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 up best in his Churches of Christ view 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 it is refreshing to hear one of these works righteousness guys finally come right out and tell the truth about what they are preaching.  “Salvation by faith only is simply impossible; 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 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, 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 before I was born.  However, were I to turn the object of my faith into something subjective and 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 wrote: “baptism and all these other acts of sanctification are the fruit of regeneration, saving faith and justification that secure our eternal destinies in Christ . . .”  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’s arguing.  So he has redefined faith in an effort to protect himself from saying directly what he is saying in circles.

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 of what “assent” means.  I am convinced they think it means simply “to know.”  It doesn’t.  It means to agree with; to give consent.  What is mental consent versus soul consent?

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.  If that 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.

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 either word, thought 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

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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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Why I Am No Longer a Calvinist by Giovanni Camacho

When I was first converted to the truth of God’s sovereign grace in salvation based on the Person and Work of Jesus Christ alone approximately two years ago, I was encouraged by a brother to start writing. At that time (and to this day), I found/find myself having a lot of debates with “tolerant Calvinists” about the (de)merits of Arminianism on various internet forums and have joined/join other voices in standing against this heresy.

Many words have been written against the heresy of Arminianism, and praise God for that. Spiritual warfare is waged through the proclamation of the truth as against the lies of the devil. But as I was recently speaking to another brother, he pointed out something that I had not fully cognized even though I have been battling against it for almost 2 years. As we spoke, it hit me like a cold wet blanket-the most cunning deception of our day is not Arminianism. It is “Calvinism” as it is now popularly known and espoused.

Arminianism is open paganism. It is so off that it should be dismissed for the sub-biblical satanic cult that it is carte blanche, even by other nonbelievers like those of the “Reformed” faith. It is a Frankenstein of a doctrine, monstrous in its claims and diabolical in its implications. It is to be avoided at all costs in the same way a deadly and infectious disease is to be avoided.

Arminianism is satanic. There are no “blessed inconsistencies.” There is nothing there to be redeemed, no “essentials” to be preserved, no value whatsoever in the offer of salvation it gives. However, the blind will tell us that Satan has the “essentials” right, and therefore his gospel is something God can also use to save.

Strangely, in an ironic twist of the most ghastly and frightening sort, it is the modern Calvinist who has become an apologist for the false and satanic gospel of Arminianism. The modern Calvinist defends the Arminian lie as “essentially true.” The Synod at Dordt would be ashamed to have these unconverted compromisers identify with them.

This tolerance and compromise with satanic falsehood is the systematic teaching of the “popular” Calvinist charlatans of our day-James White regularly defends the satanic lie of Arminianism, chiding anyone who rightly states that it is heresy as a “hyper-Calvinist.” One has to wonder what exactly is the purpose of all his debating when none of it matters apparently, since, as he defends, Arminians agree on the “essentials.” One might begin to believe that if it is true that Arminians agree on the essentials and are no less a brother or sister than one who believes the truth (notice I didn’t say a “Calvinist”), then perhaps Mr. White simply likes to hear himself talk.

The late R.C. Sproul, another Calvinist of even greater renown than White, was widely and popularly known for defending the salvation of Arminians based on God cutting them a break on their unbelief. This man gave the pithy and nonsensical phrase “blessed inconsistencies” as a defense to the satanic message of Arminianism and in turn armed a generation of unbelievers with yet another way to undermine and attack the truth. Thousands of religious people are currently mourning his death, and yet he functioned largely to undermine the truth through his defense of Arminianism as “blessed inconsistency.” (side bar-“blessed” inconsistencies? Really RC? how exactly can believing a lie be a function of being “blessed?” How can anyone ever say that believing a lie was a “blessing?” How could anyone say that being lied to is a “blessing?” What kind of nonsensical bat guano is it to claim that evidence of God’s love on someone is that they believe a “blessed” lie? Is this too soon?)

John MacArthur is also another “Calvinist” who openly embraces Arminians as brethren, also excusing their unbelief. So does his yes man Phil Johnson. Voddie Bauchum affirms Arminians. Paul Washer affirms Arminians. Steve Lawson affirms Arminians. Tim Conway affirms Arminians. Albert Mohler affirms Arminians. David Platt affirms Arminians. Sam Storms affirms Arminians. Jeff Durbin affirms Arminians.

These men are all known for their “Calvinistic” leanings in their teachings, and yet they all, at bottom, are willing to affirm someone who believes a false gospel as a brother. How they miss Paul’s condemnation of other gospels in Galatians 1 can only be a product of thinking that Arminians do have the true gospel that Paul taught, which means that, at bottom, they too believe that salvation is conditioned, at some level, on the sinner.

The reason for this, at bottom, is because the natural man views these two doctrinal positions as merely interpretive positions. They think that there are “Calvinist” verses and that there are “Arminian” verses. They think that there are “tensions” and “paradoxes” in scripture. They think that each position is to some degree viable because each side has “its” texts. If that were true, then they would be right about not excluding Arminians.

That is how the modern Calvinist understands his current doctrinal position-as a mere interpretive standpoint which is more “consistent” than Arminianism. This is why they have no problem with considering Arminians brethren, because they see their own Calvinism as merely an interpretive standpoint. Further, most of them claim and believe that they were Arminians until recently when God taught them the “real truth.” So, what they really think is that “Calvinism” is optional window dressing that God may or may not teach one.

——-

Arminianism and Calvinism are not interpretive viewpoints. They are not “lenses” through which we can read this text or that text as supporting one view or the other. There is one right view of the text, and millions of wrong views. The right view is whatever the text actually means as intended by the author.

That is the standard-what did the author actually and objectively intend to convey in writing that down? That’s what we need to seek when we read Scripture-the authorial intent of the message: what did the author mean? What did he want us to understand? That’s what we need to know. That’s what the text means-what the author meant when he wrote it down under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.

There are no “Arminian” verses. There are no “Calvinist” verses. There is just the text with its meaning. There are no paradoxes or tensions. There is one right interpretation which provides complete unity to all of the counsel of God. That right interpretation can only be made by those who are spiritual, by those who possess the mind of Christ. The doctrinal/interpretive result of being given the mind of Christ is to understand all of the text consistently in light of the gospel of Jesus Christ (no-I’m not claiming that upon conversion someone automatically understands the whole Bible, I’m claiming that upon conversion “tensions” go away and an interpretive harmony replaces it). That process produces the articulation of doctrines like the effective atonement of Christ for His elect; the unconditional election and reprobation of men; the security of salvation of the sinner.

It is not that those doctrines are “Calvinistic doctrines.” John Calvin did not make these doctrines up. Nor did he bring them to light. They have always been a part of the presentation of the true gospel, because they are the doctrines which compose the true gospel. Effective atonement, unconditional election, and security of salvation are what the Bible teaches. Those doctrines are the content of the teachings of scripture on salvation and justification. Those doctrines are not made up interpretation and viewpoints of equal value to some other viewpoint. Those doctrines are the only view point because those doctrines are the only doctrines the Bible teaches.

————

Before I was converted, I had happily adopted the label “Calvinist,” in spite of the fact that I had never, at that time, read anything John Calvin had written. Truth be told, to this day, I have only read his commentary on Ephesians 1. That’s it. That is the extent of my study of John Calvin. I do not believe what I believe about the cross because I studied Calvin. But, I was happy to adopt the label because it seemed to carry some legitimacy with it, like I had joined the group of people who were “serious” about Bible study.

These people read more than just John 3:16 and 2 Peter 3:8-9. These people seemed to be OK with God’s sovereignty in salvation. These people seemed to be more committed and generally more dedicated to scripture than any Arminian I knew at that time. It seemed to me that being Calvinist was better than being Arminian because it communicated to me that I was more serious about being religious and doctrinally consistent than those Arminians who just wanted to pray a prayer and be saved! Than those easy-believers who love their sin and don’t want to reform morally!

I started wading into forums and talking about Calvinism and Arminianism, and I sounded like so many others-“Arminianism is wrong, but Arminians are still brethren, they are just immature.” See, I was a tolerant Calvinist Lordship Salvationist before I was converted (that is a mouthful). I believed that salvation was ultimately conditioned on my changing enough (empowered by God, of course) to prove that God had truly justified me. Terrified because my sin just kept growing and getting worse, I was lost and in unbelief. At that time, while I was an unbeliever, I was calling myself a “Calvinist” or at least OK with people calling me that.

After God converted me to the truth, I stopped actively calling myself a “Calvinist,” mostly because I resented the idea that the doctrines of God’s sovereign grace were associated with what largely appears to be an interpretive viewpoint called “Calvinism.” However, I did still allow people to call me that, and I would even adopt the title for the sake of making it easier to talk with others. I use labels all the time to identify doctrinal positions, so I let people continue to call me a Calvinist BECAUSE the doctrines of depravity, election, atonement and security are associated with Calvinism. This ease of communication has been my sole and only purpose in allowing myself to be called a “Calvinist.”

However, in light of the comments I made above, I have no desire to be identified as a “Calvinist” any longer. I’m not a Calvinist. I do not believe what the modern “Calvinist” believes-I do not consider Arminianism to be a kindergarten gospel; I do not consider Arminians to be brethren; I do not consider effective atonement for the elect alone to be a “viewpoint” among others; I do not want to be counted amongst the tolerant and the compromisers; I do not want my gospel to be associated with the name of a man who actually taught that God loves all men and desires that they all be saved (See Calvin’s commentary on John 3:16 and 2 Peter 3:8-9), or in other words…Arminianism.

When I was first converted, one of the first articles I wrote had a passing comment about how I thought that the devil had used the label “calvinism” as a way to cause the unbeliever to dismiss the truth as merely dismissing an interpretive viewpoint. I am now convinced that is exactly what he has done. The devil has managed to attack the truth by sticking a label on it that men can refuse by thinking that they are rejecting a man. This problem is exacerbated by these Calvinist charlatans who are quick to reassure us that Arminianism is good enough for the purpose of getting you through those pearly gates. Modern Calvinism has become a thinly veiled defense of satanic Arminianism. How can I continue to identify in label with enemies of the cross? I cannot any more.

I know that many of us have adopted that label for the ease of communication with tolerants and Arminians. But I would encourage gospel believers to renounce this title because it has an appearance of wickedness to it-it is now associated with tolerance of a false gospel as also true.

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James – Can That Faith Save Him?

James 2
14 What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him?
15 If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? 17 So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.  18 But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. 19 You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder! 20 Do you want to be shown, you foolish person, that faith apart from works is useless? 21 Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar? 22 You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works; 23 and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”—and he was called a friend of God. 24 You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone. 25 And in the same way was not also Rahab the prostitute justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way? 
26 For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead.

James cites two examples to prove his assertion that faith without works is dead.  The first example he cites is that of Abraham’s sacrifice of Isaac.

Genesis 22
After these things God tested Abraham and said to him, “Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” He said, “Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you.” So Abraham rose early in the morning, saddled his donkey, and took two of his young men with him, and his son Isaac. And he cut the wood for the burnt offering and arose and went to the place of which God had told him. On the third day Abraham lifted up his eyes and saw the place from afar. Then Abraham said to his young men, “Stay here with the donkey; I and the boy will go over there and worship and come again to you.” And Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering and laid it on Isaac his son. And he took in his hand the fire and the knife. So they went both of them together. And Isaac said to his father Abraham, “My father!” And he said, “Here I am, my son.” He said, “Behold, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?” Abraham said, “God will provide for himself the lamb for a burnt offering, my son.” So they went both of them together.  After these things God tested Abraham and said to him, “Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” He said, “Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you.” So Abraham rose early in the morning, saddled his donkey, and took two of his young men with him, and his son Isaac. And he cut the wood for the burnt offering and arose and went to the place of which God had told him. On the third day Abraham lifted up his eyes and saw the place from afar. Then Abraham said to his young men, “Stay here with the donkey; I and the boy[a] will go over there and worship and come again to you.” And Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering and laid it on Isaac his son. And he took in his hand the fire and the knife. So they went both of them together. And Isaac said to his father Abraham, “My father!” And he said, “Here I am, my son.” He said, “Behold, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?” Abraham said, “God will provide for himself the lamb for a burnt offering, my son.” So they went both of them together.

This work which James cited is a work Abraham performed at least some twenty years after God credited righteousness to him by faith.   Did you hear that?  TWENTY YEARS!

Neither an infant nor a child of six or seven could carry the amount of wood required to consume a human body by fire.   Verse 6 tells us, “And Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering and laid it on Isaac his son.”   That son is not a boy of six or seven, but rather of nineteen or twenty.

This leaves us with a huge question.  If works serve to assure a person that his faith is genuine, then what did Abraham do for assurance during the twenty years previous to the sacrifice of Isaac? Did he wander about in fear and doubt?

The second example James gives is just as stark as the first.

Joshua 2
Before the men lay down, she came up to them on the roof and said to the men, “I know that the Lord has given you the land, and that the fear of you has fallen upon us, and that all the inhabitants of the land melt away before you. 10 For we have heard how the Lord dried up the water of the Red Sea before you when you came out of Egypt, and what you did to the two kings of the Amorites who were beyond the Jordan, to Sihon and Og, whom you devoted to destruction. 11 And as soon as we heard it, our hearts melted, and there was no spirit left in any man because of you, for the Lord your God, he is God in the heavens above and on the earth beneath. 12 Now then, please swear to me by the Lord that, as I have dealt kindly with you, you also will deal kindly with my father’s house, and give me a sure sign 13 that you will save alive my father and mother, my brothers and sisters, and all who belong to them, and deliver our lives from death.” 14 And the men said to her, “Our life for yours even to death! If you do not tell this business of ours, then when the Lord gives us the land we will deal kindly and faithfully with you.”

How long had it taken for Rahab and the rest of her countrymen to hear the news about Israel’s exodus from Egypt?  Ten years?  Twenty years?  Thirty years?  After all, keep in mind, Israel had just completed its forty years of wandering in the wilderness.  How long had Rahab been waiting for two of them to show up on her doorstep?  Like Abraham, what had she been doing all that time for assurance prior to their arrival?

I am told by some people that simple assent to the gospel does not give assurance of faith. I am told that if there are no works flowing out of my professed and believed conversion, then there is no saving faith.  It would appear at first sight that James agrees.  But does he really?

Consider the sin James identifies in his readers.

James 2
My brothers, show no partiality as you hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory. For if a man wearing a gold ring and fine clothing comes into your assembly, and a poor man in shabby clothing also comes in, and if you pay attention to the one who wears the fine clothing and say, “You sit here in a good place,” while you say to the poor man, “You stand over there,” or, “Sit down at my feet,” have you not then made distinctions among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?

They had begun making distinctions between each other, not only between believer and unbeliever, but even more so between rich and poor.  Is this how the grace of God teaches us to think?   Of course not.

The grace of God has taught us that we are all sinners, from the least to the greatest, from the wealthiest to the poorest.  No one is less a sinner than another.  We are all worthy of death.  We are all brought forth in iniquity.

For this reason we are to love our enemies, as well as our brothers.  We are to do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but rather in humility we are to consider others as better than ourselves.

Listen, my beloved brothers, has not God chosen those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom, which he has promised to those who love him? But you have dishonored the poor man. Are not the rich the ones who oppress you, and the ones who drag you into court? Are they not the ones who blaspheme the honorable name by which you were called?

They had disregarded the distinction the grace of God had taught them to make, and had instead returned to the old way of distinguishing one another in accordance with the flesh.

If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing well. But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors. 10 For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become guilty of all of it. 11 For he who said, “Do not commit adultery,” also said, “Do not murder.” If you do not commit adultery but do murder, you have become a transgressor of the law. 12 So speak and so act as those who are to be judged under the law of liberty. 13 For judgment is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment.

Hypothetically speaking, had they been able to fulfill the requirement of the law’s demand for perfect obedience, then James would have had no issue with them.  Of course not, because they would have been sinless.  As it is though, no one can fulfill this demand.  Rather, we are all sinners, and the very fact his readers were showing partiality proved they were sinners.

Since it was the case then that they were sinners, James therefore encourages them to speak and act as those who are judged under the law of liberty; that is, by the principle of grace; rather than by the law of sin and death.  Speak and act as those who are under grace, in other words.  This means, no more distinctions between rich and poor, because God’s grace teaches us to look at ourselves and other men differently.   God’s grace teaches us to look at ourselves and others as sinners in need of grace.

It is at this point that James writes his now famous passage.

14 What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? 15 If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? 17 So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. 

Since it is true God’s grace teaches us to look at ourselves and others as sinners in need of grace, what good is it for someone to say he is under this grace, yet at the same time still distinguish between men as rich and poor.

In other words, what good is a grace that cannot view all men as sinners in need of it?  Can this grace save?  No, it cannot.  And the proof it cannot lies in the fact that it cannot view all men as sinners.  It instead continues to distinguish between men as though some men had no need of it.  A gospel that does not train people to love the poor and rich alike because we are all sinners in need of God’s grace, is no gospel at all.

Unfortunately, many men have read into this passage the notion that good, solid gospel faith is something the spiritually blind and lost can have, but because they do not also have works to go along with it, that good, solid gospel faith is thereby rendered useless and ineffectual.   I cannot stress enough just how abominable this notion is.

But Dave, someone will surely say, what about them demons?  Them demons believe God is one, don’t they?   Indeed they do, AND THEY HATE HIM FOR IT!

Consider how the demons interacted with Jesus in the gospels  “Have You come before the time, Jesus?”  I mean, we know God lies.  The serpent said so, in the garden.  So have You come before the time the Father set?
They accused Him of lying.   Yes, they agree a time is coming when Christ is going to punish them with eternal fire, but they do not for one minute agree He is just and righteous to do this!


The point is,
Abraham did not find assurance in his works.   Neither did Isaac.   He instead found assurance in the gospel, just as Isaac did.   What his sacrifice did was reveal a little more about that gospel to he and Isaac.

“The popular preachers could not have chosen a more proper place to show their real sentiments (the thief on the cross). The appearance of Divine grace, pouring contempt on all boasted human worth is so striking here, that it is no wonder to find them stumbling at it.   Why wasn’t Christ made to suffer alongside men of equal repute with Noah, Abraham or Daniel? Why instead was He numbered with those who the world has always counted the worst of the worst? Because there would be no encouragement, no hope for people like us, who identify not with Daniel, but with a common thief.   He, who had spoken no blasphemy and had committed no wrong, and who was yet capable of saving Himself and the thief beside Him, nevertheless, made no effort to save Himself nor the thief from the condemnation of the cross. Rather, by suffering the injustice of men, even men whom He had created, He pleased the Father, because He was doing His will. If God did not spare His own just and sinless Son from wrath, what hope do we sinners have should we try to stand by our own sin stained merit? If this is what God does to the tender root, what will He do to the dry?  The thief did not ask that God change his heart. Nor did he ask that God make him less a sinner than the other thief. He instead, fearful of what the wrath will mean for a twig as dry as himself, asks that this One who has opened not His mouth to His accusers, nor sought to escape His Father’s wrath or His Father’s will, would remember him when He comes into His kingdom.”
— Robert Sandeman, Letters on Theron and Aspasio:Addressed to the Author, pg 270

 

 

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