Paul's Passing Thoughts

The Truth About Paul Tripp’s “How People Change”

Posted in Uncategorized by Paul M. Dohse Sr. on October 21, 2014

JMMHow People Change

by Paul David Tripp and Timothy S. Lane

Punch Press: Winston-Salem (2006, 2008)

Reviewed by Donn R. Arms

The Journal of Modern Ministry: Volume 8, Issue 1, Winter 2011

Jay E. Adams Founder and Senior Writer; Kevin Backus General Editor


The traditional view of the gospel’s relationship to change is that salvation is foundational to change. Once a person is justified before God by believing in Christ’s saving work on the cross, and made a new creature, he then begins the work of co-laboring with God in the growth process, also known as sanctification. The traditional view sees our role, after being made a new creature (born again), as many-faceted in regard to biblical instruction—the primary role being the learning of God’s Word and the application of it to life via obedience in how we think and behave (Matthew 7:24).

The traditional view makes a significant distinction between justification (redemption), sanctification (growing into Christ-likeness), and glorification (complete transformation). It sees justification and glorification as acts of God alone apart from human participation or monergistic, but sees sanctification as synergistic or a cooperative (but none the less dependent) work with God. Obviously, an accurate view and description of our participation is vital to affecting real and lasting change.

For Tripp and Lane, the gospel message is not only for the unregenerate, but efficacious for real and lasting change in the life of a believer. Certainly, as Christians move into our relationship with Christ as not only Savior, but also Lord, we should never leave behind an appreciation for the sacrifice of Christ that saved us. The authors claim, however, that the same elements of justification must be carried forward into sanctification without anything being added. In fact, for believers to even make an effort to align our thinking with Scripture is an act on our part that denies Christ as Savior:

. . . and the Bible does call us to change the way we think about things. But this approach again omits the person and work of Christ as Savior. Instead, it reduces our relationship to Christ to “think his thoughts” and “act the way Jesus would act” (p. 27, 2006 edn).

Throughout the book, the authors embrace parts of the traditional view, but view the traditional elements through a non-traditional prism, and give the traditional elements of change a different meaning. In this case they trade the traditional idea that Christians are to make an effort to align our thoughts with Scripture with the idea that we should do something else instead that leads to biblical thinking as a natural result of the “living Christ” acting on our behalf and apart from our initial efforts. According to the authors, the traditional approach omits the “work” of Christ in our sanctification and omits Christ as “Savior.”

Lane and Tripp do not deny that Christians have a role in the sanctification process. But what exactly is that role? If the traditional view of our exertion (effort in aligning our life with Scripture) in sanctification is out, what is in? Answer: deep repentance, the second major thrust of the book.

Repentance is a form of emptying the heart . . . Along with deep repentance, Scripture calls us to faith that rests and feeds upon the living Christ. He fills us with himself through the person of the Holy Spirit and our hearts are transformed by faith. (p 28)

Our efforts are out; a faith that “rests and feeds” is in. So, like justification, sanctification is limited to the narrow elements of faith and repentance only. We don’t apply effort to align our lives with Scripture in order to be saved, and we don’t for sanctification (real and lasting change) either.

Throughout HPC, Christ is referred to as “the living Christ.” Believers have no ability to perform works, or add works to their faith because believers are still spiritually dead, and the only life within us is Christ. On pages 64 and 65 of the 2006 edition Christians are described as being dead, powerless, enslaved, alienated from God, enemies of God, fools, and those who suppress the truth in unrighteousness. In other words, our condition is not changed from what we were before salvation. Referring to believers, the authors write: “when you are dead, you can’t do anything” (p. 64). Therefore, we can’t do anything leaving only the “living Christ” to perform works on our behalf.

This is a synthesizing of justification and sanctification. Our ability to perform works pleasing to God is in the same context as those who are unregenerate. We are clearly unable. The authors illustrate this with the story of Andy:

In both phases of his Christian life, the work of Christ on the cross was radically minimized by Andy’s own efforts. The first three years evidenced a Christ-less activism that produced pride and self-sufficiency (p. 184, 2006 edn).

Andy’s “own efforts” in “his Christian life” are in direct relation (according to the authors) to how prevalent redemption (“the work of Christ on the cross”) was in Andy’s life. The fact that Andy’s efforts to obey might have been misguided is not the point that the authors are making here. The authors only cite Andy’s “own efforts” in “his Christian life” with no traditional consideration of erroneous efforts to obey that are inconsistent with the Scriptures being rightly divided.

In essence, it resembles an ongoing need to be saved (redeemed) daily through the works of Christ only. Referring to 1 Cor. 10:13-14 the authors state:

What Paul envisions here is not just the change that takes place when we come to Christ, but the lifestyle of change that results from an ongoing sense of our need for redemption (progressive sanctification) [p. 102, 06 edn].

Progressive sanctification is redefined as “an ongoing sense of our need for redemption.” However, the redemption he is speaking of is the same redemption that originally saved us (“when we came to Christ…and the ‘ongoing’ need for it”). Tripp and Lane believe that there is little difference between justification and sanctification. If we can’t do works to be saved, neither can we do works in the sanctification process.

But what about all the commands in the Bible that are obviously directed toward us? Are we not supposed to obey the principles and commands of Scripture? Yes, but . . .

. . . a behavioral approach to change is hollow because it ignores the need for Christ and his (sic) power to change first the heart and then the behavior. Instead, even the Christian version of this separates the commands of Scripture from their Christ-centered, gospel context. [p. 26]

By “Christ-centered, gospel context,” they mean obedience via the cross (works of Christ, not ours). This can also be seen in their view of the use of Scripture as instruction, or “directions” to be read and then followed:

One of the mistakes we make in handling God’s Word is that we reduce it to a set of directions on how we live. We look for directions about relationships, church life, sex, finances, marriage, happiness, parenting, and so on…..This does violence to the very nature of the Word of God and robs it of its power. The Bible is the world’s most significant story, the story of God’s cosmos-restoring work of redemption. The Bible is a “big picture” book. It introduces us to God, defines our identity, lays out the meaning and purpose of life, and shows us where to find help for the one disease that infests us all—sin. If you try to reduce the Bible to a set of directions, not only will you miss its overall wisdom, you will not make sense of the directions. They only make sense in the context of the whole story (p. 92, 2006 edn).

Seeking, then, to find in the Scriptures instruction in Godliness (2 Tim 3:16) “does violence to the very nature of the Word of God and robs it of its power.”

The second tenet advocated by Tripp and Lane is deep introspection, or “deep repentance.”

Repentance is a form of emptying the heart….Along with deep repentance, Scripture calls us to faith that rests and feeds upon the living Christ. He fills us with himself through the person of the Holy Spirit and our hearts are transformed by faith. [p. 28]

Deep repentance, also called “intelligent repentance” by the authors, is a necessarily embellished form of orthodox repentance because of the narrow approach (faith and repentance only as our role) the book’s theory takes in regard to change. Heart idols must first be identified. Then repenting of them leads to the elimination thereof, creating a void that is filled by Christ and the release of His power accordingly.

Elements of deep repentance include asking God to forgive us of our own efforts, i.e, “repenting of righteousness” (p.190, 2006), and “seeing the sin beneath the sins” (p. 190, 2006) which requires an understanding that it is impossible to violate commands 4-10 (of the 10 commandments) without first violating commands 1-3, which are the commands that speak to heart idols. Therefore, you must get to the heart of why you sinned (idols of the heart covered in commands 1-3) before the violation of all other sins can be prevented. On pages 163-165 Lane and Tripp suggest a list of “X-ray questions” to determine types of desires linked to heart idols to aid in this “deep repentance.”

The third tenet is that of “the Bible as a narrative for change.” The authors say that the Bible is a simple story that all Christians can understand, and that God uses creation to write the book in word pictures (p. 93, 2006). The very purpose of the Bible, according to the authors, is to supply believers with a model of change that involves four basic elements: heat, thorns, cross, and fruit (p. 96, 2006). The authors say the Bible is a grand gospel story that encompasses all of the necessary elements needed for life and godliness in regard to our life story. Therefore, God calls us to come to the grand story with our story, and He invites us to place our life story into the grand story, discovering where our experience of life fits into one of the four elements of heat, thorns, cross, and fruit:

This big picture model is the story of every believer. God invites us to enter into the plot!”(p. 94, 2006).

All of Scripture falls under one of these categories, and these categories form the grand gospel story, which is the sole purpose of the Bible—to present a gospel story of real change that reveals God’s grace and provision accordingly.

By seeing our circumstances in heat (circumstances of life), thorns (desires and idols of the heart that cause us to sin), fruit (Christ working in us, or the consequences of sin), and God’s provision for all three (cross), we gain wisdom, encouragement, and a mentality that seeks to know a deeper need and dependence on Christ. Using Scripture for this purpose exalts Christ in our minds, makes us desire Him more, and deepens our sense of dependence on Him. This deepening sense of our dependence on Christ, which results from using the Scriptures in this way, creates a lifestyle of change because we come to realize that we need redemption every day, not just when we were originally saved. Total dependence on Christ becomes synonymous with faith to the exclusion of almost everything else. The Bible, then, is designed for the sole purpose of aiding the believer in faith (total dependence on God) and deep repentance.

How People Change is a pronounced departure from the traditional (or nouthetic) model of biblical change. It starts by synthesizing justification and sanctification, and narrowing our role in spiritual growth to faith and repentance only. The authors then present a “big picture” model of interpretation that describes their view of the proper use of Scripture in the change process, and the role the Bible plays accordingly. Their model presents the Bible as a gospel narrative, and to the exclusion of all other purposes. The authors of HPC present a strange picture of believers who are still dead in trespasses and sins while being indwelled by Christ who is the only life within us, and therefore the only one working in the change process. Accordingly, total dependence on Christ is the key to real change—a Christ Who obeys for us!

Christ referred to the Holy Spirit as our “helper” in John 14:16. Who is he helping? And what is He helping with? The verse begins with a coordinating conjunction that connects it to the idea presented in the preceding verse, which says: “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” One of the ministries of the Holy Spirit is to help us obey Christ. Let’s teach counselees to do just that.


Posted in Uncategorized by Paul M. Dohse Sr. on October 4, 2014

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This will be our ninth and final lesson on election. We will now continue on in our verse by verse study of Romans. We will resume in Romans 14:1. Just three chapters left in our study of Romans. We are not quite ready to relent from our focus on justification in this gospel-illiterate age, so our next verse by verse focus will be Paul’s letter to the Galatians.

I wanted to divert into a temporary journey of discovery regarding election because it is an important part of Paul’s letter to the Romans. As I have stated before, I was comfortable skimming over the subject because of the overall ignorance in regard to justification. I somewhat rethought that position and decided to look at election closer. The first eight parts of our interlude have set forth a mostly logical argument against the idea of salvific preselection of individuals, but I believe our study here nails down a definitive doctrinal argument based on grammatical interpretation.

I have come to believe that individuals are not preselected, but it is the plan of salvation that is elected, and the end of it predetermined. Hence, the certain outcome of God’s plan for the ages is what is predetermined, and that is part of the good news: a hopeful outcome is predetermined, not specific people. Certainly, God knows who is going to be saved, but He does not preselect individuals for eternal life and eternal damnation. I have seen this vaguely in Scripture from time to time, but the first three chapters of Ephesians have convinced me of it.

This is why we are going to move on in the book of Romans; we could spend a lifetime learning about election, but I think basic understanding is enough for now as we will see more of the pieces come together in future readings.

Whenever election appears in the text of Scripture, the subject is almost always Jew and Gentile, and that is what we see in the first three chapters of Ephesians. Election is not about individuals, it is about God’s purpose for groups in His overall plan of salvation. Individuals are not excluded from the plan of salvation. The plan is offered as a gift to man, and there is no other way to be saved. That’s the theme of election—it is the offering of a gift; viz, God’s plan of salvation for all men.

Ephesians 1:3 – Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, 4 even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love 5 he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, 6 to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved.

“Us” refers to both Jew and Gentile. Jew and Gentile were chosen before the foundation of the earth, not individuals. Paul will also cite the specific purposes of God’s plan accordingly. Two groups of people are in view here, not individuals. As we move along, this becomes clearer and clearer. These groups were chosen “in Christ.” His death made the inclusion possible. These groups will also be adopted sons, or part of God’s literal family.

Ephesians 1:7 – In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, 8 which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight 9 making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ 10 as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.

What is elected is Christ and God’s plan for the ages. The “mystery” of His will is according to His purposes set forth in Christ. The purposes are, “to unite all things in him,” which includes heaven and earth, and to make it all “known to us,” that is, Jew and Gentile.

Ephesians 1:11 – In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, 12 so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. 13 In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.

“We” is Jew and Gentile. But, “we” in verse 12 are the Jews only who were first to hope in Christ. God’s will is that they be the “praise of his glory.” Note “In him you also” (verse 13) is obviously talking about Gentiles. Individuals are not the subject here. What is in view is God’s plan, purposes, and the groups that He has chosen to bring about those purposes according to the counsel of His will.

Individuals enter into the privileges and purposes of God’s plan when they hear the word of truth and believe. It is when we hear the gospel and believe that we are “sealed.” Hence, it is God’s plan for people groups that is predetermined, individuals are saved in time when they hear the gospel and believe. It is “when” we heard and believed that we were “sealed,” we were not sealed before the foundation of the earth; we were sealed in time when we believed. There is a clear distinction in the text between these two ideas. We enter into God’s family and His plan for the ages “through” faith.

Ephesians 2:1 – And you were dead in the trespasses and sins 2 in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— 3 among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. 4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— 6 and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

“Made ‘us’ alive together with Christ” continues to show the dominant theme of Jew and Gentile and God’s purposes in making both groups joint heirs of God’s salvation and entry into His family. Now, many take note of “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God”…

See! See! Your very faith is a gift. Not only is the plan predestined, your faith is predestined.

So, the question becomes, is it God’s grace (salvation) that is the gift, or faith? Let’s answer the question with Scripture:

Romans 3:22…For there is no distinction: 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. 26 It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. 27 Then what becomes of our boasting? It is excluded.

Clearly, it is grace that is the gift, made possible by Christ’s death, and “received” by faith. In both texts, the fact that grace is the gift excludes boasting, not the idea that our faith is predetermined. Also, “Of this gospel I was made a minister according to the gift of God’s grace, which was given me by the working of his power” (Eph 3:7). Grace is the gift, not faith. Faith comes by hearing the word and being persuaded that it is the way of salvation.

Ephesians 3:11 – Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, called “the uncircumcision” by what is called the circumcision, which is made in the flesh by hands— 12 remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. 14 For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility 15 by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, 16 and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. 17 And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. 18 For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. 19 So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, 21 in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. 22 In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.

This is the “mystery” that is now revealed:

Ephesians 3:1 – For this reason I, Paul, a prisoner for Christ Jesus on behalf of you Gentiles— 2 assuming that you have heard of the stewardship of God’s grace that was given to me for you, 3 how the mystery was made known to me by revelation, as I have written briefly. 4 When you read this, you can perceive my insight into the mystery of Christ, 5 which was not made known to the sons of men in other generations as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit. 6 This mystery is that the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.

And another purpose is stated:

Ephesians 3:8 – To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, 9 and to bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things, 10 so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places.

The revealing of the mystery and its purposes in Christ is what is elected, not individuals. This is the very theme that is initially stated:

Ephesians 1:3 – Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, 4 even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love 5 he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, 6 to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved.

Again, “us” is both Jew and Gentile—that the two would be one is what is predetermined—not individuals. It is an “eternal” purpose (Eph 3:11). We gain “access” to this purpose and become part of its covenants and promises “through our faith in him” (Eph 3:11). Faith is distinct from the eternal purpose which is elected. God elected the means which are accessed through faith. If faith is the mark of those who have been preselected as opposed to those who haven’t been preselected, why wouldn’t the Bible state that fact in plain terms? This is why some peradventure to make faith a gift in the same wise as grace using Eph 2:8. Romans 3:22ff and many other texts refute that idea—grace is the gift. In one sense, faith is an indirect gift because without grace there is nothing to believe in, but in the biggest sense salvation is a legitimate offer and mankind’s choice to either accept the gift or reject it.

In this discussion, let’s consider Matthew 22:

And again Jesus spoke to them in parables, saying, 2 “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding feast for his son, 3 and sent his servants to call those who were invited to the wedding feast, but they would not come. 4 Again he sent other servants, saying, ‘Tell those who are invited, “See, I have prepared my dinner, my oxen and my fat calves have been slaughtered, and everything is ready. Come to the wedding feast.”’ 5 But they paid no attention and went off, one to his farm, another to his business, 6 while the rest seized his servants, treated them shamefully, and killed them. 7 The king was angry, and he sent his troops and destroyed those murderers and burned their city. 8 Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding feast is ready, but those invited were not worthy. 9 Go therefore to the main roads and invite to the wedding feast as many as you find.’ 10 And those servants went out into the roads and gathered all whom they found, both bad and good. So the wedding hall was filled with guests.

11 “But when the king came in to look at the guests, he saw there a man who had no wedding garment. 12 And he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding garment?’ And he was speechless. 13 Then the king said to the attendants, ‘Bind him hand and foot and cast him into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ 14 For many are called, but few are chosen.”

Again, the context of election is two groups: Jew and Gentile. Jesus directs this parable towards the Jewish leaders who were rejecting Him and leading the Jewish people to do the same. The original invitation to the wedding feast was to the Jews. When they, for the most part rejected the invitation, and even murdered those who invited them, the King orders His servants to call anyone they can find to the feast (the Gentiles). The one found at the feast without the traditional wedding coat represents a Jew who comes to the feast on his own terms.

What I would like to address is verse 14, “For many are called, but few are chosen.” Just about everywhere else in Scripture, the same word translated “chosen” here, is eklektos which appears 21 times in the New Testament and translated “elect.” So, a better translation here would be, “many are called, but few are elect.” Jesus was addressing the mindset of the Jewish leaders that they would be a part of the great feast because they were God’s chosen people. In reality, they were being called to God’s elect purposes which included Christ, the elect angels, and the election of Jews and Gentiles both. Their rejection of this elect purpose would condemn them to eternal punishment. The point saturates the context surrounding this passage.

This brings us to the infamous Acts 13:48:

And when the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord, and as many as were appointed to eternal life believed (ESV).

Regardless of the controversy surrounding the various translations of this verse, the context is God’s predetermination that the Gentiles would become heirs of the promises made to Israel. There would not be two classes of people in the kingdom—Jew and Gentile would become one body in the commonwealth of Israel. That is the mystery of the gospel revealed in this age. Acts is the historical account of this plan being unfolded. The point in Acts 13:48 is the inclusion of a group, not the preselection of individuals. I do believe that many translations slant this verse towards that conclusion (individual selection), but clearly, it doesn’t fit the context and is off-topic.

It is amazing how we have been conditioned by Protestantism to interpret everything through the prism of individual selection. Every instance of intervention on God’s part is used to assume plenary predeterminism and thereby plunging the Scriptures into total confusion. God “opened” Lydia’s heart, so that means nobody understands anything unless God shows it to them. Hence, all ignorance is predetermined by God. “Study to show thyself approved,” but you aren’t going to understand anything unless God “opens” your eyes like He did to the disciples on the road to Emmaus.

This extreme view of Scripture starts with plenary monergism, and can only lead to one place: a caste system that inserts philosopher kings as mediators between mankind and God. This is also why Reformed theology posits Christ as the primary member of the Trinity with God the Father and the Holy Spirit playing secondary roles: Christ is promoted to the role of Father so that men can assume His role as mediator between God and mankind. This is where a Platonist worldview is essential to the mediation of elitist philosophers construct. God predetermines certain men to rule over the great unwashed masses. This, in turn, leads to absolution and salvation being found in an institution run by elitists.

Yet another consideration:

Romans 9:6 – But it is not as though the word of God has failed. For not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel, 7 and not all are children of Abraham because they are his offspring, but “Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.” 8 This means that it is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the children of the promise are counted as offspring. 9 For this is what the promise said: “About this time next year I will return, and Sarah shall have a son.” 10 And not only so, but also when Rebekah had conceived children by one man, our forefather Isaac, 11 though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad—in order that God’s purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of him who calls— 12 she was told, “The older will serve the younger.” 13 As it is written, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.”

14 What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God’s part? By no means! 15 For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” 16 So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy. 17 For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” 18 So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills.

19 You will say to me then, “Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?” 20 But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you made me like this?” 21 Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use? 22 What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, 23 in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory— 24 even us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles?

Once again, what is the context? In fact, what is the context of what follows in Romans chapters 10 and 11? Answer, the whole Jew/Gentile issue… “even us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles?” Because of God’s elected purpose, neither Jew nor Gentile has reason to boast. And again, it is grace that is elected, not individual choice. Does the Bible ever say directly that individual choice is predetermined? I don’t think so. Rather, freedom to choose seems to be assumed. For certain, what man can choose is predetermined, but the choice itself is not predetermined. Many things such as God’s intervention and helping us in our weakness is interpreted as plenary monergism—I think this is wrong—weakness does NOT equal total inability.

Furthermore, indeed, God hated Esau and loved Jacob before they were even born…or did he? Read the text carefully. Before they were born, he predetermined that the older would serve the younger based on what God knew about these two men and their lives beforehand. Esau would not be selected to further the linage of the coming Messiah because of what God knew about his character beforehand. If you read the Old Testament text that Paul uses to make his point (Malachi 1:2,3), you will find that God hated Esau because of his betrayal of Israel in time, not because God predetermined his behavior.

God elected the plan of salvation and His  purposes for the ages. All men are “invited” (klētos: Rom 8:28; Matt 22:14) to be a part of this plan THROUGH faith. Many are invited, but only those who love God are part of His elect group called out for His specific purposes. The plan, and the way he works all things together for the elect is His “workmanship,” not individuals per se. In other words, God doesn’t predetermine our choices as God’s elect. He may intervene at certain points to bring about our good, but we are responsible for our own choices. Unsaved people are free to accept the invitation or reject it.

This is why many of the Reformed make it a point to call the gospel an “announcement,” “herald,” or “proclamation.” The idea that the gospel is an “invitation” creates huge problems for them.

The so-called “church,” ekklēsia, is the “out-called,” ek (out) – klesia (called). It is not an institution; it is a calling to Gods purposes for the ages and an invitation to be a part of it. You are being called away from all other plans to God’s plans that have a certain end—you can also call that “repentance.” You are “persuaded” by the invitation and believe it.

You are then part of God’s elect.

Jesus Obeys For Us? Is That What We Really Believe?

Posted in Uncategorized by Paul M. Dohse Sr. on June 2, 2010

“The fact that Christians buy into ‘the imperative command is [always] grounded in the indicative event,’ is just plain embarrassing.”

I guess the belief sweeping through Christendom  that saints are unable to participate in the sanctification process is just fine with everybody. Also, we know that Christ died for our sins, but did he also live on earth for our works in sanctification? Was one of the primary purposes of His first appearing to fulfill the Law for us, and thereby nullifying a necessity to uphold  the Law in the sanctification process by us?  That seems like a major doctrinal angle to me with serious consequences regarding life application. But hey, I guess that’s just me. This neo-Reformed  doctrine can be seen clearly in a recent post by Justin Taylor entitled “Imperatives – Indicatives = Impossibilities” on his “Between Two Worlds” blog. The title of his blog is a reference to the Biblical Theology of Geerhardus Vos. “Biblical Theology” is an interpretive process initiated by an eighteenth century liberal named Johann Philipp Gabler, who emphasized interpretation based on Historicism as opposed to dogma (ideas drawn from the text using literal interpretation). Vos supposedly took Gabler’s concept in a more conservative direction. Supposedly.

Obviously, all of the grammatical commands in the Bible with the saints being the object of the action (God commanding) is a serious problem for those who propagate this neo-Reformed doctrine, sometimes referred to as Gospel Sanctification. Hence, the post by Taylor ( ), that states that all commands in the Bible are preceded by a historical account of God performing the foundation of the command beforehand. In other words, we are not really obeying, we are merely displaying the obedience of Christ, who obeys for us. The only problem is the following: to suggest that this is a consistent  grammatical pattern throughout the New Testament is an insult to any intelligence one might possess. Throughout the NT, God also makes His actions contingent on our obedience. The fact that Christians buy into “the imperative command is [always] grounded in the indicative event,” is just plain embarrassing. I address this in one of the chapters of my book:

Click to access essay%2011.PDF

The link is the specific excerpt, and catalogs many examples.

In this particular post, Taylor also displays the attitude among GS advocates that they are on the cutting edge of a new reformation, and invariably on a mission from God to save the church from orthodox evangelicalism:

“The problem with the typical evangelical motivation toward radical or sacrificial living is that ‘imperatives divorced from indicatives become impossibilities’ (to quote Tullian Tchividjian). Or another way that Tullian puts it: ‘gospel obligations must be based on gospel declarations.’

This ‘become what you are’ way of speaking is strange for many us. It seems precisely backward. But we must adjust our mental compass in order to walk this biblical path and recalibrate in order to speak this biblical language.”

In addition, the post is very insightful because several GS cronies comment in unguarded fashion. How this theology fleshes itself out in real life can be ascertained by the many comments (which had to be closed due to the number of Kool-Aid drinkers rushing the alter to drink from the vat).

“Alex” said: “I hear Tim Keller doing this a lot in his preaching. He will often organize his message around, “Here’s what you need to do, but you’re not doing it and in fact you can’t do it. You will never be able to do this until you see what Christ has done/who Christ has made you”.

“Mike” said: “….And all along they’ve been doing it in their own strength, because no one tells them they can rest in the finished work of Christ: both His passive obedience on the Cross and, as Chad mentioned, His active obedience throughout the 33 years before the Cross.”

Is that true?  In the sanctification process, are we to “rest”? And are we to totally rest in what Christ has already done in our place? Remember, Alex also said that it is not us doing it [the obedience], and we couldn’t, even if we wanted to. To exert effort  is to do it in our “own strength” (Mike).

Chad Bresson, another advocate of GS and a Christian mystic / blogger, further propagates the whole “Jesus obeys for us” idea in his comment on the same post:

“I usually take it a half-step back further in the indicative, including Christ’s life, death, and resurrection. The indicative isn’t simply our position in Christ, but is (more importantly) Christ for us. IOW, not only should we be encouraging our people to become who they already are in Christ Jesus, we must be reminding them of what He has already been and done for them. We *do* the imperatives, not simply because of who we are in our union with Him, but because Christ has already done the imperatives on our behalf because we couldn’t. When I can’t do any given imperative perfectly (failing miserably), I rest in the One who has. Christ’s imputed active obedience is never far from the indicative-imperative rhythm of the Pauline ethic.”

Bresson’s comment concerning Christ’s “imputed active obedience “ should need no explanation in regard to what he is saying.

Other disturbing elements of GS can be seen in a comment by “Bruce” who reiterates the GS belief that there is no difference between justification and sanctification, and that we are “justified” every time Christ does not obey for us- via our confession:

“It’s not that complicated: the ground of all Christian obedience is the faithfulness of Jesus Christ. Justification occurs EACH time a believer confesses and receives forgiveness for his sins. The pattern of justification is illustrated by Paul in Romans 4. Abraham believes in the God who justifies the ungodly (in this case gentile Abraham), David is forgiven for his adultery and murder. God’s condemnation for sin has reached into history at the cross, glorification has reached into history at conversion where believers experience a foretaste of glory. Neither Old or New Covenant obedience require moral perfection, they both require obedience of faith….so, having been justified from faithfulness we have peace with God!”

However, in all of  the comments that were made, there was one voice of sanity that arose. Though I doubt the individual realizes the gravity of this false, antinomian doctrine; what he said, he said well, and I will use it for my conclusion. “Andrew” said the following:

“To be honest, at least in Reformed circles, I find that there is an equally large problem of total fear of ever trying to live in a godly way. No one would express it like this, of course, but the “I don’t want to work my way to righteousness” attitude means that almost any time a pastor doesn’t mention the gospel before he mentions godly living, the Reformed community jumps on him for it.

And of course there is something very right about this. But if I’m pasturing a church where I have been faithful to proclaim our total dependence on Christ’s righteousness in the gospel and I’m preaching through James, can’t I pound on the need to live a godly life? And here is exactly the problem: there are real parts of Scripture that simply don’t expound the indicative first.

For that matter, imagine that James was a Reformed blogger and wrote his letter as a blog entry first. Can you imagine the fury of the rest of the Reformed bloggers? “There is not nearly enough gospel in here, James! How can you expect us to live godly lives when you’ve given us no gospel?!?! Justification by works? Are you mad?!?!”

Now I don’t think that James and Paul are contradictory. But I do think that this statement: “This is not how Paul and the other New Testament writers motivated the church in light of the resurrection and the outpouring of the Spirit. They did give imperatives (=what you should do), but they do so only based on indicatives (=what God has done).” is mostly true, but overstated.”
(Andrew Faris blog: )

P.S. to Andrew,


They believe that synergistic sanctification is a false gospel.


With All Due Respect, Your Buddy “Joe” Piper Doesn’t Know Either

Posted in Uncategorized by Paul M. Dohse Sr. on October 27, 2009

Here are three bits of information to start: I can’t say enough good things about Grace Community Church, and I can’t say enough negative things about Joel Olsteen; but with that said, I don’t like hypocrisy either. One of these days, I hope to make it to a Shepherds conference held annually at  John MacArthurs church (Grace Community). Once again, my efforts fell short this year. One of the speakers at the 2009 conference was Pastor Steve Lawson of Mobile, Alabama. He brought the house down with a rendition of Joel Olsteen’s appearance on the Larry King show. Basically, Larry King asked Olsteen if non-Christian faiths were wrong about salvation because they didn’t believe in Christ. Olsteen said he didn’t know, which was bad enough, but Lawson was able to put a hilarious spin on the discourse because of the way Olsteen stuttered and stammered while answering. As I watched the video excerpt of Lawson‘s performance, I found myself somewhat offended. Why? Two reasons: I think everybody was having a little bit too much fun with it at the expense of one who is also created in God’s image. Secondly, they (Lawson, MacArthur, Mohler, et al.) seem to have a favorite buddy these days, John Piper. Lawson and MacArthur spoke with him at the Resolve conference this year. Like my grandmother use to say: “Birds of the feather flock together.” So, let me get this straight, Piper is less confused than Olsteen? Oh really? Consider the following outrageous statements he makes in his book, “Desiring God”:

“Unless a man be born again into a Christian Hedonist he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John Piper, Desiring God, page 55)

“The pursuit of joy in God is not optional. It is not an ‘extra’ that a person might grow into after he comes to faith. Until your heart has hit upon this pursuit, your ‘faith’ cannot please God. It is not saving faith.”
(John Piper, Desiring God, page 69)

“Not everybody is saved from God’s wrath just because Christ died for sinners. There is a condition we must meet in order to be saved. I want to try to show that the condition…is nothing less than the creation of a Christian Hedonist.” (John Piper, Desiring God, page 61)

“We are converted when Christ becomes for us a Treasure Chest of holy joy.” (John Piper, Desiring God, page 66)

“Something has happened in our hearts before the act of faith. It implies that beneath and behind the act of faith which pleases God, a new taste has been created. A taste for the glory of God and the beauty of Christ. Behold, a joy has been born!” (page 67)

“Before the decision comes delight. Before trust comes the discovery of treasure.” (page 68)

So what’s the big dif? That’s what Olsteen emphasizes, a hedonistic joy now; not only that, Olsteen is not the only one of the two that “doesn’t know.” Here is what Piper says on page 55 of the same book:

“Could it be that today the most straightforward biblical command for conversion is not, ‘Believe in the Lord,’ but, ‘Delight yourself in the Lord’?” (John Piper, Desiring God, page 55)

“Could it be!?” What does he mean, “could it be?” Doesn’t he know? He’s talking about the gospel! So, why is it ok for Piper not to know, but not Olsteen? Oh, that’s easy. Piper is “reformed” and Olsteen isn’t. If you carry the reformed label these days, you have the Joe Biden thing working for you. You know, “Ahhhh, that’s just Joe.” Yes, what an anomaly Joe Biden is; he can say anything he wants and “Ahhhh, that’s just Joe.” Truly, John Piper has to be the Joe Biden of modern evangelicalism.

Recently, I read an endorsement for a reformed book posted on Facebook. Later, my daughter informed me that the author was a Charismatic. In fact, many who hold to Charismatic doctrine are now widely accepted in reformed circles because they have the “gospel” right. Such is the environment we find ourselves in. If you are “reformed,” you can toy with God’s word anyway you see fit, even in regard to how we are sanctified. Just believe in monergistic  justification, and you are now free to play with God’s word anyway you want to.

Let me finish by saying something good about Joel Olsteen. At least he doesn’t pretend to be orthodox. The guy has plainly said: “I’m not a theologian.” That’s called honesty. Something could be learned from him in regard to that.