Archive for January, 2012

30
Jan
12

Love Fulfills the Law

There seems to be a great deal of confusion about love and its importance in the matter of the believer’s sanctification. One of the surest ways to be branded a heretical antinomian or neonomian is to suggest that what God requires from his believing people is supreme love for him and an accompanying love for his people. In fact, I suspect it would be difficult to say anything that would be looked on with more disfavor that to suggest that if we love one another as a reflection of our love for God, we have done what God’s law requires of us. Yet, the New Testament Scriptures are clear in teaching that love is the goal of the commandment. Paul wrote, “5Now the purpose of the commandment is love from a pure heart, from a good conscience, and from sincere faith, . . .” (1 Tim. 1:5).

8 Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. 9For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 10 Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law. (Romans 13:8-10).

Please note, the text does not say, “He who loves will obey the law” or “he who loves ought to obey the law.” It says, “the one who loves another has fulfilled the law.”

In commenting on these verses, Robert Haldane wrote, “Nothing can be more evident than that if we loved our neighbor perfectly, we would commit none of the things here specified. . . .It [the law] requires nothing but what is implied in love.”1

Additionally, Paul wrote,

13 For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.14 For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Galatians 5:13-14).

Here again, he tells us that the whole law is fulfilled by loving our neighbor.

When we talk about Jesus’ “new commandment” that we should love one another as he has loved us, we are usually accused of trying to do away with the law and replace it with love. The reality is that the only change Jesus made in giving this new commandment is the manner in which we are to love one another. We are to love one another “as he has loved us.” Of course, it goes without saying that this is a goal we will never perfectly achieve while we live in the body. Still, it is the lofty goal he sets before us.

His commandment to love is not new at all, nor does it replace any other commandment. It is the commandment out of which all the other commandments flow. It is the sum of them all. Consider Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 22:35-39.

35Then one of them, a lawyer, asked Him a question, testing Him, and saying, 36“Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?” 37Jesus said to him, “ ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ 38“This is the first and great commandment. 39“And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40“On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.”

It might be interesting to note that neither of these commandments is taken from what some have mistakenly referred to as “God’s eternal, universal, moral law,” i.e., the Ten Commandments. Yet, Jesus teaches that the “great commandment in the law” is that we love God supremely. The second great commandment is that we love our neighbor as ourselves. In reality, whatever other commandment we find under any covenantal arrangement whether under the law, or under the new covenant merely describes how a person will act if he loves God and his neighbor. The commandment is to love; every other commandment merely tells us how to express that love under a given covenant. Adam could not love God and eat of the forbidden fruit at the same time. Under the old covenant, a person could not rightly claim he loved God while chewing a piece of bacon. The reason Christians may eat pork without showing a lack of love toward God is not that God has changed or that the law has changed, but that there has been a change of covenant. Under the new covenant, all the types and shadows of the old have been fulfilled.

God’s new covenant people have, by his grace, been enabled to love him and those who are made in his image. Since we are not yet made perfect in holiness, we do not yet love God or his creatures perfectly. If we could love perfectly, we would live perfectly.

I want to be clear. I believe the New Testament Scriptures present commandments that must be kept. There are rules to be obeyed, but if our focus is on the rules rather than on the ruler, we will easily descend into a Pharisaic legalism by which one trusts in himself that he is righteous and despises others. I can keep the rules without loving God; I can’t love God without keeping the rules. Keeping the rules cannot replace loving behavior; the rules merely describe loving behavior. They tell me how I will act if I love God and my neighbor.

This is how the New Testament teaching differs from the so-called “new morality” teaching. The New Testament Scriptures do not teach that whatever we do is right as long as we do it out of a motive of undefined love. God has clearly defined for us what love is like and nowhere has he done so as clearly as in his redemptive activity in Christ. For this reason, we read such commandments as “love one another, as I have loved you.” “Husbands love your wives, just as Christ love the church and gave himself up for it.” “Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” “Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.” It is important to note that the verse that precedes this one to which the “so [in this manner]” refers, states “In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” “We love, because he first loved us.”

One reason believers should never stray far from the cross is that this supreme manifestation of God’s love is to form the pattern for our behavior in sanctification. Not only am I to love because he loves; the lofty goal for me is to love as he loves.

Does love replace law under the New Covenant? No, the command to love is the law under any covenant.

1. Robert Haldane, Romans, (London:The Banner of Truth Trust, reprint ed. 1966) p 588.

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28
Jan
12

Standing and State

I want you to remember the two following terms:  Standing and State

Standing concerns our justification before God.  State concerns our sanctification in the world.  Our standing before God is based solely  on the righteousness of Christ and cannot be augmented. Though the believer’s standing and state are completely different, they are connected in that they both result from his union with Christ. Additionally, his standing in justification serves as motivation for worship and obedience to God.  He can now approach God’s holy throne with confidence that his worship and obedience will be accepted since his conscience has been cleansed by Christ’s once for all sacrifice for sin.

The believer’s state is altogether different.  He will never be perfected in sanctification as long as he lives. He must move from one stage of sanctification to another, but whatever may occur in the process of sanctification, his standing will never be altered. He will never be more or less righteous in God’s sight than he was the moment he first believed.

Sanctification is necessary for salvation, but not for justification.  Remember, justification does not equal salvation. It is an essential aspect of salvation, but salvation is far broader.  Why is sanctification necessary for salvation?  Because God has purposed to conform all his chosen people to Christ’s image  (Romans 8:29) and make us holy and blameless (Eph. 1:4).  That purpose must and will be realized in the lives of all God’s people.

27
Jan
12

Stones to Hurl

I have been reading again Leonard Verduin’s excellent book, The Reformers and Their Stepchildren. I would recommend that anyone who wishes to understand the differences between the views of Reformed Theology and those of New Covenant Theology or Baptist views, read and take seriously this book. One fact that has become exceedingly clear to me is that the term “Reformed Baptist” is an oxymoron.

Another somewhat peripheral lesson the book teaches is that the misrepresentation of another’s views is nothing new. Commenting on Calvin’s willingness to misrepresent the Anabaptists’ views concerning “the community of wives,” Verduin reminds his readers of the old saying, “If a man wants to hurl a stone at a dog he can usually find the stone.”

To some extent it is encouraging to remember there have always been unwarranted stone hurlers who are quite willing to impute iniquity to others without a cause. It seems to me one must view such people in only one of two ways. They must either be uneducated and theologically clueless or they must be pernicious, perfidious, and deliberate liars. One way to avoid such a practice is to quote the words of those with whom we disagree in the context in which they were written or spoken. Don’t tell me what someone said; let me read their words for myself. Even then, some people seem to have the talent to bring out of other people’s words more than they put into them.

Just yesterday I viewed a video of John Piper answering a question about what he would ask the Pope if he could have a two minute conversation with him. His answer was that he would ask, “Do you teach that we should rely entirely on the righteousness of Christ imputed to us by faith alone as the ground of God being 100% for us, after which necessary sanctification comes?”

Look at the following response, “Piper, wants to add to our justification with what he calls, necessary sanctification. He continues qualifying or defining our justification as he states that, “after which” (the imputed righteousness of Christ is given but apparently that is not enough to save us) “necessary sanctification comes. . . .Umm, John, you and the Pope agree. You’re Catholic.”

How in the world did he get that out of Piper’s statement? That would be bad enough, but we all know that people who comment on blogs often aren’t the sharpest knives in the drawer. The really bad part is the response of the blog host, a man who fancies himself the defender of all truth and the church’s savior from the evils of New Calvinism, who responded as follows:

“Exactly. The key is also, ‘Christ for us.’ Did you catch that in the video? That is how they can get away with fusing justification with sanctification–both are monergistic, Christ obeys for us. Your dead on, in essence, and for all practical purposes, New Calvinism is based on the same premise as SDA [Seventh Day Adventism] and Romanism–the fusion of just[ification]. and sanct[ification] . Except NC [New Calvinism] claims to be Reformed and orth[odox], because of the COGOUS [Centrality of the gospel outside of us] formula.”

I just noticed a quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson on my side bar that I think is apropos. He said, “There is creative reading as well as creative writing.” These guys seem to have engaged in creative hearing. There is not the slightest indication in Piper’s statement that he agrees with Rome. If based on Christ’s imputed righteousness, God is 100% for us, how could we add to that by sanctification? Rome does not teach that we should “rely entirely on the righteousness of Christ imputed to us by faith alone.”

Is sanctification necessary for salvation? Yes! Is it necessary for justification before God? Not at all! Remember that salvation is more than justification. God’s purpose is to make his chosen people like Christ; that purpose will be realized. Sanctification is necessary to prepare us for the eternal state by restoring us to God’s image.

I suspect such stone hurling is here to stay. Jesus was misquoted.

21“Peter, seeing him, said to Jesus, “But Lord, what about this man?” 22Jesus said to him, “If I will that he remain till I come, what is that to you? You follow Me.” 23Then this saying went out among the brethren that this disciple would not die. Yet Jesus did not say to him that he would not die, but, “If I will that he remain till I come, what is that to you?” (John 21:21-23).

The apostle Paul was misrepresented. “8And why not say, “Let us do evil that good may come”?—as we are slanderously reported and as some affirm that we say. Their condemnation is just” (Romans 3:8).

It will probably happen to you.

The next time you look for a stone to hurl at the most despised dog in your world, you might just want to discern whether this dog might just be God’s dog. When the dog’s owner begins to retaliate, it might be unpleasant.

17
Jan
12

Straw Men Re: Lordship Salvation

I know I should no longer be surprised, but I can hardly believe that some people can be so insecure in their positions that they will not even post comments that disagree with them. I recently ran across a blog entitled “Notes From A Retired Preacher” at http://expreacherman.com. The owner of the blog styles himself as “Retired Pastor — 82 year old narrow-minded Conservative Christian.” I didn’t realize what a narrow-minded bigot he truly was until I submitted a number of comments to his blog that he simply refused to post. I wrote to him suggesting that perhaps it would be good if his readers considered an accurate statement of the “Lordship Salvation” doctrine instead of the straw man he was presenting. He neither answered me nor posted any of my several comments. I can only conclude that he knows he is unable to actually deal adequately with truth. It is far easier for him to quote partial verses and verses out of context to propound his untenable position.

This man states that those who teach “Lordship Salvation” deny that justification is through faith in Christ alone but that they teach a “works salvation.” What a prodigious misrepresentation! Since I suppose this old man is sincerely convinced of his position, I would not accuse him of deliberately lying about what others teach. He does, however, illustrate the quip that some people’s minds are like concrete–all mixed up and permanently set.

No one who believes in “Lordship salvation” teaches that the sinner’s repentance adds any merit to the finished work of Christ or that faith and repentance are the basis on which God justifies sinners. We all believe the basis of justification before God is the preceptive and penal obedience of Christ [i.e., his obedience to God’s law and his death under that law] which he accomplished for his people objectively during the period of his humiliation.

The real issue is whether Christ accomplished both the justification and sanctification of his people on the cross. We assert that he did. Over one hundred years ago, J. C. Ryle wrote,

He who supposes that Jesus Christ only lived and died and rose again in order to provide justification and forgiveness of sins for His people, has yet much to learn. Whether he knows it or not, he is dishonoring our blessed Lord, and making Him only a half Savior. The Lord Jesus has undertaken everything that His people’s souls require; not only to deliver them from the guilt of their sins by his atoning death, but from the dominion of their sins, by placing in their hearts the Holy Spirit; not only to justify them but also to sanctify them. He is, thus, not only their “righteousness” but their “sanctification.” (I Cor. 1:30).

Jesus said, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me, and I give unto them eternal life and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. . . .” (John 10:28). Why would anyone believe he is one of Christ’s sheep if he does not hear his voice and wish to follow him?

We do not teach that sinners must bring anything with them but their sins when they come to Christ for salvation. As Horatius Bonar wrote, “they [our sins] are the only thing we can truly call our own.” We do teach that we bring our sins to him that we might be saved from them [not just the penalty of them], not that we might continue in them.

13
Jan
12

Sanctification–How does it happen?

Everyone who believes the Bible should agree that sanctification is necessary in the lives of those whom God has justified. Of course, even this is a matter of controversy for those who hold the “Carnal Christian” doctrine. In our day, it seems that a matter of greater controversy is how sanctification is effected in the believer’s life. Is sanctification accomplished through faith or by mere obedience? Is it a work of the believer alone that results from the Spirit’s work of regeneration, a matter of cooperation between God and the believer, or is it God’s work alone, received through faith alone?

As you may have noticed, the pivotal word in the first question is the word “mere.” Of course, our obedience to Christ must come into play in the process of sanctification. The issue is whether the believer, as a mere matter of duty, grits his teeth and obeys or does he obey Christ as an act of faith? Is it that Jesus accomplished our justification, but we must attain our sanctification by our own efforts? Of course not! To seek sanctification by passively resting in the work of Christ living his life all over again in us is quietism. To seek sanctification by our own efforts severed from faith is legalism and moral-ism. That we are not sanctified by faith alone, as in justification, does not mean we are not sanctified by faith at all.

Professor John Murray, has done an excellent job explaining the relationship between the believer’s activity in sanctification and the supernatural activity of the of the Holy Spirit in that work. He wrote,

While we are constantly dependent upon the supernatural agency of the Holy Spirit, we must also take into account of the fact that sanctification is a process that draws within its scope the conscious life of the believer. The sanctified are not passive or quiescent in this process. Nothing shows this more clearly than the exhortation of the apostle: “Work out your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for his good pleasure” (Phil. 2: 12, 13). . .God’s working in us is not suspended because we work, nor our working suspended because God works. Neither is the relation strictly one of co-operation as if God did his part and we did ours so that the conjugation or coordination of both produced the required result. God works in us and we also work. But the relation is that because God works we work. All working out of salvation on our part is the effect of God’s working in us, not the willing to the exclusion of the doing and not the doing to the exclusion of the willing, but both the willing and the doing. And this working of God is directed to the end of enabling us to will and to do that which is well pleasing to him. . . .The more persistently active we are in working, the more persuaded we may be that all the energizing grace and power is of God.

There is no question there are times when obedience is difficult. It is not an easy matter to pluck out one’s right eye or cut off one’s right hand [please understand this metaphorically as Jesus intended it]. Walking by faith has never been easy. The reality is, such acts of mortification would not merely be difficult, they would be impossible apart from the Spirit’s enabling. If he did not grant us the desire and the ability please God, we would fail miserably. Apart from faith in the promises of God, we would be overcome by an earthbound sense of the here and now.

Sanctification By Faith

In reality, sanctification must be by faith since its goal is to please God. Hebrews 11: 6 informs us that, “without faith, it is impossible to please Him [God]. . . .” In fact, the entire chapter that has come to be known as “the faith chapter” deals with the obedience of Old Testament believers who, subsequent to believing God for justification, acted in obedience to God through faith.

How is it that believers are to account themselves truly dead to sin and alive to God if not by faith (Rom. 6:11)? How is it that believers are to feast on Christ, the true bread that came down from heaven, if not by faith (John 6:53-58)? Here, Jesus uses the present tense that indicates continuing action. The believer in Christ doesn’t eat once and then move on to his own efforts. He continues to feast on Christ as long as he lives. How are we to behold the Lord’s glory as in a mirror if not by faith (2 Cor. 3:18)? How are we to rest on God’s promises, and as a result prefect holiness in the fear of God, if not by faith (2 Cor. 7:1)? How are we to walk by the Spirit, if not by faith (Gal. 5:16)? Paul wrote, “For we walk [live our lives habitually] by faith not by sight” (2 Cor. 5:7). How are we to take up and put on the whole armor of God if not by faith (Eph. 6:11)? How can a person “joyfully accept the plundering of his goods, knowing that he has a better and enduring possession for himself in heaven,” if not by faith
(Heb. 10:34)?

To couch this issue in the words of the Apostle Paul, “Having begun in the Spirit, are you now being made perfect by the flesh (Gal. 3:3)? Of course, someone will object that the Apostle was talking in these words about justification, not about sanctification. Our answer is that these two are inextricably joined. If a person seeks to be sanctified by the flesh, the overwhelming evidence is that he has never been justified. Faith is not a one time decision, but an ongoing experience. To the Colossians Paul wrote, “As you have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him” (Col. 2:6). Whatever else this verse may teach, it should be clear that if we began by trusting God’s Anointed one, we must continue to live habitually in the same manner. J. C. Ryle wrote,

(3) For another thing, if we would be sanctified, our course is clear and plain—we must begin with Christ. We must go to Him as sinners, with no plea but that of utter need, and cast our souls on Him by faith for peace and reconciliation with God. We must place ourselves in His hands, as in the hands of a good physician and cry to him for mercy and grace. We must wait for nothing to bring with us as a recommendation. The very first step towards sanctification, no less than justification, is to come with faith to Christ. We must first live and then work.

(4) For another thing, if we would grow in holiness and become more sanctified, we must continually go on as we began, and ever be making fresh applications to Christ. He is the head from which every member must be supplied (Ephes. iv.16.) To live the life of daily faith in the Son of God, and to be daily drawing out of His fulness the promised grace and strength which He has laid up for His people—this is the grand secret of progressive sanctification.

In Galatians 2:20, Paul wrote, “I have been crucified with Christ; [that is, because of my union with him, I died when he died ] it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.”

He tells us he lives the life he now lives by faith in the Son of God [or if we take the genitive as a subjective genitive–by the faithfulness of Christ]. Either way, he indicates his life in the sanctification process is dependent on Christ, who loved him and gave himself for his. It seems not to matter to the apostle how long he has walked in grace, he never ventures far from the cross.

Some would suggest Paul was not writing about sanctification at all but about justification since in the context of this verse he is discussing justification. There are at least three reasons for rejecting this suggestion. First, it is difficult to imagine how anyone could think “the life I now live in the flesh” could be a reference a past declaration. It is true, the genuine believer does not lose his believing attachment to Christ and his confidence that he is right in God’s sight through the one who has given up his life for him. True believers never get over their justification. Still, what is now occurring in the believer’s life, is not justification but sanctification. Second, though the immediate context concerns the doctrine of justification, that is not its exclusive concern. In the immediately preceding verse, Paul wrote, “For I through the law died to the law that I might live to God.” Though others have taken a different view of this verse, I believe Paul is saying that since the penalty of the law was exacted on his substitute in whose death he died to the law, he is now free to live to God. Whatever view we may take of the verse, it is clear that the result regards Paul’s post conversion life, namely, his sanctification.

John Brown wrote,

By the law having had its full course so as to be glorified in the obedience to death of Him in whom I am, I am completely delivered from the law. The law has no more to do with me, and I have no more to do with it in the matter of justification. And this freedom from the law is at once necessary and effectual to my living a truly holy life—a life devoted to God,’ (Italics mine). What follows is explanatory of this thought, which was ever present to the mind of the apostle—`I consider myself as identified with the Lord Jesus Christ.’ “I am crucified with Christ.” I view myself as so connected with Christ, as that when he was crucified I was, as it were, crucified; and I am as much interested in the effects of that crucifixion as if I had undergone it myself. He, in being crucified, endured the curse, and I in Him endured it; so that I am redeemed from the law and its curse, He having become a curse for me.

Finally, the idea that Paul could not have been writing about sanctification is largely tied to the idea that the theme of this epistle is justification by faith. Though it is clear that this doctrine occupies an important place in this epistle, this theme is not sufficiently broad to encompass then entire epistle. It is generally accepted that the issue Paul was concerned about was the Judiazer’s insistence that Gentile believers be circumcised. The issue, then, concerns whether the law covenant continues or has been fulfilled and superseded by the New Covenant. The question seems to have concerned the evidence of saving faith. According to the Judaizers, faith in Christ was necessary, but if a person truly had faith, he would evidence it by compliance with the Old Covenant rite of circumcision. Paul argued that if a person submitted to the rite of circumcision, he was a debtor to keep the whole law. This would place the issue in the category of sanctification. Must a Gentile believer prove the reality of his faith by submitting to a covenant that was never intended for Gentiles? More specifically in this epistle, the question is whether Gentiles must be brought under the covenant that belonged to Abraham’s physical seed in order to receive the spiritual blessings promised to Abraham. Paul’s argument in Galatians three runs like this:

(1) Abraham’s seed will be blessed (vv.8,16),

(2) Christ is Abraham’s “seed” (v.16),

(3) You are “in Christ” (v.28),

(4) You are “Abraham’s seed” (v.29a)

(5) You are “heirs according to the promise” (29b).

Central to this argument is the believer’s union with Christ. Believers, Jews and Gentiles alike, receive the blessings promised to Abraham, not because they have basically embraced Judaism, but because they are in Christ. This union concerns not only the believer’s justification but also his sanctification, and it is by faith that we are united with Christ.

The possibility exists that those who have professed faith in Christ alone for justification may again retreat to their legalistic strongholds in which they persist in going about to establish their own righteousness. If there are any left on the planet who remember some of the older hymns, they will remember a line in one of them that reads, :”I dare not trust the sweetest frame, but wholly lean on Jesus’ name” There have been many who, though professing faith in Christ alone, have lived on their frames of mind, at times feeling accepted because of how they felt toward God and at times feeling rejected. What they needed was to get a firm grasp on how God feels toward them in Christ since that is in the final analysis what truly matters.

Spiritually, we human beings tend to be “do-it-yourself-ers.” It seems to be our nature to gravitate toward self-help programs. I believe it is for that reason even those who have professed faith in Christ need to be cautioned against the danger of trusting in the evidences of faith rather than the object of faith. This is not to say that the truly justified need to “maintain their justification.” If we have been justified, nothing can alter that divine declaration. Instead, it is that those who have once trusted in Christ alone for justification will go on trusting him alone for justification.

In the process of sanctification, the Scriptures call on us to strive, obey, mortify our sins, etc, but these acts of obedience are never to be thought of as forming any part of the basis of our right standing before God. If we begin to think of them in that way, we are guilty of becoming legalistic in our thinking and are in danger of condemnation. It was in this vein that Paul, the apostle, wrote to professing Christians, “if you are circumcised, Christ will profit you nothing.” Can a circumcised man get into heaven? I certainly hope so. Will any who, for their justification before God, trust, even slightly, in the reception of that rite be justified in God’s sight? Not a single one!

It is for this reason that we must be sanctified by faith. We must remind ourselves that God does not continue to smile on us judicially because we are so good, but because Christ is so good. Later, we will consider the question whether it is possible to be more or less pleasing to God in our relationship to him as our Father. Even in that relationship, we will find that all must be done by faith.

I ask then, is sanctification by faith or my mere obedience to Christ’s commands. Let me repeat, I am not questioning whether the sanctification process involves the believer’s obedience. Of course it does! My question is whether a so-called obedience that is not born of faith is what pleases God in the process of sanctification?

Sanctification by faith alone?

Are believers sanctified by faith alone in the same way we are justified by faith alone. Of course not! God has declared us righteous in his sight because he has imputed to us a righteousness which is not ours. In sanctification, he imparts grace to us, enabling us to produce a righteousness that is ours. In sanctification we are becoming what he declared us to be in justification. There is no true sanctification that does not employ the believer’s activity and obedience. That said, there may be an “obedience” that does not flow from a heart filled and overflowing with love for Christ, an overwhelming sense of gratitude for Christ’s redeeming work, or an eye to the promises of God, that is not sanctifying at all. I would never depreciate the believer’s responsibility to obey Christ’s commands, but biblical obedience is not merely a grit your teeth, grin and bear it knuckling under to Christ’s authority. True obedience is prompted by faith and hope and love.

Sanctification Alone By Faith

Perhaps we could say we are not sanctified by faith alone but we are sanctified alone [only] by faith. By this I mean any obedience that does not spring from faith is not the kind of obedience God desires.

Jesus told his disciples they could produce no spiritual fruit whatsoever apart from or severed from him (John 15:4-5). It was their responsibility to “abide” in him. But, what does it mean to abide in him? This term has often been used in a nebulous, mystical, ethereal sense that no one really seemed to be able accurately to define. But, it sounds so spiritual, doesn’t it? It helps to understand that the word translated “abide” simply means to remain. Jesus is telling them that they have a responsibility to remain in him? Someone is bound to ask, is not our continued union with Christ a sure thing? Is it not certain that if we have been once saved, we will be always saved no matter what? Dr. Lloyd-Jones once answered this question as follows, “Yes, but not when you put it like that.” This is like saying, “All God’s elect will be saved, no matter what they do.” Will all God’s elect be saved? Yes! Will they be saved if they do not believe the gospel? Never! It is the phrase, “no matter what they do” that is the problem. It is certain that God will enable them to believe and save them through faith in Christ. Once saved, you will always be saved, but you must be once saved to be always saved. Additionally, it is the character of the redeemed and regenerate people of God that they will persevere in faith and obedience to the end. Not only that, we need to understand that the certainty of our perseverance does not relieve us of the responsibility to persevere. It is that responsibility Jesus is emphasizing when he says, “Remain in me.”

Our responsibility to remain in Christ has at least three elements:

First, it is a heartfelt acknowledgment that just as a branch has no life in itself, we have no life in ourselves. If our concept of sanctification is that God has, in the work of regeneration, given us all that we need for a life of holiness apart from his continual prompting and assistance, we have badly misunderstood the Bible’s teaching. In regeneration, God implants a new governing principle in our souls, but he does not thereby enable us to will and act for his pleasure apart from his continual work in us. Apart from our vital union with Christ, we have no spiritual life at all. John Murray wrote,

We may not think of the Spirit as operative in us apart from the risen and glorified Christ. The sanctifying process is not only dependent upon the death and resurrection of Christ in its initiation; it is also dependent upon the death and resurrection of Christ in its continuance. It is by the efficacy and virtue which proceed from the exalted Lord that sanctification is carried on, and such virtue belongs to the exalted Lord by reason of his death and resurrection. It is by the Spirit that this virtue is communicated.

Second, it involves a growing consciousness of our inability to produce spiritual fruit on our own. Not only do we have no life in ourselves apart from his life; we have no spiritual ability apart from the ability he gives us. For that reason, we should never become proud of our progress in sanctification or of the spiritual fruit we have born since we know it is the fruit of the Spirit, not of our own efforts

Third, it involves a conscious, continued dependence on Christ to enable us to obey. If we have been united to him by faith, it is by faith that union is to continue. Jesus’ life on earth was one of constant dependence on his Father. In fact, Satan’s temptation consisted in the insidious suggestion that he act independently of the Father. That same temptation comes to us as we engage in the process of sanctification. If we are always aware that severed from him, we can do nothing, he will lead us to trust him for a positive result in the sanctification process.

Professor John Murray wrote,

It is imperative that we realize our complete dependence upon the Holy Spirit. We must not forget, of course, that our activity is enlisted to the fullest extent in the process of sanctification. But we must not rely on our upon our own strength of resolution or purpose. It is when we are weak that we are strong. It is by grace that we are being saved as surely as by grace we have been saved. If we are not keenly sensitive to our own helplessness, then we can make the use of the means of sanctification the minister of self-righteousness and pride and thus defeat the end of sanctification. We must rely not upon the means of sanctification but upon the God of all grace. Self-confident moralism promotes pride, and sanctification promotes humility and contrition.

If we have been united to him by faith, it must be by faith that union is to continue. The evidence that we remain in him is the transformation of our lives in conformity to his image. Or, to put it in terms of Jesus’ vineyard parable, the evidence that we remain in him is that we will bear much fruit.

Robert Traill wrote,

And simple as the old remedy for thirst may appear, it is the root of the inward life of all God’s greatest servants in all ages. What have the saints and martyrs been in every era of Church history, but men who came to Christ daily by faith, and found “His flesh meat indeed and His blood drink indeed?” (John vi. 55.) What have they all been but men who lived the life of faith in the Son of God, and drank daily out of the fulness there is in Him? (Gal. ii. 20.) Here, at all events, the truest and best Christians, who have made a mark on the world, have been of one mind. Holy Fathers and Reformers, holy Anglican divines and Puritans, holy Episcopalians and Nonconformists, have all in their best moments borne uniform testimony to the value of the Fountain of life. Separated and contentious as they may sometimes have been in their lives, in their deaths they have not been divided. In their last struggle with the king of terrors they have simply clung to the cross of Christ, . . . .

13
Jan
12

A Promise

I want to make you a promise. If you post a reasonable response to anything you find on this site, I intend to post it. As long as you don’t use profanity, or otherwise act in an unchristian manner, we will listen to what you have to say. Please expect my response to you to be direct and to the point. It may even seem harsh at times, but I won’t ignore you or pretend you didn’t post an opinion that was contrary to the management.