Posts Tagged ‘Justification and Sanctification



Why the Question?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Pivotal Passage

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

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

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

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

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


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


James vs. Paul?


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




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



More of Dohse’s Delusions

I have never encountered an individual who wished to be called an evangelical Christian who was more confused and confusing than Paul Dohse. I have followed his posts for better than three years now and observed that he has gone from bad to worse. Some time ago, I gave up on my efforts to coax him into telling the truth about his theological opponents. As I have stated before, perhaps he is so biblically and theologically inept that he can’t comprehend truth. It could be he has been so blinded by his bitterness over perceived injustices he has suffered at the hands of Calvinists that he can’t reason clearly. To me it seems more likely that he is deliberately distorting other’s views in an effort to turn his readers against them.

A new-found internet friend has recently sent me a few comments from his blog, Paul’s Passing Thoughts. Prior to receiving those quotations I had not visited his blog for months. Today, I visited his blog again and read his latest article. It quickly became apparent that not much had changed. He was still beating the same outworn drum he has been beating for years.
As I read his article I noted several reasons for his confusion and thought it might be helpful to share them here. The following are a few of them:

1. He refuses to accept people’s statements of their beliefs. In his infinite wisdom, he is always able to discern what they really meant as opposed to what they stated. Example: “Protestants say that, [that justification is finished] but that’s not how we function. . . ; the doctrine is really about a justification that is not finished.” At that point he continues to blather about his warped perception of protestant doctrine. In Paul’s world, a person never believes what he claims; he only believes what Paul thinks he believes.

2. He fails to understand the difference between redemption accomplished and redemption applied. Another way to state this is that he fails to understand the two-fold work of Jesus, our Great Priest. The Westminster Shorter Catechism states that Jesus fulfills the office of priest “by his once offering himself as a sacrifice to satisfy divine justice and reconcile us to God and in his making continual intercession for us. His intercession for us corresponds to the high priest’s appearance in the holiest of all to sprinkle the blood of the slain sacrifice on the mercy seat. Jesus’ appearance for believer’s in God’s presence adds nothing to the efficacy of his once for all, finished sacrifice. Paul D. wrote as a supposed representation of what Calvinists believe, “They say justification is a finished work but. . .Jesus’ work is really not finished , He must keep working to KEEP us in that position where we are covered by Hs righteousness.” His implication is that we believe Jesus must keep working to secure our justification. What we really believe is that Jesus’ perpetually presents the efficacy of his once for all sacrifice on behalf of his people. He is able to save us completely because he ever lives to make intercession for us (See Heb. 7:25). This in no way implies that our justification is not complete or that Jesus must continue to do something more in terms of accomplishment to keep us justified. We do believe that once for all accomplishment has fresh application to our souls daily. If any man sins, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ , the righteous one, and he is [not was] the propitiation for our sins. Believers are never more righteous in God’s sight than they are the moment we first believe the gospel. We believe in perpetual justification but not in progressive justification.

3. He seems to impute to Calvinists a belief in a three-fold justification—positional justification, practical justification and final justification. Since he does not actually cite a Calvinist who holds such a view, I must confess I don’t know what he is talking about. Justification is positional and only positional in the sense that God makes no believer actually righteous in justification. He accounts believers to be just before the law by imputing to them an alien righteousness. Perhaps by “practical justification” he means that in progressive sanctification God brings believers into greater conformity to his righteous standard, but to my knowledge the Scriptures never refer to this divine work as practical justification. The concern of justification is a righteous standing before God; The concern of sanctification is the holiness of a believer’s state in the world.

4. He distorts the Calvinists’ teaching about the active and passive obedience of Christ. He states that Calvinists believe Jesus died [passive obedience] for our justification and lived a perfect life [active obedience] for our sanctification. This is an absolute perversion of the Calvinistic position. Both the active or perceptive obedience and the passive or penal obedience of Christ were for our justification. It is the believer’s union with Christ in his death and resurrection that effects sanctification. The believer is finished with the reign of death and sin because he has died with Christ.

5. He fails to understand and distinguish properly the different uses of the word nomos [law] in Scripture. Additionally, he fails to distinguish between “sin” and “transgression.” When God established the covenant of Sinai with the people of Israel, sin took on the character of transgression. He believes he can no longer sin because he is a believer and is not under the law. He fails to understand that people sinned before God made the law covenant at Sinai. Hupo nomon [under law] in the Bible always refers to the covenant relationship between God and the Israelites under the Mosaic law. Gentiles were never Hupo nomon, yet they still sinned. Paul thinks of under law or not under law as an existential distinction concerning a person prior to conversion and after. Biblically speaking, it is a covenantal distinction.
Additionally, he fails to recognize that there is a perpetual, universal standard of righteousness that exists simply because God exists. God’s highest demand on which every other righteous demand depends is that we love him with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. How that love is to be expressed depends on the rules that are prescribed under a given covenant. A husband who fails to love his wife as Christ loved the church and gave himself for her is no less a sinner than the man who committed adultery in violation of the Old Covenant. Both have demonstrated a failure to love God.

Would Paul D. have us think that believers are no longer under this perpetual universal, standard of righteousness? This would clearly contradict the apostle Paul’s teaching in 1 Cor. 9. He tells us he is not without law to God, but en nomos to Christ.
6. He denies that God’s law is the standard of righteousness [justification]. He argues that the law cannot justify no matter who keeps it. There are many passages one could cite to show that he is in error but one should suffice. In Luke 10, a legal expert asked Jesus what he needed to do to obtain eternal life and Jesus referred him to the law. Read it for yourself.

And behold, a lawyer stood up to put him to the test, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” He said to him, “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?” And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” And he said to him, “You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live” (Luke 10:25-28).

If law is not God’s standard of justification, what is the standard? How are we to define righteousness apart from the law? If guilt is defined in terms of law, and guilt (condemnation) is the opposite of justification or righteousness, must we not define righteousness in terms of law as well? Paul Dohse offers no answer to these questions.

When we read about the law’s inability to justify sinners, we must not understand this to mean it cannot declare behavior that conforms to it to be righteous. Paul clearly stated that “the doers of the law will be justified” (Rom. 2: 13).

7. Finally, he fails to understand that the believer is free from the condemnation of the law not because God’s righteous demands have ceased to exist, but because Jesus has answered and fulfilled those demands completely. When the apostle Paul wrote “Christ is the end of the law for righteousness. . .” he is writing about the purpose of the old covenant [law] finding its fulfillment in Christ. The word translated “end” [telos] means goal in the sense that Jesus is the one to whom the law pointed and in whom it found its fulfillment. It is true that he brought the law as covenant to an end, but he did so by fulfilling it.
There are far too many errors in Paul Dohse’s twisted reasoning on which to comment in a brief article, but perhaps these comments will help you navigate the treacherous waters of Dohse’s world.


The False Doctrine of Paul Dohse Sr.

People often visit my blog searching for information about the false teaching of Paul Dohse Sr. I suspect this occurs because I wrote a review a couple of years ago about a book he had written. Unfortunately, he and I have almost nothing in common theologically, and he is convinced I am a psychopathic liar who uses doublespeak to deliberately deceive people. He clearly thinks he knows better what I believe than I do and is convinced I am lying when I state my views as honestly as I can. He has recently threatened to “come after me,” whatever that means, if I ever email him or post on his blog again. Apparently, he feels he has the right to misrepresent Calvinists’ views and spew his vitriol against us without anyone questioning His Majesty. I am now banned from commenting on his blog because in response to his accusation that “Calvinists have redefined every term in the Bible”, I asked him to give me an example of a doctrine we have redefined. I also asked him to send me the authentic and authoritative list of official definitions of biblical terms so that I could see how our definitions have departed from the official list.

I was reading one of his latest posts today, “The Law and Why Calvinists are in Danger of Hell.” As I read through it, it occurred to me he hardly made a single statement I did not believe was erroneous. It would require a tome of no small magnitude even to begin to address all Mr. Dohse’s errors. Still, I thought it might be helpful to address a few of his statements in an effort to help some of those who are mystified by his enigmatic statements.

I must confess I still don’t understand what he is referring to when he states that Calvinists believe “the active obedience of Christ is imputed to a believer’s sanctification to maintain his justification.” I have asked him to explain that statement several times but he has never answered. Perhaps one of his fawning followers can drop by and explain it to us.

1. He fails to understand that nomos [law] has different meanings in Scripture. “The law of faith,” for example, does not refer to a governing standard but to a principle. Sinners are not declared right with God based on the law of works, i.e., the principle of works, “Do this and live,” but according to the principle of faith. From this error flows his neonomian error mentioned below. Believers are not saved by faith; we are saved by Christ, through faith.

Additionally, there are times nomos refers to God’s eternal righteous standard. At times, it refers to the Pentateuch. Sometimes it refers to the Old Testament Scriptures and perhaps most often it refers to the Old Covenant. Mr. Dohse’s failure to recognize properly how this term has been used causes him to make many unfortunate and fallacious statements

2. He fails to understand that “under law” in the New Testament Scriptures is a covenantal designation, not an existential one. By this I mean it refers to Israel’s period of tutelage under the old covenant, not the state of an unbeliever as opposed to the condition of a believer. He wrote, ”

There are many, many, many problems with this view [that Jesus fulfilled the in the believer’s place] biblically, but primarily, it keeps believers, “under the law” and NOT “under grace.” These are the ONLY two categories in the Bible that distinguishes the lost from the saved. Calvinism categorizes “believers” as lost people.

If Mr. Dohse is right, Jesus was born a lost person since Paul wrote to the Galatians that he was born of woman and born “under the law.” Additionally, there are several distinguishing categories in the Bible that distinguish the lost from the saved such as “in the flesh,” “fleshly/soulish” as opposed to “in the Spirit,” “spiritual.” Also, “perishing” as opposed to “being saved.”

3. What Mr. Dohse is articulating, though he does so inarticulately, is the doctrine of neonomianism. He writes, “No fulfilling of the law for justification was needed. We are justified by the “law of faith.” Think about it, has Christ ever needed faith? Only we need faith, not Christ. Christ didn’t fulfil [sic] any law for our justification, that law, in justification, is replaced with the law of faith because there is NO law in justification.”

William Styles defines neonomianism as,

A schemed of Divinity propounded by Daniel Williams, D.D., which held that God has receded from the demands of the Moral Law, and given up its original obligations—and that the Gospel is a New Law, but of milder requirements, in which Faith, Repentance, and sincere though imperfect Obedience, are substituted in the room of the perfect and perpetual Obedience required by the original Law. (William Styles, A Manual of Faith and Practice).

In answer to Dohse’s question, “. . .has Christ ever needed faith?” The answer is a resounding YES! His entire life on earth was one of absolute dependence on his Father.

4. Mr. Dohse states “it is the righteousness of God the Father that is imputed to us.” He rejects the idea that Christ’s righteousness is imputed to believers. The question is, where do the New Testament writers ever state that it is the righteousness of God the Father that is imputed to believers? There is no question but that God’s attribute of righteousness is resplendently displayed in the divine scheme of justification. His righteousness is revealed in the gospel, apart from the law. Paul here speaks of the revelation of God’s righteousness, not the manner in which he has established that righteousness in Christ.

When Paul used the phrase “the righteousness of God” in his Epistle to the Romans, he referred to God’s method of justification in accordance with his covenant faithfulness. This divine method involved the fulfillment, in Christ, of all his righteous demands and the satisfaction of his holy wrath against sinners. Paul’s use of the phrase “the righteousness of God” in Rom. 10:3, helps us understand how he used the phrase elsewhere. He wrote, “For, being ignorant of the righteousness of God, and seeking to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness.” Certainly, the Jewish people were not ignorant of God’s attribute of righteousness. In chapter two, the apostle had told us that they know his will having been instructed out of the law. The problem was they were ignorant of God’s method of justification, namely, Christ, the goal of the law for righteousness, because they were pursuing their own method of justification. The focus of the law was not law but Christ. “The righteousness of God” revealed in the gospel is a righteousness that God has wrought in his covenant faithfulness and therefore a righteousness that God approves. The law could reveal how holy and righteous God is, but only the gospel reveals how he can be righteous and at the same time declare believing sinners righteous. Faith does not replace the righteousness God demanded in the law; faith lays hold of the righteousness demanded by the law.

5. He is in error when he states that sin does not exist where there is no law. He thinks this explains why believers cannot be condemned. He does not believe the law has been fulfilled. He believes it has been voided by the death of Christ’s death. He writes,

Though the Bible continually states that the law has been voided in regard to our justification [he makes no effort to reveal where he thinks the Bible says that] , Calvinism insists the following: It’s voided because Christ fulfilled it. This is why Calvinists are constantly referring to the righteousness of Christ being imputed to us, but the Bible doesn’t say that—it states that the righteousness of God the Father was imputed to us [see above]. Christ’s death put an end to the law, not His perfect obedience. The imputation of Christ’s obedience to sanctification to keep us justified is a “relaxing” of the law, and Christ sternly warned against that [Only God knows what he means by this last statement].

Then, he argues that since the law has been voided for justification, sin does not exist and the believer cannot be condemned. The problem with this view is that Paul did not write that sin did not exist where law did not exist. In fact, he wrote just the opposite in Romans 5:13—“but before the Law, sin was in the world. . .” What Paul wrote was “where there is no law, there is no transgression.” (Romans 4:15). Transgression is not a mere missing of the mark, but an overstepping of a clearly defined boundary such as that delineated by codified law.

There can be no question in the mind of any serious student of the New Testament Scriptures that believers can still sin or that his sins require the perpetual efficacy of Christ’s redeeming work to forgive them. John wrote, “and if any man should sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous, and he is the propitiation for our sins.” Those sins require forgiveness if our communion with God is to be maintained and he faithfully and righteously grants such forgiveness based on the redeeming work of Christ.

We who believe the historic doctrines of grace do not believe we must be justified again every time we sin, nor do we believe we make progress in justification or must maintain our right standing before God. We do believe in the perpetual efficacy of Christ’s redemptive work.

It seems to me Mr. Dohse believes faith is a onetime act and that the Christian no longer needs Christ for justification once he has had his ticket punched. He writes, “Justification is a done deal.” He does not believe we any longer need Jesus to maintain our right standing before God. There is no need for us to continue believing. All we must do now is “learn and do,” and apparently he believes we can do this without divine assistance. This obedience simply results from regeneration.

In our view, we stand justified before God because Jesus, the crucified, risen, and enthroned Savior, appears in God’s presence for us. In his view, justification is behind us and we no longer need Jesus as our redeemer. If this is not what he believes, he is certainly welcome to come here to correct the misrepresentation.

We agree that justification is a done deal in the sense that a believer is never any more righteous in God’s sight than he is the moment he first believes, but it is not a done deal in the sense that we have moved beyond our need for Christ’s justifying righteousness. I think one of the difference between our views is that we see faith as a continuing dependence on Christ, not a onetime decision as he seems to believe. We believe through faith we have bold access into God’s presence because Jesus now appears in God’s presence for us. What Mr. Dohse believes about approaching God is anyone’s guess.


The Basis of Final Judgment

Michael F. Bird has written on “the Progressive Reformed View of Justification” in a book published by I.V.P. titled “Justification: Five Views.”

His concern as well as the concern of others is that the gospel of justification through faith alone does not seem to be producing what the Bible describes as genuine Christians. He writes, “The pew-sitting couch potatoes of our churches need to hear Romans 8:1-3 as well as Romans 8: 4-5. . .Otherwise it is irresponsible to give a sense of assurance to people who have no right to have it.”
Additionally he writes, “The protestant paranoia against reminding our communities of judgment according to works, lest we become Catholic, misrepresents the biblical witness.”

I would agree that members of the evangelical community need to be reminded that salvation is more than justification. Evangelicals have preached a cheap, man-centered message for decades, and we are reaping the results in our largely unconverted “churches.” Still, I could not disagree more strongly with the idea that the remedy to our “churches” being peopled with the unconverted is to give people the impression that though we are initially justified through faith in Christ, we will be declared righteous in the last day, not based on what Jesus has accomplished, but based on our genuine, though imperfect, works of obedience in the process of sanctification. Not only does this sound like Catholicism, it is Catholicism.

There can be no doubt that in the final judgment our works will be called to testify to the reality of our faith, but to suggest that those works form any part of the basis of our justification before God is contrary to the clear testimony of the New Testament Scriptures. The idea that we should pursue obedience to God because we know that in the last day, we will be judged and either justified or condemned based on our obedience, is a false gospel that lies under God’s curse. If this had been Paul’s doctrine, the objection he raises and answers in Romans 6:1-14 would make no sense at all. In that case his answer would have been that though grace may have more than overflowed to forgive our overflowing sin so that we have been initially justified by the free grace of God alone, based on the redemption that is in Christ alone and through faith alone, from here on until the judgment, we are on our own since the final judgment will be based on our divinely produced obedience. There is not even the slightest suggestion that the apostle believed such a doctrine. He does not say “Of course we cannot continue in sin because our justification in the last day depends on our obedience.” Instead, he argues that it is impossible for those who are truly united to Christ to continue in sin since we have died to sin’s dominion.

The view that we can be motivated to godly living by our fear and guilt in regard to what will happen in the judgment if we fail to obey is the precise opposite of the New Testament teaching. The impetus for all Christian living is that, in Christ, believers have been set free from the law with all its condemning power. Paul wrote to the Galatians, “I through the law, died to the law, THAT I MIGHT LIVE TO GOD.”

Since the law is God’s standard of righteousness, anyone who must stand before God in the last day based on that standard that requires perfect, continual and inward obedience has not died to the law and is not free from the law. If my final justification before God depends on my obedience [Please note I am not denying that the believer’s works will be a consideration in the final judgment. I am denying that those works of obedience will form the basis of my justification.], I will be lost forever.

The remedy for the pew-sitting, couch potatoes in our churches is not an altered view of justification, but an understanding of the work God performs in bringing about the faith through which he justifies believers. If faith is a mere free will decision on the sinner’s part, regeneration in the Reformed sense of that term is not really necessary. Many in the evangelical community view “faith” as a one-time decision that obligates God to justify the believer [the assumption these theological dimwits even know the term “justify” may be gratuitous] no matter what occurs after the deal is sealed. The reality is that not only does God enable one to believe initially, but he also continues to sustain that faith which in turn manifests itself in obedience. A “faith” that does not continue, a faith that does not work through love, is not justifying faith.

To believe this, it is not necessary to conflate justification and sanctification as Bird and others seem to do. We must merely understand that the same redemptive work of Christ that secured our justification also secured our sanctification. If sanctification is not occurring in one’s life, there is no evidence justification has occurred. This in no way requires that the believer’s obedience form any part of the basis of his right judicial standing before God.

It is for this reason Calvinistic teachers often state that though justification and sanctification are distinct from one another, they cannot be separated. Some have charged this represents “cognitive dissonance” on the part of those who make such a statement. According to them, this must mean a confusion or a conflation of justification and sanctification.

Perhaps it would be helpful to state our position in a slightly different way. The difficulty seems to be that opponents of this position seem to think we are talking about these two works of God being inseparable in that they are directly joined in the application of redemption. The point of intersection between these two divine acts is not direct. That is, they are distinct in the application of redemption. The only point of similarity between these two works of God in the application is that both occur through faith. Even then, the promises believed are different. In justification, the sinner trusts God’s promise that whoever calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. In sanctification, the believer accounts God to be faithful in his declaration that he is, through the body of Christ, dead indeed to the reign of sin and alive to God. Thus, justification and sanctification are always separate and distinct in their application. What occurs in sanctification can neither affect nor effect justification.

We say they cannot be separated because they are joined in their accomplishment. Both result from the same death of Christ. Jesus accomplished both for the same people. If he died for a person, that person also died with him. The point of contact between justification and sanctification [and every other spiritual blessing] is in the believer’s union with Christ.

It is impossible to effect sanctification in the lives of God’s people by telling them the basis of their final justification will be their obedience to the law. This will do nothing but bring about guilt and fear. Fearful and guilt-ridden people will not worship and obey God. This would be to conflate justification and sanctification in the application rather than recognizing that God has united them in the accomplishment.


Context–A Case Study

There is probably no factor more important for understanding any life situation or any body of literature than context. Taken out of context, a situation or a statement can be made to mean anything a person wishes it to mean.

This morning, Paul Dohse reposted a post from last year about the difference between John Calvin’s and J.C. Ryle’s views of justification and sanctification. By this post he demonstrated that if he can do nothing else well, he is a master of deceit. To his credit, he did cite the source of his quotations, but I suspect he thought no one would check out the original source. His contention is that Calvin conflated justification and sanctification so that he believed in “progressive justification.” In case you are unfamiliar with that term, it refers to the Roman Catholic doctrine that God infuses grace to the faithful, enabling them to obey more and more so that they are progressively more righteous which righteousness forms the ground of their justification. Of course, he was also trying to show that J.C. Ryle disagreed with Calvin because he stated that we should not “mingle or confuse” justification and sanctification. In reality, both Calvin’s and Ryle’s statements are taken out of context and forced to mean something completely different from what they truly believed. The following is a copy of Paul’s repost:

Paul’s Passing Thoughts
JC Ryle Verses John Calvin on the Separation of Justification and Sanctification

Posted in Uncategorized by paulspassingthoughts on April 20, 2012

“Christ cannot be torn into parts, so these two which we perceive in him together and conjointly are inseparable—namely, righteousness and sanctification. Whomever, therefore, God receives into grace, on them he at the same time bestows the spirit of adoption [Romans 8:15], by whose power he remakes them to his own image. . . Yet Scripture, even though it joins them, still lists them separately in order that God’s manifold grace may better appear to us.” — John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion (Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1960), Bk. 3, chap. 11, sec. 6).

“But the plain truth is, that men will persist in confounding two things that differ–that is, justification and sanctification. In justification the word to address to man is believe–only believe; in sanctification the word must be ‘watch, pray, and fight.’ What God has divided let us not mingle and confuse” (JC Ryle, Holiness: Introduction).

The following is a fuller quotation from Calvin’s Institutes that includes the quotation that Paul lifted from it:

For, in the whole of this discussion, the noun righteousness and the verb to justify, are extended by Osiander to two parts; to be justified being not only to be reconciled to God by a free pardon, but also to be made just; and righteousness being not a free imputation, but the holiness and integrity which the divine essence dwelling in us inspires. And he vehemently asserts (see sec. 8) that Christ is himself our righteousness, not in so far as he, by expiating sins, appeased the Father, but because he is the eternal God and life. To prove the first point—viz. that God justifies not only by pardoning but by regenerating, he asks, whether he leaves those whom he justifies as they were by nature, making no change upon their vices? The answer is very easy: as Christ cannot be divided into parts, so the two things, justification and sanctification, which we perceive to be united together in him, are inseparable. Whomsoever, therefore, God receives into his favor, he presents with the Spirit of adoption, whose agency forms them anew into his image (Emphasis and Italics mine).

I would like you to consider with me Calvin’s statement in context. I would urge you to read the entire chapter in C.I. so that you can get the full context. As we look at the fuller quote I have cited here, there are three aspects of it I would like you to take into account. First, please consider what Osiander was arguing. Secondly, consider Calvin’s answer to Osiander, and thirdly, consider Calvin’s answer to a supposed objection.

1. Osiander was arguing that the ground of justification before God is not only the righteousness of Christ freely imputed to us but by grace imparted to or infused to us.

For, in the whole of this discussion, the noun righteousness and the verb to justify, are extended by Osiander to two parts; to be justified being not only to be reconciled to God by a free pardon, but also to be made just; and righteousness being not a free imputation, but the holiness and integrity which the divine essence dwelling in us inspires. And he vehemently asserts (see sec. 8) that Christ is himself our righteousness, not in so far as he, by expiating sins, appeased the Father, but because he is the eternal God and life.

2. Calvin’s answer to him is that the ground of justification is the imputation of righteousness alone.

Thus it is said, in Paul’s discourse in the Acts, “Through this man is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins; and by him all that believe are justified from all things from which ye could not be justified by the law of Moses,” (Acts 13:38, 39). You see that after remission of sins justification is set down by way of explanation; you see plainly that it is used for acquittal; you see how it cannot be obtained by the works of the law; you see that it is entirely through the interposition of Christ; you see that it is obtained by faith; you see, in fine, that satisfaction intervenes, since it is said that we are justified from our sins by Christ. Thus when the publican is said to have gone down to his house “justified,” (Luke 18:14), it cannot be held that he obtained this justification by any merit of works. All that is said is, that after obtaining the pardon of sins he was regarded in the sight of God as righteous. He was justified, therefore, not by any approval of works, but by gratuitous acquittal on the part of God. Hence Ambrose elegantly terms confession of sins “legal justification,” (Ambrose on Psalm 118 Serm. 10). (Book 3. Chapter 11, #3)(Emphasis and Italics mine).

Calvin clearly taught that the ground of justification is an alien righteousness that God imputes to the sinner’s account, and that once justified, his standing before God is perfectly righteous. How could anyone read such a statement and believe Calvin taught that a believer’s obedience in sanctification in any way contributes to his justification?

3. Calvin states Osiander’s objection as follows: To prove the first point—viz. that God justifies not only by pardoning but by regenerating, he asks, whether he leaves those whom he justifies as they were by nature, making no change upon their vices?

It was in answer to this objection that Calvin wrote the words Paul cited out of context in an effort to show that Calvin conflated justification and sanctification. “The answer is very easy: as Christ cannot be divided into parts, so the two things, justification and sanctification, which we perceive to be united together in him, are inseparable. Whomsoever, therefore, God receives into his favor, he presents with the Spirit of adoption, whose agency forms them anew into his image.” In other words, of course God does not leave those whom he justifies as they were by nature, making no change upon their vices. The reason for this is that both these works of God result from the believer’s union with Christ and, to quote Calvin, “as Christ cannot be divided into parts, so the two things, justification and sanctification, which we perceive to be united together in him, are inseparable.” If God declares a person righteous in justification, he will not stop until he has conformed that person to his image in Christ.

Justification and sanctification must be distinguished from one another, but they can never be separated. They must be distinguished for several reasons: 1. They have different concerns. Justification concerns the believer’s forensic or judicial standing before God–Its concern is a righteousness that is objective, i.e., totally outside the believer. Sanctification has nothing to do with a believer’s judicial standing before God. It can neither affect nor effect his justification. It concerns his personal, internal holiness and results from the internal work of God’s Spirit. 2. The result from different aspects of Jesus’ redemptive work. Justification results from Jesus’ death for the believer. Sanctification results from the believer’s death with Christ 3. Justification is instantaneous and complete the first moment a person believes. Progressive sanctification is gradual and never complete until the believer is glorified. 4. Justification has nothing to do with a believer’s works of obedience. Sanctification enlists the believer’s cooperation in obedience to the imperatives demanded by the objective accomplishments of Jesus’ redeeming work. These and other distinctions must always be maintained.

That said, we must never think justification and sanctification can be separated. That is to say a person cannot exist for whom Christ died who did not also die with him to the dominion of sin. This is the meaning of Calvin’s words, “Christ cannot be torn into parts. . . .” The point of union between justification and sanctification is not direct so that they can in any way be confused or conflated. The point of connection is the believer’s union with Christ. Jesus accomplished both the believer’s justification and his sanctification, so that unless Jesus can be torn into parts, justification and sanctification cannot be separated.
This is exactly what J. C. Ryle believed. He wrote,

He who supposes that Jesus Christ only lived and died and rose again in order to provide justification and forgiveness of sins for His people, has yet much to learn. Whether he knows it or not, he is dishonoring our blessed Lord, and making Him only a half Savior. The Lord Jesus has undertaken everything that His people’s souls require; not only to deliver them from the guilt of their sins by his atoning death, but from the dominion of their sins, by placing in their hearts the Holy Spirit; not only to justify them but also to sanctify them. He is, thus, not only their “righteousness” but their “sanctification.” (I Cor. 1:30). ( J. C. Ryle, Holiness. 27-28. Available online at

Paul accused me of taking this quote out of context. Please access the online copy of Ryle’s work and read the entire context. The following is another quotation from the same page.

(1) Sanctification, then, is the invariable result of that vital union with Christ which true faith
gives to a Christian.—“He that abideth in Me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit.”
(John xv. 5.) The branch which bears no fruit is no living branch of the vine. The union with Christ which produces no effect on heart and life is a mere formal union, which is worthless before God. The faith which has not a sanctifying influence on the character is no better than the faith of devils. It is a “dead faith, because it is alone.” It is not the gift of God. It is not the faith of God’s elect. In short, where there is no sanctification of life, there is no real faith in Christ. True faith worketh by love. In constrains a man to live unto the Lord from a deep sense of gratitude for redemption. It makes him feel that he can never do too much for Him that died for him. Being much forgiven, he loves much. He whom the blood cleanses, walks in the light. He who has real lively hope in Christ, purifieth himself even as He is pure. (James ii. 17-20; Titus i. 1; Gal. v. 6; 1 John i. 7; iii. 3.)

All Ryle is saying is that to separate justification and sanctification would require that Christ be torn in half. It would “make him only a half Savior.” To me, that sounds exactly like Calvin’s view.


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.


Justification, Sanctification, Faith and Perseverance

I thought it might be helpful to state a series of propositions about justification, sanctification, faith and perseverance in an effort to clarify what we believe in relation to these doctrines and how they relate to one another. Although I have not provided texts of Scripture to support each of these statements, I believe each of them is supported by God’s revelation understood in its proper context. Please consider each of them in the light of the Scriptures. I am happy to entertain comments, questions, or objections to any of them.

1. Justification before God is a judicial declaration that occurs once for all through faith in God’s promise that whoever calls on the Lord’s name will be saved.
2. Justification imputes a God designed and therefore God approved righteousness [for this reason it is referred to as “the righteousness of God” or better “a God righteousness”] to sinners who deserve his wrath.
3. Justification has nothing to do with any personal righteousness that is produced by the Spirit in the believer’s life.
4. Jesus has fully satisfied all the demands of God’s law (obedience for a declaration of righteousness and death as the penalty for disobedience) and has therefore been declared righteous based on the strictest terms of the law. Paul told his readers “the doers of the Law will be justified.” The only doer of the law who ever lived was Jesus. By his perfect, continual and inward obedience to that Law, God declared him to be righteous in his sight. Because those in whose place he stood, as their head and representative, had broken the Law and were liable to its curses, he became a curse for us and thus exhausted the penal sanctions of the divine Law.
5. God accepts believers as righteous in his sight because we are united to him who is righteous in his sight. This standing in righteousness cannot progress any more than the spotless righteousness of Christ itself can increase. He bases his declaration on a righteousness that is totally outside us.
6. Sanctification, although completely distinct from justification, cannot be separated from it since both result from the believer’s union with Christ. The believer is justified because Jesus died for him; the believer is sanctified definitively because he died with Christ. Justification does not, in itself, produce sanctification, nor does sanctification produce justification. In that sense, these two works of God’s grace are completely distinct. They cannot be separated in that sense that there will never be a person whom God has justified whom he has not set free from sin’s dominion and in whom he is not carrying on his sanctifying work.
7. Both the declaration of righteousness and the ongoing work of sanctification are works of God’s grace. In justification, he is concerned to bestow on us a righteous standing; in sanctification he is concerned to work in us a practical holiness. Jesus’ redemptive accomplishments secured not only the believer’s justification but also his sanctification.
8. Though believers become partakers of both justification and sanctification through faith, sanctification is not a work that is accomplished through faith alone in the sense that the believer’s works of obedience are not involved. In response to the Spirit’s continuing work within believers, we are responsible to perfect holiness or sanctification in the fear of God.
9. Justification never increases or progresses. It is as complete as it will ever be the first moment a person believes the gospel. Sanctification progresses and will never be complete as long as we remain in the body. No matter how holy a person may become, his sanctification can never make him any more righteous in God’s presence than he was the first moment he believed.
10. Genuine faith results from God’s work of grace in the sinner’s heart. Not every experience of “faith” is genuine. Genuine and spurious “faiths” may appear so similar that the difference between them will be indiscernible. The only way to distinguish the genuine from the spurious is that genuine faith continues and produces the fruit of obedience.
11. The believer’s perseverance in faith adds nothing to his perfect standing. Persevering in faith is simply what true believer’s do. Those who turn back lose nothing they ever possessed. A faith that fails to persevere was not true faith at all. A person who began with a profession of faith in Christ but then turns back and begins to trust something or someone other than Christ, never genuinely trusted Christ to begin with and was never justified.
12. The apostles Paul and James did not contradict one another in their teaching. They were simply concerned with different questions. The question Paul was answering concerned what justifies before God, personal works of obedience to the Law or faith in Christ alone. His answer was that sinners are justified through faith alone, apart from the works of the Law. The question James was answering concerned the nature of that faith through which sinners are justified. Is justifying faith a dead faith or a faith that works and obeys? On this question, both apostles were in perfect agreement. Paul spoke of justifying faith as “faith that works by love.” Paul was concerned with what justifies; James was concerned with who are the justified. Are the justified those who “say they believe” or those whose faith gives evidence of itself by persevering obedience to Christ? The classic statement on this issue was that justification is through faith alone, but it is never through a faith that is alone.


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.


Another Conversation With Paul Dohse

I asked people at Paul’s Passing Thoughts to provide me just one proof that Calvin, a Puritan, or any Calvinist believed or believes in “progressive justification” in the sense that believers become progressively more righteous in God’s sight than we were the first moment we believed. I am still waiting for one of them to respond. In reality, they can’t respond since that is not our teaching. Of course, that doesn’t keep them from making the claim since telling the truth doesn’t seem very important to any of them. Slander is their favorite hobby.

Paul, of course, evaded the question by engaging me in a converstation about whether the Bible teaches that Christ’s righteousness is imputed to believers through faith. After about an hour of asking him to define “righteousness,” [I didn’t want to define it because I knew he would reject my definition] he answered that righteousness is conformity to God’s law.

After I left the discussion, and, of course, after calling me a heretic, he wrote the following eight statements. I have included my answers to those statements.

1. We were declared righteous and justified before Christ became a man and went to the cross (Romans 8:29, 30). Therefore, there was no need for His perfect life to be imputed to our justification. His obedience to the cross and His resurrection was all that was needed.

Then you believe we are justified apart from faith, since we were justified before we even had being. You are confusing the purpose of God with the accomplishment and application of that purpose. If you believe in “eternal justification” you are in a very very small minority.

If you are correct that we don’t need his perfect life imputed to us for justification, how is it that we are credited with “righteousness” which you and I have agreed is defined as obedience to God’s law. Where does that righteousness come from if not from Christ. The Law demanded perfect, continual and internal obedience. We have no such obedience to present before God as the ground of our justification. How is that demand met if not by Christ?

2. We are justified APART FROM THE LAW.

We are not justified apart from the Law. God’s righteousness [the phrase Paul uses to describe God’s method of putting sinners right with himself in faithfulness to his covenant promises] is REVEALED apart from the Law. It is true we are justified apart from our personal obedience to the Law, but we could never be declared righteous if the Law did not declare us righteous. That is God’s standard for justification. “the doers of the Law will be justified.”

3. We are presently righteous because God’s seed is in us and we have righteous/good desires.

If you think this statement concerns justification in any way, you are conflating justification and sanctification. We are presently becoming more and more righteous as a result of God’s works in us, but this concerns our sanctification, not our justification.

4. We are not perfect because our body is not yet redeemed, but that doesn’t exclude the fact that we are righteous.

This statement taken on its face would indicate you believe sin resides in our bodies. If you believe that, you subscribe to Gnostic Dualism in which spirit is good and matter is evil. Please keep in mind that we are discussing justification. In terms of justifying righteousness, we will never be righteous in this earthly life. If you want to discuss sanctification, that is another matter altogether. Justifying righteousness is perfect. Our righteousness in sanctification is ever growing but never perfect in this earthly life.

5. The part of us that isn’t righteous is not under the law but under grace.

If we are believers, all of us is under grace, not just part of us. No part of us would be righteous apart from grace.

6. Christ’s obedience IS NOT imputed to our sanctification.

No one said, and no one believes Christ’s obedience is imputed to our sanctification. However, his enabling grace is imparted to us for sanctification.

7. NO one is justified by the works of the law. I would assume that would mean Christ didn’t have to keep the law for our justification. Why would he if we are not justified by the law to begin with?

See my answer above.
8. Our sin was imputed to Christ, and God’s righteousness was imputed to us. We were justified by Christ’s one act of obedience to the cross, not the obedience of His life. That one act resulted in the righteousness of God being put to our account.

But, we agreed that “righteousness” in the context of justification is defined as obedience to God’s Law. God as pure Spirit did not obey his Law. Since we are human beings, he requires of us a human obedience to his Law. God’s righteousness is whatever he does within the bounds of his holiness. It is not that which is put to our account.

Christ’s one act of obedience encompasses his entire life culminating in his crucifixion. Paul wrote to the Philippians, “. . . .he became obedient unto death, even death by crucifixion.” His entire life was a life of obedience. The writer to the Hebrews tells us “He was made perfect [a complete Priest/Savior] by the things he experienced/suffered [the word can be translated either way]. These words occur in a context that describes his perfect obedience/submission to his Father’s will.

Justification is not simply a declaration of “not guilty.” For that a payment of the penalty would have been sufficient. Justification is also a declaration of positive righteousness. That positive righteousness is defined as perfect, continual and internal obedience to God’s law. God the Father did not obey the law. He was never under it. We have not obeyed the law perfectly, continually or internally. If God imputes such a righteousness to our account, where else is such a righteousness to be found if not in Christ.

It is the “In Christ” relationship that is the key to this issue. Either we are “In Adam,” or “In Christ.” If we are “In Adam,” we die as a result of his unrighteousness, i.e., his breaking of the expression of God’s law that was given to him in the garden. If we are “in Christ,” we are co-heirs with him. All that can be ascribed to him as a perfect human being, now belongs to us in union with him. We are loved because we are “in him.” We are justified because we are “in him.” We are heirs because he is the heir, and we are “in him.” We are glorified because we are “in him” who is glorified.

If righteousness is defined as conformity to God’s law, there is no righteousness apart from Christ since he alone in all the universe has been fully conformed to God’s law.


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.