Posts Tagged ‘Gospel Sanctification


The Intercessory Work of Christ

It is important to remember that biblical writers used different motifs and metaphors to express the same truths concerning God’s work of salvation and Jesus’ accomplishment of that salvation. For example, Jesus is the living bread, the fountain of living waters, the light of the world, the shepherd of the sheep, he is the rock that satisfies his peoples’ thirst, he is the lamb of God who is sacrificed for people of all nations, he is the prophet who declares the Father to us, he is the advocate who represents us before the court of heaven, he is the High Priest who offers himself as our sacrifice, then enters the heavenly most holy place to appear as our forerunner and representative, and he is our Sovereign Lord and King.

It is not difficult to discern that all these motifs and metaphors find their roots in the Old Testament Scriptures. Taking them all together, one begins to get a composite picture of the Anointed One and his work as our redeemer from sin. Systematic Theology seeks to bring all these components together into a composite whole, while Biblical Theology seeks to take a closer look at the individual elements that, taken together, make up the whole.

It should not escape our attention that the New Testament writers viewed salvation in radically different ways. The apostle Paul generally viewed salvation in forensic terms. For him, a person is either justified or condemned before the high court of heaven. The issue is our standing before the judge. Though it would be wrong to categorize sanctification as a non-essential issue, it should not escape our notice that the discussion of sanctification in the Epistle to the Romans is introduced, not as a part of the main argument but as a series of answers to questions [one might say objections] regarding the freeness of justification. It is not that Paul said, “Now that we have finished our discussion of justification, let’s discuss the doctrine of sanctification.” Instead, he interrupts his argument relative to the absolute certainty of the final glorification of all who have been justified, an argument he resumes in chapter eight, to answer the sort of base questions that carnal hearers often pose regarding the “dangers of antinomianism.” Those questions are as follows, “What shall we say then, shall we continue in sin so that grace may overflow?” (6:1), “Shall we sin because we are not under the Law but under grace?” (6:15), “Is the Law sin[ful]?” (7:7), and “Has then what is good become death to me?” (7:13). His answer to all these questions is the same—“God forbid” or “May it never be.” His ultimate argument in this regard is that it is the believer’s righteous standing before God that effects the righteous life God’s Law demanded but could not produce.

One of the divisive issues of the present day concerns the believer’s sanctification. Is such sanctification even necessary or important? If it is, how is it to be produced? Can a believer produce it on his own now that he or she has been regenerated or must there be a believing dependence on the Holy Spirit? Is justification completely unrelated to and hermetically sealed from sanctification or is justification that judicial act of God that is necessary to effect a life of holiness?

It is important we understand that no one in this debate believes sanctification in the believer’s life is unimportant (I say this of those who actually believe that sanctification has anything to do with salvation. Those who are now calling themselves “free grace” believers such as one might find at, for example, would be an exception to this statement). The issue concerns the manner in which God produces such a life. Does God produce holiness by imposing Law or by intervening with grace? The apostle’s answer is unequivocal—“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 a simple reality that people who know their guilt will never approach a holy God. People who sense they are under God’s righteousness judgment will not love the judge. For this reason, sinners will invariably suppress any revelation of God they encounter. In a state of sinful nature, we, like Adam and Eve, will always flee from God and seek to hide our nakedness. The only thing the Law is able to do is mirror and magnify that nakedness; it can do nothing to clothe us. We can preach duty to sinners until we are blue in the face, but it will never produce obedience to God. Righteousness is never produced by a commandment. It makes no difference whether the Law is applied to believers or unbelievers, it can never justify or sanctify. It is the Law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus that sets us free from the Law of sin and death. The truth that effects sanctification is “There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus” (8:1). It was out of this understanding that C. H. Spurgeon said,

While I regarded God as a tyrant I thought my sin a trifle; But when I knew Him to be my Father, then I mourned that I could ever have kicked against Him. When I thought God was hard, I found it easy to sin; but when I found God so kind, so good, so overflowing with compassion, I smote upon my breast to think that I could ever have rebelled against One who loved me so, and sought my good.

“The writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews shared this understanding but couched his understanding of salvation in a different motif. The term “justification” never occurs in the Epistle. Instead, the writer thinks in categories of perfection or restoration of man to his original glory, fulfillment of O. T. covenants, promises, and types, access into the holy presence of God, and inheritance of spiritual promises.

The people to whom he wrote were in deep trouble spiritually. Not only had their growth been stunted in the process of sanctification, but they were in danger of casting off the Christian faith altogether and returning to Judaism. His message to them should be highly instructive to us. He did not instruct them to concentrate more carefully on the Law and their duty to God. It was Law and duty to which they wished to return. Law was not the solution; it was the problem. The remedy proposed by the writer was simple. It was a matter of focus—a matter of contemplation if you will. The message of the Epistle from beginning to end is the same. Though it may be stated in different forms, its focus does not change. It is simply this—“. . .fix your attention on Jesus Christ, the Apostle and High Priest we confess.”

Even in the writer’s sternest exhortations we do not find a call to obey commandments but to persevere in faith. It is an evil heart of unbelief that departs from the living God. He does not exhort his readers to return to works of obedience but to enter into rest.

Please understand, I am not suggesting that obedience is not important. I am suggesting obedience is not produced by exhortations to obedience or reproof for disobedience. It is not produced by a daily examination of one’s progress in holiness. Such an exercise will only produce more doubt and fear. Holiness never results from a guilty conscience.

It is in this context that our writer brings forth the doctrine of Jesus’ High Priesthood and his functions in that office. Drawing from the analogy of the Levitical priesthood and the activities of the High Priest on the Day of Atonement, it becomes clear that the high priest was to perform two principal duties. He was to offer the sacrifice on the altar and he was to sprinkle the blood of the sacrifice on the mercy seat, the gold covered lid of the Ark of the Covenant. He could not appear in the holiest of all places without the blood of the sacrifice. He was accepted there because the sacrifice had stood between him and God and had suffered the penalty of the broken covenant in his place. The sprinkling of the blood added nothing to the efficacy of the sacrifice, but its acceptance and thus the acceptance of the high priest and those he represented in God’s presence was the unmistakable evidence that the sacrifice offered in the outer court had been efficacious. We should never think of the sprinkling of the blood on the mercy seat as a reoffering of the sacrifice. Instead, it was an application of the completed sacrifice in the outer court.

This sprinkling of the blood of sacrifice on the mercy seat corresponds to the intercessory work of Jesus, our Great High Priest, in the heavenly holy of holies. His very presence there for us evinces the efficacy of his sacrifice for us in the outer court of this world. We should not think of Jesus carrying on some liturgical activity in heaven on our behalf. His continued presence there for us believers gives eloquent testimony to the efficacy of his once for all sacrifice for us.

As long as he presents his finished sacrifice before the mercy seat, the place that has now become the throne of grace, all his people will continue to be accepted in God’s presence. We are accepted there because he is accepted there. We are accepted because of our union with him.

We must not think of Jesus’ present work of presenting his finished sacrifice before God’s throne as a perpetual sacrificial offering. Unlike the sacrificial work of the Levitical high priest whose work on the Day of Atonement was not completed until he had sprinkled the blood of the sacrifice on the mercy seat, Jesus’ sacrificial work was finished on the cross.

It is not that God has to be reminded of his finished work any more than he needed to be reminded that the sacrifice had been completed in the tabernacle court. Why, then, the sprinkling of the blood on the mercy seat? The presence of the priests and his acceptance before God was the evidence that the sacrifice had been accepted. The continual appearance of Jesus, our High Priest in God’s presence simply gives eloquent evidence that God’s holy wrath has been satisfied for all who draw near to him by faith. It is not that God needs to be reminded by Jesus’ continual appearing in his presence that the work is finished. Instead, it is that we need to be reminded that the veil of the consciousness of guilt that barred us from God’s presence has been removed once and for all. The Christian message is not that God will get even with you if you fail to obey; it is that if you are a believer, God already got even with you at the cross. By his eternal redemption, Jesus has purified our consciences from dead works to serve the living God (See Heb. 9:14). An examination of our evidences of saving faith will not grant us a clean conscience. Gazing at our partially sanctified hearts will not grant us peace. Only a continued meditation on the finished work of Christ and the evidence of that accomplishment in his perpetual appearance for us in God’s presence will maintain our clean consciences so that we might serve the living God.

There are two important issues we must consider in relation to the work Jesus, our High Priest, now performs for us in the heavens. The first concerns the nature of his intercession. Does his intercession merely consist of his appearance in God’s presence for us as a presentation of his finished work or is his intercession vocalized? Does he actually pray for and in place of believers? The second concerns the content of his intercession. With what is his intercession concerned? Does he intercede only for our weakness, needs, spiritual growth, protection etc., or does his intercession also extend to the forgiveness of our sins?

The nature of Christ’s intercession has been a matter of no small controversy, and a resolution of the issue is not easy to attain since we are not given a clear, biblical answer to the question. Additionally, the manner in which Jesus could vocalize all the exigent requests that need attention before God’s throne is beyond our feeble comprehension. Still, our ability to comprehend such an intercession is not the criterion by which we should judge its reality. The truth is, we simply do not know the answer to this question, and any attempt to give a definitive answer would amount to vain speculation. In any case, it is clear that we are saved no less by his resurrection life and his application of his finished work of redemption than we are by his vicarious death that accomplished that redemption. If anything, the writer to the Hebrews seems to concentrate more on the results of Jesus’ sacrificial offering than on the offering itself. That is to say his focus seems to be on the demonstration of the once for all character of his sacrificial work. The issue is how sinners can know there is a way of free access into the presence of the infinitely holy God? How can we know a sacrifice has finally been offered that has satisfied his wholly wrath? The presence of our High Priest in the heavenly Holy of Holies definitively answers that question.

Concerning the content of his intercession, some have suggested that this intercessory work can have nothing to do with the perpetual forgiveness of sins since, in justification, God has declared all the believer’s sins, past, present and future, forgiven and has imputed to us a righteousness that cannot be impugned.

There are several factors we should consider in seeking to answer this important question:

1. Intercession or advocacy [which I take as merely a different metaphor for the same work] is mentioned in relation to sin and condemnation and salvation. For example, “Who is he that condemns? It is [or will] Christ who died. . . who also intercedes for us” (Rom. 8:34). Notice the use of the present tense—“who also is interceding for us.” In this context, Paul cites not only Jesus’ death but also his present intercession as a reason for the believer’s non-condemnation. Relative to his work as our advocate, we read, “and if anyone should sin, we have an advocate with the Father and he is the propitiation for our sins (1 John 2:1-2a). It is significant that the sentence does not read, “he was the propitiation for our sins.” In the Apocalypse, John sees in the center of the throne “a lamb standing as though it had been slain. . . .” (Rev. 5:6). The clear teaching of the New Testament Scriptures is that believers stand justified because Jesus stands crucified. When Paul wrote to the Corinthians, “. . .but we preach Christ crucified. . . .” (1 Cor. 1:23), he used the perfect passive participle, to indicate a continuing state that resulted from a completed action in the past. Even in his exalted state, Jesus remains the crucified one and the efficacy of his redemptive work remains undiminished.

2. We should not think of Jesus in his official capacity as our High Priest as literally standing before the mercy seat, presenting his pierced hands and feet to the Father any more than we should literally think of Jesus, our Advocate, literally approaching the judges’ bench to plead our cause. These are merely metaphorical expressions that, taken together with other such metaphors, attempt to express the fullness of his redemptive work. The acceptance of Israel’s high priest in the holy of holies in the presence of the manifest holiness of God was evidence that Jehovah’s wrath for his peoples’ sins had been appeased by the blood of the sacrificial beast. The metaphor of Jesus’ perpetual priestly intercession is simply intended to convey to the believer that his finished sacrifice at Calvary will forever retain its efficacy. No post conversion sin we commit can condemn us since we are secure in God’s presence in the person of our High Priest and representative.

3. It is important we remember that Jesus’ appearance in the presence of God is “for us” and that he intercedes “for those who come to God by him.” He is our “forerunner” who has entered into the place within the veil “for us.” This all teaches us that apart from him there would be no access into God’s presence. Not only did he die under the curse of the Law as his people’s substitutionary sacrifice, but he now appears in God’s presence as our representative. His acceptance there is our acceptance there. Severed from him, we have no hope. All depends on the believer’s union with Christ. If we have ever been truly united to him through faith, he will be our perpetual representative until eternity. He ever lives to make intercession for us. The hymn-writer stated this well when he wrote,

Great God! if you should bring me near,
to answer at your awful bar,
And my own self defend;
If Jesus did himself withdraw,
I know Your holy fiery law
My soul to hell would send.

4. We should consider an alternate view that suggests justification is a “done deal” the moment we first believe. Once we have been justified, we have no need of the gospel and no need for Jesus’ intercession in relation to the forgiveness of our sins. Apparently, those who hold this view believe Jesus’ work of intercession is limited to his prayers for our weaknesses, temptations, etc. I have no desire to misrepresent the views of those who believe this, but it sounds as if they are saying that once we have our justification ticket punched by believing the gospel, we do not really need Jesus any more.

This does not differ from the view I have espoused here in regard to the immediate declaration of free justification the moment a sinner trusts God’s promise of salvation in Christ. A believer is never deemed more righteous in God’s sight than he is the first moment he believes. The point of difference is that, in my view and I believe according to the Scriptures, believers never get beyond the need for fresh applications of the finished work of Christ.

5. We should think of the work of intercession as the application of Christ’s once for all accomplishment of redemption. His intercession insures the believer’s full enjoyment of every spiritual blessing Jesus died to procure for his people. Jesus does not need to offer himself in sacrifice again and again in order to satisfy for his people’s sins. This he accomplished once and for all at the cross.

6. In answer to any who question whether the intercessory work of Christ maintains the believers righteous standing before God, i.e., justification, it might help to consider the same question in regard to the believer’s salvation explained using a different metaphor. Does the believer’s free and bold access into the presence of our holy God depend on Jesus’ appearance in his presence as our representative? The answer of the Epistle to the Hebrews is a resounding, “yes!” We are invited to approach God’s throne with boldness only because we have a Great High Priest who has passed through the heavens and now appears in the presence of God for us.

From these considerations it should be clear that Jesus’ intercessory work as our Great High Priest perpetually presents the efficacy of his finished work for the forgiveness of our sins. It is through this work alone that we can obey the biblical injunction to draw near to God’s mercy seat with boldness.


Who is the Liar?

Warning: Please don’t read this unless you are interested in knowing the truth.

Paul Dohse Sr. posted the following accusations against Calvinsts on his blog yesterday. This is a serious matter since he has accused us of sinning against God in Lying about our actual beliefs. Why don’t you be the judge about who is misrepresenting the truth.

“The Dirty Dozen: 12 Things That the Lying Calvinists Want You to Assume,”

1.Total Depravity pertains to the unregenerate only. No, they mean the saintThs also.
2. Sola Fide (faith alone) only pertains to Justification. No, it pertains to sanctification also.
3. Sola Scriptura (Scripture alone) means “alone” and not other “subordinate” truth that also has authority though “subordinate.” No, creeds and confessions also have authority; it is not Scripture “alone.” What does “alone” mean?
4. Solus Christus (Christ alone) only regards the way to the Father. Not so, Christ is the only way to understanding all of reality. This was the crux of Luther’s Theology of the Cross.
5. Progressive sanctification sanctifies us and is separate from justification. No, they say, “never separate” but “distinct.” Then why not call it “progressive justification”? Why not clearly say that we are sanctified by justification?
6. Election predetermines our eternity. No, the elect have to persevere. The perseverance of the saints is not a characteristic of the saved, it is something that the saints have to add to their faith to complete their justification. They call this, “already-but not yet.” The promises of God are “conditional.”
7. Proponents of synergistic sanctification are mistaken. No, Calvinists think they are lost and promote a false gospel.
8. Spiritual growth is about change. Absolutely not. Calvinists believe we experience manifestations of Christ as we live by faith alone.
9. The imputation of Christ’s righteousness is only imputed for our justification. No, they believe it is imputed to our sanctification as well.
10. We should learn what the Bible teaches and apply it to our lives. No, they believe we should look for the cross in every verse which results in Christ manifestations in the Spirit realm. They call this, “the imperative command is grounded in the indicative event.”
11. Calvinists don’t believe in absolution. Not so. Calvin believed Christians need a perpetual forgiveness of sins that can only be found in the church. Augustine and Luther propagated this as well.
12. Christ works within us. Only BY faith, and faith only exists in the object that it is placed in. Calvinists believe that when the work of Christ moves from outside of us to inside of us that it makes “sanctification the ground of our justification.” The contemporary doctrinal term for Calvinism is “the centrality of the objective gospel outside of us.”
If Calvinists want to deny this, have them explain to you what all of the aforementioned para-biblical expressions mean. If they don’t mean what is stated above, what do they mean? Perhaps there is a perfectly logical explanation for all 12.

1. Total Depravity pertains to the unregenerate only. No, they mean the saints also.
On this point, I would agree with Paul D. that some, e.g., Tullian Tchividjian, have written that believers are still totally depraved.

What Paul has failed to reveal is the context in which Pastor Tchividijan made this statement and the way in which he defined the term as he was using it.
In my view, Pastor Tchividijan should simply have used the term “remaining sin.” I have written about this matter on my blog. I believe he is correct in stating that every facet of the human personality continues to be affected by sin. If that is all a person means by the term “total depravity,” I would have to agree that believers continue to be totally depraved. If defined as I have done in the following definition, then it is inaccurate to refer to believers as “totally depraved.”
Perhaps I can best define what I mean by total depravity by first stating the negative.
By “total depravity” I do not mean:
1. Sinners act as badly as they are capable of acting.
2. Sinners are incapable of deeds that are good in the sight of other people.
3. Sinners are incapable of rational thought.
4. Sinners are incapable of recognizing the logical relationship between cause and effect and design and designer.
5. Sinners have no consciousness of the existence of God and their guilt before him.
6. Sinners have no ability to understand the facts of the gospel and give mental assent to it.
7. Sin has totally destroyed God’s image in the unregenerate.
8. Sinners are incapable of acting morally. Not every unregenerate sinner is perverted and degenerate.
By “total depravity” I mean:
1. The nature of every person, in Adam, has been radically affected by the fall so that every person is, at heart, equal to every other person in estrangement from God. If one sinner acts better than another it is due to God’s common, restraining grace alone.
2. Sinful nature has radically affected every facet of the sinner’s personality. The result is that he does not think rightly about God and the gospel; he does not feel right emotions toward God and the gospel; and he does not make right choices with reference to God and the gospel. Every facet of the sinner’s personality is controlled by his sinful nature.
3. Though sinners are capable of understanding the facts of the gospel, they regard it as foolish and weak. They may know truth but do not welcome it (1 Cor. 2:14). They do not receive the love of the truth that they might be saved (2 Thess. 2:10).
4. Sinners are hostile toward God and the gospel. Whenever they are confronted with God’s self-revelation their response will always be to suppress it and turn from it. Sinners love darkness rather than light because their deeds are evil and everyone who does evil hates the light and does not come to the light lest their deeds should be exposed (John 3: 19-20). A person will never choose that for which he has no desire and to which he is totally averse.
To the best of my knowledge, this is the way Calvinists have consistently defined “total depravity.” Accordingly, most Calvinists would not refer to believers as “totally depraved.” What I would agree with is the idea that believers in a regenerate state have no ability to progress in sanctification independently. If God’s Spirit does not continue to prompt our desire to obey God and enable us to do so, we can do nothing.

2. Sola Fide (faith alone) only pertains to Justification. No, it pertains to sanctification also.
As I indicated in response to the first accusation, believers do not act independently in the process of sanctification. In reality, sanctification must be by faith since its goal is to please God. Hebrews 11: 6 informs us that, “without faith, it is impossible to please Him [God]. . . .” In fact, the entire chapter that has come to be known as “the faith chapter” deals with the obedience of Old Testament believers who, subsequent to believing God for justification, acted in obedience to God through faith.

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

If the issue is whether believers are called, in the process of sanctification, actively to obey Christ, then, without controversy, sanctification is not by faith alone since it draws within its scope the believer’s acts obedience. What I would deny is that these acts of obedience can be rightly performed apart from faith. It is only through faith that we can produce the kind of obedience that pleases God. This is the clear teaching of Hebrews 11, the so called faith chapter.

3. Sola Scriptura (Scripture alone) means “alone” and not other “subordinate” truth that also has authority though “subordinate.” No, creeds and confessions also have authority; it is not Scripture “alone.” What does “alone” mean?

I am willing to concede that there are those of the Reformed persuasion who seem to follow their creeds in preference to the Scriptures. For example, the New Testament Scriptures reveal absolutely nothing about the practice of infant “baptism.” There is neither a command for nor an example of such a practice in the Scriptures; it is practiced because of “good and necessary consequences.”

Confessions have some “authority” in the sense that they inform us concerning the doctrines the Church has consistently held through-out the centuries. If someone has gathered wood for a campfire, it makes no sense to scatter the firewood and then try to collect it again. Believers throughout Church history have thought through critical issues and have left their findings on record for our instruction and edification. It makes no sense to ignore those conclusions. In a multitude of counselors there is wisdom. Still, if the doctrines set forth in those creeds and confessions cannot be drawn out of the Scriptures by sound exegetical methods, we must reject them. Our final authority in all matters of faith and practice must be the Scriptures.

4. Solus Christus (Christ alone) only regards the way to the Father. Not so, Christ is the only way to understanding all of reality. This was the crux of Luther’s Theology of the Cross.

Perhaps it will come as a shock to Paul, but Luther was not a Calvinist. That said, it is important to understand what Paul D. is talking about. In order to have that understanding, one would have to have a quotation from a Calvinistic confession that stated such a doctrine. It is not enough to show that some Calvinists teach this; he needs to show that this has been the historic view held by Calvinists.

I must confess I have difficulty addressing this accusation since I am not sure what Paul or the Calvinists he is citing mean by it. Nuclear physics is a reality. Do Paul and the Calvinists he cites mean Calvinists believe Christ is the only way to understand the mechanics of the material universe? If they do, I think they would have difficulty demonstrating that contention. There are many intelligent scientists who are ignorant of Christ yet understand the reality of the facts they deal with every day quite well.

It is a reality that if I turn the ignition key to my car, the engine will start. Must I know Christ to understand that reality? Obviously not!

If, on the other hand, by reality they refer to the reality behind the reality, that is a different issue. Neither the material universe nor the “natural” laws that govern it would have come into existence or continue d to exist apart from Christ. Though God has granted unconverted people the intelligence to understand how natural laws work and how elements of the created universe interact with one another, apart from Christ, there can be no clear understanding of the reality behind the reality. Paul wrote,

For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities-all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent (Col. 1:16-18).

Everything was created through him and for him. Everything coheres because of him. If he did not exist, none of the natural occurrences we have come to take for granted would continue. The writer to the Hebrews tells us that he bears the universe along by the word of his power (Heb. 1:3).

Additionally, the Word of God would be enigmatic apart from him. Prior to his incarnation, every type and promise of the Old Testament pointed forward to his first coming. By that, I do not mean that every verse of the Old Testament was about him. It is just silly to make such a claim. What I do mean is that the entire flow of history has been moving toward him and finds its fulfillment in him. His coming introduced the “end [goal] of the ages.” Everything prior to his coming looks forward to him. Everything after his coming looks back to his accomplishments. Every command of the New Testament finds its basis in his redeeming work. We are to do what we do because he did what he did. Every time we partake of the Lord’s Table, we look back to his death and forward to his second coming.

I want to make comment about the charge that we deny the Trinity by understanding Christ’s centrality. We believe “there are three persons in the godhead, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit; these three are one God, the same in substance, equal in power and glory.” (WSC). Please note especially that these three persons are EQUAL in power and glory. We would never suggest that one person of the godhead deserves more honor than another or deny that any person of the godhead was a lesser Deity than another.

What is clear in Scripture is that in the economy of redemption at times it is the function of one or more persons of the Trinity to focus attention on and bring glory to one person of the Trinity above another. For example, during the period we call Jesus’ humiliation, it was his clear mission to focus attention on and bring glory to his Father. He summed up his mission in these words, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work. He has expounded the Father to us.

Since the giving of the Spirit on the day of Pentecost it has been the ministry of the Holy Spirit to bear witness to Christ and to exalt him. It is significant that Peter did not preach about the Holy Spirit on that occasion [Pentecost]. Instead, prompted by the Holy Spirit, his message centered on Jesus’ death, burial, resurrection, ascension and session at the Father’s right hand. It is his work to prompt us to confess that Jesus is Lord. We center on Christ in obedience to the Holy Spirit’s ministry.

5. Progressive sanctification sanctifies us and is separate from justification. No, they say, “never separate” but “distinct.” Then why not call it “progressive justification”? Why not clearly say that we are sanctified by justification?

The main reason we would not call progressive sanctification “progressive justification” is that these are two entirely separate matters. Apart from motivating our obedience, justification is completely distinct from sanctification. The only reason we say they cannot be separated is that they both result from the believer’s union with Christ. As a result of that union, all those for whose justification Jesus died, died with him to the dominion of sin and death. All whom he justifies, he also sanctifies. “Progressive justification” would involve a person being sanctified as the basis of his justification.

6. Election predetermines our eternity. No, the elect have to persevere. The perseverance of the saints is not a characteristic of the saved, it is something that the saints have to add to their faith to complete their justification. They call this, “already-but not yet.”
This statement poses an unnecessary either/or scenario. It would be like asking whether election makes our eternal destination certain OR must sinners believe the gospel. Of course the answer to such questions is “YES!” Justification is God’s judicial declaration about believers, all the conditions of which Jesus has satisfied. The saints can add nothing to his work to complete their justification. Jesus paid it all. We do not call this the “already/not yet.” An example of the already/not yet would be “In Christ we are ALREADY glorified because we are united to him who is glorified, but we are NOT YET glorified in our experience as we will be when he returns.”

7. Proponents of synergistic sanctification are mistaken. No, Calvinists think they are lost and promote a false gospel.

This would, of course, depend on the definition of “synergistic sanctification.” If, by this term, we understand the biblical truth that both the Spirit and the saint are involved in the process of sanctification, we don’t even believe it is errant, much less that those who propound it are promoting a false gospel. John Murray would be considered by most to be a Calvinist. This is what he wrote about what would generally be referred to as “synergistic sanctification.”

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

8. Spiritual growth is about change. Absolutely not. Calvinists believe we experience manifestations of Christ as we live by faith alone.

There is no question that the Westminster Confession of Faith is a Calvinistic confession. In answering this accusation, I can do no better than to simply quote its statement on sanctification. The Westminster Theologians wrote:

1. They, who are once effectually called, and regenerated, having a new heart, and a new spirit created in them, are further sanctified, really and personally, through the virtue of Christ’s death and resurrection, by his Word and Spirit dwelling in them: the dominion of the whole body of sin is destroyed, and the several lusts thereof are more and more weakened and mortified; and they more and more quickened and strengthened in all saving graces, to the practice of true holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord.
2. This sanctification is throughout, in the whole man; yet imperfect in this life, there abiding still some remnants of corruption in every part; whence ariseth a continual and irreconcilable war, the flesh lusting against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh.
3. In which war, although the remaining corruption, for a time, may much prevail; yet, through the continual supply of strength from the sanctifying Spirit of Christ, the regenerate part doth overcome; and so, the saints grow in grace, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.

I don’t know about you, but that sounds a great deal like growth and change to me.

9. The imputation of Christ’s righteousness is only imputed for our justification. No, they believe it is imputed to our sanctification as well.

The best way to answer this accusation is simply to say that it reveals Paul’s lack of understanding of justification and sanctification. Imputation belongs to a judicial realm and is only appropriate to justification. The concern of sanctification has nothing to do with imputation. Instead, it is concerned with the elimination of internal and external sin from the believer’s life. Justification is concerned with righteousness; sanctification is concerned with purity of heart and life. Justification is a legal declaration about the believer. God’s work in justification is totally outside the believer. God’s work of sanctification [progressive] is totally within the believer.

10. We should learn what the Bible teaches and apply it to our lives. No, they believe we should look for the cross in every verse which results in Christ manifestations in the Spirit realm. They call this, “the imperative command is grounded in the indicative event.”

Wrong again. Of course we believe in applying what the Bible teaches to our lives. It is only that we believe the Bible is more about what Jesus has done than it is about what we are doing. Our application of biblical injunctions is based on the reality that we have, by Jesus’ redemptive work, been set free from our bondage to sin. This is what we mean by imperative command being grounded in the indicative event. Indicative–You have been freed from your slavery—Imperative–Stop living like slaves.

11. Calvinists don’t believe in absolution. Not so. Calvin believed Christians need a perpetual forgiveness of sins that can only be found in the church. Augustine and Luther propagated this as well.

Of course, Calvinists believe in absolution as do Arminians and Semi-pelagians . Absolution simply means “an absolving , or setting free from guilt, sin, or penalty; forgiveness of an offense. What we don’t believe is that such absolution can be conferred by anyone but God.

As to Calvin’s teachings, one must understand that Calvinists are no more followers of Calvin than Arminians are followers of Arminius. Most Calvinists have greater disagreement with Calvin that agreement. For example, very few if any modern Calvinists would advocate burning heretics or witches. I know of few Calvinists who would advocate the wedding of Church and State [there are some Theonomists who would come close. Since our views of ecclesiology would radically differ from his, some of his statements concerning forgiveness in the church etc. sound strange to our ears. Remember that in Calvin’s construct, being outside the Church was to be an unbelieving heretic. Everyone who was a citizen of the city was also a member of the Church. The only kind of person who was outside the church had been excommunicated as an unbeliever. Thus, for him, forgiveness was to be found in the Church. For him, that would be the same as saying forgiveness belongs to believers [and in his case, probably to their covenant children].
Additionally, we always need to keep in mind the context in which Calvin wrote. His controversies and his opponents were not ours. Often his remarks, taken out of their historical context can sound strange to our ears.
The quotation to which Paul D. makes reference here is from Calvin’s Commentary on 1 John 1. It is as follows:

Secondly, this passage shews that the gratuitous pardon of sins is given us not only once, but that it is a benefit perpetually residing in the Church, and daily offered to the faithful. For the Apostle here addresses the faithful; as doubtless no man has ever been, nor ever will be, who can otherwise please God, since all are guilty before him; for however strong a desire there may be in us of acting rightly, we always go haltingly to God. Yet what is half done obtains no approval with God. In the meantime, by new sins we continually separate ourselves, as far as we can, from the grace of God. Thus it is, that all the saints have need of the daily forgiveness of sins; for this alone keeps us in the family of God.
By saying, from all sin, he intimates that we are, on many accounts, guilty before God; so that doubtless there is no one who has not many vices. But he shews that no sins prevent the godly, and those who fear God, from obtaining his favor. He also points out the manner of obtaining pardon, and the cause of our cleansing, even because Christ expiated our sins by his blood; but he affirms that all the godly are undoubtedly partakers of this cleansing.
The whole of his doctrine has been wickedly perverted by the sophists; for they imagine that pardon of sins is given us, as it were, in baptism. They maintain that there only the blood of Christ avails; and they teach, that after baptism, God is not otherwise reconciled than by satisfactions. They, indeed, leave some part to the blood of Christ; but when they assign merit to works, even in the least degree, they wholly subvert what John teaches here, as to the way of expiating sins, and of being reconciled to God. For these two things can never harmonize together, to be cleansed by the blood of Christ, and to be cleansed by works: for John assigns not the half, but the whole, to the blood of Christ.
The sum of what is said, then, is, that the faithful know of a certainty, that they are accepted by God, because he has been reconciled to them through the sacrifice of the death of Christ. And sacrifice includes cleansing and satisfaction. Hence the power and efficiency of these belong to the blood of Christ alone.
Please notice what he is arguing against. It is not that justification is a once for all declaration of the believer’s righteousness on the basis of Christ redeeming works. He is arguing against the sophists–
The whole of his doctrine has been wickedly perverted by the sophists; for they imagine that pardon of sins is given us, as it were, in baptism. They maintain that there only the blood of Christ avails; and they teach, that after baptism, God is not otherwise reconciled than by satisfactions. They, indeed, leave some part to the blood of Christ; but when they assign merit to works, even in the least degree, they wholly subvert what John teaches here, as to the way of expiating sins, and of being reconciled to God. For these two things can never harmonize together, to be cleansed by the blood of Christ, and to be cleansed by works: for John assigns not the half, but the whole, to the blood of Christ.

He is arguing not that believers must be justified every day, but that our justification is based not on the blood of Christ and our works, but on the blood of Christ alone.

We Calvinists believe in a perpetual forgiveness, not a repetitive justification. We do not believe we must be justified again every time we sin. We do believe that Jesus, in his intercessory ministry presents the efficacy of his once for all sacrifice before the throne of God’s grace for our perpetual forgiveness.

12. Christ works within us. Only BY faith, and faith only exists in the object that it is placed in. Calvinists believe that when the work of Christ moves from outside of us to inside of us that it makes “sanctification the ground of our justification.” The contemporary doctrinal term for Calvinism is “the centrality of the objective gospel outside of us.”

I will give Paul the benefit of the doubt here. I could accuse him of deliberately misquoting but perhaps he is just being sloppy. Perhaps I am mistake, but I believe the quotation to which he is alluding is from John Piper. Piper wrote, “When the ground of justification moves from Christ outside of us to the work of Christ inside of us, the gospel (and the human soul) is imperiled. It is an upside down gospel.”
Please note that Piper is talking about the GROUND or BASIS of justification. He is not discussing whether God works in believers. The issue is whether we are declared righteous because we are righteous, or because another’s righteousness is imputed to us. To suggest that God justifies us because we are righteous is to return to Rome. To use this quote to suggest that Piper believes God does not work in believers is disingenuous as best.
In our day there are many voices teaching many confusing and contradictory doctrines. How are we do discern what is truth and what is error? Let me close by making a few suggestions.

1. Examine everything in the light of Scripture.
2. Don’t trust anyone who refuses to define his terms.
3. Don’t trust anyone who is unwilling to provide quotations of his opponent’s position in context.
4. Read what is actually being said, not what someone tells you is being said.
5. If you are dealing with a confessional group like Calvinists, go to their confessions. Although confessions are not authoritative in the higher sense of that term, they can give you an accurate statement of their beliefs.
6. Don’t trust anyone who wants to tell you what you believe. If a person can’t state your position to your satisfaction before commenting on it, reject them.
7. Don’t trust anyone else’s research. Always search matters for yourself.


Real Issues In Justification and Sanctification Distinguished From Paul Dohse’s Straw Man Arguments

I wrote the following to Paul Dohse Sr. in response to an “Open Letter” he had written to Frank S. Page, President of the Southern Baptist Convention. Apparently, Paul, in his delusional state, believes these people really care what he thinks and will actually read his “open letters.”

That aside, Paul actually referred to Calvinistic doctrine regarding justification as “perpetual justification” instead of “progressive justification.” I wrote him the following email regarding that characterization of our position.


It seems you have finally stated our position accurately. I would go
to the stake to defend the doctrine of “perpetual” justification.
Perpetual means “Neverceasing; continuing forever or for an unlimited time;
unfailing; everlasting; continuous.” Once God has declared believers
to be righteous in his sight, we cannot and need not do anything to
perpetuate that standing. “Through whom [Christ] we have an access
into this grace in which we stand and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.” This bears no resemblance to “progressive justification.”

Paul–It’s perpetual only as long as one lives by faith alone in sanctification.

GRR–Your statement makes no sense whatsoever.

Paul–Why is that Randy? What’s so hard about the concept of keeping yourself saved by not obeying the law in “your own efforts” in sanctification because a perfect obedience is needed to maintain justification. What is so hard for you to understand about that concept?

GRR–There is nothing difficult about it except that no one believes it. You are clearly confusing concepts and statements and putting them together in a statement that is sheer nonsense.

Our correspondence has continued, but, thus far, nothing substantive has been added.

I have been trying to get into Paul’s mind for some time now, but so far I have found it to be a vast theological wasteland. Still, I believe I might have some insight into his thought processes. I could be totally wrong in my assessment, but these ideas seem to be clear from his statements:

1. Paul’s associations seem to be with the Southern Baptist Convention. Having been reared in that tradition and having had exposure to INDEPENDENT Baptists, I have some insight into the way they think. Along with other Evangelicals, those in these traditions have been trained to think of faith as a decision. It is an experience one can have and look back on fondly for the rest of one’s life. Once a person can be brought to sufficient faith for God to declare him righteous, he is set for eternity. Popular in the SBC is the idea that if a person who has made such a decision shows no evidence that he has passed from death to life, he should be considered a “carnal Christian.” He ought to be obedient to Christ, but if he isn’t, he is still considered to be a true believer. [If you would like to interact with people who believe this, you can find a ton of them at]. This “theology” was made popular by Dr. Lewis S. Chaffer, Founder and First President of Dallas Theological Seminary, and by the Scofield Reference Bible. Although I don’t have the exact quotation in front of me, as I recall Chaffer defined a “Carnal Christian” as one who had come to faith in Christ but was in every way exactly like the natural man (Chaffer, He That Is Spiritual).

The issue he and I are discussing is not truly the nature of justification, but the nature of justifying faith. For him, it appears that faith is a decision one makes to get his ticket for heaven punched. Once he has that behind him [“justification is a done deal”], he has a responsibility to be obedient to a Law that was never given to Gentiles, so that he might be sanctified. It seems clear that Paul D. believes that justification is God’s work [He even believes it occurred before the foundation of the world and obviously apart from faith]. It also seems obvious that he believes sanctification is the believer’s work. Of course, he believes once we are underway with the sanctification process, God will pitch in and give us a bit of assistance. He seems to have difficulty with the idea that both justification and sanctification are God’s work and both result from the same work of Christ. For him, the idea that justification and sanctification are always found in the same persons and flow from the same work of Christ is a conflation of these two works of God.

The issue is this—Is the faith that unites believers to Christ something that happened back there in the distant past, or is it the ongoing experience of every true child of God. Should faith be represented as a snap-shot or as a video?

The New Testament Scriptures leave no question that faith is enduring. A person who confesses faith in Christ and then begins to trust anything or anyone else, never truly trusted Christ at all. Faith that doesn’t endure isn’t faith.

It seems impossible for Paul D. to understand this idea because of his concept of faith as a one-time decision. We believers trust Jesus every day for our salvation. It is not that Jesus must be crucified over and over again or that we need to be justified any more than we were justified the first moment we believed. It is rather that the same Jesus, whose death first justified us, continues to present the efficacy of that death before his Father’s throne. He is able to save us completely and forever because he ever lives to intercede for us.

2. For some reason I have been unable to discern, Paul believes we Calvinists think it is possible for a truly justified person to lose his just standing before God. He seems to think we believe if a truly justified person makes an effort to please God in the process of sanctification, he will forfeit justification. He seems to believe this because he has confused statements Calvinists have made about justification and sanctification. Let me reproduce similar statements here and explain what we mean by them.

A. If a person professes faith in Christ but subsequently abandons that “trust” and turns from it to trust something or someone else, that person will lose both justification and sanctification.
B. Sanctification, no less than justification, must occur through faith.
C. Justification has nothing to do with an infusion of “grace” to the believer. It is based on Christ objective redemptive accomplishments and is God’s objective judicial declaration about us. In itself, it makes no internal change in the believer whatsoever.
D. Justification and sanctification cannot be separated. Both occur in the same persons. Both result from the same redemptive work of Christ.
E. The gospel is more concerned with what God has accomplished in Christ than it is about what God is doing in us.
F. It is the believer’s continuing awareness that he stands completely justified in the presence of our holy God that provides the impetus for his free approach and loving, joyful obedience to God. Knowledge of what God has accomplished in Jesus’ redemptive work does not obviate the need for the believer’s obedience subsequent to conversion. On the contrary, an increasing understanding of those accomplishments is the fuel that powers obedience.

These and similar statements have led Paul to charge the following:

A. Calvinists think if a believer makes any effort to please God in the process of sanctification, that person will lose his just standing before God.

Paul wrote, “How peculiar that Calvinism is associated with predestination, yet many of the Reformed tradition believe that we can lose our salvation.” To authenticate this claim he quoted Michael Horton from his book Christless Christianity (p. 62). Horton wrote,

Where we land on these issues is perhaps the most significant factor in how we approach our own faith and practice and communicate it to the world. If not only the unregenerate but the regenerate are always dependent at every moment on the free grace of God disclosed in the gospel, then nothing can raise those who are spiritually dead or continually give life to Christ’s flock but the Spirit working through the gospel. When this happens (not just once, but every time we encounter the gospel afresh), the Spirit progressively transforms us into Christ’s image. Start with Christ (that is, the gospel) and you get sanctification in the bargain; begin with Christ and move on to something else, and you lose both.

Anyone with one eye and half sense should be able to see that Horton meant a professed believer who does not continue to trust Christ alone for salvation [both justification and sanctification] has never come to true and saving faith in the first place. Think of the Galatian problem. These were people who had begun well, but Paul was afraid for them and for their eternal salvation because they were in danger of trusting in something other than Christ for justification. A person who turns from Christ, however noble his beginnings may have been, will never see God’s face in peace.

B. Calvinists believe the active obedience of Christ is imputed to believers for sanctification so that the believer doesn’t need to obey the commands of Scripture. He wrote,

It [gospel sanctification] makes obedience in the sanctification process synonymous with works salvation. Therefore, it redefines Christ as a Lord that does not require obedience, and in fact, rejects it. It makes obedience in the sanctification process synonymous with works salvation. Therefore, it redefines Christ as a Lord that does not require obedience, and in fact, rejects it.

He also wrote, “Some call this belief monergistic substitutionary sanctification. Christ was not only a substitute for the penalty of sin; but was also, and presently is, a substitution for all our works in sanctification as well” (PPT, Apr 27, 2012).

C. Calvinists conflate justification and sanctification. They believe a person will not know if he has been truly justified until the judgment. Only then will he know if he has persevered well enough in sanctification to merit justification. He bases his view on statements like “Justification and sanctification cannot be separated, but they must be distinguished.”

He wrote,

The Reformed doctrine of our day turns truth completely upside down. It posits a final justification that is yet future; it posits the idea that Christians are not recreated into new creatures; it denies sanctification as separate from justification—making justification progressive; it teaches that the obedience of Christ replaces our obedience in sanctification; it replaces our present goal of pleasing God with a striving for a final justification; it turns study for life application into gospel contemplationism; it replaces exegesis with eisegesis; it replaces assurance through obedience with assurance through contemplationism ( Paul’s passing thoughts, Jan 14, 2003).

D. Calvinists don’t believe God accomplishes anything in the believer. The entire work of salvation is outside the believer. They teach this because they believe matter is inherently evil and therefore righteousness cannot dwell in an evil vessel. He wrote,

All righteousness , Christ, grace, etc., must remain outside of us. Nothing of grace be within. So, we have no righteousness that is our own….for sanctification. Like….for justification, it must remain outside of us. In fact, Reformed theologians believe that if grace, Christ, or any kind of valid righteousness is inside of us, that is infusing grace into us while in sanctification. And if we do that, we are making sanctification the ground of our justification (Paul’s Passing Thoughts, July 17,2012).

Let me first simply state areas in which I agree with Paul Dohse Sr. regarding the issues under discussion.
1. God expects believers to be obedient to his revealed will and is pleased with us when we obey.
2. Once a person is truly justified, nothing he can do or fail to do will affect his righteous standing before God.
3. Justification is complete the first moment we believe. It is in no sense progressive.
4. We must never confuse justification and sanctification. These are two separate and distinct works of God [I am not sure Paul believes sanctification is God’s work, though he admits God offers us “help” in the process.
5. Not only has God worked a radical change in believers in regeneration, but he continues to infuse grace to believers enabling us desire to do his will and giving us the ability to be obedient [The aspect of this with which I think Paul would agree is that God works internally in believers and not only outside of us].
6. Believers possess a righteousness that is our own. Of course, our position is that even this righteousness is produced in believers by the grace of God, through the work of the Holy Spirit.
7. Christ’s obedience does not replace our obedience in progressive sanctification.
8. Believers may enjoy and are commanded to enjoy an assurance of our acceptance before God prior to the final judgment. We don’t need to wait until the judgment to discover whether we were truly justified.
9. Sanctification is in no sense the ground or basis of our justification.
10. After conversion, believers need to move on from the most basic facts of the gospel.

I am sure there are other issues I could mention, but these seem to be the most salient. The fact is, I don’t know of any other Calvinist living or dead would disagree with any of these propositions. Now, if that is true, Paul D. must be wrong about what Calvinists believe.
I am sure Paul D. would just call what I have written “Calvinistic doublespeak,” but these are the most unambiguous and straightforward statements I can give concerning what we believe. Frankly, I am convinced that Paul doesn’t care if he is misrepresenting our position as long as he continues to have the approbation and admiration of his fawning followers. As long as he can deceive them into believing he sees things no one else can see, he will continue to distribute his bovine manure.
Now, I will list areas in which Paul and Calvinists radically disagree: [In reality, it would probably require a tome to deal with all our differences].
1. Paul believes we need the gospel to be saved [justified] but after that we don’t need the gospel anymore. I believe the good news of the believer’s standing before God, in Christ, is the soil in which he grows in grace and flourishes in sanctification. It is only when we recall that we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens into the very presence of God that we are able to approach the throne of grace boldly to find grace to meet our exigent needs.

If we should define “gospel” as what many in Baptist circles think of as “simple gospel messages,” I would have to agree that we not only need to move away from it, but I would contend it should never be proclaimed in the first place. For too many, the simple gospel message is “You are as sinner. You will go to hell if you don’t make a decision for Christ. Jesus died for you. If you will open your heart and let him come in, you can go to heaven when you die.” The reality is, that isn’t the gospel at all. Perhaps some have been converted through that message in spite of its theological inaccuracy and lack of biblical precedence, but that doesn’t qualify it as the biblical gospel.

The issue, then, is not whether we should move away from “simple evangelistic messages” to deeper truths. Few, if any, Calvinists doubt that we should. The issue is whether we should ever move away from the gospel and the experiencing of basking in the light of God’s full revelation of his gracious purposes in Christ. If God intends for believers to move away from the gospel, why would the writer to the Hebrews have told his readers to “fix their minds on Jesus, our apostle and high priest?” Why would the apostle Paul have written about gazing, with unveiled faces, on the glory of God that has been revealed in the face of Jesus Christ (see 2 Cor. 3 & 4)? Jesus spoke of the believer’s experience of grazing on him as an ongoing and never-ending experience. In fact, he stated that a person who does not enjoy such an experience has no life in him (see John 6:52-59).
2. Paul believes righteousness is defined as believing in God. He wrote,

Hence, a proper definition of righteousness is, believing in God, not perfect obedience to the law. The law has no stake at all in righteousness that justifies. It informs our righteousness, but it does not affect it: Hence, a proper definition of righteousness is, believing in God, not perfect obedience to the Law. The law has no stake at all in righteousness that justifies. It informs our righteousness, but it does not affect it: (PPT,March 18, 2013).

I believe it is impossible to define the righteousness God requires apart from divine law. I would depart from many in the Reformed camp at this point in that they believe the covenant God established with Israel at Mt. Sinai is his universal standard of righteousness for all time. If sin is defined as lawlessness, then righteousness can only be defined as obedience to law.
3. Paul believes righteousness is apart from the Law. [See his statement above.] By that, he does not merely mean that justification is apart from the sinner’s personal obedience to the law, but that justification has no relation to the law and its fulfillment whatsoever. He bases this view on a faulty understanding of Romans 3:21. Understanding “the righteousness of God” to refer to justification and following the AV translation “the righteousness of God apart from the law” instead of connecting “revealed” to apart from the law, he bases his entire view on the idea that justification is totally apart from the law, i.e., that the law could not in any way be related to justification. The problem is that if his view on righteousness and Law, the lynchpin of his entire position on this issue, is errant, his entire system falls to the ground.
This is a strange view since justification is a forensic act which, by definition, means it must be related to law. God does not declare sinners holy; he declares us righteous. That is a legal declaration. As I have stated, my view is that righteousness can only be defined in terms of law. When God revealed that he requires that people “do justice” (Micah 6:8), how would the readers of that phrase have understood that requirement? Would they not have understood that requirement in terms of conformity to God’s revealed will in the Law he had given them? If Paul D. is right, would it not seem extremely strange that Paul would have written, “. . .for not the hearers of the law are just before God, but the doers of the law will be justified” (Rom. 2:13)?
The Scriptures do not teach us that the Law cannot justify; it teaches us the Law cannot justify SINNERS. Any person who entered this world with a perfectly clean slate, obeyed the Law perfectly, continually and inwardly from the womb to the tomb would stand justified before God’s holy throne.
It seems to me, a better explanation of Romans 3:21, is that God’s righteousness has been revealed apart from the Law, not that God’s righteousness is apart from the Law. But, what does the apostle mean by “the righteousness of God?” This term has been the subject of much discussion. It occurs eight times in this epistle, and has been defined in ways that are not mutually exclusive. The following are some of the ways in which interpreters have understood the term: 1. God’s attribute of righteousness, 2. God’s faithfulness in keeping his covenant promises, 3. God’s method of putting sinners right with himself, 4. The bestowal of the gift of that righteousness which God approves.
I would define “the righteousness of God” as God’s method of putting sinners right with himself, in fulfillment of his covenant promises, that is in perfect accord with his righteous character. The issue the apostle is treating concerns the revelation of this righteousness, not righteousness itself. Where is this divine method fully revealed, under Law or under grace? Paul’s answer is that though the Old Testament Scriptures bear testimony to this message in types, shadows, and promises, this righteousness of God is, through faith in Jesus Christ is only fully revealed in the gospel.
4. Paul D. believes to state that “though justification and sanctification are inseparable, they are distinct” is a conflation or a fusion of justification and sanctification. In his view, such a statement must mean that a person must either obey perfectly or have a perfect obedience imputed to him in the process of sanctification, so that he will be declared righteous in the final judgment. Additionally, he believes that if there will be such a declaration of righteousness in the final judgment, a believer cannot know if he is justified until that judgment comes.
It seems strange that Paul D. would concentrate on the first part of that statement and ignore the second part of the statement, “they are distinct.” If they are distinct, how can they be conflated? I want to affirm my full agreement with the statement in question and attempt to explain what we mean by it.
Why do we believe justification and sanctification are inseparable and what are the implications of both affirming and denying that statement?
When we state that justification and sanctification are inseparable, we simply mean that both are the result of the believer’s union with Christ. If a person professes that Jesus died for him, it follows that he died with Jesus. Paul wrote, “. . .hereby we judge that if one died for all, then all died. . . .” The point of union between these two works of God is union with Christ. All we are saying is that a justified person does not exist in whom the divine work of sanctification is not occurring, and a person who is being sanctified does not exist who has not previously been justified. Since justification precedes sanctification, works that a person who is not a true believer performs in obedience to the commands of Scripture, have nothing to do with sanctification at all. Such “obedience” is mere works religion. Additionally, a person who has been truly justified can add nothing whatsoever to his right standing before God by his works of obedience in sanctification. Such works, if genuine, merely give evidence that a person is righteous, through justification, just as Jesus is righteous.
Another point of contact between justification and sanctification is that both are God’s work and both flow from God’s grace. The believer is totally dependent on God’s grace, not only for justification but also for sanctification.
One clear and important implication of affirming the statement that justification and sanctification are inseparable is that believers can come to an assurance of our acceptance before God by discerning that, though God’s works in us is still incomplete, that process is moving steadily toward the goal.
Conversely, a person who makes no progress in sanctification should never be deceived into thinking that his standing before God is secure. Such a monster as the “Carnal Christian” does not exist. Paul wrote, “Sin shall not [he did not write “should not”] have dominion over you, because you are not under Law but under grace” (Rom. 6:14).
Justification and sanctification have no causal effect on one another. Justification does not cause us to be sanctified, though knowledge that we stand justified in God’s presence provides the impetus for us to love, boldly approach and obey God. Sanctification does not cause us to be justified. That is to say, the believer’s works of obedience in sanctification form no part of the basis of justification. These are totally distinct works of God.
5. Paul D. states that Calvinists believe it is possible for a justified person to forfeit his right standing before God.
What we truly believe is that a genuine believer in Christ will be a life-long believer in Christ. The key phrases in our statements are “true believers,” genuine believers” etc. Is every “believer” safe for eternity? The answer to that question, of course, depends on how we define “believer.” Is a believer one who has walked the aisle of a church building and made an open profession of faith in Christ? Our answer is “Only God knows.” Is a believer one who has repeated a prayer in response to the urging of a “soul-winner?” Again we answer, “Only God knows.” We cannot know for sure if such confessions are genuine or not. Sometimes true believers act like unbelievers and sometimes false believers act like true believers. It is impossible for us to have an absolute assurance of another’s justification. What we can be certain of is that if a person turns from a profession that he trusts in Jesus Christ alone to deliver him from the guilt and pollution of sin and begins to trust in anything or anyone else either in place of faith in Christ or in addition to Christ, such a person loses justification [not that he had it and lost it, but in that he forfeits any hope of it as long as he persists in his infidelity] and sanctification in that “sanctification” is not sanctification in a non-justified person. It is merely the practice of dead works.
True believers don’t lose their justification before God, but true believers never forsake their confidence in Jesus Christ as the only Savior of sinners.
There are many other areas on which I could comment, but these seem to be the most prominent in our ongoing discussion. Ultimately, it all comes back to a basic difference in the nature of salvation and God’s work in bringing it about. Unfortunately, much of the disagreement stems from Paul’s inability to understand plain theological statements and his willingness to draw unwarranted conclusions about what others believe, and then state those conclusions dogmatically without a shred of real evidence that those conclusions are accurate. He seldom produces quotations to authenticate his claims. Even when he does, he completely ignores the context in which those statements are made. For example, Paul regularly refers to a passage in Calvin’s Institutes, that is titled, “Justification—in What Sense Progressive?” From that title, Paul has concluded Calvin must have believed in progressive justification. He utterly fails to recognize that Calvin was arguing against the “Schoolmen” whose position it was that the works of the faithful subsequent to conversion contribute to our merit before God. Calvin is arguing that our best works, even as believers , cannot contribute to the merit necessary for justification. When Calvin talks about the believer’s inability to please God, he is speaking not about whether his children can please him by their obedience. Instead, he is talking about whether the Schoolmen were right in their contention that our post baptismal works may please God FOR JUSTIFICATION.
I am always happy to discuss legitimate doctrinal differences with other believers. If you have questions about or objections to anything I have written here, I would be delighted to entertain a discussion of those issues here. I am most happy to continue a discussion with Paul D. regarding actual points of difference we have regarding these or any other issues. What I cannot do is defend doctrinal beliefs I do not hold.
If you wish to comment on this or any other post on this blog, please be aware of the rules before doing so.


Sanctification: Monergistic or Synergistic?

The issue of the believer’s sanctification has recently become quite a contentious one. The controversy seems principally to center around two questions. The first concerns whether sanctification is through faith [sometimes the phrase “faith alone” is thrown in to confuse matters further], or through “learning and doing.” The second concerns whether sanctification is monergistic [the work of God alone] or synergistic [a cooperative effort between God and the believer]. I believe the first question can and should be answered only in light of the answer we give to the second question.
As in most controversies, the answers to these questions depends, at least to some degree, on the way we define the terms we use. If by “monergistic” we mean believers need not obey God’s clearly revealed commandments in his Word, but need only “let go and let God,” then we must biblically argue that sanctification is synergistic. Certainly, believers cannot be passive in this process any more than we can be passive in our response to the gospel. The gospel calls on sinners to respond actively in faith and repentance, yet we believe the work of regeneration itself is monergistic. We do not cooperate with God in giving ourselves life. My question is whether or not the same can be said of sanctification. It seems the New Testament Scriptures clearly characterize the work of sanctification as God’s work. To argue as a proof of synergism, that Paul writes to the Thessalonians, “this is God’s will, even your sanctification, that you should abstain from fornication” really proves nothing. Could it be that keeping God’s commandments is not sanctification itself but the result of it? If we took the term “conversion” in its broadest sense, it would include God’s work of regeneration and the sinner’s response to it in faith and repentance. In fact, it could even include the lifelong work of sanctification. Generally, however, the terms regeneration and conversion are differentiated; regeneration referring to God’s work and conversion referring to the sinner’s response to that work. If we understand “sanctification” to include both God’s work and our obedience that results from that work, it is obviously a synergistic work. On the other hand, if we view our obedience to God’s commands and our consistent working out of Jesus’ redemptive accomplishments, as our proper response to God’s sanctifying work in us, it is clearly a monergistic work.

Paul, in Philippians 2:12-13, sets forth both our responsibility and our absolute dependence on God in the matter of fulfilling this responsibility. He wrote, “Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.” To some extent, then, this discussion comes down to a definition of terms and a delineation of roles in the matter of sanctification. There are several facts, however, on which all should agree:

1. The believer’s obedience is not optional. We are responsible to obey all God has revealed. If we do not obey we are guilty of sinning against God.
2. Though we are unable either to desire to obey or to act in obedience to God and thus please him apart from his work in us, we are, nonetheless, responsible to obey. This statement confirms our belief that regeneration in and of itself does not provide sufficient enablement for our obedience. Apart from a continual, internal sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit, believers will never produce an obedience that pleases God. I am not suggesting that regeneration is unimportant or unnecessary to the believer’s life of righteousness. It is because we have been born of God that we cannot go on sinning as a habit of life as we did before regeneration. The principal benefit of being born of God is that he unites us to Christ. It is in our union with Christ that God deals a death blow to sin’s dominion. What I am suggesting is that though regeneration is essential to our life of holiness, it is not sufficient in and of itself to produce righteousness.
3. It is not merely that God does his part, and we do our part, but that we do our part because he does his part. His working does not depend on our working. At times his work goes on not only while we are idle, but while we are acting contrary to his revealed will. He does not wait on us to act obediently before he begins his work. At times, he even uses our disobedience to teach us the emptiness of all those ways that are contrary to God’s way.
4. A true believer does not exist in whom God is not working in this way and who does not desire to please God by obedience to his Word.
5. The ultimate success of the process of sanctification does not depend on the believer’s obedience, but on God’s internal work.
6. The believer must not wait until he senses that the Spirit is working within him before he begins to obey the clear commandments of God’s Word.
7. Whether we consider the believer’s obedience as part of the sanctification process or as a response to God’s work of sanctification, it should be clear in the matter of the believer’s growth in grace, both he and the Spirit are active.
Let’s return now to the first question–Is sanctification by faith or by “learning and doing?” To state the matter differently, is the outworking of the believer’s sanctification the result of his diligence in learning what to do and doing it, or does it result from his God-given faith? Please note that my question is not whether the Christian life demands diligence. The Word of God never sets a life of faith and a life of diligence over against one another. The question is whether a person can be successful in pursuing a life of diligent obedience to God apart from faith.
In light of what we have said, I think the only answer we can give is that any progress we can make in the life of obedience must be made through faith. Such obedience manifests itself as we live out what God has accomplished in Christ’s redeeming work and what he is doing in us by his Spirit.
One gets the impression from some that they believe Jesus accomplished our justification, but we must attain our sanctification by our own efforts. To seek sanctification by passively resting in the work of Christ living his life all over again in us is quietism. To seek sanctification by our own efforts, severed from faith, is legalism and moralism. That we are not sanctified by faith alone, as in justification, does not mean we are not sanctified by faith at all.
There is no question there are times when obedience is difficult. It is not an easy matter to pluck out one’s right eye or cut off one’s right hand [please understand this metaphorically as Jesus intended it]. Walking by faith has never been easy. The reality is, such acts of mortification would not merely be difficult, they would be impossible apart from the Spirit’s enabling. If he did not grant us the desire and the ability to please God, we would fail miserably. Apart from faith in the promises of God, we would be overwhelmed by an earthbound sense of the here and now.
In reality, sanctification must be by faith since its goal is to please God. Hebrews 11: 6 informs us that, “without faith, it is impossible to please Him [God]. . . .” In fact, the entire chapter that has come to be known as “the faith chapter” deals with the obedience of Old Testament believers who, subsequent to believing God for justification, acted in obedience to God through faith.
How is it that believers are to account themselves truly dead to sin and alive to God if not by faith (Rom. 6:11)? How is it that believers are to feast on Christ, the true bread that came down from heaven, if not by faith (John 6:53-58)? Here, Jesus uses the present tense that indicates continuing action. The believer in Christ doesn’t eat once and then move on to his own efforts. He continues to feast on Christ as long as he lives. How are we to behold the Lord’s glory as in a mirror if not by faith (2 Cor. 3:18)? How are we to rest on God’s promises and, as a result, perfect holiness in the fear of God, if not by faith (2 Cor. 7:1)? How are we to walk by the Spirit, if not by faith (Gal. 5:16)? Paul wrote, “For we walk [live our lives habitually] by faith not by sight” (2 Cor. 5:7). How are we to take up and put on the whole armor of God if not by faith (Eph. 6:11)? How can a person “joyfully accept the plundering of his goods, knowing that he has a better and enduring possession for himself in heaven,” if not by faith (Heb. 10:34)?
To couch this issue in the words of the Apostle Paul, “Having begun in the Spirit, are you now being made perfect by the flesh (Gal. 3:3)? Of course, someone will object that the Apostle was talking in these words about justification, not about sanctification. Our answer is that these two are inextricably joined. By that, I do not mean that these two works of God are fused so that somehow we are justified through sanctification. What I mean is that both these works of God result from the same work of Christ, so that a person who is united to Christ will invariably experience both justification and sanctification. If a person seeks to be sanctified by the flesh, the overwhelming evidence is that he has never been justified. Faith is not a one-time decision, but an ongoing experience. If a person stops believing and reverts to works, his faith was not genuine in the first place. Paul wrote to the Colossians, “As you have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him” (Col. 2:6). Whatever else this verse may teach, it should be clear that if we began by trusting God’s Anointed one, we must continue to live habitually in the same manner.
In Galatians 2:20, Paul wrote, “I have been crucified with Christ; [that is, because of my union with him, I died when he died ] it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.”
He tells us he lives the life he now lives by faith in the Son of God [or if we take the genitive as a subjective genitive–by the faithfulness of Christ]. Either way, he indicates his life in the sanctification process is dependent on Christ, who loved him and gave himself for him. It seems not to matter to the apostle how long he has walked in grace, he never ventures far from the cross.
The view that Galatians 2:20 is only speaking of justification and not about sanctification is based on several faulty assumptions. . First, it is difficult to imagine how anyone could think “the life I now live in the flesh” could be a reference to a past declaration. It is true, the genuine believer does not lose his believing attachment to Christ and his confidence that he is right in God’s sight through the one who has given up his life for him. True believers never get over their justification. Still, what is now occurring in the believer’s life is not justification but sanctification. Second, though the immediate context concerns the doctrine of justification, that is not its exclusive concern. In the immediately preceding verse, Paul wrote, “For I through the law died to the law that I might live to God.” Though others have taken a different view of this verse, I believe Paul is saying that since the penalty of the law was visited on his substitute in whose death he died to the law, he is now free to live to God. Whatever view we may take of the verse, it is clear that the result regards Paul’s post conversion life, namely, his sanctification.

John Brown wrote,

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

Brown, Galatians, pp. 37-8

The third faulty assumption is that the theme of the Epistle is “justification by faith alone.” In reality, the theme of the Epistle is the identity of the heirs of the Abrahamic covenant. The Judaizers had argued the true evidence that one was an heir of that covenant was submission to circumcision and, thus, to the conditional covenant of Moses. Paul’s argument is that since Christ is the promised Seed, all those who are united to him by faith are “Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise” (3:29). “Know then that it is those of faith who are the sons of Abraham” (3:7). The New Covenant not only produces an unfailing faith in Christ but also a continual reliance on the Spirit to lead us in the way of righteousness. Paul assures us that if we habitually live by means of the Spirit, we will by no means fulfill the desires of the flesh. He has clearly stated in 2:19, that the purpose of his death to the law was “so that he might live to God.” Just as it is by faith a person is initially united to Christ, so it is by a divinely inspired faith that he continues united to him. A return to the Law covenant as an evidence of being justified (the law being in that case the standard for sanctification) would indicate a failure of faith in Christ alone. It does not seem they were teaching that a person could be justified by being circumcised in place of reliance on Christ. Instead, it seems they were teaching that the true evidence of justifying faith in Christ was adherence to the Old Covenant. In other words, they thought the evidence that a person has faith in Christ is that he has been circumcised. Instead, the evidence that I have faith in Christ is that I walk by means of and in line with the Spirit. Such a walk, of course, involves obedience to the Scriptures inspired by the Spirit.
It seems one of Paul’s greatest problems with such a return to the Law is that “the Law is not of faith.” The question, then, is not by what am I justified, but what is the evidence that I have been justified. Is it that I live by the Law, or that I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave himself for me so that I continue to habitually live by means of the Spirit?
The possibility exists that some who have professed faith in Christ alone for justification may again retreat to their legalistic strongholds in which they persist in going about to establish their own righteousness. If there are any left on the planet who remember some of the older hymns, they will remember a line in one of them that reads, :”I dare not trust the sweetest frame, but wholly lean on Jesus’ name.” There have been many who, though professing faith in Christ alone, have lived on their frames of mind, at times feeling accepted because of how they felt toward God and at times feeling rejected. What they needed was to get a firm grasp on how God feels toward them in Christ since that is in the final analysis what truly matters.
Spiritually, we human beings tend to be “do-it-yourself-ers.” It seems to be our nature to gravitate toward self-help programs—“learn and do”. I believe it is for that reason even those who have professed faith in Christ need to be cautioned against the danger of trusting in the evidences of faith rather than the object of faith. This is not to say that the truly justified need to “maintain their justification.” If we have been justified, nothing can alter that divine declaration. Instead, it is that those who have once trusted in Christ alone for justification will go on trusting him alone for justification.
In the process of sanctification, the Scriptures call on us to strive, obey, mortify our sins, etc., but these acts of obedience are never to be thought of as works we can perform apart from faith or as forming any part of the basis of our right standing before God. Nor should we imagine we can perform those acts of obedience apart from the Spirit’s continual application of Christ’s redeeming work to us. If we begin to think of them in that way, we are guilty of becoming legalistic in our thinking and are in danger of condemnation. It was in this vein that Paul, the apostle, wrote to professing Christians, “if you are circumcised, Christ will profit you nothing.” Paul did not intend them to understand there was anything inherently wrong with being circumcised in and of itself. His meaning was that if they should begin to trust in anything other than Christ, they would give evidence that they had never truly begun to believe.
It is for these reasons we must be sanctified by faith. Any so-called obedience that occurs apart faith is not true obedience at all; it is mere legalism. We must daily remind ourselves that God does not continue to smile on us judicially because we are so good; he does so because Christ is so good.


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?


Hiding Behind Mama’s Skirt

Have you ever witnessed children taunting other children until someone begins to retaliate? Then, they run and hide behind their mother’s skirts. At times, there are people in the religious [I say religious, not Christian] blogging community who act just like these children. Today, I challenged a blogger named Joel Taylor at concerning a scathing indictment he had made against Tullian Tchividjian. Of course, there was the usual charge of heresy. Anyone who disagrees with Joel is a heretic. Based on Pastor Tchividjian’s tweet that was the basis of these accusations, Joel pronounced, “Tullian doesn’t want you to mature in Christ. He doesn’t want you to do anything, just continue ‘just as you are’ – and he calls that sanctification! being made holy!” Perhaps Tullian has shared this with Joel in private. It certainly isn’t evident from what he wrote in his tweet. Joel called Pastor Tchividjian’s tweet an “antinomian lie from hell.” Then he alleged, “Tullian is leading people to Hell and damnation with an antinomian lie.” According to Joel, “the brutish stupidity of this man’s theology needs to be made public.” Now, as I have stated before, there are elements of Pastor Tchividjian’s statement of his theology with which I would not agree and admittedly, I haven’t sat under his ministry every Sunday, as Pres. Obama sat under the “preaching” of Jeremiah Wright, so that I am well acquainted with all that he teaches.

Additionally, I should say I am not a defender of Pastor Tchividjian or of New Calvinism. I simply wanted to comment on what Pastor Tchividjian’s tweet said and what it did not say. This was his tweet.

“Just as I am without one plea” is just as true for sanctification as it is for justification.”

Now, I find no difficulty with this statement as it stands. By the very nature of “tweets,” one cannot say everything that needs to be said about a particular doctrine in a tweet. If all that Joel extrapolated from the tweet were actually Pastor Tchividjian’s position on sanctification, then Tullian is a bad dude indeed. Can you imagine a pastor so vile that he doesn’t want the people under his ministry to mature in Christ? Now, where in this tweet does Pastor Tchividjian state that God doesn’t require obedience from his people? Where does he state that it doesn’t matter if believers remain unsanctified?

The reality is, the tweet says none of what Joel has claimed. One question I asked at Joel’s blog was if we have a plea to offer God that would recommend us as good candidates for sanctification, what would that plea be? Can we argue that we are not quite as sinful as others? I don’t think so. The reality is, if God doesn’t sanctify us, there is no hope of change.

J.C. Ryle wrote,

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

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

Joel thinks people need to be warned against those who would harm the church. That is why I am warning you about him. No one is well served by wild accusations of heresy. I have no question about Joel’s sincerity. No doubt, he believes he is doing God a favor in opposing these horrible heretics, but if he wants to oppose something, he needs to take issue with what people actually state, not with what he imagines they believe.

I have no problem if someone wants to dissect a theological statement and then comment on its fallacies. But, to read into a statement a meaning that was never intended only divides God’s people and obscures real issues.

Oh, by the way, instead of interacting with my comments, Joel hid behind Mama’s skirt and deleted all of them. Why not be a man and discuss real issues? The only answer I can imagine is you know you don’t have answers to real questions. I wrote to congratulate him on his show of courage. He hasn’t answered me.


Justified By an Alien Righteousness

It seems to become more and more obvious with each passing day that the authentic gospel of Jesus Christ is under attack as never before. Of course, as has always been the case, the most severe and biting attacks come not from pagans outside, but from professed Christians. Under the guise of combating “the Heresy of New Calvinism,” some are denying truths that have been held by true believers for centuries. The chief Guru over at “Paul’s Passing Thoughts” (a blog I would never recommend) seems hung up on an idea that was emphasized years ago by a group called “the Australian Forum.” That concept is that the emphasis of the gospel is not on what God is doing in our hearts, but on what he has accomplished objectively in Christ. Additionally, they emphasized the idea that the basis or ground of the believer’s justification before God is not grace (or enablement) that he imparts or infuses to the believer as a result of Christ’s redeeming work, but an alien righteousness that he imputes to (legally puts to the account of) believers. The believer’s justification was objectively accomplished by the redemptive work of Christ.

I was probably in my early twenties before I heard a clear sermon on the doctrine of justification through faith alone, based on the redemptive work of Christ alone. The “gospel” I had heard was “Jesus died for you; if you will just let him come into your heart, he will forgive.” I challenge anyone to find a biblical writer or preacher either telling an unconverted audience “Jesus died for you,” or “If you let Jesus come into your heart, he will save you.” I can save you a bit of time. Don’t bother looking for it, because it isn’t there.

This does not mean God does nothing in the believer; of course, he does. It does mean what he does in the believer in the work of sanctification (an ongoing and internal work of God in which he makes us holy) forms no part of the basis of the believer’s justification(an instantaneous legal declaration in which God declares believers righteous in his sight). The ground of a believer’s justification has nothing at all to do with what God does in the believer.

Another way of stating this truth is to say justification is not through sanctification, instead, sanctification is through justification. This does not mean believers are not required to be obedient because Christ’s obedience and righteousness have been imputed to them. What it means is that believers now have free access to enter God’s presence boldly. People with a guilty conscience don’t worship or obey God. We need to be forgiven before we can be obedient. God’s method of putting sinners right with himself sets believers free from all guilt. No longer must we struggle to be acceptable to God. Everything we do post-conversion that pleases God, we do because we have already been accepted in the Beloved.

How important is this distinction? A person’s eternal destiny depends on it. If you believe even the slightest part of the basis of your right legal standing before God is an internal righteousness you possess personally, that is, by your own obedience, even if you believe that righteousness and obedience has been brought about by grace God has infused to you as a result of Jesus’ death, you are lost and doomed to eternal destruction.

If you have questions about what I have written here, Let’s discuss it. Don’t just make assumptions and then accuse me of heresy