A Word Against Those Who Preach the Ten Commandments

O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? It was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified. Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh? Did you suffer so many things in vain—if indeed it was in vain? Does he who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you do so by works of the law, or by hearing with faith— just as Abraham “believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”?

Know then that it is those of faith who are the sons of Abraham. And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, “In you shall all the nations be blessed.” So then, those who are of faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith.

10 For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, “Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them.” 11 Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law, for “The righteous shall live by faith.” 12 But the law is not of faith, rather “The one who does them shall live by them.” 13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”— 14 so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith.

 

It was “before your eyes,” the apostle wrote.  He might also have said, as he did to the Corinthians, “I did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom” (1 Cor 2:1), because this was his point.

After all, he had not tricked them into accepting something that was disguised to them.   He had not used any clever sounding arguments to deceive them.  No, a used car salesman might trick the unfortunate consumer by neglecting to mention a few details, but it was before their eyes, right in front of their faces that Paul had proclaimed the cross of Christ.   He had spared no details, nor kept disguised any truth.  Rather, he fully explained the message of God’s sovereign grace to them, and for this reason they were now without excuse.  It had been before their very eyes that Jesus Christ had been portrayed as crucified.

We might contrast this with the modern preachers today who come bearing an abbreviated message of forgiveness and grace without any mention of election and definite atonement.  They think to do their hearers a service by tricking them into accepting a message disguised to them, a message which these modern preachers hope their hearers will then afterward accept when once they later discover the truth that they’ve been duped.

The mystery of the cross is not made manifest by shadow and deceit though.  God is not glorified in lies.  The apostle spared no detail when he came preaching the message of God’s sovereign grace, and neither should we.

But we might then ask, why was Christ crucified the object portrayed?  Why not instead Christ risen or Christ exalted?

Certainly, if the apostle spared no detail, then we can be sure he spoke about and explained Christ’s resurrection and ascension. These things were not the point though.  Nearly the whole world at that time knew that Jesus Christ had been crucified.  Even those who knew next to nothing about Christ, yet still knew that Rome had crucified a Jewish carpenter, and that the Jewish religious leaders had given their full approval to it.  Speaking of this event, Peter could say to Cornelius, “you yourselves know what happened throughout all Judea” (Acts 10), and Paul could say to King Agrippa, “I am persuaded that none of these things has escaped (your) notice, for this has not been done in a corner” (Acts 26).  Nearly the whole world knew that Jesus Christ had been crucified, and this fact alone meant nothing.

However, this fact means everything when taken into consideration with what only a handful of people knew; that Christ had risen, and that He now rules the universe from God’s very throne.

If, after Christ had been executed, He had then been raised by God and seated upon God’s own throne, then His execution must have been purposed by God.  And because He had been raised by God and seated upon God’s throne, then whatever God’s purpose for Christ’s execution had been, God must have purposed it for His glory, and Christ must have accomplished it.

This is why the apostle would say, it was before your eyes Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified, because it was His crucifixion that had glorified God and accomplished His purpose.

The apostle quickly goes on to remind his readers of God’s purpose for the cross when he asks, “did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith?” and again, “Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?”

The cross had brought the promise of the Spirit to His people, but it had done this apart from works of the law.

Isaiah 61
The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me,
because the Lord has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor;
he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives,
and the opening of the prison to those who are bound;
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor,
and the day of vengeance of our God;
to comfort all who mourn;
to grant to those who mourn in Zion—
to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes,
the oil of gladness instead of mourning,
the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit;
that they may be called oaks of righteousness,
the planting of the Lord, that he may be glorified.

At the last supper, Jesus had promised His disciples they would soon receive the Spirit of truth, “whom the world cannot receive,” added Jesus, “because it neither sees Him nor knows Him, but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you.” (Jn 14)

It stands to reason that if the world cannot receive the Spirit, and these readers in Galatia had received the Spirit, then they were not of the world.  It stands to reason this is the case for everyone who receives the Spirit.  What is true of the world is not true of them.

And what is true of the world?  The world is unrighteous.  It is under judgment (Jn 12:31) and has been condemned to destruction at the last day.  It has been given over to futility, and now lies under a sentence of death.  Those not of this world are free of this condemnation.  They are free of unrighteousness and free of the sentence of death.  The death of Jesus Christ accomplished this apart from the works of the law, and the receipt of the Holy Spirit proves it is true.

So what happened to the Galatians then?

Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?  Does he who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you do so by works of the law, or by hearing with faith?

The death of Jesus Christ alone had accomplished the full and final redemption of all God’s elect.  It had established God’s righteousness and had propitiated His wrath.  This was the good news the apostle had portrayed before his readers’ very eyes.  A problem arose though, at some point after he left their region.

Galatians 1:6-7 I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ.

Someone had come in behind him and had begun preaching the necessity of circumcision for righteousness.

Galatians 5:2-3, 11-12 Look: I, Paul, say to you that if you accept circumcision, Christ will be of no advantage to you.  I testify again to every man who accepts circumcision that he is obligated to keep the whole law . . .  But if I, brothers, still preach circumcision, why am I still being persecuted? In that case the offense of the cross has been removed.  I wish those who unsettle you would emasculate themselves!

Righteousness established exclusively by Christ’s death on the cross is an offense to people who are trying to establish themselves in righteousness by the law.  This offense can reveal itself in some surprising ways.  Consider, for instance, Paul’s confrontation with Peter.

Galatians 2
11 But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. 12 For before certain men came from James, he was eating with the Gentiles; but when they came he drew back and separated himself, fearing the circumcision party. 13 And the rest of the Jews acted hypocritically along with him, so that even Barnabas was led astray by their hypocrisy. 14 But when I saw that their conduct was not in step with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas before them all, “If you, though a Jew, live like a Gentile and not like a Jew, how can you force the Gentiles to live like Jews?”

15 We ourselves are Jews by birth and not Gentile sinners; 16 yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified.

17 But if, in our endeavor to be justified in Christ, we too were found to be sinners, is Christ then a servant of sin? Certainly not! 18 For if I rebuild what I tore down, I prove myself to be a transgressor. 19 For through the law I died to the law, so that I might live to God. 20 I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. 21 I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose.
First, picture the meal itself.  This is the ancient East, if a table at all was present, then it would be a very low table like the ones that used to be pictured in Japanese restaurants.  Most often though, no table at all was present, nor were any chairs.  The people would instead just spread out a mat or blanket on the ground and then sit on this.  Actually, rather than sit, they would instead recline, with each guest resting his upper body on his left arm, his legs stretched out to the side.  The head of the second guest was opposite the breast of the first guest, so that if he wanted to speak to him in secret he would lean upon his breast.

There were no forks or spoons.  No bowls or plates for each guest either.  Instead, the only bowls were at the center of the carpet or rug.  Using their hands, guests would dip into each bowl and then eat.  This was why the disciples were confused on the night of Christ’s arrest when, speaking of Judas, He said, “It is the one that dippeth with Me in the dish” (Mk 14:18-20).  They had all been dipping into the dish with Him.

Imagine now a Jew dipping into the same bowl with a Gentile.  An unclean Gentile.  A Gentile who paid no attention to the dietary restrictions in God’s law.  A Gentile who had touched unclean things, and therefore himself was made unclean because of this.  A Gentile who had even touched pigs.

Leviticus 11
31 These are unclean to you among all that swarm. Whoever touches them when they are dead shall be unclean until the evening. 32 And anything on which any of them falls when they are dead shall be unclean, whether it is an article of wood or a garment or a skin or a sack, any article that is used for any purpose. It must be put into water, and it shall be unclean until the evening; then it shall be clean. 33 And if any of them falls into any earthenware vessel, all that is in it shall be unclean, and you shall break it. 34 Any food in it that could be eaten, on which water comes, shall be unclean. And all drink that could be drunk from every such vessel shall be unclean. 35 And everything on which any part of their carcass falls shall be unclean. Whether oven or stove, it shall be broken in pieces. They are unclean and shall remain unclean for you.

A Gentile’s dip into the bowl automatically made the bowl unclean.  Therefore, for a Jew to dip into this same unclean bowl would thus render the Jew unclean, as well.

This was why the Pharisees were shocked and offended at the sight of Jesus eating with prostitutes and thieves.  He dipped into the same bowl as sinners dipped. And to top it off, He had the audacity to criticize the righteousness of the Pharisees while doing it.

The cross had rendered all this moot though, because it had established  righteousness apart from the law, and in the process abolished the very law that had set the Jew and Gentile apart from one another.

Ephesians 2
11 Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, called “the uncircumcision” by what is called the circumcision, which is made in the flesh by hands— 12 remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. 14 For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility 15 by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, 16 and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility.

Righteousness had never been obtainable by the law, because the very law the Jew was certain had promised him life turned out to be the very law that demanded his death.

Romans 7:9-11 I was once alive apart from the law, but when the commandment came, sin came alive and I died.  The very commandment that had promised life proved instead to be death to me.  For sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, deceived me and through it killed me.

There was nothing wrong with the law itself.  No, the problem was with the Jew, as well as with the Gentile.  Both had been given over to the depravity of sin by the imputation of Adam’s guilt.  What both needed now was not more power to obey the law, but rather a new way to be made righteous.  That way was by grace, and it came through the death of Jesus Christ.

With the new way of righteousness now established, the old law of commandments expressed in ordinances became irrelevant. The law can neither justify nor condemn those who are justified by Christ; therefore, the law is pointless and irrelevant.  Dip away all you that want into the same bowl with any guest, Jew or Gentile.

The apostle tells us that Cephas did this at first.  That is, he ate with the Gentiles.  But then after certain men from James’ camp arrived from Jerusalem, he drew back from the Gentile spread and began eating only with the Jews.

This had the effect of influencing the rest of the Jews.  They were swept up into his hypocrisy.  Once Paul spotted what was going on though, he confronted Peter in front of them, before their very eyes.

“If you, though a Jew, live like a Gentile and not like a Jew, how can you force the Gentiles to live like Jews?”

In other words, look here, if even you can’t obey the law even though you’re a Jew, then how in the world can you sit there and demand Gentiles obey it?

15 We ourselves are Jews by birth and not Gentile sinners; 16 yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified.

17 But if, in our endeavor to be justified in Christ, we too were found to be sinners, is Christ then a servant of sin? Certainly not! 18 For if I rebuild what I tore down, I prove myself to be a transgressor. 19 For through the law I died to the law, so that I might live to God.

If I rebuild what I tore down.  That is, if I rebuild the law, then I am in effect telling God that Christ’s cross is sin.   I am in effect telling Him that what I tore the law down for was wrong and ineffectual, and hasn’t actually redeemed me and established God’s righteousness, after all.

This was the problem with the circumcision teaching that the heretics were preaching in Galatia.  It is also the problem with the preachers today who insist the ten commandments still apply to us Christians.

The ten commandments, along with all the rest of the ordinances found in the Mosaic covenant, were abolished.  They were torn down and rendered irrelevant.  The Galatian heretics tried to argue that some of the Mosaic laws were still relevant; like circumcision, for instance.

Leviticus 12:3 And on the eighth day the flesh of his foreskin shall be circumcised.

The apostle’s answer to this is twofold.  One, the law itself will not permit this kind of division of itself.

Galatians 3:10 For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, “Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them.”

Galatians 5:2-3 Look: I, Paul, say to you that if you accept circumcision, Christ will be of no advantage to you.  I testify again to every man who accepts circumcision that he is obligated to keep the whole law.

And two, all who ignore this fact and try to rebuild anyway what God has abolished are, in effect, calling the cross of Christ sin.

Romans 7
Or do you not know, brothers —for I am speaking to those who know the law—that the law is binding on a person only as long as he lives? For a married woman is bound by law to her husband while he lives, but if her husband dies she is released from the law of marriage.  Accordingly, she will be called an adulteress if she lives with another man while her husband is alive. But if her husband dies, she is free from that law, and if she marries another man she is not an adulteress.

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

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Progressive Sanctification is a Filthy Lie, and the Westminster Confession is Corrupt

Westminster Confession of Faith
Chapter XIII. Of Sanctification

Section I.–They who are effectually called and regenerated, having a new heart and a new spirit created in them, are further sanctified, really and personally, through the virtue of Christ’s death and resurrection, by his Word and Spirit dwelling in them; the dominion of the whole body of sin is destroyed, and the several lusts thereof are more and more weakened and mortified, and they more and more quickened and strengthened, in all saving graces, to the practice of true holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord.

Section II.–This sanctification is throughout in the whole man, yet imperfect in this life: there abideth still some remnants of corruption in every part, whence ariseth a continual and irreconcilable war, the flesh lusting against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh.

Section III.–In which war, although the remaining corruption for a time may much prevail, yet, through the continual supply of strength from the sanctifying Spirit of Christ, the regerate part doth overcome: and so the saints grow in grace, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.

what-is-sanctification

Contrary to what the Westminster divines would have us believe, Biblical sanctification is NOT a process whereby saints become “further sanctified”, thereby progressing in the growth of a noun called holiness which they will need if they wish to see the Lord one day.  In fact, what the Westminster presents to us as sanctification can hardly be called little more than works salvation, plain and simple.

We are told we will need a “personal sanctification”, as though the righteousness Christ established for His elect and then imputed to them for their justification simply will not provide enough sanctification for them at the last day.  We are told that an additional holiness will be needed, a “true holiness”, without which no man shall see the Lord.

This “true holiness” as the Westminster calls it, is not a holiness merited by Christ alone and then imputed to His elect.   No, this holiness is an additional holiness that must be worked into the elect with the help of the Spirit.

The Westminster goes on to tell us that this additional, so called “true holiness” will result in the gradual and progressive destruction of the whole body of sin, consequently resulting in sin’s lusts growing more and more weakened and mortified.

To make matters worse, we are also told that the power which brings this progressive destruction about, Christ’s “Word and Spirit dwelling in them”, is an “imperfect” work.  Section two states this: “This sanctification is throughout in the whole man, yet imperfect in this life.”  How can a work of the Son and the Spirit be imperfect?

The are two major problems with the Westminster’s chapter on sanctification.   The first problem is that if we compare the sanctification of the Temple, its priests and its utensils in the Old Testament to the sanctification of the temple of the Holy Spirit in the New Testament, we discover that the Westminster’s “progressive sanctification” has no place.

2 Chronicles 15:18 Young’s Literal
And he bringeth in the sanctified things of his father, and his own sanctified things, to the house of God, silver, and gold, and vessels.

Deuteronomy 18:1-5
“The Levitical priests, all the tribe of Levi, shall have no portion or inheritance with Israel. They shall eat the Lord’s food offerings as their inheritance. 2 They shall have no inheritance among their brothers; the Lord is their inheritance, as he promised them. 3 And this shall be the priests’ due from the people, from those offering a sacrifice, whether an ox or a sheep: they shall give to the priest the shoulder and the two cheeks and the stomach. 4 The firstfruits of your grain, of your wine and of your oil, and the first fleece of your sheep, you shall give him. 5 For the Lord your God has chosen him out of all your tribes to stand and minister in the name of the Lord, him and his sons for all time.

Neither the utensils nor the Levites were set aside in order to grow progressively more holy until at last they attained to a standard holy enough whereby they could enter into Temple service.  No, they were instead common objects and common sinners chosen by God and pressed immediately into service dedicated exclusively to the Temple. This fact ALONE set them apart (sanctified) from all other objects and sinners.

There was nothing inherently special about the Levites.  They were every bit the sinners their brothers were (Judges 19).  However, by His own grace and for no reason whatsoever in the Levites themselves, God devoted the entire tribe to the service of His tabernacle and temple.  They had been sanctified for this purpose and by this purpose.  They did not grow into it, nor did they grow more suitable or less sinful from the practice of it.

In the same way, God sanctifies His elect by election, by atonement, and by the imputation of Christ’s righteousness. These things alone set His people apart from all other sinners. They are dedicated by God for His exclusive use. They are His “special treasure” (Dt 7:6), the “apple of His eye” (Zch 2:8), His “inheritance” (Is 19:25), the “bride of Christ” (Rev 21:2), the “heavenly city” (Rev 21:9), each of whose names are engraved in the palms of His hands (Is 49:16).

Hebrews 10:1-10
For since the law has but a shadow of the good things to come instead of the true form of these realities, it can never, by the same sacrifices that are continually offered every year, make perfect those who draw near. Otherwise, would they not have ceased to be offered, since the worshipers, having once been cleansed, would no longer have any consciousness of sins? But in these sacrifices there is a reminder of sins every year. For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.  Consequently, when Christ came into the world, he said,

“Sacrifices and offerings you have not desired,
    but a body have you prepared for me;
in burnt offerings and sin offerings
    you have taken no pleasure.
Then I said, ‘Behold, I have come to do your will, O God,
    as it is written of me in the scroll of the book.’”

When he said above, “You have neither desired nor taken pleasure in sacrifices and offerings and burnt offerings and sin offerings” (these are offered according to the law), then he added, “Behold, I have come to do your will.” He does away with the first in order to establish the second. 10 And by that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.

You might ask at this point, why then does the Westminster speak about sanctification in terms of a progressive growth? The answer is simple.   Most of the men who shaped the document did not know the gospel, and so certainly did not believe it, and this is the second problem with the document’s view of sanctification.

Romans 10:6-8
For Moses writes about the righteousness that is based on the law, that the person who does the commandments shall live by them. 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)

The righteousness based on the law says, “do this and you shall live”.   However, the righteousness based on faith says, do not ask “who is able to ask God to save them?” or “who can a find some way on earth or even below the earth to save themselves at the day of judgment?”  The righteousness based on faith says do not ask for these, because God has already revealed the way to you.   He revealed it in the gospel we preach.  That is,  the revelation that Jesus Christ has established God’s righteousness on behalf of His elect by offering His body to God at the cross as a sacrifice for His people’s sins.

Rather than fixing their faith on the righteousness which Christ established for His elect by His death, the followers of progressive sanctification instead scour the earth, searching in their behavior for a revelation (evidence) of righteousness. The gospel is the only evidence we have of God’s righteousness. The followers of progressive sanctification simply do not accept this is true.

Galatians 3:1 O foolish Galatians, who hath bewitched you, that ye should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ hath been evidently set forth, crucified among you?

The problem with 90% of reformed writers, both past and present, is they don’t know what the righteousness is. They can talk about justification, about faith, about regeneration, about sanctification, about TULIP, but never once define exactly what the righteousness is.  Righteousness is, ACCORDING TO THEM, some nebulous, ill defined concept of being right rather than wrong, of being good rather than bad, of being lawful rather than unlawful, of being well behaved rather than badly behaved.  But none of this is the righteousness!

The righteousness is Christ’s death.  And that’s what they don’t get.  Oh, they see His death imputed to a man as necessary, but necessary only in the sense of being one step among many steps that are on the way to being made righteous.  They don’t see Christ’s death itself as the endgame.  They don’t see it as the noun which forever makes a man holy.

I plead the death of Christ alone as my righteousness, because His death alone is my righteousness. These guys though, they plead the Spirit working in them to produce works of the law for their “personal holiness”.   After all, isn’t that why Jesus came to die and rise, they ask?  To give them the ability to establish their holiness by doing many mighty works in His name?

What are these guys going to plead on the last day? Jesus already told us what they are going to plead. “But Lord, Lord, did we not do many mighty works in your name?”

 

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Saved by the Power of Sin

I just finished another one of those Four Views books.  This one concerning the subject of baptism.  “Understanding Four Views On Baptism”, Zondervan Publishing, 2007, copyright by John H Armstrong.

Although the book presents its readers with four different views of baptism, it also presents them with only one view of faith –  the all too common “faith-is-not-mere-intellectual-assent” view.  John D Castelein sums this view up best in his Churches of Christ baptism chapter.  He writes:

“It is vitally important to understand that saving faith does not refer merely to mental assent to certain propositions.  For the apostle Paul, for instance, faith is understood as involving understanding the gospel that is heard, trusting God’s promises, and actively obeying the Lord’s commandments.  The entire NT, in fact, consistently unites faith and repentance as correlated actions. On the other hand, the book of James appears to conceive of faith more narrowly in terms of mental activity not necessarily connected to active behavior.   This is how James can make these remarkable claims – ‘faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead’, ‘even the demons believe that and shudder’, ‘Abraham’s faith was made complete by what he did,’ ‘a person is justified by what he does and not by faith alone.’  Working with James’s definition of faith, in contrast to Paul’s definition, salvation by ‘faith only’ is simply impossible.”  (pg 132)

I must admit that as unscriptural and unChristian as his argument is, it is still at least refreshing to finally hear one of these works righteousness guys come right out and tell the truth about what they are preaching.  “Salvation by faith only is simply impossible,” he says; implying, of course, that salvation by works is entirely possible.

What does Richard L Pratt, Jr have to say about this?  Writing from the Reformed perspective, Pratt writes in his rebuttal section to Castelein:

“In distinction from Roman Catholicism, the Reformers insisted not on ‘salvation by faith alone’, they insisted on ‘justification by faith alone’.  In the technical vocabulary of the Reformed tradition, justification is but one step in the process of the much larger category of the process of salvation.   Justification is that initial forensic declaration by God in which people passively receive the imputation of Christ’s righteousness.  It is a once for all legal declaration in the heavenly court, securing for all eternity the righteous standing of a person before God in Christ.   Salvation, however, includes not only justification but regeneration, repentance, faith, adoption, sanctification, and glorification (just to name a few) . . . We should grant that sanctification (the process of living by God’s Spirit throughout life) is a necessary dimension of salvation.  The writer of Hebrews makes it clear that ‘without holiness no one will see the Lord.’  We should also grant that baptism is a central act of obedience to be observed by those that who are in Christ.  Yet the list of holy acts that are necessary for salvation in this broad sense is very long, involving all kinds of holy activities.   Baptism is not unique in this regard.  It is but one of many things the faithful believers are to do to demonstrate the grace of God at work in their lives.   Yet baptism and all these other acts of sanctification are the fruit of regeneration, saving faith and justification that secure our eternal destinies in Christ before we act in obedience, even the obedience of baptism.  We should applaud Castelein’s emphasis on the centrality of baptism in the process of salvation in many respects.   Many contemporary Christian communities see little need for baptism, because they reduce the entire process of salvation to justification by faith alone.” (pgs 151-152)

In other words, according to Pratt, justified by the objective work of the Son, but saved by the subjective work of the Spirit.  No wonder these guys redefine faith as “more than mere intellectual assent.”

Intellectual assent is the only thing I can do with the eyewitness testimony of an objective work that occurred nearly two-thousand years ago, long before I was born.  However, were I to turn the object of my faith into something subjective and presently occurring inside me, then faith would certainly be made more than “mere” intellectual assent.

Pratt is right to note a difference between justification and salvation.  Salvation does indeed include bodily resurrection as much as it does justification and regeneration.  The problem for Pratt is he thinks the fruit of imputation is the grounds for salvation.   Note what he argues: “baptism and all these other acts of sanctification are the fruit of regeneration, saving faith and justification that secure our eternal destinies in Christ.”

Excuse me, but since when did faith ever secure anyone’s eternal destiny in Christ?  Arminians think that way.

Pratt doesn’t want to be caught saying salvation by faith alone is “simply impossible” even though that is exactly what he means, so he opts to redefine faith instead in an effort to protect himself from saying explicitly what he is saying implicitly.

A favorite phrase echoed by all four authors is, “saved not only from the punishment of sin, but saved also from the power of sin.”   Speaking from the Baptist position, for instance, Thomas J Nettles writes:

“His (Castelein) care in distinguishing between faith as mental assent and faith as consent of heart and soul is also important.” (pg 145)

What is that supposed to mean?  Mental assent versus consent of heart?  I am convinced none of these guys have the foggiest notion what “assent” even means.    I am convinced they think it means “to know.”  It doesn’t.  It means to agree with; to give consent.  Given that is the case, could any one of them now explain to me what the heck mental consent versus soul consent is supposed to mean?

We are told in 1 Corinthians 15:56 “the sting of death is sin and the power of sin is the law.”  How in the world can a person be saved from the law by “actively obeying the law”, as Castelein puts it?  The Spirit saves His people from the law by granting them the power to obey it?  Tell me how that is not a false gospel of works righteousness.

Sin needs fuel to survive.  The fuel sin uses to survive and even thrive is the law.  Romans 7 tells us this.

I would not have known sin if it were not for the law. For example, I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, Do not covet. And sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, produced in me coveting of every kind. For apart from the law sin is dead.

Let’s suppose for a moment that guys like Pratt and Nettles really are seeing improvement in their efforts to obey the law.   They aren’t, but let’s just fantasize for a moment they are.   Fine, if this is the case, then they are still not obeying the law, because the law does not require improvement.  It instead demands perfection!  So in effect they are not seeing any improvement at all, because what the law demands is not improvement, but rather perfection.

We can’t obey the law.  The law requires perfection from the moment of conception.  It requires perfection in every word, thought and deed, twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, three-hundred sixty-five days a year.  One instance, one momentary flash of disobedience in word, thought and/or deed, and the entire law is broken, AND BROKEN PERMANENTLY.  Keep in mind, the law can’t forgive!

Jesus did not come to save His people from a life of law disobedience.  What He came to save His people from was the just and righteousness punishment due them for all their law disobedience.  Death is what He came to save them from.  The sting of death is sin and the power of sin is the law.

The Spirit tells us in Romans 7 that those who have been baptized into Christ’s death died to the law so that they might be married to Christ.  Yet here these guys are telling us that even though we are married to Him who died and rose from the dead, yet we are still saved by our obedience to something we have died to.

Therefore, my brothers, you also were put to death in relation to the law through the crucified body of the Messiah, so that you may belong to another—to Him who was raised from the dead—that we may bear fruit for God. For when we were in the flesh, the sinful passions operated through the law in every part of us and bore fruit for death. But now we have been released from the law, since we have died to what held us, so that we may serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old letter of the law.

Pratt and all three of his fellow authors must read this passage as though it refers to law improvement.  That is, “we have been released from the law so that we can obey the law with the Spirit’s help rather than in the old way of trying to keep the law in our power.”

Excuse me, but that is not what the text says.   The new way of the Spirit is not a new and improved way to obey the law.  Rather, the new way of the Spirit is a new way of being judged – not by our performance of the law, but rather by Christ’s satisfaction of it.  That is how God saves His elect; not by the power of sin, but rather by the cross of Jesus Christ.

I didn’t think it was a good idea to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified. – 1 Corinthians 2:2 HCSB

Obviously, the title of my essay is a misnomer.   God’s elect are not saved by the power of sin.   Guys like Pratt and Nettles are the ones claiming they are!  But the truth is the elect are not saved by the power of sin.  They are saved instead the same way they are justified and sanctified – by the obedient sacrificial death of Jesus Christ.

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If You Don’t Like God’s Sovereign Decrees, Then Tell Us He’s Arbitrary Instead

Infralapsarians argue that the supralapsarian position depicts God as discriminating among men as men rather than as sinners, which in turn makes God appear to be arbitrary if not also the author of sin. This argument appears at first to have some teeth, because it seems to appeal to God’s justice. That is, it would seem unjust of God to discriminate among men with no regard to the fact that man is a sinner. However, if we delve a little deeper into this argument, we find there is very little actual justice there, because God’s determination to save or to condemn is not a reaction in response to the actions of men as Arminians claim it is.

God’s determination to save or to condemn is not a reaction in response to the actions of men. If this is true, then the infralapsarian contention loses its teeth. The infralapsarian argues that God’s decree to save and condemn must have come before His decree that all men would fall. Otherwise, they argue, God would be the author of sin.

But if God’s determination to save or condemn is not a reaction, then it is a cause. In other words, God’s decree to condemn some and save others is the reason for His decree that all men would fall. If it is not the cause of this, then we would have to say God’s decree to fell mankind was a decree made arbitrarily. However, the fact that all of God’s purposes center upon the revelation of His glory loses all significance in the light of this.

The infralapsarian has no answer for this. Nor does he have an answer for the election of angels. The election of some angels did not depend on all angels falling, for not all the angels fell (1 Tim 5:21, Jd 1:6). True, we are not angels, but if God’s decree to preserve some angels did not require the fall of all angels, then why should we have a problem with saying the decree to save some people and condemn others did not first require the decree that all men fall?

We find a similar challenge to the infralapsarian contest in Romans 9. There, Paul does not speak of one vessel made from one lump, but rather of two vessels made from one lump. The infralapsarians have argued that the lump refers to man after the fall. But if this is the case, then why the need to make two vessels? Wouldn’t God have needed to make only one vessel (the elect), and leave the rest in its sin, a lump?

In other words, if the whole lump were under condemnation, then what need is there to fit a second vessel for condemnation? The passage only makes sense when we interpret the lump to mean the entirety of the human race prior to the decree that all would fall. From one human race, neither sinful nor righteous, God made two vessels, one for honor (righteousness) and the other for dishonor (condemnation).

Which brings me back to the idea of God as the author of sin. I don’t know why we should have a problem saying God is the author of sin. Some of the confessions tell us He is not, so therefore I suppose we have to have a problem with saying He is, but this doesn’t make any sense to me. It beats me how author does not mean first cause. Funnily enough, I thought the word author meant exactly that! I mean, after all, isn’t the author of a book the first cause of his book?

If someone means to say that God is not the direct cause of sin, then I agree. He does not do the tempting. But this is not what is usually meant by the phrase, author of sin. What people usually mean by author of sin is that He has nothing whatsoever to do with sin, not even as its first cause. And with this I disagree.

As far as the word “arbitrary” goes, the appeal to it is really nothing more than a pejorative. God is sovereign. He is never arbitrary. Not even if I don’t care for what He has decreed.

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What Is Faith?

In his book, “The Christians as the Romans Saw Them”, professor Robert Louis Wilken examines some of the complaints and arguments of some of the more vociferous first and second century critics of Christianity.  Like Celsus, for example, who labeled Christ a magician and called the gospels incredulously and historically unreliable; and Porphyry, for another, who attacked Christian orthodoxy as irrational.

In his examination of these critics, Wilken manages to show the epistemological foundation upon which Christians rested even from the very start.   Theirs was a central theme which dogged every critic’s line of reasoning – outrage and incredulity at these Christians’ dogmatic appeal to Scripture.

Consider, for example, Galen’s comparison of Christianity to a particular school of philosophy he found unreasonable.  In his book, “On Hippocrates’s Anatomy”, Galen wrote:

“They compare those who practice medicine without scientific knowledge to Moses, who framed laws for the tribe of Israel, since it is his method in his books to write without offering proofs, saying, ‘God commanded, God spake.’”

The critic Celsus complained that Christians sought out gullible and uneducated people, “because they were unable to give reasons for their beliefs . . . they asked people to accept what they said solely on faith.”

Celsus went on to write that the gospels themselves were based only on hearsay, arguing,  “Why should we give greater credibility to what is written in them than to other stories about Jesus?  The accounts in the gospels were written solely by Christians and passed on in Christian circles.  Should the legends there be taken with greater seriousness than the many legends in Greek literature?  The Christian Gospels offer no reliable basis on which to establish the truth of the accounts about Jesus . . . there is no proof except for your word”

Still another critic, Lucian wrote, “The poor wretches have convinced themselves they are going to be immortal and live for all time.  They despise all things indiscriminately and consider them common property, receiving such doctrines traditionally without any definite evidence.”

Time and again no matter the critic, the theme remained the same.  Christians based the foundation for their claims entirely upon the authority of Scripture alone.  It was a commonly held “scientific” belief, for instance, during the first, second, and third century that God (or more properly, the gods) had created the world using preexisting material.  The Christians resolutely rejected this however, arguing instead that God had created the world from nothing.  When asked to provide evidence God had created the world from nothing, the Christians simply referred to the first chapter of Genesis as though this was all the evidence they needed.

This dogmatic appeal to the holy Scriptures outraged their critics.  So much so that Pliny, a Roman governor, had the Christians quietly put to death for fear of what he believed their dogmatism might mean for the trade unions and for the Roman peace.

Even more than the doctrine of creation stood the Christian’s attitude toward death and resurrection.  Celsus found himself so infuriated by their dogmatic appeals towards this subject that he wrote:

“What sort of body, after being entirely corrupted, could return to its original nature and that same condition which it had before it was dissolved?  As they (the Christians) have nothing to say in reply, they escape to a most outrageous refuge by saying that ‘anything is possible to God.’”

As for the Christians themselves, they encouraged the dogmatism.  The early Christian writer, Hippolytus, for example, addressing a sect who followed the critic Galen, wrote in his book, “The Little Labyrinth”:

“Instead of asking what Holy Scripture says, they stain every nerve to find a form of syllogism to bolster up their impiety (atheism).  If anyone challenges them with a text from divine Scripture, they examine it to see whether it can be turned into a conjunctive or disjunctive form of syllogism.  They put aside the holy scriptures of God and devote themselves to geometry, since they are from the earth and speak from the earth, and do not know the one who comes from above.”

Oxford professor J. N. D. Kelly echoes Wilken’s examination in his book, “Early Christian Doctrines.”  Kelly gives further testimony from early Christians like Clement of Alexandria, Athanasius, Cyril of Jerusalem, and John Chrysostom, to name just a few.

From the start, gospel believers were Scripturalists.   They relied upon Scripture alone for the knowledge of all truth.   We will be hard pressed to find this kind of dogmatism in churches today.   Search all the pulpits and pews in America.   We will find more people discussing a god in their heart than they will the God of the Bible.

Celsus fell silent long ago, but the critics of Biblical Christianity haven’t.  Alongside Celsus today stands the modern Christian.  The modern Christian is sure knowledge exists in forms other than propositional, and he is positive truth can be known apart from Scripture.

The modern Christian no longer thinks, but rather feels.  He no longer analyzes, but rather intuits.   He no longer enjoys the “cold” doctrine of Scripture, but now would rather entertain a warm word from the Lord.  In short, the modern Christian has exchanged the systematic and intellectual foundation of Scriptural propositions for the anti-intellectual, self-refuting romanticism of emotionalism.   Why?  How did we go from the strict scriptural dogmatism of the first three centuries to this sappy, anti-intellectual, anti-scriptural emotionalism that we are forced to deal with today?  What happened?

A lot happened.  Constantine happened.  The pope happened.  War, plague, and the Vikings happened.  Of course, ten centuries of rabid anti-intellectualism  didn’t help matters either.   In addition to all this however, existentialism happened.

“Vanity of vanities,” says the Preacher,
“Vanity of vanities! All is vanity.”
– Ecclesiastes 1:2

Nietzsche had declared God dead.  What he meant, among other things, was that there is no point in people believing in God anymore.  God had outlived His usefulness, in other words.   Nietzsche had taken Materialism to its fullest conclusion.  If matter is eternal and matter is all there is, then all the matter in the universe is pointless and without meaning.

Nietzsche concluded that if nature is all there is, then nature and everything about it is a meaningless, pointless machine.   Since humans simply just were, they were then just simply machines.   Nothing we do matters, argued Nietzsche.   Nothing we do is either good or bad, ugly or beautiful, just or unjust, right or wrong.  Everything just is.  The hunter kills, the prey dies, the flowers wilt, the waters drown.   The machinery just is, and there is no meaning or purpose behind it.  Nietzsche was far from the first to see this, but his voice was one of the loudest.

Stuck in such a bleak outlook on life, philosophers and artists began struggling to transcend Nihilism.  Enter existentialism.

Existentialists began to argue there are at least two kinds of knowledge – personal and impersonal, or objective and subjective.  Impersonal knowledge, argued the existentialist, is the knowledge of propositions.   A proposition is a statement (verbal, written or contemplated) that is either true or false.  These statements can be as simple as 2 + 2 = 4, birds fly, and grass is green, or they can be as complex as the IRS tax code.

This kind of knowledge, said the existentialists, is pointless, because it has no personal value.  So what if the grass is green? So what if birds fly?  So what if every stop sign is not yellow.  What do any of these propositions matter to me?

For the existentialist, propositional knowledge is as meaningless as Nietzsche’s machine.   It is without value for the individual UNTIL the individual chooses to give it value by lending to it his own personal meaning (hence, personal knowledge).

Churches in the West, already plundered to the gills by the false gospel doctrine of Wesley, Fisher and Finney, slipped as easily into existentialism as one might slip a hand into a glove.  The existential Theist began to view orthodoxy and doctrine as pointless.  Confessional Christianity became to the existential theist as meaningless as Nietzsche’s machine.

“What I really need is to become clear in my own mind what I must do, not what I must know – except in so far as a knowing must precede every action.  The important thing is to understand what I am destined for, to perceive what the Deity wants me to do, the point is to find the truth for me, to find that idea for which I am ready to live and die.  What good would it do me to discover a so-called objective truth, though I were to work my way through the systems of the philosophers and were able, if need be, to pass them in review?”   – Soren Kierkegaard, A Short Life of Kierkegaard, pg 82

What good would it do me to discover objective truth, asks Kierkegaard.  And in the question we catch the echo of Nietzsche’s plight.  Grass is green, birds fly, trees have branches, Christ died to redeem His people from their sins.  So what?  That’s all just dead orthodoxy if it doesn’t do anything for me.

We might ask the existential theist what it means for him to hear the news that it is true Christ satisfied God’s wrath on behalf of His elect?   The existentialist might answer, it means nothing until I first give it meaning.

For the existential theist, doctrine has little to no value if it is not first met with the “purpose driven life.”   My purpose, my significance, my best life now.  If God’s doctrine does not satisfy my doctrine, then I’m told I’ve missed the truth about God’s doctrine.

And don’t think for one moment this absurdity is something found only in non-reformed, non-Calvinist, Arminian and Roman Catholic churches either.   Far from it.  It is every bit as entrenched in the reformed churches as it is everywhere else.

Take, for instance, the all too common claim that faith is “not mere intellectual assent”.  If all knowledge is propositional though, and a proposition is a statement that is either true or false, then how can the belief of that proposition be anything but “mere intellectual assent”?  And therein lies the self refuting claim of existentialism, for if there exists a kind of knowledge that cannot be stated as either true or false, then it is a knowledge that is neither true or false.

Judges 21:25  In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.

The existential pastor is one who no longer shepherds his flock by expounding the gospel’s doctrines.  He rather instead relates to them his own personal experience.

The existentialist attempts to lay claim to something he asserts is true on the basis that all knowledge can be stated as true.   If that doesn’t sound like a dog chasing its tail, then I don’t know what does.

In contrast to this insanity is the real truth.  The real truth that all knowledge is propositional, and the Bible’s propositions are all truth.

The existentialist rejects the truth that all knowledge is propositional, because he does not like where it leads.   Since the Bible’s propositions are all truth, and therefore all truth is propositional, then it stands to reason that faith can be no more than intellectually comprehended, mental assent.  This throws the existentialist into fits, because he finds himself trapped once more by the emptiness of his Nihilism.

After all, if intellectual agreement with a set of cold, impersonal propositions is the definition of faith in Christ, then what’s the point?  Where’s the meaning?  Where’s the significance?  The Christian life has become for the existentialist nothing more than God sovereignly ordaining machines to agree with facts about Him.  Might as well paraphrase Kierkegaard at that point and ask, what good would it do me to discover God?

The existentialists wants more, because he wants a lie.  He wants to feel significantly more than human, because he secretly suspects the serpent was right – he really can be as God (Genesis 3:1-5).

The truth is that human life does have significance and meaning, but only in that God has created everything for His glory.  It is in His glory that a man finds meaning and significance.  I was made to honor Him.

Jesus Christ is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation.  For by Him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities – all things were created through Him and for Him. – Colossians 1:15-16

This propositional truth is significant, because it is centered on His glory.   His doctrine is a glorious doctrine.   That propositions that state His truth are significant propositions.  Knowing them and agreeing with them brings Him glory.

If His glory is not the point though, if instead my glory is the point, then nothing that serves to glorify Him matters until it first glorifies me.   Hath God said you shall not eat of any of the trees in the garden, asked the serpent?  And the existentialist nods in answer.  Yes, and now my life is meaningless.

 

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Eternity in Hell or Forever Dead Part 9: The Witch of Endor

1 Samuel 28
8 So Saul disguised himself and put on other garments and went, he and two men with him. And they came to the woman by night. And he said, “Divine for me by a spirit and bring up for me whomever I shall name to you.” 9 The woman said to him, “Surely you know what Saul has done, how he has cut off the mediums and the necromancers from the land. Why then are you laying a trap for my life to bring about my death?” 10 But Saul swore to her by the Lord, “As the Lord lives, no punishment shall come upon you for this thing.” 11 Then the woman said, “Whom shall I bring up for you?” He said, “Bring up Samuel for me.” 12 When the woman saw Samuel, she cried out with a loud voice. And the woman said to Saul, “Why have you deceived me? You are Saul.” 13 The king said to her, “Do not be afraid. What do you see?” And the woman said to Saul, “I see a god coming up out of the earth.” 14 He said to her, “What is his appearance?” And she said, “An old man is coming up, and he is wrapped in a robe.” And Saul knew that it was Samuel, and he bowed with his face to the ground and paid homage.  15 Then Samuel said to Saul, “Why have you disturbed me by bringing me up?” Saul answered, “I am in great distress, for the Philistines are warring against me, and God has turned away from me and answers me no more, either by prophets or by dreams. Therefore I have summoned you to tell me what I shall do.” 16 And Samuel said, “Why then do you ask me, since the Lord has turned from you and become your enemy? 17 The Lord has done to you as he spoke by me, for the Lord has torn the kingdom out of your hand and given it to your neighbor, David. 18 Because you did not obey the voice of the Lord and did not carry out his fierce wrath against Amalek, therefore the Lord has done this thing to you this day.

The first thing we discover about this woman is the fact she is a “medium and necromancer.”  Both these descriptors actually mean the same.   That is, a medium is a necromancer, a necromancer is a medium.   In point of fact, the KJV translates the verse as, “Seek me a woman that hath a familiar spirit.”  The woman is someone who acts as an agency between the living and the dead.

Notice that, please.   I said she “acts” as an agency.  I did not say she “was” or “is” an agency.  This makes all the difference in the world, because the most common mistake I find people making with this passage is they interpret the woman to be someone literally capable of communicating with the dead.   The reason they believe this is most often due to the fact they understand the passage to be saying the ghost of Samuel appeared physically before Saul and the witch.   If that happened, then of course the woman must have been able to communicate with the dead.  Except that, this is not what the text tells us happened.

When the woman saw Samuel, she cried out with a loud voice. And the woman said to Saul, “Why have you deceived me? You are Saul.”  The king said to her, “Do not be afraid. What do you see?” And the woman said to Saul, “I see a god coming up out of the earth.”  He said to her, “What is his appearance?” And she said, “An old man is coming up, and he is wrapped in a robe.” And Saul knew that it was Samuel

Notice, the text tells us the woman saw.  It does not say Saul saw; but rather, the woman saw.   In fact, Saul even asks the woman what she sees, which tells us that Saul himself saw nothing.  He is going by what she tells him she sees.

Second, notice her description of what she sees.  I see a god coming up.  He has the appearance of an old man wrapped in a robe.

That’s it?  That’s all you’ve got? An old man dressed in a robe and coming up out of the earth?  That could literally have been a description of just about any old man, and yet Saul “knew it was Samuel.”   Knew as in assumed.  Knew as in he wanted it to be.  Knew as in, he had been searching for a word of absolution and instruction from someone familiar to him, and since Samuel fit that bill, well then it had to be Samuel.

Except it wasn’t Samuel.  It was just another evil spirit.  An evil spirit just like the one God had already been sending to torment Saul these last number of years.  An evil spirit appearing in the woman’s mind and granting her utterance to speak in Samuel’s absence.

And if you think God would not place an evil spirit on the tongue of a witch, then you may want to remind yourself of the fact that He placed one the tongue of Ahab’s false prophets in 1 Kings 22.

There were no crystal balls present at this meeting between Saul and the witch; no special effects explosions, no Hollywood magic.   There was just a woman who claimed to be able to speak to the dead, and who described for Saul what she saw in her mind’s eye.  There was also Saul, the disobedient, murderous, lying king who had already wasted away the best part of his life betraying friends and dishonoring God.  He wanted to hear from the Lord, and he wanted to hear from Samuel, and so he convinced himself that he had.

 

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A Russian Response

I usually do not answer videos, because I am hard of hearing.  It is just easier for me then to address written arguments.   Nevertheless, some of the brothers asked that I try to give this video a listen to and then respond, because most of them happen to know the man who made the video.  His name if Renat Ilyasov; he is a Calvinist pastor from Russia.

Renat begins by assuring us that he believes the atonement is particular, efficacious and limited to the elect alone.  This is not in question.  This has never been in question.  Let me say this again, because it appears many of my tolerant Calvinist friends like Renat still have never heard this.

I have never questioned your belief of limited atonement, Renat.   I have never questioned R C Sproul’s.   R C Sproul believed limited atonement.  You believe limited atonement.  I acknowledge the fact that you both believe the doctrine of limited atonement is true.  I have not and do not question this.

Point in fact, I have never accused you of not believing the doctrines of grace.  Quite the opposite, in fact.  I have time and again said that a person can hold to the doctrines of grace and yet still believe a false gospel.   That is, they can hold to the doctrines of grace and yet still believe righteousness is conditioned upon something they do.

The fact is, the doctrines of grace are not the gospel.  Let me say this again too, because judging by the video it sounds as if Renat is also confused about this.

!!! THE DOCTRINES OF GRACE ARE NOT THE GOSPEL !!!

!!! I HAVE NEVER ACCUSED YOU OF NOT BELIEVING THE ATONEMENT IS PARTICULAR, EFFICACIOUS AND LIMITED TO THE ELECT ALONE !!!

What I have instead said, Renat, is that you and the other tolerant Calvinists like you have never repented of the false gospel of conditional righteousness.   You have never repented of believing righteousness is in some way conditioned on you.  You have never taken sides against Arminianism as a false gospel.   IN FACT, YOU STILL COUNT YOURSELF AS  CONVERTED BY IT.

!!! YOU STILL THINK GOD USES ARMINIANISM TO CONVERT SOME PEOPLE !!!  

You have never flushed Arminianism or the false conversion you believe it gave you and some of the folks in your congregation.   You have never said, “I was lost at that time.  I still believed salvation was conditioned in some way upon me.  Even though I thought I had been converted, I now know I hadn’t been.  I believed a false gospel at that time, and so that’s how I know I was lost.”

No.  Rather than take sides against yourself, you instead continue to say, “I know I was converted because I _____________.” fill in the condition (stopped drinking, started reading my Bible, started asking questions, became interested in what the pastor was saying, accepted jesus into my heart, etc)

This is why you speak peace to Arminians.  Not because you do not believe limited atonement.  No, rather because you believe God uses it to convert some of His elect.  You have merely added the doctrine of limited atonement to the false gospel you were already clinging to for righteousness.   As my friend, Mark Mcculley has said, there are some who, after learning the bus is headed in the wrong direction, walk toward the other end of the bus.  

But Renat is 100% sure that no child of God gets it 100%.  Self refuting there, but as an aside, I don’t know what 100% has to do with anything.  I say this, because Renat sounds to me like he is saying that EVEN THOUGH CONVERSION IS OFTEN A LONG, GRADUAL PROCESS, NEVERTHELESS, WE SHOULD STILL COUNT THE PERSON ALREADY CONVERTED BEFORE THEY ARE ACTUALLY CONVERTED, even though conversion is a long, gradual process.   This is like peeling the butterfly from its cocoon before it has completed its transformation from caterpillar to butterfly.

Why would we do this, Renat?  Why would we count a person who is still going through the process of conversion as already converted before they are converted?  I can guess why you would do this.  You do it probably because some people whom you trust began treating you as converted before you had completed the process of conversion (not that you have completed it yet, or necessarily ever will).  Hypothetically speaking, had they waited until after you began taking sides against yourself, against the false gospel and false conversion you believed, then your stance against tolerant Calvinism would be a lot different today.  As it is though, you are a tolerant Calvinist instead.

However, in an effort to rescue his false conversion by a false gospel from the fire, Renat does what every drowning tolerant Calvinist has done.  He resorts to the strawman.   Yes, folks, you know what strawman.  That strawman.   That tired, old, cliche of a strawman . . . the strawman of perfect knowledge strawman.

Sigh.

Renat accuses us of saying “the truly converted will know and understand every single verse in the Bible.”  This is nonsense.  We have never said this.  Never, ever, ever.  In fact, I do not know of a single person or group anywhere at any time who has ever said this.  This is why it is a strawman.  No one has ever argued it.

Nevertheless, desperate to rescue his false conversion, Renat insists it is the argument we make, and to answer it he asks us to consider 2 Peter 2:1.

But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction.

I am not sure Renat understands what a proof text is, but this verse is an example of one.   As most readers of this blog know, proof text debating will get you nowhere.  We could go back and forth with Arminians all day long providing proof texts to each other and never get anywhere.

Renat really should know people can take any verse out of context and make it say anything they want.  You don’t need to be justified to know this.  This is, after all, how most cults and heresies are started.  It is also how people in the past have tried to support wicked causes like slavery and nation building.  I mean, Renat, after all, the Bible does tells slaves to obey their masters, right?

So if Renat expects us to get bent out of shape about a proof text, then he needs to do some more thinking about this, because when it comes to discussing the subject of the atonement with an unbeliever, as most readers of this blog know, it’s not the EXTENT of the atonement we focus on, but rather its NATURE.

In other words, should you begin with WHO Christ died for, then you will spend all day getting nowhere and accomplishing nothing.   But start at WHAT Christ’s death accomplished, and the truth of its extent will naturally follow.

So when it comes to a text like 2 Peter 2:1, I do not expect every converted person to automatically understand it.  What I expect instead is that even though he may not understand it, he will nevertheless not automatically come to the conclusion that it proves Christ did not accomplish His people’s redemption.

But what about the in-process person, the person who is still in the process of conversion rather than completed conversion?  Here Renat argues that we should go ahead and count the in-process person as already converted so that we won’t push them away or lose them.   Apparently, Renat thinks the only possible response to proof texts like 2 Peter is doubt in limited atonement.  This is absurd though.

First, treating an in-process person as fully converted can only confuse the person and leave them thinking their conversion by Arminianism was at least partially valid.   We would be guilty of teaching a false gospel were this the case.

Second, God is perfectly sovereign enough to keep His elect safe before, after and DURING THE CONVERSION PROCESS.  There are plenty of other responses to this verse.  People can become even more curious to know how it fits into limited atonement, and they will turn to commentaries and studies that in turn lead them to even more study.

Third, God is also perfectly sovereign enough to use this text to harden the minds of the reprobate, and this is something I do not think Renat has even considered.   There are some folks who will appear to be in the process of conversion, but who are in fact reprobate and will die unconverted.

2 Timothy 3
For among them are those who creep into households and capture weak women, burdened with sins and led astray by various passions, always learning and never able to arrive at a knowledge of the truth. Just as Jannes and Jambres opposed Moses, so these men also oppose the truth, men corrupted in mind and disqualified regarding the faith. But they will not get very far, for their folly will be plain to all, as was that of those two men.

It will be plain to all the saints, to all the converted elect.  Not so much to the tolerant Calvinists.

So in conclusion then, Renat argues that since conversion often occurs after a long and gradual process, we should go ahead and count folks who we think are in the process of conversion as fully converted so that we don’t lose to them to their own misunderstanding of difficult proof texts.  This is absurd though.

It never occurs to Renat that the long and gradual process of conversion SHOULD BE wrought with pain and danger.  People who are in the process of conversion SHOULD and dare I say MUST wrestle with difficult passages that could be misunderstood.  THIS IS HOW THEY DEVELOP IN THEIR UNDERSTANDING OF THE GOSPEL.  Most of the people who read this blog struggled mightily with John 3:16 during their conversion process.

But yes, some of the folks who wrestle with these passages will misunderstand them and never be converted, AS THEY WERE PREDESTINED TO DO.  They will indeed stumble at the stone the builders rejected.  This is why Jesus spoke to the people in parables.  It is not up to us to keep the elect kept.

The quickest way to halt the conversion process though, is to start treating people who are in the process of conversion as though they are already converted.   Renat, you leave such people believing they were partially converted in some way by something they did.  If they are elect, then God is still going to convert them at some point in the future, but He is going to do it after He gets them out from under you.

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