Be Thankful on Thanksgiving; Protestants Can Be Saved
Religious Tyranny: A Case Study; Chapter Nine, The True Gospel, “You Must Be Born Again”
The institutional church can claim it is better than institutions like the Olive Garden restaurant; it can claim you are also family when you are not there, but one must understand that talk of family in the institutional church is merely in a manner of speaking like job interviewers who claim, “We are just like family here.” Protestantism, like most Western religions, denies a literal new birth.
Here we go again. The average parishioner will now become indignant in the face of such a charge, but once again we ask, “How does the church function?” Does the intellectual testimony match the function? No. While claiming literal new birth into the family of God, family status is only accepted by formal membership. Luther, Calvin, MacArthur, Piper et al (Reformers old and new) have claimed in no uncertain terms that church membership is absolutely synonymous with being part of the body of Christ. In other words, unequivocally, salvation by church membership. And, your willingness to join a church also shows a willingness to “place yourself under the authority of godly men.” Bingo. When asked if that means parishioners have to do what the church leaders say, John MacArthur simply answers, “yes.”
This is where we must note a significant historical demarcation: before America, not obeying the church elders could get you an appointment with a burning stake; now the church can only launch an intimidating accusation that you will go to hell without them. In contrast, it is much more likely their pseudo-new birth will land you in hell.
Connection to the body of Christ by church membership is not the literal new birth. Fret not, we will be visiting the biblical truth about new birth soon, but there is more bad news about church membership. According to formal Protestant orthodoxy, water baptism is what makes you a real member of the institutional church. Even Baptists who claim a difference between “Reformed” theology and evangelicalism are guilty of this Reformation tradition. Please note the most recent revision of the Southern Baptist Faith and Message:
Christian baptism is the immersion of a believer in water in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. It is an act of obedience symbolizing the believer’s faith in a crucified, buried, and risen Saviour, the believer’s death to sin, the burial of the old life, and the resurrection to walk in newness of life in Christ Jesus. It is a testimony to his faith in the final resurrection of the dead. Being a church ordinance, it is prerequisite to the privileges of church membership and to the Lord’s Supper.
Though the first part of this statement seems to affirm a biblical new birth, note that water baptism is required to obtain the privileges of church membership, and as stated in other places additionally, church membership is efficacious to salvation and being part of the body of Christ. Apart from all the doublespeak, this is naked salvation by church membership obtained by water baptism. This goes back to the original tenets of the Protestant Reformation.
But it gets worse. In original Protestant orthodoxy, connection to the body of Christ comes and goes. This is the formal Protestant doctrine of The Vital Union. This doctrine is routinely taught by contemporary Reformers like John Piper and goes back to original Reformation tenets of faith. What is it?
It is connected to the idea of deep repentance. As we return perpetually to the same gospel that saved us (“We must preach the gospel to ourselves every day”), we re-experience our original new birth; i.e., spirit baptism originally affected by the water experience, and come into union with Christ. This is also the official Protestant doctrine of Mortification and Vivification. How were you originally saved? By confessing your sins, right? Therefore, by confessing your “present sin” and “mortifying the flesh” you once again die with Christ, and are once again resurrected. This resurrection that occurs as a result of returning to the same gospel that saved us in turn results in the “vital union” which then results in the “works of Christ flowing through us.”
And, this process of deep repentance (returning to the same gospel that saved us for forgiveness of present sin) followed by mortification and vivification resulting in the vital union which in turn results in the works of Christ flowing through us, can only be obtained in the institutional church.
Let’s back up momentarily. When we see language like this previously cited…
Christian baptism is the immersion of a believer in water in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. It is an act of obedience symbolizing the believer’s faith in a crucified, buried, and risen Saviour, the believer’s death to sin, the burial of the old life, and the resurrection to walk in newness of life in Christ Jesus
…the process of deep repentance, mortification and vivification, and the vital union is really what is being alluded to. That’s the dirty little Protestant secret. These are the “privileges” of membership. Remember the “Members Only” Jackets that were all the rage in the 80’s and its marketing mantra, “When you put it on something happens”? Well, once again an institutional example is apt.
Deep repentance, mortification and vivification, and the vital union are all under the auspices of yet another authentic Protestant doctrine: Double Imputation. What’s that? It is the idea that Christ not only came to die for our sins, but also came to live a perfect life in fulfillment of the law of Moses. Do not miss this major point: this doctrine calls for the necessary imputation of Christ’s obedience to the law as a substitute for the Christian’s obedience in order to remain justified before God (saved). Why is this needed? Because no Christian can keep the law perfectly, and perfect law-keeping is the Protestant standard for justification. We hear this constantly in Protestant circles. So, let’s be clear:
Christ came as a substitute for our sin and our good works both because no person can keep the law perfectly and the law must be fulfilled perfectly at all times for anyone to be justified before God. Therefore, he died for our sins and lived in perfect obedience that replaces our imperfect obedience to the law which must always be fulfilled perfectly to maintain a justified state before God.
Hence, Christ died for our sin and was resurrected to make the vital union possible so that His perfect law-keeping can be imputed to our lives as a substitute. This is obtained by continually returning to the same gospel that saved us for forgiveness of “present sin” resulting in a repeated death with Christ and subsequent resurrection (mortification and vivification) resulting in the vital union which imputes Christ’s perfect obedience to our lives as a substitute.
In other words, the new birth doesn’t occur once, but perpetually, and the perpetual new birth that keeps us saved can only be obtained through formal church membership.
And, this version of the new birth turns the Bible completely upside down. First of all, the standard of justification is NOT the law, but a true biblical new birth. Protestantism is not, “justification apart from the law.” With all of Protestantism’s scholarly pomp and circumstance, this is a stunningly simple aberration of the true gospel. Accordingly, Protestant scholars of all stripes openly admit that justification is a “legal declaration” while at the same time claiming that it is apart from the law. This is a stunning contradiction.
Secondly, for the Christian, there is no “present sin” that needs the same kind of forgiveness that former sin needed. While most Protestants will vehemently deny the accusations of this chapter, to the following question they will always answer, “yes.” Did Christ die for all of our past, present, and future sin? If the answer is “yes,” this clearly indicates that Christ’s work on the cross, and supposedly perfect law-keeping must be re-appropriated for future violations against the law. Hence, the “Christian” is still…
Thirdly, this keeps the “Christian” UNDER LAW and not UNDER GRACE. Supposedly, the Protestant doctrine of double imputation comprised of deep repentance, mortification and vivification, and the subsequent vital union keeps the Christian from being under law because Christ keeps/kept the law for us, but that is still under law and not under grace. Who keeps the law isn’t the point, the law, period, is the point. The standard of justification is the new birth, not the law.
Fourthly, this makes the new birth a perpetual re-occurrence, and also a perpetual re-application of Christ’s death on the cross; a pretense strictly forbidden by the Bible. Protestant scholars get cute with this by pointing out that Christ only died once in a historical sense, and this somehow circumvents an accusation of continually subjecting Christ to open shame.
Fifthly, this Protestant version of the new birth denies that it is really the Christian who is loving God and others. Love is actually performed by Christ alone and imputed to the believers account. While the believer experiences life as if they are doing the work, it is actually Christ doing it. We hear this spoken of constantly in church venues: “I didn’t do it, the Spirit did it.” “God did it through me” etc., etc.
While evangelicals are constantly bemoaning the “legalism” of the Pharisees and a return to the “Galatian error,” this is exactly what Protestantism is guilty of. It is a single perspective on sin and law resulting is Christ’s specific accusation against the Pharisees: relaxing the law. What is the problem here? It relaxes love; the very thing defines God and His children. Some tradition, an actual dumbing down of the law, fulfills the law which is not what defines justification in the first place. Sin is still sin, and law is still law, instead of what the real new birth does to the law; it makes it love.
Protestantism makes a direct act of obedience by the believer works salvation instead of love. This is because no real transformation takes place in the believer according to Protestant orthodoxy. In fact, if one pays attention, Protestant scholars of old and new say this outright all of the time. The only active role of Protestants in salvation is the recognition of these truths “revealed to them” by the Spirit if they are elected by God. Are you truly God’s elect? Then you recognize the authority of the church. Who would not be a millionaire if they received a nickel for every time we hear this at church, on the radio, Facebook, and YouTube?
In church, you are not even necessarily family when you are there depending on your status regarding the vital union. In that respect, even the Olive Garden restaurant is better.
What happens when one is truly born again? We are not merely declared righteous, we are righteous. In fact, the Bible drives the point home by calling us “perfect” and “holy.” Protestants can’t understand this because “sin” is still sin, “law” is still law, and “obedience” is still obedience. No real transformation has taken place. Only our “position” has changed, not our state of being, so all those things (sin, law, obedience) have a single perspective that doesn’t change. Protestant scholars say it all of the time: “Justification is positional.” Our legal standing before God is justification…if we go to church and thereby obtain the privileges of membership that include all of the aforementioned under double imputation.
The real goal of salvation is to escape eternal condemnation once and for all time. This is only done through the biblical new birth. A desire for salvation is a desire to die to who you are, and be recreated as a child of God and engrafted into His literal family. A person who desires salvation recognizes that he or she is under the condemnation of the law. This is why the Bible describes the unregenerate as “under law.” The saved person is “under grace.” These distinguish between two states of being, not a mere status or position. This is only accomplished by the new birth.
The new birth is obtained by believing these facts and a desire to be recreated as God’s child, and asking Him for such. This is what Christ focused on when Nicodemus visited him one night. Christ said, “You must be born again,” and then proceeded to tell Nicodemus how to obtain the new birth (see the account in John, chapter 3).
Christ died to pay the penalty for our transgressions against the law, and was resurrected for our justification. What does this mean? Christ’s death and resurrection established the new birth and made Him the “firstborn of many brothers and sisters.” Those who believe in Christ partake in a literal death of the old self and a literal resurrection to new life. This transformation involves many radical changes, but a primary one is a love for God’s truth (word) as opposed to a former indifference towards the things of God. This is probably the foremost reason people resist the gospel; intuitively, they know it would be the end of the life they presently know.
An internal miracle of new birth takes place that is little different from the non-experiential miracles of life like conception. The moment of conception is undiscernible until a test confirms that a new birth has taken place which usually results in joy. Because the book of Acts documents a historical transition for God’s family, the connection of faith and Spirit baptism was demonstrated by outward manifestations of the Spirit to establish the reality of new birth. These outward manifestations established the connection between faith and Spirit baptism.
This transformation changes the perspective on sin and law. Sin and law mean different things to those under law as opposed to those under grace or in other words, lost versus saved. A saved person is not under law. The law’s condemnation has been ended. Christ didn’t come to keep the law perfectly; he came to end the law (Romans 10:4). There is “now” NO condemnation for the Christian (Romans 8:1). Though a Christian falls short of perfect law-keeping, it is because he/she is yet “weak” in mortality but has a “willing” spirit as a result of the new birth.
Before salvation, the law is nothing but condemnation, but after salvation, the law is a means of loving God and others. “If you love me, keep my commandments.” A person under the law cannot use the law to love God—that’s impossible because that person is under the law’s condemnation. Hence, when a Christian “sins” it is really a failure to love God and others. The demarcation for the saved and lost in relationship to sin, law, obedience, and condemnation is Romans 8:2,
For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.
Those under grace are under the law of the Spirit of life while those under law are under the law of sin and death. This is the Spirit’s two uses of the law and their differing perspectives: to condemn the lost world or to sanctify believers (John 17:17). This sets the believer free to aggressively love God and others (via the law) without any fear of condemnation because where there is no law there is no sin (Romans 3:19,20, 4:15, 5:13, 7:6,8, 10:4, 1Timothy 1:9, Galatians 2:19).
The believer is truly righteous and holy because he/she has been reborn by God into His family though still trapped in a mortal body causing a shortfall in love because of weakness. This is why the true believer longs for the redemption of the body (Romans, chapter 7). Though commonly connected to a definition of sin, “weakness” does not equal sin. The holy angels are weaker than God, and Christ was weaker as a man than He was before He left heaven to save mankind, but yet the fact that He was always holy during His ministry on earth is unarguable. And moreover, the Protestant idea that He was resurrected by God to affirm His perfect keeping of the law is little less than full-blown blasphemy. Christ invariably kept the law perfectly by virtue of who He is, but He did not keep the law perfectly as a substitute for our use of the law for loving God and others.
Because Protestantism denies a literal biblical new birth, the so-called believer is still under law, the law’s condemnation and any act of obedience by the “believer” is stripped of its love unless Christ has performed the act Himself. Indeed, this is why Protestant scholars correctly refer to the church as a “train wreck.” Yet, it is a severe pity that they are so proud of it.
Also, and perhaps a cardinal point, a biblical new birth speaks to the enablement of the individual apart from any authority other than Christ. If a saved person is family no matter where he or she is, what do we need the church for? But, if not the institutional church, then what? The answer is FAMILY. The answer is operating as the real family of God and not an institution that makes the standard for justification the law rather than the new birth.
The new birth is bad for business in general and recurring monthly revenue in particular. Family isn’t a business, it is a loving collective buttress against the challenges of life and the sharing of its joy. God’s family is all of that and more as it works together for His purposes and glory…not that of men drunk with visions of grandeur and claiming authority over other men.