Archive for January 2014

On Gospel Motives, and Not Being Born Christians

January 30, 2014

If you were operating out of legal fear instead of gospel motives, how then do you know you were justified all along?”

How do I know I am elect and now justified? Because I believe the gospel. Did my believing the gospel cause justification to happen? No! Did God’s imputation of Christ’s righteousness result in me believing the gospel? Yes.

Even those who were born Jewish were not born converted. So what shall we think about those who testify that ” I was born justified, or I was justified but did not know the gospel”, or “I believe it now but I don’t repent of what I believed then” or saying that “I know that I believed the gospel then even though all that time I was operating out of legal fear”?

Was Peter as a disciple s operating out of legal fear?. Maybe he was and maybe he was not. Well, you could say, Peter sure got bad results, since he ended up betraying the Lord three times. That’s why he messed up so bad, because of his legal fears.

But we all still sin. We are still all getting bad results. The justified elect are still habitual sinners. They are still not doing so well in terms of morality, when they are measured by God’s standard.

The gospel is NOT that you are elect (or that I am). NOT: that God loves you (or me). But: God loves as many as are believing the gospel of Christ’s effectual death for the elect.

The gospel can’t tell you that you are elect until you are believing it already. If you confess yourselves as still being motivated by legal fear, then exactly how has the gospel made you to submit to the Lord and His doctrine?

Either God is pleased with you or not. How do you know? Are you believing the gospel? You need to know this before you try to please God. You can’t please God with what you do if you are not already introduced and accepted to God in Christ..

The legal fear of God is for people who are not born justified and who are not yet Christians. Christians need not and should not be threatened with destruction. When a person is operating out of legal fear, that person may have a very dutiful prayer and Bible reading life, but it’s all an abomination to God, dead works coming from a dead person.

Proverbs 15:8 The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the LORD
That which is highly esteemed among humans is abomination in the sight of God. Luke 16:15

Romans 6:20,21–”when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. But fruit were you getting at that time from the things of which you are now ashamed. The end of those thing is death”

Is the law- Gospel Antithesis Boring? The Jones Book on Antinomianism

January 29, 2014

Instead of throwing together all accusations of antinomianism into one convenient “package”, so that “one idea leads to the other” . we need to look at the identifying descriptions one by one, to see which are accurate and which are not.

For example, we do not deny that the distinction between impetration and application in order to affirm application by God’s imputation and to affirm impetration for the specific sins of the elect alone, so that this propitiation must in justice be applied to the elect so that the then justified elect are justified from these sins. In short, the antithesis between law and gospel is NOT “antinomian”, because the Bible itself tells us that “law is not of faith”.

Jones (Antinomianism, 2013, P and R) does not mention the Westminster Seminary California volume “The Law Is Not of Faith”, but I think they are the ultimate target of his fury.. Jones even links John Cotton with “antinomianism” because Cotton understood God’s imputation to be before faith, and a cause of faith. (But see II Peter 1:1, Galatians 3-4, given the Spirit because of being sons, Romans 8:10, life because of righteousness.) Along the way, Jones provocatively accuses those in the “Sonship” faction as giving “boring…messages each week when they have a sort of systematic theology that they need to declare every Lord’s day”. (p 118).

Let me say that I am at least equally bored with those who make everything to be about “union with” the resurrected Christ so that we Christians “can and will” now do what Christ did. These folks who keep repeating “threefold union” always take almost no time to forget union by election or by imputation, so that they can run back to “union by faith” or “union by the Spirit” or to “Christ in us” instead of “us in Christ”, which they did not deny but which they never stop to talk about.
It’s very much like those who speak of “threefold sanctification”, in which they do not deny that, in biblicist terms, sanctification is an either or and based on being in Christ’s death or not (Hebrews 1o, sanctified by the blood), and in which they do not deny that “sanctification is by the effectual call and hearing of the gospel by the Holy Spirit in believing the gospel about what Christ did (II Thess 2:13), but then from on, nothing but a “conditional sanctification” which depends on our cooperation and effort. To believe the gospel is the same as obeying the gospel. To live by faith is to do what Jesus says to do. Some of us are doing it. You are not doing it. Yes, I am bored with moralist preaching. It doesn’t seem to me very different from Arminian preaching.

On p 6, Jones writes that “Melanchthon changed his mind and agreed that the gospel alone was able to produce evangelical repentance…He came to a ‘Reformed’ view of the gospel, which included the whole doctrine of Christ, including repentance…” For Jones, the “full gospel” is not about a distinction between law and gospel “defined narrowly as pure promise”, but instead has conditions and sanctions

Since our duty is not based on our ability, the soundbite from Augustine (give what you command, and command what you will) is wrong if it’s understand to say that Christians now CAN obey the law (or if it is used to imply that God in neonomian fashion now lowers the standard of the law to the level of what we in the new covenant are now gifted to do).

It is often the case that God does NOT give us to do what God commands. The law is not the gospel, grace is not the law, and the ability to keep the law is not grace. It’s still too late for justified sinners to keep the law in order to sanctified. Those who are already saints are commanded to obey the law.

Martin Luther’s cautions in the Heidelberg Disputations need to be heard!

The law of God, the most salutary doctrine of life, cannot advance man on his way to righteousness, but rather hinders him.

Although the works of man always appear attractive and good, they are nevertheless likely to be mortal sins.Although the works of God always seem unattractive and appear evil, they are nevertheless really for good and God’s glory.

The works of the righteous would be mortal sins if they are not be feared as mortal sins by the righteous themselves out of pious fear of God.

To say that works without Christ are dead, but not mortal, appears to constitute a perilous surrender of the fear of God. Indeed, it is very difficult to see how a work can be dead and at the same time not a harmful and mortal sin.

Arrogance cannot be avoided or true hope be present unless the judgment of condemnation is feared in every work.

Free will, after the fall, exists in name only, and as long as it does WHAT IT IS ABLE TO DO, it commits a mortal sin

Accusations of antinomianism against those of who give priority to imputation do not prove the reality of our being against the law. To say that only Christ could or has satisfied the law is to properly fear God. Neonomians turn out to be antinomians. To think that one can produce “sanctification” and other blessings by something extra infused into us in addition to what God has done in Christ is to not yet fear God as the Holy One who demands perfection. Many experimental puritans put themselves on another level because of what they thought they have been enabled to do, and thanked their god that they are not like other sinners.

Jones makes many provocative and condescending statements, as if to say that those who disagree with him have not read the historical documents in question. The most irritating claim he makes is that he’s correct because of a better Christology.

His Christology consists of equating the justification of Christ with the sanctification of a sinner. Denying the idea of a “covenant of works” in which Christ obeyed law to earn merits, Jones also denies the idea of substitution so that our works are not necessary for salvation. Jones accepts substitution FOR JUSTIFICATION ONLY, but on the other hand, like the Galatian false teachers, Jones equates “living by faith’ with obeying the law, and argues along with Richard Gaffin and Norman Shepherd that our living by faith means our works and our obeying the law.

On p 22-23, Jones argues from the fact that Christ obtained salvation “bestowed on conditions”, that we too must obtain “sanctification” in the same way, bestowed on conditions. Instead of talking about the merits of Christ, he speaks of Christ’s living by faith, which was obeying the law, to get to the idea of our also living by faith, which then comes to mean our obeying the law.

On p 24, Jones argues from the fact that Christ “was not left to His own abilities but was enabled by the Spirit” to not only question the language of “covenant of works” but to say that we Christians are enabled by the Spirit “to cooperate with God in sanctification. Except for the emphasis on sanctification instead of justification, the conclusion is no different from that of NT Wrights—don’t be so Christocentric, because the work of the Spirit in us is Christ’s work also for our final justification.

Jones wants to throw all he calls “antinomian” into one package. So if you deny that the sanctification of the Christian is progressively increased by works and obeying the law, Jones then equates that with the antinomians who deny the agency of the Christian, who say that Christ believes in us for us, or obeys in us for us. You will find that kind of language in the Arminians of the “exchanged life” view, and also occasionally in some of Tullian’s (or Steve Brown’s) language, but it is simply wrong to equate the position of what Jones calls the “imputative” view with the “mystical union” view.

Jones, even though he points out the distinction between the imputative and the mystical, still tends to collapse a distinction between law and gospel into the idea that Christians are not agents who are commanded to obey the law. The distinction between law and gospel does not deny the function of law to command, but as antithesis it also does not confuse the justification of Christ (by obeying the law, whether you say “covenant of works” or not) with the assurance of justification of Christians. The distinction between law and gospel agrees that Christians are agents commanded to obey, but it refuses the idea of “cooperation” in which we have the Spirit’s agency in us enabling our agency. Gaffin and Schreiner can call this 100% God and 100% man all they want but the math still adds up to synergism.

Jones argues those who don’t agree with him haven’t read and understood the puritans and the antinomians. But he also argues that he has a better “more robust” Christology. “Good works were necessary for Jesus if he was to be justified…. good works are likewise necessary for our salvation–though, unlike the case with Jesus, not for our justification.” (p 76) Jones claims that those of us with a “justification priority” have reduced the gospel to justification, but he has reduced substitution only to Christ’s impetration (ignoring the imputation of the substitution) and has introduced synergism and our obeying the law into the application and assurance of final salvation.

Dismissing the law-gospel antithesis for a “large commanding gospel” hermeneutic does not answer all Christological questions. The distinction between impetration and application is important, but that distinction is only as good as the definition of the two terms. In the matter of “application”, Jones puts all the focus on the agency of the Spirit (with our conditional cooperation) and none on God’s imputation of what Christ did in propitiation. In the matter of “impetration”, Jones puts all the focus on Christ’s active obedience (living by faith) but none on the idea of “sanctification by the blood”, so that holiness is a function of Christ bearing the guilt of the elect.

This is a very provocative book. When Jones reports that Gill rejects Rutherford’s claim that God loves Christians more if they obey more, Jones does not attend to the arguments of Gill, but simply rehearses Rutherford’s conclusions and calls into questions if Gill even understands what Rutherford was saying. p 84)

Jones argues from the fact that Christ learned obedience and “increased in favor with God” even as Christ was perfectly obeying the law to the idea that sinful Christians will also begin to sin less and thus be more loved by God. From this, Jones goes on to the puritan idea of sanctification by punishment in this life, purgatory now instead of after death. . Jones call this “evangelical punishment” (p 93)

Jones even argues from the propitiation (the Trinity’s wrath on the Son for imputed sins) to the idea that God loving us means that God will be angry with us. From the conclusion that “God was never happier with the Son than when God was angry with the Son” (p 95), Jones reasons that God loves us less when we obey the law less. But using Christ’s life of atonement as the analogy for the Christian life ( something Norman Shepherd and Richard Gaffin like to do) misses out on the gospel news of the Christians being legally united to Christ’s death. Romans 6:16, not under the law but under grace. Romans 7:6, you died to the law.

Jones even claims that the answer to Romans 6 proves that the antinomian question should never come up. Instead of seeing that the teaching of Romans 3-5 (the two imputations, the two headships) leads to the question of Romans 6, Jones claims that “Paul’s teaching of definitive and progressive sanctification” prove that “Paul could hardly be accused of antinomianism.” (p 121) I certainly agree that Paul was not antinomian. In Romans 3:2-8, Paul even responds to the accusation by affirming the condemnation of antinomians. But for Jones to claim that Paul had a “large commanding gospel” in which the question should not be asked is to ignore not only the context but the content of Romans 6, which teaches that Christ was ‘alive to sin” (because of imputed sins) and that Christians are justified from sin (6:7) because the power of sin is the power of the law over a person “alive to sin” (guilty before God, as Christ was by imputed sin).

Those who speak of “definitive sanctification” often assume that their own definition of sanctification is what we find taught in Romans 6. But Romans 6 shows that being united to Christ’s death sets the elect apart by means of legal identification with Christ. The reason sin shall not reign is NOT that “we will practice less and less sin”. The reason sin shall not reign over those sanctified by Christ’s death is that they are now no longer under the law.

Romans 6 is about Christ the public representative of the elect first being under condemnation, being under sin and death. Romans 6:7 “For one who has died has been justified from sin. 8 Now since we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. 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 he died HE DIED TO SIN once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God.

We need to believe and trust on Christ, instead of merely copying “the faith of Christ” . CHRIST WAS NEVER UNDER GRACE AND IS STILL NOT UNDER GRACE. Christ was under the law because of the imputed sins of the elect. Romans 6 is about Christ’s condemnation by the law and His death as satisfaction of that law. Christ after His resurrection is no longer under law. Christ’s elect, after their legal identification with Christ’s death, are no longer under law.

The death of the justified elect is the SAME legal death that Christ died. The “definitive resurrection” of the elect in Romans 6 is the result of being set apart with Christ (and His death) from being under law.

Christ was never under the power of sin in the sense of being unable not to sin. Christ was always unable to sin. The only way Christ was ever under the power of sin is by being under the guilt of sin. The guilt of the elect’s sin was legally transferred by God to Christ. Christ’s death to sin was death to the guilt of sin, and since the elect are united with His death, the death of the elect is also a death to the guilt of sin. Romans 6:7: “For one who has died has been justified from sin.”

Yet many commentators tell us that “set free from sin” must mean the elect’s definitive transformation by the Holy Spirit so that the justified cannot habitually sin (or that their new nature cannot sin) or so that they sin less over time. They tell us that justification was in Romans chapter five but that chapter six is not about justification but about sanctification and union and final salvation.

Without questioning each other. more and more people seem to agree that Romans 6 must be about something “more than imputation and justification” if it’s to be a real answer to the question “why not sin?”. But Romans 6 does not talk about Christ or His people not habitually sinning. Romans 6 locates the cause of “sin not reigning” in “not being under the law”. Christ was never under the power of habitual sin , and the definitive death of the justified elect is His death.

Romans 6:14 does not say, For sin shall not be your master, because the Holy Spirit has changed you so that you cannot habitually sin, but only occasionally and always with repentance. Romans 6:14 says, “For sin shall not by your master, because you are not under law but under grace.”

Christ also died to purchase every blessing, including the giving of the Holy Spirit and our believing the gospel. But it is not believing which frees the elect from the guilt of sin. What’s definitive is being legally joined to Christ’s death. (Also, Romans 6 says “baptized into” not “baptized by the Spirit into….)

Bavinck—” The gospel, which really makes no demands and lays down no conditions, nevertheless comes to us in the form of a commandment, admonishing us to faith and repentance. The gospel covenant is pure grace, and nothing else, and EXCLUDES ALL WORKS. It gives what it demands, and fulfills what it prescribes. The Gospel is sheer good tidings, not demand but promise, not duty but gift.”

Jones is Augustinian in the sense that he has not much time for a distinction between what God does in us and what God already finished outside us in Christ. Even when it comes to Christ’s priestly work, the emphasis is on Christ’s present intercession and not his “death to sin” and the federal imputation of that death to those under Christ’s headship.

Augustine–“give what you command, and command what you will.” Jones—“Christians CAN answer to the demands of the law in their justificaton …AND ALSO THE GOSPEL DEMANDS OF THE LAW in their sanctification by the Spirit. (p 53) Since our duty is not based on our ability, the soundbite from Augustine is wrong if it’s understand to say that Christians now CAN obey the law ( or if it is used to imply that God in neonomian fashion now lowers the standard of the law to the level of what we in the new covenant are now gifted to do) . It is often the case that God does NOT give us to do what God commands. The law is not the gospel, grace is not the law, and the ability to keep the law is not grace. It’s still too late for justified sinners to keep the law in order to sanctified. Those who are already saints are commanded to obey the law.

Paul’s Answer to Antinomians, not the same in Romans 3 as in Romans 6

January 28, 2014

Romans 3: 3 What if some were unfaithful? Does their faithlessness nullify the faithfulness of God? 4 By no means! Let God be true though every one were a liar, as it is written, “That you may be justified in your words, and prevail when you are judged.” 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.

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?

In Romans 3, Paul threatens antinomians with condemnation. 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 God.

I am NOT 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 does nOt seem fair. It does not look just. The elect sinners go free. Christ, who did not sin, “alive to sin”, because of imputed sins, so that Christ must die. 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 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 grace.

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 human is a liar and therefore condemned. We justify God because God has revealed Himself and justified Himself. 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 unbelieving 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.

Two Headships, not “Two Natures”

January 28, 2014

Gill claims that the elect can be both in Adam and in Christ at the same time. How? Gill claims this can happen because Christians have “two natures”.

Instead of seeing “two states” as mutually exclusive (either or), Gill thinks Christians are in both Adam and Christ, at one and the same time, and from before the ages.

I would agree that the elect are elect in Christ from before the ages. But Gill claims that the elect are justified in Christ from before the ages. Gill also thinks that Christians are still in Adam until they die physically, in both Adams until their resurrection.

Instead of saying that “union” in all aspects means “justification”, I would ask for a definition of what kind of “union” we are thinking about. Does “union” cause justification? Or does justification bring about legal union? Does imputation create a bond which puts us into Christ and His death? See the word “baptism” in Romans 6 and Galatians 3:27.

But Gill thinks that the elect are justified in Christ and condemned in Adam, at one and the same time, both before and after the new birth.

Only one person has “two natures” and that person is Christ. The “two natures” theory says that the natures correspond to the “old man” and the “new man”. See II Corinthians 5:17, Romans 6:6, Ephesians 4:22-24, Colossians 3:9-10.. But the “old” and the “new” do not stand for “two natures”. Instead, there are two states–the old man is the elect sinner before God’s imputation of Christ’s righteousness to them, the new man is the elect sinner after God’s justification.

I certainly agree that justified Christians still continually sin, but the language of “two natures” is not the Bible way to talk about that. We need to talk instead about two “federal headships” or “two states”. But it’s not consistent for those who teach that all the elect were justified at one time before the ages (or at one time at the cross) to talk about “two states”. The Primitive Baptists and the Strict Baptists not only talk about “eternally justified unregenerate unbelievers” but also put the emphasis not only justification but on the “two natures”.

The justified elect transition from being part of the old creation to being legally part of the new creation. 2 Corinthians 5:17 “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, new creation! The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.”

Galatians 6:15 “For neither circumcision counts for anything, nor uncircumcision, but new creation.”

When I think of the “new creation”, why do I think of justification, and not only about regeneration? Well, I ask, why do so many Calvinists about “two natures”? Where does the Bible talk about the new creation being a new nature?

Where does the Bible talk about “union with Christ” being a new nature? Why don’t we draw the line between the justified and the condemned?

I am not denying the new birth or the absolute necessity for it. But the new birth is not “union with Christ” and that it does not result in something called “the new nature”. The “new man” has to do with a change in legal state.

II Corinthians 5:14 “one has died for all, therefore all have died; and he died for all, that those who live would no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised. From now on, we regard no one according to the flesh”.

“Those who live” means those who are justified. The category of “we died” is not about a change of substance or nature but about an imputed legal reality.

The new man is not gradual transition by infusion or transformation; it’s an either or—- this legal state or that legal state. The new is not continually caused by a “sacramental feeding on Christ” but by God’s imputation of what God did in Christ in His death and resurrection.

Only for those now in Christ legally has the old has passed. For some of the elect, God has already declared the legal verdict. One day, at the resurrection, there will be visible evidence of that verdict.

Carol Hoch Jr: The background of the “new creation language is Isaiah 43:16-21, Is 65:17, and Is 66:22…Should “he is” be supplied in II Cor 5:17 a? No–if any person is in Christ, new creation. To insert “he is” in 5:17 wrongly narrows the scope of the new creation to an individual. , p 161

The Significance of Newness for Biblical Theology: All Things New, Baker, 1995

John R. W. Stott, Men Made New: An Exposition of Romans 5-8 (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1966), 45: “This is the crucifixion of our our ‘old self’. What is this ‘old self’? Is it not the old nature. How can it be if the ‘body of sin’ means the old nature? The two expressions cannot mean the same thing or the verse makes nonsense.

The ‘old self’ denotes, not our old unregenerate nature, but our old condemned in Adam life—Not the part of myself which is corrupt, but my former self. So what was crucified with Christ was not a part of us called our old nature, but the whole of us as we were before we were converted. This should be plain because in this chapter the phrase ‘our old self was crucified’ (verse 6) is equivalent to ‘we…died to sin (verse 2).”

The crucifixion of the “old man” refers to a definitive break with the past in Adam and is something God declares to be true of the elect when God justifies them by imputation. God transfers the justified elect from the headship of Adam to the headship of Christ. The justified sinner is separated legally from the community of Adam by being placed into the death of Christ to sin.

Colossians 3:9 Do not lie to one another since you have put off the old man with its practices 3:10 and have been clothed with the new man that is being renewed in knowledge according to the image of the one who created it.

The “new man” in Colossians 3 refers to a new social structure where there is “neither Greek nor Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all and in all.” The “new man” in Colossians 3:10 is NOT something inside an individual.

In Ephesians 2:15, the Jewish elect and the Gentile elect have been justified and reconciled, and together in Christ they form the “new man” which is a new redemptive-historical society in which all have free and equal access to God and are seated with Christ in the heavenlies (2:5-6).

Romans 6:6 is also about the two headships of Romans 5:12-21.15 The “old man,”must be who the elect were “in Adam,” that is, in guilt, death and judgment. The “old man” is not a sinful nature, not immaterial corruption.

Romans 6 says that the old man “was crucified with Christ.” But how can that be? We were not there at the cross but that is the time to which the past tense refers. The “with Christ” language relates the elect to to the redemptive history of Christ. Romans 6 is NOT talking about new birth or Christ indwelling us individually, even those events result from justification. Those legally joined to Christ’s body are “dead to sin” in the same way that Christ became “dead to sin”, by means of legal union, justification.

Do We Have to Do In Order to Believe? Commit Before We Understand?

January 19, 2014

John 5: 39 You pore over the Scriptures because you think you have lasting life in the Scriptures, yet the Scriptures testify about Me. 40 And you are not willing to come to Me

John 1:38 Jesus turned and saw them following and said to them, “What are you seeking?” And they said to him, “Rabbi” (which means Teacher), “where are you staying?” 39 He said to them, “Come and you will see.” So they came and saw where he was staying, and they stayed with him that day, for it was about the tenth hour.

I am told that this means that we have to come before we see, that we have to commit before we can understand, that we will never know until we first repent and commit. But this is not what this text says. “Come and see” is not giving some kind of order for salvation, in which implicit faith is endorsed, or where our “obedience” is more important then learning who Christ is. It is a mistake to take the information about unique redemptive history and turn the facts into some kind of existentialist suggestion about what we do here and now.

The gospel of John does not describe the water baptism of Jesus. The gospel of John does not even use the word “repent”, let alone make working the condition of faith.

John 7: So the brothers of Jesus said to him, “Leave here and go to Judea, that your disciples also may see the works you are doing. 4 For no one works in secret if he seeks to be known openly. If you do these things, show yourself to the world.” 5 For not even his brothers believed in him.

Most of us are very invested in works, our writing, our visible witness to the world. Some of us even think we will show the world what the gospel is without words, simply by what we do and by not being sinners like other people are. And even those of us with lots of words tend to think we make Christ more visible to the world by becoming ourselves more visible to the world.

Matthew 5:16 let your light shine before others, so that they see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.

Our light is the gospel of grace (not works). Only by the light of the gospel can others l see that our faith is NOT in our works to prove our faith and that our “assurance” is NOT in “living the gospel.

John 7:15 The Jews therefore marveled, saying, “How is it that this man has learning, when he has never studied?” 16 So Jesus answered them, “My teaching is not mine, but his who sent me. 17 If anyone’s will is to do God’s will, he will know whether the teaching is from God or whether I am speaking on my own authority.

John 7:15 is not teaching us that learning is not important. That would be ironic indeed–learning that learning is not important…would not be important. Nor is John 7:15 teaching that learning depends on us doing God’s will, or on “wanting to” do God’s will. There is no such thing as doing God’s will before we know what God’s will is. But there is such a thing as “dead works” in which our doing is an abomination to God. Any doing done in order to get God to bless us is doing that God hates. Such doing always despises knowledge about Christ and His work. Such doing is self-righteousness, and that is sin, something of which to be ashamed (Romans 6).

We can’t do stuff in order to start believing, because we need to repent of our doing. Not only do we need to repent of doing what God never commanded us to do, but also we need to repent of any doing which displaces faith in what Christ has already done by His death and resurrection. This is why we should not turn the historical events of the gospels into existential imperatives for us to be doing stuff here and now. Christ then (at the cross) and there (not in heaven but on earth) satisfied the law so that the elect must be saved if God is just.

We can’t just do stuff, because some doing is evil in God’s sight. Some do what is true, some do what is not true. Good workers do good works, evil trees cannot bring forth good fruit but will only and always bring forth fruit unto death. The dead do dead stuff and it all leads on to death. Only those given justification, forgiveness, and the life of the age to come can or will bring forth fruit which is acceptable and pleasing to God.

John 3:19 And this is the “judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. 20 For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. 21 But whoever DOES WHAT IS TRUE comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.”

I John 3: 12 We should not be like Cain, who was of the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? BECAUSE HIS OWN DEEDS WERE EVIL and his brother’s righteous.

John 3 is about the difference between a religious Nicodemus and a sinner praying to the God of mercy who forgives what we have done. . I John 3 is about the difference between the doing Cain and the doing of Abel. There is no reason to doubt that Cain CAME in sincere worship. But Cain did not know God, and was not known by God. The doing of Cain was dead works.

Killing Abel was not Cain’s first evil deed. Cain killed Abel because God judged that Abel’s deeds were evil. Cain refused to put to death (not count) his deeds (Rom 8:13). When Cain killed Abel, he still wanted to worship a god who would accept Cain’s religious doing. Cain was not asking God to accept his sins. Cain was assuming that his own religious doing could not be evil. Cain would not accept knowledge revealed by God. Cain would not accept God’s judgment. Cain wanted to act without knowledge. Cain wanted the true God to like Cain’s idolatry. Cain wanted the true God to be pleased when Cain came to a false god, who does not exist.

Hebrews 6:1– “Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection; not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God”

Hebrews 9:14–”How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?”

Romans 6:17 But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed,

Romans 6:20,21–”when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. But fruit were you getting at that time from the things of which you are now ashamed. The end of those thing is death”

I Samuel 16: 7 But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.”

Matthew 9:4 But Jesus, knowing their thoughts, said, “Why do you think evil in your hearts?

Matthew 12:34 You brood of vipers! How can you speak good, when you are evil? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.

Matthew 15:8 “‘This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me;

Matthew 15:18 But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person.

Luke 16:15 And he said to them, “You are those who justify yourselves before men, but God knows your hearts. For what is exalted among men is an abomination in the sight of God.

2 Corinthians 4:6 For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

Is Assurance Necessary for Us to have Good works, or are Good works necessary for Us to have Assurance, or do we have a Situation Gospel in which the Answer Depends on What’s Good for the Listener?

January 10, 2014

I agree that we live in a day of “hyper-grace” in which clergy tell folks that God accepts them just as they are, even if they do not know and believe the gospel. I agree that Christianity is not a theory which we believe but do nothing about.

But that being said, in reacting to antinomianism, we need to remember that most professing Christians are legalists (soft to hard) and that not only NT Wright but also Arminians and Baxterians condition salvation on what God does in the sinner. So we need to make sure we don’t confuse law and gospel.

Is Assurance Necessary for Us to have Good works, or are Good works necessary for Us to have Assurance, or do we have a Situationist Gospel in which the Answer Depends on What’s Good for the Listener?

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 an assurance of calling based on our works. To do that,they attempt to isolate one verse and ignore the context of II Peter 1, 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.

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 “Calvinists”, along with the Arminians, think of faith as the “condition” that saves them. Yes, they disagree (somewhat) about the source of faith, but they both are way more concerned about the condition faith leaves you in(the results in your life) than they are in the object of faith.

Though the true gospel explains 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 declares 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 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.

Scot Hafemann: “ 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 the Holy Spirit enables you do enough right, then God promises not to break you off…

Kevin Kennedy’s False Gospel Uses the Idea of “Union” to Redefine the Atonement

January 9, 2014

Imprecise “union” talk can be very dangerous. SOME theologians (Kevin Dixon Kennedy, Torrance) are using the concept of “union” to say that the atonement which really matters is the application of Christ’s death. Therefore, no double jeopardy, they say, unless somebody for whom Christ died has been “united to Christ.” In other words, SOME OF THEM TEACH THAT CHRIST DIED ALSO FOR THOSE WHO WILL PERISH.

It’s one thing to say that Christ’s death will be effective, and another to say WHY Christ’s death must be effective. Christ’s death saves not only because of God’s sovereign will but also because of God’s justice.

Although John Owen taught that God only imputed the sins of the elect to Christ, Owen did not teach that all the elect were justified as soon as Christ bore those sins. Owen taught with Romans 6 that the elect must come into legal union with Christ’s death. Until the elect are “placed into” that death, they remain under the wrath of God.

But SOME use “union” talk to change the meaning of the atonement and accuse the rest with thinking there is no need for faith. If the substitution for sins has already been made, they say, then all for whom it was made should logically already be justified. If the righteousness has already been obtained, then all for whom it was earned should logically already be justified by it. This is the claim made by SOME who use “union” to make the application of the atonement to be the atonement.

But it’s clear that Owen did not teach justification apart from faith. It’s also clear that Owen did not teach that faith was a mere recognition that we were already justified. (See Carl Trueman’s various books and essays on John Owen). “Unionists” should not ignore Owen’s careful distinction between the atonement and the legal application of the atonement. Some unionists do, some don’t
Some “unionists” locate the efficacy of the atonement not in Christ’s propitiation itself but only in the efficacy of regeneration and faith to unite people with that propitiation. This is their argument: “you can’t say that there’s double jeopardy until after a person has been married to Christ by faith. Then, and only then, they say, could you say that a person was dying for the same sins twice.”

But otherwise, it is claimed, you can teach everybody that “Christ is dead for you” without that meaning that Christ has died for your sins, because according to them, Christ’s death for sinners is not the same thing legally as Christ’s death to pay for the specific sins of sinners. So, again according to them, it’s the “union” which designates for whose sins Christ died.

Anti-Antinomians Teach Sanctification By Works

January 9, 2014

Of course there are many Arminian antinomians with us today who teach that the Holy Spirit takes over the agency from Christians so that Christians have no duty to obey the law of Christ. Those who teach the “exchanged life” fall into this category, people like Steve McVey, Malcolm Smith, Andrew Farley and Paul Ellis.

The tolerant Anglican J I Packer is rightly intolerant to this kind of antinomianism: “With regard to sanctification, there have been mystical antinomians who have affirmed that the indwelling Christ is the personal subject who obeys the law in our identity once we invoke his help in obedience situations, and 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.

Packer: The common ground is that those who live in Christ are wholly separated from every aspect of the pedagogy of the law. The freedom with which Christ has set us free, and the entire source of our ongoing peace and assurance, are based upon our knowledge that what Christ, as we say, enables us to do he actually does in us for himself. So now we live, 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, but by … our knowledge that Christ himself actually does in us all that his and our Father wants us to do.”

Packer is certainly right to criticize the “hyper-grace” movement which either denies or is ignorant of Christ’s satisfaction of the law for the elect. But in a day when those who teach penal satisfaction by Christ’s death for the elect alone are known not as “five point” Calvinists but as “scholastics” living in the past, we need to say that not all ideas denounced as “hyper” are really antinomian. Instead of throwing all accusations of antinomianism together in one convenient “package”, we need to look at the identifying descriptions one by one, to see which are accurate and which are not. Certainly the distinction between law and gospel is not inherently “antinomian”, because the Bible itself tells us that “law is not of faith”.

And when it comes to the word “sanctification”, first we need to define the word, because biblically it has more to do with binary status than it does with process or progress. I would recommend Peterson’s Possessed by God on this, but in brief we need to always remember the teaching of Hebrews 10;10-14 that those individuals being sanctified in time are thus sanctified by the blood of Christ. It is election that first sets us apart. Christ died only for the elect, and it is Christ’s death which sets the elect apart when God imputes the death of Christ to them. So we need to define sanctification. Even when we say “definitive sanctification”, we need to make it clear if we are talking about the work of the Holy Spirit in initially causing us to understand and believe the gospel (II Thess 2:13) or if we are talking about a claim that Christians cannot sin as much or in the same ways as we did before conversion John Murray)

But most importantly, we need to look at the traditional systematic theology answer that says that justification is not by synergism and works, but that sanctification IS by synergism and works Let me quote from one person who teaches “sanctification by works”— “When the preponderance of my thoughts about my daily life with God are only seen from the perspective of Christ’s substitution and my unworthiness to merit his favor, not only do I miss the joy and motivation of knowing my deeds today can actually please God, but I can be left with a distant, abstract, academic view of my relationship with him.”

I respond in this way: Like the Galatian false teachers, the sanctification by works teacher does not deny justification by imputation. But he does minimize justification as only one “perspective”. We live in a day when there is little antitheses between law and gospel. It is being taught that law and gospel are the same in some ways. In this way, you can say one thing, say another thing that contradicts the first thing, and then put them together as different “perspectives”.

Notice the emphasis on “my thoughts”. No definition is given about what “sanctification” means. No distinctions between sanctification by Christ’s blood and sanctification by Christ’s Spirit are explained from Scripture. In his puritan pietistic disregard for that which is “academic” (“distant” he writes), the wants to get to what is “actual”. He does not deny that justification is actual but he wants us to be thinking less about justification and more about what’s not virtual but “real”.

The Precisianist Strain: Disciplinary Religion and Antinomian Backlash in Puritanism to 1638 (Published for the Institute of Early American History and Culture, Williamsburg, Virginia), by Theodore Dwight Bozeman, p 20:

“Penitential teaching expressly echoed and bolstered moral priorities. In contrast, again, to Luther, whose penitential teaching stressed the rueful sinner’s attainment of peace through acknowledgment of fault and trust in unconditional pardon, many puritans E included moral renewal. In unmistakable continuity with historic Catholic doctrine that tied ‘contrition, by definition, to the intention to amend,’ they required an actual change in the penitent. For them, a renewal of moral resolve was integral to the penitential experience, and a few included the manifest alteration of behavior. They agreed that moral will or effort cannot merit forgiveness, yet rang variations on the theme that repentance is ‘an inward sorrow . . . whereunto is also added a . . . desire to frame our life in all points according to the holy will of God expressed in the divine scriptures.” However qualified by
reference to the divine initiative and by denial of efficacy to human works, such teaching also adumbrated Puritan penitential and
preparationist teaching of later decades.”

Stoever, A Faire and Easy Way, explains that “John Cotton professed himself unable to believe it possible for a person to maintain that grace works a condition in him, reveals it, makes a promise to it, and applies it to him, and still not trust in the work. Even if a person did not trust in the merit of the work, he still probably would not dare to trust a promise unless he could see a work…”

“Grace and works (not only in the case of justification) but in the whole course of our salvation, are not subordinate to each other but opposite:as that whatsoever is of grace is not of works, and whatsoever is of works is not of grace.”

The new book by Mark Jones on Antinomianism puts all the accusations together, as if to say that those who agree with one statement must agree with all the other statements. But some of the statements sound pretty good to me. Even necessary!

1. To say we are justified by faith is an unsafe speech; we must say we are justified by Christ.

2. To evidence justification by sanctification or graces is to prefer the Spirit’s work to Christ’s work

Machen Vs Universal Ineffective Atonement

January 3, 2014

Machen, God Transcendent, p 136—”How broad and comforting, they say, is the doctrine of a universal atonement, the doctrine that Christ died equally for all men there upon the cross! How narrow and harsh, they say, is this Calvinistic doctrine—one of the “five points” of Calvinism—this doctrine of the “limited atonement,” this doctrine that Christ died for the elect of God in a sense in which he did not die for the unsaved!

But do you know, my friends, it is in reality a very gloomy doctrine indeed. Ah, if it were only a doctrine of a universal salvation, instead of a doctrine of a universal atonement, then it would no doubt be a very comforting doctrine; then no doubt it would conform wonderfully well to what we in our puny wisdom might have thought the course of the world should have been. But a universal atonement without a universal salvation is a cold, gloomy doctrine indeed. To say that Christ died for all men alike and that then not all men are saved, to say that Christ died for humanity simply in the mass, and that the choice of those who out of that mass are saved depends upon the greater receptivity of some as compared with others—that is a doctrine that takes from the gospel much of its sweetness and much of its joy.

Machen: From the cold universalism of that Arminian creed we turn ever again with a new thankfulness to the warm and tender individualism of … God’s holy Word. Thank God we can say , as we contemplate Christ upon the Cross, not just: “He died for the mass of humanity, and how glad I am that I am amid that mass,” but: “He loved me and gave Himself for me; my name was written from all eternity upon His heart, and when He hung and suffered there on the Cross He thought of me, even me, as one for whom in His grace He was willing to die.