Paul's Passing Thoughts

Freewriting Notes for “Against Church”: The Problem with Church; Salvation Does NOT Sanctify

Posted in Uncategorized by Paul M. Dohse Sr. on November 18, 2014

Against Church CoverWhat’s wrong with church? Every honest longtime confessing evangelical will testify to the same experience; we have all been longing and searching for that elusive “revival.” Where is the power of Christ’s resurrection that the apostle Paul wrote of? Evangelicals spend their whole lives looking for the newest program that will usher in revival after the last one failed. Some programs offer a hope of revival, but soon burn out like a comet.

“Revivals” come and go. Church history is full of them. Christian scholars study them in order to “rediscover” the secret to escaping this mundane repetition we call church. We show up at a certain time, we are told when to stand, when to sing, when to sit down, when to raise our hand, what to think, when to put our money in the plate, when to leave, and when to come back. Our children cynically refer to the mandatory routine as “doing church.” Every now and then we recognize that we bring our Bibles with us to church, but really don’t need them, and wonder why; an unasked question that our children stopped asking themselves long ago. In most cases, Bibles are unopened during the week and church lost and found boxes are full of unclaimed Bibles. Precious few are excited about witnessing, and the vast majority of evangelicals have never led another person to the Lord.

Let’s be honest: church is boring except when it is controversial. We are so desperate for some spiritual excitement that we have our own Christian versions of Entertainment Tonight and The National Enquirer, and frankly, the church excels at supplying fodder for such. Sadly, the unchurched that have not yet been duped by the pitch, “We are different at Community Different Church, come visit and see for yourself” are now few and far between. The so-called New Calvinist revival of our day is really just a redistribution of sheep from smaller institutions to bigger institutions that offer more bells and whistles.

In all of this, no one asks if church might be the problem with church. While confessing, “The church is not a building; it’s the people,” emphasis on the institutional aspects of church dwarf any consideration of individuals. Committees abound for the sake of the institution while individuals are “left in the hands of God and His unfailing mercies.” If the church needs a coat of paint, you can bet a work day will be scheduled to get it done. But when a life needs renovation, Christians are utterly powerless to do anything about it. Pastors routinely farm-out serious life problems to the “experts.” The Bible is adequate for run of the mill problems, but the experts are needed for the “deeper” problems of life; besides, “at least they are saved.” Because He lives, you can face tomorrow because you are going to heaven anyway. Little of Christianity is about offering present hope and is mere fire insurance. When our children see this, they assume at least two things: God doesn’t have answers, and if He really created us, why not?

Could it be that the whole problem is profoundly simple? Could it be that the church is trying to live out the power of Christ’s resurrection through His death? And if so, why is that the problem?

It is the problem because Christ’s death is a onetime past event that is finished while the power of His resurrection is present continuance by virtue of the fact that it is power. Christ never needed a death or resurrection; He did that for us because we needed it, and many still do. Christ’s death and resurrection is a gift to us—the “good news.” One is a finished work, but the other is alive, and where there is life, growth is assumed. Life is not powered from death, life is powered from life.

The purpose of Christ’s death was to get rid of the old us, and for the new us to experience the power of His resurrection. Do we accomplish that through His death, or His resurrection? Did the old us really die, and is the new us really a completely new person endowed with the life and power of Christ’s resurrection? If that’s the case, why is the experience of Christ’s resurrection so elusive?

The problem follows: a literal resurrection of the individual empowers the individual and not the institution. The American church is comprised of splendid buildings full of broken people. In fact, at a conference in Columbus, Ohio Calvinist DA Carson stated that Christians are “broken people.” Well, look around, the mega-church buildings are not broken—far from it as they invoke awe in those who look upon them. More and more evangelical pastors are proudly coming out of the ecclesiastical closet and “resigning from the job of trying to fix people” because they can’t be fixed. Recently, Calvinist James MacDonald triumphantly proclaimed such while overseeing a multimillion dollar institutional church campus network.  However, far be it from the church to resign from fixing the church building or in any way hinder the operation of the institution.

There is only one reason why the visible facilities of the church deserve so much honor, and by no means excluding things like four million dollar aquariums in the foyers: salvation by institution. However, the biblical emphasis is on the individual as a vital part of the body of Christ, and the temples being the very bodies of the believers:

1 Corinthians 3:6 – I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. 7 So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. 8 He who plants and he who waters are one, and each will receive his wages according to his labor. 9 For we are God’s fellow workers. You are God’s field, God’s building.

10 According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and someone else is building upon it. Let each one take care how he builds upon it. 11 For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12 Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw— 13 each one’s work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. 14 If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. 15 If anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire.

16 Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? 17 If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple.

1Corinthians 12:12 – For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. 13 For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit.

14 For the body does not consist of one member but of many. 15 If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. 16 And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. 17 If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? 18 But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. 19 If all were a single member, where would the body be? 20 As it is, there are many parts, yet one body.

21 The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” 22 On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, 23 and on those parts of the body that we think less honorable we bestow the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty, 24 which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, 25 that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. 26 If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.

This is why it is critical that God’s people disciple each other in private homes and not institutions; invariably the focus becomes the institution and not the individual member. The institution becomes the temple  to the exclusion of the temples. Not only is it not God’s intention that His people meet corporately in a large central location, but it never was the model until it was introduced  in the 4th century. Synagogues operated in private homes and were separate from temple worship and priests. Synagogues, which later became the home fellowships of the 1st century Christian assemblies, were operated by the laity. Though priests were treated with honor when they visited, they had no authority in the local synagogues. The only exception was Philo’s Hellenistic influence on Jewish culture which led to institutionalized synagogues. Even the priesthood of the temple was redefined as a holy nation of royal priests, originally in reference to individual believers (1Peter 2:9).

Adding to the misplaced emphasis on church as institution is the idea that God’s kingdom is presently on earth. The good news of the kingdom means that God’s kingdom is presently on earth and seeking to eventually take dominion over all things. Of course, this fuels the concept of institution dramatically. In contrast, believers are “aliens,” “sojourners,” and “ambassadors” here on earth.

1Peter 2:11 – Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. 12 Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.

2Corinthians 5:20 – Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. 21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

Symptoms of salvation by institution can be seen everywhere in contemporary evangelicalism. A minority of truth-loving Christians are often dumbfounded by the mysterious behavior of Christianity at large in the institutional church. Nevertheless, most of this behavior can be explained via salvation by institution. If God appointed a glorious institution to usher people into heaven, we can expect the buildings to reflect God’s glory while the inner rooms are full of wickedness, and if not wickedness, compromise.

How this concept crept into the church historically encompasses the subject of ancient philosophy that will be addressed later; this chapter focuses on the necessary gospel that flowed from the philosophical concept of salvation by institution. Salvation by institution is church, and church therefore needed its own gospel that functions in an institutional construct. This is a gospel that necessarily focuses on the wellbeing of the institution and not the individual. If individuals have all they need to be a temple in and of themselves—they don’t need an institution. That’s a problem for institutions. Therefore, the individual must be stripped of all ability, and must be completely dependent on the institution for…spiritual growth? Hardly.  Those stakes are not high enough to sufficiently support the institution; the individual must trust the institution for their very salvation.

Therefore, salvation cannot be a finished work. Salvation must be progressive. If the individual is saved and secure, they have need of little including some sort of institution. If NOTHING can separate us from the love of God (Romans 8:31-39), what do we need an institution for?

Consequently, the institution must be the temple and not the believers, and when believers assemble together, it is in a temple and not the gathering together of a body. The biblical distinctions between body and temple are very deliberate. Christians are to view saved individuals as functioning body parts. The apostle Paul stated clearly that there is no spiritual caste system in a body. Body parts are categorized as visible/nonvisible, but obviously, the nonvisible parts are just as important as the visible parts. In a home fellowship construct, the focus is body parts, in the institutional church the focus is the temple. The New Testament invests in this distinction considerably. Christ doesn’t want centralized worship—He wants a fluid mass of body parts worshiping in spirit and truth. Christianity doesn’t need temples; the individual Christians are temples that are home to the Holy Spirit, and the focus is that the Holy Spirit is at peace in His dwelling.

Why then do many pastors farm-out Christians who have no peace in their temples to “experts”? Because they are seen as a drag on the institutional machine. They are not seen as part of the body, they are seen as a mere recipient of institutional salvation. Likewise, sin is swept under the rug to preserve the institution because it is a conduit from beginning salvation to final salvation, and the gospel of church will serve that purpose and that purpose alone. Threats of any sort to the institution must be neutralized.

The institutional gospel must endorse the institutional church as a conduit to heaven. That necessarily requires that salvation is not finished. If salvation is finished, the institutional church is not needed; therefore, the church must have its own gospel. The institutional church cannot be supported by the low stakes of quality Christian living—the stakes must be higher to support what some call a “vast evangelical industrial complex.” That would be salvation itself—the consequences must be eternal.

The simplest way to differentiate the home fellowship gospel from the church gospel is “law.” In the Bible, “law” is a word that refers to the full counsel of God. It is also referred to as “Scripture,” “holy writ,” “the law and the prophets,” “the gospel,” “the word,” “the law of liberty,” or simply, “the law.” The Bible explains how people are saved, and guides believers according to the issues of life and life more abundantly. Unbelievers will be judged by the Bible if they refuse to be reconciled to God; in that sense the Bible condemns. But believers learn and apply the wisdom of the Bible to their lives leading to a life “built on a rock.”

Matthew 7:24 – “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. 26 And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. 27 And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.”

Wise obedience to God’s law also leads to a blessed life:

James 1:25 – But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.

Likewise, doing the word leads to peace:

Philippians 4: 8 – Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. 9 What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.

To the unbeliever, the law is death, but to the believer the law is life. This has never changed from the time Moses exhorted the Israelites to choose between life and death until now. In regard to salvation, the unbeliever must have the law’s ability to condemn cancelled which leads to a new life in the Spirit guided by God’s law. When someone is saved, they pass from death to life; that is, from the law’s condemnation to life in the law. The law’s ability to condemn is cancelled. Now, the same law gives life—it’s the full counsel of God for life and godliness (2Peter 1:3).

This takes place when a candidate for salvation realizes that salvation is not a mere mental ascent to the facts of the gospel, it is a decision to follow Christ in death and resurrection. The person desires to die with Christ for the purpose of eradicating the old self that was under the condemnation of the law, and wishes to be resurrected with Christ as a new creature who loves His law. The new creature should not see obedience as a requirement for anything, but rather a privilege to love God and others. He/she has chosen life over death. Obedience is not a requirement of any sort, it is the way of wisdom and life.

If the Christian is permanently sealed by the Holy Spirit until the day of redemption, is able to understand the full counsel of God independently (and that counsel is the final word on truth), cannot be condemned by the law, and cannot be separated from the love of God by anyone or anything, then the institutional church is not efficacious for eternal life. Nothing is needed to finalize salvation; and in regard to living a life that glorifies God, an organization is not needed, only the body of Christ is needed. The key is mutual edification—not institutional authority.

As God’s supposed overseer of salvation, the church proffers a gospel that restricts the law to a single dimension of condemnation.  In other words, the law can only condemn, and cannot liberate, bless, or sanctify. “Sanctification” is the setting apart of one’s life for holy purposes. “Justification” is the impartation of God’s righteousness to the believer through the quickening of the Holy Spirit. This is the new birth in which a person is born anew by the seed of God (1John 3:8-10). The new birth makes the believer righteous. This is because they are born of God, and their desires are turned towards fulfilling the law which once condemned them. Prior to salvation there is no love for God’s law, but now…

Psalm 119:97 – Oh how I love your law! It is my meditation all the day. 98 Your commandment makes me wiser than my enemies, for it is ever with me. 99 I have more understanding than all my teachers, for your testimonies are my meditation. 100 I understand more than the aged, for I keep your precepts. 101 I hold back my feet from every evil way, in order to keep your word. 102 I do not turn aside from your rules, for you have taught me. 103 How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth! 104 Through your precepts I get understanding; therefore I hate every false way. Nun 105 Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path. 106 I have sworn an oath and confirmed it, to keep your righteous rules.

Also prior to salvation, all the law could do was condemn—this is the apostle Paul’s “under law” versus “under grace” distinction between the saved and the unsaved.

In regard to the institutional church in our Western culture, this book primarily addresses the Reformation which was founded as an institutional model from its conception, and needed a gospel suited for such.

The Reformation gospel makes no distinction between the law’s role for the unsaved and saved; in both cases, the law can only condemn. The most basic problem arising out of this is the law becomes the standard for justification when in fact God makes believers righteous “apart from the law” (Romans 3:21). There is NO law in justification. Christ went to the cross to end the law for justification (Romans 10:4). Those under grace nevertheless now love God’s law. What the Reformers did in essence said…

“You love the law, fine and dandy, but a perfect keeping of the law must be maintained in order for you to be justified and remain justified, so any attempt to keep the law as a Christian is the same as trying to keep the law in order to justify yourself.”

This premise of the Reformation gospel, the crux of it, is well articulated by the late Reformed think tank, the Australian Forum:

After a man hears the conditions of acceptance with God and eternal life, and is made sensible of his inability to meet those conditions, the Word of God comes to him in the gospel. He hears that Christ stood in his place and kept the law of God for him. By dying on the cross, Christ satisfied all the law’s demands. The Holy Spirit gives the sinner faith to accept the righteousness of Jesus. Standing now before the law which says, “I demand a life of perfect conformity to the commandments,” the believing sinner cries in triumph, “Mine are Christ’s living, doing, and speaking, His suffering and dying; mine as much as if I had lived, done, spoken, and suffered, and died as He did . . . ” (Luther). The law is well pleased with Jesus’ doing and dying, which the sinner brings in the hand of faith. Justice is fully satisfied, and God can truly say: “This man has fulfilled the law. He is justified.”

We say again, only those are justified who bring to God a life of perfect obedience to the law of God. This is what faith does—it brings to God the obedience of Jesus Christ. By faith the law is fulfilled and the sinner is justified.

On the other hand, the law is dishonored by the man who presumes to bring to it his own life of obedience. The fact that he thinks the law will be satisfied with his “rotten stubble and straw” (Luther) shows what a low estimate he has of the holiness of God and what a high estimate he has of his own righteousness. Only in Jesus Christ is there an obedience with which the law is well pleased. Because faith brings only what Jesus has done, it is the highest honor that can be paid to the law (Rom. 3:31). [The Forum’s theological journal, Present Truth: “Law and Gospel,” Volume 7, Article 2, Part 2; also see the Calvin Institutes 3.14.9-11].

This is what makes the Reformation gospel patently false. The law is not Justification’s standard. If there is any standard at all, it is a love for the law, not a perfect keeping of it. Christ ended the law for justification, and the law is now the standard of love for sanctification. The Christian’s motives for obedience are pure because he/she knows the law has NO bearing on their justified state. The only motive for obedience is love, but the law is now the standard for what love is in sanctification.

The crux for the Reformed gospel now becomes how one obtains a perfect keeping of the law apart from any obedience of the “believer.” This is a system where perfect obedience must be continually imputed to the believer in order to satisfy the law. It boils down to a system where perfect obedience satisfies the law through faith alone in whatever that system is. In the Reformed construct, that necessarily requires that Jesus not only died for our sins, but also lived a life of perfect obedience to the law while He was ministering on earth. This is called “double imputation.” Our sins were imputed to Christ, and then He died to pay the penalty thereof, and His perfect obedience to the law is also imputed to us so that the law, being the standard of justification, is satisfied.

This is not a new approach; this whole idea of justification’s standard being a perfect keeping of the law. The apostle Paul argued against this universal anti-gospel in his letter to the Galatians in the following way:

Galatians 3:15 To give a human example, brothers: even with a man-made covenant, no one annuls it or adds to it once it has been ratified. 16 Now the promises were made to Abraham and to his offspring. It does not say, “And to offsprings,” referring to many, but referring to one, “And to your offspring,” who is Christ. 17 This is what I mean: the law, which came 430 years afterward, does not annul a covenant previously ratified by God, so as to make the promise void. 18 For if the inheritance comes by the law, it no longer comes by promise; but God gave it to Abraham by a promise.

19 Why then the law? It was added because of transgressions, until the offspring should come to whom the promise had been made, and it was put in place through angels by an intermediary. 20 Now an intermediary implies more than one, but God is one.

21 Is the law then contrary to the promises of God? Certainly not! For if a law had been given that could give life, then righteousness would indeed be by the law. 22 But the Scripture imprisoned everything under sin, so that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe.

23 Now before faith came, we were held captive under the law, imprisoned until the coming faith would be revealed. 24 So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith. 25 But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian, 26 for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. 27 For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise.

What is Paul saying? He is speaking from the perspective of offspring and the offspring that gives eternal life according to “the promise.” Salvation is based on the covenant God made with Abraham based on promise alone. The promise involved ONE offspring, NOT more than one. If law is a standard for justification, it is in fact an additional offspring—that’s Paul’s point exactly.

This is where the concept of covenant comes in. To say that all sin was imputed to Christ is not exactly right. Actually, all sin is imputed to the Old Covenant law, and then Christ came to end the law and all of the sin imputed to it. Sin is defined by breaking the law (1John 3:4). All sin is imputed to the Old Covenant law until faith comes. That’s why Christ came to end the law for righteousness. In regard to justification, the law and all of our sins imputed to it are cast away as far as the east is from the west. That’s the function of the New Covenant in this age: it ends sin while the Old Covenant only covered sin. That’s why the New Covenant is a “better” covenant; it doesn’t just cover sin, it ends sin. The coming of the Old Covenant did not replace the Abrahamic covenant because it was ratified according to the promise of the one seed 430 years prior. The Old Covenant was a “guardian” or protector until Christ came to end the law.

Hence, to say that the law is the standard for righteousness is to also say that it was part of the promise and is an additional seed that can give life—no, only Christ can give life.  Who keeps the law is irrelevant, it cannot give life in regard to justification—there is only ONE SEED.  Christ didn’t come to keep the Old Testament law for us—He came to end the law for us. The New Covenant is not a covering of sin—it is an ending of sin.

On this wise, the Old Covenant still has a function presently; unbelievers are still under it. Every sin they commit is against that law and imputed to it. When they believe on Christ, that law, the “law of sin and death” is ended along with all sins they ever committed. One reason for this ending is because they die with Christ, and are no longer under that covenant:

Romans 7:1 – Or do you not know, brothers—for I am speaking to those who know the law—that the law is binding on a person only as long as he lives? 2 For a married woman is bound by law to her husband while he lives, but if her husband dies she is released from the law of marriage. 3 Accordingly, she will be called an adulteress if she lives with another man while her husband is alive. But if her husband dies, she is free from that law, and if she marries another man she is not an adulteress.

4 Likewise, my brothers, you also have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another, to him who has been raised from the dead, in order that we may bear fruit for God. 5 For while we were living in the flesh, our sinful passions, aroused by the law, were at work in our members to bear fruit for death. 6 But now we are released from the law, having died to that which held us captive, so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the written code.

Indeed, the Old Covenant law was “served,” but now the law that kept our sins “captive” is ended by Christ, and we “serve” in the new way of the Spirit, BUT that does not mean that there is not a written law that we “UPHOLD” (Romans 3:31). This same law which includes both covenants is now the sword of the Spirit and our guide for loving God and others. We not only died with Christ to end our sins, but we were resurrected with Him in order to uphold the law for the sake of love. Our NEW desire is to love God and others through obedience to the law. It was the same, as we have seen in Psalms 119 for those under the Old covenant, but at that time their sins were only covered by the law and not ended. This makes the New covenant “better.”

We are saved (justified) by faith alone, but in sanctification, our faith WORKS through love:

Galatians 5:2 – Look: I, Paul, say to you that if you accept circumcision, Christ will be of no advantage to you. 3 I testify again to every man who accepts circumcision that he is obligated to keep the whole law. 4 You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace. 5 For through the Spirit, by faith, we ourselves eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness. 6 For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love [“If you love me, keep my commandments”].

And what about future sin after salvation?

Romans 4:15 – For the law brings wrath, but where there is no law there is no transgression.

Romans 7:8…Apart from the law, sin lies dead.

However, the universal anti-gospel of the ages retains the law as a covering and the very standard of justification. It makes the law a co-heir with Christ. This necessary separation of law from the believer because he/she cannot keep it perfectly circumvents any ability to love God and others (“If you love me, keep my commandments”), separates law from sanctification, and is the very definition of antinomianism. In the Bible, antinomianism is stated as the antithesis of love (Psalm 119:70, Matthew 24:11, John 14:15).

Consequently, the vast majority of denominations that came out of the Protestant Reformation came up with their own systems that impute a satisfaction of the law to the “believer” who must appropriate this satisfaction by faith alone in whatever that system may be. However, most systems followed the basic principles of the most notable Reformers, Martin Luther and John Calvin. Also, it stands to reason that these systems are encompassed within the authority of an institution because of the complexity of such systems, but also the simplicity as well.  Because a perfect keeping of the law must be satisfied in order to justify, and no one can keep the law perfectly, there must be a way for the “believer” to have a perfect keeping of the law credited to their account. When figuring that out from Scripture, it seems complex, but institutions endowed with God’s authority are supposedly vested with the responsibility to make the application simple for the great unwashed masses via orthodoxy. Said another way; ritual, or the “traditions of men.”  Note once again Galatians 5:2ff., the Judaizes proffered the ritual of circumcision as a fulfillment of the law for justification. Paul said no; ritual cannot replace a fulfillment of the law for justification unless you keep the whole law perfectly. The law must be ended.

In the final analysis, most religions and denominations that comprise them, bridge a particular standard of righteousness with a ritual system based on a mediation authority between the common people and God. This is always a temple focused institution. God’s system has no standard for righteousness, but only a standard that defines love. When it gets right down to it, what standard could ever adequately define God’s righteousness? The apostle John stated that the world was not big enough to hold a book that would record the good works Christ did while He ministered on earth; so, we are to believe that Christ fulfilled all righteousness in our stead by obeying the Old Testament perfectly? In addition to this problematic question, the New Testament had not yet been written, and many prophecies in both the Old and New testaments are not yet fulfilled.

These substitute systems that errantly seek to satisfy a law by proxy offer the masses a simplistic ritual or tradition that shows their faith in whatever system that credits perfection to their account. This is always done via an institution. The institution is supposedly the God-ordained authority to usher the masses into an eternal utopia of some sort. People then pick the institution of their choice generally assuming that their good intentions and willingness to humbly submit to an authority will get them into heaven.

In the Protestant construct, that is defined as present and future sins removing us from grace which requires perpetual atonement. This is achieved by continually returning to the same gospel that saved us. “We must preach the gospel to ourselves every day” is even a well-traveled mantra among the Neo-Calvinists of our day. This perpetual return to the same gospel that saved us is only sanctioned in the institutional church overseen by Reformed elders:

Moreover, the message of free reconciliation with God is not promulgated for one or two days, but is declared to be perpetual in the Church (2 Cor. 5:18, 19). Hence believers have not even to the end of life any other righteousness than that which is there described. Christ ever remains a Mediator to reconcile the Father to us, and there is a perpetual efficacy in his death—viz. ablution, satisfaction, expiation; in short, perfect obedience, by which all our iniquities are covered (The Calvin Institutes: 3.14.11).

Nor by remission of sins does the Lord only once for all elect and admit us into the Church, but by the same means he preserves and defends us in it. For what would it avail us to receive a pardon of which we were afterwards to have no use? That the mercy of the Lord would be vain and delusive if only granted once, all the godly can bear witness; for there is none who is not conscious, during his whole life, of many infirmities which stand in need of divine mercy. And truly it is not without cause that the Lord promises this gift specially to his own household, nor in vain that he orders the same message of reconciliation to be daily delivered to them (The Calvin Institutes: 4.1.21).

To impart this blessing to us, the keys have been given to the Church (Mt. 16:19; 18:18). For when Christ gave the command to the apostles, and conferred the power of forgiving sins, he not merely intended that they should loose the sins of those who should be converted from impiety to the faith of Christ; but, moreover, that they should perpetually perform this office among believers (The Calvin Institutes: 4.1.22).

Secondly, This benefit is so peculiar to the Church, that we cannot enjoy it unless we continue in the communion of the Church. Thirdly, It is dispensed to us by the ministers and pastors of the Church, either in the preaching of the Gospel or the administration of the Sacraments, and herein is especially manifested the power of the keys, which the Lord has bestowed on the company of the faithful. Accordingly, let each of us consider it to be his duty to seek forgiveness of sins only where the Lord has placed it. Of the public reconciliation which relates to discipline, we shall speak at the proper place (Ibid).

…by new sins we continually separate ourselves, as far as we can, from the grace of God… Thus it is, that all the saints have need of the daily forgiveness of sins; for this alone keeps us in the family of God” (John Calvin: Commentaries on the Catholic Epistles; The Calvin Translation Society 1855. Editor: John Owen, p. 165 ¶4).

This is why Christ primarily limited His apologetic concerns to the traditions of men and antinomianism. Almost without exception, the traditions of men, bolstered by intimidating authoritative institutions, make the lives of “Christians” a segue from beginning salvation to final salvation. The institution is trusted to manage the Christian’s life in a way that they will be able to “stand in the final judgment.” Invariably, almost all religious institutions focus on preparing people for some kind of final judgment.

But Christ came to set people free from judgment, and into freedom to love. The Bible was written to individuals. The Bible always addresses particular individuals or an assembly/group. The Bible never addresses an hierarchy; NEVER. The Bible is written to Spirit-filled individuals called to fulfill their individual and unique callings. The emphasis is not making sure you get to heaven via a preordained institution. That concept circumvents love because the focus is making sure you can “stand in judgment” according to what the institution says will accomplish that.

Salvation doesn’t grow. Sanctification is not the “growing part” of salvation. Salvation is a conception of life that is a onetime event that creates a new creature. The creature grows, but not the conception. The conception is completed. The baby has been born. A baby cannot bring themselves into the world, but in due time they can take the gift of life and participate in it. Their birth is a finished work that makes growing in life possible, but in no way perpetually contributes to it. Likewise, salvation does not sanctify.

Keeping people under the law keeps them saved by keeping them from any attempt to love because that would be works salvation. Christians need to grow in an environment where the individual calling to love and good works is the emphasis, not salvation by faith in an institution. Even in cases where the latter is professed, the fruit of tradition that came from the roots of the Protestant tree is the actual function. Therefore, function mimics slavery to the law while proclaiming freedom. No, true freedom from the law is the only salvation that will yield abundant love in sanctification.

Salvation Does NOT Sanctify.


2 Responses

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  1. mongaloo said, on November 20, 2014 at 2:40 PM

    Paul… Thank you. Several months ago, my husband and I left a church we’d been attending for a little more than two years, because the leadership proved to be more concerned with what they had to say than what the Lord had to say in His Word. Since then, we have heard dozens of abuse stories. I have begun to shift in heart from being heatedly angry at this particular church and its cruelty to understanding that the bad fruits born there were and are simply a direct result of false theology. So I have been wondering and asking the Lord, “How did I get taken in? Why did we stay for as long as we did?”

    This Reformed theology, and everything you’ve specified in this post, is exactly the kind of flaming garbage I let trickle in. I see it now, and I see just how perverse it is, because on the surface it feels like such a slight deviation from the truth; unless you really know Scripture, you’re going to miss it. But when it’s held up to the magnifying lens of Scripture, the deviation is horrifically vast.

    My prayer has been for the past month or so that the Lord would make plain to me all the bad and warped beliefs I’ve assimilated, and guide me in the absolute truth. I am devastated by the very thought of following a false idea of Jesus, in place of the real and true King. Your posts have been a great help in the process of untangling. Thank you again.


    • paulspassingthoughts said, on November 20, 2014 at 6:19 PM


      Thanks for your kind words.

      Institutions are about pursuing salvation. The body of Christ is about being free to pursue love. Home fellowships encourage each other unto good works and do not wait for permission from anybody to love. Institutions also usurp interpretation. Home fellowships seek the one mind of Christ found in the Scriptures; unity is based on truth, not orthodoxy.

      I pray that God shows you the way in your new-found freedom in Christ.


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