Romans 4
What then shall we say was gained by Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh? For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness.” Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due. And to the one who does not work but believes in[a] him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness, just as David also speaks of the blessing of the one to whom God counts righteousness apart from works:

“Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven,
and whose sins are covered;
blessed is the man against whom the Lord will not count his sin.”

Romans 1:32  Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.

Guilt.  I sin, I know I sin, and I know I deserve to die for my sin.  The crushing weight of guilt and shame is more than I can endure.

Man has been trying to remove his burden of guilt ever since God drove him out of the garden.  He has tried hiding it with fig leaves, raging at it in murder, and burying it beneath a self righteous exterior.  Nothing works.  The guilt continues to hound him.

The Christianity I had been raised with, had indeed devoted the early part of my adult life to, could not address the overwhelming sense of guilt and shame that burdened me daily.  I am a sinner.  I sin every day. And I know I deserve to die for this.  Yet even so I cannot stop sinning.  No matter what I try, I continue to succumb to the temptation.  If God loves me, then why won’t He take the temptations away?  If He loves me, then why won’t He stop me from sinning?

I recall how even as a child I would sometimes lay awake in my bed at night, imagining the horrors of what would happen if I were to die in my sleep.  I was certain even at that age that I would wake up to find myself in hell.

Years later, after I reached adulthood, I tried the various religious methods that promise to alleviate my sense of guilt.  I tried the “let go and let God” method.  This method promised to be a virtual guarantee.  Whenever a temptation arose, I was to say under my breath, “Lord Jesus take over.”  This was supposed to be the means by which the Spirit would then energize me to overcome the temptation.  It never worked.  Quite the opposite, in fact.  The only thing it did was increase the feelings of guilt and shame.  After all, if the Lord Jesus was not “taking over”, I thought, then it had to be because I was too evil even for Him.

I tried the positive self talk method.  Don’t tell yourself you’re sinner.  That’s a lie.  Jesus died for you.  You’re God’s beloved now.  Right.  And can a leopard change its spots?  It didn’t work.  Lies cannot satisfy the demand of a guilty conscience. And if Jesus has died for everyone, then why is everyone still trying to not feel guilty?

I tried ignoring the guilt and instead burying myself in social outreach programs.  We give you this bag of groceries to show you that God loves you, no strings attached.  We wash your car to show you Jesus wants to have a relationship with you.  We give you this can of cola to . . .  blah, blah, blah.  Right.  And if God really loved me, then He’d do something about these feelings of guilt and shame.

I tried New Age and Humanism.  They just turned out to be sloppy philosophical versions of the other tricks I had already tried.

In despair, I eventually tried drowning the feelings of shame and guilt with alcohol and drugs.  This didn’t work either.  In fact, things just got worse. Shame spiraled down into depression before depression turned to anger and self abuse.  Alcohol and drugs have a way of convincing the abuser that he deserves the abuse.

Sometime in my thirties the Lord was finally pleased to reveal His gospel to me.  A friend and now brother in Christ had spent a few weeks poring over the gospel with me by email.  At the same time I had been studying the epistle to the Hebrews.  One afternoon, after I had spoken with my friend, I opened my Bible to resume my study of Hebrews.  I turned to chapter 10 and began to read.  Two minutes later, all the lights in my head came on.

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

Consequently, when Christ came into the world, he said,

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

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

11 And every priest stands daily at his service, offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. 12 But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, 13 waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet. 14 For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.

15 And the Holy Spirit also bears witness to us; for after saying,

16 “This is the covenant that I will make with them
after those days, declares the Lord:
I will put my laws on their hearts,
and write them on their minds,”

17 then he adds,

“I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more.”

18 Where there is forgiveness of these, there is no longer any offering for sin.

There it was in front of me.  The answer for the guilt and shame I had lived with over the course of my adult life.   I had read the chapter at least three dozen times, but had never seen it like this before.  Here I was now though, seeing it for what seemed like the first time.

If there is anything we could do to make ourselves acceptable to God, then we would only need to do that thing one time, because having sufficed to make us acceptable to God once, that thing would have sufficed to make us acceptable to God forever.

My much praying, my repeated Bible studying, my church attendance, my many repeated attempts to resist temptation, none of these things could make me acceptable to God. The proof of this was that they had to keep being repeated.

There is only one thing that makes a person acceptable to God.  It was a thing which He Himself performed, and it is a thing which He shall never again repeat.  It was the sacrificial death of His own Son.

I realized right there and then that the gospel is not about a transformation inside me.  The gospel is not a renovation project.  Rather, it’s a relocation project.  God transfers His people from one kingdom to another.

In other words, the gospel is the good news about a change in federal headships. In Matthew 7, Jesus tells us that no good tree produces evil fruit, and no bad tree produces good fruit.  He was not telling us that everyone is a tree.  He was instead telling us that there are only two trees – one that is righteous and one that is unrighteous.

Jesus Christ is the second Adam.  He is the head of a new race of people; a people made righteous by the imputation of His righteousness to them.   He is the tree of life, and all who are “in Him” are His good fruit.

The first Adam is the head of an old race of people; a corrupted people made unrighteous by the imputation of his guilt to them.   He is the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, and all who are “in him” are his evil fruit.

The good news is God keeps books.  He’s a bookkeeper, an accountant.  This is how He justifies.  He does not justify by performing some mystical thing inside a person that results in better performance.  No, He justifies by doing something outside of the person.  And what He does is credit Christ’s obedience to their account.  He reckons Christ’s righteousness to them.

This solves the guilt.  It completely removes it in one fell swoop, because the righteousness is no longer dependent on my performance.  I am still getting bad results in my behavior, and yet I’m no longer crushed with overwhelming guilt because of it.

Put that on hold.

Opposite this good news is the theory of two natures.  This theory hypothesizes that all men have one nature that was corrupted by sin at the fall.  However, upon conversion through the gospel, the Holy Spirit creates a new nature for the man.  Though still possessing his sin nature, he now also has a righteous nature.  For the rest of his life then, these two natures will duke it out for supremacy inside him while he learns to submit to his new nature and resist his old sin nature.

This is not good news.  This is terrible news.  It’s terrible news for several reasons.  First, it debases the cross of Christ.  With the no nature good news, the cross is what God imputes to my account.  The object of my faith then, the thing which assures me that I am indeed righteous, is the sacrifice of Christ itself.

In the two natures bad news though, the cross merely serves to prepare man to receive a new nature so that he can now combat sin in his life.  It’s not the cross that serves to assure me that I am righteous.  Instead, it’s the experience of overcoming sin in my life that assures me, because this is what proves I have been justified.

In the no nature good news, guilt was once and for all dealt with in a single blow.  With the two natures bad news though, guilt is something that still rides me every time I fail to obey my spiritual nature.  I’m left wondering, am I really saved?  Have I really been regenerated? Am I really righteous?

Much like the two natures theory, the new nature theory also grounds righteousness upon something that occurs inside me.  Rather than hypothesizing two natures though, this theory instead proffers that our sin nature gets replaced with a new, sinless nature.  Even worse, this new sinless nature is then the grounds for God imputing Christ’s righteousness to men.  The men who teach this nonsense sneer at the idea that God would reckon an unrighteous person righteous by merely imputing righteousness to their account, because as they put it, this would be mere “legal fiction”.  They instead insist that we must be made inwardly righteous in some mystical way before God can then impute us righteous.  Just like the two natures theory, this one nature nonsense twists the gospel into a message about renovation rather than a transfer.

Both theories are false.  Both theories are a false gospel.  Both theories fail to see that the good news is not a message about righteousness grounded on personal transformation.   Rather, the good news is a message about righteousness grounded upon a single event that occurred outside of us two-thousand years ago at place called Golgotha.

In the third chapter of his epistle to the Galatians, the apostle Paul urges his readers to recall the message he had preached to them.  It was before your very eyes Jesus Christ was portrayed as crucified, he says.  Notice that.  He does not say it was before your eyes you received a new nature, or it was before your eyes the Spirit made you to sin less.

Of course, some legalist is going to read this and then falsely charge me with Antinomianism.  They will accuse me of saying sin all you want with impunity, because after all, Jesus already paid for it.

I did not say this.  I did not say sin all you want with impunity.  God disciplines His people. His people have been instructed to resist evil and to do good, but this does not mean they will succeed, nor does it mean they will become less sinful. I have said it before and I will say it again; if I am becoming less sinful, then I am also growing less needful of the cross.

You stopped drinking?  Good for you.  AA has the same effect.
You stopped holding on to unforgiveness?  Good for you.  Psychological counseling has the same effect.

You stopped abusing drugs?  Good for you.  Recovery has the same effect.

If not drinking, smoking, and doing drugs is evidence of justification, then everyone who undergoes counseling and AA has been justified.  This is certainly not the case.

The reformers summarized the gospel like this; we are justified, not by something God does in us, but rather by something God does outside of us.  If this is true, then the object of our faith cannot be something done inside of me. It must instead be the something that God did outside of me.  Unfortunately for many in the reformed community today, people are by faith laying hold not of the cross, but rather themselves.


About David Bishop

Gospel of Grace Church
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  1. Greg Wood says:

    Great work DB. Thanks

    Typo correction
    In a couple of spots you meant one nature not on nature. This was really good.
    When can we chat again?

  2. andrew p magni says:

    Bishop contradicts John 3:3 when he contends : “The gospel is not a renovation project. Rather, it’s a relocation project. God transfers His people from one kingdom to another.”
    John 3:3 Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of G-d. So before He relocates a saint Christ Himself insists He must renovate the saint.

    Ephesians 2:10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them. G-d creates the saints so he calls them the work of his hands unto good works – and He even ordains the good works His new creation saints will accomplish!

    Matthew 7 speaks of “every good tree” and “every” not good fruit tree , i.e. , many more than one of each , as elsewhere scripture describes the saints and the reprobate as trees

    Matthew 7:17, 19 Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. … 19 Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire.

    Isaiah 61:3 To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that he might be glorified.

    Jude 1:12 These are spots in your feasts of charity, when they feast with you, feeding themselves without fear: clouds [they are] without water, carried about of winds; trees whose fruit withereth, without fruit, twice dead, plucked up by the roots;

    The Gospel promises sanctification as seen in 1 Corinthians 1:30 , is it good news in the sense that our sanctification saves us ? no but it is an essential part of salvation purchased upon the cross , even as our glorification does not of itself save us , justify us , cause or act as the ground of the imputed righteousness of Christ but it necessarily follows from the imputation – so our new nature which seeks after righteousnes follows from the imputation of Christ’s righteousness.
    Romans 8:12-14 Therefore, brethren, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live after the flesh. 13 For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live. 14 For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.

    If we mortify the deeds of the flesh , then we are no longer only flesh, but we must have a Spirit filled and directed new nature which works to subdue the old nature – which natures war against one another – and this new nature the unbeliever does not have

    Romans 7:23 But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members.

    Mr Bishop’s blurry rant takes aim at the conscience and the work of the law upon the heart , accusing us of our sins – prompting the saints not to excuse it or to claim the gospel rescinds it but to confess it and to loathe ourselves flush with guilt for them

    Ezekiel 36:26-27, 31 A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh. 27 And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do [them]. … 31 Then shall ye remember your own evil ways, and your doings that [were] not good, and shall lothe yourselves in your own sight for your iniquities and for your abominations.

    A new heart , a new spirit , a loathing of ourselves in guilt for ours abominations – the Bishop feel good doctrine ascends from the bottom of his empty used bourbon glass

    1 John 1:9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us [our] sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

    Only on account of guilt will one confess sins – if no guilt, then nothing to confess for guilt necessarily implies culpability and so the need for forgiveness , but if no sense of culpability then no sense of a need for cleansing or forgiveness.

    Your flesh never grows “less sinful” ,. your old nature does not become better – so yes in your flesh you will remain as evil as ever , but the saints mortify the deeds of the flesh , and they bear good fruits , if only evil fruits appear then Hebrews 6 and John the Baptist warn such a tree will not stand long but will surely be cut down:

    Hebrews 6:8-9 But that which beareth thorns and briers [is] rejected, and [is] nigh unto cursing; whose end [is] to be burned. 9 But, beloved, we are persuaded better things of you, and things that accompany salvation, though we thus speak.

    What accompanies salvation ? not bearing thorns and briers , i.e. evil works , yes your old nature will resist all reformation , it will not get better , but your new nature will subdue it effectively so that the saints bear the fruits He who planted them ordained :

    Hebrews 6:7 For the earth which drinketh in the rain that cometh oft upon it, and bringeth forth herbs meet for them by whom it is dressed, receiveth blessing from God:

    • David Bishop says:

      Isaiah 11:1 There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit.

      Zechariah 3:8 Hear now, O Joshua the high priest, you and your friends who sit before you, for they are men who are a sign: behold, I will bring my servant the Branch.

      Revelation 22:1-2 Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.

      Psalm 80:8-11 You brought a vine out of Egypt;
      you drove out the nations and planted it.
      9 You cleared the ground for it;
      it took deep root and filled the land.
      10 The mountains were covered with its shade,
      the mighty cedars with its branches.
      11 It sent out its branches to the sea
      and its shoots to the River.

      Romans 11:16-21 If the dough offered as firstfruits is holy, so is the whole lump, and if the root is holy, so are the branches. 17 But if some of the branches were broken off, and you, although a wild olive shoot, were grafted in among the others and now share in the nourishing root of the olive tree, 18 do not be arrogant toward the branches. If you are, remember it is not you who support the root, but the root that supports you. 19 Then you will say, “Branches were broken off so that I might be grafted in.” 20 That is true. They were broken off because of their unbelief, but you stand fast through faith. So do not become proud, but fear. 21 For if God did not spare the natural branches, neither will he spare you.

      Tell me, Andrew. Do these texts describe a single tree or many trees?

      The text says, “no good tree can produce bad fruit.” Yet, what do men like Paul Washer tell us? Like you, Washer believes the text is calling everyone a tree too. He says that since Christians still sin, good trees do sometimes produce bad fruit. What does the text say though? NO GOOD TREE CAN PRODUCE BAD FRUIT.

      So, unless you prescribe to the ridiculous notion that Christians cannot sin, then you are left with no other choice but to agree with the rest of Scripture and say this text is referring only to two trees – Adam and Christ. After all, Adam is called “a type of He who was to come”, and Christ is called, “the second Adam” and the “new man”.

      It would only make sense. After all, the Bible begins the story of redemption by recalling for us the account of two trees. It would only make sense then that the Bible relate our two federal heads to these two trees. What throws you off is the word “every”. You assume this means everyone is a tree. The word is not required to mean this though. If I were the only man in a room wearing a brown shirt, I could very easily say, “Everyone wearing a brown shirt please take one step forward.” Would I be referring to everyone in the room? No.

      As for John 3, the Spirit does not regenerate unrighteous people. The elect must be imputed righteous first, before they can be regenerated.

      Romans 8:10 The Spirit is life BECAUSE OF righteousness.

      Imputed does not mean justified. These are two different words. The elect must be imputed (or baptized into Christ’s death before they can be regenerated – NOT WATER BAPTISM).

      Keep in mind, it is Christ who baptizes with the Spirit, and not instead the Spirit with Christ. You must be in Christ first before the Spirit regenerates you.

      John 1:32-33 And John bore witness: “I saw the Spirit descend from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him. I myself did not know him, but he who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain, this is he who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’

      As for the rest of your rant, you’re just doing what I said near the end the legalist would do. Accuse me of saying let us sin with impunity since Christ died for us. I never said any such thing.

  3. “And now also the axe is laid unto the root of the trees: every tree therefore which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire.” (Luk 3:9). Does John the Baptizer here mean to say that the federal tree of the fallen humanity in Adam is going to be cast into the fire? Whom does he command to bring forth fruits worthy of repentance (v.8)?

  4. Jude 12 also uses the figure of “trees” to represent individuals: These are spots in your feasts of charity, when they feast with you, feeding themselves without fear: clouds they are without water, carried about of winds; TREES whose fruit withereth, without fruit, twice dead, plucked up by the roots (Jude 12). The symbolism of fruitless trees (plural) and clouds without water clearly refers to some “certain men” (v.4) “who were before of old ordained to this condemnation, ungodly men”, etc, i.e. some concrete individuals. The truth of federal judgement and imputation is not denied, but to insist that the “every tree” of Matthew 7 cannot mean “individuals” appears a foregone conclusion.

    • David Bishop says:

      Malachi 4
      “For behold, the day is coming, burning like an oven, when all the arrogant and all evildoers will be stubble. The day that is coming shall set them ablaze, says the Lord of hosts, so that it will leave them neither root nor branch. 2 But for you who fear my name, the sun of righteousness shall rise with healing in its wings. You shall go out leaping like calves from the stall. 3 And you shall tread down the wicked, for they will be ashes under the soles of your feet, on the day when I act, says the Lord of hosts.

    • David Bishop says:

      There are plenty of instances in Scripture when nations are referred to as trees. And there are instances when they are referred to as roots. Does this mean no instances of root can ever refer to the Messiah alone? No. Immediate context defines the meaning.

      13 “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. 14 For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.

      Many gates or just two gates? Just two. So we’re going to begin by comparing Christ to 1 gate, and we are going to say there is only 1 other gate but it is wide and easy, and the end is destruction. But then suddenly we’re going to change topics mid thought?

      13 “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. 14 For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.
      15 “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. 16 You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thorn bushes, or figs from thistles? 17 So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. 18 A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Thus you will recognize them by their fruits.

      Is false prophecy gathered from the good tree? No. Are ravenous wolves gathered from the good tree? No.

      How many foundations are available for a man to build his house upon? Many or just two? Just two – the rock and sand. No, everyone has to be a foundation, right? I mean, since everyone is a tree, right?

      Jesus is the narrow gate.
      Jesus is the rock.
      Jesus is the good tree.

      Adam is the wide gate.
      Adam is the sand.
      Adam is the diseased tree.

      • David Bishop says:

        Let me put it this way, Renat.

        What road are the false prophets walking? The wide path. What gate are they heading for? The wide gate. How many roads and gates are there? Only two.

        Would it make sense then for Jesus to suddenly start talking about everyone being a tree? Or does it make sense that He is still talking about the two roads and gates?

        Beware of false prophets. They are on the wide road that leads to destruction.

        Not, beware of what fruit you bare, because you’re a tree and no good tree can produce bad fruit. That wouldn’t even make sense.

  5. markmcculley says:

    It’s a false alternative to say that the new birth is not part of the gospel. Without the new birth, the elect would never believe the gospel. Not only what Christ did outside the elect sinner but also what Christ by the Spirit does in the elect sinner is good news. But there is no reason to define the new birth using words like “regeneration” or “nature”.

    Chafer (Dallas Seminary) : “Having received the divine nature (2 Pet 1:4) while still retaining the old nature, every child of God possesses two natures; one is incapable of sinning, and the other is incapable of holiness.” This definition of the two natures is immediately problematic because it moves away from the truth that a nature is a complex of attributes, a set of characteristics, a disposition that characterizes the individual. To say that the new nature cannot sin suggests that it is an autonomous, separate entity, since only an entity can sin. This opens up the Chaferian view to the charge of an additional personality within the believer.

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