Archive for the ‘resurrection’ category

Is Your justification Still a Work in Process, both In You and In Heaven? (Mark Jones and Gaffin)

June 14, 2014

In his preface to the new Presbyterian and Reformed edition of Gaffin’s By Faith Not by Sight, Mark Jones confuses John Cotton’s position oo faith and justification. Mark Jones falsely identifies Cotton teaching imputation before faith with Cotton teaching justification before faith.In A Faire and Easy to Heaven (1978, p43), William Stoever quotes Cott0n: “We must be good trees before we can bring forth good fruit. If then closing with Christ be a good fruit, we must be good trees before we can bring it forth. And how can we be good trees, before we be engrafted into Christ?”

Cotton was not teaching that anybody can be justified before or without faith. Cotton was denying that faith is something the elect have before or without God’s imputation of Christ’s death to these elect. The apriori assumption for Jones and Gaffin is that faith is a condition of what they they call “union”. What they call “union” is a condition for their view of “justification”, a view in which justification continues to have “not-yet” aspects, so that final justification is conditioned on continuing works of faith.

Gaffin and Jones insist on faith before “union”, but if their logic holds, then “union” also has “not-yet aspects”, which are conditioned on the “not yet” aspects of “faith after”. Thus they have an incomplete union and an incomplete justification.

It is a CONTRADICTION to say that all of God’s acts depend on “union”, and then to turn around and also say that “union” depends on faith. Does faith also depend on “union”? Or does “union” depend on faith” While Gaffin and Jones never clearly define “union”, it seems like they think that we receive the “personal presence” of Christ inside us BEFORE we receive the benefit of Christ’s finished work. In other words, since Jesus is now the Holy Spirit in redemptive history, for Gaffin and Jones (and for Sinclair Ferguson and many others), this is read to mean that we must obtain possession of Christ as a person not only before we are justified but also before God will impute Christ’s righteousness to us.

(Despite all their focus on the priority of redemptive history, Ferguson and Gaffin and Jones are not clear about how any of this changed between the old covenant economies and the incarnation of Christ.)

There are many unanswered questions about this “not yet” paradigm which are ignored in Gaffin’s little book. If there is some sense in which those who have been justified are not yet justified, is there also some sense in which God has not yet imputed all the sins of all the justified to Christ? Since the absence of “works of faith” is seen by Gaffin as not only a lack of evidence of final justification but also as the means by which many who have been “baptized” will instrumentally fail to be finally justified, how do the sins (or non-works) of the not-yet completely justified factor into their final justification? Is there a difference between good works and faith, or between sins and lack of faith and works?

If faith is a condition of “union”, and if faith is yet incomplete and uncertain (as far as one individual is concerned), does that not mean that “union” is also incomplete? How does a person get faith before they are united to Christ? If a person has to get faith before they can get the personal presence of Christ, how does a person get this faith? How can “calling” be a condition of the “union” but not a benefit of the “union”?

If the gift of faith is not given to us based on Christ’s righteousness (as taught in II Peter 1:1 –To those who have obtained a faith of equal standing with ours by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ), but instead the righteousness of Christ is given to us based on union, and that union is based on faith, and that faith is still always incomplete, how can anyone now think that their sins have already been imputed to Christ or that Christ’s righteousness has already been imputed to them? if our justification by God is in some sense future, does that not mean that our baptism into Christ’s death is still in some sense future?

Jones acts as if he all who disagree with Gaffin are antinomians who do not even know the difference between impetration” and ‘application”. Jones writes: “Faith marks the transition from being in a state of wrath to being in a state of grace”. “Marks” is an interesting word choice here, because Jones avoids the word “cause” while at the same time assuming that the “application” is created by faith. (Norman Shepherd and others use the same word when they say that water baptism “marks” the transition).

But my big question here concerns the main factor in the transition from wrath to favor, between the two states. While Gaffin and Jones claim that it’s faith which marks the transition, I agree with John Cotton (and Berkhof, and Bavinck and many others) that it’s God’s imputation of righteousness to the elect individual which marks (Causes!) the transition.

Sure, we  agree to a distinction between impetration and application. But is the application the gift of faith before and apart from God’s imputation? is the application (calling by the gospel to faith) before and apart from God legally placing the elect into Christ’s death? (Romans 6) Why must we agree that Gaffin and Jones that we receive the personal presence of Christ in us before we are legally planted in Christ’s death? I get that Gaffin and Jones are insisting on this priority, but I do not get where they have argued convincingly for the priority.

Why would they want to say that the person of Christ is more important than the work of Christ? is it because they want to say that the present work of Christ (now as resurrected and as the Spirit) is more important than the past work of Christ? (death by law as a satisfaction for the all future sins of all the elect) Is their priority on the present work because they don’t think justification is complete yet? Since they don’t seem to think faith and union are complete yet either, why are they so eager to say that Christ in us is “union” and thus “the cause of all other graces”, when they themselves are saying that our faith is the cause of “union”? Since our faith has not worked and persevered completely, how then could our “union” be complete? How then could Christ be personally present in us already completely?

It really is ironic when Jones claims that “the Lutheran view” ends up “attributing to justification a renovative /transformative element”. First, Jones still has not defined either union nor sanctification, but he seems to be equating “sanctification” with ethical renovation. Second, if we were to say that God’s imputation results in or causes ethical renovation, that is NOT saying that imputation is the renovation. It’s saying that renovation is a result, not the imputation. Imputation is one thing, the renovation is another thing.

I am seeing this accusation more and more, and it makes no sense. God’s legal declaration in imputation (based on Christ’s death) results in many blessings, including regeneration and the work of the Holy Spirit. But that does not confuse the Spirit’s work (or regeneration) with imputation. In fact, it makes the distinction plain. On the contrary, to start with undefined “union”, which consists of Christ’s personal presence but which is somehow before God’s imputation, is the ordering which opens the way for “union” as a renovation. If Christ can enter your heart before Christ’s righteousness is imputed to you and as the “condition” for that imputation then taking place, then what you have is something taking place in us before any legal transfer by God of the results of Christ’s past work. It seems like some kind of “renovation” is happening, merely by Christ’s presence, which is supposedly more important than Christ’s death or at least which does not depend on Christ’s death.

II Peter 1:1 –To those who have obtained a faith of equal standing with ours BY THE RIGHTEOUSNESS of our God and Savior Jesus Christ.

We all believe in a distinction between what Christ did (impetration) and the application of that. But the application is by God’s imputation, and Jones and Gaffin want to put something else into the application first before God’s imputation. And I cannot help thinking that the reason they point to Christ’s present resurrection instead of to Christ’s past righteousness (either imputed already to a sinner, or not) is because they think of our justification as a process which still depends on our faith, with faith as defined as that which changes us, with faith defined even as that which unites us to Christ and that which keeps Christ united to us.

Gaffin follows his mentors John Murray and Norman Shepherd in taking Romans 2:13 to be describing Christians. Jones agrees, and continues to label John Calvin’s reading of Romans 2 as the “hypothetical” view.  I myself argue for the  “empty set” view (nobody will be justified by works),  What I see is that old covenant members Ishmael and Essau (along with many others) by their sin earned God’s wrath Romans 5:20 “Now the law came in to increase the trespass”

So, instead of Jones complaining about  those who introduce “hypothetical merits” into Romans 2. I will complain about him suggesting that some really are saved (by doing the law the right way) in Romans 2. Romans 2 is teaching that nobody is justified by doing the law, no matter which way they do the law. I quote Paul Helm: “On the Gentile Christians view, while Paul argues that all are under the just judgment of God, the section 2.1-16 is not a direct contribution to that argument, but…takes us forward to the last judgment, and …. to some people who are under grace and not under the law – Gentile Christians). But such a claim might simply be a begging of the question at issue….It is only a reasonable assumption if Paul has in mind Gentile Christians, which is precisely the issue we are considering.”

http://paulhelmsdeep.blogspot.com/2011/07/romans-2-and-3-one-step-at-time-dear.html

Jones is caught in between saying that what Gaffin has written is nothing new but also saying that everybody in the Reformed tradition now needs to say it the way that Gaffin says it. But to say even this much is to agree that not all Reformed people say it or have said it the way Jones wants it to be said. But instead of leaving the diversity as it is, Jones wants to argue that we must not anymore like Luther said it, and that Calvin never did say it that way. First, Reformed folks never taught law-grace antithesis to that extreme. Second, and also, now is the time for Reformed folks to stop teaching law-gospel antithesis to that extreme.

For example, Jones writes “the idea that Christ’s resurrection and justification is also our resurrection and justification are also our resurrection and justification is not a recent invention. Of course, and the idea that Christ’s death is our death is not a recent idea either. It’s in Romans 6. and the idea that Christ’s death becomes our death by God’s imputation is not a recent idea either, but Jones now wants to say that union with Christ the person must come first before this imputation of Christ’s death to us. Does this mean that union with Christ the person must come first before our resurrection and our justification come to us? Do the resurrection and the justification come to us by imputation? Or do the resurrection and the justification come to us “by the union” and not by imputation? Does the resurrection come to us “by faith” and not by God’s imputation? Is God’s imputation to us of Christ’s righteousness only after faith? If this faith does not come from God’s imputation, and if this faith comes before “union”, how does this faith come to us?

I am having difficulty seeing why all Reformed folks have to agree to say it Gaffin’s way. But part of the problem is that Gaffin is still not giving arguments about why the link between redemptive history and the order of application must put faith in priority to imputation. Sure, we all know the difference between impetration and application, and we all know that Romans 6 (and Colossians 2, with the other texts) is not only talking about Christ’s new life but also about our new life, but all that being the case, why is it that we must put the focus on Christ as the personal life-giving Spirit now instead of talking about Christ’s completed righteousness. as some Reformed folks used to do?

Gaffin’s thesis is that there is a future aspect to the justification of an individual sinner. His assumption is that it is faith (not election nor imputation) which unites a sinner to Christ and thus to the benefits/power to do the works necessary for the not yet aspect of justification.

Since it is the same God who gives us the faith who gives us the works, therefore it seems right to Gaffin to condition our final justification on the faith and works of the sinner. Faith works yes, but also work believes. Gaffin does not tell us which gospel must be the object of the faith which unites to Christ. Does that gospel ever mention that God imputed only the sins of the elect to Christ? Nor does Gaffin tell us how imperfect works would have to be to miss out on the not-yet aspect of justification so that those once in (Christ and covenant) might still be condemned.

Gaffin: “Typically in the Reformation tradition the hope of salvation is expressed in terms of Christ’s righteousness, especially as imputed to the believer…however, I have to wonder if ‘Christ in you’ is not more prominent as an expression of evangelical hope…” p 110

Gaffin wants both faith in Christ’s past work and also in Christ’s present work in us. He cannot place all his hope in what Christ already did to satisfy the law for the elect, because part of his hope is a “sanctification” defined as a power over against sin despite our “incomplete progress, flawed by our continued sinning”.

Gaffin does not deny but affirms many correct things about imputation. For example, on p 51, he lists 3 options for the ground of justification. A. Christ’s own righteousness, complete and finished in his obedience…B. the union itself, the fact of the relationship with Christ…c. the obedience being produced by the transforming Spirit in those in union. Gaffin rightly concludes that “the current readiness to dispense with imputation” results from taking the last two options as the ground of justification.

But Gaffin always has his not yet. That’s the way he keeps it all gray. Though we are justified now, Gaffin still teaches a justification by sight, ie by works. Instead of reading the “according to works” texts as having to do with the distinction between dead works (Hebrews 6:1,9:14) and “fruit for God” (Romans 7:4), Gaffin conditions assurance in future justification on imperfect but habitual working. Instead of saying that works motivated by fear of missing justification are unacceptable to God, Gaffin teaches a final justification which is contingent on faith and works.

Gaffin teaches an “unbreakable bond between justification and sanctification” in the matter of assurance and hope for future justification. (p 100) Yes, faith (in which gospel?) is the alone instrument, he agrees, yes Christ’s finished righteousness is the alone ground, he affirms, but at the same time and however, works factor in also. Just remember that these works which factor into your assurance come from God working in you and not from you.

I hope that critics of Gaffin will not make the mistake of identifying him with N.T. Wright who denies imputation. I also agree with Gaffin that the gospel is not only about what Christ did outside of the elect for the elect. The gospel is also about the effectual call which results from election in Christ and Christ’s work for those elect . One evidence of effectual calling is that the justified elect do not put their assurance in their “bearing fruit for God”. To work for assurance of future justification is to “bear fruit for death”.

Gaffin, By Faith, Not By Sight, p 38

From this perceptive, the antithesis between law and gospel is not an end in itself. It is not a theological ultimate. Rather, that antithesis enters not be virtue of creation but as a consequence of sin, and the gospel functions for its overcoming. The gospel is to the end of removing an absolute law-gospel antithesis in the life of the believer

Gaffin, lectures on Romans, on 2:13:

That judgement decides…the ultimate outcome for all believers and for all humanity, believers as well as unbelievers. It’s a life and death situation that’s in view here. Further, this ultimate judgement has as its criterion or standard, brought into view here, the criterion for that judgement is works, good works. The doing of the law, as that is the criterion for all human beings, again, believers as well as unbelievers. In fact, in the case of the believer a positive outcome is in view and that positive outcome is explicitly said to be justification. So, again the point on the one side of the passage is that eternal life… depends on and follows from a future justification according to works. Eternal life follows upon a future justification by doing the law.

Gaffin, By Faith, Not by Sight, p 106—IN book 3 of his Institutes (The Beginning of Justification and its Continual Progress), Calvin explains “We must have this justification not just once but must hold it it throughout life.” Justification is bound up with Christ’s present ongoing intercessory presence, in the sense that our remaining in the state of justification, depends on this unfailing intercession. His presence in that place of final judgment is the effective answer….Christ is the living embodiment of that righteousness…and as such he continues to work for the justification of God’s already justified elect….Because of this intercession they cannot and will not ever fall from the state of justification.”

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What Righteousness Is Near To Your Heart?

May 16, 2014

Romans 10:6 But the righteousness of faith says: Do not say in your heart, who will ascend into heaven (to bring Christ down), or who will descend (to bring Christ up from the dead). The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart.

The word about what? Is the word about what’s in your heart or is the news about what Christ did to satisfy the law for the elect?
Christ sits now in heaven Why? Because the work that saves us Christ has finished.

Hebrews 9:28–”Christ, HAVING BEEN offered ONCE to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, NOT TO DEATL WITH SIN but to save them that eagerly await Him.”

What sense could that make? If Jesus Christ is simply everywhere, who cares if He comes again, since we have Him by His Spirit already in our hearts? Please pay attention. I am not denying that Christ indwells the hearts of those who have been justified, but I am
suggesting that we talk about Christ’s kingdom without placing the present time into competition with what Christ got done at the cross.

Nobody is “denying” that atonement and justification are part of the gospel. They have signed the Westminster Confession paragraphs on justification. Sure, they agree with that basic overall “Reformed” position, so no need for them to keep talking about that stuff when they can instead talk about their experiences of having improved and of now being a good influence on the world.

As for myself , whether I am talking to a five year old or I am an old man on his death bed, I don’t want this “God anywhere and everywhere.” I want “Him who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord who was handed over because of our trespasses and raised because/in order to our justification.” (Romans 4:25).

Romans 5 (love in our hearts through the Spirit who has been given us) begins with peace with God by means of justification. Justification is not the Spirit’s gift. The Spirit is God’s gift to the justified elect. Romans 5:9– “We have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by Him from the wrath of God.”

I look to heaven, not simply because the God-man who died with the imputed sins of all the elect has ascended there, but also He is coming from there. And these historical relaities are not below my navel or under my chest. The righteousness by which the justified REIGN is\ NOT a righteousness imparted (or infused) in us by the Holy Spirit.

Romans 5:17 explains that those who receive (by imputation, like the guilt of Adam is received) “the free gift of righteousness REIGN in life through the one man Jesus Christ”. Romans 5:21 continues the theme into Romans 6. “Grace reigns through the righteousness” of that one man. Romans 6:9–”death no longer has dominion over Christ. For the death HE died HE died to sin, once for all.” The Holy Spirit is Christ’s gift, and it is not the Holy Spirit baptizing in Romans 6.

There are many who agree, sure the legal is part of “union”, but when it gets right down to it, they think the atonement and justification is somehow less real and true than what’s happening in their hearts.

Romans 8:10 If Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, yet the Spirit is alive because of righteousness.

Nobody is denying that Christ is in the justified elect, nobody is denying that this happens by the Spirit alive in the justified elect, but the point in question concerns the righteousness. Is that righteousness what you think God is doing in you? Or is that righteousness what God did in Christ’s satisfaction of the law? What is the “righteousness of faith” in the context of Romans 4 to chapter 10?

Romans 10:6 But the righteousness of faith says: Do not say in your heart, who will ascend into heaven (to bring Christ down), or who will descend (to bring Christ up from the dead). The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart.

Daddy Died—Promises that Abraham Believed

February 14, 2014

a funeral message for the father of a friend:

Daddy’s going to die someday. And for two of you today that day has come. Daddy died. We think, we know that we are going to die, we ourselves are going to die. But we think, not now, not until Daddy has died. As we know, it doesn’t always work that way— sometimes we die before daddy dies. But today, two of you come with your families, to this grave, because Daddy died.

And what can we say in the face of this reality, what is there to talk about beside this grave? It’s hot, but I want to read to you from the book of Hebrews chapter 11, verses 17-19

“By faith Abraham, when he was tried, offered up Isaac, and he that had received the promises offered up his one and only Son. Of whom it was said: That in Isaac shall thy seed be called. Accounting that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead…”

We could talk about faith, about Abraham’s believing. But my question is— what gospel did Abraham believe? What is the gospel, what is the good news for us now, standing here at this grave and with Daddy dead? What are these promises that Hebrews talks about?

We know that there was a promised land. I find it interesting that in Genesis 23, right after the chapter about Abraham and Isaac on the mountain, we see Abraham buying land to bury his wife Sarah. And when Abraham himself died, that grave, that burial place was the only part of the promised land that Abraham owned. And when Abraham died, his two sons Isaac and Ishmael came to bury him. And so we remember that God promised Abraham not only the land but many children.

But is that all there is to the promises? Is that all the gospel Abraham knew? Is that all the gospel we know? It’s hot, but I want you to see two other promises here in this text. One is the promise in v 19: counting that God was able to raise Isaac up from the dead. Abraham knew about resurrection. Abraham believed in resurrection. The gospel is about resurrection.

Not today, but the day when Jesus comes, there will be a resurrection from the grave. Both the elect and the non-elect will be raised. At that resurrection day God will demand from us a righteousness, a perfect righteousness, a divine righteousness, a righteousness we do not have and cannot earn or produce…we need to receive it by grace. This righteousness is not grace changing us on the inside. This righteousness is Christ’s death for the elect to satisfy God’s law for all the sins of the elect. This righteousness we receive by God’s imputation, and not because of our faith.

The resurrection day which is to come will not be good news for the non-elect. But for the elect it will be, because Jesus Christ did a work of righteousness, and the merit of that work is in time imputed to the elect so that they will stand perfect before God at the resurrection day.

So what are the promises Abraham believed? Not only land and many children, but resurrection. But not only resurrection, because there is a resurrection to nothing but second death. Let me read Hebrews 11 verse 18 again: “In Isaac shall thy seed be called.” The promise Abraham believed is not only that he would have many children, not only that Isaac was his elect seed, his one and only, and that Ishmael was not. The promise was about one specific child of Abraham, about one particular descendent of Abraham, the promise was about Jesus Christ.

Abraham (as far as I know) did not know his name, but Abraham did know that there was one child, one seed, who was coming to do a work of righteousness for the elect. Abraham did see the need of that perfect righteousness, and he did trust God’s promise to bring in that righteousness. “In Isaac thy seed shall be called”. Yes, Isaac is the seed of Abraham. Yes, Isaac’s children are God’s firstborn son, God’s national seed. But IN Isaac there is to be one seed, one child, and that human person is named Jesus. Jesus is not only God now; Jesus is also human now and Jesus was raised from the grave because Jesus had completed that perfect work of righteousness which God had promised to Abraham.

Are you elect? You will never know, unless and until you believe this gospel that Abraham believed, trusting in the seed of Abraham and his perfect work of righteousness for the elect. Hebrews 9:27-28 “And it is appointed unto men once to die but after this the judgment. So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of MANY; and unto THEM that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation.”

It is not just Daddy who is appointed to die. All of us are going to die, unless Jesus comes back before then. After we die, it’s too late to believe the gospel. After we die, we must all wait for the day of resurrection, for the day of judgment. And on that day, the question will be: do we have a perfect righteousness? Have our sins all been taken away?

What is the gospel for us, for today, for right here and right now? The gospel is that Jesus has taken away some sins. Some will die in their sins, but the good news is that others will die without sins. Why? Why do the elect die WITHOUT their sins? Hebrews 9:28 says it’s because Christ died WITH their sins.

Listen to the gospel again! Christ was handed over to death, delivered, offered TO BEAR THE SINS OF MANY. Christ died because he was imputed with all the sins of the elect. But Christ no longer bears all the sins of the elect. Christ did something only He could do—He put away these sins, He bore them away, He took them away, He paid the full price for all the sins of all the elect.

Jesus Christ is no longer imputed with these sins. Hebrews 9:28 says He shall appear. Christ rose from the grave. And when Christ rose from the grave, He was no longer imputed with the sins of the elect. Christ had by His death satisfied for all those sins. All the sins of the elect, past and future, were then non-imputed to Jesus Christ.

This is the gospel. Not that you are going to die. Your death is no gospel. But the death of Christ for the elect, that is the gospel. Christ the seed of Abraham died for Abraham and for all the seed of Abraham.

Mark McCulley

Your Heart Is Your Mind, and It Will be Dead when You Die, Until Resurrection Day

October 19, 2013

Guard your hearts now, because your hearts will be dead between your death and your resurrection

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

Matthew 5:8 “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.

Matthew 5:28 But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.

Matthew 6:21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

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

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

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

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

Matthew 15:19 For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander.

Matthew 18:35 So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.”

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

John 14:27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.

John 16:33 I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”

Acts 15:9 and he made no distinction between us and them, having cleansed their hearts by faith.

Acts 16:14 One who heard us was a woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple goods, who was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what was said by Paul.

Romans 7:22 For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being,

Romans 5:5 and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

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

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

2 Corinthians 4:16 So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day.

Ephesians 1:18 having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints,

Ephesians 3:16 that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being,

1 Thessalonians 2:4 but just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, so we speak, not to please man, but to please God who tests our hearts.

Hebrews 3:12 Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God.

James 4:8 Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.

James 5:5 You have lived on the earth in luxury and in self-indulgence. You have fattened your hearts in a day of slaughter.

James 5:8 You also, be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand.

1 John 3:20 for whenever our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and he knows everything

http://www.heavendwellers.com/hd_nt_view_of_human_nature_intro.htm

Sudden Death is not Sudden Glory

September 23, 2013

Al Martin’s little book Grieving, Hope, and Solace (Cruciform, 2011) teaches an instant consciousness after death for Christians and a trip to heaven, all without a body. From the phrase in James, “the body apart from the spirit is dead”, Martin infers that “the spirit apart from the body is alive.”

John 5: 24 Truly, truly, I say to you, as many as hear my word and believe him who sent me has the life of the age to come.. They do not come into judgment, but have passed from death to life. 25 “Truly, truly, I say to you, an hour is coming, and is now here, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live. 26 For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself. 27 And he has given him authority to execute judgment, because he is the Son of Man. 28 Do not marvel at this, for an hour is coming when all who are in the graves will hear his voice 29 and come out…

Al Martin sounds very much like the Roman Catholic tradition in his reading of the intermediate state. Instead of recognizing from Genesis 2 that “souls” are “living beings”, he begins with the idea that “souls” are non-material spirits with consciousness that can nevertheless be seen and heard (Martin becomes “literal” when he gets to “souls under the altar” in Revelation 6). Thus he reads John 5 as saying that it’s only the bodies which will come out the graves. It can’t be the persons, he thinks, because he thinks he already knows that the “souls” went straight to heaven.

I Thessalonians 4:13 But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. 14 For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. 15 For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. 16 For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. 18 Therefore encourage one another with these words.

We will not precede them. They will rise first. This is NOT about “never-dying souls” of dead Christians getting into heaven before we do. Leave your dead body behind. Do not pass go. Get a new body in heaven now, as soon as you die, and before they even bury your old body. No, none of that is the hope. Nor is our hope some experience of disembodied consciousness (like The Matrix) where we can engage in uninterrupted worship. That is a stoic hope for those who fear human emotions so much that they think mainly of control. Duty and law become so important to them that they entertain a gnostic hope for a triumphal worship before and without
1 Christ’s second coming
2 the resurrection
3 the judgement
4 the old body raised and given immortality

I Thessalonians 4: We will not precede them because they will be raised first. Not because they go to heaven first, but because they will be raised first.

Human persons, elect and non-elect, justified and condemned, will not be left in the graves. But now they wait in the graves, and then the elect will be changed in the twinkling of an eye and clothed with immortality. Then “the dead in Christ will rise first. Only then, at His coming will those saints who are alive and remain be caught up together with dead saints [all at one time, at the same time)] in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air as He comes to earth. This meeting is not to go back to heaven, but the coming of heaven to earth. Thus “we shall always be with the Lord.”

The non-elect will also be raised on that day but only to come into judgment, and then to perish in the second death. But the justified elect will be raised and “shall not come into judgment” but will from then on, in the age to come, be with the risen Christ with bodies like his glorious body.

Al Martin’s Roman Catholic anthropology causes him to translate “those who have fallen asleep” as “those bodies which sleep”, because he thinks he already knows that “perfected souls” are already ascended to heaven and now worship 24/7 without sleep. Martin makes no reference to John 3:13

John 3: 12 If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you heavenly things? 13 No one has ascended into heaven except the who descended from heaven, the Son of Man. 14 And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15 that as many as believe in him shall have the life OF THE AGE TO COME. 16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that as many as believe in him should not perish but have the life of the age to come.

Al Martin presumes that all the saints who have died the first death have only died in their bodies and that their “souls” have already ascended to heaven. ( He does not teach that these “souls” were pre-existent and descended from heaven.) So presumably the promise of “not perish” is only about the bodies, because presumably “souls” can never perish, no matter what God did in giving His Son, no matter what Christ did in being lifted up on the cross.

Of course Al Martin does agree that this hope for instant bliss in heaven is not the primary hope taught by the Bible. p 24–“The Christian’s hope is always used in reference to the ultimate state of glorification, when our souls will be joined permanently to new deathless bodies.”

But what Al Martin (along with Calvin and the pope) refuses to see is that his idea of a secondary intermediate hope of conscious souls in heaven immediately at death is not taught by the Bible, but is indeed contradicted by what the Bible teaches in defining “living being” (Genesis 2:7) or describing the death of Christ (“pouring out his soul, Isaiah 53).

One paragraph after agreeing that the Bible only refers to the resurrection as the Christian’s hope of glorification, Al Martin takes it all back by informing us that “it is this information about the intermediate state that largely accounts for our ability to grieve unlike those who have no hope.” (p 25)

So even though he knows that the Bible speaks of the hope of resurrection, Al Martin continues to insist that his false ideas about “an immediate sequel” are “largely” the difference between despair and courage. The Bible says, wait and be patient. Al Martin says instead: the people left living behind wait, but the dead Christians don’t want, but get right away to conscious worship (until presumably all that is interrupted by them needing to go with Christ to earth for earthly things, like resurrection, judgment, other Christians, and bodies.)

Al Martin builds his doctrine of “immediate perfection of souls” on a phrase taken out of context from Hebrews 12–“the spirits of just men made perfect”. Of course he has not defined “souls” in reference to what the Bible says about “spirits”, but he needs to presume that identity and does so.

Hebrews 12: 18 For you have not come to what may be touched, a blazing fire and darkness and gloom and a tempest 19 and the sound of a trumpet and a voice whose words made the hearers beg that no further messages be spoken to them. 20 For they could not endure the order that was given, “If even a beast touches the mountain, it shall be stoned.” 21 Indeed, so terrifying was the sight that Moses said, “I tremble with fear.” 22 But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering, 23 and to the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, 24 and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.
25 See that you do not refuse him who is speaking. For if they did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, much less will we escape if we reject him who warns from heaven. 26 At that time his voice shook the earth, but now he has promised, “Yet once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens.” 27 This phrase, “Yet once more,” indicates the removal of things that are shaken—that is, things that have been made—in order that the things that cannot be shaken may remain. 28 Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, 29 for our God is a consuming fire.

Al Martin ignores the “ye have come” for the sake of what he thinks will happen in the future as soon as we die. p 32–“first comes the perfecting of our souls when we die”. Martin ignores the “enrolled in heaven” for the sake of his tradition that says that “souls” never die but can be seen and heard now in heaven. I doubt that he thinks the “blood that speaks” (be it that of Abel or Christ) is literal, but Martin seems sure that disembodied “souls” are now not only conscious but already perfected and glorified. I doubt that Martin takes “consuming fire” in a literal way, but one wonders if he thinks a “soul” is not a “thing that has been made”. Does this mean that our bodies can be shaken (being created) but that our “spirits” (souls) cannot be shaken?

p 34–“God will put forth upon that soul that has left the body a concentration of his sanctifying grace and power that will immediately complete the work of conforming the soul to the moral likeness of Christ.” This conclusion is based on Martin’s previous reading of Romans 6, in which he ignores the forensic (Christ died under the law, we died with Him, we are not under the law) meaning of that chapter and displaces it with his own idea of some “definitive” regeneration in which we don’t sin (much) anymore (like we used to). Besides having to be read into Romans 6, that view cannot account for the death and resurrection of Christ. Christ had no need for the Spirit to conform him to the pattern of Christ. And our death with Christ to the guilt of the law is also not brought about by our conformity to Christ.

But Martin does not allow Bible texts to get in the way of his theology: “In an instant, her spirit was purged of every last vestige of remaining sin, and she was endowed with the moral perfection of Christ.” (p 36) I certainly agree that dead people do not sin anymore. Indeed, I doubt very much that even the non-elect will continue to sin after their second death, even though they most certainly will sin as they gnash their teeth at the judgment which has not yet come. But agreeing that dead Christians no longer sin has nothing to do with proving that their conscious spirits are now in worship in heaven. This Martin wants to assume.

One very much unanswered question—who is the dead person? Presumably, the dead person is not the body, because according to tradition the body is merely only something the person has. Is the “immortal conscious soul” the person? Or does the person also “have a soul”? If so, what is the person who “has a soul”? And where is that person, when the body sleeps and the “soul” worships?

In a book filled with unbiblical and stoic nonsense, the most foolish quotation in the book (p 46) is from Spurgeon talking about John 17: “You bend your knee in prayer and say ‘Father I will that thy saints be with me where I am.’ Christ says, ‘Father I will that they also, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am.’ Thus the disciple is at cross-purposes with His Lord. The soul cannot be at both places; the beloved cannot be with Christ and with you too….You would give up your prayer for your loved one’s life, if you could realize the thoughts that Christ is praying in the opposite direction.”

One barely knows where to start in refutation! What does “realize the thoughts” mean? If we could only agree with the logic of what Spurgeon is saying, even though it has no logic? We would stop taking our children to the doctor, because that might be in “cross-purposes” with what Jesus wants? Or should we only think this way, after our loved ones die, but not before they die? Why? Why would that timing matter? And to repeat my previous question–are we praying for their “souls” to be with us, or is it our desire for them as persons to be with us? Is Christ praying for their persons or only for their “souls”?

I suppose the most basic falsehood about the Spurgeon soundbite is its presumption that the way to be “with Christ” is “instantly at death”. Certainly Al Martin evades any sense of the resurrection being the hope which is “far better” in Philippians 1 or II Corinthians 5. He rejects any idea of a time-lag between “departure” and conscious life with Christ at the resurrection. Even though Martin knows that “nakedness” is not the way that the Bible speaks of glorification, he still assures us that our comfort is “largely” based on a desire for instant conscious nakedness before God as soon as we die.

Christ said: “to be with me where I am”. Al Martin presumes that means heaven, and ignores the hope of Christ coming to earth to be with His (then resurrected) people. Al Martin also ignores the wait involved in hope, so that no Christian gets to glory before another Christian, so that we not precede each other. Al Martin presumes that the “sleep” of I Corinthians 15 and I Thessalonians 4 is not about the real us (our persons), but only about the “bodies we have”.

Martin assumes that Stephen’s prayer (Acts 7) to “receive my spirit” means that Stephen the person never really died. Martin does concede, however, that “we have no biblical ground to expect that we shall be given a vision of Jesus standing at the right hand of God”, p 47, but for Martin this only means that vision won’t happen before we die, while “our bodies” are dying. But Martin expects to have that vision after he dies, and argues for this based on a vision Stephen had before Stephen died. Why this expectation? Because Stephen prayed, “receive my spirit”. And this Martin assumes means that Stephen had a never dying spirit. Stephen the person didn’t really die. Only his body did.

The Lord Jesus prayed, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit”. (Luke 23:46, Psalm 31:5). Does this mean that Jesus the real Divine-human person never died either, but only his “human body”? I certainly do not begin to understand the incarnation or the mystery of Christ’s death, which is why I am not about to explain it on the basis of a “never-dying soul” so as to prove that Christ didn’t really die.

Al Martin writes (p 56): ” I do not know how disembodied spirits recognize and communicate with each other. It seems to me that Scripture is virtually silent on this matter. ” Since the Bible is silent in even claiming that disembodied human spirits communicate with each other, one only wonders what the difference between “virtual silence” and “silence” is. But Al Martin has not let something like biblical silence stop him up to this point. He takes certain phrases of Revelation 6 as literal and therefore “hints”. Presumably when the “souls under the altar” are told to “rest for a while yet”, that does not mean sleep or lack of consciousness, because despite their instant perfection at death, and despite their 24/7 conscious worship, nevertheless these souls are not yet at peace or at rest, and still have much more growing to do yet. Does this mean that heaven itself is a capitalist colony, in which there will always be “more and more” work and progress? How long before we ultimately become patient?

Make me patient. Today. Right now.

Al Martin does indicate that he doesn’t think the “marriage supper of the lamb” will happen until Jesus comes to earth again, but in the meanwhile, he thinks of death as the enemy of only the non-elect, and acts as if death is the friend of Christ and His elect, doing instantly for us what can never be done on earth in our bodies. Martin favors this anthem: ” Thou hast made death glorious and triumphant/ For through its portals we enter into the presence of the living God.”

But that cannot be, because we have not yet put on immortality and shall not until Resurrection day, and if that day does not come, we will perish. This is what I Corinthians 15 teaches. Also I Timothy 6

13 “I charge you in the presence of God, who gives life to all things, and of Christ Jesus, who in his testimony before Pilate made the good confession, 14 to keep the commandment unstained and free from reproach until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ, 15 which he will display at the proper time—he who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords, 16 who alone has immortality, who dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has ever seen or can see. To him be honor and lasting dominion. Amen.”

No Christian Has Yet “Gone to be with the Lord”— Asleep After the First Death

July 31, 2013

Now Christ is now in heaven. None of the justified elect are now in heaven. None of the justified elect have ascended to a place from which they never descended.

Hebrews 11: 39 And all these, though commended through their faith, did not receive what was promised, 40 since God had provided something better for us, that apart from us they should not be made perfect.

Acts 2: 34 For David did not ascend into the heavens, but he himself says,
“‘The Lord said to my Lord,
“Sit at my right hand,
35 UNTIL I make your enemies your footstool.”’

Colossians 3 If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where CHRIST is seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. 3 For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ who is your life appears, THEN you also will appear with him in glory.

John 3:13–“No one has ascended into heaven except he who descended from heaven, the Son of Man.”

Psalm 110:1–”The Lord says to my Lord; Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool.” The justified elect do not share God’s throne and do not sit at God’s right hand. The heavenly glory Christ had enjoyed in the Father’s presence before His incarnation has now been “crowned with glory and honor because He suffered death. (Hebrews 2:9)

Sitting there at the right hand, Christ does not simply wait but intercedes for the justified elect. Christ was first resurrected (the first-fruits) and then He ascended to heaven.

An ascent directly into heaven from the cross without a resurrection would be Plato’s pagan idea of death as the release of an immortal soul. Going to heaven is not resurrection.

Gnostics teach going to heaven without resurrection. Gnostics teach that resurrection is going to heaven. Some of these gnostics are preterists, but most of them simply do not think straight about the need for the second coming of Christ. Some of them claim that the second coming and the resurrection are necessary to claim our bodies from the grave, but agree with the popes that “immortal souls” are already either in heaven, or “hell”, or “purgatory”.

Theses traditionalists not only deny a lasting punishment which ends in the second (and final death), but they also hold onto unbiblical (Platonic) ideas about what “soul” is. Since they do not know that the living soul is body plus breath (Genesis 2:7), they tend to think of the “immortal soul” and they cannot deal with reality of Christ the servant pouring out His soul unto death (Isaiah 53). Since they change Christ’s death into “spiritual death”, they also tend to change Christ’s bodily resurrection into “going to heaven.”

Heretics like Harold Camping go so far as to say that Christ’s “spiritual death” (which he locates before the ages of history) is the real and effective death. Then he says that the physical death is only a demonstration of the “eternal” real “spiritual” death. Other unthinking preachers do not go as far as Camping, but they seem to prefer talking about Christ’s “infinite soul suffering” instead of the death Christ died in history which was demanded by God’s law for the sins of the elect imputed to Christ.

Ephesians 1:20 describes God’s mighty power “which He exercised in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and enthroned Him at His right hand in the heavenlies.”

Acts 3:15–”You killed the author of life, but God raised Him from the dead.”

I Timothy 3:16 “He was taken up into glory”.

I Peter 1:20 He was foreknown before the foundation of the world but was made manifest in the last times for the sake of you 21 who through him are believers in God, who raised him from the dead and gave him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God.

I Peter 3:21 Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, 22 who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers having been subjected to him.

I Corinthians 15:20 But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the first-fruits of those who have fallen asleep. 21 For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. 22 For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. 23 But each in his own order: Christ the first-fruits, THEN AT HIS COMING those who belong to Christ.

What’s Definitive in Romans 6?

July 9, 2013

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

Romans 6 is about Christ the public representative of the elect first being under condemnation, being under sin and death. Romans 6:7 “For one who has died has been justified from sin. 8 Now since we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. 9 We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death NO LONGER has dominion over him. 10 For the death he died HE DIED TO SIN once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God.

Christ was never under grace and is still not under grace. Christ was under the law because of the imputed sins of the elect. Romans 6 is about Christ’s condemnation by the law and His death as satisfaction of that law. Christ after His resurrection is no longer under law. Christ’s elect, after their legal identification with Christ’s death, are no longer under law.

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

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

Yet many commentators tell us that “set free from sin” must mean the elect’s definitive transformation by the Holy Spirit so that the justified cannot habitually sin (or that their new nature cannot sin) They tell us that justification was in Romans chapter five and that chapter six must be about something more if it’s to be a real answer to the question “why not sin?”. But Romans 6 does not talk about Christ or His people not habitually sinning. Romans 6 locates the cause of “sin not reigning” in “not being under the law”

Christ was never under the power of habitual sin , and the definitive death of the justified elect is His death.

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

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