Hebrews 12:3-7 ESV
3 Consider Him who endured from sinners such hostility against Himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. 4 In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. 5 And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons?
“My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord,
nor be weary when reproved by him.
6 For the Lord disciplines the one he loves,
and chastises every son whom he receives.”
7 It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline?
Last time in the text we saw the Holy Spirit draw a comparison between our faith and a marathon. The determination to rely exclusively upon the cross of Christ for our righteousness demands the sort of relentless endurance a marathon demands. Said the Spirit, “Run then with endurance the race set before you.”
The Spirit did not leave us without encouragement. Rather, He gave us some examples of saints from the Old Testament who had successfully run the race with endurance. Let us also endure to the end as they did.
Having provided us with a list of Old Testament saints, He then provided us with the ultimate example of encouragement. Jesus Christ Himself.
He who is worthy of all honor and worship did not come to condemn His elect for their sins. Instead, He came to suffer hostility at the hands of unworthy sinners to the point of shedding blood so that He might save all those who are His.
Therefore, although we too may sometimes suffer humiliation and loss for our faith; nevertheless, we have yet to suffer to the point of bloodshed as Christ did. For this reason, let us follow His example by not growing weary or fainthearted.
We might ask at this point, why is the race so demanding to begin with? I mean, if the cross of Christ has saved His people from their sins, then why not take revenge against all those who have tried to humiliate us? After all, our sin cannot condemn us, right? So why not just do as some had suggested and say let us sin so that grace might abound?
Verse 7 is the Spirit’s answer. It is for discipline that you must endure.
We must be careful with this word discipline here, because we might just get it into our head that it’s referring to what a parent does to a misbehaving child. Although this idea is indeed present in the word, it is nevertheless far from being the only idea.
The Greek word translated discipline is a very rich word. It is sometimes translated educate or instruct. At other times it is translated as reproof or correct, and still at other times as discipline.
In the Greek it is a word referring to the entire upbringing of a child. Not only to the responsibility of teaching him the difference between right and wrong, but also to the responsibility of his education, his welfare and yes, also to his correction.
Think of a boarding school. In the old days people of means would send their children off to boarding school while their children were still very young. At boarding school these children would be given more than just a first rate education in their A-B-C’s and 1-2-3’s.
They would also be taught how to behave and interact with people in a civilized society. Education consisted not only of algebra, but also of decorum.
They were taught how to eat properly, sit properly, stand properly, dress properly, speak properly, and even how to treat members of the opposite sex in a proper and respectful manner. It was an education of the entire person.
Add an education in religious doctrine and you get the idea present here in the word, “discipline.”
If it helps, we can also think of it as something like boot camp. That is, the purpose of boot camp is not simply to embarrass and punish. Rather, boot camp exists in order to quickly train a person how to exhibit self control while under combat fire. We also are in a kind of combat, except that our enemy is not flesh and blood. Our war is with the principalities and powers of the air. Our aim is to take every thought captive to the service of our King, the Lord Jesus Christ.
The Father disciplines those He loves. This means He assumes the responsibility of educating their entire persons. He is not only responsible for their education in the gospel, but also for their physical, emotional and spiritual well being. He assumes the responsibility of teaching His people His commandments, as well as correcting them when they disobey.
If you have ever searched the New Testament looking for all the commandments Christ has given to His people you will note there is not a single area of our lives of which His commandments do not touch.
His commandments extend to every area of our life. They range everywhere from instructing us how we are to think of politics to how we are to think of nutrition. This does not mean though, we are successfully obeying them or even that we are getting better about obeying them.
We spoke about this before; we are not growing less needful of the cross. A person who is growing less sinful every year is a person who is also needing less of the cross every year. This is not who we are.
We are instead growing more aware of how much we need the cross and how unworthy we are of it.
Last time we spoke about propositional truth and its relation to doctrine. This time I want to talk about putting that doctrine into practice.
We have spent a great deal of time talking about Neonomian heresies and errors like Lordship Salvation and progressive sanctification. We have not though, spent nearly as much time talking about the opposite extreme – Antinomianism.
You may recall the definitions of Neonomianism and Antinomianism from previous lectures. By way of quick reminder though, Neonomianism comes from two Latin words – Neo and Nomos meaning “new law.”
The 17th century preacher Richard Baxter was a Neonomian. He told his people the law of Moses was too hard for anyone to keep, and so no one could be justified by it. He said this was why Christ had to die in order to pay for all the sins that were committed under it. He also told them that since Christ had obeyed the law of Moses, He had therefore won the right to replace it with a new law that is easier for us to obey. He said we are justified by obeying this new law.
This is Neonomianism, and we have spoken at length many times about it. Lordship Salvation is a form of Neonomianism. Progressive sanctification dances with it.
But on the opposite side of Neonomianism is Antinomianism. Antinomianism also comes from two Latin words – Anti meaning against, and Nomos meaning law. “Against law.”
I have mentioned before sometime called Tattoo Christianity. Another word for Tattoo Christianity is seeker-sensitivism.
In a seeker sensitive church, the pastor will usually end his sermons with an invitation. This means he will usually ask for a person to raise their hand if they would like to get to know Jesus more. The soul unfortunate enough to raise his hand is then invited down to the front of the church after services conclude in order to pray with the prayer team.
If this unfortunate soul manages to make it down to the front of the church to pray with prayer team, he is not going to hear word one about the gospel. Instead, he is going to be asked if he would like to pray something along the lines of the sinner’s prayer. If he consents, then a prayer team member will lead him through a recitation of the sinner’s prayer after which he will then be told he is now a child of God, a forgiven sinner, a brand new, Spirit filled, born again Christian. He’s had his ticket punched. He is now going to heaven.
This is Antinomianism. I call it Tattoo Christianity. Some call it easy believism. I don’t like this term, because there is no belief to be found anywhere in it. It is not Christianity. It is a phony, false Christianity.
The Spirit told us earlier in chapter 2 of this epistle to the Hebrews, the Son was made flesh and blood so that He might deliver all those who through the fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery.
What is this lifelong slavery? This lifelong slavery is the condition of the natural man. That is, it is lifelong slavery to superstition, to self conceited human tradition and human precepts; all of which indeed have an APPEARANCE of righteousness in that they impose and promote severe limitations upon the body; but nevertheless, all of which are unable to put a stop to the sinner’s self righteous desire to justify himself by his own deeds.
There is no repentance from this self righteousness to be found anywhere in a seeker-sensitive false gospel. There is no good news of what Christ has accomplished for His elect, or even why He accomplished it.
But I want you to understand something. Tattoo Christianity is not the only form of Antinomianism.
Some of you may have heard of Anne Hutchinson. Hutchinson was a Puritan midwife and mother of 15. She lived in America. She is looked upon by American feminists today as one of the first champions of American feminism.
Hutchinson’s troubles started when she began to lead some women in the community in weekly Bible study from her home. Eventually men began to attend these weekly studies, as well. In this she knowingly violated the New Testament prohibition against females teaching, but this wasn’t her biggest problem.
Let me pause here a moment to say a great many people today see no problem with a woman acting as pastor or teacher. After all, men and women are equal, right? What’s the big deal?
The big deal is it’s not about equality. It is instead about the curse.
We are told in Genesis 3 that as punishment for Adam’s disobedience, the woman’s DESIRE would be for her husband, but he would rule over her. The word desire used in the text is the exact same word used just one chapter later in reference to sin’s desire for Cain. “Sin is at the door,” the Lord said to Cain, “and it’s DESIRE is for you.” I don’t think sin’s desire for Cain had anything to do with wanting to love him or be his equal.
In the same way sin desired to master Cain for self righteous purposes, so woman would be cursed with the desire to master her husband. It’s all about self righteousness. After all, how many times have you heard it? I’m sure you have. Things would be better if women ran the world. Really? Because the last time I checked, God ran the world and He said things are not going to get better.
In the case of Anne Hutchinson, she had an even bigger problem than a desire for her husband. She had a desire to rule it over God, as well.
At these weekly so-called Bible studies, Anne taught the people in her study that the Spirit is still communicating divine revelation to His people today. This made Hutchinson a mystical Antinomian.
Remember what Antinomian means. Against law. What Anne stood against was the binding authority of Scripture alone. She stood against Scripture as the exclusive rule of law by which every claim to truth must be tested.
Hutchinson taught the men and women in her study group that the Spirit communicates God’s thoughts to His people by more than just Scripture alone. In fact, at her trial, she stated, “The power of the Holy Spirit dwelleth perfectly in every believer, and the inward revelations of her own spirit, and the conscious judgment of her own mind are of authority paramount to any word of God.”
Anne was banished from the community for her heresy. A few years later she and those few from the community who had chosen to remain at her side were set upon by Indians and massacred to the man.
But Hutchinson is not the end of Antinomianism, because there is another form of it yet.
A third form of Antinomianism is found in the teaching of those who would say we are justified by the absence of any law altogether. In other words, these are the men who tell us that because there is no more law to condemn us, therefore we are righteous.
Notice, it’s not that because Christ died for us and so therefore this is the reason why we are righteous. No, instead it’s because there is no more law that condemn us and so this is therefore the reason why we are righteous.
These are the folks who tell us true Christians are not still sinners. In fact, they tell us it is impossible for Christians to sin; because, after all, there is no more law to sin against. They interpret the words “not under law but under grace” to mean precisely this.
In all three of these forms of Antinomianism we find a false gospel seeking to undermine the true grace of God by stripping the gospel of its justice. The way it does this is by placing the blame with God’s law rather than with the sinner.
It is true, as revealed to us in Romans 5, we would have not known what coveting was had the law not said do not covet. But this does not mean the law was wrong to say do not covet. No, the law was good and holy and just to say this. The problem was not with the law. Rather, the problem was and always is with us. We are sinners.
Antinomians believe the problem is with the law rather than with the sinner. They think the solution is to get rid of any and all commandments. They believe this is what Christ did.
We must understand though, God did not save His people by abolishing His law. God would not be just and holy had that been the case. Instead, He has saved His people by satisfying His law’s just requirement for righteousness.
And understand, this requirement was not their obedience. This was Richard Baxter’s mistake. He thought the law’s requirement for justification was their obedience.
No. The law’s requirement for justification is their death. After all, this was what the law demanded. In the day you eat of it you shall die. It was this requirement which Christ satisfied by offering His own death to God in place of their death.
This does not mean though, that after a person is imputed with Christ’s death, that they are now free to ignore Christ’s commandments. No. They are instead instructed to obey them.
“The grace of God has appeared,” says Titus 2:12. “Bringing salvation to all, training them to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for their blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and savior Jesus Christ.”
The grace of God has appeared, says the Spirit. And why has it appeared? Answers the Spirit, for the purpose of bringing salvation to the elect. And this salvation is of a sort which trains God’s elect to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age while they wait for Christ’s return.
If the grace of God which you say has saved you is not training you to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, then I have to ask whether you have really understood the grace of God. I am not saying you are not saved! I reject Lordship Salvation. I am asking instead whether you really understand what God’s grace has cost Him.
After all, if we really did deserve to die for our sins, then why would we think God takes no interest NOW in us resisting sin after He has so graciously saved us from the punishment for it?
Has He saved us from the just punishment for our sins simply so we can continue to pursue disobedience with thoughtless impunity? Is this what the cross was really for? To remove the fear of punishment as an obstacle so that we can really get down to the business of indulging our passions with reckless abandonment?
Last week Scott mentioned a young man from South Carolina who he and I used to know. We used to speak to him by phone and on Facebook. Just twenty years old this young man had been, and he had been made the pastor of a church.
The problem was this young man never quite understood God’s grace. He was so anti-Lordship that he saw no need to even talk about sin. He was the radical Antinomian, see. Got his ticket punched and so there’s no need to concern himself with Christ’s law.
Eventually he wound up losing his church. Some time later he deleted his regular Facebook account before creating a new one under a filthy name. He now posts all sorts of the worst filth on his new page. This was something like six or seven years ago. Last I heard he was still at it.
Lordship Salvation’s answer to this has been to impose a legalistic gospel. The seeker sensitive answer has been to increase the number of social outreaches as well as the volume on the worship leader’s amplifier. Both are wrong. Both are false.
We are indeed to obey Christ’s commandments, but not for righteousness and not for assurance. Rather, we are instead to obey as a sign of gratitude to God for having mercifully accomplished His people’s salvation by dying for their sins.
In other words, we are not saved BY our obedience, but we are saved FOR this.
Ephesians 2:10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
If you disagree, then I have to ask, what were we saved for?
Were we saved by Christ’s death for the purpose of continuing to show disdain for God’s holiness by disregarding His commands? Or maybe it’s that we were saved for the purpose of sleeping away our remaining months and years while we wait to see which comes first, Christ’s return or our death?
The Spirit reminded us of the terms of the new covenant earlier in the epistle, back in chapter 8. One of these terms which He promised to His people was that He would put His law into their minds, and write it on their hearts.
The faith is not mere intellectual assent people have seriously loused up the words of this promise by inserting a false dichotomy where there is none. It is not an either/or though. In other words, it’s not that God has promised to write His law on one part of us and then also on another part of us.
No, the idea the Spirit presents us with here is the same idea He presents us with in Deuteronomy 6 and 11.
In Deuteronomy we are told this:
And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.
We are also told this:
You shall therefore lay up these words of mine in your heart and in your soul, and you shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall teach them to your children, talking of them when you are sitting in your house, and when you are walking by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates, that your days and the days of your children may be multiplied in the land that the Lord swore to your fathers to give them, as long as the heavens are above the earth.
The Pharisees misunderstood these instructions. They took their wording as literal. Their literal interpretations of these texts is where they got their idea of phylacteriesfrom.
You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, the text says, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. The Pharisees read this and then took it literally. They fashioned together a small box, scribbled a portion of these passages onto a tiny piece of parchment, then stuffed this parchment into the box which they then tied to their forehead.
They etched a portion of the same text onto a strap of leather which they then wrapped seven timesaround their right hand and forearm. A sign on your hand and a frontlet between your eyes, you see.
The people who talk about mind and heart as being two parts that God writes His law upon are committing a blunder similar to the one the Pharisees did.
The idea of heart and mind is analogous, not literal. It’s a Hebrewism, in other words. It is a way of saying God is going to make us to understand those things which are pleasing to Him, and He is also going to make us approve of them. In your mind and upon your heart, you see.
But this does not mean His people are going to succeed in doing that which they know pleases God, and I want us to understand this. If we were getting better about walking in Christ’s commandments, then we would need less forgiveness between the brothers, because we would be doing less offending. We would need less bearing with each other’s burdens, because we would each find our burdens decreasing. What’s more, we would find that although the spirit is willing, hey the flesh would be too.
But this isn’t the case, is it? This isn’t what the Scriptures teach us. Rather than growing stronger, we instead are growing more conscious of our weakness and of our need for the cross. Rather than improving in our behavior, we instead are growing more conscious of how undeserving we are of His grace. Rather than growing more sinless, we instead keep finding ourselves confronted with failure.
This is part of our education the Father has made Himself responsible for. He is teaching His people how great their need is for His grace. But keep in mind, just because we will not become successful at walking in Christ’s commandments does not mean we should not strive to do so.
Think of it like this, the justified elect are pleasing to God. God is pleased with them, because they have been made righteous by the cross. But not all the things they DO are pleasing to Him. THEY THEMSELVES are pleasing to Him yes, and they always will be, but not all the things they DO are pleasing to Him.
In the Spirit’s epistle to the Corinthians, for instance, we find God informing the Corinthians that some of them had died for the unworthy manner in which they had been partaking of the Lord’s supper.
Consider what happened to King David after he committed murder and adultery. God took the life of his newborn baby. Later He took away the life of his grown son, Absalom.
In Jeremiah 2:19, we are told this:
“Your wickedness will punish you, your backsliding will rebuke you. Consider them and realize how evil and bitter it is for you when you forsake the Lord your God and have no awe of Me,” declares the Lord Almighty.
The Lord will make our sin punish us. He isn’t talking about eternal punishment there. Rather, another way to say it is He will use the immediate consequences of our own sin to discipline us. The reason why He does this is to further teach us our need for His grace.
The Lord does not always spare us from the IMMEDIATE consequences of our sins. Rather, forcing us to face up to the immediate consequences of our sins is one way which He uses to deepen our understanding of His gospel.
Consider those parents who are always stepping in to rescue their child every time their child does something wrong. I am sure most if not all of us have met a person or two like this in our lifetimes. What happens to the children of parents like this? They usually grow up to be the most spoiled, selfish, degenerate people. I mean, all you have to do is turn on TLC or E! Network and you’ll see the result of what happens when parents refuse to let their children reap the consequences of their choices.
Having said all this though, I want you to understand there is yet still yet another form of Antinomianism. This form I have saved for last, because it is the worst form of them all.
Early I mentioned a few things about Anne Hutchinson. I told you she was a mystical Antinomianism; that is, she stood against Scripture as the exclusive rule of law by which every claim to truth must be tested. There is another form of mystical Antinomianism far worse than the kind Hutchinson practiced. This worse form is called Tolerant Calvinism.
Tolerant Calvinism is a form of mystical Antinomianism. Some people might question this, but consider what it does. Tolerant Calvinism calls into question Scripture’s assertion concerning the exclusive object of God’s saving power.
Scripture tells us the gospel is God’s power for salvation (Romans 1:16-17) . The gospel is what God uses to save His elect. Tolerant Calvinism rejects Scripture’s assertion though, and claims instead God uses the sinner’s sincerity to save. Let me give you an example.
At a recent conference, Dr. James White of Alpha & Omega Ministries gave a lecture concerning the subject of what he calls Hyper-Calvinism. I say what “he calls,” because what he calls Hyper-Calvinism is nowhere near what Hyper-Calvinism actually is.
Nevertheless, in this lecture White called for balance (there’s that word again, balance) – White called for balance between what he says are two opposite extremes;on one side are people who no longer know what the gospel is, and on the other side are people who draw the theological line “so tightly that they are the only ones in it.”
Now keep this very carefully in mind. He called for balance between what he says are two people who disagree about what the gospel is.
After he called for balance between these two people who he says disagree about what the gospel is, he then asked a question. What did the apostles define as the church?
Notice this. White did not ask what did the apostles define as the gospel, but rather he asked what did they define as the church?
White answered his question. He explained that some people define the church by the bare historical facts of Christ’s death, burial and resurrection along with some basic doctrine about the Trinity and about the virgin birth.
If you are like me, then you are shaking your head with confusion right now. What?
His question was how do the apostles define the CHURCH? His answer was some people define the church as the bare, historical facts about Christ’s death, burial and resurrection along with some basic doctrine about the Trinity and about the virgin birth.
Excuse me, but what have the bare historical facts of Christ’s death, burial and resurrection got anything to do with anyone’s definition of church?
If I were to ask you to define the church, would you say to me, “Well Dave, I think the church is the bare historical facts of Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection, along with some doctrine about the Trinity and the virgin birth”?
No, you would not say this. You might have defined the gospel as this, but you would not have defined the church as this. No one on this planet would ever have defined the church as this, because it is irretrievably irrational.
White’s answer is not an answer to the question, what did the apostles define as the church? It is not an answer to anyone’s definition of church.
Why is White using the word church when really what he is describing is what he believes the gospel is? He tells us why just a few moments later.
Just a few moments later, after telling us that he believes the apostles defined the CHURCH as more than just the bare historical facts of Christ’s death, burial and resurrection, he then warns us that Hyper-Calvinists define THE GOSPEL as more than just the bare historical facts of Christ’s death, burial and resurrection.
Wait a minute. THE CHURCH is more than just the bare historical facts of Christ’s death, burial and resurrection, but THE GOSPEL is not?
What is White telling us here? It should be obvious. He is telling us he believes the gospel is indeed the bare historical facts of Christ’s death, burial and resurrection. He is telling us he believes God uses these bare historical facts to convert His people, because he believes these bare, historical facts alone communicate the good news about God’s grace to His people.
The bare historical facts of Christ’s death, burial and resurrection do NOT communicate the truth about God’s grace to His people! Nor does 1 Corinthians 15 say it does. Were the Lord to ever open Dr. White’s eyes, then White would notice the words “according to the Scriptures” in 1 Corinthians 15. As it is however, Dr White’s eyes have never been opened.
The irony is that just like Hutchinson, White claims to be reformed. Yet in his opinion Scripturally revealed essential gospel doctrines like sovereign election and definite atonement are really just optional doctrine a person can take or leave and yet still be counted righteous, because in his opinion the righteousness is the faith a person manages to muster in the bare historical facts of Christ’s death, burial and resurrection.
And this is exactly what tolerant Calvinists have said it is, optional doctrine. They have written books, I have read them. In these books they call these doctrines “shelf doctrine”; so named because in their opinion you are better off keeping it on the shelf rather than dragging it down just to start pointless arguments with Arminian brothers.
White himself has co-written books with Arminian authors in which he calls these Arminian co-authors “brother.”
The truth is spiritual perverts like James White have never taken sides against themselves. Because they have never been imputed righteous and have never been born again, they have therefore never counted their prior religious convictions and experiences as an offense to God and therefore as dung.
Instead, they have heard a few things about God’s sovereignty and maybe a few things about definite atonement, but rather than repenting of their prior convictions, they have instead added these few things to their already existing convictions.
The sick and disgusting irony here is James White’s self righteous, false gospel of faith in the bare historical fact of Christ’s death competes with the true righteousness Christ accomplished for His people by His death. No wonder God despises White’s repugnant gospel.
God does not save people without the gospel and then later lovingly teach them the gospel as if they were already His children who were simply in need of some further education.