always have a seed to be a priest, or to David, that he would always have a posterity to sit on the throne.

Let us look at the original promises that were made to Abraham, and see if they are applicable other than to Abraham himself. Genesis chapter 12, verse 2 and 3: “And I will make of thee a great nation,” Has he promised that to believers? Then He said: “and I will bless thee, and make thy name great;” Has God promised to make your name great? He may make it great, but He has not promised to do so.
Most of us will die in obscurity, not known outside of our own small circle He says: “thou shalt be a blessing;” Well, we may be a blessing in a small way but not in the way that all families of the earth shall be blessed

In Genesis chapter 17: 5, God says: “Neither shall thy name any more be called Abram, but thy name shall be Abraham; for a father of many
nations have I made thee.” You and I have not been made fathers of many nations. Verse 6: “kings shall come out of thee.” How many kings have come out of regular Christians? He says, “your descendants will occupy Canaan.” You and I have probably never set foot on Canaan. There are many who will have to mourn along with David, who cried, “though it be not so with my house.”

Furthermore, the Covenant made with Abraham established no spiritual relationship between Abraham and his offspring. There was a physical
relationship, but no spiritual relationship. Still less, does it establish a relationship, a spiritual relationship between believers
and infants. Abraham was not the spiritual father of his own natural offspring, for spiritual qualities cannot be propagated by carnal generation. If there was any spiritual relationship between Abraham and his carnal offspring, it was as the result of THE SEED, Christ Jesus, our Lord. Therefore it is by GRACE and not by RACE, that men are saved.

And what is this blessing? Galatians 3: 7: “Know ye therefore that they which are of FAITH, the same are the children of Abraham.” verse
9: “So then they which be OF FAITH are blessed with faithful Abraham.” Blessed with faithful Abraham, NOT by faithful Abraham! Abraham is not the spiritual father. We are not blessed BY Abraham, but we are blessed WITH Abraham, through the same means of grace, through Christ Jesus our Lord.

Was Abraham Esau’s father spiritually? Or Ishmael’s? Look at Romans 4: 11 “And he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the
righteousness of the faith which he had yet being uncircumcised: that he would be the father of all them that believe, though they be not circumcised; that righteousness would be imputed unto them also.” This is a household of faith, and not of natural generation. Abraham
rather than being the spiritual father of his own natural offspring, becomes the spiritual father only of The those who walk in the steps of his faith. And just as a believing father becomes a spiritual father only of those who walk in the likeness of his faith.

But are not Christians under the Abrahamic Covenant? Again, if you will turn to Galatians 3:14, you will see that the answer is, No!: “That the blessing of Abraham would come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ; that we would receive the promise of the Spirit THROUGH FAITH.” The blessing of Abraham consists not in creating spiritual relations between believers and their infant offspring, but the Spirit of God. Those who are blessed with Abraham are those who are of the faith of Abraham, and not those who receive a parental oath at the time of their water baptism.