Salvation is Necessary for Good Works

Proverbs 15:8 “The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the LORD”

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

Romans 7:4 Likewise, my brothers, you also have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you belong to another, to him who has been raised from the dead, in order that we now bear FRUIT FOR GOD. 5 For while we were living in the flesh, our sinful passions, aroused by the law, were at work in our members to bear FRUIT FOR DEATH.”

Luke 16:15 That which is highly esteemed among humans is abomination in the sight of God.

I am not that impressed by a distinction between good works being necessary for salvation and good works being the necessary evidence of salvation. It does not at the end of the day seem all that practical to me. I think we would do better to focus on a distinction between “dead works” (works done with unacceptable motives, like gaining assurance) and “fruit unto God” (works that are pleasing to God without being “necessary”)

Our justification is not by our works, not even by our works after faith and justification. If we are already justified, then it’s too late for us to be justified by works. If we think we will lose our justification if we don’t work, then we do not yet understand what God’s justification is. If we think that our works will give us the evidence that we are still justified, then we have not yet understood and believed the gospel, which is the good news of Christ’s work and not about our works.

Even after we are justified saints, we are not yet glorified, not yet raised from the first death and given immortality. But neither is the rest of salvation conditioned on our works. Our future resurrection from death is not about God enabling us to do what is required, but about God doing for us what we cannot do and never will do.

I do 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 who condition salvation on what God does in the sinner. Even the Augustinians define grace as God doing in us what God requires in us, instead of defining the gospel by Christ’s death as satisfaction of God’s law.

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 Christ’s death alone.

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.

The true gospel explains that the justification of the ungodly does not happen apart from the imputation of Christ’s death and that faith is created by hearing the gospel. The true gospel tells us that it is the righteousness ALONE (Christ’s death bearing sins, apart from any works of faith created in us ) 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 things right, then God promises not to break you off.

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?”

The problem with using works “done after you are in the family” to get assurance is that works done without assurance are not pleasing to God. But the light of the gospel exposes our “good works” as “dead works”. And “dead works” are sins.

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.”

Certainly God commands us all to be moral. But morality can be done in the flesh. To doubt that you are justified or will be justified because of what you have done or not done is to take the focus away from Christ’s one-time-done death for elect sinners.

p 277, Bavinck, A Reasonable Faith–”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 is sheer good tidings, not demand but promise, not duty but gift As the internal call directly and immediately, without a time lapse, results in “habitual faith,” so also does this faith include from the very beginning of its existence the assurance that not only to others but to me also forgiveness of sins has been granted….When the Scriptures say of this justification that it takes place by and through faith, it does not intend to say that it is produced and wrought through that faith, since Jesus Christ is all our righteousness and all benefits of grace are the fruits of Christ’s labor alone. Saving faith directs our heart from the very beginning away from ourselves and unto God’s mercy in Christ.”

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26 Comments on “Salvation is Necessary for Good Works”

  1. markmcculley Says:

    from Horton’s Covenant and Salvation

    p 200–“While this union is not justification but is rather the necessary consequence of justification, the Spirit truly unites believers to Christ–not simply to His benefits but to His person.”

    p 201–“John Murray’s notion of regeneration (as a new habit infused or implanted) before effectual calling (through the gospel’s forensic announcement) is what keeps justification (for John Murray) from being constitutive across the entire order of application….I share McCormack’s concern to see justification as that declarative Word that simultaneously creates the new status and the new being of those who are in Christ. Justification is not to be confused with regeneration or sanctification, but is to be regarded as their Word-constituting source.

    p 202, McCormack—Regeneration, which flows from justification as its consequence, is the initiation of a work that is completed only in the eschaton, only in the glorification of the saints.

  2. markmcculley Says:

    Baptist Calvinist Benjamin Keach, The Marrow of True Justification: The Biblical Doctrine of Justification Without Works, Solid Ground Books, Birmingham, Alabama USA, 2007, p 80— “Once we are justified, we need not inquire how a man is justified after he is justified. God has not appointed this personal evangelical righteousness, in order to our Justification before Him. By that righteousness of Christ which is out of us, though imputed to us, the Justice of God is satisfied; therefore all Works done by us, or inherent in us, are excluded in our Justification before God.”

  3. markmcculley Says:

    Belgic article 24—- “far from making people cold toward living in a pious and holy way, this justifying faith, quite to the contrary, so works within them that apart from it they will never do a thing out of love for God but only out of love for themselves and fear of being condemned.”

  4. markmcculley Says:

    Belgic 24: It is so far from being true that this justifying faith makes men remiss in a pious and holy life, that on the contrary without it they would never do anything out of love to God, but only out of self-love or fear of damnation.

    For it is by faith in Christ that we are justified, even before we do good works; otherwise they could not be good works, any more than the fruit of a tree can be good before the tree itself is good.

    We are indebted to God for the good works we do, and not He to us, since it is He who works in us both to will and to work, for his good pleasure.

    We can do no work but what is polluted by our flesh, and also punishable; and although we could perform such works, still the remembrance of one sin is sufficient to make God reject them. Thus, then, we would always be in doubt, tossed to and fro without any certainty, and our poor consciences would be continually vexed if they relied not on the merits of the suffering and death of our Savior.

  5. markmcculley Says:

    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?”

  6. markmcculley Says:

    The Seeming Good of the Ungodly

    First, there is the goodness that Dr. Mouw supposes he sees in many unregenerated men and women.

    As a Calvinist, I accept the fundamental classification of humankind into two categories, the elect and the non-elect, and I believe that while we are all totally depraved, God enables his redeemed people to perform acts of righteousness that would not be possible apart from divine grace. But I also witness-regularly, I must emphasize-acts of kindness on the part of the unredeemed that clearly seem to be in conformity to revealed standards of righteousness. Nor am I inclined simply to dismiss these acts as nothing more than well-disguised deeds of unrighteousness. There is, for example, a large moral difference between the acts of the courageous, unbelieving white people who risked and even lost their lives in the American civil rights struggle of the 1960s and the acts of those unbelievers who willfully carried out Hitler’s orders in exterminating the Jews (He Shines, p. 38).

    It is not only the case that these deeds seem good to Dr. Mouw. But Mouw affirms that these works are good in the judgment of God. They are not good as are the works that the regenerated perform in the power of the sanctifying Spirit of Christ, but they are truly good. These deeds of the unregenerated please God. “God also gives positive moral appraisals to non-elect persons” (He Shines, p. 37).

    The error of this evaluation of the seeming goodness of natural men and women is not necessarily that it overlooks base motives in every case. Not every unbelieving husband loves his wife only for his own selfish ends. Not every ungodly soldier who throws himself on a hand grenade to save his buddies does so for posthumous fame. There is a natural love that moves the mother to sacrifice herself for her child and the soldier to give his life for his comrades. There is a natural zeal for earthly liberty that motivates the patriot to deny himself for his country. There is even a natural affection for the human race that drives some to spend their lives and fortunes for the good of mankind.

    The Ignored Goodness of God

    The error of the evaluation of the deeds of many unregenerated as good is not so much that it esteems the seeming good of the ungodly too high. Rather, the error is that it esteems God too low. Indeed, it esteems God not at all. For the evaluation of the seemingly good works of the ungodly as truly good, that is, good in the appraisal of God Himself, leaves out that these works are not done to the glory of God. The sinner does not do them in the service of God. The one who performs these deeds is not motivated by thankfulness to God for His gracious salvation in Jesus Christ.

    But such is the Godhead of the triune, one, true God revealed in Jesus Christ, such is His weightiness, His worth, and His goodness with regard to us human creatures and our works, that whatever work does not take Him into account, does not aim at and end in Him, and does not manifest and promote His glory – that work is sin. It is gross sin. Comparatively, it is far worse – infinitely worse – than a sin that merely fails to work for the welfare of, and thus injures, one’s fellowman.

    No matter that a work is full of the natural love of a mother for her child, or even that an entire life of works is unselfishly devoted to the human race and its welfare (as though the welfare of the human race were possible apart from God in Jesus Christ!), the work and the life are base and evil. They represent man seeking man, man serving man, man worshiping man, man glorifying man.

    “Rather than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen” (Rom. 1:25).

    The fundamental truth about good works is that it is the goodness of the goal, or end, of a work – God Himself, who alone is good (Matt. 19:17) -that makes a work good. No more than a rifle-shot can be good that misses the target, misses the target because the rifleman deliberately and foolishly aimed elsewhere, regardless that the shot in other respects shows some remarkable features, for example, that the eye of the rifleman was accurate, the aim was steady, and the bullet hit the target that was sighted, can a work be good that ignores God. Of course, if a work ignores God, it insults and opposes Him.

    The fundamental truth about good works is God. God and His glory as the end, or aim, or goal of a work constitute the goodness of a work. For God to appraise a work as good that is not directed to God and His glory would be for God to deny Himself.

    Evaluation of Works in the Reformed Tradition

    This God-centered estimation of all the works of men is prominent in the Reformed tradition. In his book on the very subject of the total depravity of the natural man, that is, man apart from the regenerating grace of God in Jesus Christ, The Bondage and Liberation of the Will (Baker, 1996), John Calvin wrote: “The worth of good works depends not on the act itself but on perfect love for God so that a work will not be right and pure unless it proceeds from a perfect love for God” (p. 27). Jonathan Edwards was of the same mind: “And therefore certainly, unless we will be atheists, we must allow that true virtue does primarily and most essentially consist in a supreme love to God; and that where this is wanting, there can be no true virtue.” Edwards continued:

    Nothing is of the nature of true virtue, in which God is not the first and the last; or which, with regard to their exercises in general have not their first foundation and source in apprehension of God’s supreme dignity and glory, and in answerable esteem and love of him, and have not respect to God as the supreme end (“The Nature of True Virtue,” in The Works of Jonathan Edwards, vol. 1, Banner of Truth, 1974, pp. 126, 127).

    The Reformed creeds have made this right judgment of all human works binding upon all Reformed churches and Christians. The Westminster Confession of Faith judges all works done by unregenerate persons to be sinful. Specifically, Westminster judges those very deeds of unregenerated persons that Dr. Mouw and all other defenders of common grace esteem as good to be, in fact, sinful, and only sinful. The Confession judges these deeds to be sinful because they are not done “to a right end, the glory of God.”

    Works done by unregenerate men, although, for the matter of them, they may be things which God commands, and of good use both to themselves and others; yet, because they proceed not from an heart purified by faith; nor are done in a right manner, according to the word; nor to a right end, the glory of God; they are therefore sinful, and cannot please God, or make a man meet to receive grace from God. And yet their neglect of them is more sinful, and displeasing unto God (WCF, 16.7)

    There is, indeed, a distinction between two kinds of works performed by unbelievers. But it is not a distinction between works that are good and works that are sinful, works that please God and works that displease God. Rather, it is the distinction between works that are sinful and works that are more sinful, works that displease Him and works that displease Him more.

    Because God is glorified only by works that conform to His law, which is the command “Love Jehovah your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength,” only those human works that are done in obedience to the law please God. No work that is completely lacking in love for God can be good. Because the only source of goodness for fallen man is the crucified and risen Jesus Christ by His Spirit, only those works that proceed from a true faith in Christ are good. Even these works must be purified by the blood of Jesus to be pleasing to God.

    Question 91 of the Heidelberg Catechism also passes judgment upon all the works of all unconverted men and women, that they are evil. The Catechism adds the warning, that we not allow our imagination to decide the goodness of works.

    God’s Evaluation of Works in His Word

    Scripture’s judgment of the works of the unregenerated is radically different from that of Dr. Mouw and all defenders of common grace. The fundamental wickedness of the unregenerated Gentiles is that “when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful” (Rom. 1:21). Dr. Mouw and the other defenders of common grace certainly must acknowledge that, whatever else one might want to say about certain works of the unregenerated, they are not performed in order to glorify God, or out of thankfulness to God. But Scripture declares that for this reason alone, because unregenerated people do not glorify God and because they are not thankful, such people and all their works are foul. Upon them falls the wrath of God (Rom. 1:18).

    Scripture passes the same judgment upon all the works of unbelievers when it says that “whatsoever is not of faith is sin” (Rom. 14:23). Granted, the reference is primarily to the works of believers which in spite of the faith of the believers do not arise from their faith. For this very reason, the argument against the works of the unbeliever is a strong one. First, the Word of God clearly makes an all-comprehensive judgment concerning human works: “Whatsoever is not of [Greek: ‘out of’] faith is sin.” Did the civil rights activists in the 1960s conduct their campaign “out of faith”? If not, their deeds were sin. (If the civil rights activists engaged in revolution against the authority of the state – civil disobedience – it is certain that they did not act from faith.) Does the decent family man next door love his wife and children out of faith in Christ? If not, his natural affection is sin, although his failing to be faithful would be greater sin. As the article in the Westminster Confession quoted above shrewdly adds, works done by unregenerated men are sinful even though these works may be “of good use both to themselves and others.”

    Second, the force of Romans 14:23 is this: If even the works of regenerated believers that do not proceed from faith are sin, how much more the works of those who have no faith.

    This settles the question whether God takes delight in the prowess of the unbelieving athlete. Mouw mentions the putting ability of Tiger Woods. My first reaction was regret that Dr. Mouw had not made a stronger case for his position by referring to real athletic ability, for example, hitting the ninety-mile an hour fastball or sinking the fifteen-foot hook shot. But the answer will be the same. The athletic skills of the ungodly as they are actually put to use, God detests. They are the skills of one who is ungodly in all his abilities and activities. They are of no use to God or man. They desecrate His Sabbath. They are part of the insane worship of the sports-hero that holds millions in thrall. Honing these skills is the waste, not only of time but of an entire life. God takes no pleasure in the legs of a man (Ps. 147:10). The plowing of the wicked, much more the putting, is sin (Prov. 21:4).

    Judging as God Judges

    Dr. Mouw has never seen an unbeliever who is good. He sees many who are decent, law-abiding, considerate, and friendly. But none glorifies God or is thankful to God. None, therefore, is fair, shining with the beauty of the holy God. All are foul. Upon them all is the curse of God, if they do not repent of all their sins, the seemingly good as well as the obviously vile. With the gospel of Scripture, Dr. Mouw must make this judgment upon all unbelievers, as must we all.

    Neither has Dr. Mouw ever seen one good work performed by an unregenerated person. He sees many works that are outwardly impressive. Some even glitter. But none originates in the risen Jesus Christ by a living faith in Him; none is in accordance with the will of God that a man love Him from the heart; and none aims higher than the earth and the human race. Not one work of the unregenerated man or woman, therefore, is fair. God’s own beauty does not shine in any of the works of the ungodly. All the works of unbelievers are foul with the depravity of seeking man rather than God. Upon these works falls the wrath of God, now and in the final judgment. Dr. Mouw is called to make this searing, humbling judgment of the gospel upon all the works of man apart from Christ his own, as are we all.

  7. markmcculley Says:

    I agree that sanctification is by grace and not by our performance. I just wish that those who teach it will begin to question the false gospel of those who make the future depend on our performance. I also wish that those who teach sanctification by grace would stop promising that people who agree with them will perform better. It’s like having your cake and eating it also. One, blessing is not based on performance. But two, you will perform better if you have the right motives.

    God does not accept anything we perform if it is motivated by our desire for assurance or blessing. God does accept sacrifices and works if they are not motivated by mercenary motives. Good trees do have good fruit. Bad trees do not have any good fruit. But these truths do not promise that we who know the truth will “perform better than the legalists do”.

  8. markmcculley Says:

    It’s not so much about “separating” (making a distinction) between our loving and our believing, so that faith is instrument but love is not, or so that works of faith are not instrumental. Ultimately, it’s about “separating” (making a distinction between our love and God’s love in Christ’s propitiation.

    Yes, there is a distinction between being justified and being holy (sanctified). But that distinction is not that we believe to be justified and that we work to be holy. if we are not holy (sanctified) by Christ’s blood (death), then we are not sanctified at all yet. We are either saints or we are not.

    The line between law and gospel stays clear if we can make sure to say that the gospel is about Christ’s satisfaction of the law. On the other hand, if we turn the gospel into something about our loving and obeying and believing, then we will never see that the gospel is about the satisfaction of God’s law, because what we do because of faith in no way ever satisfies the law. Since we died in Christ to the law, our obeying the law does not factor into our justification and sanctification, not even when our obeying comes after our justification and sanctification.

    Struggle or no struggle, they are looking to what God has done in them. And this is not the “other side of the coin”. And it’s “not part of faith”. It’s the opposite of faith in Christ’s death as the satisfaction of God’s wrath for all the sins of the elect. Not our faith. God’s love in Christ. And God’s love in Christ is “the propitiation for our sins”.

    At the end of the day, I don’t understand saying 1. not justified by works but 2. but oh by the way, our works also are justified

    Why is that necessary? Where does the Bible say that our works are justified?

    If we are holy and just in Christ, then our actions are acceptable before God, without any need of further “justification” of the actions

    good works are not sins

    evil works are sins

    dead works are “anything done by a person who is not justified before God”

    if good works are necessary, how many good works are necessary? for what reason?

    and if we can’t say how many good works are needed, what’s the point of saying “necessary”?

  9. markmcculley Says:

    There is a difference between one’s legal state before God and one’s assurance of one’s legal state before God. Those sinners who are in an objective state of condemnation even though they are commanded to obey God, cannot in any way obey God or do anything pleasing before God. How can those without assurance of being in a justified state before God please God?

    A justified legal state does not become true because we believe that we are in a justified state. But there is no reason to assume any sinner is in a justified state if they do not yet believe in the gospel and have assurance that they believe in the e gospel.

    The gospel does not tell any of us that we are elect. But we should not conclude from that fact that we should assume that we are Christians or that we can please God without knowing if we believe the gospel. Those who are elect will believe the gospel. Those who don’t know if they believe the gospel will have “mercenary motives” attempting to please God in order to prove to themselves that they are in a legal state of justification.

  10. markmcculley Says:

    Hebrews 13: 14 For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come. 15 Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name. 16 Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.

    I Peter 2:5 you also, as living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ”

    Philippians 1: 9 And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, 10 so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, 11 filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.

    Romans 12 I appeal to you therefore, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.

  11. markmcculley Says:

    The duty to obey King Jesus is not determined by ability or lack of ability. The gospel teaches us that elect sinners who do NOT do their duties will nevertheless be “saved” from God’s wrath because of legal identity with Christ’s death for elect sinners.
    God is both just and the justifier of elect sinners. Elect sinners believe the gospel in which the sins of gospel believers are not imputed to those sinners.

    Pietists exempt non-Christians from the commands of the Sermon on the Mount on the basis of their inability. That exemption is not necessary in order to make the vital distinction between law and gospel. Christ’s law is not changed by human inability to keep it. And Christ’s law is not the gospel. Whatever ability we may claim, none of us is obeying the Sermon on the Mount. But this is no excuse.

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

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

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

    • markmcculley Says:

      Robert Haldane—In this Romans 8:4 passage the word flesh cannot be taken for immorality, any more than in the fourth chapter of the Romans. It must be understood in the sense of working for life, or self-justification, in opposition to the way of salvation according to the Gospel. In the same manner, the terms flesh and Spirit are employed, in Philippians 3:3, ‘For we are the circumcision, which worship God in the Spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh.’ Here the word flesh, opposed to Spirit, just as in the passage before us, cannot signify immoral conduct, in which it would be absurd to suppose that the Apostle placed confidence.

      In Philippians, Paul furnishes a practical commentary on these words, by referring to his own conduct, as having formerly walked according to the flesh, resting in external privileges, and observances, and his obedience to the law; but afterwards as renouncing them all, and relying solely on ‘the righteousness which is of God by faith.’

      All men, without exception, have the work of the law written in their hearts, and if ignorant of the only Savior of sinners, they attempt to satisfy their conscience by means of some religious observances or moral works, — the idolater, by his sacrifices; the Roman Catholic, by his masses and penances; the Socinian, by his vaunted philanthropy; all, in some way or other, by their works, moral or ceremonial, seek to obtain their acquittal from sin before God, and a favorable sentence at His tribunal. All of them are going about to establish their own righteousness, being ignorant of the righteousness of God.

  12. markmcculley Says:

    when I am obeying him (however imperfectly) more than you are, my progress in sanctification is the fruit of free justification and my progress in sanctification does contribute to my assurance, but if your lack of progress in sanctification contributes to your lack of assurance, remember not to make your progress the first thing but only something second or third in your assurance, because even if you have a little less gas (and more water) in your tank than I do, you do have some gas, and none of us have all gas (some water is mixed into all our progress) , and assurance is not all or nothing, which is why my progress in sanctification is not the first main thing but only one of the reasons that gives me assurance

    Sure, assurance is for all who believe, but the parents who are believers do have the promise that God will be the God of their children and that their children can be taught the law and given the conditions of salvation and are more likely to meet those conditions, but this perhaps should not be the primary reason for assurance, since it’s not really infallible, so it would be better to add into the mix some other reasons for assurance, like for example, my progress in sanctification, because when I do more works I tend to believe that I believe more than when I do less works, but as I say, this is not the primary factor in assurance but it is one factor unless you are an antinomian. So believing that you are in fact gradually becoming more conformed to Christ, even though it will never really “complete your sanctification”, is why we need to think of this life (and not purgatory) as a time of probation which tests our assurance of faith by the evidence of our works

  13. if we put us working into the equation which gets us “not under” we are still under law, this is evidence that we are still under law. But I would not say that our working to get blessing is a cause of condemnation, but rather that this attitude is a result of still being condemned. All the elect are born in condemnation, and when God joins them to the death of Christ, they are not justified without knowing and believing the gospel.

  14. WCF, chapter 19– The promises of the gospel, in like manner, show them God’s approbation of obedience,and what blessings they may expect upon the performance thereof:[18] although not as due to them by the law as a covenant of works.[19] So as, a man’s doing good, and refraining from evil, because the law encourages to the one and deters from the other, is no evidence of his being under the law: and not under grace.[20]

    mark–and also a man’s doing is no evidence of his being under grace, and not under law. We don’t know if we are doing good until we first know if we are good trees, in a justified state before God. We don’t sin to get more grace. We don’t not sin to get more grace

  15. markmcculley Says: John Piper

    Hebrews 11:6, “Without faith it is impossible to please God.”
    Romans 14:23, “Whatever does not proceed from faith is sin.” Chrysostom “Now all these things have been spoken by Paul of the subject in hand, not of everything.” Leon Morris Whatever be the truth of actions done before one becomes a believer, Paul is not discussing them here. His concern is with the believer who sometimes does things that are not motivated by faith. (The Epistle to the Romans, 493)

    But Lenski: “Is this to be restricted to the Christian alone and to the matter of the adiaphoraalone, namely to faith in this domain? No; it covers this domain only because it is a part of one that is much larger.” (The Interpretation of St. Paul’s Epistle to the Romans, 854)
    Augustine in his Lectures on the Gospel according to St. John cites Romans 14:23 as a universal statement covering all human conditions:
    Not that you may say, “Before I believed I was already doing good works, and therefore was I chosen.” For what good work can be prior to faith, when the apostle says, “Whatsoever is not of faith is sin”? (Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 8, 353).

  16. markmcculley Says:

    Mark Jones—How does God accept such imperfect obedience? Consider the following:
    Christians have pure hearts.
    If you are a Christian, you have a pure heart (1 Tim. 1:5). If you want to worship God, you need a pure heart (Ps. 24:4). Those who are pure in heart, and only those, will see God (Matt. 5:8). And we should constantly desire to receive the gift of a renewed purified heart (Ps. 51:10).
    Christians are good and righteous.
    Zechariah and Elizabeth are described in the following way: “And they were both righteous before God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and statutes of the Lord” (Lk. 1:6). Joseph of Arimathea is similarly described as a “good and righteous man” (Lk. 23:50). Christians are slaves of righteousness (Rom. 6:18). We hunger and thirst after righteousness (Matt. 5:6).
    Christians are blameless.
    Paul writes to the Philippians: “Do all things without grumbling or disputing, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world…” (Phil. 2:15). Paul expects that children of God should be blameless. He is not here saying: you are blameless because of your justification, but be blameless, innocent, and without blemish because of your conduct.
    How can Christians be all of these things?
    Because God accepts less – often, a lot less (i.e., “small beginnings”) – than perfection from us because of his Son and for the sake of his Son, who is glorified in us (Jn. 17:10).
    God is our Father. Parents will no doubt understand the joys that our children can bring to us in their obedience, even if their obedience falls short of what Christ would have offered to his own parents. God is not a hard task-master, reaping where he hasn’t sown (Matt. 25:24). He remembers we are dust (Ps. 103:14), and treats us accordingly.
    As our Father, he accepts less than absolute perfection because he accepted absolute perfection in our place. Moreover, our works are pleasing to God because we (i.e., our persons) are pleasing to God as a result of our identity in Christ. There is a “person-work” order in our Christian life.
    In God’s sight, we are good, righteous, blameless, and pure in heart. Indeed, we are to purify ourselves because of our hope in Christ’s return (1 Jn. 3:3). If we can’t admit these truths about ourselves, then we can’t admit what the New Testament explicitly says of God’s people. And that’s not good.
    The obedience we offer to God does not have to be sinless obedience or perfect obedience, but it must be sincere obedience. Sincere obedience means we may be called “blameless.” The Westminster Confession of Faith sums up this principle well:
    “Yet notwithstanding, the persons of believers being accepted through Christ, their good works also are accepted in him, not as though they were in this life wholly unblameable and unreprovable in God’s sight; but that he, looking upon them in his Son, is pleased to accept and reward that which is sincere, although accompanied with many weaknesses and imperfections” (WCF 16.6).
    In our imperfection, we may please God. God rewards imperfect works, according to the riches of his grace, because he is our Father. (Even if the devils would perform good works, God would delight in these works, according to Charnock and Witsius).
    The fact that our works are tainted with sin does not invalidate them as good works. Just as the fact that we have indwelling sin does not mean we cannot be called good, holy, righteous, etc. It is wrong-headed, I believe, to suppose that we exalt the grace of God by suggesting that the only righteousness pleasing to God is Christ’s righteousness. This is a radical form of substitution that would confuse any honest reader of the Scriptures.
    God manifests his grace not only in providing a perfect (imputed) righteousness that can withstand the full demands of his law, but also an inherent, imperfect righteousness that he declares to be both good and pleasing.
    What’s the pastoral benefit?
    We should encourage Christians that God accepts sincere obedience. The “divine acceptilatio” explains why and how we can be zealous for good works (Tit. 2:14). Children should be encouraged that obedience to their parents pleases the Lord (Col. 3:20).
    Because we are accepted in Christ, God really does call us good. We really do have pure hearts. We really are blameless. We really can please God in our imperfection (Heb. 11:5). And that, to me, really is good news. This view reflects the already-not yet theology whereby we are now pure in heart but one day will be pure in heart. We are good, but we wait to be good.
    Do we want to say that the widow’s offering in Luke 21:1-4 was not pleasing to God, but instead “filthy rags”? Was God pleased with Joseph of Arimathea in Mark 15:43? What about the woman in Matthew 26:7ff? What about the mother who patiently teaches her children the things of the Lord? And the wife whose good conduct wins over her husband (1 Pet. 3:1).
    Are we allowed to pray the words of the Psalmist (Ps. 18:20-24)? Or are these words only true of Christ?
    The Lord dealt with me according to my righteousness;
    according to the cleanness of my hands he rewarded me.
    21 For I have kept the ways of the Lord,
    and have not wickedly departed from my God.
    22 For all his rules were before me,
    and his statutes I did not put away from me.
    23 I was blameless before him,
    and I kept myself from my guilt.
    24 So the Lord has rewarded me according to my righteousness,
    according to the cleanness of my hands in his sight.
    Yes, as Christians, we often sin (1 Jn. 1:8). And we can act shamefully at times. The power of indwelling sin is real. Nothing above is intended to deny how vile we can be. But how amazing that notwithstanding the very powerful indwelling sin that remains in us, God thinks more of our obedience than we do. This keeps us from despair regarding obedience and highlights that the Reformed have historically done the most justice to the grace of the gospel.
    God accepts imperfection because he is a gracious Father, who has a perfect Son, who sends his Spirit into our hearts (Gal. 4:6). Why are we called righteous and good? Why are our imperfect works acceptable and pleasing to God? The answer: the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

    There is a word used by Arminius: acceptilatio. The concept behind the word is good, but he places it in the wrong category, namely, justification. Imperfect faith is “accepted” as righteousness. This is what distinguishes Arminians from the Reformed on the crucial doctrine by which the church stands or falls.
    So in debates with Remonstrant (i.e., Arminian) theologians, the Reformed and the Remonstrants seemed to agree on the formal cause of justification, i.e., imputation. But they differed on the material cause. What is imputed to the believer, our act of faith or Christ’s righteousness apprehended by faith? The Reformed held to the latter, whereas the Arminians typically held to the former. But even on the so-called “formal cause” there was an important difference between the two camps: for the Arminians, imputation is an aestimatio – God considers our righteousness (i.e., faith) as something that it is not (i.e., perfect). The Reformed, however, view imputation as secundum veritatem – God considers Christ’s righteousness as our righteousness, precisely because it is, through union with Christ. The verdict that God passes on his Son is precisely the same verdict he passes on those who belong to Christ – but only through imputation.
    So in saying that God accepts our imperfect obedience, we must be careful not to bring this “acceptilatio” into the realm of justification, but keep it in the realm of sanctification.

  17. markmcculley Says:

    2 Thessalanians 2: 13 But we must always thank God for you, brothers loved by the Lord, because from the beginning[ God has chosen you for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and through belief in the truth. 14 He called you to this through our gospel, so that you might obtain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ

    Regeneration results from imputation, because regeneration is the end of total depravity. Every regenerate sinner believes the gospel. Anybody who believes the gospel is no longer totally depraved.

    false humility, humble bragging

    Uriah Heep—They used to teach at school (the same school where I picked up so much umbleness), from nine o’clock to eleven, that work was a curse; and from eleven o’clock to one, that work was a blessing and a cheerfulness,

    Colossians 2: 20 If you died with the Messiah to the elemental forces of this age, why do you live as if you still belonged to this age? Why do you submit to regulations: 21 “Don’t handle, don’t taste, don’t touch”? 22 All these regulations refer to what is destroyed by being used up. These regulations are commands and doctrines of men. 23 Although these have a reputation of wisdom by promoting ascetic practices, and severe treatment of the body, these displays of humility are not of any value in curbing self-indulgence.

  18. markmcculley Says:

    Hebrews 10:24 And let us be concerned about one another in order to promote love and good works

    1 Peter 2:12 Conduct yourselves honorably …so that in a case where they speak against you as those who do what is evil, they seeing your good works will glorify God on the day

    Ephesians 2:10 For we are His creation, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared ahead of time so that we should walk in them.

    Titus 2:14 Christ gave Himself FOR US to REDEEM US from all lawlessness and to cleanse for Himself a people for His own possession, eager to do good works.

    Matthew 5: 14 “You are the light of the world. A city situated on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 No one lights a lamp and puts it under a basket] but rather on a lamp stand, and it gives light for all who are in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, in order that they see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.

    Matthew 6 “Be careful not to practice your righteousness[a] in front of people, to be seen by them. Otherwise, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. 2 So whenever you give to the poor, don’t sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be applauded by people. I assure you: They’ve got their reward! 3 But when you give to the poor, don’t let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, 4 so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you

  19. markmcculley Says:

    Charles Hodge—“Sinful acts become more infrequent and habitual acts become more frequent and controlling” ST, 3:226

    230–“The best Christians are in general those who from love to Christ and
    zeal for his glory, labor most and suffer most in his service

    For justification, go with faith alone because your works would bring condemnation.

    But for sanctification, go with works also, because once you are justified, then your works can’t condemn you so that means your works can make you more sanctified. And if you don’t become more sanctified, then this is evidence that you were never justified. Now maybe this sounds like the future aspect of justification also depends on Spirit given works, but as long as you say it’s sanctification and not justification, then you stay confessional and also that way you keep church members a little on the edge of their seats, so they don’t just sit there and do nothing.

  20. markmcculley Says:

    John 7: 6 Jesus told them, “My time has not yet arrived, but your time is always at hand. 7 The world cannot hate you, but it does hate Me because I testify about it—that its deeds are evil.

  21. markmcculley Says:

    Romans 7: 4 you also were put to death in relation to the law through the crucified body of the Messiah, in order that you belong to another—to Him who was raised from the dead—in order that we bear fruit for God. 5 For when we were in the flesh the sinful passions operated through the law in every part of us and bore fruit for death.

    Matthew 7: 17 every good tree produces good fruit, but a bad tree produces bad fruit. 18 A good tree cannot produce bad fruit. Neither can a bad tree produce good fruit.

    Hebrews 10:24 And let us be concerned about one another in order to promote love and good works

    Hebrews 13: 14 For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come. 15 Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name. 16 Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.

    I Peter 2:5 you also, as living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ”

    I Peter 2:12 Conduct yourselves honorably …so that in a case where they speak against you as those who do what is evil, they seeing your good works will glorify God on the day

    Ephesians 2:10 For we are His creation, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared ahead of time so that we should walk in them.

    Titus 2:14 Christ gave Himself FOR US to REDEEM US from all lawlessness and to cleanse for Himself a people for His own possession, eager to do good works.

  22. Mark Mcculley Says:

    Tianqi Wu–benefits from doing Law? The benefits are not getting justified (vs being being condemned), but “training in godliness” in this age and the anticipation of praise/vindication in the next age. These works will have God’s praise (“justification”) – not as extra levels of righteousness or glory for individuals, but as a public revelation and an official stamp of approval of the Spirit’s work

    Christians alone are in a position to do acceptable work and work because they have died in Christ to the condemnation of God’s Law, and raised in Christ as a part of the new order. How much they will do depends on the Spirit’s work in them.

    Both law and gospel reveal and are revealed by the same God/Christ

    Believing the gospel is the only way to be in position or good works, but it is the Law that explicitly calls for works and teaches what these works are. Therefore it’s useful to listen to/teach the commandments of God, given by Christ and the apostles, not only to see our sin, but also to see our aim.

    James chastises those who listen to these good injunctions but then do not put them into practice. He is not saying their faith in the gospel is insincere or worthless, but that their knowledge of Christian duties is useless without works.

  23. Mark Mcculley Says:

    but what does it matter if our works are dead or alive, since we are
    not justified by our works?

    After we are justified through faith, does God then also justify our faith?

    For what reason would our faith need to be justified, after we are justified?
    Our faith is not perfect, which is another way of saying that none of
    our faith is the righteousness God imputes to us for our
    justification. God gave us faith, but the object of our faith is not
    that our faith has been justified. Our faith is not perfect, which is
    another way of saying that sinners believe the gospel , and sin even
    in our believing the gospel.

    For what reason would our works need to be justified, after we
    ourselves are justified?

    we are not justified because our works are not dead

    our works are not dead because we are justified

    If we are going to focus on this extra aspect of “justifying not only
    our persons but our works”, why not also focus on God “justifying not
    only our persons but our faith? My guess (still) is that you would not
    talk about God justifying our faith, and I was hoping that might make
    you think twice about Calvin’s language on justifying our works.

    John 3:20 People with dead works hate the light of the gospel and do not come to the light because they don’t want their dead works to be exposed as dead works.

    Works attempted before God without assurance of justification are
    DISPLEASING to God. Even if the works attempted are not attempted in order to gain assurance before God, without assurance of justification before God, all works are an abomination to God.

    The Bible calls such works “dead works”, not only because they are
    works done by those still legally condemned before God but also
    because those dead works do not lead to life but to death.

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