Romans 13:11 | What’s in the Word, “Saved” Part 1: A Salvation Paradigm
“You were purchased and the sale is final. Christ did not purchase you on a Reformed installment plan. We wait for redemption when Christ comes to claim what He purchased.”
“Moreover, if justification and sanctification are not separate, and are the same thing the Bible must be interpreted through the prism of justification only and in fact that is the very interpretive craze of our day; i.e., every verse in the Bible is about Jesus. Unfortunately, this would not explain the interpretive dichotomies of the Bible and would instead make them contradictions. There are many, many examples of this throughout the Bible, but the primary one is works. On the one hand, the Bible continually calls for faith alone without works, but on the other hand, it also calls for vigorous labor and obedience to the law. How can these be reconciled? Answer: some verses are talking about justification while others are talking about sanctification. If justification and sanctification are not separate, the Bible is nothing more than a book of confusion.”
Click to enlarge illustrations if needed.
I am very happy that we have arrived at Romans 13:11 because what Paul states here is the source of much misunderstanding in our day. As a pastor, I have said it: “We were saved, are being saved, and will be completely saved.” What was I thinking when I used to say things like that? I really don’t know. But isn’t that what Paul is saying here in Romans 13:11?
Besides this you know the time, that the hour has come for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed.
Paul seems to be saying what I used to say: our original salvation culminates into a final salvation. At TANC LLC, our research institute, we call that the “linear gospel.” In Reformed circles it is called the “golden chain of salvation.” Now listen, this is a really big deal. One must choose between the linear gospel and the parallel gospel. Let’s look at the illustrations below:
I have been making these illustrations for some time, and was surprised to find the following like-illustrations in the archives of the Australian Forum, the reformed think tank that spawned the present-day neo Calvinist movement:
The Australian forum used these illustrations to convince the church that the true gospel of the Reformation had been lost. These illustrations were key in clarifying what the Reformers really believed. And, though the recent Neo-Calvinist movement parrots much of the Forum’s dialect and other illustrations to teach authentic Reformed doctrine, they avoid these illustrations like a plague. Why? Because these concepts are the most clarifying, and what was used to clarify can also be used to refute the same doctrine.
I agree with the Forum, my illustration B and their Illustration C was the model that the church, for the most part, was teaching when the Australian Forum showed up in 1970 (Hereafter: AF). Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think the church was applying the model, but it is what they held to. They were actually functioning like model A and E.
Model A combines salvation with the Christian life. That may sound like a statement in regard to the obvious, but it really isn’t. When someone asks us if we are saved, we say yes, but the answer is in regard to models B and C. We were saved, so we are now saved. It was a onetime permanent act. Valerie, the family dog was born in the past, but her dogness is permanent. Valerie is not in the process of becoming a complete dog, she is a dog, she is perfect dogness. The AF would agree with my assessment here. Note in model C that justification is “finished.” When Valerie was born, her doghood was finished. Valerie will now start acting like a dog because that is her nature.
Not so with the Reformed models A and E. If someone asks a Reformed person if they are saved, they most say, “already—not yet” which is the nomenclature of an official Reformed doctrine. It means that one is in the process of BEING saved—their complete salvation is future. Again, the AF would have agreed with this assessment. Note the following illustration published by them:
I would also like to use their illustration to make a point. They, in representing the Reformed view take issue with justification being finished. They believe it is ongoing, but look what they call it: “sanctification.” Why wouldn’t they call it “ongoing justification”? Normally, the term for the Christian life is progressive sanctification, but Reformed theologians stay well clear of the term progressive justification. The only exception is in the Calvin Institutes (3.14.title). At issue is what they illustrate with model E—justification and sanctification are combined. Salvation is a progression and worse yet, we are in the midst of the progression. That means we can mess up the progression, this is an unavoidable inference, and is indeed an element of Reformed thinking.
This is where I want to make a point about illustration D. The AF, like all of the Reformed, refutes this model as Christ plus something. Salvation only covers past sins, but we have to do something in our sanctification to maintain our righteous standing. In both models justification (salvation) is not finished, but the Reformers say that is ok for their model because justification is finished by justification.
But yet, this is the problem with all linear gospels like model A: we are in the middle of the process, so the question must be answered; “what is our role?” And that very question is a huge problem because mankind has NO role in being justified. No man other than Christ could pay the penalty for our sins. However, the Reformed answer is, “The Vital Union.” Basically, it is ok for us to be in the midst of the unfinished justification process because we participate in the same way that we were saved; viz, by faith alone. So models A, D, and E are the same thing, but the Reformed say that is ok for their model because it is Christ plus faith alone in Christ. In order to keep justification moving along properly, we must live our lives by faith alone.
Personally, I contend that if we have ANY role in our salvation other than the decision that brought the death of the old us and the birth of a new us, that’s works salvation by doing nothing with intentionality. In fact, it’s called abstaining and that’s a verb. Salvation by Christ plus doing nothing is still model D. Calvinist Tullian Tchividjian wrote a book titled Jesus plus nothing equals everything, but in a linear gospel where justification and sanctification are fused together, IT’S IMPOSSIBLE TO DO NOTHING because doing nothing is something. The only way that we can do nothing is if …
1. The work itself is finished. You can’t do anything to finish a finished work.
2. You are not present to do anything. The work is not located in your realm of operation.
This requires a discussion regarding the separation of justification and sanctification which is anathema to the Reformed thinker. They say, “Justification and sanctification are never separate, but distinct.” However, because of the terms used by Scripture, the Reformers are forced to do something with sanctification, especially in light of 1Thess 4:3,4, so the progression of justification falls under the auspices of progressive sanctification. This brings us back to illustration F. If Valerie, a dog, specifically a beagle, is justification, why would we call her something different because she gets up and starts walking? Is that cause to call her a duck? Indeed, a Valerie sitting is “distinct” from Valerie walking, but does that make her something other than a dog? If Calvin himself spoke of justification as being progressive in the title of chapter 14 | book 3, and that in fact is what you deem it to be, why not call it progressive justification and be done with it?
We hold that justification is a finished work and completely separate from the Christian life. Model B is the ONLY “plus nothing” model because you cannot add to a finished work nor can you work on something that is otherworldly. Christ came to finish a work that we cannot touch. Justification declares that the law that would judge us has no jurisdiction over us. Our sanctification comes from the regeneration of the new birth, not the finished work of justification. This was the rhetorical question that Paul asked of the Galatians:
3:2 – this only do I wish to learn from you—by works of law the Spirit did ye receive, or by the hearing of faith?
3 so thoughtless are ye! having begun in the Spirit, now in the flesh do ye end?
In other words, after receiving the Spirit, do you finish a finished work by circumcision? Note the previous verse:
3:1 – O thoughtless Galatians, who did bewitch you, not to obey the truth—before whose eyes Jesus Christ was described before among you crucified? (YLT).
Christ’s death on the cross finished the work of justification.
But doesn’t Paul say that our salvation is future? The question is salvation from what? We know it is not salvation from sin that would condemn us for sin is not counted where there is no law (Rom 4:15, 5:13) and Christ put an end to the law (Rom 10:4). However, it is clear that the world will be judged by the law (Rom 3:19, 20). It is not salvation from sin that would condemn us.
While the believer is born again and truly righteous, we must carry around the old us that was crucified with Christ. The things Christ died for are still with us (2Cor 4:7-18). As Christians, we await a deliverance from this body of death. (Rom 7:25). Clearly, salvation from condemnation is finished (Rom 8:34), salvation from the sin that condemns is past and complete, but there is left a salvation from sin that harasses us daily. If the gospel is linear, and justification is not finished, Paul is speaking of a future salvation from condemnation—we reject that idea with prejudice, Paul is talking about the other salvation from the sin of our mortality.
The Bible also refers to that as redemption. Remember last week and our discussion of the exchange of slavery? We were purchased from the other slave owner by the blood of Christ (1Cor 6:19,20, 7:22,23), and Christ will one day return to redeem His purchase (Gal 3:13, Luke 21:28). In the linear model, there can be no exchange of slavery because we are not finally free till the end. Neither is there an exchange of law because faith only is required to maintain the “vital union” that keeps our original justification moving forward.
Moreover, if justification and sanctification are not separate, and are the same thing the Bible must be interpreted through the prism of justification only and in fact that is the very interpretive craze of our day; i.e., every verse in the Bible is about Jesus. Unfortunately, this would not explain the interpretive dichotomies of the Bible and would instead make them contradictions. There are many, many examples of this throughout the Bible, but the primary one is works. On the one hand, the Bible continually calls for faith alone without works, but on the other hand, it also calls for vigorous labor and obedience to the law. How can these be reconciled? Answer: some verses are talking about justification while others are talking about sanctification. If justification and sanctification are not separate, the Bible is nothing more than a book of confusion.
The linear gospel also leads to all sorts of confusing doctrines that make doing nothing in our Christian life feasible. One is double imputation. This is the belief that Christ died for our justification and lived a perfect life of obedience for our sanctification. That way, Christ’s perfect obedience to the law is imputed to our Christian life as we live by faith alone.
This Reformed doctrine also makes law the standard for justification in regard to Christians. Since perfect adherence to law remains the standard, but Christ fulfilled and keeps it for us, neither is an exchange of law needed in salvation as we discussed last week—the relationship to the law doesn’t change.
This results in an attempt to reduce sanctification to a mere “awareness” or “experience” with all kinds of mystic doctrines following of which there is no shortage in Reformed circles. An excellent example is the following excerpt from a sermon I heard recently:
Years ago, there was a pastor named Ichabod Spencer, and he was talking to a young student who was convicted of a sin and wasn’t a believer but wanted to come to Christ. And he wrote of the conversation, and it’s in a book called Pastoral Sketches, and Ichabod Spencer’s section in there has this conversation. And it’s fascinating because it’s called “I Can’t Feel.” Listen to this interchange. Ichabod Spencer said,
“I don’t know, my dear sir, what more can be said to you. I’ve told you all that I know. Your state as a sinner, lost, exposed to the righteous penalty of God’s law and having a heart alienated from God and the free offer of redemption by Christ, I’ve told you those things, and your instant duty to repent of sin and give up the world and give God your heart and the source of your help through the power of the Holy Spirit assured to you if you will receive Christ.” In other words, self-empty, and believe it, all these things have become as familiar to you as household words. What more can I say? I know not more what there is to be said.” He said, “I cannot read your heart. God can. And you can by his aid. Some things you’ve said almost made me think you a Christian, and other things again have destroyed that hope. I now put it to your own heart. If you’re not a Christian, what hinders you?”
And he thought for a moment, and he said, “I can’t feel.” “Well, why didn’t you tell me this before?” He said, “I never thought of it before, sir.” “Well, how do you know this hinders you?” “I can’t think of nothing else. I’m sure I shall never be converted to God if I have no more feeling than I have now. That is my own fault. I know you can’t help me.” And he said, “No, sir, I cannot, nor can you help yourself. Your heart will not feel at your bidding.” “What then can I do?” said he with much anxiety. “Come to Christ now. Trust him. Give up your darling world. Repent so inequity shall not be your ruin.” Well, he seemed perplexed, annoyed, vexed. And with an accent of impatience such as I had never witnessed in him before, he replied, “That is impossible. I want the feeling to bring me to that, and I can’t feel.”
And Spencer said, “Hear me, sir, and heed well what I say. I have several points. Number one, the Bible never tells you you must feel, but you must repent and believe. Number two, your complaint that you cannot feel,” listen to this, “is just an excuse by which your wicked heart will justify you for not coming to Christ now.”
First of all, this idea that we cannot command our feelings is something that I hear often and is not biblical. The apostle Paul instructed us to keep a clear conscience before God. Elsewhere, we find that our consciences either accuse us or excuse us. We all know how bad we feel when our consciences accuse us; therefore, we may assume that the opposite is true when we do right. We are also instructed by Paul as well to make it our goal to please God; certainly, a feeling of accomplishment can be expected here as well.
Clearly, we can command our feelings by doing what is right. In contrast, the above dialogue is the result of the linear gospel where an act of grace must precede all feelings. Again, if we are in the middle of a process that saves us, and we are good Reformed thinkers with faith alone always in the forefront, we must only believe and merely be a witness to “grace.” Can you see this in the above dialogue? Only believe is the exhortation of the pastor, and we cannot command our feelings anyway.
In contrast, this young man isn’t going feel any different UNTIL he makes a decision to follow Christ. Why? Because he is under judgment! When you are under law, all that awaits you is a fearful judgment under the law. Why would he feel any different until he is no longer under threat of judgment? This would have been my counsel to this young man. At the very least, the vacancy of fear and the knowledge that you are going to spend eternity in heaven will produce good feelings on some level.
Yes, this leads into all kinds of Reformed wackiness that I believe shuts up the door of heaven to many. I myself know of a young man that wouldn’t make a commitment to Christ because he was yet to see Christ as a “treasure chest of joy.” This all speaks to the Reformed concern that man is able to make an intellectual decision that is part of the salvation process. Yea, we must have some kind of sign that we were enlightened first before we make the decision. But why would it be delight? What of a fear of judgment that we know we deserve?
The fact that the aforementioned young man was vexed and in turmoil is a sure sign from heaven that he understand that he is under the law. Good grief! Lord come quickly and deliver us from this ignorance dressed in academic garb! Remember what we have learned previously in this Romans study? Our service to God is a what? Right, “reasonable service.” Remember what that word means? It means “rational.” My father was an intellectual who always had an interest in God throughout his whole life, but in the end, he assured me that he had made a personal commitment to Christ. But be sure of this, my dad would not have made a commitment to mystic nonsense coming from the Reformed crowd. The decision to be saved is a rational decision, and our service to Christ is rational.
“Just believe” is no answer, we must tell people WHY they mustn’t wait on a feeling. It is because feelings follow thinking and doing. For the most part, feelings are a choice. What do you do if you feel unsafe? You make a decision to change your circumstance to something safer, and then you feel safer. My friends, this is hardly rocket science.
But this can now bring us to another consideration of linear versus parallel—that of end times. The linear gospel can only speak of one final judgment where the children of God are “manifested.” If you look at the parallel gospel, it supplies the possibility of two judgments. Note the illustration below:
What comfort is there in thinking that our “final justification” will be confirmed at some plenary judgment at the end of the age? We should take comfort in the fact that we will not stand in that judgment at all! And again, this points to the need for interpretation according to the following interpretive question: Is it a justification verse, or a sanctification verse? In the linear construct, it must always be a justification verse; either a sitting still dog or a walking dog that is apparently a duck because he is now walking. But in the parallel construct, I can point to numerous biblical dichotomies that are defined by parallelism. Let’s look at a couple.
In 1John, John tells us there is no fear in love and fear has to do with “judgment.” But then Paul tells us to work out our own salvation with trembling and fear. This is not the same salvation being spoken of. John is writing of the difference between the law of sin and death that will judge us, and the law of love which is the difference between being under law and under grace. Paul is writing of having a sober stance towards our sanctification. The Christian life isn’t a birthday party; it’s a many-faceted intellectual warfare. “Salvation” in the Bible doesn’t always speak of salvation from eternal judgment, there is yet a salvation for God’s people—the salvation from carrying about in our bodies all of the things that Christ died for. Let’s close by looking at an example of how the linear perspective gets us into difficulty. In the Reformed scholarly work “The Race Set Before Us,” the authors cite Matthew 24:13 as proof that salvation is future and that Christians must persevere till the end of their life:
But the one who endures to the end will be saved.
Again, the assumption is that “saved” always means eternal salvation. But let’s qualify that with 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.
What is Christ saying? He is saying that when you see certain things happen during the tribulation period, you will be able to save yourself from physical death by fleeing from town to town because the Lord’s return is near. He is talking about saving yourself from physical death, not eternal salvation.
“Saved” has more than one meaning. In verse 11, Paul is talking about salvation from this present warfare against evil within and evil without. In the same way Christ stated that those who see certain things in the tribulation period draw near to their “redemption.” That word refers to a ransom that has already been paid on the cross.
You were purchased and the sale if final. Christ did not purchase you on a Reformed installment plan. We wait for redemption when Christ comes to claim what He purchased.