Paul's Passing Thoughts

The Problem with Church: Your Pastor Doesn’t Think You’re Righteous

Posted in Uncategorized by Paul M. Dohse Sr. on December 16, 2014

“We are saved by the new birth, not the blind following after confused scholars. Why are you submitting yourself to people who declare you unrighteous in practice when God states otherwise? Why are you submitting to people who deny your literal kinship to God?”

Most Christians, and more pastors than we would like to think, don’t even know who we are. However, in our day, the vast majority of pastors view justification as a forensic declaration only while the individual remains fundamentally unchanged, or unrighteous after “salvation.”

So, did salvation make us righteous, or are we only declared righteous? Most Christians don’t know, and even if they think they know, they can’t defend it from the Bible. If your defense is the words “new birth,” those with the prevailing view can cite a plethora of Bible verses that will seemingly prove you wrong because said verses are not defined in context of sanctification or justification, two subjects that Christians have little or no knowledge of to boot.

Why is it ok that the debate regarding justification rages in conservative evangelical circles? In his review of the book Justification: Five Views, Matthew Barrett states,

This review has only touched the surface of the debate, which is not likely to stop anytime soon. The ongoing centrality of the debate also demonstrates Luther’s maxim, namely, that justification is the doctrine on which the church stands or falls. This being the case, it is essential that we think hard about the biblical text lest we fail to understand properly how we are made right before a holy God.[1]

Barrett is a Southern Baptist scholar, and posits a comfortable mentality in Christian circles: how we are saved is such an important topic that we should continue to debate it. Why is this acceptable? Because deep down, most Christians think they are saved by showing faithfulness to a Christian institution of their choice. Secondly, the laity, per what they have been taught for decades, don’t think they are responsible for knowing the truth because they aren’t capable of knowing what the spiritual elite know (as if they have come to any conclusions after 500 years of post “Reformation”).

Therefore, “Christians” en masse, follow those who offer nothing definitive regarding the gospel we claim to be saved by without even blinking an eye. And we think Eastern mysticism is illogical? Renowned Southern Baptist pastor Paul Washer has even said that the truth of the gospel has an eternal depth that we will never fully know[2] which brought objection on that point from likeminded Calvinist Joel Taylor[3].

One of the views of justification offered in the aforementioned book is that of Dr. Michael Horton. He is the host of a Reformed radio show titled The White Horse Inn. In one show, he critiqued the position of scholar NT Wright regarding justification, and remarked that his show continues to discuss the question “What is the gospel?” In the critique, even though it concerned justification, Horton pointed out the positive aspects of Wright’s teachings, even though one must conclude that Horton was complementing the use of perceived facts in the commission of theological felony. It’s befuddling to say the least.[4]

In regard to justification, Barrett stated his agreement with Horton in the review. And what is that view of justification according to Barrett?

Horton shows that the righteousness imputed is not a substance or commodity but a legal status. Additionally, Wright has neglected a third party, namely, Christ the mediator. It is the active and passive obedience of Christ, not “the essential divine attribute of righteousness” in God that is credited to believers…

Third, Horton gives a needed defense of imputation, reminding us that this doctrine is indispensible since it is the way “God gives this righteousness or justice to the ungodly through faith.” Horton shows that while the exact term may not be used, the concept of imputation infiltrates Paul’s letters at every turn. I leave it to the reader to take an in-depth look into the passages Horton examines, but Horton is correct when he writes, “These passages unmistakably teach that the righteousness by which the believer stands worthy before God’s judgment is alien: that is, belonging properly to someone else. It is Christ’s righteousness imputed, not the believer’s inherent righteousness—even if produced by the gracious work of the Spirit.” If Horton is right, and I think he is, then the other views need some serious adjustment.

This confusion regarding the gospel is unacceptable and there is only one answer: the laity must retake their rightful position as God’s priests in his called out holy nation. In that nation, we must be unequivocal in our understanding of the gospel; we are not only declared righteous, WE ARE RIGHTEOUS born again beings after the nature of God. His attribute of righteousness is imputed to us because we are born of Him and His seed resides IN US (1John 3:1-10). When we were saved, we were made the righteousness of God (2Corinthians 5:21).

We are justified by faith alone, but that faith includes believing that something has actually happened that we desire: the death of the old us with Christ and the resurrection of a new us with Christ. The old us was under the law of sin and death, the new us loves that same law because it guides us in loving God and others. We are saved by the new birth, not the blind following after confused scholars. Why are you submitting yourself to people who declare you unrighteous in practice when God states otherwise? Why are you submitting to people who deny your literal kinship to God?

The contention always presented is that of present sin. This, in and of itself is a smoking gun. This argument makes NO distinction between justification and sanctification. Therefore, it makes no distinction between sins against justification and sin against family relationship. This is a denial of the new birth. It also makes perfect law-keeping justification’s standard.

The apostle Paul spent most of his ministry refuting that idea from many different angles.