Posts Tagged ‘Paul’s Passing thoughts


The Calvinist’s Basis of Authority

Today, I discovered an article that was written ostensibly to provide non-Calvinists instruction for effectively confronting those who believe in God’s effectual grace. The author who is the comical side-kick of a disgruntled former member of a church named Clear Creek Chapel in Ohio, USA, seemed completely confident that he could tie Calvinists in knots by merely asking if they agreed with everything Calvin wrote [Who agrees with everything any other mere human being writing apart from divine inspiration has written?]. I could not suppress the overwhelming conviction that this man is simply profoundly ignorant. No informed person is going to suggest that a Calvinist is a person who is a follower of John Calvin or a person who agrees with all that Calvin wrote or said. Additionally, a Calvinist is not a person who necessarily agrees with everything written in the Canons of Dort or the Westminster, London Baptist, Philadelphia Confessions. The term “Calvinist” is merely short-hand for a person who believes in soteriological monergism. It describes one who believes as A. M. Toplady wrote, “Thou must save and Thou alone.”

According to this man, you must simply ask a Calvinist if everything Calvin wrote was inerrant. If he wrote anything that cannot be substantiated by a clear reading of the Scriptures, then Calvin must have been a heretic. In other words, either everything Calvin wrote was without error, or nothing he wrote can be trusted and he was a heretic. That would tend to render everyone who has ever written or spoken anything a heretic.

I want to suggest a couple of ideas for you to consider. First, as indicated above, we are not followers of John Calvin. We do not agree with everything Calvin did or everything he taught. If we cannot find a basis for his doctrine or his practice in the Scriptures, we simply reject it.

Secondly, being wrong about a particular aspect of biblical doctrine does not make one a heretic. No one claims inerrancy for Calvin’s writings and a handful of errors in his voluminous writings does not make him a heretic.

Finally, when we quote from Calvin, the Canons of Dort, or from one of the Confessions mentioned above, we do not do so as an authoritative basis for our beliefs. We do not regard any of these as our authority. We simply quote them to give definition to our doctrines. If you wish to know what we believe, don’t consult books written by soteriological synergists like Dave Hunt . Go to our Confessions or Canons. Interact the doctrines that are articulated in them. That should at least give us a solid basis for meaningful discussion.


The Danger of Theological Isolationism–Paul M. Dohse Sr.–The Lone Ranger

This is not another article about the errors of Paul M. Dohse Sr. It would require a tome of no small magnitude to correct all his theological errors. There was a time when I thought it might be helpful to warn people about those errors, but I have decided that if anyone is so biblically and theologically ignorant as to be taken in by his heresy, they probably deserve to be deceived. This is an article about the danger of theological isolationism.
It is clear that Mr. Dohse has decided that he alone is the arbiter of all things right and good. He has banned from commenting on his blog everyone who challenges his views. He has rid himself of all his commentaries. He doesn’t need to read or hear the opposing views of others.  He still has his MacArthur Study Bible because he likes the cross references. He has left the “institutional Church” and now huddles in his living room with his wife, his mother, and the dogs. This is his “home fellowship.” He sits atop his lofty perch and makes his unchallenged and self-contradictory pronouncements, simply because there is no one left to contradict him. In his view, if anyone depends on the body of Christ to aid in his sanctification he has bought into collectivism and has denied the priesthood of the believer.
The following are just a few of ethe faulty conclusions at which Mr. Dohse has arrived because of his arrogant and stubborn unwillingness to consider that he is not the last word in all things theological.

“The law is the standard for love, not justification.
Jesus did not come to fulfill the law, but to end the law.”

[Elsewhere, Mr. Dohse says that “the law=Scripture.” Did Jesus come to end the Scripture? Does he not understand that “telos” means goal and that Paul was saying that Christ is the one to whom the law pointed forward as its goal?]

“Jesus kept the law perfectly; that is irrelevant to salvation. NO ONE is justified by the law or law-keeping regardless of who keeps it.”

[He has arrived at this conclusion by a misreading of Rom. 3:21. In that verse the apostle is talking about how the righteousness of God, i.e., God’s method of putting sinners right with himself, has been revealed. It has been revealed apart from the law. Instead, it is revealed in the gospel. He is not saying that a declaration of righteousness is apart from law. How else can righteousness be gauged but by law? Condemnation and a declaration of righteousness are set over against each other. A person is declared either guilty or just based on law. How can law be the standard for condemnation without also being the standard for justification]?
“Under law” is the biblical nomenclature for the unregenerate lost. Under law means that sin rules you.”

[But, wasn’t Jesus under the law (Gal. 4:4)? Did sin rule him?]

“There is then no law to judge us, and where there is no law there is no sin.”

[The Scripture says “. . .where there is no law, there is no transgression;” it does not say “there is no sin.”]

“Righteousness is NOT imputed to the Christian not does the Bible state that anywhere. Christians are MADE righteous by the new birth.”
[In what sense, then, has God the Father made Christ to be “righteousness” to those “in him” (1 Cor. 1:30)? Additionally, how can Paul describe God as the one “who justifies the ungodly”(Rom. 4:5] if he does not impute a righteousness to their account that is not theirs ]?
The result of Mr. Dohse’s theological isolationism has been a departure from the biblical doctrine of forensic justification. His pronouncement that believers are MADE righteous by the new birth is dangerously close to the doctrine of Rome.
This should be a warning to all of us. God did not intend for us to live or think in isolation from other believers. If we don’t heed the warning, we might find ourselves, like Dohse, huddled in our “home fellowships” with our close relatives and dogs on Sunday mornings.


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 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.


What Calvinists Believe about ¨Progressive Justification.¨

For the sake of context, I want to tell you just a bit about my religious upbringing. I grew up in an INDEPENDENT, Fundamental, Baptist home. As I was growing up, my heroes were men such as Jack Hyles and John R. Rice. I had memorized well the Romans Road and the Sinner’s prayer. Once a sinner had “prayed to receive Jesus,” I knew how to give him assurance of his salvation, based on his decision. I would tell him/her they were secure for eternity no matter what they did and that if they ever doubted their salvation they were “calling God a liar,” since he had said, “Whoever has the Son has life.” Surely, they had the Son since they had just invited him into their hearts. I never considered the possibility that their decision may not have been faith at all.

I would have fought anyone over the doctrine of “Once saved, always saved.” What I hadn’t yet realized is that you have to be once saved to be always saved. Faith in Christ is not a mere decision we make and move on. It is a life long commitment to follow him and obey him. It is also a life long commitment to forsake all hope of righteousness based on our following and our obedience.

I have said that to say this–I am not ignorant of this sort of mind-set. I have been there, and had great difficulty working my way out of it. I finally came to grips with the fact that the same Bible that teaches the absolute certainty of the true believer’s final glorification, also teaches the absolute necessity of the believer’s perseverance in faith to the end.

Many of those addressed in the NT Scriptures who were in trouble in their walk, were having difficulties because they were in danger of turning to some ground of hope other than Jesus Christ. Some are trying to make the issue about the necessity for obedience in the Christian life. This is not the issue. There is no question that believers are called on to obey. The issue is whether a person can truly trust Christ fully and depend on some other ground of hope, even to a slight degree, at the same time. Nor is the issue whether believers can merit or maintain their justification in the process of sanctification. It would not only be impossible to do so but absolutely unnecessary to do so. The genuine believer is as justified before God the first moment he believes as he will ever be.

I have been a Calvinists for almost 45 years and have never heard or read another Calvinist who used the term ¨progressive justification¨ except in contrast to our doctrine of justification. For example, A.A. Hodge wrote concerning the points of difference between Protestants and Romanists on the subject of justification, “As to the nature and office of faith. We say that it is the instrument; they the beginning and root of justification. 4th. They say that justification is progressive. 5th. That it may be lost by mortal sin and regained and increased through the sacrament of Penance, and completed in Purgatory.” (Outlines of Theology, p. 511).

I would only require a little thought to understand that Calvinists cannot believe in progressive justification. Consider the following:

1. We believe God justifies the ungodly (See Rom. 4:5). If we could in any way progress beyond the state of being ungodly and became as righteous in God’s sight as he requires for our full justification, we would no longer be candidates for such a declaration.

2. We believe justification before God is based on the imputed righteousness of Christ. This is a righteousness that is wholly outside us. We can have no contribution to it. We do nothing to produce it and could do nothing to render it more perfect.

3. The moment we trust God’s promise to save us through Christ redemptive work, God declares us as spotlessly righteous in his sight as is Christ himself.

4. Since we did nothing to merit the justified state in which we now stand as believers, nothing we do now can increase or diminish our right standing before God. Our standing before God has nothing whatsoever to do with our works of obedience either before or after conversion.

We do believe not every professing Christian has been justified. Our works of obedience and the confessed ground of our confidence before God after our initial profession evince the state of our souls before God. The true believer speaks of current confidence in Christ for the justification of his soul, not of some decision he made years ago. A person who truly trusts in Christ is a person who will continue to trust him to the end of his life. Does the true believer have to try to muster up enough faith so that he won’t be lost if he stops believing. No. If God has ever granted him faith, he [God] will continue to produce that faith to the end.

There are certain miscreants who seem intent on spreading their prevarications about Calvinistic beliefs. It matters not how often they are confronted with their lies, they continue to scatter them like handfuls of bad seed. God will reward such enemies of the gospel for their hatred for and distortion of his good news.


Dr. Joel Beeke on Justification By Faith Alone

There is a great message on Justification by Faith at the following address.

The Speaker is Joel Beeke, whom Paul Dohse calls a “hardcore Reformed mystic.” He accuses Beeke of teaching “Progressive justification.” All I can say is, God give us more mystics.

One of the quotes I particularly appreciated was from the last words of David Dickson. He said, [Paraphrased] “I have placed all my bad deeds on a heap. Then, I have placed all my good deeds on the same heap and run from the entire heap into the arms of Christ; therefore, I can die in peace.”


What is the biblical gospel?

One would have thought that after all these centuries the church would have arrived at a consensus in answering that important question. This is not a question that is exclusively the topic for discussion among ivory tower theologians. It is a topic that concerns the eternal destiny of sinners. Mistakes here have devastating consequences.

There are, of course, those obvious departures from the biblical gospel such as those perpetuated by the Roman Catholic message. Such departures are bound to occur once a person, group or organization adopts a standard of authority other than the Word of God. This is true whether that standard be experience, feelings, tradition or something else altogether. The departures I am talking about are perhaps a bit more subtile but nonetheless devastating to the biblical message.

The term “gospel” itself is quite easy to define. It is simply God’s good news. The difficulty arises when one inquires about the content of this good news. The specific message to which I am referring in this article is defined by the apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 15. He wrote,

Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you-unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me (1 Cor. 15: 1-8).

Still, the specifics of this statement are a bit difficult to define. First, there are occasions when the New Testament writers used the term “gospel” to refer to messages that were not the New Testament gospel at all. For example, Paul wrote in Galatians 3:8, “And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, ‘In you shall all the nations be blessed.'” In Hebrews 4:2, the writer tells us, “For good news [gospel] came to us just as to them, but the message they heard did not benefit them, because they were not united by faith with those who listened.” The messages they heard were clearly messages of good news, but they cannot be identified with the message God has given us to proclaim.

Also, Paul does not elucidate in this statement what he means by “. . . .that Christ died for our sins. . . .” Does he merely mean Christ died to forgive our sins, or does he mean he died to deliver us from our sins altogether? I believe other passages make it clear he referred to the latter. Justification is not full-orbed “salvation.” It is only one aspect of that redemptive work Jesus has accomplished.

Before we consider the content and concern of that message, perhaps it would be helpful to consider the question negatively. There are several erroneous concepts we should dismiss out of hand. For example, the gospel is not “Jesus died for you. If you will only open your heart and let him come in, God will take you to heaven when you die.” You will search the New Testament Scriptures in vain to find any gospel preacher proclaiming such a message. This message is deficient at a number of points.

First, it makes the issue in salvation whether sinners will accept Jesus. In reality, the issue is whether he will accept sinners. That may sound strange to you if you were brought up in a modern evangelical church. You may have been led to believe that somehow God at least owes everyone a chance to be saved. Of course, he will accept sinners because that is his job. All sinners must do is give Jesus a chance. You may recall a situation recorded in John 2 in which many believed on Jesus because they had seen the miracles he had done, but Jesus did not commit himself to them. In other words, they accepted him, but he didn’t accept them.

Second, nowhere in the New Testament is a crowd of sinners told indiscriminately, “Jesus died for you.” The gospel is, “Jesus died for sinners.” By his sacrificial death, he has accomplished the salvation of the most guilty sinner who will believe God’s promise. The message is, “All things are now ready; come to the feast.” Sinners need not bring anything to him but their sins. As Horatius Bonar wrote, “That [my sin] is the only thing I can truly call my own.”

Third, the issue in gospel proclamation is not deliverance from hell and a free ticket to heaven when we die. Instead, its goal is to turn us sinners from our sins and turn us into worshippers of the sovereign of the universe. It intends to break us of our egocentricity and make us Theocentric in our focus. Forgiveness of sin is not an end in itself; it is a means to an end. The goal of gospel proclamation is to make us bold worshippers of the living God. Listen to Paul’s description of “the circumcision,” i.e., the true people of God. “For we are the circumcision, who worship by the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh” (Phil 3:3).

It should, of course, go without saying that any message that suggests that belief in Christ will deliver us from material, physical, psychological, and relational difficulties is far removed from the biblical gospel.

Another erroneous concept is that the faith the gospel demands is a mere one time decision through which all our sins will be forgiven. A popular idea is that once sinners have registered their decision, justification is a done deal. It is as if once we get our ticket punched, we don’t need Jesus any more. The New Testament concept of faith is entirely different. The true believer is one who goes on trusting in Christ. Though he never becomes any more justified than he was the moment he first believed, if he truly belongs to the company of true believers, he will trust in Christ no less today than he did the moment he first believed. The question should not be “Have you trusted Christ?” but “Are you trusting Christ?” Those who fail to persevere in faith, never had true faith to begin with. True faith perseveres. The writer of the Hebrews expressed the nature of true believers this way, “But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who have faith and preserve their souls” (Heb. 10:39). Notice, he does not say “had faith” but “have faith.” Faith doesn’t shrink back.

Please understand my point here. I am not suggesting that justification is progressive but that it is perpetual. That is, it does not gradually increase but it is ongoing. It is a judicial standing that has been objectively accomplished by Jesus’ redemptive work and is applied to the believer in union with Christ. It is not merely that I was declared righteous when I first believed, but that I now stand justified in God’s presence because of my union with Christ. On more than one occasion, Jesus made it clear to his disciples that faith is to be ongoing and that it is our responsibility to remain united to him by faith. In John 6:54, he described those who have eternal life as those who feed on his flesh and drink of his blood. This is an obvious reference to the believer’s appropriation of Jesus’ sacrificial death. He used the present tense of these verbs to describe this action. In Greek the tense of the verb is concerned not so much with the time of the action as it is with the kind of action in view. The present tense denotes continuing action. Thus, Jesus described an action that was to be ongoing. If your faith was merely a decision that occurred in the past, it wasn’t justifying faith. Similarly, he taught his disciples it was their responsibility to continue in their union with him by faith. In John 15:4 he said, “Remain in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it remains in the vine, neither can you, unless you remain in me.” He was not describing some super spiritual experience enjoyed by those who have dared to delve deeper into the Christian experience and become “Spiritual Christians.” He is describing the responsibility of every believer to go on believing in him. The good news for true believers is that not only is such perseverance in faith necessary, it is also certain. The doctrine of the perseverance of the saints was never intended as a guarantee that all who ever walked an aisle or signed a decision card would be saved for eternity no matter what they do. Instead, it concerns the assurance that those who are true believers will persevere in faith unto the end.

Some have questioned whether this righteous standing must be maintained or is it an act that is now behind us. In the sense that nothing more needs to be accomplished to keep us justified for eternity, it needs no maintenance. In the sense that there is a current and continual application of Jesus’ finished work through faith, there is an ongoing maintenance of our standing before God. In reality, what must be maintained is not justification, but our union with Christ. In union with him through faith, we enjoy all the blessings of his redemptive accomplishments. His current and continuous ministry of intercession is simply the application of his redeeming work. It is not that justification must be maintained in the sense that each time a believer falls, something new must be done to restore his righteousness. It is simply that Christ continues to present the evidence of his finished work in God’s presence and thus maintains our standing before God in him. We are accepted in the beloved one.

We must be clear that faith lays hold of every benefit of Christ’s redeeming work, not merely the forensic aspects of that work. We are not justified because God accepts our faith in place of the righteousness he demands. Instead, we are accepted as righteous in God’s sight because by faith we are united to him who is righteous and has satisfied every demand of God’s holy law.

This union also applies Jesus’ death to sin to the believer. Paul wrote, “For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus” (Rom 6:10-11).
Because believers are “in Christ,” his death for sin has become our death to sin. This does not describe something we must do; it is a simple statement of fact in God’s reckoning. By faith, we are to account this to be true and act accordingly. We don’t act as we do because we feel like we are dead to sin because we believe God’s declaration that it is reality. This does not mean believers have no responsibility to obey God’s commandments. What it does mean is that any attempt to obey God apart from this reality will fail. It is cruel to tell slaves to stop acting like slaves, but to tell former slaves to act as freemen is an exhortation that is necessary to implement their freedom. Paul’s argument is, “Since you are no longer slaves, stop acting like slaves.” We don’t free ourselves by obeying; we obey because we are free. This is what Paul wrote,

So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness (Rom. 6:11-13).

What, then, is the gospel? It is God’s published intent to completely restore to a right relationship and holy fellowship with him every sinner who believes and returns to him through the redeeming work of Christ. It is his gracious promise to welcome, pardon, restore, and crown with glory the most vile sinner who will return in saving faith. It is the message of mercy that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, even the most despicable of sinners. It is the good news that it is God’s work from first to last. It is according to his plan, under his control, purchased by Jesus’ blood, applied by his effectual call, sustained by his Spirit and crowned by his grace.


Don’t tell Me What I Believe!

Do you remember when a person was able to say what he believed and other people took his word for it? Others may have disagreed, but at least they disagreed with what a person stated as his belief.

Things have changed. Now a person must not only defend what he believes; he must also convince others he doesn’t believe what they falsely accuse him of believing. If he should try explaining his views, these people will accuse him of engaging in doublespeak in an effort to deceive.

Recently, I have been told I believe sinners don’t receive Christ willingly. They have to be forced to believe against their wills. Additionally, I have been told I believe that justification is progressive. Boy, that was news to me. I always taught and wrote that justification occurred when a person believed the gospel so that he never became any more righteous in God’s sight than he was the instant he believed. It seems whatever I claim to believe, someone will be there to tell me I don’t truly believe it at all. I have even been told I am a Gnostic. This is not even to mention the “stinking, Antinomian heretic” comments.

If these people are Christians, imagine how nasty they would be if they were unconverted. Is it just me, or do people to seem to be going out of their way to be dishonest about what others believe?

I just learned today on one of the sites I was visiting that C. H. Spurgeon believed in “free will.” That really came as news to me, and I am certain it would have come as news to him, since he preached a sermon entitled “Free Will-A Slave.” It is available at I was told recently that I must believe God is a determinist deity who forces people to act contrary to his revealed will. When I denied believing that, I was virtually called a liar. Are these people just stupid or are they deliberating misrepresenting the facts? I don’t know, but wouldn’t it be nice if our confessions of personal belief could just be taken at face value?

I purpose that we disagree if we must, but let’s allow others to state their views without questioning their truthfulness or instructing them as to what they MUST believe.


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?


“Straw Men” Reproduce in Paul Dohse’s Hatchery

I just read some comments by Paul Dohse on my post “‘Straw Man’ Arguments about Justification and Sanctification.” I will have to confess I learned something I had never realized. “Straw men” can actually reproduce. I suspect trying to keep up with the fallacious arguments and misrepresentations at Paul’s Passing Thoughts would be a futile effort, but perhaps I can stamp out a few of them before they become even more of a blight on the theological landscape.

Before I proceed, let me define what a “Straw Man” argument is. It is an argument that caricatures or otherwise misrepresents an opponent’s position in an effort to make it easier to answer. If you want an excellent example of this tactic, pay close attention to the Obama re-election campaign and the statements the President and his surrogates are making. As an aside, it is my view that this explains why the President failed so abysmally in the first debate. It is difficult to use “straw man” arguments when ones opponent is in his face saying, “I’m sorry but that is not my position.”

From the time I first began sparring with Paul Dohse, I have insisted that views he imputed to me were not my views. He has insisted on telling me what I believe rather than listening to what I believe and then interacting with my views. It is impossible to have a meaningful discussion with someone who refuses to listen to another person’s views but, instead, insists he knows more about the person’s views than the person himself.

On my other blog,, I have a list of rules for discussion. One of those rules is “One must restate his opponent’s argument to his satisfaction before attempting to answer it.” Paul would do well to follow that rule.

I would like to respond to a few of his newly hatched “straw men.” First, I founding it quite revealing that at the beginning of his post he stated, “I will skip the usual Reformed crybaby stuff that prefaces the introductions to Reformed writings about “unity,” “secondary issues” etc, and get to the meat of the issue.” It is interesting that the “usual Reformed crybaby stuff . . .about unity” came from the apostle Paul himself. It is a direct quotation from Ephesians 4:3. In this verse, based on the indicatives he has stated in chapters 1-3, he exhorts us to our duty. It is our duty to maintain unity among believers, not by denying truth, but by speaking the truth in love. I am surprised Paul D. is so willing to acknowledge that the apostle was “Reformed.”

1. Straw Man– Paul D. wrote: “The Reformed view of imputation then becomes a progressive imputation of Christ’s perfect obedience to uphold the standard of the law during our sanctification.” I am not sure how Paul D. understands the word “progressive,” but the way I understand it is “gradually advancing in extent.” If this is what he means by the term, “progressive,” it would mean he is suggesting that Reformed people believe the imputation of Christ’s perfect obedience is gradually advancing in extent. That would mean Reformed writers hold that believers become more and more righteous in God’s sight as time goes on. When I emailed Paul to ask him if he could give me actual quotations from Reformed writers in which they suggest believers may progressively become more righteous in God’s sight than they were the first moment they believed the gospel. He responded, “I could, but I am not going to because your questions are stupid.” But, is that a stupid question? If he charges that Reformed thinkers teach that believers may gradually advance in righteousness before God, is it really stupid to ask him to provide documentation?

Let me provide just a few quotations from Reformed confessions that might shed a bit of light on what the Reformed truly believe about justification.

The Westminster Large Catechism states:

Q. 70. What is justification?

A. Justification is an act of God’s free grace unto sinners, in which he pardoneth all their sins, accepteth and accounteth their persons righteous in his sight; not for anything wrought in them, or done by them, but only for the perfect obedience and full satisfaction of Christ, by God imputed to them, and received by faith alone.

The Belgic Confession states:

And the same apostle says that we are justified “freely” or “by grace” through redemption in Jesus Christ. And therefore we cling to this foundation, which is firm forever, giving all glory to God, humbling ourselves, and recognizing ourselves as we are; not claiming a thing for ourselves or our merits and leaning and resting on the sole obedience of Christ crucified, which is ours when we believe in him.

Notice the words, “. . .and leaning and resting on the sole obedience of Christ crucified, WHICH IS OURS WHEN WE BELIEVE IN HIM”

There is no room for the idea that believers gradually advance in righteousness before God.

J. C. Ryle wrote,

“Justification is a finished and complete work, and a man is perfectly justified the moment he believes” (Ryle, Holiness, p. 39).

I still welcome quotations from anyone speaking authoritatively for the Reformed community who suggests that believers gradually advance in righteousness before God in the matter of justification. The simple truth is, that is not the Reformed position on justification.

Paul D’s views on the “active obedience Christ,” i.e., that there is no imputation to the believer of Christ’s righteousness defined as his perfect obedience to the Law, are in line with the Federal Vision view and N.T. Wright’s “New Perspective on Paul.” There is no question the Reformed position has been and is that God imputes Christ’s active obedience to believers as one part of the basis of justification. What the Reformed do not believe is that Christ’s obedience is imputed to believers in sanctification so that they don’t need to be personally obedient. Anyone who advances that view does so as a departure from the Reformed position, not as an advocate of it.

2. Straw Man–“Notice that in true Reformed tradition, the author [a reference to my initial post on Straw Men] denies “the infusion of Grace”; ie, the new birth, of which Christ said we must have for salvation.

I have difficulty deciding whether I believe Paul is simply stubborn, mentally deficient, or deliberately and maliciously misrepresenting his antagonist’s views. Whatever the reason for his prodigious misrepresentations, he should be muzzled until he is able to voluntarily speak the truth. I have told him time after time that no one in the Reformed community denies that God infuses grace to believers. What the Reformed position denies is that the infusion of grace, in this case defined as ability to obey, and the believer’s proper response to that infusion of grace forms any part of the basis of justification before God. That is to say, though God infuses or imparts enabling grace to believers to sanctify us, that infusion of grace forms no part of the basis of our right standing before God.

Jonathan Edwards wrote,

There is a two-fold righteousness that the saints have: an imputed righteousness, and it is this only that avails anything to justification; and an inherent righteousness, that is, that holiness and grace which is in the hearts and lives of the saints. This is Christ’s righteousness as well as imputed: imputed righteousness is Christ’s righteousness accepted for them, inherent holiness is Christ’s righteousness communicated to them. (Jonathan Edwards, The Works of Jonathan Edwards, Volume 14, 340-341.)

3 Straw Man– “The rest of the article is just a bunch of doublespeak with intent to fog the issue. It can be summed up this way: we supposedly work, but our work is not in combination with God for a result in sanctification. We work because God works first, and oh, by the way, Christ’s obedience must be added to it as well.”

I am amazed that Paul was able to discern that my intent in writing the rest of that post was to “fog the issue” with doublespeak. Even I was not aware of my sinister motives. I guess that is why we need “discernment ministries” like Paul’s to make sure the sheep who blindly follow him understand what the rest of us are up to.

All a person needs to do is to read what I have written here about sanctification to know I don’t teach “we work, but our work is not in combination with God for a result in sanctification.” It is true, I believe the determining work is God’s not ours. It is also true, I believe the next part of his statement, i.e., “We work because God works first.” Frankly, I don’t even know what the last part of his statement “and oh, by the way, Christ’s obedience must be added to it as well.” Christ’s righteousness is indeed communicated to us in that we are, by the Spirit, conformed more and more to his image, but never in such a way that we are relieved of the responsibility to obey God.

It seems to me, Paul D is a Deist in regard to sanctification. That is to say, he seems to believe God “winds the clock” in regeneration and the work of sanctification occurs solely as a result of our hard work and obedience after that. So it is a co-operative work between God and the believer. God does his part in winding the clock and we do our part in working hard as a result of our new nature. I, on the other hand, believe it is God’s work that continues to prompt us and empower us to obey.

In intend to further dissect Paul’s response to my article in a future post relative to his faulty and self-contradictory “interpretations” of pertinent passages of Scripture, but for now, this should be sufficient material for you to chew on.

Disagree with me if you wish, but please don’t misrepresent me.