Paul's Passing Thoughts

Freedom: That’s the Difference

Posted in Uncategorized by Paul M. Dohse Sr. on May 11, 2021

What is the fundamental difference between the church gospel and the home fellowship gospel? That is, justification by faith versus justification by new birth. A major theme in the New Testament is the freedom of believers. Freedom from what? Clearly, the law. Old Testament believers were captive to the law because all sin was imputed to the law, and the law was not yet ended by Christ. However, we may note that the Old Covenant is “passing away” and is not yet abrogated because all condemnation is yet defined by the law and the power of sin is the law (1Corinthians 15:56).

Nevertheless, though all condemnation comes from the law, under the Old Covenant, the law was an atonement for sin. That is, a covering for sin, not an ending of sin. This is the cardinal point of the book of Hebrews. The priests of the Old Covenant were overseers of a ministry that supplied a perpetual covering for sin. If you were an unbeliever, the law condemned you; if you were a believer, the law’s rituals covered you. It took many sacrifices because sin remained. Old Testament believers were captive to the law for atonement. Now, Christ is the one sacrifice that ended all sin forever for those who are in Him.

When Christ ended the law, He set the captives free (Ephesians 48, Isiah 61:1, Luke 4:18). What then, are believers free from? Clearly, condemnation, but condemnation, sin, and the law are mutually inclusive.

How then, can the who’s who of church, that is John MacArthur et al, continually call our salvation an “atonement”? The answer follows: according to justification by faith, Christ is only a covering for sin, and not an ending for sin. Atonement is ALWAYS a perpetual forgiveness, and not a once and for all time forgiveness. When MacArthur et al state that we are forgiven for past, present, and future sin, they fail to include the conditions that come with an atonement gospel. It is noteworthy that only one New Testament English version uses the word “atonement” once, and the Greek word translated as such actually means “reconciliation.”

Bottom line: atonement does not appear in the New Testament. Christ is not an atonement for sin; He is the ending of sin.

Atonement is the basis for Martin Luther’s alien righteousness, or the idea that all righteousness remains outside of the believer. Outside, as in a cloak of righteousness that is Christ. Hence, Christ is a coat, not a savior, and the gospel is a cover-up. Grace is a covering for remaining under law. Furthermore, atonement must be identified with the Old Covenant, and not the New. Christ is not the manifestation of a righteousness identified with the Old Covenant, He is the manifestation of righteousness APART from the Old Covenant (Romans 3:21). Of course, Protestants confuse this age-old Pauline nemesis through their “vital union” doctrine. But, that doctrine is like a union that exists when a person puts on a coat; the righteousness still remains outside of the believer.

A true child of God is the righteous offspring of God through the new birth. The family of God is a literal family. God’s seed is IN us, NOT outside of us (1John chapter 3).

Moreover, atonement allows condemnation to remain in the law. The law remains a written code that condemns. Atonement also infers that no real change in nature has occurred and its subjects are still under the condemnation of the law. Atonement does not change a believer’s relationship to the law. The law can only still bring death, and not life. Atonement keeps its subjects under the law of sin and death, and not free to pursue the law of the Spirit of life (Romans 8:2).

Christ is not our cloak for unrighteousness; He is our freedom.

From the forthcoming article, “A Biblical Assessment of John MacArthur’s Double Imputation” on paulspassingthoughts.com.

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