Originally published January 5, 2015
“[T]he Bible is absolutely clear that ALL of those who will supposedly bark triumphantly at that judgment are among those already damned by virtue of the fact that they are standing at that judgment. That judgment is called the “second death” in Scripture; all who stand there are already damned. Yet, Calvinists constantly boast that they will stand in that judgment.”
I hear it often, but I think this is the first time I have really parked on it and pondered; this whole thing with Calvinists being proud of the fact that they will “stand in the final judgment with no righteousness of their own.”
PPT logged a comment yesterday from “Frank” that once again proffers this idea with all of the delight of a newborn’s arrival into the world.
The Gospel very simple: God is holy and He is just, and I’m not. And at the end of my life, I’m going to stand before a just and holy God, and I’ll be judged. And I’ll be judged either on the basis of my own righteousness – or lack of it – or the righteousness of another. The good news of the Gospel is that Jesus lived a life of perfect righteousness, of perfect obedience to God, not for His own well being but for His people. He has done for me what I couldn’t possibly do for myself. But not only has He lived that life of perfect obedience, He offered Himself as a perfect sacrifice to satisfy the justice and the righteousness of God.
The great misconception in our day is this: that God isn’t concerned to protect His own integrity. He’s a kind of wishy-washy deity, who just waves a wand of forgiveness over everybody. No. For God to forgive you is a very costly matter. It cost the sacrifice of His own Son. So valuable was that sacrifice that God pronounced it valuable by raising Him from the dead – so that Christ died for us, He was raised for our justification. So the Gospel is something objective. It is the message of who Jesus is and what He did. And it also has a subjective dimension. How are the benefits of Jesus subjectively appropriated to us? How do I get it? The Bible makes it clear that we are justified not by our works, not by our efforts, not by our deeds, but by faith – and by faith alone. The only way you can receive the benefit of Christ’s life and death is by putting your trust in Him – and in Him alone. You do that, you’re declared just by God, you’re adopted into His family, you’re forgiven of all of your sins, and you have begun your pilgrimage for eternity.
That’s the simplicity of the gospel.
This is why we should in no wise be surprised that an Adventist theologian rediscovered the real Protestant gospel in 1970 which is predicated on this idea.
The SDA gospel focuses on being able to “stand in the final judgment.” So, the “Christian” life focuses on that; the endeavor of sanctification is to prepare for this one final judgment. For years, the mainline SDA take followed: beginning salvation takes care of past sin, and then the new “believer” labors with the Holy Spirit to become good enough to stand in the final judgment. Some substitution by Christ to achieve perfectionism was involved, but it required the best efforts possible by “believers” in order to warrant Christ topping off the difference with His own righteousness. The doctrine, known as the “investigative judgment” is extremely complex and downright confusing, but what I have stated here is the gist:
While the investigative judgment is going forward in heaven, while the sins of penitent believers are being removed from the sanctuary, there is to be a special work of purification, of putting away of sin, among God’s people upon earth.
Those who are living upon the earth when the intercession of Christ shall cease in the sanctuary above are to stand in the sight of a holy God without a mediator. Their robes must be spotless, their characters must be purified from sin by the blood of sprinkling. Through the grace of God and their own diligent effort they must be conquerors in the battle with evil.
Ellen White ~ The Great Controversy, chapter 24.
The understandable angst among the SDA faithful peaked in the 1950’s which spawned the Progressive Adventist movement. One of the major players in that movement was an Adventist theologian named Robert Brinsmead. Due to his intellectual prowess, he was able to plow through the writings of the Reformers and understand what their take was on the final judgment. Not only that, Brinsmead was, and I assume still is, a master communicator of ideas.
The message he brought to the SDA faithful follows: one is able to stand in the final judgment if they live their Christian life by the same gospel that saved them; i.e., by faith alone. If you do that, Christ will continue to cover you with His righteousness. If you disavow any righteousness of your own, and believe in being covered by the alien righteousness of Christ as depicted in the wearing of a white robe, you will be able to stand in the judgment.
So, let’s be clear: formally, the SDA as a whole advocated a do your best to keep the law and if you do that well enough Christ will completely cleanse you and declare you righteous. Then you will be able to stand in the judgment. What is the problem with that other than its fundamental falsehood? The SDA faithful had no way of knowing until the final judgment whether or not they did that well enough to warrant Christ’s complete cleansing.
Brinsmead traded that for what the Reformers advocated: rather than partaking in the heavy burden of law keeping, if one only lives by faith alone apart from the law, Christ will stand in the judgment for us. The one who lives their Christian life by faith alone will stand in the judgment covered by the righteousness of Christ apart from any righteousness of their own.
This spawned the Awakening movement which turned the SDA completely on its head. But not only that, it also spawned a return to the authentic Reformation gospel by evangelicals worldwide who had drifted away from it through a more literal interpretation of the Bible because literal interpretation is intuitive. In other words, that’s our natural bent.
The Reformers saw the Bible as a tool for continually returning to the same gospel that saved us by faith alone in order to keep oneself covered by the righteousness of Christ, and therefore making one able to stand in the final judgment.
A literal interpretation of the Bible suggests that God’s people are to work in sanctification, or the Christian life. That’s a problem because the Reformers saw the Christian life as the progression of salvation to a final salvation determined at a one, final judgment. Therefore, biblical imperatives must be interpreted in their “gospel context,” viz, God commands us to do things in order to show us we are not able to obey perfectly. Hence, many of the Reformed in our day suggest that a literal interpretation of the Bible is tantamount to works righteousness.
Again, let’s pause for some clarification: The SDA and the Reformers BOTH saw the Christian life as part of salvation culminating in a final determinative judgment. Both define justification, the state required to be saved, as an ability to keep the law perfectly. Both believe that a means of obtaining a perfect law-keeping as something accredited to our account for standing in the final judgment is paramount. The SDA believed that best effort law-keeping resulted in Christ topping off our account at the judgment. The Reformers believed that effortless living by faith alone resulted in being covered by the righteousness of Christ alone at the judgment. For example, John Calvin believed that the Christian life is the Old Testament Sabbath rest.
Luther described the believer’s “triumphant” declaration to God at the final judgment as, we have NO righteousness but Christ’s. This motif was once again echoed by Frank on PPT.
But there is only one problem; the Bible is absolutely clear that ALL of those who will supposedly bark triumphantly at that judgment are among those already damned by virtue of the fact that they are standing at that judgment. That judgment is called the “second death” in Scripture; all who stand there are already damned. Yet, Calvinists constantly boast that they will stand in that judgment.
Revelation 20:4 – Then I saw thrones, and seated on them were those to whom the authority to judge was committed. Also I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for the testimony of Jesus and for the word of God, and those who had not worshiped the beast or its image and had not received its mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years. 5 The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended. This is the first resurrection. 6 Blessed and holy is the one who shares in the first resurrection! Over such the second death has no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ, and they will reign with him for a thousand years.
7 And when the thousand years are ended, Satan will be released from his prison 8 and will come out to deceive the nations that are at the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them for battle; their number is like the sand of the sea. 9 And they marched up over the broad plain of the earth and surrounded the camp of the saints and the beloved city, but fire came down from heaven and consumed them, 10 and the devil who had deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and sulfur where the beast and the false prophet were, and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.
11 Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. From his presence earth and sky fled away, and no place was found for them. 12 And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done. 13 And the sea gave up the dead who were in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead who were in them, and they were judged, each one of them, according to what they had done. 14 Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. 15 And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.
In the Bible, there are multiple resurrections and judgments. Believers, who are already deemed righteous because they are in fact righteous, will be judged for rewards, not righteousness, because they are already righteous. They are resurrected to determine rewards, not righteousness. In the passage cited here, it is obvious that these are two different resurrections and two different judgments. One judgment has multiple thrones, while the other only has one throne and one judge. The latter judgment is the second death, and those who partake in the first resurrection are blessed. And, the latter judgment is identified as the one Calvinists say they will attend because it judges righteousness, and Calvinists, generally speaking, advocate a one judgment only position. Said another way, this is the only judgment they could possibly be talking about because there is only one according to them.
Why do they advocate a one judgment only when there is obviously more than one? Well, because that matches their gospel of beginning salvation, progressive salvation, and final salvation. It also matches the idea that perfect law-keeping is the required standard for being saved. If salvation is a settled issue that takes place for each individual in a moment of time, why would there be a need to finalize salvation at any other time? Also, there is only a future need to judge righteousness if perfect law-keeping remains the standard for Christians. If perfect law-keeping is not a determinative standard for Christians, the judge at the final judgment is without a law in which to judge righteousness. The judgment is without any law to judge.
In contrast, this is the case with the true gospel: the believer is made righteous through the new birth, and the law is ended for righteousness. The new birth is a gift, but like any gift, once you receive it, it belongs to you. This whole “righteousness of our own” business is a red herring. It’s like looking at someone living and besmirching them for believing they have a life of their own because they were born. We are righteous because we have the seed of God within our very being because of the new birth (1Jn 3:9). We still sin because the flesh is weak while our righteous soul is willing. It is sin against our Father, not our righteousness because Christ ended the law for that purpose.
This happened through the new birth. We were once under the law and its power to condemn us. Because we were unregenerate, sin within us used the law to provoke us to sin. When we died with Christ, it was like the death of a spouse—we are no longer obligated to that marriage covenant (law).
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 (Romans 7).
So, we now “serve” in the “new way of the Spirit.” What’s that? That’s sanctification which is the use of Scripture to love God and others (Jn 17:17, Rom 8:4, Rom 8:7, Matt 4:4, Ps 1:1-6, Ps 119). Perfect law-keeping is not the standard for being justified—there is no law in justification, we are justified apart from the law (Rom 3:21). It would be futile for real Christians to stand in a judgment where Calvinists are present, the law they will be judged by doesn’t pertain to us:
Romans 3:19 – Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God. 20 For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.
Romans 4:15 – For the law brings wrath, but where there is no law there is no transgression.
Calvinists say it’s alright to still be under the law because Jesus keeps the law for us if we live by faith alone, and that is the definition of being under grace: we are under grace if we live by faith alone and the perfect obedience of Christ is imputed to our account. But that’s being under law and under grace at the same time; the Bible is clear that we are either under one or the other (Rom 6:14). Calvinism advocates the idea that the unregenerate are only under law, but are under both law and grace if they are saved. Hence, this is why they cannot advocate separate judgments, but only one. If under law and under grace are separate, any judgment regarding law for the believer is an anomaly regardless of who keeps it—the question of perfect law-keeping is the reason for the judgment in the first place.
This is why in fact there is a separate resurrection for the saved: because their judgment concerns rewards, not a just standing that has already been determined. This is why Jesus called it the “resurrection of the just” because they are already just, only their rewards need to be determined:
Luke 14:12 – He said also to the man who had invited him, “When you give a dinner or a banquet, do not invite your friends or your brothers[b] or your relatives or rich neighbors, lest they also invite you in return and you be repaid. 13 But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, 14 and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you. For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the just.”
Salvation is earned by no one—it is a gift, but rewards are earned by those who are born again. In fact, God would be unjust not to reward them for what they have earned:
Hebrews 6:10 – For God is not unjust so as to overlook your work and the love that you have shown for his name in serving the saints, as you still do.
If Calvinists are under grace and not under law, why do they need Jesus to keep the law for them? The only possible reason that they could need Jesus to keep the law for them is if they are still under law. This is why they find themselves at a one final judgment that is the “second death.” That is where they will be judged by a law that has “nothing to say” to the born again.
One can only surmise that when they triumphantly claim that they have no righteousness of their own, God will respond with something like…
“You were never born of me, and those born of me are righteous even as I am righteous. My Son died to end the law for condemnation so that you could obey the law in order to love me and your neighbors. You see me as a hard god that reaps where I have not sown, and now present to me the same gospel that I originally gave. You are a lazy wicked servant and confess that you have no love towards me or others. Now your fear of being righteous is your condemnation.”
Originally published November 22, 2015
” ‘I didn’t do it! Jesus did it through me!’ See how this works? You did it, but ONLY because it…was/is ‘God’s will.’ Let’s be honest; we talk like this all the time, and it is exactly why ’10 percent of the people do 90 percent of the work.’ But more importantly, it’s their gospel. Their sanctification paradigm defines their definition of the new birth.”
For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death.
Key to our discussion is how one interprets the word “law.” In the first model of change, “law” is a realm…like, “law of gravity.” I once heard the well-known evangelical Paul David Tripp say the following about Christians: we can’t overcome sin anymore than we can overcome hitting the ground by jumping out of a second story window (paraphrase). Now, Tripp said this at a major Southern Baptist seminary chapel session to the echoes of many “amen”s. This is by no means fringe stuff; in fact, the first model here is the most common.
Before we go further, let me emphasize the gravity of this issue, pun intended. Please, if you forget everything else, don’t forget this: a person’s view of Christian change is indicative of their gospel. That’s what the parable of the talents is about. We tend to think that justification and sanctification are separate, and indeed they are; yet, a person’s view of sanctification reveals their gospel.
So, in this first model, what is the salvation construct or the definition of the new birth? The new birth is defined by a mere ability to “see the kingdom.” The new birth is mere perception. The “Christian” now has the ability to see the Spirit realm and the sin realm. As the so-called saints see both realms in a greater and greater way, they experience an increasing level of joy. This is their definition of new birth which takes place many times over the course of their lives. The more they see their own sin and God’s holiness, the more gratitude they have for their original salvation. Joy, regardless of what is going on in the realms, is the goal. You can see how this looks and sounds spiritual.
But what changes? Only your ability to see, leading to a deeper and deeper joy. Physical change that is experienced is not really being done by you. How does that work? Let me share how this supposedly works according to say, Martin Luther, John Calvin, Jonathan Edwards, et al. The sin realm is passive and the Spirit realm is active. Let’s consider the physical realm, or sin realm. Let’s consider a 2x4x8 piece of lumber. You can see it, feel it, smell it, and if you would like, taste it as well. No problem here, the 2×4 is real. But, it is passive; that 2×4 sits there and does nothing until somebody picks it up. But you say: “Paul, your analogy breaks down here because the material workman is playing an active part; so, he is also active, and not just passive.” Not really. If you have read any of my wife’s stuff on the Puritans, you know that ideas precede all actions, and God is the creator of all ideas. So right, the workman picked up the 2×4, but only because of God’s will—God initiated the act through the action of “the first, or beginning idea (Edwards).”
Now listen, most Christians would write this stuff off as philosophical nonsense, but here is the problem: it’s how they function, and it’s how they talk. Want an example? “I didn’t do it! Jesus did it through me!” See how this works? You did it, but ONLY because it…was/is “God’s will.” Let’s be honest; we talk like this all the time, and it is exactly why “10 percent of the people do 90 percent of the work.” But more importantly, it’s their gospel. Their sanctification paradigm defines their definition of the new birth. Listen to what a Christian lady said to me about two weeks ago: “I want people seeing Jesus, not waist deep in theology.” She may not realize it, but what is she really advocating? What drives a statement like that?
Here is another variation, “yielding.” This is the second model, and we will get to the third one shortly. This proffers the idea that when we are “saved,” we are moved between the Spirit realm and the sin realm. Both put pressure on us, and at any given time we “yield” to one or the other. But again, the only reason we yield is because God gives us the will through the first idea. Let’s move on to the third model.
In this model, the “law” is not a realm, it’s the word of God. Both words in this verse for “law” are the same Greek word (nomos). By the way, the Greek word for “realm” is a totally different word (vasíleio). Let’s also define what we mean by “law.” When we use this word, we are simply speaking about the Bible, or Scripture—the words are used interchangeably. There are many, many examples of this, but one is Galatians 3:21-23. And while we are in Galatians 3, here is a related thought that will not be unpacked in this message, but is relevant and put forth for your pondering pleasure: if Jesus kept the law for us so that we can be justified, Jesus isn’t the only seed, the law is also a seed and a giver of life. It doesn’t matter who keeps the law, it can’t give life. We are justified by the new birth, not the law. This is Paul’s EXACT argument in Galatians 3. But what about Matthew 5:17, right? That’s what somebody is going to ask. Well, we aren’t going to unpack that either, but the answer is right here in Romans 8, and you can ponder that on your own time as well.
But here we are in Romans 8:2, faced with the consideration of two laws and what does this mean? There is only one Bible, right? Of course, but here is where I plug in the issue I often hear pastors complain about: passiveness in the church. Most pastors attribute it to “fear.” And what are they afraid of? They are afraid of condemnation because they don’t understand Romans 8:2 and the Spirit’s two uses of the law. They do not know the difference between under law and under grace in Romans 6:14. You see, the first part of Romans 8:2 is the first part of Romans 6:14 and also the second parts respectively.
Of course 10% of the people are doing 90% percent of the work because Jesus is doing the other 90%, and he would be doing 100% of the work if the 10% weren’t confused in a good way about sanctification. You see, Christians don’t work because they are afraid, and they are afraid because they are still under law. They fear that their motives for serving, somewhere deep, deep in their hearts is an attempt to justify themselves, and that would be works salvation. Therefore, by golly, if Jesus doesn’t tell them to do something, and thus signifying that it is actually him doing it, they must “wait on the Lord.” It sounds so pious, no? And of course, you can cite any number of Bible verses that would seem to support that.
And how is that working for us? But let me tell you what it is: it’s antithetical to “faith working through love”(Galatians 5:6). And what’s that? Here it is: “If you love me, keep my commandments.” Jesus did not say, “Love me by letting me fulfill the law through you so I can love myself.” I hate to be blunt, but if you didn’t do the love, but rather Jesus loved Himself through you—you didn’t do any love. Though this would seem evident, I direct you to what Paul wrote in Galatians right after 5:6… “You were running well, who hindered you from obeying the truth?” Any questions? If Christians do not understand the Spirit’s two uses of the law, they will not run well, but will rather partake in John Calvin’s Sabbath sanctification rest salvation which we are not going to unpack at this time.
So, what are these two laws? It’s pretty simple: for those under law (unsaved), the Spirit uses the law for one thing and one thing only, to condemn, and if they don’t repent, it will be used to judge them on the day of the white throne judgment. But, for those who give their life to Christ, they die with Christ literally (Romans 6), and are no longer under that law (Romans 7). Because they receive the baptism of the Holy Spirit, they not only die, but are literally resurrected to new creaturehood (Rom 6 also) and are under grace which means they serve the new law of the Spirit for purposes of love only. What is that law? It’s the same Bible, it’s also the “perfect law of liberty.” Why did James call it that? Because here is what you use it for: you use it to set people free to aggressively love with NO fear of condemnation. Loving Christians who understand the new birth understand that no loving act they do can effect their salvation because there is no law to judge them—all obedience is a pure act of love. In fact, the Bible says one act of love fulfills the whole law.
Christians who love aggressively without fear of condemnation show that they understand the true gospel because of what they understand about sanctification: Christ didn’t come to merely cover sin, he came to end it and free his literal brothers and sisters from its judgment… “there is NOW NO condemnation” for those who are in Christ because He came to END the law (Romans 10:4) of condemnation, and free His siblings to serve the law of love which they also love because they are born anew. Here is another nugget for pondering: our flesh, or body, or “members” are/is NOT inherently evil, but rather “weak.” The idea that our flesh is inherently evil is part and parcel with the first two models. This is why we still sin, but it is family sin, not sin that condemns us. For those who really believe and understand the gospel, the only motive is love. There is nothing else left but love.
Set people free to love without fear with the true gospel.
…Originally published December 13, 2013
“According to Calvin, fear of future judgment is one of the primary motivations for repentance in the Christians life:”
John Calvin was pure heretic. The present-day exaltation of him by the who’s who of evangelicals is an abomination before the Lord. For Calvin, the Christian life is lived out in a progression of justification; viz, justification is not a onetime event that is a finished work by God alone. The Christian life starts with repentance and faith, and that not only justifies us in the beginning, it must continue to justify us throughout the course of our life. “Progressive sanctification” is really progressive justification. The Christian life is not lived out as a result of our salvation; we must live in the progression of salvation and stay in its status through faith and repentance alone. We must keep ourselves saved by perpetual repentance. This is the “P” in TULIP, “perseverance of the saints.” No distinction is made between repentance unto salvation and repentance as a son of God. Calvin evokes all Scriptural calls to repentance for salvation as indicative of the Christian life. Calvin cites biblical salvation verses—as verses pertaining to the Christian life throughout the Calvin Institutes.
Furthermore, Calvin insisted that Christian repentance is motivated by fear, and repentance is active, while the results of repentance, a joyful rebirth experience, is the work of God. It is a perpetual revisiting of the gospel that saved us in order to keep ourselves saved. Our only work is repenting of sin while works imputed by God to our Christian life are only experienced, and not performed.
First, Calvin defines repentance in his Institutes. Keep in mind that he is not writing about original salvation, but the Christian life. This will be confirmed after this citation:
Certain learned men, who lived long before the present days and were desirous to speak simply and sincerely according to the rule of Scripture, held that repentance consists of two parts, mortification and quickening. By mortification they mean, grief of soul and terror, produced by a conviction of sin and a sense of the divine judgment. For when a man is brought to a true knowledge of sin, he begins truly to hate and abominate sin… By quickening they mean, the comfort which is produced by faith, as when a man prostrated by a consciousness of sin, and smitten with the fear of God, afterwards beholding his goodness, and the mercy, grace, and salvation obtained through Christ, looks up, begins to breathe, takes courage, and passes, as it were, from death unto life. I admit that these terms, when rightly interpreted, aptly enough express the power of repentance; only I cannot assent to their using the term quickening, for the joy which the soul feels after being calmed from perturbation and fear. It more properly means, that desire of pious and holy living which springs from the new birth; as if it were said, that the man dies to himself that he may begin to live unto God (CI 3.33).
We must now explain the third part of the definition, and show what is meant when we say that repentance consists of two parts—viz. the mortification of the flesh, and the quickening of the Spirit (CI 3.3.8).
And for how long do we partake in this perpetual repentance (mortification) and rebirth (vivification)?
This renewal, indeed, is not accomplished in a moment, a day, or a year, but by uninterrupted, sometimes even by slow progress God abolishes the remains of carnal corruption in his elect, cleanses them from pollution, and consecrates them as his temples, restoring all their inclinations to real purity, so that during their whole lives they may practice repentance, and know that death is the only termination to this warfare…It is not denied that there is room for improvement; but what I maintain is, that the nearer any one approaches in resemblance to God, the more does the image of God appear in him. That believers may attain to it, God assigns repentance as the goal towards which they must keep running [emphasis added] during the whole course of their lives (CI 3.3.9).
Though Calvin wrote of being transformed into the “image” of God, this is part and parcel with the passive and perpetual rebirth experience by the Christian. This does not denote a change or improvement in the Christian’s nature which would lessen the need for repentance. Obviously, if you look at the chart below, raising the trajectory of repentance makes the cross smaller, so repentance leading to real change is not in focus here. Calvin’s idea of transformation regards the birthing of realms which is experienced by the Christian through joy. Hence, the new birth is perpetual through the Christian’s life and is the result of perpetual repentance. We are to repent and dwell on our own depravity, and leave any quickenings or rebirth experiences to God:
He, however, who has emptied himself (cf. Phil. 2:7) through suffering no longer does works but knows that God works and does all things in him. For this reason, whether God does works or not, it is all the same to him. He neither boasts if he does good works, nor is he disturbed if God does not do good works through him. He knows that it is sufficient if he suffers and is brought low by the cross in order to be annihilated all the more. It is this that Christ says in John 3:7, »You must be born anew.« To be born anew, one must consequently first die and then be raised up with the Son of Man. To die, I say, means to feel death at hand (Martin Luther: Heidelberg Disputation, theses 24).
In obedience to God’s word we should fight to walk in the paths where he has promised his blessings. But when and how they come is God’s to decide, not ours. If they delay, we trust the wisdom of our Father’s timing, and we wait. In this way joy remains a gift, while we work patiently in the field of obedience and fight against the weeds and the crows and the rodents. Here is where joy will come. Here is where Christ will reveal himself (John 14:21). But that revelation and that joy will come when and how Christ chooses. It will be a gift… Heaven hangs on having the taste of joy in God. Therefore, it might not be so strange after all to think of fighting for this joy. Our eternal lives depend on it (John Piper: When I Don’t Desire God; p.43, p.34).
It is also important to note that in this construct, for the most part, repentance is something we focus on, and not something we necessarily try to do. The goal is to see our own depravity in a deeper and deeper way, and this results in a joyful rebirth experience that is totally out of our control. But yet, we must fight for this joy, or rebirth experience because “Our eternal lives depend on it.” Not only is this clearly works salvation, but it makes our eternal destiny ambiguous at best. Therefore…
Let us, therefore, embrace Christ, who is kindly offered to us, and comes forth to meet us: he will number us among his flock, and keep us within his fold. But anxiety arises as to our future state. For as Paul teaches, that those are called who were previously elected, so our Savior shows that many are called, but few chosen (Mt. 22:14). Nay, even Paul himself dissuades us from security, when he says, “Let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall,” (1 Cor. 10:12). And again, “Well, because of unbelief they were broken off, and thou standest by faith. Be not high-minded, but fear: for if God spared not the natural branches, take heed lest he also spare not thee,” (Rom. 11:20, 21). In fine, we are sufficiently taught by experience itself, that calling and faith are of little value without perseverance, which, however, is not the gift of all (CI 3.24.6).
There is danger on the way to salvation in heaven. We need ongoing protection after our conversion. Our security does not mean we are home free. There is a battle to be fought (John Piper: Bethlehem Baptist Church Minneapolis, Minnesota; The Elect Are Kept by the Power of God October 17, 1993).
According to Calvin, fear of future judgment is one of the primary motivations for repentance in the Christians life:
By mortification they mean, grief of soul and terror, produced by a conviction of sin and a sense of the divine judgment [sec.3]… it seems to me, that repentance may be not inappropriately defined thus: A real conversion of our life unto God, proceeding from sincere and serious fear of God; and consisting in the mortification of our flesh and the old man, and the quickening of the Spirit. In this sense are to be understood all those addresses in which the prophets first, and the apostles afterwards, exhorted the people of their time to repentance. The great object for which they labored was, to fill them with confusion for their sins and dread of the divine judgment, that they might fall down and humble themselves before him whom they had offended, and, with true repentance, retake themselves to the right path [sec.5]… The second part of our definition is, that repentance proceeds from a sincere fear of God. Before the mind of the sinner can be inclined to repentance, he must be aroused by the thought of divine judgment; but when once the thought that God will one day ascend his tribunal to take an account of all words and actions has taken possession of his mind, it will not allow him to rest, or have one moment’s peace, but will perpetually urge him to adopt a different plan of life, that he may be able to stand securely at that judgment-seat. Hence the Scripture, when exhorting to repentance, often introduces the subject of judgment, as in Jeremiah, “Lest my fury come forth like fire, and burn that none can quench it, because of the evil of your doings,” (Jer. 4:4)… The stern threatening which God employs are extorted from him by our depraved dispositions [sec.7] [from the CI 3.3.3-7].
Of course, this is all in egregious contradiction to the Scriptures; viz,
1John 4:18 – There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.
Calvin’s false gospel requires us to run a race of perpetual repentance driven by fear of judgment in order to keep ourselves saved. The new birth is not a onetime event known as regeneration, but is only an EXPERIENCE that follows the mortification of repentance. Calvin states that these quickenings that follow mortification are accompanied by joy and subjective manifestations of God’s image. Many are called, but not all have the gift of persevering in the cycle of mortification and vivification. Therefore, assurance of salvation is dubious at best.
Beside the fact that the apostle John wrote the book of 1John so that we can “know” that we are saved, Calvin’s gospel contradicts a mass of holy writ. This subjective gospel also adds a peculiar twist if you consider Calvin’s power of the keys; ie., whatever elders bind on earth will be bound in heaven. While the soteriology lends uncertainty to one’s eternal destiny, is assurance found more in having the elder’s approval? After all, if he states that you are saved, heaven will bind it.
“The two are completely separate; the law is left behind in the former and loved in the latter.”
Susan and I perceive constantly that most Christians don’t understand the difference between justification and sanctification. Said another way, they don’t understand the difference between law and grace. This is by design. Instead of outlawing the Bible like the Popes, the Reformers merely posited the Bible as a catechism that aped their orthodoxy derived from counsels and creeds. I won’t mention names, but prominent evangelical leaders have shared with me personally that they know the general populous of American Christians are theologically illiterate. And again, this is by design. And, most Christians in our day openly admit it, and in some cases are proud of it. The remainder admits they believe that the pastorate is an intermediary between them and what God wants us to understand.
There are a number of problems with this, but primarily, God thinks it’s a bad idea. The Bible is clearly written to Christians in general. And His word cannot be properly understood unless it is read in the context of justification/sanctification. Whatever your opinion of the American church, it is a product of parishioner illiteracy in regard to doctrine; that is certain and indisputable.
Though it takes a lot of study to see some things in simple form, the simple fact of Calvinism (and we are all Calvinists if we are Protestant) is that it makes “under” a verb and not what it is: a preposition. They could get away with this in medieval times because most people didn’t know the difference. In our day, we know the difference, but assume the pastorate has a set of metaphysical eyes given to them by God before the foundation of the world that we don’t have—so our eyes don’t even blink when their interpretations contradict the plain sense of Scripture.
As we have seen in our previous observations from the book of Romans, Christians are UNDER grace and were previously UNDER law. All people born into the world are born into it UNDER the law, and will be judged by it at the end of their lives if they don’t escape it. Christ was the only man ever born under the law that could live by it without sin and was therefore the only man ever born who could die for our sins. We escape the condemnation of the law by believing in what He did to make a way of escape for us. Calling on Christ to save us acknowledges that we all fall short of God’s glory and are therefore in danger of eternal separation from Him.
We are “under” grace, NOT “under” law:
Romans 6:14—For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.
The word for “under” here is hupo which is a primary preposition. Calvinism teaches that we are still under the law. This is the main reason that it is a false gospel. Now, they would vehemently deny this in the following way with red faces and veins popping out of their necks:
NONSENSE! We emphatically state constantly that no man is justified by the law unless he can keep it perfectly and we all know that no man can keep the law perfectly. We constantly cite James 2:10 which states that if we break the law at one point—we are guilty of breaking the whole law. HOW DARE YOU SLANDER US IN THIS WAY!!!
This argues the point by making “under” a verb (something we do or don’t do) rather than a position. Therefore, they are not arguing jurisdiction, they are arguing practice in regard to how we are justified. Position is the issue, not what we do; i.e., keeping the law or not keeping the law, or doing this/that in this way or the other way etc. Calvinists believe our position stays the same; therefore, what we do becomes critical. In fact, what we don’t do keeps us saved; e.g., “You don’t keep the law by keeping the law.”
There are four versions of “Christians” still being “under” the law, or under its jurisdiction. First, antinomianism which teaches that we are still under the law, but God cancelled our obligation to keep it because it promotes grace. Secondly, that we are still under the law, but the Holy Spirit helps us keep it so that we will pass the final judgment. Thirdly, that we are still under the law, but if we perform certain rituals within the church, by authority of the church, our sins are continually forgiven (perpetual pardon in the face of the law). Fourthly, we are still under the law, but Jesus keeps it for us while we continually contemplate His saving works in the Scriptures. This is the Reformed view. And of course—it’s no less a false gospel than the former three.
This is verified by their interpretation of Galatians 2:20—this exposes their heresy:
I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
We supposedly remain spiritually dead, which as they know is clearly synonymous with being under the law in Scripture. So, Galatians 2:20 is interpreted as being applicable to our Christian life. We don’t live in our Christian life, we are still spiritually dead, but the living Christ within us keeps the law for us so that the “ground of our justification will be Christ in the final judgment.” Calvinists believe that we are not under the law in regard to the idea that we don’t keep it in our Christian life to be justified, Christ keeps it for us. Hence, “under” is a verb issue rather than a position issue. What we do becomes critical, not where we are positionally. Therefore, Calvinism makes our Christian life (sanctification) by faith alone as a way to maintain our just standing for the final judgment. Only problem is, we are still fulfilling a requirement of the law in cooperation with Christ—this is the problem of salvation being a verb issue rather than a preposition issue. If the law no longer has jurisdiction over us FOR JUSTIFICATION, who keeps it or doesn’t keep it is irrelevant FOR JUSTIFICATION.
Then what is Paul talking about in Galatians 2:20? He is talking about justification; not sanctification, this should be evident. Consider the context:
Galatians 2:16—yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified.
Galatians 2:17—But if, in our endeavor to be justified in Christ, we too were found to be sinners, is Christ then a servant of sin? Certainly not!
Galatians 3:11—Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law, for “The righteous shall live by faith.”
Consider verse 21 which immediately follows 2:20:
I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose.
Why do Calvinists apply Galatians 2:20 to sanctification? Because what we do is the issue, not our position, so Christ must obey the law for us. To the contrary, we are justified because the old self that lived in the flesh died with Christ. And when it did, we also died to the law. So, in regard to justification, we can only be justified if the life we lived in the flesh is dead and no longer under the law. Being alive in the flesh equals: being under the law. Now, obviously, our mortal bodies are still alive in one sense in that we are walking around, but in reality the old self is dead and the power of sin and the law are broken. In that sense, we are dead, and justified via the fact that Christ was resurrected for our justification (Romans 4:25). Notice that Paul states that he is dead in regard to his life “in the flesh.” This doesn’t mean that we are also spiritually dead in sanctification. The context of Galatians 2:20 is justification. Hopefully, Romans 6:5-14 will clarify this for you:
5 For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. 6 We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. 7 For one who has died has been set free from sin. 8 Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. 9 We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. 10 For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. 11 So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.
12 Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. 13 Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness. 14 For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.
As we have noted before in our Romans study, being under the law comes part and parcel with being lost and under the power of sin which is provoked by the law. The flesh under the law is like throwing gasoline on a fire (Romans 7:8-11). But notice in Romans 6:5-14 that there is both death and life. This passage in Romans also adds “death” to being under the law and the bondage of sin. Galatians 2:20 only speaks of our death to the law and sin (“Apart from the law, sin lies dead”), not the life we have in sanctification. Romans 5-14 speaks to both because the context includes both sanctification and justification:
13 Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness. 14 For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.
We have been brought from death to life. The life we live in the flesh has had the power and dominion of sin under the law broken because we died with Christ. We are dead and Christ lives for our justification:
Romans 4:23—But the words “it was counted to him” were not written for his sake alone, 24 but for ours also. It will be counted to us who believe in him who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord, 25 who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification.
In regard to justification and this life we live in the flesh, we are dead, and more importantly, also dead to the law as well, and only Christ is alive, but that doesn’t pertain to sanctification as well. In sanctification, we are alive, and UNDER GRACE. In justification, the old self is dead and no longer under the law. Calvinists believe we remain under the law in sanctification, and being under the law is synonymous with still being spiritually dead. Therefore, we remain dead in sanctification and under the judgment of the law, so the law must be fulfilled for us.
Being under grace is synonymous with being born again, new creatures, informed by the law, not under it (see Galatians 2:19), and lovers of the truth. Obedience to the law is now our means of loving the Lord and showing the world that we love Him. The law is the full counsel of God in regard to family harmony and kingdom living. It informs us on how to be separate from the world. In a word: sanctification. The law in regard to judging our justification has NO jurisdiction over us. We are no longer under it.
The very fact that Calvinists propagate a total depravity of the saints in which bondage to sin is not broken clearly illustrates that the law is still a standard for our justification; we are still under its jurisdiction for our just standing. A cursory perusal of Reformed writings can produce a motherload of citations to establish this fact, but one from Reformed icon G. C. Berkouwer should suffice:
Bavinck too, wrote in connection with the regenerating work of the Spirit: “The regenerate man is no whit different in substance from what He was before his regeneration” (Faith and Sanctification p. 87).
Clearly, this can only mean one thing: the one that is “no whit different” must also remain under the law. His position hasn’t changed, so lest one attempt to be justified by the law, what is done in sanctification becomes paramount in eternal issues as opposed to it being a Divine family matter. The Reformed camp uses the book of Galatians to argue for this when the book actually addresses their specific error. They use the book of Galatians, as mentioned, particularly 2:20, to argue a supposed Pauline position that the Galatians were doing things in their sanctification that was affecting the status of their just standing. Again, the Reformed crowd makes what we do in sanctification the issue, not our position which biblically proposes that nothing done in sanctification can affect justification. The Reformed use of Galatians to argue this propagates a fusion of justification and sanctification which makes the law the standard for justification from salvation to glorification.
However, the book of Galatians is the antithesis of such as it shows a clear dichotomy between justification/sanctification and the application of the law in each. In justification: NO application. In sanctification: obedience. In regard to no law in justification, but the law informing our sanctification, consider Galatians 2:19:
For through the law I died to the law, so that I might live to God.
We have also noted in our Romans study:
But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it—
We are justified apart from the law, but we would not know anything about these issues if not informed by the “Law and the prophets.” Furthermore, after belaboring the point about their being no law in justification, in both Romans and Galatians Paul makes his point by asking “What saith the Scriptures?” (Romans 4:3 and Galatians 4:30). And the absolute classic point on this is Galatians 4:21:
Tell me, you who desire to be under the law, do you not listen to the law?
There is no law in justification, but the law informs our obedience in Sanctification. Scriptural examples are myriad, but consider Galatians 5:2-7:
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.
7 You were running well. Who hindered you from obeying the truth?
Verses 2 through 6 are about justification by faith alone apart from the law. Verse 7 concerns sanctification—running and obeying which we are free to do aggressively without fear of it affecting our justification. The two are completely separate; the law is left behind in the former and loved in the latter. I once heard a Reformed pastor fuming from the pulpit over a statement that he heard at a conference: “He said that the law leads us to Christ, and then Christ leads us back to Moses. THAT’S BLASPHEME!!!”
No it isn’t. When the law was increased through Moses, it had a dual purpose: to increase sin in order to show those under the law their need for salvation, and as can be ascertained by many other texts, for the saved to better glorify God:
Romans 5:20—The law was brought in so that the trespass might increase. But where sin increased, grace increased all the more,
Galatians 3:19—Why then the law? It was because of transgressions….