True or False?
- Jesus died for all of our past, present, and furture sins.
- Jesus obeyed the law perfectly so that His righteousness can be imputed to us.
- Christians are “sinners saved by grace”.
If you answered “True” to any of the above questions, you believe a false gospel.
But how can this be?
Let’s examine each of these statements one at a time.
Question 1: Jesus died for all of our past, present, and furture sins.
The Reformation gospel of Protestantism teaches that Jesus’ death on the cross and the shedding of His blood is an “atonement” or “covering”, not only for past sins, but for any sin a believer may commit in the future. According to this gospel, this “covering” is necessary so that when God looks on the believer, He doesn’t see sin, He sees the righteousness of Christ.
Here is why this is false:
The New Testament makes no reference anywhere of Jesus’ death being a “covering”.
The “atonement” is an Old Testament concept and refers to the Law’s function as a “guardian” until the “Promise” came. (Galatians 3:22-24) That Promise is Jesus Christ! When Jesus died, He ended the Law and with it, its ability to condemn. Believers are born of God; new creatures who are not “under law”. The apostle Paul taught that where there is no law there is no sin. (Romans 5:13) Since believers are no longer “under law”, they can no longer sin. There is no law to condemn them. Because the law is ended for believers, we no longer need a guardian. (Galatians 3:25)
Jesus died for your past sins only!
For the believer, there are no present or future sins. There is no condemnation for believers! (Romans 8:1)
Jesus obeyed the law perfectly so that His righteousness can be imputed to us.
The Reformation gospel of Protestantism teaches that the standard of righteousness is perfect law-keeping. According to this gospel, because of man’s metaphysical depravity he is unable to keep the Law. But because of Jesus’ perfect law-keeping, His righteousness is imputed to believers. Therefore, believers are not righteous as a state of being, they are simply “declared righteous” (forensic justification).
Here is why this is false:
The Bible teaches that righteousness is apart from the Law (Romans 3:21, 28). To say that believers are “declared righteous” by virtue of some vicarious imputation of Jesus’ righteousness is an attempt to make Law the standard for righteousness. This is not righteousness apart from the Law. Furthermore, the Bible never states that believers have the righteousness of Christ.
The standard for righteousness is the New Birth!
When a person believes on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, he is born again, literally “born from above”. When that happens, a believer inherits his very own righteousness from God because the old man who was “under law” has died, and in his place is a new creature who is the righteous offspring of the Father!
And since this new creature is born of the Father, he is not under law. And since he is not under law, he CANNOT sin (1 John 3:9), because where there is no law, there is no sin!
Christians are “sinners saved by grace”.
The Reformation gospel of Protestantism teaches that Christians are still sinners. Martin Luther referred to this as simul justus et peccator – “simultaneously saint and sinner.” According to this gospel, because Christians are still sinners, they are in need of perpetual forgiveness of sin. In other words, Christians are still metaphysically depraved.
Here is why this is false:
This statement is a contradiction. It is an impossible reality for man to exist in two different states at once. The Bible says that man is either “under law” OR “under grace”. “Under law” is the Biblical definition of an unsaved person. A person who is “under law” is under condemnation. Only those who are “under law” are sinners. So to say that a Christian is a sinner means to consider him still “under law”. The Protestant gospel makes Christians no different than the unregenerate.
Such a statement is a patent denial of the reality of the New Birth. The New Birth is an existential change in a person’s state of being. A believer is literally reborn as the righteous offspring of the Father. He is no longer a “sinner” because the law is ended for him. Where there is no law there is no sin.
Christians are righteous children of the Heavenly Father!
The New Birth has freed us from sin. It no longer has any power over us.
What Is the True Gospel?
Man does NOT have a sin problem.
That is a scandalous statement and one that contradicts everything you have probably heard in church your whole life. It would seem to be a logical conclusion that the Bible teaches that man’s problem is sin, but let us reconsider two primary assumptions:
- Does man indeed have a problem?
- Is that problem sin?
The Bible teaches that there are only two kinds of people in this world; those who are “under law” and those who are “under grace”. To be “under law” means to be subject to the Law’s condemnation, which is death, and ultimately the Lake of Fire. Every person ever born into this word is “under law” and is therefore condemned because at some point in his life he has broken the Law in one way or another.
Even if a person has no knowledge of God’s Law from scripture, the Bible tells us that every man has the Law of God written on his heart, which is the conscience (Romans 2:14-15). The conscience is what gives man knowledge of right and wrong. One day, every person “under law” will be judged by God according to the Law, whether that be God’s law as recorded in scripture or by his own conscience. So clearly, man does indeed have a problem.
What about Sin?
The Bible describes Sin as an entity which seeks to wield control over others. (Genesis 4:7) Sin’s desire for control is manifest in man’s subsequent desire to wield control over others. Ironically, Sin obtains its power of control over others through the Law (1 Corinthians 15:56). Sin uses the Law to control others by provoking man to break the Law through desires. Once there is a law that governs some behavior, Sin uses that same law to provoke a desire to rebel against what that law requires (Romans 7:7-8).
Without the Law, Sin has no power. Therefore, where there is no Law, there is no Sin. Any person who is “under law” is not only provoked by Sin to break the Law, but he is condemned if he does.
So the problem then is not with Sin, rather it is the reality that any man “under law” is under condemnation. The solution then is that man needs a way to get out from under the Law’s condemnation. Man needs a new relationship to the law.
Man’s New Relationship to the Law
When the Philippian jailer asked Paul and Silas how to be saved, their response was, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved…” Belief means faith. Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. A person is born again (literally “born from above”) when he hears about Jesus and believes what he hears. Hearing implies a cognitive process of allowing oneself to be persuaded by a reasonable argument. So we understand then that “faith” is more than just an assenting to the facts, but it has to do with being thoroughly convinced in your mind that something is true.
God made it possible for man to get out from under the Law’s condemnation through the New Birth. When a person believes in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, the “old man” who was “under law” dies. Laws have no jurisdiction over dead people. Dead people cannot be condemned.
When the “old man” dies, a new creature is reborn in his place. This new creature is born of God. He is the literal offspring of the Father. This new creature is not born “under law”. The Law has no jurisdiction over him. This means the Law CANNOT condemn him. And since there is no Law to condemn this born again new creature, there is no Sin. The one who is born of God CANNOT sin!
“Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God.” ~ 1 John 3:9
Notice, the apostle John does not say the believer “won’t sin” or “chooses not to sin”. He says he CANNOT sin. He is not ABLE to sin. Why is the one who is born again not able sin? Because sin has to do with Law. You cannot condemn one of sin when there is no Law under which to accuse someone. Think about it; if there was no 55 mph speed limit on the highway, and you were driving 56, would a patrol officer be able to write you a citation for speeding? Of course not. Why not? What law could he use of which to accuse you? There would be none. So it is with the one who is born again. The believer is no longer “under law,” therefore there is no Law than can be used to condemn. The believer has a new relationship to the Law.
Since the Law can no longer condemn, the Law’s original intent can now be realized: to show love to God and to others!
This is why believers strive to obey. It is not a means to merit some right standing with God. The believer is already righteous because he is God’s offspring. The believer obeys because he wants to show love to God and love to others. Love is the fulfillment of the Law.In fact, the Bible teaches that those who love God have a natural love for the Law as well.
“O how love I thy law! it is my meditation all the day.” ~ Psalm 119:97
“I hate vain thoughts: but thy law do I love.” ~ Psalm 119:113
“I hate and abhor lying: but thy law do I love.” ~ Psalm 119:163
“Great peace have they which love thy law: and nothing shall offend them.” ~ Psalm 119:165
Even if there was no speed limit on the highway, would you still drive as fast as you possibly wanted? Hopefully not, because you would recognize the inherent danger, not only to yourself by driving recklessly, but also to the other drivers on the road. You would drive in such a way as to preserve your own life and the lives of others. You would be functioning according to the Law of Love.
“For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death.”~ Romans 8:2
This new relationship to the Law through the New Birth is offered as a free gift to any who believe on Jesus’ death on the cross for the forgiveness of their sins.
How does Jesus’ death on the cross forgive sin?
In Old Testament times, when God codified the Law for Israel with Moses, the Law took Old Testament saints into protective custody. During this time, believers were preserved from condemnation upon their death because sin was imputed to the Law. This was the “covering” aspect of the Law, and the ceremonial observation of the “Day of Atonement” was a recognition of Israel being under the Law’s protective custody. (Galatians 3:22-24)
This protective custody was in effect up until the time of Jesus’ death on the cross. Jesus’ death was the fulfillment of a promise made to Abraham. When Jesus died, He ended the need for the Law’s protective custody. When the Law ended, all sins that had been imputed to the Law were taken away with it.
The picture of the “scapegoat” in Leviticus 16:21-22 describes what Jesus’ death on the cross accomplishes. The priest would lay his hands upon a live goat, a symbol of sins being imputed to the Law. That goat would then be delivered into the hands of a strong man who take that goat into the wilderness and release it. Jesus is that “strong man” who took away the sins imputed to the “scapegoat” of the Law.
“…Behold the Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world.” ~ John 1:29
In essence, Jesus is both the “Lamb” and the “strong man”. He is the Testator of the Old Covenant, the One of whom the Law speaks, the One to whom sin is imputed. The death of the Testator brings an end (fulfillment) to that covenant, thereby taking with Him all sins which had been imputed to Him.
Since the Promise of Christ has come, there is no longer a need for a guardian. The “covering” aspect of the Law is no longer needed. (Galatians 3:25-26) This is true for every person who believes in Jesus Christ for salvation. The New Birth puts the old man to death. All those past sins are forgiven. They were taken away when the Law was ended for him upon his New Birth. There is no ongoing need of forgiveness for “present” or “future” sins because the believer CANNOT sin. There is no Law to condemn him, therefore there is no sin.
Why do Christians still “sin”?
Man is and always will be a free-will agent. His behaviors are governed by choices that are the logical conclusions of his assumptions. Man was created by God to be a rational, thinking, creature. It is how man is made is God’s image. In this way, man is good. To say that man is “good” means to be good existentially, or that which is intrinsic to the nature of his existence. It means man has the capacity to act in accordance to the purpose for which he was created: to think, to reason, to live, to BE.
That a man may make a choice to do evil does not mean that he IS evil. Conversely, that man may make a choice to good is not what MAKES him good. Man’s ability to even make a choice at all is what makes him “good”. He is functioning according to how God designed him to be. Do not misunderstand – “goodness” should not be conflated with “righteousness”.
It is not a man’s choosing to do evil deeds (or lack of good deeds) which condemns him, no more than it is a believer’s choosing to do good deeds (or lack of evil deeds) which saves him. Unregenerate man is condemned because he is “under law”. A believer is saved because he is born again and NOT “under law”. Therefore, because one who is born again is not “under law”, there is no such thing as “sin” for the believer.
Nevertheless, this does not preclude the fact that a believer can still choose to not obey the Law. At the same time, this does not give a believer license to ignore the Law. While failure to obey the Law no longer condemns the believer, it is still a failure to show love. Children of the Heavenly Father ought to behave in a manner that is consistent with their righteous nature.
The Bible says the flesh is “weak”. Weakness does not mean evil. The apostle Paul said that the treasure of our righteous new creature-hood is contained in “clay pots”. So even though a believer is righteous, Sin still seeks to control him through the weakness of his flesh. And because man is a moral agent capable of free-will decisions, a believer can still choose to give in to fleshly desires provoked by Sin. But it is important to understand the distinction; such an action does not condemn! It is a failure to show love.
Perfection is not the issue here. This is why it is so important to understand that righteousness has nothing to do with law-keeping. There is a reason Paul and the other apostles bent over backwards to make this case throughout the New Testament. Believers are righteous because they have been born again and are no longer “under law”. Whether or not a believer obeys the law “perfectly” is irrelevant because there is no more condemnation for those who are in Christ (Romans 8:1)
This reality is incredibly freeing, because now a believer can aggressively pursue love without fear!
“There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear:” ~ 1 John 4:18
A believer no longer has to worry about what laws he has kept or hasn’t kept because the threat of condemnation has been removed. That possibility is no longer hanging over his head like some impending doom. Now he is free to focus on just loving God and loving others, and the way he shows love is by striving to obey the Law.
“Master, which is the great commandment in the law? Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” ~ Matthew 22:36-40
“Owe no man any thing, but to love one another: for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law.” ~ Romans 13:8
“For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this; Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.” ~ Galatians 5:14
“If ye love me, keep my commandments.” ~ John 14:15
A Misunderstanding of the Law
During Jesus’ earthly ministry, the Jewish religious leaders had come to believe that keeping the statutes in the Torah was what made a person righteous. But because they made the assumption that man was metaphysically evil, this assumption meant that man was disqualified from being able to understand the Law’s requirements. This is turn meant that if man could not understand the Law then man could not keep the Law.
The Jewish leaders believed it was necessary for some mediator to dictate to man the requirements necessary for righteousness. To accomplish this, they crafted their own interpretation of the Torah for man to follow. Since man could not understand the Law, he could obtain righteousness by following the interpretations of the Jewish leaders. This interpretation is what was known as their “traditions” or “orthodoxy”.
There are a number of problems with this, not the least of which is that the Bible teaches that righteousness is apart from the Law. As already mentioned, the apostles went to great lengths to make this point clear. For the Jewish religious leaders to hold this perspective, it was indicative of their egregious misunderstanding of the Law’s purpose. The Law was never intended to be for the purpose of obtaining a righteous standing with God.
“I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain.”~ Galatians 2:21
“Is the law then against the promises of God? God forbid: for if there had been a law given which could have given life, verily righteousness should have been by the law.” ~ Galatians 3:21
“Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin.” ~ Romans 3:20
“Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.” ~ Galatians 2:16
The Law is the means by which man shows love to God and others, but making the Law the standard for righteousness actually circumvents love. How does this happen?
The Jewish religious leaders replaced the Law with their orthodoxy. The people were taught that since they could not keep the Law, it was pointless to even try. By replacing the Law with orthodoxy, the Jewish leaders effectively took away man’s only means of showing love to God and others. Rather than striving to show love to God through obedience, they became preoccupied with adhering to Jewish orthodoxy. Their lives were no longer characterized by love but fear.
When the standard for righteousness is perfect law-keeping, fear is always the result. Fear is the result of condemnation. Condemnation comes from being “under law”. Any system that makes Law the standard for righteousness keeps man “under law”. The Jewish system of perfect law-keeping by adherence to orthodoxy kept the people “under law” and took away their means of showing love.
This is exactly what Jesus accused the Pharisees of doing.
“… Thus have ye made the commandment of God of none effect by your tradition [orthodoxy].” ~ Matthew 15:6
“And he said unto them, ‘Full well ye reject the commandment of God, that ye may keep your own tradition [orthodoxy].’” ~ Mark 7:9
“Making the word of God of none effect through your tradition [orthodoxy], which ye have delivered: and many such like things do ye.” ~ Mark 7:13
“And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold.” ~ Matthew 24:12
The word translated “iniquity” in Matthew 24:12 is the Greek word ανομια (anomia). It literally means “no law”. This is the Biblical definition of antinomianism. It means to take away the law. Jesus said Himself that taking away the Law would result in love growing cold. And why wouldn’t it? If you take away the Law, you take away the only means man has to show love to God and others.
Jesus spoke these words as a prophesy, but the end result of this logical progression of thought is always the same: taking away the Law results in a lack of love and lives characterized by fear. Be sure to understand the distinction. The Jewish religious leaders misunderstood the Law’s purpose. They thought it was for the purpose of meriting righteousness. But righteousness is apart from the Law. Righteousness comes through the New Birth. The Law is used as a means to show love to God and others.
What was true of first century Judaism is also true of every religion that ever existed or still exists today: it makes some form of law-keeping as the standard for righteousness. Every religion begins with the same root assumption: that man is metaphysically evil, making him disqualified from being able to understand truth. Since he cannot understand truth he must have truth interpreted for him. Religious orthodoxy is nothing more than truth repackaged for mass consumption. It is therefore adherence to this interpretation of truth that brings righteousness.
Protestantism is no different! But Protestantism’s version of orthodoxy is obfuscated under the pretense of “faith alone”. On the one hand, it will acknowledge that righteousness is apart from the Law; that man does not merit righteousness by keeping the Law. Then on the other hand, it will insist that Jesus keeps the law for us. In other words, since man cannot keep the Law, Jesus must do it instead.
How is it proposed that man is able to benefit from this so-called perfect law-keeping of Jesus? By living by “faith alone”. You see, if at any time you find that you are performing a work of obedience to the Law “in your own efforts”, you are attempting to rely on your own strength to merit salvation instead of “resting” in Christ to do the work for you. (Notice that the assumed motivation is to merit salvation instead of showing love.)
It should be blatantly obvious that regardless WHO is keeping the law, even if it is Jesus keeping the Law in our stead, it is still a righteousness that is based on perfect law-keeping. This is NOT a righteousness apart from the Law. Moreover, to rely on Jesus doing the works of the Law for us so that His righteousness can be imputed to us is nothing more than works-based salvation.
For over 500 years, Protestantism has been perpetrating a fraud and a contradiction of epic proportions! Like every other religion that has come down the pike since the beginning of time, Protestantism is based on a faulty assumption that results in a willful misunderstanding of the Law. It is a religion of antinomianism that circumvents a believer’s ability to show love through obedience. It makes obedience nothing more than a subjective experience that Christ supposedly performs through the believer. It defies the believer’s natural inclination to love God’s Law. It defines righteousness as perfect law-keeping. This unwittingly puts the believer right back “under law”, the Biblical definition of an unsaved person. Protestantism views believers no differently than the unregenerate.
Most importantly, the false gospel of Protestantism robs the believer of assurance. The Christian life becomes one of constant introspection of whether one is living by “faith alone” or not. Protestantism’s single perspective on the Law means the believer is in constant fear that he might come under condemnation. He is not free to love others. He is not free to love his Heavenly Father. He can never know for sure if he really is saved.
Dear Christian brother, know this. The Bible says that we CAN know for sure that we are saved. When we understand that our righteousness comes by virtue of the fact that we are the literal offspring of the Father, everything becomes so simple. It doesn’t matter if we fail. Perfection is not the point. There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus! Believers are no longer “under law”. Where there is no law there is no sin. This is a wonderful reality!
This is the Gospel news that believers need to bring to a world that needs to be reconciled to God.
The world is full of unsaved people who do very good deeds. Whether he realizes it or not, every time man shows love to another, he is fulfilling the Law. It does not matter if the person is saved or not. Unsaved man has the ability to show love to others just as much as one who is saved. But it is not that expression of love that saves. It is not a fulfilling of the Law that saves. For even though an unsaved man might obey the Law of Love, he is still condemned because he is still “under law”. That is the whole point.
Man does not have a “sin problem”. He has a relationship to the Law problem. This is why Jesus said to Nicodemus, “Ye must be born again.” The exhortation to you, dear brother in Christ, is this: Go out this day and show forth your love to God and others. You are God’s righteous child. Pursue obedience and fulfill the Law of Love!
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As a former Reformed pastor, viz, a Protestant, viz, a Calvinist, viz, a Lutheran, viz, an Augustinian, and all other roots of the poisonous tree that make up the Institutional church, I had no comfort for those who suffered the loss of their unborn and infants. I usually let the more expert pastors speak in those situations; you know, the ones with the seminary degrees.
“Is my baby in heaven? ‘We don’t know, but we trust that God is righteous in all that He does.’”
“Why did God allow this to happen? ‘We don’t know, but perhaps to save the child from some worse death.’” That is, something worse than the toddler getting run over in the driveway by their best friend.
Have you ever noticed? Despite trillions of dollars invested in Protestant education, and over 500 years to get it right, Protestants don’t know a lot of stuff. Remember, Jay Adams’ biblical counseling construct introduced in 1970 was considered to be revolutionary. One well-known evangelical even asked, “Could the Bible really be this practical?” Think about it: 1970. That’s how many years after the supposed brilliance of the Reformation?
Not long after 1970, an Adventist theologian named Robert Brinsmead was invited to the hallowed halls of Westminster seminary to inform the who’s who of Protestantism in regard to what a Protestant really is. Now go to Westminster and pay $80,000 for a degree; ya, do that, brilliant. They didn’t even know what the true Protestant gospel was until Brinsmead came along, and they are the experts? Really? So, don’t give me any of that crap about “historical precedent.”
Shortly thereafter, Brinsmead’s revelation was repackaged into things like the Sonship Discipleship Bible Study program and “second generation biblical counseling.” The latter was hatched by Dr. David Powlison who was mentored by another Westminster hack, Dr. John “Jack” Miller. This was the beginning of the New Calvinist movement and launched a Calvinist theological civil war that ended up being won by the New Calvinists who now control Protestantism for the most part. The only holdouts are small Baptist churches that pride themselves on theological ignorance which by the way is a Lutheran Gnostic concept.
But of course, Baptists put a hillbilly twist on that: “We don’t know nuttin about none of that-thar thee-ology stuff. All you do is talk in them 50-cent thee-o-logical words.” Well, at least they know they are ignorant and profess it openly.
Anyway, don’t miss the point: over 500 years after the Reformation Calvinist scholars were arguing about what the true Protestant gospel is. New Calvinism has taken over the evangelical church because no one could ultimately deny that Brinsmead was right. In a presentation at Dr. John Piper’s church, David Powlison stated openly that the difference between first generation biblical counseling and second generation biblical counseling is two different gospels. You do the math. The church is supporting confused men who can’t even agree on what the gospel is.
By the way; babies, born or unborn, go to heaven because they are not under the law. They are born under the law, but they are not susceptible to its condemnation until their consciences are developed. It’s not rocket science, unless your mind is warped with “the gospel of sovereignty.” Don’t bother looking for that in your concordance; it’s not there.
Other than learning real truth from being faithful Bereans, live events teach us well. This week, between our annual TANC conference and the death of my 3rd grandson, I learned a lot more about death. Already in heaven his body was released from what was the comfort of his mother’s womb. His name is now Isaiah, and his short life has taught me much.
The procedure was performed at Kettering hospital in Dayton, Ohio named after Charles F. Kettering the inventor. John Immel spoke of him during this year’s conference. One would do well to read about this man’s astounding life. It is evident at Kettering that they strive to live up to the name for which their facility is named. That’s a very high calling.
But why do we do what we do? Although Isaiah only lived 13 weeks and made no appearance outside of his mother’s womb, Kettering supplies numerous services to honor the life of the unborn. They have a team that focuses on the stillborn exclusively. When Isaiah’s body was delivered, he was placed in a little knit baby crib made by volunteers. Kettering also has a memorial garden for the unborn where ceremonies are held.
Why am I a part of the medical profession where billions of dollars are spent to serve the severely disabled? After all, what can they contribute to others? Why are there so many cemeteries? Wouldn’t it just be easier and cheaper to cremate everybody? For some reason, cemeteries often have “memory” in their names, but I have learned this week from Isaiah that it is not about memory at all. It is rather about defending life and honoring it.
Those who we know and love cannot be forgotten. They become a part of our lives and being. When we lose family and friends, truly the part of our lives they contributed to is lost for the time being. We never completely get over any loss in this lifetime. With each new day we regain more of our happiness and begin functioning according to a new normal of wellbeing. Our mind will find balance, but not because we forget anything. Loss is part of overall homeostasis. There will never be complete closure until the final enemy of God is defeated: death. Christ defeated sin on the cross by ending the law, sickness will be defeated in the Millennial Kingdom, and death will be completely defeated at the new heaven and new earth.
We do what we do because we stand for life. That’s why I no longer think cremation is ok, because of what Isaiah taught me this week. Something is defective in our thinking when dad is sitting on a bookshelf with the family pets. Pets are important, but our lives are worth more than sparrows according to Christ. This is why some cultures have cemeteries, and others just have mass graves. But it’s not about memory, it’s about honoring life—nobody forgets the part of them that is gone.
May I be frank? This is why my knowledge of the Protestant Reformation has caused me to set my face completely against it. If you have followed my teachings on the founding documents of the Protestant Reformation, you know that it is an ideology of zero-sum-life and a doctrine of death. Martin Luther and Charles F. Kettering represent the antithesis of two ideologies in regard to state of being. One loved life so much that he only wanted to know about problems so he could solve them to make life better; the other cursed life and despised anything that improved the quality of it, calling such improvements “the glory of man story” as opposed to the “cross story.” When Christians come to me and Susan for counseling via the electric starter invented by Charles Kettering and end up lecturing us about how spiritual wellbeing only comes from suffering, where does this come from? It comes from the root of the tree. No matter how old a tree is, the fruit is determined by the roots.
We make much ado about the dead because they once lived. We don’t honor their memory—we honor their life. Their memory charges us that when times are good they would have us rejoice, but when times are bad, we are to consider because the creator of life is watching. In this way they speak from the grave.
Sin hates life and brought death. And its advocates despise the idea that man can choose life because they believe he has no right to it. As I walked through the hallways of Kettering Medical Center yesterday I thought about Martin Luther. I thought about how much he would hate that place if he were here today. I thought about how he would rail against it as the “glory of Charles Kettering story” and not the “cross of suffering story.” How he would despise the comfort my daughter received there and its subsequent circumvention of real knowledge in his Book of Concord. This is a vile misrepresentation of the true gospel of life.
But Isaiah and his horde speak of a better testimony…one of life and the upholding of it.
Originally published February 27, 2015
“No false religion teaches that you earn your justification by perfect law-keeping—there is always a system that prescribes sanctified do’s and don’ts that in turn fulfill the law for you, otherwise known as ‘the traditions of men.’”
What do you believe about salvation? Your Christian life will tell you. Therefore, the parable of the talents in Matthew 25:14-30 should not confuse us. The “wicked” servant was not cast into outer darkness because he didn’t put his talents to work, but rather what he thought it meant to be a servant. In other words, in order to be saved, you need to know what a Christian is. That should be fairly evident.
Do you live your Christian life by “faith alone”? That is a statement in regard to what you believe about salvation, or what happened to justify you; viz, justification.
This is not complicated. Don’t complain that I am making your touchy-feely “simple” gospel a theological treatise. I am sure you concur that some Bible words have to be understood in order to be saved. The Bible splits humanity into two categories: saved and unsaved; i.e., “under law” or “under grace” (Romans 6:14).
“Under law” is the biblical nomenclature for the unregenerate lost. Under law means that sin rules you. Not in a plenary sense, because man’s conscience and fear of punishment from civilian law restrains people. Yet, they are under the condemnation of God’s law and every violation is documented. Unless they are saved, they will be judged according to their works in the final judgment. Though some who followed their conscience more than others will receive a lesser condemnation, it is still eternal separation from God. They are under law, and enslaved to sin. The last judgment DOES NOT determine justification; it ONLY determines the degree of eternal condemnation. It doesn’t determine justification; it only determines the wages of sin.
Moreover, sin uses the condemnation of the law to provoke people to sin. Primarily, sin uses desires to tempt people, but sin’s incentive is the law because it condemns. Sin lives for the purpose of condemning people, and uses desire to get people to sin against God’s law. This leads to present and eternal death. Sin’s desire is to bring death. When the Bible speaks of “the desires of the flesh” it is referring to instances when the flesh is serving the desires of sin.
The flesh can also be used to serve the desires of the Spirit (Romans 12:1). The flesh has NO desires; it is used by the dweller for good or evil purposes. We will either use our bodies to serve the desires of sin or the desires of the Spirit. Of course, people have their own desires, but unfortunately, the unregenerate are guided by the desires of sin. They assume sinful desires are their own desire which is true. In contrast, sinful desires are not part and parcel with the regenerate soul.
Said another way: among the lost, the desires of sin are very much the same desires possessed by the individual who are indifferent to the law of God. A desire for God’s law is absent while their life is continually building a death and condemnation dividend. Some of that dividend is paid in this life until the full wages of death are paid at the final judgment.
Under grace is not void of law. The law (same as “Scripture” or same as “Bible”) has a different relationship to the saved, or those under grace. A literal baptism of the Holy Spirit takes place, as symbolized in water baptism, which puts to death the old person under law and resurrects the new person under grace. The saved person is now a new creature created by the Spirit of God. The person under grace is literally born of God—he/she is God’s literal offspring.
Therefore, the old person is no longer under the condemnation of the law in the same way a dead person cannot be brought under indictment for a crime. Consequently, the motivation for sin is gone. The power of sin is the law’s condemnation that leads to death (1Corintians 15:56, 57). In addition, the person under grace has been given a new heart that loves God’s law and its way of life. The book that could only bring death is now a book that brings life. Either way, it is the Spirit’s law; He uses it to condemn those that are under it, or uses it to sanctify those who are under grace (John 17:17).
THEREFORE, how you see the law determines what you believe about salvation. If you believe that you can somehow obey the law in a way that unwittingly seeks to be justified by law-keeping, you are still under law. If you believe justification is defined by perfect law-keeping, you are still under law. Those who believe this also believe they need a salvation system that filters all their works into a category of faith alone. The Christian life is categorized or departmentalized into works that attempt to be counted for justification and faith alone works that qualify as “living by faith alone.” Do not miss the point that this also includes abstaining from certain things that aren’t necessarily sin as defined by the Bible.
Yes, hypothetically, a person would need to keep the law perfectly to be justified by the law, but that doesn’t make perfect law-keeping the standard for righteousness. If that were the case, the law is a co-life-giver with the Holy Spirit, and a death would not be necessary. We are justified APART from the law—law has NO part in justification. The Bible defines justification, but it’s not a standard of justification (Rom 3:21, Gal 2:19, 4:21). Law-keeping by anyone does not justify.
If one is trusting in a system that fulfills the law for justification, particularly if it calls for not doing something in order that the law is fulfilled in our place, that is works salvation through some kind of intentionality whether passive or active. These kinds of systems are always indicative of being under law rather than under grace. One such system that has several variances calls for doing certain things or not doing certain things on the Sabbath which can be Saturday or Sunday depending on the stripe of system. If you follow the system on the Sabbath, all works done by you during the week are considered to be by faith alone.
In Reformed theology, particularly authentic Calvinism, contemplation on your sin leading to a return to the same gospel that saved you imputes the perfect law-keeping of Christ to your life. Notice that a fulfillment of the law is required to keep you saved, but we do faith alone works in order that Christ’s perfect law-keeping is imputed to our account. The problem here is that a fulfillment of the so-called “righteous demands of the law” is the standard for justification. Hence, clearly, this keeps so-called “Christians” UNDER LAW. In addition, a so-called faith alone work is still a work.
Not so with under grace. We are now free to follow our new desire to obey the law out of love without fear of condemnation. The law is the standard for love, not justification. In all of the aforementioned systems of sanctified justification by works, faith doesn’t work (or love) because it can’t lest salvation be lost. In the Christian life (sanctification) faith works because it can for the sake of love without condemnation (Galatians 5:6).
Knowing that justification is a settled issue that has nothing to do with the law anyway, the true Christian only sees law-keeping as an opportunity to love. Christians not only have the anthropologic law of conscience written on the heart, the new birth writes the Bible there as well. In other words, they love the law. Obviously, those who must focus on faith alone works in order to remain justified cannot focus on aggressive obedience to the law that defines love.
This is exactly what the books of James and 1John are about. Faith is not afraid to work because there is no condemnation. Faith without works is dead, “being alone” (James 2:17 KJV).
Are you in a religious system that propagates faith “alone” in the Christian life? Your faith is not only dead, it speaks to what you believe about justification. You believe justification has a progressive aspect and is not completely finished. Secondly, you believe the law has a stake in justification. Thirdly, your system categorizes works as faith alone works (an oxymoron of sorts) or works that are unfiltered in some way and therefore are efforts to “self-justify.”
If you believe the right gospel, you know that it is impossible to unwittingly partake in an endeavor to justify yourself. It’s a metaphysical impossibility—it’s not in the realm of reality. No false religion teaches that you earn your justification by perfect law-keeping—there is always a system that prescribes sanctified do’s and don’ts that in turn fulfill the law for you, otherwise known as “the traditions of men.”
It’s the fallacy of faith alone works for justification. But any work for justification is justification by works whether doing nothing (abstinence is still doing something), something passive (contemplationism or prayer is also a work) or anything active.
Law and justification are mutually exclusive, and true faith is “faith working through love” (Galatians 5:6). Faith works because there is no fear in love (1John 4:18). Don’t be like the servant who was afraid and hid his talents in the ground. Christ said it best:
“If you love me, keep my commandments.”
Galatians: Protestantism is No New Thing Under the Sun; Law-Based Justification is Functioning Antinomianism
The law was NEVER the standard for righteousness, but it is the standard for love and the work of faith.
Protestantism is the Galatian problem all over again. In Paul’s letter to the Galatians he attacks law-based justification, but functioning antinomianism has a slick way of dissing the law while applauding it. On the one hand the law is applauded as the standard for righteousness; ie., justification, but on the other hand some sort of substitute for the law fulfills it. This is anti-law while presaging to applaud it. And by the way, antinomianism is really anti-love.
Hence, while Protestants proudly proclaim themselves people of the book, evil and tyranny reins in the church. Those who show themselves reasonably equitable are really just good Germans. Why is this? Answer: law-based justification. Protestants are perhaps the wiliest in this falsehood because the banner over them is “justification by faith.” While proclaiming justification by faith alone apart from the law, it is really justification by the law. The key here is that like all law-based religions before it, Protestantism makes the law justification’s standard.
As a result, that standard must be met by some sort of substitutional ritual that fulfills the law FOR the “believer.” This actually leads to a “relaxing” of the law because we can’t fulfill its…watch for it….”righteous demands.” Why strive to obey the law when it demands perfection? In fact, Martin Luther and John Calvin both stated that any little falling short makes one guilty of violating every point of the law. Will this lead to a “relaxing” of the law which was the very thing that Christ accused the Pharisees of? Of course it will. As the institutional Protestant church rediscovers its true roots more and more will antinomianism increase? Of course it will. Is that the very thing we are witnessing in our day? Absolutely.
With the Judaizes, the substitute for functioning righteousness was a litany of manmade traditions including the recognition of days and circumcision:
Galatians 4:9,10,11 – But now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how can you turn back again to the weak and worthless elementary principles of the world, whose slaves you want to be once more? You observe days and months and seasons and years! I am afraid I may have labored over you in vain.
Again, Protestants are really slick at this game. One of their rituals is “living by faith alone.” Instead of salvation being a onetime act that makes us righteous, our salvation is maintained by ritual faith alone works. This is the sort of thing James addressed in his epistle and why Martin Luther had open contempt for that particular New Testament letter.
In Protestantism, like all law-based false gospels, the law is the standard. Righteousness is defined by perfect law-keeping coupled with a substitute for fulfilling the law. Let me repeat that:
In Protestantism, like all law-based false gospels, the law is the standard. Righteousness is defined by perfect law-keeping coupled with a substitute for fulfilling the law.
With the Judaizes it was circumcision et al, with Protestantism it is the manmade tradition of “double imputation.” What’s that? It is the idea that Jesus kept/keeps/fulfills the law for us. If we keep the law we will fall short of its “perfect demands” and will be guilty of violating the whole standard for righteousness. The very verse they use to prove this makes the opposite point (James 2:10) as we shall see further along. But, this very error can be addressed using Paul’s letter to the Galatians:
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.
Note that in order to be justified by the law, the receiver of the justification must be the one who keeps it. Unless they alone keep the whole law, they are severed from Christ. “Every man” that wants to be justified by the law must keep it himself. This is why double imputation doesn’t cut it. And in regard to the whole idea of a substituted righteousness, what is the result in every case? A relaxing of the law, and a righteousness that does not exceed that of the Pharisees who substituted the law with their manmade traditions.
This is where double imputation keeps the so-called believer under the condemnation of the law and calls the “believer” to live by faith alone works (ritual) invented by men. Jesus is a substitute for perfect law-keeping which completely misunderstands the purpose of the Old Covenant. The OC uses the law to hold all sin captive. All sin is against the law. The OC imputes all sin to the law, and then Jesus came to end the law (Romans 10:4).
Galatians 3:19 – 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.
When one believes on Christ, he/she is baptized in the Spirit and is no longer under the OC to which all sin is imputed. The believer is saved by “the promise” of new birth, NOT the law. In fact, if the law has anything to do with being made righteous, even if it is fulfilled by a substitute, that would make the law an additional “seed” BUT there is only ONE seed:
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.
Protestantism, like all law-based salvation plans, makes the law an additional life source other than the new birth made possible by “the promise” of the Spirit who raised Christ from the grave. This changes the true believer’s relationship to the law. Instead the law condemning, it is the standard for loving God and others.
The law was NEVER the standard for righteousness, but it is the standard for love and the work of faith:
Galatians 5:6 – For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love.
This is the whole point of James 2:10 as set against many verses noting that love fulfills the whole law. The contrast is the point. The new birth is the standard for righteousness—not the law. This makes the whole Protestant “sinners save by grace” a lie from the pit of hell. Those who sin against the law are still under law. Grace in not a covering for sin, it is an ending of the law and its condemnation. Grace has a law: the law fulfilled by the believer’s work of love; read Romans 8 and…
1John 3:3 – And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure. 4 Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law. 5 And ye know that he was manifested to take away our sins; and in him is no sin. 6 Whosoever abideth in him sinneth not: whosoever sinneth hath not seen him, neither known him. 7 Little children, let no man deceive you: he that doeth righteousness is righteous, even as he is righteous. 8 He that committeth sin is of the devil; for the devil sinneth from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil. 9 Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God. 10 In this the children of God are manifest, and the children of the devil: whosoever doeth not righteousness is not of God, neither he that loveth not his brother (KJV).
Christ didn’t come to cover sin via obedience to Protestant orthodoxy which holds to a law-based standard for justification like all other false religions. He came to end enslavement to sin and the law’s condemnation in order to free us to live by love. The law is good for that purpose. In this sense, the law and its truth sanctifies us (John 17:17). In this sense, “If you love me keep my commandments.”