Posted tagged ‘dead works’

Salvation is Necessary for Good Works

March 18, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I do agree that we live in a day of “hyper-grace” in which clergy tell folks that God accepts them just as they are, even if they do not know and believe the gospel. I agree that Christianity is not a theory which we believe but do nothing about. But that being said, in reacting to antinomianism, we need to remember that most professing Christians are legalists who condition salvation on what God does in the sinner. Even the Augustinians define grace as God doing in us what God requires in us, instead of defining the gospel by Christ’s death as satisfaction of God’s law.

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

With its emphasis on “knowledge” and “calling”, 2 Peter One reverses legalism by commanding us to examine our works by making our calling and election sure. Those who know Christ are commanded to become effective. They are not commanded to become fruitful in order to find out if they know Christ (or are known by Christ).

But many assume an assurance of calling based on our works. To do that, they attempt to isolate one verse and ignore the context of II Peter 1, which begins in the very first verse with the idea that faith is given because of Christ’s righteousness. They makes their “works of faith” the assurance. In effect, their assurance of Christ’s atonement is only as good as their confidence in their own works. Their “faith” turns out to be assurance in works, not assurance in Christ’s atonement.

By what gospel were we called? Was it the gospel of “characteristic obedience” or was it the gospel of “Christ paid it all for the elect”? Legalists are trying to follow Christ as Lord without first submitting to salvation only by Christ’s death alone.

We do not work to get assurance. We must have assurance before our works are acceptable to God. But many “Calvinists”, along with the Arminians, think of faith as the “condition” that saves them. Yes, they disagree (somewhat) about the source of faith, but they both are way more concerned about the condition faith leaves you in(the results in your life) than they are in the object of faith.

The true gospel explains that the justification of the ungodly does not happen apart from the imputation of Christ’s death and that faith is created by hearing the gospel. The true gospel tells us that it is the righteousness ALONE (Christ’s death bearing sins, apart from any works of faith created in us ) which satisfies the requirement of God’s law. (Romans 8:4)

The moralist does not test her works by the gospel doctrine of righteousness. As Hebrews 9:14 and Romans 7:4-6 teach us, that a person not yet submitted to the righteousness revealed in the gospel is still an evil worker, bringing forth fruit unto death.

Scot Hafemann: “ Sandwiched between what God has done for us and what God promises to do for us in the future, we find the commands of God for the present as the necessary link between the two.” This false gospel makes everything conditional, not on Christ, but on us—-if the Holy Spirit enables you do enough things right, then God promises not to break you off.

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

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

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

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

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

p 277, Bavinck, A Reasonable Faith–”The gospel, which really makes no demands and lays down no conditions, nevertheless comes to us in the form of a commandment, admonishing us to faith and repentance… The Gospel is sheer good tidings, not demand but promise, not duty but gift As the internal call directly and immediately, without a time lapse, results in “habitual faith,” so also does this faith include from the very beginning of its existence the assurance that not only to others but to me also forgiveness of sins has been granted….When the Scriptures say of this justification that it takes place by and through faith, it does not intend to say that it is produced and wrought through that faith, since Jesus Christ is all our righteousness and all benefits of grace are the fruits of Christ’s labor alone. Saving faith directs our heart from the very beginning away from ourselves and unto God’s mercy in Christ.”

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On Gospel Motives, and Not Being Born Christians

January 30, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

January 19, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Repentance From Dead Works

August 6, 2012

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

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

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

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

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

How Could “Dead Works” Prove that You are Alive?

December 14, 2011

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

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

You cannot use works to get assurance because works done without assurance are not pleasing to God. In John 3:17-20, the Pharisees like Nicodemus got assurance from their works. But the light of the gospel exposes our “good works” as “dead works”. And our “dead works” are sins.

Romans 8:13– “Put to death the deeds” includes putting to death assurance by works and blessing by works. Before I was converted by God to the true gospel, I had read this text only in terms of morality.

Certainly we are commanded to be moral. But morality can be done in the flesh. But we should not use Romans 8:13 to create doubt and legal fear in Christians. To doubt that you are saved because of what you did or didn’t do is to take the focus off of what Christ did.

While we need to be warned of a “dead faith”, assurance is from believing on what Christ did for the elect with His death on the cross and NOT from our “mortification”. Living by the gospel is confidence in the gospel. So I agree that Christians have doubts and degrees of assurance, but I no longer think that we get assurance ALSO by works.

Romans 10:1-3. There are many Arminians who oppose “Lordship salvation” and assurance by works but these Arminians will not submit to the righteousness of God. They only want to talk about grace, but they don’t talk about for whom Christ died or about the fact that God does not give grace to everybody. These Arminian antinomians only want to talk about “no performance”, because they don’t believe the truth about Christ’s performance for the elect.

I would suggest that these Arminian antinomians inherently still think they have “established their own righteousness”. The difference between these Arminian decisionist and the Calvinist “neonomians” is only that the Arminians think they already did what they needed to do to make Christ’s death work for them. The neonomians, on the other hand, thank their god for continuing to prove to themselves that Christ’s work was for them.

When I was still unconverted, I spent all my time talking about “new covenant”. I failed to see the main thing. The only solution to our lack of performance is the death of Christ. This means we need to tell the truth. There is no solution for us if Christ did not die for our sins.

Our faith does not satisfy God. Only the death of Christ satisfies God. Only those sinners legally identified by God with that death will be saved. Those who don’t know or submit to that gospel won’t be saved.

We must learn to have our perspective agree with God’s perspective. Faith in the false gospel leaves people lost. Faith in the true gospel is a result of the righteousness, and the righteousness of God is the death of Christ for the elect.

John Reisinger, Intolerant of the True Gospel

August 1, 2011

John, you say that, while Arminians may THINK that their salvation is conditioned on them, they are saved and their salvation is not conditioned on them. After all, you say, you are not “stingy with the love of God”. Does this mean that God loved the elder brother but left him in his legalism?

Since I know that you profess  God loves everybody, even those God won’t save,  I am sure that you would say that God does love “in some way” that elder brother.But is that elder brother saved?

Must the one who came home from the hog pen confess that the elder brother is his brother? Back in the days when I became an universalist, I said yes: all are brothers. What do you say? I do not ask if you think he was reprobate in the secret counsels of God. Rather I ask,is a legalist converted but still left in his legalism?

Are the “good people” saved also, despite their being deceived about their sins and about the gospel? What do you say? Is the love of God so weak that it cannot save a person  and still leave that person an Arminian?

My answer is that the love of God is so powerful that it CONVERTS the sinner. The sinner is not saved BECAUSE OF his turning from sin, but the converted sinner does turn from sin. The sinner is not saved BECAUSE OF his faith in the gospel, but the converted sinner does have faith in the gospel. The sinner is not saved BECAUSE he understands and submits to the righteousness established in Christ’s death for the elect, but the converted sinner will understand and submit to that righteousness.

The converted sinner will believe the gospel  BECAUSE OF THAT RIGHTEOUSNESS.  What God did at the cross is not merely “potential”. The power of the cross “crucifies” sinners so that they understand that salvation is not conditioned on the sinner. We should not presume that any person who does not know this is our brother or sister.

John, you rightly can and do make this distinction: not because of, but necessary. It will happen, and until it does, then we cannot say that the gospel has converted a man. But you won’t say it when it comes to submitting to effective atonement. Which means you won’t say it when it comes to being a legalist. Because anybody who says that Christ died for everybody but some of them are not saved MUST be looking to the sinner as the difference between saved and lost.

Even if the legalist gives his god or election the “credit” for the difference, he MUST locate that difference in himself and not in what Christ did at the cross.

I understand that you believe that Jesus died only for some. But you think knowing about this death is not necessary. It is the cause, sure; but you don’t think they need to know it’s the cause.

I cannot help thinking of some of my “strict baptist” friends. I do not call them “hypers” (I like to be more specific) but they say that people can be converted without hearing the gospel. They say that the infant John the Baptist was, and that people can be converted “directly” without the message of the cross. So they think it doesn’t matter if the elect hear the true gospel or the Arminian gospel or any gospel.

I reject this. I know that the reprobate will refuse the gospel. I know that the elect must be made alive in regeneration (on account of imputed righteousness) before they will submit to the gospel. But I also know that people need to hear the gospel before they can believe it. (I Peter 1:22-23). To obey the truth, they must hear the truth.

To believe the Word, they must hear the Word. Those who have never heard anything but the Arminian gospel have not yet heard the gospel, and are still lost in their sins.

I know you are not an universalist like I was. You will not say that all men are your brothers. You are very right to focus on the elder brother’s refusal to say that the one who came home was his brother. My question: WERE they brothers? If the elder brother goes on like he is, never repenting of his legalism, is he in the family of God?

Your assumption, suited to your purpose of attacking “these people” who say that Arminians are lost, is that both are brothers. But that is a false assumption. Though Cain and Abel are brothers in the flesh, both creatures of God, made in the image of God, both are not saved. The one who came home is saved; the elder brother is not saved. They ultimately do not have the same home or the same gospel or the same God.

We need to know what the gospel is. And we need to say that those who reject the gospel are condemned already. John 3:17-21 “He who DOES THE TRUTH comes to the light, that his deeds may be clearly seen, that they have been done in God.”

There is no pleasing God without faith in God’s gospel. We “do the truth” only when we confess that salvation is not caused by our deeds but “done in God”. The “good works” of Christians  not “good works” unless the sinner has understood that his salvation is conditioned on what God did at the cross and not on these works. Faith must exclude itself as the condition of salvation, or it is not faith in the gospel and is not pleasing to God.

Workers must exclude works as the condition of salvation, or  the people who do them are elder brothers, not yet in the family of God, but still lost in their sins. Elder brothers do not “do the truth”. They can talk much of their works, but they will not bring these works to the light of the true gospel, for the true gospel would say that their works were not acceptable.