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Why the Question?

It is not uncommon to hear or read comments from those who adhere to the “free grace” view to the effect that “Lordship” teachers advocate salvation based on human works. To them, it is clear that those who believe some level of obedience to Christ is certain to follow genuine conversion simply add the necessity of good works for salvation to the back end of the Christian experience.

The question this raises is whether it is biblically accurate to state that salvation is apart from works. Do those who insist that Christ must be received in all his offices as God’s Anointed One believe that salvation is based, even in part, on the believer’s works of obedience to him? As we have seen, the answer is an unqualified No! That should be clear to anyone who makes the effort to investigate their views carefully. Yet, to anyone who understands the issues, such a declaration does not answer the question posed here. The issue is not whether a person’s works either before or after conversion form any part of the foundation for his justification before God but whether the faith and repentance God produces in his chosen people are sterile so that they produce no fruit for sanctification? The Scriptures are unequivocal in their answer to this question. Though justification before God is altogether apart from works, God’s overall work of salvation is not apart from works at all. Justification by faith alone is only one facet of God’s overall salvific work.

One must be careful when talking about God’s saving work to be precise about the aspect of that work to which he is referring. It has become all too common, even among people who have been trained in evangelical institutions, to refer to salvation in such a way as to confuse one work of God with another. Many give little effort to an examination of biblical contexts to discover in which sense a writer is using the word “salvation.” It is exceedingly important to distinguish between justification and sanctification in discussions such as this one. Justification does not involve a sinner’s good works at all; sanctification does.

One of the errors of “free-grace” advocates is to apply what the New Testament Scriptures teach about justification to sanctification. Perhaps it will be helpful to the reader if we reproduce the comments of J. C. Ryle about the differences between justification and sanctification. He wrote,

(a) Justification is the reckoning and counting a man to be righteous for the sake of another, even Jesus Christ the Lord. Sanctification is the actual making a man inwardly righteous, though it may be in a very feeble degree.

(b) The righteousness we have by our justification is not our own, but the everlasting perfect righteousness of our great Mediator Christ, imputed to us, and made our own by faith. The righteousness we have by sanctification is our own righteousness, imparted, inherent, and wrought in us by the Holy Spirit, but mingled with much infirmity and imperfection.

(c) In justification our own works have no place at all, and simple faith in Christ is the one thing needful. In sanctification our own works are of vast importance and God bids us fight, and watch, and pray, and strive, and take pains, and labour.

(d) Justification is a finished and complete work, and a man is perfectly justified the moment he believes. Sanctification is an imperfect work, comparatively, and will never be perfected until we reach heaven.

(e) Justification admits of no growth or increase: a man is as much justified the hour he first comes to Christ by faith as he will be to all eternity. Sanctification is eminently a progressive work, and admits of continual growth and enlargement so long as a man lives.

(f) Justification has special reference to our persons, our standing in God’s sight, and our deliverance from guilt. Sanctification has special reference to our natures, and the moral renewal of our hearts.

(g) Justification gives us our title to heaven, and boldness to enter in. Sanctification gives us our meetness [fitness] for heaven, and prepares us to enjoy it when we dwell there.

(h) Justification is the act of God about us, and is not easily discerned by others. Sanctification is the work of God within us, and cannot be hid in its outward manifestation from the eyes of men (Ryle, 1952).

Is salvation apart from works? It should be clear that the answer depends on whether one is talking about justification or sanctification. Does justification before God require any works of obedience on the part of repenting sinners? Not at all. In fact, any attempt to offer God any obedience at all as the ground of our acceptance before him amounts to an act of unbelief and rebellion against him.

Does sanctification, of necessity, involve the believer’s works of obedience to Christ? Absolutely, since that is the very nature of sanctification itself. The Scriptures everywhere forbid us to trust ourselves, but they never forbid us to exert ourselves in the pursuit of holiness. Paul was clearly speaking accurately when he told King Agrippa that he preached to sinners “that they should repent and turn to God and do [practice] works that are commensurate [the word Greek word means to be worthy or to weigh the same thing] with repentance” (see Acts 26:20). Was he adding works to faith as the basis of justification? Of course, not! He could not be clearer in his teaching about justification by grace alone and through faith alone. Still, it should be clear that he expected those who had professed repentance to act in accordance with that profession by practicing works of obedience to God. Though these works of obedience can have nothing to do with meriting a righteous standing before God, they are nonetheless a necessary evidence of the reality of conversion. Salvation would not be salvation without them. A presumed salvation that produces no change in a person’s life is not the salvation about which the apostles preached.

Works of obedience to Christ have no merit for justification but their evidentiary value in demonstrating the reality of God’s work in a person’s heart should not be disputed. As Spurgeon quaintly stated the issue, “What is down in the well is going to come up in the bucket.”

A Pivotal Passage

It is likely that there is no more important passage in the New Testament Scriptures dealing with this issue than James two, verses fourteen and following. Some have even imagined that some discord existed between Paul and James since Paul clearly taught that justification before God is through faith alone, yet James asked, “Can faith save him?”

How can one reasonably reconcile these two teachings? The answer is Paul and James are answering two different questions. We would not expect the same answer to the question, “What are the effects of water?” as we would to the question, “What is the chemical composition of water?” Both are about water but the answers would be decidedly different because the questions are different. Paul was answering one question, and James was answering another question altogether. The question Paul was answering concerned the manner in which God declares sinner’s righteous in his sight. Does God declared sinners righteous in his sight based on their works of obedience to the Law or through faith alone, in Christ alone?  His answer was unequivocal. “Therefore we conclude that a man is justified through faith and apart from works of the Law” (Romans 3:28).

The question James was answering concerned the nature of genuine faith. It concerned what kind of faith is effectual in uniting sinners to Christ. Pay attention to his introductory question. “What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him” (James 2:14)? In the original text, the word “faith” is preceded by the definite article and refers to the kind of faith he has just mentioned, i.e., a faith that is not accompanied by works.  His question is not, “Can faith saved him?” but “Can that [kind of] faith [a faith that does not produce works] save him?” His answer is an unequivocal “no!”

When he later writes about Abraham being justified by his works in his offering of his son (see verse 21), he is writing about an event that occurred years after God had declared him righteous in his sight through faith in his promise. James was not speaking about that initial event but about Abraham’s faith being vindicated by his obedience. It is the nature of genuine faith to vindicate itself by producing obedience.

Concerning James’ teaching in these verses, Thomas Manton has written the following helpful comment,


In this whole discourse the apostle shows not what justifies but who is justified; not what faith does, but what faith is. The context does not show that faith without works does not justify, but that assent without works is not faith.


James vs. Paul?


The only question that remains is whether James and Paul were actually in disagreement on this issue. Although I could appeal to several passages that show their complete agreement on the issue, I will confine myself to one verse in Galatians five where Paul was writing about what now has value before God. In verse six he wrote, “For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but faith working through love.” The faith he describes is a working faith. The word translated “working” refers to active, energetic and effective accomplishment. It should be clear that he knew nothing of a mere profession that produced no loving obedience to God. Genuine faith is active, energetic and effective in producing its effects in believers.




After a careful examination of these issues, it seems it would be impossible to conclude that salvation in the broad view is apart from works. Though we must stridently assert that God declares sinners righteous in his sight apart from a scintilla of obedience on the part of the sinner, we must nonetheless assert with equal stridency that a mere mental assent to propositional truth that produces no loving obedience to God is not the faith through which God declares sinners righteous in his sight.



God’s Message to You #2

The Problem of Pardon

If you have read in the Sacred Scriptures, about the pardon God freely promises to sinners who repent and believe, you might be wondering how the God who reveals himself in those Scriptures can make such a promise. If you have read those Scriptures carefully, you know that God has revealed himself as a holy and righteous judge who will never declare the guilty to be righteous. For example, In Exodus 34:7 He describes himself as the one who will by no means clear the guilty”. And yet, the apostle Paul calls him the God “who justifies the ungodly” (Romans 4:5), and David described the blessedness of the man to whom God imputes righteousness apart from works (see Romans 4:6-7) when he wrote, “Blessed is the man to whom the LORD does not impute iniquity” (Psalms 32:2).

The Bible does not teach that God infuses grace to sinners to enable them to become sufficiently righteous in themselves for God to declare them righteous. What these Scriptures are teaching is that God declares them righteous when they can claim no righteousness of their own.  He justifies [declares righteous] the ungodly. Paul wrote that sinners are “justified freely [this word means without cause, i.e., there is no cause in the sinner] by his grace” (Romans 3:24). This presents a great problem. How can God be righteous and at the same time declare guilty sinners who believe his promise to be righteous in his sight?

God’s Solution to the Problem

This is the problem that the redemptive work of Christ has solved. Notice that Romans 3:24 states that this free justification is “through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.” What the apostle was teaching in Romans 3 is that God has satisfied his own demands in the sacrifice of his Son. He wrote, “. . .whom God has exhibited publicly as a propitiation in his blood [sacrificial death] through faith, to declare his righteousness. . .that he might be just and at the same time, the justifier of those who believe [put their trust] in Jesus” (Romans 3:25-26).

The gospel tells us of a great exchange. In 2 Corinthians 5:21 Paul wrote, “For he [God] has made him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.”  He did not mean that Jesus actually became a sinner or that we actually become righteous as the basis of our justification. What he meant is that God has treated Jesus as if he were a sinner so that he might treat us as if we were righteous. He not only took the believer’s punishment for sin; he took the believer’s guilt. God judicially abandoned Jesus on the cross, so that believers might be judicially accepted in his presence. Concerning this great exchange, Isaiah wrote concerning his redemptive work for all who will trust God’s promise of pardon,

He was wounded for our transgressions; he was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon him, and by his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned, every one, to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all (Isaiah 53:5-6).

God is calling you now to trust his promise of pardon. This same Jesus who was crucified, has risen from the grave as evidence that the Father has been satisfied with his redemptive sacrifice. He now sits enthroned as the full embodiment of all his redemptive accomplishments. He has full power and authority to rescue and restore all who come to the Father through him. You need no other merit or righteousness but his merit and righteousness. The Scripture says, “Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men whereby we must be saved” (Acts. 4:12)   He is ready and willing to save you not only from the guilt and penalty of your sins but from the oppressive power of your sins. All he requires of you is that you trust him to save you. This is his promise to sinners—“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you shall find rest for your souls” (Matt. 11:28-29).


El Mensaje de Dios Para Usted # 2

El problema del perdón

Si has leído en las Sagradas Escrituras, sobre el perdón que Dios promete libremente a los pecadores que se arrepienten y creen, te estarás preguntando cómo el Dios que se revela a sí mismo en esas Escrituras puede hacer tal promesa. Si has leído esas Escrituras con cuidado, sabes que Dios se ha revelado a sí mismo como un juez santo y justo que nunca declarará al culpable como justo. Por ejemplo, En Éxodo 34: 7 se describe un así mismo como el que “de ningún modo tendrá por inocente al malvado”. Y, sin embargo, el apóstol Pablo lo llama el Dios “que justifica al impío” (Romanos 4: 5), y David describió la bendición del hombre a quien Dios imputa la justicia aparte de las obras (ver Romanos 4: 6-7) cuando él escribió: “Bienaventurado el hombre a quien el SEÑOR no imputa la iniquidad” (Salmos 32: 2).

La Biblia no enseña que Dios infunde gracia a los pecadores para permitirles llegar a ser lo suficientemente justos en sí mismos para que Dios los declare justos. Lo que estas Escrituras enseñan es que Dios los declara justos cuando no pueden reclamar ninguna justicia propia. Él justifica [declara justo] al impío. Pablo escribió que los pecadores son “justificados gratuitamente [esta palabra significa “sin causa,” es decir, no hay causa en el pecador] por su gracia” (Romanos 3:24). Esto presenta un gran problema. ¿Cómo puede Dios ser justo y al mismo tiempo declarar que el pecador que cree en su promesa es justo ante sus ojos?

La solución de Dios al problema

Este es el problema que la obra redentora de Cristo ha resuelto. Note que Romanos 3:24 declara que esta libre justificación es “por la redención que es en Cristo Jesús”. Lo que el apóstol estaba enseñando en Romanos 3 es que Dios ha satisfecho sus propias demandas en el sacrificio de su Hijo. El escribió, “. . . a quien Dios ha exhibido públicamente como una propiciación en su sangre [muerte sacrificial] a través de la fe, para declarar su justicia. . .que Él pueda ser justo y al mismo tiempo, Él que justifica a los que creen [confían] en Jesús “(Romanos 3: 25-26).

El evangelio nos habla de un gran intercambio. En 2 Corintios 5:21, Pablo escribió: “Al que no conoció pecado, [Dios] lo hizo pecado por nosotros, para que fuéramos hecho justicia de Dios en Él” No quiso decir que Jesús realmente se convirtió en un pecador o que en verdad nos volvemos justos como la base de nuestra justificación. Lo que quiso decir es que Dios ha tratado a Jesús como si fuera un pecador para que nos trate como si fuéramos justos. Él no solo tomó el castigo del creyente por el pecado; tomó la culpa del creyente. Dios judicialmente abandonó a Jesús en la cruz, para que los creyentes puedan ser aceptados judicialmente en su presencia. Con respecto a este gran intercambio, Isaías escribió acerca de su obra redentora para todos los que confiarán en la promesa de perdón de Dios,

Él fue herido por nuestras transgresiones; él fue molido por nuestras iniquidades; el castigo por nuestra paz cayó sobre él, y por sus llagas hemos sido sanados. Todos nosotros nos descarriamos como ovejas; nos apartamos, cada uno, en su propio camino; pero el SEÑOR hizo que cayera sobre Él la iniquidad de todos nosotros (Isaías 53: 5-6).

Dios te está llamando ahora a confiar en su promesa de perdón. Este mismo Jesús que fue crucificado, se ha levantado de la tumba como evidencia de que el Padre ha estado satisfecho con su sacrificio redentor. Ahora se sienta entronizado como la encarnación completa de todos sus logros redentores. Él tiene todo el poder y la autoridad para rescatar y restaurar a todos los que vienen al Padre a través de él. No necesitas ningún otro mérito o justicia sino su mérito y justicia. La Escritura dice: “En ningún otro hay salvación, porque no hay otro nombre bajo el cielo dado a los hombres en el cual podamos ser salvos” (Hechos 4:12) Él está listo y dispuesto a salvarte no solo de la culpa y de la pena de tus pecados, pero del poder opresivo de tus pecados. Todo lo que él requiere de ti es que confíes en él para salvarte. Esta es su promesa a los pecadores: “Vengan a mí, todos los que están cansados cargados, y Yo los haré descansar. Tomen mi yugo sobre ustedes y aprendan de mí, que soy manso y humilde de corazón, y hallarán descanso para sus almas “(Mateo 11: 28-29).


God’s Message to You #1

The God who created the universe and who governs that universe according to his perfect plan has chosen to reveal himself to you. He has done this in two ways. He has revealed himself in the things he has made, and he has revealed himself in the Bible. In this tract and in those that will follow, I would like to share with you what God wants you to know.

God’s Purpose

The first thing you need to understand is that your life is not without purpose. God made you and everything in the creation around you for himself. His purpose in making you was to make himself known. One way or another, his purpose will be realized in you. You will either live to magnify God’s grace and mercy or you will live to demonstrate his righteousness in condemning you for your treasonous rebellion against him. God has designed you in such a way that you can never live life the way he intended unless you consciously aim at reflecting his glory to those around you. He did not intend for you to be the center of your own universe. If you are beautiful, he intended your beauty to reflect his beauty. If you are intelligent, he intended your intelligence to reflect his intelligence. You are kind, in intended your kindness to reflect his kindness. If you are using anything God has given you to promote your own self-interests, you are failing to do that for which God made you.

The Problem

Our greatest problem in life is that we are broken. The Bible describes us as pieces of broken pottery. What was once a magnificent creation as it came from the hand of the sovereign potter, now lies in ruins.  When God created our first parents in the Garden of Eden, he made them in his own image. In Psalms Eight, the psalmist tells us that God crowned them with “glory and honor and set them over the works of his hands.” As long as they continued in their integrity, they were perfect reflectors of his glory. God had given them everything the heart could wish. Adam and Eve could have lived forever and been perfectly content with God had provided.

The problem is that God left Adam to the power of free will and Adam chose to rebel against him. In doing so, he plunged his entire race [That includes all of us], into a state of guilt and sinful corruption. He acted as all of us would have acted had we been left to ourselves as Adam was. Additionally, we have all freely chosen to follow in his footsteps and rebel against God.

In Roman 1:18, Paul describes the problem between God and sinners as follows: “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.” When we read about God’s wrath we must not think about an anger that is boiling over. God does not act in fits of uncontrolled anger. The “wrath” of God the apostle wrote about is a settled indignation against sin and sinners that is the only reaction God can have to that which is contrary to his holy nature. This wrath may be revealed in different ways and in different degrees but the reaction itself never changes.

The apostle cites two reasons God is wrathful toward sinners and these reasons are related to his universal law. The first reason is related to the sinner’s ungodliness or impiety. This is your greatest problem. It is the problem from which all other problems flow. He is talking about your failure to fulfil the purpose for which God created you. Jesus said the greatest commandment in the law is the mandate to love God. Since that is true, the greatest sin we can commit must be our refusal to love God with our entire being. The other reason God is wrathful toward you is that you are unrighteous. This relates specifically to God’s second great commandment, “You shall love you neighbor as yourself.” It follows that if we do not love God as we should, we will not love those who are made in God’s image.

The result of our failure to love God is that we have suppressed his truth wherever he has revealed himself. Paul’s argument in this indictment is that you are without a legal defense because you have acted contrary to everything you know to be true about God. Only God’s redeeming work can remedy this condition, and it is his intention in saving sinners to do exactly that. The message of God’s salvation is about more than forgiving you so you can go to heaven when you die. Though it certainly includes that, it concerns far more than that. It is about God preparing you to live in a way that reflects his glory to those around you.

You have refused to love and glorify God. You have failed to gratefully acknowledge his kindness to you in allowing you to live on his earth and breath his air. You have worshipped other gods instead of worshipping him. You have exchanged his truth for a lie, and, ultimately, you have decided that he is not worth knowing. Instead of responding to his acts of kindness toward you by leaving your way and returning to his way, you have persisted in your stubborn rebellion against him and have treasured up even more wrath for yourself in the day of his judgment.

God’s intention in saving sinners is to turn God-haters into God-lovers. Ultimately, he intends to restore all his redeemed people to a place of glory and honor in which we will seek his glory above all else. His saving work brings us to the place that we focus on him as our highest good and our most precious treasure.

God is calling you right now to turn from every idol to which you have looked for happiness apart from him. He is calling you to leave every refuge in which you have made yourself comfortable apart from him. He is calling you to leave your sinful way and return to his way. His promise to you is that if you will return to him, he will fully pardon you. Isaiah wrote,

Seek the LORD while he may be found; call upon him while he is near; let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the LORD, that he may have compassion on him, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon (Isa. 55:6-7).


El Mensaje de Dios a Usted #1

El Dios que creó el universo y que gobierna ese universo según su plan perfecto ha elegido revelarse a ti. Lo ha hecho de dos maneras. Se ha revelado en las cosas que ha hecho, y se ha revelado en la Biblia. En este tratado y en los que seguirán, me gustaría compartir con usted lo que Dios quiere que sepa.

El Propósito de Dios

Lo primero que necesita entender es que su vida no es sin propósito. Dios lo hizo a usted ya todo en la creación alrededor de usted para sí mismo. Su propósito al hacerle era hacerse conocer. De una manera u otra, Su propósito se realizará en ud. Usted vivirá para magnificar la gracia y la misericordia de Dios o vivirá para demostrar Su justicia al condenarle por su rebelión traidora contra Él. Dios te ha diseñado de tal manera que nunca puedes vivir la vida de la manera en que Él pretendía, a menos que usted vive conscientemente apuntas a reflejar Su gloria a aquellos que te rodean. Él no tenía la intención de que fueras el centro de tu propio universo. Si eres hermoso, él pretendía que tu belleza reflejara Su belleza. Si eres inteligente, él pretende que su inteligencia refleje Su inteligencia. Si eres amable, Él intentó que su amabilidad reflejara Su bondad. Si estás usando algo que Dios te ha dado para promover sus propios intereses, estás fallando en hacer aquello por lo que Dios le hizo.

El problema

Nuestro mayor problema en la vida es que estamos rotos. La Biblia nos describe como piezas de cerámica rota. Lo que una vez fue una creación magnífica como vino de la mano del alfarero soberano ahora está en ruinas. Cuando Dios creó a nuestros primeros padres en el Jardín del Edén, los hizo a su propia imagen. En salmos ocho, el salmista nos dice que Dios los coronó con “gloria y honor y los puso sobre las obras de sus manos”. Mientras ellos continuaran en su integridad, eran perfectos reflectores de Su gloria. Dios les había dado todo lo que el corazón pudiera desear. Adán y Eva podrían haber vivido para siempre y estado perfectamente contentos con lo que Dios había proporcionado.

El problema es que Dios dejó a Adán al poder del libre albedrío y escogió rebelarse contra El. Al hacerlo, hundió a toda su raza en un estado de culpa y corrupción pecaminosa. Actuó como todos nosotros habríamos actuado si nos hubieran dejado a nosotros mismos como lo fue Adán. Además, todos hemos elegido libremente seguir sus pasos y rebelarnos contra Dios.

En Romanos 1:18, Pablo describe el problema entre Dios y los pecadores de la siguiente manera: “Porque la ira de Dios se revela desde el cielo contra toda impiedad e injusticia de los hombres, quienes por su iniquidad suprimen la verdad.” Cuando leemos acerca de la ira de Dios no debemos pensar en un enojo que está explotando. Dios no actúa en ataques de ira incontrolada. La “ira” de Dios sobre la que el apóstol escribió es una indignación establecida contra el pecado y los pecadores que es la única reacción que Dios puede tener a lo que es contrario a su santa naturaleza. Esta ira puede ser revelada de diferentes maneras y en diferentes grados, pero la reacción en sí nunca cambia.

El apóstol cita dos razones por las que Dios está llena de indignación contra los pecadores y estas razones están relacionadas con su ley universal. La primera razón está relacionada con la impiedad o la falta de conformidad del pecador a la imagen de Dios. Este es su mayor problema. Es el problema del cual fluyen todos los demás problemas. Él está hablando de su fracaso en cumplir el propósito por el cual Dios  creó a ud. Jesús dijo que el mandamiento más grande de la ley es el mandato de amar a Dios. Dado que esto es cierto, el mayor pecado que podemos cometer debe ser nuestra negativa a amar a Dios con todo nuestro ser. La otra razón por la que Dios se enoja contra usted es que usted es injusto. Esto se relaciona específicamente con el segundo gran mandamiento de Dios: “Amarás al prójimo como a ti mismo”. De aquí se deduce que si no amamos a Dios como debemos, no amaremos a aquellos que son hechos a imagen de Dios.

El resultado de nuestro fracaso en amar a Dios es que hemos suprimido su verdad dondequiera que se haya revelado a sí mismo. El argumento de Pablo en esta acusación es que usted está sin una defensa legal porque ha actuado en contra de todo lo que sabe que es verdad acerca de Dios. Sólo la obra redentora de Dios puede remediar esta condición, y Su intención en salvar a los pecadores es para que hagan exactamente eso. El mensaje de la salvación de Dios es más que perdonarte para que puedas ir al cielo cuando mueras. Aunque ciertamente incluye eso, se refiere mucho más que eso. Se trata de que Dios prepare a usted para vivir de una manera que refleje Su gloria a aquellos que rodean a usted.

Te has negado a amar y glorificar a Dios. Usted ha fallado en reconocer con gratitud su bondad hacia usted al permitirle vivir en su tierra y respirar su aire. Has adorado a otros dioses en lugar de adorarle. Usted ha cambiado su verdad por una mentira, y, en última instancia, ha decidido que no vale la pena saberlo. En lugar de responder a sus actos de bondad hacia usted, abandonando su camino y regresando a su camino, ha persistido en su obstinada rebelión contra él y ha atesorado aún más ira para sí mismo en el día de su juicio.

La intención de Dios al salvar a los pecadores es convertir a los que odian a Dios en amantes de Dios. En última instancia, él tiene la intención de restaurar a todos sus redimidos a un lugar de gloria y honor en el que vamos a buscar su gloria por encima de todo. Su obra salvadora nos lleva al lugar en que nos concentramos en Él como nuestro sumo bien  y nuestro tesoro más precioso.

La promesa de Dios

 Dios está llamando a usted ahora para que se desvíes de cada ídolo al que has buscado la felicidad aparte de -Él. Él  está llamando a usted  que dejes todo refugio en el que te hayas apartado de Él. Él está llamando a usted que abandonar su camino pecaminoso ya volver a Su camino. Su promesa a usted es que si regresará a Él, Él le perdonará completamente. Isaías escribió:

Buscad al SEÑOR mientras sea hallado; llamadle mientras está cerca; dejó el malvado su camino, y el hombre inicuo sus pensamientos; que vuelva a Jehová, para que tenga misericordia de él y de nuestro Dios, porque él perdonará abundantemente (Isaías 55: 6-7).






An Examination of the Carnal Christian Doctrine

A question that often arises in response to the biblical teaching that God is sanctifying everyone he has justified is “What about the carnal Christian?” The implication is that what we are saying about sanctification invariably following justification cannot be true because we all know Christians whose lifestyle is no different from that of unbelievers. It never seems to occur to those who make this argument that such people may not be believers at all. Though this a not a direct quotation since I no longer have access to Lewis. S. Chafer’s book, He that is Spiritual, he wrote. “A “carnal” Christian is a person whose “walk” is on the same plane as that of the “natural” man” (Chafer, 1919,12). He is one who has confessed faith in Christ but whose life is no different from the life of an unconverted person. Notice that he is not merely claiming that there are times when believers act in a fleshly manner. He is describing a separate “class” of individuals that he calls “carnal” Christians. Being a “spiritual” Christian is the ideal, but it is only an option for the true believer. What Mr. Chafer failed to understand is that “spiritual” is simply the biblical designation for those who are indwelt by the Holy Spirit.

You have no doubt seen the three circles representing the natural man, the carnal Christian and the spiritual Christian. In that drawing, the only difference between the natural [unconverted] man and the “carnal Christian” is that in the case of the “carnal Christian” the cross is on the inside of the circle instead of the outside. Ego is still on the throne, Christ is dethroned and every aspect of the person’s life is in a complete state of disorder just as it is in the case of the unconverted person.

By contrast, in the circle representing the “spiritual Christian,” ego is dethroned, Christ is enthroned, and every aspect of the person’s life is represented as in perfect order. Perhaps your circle of experience has been broader than mine, but I have never known a person whose life could be represented in that way.

This doctrine has been widely accepted by the evangelical church to the extent that anyone who dares to question its validity is considered a false teacher. It has become so pervasive that in most quarters it makes no difference how immoral and ungodly a person’s lifestyle may be, he or she will be considered a true believer since at some point they have made a profession of faith in Christ.

Unless someone is willing to assert that Paul was identifying himself as a “carnal Christian” in Romans 7:14 [I do not consider this passage as autobiographical at all but as a redemptive-historical description of the contrast between the inability of the Law and the efficacy of grace (see Rom. 7:5-6)], there is one lone passage on which one might base the carnal Christian doctrine. That passage is 1 Cor. 3:1-16. The popular view of this passage is that Paul was teaching that there are believers in Christ whose lifestyle cannot be distinguished from that of an unbeliever.

At the risk of being branded a heretic, I would like to offer what I believe is a view that is more consistent with the teaching of the rest of the New Testament Scriptures. Before I make several hermeneutical and exegetical observations, I would like you to consider a list of propositions that I either affirm or deny. I hope these will help to clarify the view I am proposing.

Affirmations and Denials

I affirm that:

1. Believing sinners are as fully justified the first moment they believe the gospel as they will ever be. The level of their sanctification can neither augment or diminish the perfection of their righteous standing before God.
2. There are areas in every believer’s life in which he or she acts in the same way an unconverted person would act. Every believer is “carnal” in some area or areas.
3. Some believers have advanced in their spiritual growth beyond others. Some continue to be more carnal and others are more in tune with the Spirit.
4. It is possible for a believer to lose ground in the conflict that we call progressive sanctification even after having made advancements in a particular area.
5. Not every believer struggles in the same areas in conflict with sin.
6. There is a difference between a believer in conflict with sin and an [unregenerate] professed believer complacent to sin [see John Murray, Redemption Accomplished and Applied. p. 145].

I deny that:

1. The sanctification of believers is automatic and does not require exhortations to obey or effort on the part of believers.
2. There are true believers who never experience God’s sanctifying work.
3. There are true believers whose lives are completely characterized by fleshliness and act in every way like unconverted people.
4. There are true believers who continue under the dominion of sin.
5. There is a difference between becoming a believer and becoming a disciple/

Hermeneutical and Exegetical Considerations

There are several hermeneutical and exegetical considerations that we must consider if we are going to interpret correctly the lone passage from which the carnal Christian doctrine is drawn. It is clear that these have been ignored by the proponents of this doctrine. In this section, we will consider some of these principles and see how they apply to the interpretation of this passage.

An Important Principle of Interpretation

There is an important hermeneutical principle that is often ignored by would be interpreters of Scripture. I say “would be interpreters” since one has only “interpreted” a passage when he has rightly understood what the Holy Spirit and the human writer had in mind when they wrote the text. If we ignore certain principles of interpretation, we will never arrive at a correct understanding of a text.

Though there are many such principles that one must consider in seeking to interpret passages such as the one we are considering, the particular principle to which I am referring is this—Theological doctrine is to be derived from didactic passages where a doctrine is being expounded and not from hortatory [tending or aiming to exhort] or narrative passages. The passage we are considering is clearly a hortatory passage.


What is the context in which this passage occurs? To answer that question, one needs to go back to the first chapter where Paul began to deal with one of the problems that existed in the church at Corinth. There, he expressed his desire that they all speak as with one voice and that there be no divisions among them. He desired that they be perfectly joined in the same mind and in the same judgment (see 1:10).

It is important we understand that the issue was not theological in nature. The problem was that people in that church had divided into sects based on personalities. Some were Paul enthusiasts, other were devoted to Peter, others to Apollos etc. It was not that these men were teaching different doctrines. Paul made it clear here and in other passages that they were united in their understanding and message. Ultimately, the problem was that the Corinthians were giving glory to men, either to themselves or to their favorites teacher, and not to God alone. As one reads this Epistle, it becomes that the one sin that characterized this church, the sin from which all their other problems resulted, was the sin of pride. Paul often wrote to them, “and you are puffed up.”

Though Paul expounds a great deal of solid theological truth in dealing with this problem, this section is not in itself a theological exposition of a particular doctrine. That is to say that it was not Paul’s intention in this context to expound the doctrine of sanctification. If one wishes to develop a doctrine of sanctification, he must do so from other passages where the apostles have intended to deal with the doctrine of sanctification specifically.

A Specific Problem

Based on this one passage, the advocates of the carnal Christian doctrine have asserted that it is possible for a person to be a true believer and yet live in every respect in the same manner as an unconverted person. The question one must ask is whether there is anything in this passage that suggests that these people were failing to be obedient in every area of their lives. Is there anything here that suggests that every member of the church was continuing to live in fornication, drunkenness, idolatry, thievery, homosexuality and the like? Of course, not! In fact, in chapter six Paul makes it clear that those to whom he was writing had been delivered from such sins and stated that those who have not been delivered from such sins will not inherit the kingdom of God. He wrote,

Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, not thieves, nor covetous, not drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you (1 Cor. 6:9-11).

It should be clear that he was writing about personal righteousness and not imputed righteousness since these words follow an exhortation not to do wrong and cheat one’s brother (see v. 8).

Notice Paul’s words in our passage. He wrote, “for you are still carnal, FOR there are among you envy, strife and divisions” (v. 3). It is like saying to a group of people after a Baptist business meeting, “You acted like a bunch of unconverted people.” Such meetings seem to bring out the baser qualities in people. If you have ever attended such a meeting, you will understand what I mean. That doesn’t mean that the people who acted this way pursue a sinful lifestyle in every area of their lives. It simply means this is one of the areas in their lives in which they need to make progress in sanctification.

A Particular Time

Another issue that seems to have eluded the attention of “carnal Christian” advocates is that Paul, in 1 Corinthians 3, is addressing a situation that existed at a particular time in the life of the Corinthian church. There is not a word in the text that gives the slightest indication that the attitudes or actions he was describing would persist for a lifetime. We might think of this chapter as a snapshot or still photo of a situation that Paul was addressing. If we viewed a video recording of the lives of these people, we would see a completely different view. In fact, in his second Epistle he wrote the following words to them,

For even if I made you sorry with my letter, I do not regret it; though I did regret it. For I perceive that the same epistle made you sorry, though only for a while.  Now I rejoice, not that you were made sorry, but that your sorrow led to repentance. For you were made sorry in a godly manner, that you might suffer loss from us in nothing. For godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation, not to be regretted; but the sorrow of the world produces death. For observe this very thing, that you sorrowed in a godly manner: What diligence it produced in you, what clearing of yourselves, what indignation, what fear, what vehement desire, what zeal, what vindication! In all things you proved yourselves to be clear in this matter (2 Corinthians 7:8-11).

Although it is likely Paul was speaking specifically about another issue he had addressed in his first Epistle, it is clear that God had used his exhortations to effect a genuine life change in his readers.

I suspect that if we could take a still photo of any believer’s life at a given point we could catch them acting out of character with their Christian confession. We could say to them as Paul wrote to the Corinthians, “I could not speak to you as to spiritual people but as to fleshly. It is also possible that a person could continue in such a state of arrested development for a time. In Chapter 17 of the Philadelphia Confession [essentially the same as the Westminster Confession of Faith and the London Baptist Confession of 1689] “Of the Perseverance of the Saints,” paragraph 3, we read,

And though they may, through the temptation of Satan and of the world, the prevalency of corruption remaining in them, and the neglect of means of their preservation, fall into grievous sins, and for a time continue therein, whereby they incur God’s displeasure and grieve his Holy Spirit, come to have their graces and comforts impaired, have their hearts hardened, and their consciences wounded, hurt and scandalize others, and bring temporal judgments upon themselves, yet shall they renew their repentance and be preserved through faith in Christ Jesus to the end.


There can be no question that at the point when Paul penned this letter to the Corinthians, they were in an arrested state of spiritual development and needed to be exhorted to grow up. That is not the issue. Every believer, due to remaining sin, will continue have areas of carnality their lives. No one argues that believers are not carnal in some areas of their lives. No one argues, at least no one who argues based on biblical texts considered contextually, that growth in grace is automatic and requires no conscious effort on the believer’s part. Immediately before assuring the Philippians that their sanctification would be a certain reality because it was God who was working [the word means effectively and energetically accomplish] in them both to will and to do for his good pleasure, the apostle Paul exhorted them to work out their own salvation with fear and trembling (see Phil. 2:12-13).

No one should argue that exhortations to obedience are unnecessary because the believer’s sanctification is certain to occur. God uses such exhortations to effect obedience in the lives of his people

The issue is whether true believers will continue in such a state throughout their entire lifetime so that there is no difference between them and their unconverted neighbors. Is there any evidence in this passage to support the carnal Christian doctrine as taught by C. I. Scofield and L.S. Chafer and others? As we have shown, the answer is an unequivocal, no! All Christians are carnal in the sense that we still have areas of fleshliness in our lives and we all continue to struggle with certain sins, but there are no carnal Christians in the sense that a true believer can be perpetually indistinguishable from an unconverted person.

“Saved Yet So as By Fire”

If our analysis of Paul’s teaching in this passage is accurate, what was his meaning when he spoke of every man’s work being tried by fire and some, having produced nothing but wood, hay and stubble, being saved like a man escaping a burning building with nothing but the clothes on his back? Does it not appear that he is teaching that a person may be a believer and never produce any evidence of having been converted?

That would be an easy conclusion for us to draw if we failed to consider the context in which these words were written and the issue with which Paul was dealing. Additionally, it is essential that we pay special attention to the words he employed and the metaphors he used.

The Context

Let me remind you that, in this passage, Paul was continuing to speak to a problem that he had introduced in chapter one of this Epistle. The problem was that the Corinthians had divided into splinter groups based on allegiance to their favorite preacher. His remedy for this problem has been to show that the success of his ministry or anyone else’s ministry depends not on the persuasiveness of his arguments or the eloquence of his speech but on the demonstration of God’s power in the application of redemption. At the end of chapter three he concluded that no one should glory in men. Earlier he had shown that no one should boast in their ability to unite themselves, since it is of God’s doing that believers are in Christ Jesus (see 1 Cor. 1:30-31). In this chapter he has shown that since it is God alone who can cause the planted seed to grow, Paul and Apollos are nothing but servants, instruments in God’s hand by whom they had believed (see chapter 3:5-8).

What is important for us to understand is that it was not Paul’s purpose in this chapter to talk about a believer’s works or lack of works in the process of sanctification. Instead, he was continuing to address the issue that he had begun to address in chapter one. He was writing about the ministry God had given him [his work] and the ministry God had given others. His exhortation was to those who are engaged in the work of the gospel. Each one must be careful how he builds on the foundation Paul had laid (see verse 10).

The Metaphors

Paul used two metaphors for the work of the ministry; one was agricultural the other architectural. In verse eight he had written “He who plants and he who waters are one: and everyone shall receive his reward according to his own labor.” It should be clear that he is making reference not only to himself and Apollos, but to all those who are involved in the gospel ministry.

Now in verse nine he mentions two metaphors for the gospel ministry. Ministers of the gospel are like farmers in a cultivated field and construction workers erecting a building. He wrote, “For we are laborers together with God; you are God’s cultivated field, you are God’s building.”

We and You (One Must Know the Difference)

Notice that Paul is not discussing the works of the cultivated field or of the building. He is discussing the work; the ministry God has given. Charles Hodge wrote of this passage, “Paul is here speaking of ministers and of their doctrines, and not of believers in general” (Hodge, 78, 1997). To arrive at this conclusion, one must merely know the difference between “We” and “You.” “We are laborers. . .You are God’s building” (verse 9).
When he wrote, “Let every man take heed how he builds on the foundation” his reference was not every person without exception, or even every believer, but everyone who is engaged in the gospel ministry, i.e., everyone who is involved in cultivating the field or erecting the building.
Since this is clear from a careful reading of the chapter, it should be obvious that Paul’s reference was not to the works of believers being judged (v. 13) but to the work, i.e., ministry of those who are building on the foundation Paul had laid (see verses 14-15).


One can only conclude that Paul did not intend to teach in this passage that there will be believers who will stand before God in judgement with nothing but wood, hay and stubble to offer as evidence that their faith was genuine. There will be no believers who stand before God who are saved by the skin of their teeth. Instead, it was his purpose to admonish those who are cultivating the field and building the building to take care how they carry on the work God has given them.


The issue in this discussion is not whether true believers continue to have unsanctified areas in their lives. No one who understands the clear teaching of Scripture would deny that they do. This issue is whether there are true believers who continue throughout their entire life-times in a state that is indistinguishable from their unconverted neighbors.

As we have seen, there is absolutely no evidence in this lone passage that forms the basis for the carnal Christian teaching that these Corinthian believers were characterized by fleshliness in every area of their lives or that they continued in a state of carnality throughout the duration of their lives. In fact, we have the word of the apostle Paul writing under divine inspiration that when confronted with their sins, they were sorrowful and repented of these sins. Upon careful examination, any honest observer will have to conclude that this passage simply does not support the “carnal Christian” view.


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The Israel of God

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Not Willing That Any Should Perish–2 Peter 3:9

It seems that every time a person mentions the concept of divine election, a non-Calvinist will feel compelled to “quote” a portion of 2 Peter 3:9 in support of the idea that it is God’s intention for everyone to be saved. There are several questions I would like to propose to such people:

1. Do you believe that God knew before he ever created Adam and placed him in the garden that great multitudes of people would perish if he proceeded with his purpose to create? If he was not willing that anyone perish, why did he create them knowing perfectly that they would perish? Your only recourse here would seem to be to embrace open Theism.

2. Given the indisputable fact that Peter was explaining why God’s promise of Christ’s coming and the impending, accompanying judgment had not yet been realized, how does your understanding of 3:9 make any sense at all in that context?

It seems to be without dispute that in any given generation there are fewer people saved than lost. If that is so, is it not true that with every passing generation, the aggregate number of those who perish will grow? At the end of this generation, the sum of those lost will be greater than the sum of those lost at the end of the last generation. If Jesus had returned at the end of the first century fewer people would have perished than will have perished when he returns. Since God knows this perfectly, a delay in judgment would make no sense at all. If God truly intended for more people to be saved than lost, would not hastening the judgment make more sense than delaying it?–