Paul's Passing Thoughts

The Potter’s House: Our Justification Crisis, Perseverance, and Assurance: Part 1

Posted in Uncategorized by Paul M. Dohse Sr. on June 11, 2013

Linear Gospel 1

 

parallel gospel 1

Tonight we will be looking at the present justification crisis, perseverance, and assurance. The relationship between these three is causing much confusion in our day. This is another topical subject related to our Romans study as we have been fluctuating between specific verses in Romans and topics related to Romans. We will look at the crisis tonight, introduce perseverance, and address the remainder of perseverance and assurance next week. Then the following week is our annual conference.

First, the crisis.

Those who love God simply want to know the truth; they want wisdom; they want to know the way; they want to be at peace with God; they want to please God, and they want to be able to share God with others according to the truth. They want hope; they want to know for certain that they will live with God for eternity. I recently watched a disturbing video that was a Q and A excerpt from the 2010 “Shepherds” Conference hosted by Dr. John MacArthur’s church. In light of the supposed Calvinistic view of election, an attendee asked what should be said to people when we evangelize. MacArthur’s answer was somewhat snarky; in essence, “Tell them what the Bible says, duh!” MacArthur then went on to explain that the Bible was full of paradoxes and tensions that couldn’t be understood. Therefore, just obey Scripture and leave all of the logic to God. In essence, understanding is none of our business. Dr. Michael Horton seems to parrot the same idea by stating that the law “gives us something to do.” It would seem that the totally depraved Christian masses need something to keep them focused while God does whatever He is going to do despite ourselves.

Let me just pause here a moment and clarify “supposed” in regard to Calvinists believing in election. Election should give Christians complete confidence that they are going to heaven which is the headquarters for His Tabernacle Project. Chew on that awhile; heaven is not our eternal dwelling place, that’s a Protestant fairytale, to name just one among many others. More would be done for God in the here and now if we understood that it is preparation for much bigger tasks that we will be doing for God in the future. The apostle Paul said that whether here in our present bodies, or present with the lord, we make it our “goal” to please Him. What! In heaven we will have a “goal” to please God? Woe! Perhaps we are not getting the whole story about our future with God. Perhaps our future with God is a lot more definitive than we have been taught. And does this affect our present service for God. Absolutely. Lack of information never facilitates action. Never.

Granted, election is a mystery. But what is important is that election and justification go hand in hand. Romans 8:29,30 makes that clear. Our justification was sealed before the foundation of the world. Our justification was before time, as in, space of time. That’s why in those verses we were also considered glorified. Now look, there are a lot of theories on election, and I don’t care which one who hold to just so you agree with me that our salvation was settled before time, and if we were justified before we were born, we can’t do anything to mess that up.

Unless you’re a Calvinist. If you’re a Calvinist, you can mess that up by unwittingly doing something in sanctification that is a “work” and thereby making sanctification the “ground of your justification.” Reformed elders are the experts in regard to what is a work in sanctification and what isn’t a work in sanctification. Be sure of this: the crux of Calvinism is the following: “We can’t know anything for certain so your best shot at heaven is listening to God’s anointed who save us from ignorance as much as that can be done. Though they don’t claim to know anything for certain either, they have been given the keys to the kingdom and have the authority to declare us unbelieving. They can’t give us assurance of our salvation, because living by faith alone in sanctification is very tricky business, but they can declare the contrary. Be a good Calvinist, keep your mouth shut, obey the elders, and hope for the best. That’s Calvinism, and I will debate anyone who tries to say otherwise. Words mean things, and I have the black and white of their words in abundance.

Unfortunately, Calvinism must be harped on in our day because this ideology has been ruling the American church since 1995. Its contemporary form was launched in 1970 and grew at a very fast pace, but circa 1995 marked a beginning of dominance culminating in the fact that this movement crosses all denominational lines and is the only option available in many US cities. And its view of justification has profound implications for the Christian—utterly profound. If revival is possible in America, Calvinism must be used as an example to highlight the way to real sanctified life; it must be stripped of its deceptive costume because the case has been well presented—evil and brilliance are not mutually exclusive. The leaven that blinds must be rooted out as learning progresses.

I find my discussions with Susan regarding her material for this year’s conference disturbing. On the one hand, Calvinists, including John MacArthur, proudly claim St. Augustine as the father of Reformation doctrine. On the other hand, Augustine flaunted his Platonism in broad daylight and stated in no uncertain terms that the Bible has no credibility without Plato. Pardon me if I am extremely uncomfortable with a justification formed by a committee of which Plato was a contributor. Moreover, the results speak for themselves.

Although the New Calvinists have dominated the American church for eighteen years now, things are not better, they are worse. John Piper, while announcing his future post-retirement plans from Geneva, stated that wherever the Reformation doctrine has sprung forth, that same geography is saturated with the blessed light of God. Well then, where’s the beef? Socially, there were over 333,000 abortions in America last year. Divorce in the church has surpassed secular statistics and is approaching an astounding 60%. Spiritual abuse blogs, mostly focused on New Calvinist leaders, have exploded in number over the past two years. In the past ten years, at least two organizations have been formed to keep New Calvinist churches out of civil and criminal court. This is all unprecedented. Where’s the beef? And where are the NEW converts associated with real revival? Polls have clearly indicated that new sheep are not coming in; they are merely being relocated and rearranged at the cost of split churches.

Yet, New Calvinists constantly talk as if they have arrived on the scene recently and their “revival” is just now getting into second gear. This is nonsense! They have been in solid control of the American church for at least eighteen years. And please, please, do not miss this: they continue to blame the mess they have created on “evangelical subjectivism.” This is the religious equivalent to the political, “Blame it on Bush.” Don’t miss this either: the problems with evangelicalism to begin with are due to the fact that the Reformers gave birth to them resulting in an overemphasis on salvation to the detriment of sanctification.

I say all of that to say this: when the Australian Forum launched Neo-Calvinism in 1970, they highlighted the idea that the church was in a “justification crisis.” That isn’t true, the church was actually in a sanctification crisis, not a justification crisis. But the reason for its crisis was the root that it came from: the belief that justification and sanctification are the same thing. Hence, getting people saved continued to be the obsession along with a woeful devaluing of discipleship. Basically, New Calvinism offered the full dose of the cancer as a cure.

But this is a very good thing. It is especially good because the theological dream team of the Australian Forum systematized this doctrine in a way that gives it staying power. These guys were right in a wrong way (they absolutely did rediscovery the authentic Reformation gospel), but nevertheless, they had brilliant theological minds coupled with personalities capable of strong persuasion. What this will do, finally, is force the church into revisiting the subject of justification in an in-depth way. It will force the American church to come to grips with their long held mentality regarding justification. And here is the crisis of confusion in our present day: what is the relationship between the two?

Here at the Potter’s House we have looked at that deeply. For instance, how could Christ have come stating that he didn’t come to abolish the law while the apostle Paul stated the exact opposite? We conclude that Christ was speaking of sanctification and Paul was referring to justification. Here is a statement for you: “The law is for those under it and those being sanctified, but not the justified.” Or how about this statement: “The law has a relationship to unregeneration and progressive sanctification, but has no relationship to definitive sanctification and justification.” The first one may incite the following conversation:

But I thought anyone who is justified is sanctified. “That’s absolutely true.” So how can you say the law has no relationship to your justification? “Because I didn’t need the law for my justification, but I need it for my sanctification. In fact, I couldn’t be justified with the law.” Then why do you need it for your sanctification? “Because being justified without the law resulted in being enslaved to the law.” So then, what was your relationship to the law before justification? “It was my enemy.” How so? “Because the desires of the flesh are contrary to the law, and the law provoked sinful desires within me. That doesn’t mean the law is bad, the law is holy, and unfortunately while provoking sinful desires within me, a judgment awaited me by that same law in the future. But now the law is my friend, and instead of provoking me to sin, it provokes me to righteousness. I am not sanctified apart from the law (John 17:17), but I am justified apart from the law (Romans 3:21).” But that verse states that the righteousness of God was MANEFESTED apart from the law. That righteousness is Jesus, not you in regard to justification. “Well, if that righteousness manifested was Jesus, that would teach that His righteousness was manifested apart from the law as well, so what’s your point? My point is that justification is apart from the law. If you look at verse 19 prior, and verse 22 after, the point is a righteousness manifested by faith in Christ alone. That’s my point.”

This brings us to Perseverance. Granted, there are verses in the Bible that seem to say that our salvation is contingent on persevering till the end. I have done a lot of reading on this from the Reformed perspective, and clearly, the belief is that the promise of salvation is “conditional.” Sanctification is a race from which we can be disqualified, but if we aren’t, the prize spoken of in Scripture is salvation. Salvation is the prize for finishing the race. The Reformed refer to this as “already-but-not-yet.” This would eliminate any rewards for obedience and service in sanctification. The reward is salvation itself. So, election (already) qualifies us for the race, but we have to finish in a way that doesn’t disqualify us (not yet). The obvious problem here is, if the focus is staying saved by faith alone, or persevering in our salvation, this keeps us focused on staying saved and not serving! No wonder sanctification is so weak in Protestantism, if salvation is not a done deal, that’s where our focus is going to be if we are smart. In fact, we are warned not to “obey in our own efforts” or “live by do’s and don’ts.” This is all very confusing to say the least.

I want to address one particular passage they cite regarding this:

Matthew 10:21 – Brother will deliver brother over to death, and the father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death, 22 and you will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. 23 When they persecute you in one town, flee to the next, for truly, I say to you, you will not have gone through all the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes.

Here is what I want to point out: in this passage, “saved” doesn’t mean “salvation.” This is where I keep saying that eschatology is not “secondary.” Eschatology is gospel. Remembering what we have learned in the past makes it obvious that Christ is giving directions for staying alive during the tribulation period. Verse 23 is the point; if you flee from town to town, you options are not going to run out before my return. The obvious implication is that they will remain alive. This is so very important. If you do not understand eschatology, this passage means our salvation is not a finished work; it means we have to persevere to finish our salvation. This passage also adds much weight to the argument for the millennial kingdom following the tribulation period which begins with the judgment of the nations.

Let’s look at what this all boils down to in the following visual illustrations:

As we have discussed before, sanctification is missing from Romans 8:29,30, but what follows is Paul’s point to what he stated in verses 29 and 30:

31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? 33 Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. 34 Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? 36 As it is written,

“For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”

37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

This cannot be deviated from. Paul is stating here that trials cannot separate us from the love of God. Something else is being communicated in passages that seem to say that we are required to persevere in life for some kind of “final justification.” Lord willing, we will take a much closer look at this next week

10 Responses

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  1. […] The Potter’s House: Our Justification Crisis, Perseverance, and Assurance: Part 1. […]

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  2. Josh said, on June 11, 2013 at 9:57 AM

    Non-elect can fall away – some are not destined to persevere, they are not “granted repentance.”

    Hebrews 6 (restored to repentance), Galatians 5:4 (severed from Christ), 1 Cor. 10 (once saved, but afterward destroyed), Parable of the soils (initial reception of the Word, but spiritual death later), Matt. 6:14 (lack of forgiveness on our part = lack of forgiveness by God)

    Matt. 18:21-35 – note that this servant was at one point forgiven (justified), but later on he lost that standing.

    Many, many other passages teach this truth.

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    • paulspassingthoughts said, on June 11, 2013 at 10:21 AM

      Josh,

      An apt contention for purposes of clarification. Thanks for your input. Intelligent argumentation is always welcome here. In your mutable justification construct, you reject the obedience of Christ being imputed to us as a way to finish our salvation by faith alone, so you would agree with me that LAW is completely separate from justification. No? Yes?

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  3. Argo said, on June 11, 2013 at 10:03 AM

    Paul,
    Election remains the chink in your impressive armor. You will forever go in circles with this because you cannot reconcile that which is impossible to all that we understand must be true in order for humanity and the world to exist. Election removes man from himself, and in this way you inadvertently cede the very existential assumptions that drive Calvinism: you aren’t you, thus, you can understand nothing. Your whole life must be in service to rejecting yourself in favor of those who have divine right to sacrifice you upon the alter of “doctrine”. Because doctrine is the only thing that is actually real. Somehow.

    How is something elected before it exists? How is it possible to do anything for or to that which doesn’t exist? How can there be a “before” time? That is a contradiction in terms. How are you you before you are? How do you do something before you do it? And if God is not a servant of space or time, how can he act or do anything “before” or “after” the foundation of anything so that we can make a judgment on ” when” God “elects”?

    Paul of Tarsus is either misunderstood or he is simply wrong about election.

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    • paulspassingthoughts said, on June 11, 2013 at 10:13 AM

      Argo,

      That’s because my focus right now is the fact that Calvinism is a false gospel. Granted, the fact that election etc came from the Reformation demands a total reevaluation.

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  4. Argo said, on June 11, 2013 at 10:05 AM

    Election undermines you. If there is assurance in salvation it must be a function of man’s acceptance and redemption by Christ. That and only that, the here and the now of man’s life.

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  5. Abe said, on June 11, 2013 at 2:07 PM

    Foreknowledge clears up all the “mysteries”. Just that easy, in my opinion. I apologize fore being a simpleton. 🙂 But man loves unsolvable “mysteries” to avoid the clear instructions of Scripture.

    Anyway…

    “He who endures to the end shall be saved”… as correctly stated by Paul, that is not “saved” in the “go to heaven and not hell” sense. It is “saved” in the sense of saving the physical life during the tribulation while the antichrist and his zealous followers seek the death of the post-rapture saints (I won’t be here to face all that).

    And as you said, Paul, eschatology is not “secondary” or “tertiary”. That is such an important point to emphasize. A couple of my closet calvinist former ministers used to say it was either secondary or even tertiary. They no longer minister with us. Why? Because I found that their eschatology affected their view of the Gospel. And so they can’t minister with us.

    The Bible doesn’t tell us what doctrines are “secondary” or “tertiary”, I would say that is because God never wanted any doctrines put into either category.

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    • paulspassingthoughts said, on June 11, 2013 at 2:23 PM

      Abe,

      Right, Matthew 4:4

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  6. matteo4 said, on June 18, 2013 at 7:10 PM

    You said, “Granted, election is a mystery. But what is important is that election and justification go hand in hand. Romans 8:29,30 makes that clear. Our justification was sealed before the foundation of the world. Our justification was before time, as in, space of time. That’s why in those verses we were also considered glorified. Now look, there are a lot of theories on election, and I don’t care which one who hold to just so you agree with me that our salvation was settled before time, and if we were justified before we were born, we can’t do anything to mess that up.

    Unless you’re a Calvinist. If you’re a Calvinist, you can mess that up by unwittingly doing something in sanctification that is a “work” and thereby making sanctification the “ground of your justification.” Reformed elders are the experts in regard to what is a work in sanctification and what isn’t a work in sanctification. Be sure of this: the crux of Calvinism is the following: “We can’t know anything for certain so your best shot at heaven is listening to God’s anointed who save us from ignorance as much as that can be done. Though they don’t claim to know anything for certain either, they have been given the keys to the kingdom and have the authority to declare us unbelieving. They can’t give us assurance of our salvation, because living by faith alone in sanctification is very tricky business, but they can declare the contrary. Be a good Calvinist, keep your mouth shut, obey the elders, and hope for the best. That’s Calvinism, and I will debate anyone who tries to say otherwise. Words mean things, and I have the black and white of their words in abundance”.

    You clearly do not understand reformed theology. Please take the time to read Putting Amazing Back Into Grace by Michael Horton. It would clear up many of your misconceptions. Also, Michael Horton is not a New Calvinist. You seem very angry at reformed theology, which I’m not sure why, because it is in the Bible. You said that I am deceived. I believe over the last few years the Lord has opened my eyes to His truths. Christ is the mystery. Only the Spirit can reveal things to us through God’s Word. Many of the things that I have read that you have said, Michael Horton has said too. He is most definitely not a wolf in sheep’s clothing. We please God by being hid in Christ. It’s all about Christ. Calvinists do not believe that you can mess up your salvation. We believe just the opposite. God saves us, not ourselves. Take the story of Jacob’s Ladder. All of the work is being done on God’s end. Jesus is Jacob’s Ladder. Jesus was “the house of God”, “the gate of heaven”. He is the Ark of the Covenant in Psalm 24! Please take the time to really study Horton’s beliefs before spending so much time bashing him.

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    • paulspassingthoughts said, on June 18, 2013 at 7:36 PM

      Jamie,

      “You clearly do not understand reformed theology.” 1. This is Michael Horton philosopher king arrogance. 2. see ya, your done here.

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