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Calvinistic Evangelism–The Theological Foundation–Chapter Eleven-The Nature and Purpose of Salvation

I am saddened that I must write this chapter. There should be complete agreement on this point among all those who have read the Scriptures with a Spirit-renewed mind, but regrettably this it not the case. There is anything but unanimity on this issue. Perhaps the problem is that some are not reading the Scriptures with a Spirit-renewed mind. I am not suggesting that true believers will always be completely accurate in their interpretation of the Scriptures. I do not believe that is the case. What I do believe is that there is no margin for error in our understanding of the gospel. If we depart even slightly from God’s good news, we are under the curse of Galatians 1:8. Before we consider talking to sinners about “being saved” we need to examine our understanding of the biblical teaching on that subject.

In chapter two of Galatians, Paul broaches two issues that concern the truth of the gospel. Neither of these issues seems to be of great moment unless, of course, your name is Titus. The first issue concerned the insistence of the Judaizers that Titus, being a Greek, submit to the rite of circumcision (see Gal. 2:3-5). The second issue concerned Peter acting hypocritically and out of fear and returning to eating only kosher food when certain men came down from the Jerusalem church (see Gal. 2:11-13). Both these issues might seem insignificant in relationship to the purity and truth of the gospel, but the apostle tells us that such was not the case. Listen to what he said. In the case of Titus and circumcision he wrote, “. . .we did not yield submission even for an hour, that the truth of the gospel might continue with you” (v. 5). The clear meaning is that the truth of the gospel could not coexist with any capitulation to the Judaizers’ demand. Why could one not both trust Christ and submit to circumcision? That would not seem like too great a departure from God’s message would it? The answer is that any departure from God’s message, however insignificant it might seem, means the truth of the gospel has been compromised. The issue in this case was that the Judaizers were insisting that the rite of circumcision formed part of the basis of justification before God. One of the main questions Paul was answering in this epistle concerned the true seed of Abraham. His answer was that the true heirs of the Abrahamic promise were not so by natural birth and that, under the New Covenant, circumcision was now without significance. For this reason, what seemed insignificant was truly monumental.

In the case of Peter’s hypocrisy in returning to the practice of eating only kosher food and leading others into his hypocrisy, he and the others were acting inconsistently with what they knew to be true about the gospel. It does not seem that it would be destructive to the gospel to stop eating pork for a couple of weeks does it? It seems insignificant, but Paul wrote, “But when I saw that they were not straightforward about the truth of the gospel. . .” (v.14). I suspect these men would have been grieved to think they were being unfaithful to the truth of the gospel, but they were out of the way nonetheless.


What is Salvation?

It may seem to some that this is an issue we do not even need to discuss. In their view, the answer is clear. For them, salvation is merely an issue of letting Jesus into our hearts so that we can go to heaven when we die. Aside from the fact that this is a concept that is foreign to the biblical message, it ignores the greater part of what the New Testament Scriptures teach about salvation. In truth, if salvation involved no more than pardon and did not concern the radical transformation of our natures, entrance into heaven would be a devastating and horrifying experience for us. Imagine eternity in the presence of a supreme and sovereign being to whom we are hostile and for whom our hearts feel no love and in whom our souls take no delight. Such an experience would be everlasting torment for us. William Bates stated the issue this way,

If a carnal man were translated to heaven, where the love of God reigns, and where the brightest and sweetest discoveries of his glory appear, he would not find paradise in heaven itself; for delight arises not merely from the excellency of the object, but from the proportionableness of it to the faculty [If we have no capacity to delight in God, though he is altogether lovely in himself, he cannot be the object of our delight]. Though God is an infinite good in himself, yet if he is not conceived as the supreme good to man, he cannot make him happy (Bates, 1832, 56).

I want to be very careful about the way I state what I have come to believe about this issue since I am painfully aware of the propensity of many in the evangelical Christian community to twist and misrepresent the views of those believe in what some have called “Lordship Salvation.” I must confess that I am not enamored with that designation though I agree with the doctrine it represents. To some extent the issue simply boils down to an understanding of the offices that Jesus fulfills as the Lord’s Anointed One. It is not up to the sinner to determine in which of those offices he is willing to embrace Jesus in faith. I do not have the prerogative of receiving Jesus as my Priest to offer sacrifice for my sins and make intercession for me before his Father’s throne but not as my King subdue me to himself and to rule over me. The gospel demands that I bow before his throne in humble submission to his sovereign will, receiving him in all his offices, with the promise that I will be forgiven and justified if I do so.

Salvation is Broader than Forgiveness

One of the difficulties we face as we seek accurately to define what we mean by salvation is that there are those who are at the extreme ends of a continuum and those whose views fall at various points along that continuum. Some of these would wish to emphasize one aspect of salvation and some another. This difficulty arises to some extent from the different ways in which the terms “saved” and “salvation” are used in the Scriptures. As a result of the modern day aversion to precision and accuracy in theology and in many cases the aversion to theology itself, we have allowed the distinctions between these uses to become blurred. People often decide on one meaning for these terms to the exclusion of all the other meanings and then impose that meaning on every occurrence of those terms. Let me illustrate how this can wreak havoc with any effort to come to a consensus concerning the biblical teaching about the meaning of “salvation.” Suppose we conclude that the meaning of the term is limited to salvation from the penalty of sin so that “we can go to heaven when we die.” We will rightly conclude that “salvation” is not based on our obedience and does not require any obedience on our part at all. Our right standing before God depends not on our obedience but on the obedience and righteousness of Christ. The Bible teaches that the believer is as righteous in the sight of God the first moment he believes as he will ever be. We do not progress in justification so that the more obedient we become, the more righteous we will become in God’s sight.

Now, if we over-emphasize this forensic aspect of “salvation,” we may be tempted to assume that anyone who suggests that God’s saving work includes our obedience is believing and teaching a false gospel. How can salvation be both apart from works and include good works, indeed guarantee obedience, at the same time? Paul wrote, “As you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling” (Phil. 2:12). If we insist on imposing our forensic definition of “salvation” on this verse, we will find ourselves theologically confused. Though it is quite true that a sinner’s justification before God is completely apart from his personal works of obedience, it is not true to say that salvation does not involve our works of obedience at all.

It is common among those who refer to themselves as “free grace, OSAS [once saved always saved] believers” to accuse those who teach “Lordship Salvation” of teaching salvation by works. Many of them believe that once a person has made a profession of faith in Christ, nothing that occurs subsequent to that acknowledgment of the truth of certain propositions can keep the professor from the enjoyment of eternal life. They believe that faith need only be a one-time, temporary acknowledgment of Jesus’ veracity. They deny that the gospel calls sinners to repent since, in their view, such a call would be calling on sinners to perform meritorious works in exchange for which God will grant them salvation. In their view, there need be no evidence of love for God or a desire to please him. They believe a “once saved” person can even hate God and still “go to heaven when he dies.” I hope this sounds so bizarre to you that you will think I am engaging in a straw man argument. I only wish that were the case. I would encourage you to visit the following sites on the internet to verify my assertions:,,

As an example of the teaching you will find on these sites, I have posted a quiz that recently appeared on the last site listed.  To save you a bit of time, I will post the answer key here so you will not have to wade through the entire test.  Note: If you answered any question with other than “D”, you are confused about God’s plan of salvation [This is from the one who composed this test].

A Test for Eternal Salvation (Or, How Can We Tell Who is Really Saved?)

Posted on October 4, 2015 by johninnc

  1. I believe that someone who is “really saved”:
    • Sins more than he did before he was saved
    • Sins less than he did before he was saved
    • Sins the same amount as he did before he was saved
    • Need not look to the amount of sin in his life as an indicator of whether or not he is saved.
  1. I believe that someone who is “really saved”:
    • Must have wanted to become better to be saved
    • Must have wanted to be rid of his tendency to sin to be saved
    • Must have believed that his life would change and that he would sin less after he is saved in order to be saved
    • Must have believed that Jesus took away his sins – past, present, and future.
  1. I believe that someone who is “really saved”:
  • Will show visible signs (“fruits”) of being saved
  • Will not show visible signs (“fruits”) of being saved
  • May show visible signs (“fruits”) of being saved
  • Cannot show that he is saved based on his behavior. One’s behavior, either good, or bad, gives no evidence of whether or not he is saved
  1. I believe that someone who is “really saved”:
  • Will always feel bad when he sins
  • Will usually feel bad when he sins
  • Will at least feel bad when he commits big sins
  • Need not evaluate his feelings, including sensitivity to sin at any given point in time, to help him determine whether or not he is saved.
  • 5.  I believe that someone who is “really saved”:
  • Always loves other people
  • Usually loves other people
  • May not love all people, but always loves his brothers and sisters in Christ
  • Need not evaluate his feelings, including love for others (or God) at any given point in time, to help him determine whether or not he is saved.
  • 6.   I believe that someone who is “really saved”:
  • Must turn from his sins to be saved
  • Must be willing to turn from his sins to be saved
  • Must confess his sins to be saved
  • Must, to have ever believed in Jesus as Savior, have acknowledged (known) that he was a sinner, in need of a Savior.
  • 7.   I believe that someone who is “really saved”:
  •  May lose his salvation if he returns to a sinful lifestyle
  • May lose his salvation if he dies with un-confessed sin
  • May lose his salvation if he quits believing
  • Cannot lose or forfeit his eternal life, no matter what.

8.  I believe that someone who is “really saved”:

  • Will go to be with the Lord when he dies or is raptured
  • Has eternal life now that can never be lost or forfeited
  • Will never come into condemnation
  • Has the benefit of all of the above

9.   I believe that someone who is “really saved”:

  • Will persevere in faith and good works
  • May “backslide”, but will always “return to God”
  • May fall into sin, but will never stop believing.
  • Has eternal life, whether or not he perseveres in faith and good works, “backslides” for the rest of his life, or even stops believing
  1. I believe that someone who is “really saved”*:
  • Can know he is saved, because his life begin to change, showing that God has really come into his life
  • Can know he is saved, because he is bearing the fruit of good works
  • Can know he is saved, because he is continuing to walk with Christ.
  • Can know he is saved, because he heard the gospel and believed it.

I want to make several observations about these questions and the answers the tester declared we must believe if we are not confused about salvation.

  1. If by “really saved” he means truly justified, anyone who believes the gospel would be in hearty agreement with many of his conclusions. A person who has been truly justified, for example, cannot lose or forfeit his eternal life “no matter what.” Additionally, if we have been truly justified, we believe Jesus has forgiven our past, present, and future sins etc.
  2. The way in which the questioner has posed his questions involves circular reasoning. He states his conclusion as one of his propositions. He assumes at the outset that the person about whom he asks the question is “really saved” then poses answers that would not be true of a “really saved” person. For example, he states that a person who is “really saved” cannot lose or forfeit his eternal life, no matter what. It is the content of his “no matter what” that is problematic because his “no matter what” includes attitudes and actions that would never characterize a “really saved” person.
  3. The Word of God makes it clear that God’s sanctifying work is going on in every person who has been truly justified. Though the person who is truly justified has not yet been made perfect in holiness, his life has taken a new direction. Whereas before his conversion he was held captive to sin, he has now been set free to obey his new master. A person who continues to be held captive to sin has clearly not been “really saved.” That does not mean that a “really saved” person ever trusts his new found desire to be obedient to Christ as the basis of his justification before God, but it is an evidence that God has begun a good work in him.
  4.  The Word of God makes it clear that genuine faith is a dependence on God’s promises that endures to the end. I will expand on this more fully when I examine the nature of faith and repentance. True faith is a persevering faith. In this quiz, the tester has assumed a person may be “really saved” but at some point may have stopped believing. He has confirmed to me in personal correspondence that he believes a person may convert to Islam or become an Atheist but still have eternal life. Notice the use of the past tenses in his statements about faith. He does not talk about an ongoing confidence in Christ but a moment of clarity that one has experienced in the past. For example, “A person who is “really saved” . . . “must, to have ever believed in Jesus as Savior.” The awkwardness of that statement aside, it is simply not an accurate description of the faith of God’s elect.
  5. The Word of God describes those who are “really saved” as those who “love God and are called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28). This man indicates that one’s love for God or lack of it is irrelevant as an evidence of the reality of our faith. In his first epistle, John gives evidence after evidence of genuine faith. His stated purpose in writing was that those who are believing might know that they have eternal life (1 John 5:13). One of these evidences is that we love God and keep his commandments and reflect that love for God in our love for his people (see 1 John 5: 2-3). His answer is that John is not talking about believers but about disciples as if believers and disciples are different. Jesus described his sheep as those who hear his voice and follow him. It is to these he gives eternal life. If a person does not listen to Jesus’ voice and follow him, he has no reason to believe he is one of his sheep or that Jesus has given him eternal life. This does not mean that Jesus has given his sheep eternal life because they have heard his voice and followed him. They hear and follow because that is what sheep do
  6. This man seems to indicate that a believer need not be sensitive to whether he can continue to sin with abandon just as he did before he had his moment of clarity [which they wrongly identify as faith]. If he wishes to continue to live in the pig pen and perish with spiritual hunger, he should not fear that he is still dead and lost. Going back home is optional. A renewed relationship with the Father is optional. He may remain where he is in his sin and enjoy the Father’s forgiveness and blessings. In his view, a believer ought to leave the pig pen and return to an amicable relationship with the Father but if he does not, he will still have eternal life. He will simply suffer a loss of rewards at Christ’s judgment seat.
  7. He uses the term “really saved” in an illegitimate way in that he seeks to portray one facet of God’s salvific plan and accomplishment as if it were the whole.

What this view has done in emphasizing one aspect of God’s salvation to the exclusion of everything else the Bible states about that salvation is to present us with a caricature of the biblical message. You have seen the political cartoons in which one or more aspects of a person’s face have been so emphasized that the representation becomes comical. There is enough left of the person’s likeness that one can recognize who is being portrayed, but the drawing is anything but an accurate representation of the person being pictured. One of the definitions of a caricature as provided by The Free Dictionary by Farlex is “any imitation so distorted or inferior as to be ludicrous.” This is what has happened to the gospel of Christ. There is enough of the terminology that remains in the message that we can recognize that it must have some relationship to the gospel, but it has been so distorted and is so inferior to the genuine message that it has become a decidedly different thing, so different as to be ludicrous.

On the other end of the spectrum, the Roman Catholic view has emphasized the “infused grace” aspects of God’s salvation to the exclusion of the forensic aspect of that salvation. In this view, justification is achieved through sanctification. It is a complete denial of the imputation of Christ’s righteousness. There is no question that God, by his Spirit, gives believers grace to be obedient, but that obedience never meets the rigorous demands of God’s justice necessary for a declaration of righteousness in his presence.

Using Precise Biblical and Theological Terms

When we speak about any aspect of God’s salvation, we need to discipline ourselves to use the biblical term that describes that work in particular.  In the Scripture, this is often accomplished by the context in which the terms “saved” or “salvation” occur. We need to observe what aspect of God’s work the writer is describing in those contexts and then use accurate biblical and theological terms to designate the specific work of God the writer is referencing in them. Notice the difference in these two statements.  One is true; the other is false.

Sinners are justified before God completely apart from their own works of obedience.  That is a true statement.

Sinners are saved completely apart from their own works of obedience.  That is a false statement.

How can one statement be true and the other be false?  Is not “justified” equivalent to “saved?”  The answer is that it depends on the context. There are times the biblical writers refer to salvation as an ongoing process in the present (see Phil. 2:12). At other times, they refer to salvation as future— “nearer than when we first believed” (Rom. 12:11). Salvation is a broad term used to refer to God’s entire work [past, present and future] of redeeming and renewing sinners.

God’s Ultimate Goal in Saving Sinners

Salvation is nicely summarized for us in Hebrews 2:10 where the writer describes it as God’s work in “bringing many sons to glory.” It should not escape our notice that the words “glory” and “image” are often linked in the Scriptures. “Bringing many sons to glory” should be closely linked in our minds with the restoration of God image in us or, stated in different words, conformity to the image of Christ.

We are often told that God has not predestined anyone to salvation; we are predestined instead to be conformed to the image of Christ. Such statements betray a profound misunderstanding of the nature of God’s salvation. Our full conformity to Christ’s image is salvation.

I am certain it would come as a great surprise to many to learn that the Bible never speaks of Jesus dying for us so we can go to heaven when we die. I am not suggesting that deliverance from God’s holy wrath was not one of God’s purposes in sending his Son to die for his people. That is certainly a clear teaching of the Bible. What I am suggesting is that deliverance from God’s wrath is a purpose that is subsidiary to his grand purpose of bringing a chosen and redeemed people to glory.

That restoration, that crowning with glory and honor, is begun in the works of regeneration and sanctification. Paul wrote to the Corinthians that one of the great privileges of the New Covenant is that “we all with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord are changed from glory to glory [from one stage of glory to a higher stage of glory], even as by the Lord, the Spirit” (2 Cor. 3:18).

You might be wondering how justification fits into all of this. Is God’s judicial declaration unimportant since his ultimate purpose is to restore his people [as well as the creation itself] to glory? Of course, the answer is a resounding “no!” Justification is essential because sinners who are conscious of our guilt will not approach God and gaze on his glory. The Book of Hebrews makes it clear that one of the inadequacies of the Old Covenant was its inability to quiet the nagging, guilty, “evil conscience.” The believer in Christ may rejoice that “his sin, not in part but the whole, is nailed to the cross and he bears it no more.” He has been reconciled to God in the death of his Son. He may now freely and confidently approach God’s holy throne because he has a great priest who has, as his head and representative, passed through the heavens into the very presence of God. He may now gaze on God’s glory without fear of condemnation. Thus, justification is not an end in itself but a means to an end. Notice the link between justification and glorification in Romans 5:1-2. Paul wrote, “Therefore, being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have access into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.” As believers, we may be confident that if God has declared us righteous in his sight, he is certain to glorify us in his presence.


God’s Purpose in Salvation


God’s purpose in redeeming a people for himself as in his purpose in creation and in providence is the manifestation of his glory. As we have seen, we are told again and again in the Scriptures that God’s desire is to make his name known. A person’s name in Scripture is more than an appellation. It is an indication of one’s character or attributes. In Exodus 33:19, Jehovah declares to Moses that he will pass before him and declare “the name of the Lord.”  When we read about him passing before Moses in 34:6-7, what is it that he declares?  It is a declaration of his glorious attributes. This is what the text says,

The LORD passed before him and proclaimed, “The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation.”

It is significant that Jesus prayed in John seventeen, “I have declared your name to the men that you gave me out of the world. They were yours, and you have given them to me, and they have kept your Word” (v. 6). He had already prayed in verse three and four of this chapter, “and this is eternal life, that they might know you [his Father], and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. I have glorified you on the earth. . .” He did not mean that he had merely spoken to them about his Father’s name, but that he had revealed to them the Father’s glorious person not merely so that the might know about him, but that they might know him, approve him, love him. Ultimately, God’s purpose in the salvation of his people is the manifestation of his glory, but not the manifestation of his glory in an abstract way. Instead, his end in salvation is the manifestation of his glory in his people. This he accomplishes in the work of sanctification which finds its end point in their full conformity to Christ’s image. Notice the evidence that Jesus gives that he has completed the mission the Father had given them. It is this— “and they have kept your Word.”

The ultimate purpose of God’s salvation is remedial. By that I mean that God’s salvation is intended to restore to believers all that sin has taken away. To understand what God’s intends to accomplish in saving a people for himself, all one needs to do is consider the apostle’s description of the sinner’s need for salvation in the early chapters of Romans. God’s salvation is perfectly suited to meet those needs and remedy those deficiencies.

Paul began his description of the sinner’s need for salvation by telling his readers that God’s wrath is revealed from heaven. His wrath is his settled indignation against sinners and our sins. It is not that he becomes angry and boils over when something does not suit him. It is rather that his perpetual response to sin wherever it exists is revulsion and disapprobation. His effectual redeeming work is suited to satisfy his wrath that rises from his holy character.

The second issue is our “ungodliness.” This simply means that we sinners are at cross purposes with God. We are guilty of breaking the first and greatest commandment. We do not love God. Instead, we are hostile toward him and all that is holy. The evidence of the sinner’s hostility against God is clearly set forth in this universal indictment that Paul brings against ungodly rebels.  He shows that they have no legal defense before God’s throne. The point he makes time after time is that wherever and in whatever way God has revealed himself, the sinner’s reaction has been to suppress that revelation through unrighteousness (1:18).

He charges that though God has clearly revealed himself in the things he has made, we do not glorify him and give him the honor due his name (1:21).

He charges that we have not been grateful for all God’s gracious bounty (1:21).

He charges that we have forsaken the worship of God and have worshipped created things in his place (1:23, 25)

He charges that we have chosen to believe a lie rather that to believe God’s truth (1:25).

He charges that we have decided that God is not worth knowing (1:28).

He charges that we have despised the riches of God’s goodness, patience and longsuffering in his universal benevolence (2:4).

He even charges God’s covenant people with dishonoring him and causing his name to be dishonored among the Gentiles (2:22-23). They did this even though they knew his will having been instructed by the law (2:18).

It is the purpose of God in redemption to replace this hostility against him with love for him. He intends to bring us to the point that we honor, glorify and worship him as our highest good and bow in humble gratitude before his throne. Paul stated God’s salvific purpose this way— “. . .that we should be to the praise of his glory” (Eph. 1:12. See also verses six and fourteen). The apostle Paul identified the true circumcision, the true people of God, the true seed of Abraham, as those who “worship [or render religious service] by the Spirit of God and rejoice in Christ Jesus. . ..” (Phil. 3:3) Any message that aims at anything less than converting God-haters into worshippers is not God’s gospel.

He brings us to reject the lies of Satan and of the world and pursue and obey his truth. J.I. Packer wrote that the purpose of the gospel is “to make us God centered in our thinking and God fearing in our hearts (Packer, Introduction to “the Death of Death”).

It is God’s purpose in salvation not merely to forgive the returning sinner but to conquer the rebellion that has been the cause of his alienation from him. One of the differences between the Calvinistic view of repentance and the synergistic view is that in the Calvinistic view, repentance on the sinner’s part is but his response to God’s work of regeneration. The synergist cannot call on sinners to repent because given their view that regeneration is God’s response to their free will choice, a choice that involved turning from sin would involve good works. In the Calvinistic view, God turns us from our sins by giving us a new disposition.

The apostle also charges us with unrighteousness. This concerns our breaking of the second commandment, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” The work of redemption is also intended to repair ruptured human relations. The reflection of a person’s love for God is his love for those who are made in God’s image.

Given the propensity of some to twist and misrepresent other’s views, I want to make several statements that I hope will prevent misrepresentation.

  1. I do not believe that any sinner’s works have any merit before God for justification. Sinners are justified by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, on the authority of God’s Word alone, and to God’s glory alone.
  2. I do not believe the works of obedience God produces in the believer’s life will ever have meritorious value for justification.
  3. I do not believe a call to repentance is a call for sinners to promise to give up their sins in exchange for God’s gift of salvation. Sinners do not strike a bargain with God.
  4. I do not believe the gospel commands sinners to quit all their sins so that God will receive them. The gospel calls on sinners to bring their sins to Jesus that he might deliver them from the oppressive shackles of sin from which they will never be able to free themselves. Jesus does not merely free sinners from the guilt of sin, but from sin itself.

I want to close this chapter by quoting several biblical text concerning God’s electing and predestinating purpose and Christ’s redeeming work. that explicitly state the purpose of salvation. I will intersperse a few exegetical comments along with the text.  I want you to pay attention to the purpose clauses, clauses introduced by “that” or “order that,” “for” etc., in these verses.

God’s Electing and Predestinating Purpose

I would invite you to consider several biblical texts that inform us about God’s eternal purpose in the sinner’s salvation. There are many who would conclude from these texts that his purpose did not concern the sinner’s salvation since they say nothing about his plan to “take us to heaven when we die.” In truth, in making such observations, they simply reveal their lack of understanding of the nature of salvation itself.

“For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers” (Rom. 8:29).

It is important for us to note that all the steps necessary to accomplish this ultimate purpose are also included in God’s purpose.  For example, in verse twenty-eight Paul had written, “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to his purpose.” God not only predestined the ultimate end—the believer’s glorification—but also the means to that end.  That “call” which effectively unites the believer to Christ (see 1 Cor. 1:9) and grants him every spiritual blessing is “according to his purpose.” I

“even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him” (Eph. 1:4). The text does not say he chose a plan of salvation. It says “he chose us, that we should be holy.”

“For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for [the preposition indicates the goal or purpose] good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them (Eph. 2:10).

But we ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers beloved by the Lord, because God chose you as the firstfruits [some texts read “from the beginning”] to be saved, through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth. To this he called you through our gospel, so that you may obtain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ (2 Thess. 2:13-14.

[Note that it is “to be saved” that is through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth” and not God’s choice].

“Elect exiles. . .according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in the sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with his blood: May grace and peace be multiplied to you” 1 Pet. 1:1-2).

The Purpose of Christ’s Redeeming Work

I would first like to draw your attention to the prophesy spoken by Zechariah, John’s father, when he recognized that his son was to be the forerunner of the Messiah and that God’s covenant promises to Abraham were about to be fulfilled. It is likely that Zechariah spoke much better than he knew, but the Holy Spirit who controlled his utterance intended the profundity that saturates this wonderful passage. I want you to notice two important aspects of this prophesy related to our study. The first is the relationship between “being delivered from the hand of our enemies” and “serving him without fear in holiness and righteousness. . .” This points up the reason that God’s work for us at the initiation of his work of salvation is a full pardon and a declaration that we are righteous in his sight. The second point is that he does not deliver us from our enemies so that we might serve ourselves.

Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for he has visited and redeemed his people and has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David, as he spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets from of old, that we should be saved from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us; to show the mercy promised to our fathers and to remember his holy covenant, the oath that he swore to our father Abraham, to grant us that we, being delivered from the hand of our enemies, might serve him without fear, in holiness and righteousness before him all our days. (Luke 1:68-75).

The apostle Paul wrote:

Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, (Eph.5.25-27).

“. . .who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works (Titus 2:14).

The apostle Peter wrote,

“He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls” (1Pet2.25-25). God does not forgive his sheep for straying and leave us to stray farther. He returns us to the Shepherd.

Consider the words written to the Hebrews,

“. . .how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God (Heb. 9:14). [Note the connection between a purified conscious and serving God. God does not purify our consciences in justification as an end in itself but as a means to an end, i.e., to serve the living God.]

In commenting on the Luke one passage I quoted above, Matthew Henry wrote what I believe sweetly distills all that I have written in this chapter.  I would like to close the chapter by citing his words.  He wrote,

The great design of gospel grace is not to discharge us from, but to engage us to, and encourage us in, the service of God. Under this notion Christianity was always to be looked upon, as intended to make us truly religious, to admit us into the service of God, to bind us to it, and to quicken us in it. We are therefore delivered from the iron yoke of sin, that our necks may be put under the sweet and easy yoke of the Lord Jesus (Henry, Comment on Luke 1:75).

Bates, William, The Harmony of the Divine Attributes in the Contrivance and Accomplishment of Man’s Redemption. (New York: Jonathan Leavitt), 1832.

Henry, Matthew, A Commentary on the Whole Bible, (



I was reading a blog this morning from a Reformed guy who wrote about the Reformers having recovered the truth of free justification before God based solely on the imputation of Jesus’ righteousness. One of the comments was as follows:

I would argue that many Reformed tend to be legalistic (I’d exclude people like Michael Horton whom I learned much from) and the Lordship Salvation debate reveals that. For example, the great JI Packer wrote,”In common honesty, we must not conceal the fact that free forgiveness in one sense will cost everything.”

John MacArthur (who’s pretty Reformed) wrote that “Salvation is for those who are willing to forsake everything.”

Then there followed several banal comments that betrayed a total misunderstanding of the biblical gospel. Allow me to make a few comments of my own.

1. There is nothing “legalistic” about stating that salvation is for those “who are willing to forsake everything” or that “free forgiveness in one sense will cost everything.” If there were, we would have to label Jesus as a legalist. He said, “So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:23). Many who read this verse draw a false distinction between being a believer and being a disciple, but no such distinction exists in the Bible. If a person does not want to follow Jesus and learn from him, he doesn’t want to be a Christian. There is nothing legalistic about that; it is simply descriptive of what it means to be converted and be a Christian. Jesus said, “My sheep hear my voice and I know them and they follow me. . .” (John 10:27).

2. The issue of what happens subsequent to conversion has nothing to do with the basis of justification before God. No one who believes the biblical gospel thinks a person’s justification is based on his subsequently changed life. Was Paul teaching justification by works when he preached “. . . that they should repent and turn to God, performing deeds in keeping with their repentance.” ( Acts 26:20)? No, he simply understood that justifying faith will be obedient faith.

3. Any message that misses the element of salvation from sin, not merely salvation from the penalty of sin, is not the good news of free justification before God. When, in The Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan, Christian fled the city of destruction and made his way to the wicket gate, he did so not merely to escape the destruction that was to fall on the city, but to be free from the sin burden on his back. People who flee to Jesus for salvation are people who are sin weary and feel heavy laden. Their God-given desire is not merely to be freed from guilt, but to be freed from sin.

4. God does not forgive sinners because we believe the gospel and give up all that we have. He forgives us because Jesus has stood in our place and paid our dept. That is the BASIS of justification, repentant faith is merely the channel through which we receive God’s free gift.

5. If it is the sinner who, out of his sinful nature, produces such repentance and faith, then salvation is indeed based on works. This is why the issue of the origin of faith and repentance is so important. If we believe these acts are the product of the sinner’s will, even if aided by some sort of non-discriminating prevenient grace, and that these acts are the distinguishing factor between the justified and the condemned, we indeed believe in works salvation. In truth, these acts are the sinner’s response to God’s saving grace in the hearts of dead men and women in applying to them the salvation Jesus has already accomplished for them.

6. Failure to understand these truths is a failure to understand the biblical nature of faith and conversion. Faith is more than mental assent to a list of propositions. It is more than the repetition of a canned prayer. Conversion is not walking an aisle, signing a card, or punching in a code on your iPhone. Conversion is turning to God from idols, to serve the living God. Faith that does not produce obedience is not true and justifying faith. Such faith and the obedience it produces is never the basis of justification. It is, nevertheless, the kind of faith through which alone God justifies.

7. We need to return to the issues set forth in Apostolic preaching. Jesus did not merely die to free us from guilt; he died to free us from our wickedness. “God, having raised up his servant, sent him to you first, to bless you by turning every one of you from your wickedness” (Acts 3:26).


How to Argue Against the Wicked Heresy of Calvinism


1. Misrepresent its teachings so badly that no Calvinist would recognize them.

2. Quote a handful of proof-texts, out of context, that have nothing at all to do with the issues.

3. Never exegete and try to explain biblical texts that actually teach that God is the sovereign Lord over his own universe. Ignore all texts that explain that if sinners ever make proper and God glorifying choices, they do so through divine enabling.

4. State a part of the truth as if it were the whole truth, and then pretend these wretched Calvinists don’t believe in the part you have stated. For example, cite verses that show God invites sinners to choose life and reject death as proof that God has nothing to do with that choice. Then boldly assert that Calvinists don’t believe sinners have a will.

5 Find areas in which most Calvinists would disagree with Calvin, and make those issues the most salient points in the discussion.

6 Never, ever quote a Calvinist in the context in which his remarks actually occurred. You must always take his comments out of context so that it will appear he is saying something completely different from what he said or wrote.

7. When all else fails, resort to name calling.


Rabid Anti-Calvinists

I have been strolling around the blogosphere this morning reading the comments of rabid anti-Calvinists and would like to make a few observations.

Firstly, it appears to me these people are really angry at God. They are people who don’t love God. They clearly have a deep-seated love for the god they have created in their own image, but they don’t love the God who has revealed himself in the Scriptures. They unabashedly state they could not love a God who would choose some to be saved and pass over others, leaving them in their sins. If God is going to be a God they can love and worship, he must love everyone equally and in the same way. He must do his best to save everyone. A god who does his best and fails isn’t worth worshipping. Our God is in the heavens, and he has done whatsoever he has pleased.

Secondly, these people almost never refer to the Scriptures apart from a few proof-text they have taken out of context. They will tell us what the Bible doesn’t say and in some cases are correct. For example, they will tell us John 3:16 does not say “For God so loved the elect.” I, for one, never though it did. John’s point in that verse is that the love of God is not confined to his covenant people, Israel; he loves vile sinners of every nation. The original Arminians seemed to be much more biblical. Still. even they quoted verses that did not prove their point. For some unknown reason they thought Acts 7:51 “you do always resist the Holy Spirit” disproves the doctrine of irresistible grace. No Calvinist argues that sinners are unable to resist the Holy Spirit. We argue the same fact the Scriptures argue—sinners in a state of nature ALWAYS resist the Holy Spirit.

Thirdly, these people almost never grapple with real issues. Their arguments are almost always against “straw men.” Sometimes they simply tell outright lies. For example, “Calvinists don’t believe in eternal security.” That came as quite a shock to me. Of course, Calvinists believe in the eternal security of true believers. What we deny is the eternal security of everyone who walks an aisle, signs a card, prays a prayer, punches a code into his iphone etc. Interestingly, our position happens to coincide with quite a number of Scriptures on this issue. For example, John 10:28 clearly tells us that Jesus gives his sheep eternal life and they shall never perish, but we must also consider how he describes his sheep in verse 27—“my sheep hear my voice and I know them and they follow me.” There is no indication that those who refuse to hear his voice and follow him are eternally secure. God’s people are kept by the power of God, but we are not saved apart from divinely produced persevering faith.

Fourthly, because they don’t have the exegetical ability to answer bona fide arguments, they resort to name calling. [Please note that referring to someone as an Arminian or as a Semi-Pelagian is not name calling. These are theological designations for those who believe in synergistic as opposed to monergistic salvation. That they are logically inconsistent concerning the doctrine of eternal security does not affect the issue one way or the other. If a person who believes in hypothetical universalism wishes to call himself a “four point Calvinist,” why should we not refer to these people as “four point Arminians?] The saddest part is they have resorted to calling God nasty names like “cruel bully.”

Fifthly, they deal falsely by not posting comments that make it clear they don’t know what they are talking about. This is blatantly dishonest. I will post any comment made here that follows the blog rules I have posted. If I refuse to post your comments, it is because you have not followed the rules, not because I disagree with your comment.

Let’s talk. I am ready to discuss the Scriptures with you people. Let’s have a real discussion of biblical texts in their contexts. Name a topic and let’s discuss what the Scriptures have to say about it.


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 Must I Do To Be Saved?

The question, “What must I do to be saved?” though short and simple, is far more profound than many realize. We cannot even be absolutely certain the jailor who asked it even understood the implications of his inquiry. It is possible he had heard the Psalms Paul and Silas had been singing and been deeply convicted of his lost and desperate condition before God. Perhaps he had had some prior instruction about the character of God and the awful plight of sinners in a state of alienation from him. The reality is, we simply do not know the background of his question.

What we do know is that this question elicited a profound statement of gospel truth. Paul’s answer was “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved. . . .” (Acts 16:31). Since Luke tells us in the very next verse “they spoke the Word to him and to all who were in his house” it is likely he did not immediately understand the implications of this short answer.

I want to explore with you some of the issues I believe this answer raises and discuss the Bible’s responses to those issues. The following are some of those issues:

1. What does the Bible mean when I talks about being “saved?” From what do we need to be saved?
2. What does it mean to believe?
3. What must a person believe if he/she is to be saved?

Let’s consider these questions one by one.

1. There are several places in both the Old and New Testaments where the term “saved” occurs. Additionally, the Scriptures refer both to God, the Father, and Jesus, the Son, as “Savior.” Here are a few examples. In Isaiah 45:21-22 we read “. . .And there is no other god besides me, a righteous God and a Savior: there is none besides me. Turn to me and be saved, all the ends of the earth! For I am God and there is no other.” The apostle Paul states in Ephesians 2:8-9, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” He also wrote in Titus 3:5 “he [God, our Savior] saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and the renewal of the Holy Spirit.”

We could translate the word “saved” by the word “delivered.” It is used a person being delivered from his blindness (Luke 18:42), of sailors being delivered from drowning in stormy seas (Acts 27:31), of God delivering Noah and his family from the flood (1 Peter 3:20), Israelites being delivered from slavery in Egypt (Jude 5), etc.
In terms of spiritual deliverance, there are at least three senses in which the biblical writers speak of being “saved” from sin. Believers are:

Saved from God’s wrath. We are saved from sin’s penalty. [I have read some strange statements from self-proclaimed “Evangelicals” and “Biblicists” of late regarding Jesus’ death in relation to the wrath of God. It seems they are rejecting the idea that Jesus’ death has delivered us from God’s wrath. This is a blatant denial of the biblical doctrine of propitiation not to mention a whole host of biblical texts that speak of the wrath of God and the believer’s deliverance from it, e.g., John 3:36; Romans 1:18; 2:8; 5:9; Ephesians 5:6; 1 Thessalonians 1:10; 5:9].

Saved from the bondage of sin.
We are saved from our willful, autonomous, rebellion against God. We are saved from sin’s power.

Saved from all the ill effects of sin in the future. We will be saved from sin’s presence.

Notice, none of these issues has anything to do with delivering us from our poor self-image, a feeling of loneliness, financial instability, a bad marriage, a negative attitude about life, etc. Some of these benefits may result as God brings us into conformity with his revealed will, but none of them is promised in the gospel.

The Bible tells us Jesus came to save sinners from our sins (See Matt. 1:21). A person who does not want to be saved from his sins does not want to be saved at all. The issue the gospel is intended to deal with goes beyond having our sins forgiven so that we may go to heaven when we die. In fact, there is not a single verse in the Bible that mentions believing the gospel so that we can go to heaven when we die. God’s work of delivering his people from their sins is more about living than it is about dying. Consider just a couple of verses from the New Testament Scriptures that concern the purpose of God in saving sinners:

He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned [since the verb translated “returned” is in the passive voice, it would be better to translate it accordingly, i.e., “were returned” instead of “have returned.” The sheep are not the actors; they are acted on] to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls (1 Peter 2:24-25).

For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works (Titus 2:11-14).

Note the stated purpose for which Jesus bore the sins of his sheep on the tree—IN ORDER THAT we might die to sin and live unto righteousness. The sheep are not forgiven and left to wander in their sins.

2. What does it mean to believe?

To believe means more than merely to know the facts of the gospel and give mental assent to those facts. Of course, assent to certain gospel propositions is necessary, but faith involves more. James tells us that even the demons are orthodox in their assent to certain biblical propositions and even tremble because of what they know to be true. True and saving faith must go beyond the faith of demons.

Biblical faith or belief is crediting God with faithfulness and placing our confidence in him. It is believing against all odds that God can and will do all he has promised.

In John 3:36, faith is set over against disobedience. “The one who is believing in the Son has everlasting life, but the one who disobeys the Son shall not see life. . . .” For this reason, we believe true faith must involve a submission to Christ’s authority.

The nature of faith is such that it always looks away from itself. They true believer has no confidence in faith itself, since he knows that faith is not the Savior. Instead, faith, having considered the hopelessness of the sinner’s plight in sin and the impossibility of self-redemption, looks away from self to the Savior. Faith does not dwell on how bad I am but instead fixes its gaze on how good Christ is.

3. What must a person believe if he/she is to be saved?

The New Testament definition of the gospel is that Christ died for our sins, according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he rose again the third day, according to the Scriptures, and that he was seen by witnesses to his resurrection (See 1 Corinthians 15:1-8). It is important for us to remember that these words were written to those who had professed faith in Christ and not to a group of unconverted people. As a result, this definition of the gospel message is somewhat different from the apostolic pattern we observe in the New Testament Scriptures. I believe it is important to examine the pattern of apostolic proclamation as we seek to answer questions about proper methods and message of evangelism. For example, do we have any example in the New Testament literature of a gospel preacher telling a group of unconverted people “Christ died for our sins?” or “Jesus died for you?” Did they ever tell sinners they needed to repeat a prayer or walk an aisle or open their hearts to Jesus? For that matter, was any sinner ever invited to come to the foot of the cross to receive Jesus?

In proclaiming the gospel, based on the apostolic pattern, must we tell sinners indiscriminately that Jesus died for them? Must a person understand and believe that Jesus died for him in particular before he can have confidence that Jesus will save him? Is it not sufficient to trust his promise to save sinners who believe and repent? I have paraphrased an excellent comment Robert Haldane wrote in his Commentary on Romans as follows,

Many seem to believe if they are going to proclaim the gospel they must tell every sinner Christ died for him. Additionally, they believe that if Jesus did not die to take away the sins of every individual, they cannot preach the gospel. This is very erroneous. The gospel declared that Christ died for the guilty and that the most guilty who believe shall be saved.. ‘It is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners,’ even the chief of sinners. The gospel does not tell every individual to whom we address it that Christ died for him. Instead, it simply tells him that if he believes, he will be saved. On this basis, we can proclaim the gospel to every sinner. It is only after a person has believed the gospel that he can know Christ died for him individually. Since the Bible reveals that whoever believes shall be saved, it is quite consistent to proclaim the gospel to all sinners and declare that they will be saved if they believe. If the most guilt person in the human race should believe, it is an absolute certainty that he would be saved. If anyone feels he cannot proclaim the gospel freely and has difficulty calling everyone to faith unless he can say, ‘Jesus died for every member of the human race,’ he does not clearly understand what the gospel is. It is the good news that Christ died for the most guilty who believe, not that he died for every individual whether he should believe or not. To the truth that every person who believes shall be saved there is no exception. The only sins that will not find God’s forgiveness are those that belong to sinners who refuse to believe the gospel; if they believe, they will be saved. . . . (Haldane, Romans, p. 203).

The reality is, the pattern of apostolic preaching indicates it is to the throne we must send sinners, not to the cross. I am not at all suggesting there would be any gospel apart from the crucifixion, but we do not preach a Savior on a cross. We, following the example of the apostle Paul preach “Christ crucified,” i.e., Christ who has been crucified with the results of that crucifixion continuing into the present (This understanding is based Paul’s use of the perfect passive participle of the verb in 1 Cor.1:23. “It refers primarily to the exalted Lord who, in his exaltation remains the crucified One” (E.E. Ellis, “Christ Crucified,” Reconciliation and Hope, 70). The apostolic message was about the resurrected and exalted Jesus who was dead but is alive forevermore, and who has the keys of death and hades. Consider Paul’s teaching in Romans 10.

But the righteousness based on faith says, “Do not say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend into heaven?'”(that is, to bring Christ down) “or ‘Who will descend into the abyss?'”(that is, to bring Christ up from the dead). But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim); because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved (Romans 10:6-9).

There were two cardinal truths Paul’s Jewish audience regularly rejected. One was the incarnation of the Messiah, the other was his resurrection. Paul’s point in these verses was that there is no need to ascend into heaven to bring the Christ down since he had already been incarnated in the person of Jesus, thus “Jesus is Lord.” There is no need to descend into the abyss to bring Christ up from the dead since “God has raised him from the dead.” God has accomplished all that is necessary for the salvation of bankrupt and helpless sinners. All sinners must do is look and live. The promise of the gospel is “whosoever shall call on the Lord’s name will be saved.”


The Intercessory Work of Christ

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

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

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

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

It is important we understand that no one in this debate believes sanctification in the believer’s life is unimportant (I say this of those who actually believe that sanctification has anything to do with salvation. Those who are now calling themselves “free grace” believers such as one might find at, for example, would be an exception to this statement). The issue concerns the manner in which God produces such a life. Does God produce holiness by imposing Law or by intervening with grace? The apostle’s answer is unequivocal—“Likewise, my brothers, you also have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another, to him who has been raised from the dead, in order that we may bear fruit for God. For while we were living in the flesh, our sinful passions, aroused by the law, were at work in our members to bear fruit for death. But now we are released from the law, having died to that which held us captive, so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the written code”(Romans 7:4-6). It is a simple reality that people who know their guilt will never approach a holy God. People who sense they are under God’s righteousness judgment will not love the judge. For this reason, sinners will invariably suppress any revelation of God they encounter. In a state of sinful nature, we, like Adam and Eve, will always flee from God and seek to hide our nakedness. The only thing the Law is able to do is mirror and magnify that nakedness; it can do nothing to clothe us. We can preach duty to sinners until we are blue in the face, but it will never produce obedience to God. Righteousness is never produced by a commandment. It makes no difference whether the Law is applied to believers or unbelievers, it can never justify or sanctify. It is the Law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus that sets us free from the Law of sin and death. The truth that effects sanctification is “There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus” (8:1). It was out of this understanding that C. H. Spurgeon said,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Justification, Sanctification, Faith and Perseverance

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

GRR–Your statement makes no sense whatsoever.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He wrote,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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