Here is another meme I saw floating around Facebook this morning:
First of all, the message of the gospel to UNBELIEVERS is “be ye reconciled to God”. Therefore, believers by definition are already reconciled to God.
Secondly, the believer is ALWAYS right with God because he is the born again righteous offspring of the Father. He may fail to show love by not being obedient, but it in no way affects his righteousness!
In an article titled, “Whatever Happened to the fear of the Lord?” (http://www.gty.org/Blog/B160810 August 10, 2016), Pastor John MacArthur, without question the most notable evangelical of our day, states that “Christians” are unholy. Of course, the difficulty is in the utter simplicity of the issue.
Protestants believe that conversion is only a declaration by God as opposed to a holy state of being. Their definition of the new birth follows: one is gifted with the ability to see our sinfulness as set against God’s holiness. In contrast, the Bible emphasizes an effort to be more like God because we are also holy. True Christians sin because they are weak, not because they are still unholy and only changed positionally. Salvation is a state of being, not a mere legal declaration.
Protestants like MacArthur get tripped up on the law. They believe perfect law-keeping brings about eternal life / righteousness / justification / holiness. Supposedly, Jesus came to pay the penalty for our sins, and to live a perfect law-keeping life that can be imputed to us by faith. But the law cannot give life regardless of who keeps it. All sin is imputed to the law so Jesus could end it, and all of the sin imputed to it.
The true Christian is justified by new birth, not the law. Our focus is to fulfill the law by loving God and others with all of our heart, soul, and mind. Our focus is to use our temples to offer holy sacrifices to God through obedience to His word. All of the sin offerings were ended on the cross; our focus is the love offerings. In contrast MacArthur states:
When we see God as holy, our instant and only reaction is to see ourselves as unholy. Between God’s holiness and humanity’s unholiness is a gulf. And until a person understands the holiness of God, that person can never know the depth of his or her own sin. We ought to be shaken to our roots when we see ourselves against the backdrop of God’s holiness. If we are not deeply pained about our sin, we do not understand God’s holiness at all.
Without such a vision of God’s holiness, true worship is not possible. Real worship is not giddy. It does not rush into God’s presence unprepared and insensitive to His majesty. It is not shallow, superficial, or flippant. Worship is life lived in the presence of an infinitely righteous and omnipresent God by one utterly aware of His holiness and consequently overwhelmed with his own unholiness.
Note that MacArthur only sees one distinction between the “born again” and humanity in general: an ability to see the depths of our sin. And, the sole focus of “worship” is also our own sinfulness. This puts MacArthur squarely in the same camp as those who published the “Cross Chart” that illustrates progressive justification.
So-called saints primarily focus on one thing: a deeper and deeper realization of our own sin. Obviously, any notion that we have any goodness at all would diminish the cross by raising the downward trajectory of the bottom line.
The apostle Peter and Jude both wrote that we are holy. Who is John MacArthur? Jude also wrote that the Lord will return to execute judgement on the unholy…those that the Protestants identify with.
It’s not complicated; if you are unholy you are unsaved.
Originally published February 27, 2015
“No false religion teaches that you earn your justification by perfect law-keeping—there is always a system that prescribes sanctified do’s and don’ts that in turn fulfill the law for you, otherwise known as ‘the traditions of men.’”
What do you believe about salvation? Your Christian life will tell you. Therefore, the parable of the talents in Matthew 25:14-30 should not confuse us. The “wicked” servant was not cast into outer darkness because he didn’t put his talents to work, but rather what he thought it meant to be a servant. In other words, in order to be saved, you need to know what a Christian is. That should be fairly evident.
Do you live your Christian life by “faith alone”? That is a statement in regard to what you believe about salvation, or what happened to justify you; viz, justification.
This is not complicated. Don’t complain that I am making your touchy-feely “simple” gospel a theological treatise. I am sure you concur that some Bible words have to be understood in order to be saved. The Bible splits humanity into two categories: saved and unsaved; i.e., “under law” or “under grace” (Romans 6:14).
“Under law” is the biblical nomenclature for the unregenerate lost. Under law means that sin rules you. Not in a plenary sense, because man’s conscience and fear of punishment from civilian law restrains people. Yet, they are under the condemnation of God’s law and every violation is documented. Unless they are saved, they will be judged according to their works in the final judgment. Though some who followed their conscience more than others will receive a lesser condemnation, it is still eternal separation from God. They are under law, and enslaved to sin. The last judgment DOES NOT determine justification; it ONLY determines the degree of eternal condemnation. It doesn’t determine justification; it only determines the wages of sin.
Moreover, sin uses the condemnation of the law to provoke people to sin. Primarily, sin uses desires to tempt people, but sin’s incentive is the law because it condemns. Sin lives for the purpose of condemning people, and uses desire to get people to sin against God’s law. This leads to present and eternal death. Sin’s desire is to bring death. When the Bible speaks of “the desires of the flesh” it is referring to instances when the flesh is serving the desires of sin.
The flesh can also be used to serve the desires of the Spirit (Romans 12:1). The flesh has NO desires; it is used by the dweller for good or evil purposes. We will either use our bodies to serve the desires of sin or the desires of the Spirit. Of course, people have their own desires, but unfortunately, the unregenerate are guided by the desires of sin. They assume sinful desires are their own desire which is true. In contrast, sinful desires are not part and parcel with the regenerate soul.
Said another way: among the lost, the desires of sin are very much the same desires possessed by the individual who are indifferent to the law of God. A desire for God’s law is absent while their life is continually building a death and condemnation dividend. Some of that dividend is paid in this life until the full wages of death are paid at the final judgment.
Under grace is not void of law. The law (same as “Scripture” or same as “Bible”) has a different relationship to the saved, or those under grace. A literal baptism of the Holy Spirit takes place, as symbolized in water baptism, which puts to death the old person under law and resurrects the new person under grace. The saved person is now a new creature created by the Spirit of God. The person under grace is literally born of God—he/she is God’s literal offspring.
Therefore, the old person is no longer under the condemnation of the law in the same way a dead person cannot be brought under indictment for a crime. Consequently, the motivation for sin is gone. The power of sin is the law’s condemnation that leads to death (1Corintians 15:56, 57). In addition, the person under grace has been given a new heart that loves God’s law and its way of life. The book that could only bring death is now a book that brings life. Either way, it is the Spirit’s law; He uses it to condemn those that are under it, or uses it to sanctify those who are under grace (John 17:17).
THEREFORE, how you see the law determines what you believe about salvation. If you believe that you can somehow obey the law in a way that unwittingly seeks to be justified by law-keeping, you are still under law. If you believe justification is defined by perfect law-keeping, you are still under law. Those who believe this also believe they need a salvation system that filters all their works into a category of faith alone. The Christian life is categorized or departmentalized into works that attempt to be counted for justification and faith alone works that qualify as “living by faith alone.” Do not miss the point that this also includes abstaining from certain things that aren’t necessarily sin as defined by the Bible.
Yes, hypothetically, a person would need to keep the law perfectly to be justified by the law, but that doesn’t make perfect law-keeping the standard for righteousness. If that were the case, the law is a co-life-giver with the Holy Spirit, and a death would not be necessary. We are justified APART from the law—law has NO part in justification. The Bible defines justification, but it’s not a standard of justification (Rom 3:21, Gal 2:19, 4:21). Law-keeping by anyone does not justify.
If one is trusting in a system that fulfills the law for justification, particularly if it calls for not doing something in order that the law is fulfilled in our place, that is works salvation through some kind of intentionality whether passive or active. These kinds of systems are always indicative of being under law rather than under grace. One such system that has several variances calls for doing certain things or not doing certain things on the Sabbath which can be Saturday or Sunday depending on the stripe of system. If you follow the system on the Sabbath, all works done by you during the week are considered to be by faith alone.
In Reformed theology, particularly authentic Calvinism, contemplation on your sin leading to a return to the same gospel that saved you imputes the perfect law-keeping of Christ to your life. Notice that a fulfillment of the law is required to keep you saved, but we do faith alone works in order that Christ’s perfect law-keeping is imputed to our account. The problem here is that a fulfillment of the so-called “righteous demands of the law” is the standard for justification. Hence, clearly, this keeps so-called “Christians” UNDER LAW. In addition, a so-called faith alone work is still a work.
Not so with under grace. We are now free to follow our new desire to obey the law out of love without fear of condemnation. The law is the standard for love, not justification. In all of the aforementioned systems of sanctified justification by works, faith doesn’t work (or love) because it can’t lest salvation be lost. In the Christian life (sanctification) faith works because it can for the sake of love without condemnation (Galatians 5:6).
Knowing that justification is a settled issue that has nothing to do with the law anyway, the true Christian only sees law-keeping as an opportunity to love. Christians not only have the anthropologic law of conscience written on the heart, the new birth writes the Bible there as well. In other words, they love the law. Obviously, those who must focus on faith alone works in order to remain justified cannot focus on aggressive obedience to the law that defines love.
This is exactly what the books of James and 1John are about. Faith is not afraid to work because there is no condemnation. Faith without works is dead, “being alone” (James 2:17 KJV).
Are you in a religious system that propagates faith “alone” in the Christian life? Your faith is not only dead, it speaks to what you believe about justification. You believe justification has a progressive aspect and is not completely finished. Secondly, you believe the law has a stake in justification. Thirdly, your system categorizes works as faith alone works (an oxymoron of sorts) or works that are unfiltered in some way and therefore are efforts to “self-justify.”
If you believe the right gospel, you know that it is impossible to unwittingly partake in an endeavor to justify yourself. It’s a metaphysical impossibility—it’s not in the realm of reality. No false religion teaches that you earn your justification by perfect law-keeping—there is always a system that prescribes sanctified do’s and don’ts that in turn fulfill the law for you, otherwise known as “the traditions of men.”
It’s the fallacy of faith alone works for justification. But any work for justification is justification by works whether doing nothing (abstinence is still doing something), something passive (contemplationism or prayer is also a work) or anything active.
Law and justification are mutually exclusive, and true faith is “faith working through love” (Galatians 5:6). Faith works because there is no fear in love (1John 4:18). Don’t be like the servant who was afraid and hid his talents in the ground. Christ said it best:
“If you love me, keep my commandments.”
Galatians: Protestantism is No New Thing Under the Sun; Law-Based Justification is Functioning Antinomianism
The law was NEVER the standard for righteousness, but it is the standard for love and the work of faith.
Protestantism is the Galatian problem all over again. In Paul’s letter to the Galatians he attacks law-based justification, but functioning antinomianism has a slick way of dissing the law while applauding it. On the one hand the law is applauded as the standard for righteousness; ie., justification, but on the other hand some sort of substitute for the law fulfills it. This is anti-law while presaging to applaud it. And by the way, antinomianism is really anti-love.
Hence, while Protestants proudly proclaim themselves people of the book, evil and tyranny reins in the church. Those who show themselves reasonably equitable are really just good Germans. Why is this? Answer: law-based justification. Protestants are perhaps the wiliest in this falsehood because the banner over them is “justification by faith.” While proclaiming justification by faith alone apart from the law, it is really justification by the law. The key here is that like all law-based religions before it, Protestantism makes the law justification’s standard.
As a result, that standard must be met by some sort of substitutional ritual that fulfills the law FOR the “believer.” This actually leads to a “relaxing” of the law because we can’t fulfill its…watch for it….”righteous demands.” Why strive to obey the law when it demands perfection? In fact, Martin Luther and John Calvin both stated that any little falling short makes one guilty of violating every point of the law. Will this lead to a “relaxing” of the law which was the very thing that Christ accused the Pharisees of? Of course it will. As the institutional Protestant church rediscovers its true roots more and more will antinomianism increase? Of course it will. Is that the very thing we are witnessing in our day? Absolutely.
With the Judaizes, the substitute for functioning righteousness was a litany of manmade traditions including the recognition of days and circumcision:
Galatians 4:9,10,11 – But now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how can you turn back again to the weak and worthless elementary principles of the world, whose slaves you want to be once more? You observe days and months and seasons and years! I am afraid I may have labored over you in vain.
Again, Protestants are really slick at this game. One of their rituals is “living by faith alone.” Instead of salvation being a onetime act that makes us righteous, our salvation is maintained by ritual faith alone works. This is the sort of thing James addressed in his epistle and why Martin Luther had open contempt for that particular New Testament letter.
In Protestantism, like all law-based false gospels, the law is the standard. Righteousness is defined by perfect law-keeping coupled with a substitute for fulfilling the law. Let me repeat that:
In Protestantism, like all law-based false gospels, the law is the standard. Righteousness is defined by perfect law-keeping coupled with a substitute for fulfilling the law.
With the Judaizes it was circumcision et al, with Protestantism it is the manmade tradition of “double imputation.” What’s that? It is the idea that Jesus kept/keeps/fulfills the law for us. If we keep the law we will fall short of its “perfect demands” and will be guilty of violating the whole standard for righteousness. The very verse they use to prove this makes the opposite point (James 2:10) as we shall see further along. But, this very error can be addressed using Paul’s letter to the Galatians:
Galatians 5:2 – Look: I, Paul, say to you that if you accept circumcision, Christ will be of no advantage to you. 3 I testify again to every man who accepts circumcision that he is obligated to keep the whole law. 4 You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace.
Note that in order to be justified by the law, the receiver of the justification must be the one who keeps it. Unless they alone keep the whole law, they are severed from Christ. “Every man” that wants to be justified by the law must keep it himself. This is why double imputation doesn’t cut it. And in regard to the whole idea of a substituted righteousness, what is the result in every case? A relaxing of the law, and a righteousness that does not exceed that of the Pharisees who substituted the law with their manmade traditions.
This is where double imputation keeps the so-called believer under the condemnation of the law and calls the “believer” to live by faith alone works (ritual) invented by men. Jesus is a substitute for perfect law-keeping which completely misunderstands the purpose of the Old Covenant. The OC uses the law to hold all sin captive. All sin is against the law. The OC imputes all sin to the law, and then Jesus came to end the law (Romans 10:4).
Galatians 3:19 – Why then the law? It was added because of transgressions, until the offspring should come to whom the promise had been made, and it was put in place through angels by an intermediary. 20 Now an intermediary implies more than one, but God is one. 21 Is the law then contrary to the promises of God? Certainly not! For if a law had been given that could give life, then righteousness would indeed be by the law. 22 But the Scripture imprisoned everything under sin, so that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe. 23 Now before faith came, we were held captive under the law, imprisoned until the coming faith would be revealed. 24 So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith. 25 But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian, 26 for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith.
When one believes on Christ, he/she is baptized in the Spirit and is no longer under the OC to which all sin is imputed. The believer is saved by “the promise” of new birth, NOT the law. In fact, if the law has anything to do with being made righteous, even if it is fulfilled by a substitute, that would make the law an additional “seed” BUT there is only ONE seed:
Galatians 3:15 – To give a human example, brothers: even with a man-made covenant, no one annuls it or adds to it once it has been ratified. 16 Now the promises were made to Abraham and to his offspring. It does not say, “And to offsprings,” referring to many, but referring to one, “And to your offspring,” who is Christ. 17 This is what I mean: the law, which came 430 years afterward, does not annul a covenant previously ratified by God, so as to make the promise void. 18 For if the inheritance comes by the law, it no longer comes by promise; but God gave it to Abraham by a promise.
Protestantism, like all law-based salvation plans, makes the law an additional life source other than the new birth made possible by “the promise” of the Spirit who raised Christ from the grave. This changes the true believer’s relationship to the law. Instead the law condemning, it is the standard for loving God and others.
The law was NEVER the standard for righteousness, but it is the standard for love and the work of faith:
Galatians 5:6 – For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love.
This is the whole point of James 2:10 as set against many verses noting that love fulfills the whole law. The contrast is the point. The new birth is the standard for righteousness—not the law. This makes the whole Protestant “sinners save by grace” a lie from the pit of hell. Those who sin against the law are still under law. Grace in not a covering for sin, it is an ending of the law and its condemnation. Grace has a law: the law fulfilled by the believer’s work of love; read Romans 8 and…
1John 3:3 – And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure. 4 Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law. 5 And ye know that he was manifested to take away our sins; and in him is no sin. 6 Whosoever abideth in him sinneth not: whosoever sinneth hath not seen him, neither known him. 7 Little children, let no man deceive you: he that doeth righteousness is righteous, even as he is righteous. 8 He that committeth sin is of the devil; for the devil sinneth from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil. 9 Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God. 10 In this the children of God are manifest, and the children of the devil: whosoever doeth not righteousness is not of God, neither he that loveth not his brother (KJV).
Christ didn’t come to cover sin via obedience to Protestant orthodoxy which holds to a law-based standard for justification like all other false religions. He came to end enslavement to sin and the law’s condemnation in order to free us to live by love. The law is good for that purpose. In this sense, the law and its truth sanctifies us (John 17:17). In this sense, “If you love me keep my commandments.”