No Balance, Christ’s Work or Your Works
2 Peter 1: Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ,To those who have obtained a faith of equal standing with ours by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ: 2 Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.3 His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, 4 by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire. 5 For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, 6 and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, 7 and godliness with brotherly love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 For whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins. 10 Therefore, be all the more diligent to confirm your calling and election, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall.
With its emphasis on “knowledge” and “calling”, 2 Peter One reverses legalism by commanding us to examine our works by making our calling and election sure. Those who know Christ are commanded to become effective They are not commanded to become fruitful in order to find out if they know Christ (or are known by Christ).
But many assume a “practical syllogism” in which assurance of calling is based on our works. To do that,they attempt to isolate one verse and ignore the context, which begins in the very first verse with the idea that faith is given because of Christ’s righteousness. They makes their works of faith the assurance. In effect, their assurance of Christ’s atonement is only as good as their confidence in their own works. Their “faith” turns out to be assurance in works, not assurance in Christ’s atonement. Because it can’t be both. There is no “balance” in this “sola”.
By what gospel were we called? Was it the gospel of “characteristic obedience” or was it the gospel of “Christ paid it all for the elect”? Legalists are trying to follow Christ as Lord without first submitting to salvation only by God’s perfect and sufficient alone righteousness.
We do not work to get assurance. We must have assurance before our works are acceptable to God. But many puritan “experimental” Calvinists, along with the Arminians, think of faith as the “condition” that saves them.. Yes, they disagree about the cause and source of faith, but they both are way more concerned about the condition faith leaves you in than they are in the object of faith.
Though the true gospel knows that the justification of the ungodly does not happen until righteousness is imputed and faith is created by hearing the gospel, the true gospel also knows that it is the righteousness ALONE (apart from the works of faith created) which satisfies the requirement of God’s law. (Romans 8:4)
The experimentalist wants to say that her imperfect works are the evidence of Christ’s work in them. But way too often this moralist does not test her works by the gospel doctrine of righteousness. As Hebrews 9:14 and Romans 7:4-6 teach us, that a person not yet submitted to the righteousness revealed in the gospel is still an evil worker, bringing forth fruit unto death. Those who work for assurance not justified, and any assurance they have is a deceit.
Indeed, unless we are universalists or fatalists (some Primitive Baptists are both), we cannot avoid the search for evidence. But we need to see that the evidence is submission to the gospel, which involves knowledge about election, imputation and Christ’s satisfaction. It is a waste of time to talk about “obedience to law as evidence” unless a person knows what the gospel is. A person who finds evidence in works shows that they don’t know what the gospel is.
Moralists stress the nature and quality of faith, but not the righteousness COMPLETED by Christ which should be the only object of faith. It is Christ (not us) who satisfies God’s law.
There are many false gospels and only one true gospel. The only way not to be self-righteous is to know that the law demands perfect righteousness and that the gospel proclaims how Christ satisfied that demand for the elect. One certain result of the righteousness earned by Christ is that the elect will believe this gospel and not any false gospel.
Legalists thank their false god for enabling them to keep meeting the conditions so they won’t be “broken off the covenant”. The workers who came before the the judgment in Matthew 7 were sure that they had satisfied the conditions. They do not deny that election is the reason that they meet the conditions to stay in and to be sure. But instead of pleading Christ alone who got done a perfect righteousness, they also plead something else.
These moralistic theonomists have flattered themselves about their obedience being acceptable. But those for whom Christ died will came to repent of that false gospel.
Scot Hafemann (p60): “ Sandwiched between what God has done for us and what God promises to do for us in the future, we find the commands of God for the present as the necessary link between the two.” This false gospel makes everything conditional, not on Christ, but on us—- if you do enough right, then God promises not to break you off…