Paul's Passing Thoughts

A Doctrinal Evaluation of the Anti-Lordship Salvation Movement: Part 3

Posted in Uncategorized by pptmoderator on November 7, 2014

Originally published August 15, 2014

Do Christians Have Two Natures?

My belief strata is probably similar to most Christians: A. Dogma, firm on that fact; B. Not dogmatic, sounds logical, going with that for now; C. That’s a bunch of boloney. The idea that Christians have two natures has always been categorized under B for me.

Where do I think a stake needs to be driven most in the arena of Christianity right now? Who we are. We are righteous. We are able. We are good. We are not just righteous positionally, we are in fact righteous in and of ourselves. Righteousness is a gift from God, we cannot earn it, but once we have accepted the gift, we possess it. I fear that most gospels in our day propagate a rejection of the righteousness gift, and I strongly suspect that this is the point of the Parable of the Talents. Clearly, the paramount gospels of our day promote a meditation on the gift in order to keep our salvation. To put the gift into practice is to make His story our own story exclusively.

What is the gift? Is the gift just a gift, or is it also a calling? The “church” is a “called out assembly.” Is answering the call works salvation? And what are we called to? We are called to holiness. In part 2 we have looked at the primary problem with anti-Lordship Salvation. They make answering the call works salvation. How do they rationalize this? As we have discussed, it is the age-old Protestant golden chain gospel. Because justification and sanctification are not separate, a calling to holiness is a declaration that progresses in sanctification; if we commit to holiness in order to be saved, we now have to participate in that progression by obedience to the law.

ALS solves that problem by eliminating the commitment all together and making obedience in sanctification optional—a nice gesture unto the Lord, and it will kinda make your life better. If we doubt our salvation because of behavior, it shows a fundamental misunderstanding of grace; so, the solution is to return to the same gospel that saved us and re-preach it to ourselves. Both ALS and the Calvinists they despise proffer this same construct.

Calvinists deal with the progression of justification in sanctification a different way: by all means we are saved by making a commitment to obedience, but the commitment we are making is a commitment to living by faith alone in sanctification which results in the commitment being fulfilled by Christ. In fact, both camps speak of experiential sanctification; viz, we only experience the works of the Spirit being done through us and we kinda really aren’t doing the work. In Reformed circles, even our “good” works are sin, and our demeanor in obedience gives a clue that the work may be executed by the Lord in that instance, but we don’t know for certain. They call this the “subjective nature of sanctification.” It is manifested in Arminian camps via, “I didn’t do it—it was the Holy Spirit doing it through me.” Really, in all Protestant camps, accomplishment and meekness are mutually exclusive; you can’t have both.

And with ALS as well as Calvinism, righteousness is defined by perfect law-keeping. When their fusion of justification and sanctification is challenged, both camps retort, “Did you sin today?” In BOTH cases, they make no distinction between sin against the law of sin and death, and sin against the law of the Spirit of life in sanctification—violations that grieve the Spirit. That’s because they see justification and sanctification as the same (though both camps are outraged in regard to the accusation).

Because ALS, like Calvinism, makes perfect law-keeping the essence of righteousness, they cannot not deem the Christian perfect in regard to justification. They posit the idea that the Christian is only positionally righteous and not practically righteous. Unfortunately, that same view of our righteousness is then juxtaposed into sanctification because they fuse the two together. To not continually drive home the idea that we are just “sinners saved by grace” is to suggest that we can keep the law perfectly. But the question is… “What law?” There is no law in justification, and where there is no law there is no sin (Rom. 4:15).

Christ primarily died on the cross to end the law of sin and death. Now there is no law to judge us, and that can be coupled with the fact that we are born again of the Spirit and have the seed of God within us (1Jn. 3:9). The new birth is a reversal of slavery resulting in a change of direction. We were once enslaved to sin and free to do good, resulting in a direction away from God (under law Rom. 6:14), but now are enslaved to righteousness and free to sin (Rom. 6:20). As we will see in Romans 7, we were once enslaved to the law of sin and death (Rom. 8:2), but now we are enslaved to the law of the Spirit of life. In both cases, there is a reverse freedom as well. Unfortunately, the Christian is still harassed by the law of sin and death, which is a law standard by the way, and free to sin against it. We will discuss exactly how this happens.

 But, because ALS, like the Reformed only see one nomos (law), and Christians obviously sin, the Christian must be both saint and sinner in sanctification. This is Martin Luther’s Simul iustus et peccator—at the same time righteous and a sinner. But, this means saint by declaration and position only while the Christian remains in the same state. The only change is the recognition of his vileness—this defines faith according to Reformed ideology.

Likewise, since the Christian cannot keep the law of sin and death perfectly, and that is justification’s standard, the ALS has its own version of the Simul iustus et peccator: the two natures. Sure, it’s soft Simul iustus et peccator, or Simul iustus et peccator Light, but it’s the same concept. I am not going to take time here to articulate all of the versions, but suffice to say all denominations are spawned by the question of how we do justification in sanctification. There are only two religions in the world: Progressive Sanctification and Progressive Justification. One is a call to holiness and you get justification in the bargain. The other is a call to be declared righteous while remaining a sinner. The former is a call to be made righteous. Answering the call saves you, following the call sanctifies you, but the two are separate with the demarcation being the new birth—following the call does not justify you. Accepting the gift justifies you—but the gift is a calling to holiness. Seeing the gift and the execution of the gift as being the same is the monster of confusion known as Protestantism.

The idea of two natures is contradictory to the new birth.

There is only one us. The other guy is dead. His nature is not hanging around with us. He is not sort of dead, and we are not sort of under the law. We are not under the law at all. The guy’s death did not merely weaken him, it utterly slaughtered him. You are not kinda the old you, there is no old you, that person is not you at all, he is dead.

So what’s going on? I am going to pull the theses out of the barn from the get-go. Think, “sin.” This all starts with a very simple word that has very deep metaphysical ramifications that will not be investigated here, but it all begins with sin as a master. Sin was originally found in God’s most magnificent angel, Lucifer, “son of the morning.” How did sin get there? Far be it from us to discuss that here, but there are theories.

Secondly, a law that should promise life, but sin uses the law to create sinful DESIRES within the individual.

Thirdly, this is daring, but it is best to think of the “flesh,” also, “members” as neutral. Our members can be used for both good and evil. The “flesh” IS NOT the old nature.

Fourthly, fruits unto death and fruits unto life.

The Theses Articulated

Much more study needs to be done in this area; this study is designed to get the ball rolling, but you could spend a lifetime articulating it.

When man is born into the world, sin is within him and sin is a master. When people are born into the world, they are sold into slavery:

Romans 7:14 – For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am of the flesh, sold under sin.

Paul is not saying that flesh =’s evil, he is saying that sin resides in our mortal members. He is saying our birth sold us under sin. Sin is a master. According to the New Testament, this is synonymous with being born “under law” as in… “the law of sin and death.” Christ was the only man ever born under that law who could keep it perfectly. All others are condemned by it.

Let’s look at sin as master:

Genesis 4:6 – The Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry, and why has your face fallen? 7 If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is for you, but you must rule over it.”

Sin is a master who desires to rule over the individual. Sin is the problem. This does not mean mankind is totally depraved and his will is in complete bondage to sin, he/she is still free to do good and obey the conscience, but the overall direction is away from God and to sin.

Sin resides in the mortal body, but the mortal body, as we shall see, is somewhat neutral. I am not going to get into anthropological dichotomies and theories, but the Bible seems to say that the mind within the body is what’s redeemed when we are saved. Our thesis here contends that the battle within is between our redeemed righteous minds and SIN, not the old us that is dead. However, we are using the same body that the old man (the former us) used and the body can be habituated to some degree. We are to put off those habits and build new ones into our lives:

Ephesians 4:17 – Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds. 18 They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart. 19 They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity. 20 But that is not the way you learned Christ!— 21 assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, 22 to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, 23 and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, 24 and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.

The putting off of the old self is the likeness of the old self, not the literal old self. The body is habituated by the old ways, and we can bring those same habits into the Christian life with the same ill results. Note that the mind is being renewed, and we are putting off the old ways and putting on new ways. We are not “sinners” just because we fall short of perfect putting off and putting on, we are righteous persons in the process of renovation. The flesh is not inherently evil because it can be used for righteousness:

Romans 12:1 – I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.

Romans 6:19 – I am speaking in human terms, because of your natural limitations. For just as you once presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness leading to sanctification.

The flesh is weak, sin resides there, and our bodies will be redeemed; in that sense, “nothing good dwells in me,” but our members are to be used as instruments for righteousness nevertheless. Let me caution in regard to this study. This is not a study that should be approached with sloppy research. For instance, consider Romans 7:24:

Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?

We now hear, “See! See! Paul stated that we are still wretched sinners!” Problem is, the Greek word translated “wretched” in this verse means to persevere in affliction. Paul is longing to be saved from his mortal body where the conflict rages. He is not saying that Christians remain as wretched sinners. Likewise, was Paul really saying elsewhere that at the time of his writing that he was the premier sinner in the entire world at that time? The “chief” of sinners? I doubt it. One may ponder the idea that…it’s obviously not true. Paul was making some other point that will not be addressed here.

So, what is the dynamic that we are really fighting against? We are set free from the law of sin and death because Christ purchased us on the cross:

1 Corinthians 6:19 – Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, 20 for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.

When we are saved, ownership is transferred to another master. We are no longer enslaved to Master Sin. Let’s look at what that slavery looked like:

Romans 7:4 – 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.

As Christians, we are no longer enslaved to sin which used our passions aroused by the law to provoke us to sin. Apparently, the cancelation of the law’s ability to condemn us comes into play here. If we cannot be condemned by the law, sin’s motivation is gone. Being condemned by the law is how sin enslaved us. If Christ died for sin, and the penalty is paid, and there is no condemnation in regard to the Christian, sin is robbed of its power. In addition, I assume it goes much deeper than this, but that is another study. We may assume that the intrinsic power of sin over us was broken as well.

Sin was able to produce sinful desires within us that provoked us to break God’s law; we were enslaved to a lawless master. Hence, and this is VERY important, phrases like, “For while we were living in the flesh” should not be interpreted as flesh=evil; it means that the unbeliever was living in a mortal body that was controlled by the Master Sin dynamic that used the law to condemn us and control us, and destroy us. No doubt, sin uses sinful desires to get even unbelievers to violate their consciences against the works of the law written on their hearts (Rom. 2:12-16).

This is why many unbelievers will obey their passions in things that are in the process of destroying them. They are enslaved by passions that Sin uses to get them to violate their consciences. In this sense, we were living according to the flesh—our flesh was controlled by the triad dynamic of sin, sinful desire, and the law of sin and death. Now we are controlled by a different triad dynamic: the Holy Spirit, His law, and godly desires. To insinuate in any way that a believer remains the same as before or is in some way marginally different borderlines on blasphemy against the Holy Spirit and troddens underfoot the blood of Christ.

We will look at another text to build on our point:

Galatians 5:16 – But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17 For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. 19 Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, 21 envy,[d] drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. 24 And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.

A problem arises when we interpret “flesh” without the full corpus of the subject. When we “walk” we are using the flesh. When we walk according to the Spirit, we are using our flesh (members/body) for holy purposes. The full dynamic of sin’s mastery is then interpreted by one word used in various and sundry ways to make any number of points. And, any idea that the Christian is still under the law of sin and death is particularly egregious. Worse yet, if one believes that the law still condemns them as most teach today, this empowers the Sin Master. The word of God can now be used to provoke even Christians with sinful desires.

Furthermore, since sin still remains in the body, it still attempts to use the law to provoke us with evil desires. I imagine that ignorance of the Scriptures supplies a field day for sin in the life of believers accordingly:

James 1:13 – Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. 14 But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. 15 Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.

The desire James is talking about are sinful desires provoked by sin. When we are tempted by a sinful desire, we should know exactly where that is coming from; sin is still trying to master us by using the former scheme. A Christian can produce fruits of death in this life by succumbing to those desires. These are temporary death fruits, not eternal. The former you could generate fruits of death in both this life and the life to come, but the believer can only generate temporary fruits of death. Peter referred to it this way: suffering as an unbeliever.

With all of this in mind, let’s look at some verses from Romans 7:

Romans 7:14 – For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am of the flesh, sold under sin. 15 For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. 16 Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. 17 So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.

Precisely. But note, when Paul writes, “I am of the flesh, sold under sin,” he is not saying that we are still enslaved to the same master or dynamic, he is saying the dynamic is still at work in us, but we are obviously no longer enslaved to it. Hence…

16 Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. 17 So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.

So, “Did you sin today?” Well, what sayeth Paul? Unless you take all that we observed in these three parts, this statement by Paul would seem outrageous, but we know what he is saying, and no, we are NOT “sinners.” Note as well, the law is not sinful, our flesh is “weak,” but it is sin itself that causes us to sin. Before we were saved, we desired sin and were ruled by it, but now, we have the desires of the Spirit and love His law…

For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.

And:

Romans 7:21 – So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. 22 For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, 23 but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. 24 Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? 25 Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.

There remains a rest for God’s people, but it is not now. This is war, but we must know who the enemy is and how he works. Let me also add that simplicity is not the duty of the “learner,” aka disciple. Christians are to study in order to show themselves an approved “worker.” Lazy thinkers make for poor disciples and are the fodder for the wicked. The final analysis is this:

So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.

We are enslaved to the law of the Spirit of life, and fight against the law of sin and death that sin uses to provoke us with evil desires.

Romans 8:1 – There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. 2 For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. 3 For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, 4 in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. 5 For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. 6 For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. 7 For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. 8 Those who are in the flesh cannot please God. 9 You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. 10 But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. 11 If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.

We are not fighting against the old us. We are fighting the sin within that is no longer our master. In addition, our battle is not against “flesh and blood” but rather principalities.

We only have ONE nature, the new one.

A Doctrinal Evaluation of the Anti-Lordship Salvation Movement: Part 1

Posted in Uncategorized by pptmoderator on November 7, 2014

Originally published August 13, 2014

Introduction and Historical Background Leading up to the Anti-Lordship Salvation Movement

Not long after I became a Christian in 1983, the Lordship Salvation (hereafter LS) controversy arose. This was a movement against “easy believism” (hereafter EB). The climate was ripe for the controversy because churches were full of professing Christians who demonstrated little if any life change. Members in good standing could be living together out of wedlock, wife abusing drunks, and shysters to name a few categories among many. Sin was not confronted in the church.

Of course, no cycle of Protestant civil war is complete without dueling book publications. Without naming all of them, the major theme was that of faith and works. John MacArthur Jr. threw gasoline on the fire with The Gospel According to Jesus published in 1988. This resulted in MacArthur being the primary target among the so-called EB crowd.

During that time as a new believer, I was heavily focused on the issue, but was like many others: I rejected outright sinful lifestyles among professing Christians while living a life of biblical generalities. In other words, like most, I was ignorant in regard to the finer points of Christian living. I resisted blatant sin, and in fact was freed from some serious temptations of the prior life, but had little wisdom in regard to successful application.

We must now pause to consider what was going in the 80’s. Christianity was characterized by two groups: the grace crowd that contended against any assessment of one’s standing with God based on behavior (EB), and the LS crowd. But, the LS group lived by biblical generalities. Hence, in general, both groups farmed out serious life problems to the secular experts. This also led to Christian Psychologist  careerism.

This led to yet another controversy among American Christians during the same time period, the sufficiency of Scripture debate. Is the Bible sufficient for life’s deepest problems? Again, MacArthur was at the forefront of the controversy with his publication of Our Sufficiency in Christ published in 1991. Between 1990-1995, the anti-Christian Psychology movement raged (ACS). The primary lightening rod during that time was a book published by Dave Hunt: The Seduction of Christianity (1985).

In circa 1965, a young Presbyterian minister named Jay E. Adams was moved by the reality of a church living by biblical generalities. The idea that the church could not help people with serious problems like schizophrenia bothered him. He was greatly influenced by the renowned secular psychologist O. Hobart Mower who fustigated institutional psychiatry as bogus. An unbeliever, Mower was critical of Christianity for not taking more of a role in helping people with serious mental problems.

Mower believed that mental illness is primarily caused by the violation of conscience and unhealthy thinking. His premise has helped more people by far than any other psychological discipline and Adams witnessed this first hand. Mower’s influence provoked Adams to look into the Scriptures more deeply for God’s counsel regarding the deeper problems of life. This resulted in the publication of Competent to Counsel in 1970, and launched what is known today as the biblical counseling movement (BCM). Please note that this movement was picking up significant steam in the latter 80’s and early 90’s.

In 1970, the same year that the BCM was born, an extraordinary Reformed think tank was established by the name of The Australian Forum Project (AFP). Its theological journal, Present Truth, had a readership that exceeded all other theological journals in the English speaking world by the latter 70’s. Though the project died out in the early 80’s, it spawned a huge grassroots movement known as the “quiet revolution” of the “gospel resurgence.” The movement believed that it had recovered the true Reformation gospel that had been lost in Western culture over time, and frankly, they were absolutely correct about that.

The movement was covert, but spawned notable personalities such as John Piper over time. Piper exploded onto to the scene in 1986 with his book The Pleasures of God which promoted his Christian Hedonism theology. Unbeknown to most, this did not make Piper unique, the book is based on the same Martin Luther metaphysics that the AFP had rediscovered; he got it from them. At this point, the official contemporary name for the rediscovered Reformation gospel, the centrality of the objective gospel outside of us (Cogous), was taking a severe beating in Reformed circles. This is because contemporary Calvinists didn’t understand what Luther and Calvin really believed about the gospel.

John Piper looked to emerge from the movement as a legend because he had no direct ties to the AFP, but during the same time frame of his emergence, Cogous was also repackaged by a professor of theology at Westminster Theological Seminary. His name was John “Jack” Miller. Using the same doctrine, the authentic gospel of the Reformation, Miller developed the Sonship discipleship program. This also took a severe beating in Presbyterian circles. In fact, Jay Adams wrote a book against the movement in 1999. This was a debate between Calvinists in regard to what real Calvinism is. At any rate, Sonship changed its nomenclature to “Gospel Transformation” and went underground (2000). This started the gospel-everything movement. Sonship was saturated with the word “gospel” as an adjective for just about every word in the English language (“gospel centered this, gospel-driven that,” etc.). If anyone refuted what was being taught, they were speaking against the gospel; this was very effective.

If not for this change in strategy, John Piper would have been the only survivor of Cogous. Instead, with the help of two disciples of John Miller, David Powlison and Tim Keller, the Gospel Transformation movement gave birth to World Harvest Missions and the Acts 29 Network. It also injected life into the Emergent Church movement. Meanwhile, most thought the Sonship movement had been eliminated, but this was not the case at all. In 2006, a group of pastors that included this author tried to get a handle on a doctrine that was wreaking havoc on churches in the U.S. and spreading like wildfire. The doctrine had no name, so we dubbed it, “Gospel Sanctification.” In 2008, the same movement was dubbed, “New Calvinism” by society at large. In 2009, spiritual abuse blogs exploded in church culture as a direct cause of New Calvinism. We know now that the present-day New Calvinism movement was birthed by the AFP.

The Protestant Legacy of Weak Sanctification 

The anti-Lordship Salvation movement came out of the controversy era of the 80’s. The following is the theses, parts 2 and 3 will articulate the theses. The theses could very well be dubbed, The Denomination Myth. All of the camps involved in these Protestant debates share the same gospel, but differ on the application. The idea that the debate involves different gospels is a misnomer.

The Protestant Reformation gospel was predicated on the idea that the Christian life is used by God to finish our salvation. The official Protestant gospel is known as justification by faith. This is one of the most misunderstood terms in human history. Justification refers to God imputing His righteousness to those whom He saves. Many call this a forensic declaration by God. At this time, I am more comfortable saying that it is the imputation of God’s righteousness to the saved person as the idea of it being forensic; it’s something I have not investigated on my own albeit it’s a popular way of stating it. This is salvation…a righteous standing before God.

Sanctification, a setting apart for God’s holy purposes, is the Christian life. The Reformers saw sanctification as the progression of justification to a final justification. In Reformed circles, this is known as the “golden chain of salvation.” So, the Christian is saved, is being saved, and will be finally saved. Christians often say, “Sanctification is the growing part of salvation.” But really it isn’t, salvation doesn’t grow, this is a Protestant idea. The Christian life grows in wisdom and stature, but our salvation doesn’t grow, the two are totally separate. One is a finished work, and the other is a progression of personal maturity.

The Reformers were steeped in the ancient philosophy of the day that propagated the idea that the common man cannot properly understand reality, and this clearly reflected on their theology. The idea that grace is infused into man and enables him to properly understand reality would have been anathema according to their spiritual caste system of Platonist origins. This resulted in their progressive justification gospel. Justification by faith is a justification process by faith alone.

Every splinter group that came out of the Reformation founded their gospel on this premise. John Calvin believed that salvation was entering into a rest from works. He believed that sanctification is the Old Testament Sabbath rest (The Calvin Institutes 2.8.29). Hence, the Christian life is a rest from works. The Christian life must be lived the same way we were saved: by faith alone. Part 2 will explain why we are called to work in sanctification, and why it is not working for justification.

Another fact of the Reformation gospel is “righteousness” is defined as a perfect keeping of the law. To remove the law’s perfect standard, and its demands for perfection from justification is the very definition of antinomianism according to the Reformers. A perfect law-keeping must be maintained for each believer if they are to remain justified. Thirdly, this requires what is known as double imputation. Christ not only died for our sins so that our sins could be imputed to Him, He lived a life of perfect obedience to the law so that His obedience could be imputed to our sanctification. So, if we live our Christian life according to faith alone, justification will be finished the same way it started; hence, justification by faith. For purposes of this series, these will be the three pillars of the Reformed gospel that we will consider:

1. An unfinished justification.

2. Sabbath rest sanctification.

3. Double imputation.

As a result of this construct, Protestant sanctification has always been passive…and confused. Why? Humans are created to work, but work in sanctification is deemed to be working for justification because sanctification is the “growing part” of justification. Reformed academics like to say, “Justification and sanctification are never separate, but distinct.” Right, they are the same with the distinction being that one is the growing of the other. A baby who has grown into an adult is not separate from what he/she once was, but distinct from being a baby. Reformed academics constantly warn Christians to not live in a way that “makes the fruit of sanctification the root of justification.” John Piper warns us that the fruits of sanctification are the fruits of justification—all works in sanctification must flow from justification. Justification is a tree; justification is the roots, and sanctification is the fruits of justification. We are warned that working in sanctification can make “the fruit the root.” In essence, we are replacing the fruits of justification with our own fruit. This is sometimes referred to as “fruit stapling.”

How was the Reformation gospel lost?

To go along with its progressive justification, the Reformers also developed an interpretation method. The sole purpose of the Bible was to show us our constant need to have the perfect works of Jesus imputed to our lives by faith alone. The purpose of Scripture reading was to gain a deeper and deeper knowledge of our original need of salvation, i.e. “You need the gospel today as much as you needed it the day you were saved.” Indeed, so that the perfect obedience of Christ will continue to be applied to the law. This also applies to new sins we commit in the Christian life as well. Since we “sin in time,” we must also continue to receive forgiveness of new sins that we commit as Christians. So, the double imputation must be perpetually applied to the Christian life by faith alone. John Piper often speaks of how Christians continue to be saved by the gospel. This is in fact the Reformation gospel.

But over time, humanity’s natural bent to interpret the Scriptures grammatically instead of redemptively resulted in looking at justification and sanctification as being more separate, and spiritual growth being more connected to obedience. This created a hybrid Protestantism even among Calvinists. Nevertheless, the best results were the aforementioned living by biblical generalities. Yes, we “should” obey, but it’s optional. A popular idea in past years was a bi-level discipleship which was also optional.

This brings us to the crux of the issue.

Since the vast majority of Protestants see justification as a golden chain of salvation, two primary camps emerged:

A. Christ obeys the law for us.

B. Salvation cannot be based on a commitment—obedience must be optional.

Model A asserts that since we cannot keep the law perfectly, we must invoke the double imputation of Christ by faith alone in order to be saved and stay saved. Model B asserts that since the same gospel that saved us also sanctifies us, any commitment included in the gospel presentation must then be executed in sanctification to keep the process of justification moving forward. Therefore, obedience in sanctification must be completely optional. A consideration of works is just fruit stapling. If the Holy Spirit decides to do a work through someone, that’s His business and none of ours, “who are we to judge?”

This is simply two different executions of the same gospel. Model A does demand obedience because it assumes that Christians have faith, and that will result in manifestations of Christ’s obedience being imputed to our lives. Because this is mixed with our sinfulness, it is “subjective.” The actual term is “justification experienced subjectively”; objective justification, subjective justification, final justification (redefined justification, sanctification, and glorification). However, model B then interprets  that as commitment that must be executed in the progressive part of salvation.

This is where the EB versus LS debate comes into play. This is a debate regarding execution of the same gospel while making the applications differing gospels. Out of this misunderstanding which came to a head in the 80’s, comes the anti-Lordship Salvation movement (ALS). Conversations with proponents of ALS reveal all of the same tenets of Cogous. First, there is the same idea of a final judgment in which sins committed by Christians will be covered by Jesus’ righteousness; “When God looks at us, all he will see is Jesus.” Secondly, there is the same idea of one law. Thirdly, there is the idea that our sins are covered and not ended.

They do differ on the “two natures.” Model A holds to the idea that Christians have the same totally depraved nature that they had when they were saved. Model B thinks the new birth supplies an additional Christ-like nature that fights with the old nature. Model A, aka Calvinists, actually think this is Romanism/Arminianism. Indeed, authentic Protestantism rejects the idea that any work of the Spirit is done IN the believer. Model B has several different takes on this including the idea that Christians are still dead, but the life of Jesus inside of them enables them to obey.

In part 2, we will examine why this construct is a false gospel, and why both parties are guilty. In part 3, we will examine the new birth and the idea that Christians have two natures.

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A Doctrinal Evaluation of the Anti-Lordship Salvation Movement: Part 3

Posted in Uncategorized by Paul M. Dohse Sr. on August 15, 2014

Do Christians Have Two Natures?

My belief strata is probably similar to most Christians: A. Dogma, firm on that fact; B. Not dogmatic, sounds logical, going with that for now; C. That’s a bunch of boloney. The idea that Christians have two natures has always been categorized under B for me.

Where do I think a stake needs to be driven most in the arena of Christianity right now? Who we are. We are righteous. We are able. We are good. We are not just righteous positionally, we are in fact righteous in and of ourselves. Righteousness is a gift from God, we cannot earn it, but once we have accepted the gift, we possess it. I fear that most gospels in our day propagate a rejection of the righteousness gift, and I strongly suspect that this is the point of the Parable of the Talents. Clearly, the paramount gospels of our day promote a meditation on the gift in order to keep our salvation. To put the gift into practice is to make His story our own story exclusively.

What is the gift? Is the gift just a gift, or is it also a calling? The “church” is a “called out assembly.” Is answering the call works salvation? And what are we called to? We are called to holiness. In part 2 we have looked at the primary problem with anti-Lordship Salvation. They make answering the call works salvation. How do they rationalize this? As we have discussed, it is the age-old Protestant golden chain gospel. Because justification and sanctification are not separate, a calling to holiness is a declaration that progresses in sanctification; if we commit to holiness in order to be saved, we now have to participate in that progression by obedience to the law.

ALS solves that problem by eliminating the commitment all together and making obedience in sanctification optional—a nice gesture unto the Lord, and it will kinda make your life better. If we doubt our salvation because of behavior, it shows a fundamental misunderstanding of grace; so, the solution is to return to the same gospel that saved us and re-preach it to ourselves. Both ALS and the Calvinists they despise proffer this same construct.

Calvinists deal with the progression of justification in sanctification a different way: by all means we are saved by making a commitment to obedience, but the commitment we are making is a commitment to living by faith alone in sanctification which results in the commitment being fulfilled by Christ. In fact, both camps speak of experiential sanctification; viz, we only experience the works of the Spirit being done through us and we kinda really aren’t doing the work. In Reformed circles, even our “good” works are sin, and our demeanor in obedience gives a clue that the work may be executed by the Lord in that instance, but we don’t know for certain. They call this the “subjective nature of sanctification.” It is manifested in Arminian camps via, “I didn’t do it—it was the Holy Spirit doing it through me.” Really, in all Protestant camps, accomplishment and meekness are mutually exclusive; you can’t have both.

And with ALS as well as Calvinism, righteousness is defined by perfect law-keeping. When their fusion of justification and sanctification is challenged, both camps retort, “Did you sin today?” In BOTH cases, they make no distinction between sin against the law of sin and death, and sin against the law of the Spirit of life in sanctification—violations that grieve the Spirit. That’s because they see justification and sanctification as the same (though both camps are outraged in regard to the accusation).

Because ALS, like Calvinism, makes perfect law-keeping the essence of righteousness, they cannot not deem the Christian perfect in regard to justification. They posit the idea that the Christian is only positionally righteous and not practically righteous. Unfortunately, that same view of our righteousness is then juxtaposed into sanctification because they fuse the two together. To not continually drive home the idea that we are just “sinners saved by grace” is to suggest that we can keep the law perfectly. But the question is… “What law?” There is no law in justification, and where there is no law there is no sin (Rom. 4:15).

Christ primarily died on the cross to end the law of sin and death. Now there is no law to judge us, and that can be coupled with the fact that we are born again of the Spirit and have the seed of God within us (1Jn. 3:9). The new birth is a reversal of slavery resulting in a change of direction. We were once enslaved to sin and free to do good, resulting in a direction away from God (under law Rom. 6:14), but now are enslaved to righteousness and free to sin (Rom. 6:20). As we will see in Romans 7, we were once enslaved to the law of sin and death (Rom. 8:2), but now we are enslaved to the law of the Spirit of life. In both cases, there is a reverse freedom as well. Unfortunately, the Christian is still harassed by the law of sin and death, which is a law standard by the way, and free to sin against it. We will discuss exactly how this happens.

 But, because ALS, like the Reformed only see one nomos (law), and Christians obviously sin, the Christian must be both saint and sinner in sanctification. This is Martin Luther’s Simul iustus et peccator—at the same time righteous and a sinner. But, this means saint by declaration and position only while the Christian remains in the same state. The only change is the recognition of his vileness—this defines faith according to Reformed ideology.

Likewise, since the Christian cannot keep the law of sin and death perfectly, and that is justification’s standard, the ALS has its own version of the Simul iustus et peccator: the two natures. Sure, it’s soft Simul iustus et peccator, or Simul iustus et peccator Light, but it’s the same concept. I am not going to take time here to articulate all of the versions, but suffice to say all denominations are spawned by the question of how we do justification in sanctification. There are only two religions in the world: Progressive Sanctification and Progressive Justification. One is a call to holiness and you get justification in the bargain. The other is a call to be declared righteous while remaining a sinner. The former is a call to be made righteous. Answering the call saves you, following the call sanctifies you, but the two are separate with the demarcation being the new birth—following the call does not justify you. Accepting the gift justifies you—but the gift is a calling to holiness. Seeing the gift and the execution of the gift as being the same is the monster of confusion known as Protestantism.

The idea of two natures is contradictory to the new birth.

There is only one us. The other guy is dead. His nature is not hanging around with us. He is not sort of dead, and we are not sort of under the law. We are not under the law at all. The guy’s death did not merely weaken him, it utterly slaughtered him. You are not kinda the old you, there is no old you, that person is not you at all, he is dead.

So what’s going on? I am going to pull the theses out of the barn from the get-go. Think, “sin.” This all starts with a very simple word that has very deep metaphysical ramifications that will not be investigated here, but it all begins with sin as a master. Sin was originally found in God’s most magnificent angel, Lucifer, “son of the morning.” How did sin get there? Far be it from us to discuss that here, but there are theories.

Secondly, a law that should promise life, but sin uses the law to create sinful DESIRES within the individual.

Thirdly, this is daring, but it is best to think of the “flesh,” also, “members” as neutral. Our members can be used for both good and evil. The “flesh” IS NOT the old nature.

Fourthly, fruits unto death and fruits unto life.

The Theses Articulated

Much more study needs to be done in this area; this study is designed to get the ball rolling, but you could spend a lifetime articulating it.

When man is born into the world, sin is within him and sin is a master. When people are born into the world, they are sold into slavery:

Romans 7:14 – For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am of the flesh, sold under sin.

Paul is not saying that flesh =’s evil, he is saying that sin resides in our mortal members. He is saying our birth sold us under sin. Sin is a master. According to the New Testament, this is synonymous with being born “under law” as in… “the law of sin and death.” Christ was the only man ever born under that law who could keep it perfectly. All others are condemned by it.

Let’s look at sin as master:

Genesis 4:6 – The Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry, and why has your face fallen? 7 If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is for you, but you must rule over it.”

Sin is a master who desires to rule over the individual. Sin is the problem. This does not mean mankind is totally depraved and his will is in complete bondage to sin, he/she is still free to do good and obey the conscience, but the overall direction is away from God and to sin.

Sin resides in the mortal body, but the mortal body, as we shall see, is somewhat neutral. I am not going to get into anthropological dichotomies and theories, but the Bible seems to say that the mind within the body is what’s redeemed when we are saved. Our thesis here contends that the battle within is between our redeemed righteous minds and SIN, not the old us that is dead. However, we are using the same body that the old man (the former us) used and the body can be habituated to some degree. We are to put off those habits and build new ones into our lives:

Ephesians 4:17 – Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds. 18 They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart. 19 They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity. 20 But that is not the way you learned Christ!— 21 assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, 22 to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, 23 and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, 24 and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.

The putting off of the old self is the likeness of the old self, not the literal old self. The body is habituated by the old ways, and we can bring those same habits into the Christian life with the same ill results. Note that the mind is being renewed, and we are putting off the old ways and putting on new ways. We are not “sinners” just because we fall short of perfect putting off and putting on, we are righteous persons in the process of renovation. The flesh is not inherently evil because it can be used for righteousness:

Romans 12:1 – I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.

Romans 6:19 – I am speaking in human terms, because of your natural limitations. For just as you once presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness leading to sanctification.

The flesh is weak, sin resides there, and our bodies will be redeemed; in that sense, “nothing good dwells in me,” but our members are to be used as instruments for righteousness nevertheless. Let me caution in regard to this study. This is not a study that should be approached with sloppy research. For instance, consider Romans 7:24:

Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?

We now hear, “See! See! Paul stated that we are still wretched sinners!” Problem is, the Greek word translated “wretched” in this verse means to persevere in affliction. Paul is longing to be saved from his mortal body where the conflict rages. He is not saying that Christians remain as wretched sinners. Likewise, was Paul really saying elsewhere that at the time of his writing that he was the premier sinner in the entire world at that time? The “chief” of sinners? I doubt it. One may ponder the idea that…it’s obviously not true. Paul was making some other point that will not be addressed here.

So, what is the dynamic that we are really fighting against? We are set free from the law of sin and death because Christ purchased us on the cross:

1 Corinthians 6:19 – Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, 20 for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.

When we are saved, ownership is transferred to another master. We are no longer enslaved to Master Sin. Let’s look at what that slavery looked like:

Romans 7:4 – 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.

As Christians, we are no longer enslaved to sin which used our passions aroused by the law to provoke us to sin. Apparently, the cancelation of the law’s ability to condemn us comes into play here. If we cannot be condemned by the law, sin’s motivation is gone. Being condemned by the law is how sin enslaved us. If Christ died for sin, and the penalty is paid, and there is no condemnation in regard to the Christian, sin is robbed of its power. In addition, I assume it goes much deeper than this, but that is another study. We may assume that the intrinsic power of sin over us was broken as well.

Sin was able to produce sinful desires within us that provoked us to break God’s law; we were enslaved to a lawless master. Hence, and this is VERY important, phrases like, “For while we were living in the flesh” should not be interpreted as flesh=evil; it means that the unbeliever was living in a mortal body that was controlled by the Master Sin dynamic that used the law to condemn us and control us, and destroy us. No doubt, sin uses sinful desires to get even unbelievers to violate their consciences against the works of the law written on their hearts (Rom. 2:12-16).

This is why many unbelievers will obey their passions in things that are in the process of destroying them. They are enslaved by passions that Sin uses to get them to violate their consciences. In this sense, we were living according to the flesh—our flesh was controlled by the triad dynamic of sin, sinful desire, and the law of sin and death. Now we are controlled by a different triad dynamic: the Holy Spirit, His law, and godly desires. To insinuate in any way that a believer remains the same as before or is in some way marginally different borderlines on blasphemy against the Holy Spirit and troddens underfoot the blood of Christ.

We will look at another text to build on our point:

Galatians 5:16 – But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17 For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. 19 Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, 21 envy,[d] drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. 24 And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.

A problem arises when we interpret “flesh” without the full corpus of the subject. When we “walk” we are using the flesh. When we walk according to the Spirit, we are using our flesh (members/body) for holy purposes. The full dynamic of sin’s mastery is then interpreted by one word used in various and sundry ways to make any number of points. And, any idea that the Christian is still under the law of sin and death is particularly egregious. Worse yet, if one believes that the law still condemns them as most teach today, this empowers the Sin Master. The word of God can now be used to provoke even Christians with sinful desires.

Furthermore, since sin still remains in the body, it still attempts to use the law to provoke us with evil desires. I imagine that ignorance of the Scriptures supplies a field day for sin in the life of believers accordingly:

James 1:13 – Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. 14 But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. 15 Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.

The desire James is talking about are sinful desires provoked by sin. When we are tempted by a sinful desire, we should know exactly where that is coming from; sin is still trying to master us by using the former scheme. A Christian can produce fruits of death in this life by succumbing to those desires. These are temporary death fruits, not eternal. The former you could generate fruits of death in both this life and the life to come, but the believer can only generate temporary fruits of death. Peter referred to it this way: suffering as an unbeliever.

With all of this in mind, let’s look at some verses from Romans 7:

Romans 7:14 – For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am of the flesh, sold under sin. 15 For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. 16 Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. 17 So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.

Precisely. But note, when Paul writes, “I am of the flesh, sold under sin,” he is not saying that we are still enslaved to the same master or dynamic, he is saying the dynamic is still at work in us, but we are obviously no longer enslaved to it. Hence…

16 Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. 17 So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.

So, “Did you sin today?” Well, what sayeth Paul? Unless you take all that we observed in these three parts, this statement by Paul would seem outrageous, but we know what he is saying, and no, we are NOT “sinners.” Note as well, the law is not sinful, our flesh is “weak,” but it is sin itself that causes us to sin. Before we were saved, we desired sin and were ruled by it, but now, we have the desires of the Spirit and love His law…

For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.

And:

Romans 7:21 – So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. 22 For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, 23 but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. 24 Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? 25 Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.

There remains a rest for God’s people, but it is not now. This is war, but we must know who the enemy is and how he works. Let me also add that simplicity is not the duty of the “learner,” aka disciple. Christians are to study in order to show themselves an approved “worker.” Lazy thinkers make for poor disciples and are the fodder for the wicked. The final analysis is this:

So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.

We are enslaved to the law of the Spirit of life, and fight against the law of sin and death that sin uses to provoke us with evil desires.

Romans 8:1 – There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. 2 For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. 3 For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, 4 in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. 5 For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. 6 For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. 7 For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. 8 Those who are in the flesh cannot please God. 9 You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. 10 But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. 11 If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.

We are not fighting against the old us. We are fighting the sin within that is no longer our master. In addition, our battle is not against “flesh and blood” but rather principalities.

We only have ONE nature, the new one.

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