Posted tagged ‘legalism’

Stop Your Doing is NOT the Gospel

September 18, 2015

The new evangelical often has an either/or mindset. Either the fundamentalism we left, or what we are now. The truth is that there are many false gospels, many ways to be lost, and just because you have rejected one wrong way does not mean that you now believe the true gospel.

When one has abandoned the scoldings of “first legalism” (no wine or TV) for the moral pep talks of “ordinary attendance in a confessional community” preachers, one has only exchanged one form of moralism for another.

The evangelical who used to be a fundamentalist now often thinks that grace means that theological doctrine doesn’t matter when it comes to saved and lost.

In a “covenant of grace” where grace is conditional but not merited, it’s not helpful to judge individuals saved or lost based on their gospel doctrines.

Unless we tell all people without exception, without respect of persons, that God demands a perfect righteousness and that God provided this righteousness only for the elect, then we still have a man-centered legalistic cult. It may be a happier kind of cult. But it still is not submissive to God’s gospel.

But don’t I understand that “covenant of grace” people are given grace to meet the conditions? And in the PCA (as opposed to Reformed Baptist) set of conditions, it all begins with the Chuck Swindoll idea that God does not demand righteousness but only the faith to “not-perform”.“

“Start stopping your doing”

Where the old legalism said that it was saved because it out-performed others, the new legalism claims to have done it the right way now by not doing, and to have performed not-performing where others were still trying to perform. Very often in both cases the finished death for the elect of Jesus Christ is not even in the picture

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”

We Don’t Care About Your Motives, Just So You are Against Sin, Secularism and Obama?

November 11, 2013

William Blake

The Moral Virtues in Great Fear

Formed the Cross & Nails & Spear

And the Accuser Standing By

Cried out Crucify Crucify

If Moral Virtue was Christianity

Christ’s Pretensions were all Vanity

Conservative “Christians” tend to be identified with a prescribed set of practices rather than with ideas and doctrines about what God did in Christ.

Hearing the gospel is not about how much we make ourselves do or how much we can make ourselves believe. Faith is the Holy Spirit of Jesus Christ causing us to look to Jesus Christ so what we depend on what Jesus Christ already did by His death and resurrection so that we do not depend on what we believe that Jesus Christ is doing in us and in our church.

Grace is not for the nice people who are living right. Grace is not what causes us to live right. None of us lives right yet. Grace is not useful the way parents and politicians want it to be. Isn’t it wonderful that Jesus Christ has already done enough so that we don’t have to con ourselves into believing that God has to “show up” every Sunday in the presence of authorized clergy?

For freedom Christ has made us free. We don’t have to have Jesus “warm up our hearts” in our daily quiet time. Romans 6 even says we don’t even have to sin to get more grace. Romans 5—we stand in grace. What are we going to do, now that we know that our doing is not what causes God to bless us?

But surely there’s got to be more to life than “merely” that, doesn’t there? More than “only” not having our sins imputed to us? At the end of the day, I say, NOT SO MUCH. Who in our day cares about not having sins credited to them? Who cares about that? Can’t we now get over that basic fact, and get on with it, and concern ourselves now with moral progress? Our sins are not counted against us. Do you hear that anymore? Who in our age now is so selfish and individualistic to still care about if their sins are counted against them? I Am.

But isn’t it dangerous for God to not count our sins against us? Maybe it’s so, maybe it’s not. Maybe there’s a not yet aspect of our justification in which God’s work in us by the Holy Spirit will be brought in as an additional factor, so that we can now still have various different motives, including the beauty of threats and the loss of assurance, and whatever else that works to get us on the move… NO NO NO.

But wouldn’t it be better now, in the present fight against secularism and liberalism, to not “rock the boat” about grace, and accept the “tension” between grace motives and other motives? So what if some works are not done from a clean conscience but done in order to keep the conscience clean, why rock the boat just because grace happens to work for you? Can’t we get along with people who operate out of different motives?
And the accusers appeal to us, if you really believe in grace, they tell us, you should get alone with the rest of us, with other doctrines, with other motives. Some Christians, they tell us, are

Many today warn us–yes, grace and gratitude is one complex of motives, but don’t forget to balance that with other motives

Do we address the people in church as if they have been believing some form of the gospel all along? “Close as in horseshoes”? Or do we say—some or all of you may need to be reconciled. Nobody is born reconciled. Let’s not presume. Let’s not beg the question.

Jerry Bridges, p 34, Transforming Grace—“if you are trusting TO ANY DEGREE in your own morality, or if you believe that God will somehow recognize any of your good works as a reason for your salvation, you need to seriously consider if you are truly a Christian.”

Not all Disagreement about what the Law Says is Legalism

February 22, 2012

Most commentators on Philippians 3:18-19 focus on the word “belly” and assume that it means greed, not only the desire for too much food but the lust for money and sinful pleasures. They do not connect “belly” to the desire to have one’s own righteousness from the law, even though that has been the topic of paragraphs just before. But the lust of the flesh is subtle.

The trouble with “taste not touch not” is when people think that their tasting not and touching not brings them some blessing which the righteousness of Christ could not bring. There is nothing wrong with tasting not and touching not. Simply because we do not agree with another person about what God’s law teaches is no excuse to call that person a legalist.

But a person is a legalist, even if he has a right interpretation about what God’s law teaches, if that person thinks that his obeying that law brings him a blessing which the righteousness of Christ did not cause.

The law of God should not be blamed for legalism, even though God has predestined the abuse of the law. When a person thinks that his not tasting and his not touching brings him blessing, that person is not only a legalist but also an antinomian, because that person is thinking that God is satisfied with something less than perfect obedience and satisfaction of the law.

The only way that God can be pleased with the good works of a Christian is when the Christian knows that these good works are blessings from Christ’s righteousness, not a supplement to Christ’s righteousness.

And this distinction is not only something that God knows, or only something that smart “Reformed theologians” know. Every Christian knows that Christ’s righteousness is the only reason for every love-gift from God.

The sin which deceives us all by nature is that WE DESIRE WHAT WE PRODUCE TO GIVE US SOMETHING WE OTHERWISE WOULDN’T HAVE. We will give God’s “grace” the credit for helping us produce it. We have no problem saying that “particular election” is the reason we produced it. But, like Cain, we want to take what we produced and offer it to God as some small part of what God will accept it as righteousness.

We don’t mind of God haD to produce some righteousness also to supplement it and “make up the difference”. But the one thing we want, the thing which the people who killed Jesus wanted, is the one thing Cain wanted, and that is to have God accept what we have produced and what we sincerely (even if ignorantly) offered to God.

Frequently people tell me: “you are not going to tell me that I am lost just because I do not believe in definite atonement.” And then they say: I know what I used to be, and I know that I am different now, because now I know it’s all Christ, now I know it’s not works. Now I know it’s grace. And I just don’t even need to get into this question of who Jesus died for.

And then, in contradiction to their claim not to know, they say: I know he died for me because I was a sinner.

And I ask: did Christ die for all sinners? And again they say: I don’t need to get into that. And I ask: how do you know that Christ died for you? Does the grace to believe come from the death of Christ or from some other place?

And they say: I don’t need to know where I got faith because I got it. And then I ask: faith in which Christ, the one whose death saves or the one who died for those who will be lost? And then they start caling me some names.

The motive for that name calling is the same as Cain’s motive for murdering Abel. I John 3:12 explains: “why did he murder him? Because his own works were evil and his brother’s righteous.”

Those with a false gospel cannot understand why one person’s work is evil and another person’s work is not evil. They cannot understand that it is evil to condition blessing on works. Indeed, despite talk about election and regeneration and -in many cases- even about definite atonement, those with the false gospel still judge saved and lost by works instead of judging works by saved and lost.

We Warn Legalists that They are Not Christians

January 6, 2012

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 the elect believing the gospel? Yes.

So what shall we think about those who say that “I was born justified, or I was justified but did not know the gospel”, or “I believe in grace now but I don’t repent of what I believed then” or saying that “I know that I believed the gospel even though all that time I was operating out of legal fear”? Some of them say: “now I am more gospel wakeful.”

Well, you could say, more legalistic Christians sure got bad results, like Peter who 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 morality, when they are measured by God’s standards for morality.

There’s an in and out. Ecclesia: called out, gathered together here from there, separated by doctrine. The question is: what is the gospel, and do you believe it? Was the “gospel” that left you in legalism really the gospel?

The gospel is not that you are elect (or that I am). Not: God loves you. Not: God loves me. But: God loves as many as are believing the gospel of Christ’s 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 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 if you don’t already please God. And you don’t please God yet if you haven’t believed the gospel yet.

We talk about legal fear of God to lost people who are not born justified.

Am I saying that we get lost and saved again every time that we fall into legal fear? No. Am I saying that we never are motivated by legal fear? No. But no Christian should be addressed as though they were still legalists. But plenty of people listening to us should be addressed as legalists still lost in their sins.

We do not threaten Christians with the idea that they are still legalists. We warn legalists that they are not Christians

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.

Some Christians are Not “Gospel Wakeful”, and Some Are?

November 20, 2011

I Corinthians 5:20—“we implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.”

As ambassadors FOR Christ, we command all who hear, “’be ye reconciled”. Even though II Cor 5 is addressed to Christians only, the message taken by Christians to the lost is not for the elect only. The “be ye reconciled” is for those who have not yet been already justified.

Some “high Calvinists” don’t have a category for lost elect people. They would tell you that you were never lost, but that you only didn’t know you were already saved.

Many pastors (who are not Calvinists at all) like to say to people who are still legalists: some of you didn’t know the motives and how reconciliation worked, but you were already reconciled.

The elect have already been judged at the cross; everybody else will be judged, since all will be judged. But not all who were judged at the cross have been “baptized into that death” yet by God’s legal imputation. Since this is so, we should NOT talk to people assuming that they are Christians even though they don’t know the gospel yet.

To those who are still ignorant of the gospel, we don’t talk only about gratitude and freedom. Yes, we tell them that those for whom Christ died are thankful and free and pleasing to God. But we also tell them: if you don’t know the gospel and believe it yet, then you should be shut up to nothing but legal fear.

If Christ did not die for you, you should be afraid. Being afraid won’t save you. But legal fear is the reasonable response to not knowing the gospel. Because not knowing the gospel means knowing that you are not yet justified.

I do not want to preach terror to Christians. But we must not assume that people are Christians.

Do we address the people in church as if we are all elect, who have been believing some form of the gospel all along? “Close as in horseshoes”? Or do we say: some or all of you may need to be reconciled. Nobody is born reconciled. Let’s not presume. Let’s not beg the question.

Jerry Bridges, p34, Transforming Grace—“if you are trusting TO ANY DEGREE in your own morality, or if you believe that God will somehow recognize any of your good works as a reason for your salvation, you need to seriously consider if you are truly a Christian.”

What About the Legal Fears of Some of the Galatians? Were they Arminians?

November 11, 2011

”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 death to me result in me believing the gospel? Yes.

Even those who were born Jewish were not born converted. But many who have not yet repented of Arminianism still claim to now be converted to the Lord Jesus Christ.

So what shall we think about saying 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 even though all that time I was operating out of legal fear”?

Just because a Peter says he was operating out of legal fear doesn’t mean that he was. Maybe he wasn’t. Well, you could say, he 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 morality, when they are measured by God’s standards for morality.

Christians are the people who are not operating out of legal fear. We can’t be saying– they are Arminians but Christians who need to be instructed. We can’t be saying: those elders are operating out of legal fear, but they are still gospel believers.

There’s an in and out. Ecclesia: called out, gathered together here from there, separated by doctrine. The question is: what is the gospel, and do you believe it?

The gospel is not that you are elect (or that I am). Not: God loves you. Not: God loves me. But: God loves as many as are believing the gospel of Christ’s 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 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 if you don’t already please God. And you don’t please God yet if you haven’t believed the gospel yet.

We talk about legal fear of God to lost people who are not born justified.

Am I saying that we get lost and saved again every time that we fall into legal fear? No. Am I saying that we never are motivated by legal fear? No. But no Christian is still an Arminian. And no Christian should be addressed as though they were still Arminians. But plenty of people listening to us should be addressed as Arminians. Many who listen are still Arminians, still lost in their sins.

We do not threaten Christians with the idea that they are still Arminians. We confront Arminians with the idea that they are not Christians

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.

No-Law-Ism is BOTH Antinomian and Legalistic

September 24, 2011

Romans 7:4–“You 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 bear fruit for God.”

Saying that our “activity” is not law-obedience is still NOT the gospel. First, there is no end run around God’s law. God is both just and justifier of the ungody, so God’s law has been satisfied for the elect alone by Christ’s obedience to death. Second, faith has as its object not just any “Jesus” or any “grace”, but the Jesus who satisfied the law for all who will be justified (and not for the non-elect). Third, this faith is not only a sovereign gift but a righteous gift, given on behalf of Christ and His law-work (Philippians 1:29; John 17).

There is no escape from legalism in a “difference” between a demand for faith and a demand for law-obedience. Does faith include works or not? If faith works and faith is an instrument, why can’t works of faith be an instrument?

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

The real point of the law-gospel antithesis is not “conflict”. It is non-identity. 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 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 to the law, the law never promises everlasting life.

The “end of the law” is Christ’s death satisfying what the law demand, 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. “No-law-ism” is not only antinomian but also still legalistic –it misses what the gospel says about Christ’s satisfaction of the law for the elect.

Christians sin, and therefore their activity (even if you don’t call it “fulfillment of the law” as in Romans 13) cannot ever satisfy the law. But God’s law will not go unsatisfied.

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.”

Our “Characteristic” Obedience or God’s Righteousness?

December 8, 2010

Scott Hafemann’s The God of Promise and the Life of Faith (Crossway, 2001)

In footnote 6 on p244, Hafemann writes: “ The position I am advocating is based on a reassessment of the traditional Lutheran, Calvinistic and dispensational view of the relationship between the Law and the Gospel. The traditional view saw a conflict between the two, with the law viewed narrowly as God’s demand for sinless obedience as the ground of our salvation, while the gospel called for faith In God’s grace in Christ, who kept the Law perfectly in our place.”

Hafemann does not understand correctly the antithesis he is opposing. Yes, the law is the divine demand for perfection (and also for satisfaction for sins). But he is wrong to focus on a demand for perfection being replaced by a demand for faith. The proper difference would not be faith but the righteousness obtained and imputed by God. What the law demands the gospel gives.

Hafemann is inattentive to three facts about the divine alien righteousness. First, Christ died under the curse of God’s law only for the elect alone. Second, faith has as its object not just any Jesus or any “grace”, but the Jesus who satisfied the law for all who will be justified (and not for the non-elect). Third, this faith is not only a sovereign gift but a righteous gift, given on behalf of Christ and His law-work (Philippians 1:29; John 17).

These three facts are denied by Lutherans and are not being taught by Calvnistic neo-nomian moralists. When Hafemann makes the difference to be between a demand for faith and a demand for perfect obedience, the only thing left to discuss Is the nature of faith. And this is where Hafemann goes: does faith include works or not? If faith works and faith is an instrument, why can’t works of faith be an instrument? Since faith is a result of regeneration, won’t that faith confess the Lordship of the Savour?

Of course Hafemann does discuss the object of faith. His theme is that the law/gospel antithesis is wrong to put all the emphasis on the past. He denies that the past work of Christ is sufficient or the only object of faith. He insists that we look also to the life of Christ in us, and to the future work of Christ in us.

If the gospel is about righteousness, and if the gospel is (also) about what happens in us, then is the righteousness not yet complete? Even though I agree that regeneration is part of the gospel, what the Holy Spirit produces in us is not any part of the righteousness.

To his great credit, Hafemann openly acknowledges his differences with the law/grace antithesis. He thinks his different gospel is more biblical. I think we would all see the difference between the two gospels if we stopped explaining the antithesis by talking only about “faith alone”. The word “imputation” is missing from Hafemann’ s description of the gospel he is opposing. So is the concept of an “alien righteousness”.

The real point of the law-gospel antithesis is not “conflict”. It is non-identity. The law is not the gospel. The gospel is not the law. The gospel, however, is about the satisfaction of God’s law for God’s elect. 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 satisfied that demand for the elect. The law never offered life off probation; not only one sin would put you under its curse, no matter how many acts of obedience to the law, the law could never promise everlasting life.

Hafemann thinks that the antithesis understands “Christ to bring the law to an end in the sense of abolishment”. The antithesis does NOT understand Romans 10:4 in terms of abrogation. 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”.

Hafemann unfairly reduces the law/gospel antithesis to the abolishment of law. While that it is a good description of Lutheranism and dispensationalism, it misses what the gospel says about Christ’s satisfaction of the law for the elect. 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.

The law, once satisfied by Christ, 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. 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 earned. “Not under law” means not under the curse and not under further demands “for righteousness”.

But to Hafemann, to Wesley, and to all other legalists, Christ’s taking away the sanctions of the law for the elect means eliminating the practical importance of what God demands from all human beings and results in antinomianism.

Back to footnote 6 on page 244: “In this view, the law itself taught a legalism that Adam and Israel failed to keep but that God continues to demand in order to drive us to the gospel.” I want to think about this “legalism”. Hafemann does not define it. Does it mean a demand for perfection? If God demands perfection, is God therefore a “legalist”? It seems to me that the only alternative to a demand for perfection is either no law at all or a “new” demand which calls only for imperfect righteousness so that “grace” makes up the difference.

Hafemann is simply following in the wake of Barthians like the Torrances who reject the “contract God” who demands perfection and operates by justice. These Barthians put “grace” and not justice into the pre-fall situation of Adam.

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.”

It is Hafemann who is the legalist, because he 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. What God does in us (by grace) is necessary for a different reason than the satisfaction of God ‘s law.

Legalism is lookng to what’s happening in you to still get the law satisfied. In the process of “getting busy for God”, legalists always stop looking completely to what CHRIST GOT DONE ALREADY. What Christ got done was done only for the elect, and not at all for the non-elect. So what Christ already did is the difference between saved and lost.

Yes, there were some forms of dispensationalism which taught that God has more than one gospel. And many non-dispensationalists claim that the OT saints only knew about God’s Lordship or about resurrection. Also of course, most evangelicals tend to teach that “grace” is mostly about what happens in the sinner.

Yes, the “covenant of works” theory teaches a ”hypothetical gospel” in which Adam supposedly “could have” earned righteousness for others by keeping the law. One clear way to say that the law is not the gospel is to say that the it was not the gospel for Adam either. But neither the “covenant of works” nor the plural gospels of dispensationalism are inherent to the law/gospel antithesis.

Hafemann does at least resist reducing everything down to one “the covenant of grace”. Even though he claims that neither the old nor the new covenants demand perfect righteousness, Hafemann wants to focus on the increased power “available” in the new covenant. For him, it is easier (do-able) for those in the new covenant to get it done.

Hafemann seems to think that “legalism” is not giving the Spirit the credit for what you did!. But as long as you are careful to say “thank you God that I am not like this”, and you– not like some– really mean that when you sincerely say it, then you are not a legalist.

As long as you credit God as the power for your works, then Hafemann has no problem putting your obedience into the equation as being a necessary part of the righteousness demanded. Of course, since he does not think our works are perfect, and yet does not think that what Christ got done apart from our works is complete enough, Hafemann has to say that God does not require a perfect righteousness.

Read carefully what Hafemann writes about the “obedience of faith” (p188): “Still others consider obedience to God’s law to be the necessary evidence of faith. For them, if one believes, then obedience becomes the mandatory sign of something else, namely faith, which is the human response to God’s grace that actually saves us. Faith must lead to obedience as a sign that it is real.”

While that it is an accurate description of most Calvinists’ theory about assurance, it is not biblical assurance. We do not work to get assurance. We must have assurance before our works are acceptable to God. But most Calvinists, along with the Arminians, think that faith is the response that saves us. Yes, they disagree about the cause and source of faith, but they both leave election out of their “atonement” and out of their “gospel”.

It does not matter that some Arminians say that there was “substitutionary satisfaction” for every sinner, since they think faith is what actually saves. It does not matter that some Calvinists say that there were “multiple-purposes” for the atonement, so that the propitiation was only for the elect, since they preach that it’s God gift of faith which actually saves.

Though the true gospel knows that the justification of the ungodly does not happen until righteousness is imputed and faith is created by hearing the gospel, the true gospel knows that it is the righteousness alone (and not the faith created) which satisfies God’s law.

The legalist Calvinist of course is careful to say that works are the evidence of Christ’s work in them. Nevertheless, the legalist does not test his works by his doctrine of righteousness. The legalist thinks you can be wrong about the doctrine of righteousness, and still give evidence by works of one’s salvation. They raise doubts about those who oppose “Lordship salvation”, but not about sincere hard-working Arminians.

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. (See Matthew 7.) Since both the Arminian and the legalist Calvinist agree that not everybody will be saved but not about how many sinners Christ died for, they both get assurance from the “tenor of life” of the professing believer.

Indeed, unless we are universalists or fatalists (some Primitive Baptists are both), we cannot avoid the search for evidence. But we need to see that the evidence is submission to the gospel, which involves knowledge about election, imputation and satisfaction. It is a waste of time to talk about other “evidence” unless a person knows what the gospel is. Only after a person knows what the gospel is, can we then ask if that person judges by that gospel.

There is no need to waste time talking about works until we know if a person has repented of Arminianism. If a person still thinks she was saved as an Arminian, then she has not yet obeyed the gospel, no matter how much knowledge she has or how many works she has. Many works prove nothing!

We first test ourselves to see if we have excluded works as being any part of our righteousness before God. To include the works (done it is said by the Spirit) in the righteousness is evidence all by itself that a person still believes a false gospel. Along with legalism comes indifference about the question of election and about the truth that Christ did not die for the non-elect. Such things don’t matter to the legalist, since what got done on the cross is not enough anyway for the legalist.

Read Hafemann: “In other views, obedience may be possible, desirable, or maybe even necessary as the byproduct of trusting Christ, but it is not an essential expression of what it means to trust Christ in and of itself.” (p188) He is trusting in the false Christ who is now getting the rest of it done imperfectly in us.

He is putting the stress on the nature and quality of faith, but not on the righteousness complete by Christ which should be the only object of faith. Those with false gospels debate about if faith is alone or if faith includes works. They squabble about the “instrumentality” of faith alone. But the false gospels all fail to see that the sovereignty of God without the completed righteousness of God is still not good news.

There are many false gospels and only one true gospel. There are many different ways to be “legalist”. The only way not to be legalist is to know that the law demands perfect righteousness and that the gospel joyfully explains how Christ satisfied that demand for the elect. One certain result of the righteousness earned by Christ is that the elect will believe this gospel and not any false gospel.

Hafemann does not believe in perfect obedience but instead in “habitual” obedience enabled in us. But who is to say what is “characteristic” (P190)? The self-righteous Pharisee thanks his false god for enabling him to be characteristically different from the state-employee.

The workers who came before the the judgment in Matthew 7 were sure that their works were characteristic enough. They were not antinomians and they were not insincere. They probably believed in election also (or at least the unconditional right of Israel to the land!). But instead of pleading a Christ who got done a perfect righteousness, they pleaded their characteristic deeds.

They didn‘t say they had “faith alone”. They were not into “easy believism”. They didn’t say that their obedience was a “second step” added to their faith. They avoided the law/gospel antithesis that Hafemann wants us to avoid. They thought they were safe. Yet despite their false assurance, they were lost. Why? Was it because they lacked enough “characteristic obedience” or was it because they trusted in the false gospel? That’s a trick question: they were lost because they were born lost, and they never were rescued and we know that because they never believed the revealed gospel.

They trusted a false gospel because they, like all legalists, had flattered themselves about their obedience being acceptable. We who are Christians now must confess that we too once did the same thing, and that it is only because Christ died for us that we came to repent of that false gospel.

Hafemann writes on p60: “God’s promises are given to us unconditionally. Only then, sandwiched between what God has done for us and what he promises to do for us in the future, do we find the commands of God for the present as the necessary link between the two.” This is a false “unconditionality”. It makes the gospel “unconditional” in the same way as the law is: if you do it enough right, then God promises not to kill you…..

I will not at this point deconstruct the Daniel Fuller (John Piper?) distinction between grace as the cause of the conditions and the conditions as the cause of grace. That distinction always keeps falling apart. But why do these people find the distinction necessary? They don’t want to keep talking about election. The idea of “unconditional to the elect sinner, and conditioned only on what Christ got done for the elect sinner” says way too much for them about election. In that kind of election, it is the death of Christ (and not faith) which sets one sinner apart from another. (See Hebrews 10:14)

II Peter One reverses legalism by commanding us to examine our works by first making our calling and election sure. 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”? Are you trying to follow Christ as Lord without first submitting to being saved only by God’s perfect righteousness?

Now the Law Came In to Increase Sin

November 8, 2010

Romans 5:19-20–“For as by one man’s disobedience the elect were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the elect will be made righteous. Now the law came in to increase the sin, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more…”

When we see a “don’t touch the paint” sign, then it occurs to us for the first time that maybe we will touch the paint. But I don’t think this explains the increase of sin.

The greater sin is legalism, the sin of thinking we got God obligated to do something for us because we DID refrain from touching the paint.
In other words, before conversion, we have built-in a motive that says we do stuff to get stuff from God (ie, if that’s not a reason, why bother?).

What good we think we do is not good to God but an abomination to God, because of the motive which would leave Christ out of the picture (at least at this point) in order to get something from God by our “good” works.

Luke 16: 15, 16 : “And the Pharisees also, who were covetous, heard all these things: and they derided him. And he said unto them, “Ye are they which justify yourselves before men; but God knows your hearts: for that which is highly esteemed among men is abomination in the sight of God.”