Archive for September, 2012

25
Sep
12

Drinking Kool-Aid with Paul Dohse

There are several blogs that identify themselves as “Discernment Ministries.” It is their clear belief that they can see things that no one else can see. They are able to parse statements and find in them meanings that even those who made those statements didn’t intend. My fear is that since there are actually many people who do lack discernment, these people will be successful in leading them into their false teachings and prodigious misrepresentations.

I dropped by a blog called “Paul’s Passing Thoughts” and was amazed not only by some of the comments but also by the host’s failure to respond to some of these comments with clear biblical arguments that would correct their errors. I would have left such comments had the host not banned any future comments from me. He has not singled me out. He bans anyone who begins to press him for actual quotations and who presents biblical arguments for which Paul has no answers.

I have hesitated to identify his blog by name because I didn’t want to dignify it unnecessarily, but I feel it is necessary to warn you of this “boar [perhaps I should say “bore”] out of the woods.”

The following is a post by a person who calls himself Argo:

Christ did not die to make us holy. Christ died because we were not holy. His sacrifice was the testimony of Gods mercy…in spite of our lack of our sin, the perfect sacrifice is why we can still be saved. Holiness is not a prerequisite for salvation…thus Christ did not die to make us holy. He died so we could be saved. There were no other motives. We are to be holy as evidence of our salvation and the Spirit’s power. Christ’s sacrifice has nothing to do with our “holiness” but everything to do with our lack thereof. Claiming that Jesus died “to make us Holy” is merely another way these Gnostics attempt to separate the believer from the Holy Spirit. If they ever concede that it is the Spirit which makes us holy, they understand that their “authority” blows away…that the believer first answers to God and conscience, not Kevin and his comrades. Jesus’s work on the cross is finished. And He may die so that the Spirit may come, but remember, the Spirit comes of His own accord, and does His own unique part. Holiness is thus by the power of the Holy Ghost, not Christ.”

Though this comment is egregiously erroneous, the statement itself didn’t bother me as badly as did the sinful silence of the blog’s owner, Paul M. Dohse Sr. One wonders if these people have ever read the New Testament Scripture. Statements like these not only betray a profound ignorance of theology and biblical truth but also a blood thirsty desire to denigrate those who are actually involved in the work of the gospel. One reason these people are so deluded is that they have selectively eliminated any opinions that disagree with theirs, then the three or four of them sit around the campfire, singing Kumbaya, and drinking Paul’s Kool-Aid. The views they express are so far out of the mainstream of biblical Christianity the sky isn’t even blue in their world.

At the risk of insulting the intelligence of someone reading here, I want to answer a few of these statements.

1. Two passages immediately leapt to my mind when I read, “Christ did not die to make us holy. Christ died because we were not holy. His sacrifice was the testimony of Gods mercy…in spite of our lack of our sin, the perfect sacrifice is why we can still be saved. Holiness is not a prerequisite for salvation…thus Christ did not die to make us holy. He died so we could be saved.” They are Ephesians 5:25-26 and Titus 2:11-14. Consider these passages with me.

Paul wrote in Ephesians 5:25-27,

Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.

These verses clearly have reference to Christ’s purpose in giving himself to die for the church. Verse twenty six begins with the words, “that he might sanctify her. . . .” Then, verse twenty-seven ends with the words, “that she might be holy and without blemish.” Both these clauses are “purpose clauses” They begin with a word translated “that” or “in order that” and express the purpose for that which preceded them. Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, IN ORDER THAT HE MIGHT SANCTIFY HER. Since the words “sanctify her” could rightly be translated “make her holy,” we may conclude that CHRIST DIED TO MAKE US HOLY.

The other passage is Titus 2:11-14:

For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.

Paul tells us without equivocation why Jesus Christ gave himself for us. What he gave himself to accomplish sounds a great deal like sanctification to me. He gave himself for us to redeem us (set us free) from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession.

2. The second observation I would make is that these people are woefully imprecise in their use of biblical and theological terms. Consider this statement. “Holiness is not a prerequisite for salvation…thus Christ did not die to make us holy. He died so we could be saved.” Aside from the fact that this statement makes very little sense, it is woefully vague in reference to the terms “saved” and “salvation.”

First, he states, “Holiness is not a prerequisite for salvation.” The reality is, holiness is salvation. It is this sense in which Paul used the word “salvation” in Romans 13:11, “. . .for salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed.” It is holiness for which God chose his people before the world began (see Eph. 1:4). God predestined his people to be conformed to the image of Christ (See Romans 8:29). God did not elect his people merely to forgive our sins, but to restore his image in us.

* Please see an extended comment below.

Then he states, “Christ did not die to make us holy. He died so we could be saved.” I suspect he meant, he died so we could be justified, but his imprecision renders his statement nonsensical. It is true, holiness is not a prerequisite for justification but justification is but one aspect of God’s great work of salvation. In reality, holiness is not a “prerequisite” for any aspect of salvation. It is the ultimate goal of God’s redemptive plan. The only prerequisite for salvation is that we be sinners, lost and without hope.

3. He wrongly bifurcates the ministries of Jesus and the Holy Spirit. He states,

Claiming that Jesus died “to make us Holy” is merely another way these Gnostics attempt to separate the believer from the Holy Spirit. If they ever concede that it is the Spirit which makes us holy, they understand that their “authority” blows away…that the believer first answers to God and conscience, not Kevin and his comrades. Jesus’s work on the cross is finished. And He may die so that the Spirit may come, but remember, the Spirit comes of His own accord, and does His own unique part. Holiness is thus by the power of the Holy Ghost, not Christ.

It is true that in the economy of redemption there are unique tasks performed by the members of the Trinity. The Father does not sacrifice himself for us. The Son does not call us. The Spirit does not choose us. It is also true that Jesus acted as the agent of the Father and the Spirit acts as the agent of the Father and the Son. Since this is true, it is correct to say that the Father is doing what the Son does and the Father and Son are doing what the Spirit does. “So Jesus said to them, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise” (John 5:19). The Spirit acts as “The Spirit of Christ.” Contrary to Argo’s statement, “the Spirit comes of His own accord . . . .” Jesus said, “”But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me” (John 15:26). Notice that not only does Jesus send the Spirit but also the Spirit “proceeds from the Father.” Additionally, notice also that the Spirit will “bear witness about” him. It is the Spirit’s ministry to speak for and reveal the Son just as it was the Son’s task to speak for and reveal the Father.
The Spirit does not “come of his own accord” to do his own thing. His work is to apply what the Father planned and the Son accomplished. Apart from the Son’s accomplishments, the Spirit would have nothing to apply. It is erroneous to suggest that since that it is the Spirit’s ministry to make us holy, Jesus couldn’t not have died to make us holy.

4. The reference he makes to “these Gnostics” is merely a mindless parroting of Paul Dohse’s assertion that Calvinists are followers of the Gnostic heresy that emerged in the middle of the second Century. No one who has studied the teachings of the Gnostics could take this charge seriously. Paul has somehow convinced himself that he is the great seer and defender of the faith who discerns what no one else can see. Intelligent people can’t see it because it isn’t there.

It is time for Paul to actually show a bit of discernment, begin to do a bit of exegetical spade work to find out what the Scriptures actually teach, and stop his attacks on those who are actually doing the work of the gospel.

*I would be so bold as to suggest that making the elect holy was not simply one purpose of Christ’s redemptive work; it was the primary purpose of that redemptive work. Justification, though absolutely essential to this long range purpose, is but one step toward that ultimate goal. Why and how is justification essential to God’s work of restoring his image (the ultimate goal of sanctification) in his elect people? The answer is simple. People who feel guilty don’t draw near to God, they run from him. People who feel guilty don’t love God. People who feel guilty don’t worship God. Guilty people will never progress in sanctification. This is how justification relates to sanctification. It is not that sanctification in any way adds to our meritorious righteousness in God’s presence, (the only meritorious righteousness we possess is the righteousness of Christ) but that having been declared righteous in God’s sight, there is no obstacle blocking our free access into his presence.

There are two approaches to sanctification, one biblical, the other unbiblical and unsuccessful. These two approaches are illustrated by a passage in the Epistle to the Hebrews. Please understand that I am not suggesting that we should ignore any aspect of this passage. The issue is whether we should emphasize one aspect of the passage almost to the exclusion of the other. There verses I have in mind read as follows:

For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account. Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. (Hebrews 4: 12-16).

Wow! The first part of that passage is tough. How many of us have heard this part of the passage preached with such fervor that we felt we were sitting directly under Mt. Sinai with lightening crashing all around us. “No creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give an account.” What a fearful and searching text. We dare not detract from the gravity of these words. We must live all of life with the intense consciousness that God sees and knows us completely.

The other part of the passage reminds us we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens and has been accepted at God’s throne. This one is a sympathizing priest who is touched with the feeling of our weaknesses.

I am convinced, especially since I was at one time of this mind set, that there are those who believe they can keep people from sin by making them feel as guilty as possible. If you make people feel as if God is going to get them if they get out of line, they will be motivated to obedience. The first part of this passage as a major soul searcher. What a great passage to use for crowd control.

My question is, which part of this passage is followed by these words, “Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need”?

He doesn’t say, “Everything about us, our thoughts, words, and deeds, are exposed to the one to whom we must give an account, let us, therefore, draw near to the throne of grace . . . .” That doesn’t work very well, does it? To quote the words of a song that was popular a few years ago, “. . . guilty feet have got no rhythm.”

We must never fail to focus on the truth that we must give an account to a God who knows our most secret thoughts, words and deeds. That is reality. But, we must never allow ourselves to focus on that truth without also remembering that we have a great priest who represents us before the throne and whose presence there secures our acceptance.

Justification is not salvation; it is a means to an end.

24
Sep
12

Unfounded Statements about Sabbath Keeping.

I just read the following statement from D. L. Moody that illustrates how so much error has been allowed to continue in the church:

The Sabbath was binding in Eden, and it has been in force ever since. The fourth commandment begins with the word remember, showing that the Sabbath already existed when God wrote this law on the tables of stone at Sinai. How can men claim that this one commandment has been done away with when they will admit that the other nine are still binding?

Few seem to question statements like this, but instead, well-meaning but misguided people continue to perpetuate ideas like this by repeating them without examination. Consider these statements with me one by one, and ask yourself whether you could support them with plain and unambiguous texts of Scripture.

1. “The Sabbath was binding in Eden, and it has been in force ever since.”

If the Sabbath was binding in Eden, then God must have commanded Adam and Eve to “observe the Sabbath” by ceasing from their normal activity on a day he had sanctified. I have searched the early chapters of Genesis trying to find that commandment. In reality, God’s rest from his creating activity on the seventh day was an ongoing rest. All the activity in which he is now involved, which, by the way, was not suspended on the seventh day in which he rested from his creative activity, involves his work of providence, in which he governs all his creatures and all their actions. He has not ceased to rest from his work of creation. Though he has ceased from one activity, he is very active in another. I can’t find any command for Adam and Eve to enter into that rest.

So, perhaps you can help me find the verse which “bound” Adam and Eve to keep the Sabbath in the garden.

You might also want to ask from what Adam was to rest since he was never involved in arduous
labor until after he fell into sin. Earning his bread by the sweat of his brow was part of the curse that resulted from his sin.

Additionally, why is it that in the thousands of years that passed between Eden and Sinai do we not find a single commandment to observe the Sabbath or hear of anyone who was condemned for failing to observe it?

If it is still binding, why is there not a single commandment in the New Testament Scriptures for new covenant believers to observe it? One would think that such an important commandment would be mentioned at least once. No such commandment exists.

2. “The fourth commandment begins with the word remember, showing that the Sabbath already existed when God wrote this law on the tables of stone at Sinai.”

This does not take into account the fact that there are occasions when the word “remember” is forward looking. For example, when Moses was instructing the Israelites concerning the feast of unleavened bread, he said to them before they ever left Egypt, “Remember this day in which you came out of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. . . .(Exo. 13:3). When he spoke these words, they were still in Egypt. Would anyone argue that this exodus had already occurred because Moses told them to “remember” it?

3. “How can men claim that this one commandment has been done away with when they will admit that the other nine are still binding?”

The answer to this question is simple. The fourth commandment was the ceremonial sign of the Old Covenant (see Exo. 31:17). It was intended to endure as long as the covenant endured of which it was the sign. Since the Old Covenant has been superceded by the New Covenant, the Old Covenant sign, the Sabbath, has been superceded by the New Covenant sign, the communion cup. In addition to this, the other nine commandments are repeated as a part of Christ’s law; the Sabbath commandment is not.

The Jewish Sabbath pointed to two Old Testament events, both of which pointed forward to the redemptive work of Christ. One was God’s completion of creation (Exo. 20: 9-11) and finds its fulfillment in Jesus’ establishment of the New Creation. The other was God’s deliverance of the children of Israel from Egyptian bondage (Deut 5:15), a type of the our deliverance from sin’s bondage. Both these types find their fulfillment in Christ, the New Covenant believer’s “Sabbath rest.”

22
Sep
12

Milk or Meat?

This morning I read a post over at 5ptSalt contrasting “the Fallacy” of New Calvinism, ““The Gospel is the A-Z of Christianity,” with “the Truth.” The blog owner, Joel Taylor, cited two passages from the book of Hebrews as his proof-texts that Christians need to move away from the gospel.

Therefore leaving the elementary teaching about the Christ, let us press on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, of instruction about washings and laying on of hands, and the resurrection of the dead and eternal judgment. – Hebrews 6:1 (emphasis Joel’s).

For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you have need again for someone to teach you the elementary principles of the oracles of God, and you have come to need milk and not solid food. For everyone who partakes only of milk is not accustomed to the word of righteousness, for he is an infant. – Hebrews 5:12-13 (emphasis Joel’s).

I left the following comments:

I don’t recall receiving instructions about “washings and the laying on of hands” [I found it interesting that Joel didn’t emphasize that part of the verse] when I first became a believer. Are you sure this is a reference to the Christian gospel? And, are you sure the gospel only involves “milk?” The message the writer wants to teach is the message of Melchizedek. That message is clearly “gospel” but it is anything but milk.

If the writer’s teaching on Melchizedek and that which grows out of it isn’t “meat,” how would you identify spiritual meat? Yet, I can’t imagine more gospel drenched teaching than that found in Hebrews 7-11, can you?

I am certain the only reason Joel hasn’t posted my comments is simply that he has been too busy.

In my view, only an erroneous view or an unnecessarily narrow view [That would make it an erroneous view] of the gospel would prompt a person to deny that believers continue to need the gospel. Whenever a beleiver sins, he needs to be aware of at least two truths– 1. Based on God’s promise to forgive believers, he needs to be aware that God is faithful, and 2. Based on the redemptive work of Christ, he needs to be aware that God is just to forgive his sins.

The reality is, apart from the cross, God could not be just in forgiving our sins. I understand that the verse I referenced above, 1 John 1:9, refers to the believer’s restoration to fellowship with God upon his confession of sin, but this does not negate the fact that the promise of the verse relates directly to the gospel.

I am interested in your comments on this issue. I would especially like to hear what you think about the following questions:

1. Since the “meat” the writer to the Hebrews was interested in teaching concerned Melchizedek (See Hebrews 5:10-11), do you think his teaching about Melchizedek in Heb. 7 is unrelated to the gospel, specifically to the priesthood of Christ? It seems to me, the truth that “he is able to save completely those who come to God by him, seeing he everlives to make intercession for them” (7:25), is really good news [gospel].

2. If the teaching of this writer in the remainder of this Epistle should not be considered “meat,” what teachings of Scripture do you think would qualify as “meat”? I am not suggesting there are not other doctrines not included in these chapters that are also to be considered “meat” and not “milk.” My question is what makes these doctrines any more “meaty” that the doctrines in the Epistle to the Hebrews.

3. Do you believe the teachings of the Epistle to the Hebrews are without “gospel” relevance?

12
Sep
12

A Debased Mind.

I want to beg the indulgence of those who visit our site from outside the United States for a bit and address events that occurring in the Presidential campaign in the States.

Given the deplorable state of the U. S. economy and the woeful void of leadership in matters of foreign policy, pundits are scratching their heads, wondering how the Presidential race could be in a dead heat. Just last night, our ambassador to Lybia was assassinated and our current “leader” doesn’t seem to have the intestinal fortitude to react with swift force. I couldn’t help remembering the “war of Jenkin’s ear” between England and Spain that was precipitated by the severing of an ear from Robert Jenkin, the captain of a British merchant ship. It should not go unnoticed that last night’s heinous act occurred on the eleventh anniversary of yet another day that will live in infamy when a group of religious thugs flew planes into the world trade center and the Pentagon. It seems to escape our President that an attack on our embassy is not “a crime” but an act of war against our nation. We should not forget that in the middle eastern mind-set, there is a solidarity between the individual and the society in which he lives. One man’s guilt is the guilt of the society as a whole.

Common sense would dictate that it is time for a new leader, but common sense isn’t so common any more. Why is it that the Presidential race is still so tight?

I believe the answer is found in Romans chapter one. Paul wrote, “And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done” (Romans 1:28).

If we argue that the desire to protect human life is extreme and advocating the murder of babies who are in the process of being born isn’t extreme, we clearly have a debased mind.

This morning I read a passage in Luke’s Gospel that was eerily similar to events that occurred at the Democratic National Convention last week. No one seemed to be able to explain why the word “God” was omitted from the Party Platform. In my view, that omission was far less significant than what followed. Scrambling to try to correct the omission, the delegates were asked to decide whether the word “God” should be included in a document that ostensibly reflected the values of the Party. The matter required a two/thirds majority of the delegates voting. It was clear to everyone watching that the vote was evenly divided at best. The moderator tried three times to procure the desired result that had already been written for him. The loud response of half the delegates was, “we do not see fit to acknowledge God!” This should come as no surprise. The Progressives [a euphemism for liberals] in our country have been on a campaign to vote God out for decades.

Look at the Luke passage I read this morning,

But they all cried out together, “Away with this man, and release to us Barabbas”- a man who had been thrown into prison for an insurrection started in the city and for murder. Pilate addressed them once more, desiring to release Jesus, but they kept shouting, “Crucify, crucify him!” A third time he said to them, “Why, what evil has he done? I have found in him no guilt deserving death. I will therefore punish and release him.” But they were urgent, demanding with loud cries that he should be crucified. And their voices prevailed. So Pilate decided that their demand should be granted (Luke 23:18-24).

Notice that Pilate tried three times for a different result, then gave in to the will of the people [talk about leading from behind].

The will of the people was to crucify the Lord of glory. I believe if half the delegates at the Democratic Convention had their way, they would drag God from his throne and trample him underfoot. No wonder people don’t have the “common sense” to make proper decisions.

11
Sep
12

Who is that Guy in Romans Seven?

During one of our “discussions” last week that had nothing to do with the conent and primary purpose of the post, a question was asked about Romans 7 and the believer. I would like briefly to state my view of that passage and its primary teaching.

I want to confess, first, that my view is out of the mainstream. Additionally, it is a view that I do not share in common with some very good friends. The passage is a difficult one and no one view of it answers all of the problems it presents. If you would like a fuller treatment of the view I am going to set forth here, I would suggest a careful study of Douglas Moo’s commentary on Romans.

To give some context to this pericope, remember that Paul’s overall argument beginning in Romans five and concluding in Romans eight, is the certainty of the believer’s glorification. He has argued that those who have been declared righteous in Christ now have a new relationship with God (5:1-11). We are no longer his enemies under his wrath but his reconciled friends. We now have a new representative before God (5:12-19). Just as Adam, the representative head of the old creation guaranteed, by his disobedience, the condemnation of all who are in him, so the last Adam, Christ, guaranteed, by his obedient life and death, the justification and final glorification of all in him. This is true because the believer’s final glorification in no way depends on his covenant faithfulness but on the covenant faithfulness of his representative. Then, the apostle argues that believers have been transferred from the reign and realm of sin (that belonging to the old creation where sin abounded) into the reign and realm of grace (the new creation and the new covenant that secures its blessings and in which grace super-abounds). The apostle’s clear implication in this entire chapter is that there is nothing whatsoever the true believer in Christ can do to forfeit his new standing in Christ. It is not about what he can do, has done, or shall ever do. It is all about what Christ has done in his place.

“Aha!” Says the legalist. “ I knew you believed it was OK for believers to continue in sin. I knew you were an Antinomian.” Paul asks, “Shall we continue in sin so that grace might abound?” Then answers, “May it never be!” In the first eleven verses of the chapter six, there is not a single imperative [command]. It is not about what believers are supposed to do but about what has been accomplished for believers because we are united to Christ. In God’s reckoning, believers died to the reign of sin when Christ died. We now belong to a realm in which there is a new king and sin no longer reigns. It is not until verse eleven that the apostle begins to urge commands based on the redemptive accomplishments described in the first ten verses. The thrust of these exhortations is, you are no longer a slave to sin, stop acting like a slave. You don’t have to obey sinful impulses any longer. Then, he sums up the section by stating, “For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace” (v. 14).

I suggest that whatever view one takes of Romans seven must be conditioned by the truth stated in 6:14. That verse prompted another objection, “What then, are we to sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means!” (V. 15). In the process of answering that objection, the apostle tells his readers that, in Christ, we not only died to sin, but we also died to the law. Since we died to the law, the law can no longer have anything to say to us. It cannot condemn us. It cannot make us feel guilty. If I should get drunk, drive my car into a bus load of people, killing most of them, but in the accident killed myself, though absolutely guilty, I could not be charged with any crime. Dead people are free from the law, can’t be charged and feel no guilt. Here is what Paul wrote, “ Likewise, my brothers, you also have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another, to him who has been raised from the dead, in order that we may bear fruit for God. For while we were living in the flesh, our sinful passions, aroused by the law, were at work in our members to bear fruit for death. But now we are released from the law, having died to that which held us captive, so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the written code” (Romans 7:4-6). It is this last phrase that encapsulates Paul’s teaching in the later part of Romans seven and the first section of Romans eight.

Throughout the remainder of chapter seven, Paul describes what it was like for a believer, (perhaps he describes his own experience) under the Law, the written code. Though such a believer delighted in the Law [not only the words of the covenant, the ten commandments, but the entire Old Testament revelation], there was nothing in that revelation to enable him to please God. That he uses the present tense, to me, seems to indicate that he stands on New Covenant ground, looks back, and describes what it was like to live under the written code

The fairly consistent Reformed position on this passage is that Paul was describing the experience of the most mature believer in his struggle against sin, probably in an autobiographical way. As he examines himself in the light of the Law, the Ten Commandments, the believer finds himself failing to please God in every attempt he makes. It appears to me, this view fails to take into account the words quoted above re: those in Christ, “But now we are released from the law, having died to that which held us captive. . . .so that we serve. . .not in the old way of the written code.” These are the words of the ESV. If you prefer the KJV, no problem. Read it there. The meaning is exactly the same.

It also fails to take into account Paul’s teaching elsewhere. Think of Romans 6:14,“For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.” The man in Romans is not a believer who falls and fails from time to time; he strikes out every time he comes up to bat.
He is not one who, in the words of the hymn writer is “tempted, tried, and sometimes failing.” He fails every time he is tried. Read his description:

For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. [Paul wrote to the Philippians, “it is God who works in you not only to will but to do for his good pleasure,” In other words, New Covenant believers have not only the will to be obedient to what is right but also the ability to carry it out]. 19 For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing [In chapter six he had argued that it is not possible for believers to continue in sin. This guy “keeps on doing what is evil.] 20 Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. 21 So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. 22 For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, 23 but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive [the believer is not captive to sin any longer, see again 6:14. Being under the dominion of sin and being held captive to the law of sin are the same] to the law of sin that dwells in my members.

Paul describes believers as “more than conquerors, through him who loved us (Romans 8:37). Does the passage we have just read sound to you like a description of one who is “more than a conqueror” or one who is continually defeated?

In chapter eight, the apostle describes the life of the New Covenant believer. That is, he describes what it is like to live “in the new way of the Spirit.” In Paul’s theology, the ministry of the Spirit replaces the ministry of the Law and produces the fruit the law could not produce.

Consider God’s promise of a New Covenant [the New Covenant is contrasted with the Old Covenant, the Law]:

I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules (Ezek. 36: 25-27).

Since this has already run longer than I intended, I will have to write on the NT teaching about “regeneration” in another blog. For now, I simply ask you to consider the words of this promise. It promises that God will put his Spirit within the heirs of the covenant and CAUSE YOU TO WALK IN MY STATUTES. . .” The greatest blessing of the New Covenant is the new ministry of the Holy Spirit. This is another subject that will require much more explanation.

Please read Romans seven and eight in contrast with one another. I think you will see my point.

Let me make a few things plain before I close this post. It would not be helpful to leave anyone with the opportunity to misunderstand what I am saying more than is almost certain to occur:

1. I do not think believers can accomplish anything in the spiritual realm on their own.

2. I reject out of hand the idea that Romans seven describes the “carnal Christian” [an animal that doesn’t exist] and Romans eight describes the spiritual Christian [this is redundant since every believer in indwelt by the Spirit and a “Spiritual man” is a man indwelt by the Spirit.

3. I do not deny that the Christian life is a battle, a struggle, a grueling warfare, in which believers sometimes fail and grow weary.

4. I do not think the believer’s obedience will ever be meritorious and sufficient to declare him righteous before God, but believers may perform actions that please our Father.

5. Believers do not remain in the same spiritual condition we were in when the Savior found us. Believers do make progress in sanctification.

10
Sep
12

The Sinner’s Responsibility to Believe

This morning I received the following question from a friend who has recently been exposed to the doctrines of God’s sovereignty in the salvation of sinners:

“Could you address what unbelief a non-elect person (from the foundation of the world) is condemned to hell for when Christ did not die for him? He can not be condemned for not believing in the shed blood of the cross (the Gospel) as this in no way applies to him. I see this as problematic in the total acceptance of Calvin’s position.”

I thought it might be helpful to post his question and my answer here for your consideration. His question raises important issues in the debate between Calvinists and Arminians. What are sinners responsible to believe? If the design of Christ’s death was not to redeem all sinners but only those who were given him in God’s decree of election, why are they responsible to believe the gospel? Or, are they responsible to believe the gospel? Is the good news for sinners, “Jesus died for you,” or Jesus died for sinners who will believe the gospel?

The following was my answer to my friend. I hope you will find it thought and discussion provoking.

There are several presuppositions that must be discarded before one can understand the answer to this question.

1. that people only become condemned because a rememedy has been provided for sinners. Ask what would be the situation if God had permitted Adam’s fall into sin and no remedy had been provided. Would those who were fallen in Adam still be condemned? I believe the answer would clearly be Yes.

2. that condemnation results from a person’s refusal to believe that Christ died for him particularly. The warrant of faith is not that a person is chosen by God or that Christ died for a person particularly, but that Christ died for the most ungodly sinner who will repent and believe. Additionally, it is not to a Savior on a cross that the gospel points sinners but to an exalted Savior on a throne. It is the sinner’s responsiblity to bow to his sovereign authority. Sinners are condemned for failure to do so.

3. that it is not for sins but for the lone sin of unbelief that sinners are condemned. In Ephesians 5:3-6, after having listed a series of sins, the apostle says it is because of “these things” God’s wrath comes on the children of disobedience. God’s wrath does not come on sinners because they fail to believe that Jesus died for them. His wrath comes on them because they continue outside the shelter. John says in chapter three of his gospel that sinners “stand condemned” [the tense of the verb indicates that they have been condemned and therefore continue in a state of condemnation], because they have not believed. It is not that their unbelief is the only sin that condemns them, but that since they have not believed they continue under the condemnation of all their other sins.

I think the presupposition we have to begin with, based on the clear teaching of Scripture, is that had God created Adam and permitted him to fall, then had done nothing to remedy the effects of the fall [guilt and depravity] Adam would still have been responsible and guilty. It is not God’s redemptive activity that renders anyone responsible or not responsible, but the sinner’s own rebellion. The clear call of the gospel is that whoever wants to may come. God has no responsibility to cause anyone to want to. If all perished in sin, God would be just.

One additional question I would ask would be, if sinners are only responsible and therefore condemned for not believing in the shed blood of the cross, how and why are sinners condemned who never hear the gospel? Yet, Paul wrote in Romans 1 that from the light of creation people are without excuse because they have not been grateful to and glorifed the God of creation. What God has done or not done beyond that revelation, has nothing to do with whether sinners are responsible or not. The sinner’s refusal to believe the gospel merely aggravates that condemnation (see Matt 11:20-26).

In addition to what I wrote him, if sinners are only responsible for rejecting the news that Jesus died for them, it would be better not to preach the gospel to sinners who have never heard. If they don’t know Jesus died, they can’t be held accountable for not believing in him. I don’t think anyone who has read the New Testament Scriptures could ever believe such a doctrine

02
Sep
12

Vote for Liberty!

President Gerald Ford said before a joint session of Congress

“A government big enough to give you everything you want is a government big enough to take from you everything you have.” Similarly, Thomas Jefferson said, “”The natural progress of things is for liberty to yield, and government to gain ground.” – Thomas Jefferson to Edward Carrington, Paris, 27 May 1788.

The U.S. Government has grown far beyond its reasonable limits. As a result, we are a people held captive by governmental powers. If we continue on our present path, the bondage will only grow worse. It matters not to me what political party you support; what matters to me is the preservation of our freedoms as Americans. If we continue on our current path, I can promise you we will be less free, not more free or even as free has we have been.

Do you want more government or the preservation of freedom? I, for one, intend to vote for freedom. I hope you will join me.