Posted tagged ‘law and gospel’

A “synagogue sermon” which scandalizes both exclusivists and inclusivists

December 12, 2016

John 1: 6 There was a man named John
who was sent from God.
7 John came as a witness
to testify about the light,
so that all would believe through him
8 John was not the light,
but John came to testify about the light.

I Corinthians 15: 13 But each in his own order:Christ, the first fruits; afterward, at His coming, those who belong to Christ. 24 Then comes the end, when Christ hands over the kingdom to God the Father, when Christ abolishes all rule and all authority and power. 25 For Christ must reign until He puts all His enemies under His feet. 26 The last enemy to be abolished is death

The age to come has now come, the age to come has not yet come. The day of recompense to come has not yet come, and this explains the discontinuity between the old covenants and the new covenant. Some of us focus on the unbelief of the disciples and John the Baptist, and others of us notice their lack of understanding of the meaning of Christ’s kingdom. The age to come which has now come with Christ is not the same as the ages of the old covenants but it is also not the same as another age to come after this age. That day will be a day of vengeance and recompense. As usual I want to notice what tends to get skipped or not commented on some famous texts

Isaiah 35—The wilderness and the dry land will be glad;
the desert will rejoice and blossom like a rose.
2 The land will blossom abundantly
and will also rejoice with joy and singing.
The glory of Lebanon will be given to it,
the splendor of Carmel and Sharon.
They will see the glory of the Lord,
the splendor of our God.
3 Strengthen the weak hands,
steady the shaking knees!
4 Say to the cowardly:
“Be strong; do not fear!
Here is your God; VENGEANCE IS COMING
GOD’S RETRIBUTION IS COMING; God will save you.”

5 Then the eyes of the blind will be opened,
and the ears of the deaf unstopped.
6 Then the lame will leap like a deer,
and the tongue of the mute will sing for joy,
for water will gush in the wilderness,
and streams in the desert;
7 the parched ground will become a pool of water,
and the thirsty land springs of water.
In the haunt of jackals, in their lairs,
there will be grass, reeds, and papyrus.
8 A road will be there and a way;
it will be called the Holy Way.
The unclean will not travel on it,
but it will be for the one who walks the path.
Even the fool will not go astray.
9 There will be no lion there,
and no vicious beast will go up on it;
they will not be found there.
But the redeemed will walk on it,
10 and the redeemed of the Lord will return
and come to Zion with singing,
crowned with unending joy.
Joy and gladness will overtake them,
and sorrow and sighing will flee.

Isaiah 61: The Spirit of the Lord God is on Me,
because the Lord has anointed Me
to bring good news to the poor.
He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted,
to proclaim LIBERTY to the captives
and FREEDOM to the prisoners;
2 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s FAVOR,
and the DAY OF OUR GOD’S VENGEANCE

to comfort all who mourn,
3 to provide for those who mourn in Zion;
to give them a crown of beauty instead of ashes,
festive oil instead of mourning,
and splendid clothes instead of despair.
And they will be called righteous trees,
planted by the Lord
to glorify Him.
6 But you will be called the Lord’s priests;
they will speak of you as SERVANTS of our God;
you will eat the wealth of the nations,
and you will boast in their riches.
7 Because your shame was double,
and they cried out, “Disgrace is their portion,”
therefore, they will possess double in their land,
and lasting joy will be theirs.
8 For I Yahweh
will faithfully GIVE THEM RECOMPENSE
10 I greatly rejoice in the Lord,
I exult in my God;
for He has clothed me with the garments of salvation
and wrapped me in a robe of righteousness,
as a groom wears a turban
and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.
11 For as the earth produces its growth,
and as a garden enables what is sown to spring up,
so the Lord God will cause righteousness and praise
to spring up before all the nations.

When Jesus came to his own, his own received Him not. Instead they were SCANDALIZED by Jesus. They were OFFENDED by Jesus. The conservatives who liked the status quo thought Jesus was being too “political”. And those who wanted to overcome the Roman occupation thought that Jesus was being too “spiritual” (instead of political).

I often speak of “synagogue sermons” with contempt. By this I mean sermons which are not about Christ but about morality and charity, sermons which could be given to anybody, anywhere. My reference is to “sermons that think they are universal not sectarian” but which carefully exclude (or fail to attend to) anything which might possibly offend anybody. These are sermons that could be given in a mosque or a synagogue with the same (very little) effect. I hear these sermons in Christian churches, both liberal and conservative.

But there is one “synagogue sermon” which caused its hearers to be angry and to attempt violence against Jesus. Were they angry because they were atheists who did not believe in God? No. Were they angry because Jesus left off the part of the quotation from Isaiah which left out the part about the Day of Recompense? It’s not obvious that this was the case. Were they disappointed that the Age to Come they had expected had not yet come? Perhaps, but’s it’s not clear. Were they scandalized because Jesus talked about including Gentiles as well as Jews? I don’t think so. I think the main offense was that Jesus, like John the Baptist, talked about not all the Jews being included. Jesus was not “new perspective” nor was Jesus teaching a new gospel which was “more not less inclusive”.

Luke 4: 16 Jesus came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up. As usual, Jesus entered the synagogue on the Sabbath day and stood up to read. 17 The scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to Him, and unrolling the scroll, He found the place where it was written:

18 The Spirit of the Lord is on Me,
because He has anointed Me
to preach good news to the poor.
He has sent Me
to proclaim freedom to the captives
and recovery of sight to the blind,
to set free the oppressed,
19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.
20 Jesus then rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down to teach. And the eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fixed on Jesus.21 He began by saying to them, “Today as you listen, this Scripture has been fulfilled.”

22 They were all speaking well of Him and were amazed by the gracious words that came from His mouth….Jesus said to them, “No prophet is accepted in his hometown.25 But I say to you, there were certainly many widows in Israel in Elijah’s days, when the sky was shut up for three years and six months while a great famine came over all the land. 26 Yet Elijah was not sent to any of them—but to a widow in Sidon. 27 And in the prophet Elisha’s time, there were many in Israel who had serious skin diseases, yet not one of them was healed —only Naaman the Syrian.” 28 When they heard this, everyone in the synagogue was enraged.29 They got up, drove Jesus out of town, and brought Him to the edge of the hill that their town was built on, intending to hurl Jesus over the cliff.30 But Jesus passed right through the crowd and went on His way.

Even though John the Baptist may not have been confused about the exclusion of some Jews from the kingdom, even John was bewildered and doubting about the nature of the kingdom age which had come with Jesus. What the old covenants had taught about the age to come seemed like it was all done at one time, not in two ages, with still another age to come. John the Baptist had already scandalized many, both Pharisees and Sadducees

Matthew 3 In those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the Wilderness of Judea 2 and saying, “Repent, because the kingdom of heaven has come near!” 3 For he is the one spoken of through the prophet Isaiah, who said:
A voice of one crying out in the wilderness:
Prepare the way for the Lord;
make His paths straight!
5 Then people from Jerusalem, all Judea, and all the vicinity of the Jordan were flocking to him, 6 and they were baptized by him in the Jordan River as they confessed their sins. 7 When John saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to the place of his water baptism, John said to them, “Brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? 8 Therefore produce fruit consistent with repentance. 9 And don’t presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I tell you that God is able to raise up children for Abraham from these stones! 10 Even now the ax is ready to strike the root of the trees! Therefore, every tree that doesn’t produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.

John the Baptist preached news about Christ as the one who had come to fulfill the law and the prophets. John pointed to Christ as the one who had come to bring the Day of Recompense. John the Baptist preached the law in order to point to Christ as the gospel.

Matthew 11: 2 When John heard in prison what the Messiah was doing, John sent a message by his disciples 3 and asked Jesus, “Are You the One who is to come, or should we expect someone else?”

4 Jesus replied to them, “Go and report to John what you hear and see:5 the blind see, the lame walk, those with skin diseases are healed,the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor are told the good news.6 And if anyone is not OFFENDED BECAUSE OF ME, he is blessed.”

7 Jesus began to speak to the crowds about John: “What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed swaying in the wind? 8 What then did you go out to see? A man dressed in soft clothes? Look, those who wear soft clothes are in kings’ palaces. 9 But what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and far more than a prophet. 10 This is the one it is written about:
Look, I am sending My messenger ahead of You;
he will prepare Your way before You.

Chaplains of the status quo teach us that it was all a big misunderstanding, that some people think that the kingdom is political but it is not. Chaplains of the status quo wear soft clothes and live in king’s palaces. But John, in preaching the law, was negative about the chaplains and the status quo. John was positive about a coming day of wrath and recompense. Even though John the Baptist was wrong about the timing, John was not wrong about God’s law being satisfied in the future. God’s wrath is satisfied not only in Christ’s death which was ordained by God but which was organized by the Jewish political status quo. God’s wrath was shown in that age by the Roman destruction of the temple and will be shown in the destruction of all the non-elect in the Day to come.

But all these events , John’s preaching and even the synagogue teaching of Jesus (Luke 4) all happened before Christ’s death, resurrection and ascension. All that preaching had more repenting in the message than it did “believe and you shall be saved”. Without saying that any one person needs to hear law before gospel, it does seem that for a time what is being heard is law as a preparation for the gospel. Do all the law and you will be saved. But you can’t do all the law, so you won’t be saved. Now you are ready for the gospel. But in some stores. it seems like nobody ever gets to the gospel, because everybody is stuck in law-mode, both those who know they are doomed because they can’t do the law and also those who think they do enough of the law and thank God for giving them the sincerity and ability to do the law, and to “at least” be better than those who killed John the Baptist.

Matthew 14 Herod had arrested John, chained him, and put him in prison on account of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife, 4 since John had been telling him, “It’s not lawful for you to have her!” 5 Though Herod wanted to kill John , Herod feared the crowd, since they regarded John as a prophet. 6 But when Herod’s birthday celebration came, the daughter of Herodias danced before them and pleased Herod. 7 So Herod promised with an oath to give her whatever she might ask. 8 And prompted by her mother, she answered, “Give me John the Baptist’s head here on a platter!” 9 Although the king regretted it, Herod commanded that it be granted because of his oaths and his guests. 10 So Herod sent orders and had John beheaded in the prison. 11 John’s head was brought on a platter and given to the girl, who carried it to her mother.

God does not teach all the law and gospel to any one person at all time, no matter what ‘”soundbite” they have landed on. God did not teach all the law to Adam or to Moses or even in the Sermon on the Mount. And God did not teach all the gospel to Adam or to Abraham or to David or to the disciples and John the Baptist.

Hebrews 2: We must, therefore, pay even more attention to what we have heard, so that we will not drift away. 2 For if the message spoken through angels was legally binding and every transgression and disobedience received a just punishment, 3 how will we escape if we neglect such a great salvation? It was first spoken by the Lord and was confirmed to us by those who heard Him. 4 At the same time, God also testified by signs and wonders, various miracles, and distributions of gifts from the Holy Spirit according to His will. For God has not subjected to angels the world to come that we are talking about.
7 You made him lower than the angels
for a short time;
You crowned him with glory and honor
8 and SUBJECTED EVERYTHING everything under his feet.
For in subjecting everything to Jesus, God left nothing that is not subject to Jesus. As it is, we do NOT YET see everything subjected to him. 9 But we do see Jesus

The age to come has not yet come.

Stanley Hauerwas—We say that the Psalm Sunday crowd got it wrong because they were wanting freedom in this world and in this age, and then we who either love the status quo or think nothing will change say that Jesus was offering only spiritual freedom, a kingdom after we die, and a death which is not really death. Instead of Passover and resurrection, we teach an inherent immortality that claims that all humans are eternal.

That way we can say the kingdom is in our hearts. Instead of obeying the King who was standing among the disciples and who is coming back to earth, we can say that the Sermon on the Mount is only for after we die, and now go out and buy our guns. All we need to do is be careful not to buy those guns as a church but as individuals.

Hauerwas—-“If Jesus is all about getting us to love one another, then why did almost everyone reject Jesus? They did so, I think, because when Jesus was told by the devil that he would be given the power to turn stones to bread, Jesus refused; when Jesus was offered authority over all the kingdoms of this world, he refused; when he was offered the possibility he would not die, he refused. Jesus refused these goods because God’s kingdom cannot be forced into existence using the means of the devil.

Hauerwas—Jesus’s refusal to play the devil’s game does not mean that the kingdom Jesus proclaims is not political. Jesus refuses to use the violence of the world to achieve “peace.” But that does not mean Jess is any less political or that Jesus is not about the securing of peace. His arrest is often thought to represent the apolitical character of Jesus because Jesus commands Peter to put away the sword Peter had used to cut off the ear of the priest’s slave. Jesus rebukes Peter, but Jesus does so because that is not the “cup” the Father has given him. But the cup from which Jesus must drink is no less political for being nonviolent.

Hauerwas—The character of Jesus’s politics is manifest in his response to the high priest who questions Jesus about his teachings in John 18.19-24. That Jesus is questioned by the high priest may suggest that his mission was “religious” rather than political, but such an account cannot be sustained for no other reason than Jesus’s answer: “I have spoken openly to the world; I have always taught in the synagogues and in the temple, where all the Jews come together. I have said nothing in secret. Why do you ask me? Ask those who heard what I said to them; they know what I said.”

Hauerwas—They tell me that you are the King of Jews. Is that true?” Pilate’s question is meant to see if Jesus is “political.” Jesus responds by asking if Pilate came up with such a view on his own or did others tell him such was the case. “I am not a Jew, am I?” replies Pilate.. “If my kingdom were FROM this world, my followers would be fighting to keep me from being handed over. ” This is a response used often to deny that Jesus was political. But Pilate rightly saw that Jesus’ denial that his kingship was not of this world is not the denial that Jesus is king. Jesus denied that his kingdom was just another form of Rome.

John Howard Yoder— the Constantinian shift the meaning of the word “Christian” changes. Prior to Constantine it took exceptional courage to be a Christian. After Constantine it takes exceptional courage not to be counted as a Christian. … After the establishment, Christians knew that God was governing the world in Constantine, but they had to take it on faith that within the nominally Christian mass there was a community of true believers. No longer could being a Christian be identified with church membership, since many “Christians” in the church had not chosen to follow Christ. To be a Christian is transmuted to “inward-spirituality.”

Stanley Hauerwas, Matthew (2006)

Why Didn’t you Give the Little Baby Jesus a Bed in Your House?

December 12, 2013

Many sentimental religious songs have those who sing them confess themselves as “maggots” for having put Christ on the cross. But I question this theology. First, if we all put Christ on the cross, then Christ died for all sinners, and that is the false gospel, which teaches that Christ’s death is not enough to save all for whom He died.

Second, nobody but God has the ultimate power to put Christ on the cross. If we all are supposed to feel bad about crucifying Christ, is God the Trinity also to “feel sorry” about it? May it never be! Acts 2:23-24, “This Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men.”

The Bible teaches that God’s sovereignty does not eliminate the accountability of sinners. Certain specific lawless men killed Christ. But also, God gave Christ up to die for the sins of the elect alone. God and not man determined for whom Christ would die. Both the creation and the incarnation was means for Christ’s death of Atonement.

God’ sovereign plan does not eliminate the accountability of “the lawless men”, or of the “you” Peter is addressing in Acts 2. Specific humans two thousand years ago purposed that Christ would die. This means that not all humans purposed that Christ would die. His mother Mary, for example, did not kill or intend to kill Christ.

We did not ourselves put Christ on the cross. Nor are we the ones who impute our sins to Christ. 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. It might sound heroic of us to say that damnation is all our fault, but that tends to be one of the ways that we also get to say that our salvation was conditioned on our contribution.

Although believers are commanded to reckon what God has already reckoned, we can never be the original reckoners.. Yes, those specific lawless men were guilty of what they did, But the cross is not what condemns. The cross is about the gospel, and the gospel is not the law,

Even though the gospel is Good news for the elect, the gospel is not what condemns the non-elect. Rejecting the cross is not what condemns the non-elect, because they are all already condemned in Adam .

The false gospel which says that Jesus Christ died for every sinner is neither true nor good news.. The false gospel limits the judicial effects of a supposedly universal death into even more guilt for those who don’t satisfy the new conditions (faith, obedience, perseverance) which supposedly make that death effective.

The “Misunderstanding” View of the Law

July 29, 2013

John Armstrong’s Reformation and Revival Journal (Luther 2) endorsed the conditional theology of Daniel Fuller. It has a review essay on Fuller’s “Unity of the Bible” by Chuck Huckaby. Though Fuller accused Calvin of being too unconditional , Huckaby spends much of his time trying to say that Calvin was also conditional.

Huckaby writes that Fuller’s quoting of Calvin is selective, and that we should refer to the creeds which are conditional. Both Piper and Fuller quote Calvin selectively. Piper only quotes that with which he can agree; I give Fuller more credit for at least quoting and disagreeing with Calvin..

Huckaby writes (p220) that the only issue here is the conditionality of faith and “nothing of works”. But “works” are at the very heart of Daniel Fuller’s concerns.

Since the old covenant and the law command faith, Fuller claims, what we need to do is avoid MISUNDERSTANDING so that our works are “works of faith” and not a “legalism of merit without faith.” It’s not “nothing of works”. Rather, it is of works, and besides that, the works must be of faith. So instead of trusting only the finished work of Christ, we must constantly suspect ourselves, and look to see if we have works, and to see if these works are properly motivated. This may be a puritan emphasis but it is not consistent with the gospel.

Here is Huckaby’s defense of the “conditionality” of the gospel–“The law is not the “letter” of 2 Corinthians from which we are released.” Then he quotes a puritan: “The spiritual law of Romans 7:12 cannot be the same as the ‘letter’ of II Cor 3:6. The ‘letter’ from which we are released is the one without the Spirit…and thus is the very opposite of the spiritual law of Romans 7.”

This is the “misunderstanding” reading:—neither Romans 7 or II Cor 3 are seen as being about redemptive history or about the change brought by the new covenant. They are only warnings, proper for any time or covenant, to NOT MISUNDERSTAND, to not be a “legalist with wrong motives”.

Huckaby quotes Cranfield to support his reading of II Cor 3:
“Paul does not use ‘letter’ as a simple equivalent of ‘the law’.” “Letter” is rather what the legalist is left with as a result of his misunderstanding, and misuse of the law in isolation from the Spirit is not the law in its true character….”

This “misunderstanding” view is what many other Reformed folk are doing
to minimize the difference between law and grace. If you get the law back to its “true character”, then salvation is also by law. If you get works back to being enabled by sovereign grace, then justification is by works. They don’t want to us say anymore that God DID what the law could NEVER do (Romans 8:3). That sounds too “antinomian” and “dispensational”.and “Lutheran”.

Was Your “Covenant Baptism” Law or Gospel?

May 29, 2013

In the covenant of grace ( is this covenant law or gospel?) God takes at least one believer and their infant into His care, promising them His grace and favor. Abraham believed the gospel BUT Abraham circumcised his infant sons (was this law or gospel?) according to God’s command (again, law or gospel?).

Both of Abraham’s sons were heirs of the covenant of grace (which one? the mosaic covenant, the Abrahamic covenant, the new covenant?), but was this by law or gospel? Though God’s freedom in election (gospel then?) was maintained and Isaac received the (gospel?) promise while Ishmael did not. So was the promise to Ishmael gospel?

Romans 9:7 “For not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel, and not all are children of Abraham because they are his children.”
Such an example is used by the writer to the Hebrews to warn against eternal security. Of course Reformed people sometimes disagree about if these warnings are law or gospel. Are they warnings to Ishmael that he many not have ever “really” been part of the covenant but only “externally” related to “the covenant”? Or are these law warnings that many who enter the covenant are not promised they will be kept in the covenant?

Although the signs have changed, we are still in the same “the covenant” and therefore the question about if this covenant is law or gospel has not changed.

Like circumcision, water baptism is done by human hands but is represented in the New Testament not as our decision but as God’s decision and claim on Ishmael and Esau. So the question continues if this divine claim is the claim of law or gospel. Although “the covenant” obligates us to respond in faith and obedience, water baptism is God’s seal of God’s oath. So we need to find out if this oath is about law or gospel. But as long as still live, we can’t ever find out if we are Isaac or Ishmael. Both were heirs of the covenant. Both received the promises of the covenant.

In God’s act of water baptism, as in the preaching of the universal “offer”, God pledges His commitment to us in “in the covenant”. But is that commitment law or gospel? And is that commitment the same for all “in the covenant”? Of course, there are some credobaptists out there who have trouble with the idea of an ineffectual “means of grace” for Ishmael and Esau, so much so that they would rather say that water baptism is something humans do than even imply that God fails to deliver on some supposed “the covenant promise”.

This has enormous practical effects on anyone who wants to be part of the Reformed tradition. Even if it turns out that little Esau is never justified, it certainly feels good to think that Esau has been promised the same grace as Abraham has. Of course, if that grace turns out to be ineffectual in the face of human failure to meet conditions, then even Abraham might begin to wonder about the grace which has been promised to him.

It comes back to the question of law and gospel. Do we regard our children as born under the law or do we assure them they are already not under the law? Do we cling to God’s promise to work by His Spirit to keep Esau in “the covenant” in which he began, or do we have to fall back on some notion of sovereign imputation (with resulting conversion) in which every person begins life under condemnation and outside the new covenant? Even though we want to maintain God’s freedom in election (perhaps God will maintain that freedom for Himself), that is not something we really want to know about and while we do not deny it. we see no need to mention that truth when we could be emphasizing “the covenant” instead and thus maintaining the tension between law and gospel. Because that dialectic will help us to teach that ordinarily there is no salvation outside the church and its means of grace.

Of course I would not want to leave out important nuances. In my own experience, I know some credobaptists who are really in “the true church” even though of course they are still too ignorant and stubborn (which is the reason for their ignorance) to know the true marks of a true church. When water baptism is rightly understood (chiefly) as a promise made to Esau by God, then it will always be relevant to ask in retrospect if this promise was law or gospel. So what if Esau does not believe the gospel right now, certainty is always impossible, and it’s God’s decision which is still decisive, and since God promised Esau grace and claimed Esau, who is to say if that divine promise was law or gospel?

It makes a lot of difference to Esau if he was born in the covenant and is invited to the covenant table because that sacrament will be a means of grace to Esau. Unless of course, like circumcision, water baptism also often brings with it a curse! Every time I witness a water baptism today, I cling to God’s public certification that God has claimed Esau. And so while I am happy to be in the covenant, I always need to ask myself if God will cut me off if I do not keep (enough of) the law.

Forde Rejects the Idea that God has Wrath, and Only Speaks of Faith as the End of Human Wrath

May 18, 2013

Forde is more about the verb (our believing) than he is about the object of our faith. Forde cares more about our experience than anything that may or may not have happened 2000 years ago. Forde begins his atonement essay “Caught in the Act,” (1984) by stating that a proper understanding of the work of Christ must necessarily begin “from below. According to Forde’s reading, Jesus did not come teaching an atonement theology about the nature of God. Rather, Jesus simply traveled around Palestine spontaneously and unilaterally forgiving sinners.

“Why could not God just up and forgive? Let us start there. If we look at the narrative about Jesus, the actual events themselves, the “brute facts” as they have come down to us, the answer is quite simple. He did! Jesus came preaching repentance and forgiveness, declaring the bounty and mercy of his “Father.” The problem however, is that we could not buy that. And so we killed him. And just so we are caught in the act. Every mouth is stopped once and for all. All pious talk about our yearning and desire for reconciliation and forgiveness, etc., all our complaint against God is simply shut up. He came to forgive and we killed him for it; we would not have it.”

For Forde it’s all about the wrath of humanity and not at all about the wrath of God. Forde is more interested in a “low anthropology” than He is about God or God’s agency in redemption. For Forde, humanity under the power of legalism prefers not to be forgiven so that it can maintain its illusory control over God with its good works. Forde writes: “But why did we kill him? It was, I expect we must say, as a matter of “self-defense.” Jesus came not just to teach about forgiveness of God but actually came to do it, to forgive unconditionally . . . this shatters the “order” by which we must run things here.”

Another analogy Forde uses is a man who throws himself in front of a moving truck and is killed while attempting to save a child playing in the road. In this analogy, sinful humanity is driving the truck and the man killed is Christ. Humanity drives the truck insofar as they participate in the legalistic order of the present evil age.

Forde asserts that the goal of Jesus was to be “. . . crucified by the legalistic order itself, so to bring a new order.”By killing Jesus, sinful humanity comes to recognize its bondage. In rejecting Jesus and his mercy, humanity is truly made conscious of its root-sin of opposition to God’s grace. God allows himself to be killed by us, states Forde, in order to “. . .make it plain that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23).” Jesus therefore did not die to fulfill the law or suffer the punishment for our sins. Rather, he died in order to reveal a low anthropology— fallen humanity’s sin of self-justification and opposition to God’s grace.

Forde reduces the gospel to our experience of faith. To Forde, this matters way more than what happened at the cross. To Forde, the gospel is only “epistemology”, only about us coming to understand stuff that we did not before. To Forde, the gospel is NOT about what God did in Christ, in terms of God’s justice or God’s nature as holy.

For Forde, the gospel is not ultimately about the death of Christ. For Forde, the “gospel” becomes a teaching law which shows us that we need to die and be re-created as new persons of faith. In that we are made conscious of our sin by the death of Jesus, then we die in our experience.

Forde’s idea of our “inclusion” in Christ’s death is that Christ is NOT a substitute. For Forde, it is not Christ’s death that is ultimately matters because TO HIM IT’S OUR DEATH BY PREACHING WHICH MATTERS. Forde’s idea is that God is “satisfied” not by Jesus’ death, but by our own death –which is an experience of passive trust.

Forde: “When faith is created, when we actually believe God’s unconditional forgiveness; then God can say, “Now I am satisfied!” God’s wrath ends when we believe him, not because Christ’s death is payment to God “one time. for all time. For Forde, God never had any wrath. For Forde, human wrath ends when faith begins..

Many religious songs have those who sing them confess themselves as “maggots” for having put Christ on the cross. But I question this sentimentality. First, if we all put Christ on the cross, then Christ died for all sinners, and that is the false gospel.
Second, nobody but God has the ultimate power to put Christ on the cross. If we all are supposed to feel bad about crucifying Christ, then is God also to apologize? May it never be! Acts 2:23-24, “This Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men.”

Yes, the Bible teaches that God’s sovereignty does not eliminate the accountability of sinners. Certain specific lawless humans killed Christ. But also, God gave Christ up to die for the sins of the elect alone. God the Trinity decided for whom Christ would die. The human experience of faith does not decide if Christ’s death has any practical effect.

We sinners now did not ourselves put Christ on the cross. 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 or on exercise of faith.

Although believers are commanded to count as true what God has already counted as true, humans can never be the original counters or those whose decision is what ultimately counts.

The cross is not what condemns. Good news for the elect, 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.

Is Abrogation of the Law the Gospel? No, We Uphold the Law

September 10, 2012

Romans 3: 25–This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. 26 It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he would be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. 27 Then what becomes of our boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? By a law of works? No, but by the law of faith. 28 For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law. 29 Or is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles also? Yes, of Gentiles
also, 30 since God is one—who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith. 31 Do we then overthrow the law by this faith? By no means! On the contrary, we uphold the law.”

The law is not the gospel. The gospel is not the law. The gospel, however,  IS ABOUT THE SATISFACTION OF GOD’S LAW.. Though law and gospel are not the same thing, they are not opposed because they never claim to have the same function.

Law says what God demands. Gospel says how Christ by his Death (one act of righteousness) satisfied that demand for the elect. The law never offered life off probation:. only one sin would put Adam and his seed under its curse, and no matter how many acts of obedience to the law, the law could never promise everlasting life.

The antithesis does NOT understand Romans 10:4 in terms of abrogation. The “end of the law” is Christ’s death. Romans 6: 7 a person who has died is freed from sin’s claims. 8 Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with Him, 9 because we know that Christ, having been raised from the dead, WILL NOT DIE AGAIN. Death NO LONGER rules over Him. 10 For in light of the fact that He died, He died to sin ONCE for all time. There is no remainder left for the Spirit enabled Christian to do. The gospel says DONE. The gospel does not say “to be done by the life of Christ in the elect”.  But neither does the gospel say– “no  need for Christ to have ever satisfied the law by his death.”

teele and Thomas, Romans: an interpretative outline: “In order to free believers from the guilt or condemnation of sinChrist gave Himself as a sacrifice for sin, and thereby legally put sin away and thus freed His people from its guilt. As a result of Christ’s sacrificial work, the just requirement (demand) of the law has been fulfilled (fully met) in those who are joined to His death.”

Charles Hodge—-“Romans 8:3 refers to the sacrificial death of Christ and to the condemnation of sin in Him as the sinners’ substitute, and Romans 8:4 refers to justification by Christ’s death in satisfaction of the law.”

Tom Nettles, By His Grace and For His glory—-The idea of an offer based on infinite sufficiency for all sinners involves a shift in the understanding of the sacrificial death. Although Jesus’ death is spoken of as His obedience–and though the concepts of reconciliation and propitiation are defined as activities accomplished in the Father’s setting forth God the Son–when the notion of sufficiency for the non-elect arises, the emphasis shifts from the Son’s death to what Christ actively accomplished

Lee Irons—The obedience of Christ cannot be reduced to the perfect life of Christ, as if it excluded his death. For Christ’s death, Paul teaches in Romans 5:18, was “the one act of righteousness” antithetically parallel to the one transgression of Adam. As he says in Philippians 2:8, Christ was “obedient unto death.”

Many people tend to think that when the Father sent the Son to die on the cross to forgive sins, he was in some sense “breaking the law.” Like, because of Jesus, God is letting our law-breaking somehow slide. The god preached in this kind of scenario can only forgive sins by in some way compromising his holiness. In other words, God sort of tips the scales towards his mercy and away from his righteousness— bending the rules. God sacrifices one part of his self (holiness) in order that we might take advantage of another (love).

But the true God has declared that he will by no means clear the guilty So God instead makes guilty people righteous! But to do this in a way that is just, God must make a righteous person guilty. And he accomplishes this, the Bible reveals, by punishing our sin by punishing his son Jesus. In this way, all sin is accounted for. Whether by the second death of the non-elect or by the wrath of the cross, every single sin is accounted for. It wouldn’t be very loving at all for God to have broken his own laws to save us. An atonement made by a law not perfectly satisfied is no atonement at all. If God broke his law to save me, I am not saved.

Christians sin, and therefore their “fulfillment of the law” (see for example, Romans 13) cannot ever satisfy the law. But the law will not go unsatisfied. There is no antinomian bypass around the law.

The law, once satisfied by Christ’s death, now demands the salvation of all the elect, for whom the law was satisfied. God the Father would not be just, and God the Son would not be glorified, if the distribution of the justly earned benefits were now conditioned on the imperfect faith of sinners. Yes, faith is necessary for the elect, but even this faith is a gift earned by the righteousness of God in Christ’s work.

This is how the law/gospel antithesis explains Romans 3:31 (no, we uphold the law). The law is not nullified but honored by Christ. The only way that its requirements will ever be fully satisfied in the elect (Romans 8:4) is by the imputation of what Christ’s death

If the law were the gospel, even saying that there’s law (in the garden and now) would be “legalism”. But God is a legalist against legalism. God has told us that the law is not the gospel and that it never was the gospel. Romans 11:5—“So too at the present time there is a remnant, chosen by grace. But if it is by grace, it is not on the basis of works; otherwise grace would not be grace.”

The legalist identifies law and gospel, and then reduces the demand to including what the Spirit does in the elect. But what God does in us (by grace) must be excluded from the righteousness, because Christ’s righteousness is Christ’s death as
satisfaction of God’s law.

The comparison between Adam and Christ is that the guilt of Adam’s one act of disobedience is imputed to the elect and that the righteousness of Christ’s one act of obedience is imputed to the elect. Adam and Christ were NOT born under the same law. Christ was born under the Mosaic law, but Adam was not. Christ came to die to win immortality for the elect. Adam was threatened with death for disobedience, but was never promised immortality no matter what he would ever do.

The elect who have been justified have died to law when they are placed into the death of Christ, a death to law because of law. If on top of the death taking away sins, Christ’s law obedience also needs to be imputed, then isn’t this saying instead by the death the elect are brought to a new life under law, which then needs to be vicariously kept by Christ?

The guilt of the elect imputed by God to Christ is not the same as the guilt of Adam imputed by God to all humans, but the nature of the imputation of guilt is the same in both cases. We must teach an external (judicial) imputation. The most basic solution to all our problems is not a regeneration of our insides (though that is necessary for other reasons, for example, so that we hear and believe the gospel), because the most basic problem we have is that apart from the the death of Christ, God counts everyone’s sins against them.

Emphasis on the external and forensic must have priority when we consider II Corinthians 5:21. “Become the righteousness of God in Christ” is about having an external righteousness imputed to us. Because that is so, the “made sin” of the first part of the verse must be seen as about external guilt being imputed to Christ.

In other words, if the first part (made sin) is about some “inner corruption”, then 1. that says that Christ needed to be born again. God forbid! but 2. it would say that our righteousness is something found in us, or something in our faith, or something in Christ indwelling us.. The gospel is first of all about LOOKING to Christ outside us..

This is not denying that regeneration is important, but it’s saying that the miracle of the new birth a result of God’s legal imputation. Romans 8: 3 For God HAS DONE what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh.

This doesn’t mean that Christ’s obedience to the law prior to His death is of no consequence. II Corinthians 5:21 explains that “he made him to be sin who knew no sin” . This assumes that Christ kept the law before His legally being put under the law for the sins of the elect imputed to Him. Even before His death, Christ “knew no sin”. So that’s not unimportant. But the penal satisfaction for the elect comes by Christ’s death which is what satisfies God’s law. https://markmcculley.wordpress.com/2013/08/02/does-penal-satisfaction-mean-that-gods-law-gets-the-last-word/

No End Runs Around God’s Laws

December 2, 2011

In our day many folks think they have escaped legalism by simply eliminating any antithesis between law and gospel. Thus they want to divide up Christ’s righteousness to BOTH the “instead of us” AND also to the “in us”.

They instruct us to stop looking only at the past and at the cross, and begin to look also to the salvation of the Holy Spirit in us (and thus the future work of Christ in our “activity”)

Though law and gospel are not the same thing, they are not opposed because they never claim to have the same function. Law says what God demands. The gospel says how Christ satisfied that demand for the elect.

The law never offered life off probation. Only one sin puts you under its curse. No matter how many acts of obedience you have to the law, the law never promises everlasting life.

The “end of the law” is Christ completing all that the law demanded, so that there is no remainder left for the Spirit enabled Christian to do. The gospel says DONE. The gospel does not say “to be done by the life of Christ in the elect”.

We must not attempt to eliminate the law/gospel antithesis by the abolishment of law or by saying that God now has a new and easier law. That kind of “dispensational adjustment” is not only antinomian but also still legalistic. –

The idea of some kind of “end run” around God’s law, so that God now changes the game and “cuts us some slack” and calls that grace, this misses what the gospel says about Christ’s satisfaction of the law for the elect.

Christians sin, and therefore their activity cannot ever satisfy the law. But God’s laws will not go unsatisfied. God is not a prisoner of His laws, but God does have a Holy nature and His laws are an expression of that nature, and God will always act justly. Only Christ therefore could ever satisfy God’s laws. The wages of the sins of the elect was Christ’s death. God’s law demanded that death.

The law is not the gospel and it never was the gospel. Romans 11:5–”So too at the present time there is a remnant, chosen by grace. But if it is by grace, it is not on the basis of works; otherwise grace would not be grace.”