Posts Tagged ‘sanctification


Believers, Not Sin Free

I have been having an email discussion with Paul Dohse of Paul’s Passing Thoughts. The discussion is in regard to a statement Pastor Tullian Tchividjian made in regard to the total depravity of believers. Pastor Tchividjian has asserted that believers continue to be totally depraved. By this he means there is no part of the believer that does not continue to be affected by sin. Though I agree that there is no part of the believer that does not continue to be affected by sin, I believe this is an ill-advised use of this terminology. I did my best to discuss the issue with Mr. Dohse in an effort to ascertain his position on this issue. My best efforts failed to illicit an acceptable answer from Mr. Dohse. All he could do is spew his typical blather that had nothing to do with the questions I asked him.

It seems to me, the following is a balanced biblical approach to the issue at hand. As stated, I believe Pastor Tchividjian is correct in his observation that there is no part of the believer that does not continue to be affected by sin. Believers are not free from sin (in terms of committing acts of sin) in any facet of their being. We are, however, unlike the unregenerate who are totally depraved, free from the control or dominion of sin. We cannot and will not go on living in sin as a lifestyle. When we sin, we act out of character with ourselves and with our profession.

The totally depraved are not free not to sin. Believers, though not free from sin, are free not to sin. Since we are led and empowered by the Holy Spirit, it is possible that if we should fulfill the biblical injunction to walk in or by means of the Spirit, we would not fulfill the desires of the flesh. Our task then, is to walk in line with the Spirit, which, of course, involves walking in line with the Scriptures.

Adam, before the fall, was able to sin. After the fall, he was not able not to sin. In Christ, we are able not to sin. In eternity, we will not be able to sin.


What We Believe About Regeneration.

What do the New Testament Scriptures teach about God’s work of regeneration? Let me begin by stating that few terms employed in Systematic Theology have the precise meanings in all their biblical uses that they have in Systematic Theology. In Systematic Theology, the term “regeneration” has been defined to mean the implantation of a new, holy, governing principle in the soul of the sinner. It is unlikely the term ever has this precise meaning in either of its two occurrences in the New Testament Scriptures. The word translated, “regeneration” is Paliggenesía, occurs with the article in Matthew 19:28, i.e., the regeneration, referring to the coming age. This age is the long promised “times of the restitution of all things.” Is the “times of refreshing from the Spirit of the Lord.” It refers to “the New Creation” into which all New Covenant believers have been translated. When this “regeneration” that has already been inaugurated is finally consummated, it will bring within its scope the renovation of the cosmic universe itself. Paul wrote, “the creation itself will be delivered from the bondage that is characterized by corruption into the liberty of the glory of the sons of God” (Rom. 8:21). He argues that the reason we can be confident that this age of fulfillment has begun and that we will certainly enjoy our full inheritance is that we now have the “first fruits,” namely, the Spirit. The “first fruits” are the first part of the entire harvest that are considered the assurance that their recipients will enjoy the entire harvest. God’s people live in the already/not yet. Though we have the assurance that we already live in the new creation or “the regeneration” we do not yet enjoy the entire inheritance that we will experience when Jesus returns in glory to redeem the purchased possession, namely, our bodies. There is a sense in which believers have already inherited the fulness of the promised blessings since we are united to him who has received the full inheritance, but in our experience we must still live in a world that is characterized by weakness, sickness, and trouble.

The other verse in which the term “regeneration” occurs is Titus 3:5. This verse describes two of the principal blessings conferred on those who belong to this new age, this regeneration. It is difficult to escape the conclusion Paul is referring to the blessings promised in Ezekiel 36:25-27.

I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.

Though the text does not specifically identify these blessings as belonging to the New Covenant of Jeremiah 31, it seems clear they belong to it. It also seems clear Jesus had these verses in mind when he told Nicodemus a man must be born of water and Spirit. The clear meaning is that God’s spiritual and eternal blessings are not conferred through physical birth, but through spiritual birth. The two blessings promised include washing from past sins and renewing for future service and obedience.

There are a number of metaphors for this work of God in the New Testament Scriptures. They include baptism, circumcision, birth, creation, deliverance from the prison house, and restoration sight to the blind. It is significant that in all these operations, the recipient is passive. Additionally, it is significant that all these metaphors seem to express one aspect or another of Ezekiel’s promise.

Over at Paul’s Passing Thoughts, Paul Dohse, the purveyor of putrescence, continues to charge that Reformed people do not believe in regeneration. He bases this charge on statements by Reformed pastors and theologians indicating that the basis of justification is wholly a righteousness that is outside the believer. For this reason, he concludes the Reformed believe God does nothing in the believer, producing a holy and obedient life. Don’t try to understand this logically. Paul D. has no ability to understand theology or logic. I am not saying that to be unkind. The alternative is that he is simply a huge liar. For now, I am going to give him the benefit of the doubt and assume he is just theologically inept.

Apart from what we call regeneration, no one would ever come to faith in Christ. Apart from God’s work, internally cleansing and renewing us, we would continue to live in bondage to sin. To say that justification is not based on an internal righteousness is not the same as saying we have no internal righteousness.

What we don’t believe is that regeneration so equips us for righteous living that we can live a sanctified life apart from the continual ministry of the Holy Spirit. It should not escape our notice that the Ezekiel passage cited above not only speaks about God removing the sinner’s stony heart of rebellion and replacing it with a heart of flesh, it also promises the indwelling presence of the Spirit who will cause us to obey. We must not think of regeneration as a work that gives us a bag of tools that enables us to obey independently. Nor should we think the Spirit simply comes to help us once we have picked up the bag of tools. Notice, the promise is that the Spirit will cause us to obey. Apart from his prompting, believers who have neither the desire nor the ability to please God.


Keep me near the Cross!

As I traverse the world of blog, I continue to encounter stern warnings against the practice of “gospel contemplation.” Though I must confess my ignorance concerning all the ways in which this term has been employed in the recent past, I have difficulty imagining how the practice of focusing one’s attention on the redeeming activity and dying love of Christ could be in any way damaging to a person’s life and experience or harmful to the church as a body. I have also come away with the impression that those who have opposed this practice are of the opinion that this practice is an innovation of “new Calvinists” and other miscreants who roam the land.

It appears to me that the practice of gospel contemplation, or to phrase it another way, the practice of contemplating Christ and his redeeming work, is as old as the gospel itself. The apostle Paul wrote, “but may it never be that I should boast except in the cross (by that I think he meant the gospel) of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world is crucified unto me and I to the world” (Gal. 6:14). It sounds as if he continued to believe the gospel message exerted a life changing power in his life as a Christian, don’t you think? When I was a young man (that has been a year or two), our youth group used to sing,

Turn your eyes upon Jesus;
Look full in his wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of his glory and grace.

When I read the words of those who speak so malevolently against gospel contemplation, I wonder in what capacity they would imagine the writer of this little chorus was urging us to turn our eyes on Jesus. Perhaps he wanted us to consider Jesus the great moral teacher or Jesus the revolutionary. Somehow, I always thought I was being urged to fix my attention on the one who loved me, and gave up himself for me.

In her hymn “All for Jesus” 1871, Mary D. James wrote,

Since my eyes were fixed on Jesus,
I’ve lost sight of all beside;
So enchained my spirit’s vision,
Looking at the Crucified.

It almost seems to me she was describing what it is like to contemplate the gospel.

Somehow I don’t think the apostle Paul was talking about flowers, trees, butterflies and beautiful sunsets when he wrote, “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things” (Phil. 4:8).

I can’t imagine anyone who claims to be a Christian suggesting that there is anything wrong with contemplating the gospel, the most God glorifying message ever spoken. Admittedly, if someone should suggest that obedience to Christ isn’t important as long as we think a lot about the gospel, we would have to take issue with them, but I don’t believe that is the issue. It seems to me the issue is rather how obedience to Christ is to be effected. Does true, God-honoring obedience occur simply because we have decided to knuckle under, grin and bear it and try to obey the commands of Scripture? Or does it occur when we are so overwhelmed by Christ’s dying love for us that we can no longer go on living to ourselves but must live to the glory of him who loved us and gave himself up to death for us?
Let’s ask the apostle Paul about the key to his indefatifable service for and obedience to Christ. Paul, how is it that you continue to refuse to live for your own pleasure but persist in walking in obedience to the revealed will of Christ? His answer, “For Christ’s love overwhelms and constrains me, for by this we judge that if one died for all, then all died, and he died for all so that those who live would no longer go on living to themselves, but for him who died for them and rose again” (2 Cor. 5 : 14-15). Now my question is, where is Christ’s love for his people most resplendently displayed if not in the gospel? Are we, unlike the apostle, to be motivated by something other than Christ’s love? If our motive is to be the same as his, where should we focus our attention if not on the redeemer and his work?

Not long ago I read the post of a dear lady who wrote that her husband had urged her to move away from the foot of the cross and get on with living the Christian life and serving the Lord. It almost seems as if these people are suggesting we are sending people to a hill outside Jerusalem to gaze up at a cross. You don’t have to “leave the foot of the cross” to get on with obeying and serving Christ. If you are a believer, the gospel pervades your entire being. If you want to love your wife in a way that will please and glorify God, you must do it “as Christ loved the church and gave up himself for it” (If you want to learn to forgive those who have grievously offended you, then your pattern is God’s redemptive action in forgiving us for Christ sake (Eph 4:32, Col. 3:12-13). If you would worship God in accordance with the perfect pattern of heavenly worship, your song will be, “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain and has redeemed us . . .” (Rev. 5:9).

I am old enough to recall a time when the church used to sing hymns like “Near the Cross” by Fanny Crosby. No one thought she meant we were to kneel immobilized at the foot of the cross, but that we were to press forward both in our individual lives and in our corporate mission mobilized and motivated by an overpowering sense of Christ’s unspeakable and self-sacrificing love for us. As we sang the following words, we prayed that we would never abandon preaching its message, and never stray from or outlive the overwhelming and life-transforming power of God’s redeeming love for us in Christ. Here is what she wrote:

Jesus, keep me near the cross,
There a precious fountain
Free to all, a healing stream
Flows from Calvary’s mountain.

Near the cross! O Lamb of God,
Bring its scenes before me;
Help me walk from day to day,
With its shadows o’er me.


In the cross, in the cross,
Be my glory ever;
Till my raptured soul shall find
Rest beyond the river.


Continue in your rebellion against God and go to heaven anyway?

OK, I want to acknowledge up front one of my great failings. I continue to be amazed at how ridiculous those who claim to represent our Lord can be. It is as if God has chosen the terminally stupid to confound the wise. One would think that those who have read the Bible at least once would know better. Silly me! One of my fond but as yet unrealized wishes is that someone who disagrees with positions I have taken would at least accurately represent those views I have taken.

Today, I read a list of characteristics that might be true of a person if he believes in Lordship Salvation. I am not sure who wrote it but it was posted by a man who called himself “Expreacherman.” If I am not mistaken, this gentleman knows better now since he died not long ago and has been disabused of his heresy.

I have no doubt that he was trying to emphasize the freeness of justification through the redemptive work of Christ alone. In this, I would agree with him totally. A person’s right standing before God has absolutely nothing to do with his personal obedience. It is based solely on the obedience and righteousness of Christ.

What I don’t agree with is his denial that believers will act differently from unbelievers.

Whoever wrote the article makes stupid statements like “You might be a Lordship Salvationist –IF

✦“You think that loving Jesus is the same thing as believing in Jesus.” No one who believes in “Lordship salvation” confuses faith and love. We do believe that every true believer loves Jesus.

✦“You believe that repenting of or turning from sin is an essential co mponent of being or staying saved.” Are we to believe God brings us to desire freedom from the penalty of our sins but with no desire to be free from those sins themselves?

✦“You believe there are marks of true believers.” What are we to make of statements like, “If you continue in my word, then are you truly my disciples?” And “Hereby we know that we know him, IF we keep his commandments?” The marks of a true believer are that they continue in Jesus’ words and keep his commandments. I guess Jesus and John both believed in Lordship Salvation.

✦“You think you must desire a relationship with Christ in order to be saved.” No, just give me the goodies and leave me alone. Who wants a relationship with a person who gave himself to be cursed of God for me that I might be blessed for eternity? Is it not difficult to believe a person who could write such stupid stuff could even be a believer?

✦“You believe “faith” and “faithfulness” are the same things.” Who that believes in Lordship Salvation fails to distinguish between faith and faithfulness?”

✦“You believe that assurance of salvation is based on your own faithfulness.” What about John’s statement, “These things have I written to you that you might KNOW that you have everlasting life?” “Hereby do we KNOW that we know him if we keep his commandments?”

I would never suggest that our works have anything to do with meriting God’s favor. Nor would I suggest that believer’s are ever perfect in this life or that our obedience can form any part of the basis of our justification before God. What I do believe is that those whom God has justified, he will also sanctify and glorify. Those for whom Jesus died, also died with him to the reigning power of sin. If a person desires to continue under the dominion of sin, he has never been delivered from the penalty of sin. John Owen wrote, “Any man in whom the death of Christ for sin has not become his death to sin, shall die in his sin.”

One of the patterns I have observed is that these people never seem to answer real questions or address real issues. All they do is make outrageous statements, then run and hide. I would love to discuss the real issues with anyone who has the couarge to forsake their hit and run techinques.


Fifteen Tenets of Classic New Covenant Theology

I recently read on [what used to be ] a New Covenant blog site some concerns of a dear brother who questioned the viability of New Covenant Theology given the differences that exist between those who claim an affinity for it.  I thought it might be helpful to post what I believe are the major tenets of New Covenant Theology and try to assess what is essential to that position.

Years ago, I attempted to define the position of New Covenant Theology in a booklet entitled “The Cross, the Heart of New Covenant Theology.” I never intended that eschatology [the doctrine of last things] be an essential part of the New Covenant Theology position.  I had always been essentially a “Pan-Millennialist,” believing that everything would pan out O.K. in the end. Almost immediately, there were those who joined the movement who, as Progressive Dispensationalists, presented ideas that departed markedly from some of the ideas I had set forth.  Since one of them later wrote a book on New Covenant Theology, I suppose he has done more to define the position than I did.  Still, it seems to me there are certain positions within what I called “New Covenant Theology” that preclude a Dispensational view, progressive or otherwise.

In my view, any viewpoint that entertains a national restitution of Israel as the people of God, or a re-institution of the sacrificial system and Levitical priesthood etc., is not New Covenant Theology.

There are several key elements that I believe constitute New Covenant Theology without which it would be something else altogether.  I wish to simply list a number of them without a great deal of explication.  It is my hope that these tenets find general agreement among those who have claimed to hold to New Covenant Theology and provide a forum for a discussion of those details in which we disagree.  These tenets are as follows:

1.    Given that, biblically speaking, a covenant is a unilateral decree and not an agreement between two or more persons, we have no problem with the idea that there was a “pre-fall covenant of works” with Adam.  Its terms were these–you will die as soon as you disobey.

What we have difficulty with is the idea that God promised Adam and all his posterity eternal life based on his perfect obedience during a probationary period.  What he was promised was that he would certainly die if he disobeyed God’s one prohibition.  He would continue to live as long as he obeyed, but there is no evidence he would ever have been confirmed in righteousness at any point.

2.    We have no difficulty with the idea that every sinner who has ever been justified before God, was justified through faith alone, based on the redemptive work of Christ alone.  This does not mean God established an over-arching “Covenant of grace” in Genesis 3:15, and that every subsequent covenant is part of that covenant.

3.    The New Covenant and the Old Covenant are distinct covenants, not different administrations of the same covenant.

4.    The Law, the covenant by which God constituted Israel a nation before him, was a homogeneous whole.  There were certain elements of it that pertained to the civil state; others that pertained to the ceremonial system; still others were “moral” in nature.  Biblical writers never speak of these aspects of the law as though they are separable.  If Jesus has fulfilled the “Law.” it is not merely one or two aspects of the law he has fulfilled, but the entire covenant.

5.    Israel was a typical representation of the church.  As such, it was neither “the church” in the Old Testament nor were it and the church separate and eternally distinct peoples of God.  Nothing that is predicated of natural and national Isreal has the same meaning as the same terms used to describe the New Covenant people of God.  The Hebrews can be both Abraham’s seed and not Abraham’s seed at the same time.  The continuous relationship between the Old and New Covenants is that of type to antitype and promise to fulfillment.

6.    We believe there is a continuity in God’s righteous standard between the Old Covenant and the New Covenant.  God requires no less under the New Covenant than under the Old Covenant.  In fact, we believe Christ’s law presents an even higher standard than did the Law of Moses.  Often mercy is more difficult to display than justice.

7. We believe the focus of the gospel is on what God has done in Christ rather than on what he is doing in us. We stand as righteous in God’s presence not only because we have been pardoned from our past sins but because we have the positive righteousness and active obedience of Christ imputed to us. His faithfulness and obedience up to and including his substutionary death on the cross [in itself an act of submission and active obedience to his Father] form the righteous basis of our justification before God. Justification is more than pardon. It is a declaration of a positive righteousness that we possess because we are in union with Jesus Christ the righteous one. We do not deny the necessity or importance or regeneration, but insist that we are what we are only “in Christ.” For this reason, New Covenant Theology is God-centered and Christ-centered rather than man-centered.

8.    The redemptive-historical approach stresses that this is the final age of human history. These are the last days. This is the time of fulfillment. We are those on whom “the fulfillment of the ages has come.” This does not mean God’s people have already fully and personally experienced everything that God has promised. Paul tells us in Romans 8:23 that we believers have the first-fruits, the pledge, of our inheritance, namely, the Holy Spirit. Yet, we, along with the rest of creation, go on groaning as we wait for the full enjoyment of all Jesus won for us at Calvary. The realm in which we are saved is the realm of confident expectation, not full fruition.

9.    The redemptive-historical approach does not minimize the reality that believers personally and individually enjoy the blessings that accrue from the redemptive work of Christ. Yet, the focus of this approach is not the individual’s experience, but God’s accomplishment of redemption in Christ. In Paul’s Epistles it is clear that, in his theological thought, all of redemptive history consists of God’s dealings with two representative men. All others are what they are in God’s sight by virtue of their relationship to one of these two men. A person is either in Adam or in Christ, whom Paul designated as the “last Adam” (1 Cor 15:45). Accordingly, every person belongs to one of two spheres or realms. They belong either to the old creation (this world, this present age) in Adam or the new creation in Christ. When Paul writes about the “new creation” (2 Cor 5:17, Gal 6:15), he is not talking about something that God does in the believer, but about the realm into which the believer has been transferred in Christ. Similarly, when he talks about “the flesh,” he is not making reference to the “sinful nature.” He refers instead to the environment into which sinners are born in Adam. This is that which characterizes the realm or age to which man, in Adam, belongs.

New Covenant Theology teaches the gospel is more about what God has accomplished in Christ than it is about what he is doing in us. This does not mean we deny the work of God’s Spirit in us or depreciate its importance.  It is simply that we believe his principal work is the application or the redemptive accomplishments of Christ.

10     God assures us that the full inheritance is ours, but the best (the experiential enjoyment of it) is yet to come.

The idea of present eschatological fulfillment creates an “already/not yet” tension between that which is true of the believer because of His redemptive-historical union with Christ and that which is not yet true in his experience. “If any man is in Christ, there is to him a new creation, old (that which belongs to a former time) has passed away, the new has come” (2 Cor 5:17).

11.    New Covenant Theology teaches that the Holy Spirit enables believers to do what the Law could only demand.  This does not mean New Covenant believers are without imperatives to be obeyed.  It simply means we will not be frustrated in our efforts to obey those imperatives.  Sin shall not have dominion over us since we are no longer under Law, but under grace.  Obeying rules out of gratitude is not legalism.  Legalism is the sense that I must obey rules to obtain or maintain God’s approval.

12.    New Covenant Theology does not teach that anyone has ever been without God’s Law in an absolute sense.  What we argue is that the Law in the sense of a covenant God made with Israel entered at Mt. Sinai and came to fulfillment at Mt. Calvary.

13.     Just as we are to interpret obscure passages in the light of clearer passages, so New Covenant Theology believes we are to interpret the Old Testament Scriptures in the light of New Testament revelation, not visa-versa.

14.    New Covenant Theology teaches that all the Law of God depends on two commandments–supreme love for God and appropriate love for ones neighbor.  Obedience to these two commandments is demonstrated in differing ways under different covenants.

15.    New Covenant Theology is in full agreement with neither  the assertions of Covenant Theology nor those of Dispensationalism.   Still, we readily acknowledge the correctness of their assertions when we find them to be consistent with the teachings of the Scriptures.


Can you trust God for sanctification?

There seems to be an overwhelming fear among those who deny the idea of “gospel sanctification” that we will encourage licentiousness if we are too free in our expressions of Christ’s sufficiency in the whole of salvation. Often these days we hear the charge of “Antinomianism” being bandied about, and those who teach that Jesus accomplished every aspect of our salvation up to and including our glorification are regarded as heretics. In reality, being open to this charge is perhaps the best evidence that the message we proclaim is indeed God’s gospel. Dr. Lloyd-Jones wrote.

The true preaching of the gospel of salvation by grace alone always leads to the possibility of this charge [antinomianism] being brought against it. There is no better test as to whether a man is really preaching the New Testament gospel of salvation than this, that some people might misunderstand it and misinterpret it to mean that it really amounts to this, that because you are saved by grace alone it does not matter at all what you do; you can go on sinning as much as you like because it will redound all the more to the glory of grace. That is a very good test of gospel preaching. If my preaching and presentation of the gospel of salvation does not expose it to that misunderstanding, then it is not the gospel(Lloyd-Jones, Romans, 1973,8).

Jesus died not only to guarantee his people’s justification but also to secure our sanctification and ultimate glorification. Though we are responsible to obey him in the process of sanctification, the work is his, not ours.

Over 100 years ago, Bishop J. C, Ryle 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. (Available online at pp. 27-28).

Octavious Winslow also wrote about our completeness in Christ,

From every tongue in glory, and through the high arches of heaven, the anthem shall peal, “Worthy is the Lamb!” Believer in Christ! pants not your soul to join that song? and exults not your spirit in the truth that salvation, from first to last, is of God? Oh, how precious is the truth in the consciousness of our many failures and defects! Our salvation is all in Christ–our righteousness is all in Christ–our merit is all in Christ–our completeness is all in Christ–in Christ our Covenant Head, our Surety and Mediator; and no flaw in our obedience, no defect in our love, no failure in our service, should so cast us down as to shut our eye to our acceptance in the Beloved. Imperfections we would not overlook, sin we would not allow, disobedience we would not indulge, temptation we would not encourage; nevertheless, we would ever remember, for our encouragement, that, in default of perfection in the most perfect of our doings, we are fully and eternally, complete in Jesus.

Octavius Winslow, The Sympathy of Christ With Man, (New York: Robert Carter and Brothers, 1863) pp. 83-84.

One wonders how a person can claim to trust God to justify sinners based on his promises of salvation to all who believe and mistrust him in the matter of promised sanctification. We should note that though believers are commanded to obey and thus become involved in the matter of sanctification, this work, like the act of justification, is a work of God’s free grace and is accomplished by the redemptive work of Christ. It becomes clear that sanctification is God’s work when we consider that he has promised to complete this work in every true believer. In his first Epistle to the Thessalonians, Paul wrote, “Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it” (1 Thess. 5:23-24).

The apostle Peter wrote, “. . . .the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you” (1 Peter 5:10).

Paul wrote to the Philippians, “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:6).

In Romans 6, Paul sums up his answer to the charge that preaching unconditional pardon will lead to licentious living with these words in verse fourteen, “For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.”

These are not just nice little memory verses; they are God’s promises. “He who promised is faithful. . .” (Heb. 10:23).

Here is the point. If you are concerned about true believers turning the grace of God into licentiousness and sensuality [lasciviousness if you are a KJV advocate] because they enjoy a sense of full and free forgiveness in Christ, you can relax. God has it all under control. If he has justified us, he has also promised to sanctify us through the same redemptive work of Christ that declared us righteous. In fact, not only has he guaranteed our perseverance in believing attachment to Christ; he has assured our final conformity to the image of Christ as well. It is his work. Trust him to accomplish it.

Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy,
25 to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen (Jude 24-25).


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.


Love Fulfills the Law

There seems to be a great deal of confusion about love and its importance in the matter of the believer’s sanctification. One of the surest ways to be branded a heretical antinomian or neonomian is to suggest that what God requires from his believing people is supreme love for him and an accompanying love for his people. In fact, I suspect it would be difficult to say anything that would be looked on with more disfavor that to suggest that if we love one another as a reflection of our love for God, we have done what God’s law requires of us. Yet, the New Testament Scriptures are clear in teaching that love is the goal of the commandment. Paul wrote, “5Now the purpose of the commandment is love from a pure heart, from a good conscience, and from sincere faith, . . .” (1 Tim. 1:5).

8 Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. 9For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 10 Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law. (Romans 13:8-10).

Please note, the text does not say, “He who loves will obey the law” or “he who loves ought to obey the law.” It says, “the one who loves another has fulfilled the law.”

In commenting on these verses, Robert Haldane wrote, “Nothing can be more evident than that if we loved our neighbor perfectly, we would commit none of the things here specified. . . .It [the law] requires nothing but what is implied in love.”1

Additionally, Paul wrote,

13 For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.14 For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Galatians 5:13-14).

Here again, he tells us that the whole law is fulfilled by loving our neighbor.

When we talk about Jesus’ “new commandment” that we should love one another as he has loved us, we are usually accused of trying to do away with the law and replace it with love. The reality is that the only change Jesus made in giving this new commandment is the manner in which we are to love one another. We are to love one another “as he has loved us.” Of course, it goes without saying that this is a goal we will never perfectly achieve while we live in the body. Still, it is the lofty goal he sets before us.

His commandment to love is not new at all, nor does it replace any other commandment. It is the commandment out of which all the other commandments flow. It is the sum of them all. Consider Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 22:35-39.

35Then one of them, a lawyer, asked Him a question, testing Him, and saying, 36“Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?” 37Jesus said to him, “ ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ 38“This is the first and great commandment. 39“And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40“On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.”

It might be interesting to note that neither of these commandments is taken from what some have mistakenly referred to as “God’s eternal, universal, moral law,” i.e., the Ten Commandments. Yet, Jesus teaches that the “great commandment in the law” is that we love God supremely. The second great commandment is that we love our neighbor as ourselves. In reality, whatever other commandment we find under any covenantal arrangement whether under the law, or under the new covenant merely describes how a person will act if he loves God and his neighbor. The commandment is to love; every other commandment merely tells us how to express that love under a given covenant. Adam could not love God and eat of the forbidden fruit at the same time. Under the old covenant, a person could not rightly claim he loved God while chewing a piece of bacon. The reason Christians may eat pork without showing a lack of love toward God is not that God has changed or that the law has changed, but that there has been a change of covenant. Under the new covenant, all the types and shadows of the old have been fulfilled.

God’s new covenant people have, by his grace, been enabled to love him and those who are made in his image. Since we are not yet made perfect in holiness, we do not yet love God or his creatures perfectly. If we could love perfectly, we would live perfectly.

I want to be clear. I believe the New Testament Scriptures present commandments that must be kept. There are rules to be obeyed, but if our focus is on the rules rather than on the ruler, we will easily descend into a Pharisaic legalism by which one trusts in himself that he is righteous and despises others. I can keep the rules without loving God; I can’t love God without keeping the rules. Keeping the rules cannot replace loving behavior; the rules merely describe loving behavior. They tell me how I will act if I love God and my neighbor.

This is how the New Testament teaching differs from the so-called “new morality” teaching. The New Testament Scriptures do not teach that whatever we do is right as long as we do it out of a motive of undefined love. God has clearly defined for us what love is like and nowhere has he done so as clearly as in his redemptive activity in Christ. For this reason, we read such commandments as “love one another, as I have loved you.” “Husbands love your wives, just as Christ love the church and gave himself up for it.” “Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” “Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.” It is important to note that the verse that precedes this one to which the “so [in this manner]” refers, states “In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” “We love, because he first loved us.”

One reason believers should never stray far from the cross is that this supreme manifestation of God’s love is to form the pattern for our behavior in sanctification. Not only am I to love because he loves; the lofty goal for me is to love as he loves.

Does love replace law under the New Covenant? No, the command to love is the law under any covenant.

1. Robert Haldane, Romans, (London:The Banner of Truth Trust, reprint ed. 1966) p 588.


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.


Straw Men Re: Lordship Salvation

I know I should no longer be surprised, but I can hardly believe that some people can be so insecure in their positions that they will not even post comments that disagree with them. I recently ran across a blog entitled “Notes From A Retired Preacher” at The owner of the blog styles himself as “Retired Pastor — 82 year old narrow-minded Conservative Christian.” I didn’t realize what a narrow-minded bigot he truly was until I submitted a number of comments to his blog that he simply refused to post. I wrote to him suggesting that perhaps it would be good if his readers considered an accurate statement of the “Lordship Salvation” doctrine instead of the straw man he was presenting. He neither answered me nor posted any of my several comments. I can only conclude that he knows he is unable to actually deal adequately with truth. It is far easier for him to quote partial verses and verses out of context to propound his untenable position.

This man states that those who teach “Lordship Salvation” deny that justification is through faith in Christ alone but that they teach a “works salvation.” What a prodigious misrepresentation! Since I suppose this old man is sincerely convinced of his position, I would not accuse him of deliberately lying about what others teach. He does, however, illustrate the quip that some people’s minds are like concrete–all mixed up and permanently set.

No one who believes in “Lordship salvation” teaches that the sinner’s repentance adds any merit to the finished work of Christ or that faith and repentance are the basis on which God justifies sinners. We all believe the basis of justification before God is the preceptive and penal obedience of Christ [i.e., his obedience to God’s law and his death under that law] which he accomplished for his people objectively during the period of his humiliation.

The real issue is whether Christ accomplished both the justification and sanctification of his people on the cross. We assert that he did. Over one hundred years ago, J. C. Ryle 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).

Jesus said, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me, and I give unto them eternal life and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. . . .” (John 10:28). Why would anyone believe he is one of Christ’s sheep if he does not hear his voice and wish to follow him?

We do not teach that sinners must bring anything with them but their sins when they come to Christ for salvation. As Horatius Bonar wrote, “they [our sins] are the only thing we can truly call our own.” We do teach that we bring our sins to him that we might be saved from them [not just the penalty of them], not that we might continue in them.