Archive for December 2014

Piper Calls Thanksgiving a “Debtor’s Ethic”

December 23, 2014

John Piper, the Debtor’s Ethic, Future Grace— “the Israelites are at their best, though, what is notable about them is not their gratitude, but THEIR FAITH: And Israel saw that great work which the LORD did upon the Egyptians: and the people feared the LORD, and BELIEVED the LORD, and his servant Moses. Exodus 14:31 To contrast, when Moses behaved badly and struck the rock with his staff, this was his reprimand: And the LORD spake unto Moses and Aaron, Because ye BELIEVED ME NOT, to sanctify me in the eyes of the children of Israel, therefore ye shall not bring this congregation into the land which I have given them. Numbers 20:12 The LORD doesn’t say that this is because they weren’t grateful enough….”

Daniel Fuller (The Unity of Faith, p 313): “Paul would have agreed with James that Abraham’s work of preparing to sacrifice Isaac was an OBEDIENCE OF FAITH. Paul would have disagreed strongly with Calvin, who saw obedience and works as only accompanying genuine faith…The concern in James 2:14-26 was to urge A FAITH THAT SAVES a person, not simply to tell a person how they could demonstrate their saving faith…Calvin should have taught that justification depends on a persevering FAITH since he regarded Abraham as already justified before Genesis 15:6.”

And then Daniel Fuller quotes Jonathan Edwards: “We are really saved by perseverance…the perseverance which belongs to faith is one thing that is really a fundamental ground of the congruity THAT FAITH GIVES TO salvation…For, though a sinner is justified in his first act of faith, yet even then, in that act of justification, God has respect to perseverance as being implied in the first act.”

Mark McCulley asks– How could we possibly give thanks, when the future hangs in the balance and depends on our future acts of faith?

John Piper—the Bible rarely, if ever, motivates Christian living with gratitude…Could it be that gratitude for bygone grace has been pressed to serve as the power for holiness, which only faith in future grace was designed to perform?… some popular notions of grace are so skewed and so pervasive that certain biblical teachings are almost impossible to communicate. For example, the biblical concept of unmerited, conditional grace is nearly unintelligible to Christians who assume that unconditionality is the essence of all grace.

Piper—… “the conditional promises of grace are woven all through the New Testament teaching about how to live the Christian life. “If you forgive men for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you” (Matthew 6:14). “Pursue…sanctification without which no one will see the Lord” (Hebrews 12:14)…I find that Biblical thinking behind these kinds of conditional promises is uncommon in the minds of Christians today. Some popular conceptions of grace cannot comprehend any role for conditionality other than legalism.”

Gaffin: In the matter of sanctification, it seems to me, we must confront a tendency, within churches of the Reformation to view the gospel and salvation in its outcome almost exclusively in terms of justification. The effect of this outlook, whether or not intended, is that sanctification tends to be seen as the response of the believer to salvation. Sanctification is viewed as an expression of gratitude from our side for our justification and the free forgiveness of our sins, usually with the accent on the imperfection and inadequacy of such expressions of gratitude.

Gaffin: Sometimes there is even the suggestion that while sanctification is highly desirable, and its lack, certainly unbecoming and inappropriate, it is not really necessary in the life of the believer, not really integral to our salvation and an essential part of what it means to be saved from sin. The attitude we may have — at least this is the way it comes across — is something like, “If Jesus did that for you, died that your sins might be forgiven, shouldn’t you at least do this for him, try to please him?” With such a construction justification and sanctification are pulled apart; the former is what God does, the latter what we do, and do so inadequately. At worst, this outlook tends to devolve into moralism.

Like Daniel Fuller . Gaffin accuses others of being “Galatianists” who teach sanctification by works instead of by faith, and then himself turns our works into that which is a part of our “faith”, because our works are 100 % caused by God’s work in us. Like John Murray, Gaffin insists on defining “justified from sin” (Romans 6:7) as a definitive ontological breach with the power of sin so that we work. He simply assumes that freedom from guilt before the law (as a covenant of works”, as some like to say) is not an adequate motive or basis for the indicative “sin shall not have dominion”

And Gaffin does this while accusing those with “justification and gratitude” priority with teaching a Galatianist “sanctification by works” ! Gaffin puts “union” before both justification and sanctification, and his defacto definition of “union” is the Holy Spirit’s presence and work in us, and in this way gives first place to Christ’s indwelling present and future presence. Why give thanks for the past when now (in this new age) you CAN (and will) obey in a way Adam could not?

Why is Grace Conditioned on an One Time Decision So Popular?

December 22, 2014

Arminian Charlie Bing asks us why “Lordship salvation” is so popular. He explains that it’s because we want to contribute something to our salvation. Bing is right. Bing wants to contribute his faith to salvation, and opposes those who want to contribute both faith and works to salvation.

Bing writes: “Lordship theology is a necessary result of strong determinstic Calvinism, because in this view God elects some to salvation and gives them faith to believe. That divine gift of faith cannot fail, therefore a it guarantees a persevering life of submission to Jesus as Lord if one is truly saved.” I am not going to waste my time talking about what we mean by “determinism” or “Calvinism”. Even though I believe in the absolute sovereignty of God and that Christ died bearing the sins of all the elect to take those sins away and to give all the elect the gift of faith, the first question that always needs to be asked is this—what is the object of faith?

I agree with Bing that most “Calvinists” today have faith in their future perseverance in obeying the Lord. ( I don’t agree with him about this being a necessary inherent result. We who believe in “federal theology” are not Augustinians.) Even though, like Roman Catholics, these “Calvinists” want to give God’s grace the credit for enabling them to persevere in obeying, the faith of these “Calvinists” does not have as its object the death of Christ as making the only difference in “taking away sins”. These “Calvinists” are way more interested in regeneration than they are in the atonement.

My own opinion is that we will never stop finding assurance in our WORKS of faith until we also stop finding assurance in our FAITH. Works of faith are not our righteousness. But neither is faith our righteousness. All who are gospel believers are justified before God, and none are justified who are not gospel believers. None are born again who are not gospel believers, and none are justified who are not born again. But believing the gospel is not our righteousness.

The object of Bing’s faith is his faith. I am not going to try to persuade Bing that this “makes faith a work”. I agree with the Bible that faith is “not works”. I don’t need to say that “faith in faith” turns faith into a work. All I need to say is that faith is not the object of faith. If you think salvation is conditioned on your faith, then you have a false gospel.

Putting regeneration before faith in the order of salvation does not mean putting regeneration before an inevitable life of obedience. No matter how confident you are about how much God has enabled you to obey, your obedience is never going to be perfect enough to satisfy God’s law. And Bing’s one time decision is not enough to satisfy God’s law either, not least because that one time decision to “exercise faith” had the wrong object—he believed in a false gospel. It would not improve the situation to change the condition from a one time decision for faith into many decisions for faith!

The Arminians who oppose “Lordship salvation” are in no better place before God than the “Calvinists” who cannot have assurance because they cannot know if they will continue to keep their “covenant conditions”. Even though some Arminians don’t trust in their “commitment”, they do trust in their decision. They teach that Christ died for all sinners, and that this death makes no difference for most of the sinners for whom Christ died.

But Bing assures us—- Christ’s death DOES make a difference for us who make that decision. It would be more truthful for him to say that his decision made the difference, since his false gospel teaches that Jesus died for all sins (except presumably the sin of not making the decision)

Bing believes that Christ died for the sins of all those who persevere in Lordship salvation. I know that those in the Arminian “free grace” group are divided about the question of the salvation of those who believe in “Lordship salvation”. But since they assume that most of those “into Lordship” now had “already made the decision”, the anti-Lordship Arminians can agree that those “now into Lordship” are already saved and can’t be lost. It’s like a tattoo–become an atheist after that one time decision, and you don’t lose ever-lasting life. Become a “Lordship Calvinist” after that one time decision, and you don’t lose ever-lasting life.

The debate comes in when these Arminians think about those who grew up “in the Lordship gospel” and therefore never made that “one time decision”. But in any case, these Arminians teach that Christ died for the sins of all sinners including the sinners who teach “Lordship salvation”. But some of the anti-Lordship Arminians teach that Christ did not die for the sin of believing in works instead of believing in your own one time decision.

Since they deny that “the one time decision” is a gift of God, they can’t look to God to cause anybody to make the one time decision. And since they say that the one sin Jesus didn’t die for is the sin of believing in works, some of them find it difficult to be very hopeful about some of those who teach “Lordship salvation”.:

The solution is not to teach “discipleship by works” but “salvation without works”. All the blessings of salvation were earned for the elect by Christ in His death. God gives none of us anything apart from Christ’s propitiation. Christ’s death is not the reason God loves the elect but God’s love does not give any blessing to anybody apart from the merits of Christ’s death. The rain and sunshine God gives the non-elect are not blessings for them, nor is the gospel a blessing for the non-elect, even though the gospel promises salvation to anyone who believes it. The non-elect are not going to believe the gospel, and them listening to the gospel is not a blessing for them.

I will not at this time get into the question of how much the non-elect ever understand the gospel. Bing seems to understand the idea that God has an elect and that God gives these elect faith, but since he does not know that Christ’s effective death is the object of faith, he makes his decision the object of his decision Bing understands that Christ’s death makes no difference to some people but what he does not understand is that his notion of Christ’s death makes no difference for anybody, since his notion is that the decision makes the difference.

The solution is not to put our law-keeping on the back end of salvation instead of the front end. As long as our law keeping is imperfect, putting in qualifiers like “pattern of life” does not change the basic idolatry of trusting in what God enables us to do instead of in Christ’s death. And Bing denying that God enables us to believe, and saying that believing is the only thing we need to do, does not change a false gospel into a true gospel. Denying the enabling does not make faith in faith the good news.

Bing is very condescending to the “young restless and Reformed”. He informs us that most of them probably do not “understand the entire package”. Certainly more folks quote Piper and Carson then actually understand their dialectic. But surely Piper and Carson and other “Lordship teachers” do understand “the package”. They understand that they are teaching that God wants to save all sinners and that God also gives “persevering commitment” only to the elect. These teachers understand themselves to be warning that ever-lasting life depends on your forgiving others and keeping the commands (not perfectly but as a pattern of life)

What good would it do for me to explain that folks like Bing “don”t really understand” the implications of what they are teaching? Would that kind of tolerance make me look good? Would that kind of tolerance make God look better in their eyes?

Bing is a bright fellow. Why should I doubt that he understands what he is teaching about Christ having died for all the sins of all sinners, and thus the only sin being left is not making the decision?

Bing thinks that some Christians “make Jesus Lord”. Many Calvinists think that the Lordship of Jesus means that all Christians will not be as sinful as they were and as others still are. But Jesus is Lord of the Doctrine of the gospel, and the Bible does not teach that not sinning increases grace. Nor does the Bible teach that grace increases not sinning. When Romans 6:14 teaches that some are not under law but under grace, that refers not only to not being under the old covenants but also refers to those who have been placed into Christ’s death as having been justified before God.

There is now no condemnation for those not under the law because Christ was under the law for those who are justified before God. We do not need to have a fake view of our sins, of our being still sinners, in order to rejoice in God’s justification of the ungodly. Those who have been justified are no longer ungodly and no longer totally depraved, but they are not justified because of becoming less sinful and more godly. To the contrary, the justified elect are now godly sinners because they are justified. Justified sinners are not imputed with Christ’s death because they are born again. They are born again because they are imputed with Christ’s death.

The solution to the false gospel is not “less worldliness”. The solution to the false gospel is not more involvement in the world or less involvement in the world. The solution to the false gospel is not understanding the pacifism demanded by “taking seriously” the Sermon on the Mount. Nor is the solution to the false gospel denying the difference between the covenants and then “understanding” that the commands of the Sermon on the Mount are about our attitude and not about real life, and so in this way lower the standard so that we can think we are persevering in obedience.

Nor is the solution to say that the function of the law is only to show us our need of grace outside ourselves because God does not see the sins of Christians. The solution is not to deny any need to confess our sins. The gospel solution is to call our sins what they are without excusing our sins and we cannot do this if our gospel hope is about our not sinning so much as we used to and so much as others sinners do.

The solution to the prevailing teaching of salvation by works is not to teach that an one time decision is sufficient. Nothing is enough but Christ’s death as the satisfaction for all the sins of the elect. Our faith is not enough, whether we teach that God gives faith or if we deny that God gives faith. Our works are not enough to help save but trusting in works in addition to Christ’s death is leave you in the condemnation into which we are all born.

Our decision is not enough to save us but trusting in a decision leaves you still guilty before God. I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness were through my decision, then Christ died for no purpose. I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness were through God enabling me to persevere in the covenant, then Christ died for no purpose.

Bing and the Arminians who oppose “Lordship salvation” do not want us to trust “just any Jesus”. But they do want us to trust in a false Jesus “as one who died for our sins”. Jesus did not die for every sinner’s sins. Trusting in a Jesus who died for one sinner without that death making any difference for that one sinner is not trusting the Jesus revealed in the Bible. It is another gospel, which is not the gospel. Trusting like that is nothing else than idol worship.

It makes no difference if you call this idolatry “easy” or “not easy”. There is no ultimate difference between the Arminians who teach salvation at the cost of one decision and the Arminians who teach salvation at the cost of everything you have and do. Nor is there any final difference between the Arminians who deny that God gives faith and the Calvinists who teach that God causes them to be less sinful and that this being less sinful is part of the commitment of faith and a necessary result of faith.

But wait a minute. isn’t what I am a teaching also a decision? Have I not decided to follow the Jesus who justifies the ungodly by the merits of His death? Is my theology finally and ultimately any different from those who decide that salvation is conditioned on faith alone (which is never alone!)? Isn’t the only difference some stuff about election?

I agree with Bing that most of those who teach anything about election are also teaching that the gift of faith turns out to be the gift of not sinning (as much or too much). So the difference between the true and the false is not just any something about “election” but about the nature of Christ’s death . Instead of relating Christ’s atonement to “justification” in a different way than I do to “sanctification” or “discipleship”. I think the good news is that Christ died to forgive us our sin of not obeying His commands. But I also think that Christ never died to forgive those who live and die without ever knowing and believing the gospel.

Keeping Christ’s commands does not make us Christians. Not keeping Christ’s commands does not prove that we are not Christians. If sin proved that we are not Christians, then none of us are Christians. But does believing a false gospel prove that we are not Christians?

Certainly believing a false gospel is sin. But it’s not a sin we can sin and still be Christians. All Christians sin, but not all sin is believing a false gospel. Believing a false gospel is what we did before we were Christians. The elect have always been elect but the elect have not always been Christians. Some of the elect are still not Christians yet.

In the “early church”, there was a popular notion of waiting to become a Christian. The idea was combined with the idea of becoming a Christian by becoming watered by the church. The idea was to delay becoming a Christian so you could keep sinning before that. The idea was that Christians stop sinning. Therefore folks like Constantine-despite agreeing that their killing was sin-delayed being watered because they thought of water as some kind of medicine that would keep them from sinning. Since Constantine did not want to be kept from sinning yet, he delayed the water.

The teaching of ‘Lordship salvation” is not inherently related to some idea of “baptism as a means of grace”. But “Lordship salvation” is teaching that there will be less sinning after one becomes a Christian. You might want to “wait as long as you can” before you will need to make a ‘commitment” and “stop sinning”, but who knows about accidents and “cutting it close”, so the idea is that we “surrender” and ask God to begin enabling us to persevere in keeping the commands and the conditions of the covenant. Some of this goes with the idea of being able to be in a “new covenant” which continues to be as conditional as the old covenants. Even many “Calvinist” credobaptists like Tom Schreiner also teach “conditionality in the covenant”.

Lordship “Calvinists” tend to quote each other agree with each other. They divide the world into two camps, one in which they include themselves with all the “good Arminians” who teach that salvation is conditioned on “something more than an one time decision” and then put in the only other camp the Arminians who say that salvation results from walking to the front of a meeting one time and making a decision. Anybody else who disagrees with them about “not sinning causes more sanctification” and “sanctification as the evidence of justification” is dismissed as a “hyper Calvinist” who probably teaches eternal justification and who denies that God sees the sins of Christians.

Whatever–why should they be bothered with anybody who is not as “classic” and “mainline” as they are? Especially when we live in a world where so many professing Christians are so worldly and so sinful, and not really interested “in the things of the Lord”. The Pharisees and those who teach “Lordship salvation” are interested in the right things. Even if they still sin some, they do not sin as much as others do. And some of them are sincere because they do not sin as much as they used to sin. They are pretty sure of that. Not for sure sure. But mostly sure….

The specific context of I John 5 says “born of God” and not “justified by God”. But we cannot leave justification and atonement out of our thinking.

I John 3:6 and 9 are not saying that we have a “new nature that never sins”. Those verses are saying that those who believe the gospel have their minds set on the Spirit, and not on the flesh (see Romans 8:5-8) What do we believe? What is the object of our faith? Do we only believe that we have been born again, and NOW WE ARE ABLE? Do we believe our decision makes the difference?

I John 5:1 Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the Father loves whoever has been born of him. 2 By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments. 3 For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome.

But read on

Whoever does not believe God has made him a liar, because he has not believed in the testimony of God concerning his Son. 11 And this is the testimony, that God gave us LASTING life, and this life is in his Son. 12 Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life

a. We not only believed in the testimony of what the Spirit will do in us, but of “LASTING life” in the SON.

b. Is this “LASTING life” the new birth? No, it is not. Arminians think “eternal life” is the “new birth”. When the Bible says ” believe and you will have LASTING life”, Arminians understand the promise to mean “believe and then you will get the new birth”. (That is the way Billy Graham explains it in his book “How to Be born Again”)

c.The new birth is the cause of faith in the gospel. “LASTING LIFE” has to do with justification, with the life of the age to come, the permanent final legal life which results from being a justified saint.

God Does the Imputing on Both Sides of Double Imputation

December 10, 2014

Some churches that want to sound slightly “Reformed” tell us that “God wants us to exchange our self-righteousness for Christ’s righteousness.” One old slogan says–all you contribute is your sins. But it is not so. God has ALREADY (or NOT) made the exchange. For some sinners, that is for all elect sinners, God has already imputed their sins to Christ. In time, it will be God (not these sinners) who will impute Christ’s death (His righteousness) to the sinners.

Imputation is double because not only are the sins of the elect imputed by God to Christ but also the death of Christ (the one act of righteousness) is imputed by God to all those for whom Christ died. God does not do both sides of God’s double imputation at the same time.

But why be picky about this? Because the gospel of Jesus Christ is about God’s sovereign JUSTICE. The gospel is about the salvation of the elect which God owes the elect, not because of any imputing the elect do, but because God has already credited all the sins of all the elect to Christ. Since Christ has already died for all those sins, it would be unjust for God not to save those sinners.

Now, some liberals (Socinians) don’t like that idea of retributive justice. If it’s strict justice, they complain, then it can’t be forgiveness. If it’s really forgiveness, they instruct us, then no justice was absolutely or strictly necessary. (Some of them do think a governmental display of “absorbing sins” would be good for law and order.)

And those “Reformed” who still want to be “evangelicals” (Arminians also at the same time) have a problem with the idea that what Christ did entitles Christ to the salvation of His specific individuals. So they don’t talk about election, or about the elect having already been given to Christ, but instead they talk about “ covenantal election” (conditional) or “those who believe” (what?).

Romans 5: 17 For if, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ.18 Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men. 19 For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous. 20 Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, 21 so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also would reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Grace reigns through justice, and all for whom Christ did His one act of obedience will one day be constituted righteous. Christ did not die for Judas. Judas never sinned against God’s grace or Christ’s love, because Christ never loved Judas. But it would be injustice for a person for whom Christ died to not be forgiven because that person had failed “to make the exchange” or “to accept the exchange” . All those persons will in time believe the gospel. All those elect persons will in time “impute themselves” to be dead to the law in Christ but this “self-imputation” is based only on God’s imputation and not on any idea that we made one half of the exchange or that we contributed our sins.

Those who know the gospel know the good news of election and justice, and so they know that it was not their imputing which makes them to differ from those who “ don’t give up their self-righteousness”. The problem with talking about God’s “non-justice” is that it effectively turns the gospel into a “possibility”. And if salvation is POSSIBLE IF you “make the exchange”, then Christ’s death is POSSIBLY INEFFECTIVE if you don’t make the exchange.

“Non-justice” only makes mercy possible. The righteousness of Christ makes divine mercy to the elect (all for whom Christ died) a matter of justice to Christ. This wonderful truth is perhaps seen at its clearest in Isaiah 53:

10 Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him;
he has put him to grief;
when his blood makes an offering for guilt,
he SHALL see his offspring; he SHALL prolong his days;
the will of the Lord SHALL prosper in his hand.
11 Out of the anguish of his soul’s death he SHALL see and be satisfied;
by his knowledge SHALL the righteous one, my servant,
make many to be counted righteous,
and he SHALL bear their iniquities.
12 THREFORE I WILL divide him a portion with the many,
and he SHALL divide the spoil with the strong,
because he poured out his soul to death
and was numbered with the transgressors;
yet he bore the sin of many,
and makes intercession for the transgressors.

If we sing about having ourselves put Christ on the cross, we do not yet understand what the gospel teaches about God’s transfer of guilt to God.. It is one thing to hope that Christ “bore our sins”. If Christ did indeed bear our sins ,then our sins have already been taken away, and in time God will impute Christ’s death to us. But it is quite another thing to say that Christ bore our sins because we in time imputed our sins to Christ. We are not the imputers. We do not get to decide when and if we put our sins on Christ.

We do not get the opportunity to contribute our sins so that then Christ contributes His righteousness. Neither election nor non-election is conditioned on our sins. Although those who believe the gospel are commanded to declare what God has already declared, we can never be the original imputers..

Yes, those specific lawless men who put Christ on the cross were guilty of what they did. But the cross is not what condemns. The non-elect do not sin against God’s grace. The gospel is good news for the elect, and the gospel is not what condemns the non-elect. Rejecting the cross is not what condemns the non-elect, because we are all already condemned in Adam .

The false gospel which says that Jesus Christ died for every sinner is not gospel. The false gospel turns a supposedly universal death into guilt for those who don’t meet the “conditions” which supposedly make that death effective.

Mystical Antinomians Think That Christ Replaces us

December 8, 2014

Some of those who assume that everybody to whom they talk is a Christian tend to also speak of “sanctification” as a second blessing you can get by doing things the right way. For the mystical antinomians, doing things the right way means not doing anything at all.

Even though these preachers assume that everybody is a legalist, they also assume that all these legalists are Christians, and they command these folks to be more “gospel awake” and promise that “doing not doing” will result in better sanctification and more of everything, including more works and more joy. But as Jacques Ellul like to say, after all has been said, nothing has been done. The various competing theories of sanctification don’t seem to have caused any of us to be more sanctified.

But the “exchanged life” antinomians put pressure on us (and our faith) to have a crisis experience ( at some conference perhaps) to claim God’s supposed promise that God will live our lives for us. The idea of the “exchanged life” is that we “let go and let God”. But the threat is always that, if there is a problem, the fault is ours for not “letting go” enough. Instead of trusting in Christ’s death as our consecration (Hebrews 10:10-14), we are supposed to trust in Christ’s “vicarious life” or in the “power of His resurrection life in us”.

I won’t say Osiander (I just did), but the solution to this problem is not simply to point to Christ’s humanity and to the fact that Christ died for the purpose of God’s forgiving our failure to positively do what the law tells us to do. We also need to remember human agency. God’s sovereignty does not mean that God believes the gospel for us. God causes us to believe the gospel.

God’s sovereignty does not mean that God is doing what we do. God is not sinning when we sin, and God is not obeying when we obey. God causes us to obey. and that is different from saying that God obeys for us.

The Bible does not command us to “empty yourselves” so that Christ can be in you. The presence of the person of Christ is in us, but not because of something we did.

Nor does the Holy Spirit make Christ present in the “sacrament”. The Holy Spirit does not “take us up” to heaven. The Holy Spirit does not “unite us to” Christ.

The Bible does not command us to empty ourselves so that Christ will then do the believing and obeying in us and for us. The Holy Spirit does not replace us, nor does the Holy Spirit unite us to Christ so that Christ can replace us. Do we have to be “united to” the Holy Spirit before we can be “united to Christ”? If it takes the Holy Spirit to unite us to Christ, who does it take to unite us to the Holy Spirit?

Even though Christ alone replaced us in the one and only Propitiation, Christ is not now replacing us, and we should never confuse what we do or don’t do with what Christ is doing or not doing.

One “mystical antinomian” named John Crowder writes “God didn’t save you so you could do good. God saved you so you could be dead and then God could work through you. God does not want to you try to work. God is only pleased with what Christ does, God does not help you. God does things for you”. (Mystical Union, Sons of Thunder Publishing, 2010)

if soundbites like that make you think the grace of God is being exalted, then you need to begin to ask some more questions. It is not some present work which is our Propitiation, and there is no need to confuse our present working with God’s present working.

Hebrews 13: 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…. 18 Pray for us, for we are sure that we have a clear conscience, desiring to act honorably in all things. … 20 Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, 21 equip you with everything good so that YOU DO HIS WILL , working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.

I am not going to say “hyper-grace”, because I don’t like the word “hyper” and I don’t think we can ever say too much about grace, but we do need to beware of the “mystical antinomians” 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 Joseph Prince, Steve McVey, Malcolm Smith, Andrew Farley and Paul Ellis.

J I Packer warns us : “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.”

Romans 6: 12 Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. 13 Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness. 14 For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.
15 What then? Are we to sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means! 16 Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? 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, 18 and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness. 19 I am speaking in human terms, because of your natural limitations. For just as you once presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now PRESENT YOUR MEMBERS AS SLAVES TO RIGHTEOUSNESS leading to sanctification. 20 For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. 21 But what fruit were you getting at that time from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death. 22 But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, lasting life. 23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is lasting life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Romans 7: 4 Likewise, my brothers, you also have died to the law through the body of Christ, in order to belong to another, to him who has been raised from the dead, in order to bear fruit for God.

Immortality for the elect alone

December 3, 2014

I Corinthians 15: 51 We will not all fall asleep,
but we will all be changed,
52 in a moment, in the blink of an eye,
at the last trumpet.
For the trumpet will sound,
and the dead will be raised incorruptible,
and we will be changed.
53 For this corruptible must be clothed
with incorruptibility,
and this mortal must be clothed
with immortality.
54 When this corruptible is clothed
with incorruptibility,
and this mortal is clothed
with immortality,
then the saying that is written will take place:
Death has been swallowed up in victory.

There was dust here on earth before there was a “living soul”. There was God’s breath (spirit) before there was a “living soul”. But there was no pre-existing “soul” before and without the dust and the breath (life). To be a soul, you need a body. To be a living soul, you need life from God. But life from God is not immortality, and that immortality will only be given to those who God justifies.

Immortality is God’s gift for those God loves.
I Timothy 6: 12 Fight the good fight for the faith;
take hold of lasting life
that you were called to
and have made a good confession about
in the presence of many witnesses.
13 In the presence of God, who gives life and of Christ Jesus, who gave a good confession before Pontius Pilate, I charge you to keep the command e until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ. 15 God will bring this about in God’s own time. God is the blessed and only Sovereign,the King of kings, and the Lord of lords, 16 the only One who has immortality,

II Timothy 1:9 God saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began, 10 and which now has been manifested through the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel,

The punishment of the non-elect sinner is not preservation in torture but death. The punishment is loss of life forever. But those who teach that some sinners will sin forever and be tortured forever seem to have such a low view of life that they deny that death is even a punishment.

For God, “death is the last ENEMY”. I Corinthians 15. But for the “death is not enough justice” folks, no period of punishment is ever long enough. While they allow that there may be “degrees of punishment”, they teach that each non-elect sinner will be punished forever, not by being dead forever after death but by still being alive in misery “somewhere” after death. Don’t call it life, they say call it “merely existing.”

Romans 6: 23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Revelation 20: 14 Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. 15 And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.

Matthew 10: 28 And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in gehenna

It is one thing to experience death that lasts forever. It is another thing to experience torture forever but never to die. But the “death is never enough” folks point out that those who die a death that lasts forever do not have to experience dying forever—they claim that the non-elect dying in a moment in history (even perhaps after a period of judgment and punishing) is not enough to satisfy the justice of God.

But since we can all perhaps agree that only the death of Jesus is ever enough to satisfy the justice of God, this means that neither the torture of the non-elect forever or the death forever of the non-elect will satisfy God’s justice. But many folks don’t think the death of Jesus is what actually satisfies the justice of God either. Some Roman Catholics think that the continuing sacrament is the continuing dying of Jesus Christ which is still satisfying the justice of God. Some Protestants think that the vicarious law-keeping of Jesus is what helps to satisfy the justice of God. They explain that, even though the period of time in which Jesus kept the law on earth was finite, that Jesus as a person is infinite and therefore that those years of law-keeping help satisfy God’s justice. And many professing Christians put the accent on the three hours of suffering Christ experienced before His death–again they explain the legal satisfaction by the “infinity” of Christ’s person.

God’s Active Imputation of the Sins of the Elect to Christ

December 1, 2014

I am not yet bored with the idea of Christ bearing the sins of the elect by imputation.

II Corinthians 5:21 21 For our sake God made Christ to be sin who knew no sin, in order that in Christ we would become the righteousness of God.

Leon Morris: “The verb is active and the subject is God. In this imputation both the Father and the Son are exceedingly active.” The Cross in the New Testament, p 220

As God legally constituted Christ not only to be the sin offering for the elect but also (and first) guilty of the guilt of the elect, even so God legally constitutes the elect not only to be justified before God but also (and first) makes that righteous relationship to be real by crediting the legal merit of Christ’s death to the elect.

Instead of counting the sins of the elect against them (see II Cor 5:19) God counted the sins of the elect against Christ. The identification by God of Christ with the sins of the elect was not a fiction but so real that it resulted in Christ’s death.

John Owen–“but it will be said that if our sins, as to the guilt of them, were imputed to Christ, then God must HATE Christ. But it is only inherent sin, not imputed sin which makes a person hateful to God. Christ being perfectly sinless and holy in Himself was glorious and lovely in the sight of God. Indeed Christ’s active taking upon Himself the guilt of the elect was high ACT OF OBEDIENCE to God.” The Doctrine of Justification, volume 5, p 203

Psalm 40:6-8
Consequently, when Christ came into the world, he said,

“Sacrifices and offerings you have not desired,
but a body have you prepared for me;
6 in burnt offerings and sin offerings
you have taken no pleasure.
7 Then I said, ‘Behold, I have come to do your will, O God, as it is written of me in the scroll of the book.’”

John 10: 17 For this reason the Father loves me,because I lay down my life that I may take it up again. 18 No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father.”

God’s active imputation of the sins of the elect to Christ is the only way that Christ took away those sins. if Christ never bore those sins Christ never took them away, but Christ did bear those sins, because the Son actively took those sins to Himself and God the Father made Him to be sin.

Isaiah 53:12
Therefore I will divide him a portion with the many, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong, because he poured out his soul to death and was numbered with the transgressors; yet he bore the sin of many, and makes intercession for the transgressors.

Hebrews 9: 27 And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment, 28 so Christ, having been offered once to BEAR THE SINS of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.

I Peter 2:24 He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, in order that we would die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.

If Christ has not already taken away your sins, Christ will never bear your sins . If Christ ever bore your sins then those sins are already taken away. The elect sinners who do not know this about Christ’s sin-bearing are not yet justified, because God has not yet imputed to them Christ’s sin-bearing and taking away death