Posts Tagged ‘Justification


Loved to the Uttermost

Have you ever noticed that the same chapter in which Jesus told Peter he was going to betray him before the night was over, begins by telling us that Jesus, having loved his own who were in the world, loved them to the end or to the uttermost? [see Jn. 13:1] As we continue to read the Fourth Gospel, we find that Peter’s actions were very similar to the actions of Judas. John wrote regarding both these men that they stood with Jesus’ enemies [see Jn. 18:5, 18]. The reality is that every time we sin, we stand with Jesus’ enemies and demonstrate our remaining hostility toward God.
The difference in these two men is seen not in their sin [Sin has the same character in the regenerate that it does in the unregenerate]. The difference is seen in their response to their sin [Judas went out and hanged himself; Peter went out and wept bitterly] and in Peter’s restoration].
The point we must understand is that Jesus did not love Peter because of the latter’s steadfastness or because he foresaw his repentance. He did not love him any more because he saw what he would become [by grace] or any less because he knew of his miserable failures. In fact, he did not love Peter because of Peter at all. He could love Peter, and the rest of us faltering and failing sinners, because the cause of his love is not anything in us, but everything in himself.
Charles Hodge wrote,
If he [God] loved us because we loved him, he would love us only so long as we love him, and on that condition; and then our salvation would depend on the constancy of our treacherous hearts. But as God loved us as sinners, as Christ died for us as ungodly, our salvation depends, as the apostle argues, not on our loveliness, but on the constancy of the love of God.

Thoughts on “Calvinists:Going to Hell and Proud of it,” by Paul Dohse

I thought it might be interesting to post a few thoughts about Paul’ s Dohse’s latest post,“Calvinists: Going to Hell and Proud of it” and invite my readers to discuss these ideas here. I am not going to go into great detail; the brief observations I will make will no doubt be expanded in answer to the comments you make.
Paul wrote his article in answer to a blogger named Frank who posted an excellent summary of the gospel in response to one of Paul’s videos.
One issue on which Paul and I are in full agreement is that we are proclaiming two distinctively different messages, only one of which is the biblical gospel. The other message stands under condemnation and the one proclaiming it is cursed by God (see-Galatians 1:8). This is a matter of extreme importance.
I would invite you to read Paul’s article at before commenting here. Since I do not wish to misrepresent his views in any way, I would like you to see them in context before you comment.
The following are my observations:
1. He builds much of his argument on a Dispensational view of the Scriptures that makes distinctions between things that do not differ. The better manuscripts of Rom. 14:10 state that we must all stand before God’s judgment seat. The passage is cited from Isaiah 45, a salvific context, in which Jehovah declares that every knee shall bow to him and every tongue shall swear allegiance.
2. As usual, Paul confuses justification, sanctification and regeneration. Although I have heard some Lutherans give the impression that sanctification is unimportant, Calvinists generally agree that those whom God has justified are in the process of being sanctified and that their obedience gives evidence of the reality of their faith. When we deny that we have any righteousness of our own, we are speaking of justifying righteousness.
3. He continues to argue that the Calvinist’s believe in Christ’s active obedience means Christ continues to obey for us as long as we resolve to do nothing in sanctification.
4. He argues that we advocate returning to the gospel to keep ourselves saved. In reality, what we advocate is that once a person has trusted in Christ alone for justification he will never trust anyone or anything else for his justification. Faith is not a one-time act but an ongoing reliance on Christ. We don’t keep ourselves saved. God maintains the work he has begun and enables us to continue to rely on Christ alone.
5. He speaks of our belief that the judgment is determinative. In reality, what we believe is that the judgment will be declarative. The destiny of those who stand in the judgment has already been determined.
6. He sets a redemptive historical approach to Scripture over against a literal grammatical historical approach to Scripture. These approaches are not contradictory.
7. He advocates justification based on a believer’s personal righteousness, not on an alien, imputed righteousness. He writes, “Believers, who are already deemed righteous because they are in fact righteous (Italics mine), will be judged for rewards. . . .” This accords with the Roman Catholic doctrine of justification. The Scriptures teach us that God justifies the ungodly (see Romans 4:5).
8. He views the standard of justification as a righteousness that is less than perfect, unless, of course, he believes in the sinless perfection of believers. He believes we are accepted by God, not because we are acceptable but because Jesus has simply removed the law.
9. He fails to understand that “hupo nomon” [under law] is a covenantal distinction, not an existential distinction. Gentiles were never “under law” yet we were still condemned. It is not that prior to faith we were under law but now we are not under law. Rather, it is that the time of promise and type has ended and the fulfillment has come. As John states it, “the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth [reality or fulfillment] came by Jesus Christ.
10. He fails to understand that believers are not under the law because we are united to Christ who has fulfilled the law. He is the one to whom the law pointed [the end or goal] for righteousness. People should not look to the law for righteousness. We must look to Christ for righteousness.

There are several other false and misleading statements in Paul’s article, but these should be sufficient to provoke a meaningful discussion. I encourage your comments, but please read the rules for commenting before you opine.


Perfect Obedience to God’s Law–The Standard for Justification.

I thought it might be helpful to examine a couple of the assertions Paul Dohse has made concerning the doctrine of justification before God in the light of Scripture.

His position is:

1. It is not Christ’s righteousness but God the Father’s rightousness that is imputed to the sinner. He offers Romans 8:30 as a proof-text for this belief.

2. God’s law does not require the sinner’s perfect obedience for his justification.

3. Romans two has nothing to do with justification but describes the direction of the believer in sanctification.

4. There is no real revealed standard for justification. That is, God does not require a perfect obedience from sinners.

This is what he wrote:

“But Paul makes it clear: God imputed a righteousness that is “apart from the law.” I assume he is referring to Romans 3:21.

The question we should ask here is whether Paul says “God imputes a righteousness that is apart from the law” or “the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law?” It is, of course, my view that the latter is what the apostle actually intended. The righteousness God demands cannot be defined apart from His revealed truth. The reality is, whatever God does within the bounds of his holy character is righteous. He is not subject to any standard that has been imposed on him externally. Who is to say “there is unrighteousness with God?” Now we must ask, is it possible for a mere human being to be conformed to the undefined standard that characterizes God’s righteousness? Are we to believe that God makes us absolutely holy, as he is, so that whatever we do is indisputably righteous? Of course not! The clear teaching of the Scriptures is that God holds us accountable to obey his law, that is, his revealed will. As far as mere human beings are concerned, there is no righteousness that is “apart from the law,” i.e., God’s revealed will.

There are two separate and distinct issues under consideration in Romans chapters two and three. If we fail to distinguish between those two issues, we are bound to misunderstand Paul’s teaching on justification before God. In fact, a clear and unmistakable contradiction would exist between Romans 2:13 and Romans 3:20. If both these verses refer to the basis of justification, his teaching would be that justification is through DOING what the law demands and NOT through DOING what the Law demands at the same time. Such a contradiction is unthinkable. The question, then, is not whether justification before God is based on perfect conformity to his law. Paul makes that clear in chapter two of Romans. The reason no sinful human being will be justified by the law is not that the law cannot declare righteous those who obey it, but that there are no members of Adam’s race who obey it as God has demanded they obey it. That is to say, it is not that the law is unable to justify anyone; it is that the law is unable to justify sinners.

The next question I would ask is, What does the apostle mean by “the righteousness of God” in this context. I believe this phrase refers not to an attribute of God, but to God’s activity in justifying sinners or in other words, God’s righteous method of justifying sinners. Consider how Paul uses this term in Romans 10: 2-3 speaking about his desire for Israel’s salvation. He wrote “For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge, For being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and seeking to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness.”

If the phrase, “the righteousness of God” refers to God’s method of justifying sinners, the question here is not whether sinners are justified by law keeping or apart from law keeping. The question is whether it is in the Law or in the gospel that this method, the righteousness of God, is manifested. The answer is that though the Old Testament Scriptures bore witness to this method of justification, by types, shadows, and promises, the full-blown gospel was not manifested by the Law. This manifestation is made “apart from the Law.”

2. Paul D. wrote: “The author cites Romans 2:13 as a standard for justification regarding believers, but it is not. That verse speaks of the direction of the saved, and not the perfection in comparison to those who are unsaved. This is clear if you observe the preceding text in 2:6-11:”

Were it not for the context of the passage he cites, I might be inclined to agree with his assessment of the passage. It is clear to anyone who is acquainted with the New Testament Scriptures that there is a clear directional difference between the justified and the unjustified, but the context of this passage makes his view of the passage impossible.

To see this, one must only ask, What is the point the apostle is arguing in Romans 1:18-3:20? It is almost universally recognized that the apostle is here demonstrating the universal necessity for justification before God. His specific point in Romans two is God’s impartiality in judgment. It does not matter who you are, how or in what nation you were born, what rituals have been performed for you, how much you know, to what religion you adhere, how respectable you are or how indignant you can be about the sins of others, you will all be judged by God’s righteous standard. The apostle refers to God’s “righteous judgment” three times in the verses immediately preceding the passage in question. The issue is clearly judicial in nature.

There are several questions that cry out for an answer in light of Paul D’s assertion:

1. If these verses are talking about sanctification, what consideration moved the apostle to introduce that concept in a passage that is clearly dealing with the universal need for justification?

2. What level of “persevering continuance in well-doing” is necessary to enable the sinner to stand justified in the “righteous judgment of God” in which God will render to each one according to his works? Is close good enough? Suppose a person does the best he can and only offends in one point of the law, will that be good enough?

3. Why does the apostle write, “the doers of the Law will be justified,” if these verses are talking about “the direction of the saved,” that is, sanctification? Do believers ever reach a level of obedience in sanctification that merits justification?

4. If “persevering continuance in well-doing” describes “the direction of the saved,” would that not indicate that sanctification precedes justification? Paul D. has made a big deal over justification being a “done deal.” Now we have to move on to sanctification. The apostle wrote, . . . the doers of the Law WILL BE justified.” Would that not indicate that the order would be a persevering continuance in well-doing that indicates the direction of the saints, i.e., doing the Law and THEN they will be justified? This is the exact opposite of what Paul D. has argued. Do we not believe that the moment a sinner believes the gospel, he has eternal life? This passage says God WILL GRANT eternal life to those who follow the path described. If these words describe the direction of the believer and not God’s inflexible and impartial standard of judgment for all people, would we not have to conclude that God did not grant eternal life until the end of that life-long pattern of well-doing?

5. If this passage does not describe God’s righteous standard of judgment, is there any standard and if so, where is it stated?


Prodigious Misrepresentation Ought to be a Crime!

I must confess my inability to understand how some bloggers can find what they find in the statements others have made. What is an even greater mystery to me is how those who read their blogs can think they have such great insight. If you think I have great insight because I can see in someone’s statement something you can’t see, it is likely that I have simply misinterpreted the statement. I spent months debating with a certain blogger over his misinterpretations of statements made by “New Calvinists.” I continued commenting on that blog as long as I did in an effort to help some who might be reading his bilge and being deceived by it. I finally came to realize I was fighting a losing battle.

Please understand I don’t claim to be a New Calvinist. There are a number of elements within that movement I find to be disturbing. What I find more disturbing are the statements made by their detractors that have no resemblance to reality whatsoever. Let me give you just one example. This time, the quote is not from a New Calvinist but from Calvin himself. Calvin wrote, “D: “In the Epistle to the Ephesians, Paul says not that the beginning of salvation is of grace, ‘but by grace are ye saved,’ ‘not of works, lest any man should boast’ (Eph 2:8,9).”

As I read Calvin’s statement, his meaning is clearly that all of salvation, from eternity to eternity, is by the grace of God, and for that reason, boasting is excluded.

The blog Guru found the following in Calvin’s statement:

“Calvin is clearly making sanctification part of the justification/salvation process. He makes no distinction between God’s grace in sanctification and justification. The grace of God based on the works of Christ to declare us righteous is not a finished work, though Christ Himself said it was.”

His statement contains the following elements:

1. Calvin is making sanctification part of the justification/salvation process.

My response: Which is it, “the justification ‘process,’” or “the salvation process?” His huge blunder here is that he fails to distinguish between justification and salvation. One, justification, is a decisive, legal declaration about believers based on the redemptive work of Christ alone; the other, salvation, describes all God’s salvific activity from eternity to eternity. Salvation does indeed involve a process; justification does not.

2. Calvin is confusing [or “fusing”, to use one of the Guru’s favorite terms] justification and sanctification.

My response: For Calvin to state that not only the beginning of salvation but its entirety is by God’s grace does not involve a conflation of justification and sanctification at all. If I should say, “My life is has been comprised of four stages, infancy, childhood, adulthood, and old age,” would anyone think I was confusing infancy with adulthood? Of course not! How could anyone ever think that saying all the multifaceted aspects of salvation are by the grace of God conflate or fuses those aspects?

3. Calvin is saying Christ’s redemptive work is not finished. “The grace of God based on the works of Christ to declare us righteous is not a finished work, though Christ Himself said it was.”

My response: This statement confuses Christ’s accomplishment of redemption with the application of that redeeming work. First, Calvin’s statement makes no reference at all to the issue of the completion/non-completion of Christ’s work of redemption. The truth is, the grace of God, by which I would understand the application of Christ’s finished work, is not finished and will never be finished as long as we live. Jesus never said the application of his redeeming work was finished. I, for one, am grateful it isn’t.

This is my point; don’t buy into everything you read on the various blogs you visit. Put everything to the test. Analyze statements for yourself to determine if they are saying what is claimed. If they are not, have the courage to confront the accuser graciously and patiently but firmly. “Gurus” like this are doing damage to the cause of God and truth.


Twenty Questions

I am posting the following questions as an attempt to clarify various issues regarding justification and sanctification. I will be posting my answers to these questions in an effort to provoke discussion of these issues. I think the answers should be fairly straightforward, but if you disagree with me, let’s discuss it.

True or False?

1. God’s work in us, as an application of Christ’s work, is as important in forming the basis of the believer’s justification as is Christ’s objective work of redemption.

2. The believer’s performance in the process of sanctification has no effect on his standing in justification.

3. The basis of justification before God is the believer’s faith.

4. In justification, God makes believers righteous in their moral character.

5. Through the righteousness of Christ infused to believers we are able to attain justification.

6. Justification is through faith in Christ alone but sanctification is the work of the believer.

7. Justification is based on faith in Christ and the faithfulness of believers to Christ.

8. Even thought God has declared believers righteous in his sight, they must wait until the final judgment to see if they have been sufficiently faithful to the commands of Christ to be finally declared righteous in his sight.

9. If we teach that Jesus has fulfilled all the conditions of the covenant so that no conditions remain for the believer, believers will continue in sin and dishonor God’s name.

10. Because of the believer’s union with Christ, it is impossible for them to continue to practice sin since they died to the reign of sin when his death was applied to them.

11. Sanctification, like justification is a work of God’s free grace.

12. It is not necessary for believers to be obedient to the Scriptures since nothing can change their righteous standing before God.

13. In sanctification like justification, the believer has no involvement whatsoever.

14. When we say sinners must receive Christ as Lord, we mean sinner’s must change their lives before Jesus will receive them.

15. Ever true believer will persevere in faith and the obedience it produces as long as they live.

Multiple Choice

16. Justification is based on:

a. Faith in Christ

b. Faith in Christ and the faithfulness of believers

c. The obedience of Christ

d. The faithfulness of Christ and the faithfulness of believers to Christ’s commands.

e. The believer’s obedience to God’s commandments enabled by the grace of Christ that flows from his death.

17. Justification is:

a. God’s declaration that sinners are righteous in his sight, is based completely on the objective accomplishments of Christ.

b. a work in which God makes sinners righteous

c. a declaration that those who have faith have, through the enablement God has given them by virtue of Christ’s work, done enough to merit his approval.

18. Sanctification occurs because:

a. God has regenerated believers and this enables them to obey his commands apart from any additional prompting of his Spirit.

b. In union with Christ, believers have died with Christ to the reigning power of sin.

c. The indwelling Spirit works in believers to give them the desire and the ability to do what pleases God.

d. Out of gratitude and the sheer determination of his will, the believer obeys Christ’s commands.

e. The believer experiences a second work of grace in which he receives the Holy Spirit.

f. Two of the above. Which two?

19. Since God has declared believers righteousness in his sight, so that we can never be found guilty in his presence:

a. It doesn’t matter how much we sin

b. We can never displease him as our Father

c. We are motivated to live our lives for him who gave his life for us.

d. No sin we can commit can nullify his declaration.

e. Two of the above. Which two?

20. Sanctification is produced:

a. simply by the determination of the believer to obey the Ten Commandments.

b. by the indwelling Holy Spirit who, as a blessing of the New Covenant, inclines us toward obedience.

c. by realizing that if we are not faithful to the covenant, God will divorce us as his spouse.


Stones to Hurl

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It will probably happen to you.

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