Paul's Passing Thoughts

Escaping Church and its Culture of Death

Posted in Uncategorized by Paul M. Dohse Sr. on August 19, 2015

HF Potters House (2)“This isn’t a technique for boosting our spiritual growth; this is a means of re-salvation because we are still technically lost and under law. ‘Under grace’ merely qualifies us for perpetual re-salvation. That’s Protestantism…period!”

Week in, and week out, and days in-between, professing Christians meet at a local institutional church to further indoctrinate their families in the Protestant culture of death. It doesn’t seem like death as families cheerfully socialize together and lift up their hands as the hipster praise bands make a joyful noise to the Lord. In addition, charismatic orators speak of things that are clearly in the Bible.

But let’s talk about good old fashioned theological math found in the Bible. The Bible addresses the only two people groups that exist in the world: the lost and the saved. As professing Christians, we want to be biblically defined as saved people, no? Can a case be made in this post that present-day evangelicals define themselves according to what the Bible defines as “lost.” Yes. All in all I am sure you will agree; any religion that defines itself as unregenerate is a really bad idea.

Here is how the Bible defines the two people groups:

Romans 6:14 – For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.

Every person living in the world is under law or under grace; lost or saved. Protestants define themselves as under law with under grace as a covering. Romans 6:14 is defined this way:

We are under grace because the righteousness of Christ continually saves us from being under law.

So, with Protestantism, it’s both. Under grace means we are still under law but progressively saved by grace. Under law is who we are, while we “experience” grace. Under law is what we do, under grace is what we experience. Supposedly, when Paul stated that we are “not” under law, what he really meant to say is under law is the absence of grace. The lost are only under law, but the saved are under both.

Hence, we are still under the “righteous demands of the law,” but if we are under grace, Jesus keeps the law for us. This is achieved by focusing on our sinfulness against the law, and returning to the same gospel that originally saved us out of gratitude. Objections to this idea are met with accusations of indifference to Christ’s sacrifice. Therefore, the “Christian” must live a “lifestyle of repentance” and constantly seek a “greater revelation of self” which is inherently sinful. The goal is to plunge the depths of our supposed total depravity. And if you are paying attention, our sin and the original gospel that saved us are the constant drumbeats we hear in the institutional church week in and week out.

Consequently, our goal is to see more and more of our reality of being under law resulting in an increased joy regarding our original salvation. Mainline evangelical Paul Washer states it this way:

At conversion, a person begins to see God and himself as never before. This greater revelation of God’s holiness and righteousness leads to a greater revelation of self, which, in return, results in a repentance or brokenness over sin. Nevertheless, the believer is not left in despair, for he is also afforded a greater revelation of the grace of God in the face of Christ, which leads to joy unspeakable. This cycle simply repeats itself throughout the Christian life. As the years pass, the Christian sees more of God and more of self, resulting in a greater and deeper brokenness. Yet, all the while, the Christian’s joy grows in equal measure because he is privy to greater and greater revelations of the love, grace, and mercy of God in the person and work of Christ. Not only this, but a greater interchange occurs in that the Christian learns to rest less and less in his own performance and more and more in the perfect work of Christ. Thus, his joy is not only increased, but it also becomes more consistent and stable. He has left off putting confidence in the flesh, which is idolatry, and is resting in the virtue and merits of Christ, which is true Christian piety (Paul Washer: The Gospel Call and True Conversion; Part 1, Chapter 1, heading – The Essential Characteristics Of Genuine Repentance, subheading – Continuing and Deepening Work of Repentance).

This not only turns the Bible completely upside down, but leaves the Christian in a lifestyle of death while rejoicing in it. This is a true celebration of death, and church is the culture thereof. Romans 6 is clear about what it means to remain under law:

3 Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.

5 For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. 6 We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. 7 For one who has died has been set free from sin. 8 Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. 9 We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. 10 For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. 11 So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.

Obviously, if we believe our formal sinful self has been “brought to nothing,” Paul Washer’s sanctification construct is impossible, and his statement speaks to the authentic soteriology of the Protestant Reformation. How do you achieve a greater revelation of your sinful self when your former sinful self has been “brought to nothing”?

You don’t, which leaves the “believer” yet under law and in need of salvation. The “believer” needs to continually return to the same gospel that saved him/her in order to remain saved. Instead of the new birth being a onetime event that brings the former sinner to “nothing,” the new birth is defined as a joy experience resulting from revisiting the gospel afresh for forgiveness of sin that still condemns us.

This cycle simply repeats itself throughout the Christian life. As the years pass, the Christian sees more of God and more of self, resulting in a greater and deeper brokenness. Yet, all the while, the Christian’s joy grows in equal measure because he is privy to greater and greater revelations of the love, grace, and mercy of God in the person and work of Christ (Ibid).

We are asking the question, How does the gospel save believers?, not: How does the gospel get people to be believers?… Believers need to be saved. The gospel is the instrument of God’s power to save us. And we need to know how the gospel saves us believers so that we make proper use of it (John Piper: Part 2 of a series titled, “How Does the Gospel Save Believers”).

Progressive sanctification has two parts: mortification and vivification, ‘both of which happen to us by participation in Christ,’ as Calvin notes….Subjectively experiencing this definitive reality signified and sealed to us in our baptism requires a daily dying and rising. That is what the Reformers meant by sanctification as a living out of our baptism….and this conversion yields lifelong mortification and vivification ‘again and again.’ Yet it is critical to remind ourselves that in this daily human act of turning, we are always turning not only from sin but toward Christ rather than toward our own experience or piety (Michael Horton: The Christian Faith; mortification and vivification, pp. 661-663 [Calvin Inst. 3.3.2-9]).

…by new sins we continually separate ourselves, as far as we can, from the grace of God… Thus it is, that all the saints have need of the daily forgiveness of sins; for this alone keeps us in the family of God (John Calvin: Commentaries on the Catholic Epistles; The Calvin Translation Society 1855. Editor: John Owen, p. 165 ¶4).

Moreover, the message of free reconciliation with God is not promulgated for one or two days, but is declared to be perpetual in the Church (2 Cor. 5:18, 19). Hence believers have not even to the end of life any other righteousness than that which is there described. Christ ever remains a Mediator to reconcile the Father to us, and there is a perpetual efficacy in his death—viz. ablution, satisfaction, expiation; in short, perfect obedience, by which all our iniquities are covered (The Calvin Institutes: 3.14.11).

Where we land on these issues is perhaps the most significant factor in how we approach our own faith and practice and communicate it to the world. If not only the unregenerate but the regenerate are always dependent at every moment on the free grace of God disclosed in the gospel, then nothing can raise those who are spiritually dead or continually give life to Christ’s flock but the Spirit working through the gospel. When this happens (not just once, but every time we encounter the gospel afresh), the Spirit progressively transforms us into Christ’s image. Start with Christ (that is, the gospel) and you get sanctification in the bargain; begin with Christ and move on to something else, and you lose both (Michael Horton: Christless Christianity; p. 62).

Nor by remission of sins does the Lord only once for all elect and admit us into the Church, but by the same means he preserves and defends us in it. For what would it avail us to receive a pardon of which we were afterwards to have no use? That the mercy of the Lord would be vain and delusive if only granted once, all the godly can bear witness; for there is none who is not conscious, during his whole life, of many infirmities which stand in need of divine mercy. And truly it is not without cause that the Lord promises this gift specially to his own household, nor in vain that he orders the same message of reconciliation to be daily delivered to them (The Calvin Institutes: 4.1.21).

Therefore, “under grace” is defined as a mere qualification to return to the same gospel that saved us; in other words, “We must preach the gospel to ourselves every day” in order to keep ourselves saved. How prevalent is this idea in the contemporary church? Consider this laundry list from Peter Lumpkins .com:

“As Pastors we must first preach the gospel to ourselves before we proclaim to the world the necessity of a Savior” Scott Thomas, President of Acts 29 Network.

“Yet even when we understand that our acceptance with God is based on Christ’s work, we still naturally tend to drift back into a performance mindset. Consequently, we must continually return to the gospel. To use an expression of the late Jack Miller, we must “preach the gospel to ourselves every day” Jerry Bridges, Reformed author.

“We must preach the Gospel to ourselves and one another every day” Ashland Avenue Baptist Church Distinctives, Lexington, KY

“The Gospel must be central to our lives and central to our message. Strive to keep the Gospel in the center of your worship ministry. Jerry Bridges tell us that we must preach the Gospel to ourselves everyday. It has been said that we never move on from the Cross, only to a more profound understanding of the Cross”

Dr. Greg Brewton, Associate Dean for Music and Worship Leadership at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

“We must preach the Gospel to ourselves” Francis Chan, Passion 2011

“Yesterday was a powerful moment in the Word of God as we studied Romans 8:1-4. I challenged those present to learn to preach the gospel to ourselves daily. Why? If we do not preach the gospel to ourselves daily, we will return to sin, bondage, guilt, the Law, and legalism…You see, this is why we must preach the gospel to ourselves daily” Ronnie Floyd, former Chairman of the Great Commission Resurgence Task Force

“I’ve been re-reading Jerry Bridges’ excellent book The Discipline of Grace…Bridges reminded me of just how important it is to “preach the gospel to ourselves everyday” if we are going to be transformed into the likeness of Christ” Tullian Tchividjian, Senior Pastor, Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church

“…I once assumed…that the gospel was simply what non-Christians must believe in order to be saved… But I’ve come to realize that once God rescues sinners, his plan isn’t to steer them beyond the gospel, but to move them more deeply into it. The gospel, in other words, isn’t just the power of God to save you, it’s the power of God to grow you once you’re saved… . This idea that the gospel is just as much for Christians as it is for non-Christians may seem like a new idea to many but, in fact, it is really a very old idea” Tullian Tchividjian, Senior Pastor, Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church

“We must preach the gospel to ourselves everyday… . As we preach the gospel to ourselves, we should be both encouraged and overwhelmed with gratitude, and both should give us a desire to deal with the sin in our lives” Casey Lewis, student, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary

“A Prayer for Preaching the Gospel to Ourselves… . …Most gracious Lord Jesus, even as Paul was eager to preach the gospel to believers in Rome, so I’m eager to preach it to my own heart today…” Scotty Smith, Guest blogger at Justin Taylor’s The Gospel Coalition site and Pastor, Christ Community Church, Franklin, TN

“We must constantly be preaching the gospel to ourselves, filling our hearts with your beauty and bounty, Lord Jesus… . Dear heavenly Father, it’s not about “mind over matter,” or the power of positive thinking, or the pragmatic good of cognitive therapy. It’s all about preaching the gospel to ourselves every opportunity we get…” Scotty Smith, Pastor, Christ Community Church, Franklin, TN (here and here, respectively)

“We must constantly be preaching the gospel to ourselves, filling our hearts with your beauty and bounty, Lord Jesus… . Dear heavenly Father, it’s not about “mind over matter,” or the power of positive thinking, or the pragmatic good of cognitive therapy. It’s all about preaching the gospel to ourselves every opportunity we get…” Scotty Smith, Pastor, Christ Community Church, Franklin, TN (here and here, respectively)

“How can we not shift from the hope of the Gospel? By preaching the Gospel to ourselves daily… . “Preaching the Gospel to yourself” is a phrase I first ran across in The Discipline of Grace by Jerry Bridges, and have observed for years in the life of my good friend, C.J. Mahaney. C.J. has written persuasively, biblically, and practically on this topic in his new book, Living the Cross Centered Life… . Don’t take a day off from preaching the Gospel to yourself” Bob Kaulfin, Director of Worship Development for Sovereign Grace Ministries and worship leader at Covenant Life Church led by Josh Harris.

“Far too many Christians are passive in their fight for joy…. What can I do?’ Well, God does not mean for us to be passive. He means for us to fight the fight of faith t he fight for joy. And the central strategy is to preach the gospel to yourself… . John Piper, When I Don’t Desire God, p.81, as quoted by Bob Kauflin

I am thoroughly engrossed with Joe Thorn’s personal mediations on preaching the gospel to oneself” Tom J. Nettles, Professor of Historical Theology, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, promoting Joe Thorn’s book, Note to Self: the Discipline of Preaching to Oneself

“In the few months prior to Verge God was really working on me. I’ve been doing a lot of repenting of the idols in my heart. I’ve been preaching the gospel to myself” Steve McCoy, SBC Pastor

“This may sound really selfish, but faithfully preaching the gospel to myself is actually what enables me to share it faithfully to others” Timmy Brister, SBC Associate Pastor.

“I chose not to include the response to the gospel…but just tried to focus on what the gospel actually is. I edit it regularly as I try to grasp and preach the gospel to myself” Ed Stetzer, LifeWay

This isn’t a technique for boosting our spiritual growth; this is a means of re-salvation because we are still technically lost and under law. “Under grace” merely qualifies us for perpetual re-salvation. That’s Protestantism…period!

And the culture that will result is defined in the Bible:

Romans 6:15 – What then? Are we to sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means! 16 Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves,[c] you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? 17 But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, 18 and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness. 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.

20 For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. 21 But what fruit were you getting at that time from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death. 22 But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life. 23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Christ said, “You must be born again.” This is clearly a doctrine that redefines the new birth by defining the “believer” as unchanged and yet under law. Along with that is an unavoidable conclusion that this also includes a fruits unto death existence that is part and parcel with being under law.

This will, and does make sin and condemnation the focus and theme of church while the Bible emphasizes ADDING virtue to our faith in contrast to a continual re-visitation of our supposed depravity.

1Peter 4:8 – Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins.

2Peter 1:3 – His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence,  4 by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire. 5 For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, 6 and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, 7 and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. 8 For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 For whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins.

Romans 15:14 – I myself am satisfied about you, my brothers, that you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge and able to instruct one another.

Hebrews 10:24 – And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works.

In the past, Protestants were confused enough about their own soteriological traditions that the fruits unto death were minimal, but during this Neo-Reformed resurgence that we are witnessing presently, such is not the case; the institutional church is a blatant culture of death. And those who would expose their children to it are woefully undiscerning. Ask yourself this simple question: do I leave church better equipped to see something that the Bible states isn’t there or better equipped to love God and others? Am I better at seeing my own depravity, or have I learned new ways to love which covers a multitude of sins anyway?

The remedy for this malady is a return to where the gathering of believers belongs: in home fellowships where believers are equipped to love God and others as a lifestyle, NOT a “lifestyle of repentance.” The institutional church was first called “church” when it was founded in the 4th century, and it was founded on the same idea that believers remain under law. Therefore, an authoritative institution was created that supplied official re-salvation for those under law. The institutional church goes hand in glove with the idea that it supplies a place for re-salvation, i.e., those qualified to receive it by being “under grace.”

To impart this blessing to us, the keys have been given to the Church (Mt. 16:19; 18:18). For when Christ gave the command to the apostles, and conferred the power of forgiving sins, he not merely intended that they should loose the sins of those who should be converted from impiety to the faith of Christ; but, moreover, that they should perpetually perform this office among believers” (The Calvin Institutes: 4.1.22).

Secondly, This benefit is so peculiar to the Church, that we cannot enjoy it unless we continue in the communion of the Church. Thirdly, It is dispensed to us by the ministers and pastors of the Church, either in the preaching of the Gospel or the administration of the Sacraments, and herein is especially manifested the power of the keys, which the Lord has bestowed on the company of the faithful. Accordingly, let each of us consider it to be his duty to seek forgiveness of sins only where the Lord has placed it. Of the public reconciliation which relates to discipline, we shall speak at the proper place (Ibid).

Come out from among them and be separate.

The Protestant Twisting of 1John: A Clarification, Part 4; Gospel and Obedience

Posted in Uncategorized by Paul M. Dohse Sr. on April 20, 2015

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Welcome to Blogtalk Radio False Reformation this is your host Paul M. Dohse Sr. Tonight, part 4 of “The Protestant Twisting of 1John: A Clarification.” If you would like to add to our lesson or ask a question, call (347) 855-8317. Remember to turn your PC volume down to prevent feedback. Per the usual, we will check in with Susan towards the end of the show and listen to her perspective.

If you would like to comment on our subject tonight, you can also email me at paul@ttanc.com. That’s Tom, Tony, Alice, Nancy, cat, paul@ttanc.com. I have my email monitor right here and can add your thoughts to the lesson without need for you to call in.

Initially, I wanted to just address 1John 1:9 in a thorough way to debunk this whole Protestant idea that we keep ourselves saved by returning to the same gospel that saved us. And, the way we reutilize the same gospel that saved us is a continued repentance for “present sin.” It’s this whole idea that Jesus died for our past sins, but we must ask forgiveness for known present sin in order to keep ourselves saved. When we do that, it’s a reapplication of Jesus’ death for present sin. Hence, 1John 1:9.

But it doesn’t stop there in Protestant soteriology. They then concern themselves with the question of true righteousness.  If our sins are forgiven, that keeps us out of hell, but it doesn’t make us truly righteous. What to do? So here is what they came up with: Jesus came to die for our forgiveness, past and present IF we return to the same gospel that saved us by faith alone, but He also came to keep the law perfectly so that His perfect obedience could be imputed to “Christian” life. The Reformed call this “double imputation.”

And it turns the true biblical gospel completely upside down. First, it makes the law the standard for justification. There is no law in justification, we are justified APART from the law. Why would Christ obey the law for us when justification is apart from the law? Then what is the standard for righteousness?  NOT the law, but rather God’s righteousness. What’s that? For one, and primarily, it’s the new birth. For us, the standard of righteousness is being a child of God. Being the offspring of God is what makes us righteous. Kinship, not law.

Secondly, we are not justified by the law, no matter who keeps it—who keeps it is not the point, the law itself is the point, because there is no law that can give life. Only the new birth gives life (Galatians 3:21).

Thirdly, double imputation is obviously a covering for sin with the righteousness of Christ and not an ENDING of sin. Our sins are not “taken away” they are only covered. “Christianity” is about living a life of faith only to maintain a covering for sin. Therefore, we are not the ones really obeying, and therefore, we are not the ones performing love either.

And boy does this notion land us right where we are at in 1John. I have invested so much in the untwisting of 1John 1:9 in this series, that I thought, “I might as well finish the book out and make it our 1John commentary.” And so it is.

This is our theses: the new birth creates us anew into people who love the truth, and therefore practice oblove. That’s a new word that I made up. What is the definition of oblove? It’s the combination of the words “love” and “obedience.” Biblically, you cannot separate these two words, they are synonymous.  The law is the Bible, and it is a book of condemnation to the unsaved and a beloved love manual for those born again. This is also why our sins are not covered, they are taken away (1John 3:5). Christ came to take away sin, not cover it.

You know, many go to church and sing the hymns, and many listen to Christian radio and raise their hands in praise while stopped at red lights, but a lot of that good Protestant music is just really bad theology that imperils the soul and stops far short of inciting the curiosity of the unsaved. One example is a beautiful song by Steve Camp titled, “He Covers Me.” But again, the premise of the song is that our sins are covered and not ended.

You know, there is a quiet revolution going on in Christianity. Christian husbands are beginning to stand up and assume their rightful role as spiritual leaders. This necessarily means leaving the institutional church which deliberately seeks to emasculate the men among us. One thing that I hear back is that fathers are beginning to stand silent and not sing traditional songs that are deviations from the truth. Good for them. I even hear back that their children ask, “Daddy, why aren’t you singing?” And they tell them why. Undoubtedly, children and wives will get way more out of these types of examples rather than 365 different versions of the same gospel that saved us.

“Why is it that all we ever hear about in the church is the gospel?” Because we have to keep returning to the same gospel that saved us to keep ourselves saved, and by the way, the only place that this continued atonement is valid is in the institutional church. Sure, Protestants will deny salvation by church membership; they will rather become indignant and state that salvation is only found in the gospel. However, the fact remains that they also believe that authority to preach the gospel is vested in the institutional church.

If our sins are only covered, the focus of the Christian life is to keep ourselves covered, not obedience because now obedience is defined by law-keeping. We have been trained mentally to think of obedience as something demanded by the law. This makes the law a co-life-giver with God. At least in one regard, the idea of one God connects with this idea. There is only one life-giver (Galatians 3:10-21).

I strongly suspect that when the Bible talks about God being one, it in no way includes the context of the Trinity. It’s interesting to note that in context of Galatians 3:10-21, the point is that the law is not a coequal with God—there is only one God.

1John 3:1 – See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him. 2 Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. 3 And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure.

4 Everyone who makes a practice of sinning also practices lawlessness; sin is lawlessness. 5 You know that he appeared in order to take away sins, and in him there is no sin. 6 No one who abides in him keeps on sinning; no one who keeps on sinning has either seen him or known him. 7 Little children, let no one deceive you. Whoever practices righteousness is righteous, as he is righteous. 8 Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil. 9 No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God. 10 By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother.

11 For this is the message that you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another. 12 We should not be like Cain, who was of the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his own deeds were evil and his brother’s righteous. 13 Do not be surprised, brothers, that the world hates you. 14 We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers. Whoever does not love abides in death. 15 Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.

16 By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. 17 But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? 18 Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.

19 By this we shall know that we are of the truth and reassure our heart before him; 20 for whenever our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and he knows everything. 21 Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence before God; 22 and whatever we ask we receive from him, because we keep his commandments and do what pleases him. 23 And this is his commandment, that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us. 24 Whoever keeps his commandments abides in God, and God in him. And by this we know that he abides in us, by the Spirit whom he has given us.

The law is not the standard for justification; it is the standard for our love, obedience, and submission. If there is a standard for justification at all, it would simply be defined by the new birth. We are justified by virtue of being in God’s family. The first man was a created being. God did not decide to save man by restoring a covenant of works, or restoring man’s image created in the likeness of God, or to restore paradise lost. He decided to save man by making him His literal family. The gospel isn’t about restoring things; it’s about making all things new. This defines you as pure, albeit in mortality. Nevertheless, being born of God in mortality results in the inevitable morphing into more and more purity:

See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him. 2 Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. 3 And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure.

Let’s ask an interpretive question here. What did Jesus mean when He told John the Baptist that His baptism by John would fulfill all righteousness? I think it fulfilled all righteousness by representing the literal new birth, or Spirit baptism. Though we still reside in mortal bodies, the decision to be saved is a decision to follow Christ in baptism, or a decision to be born again. That’s the gospel. That’s what the gospel is.

Romans 6:1 – What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? 2 By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? 3 Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.

5 For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. 6 We know that our old self  was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. 7 For one who has died has been set free from sin. 8 Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. 9 We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. 10 For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. 11 So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.

12 Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. 13 Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness. 14 For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.

The more you study the apostle John, the more you will see the apostle Paul. Romans 6 is key here. The perfection of the law is not the standard for righteousness, passing from life to death is the standard. Though we still sin, we are dead to sin. Being deemed righteous in our present state is defined by a reversal of slavery leading to a new direction in life. Romans 6 explains, as we shall see, 1John 3. The literal new birth, in essence reverses slavery (Romans 6:20). This also debunks the whole Reformed total depravity song and dance. Before the baptism of the Spirit that comes by believing on Christ, the unregenerate are free to do good, but enslaved to the law of sin and death (Romans 8:2).

Being under the curse of the law is both a forensic statement and a state of being. It is true, while under law, a perfect keeping of the law is demanded. But this is key: when it gets right down to it, unbelievers are indifferent to the Bible or the law of God. And remember, the law and the Bible are the same thing. Man is capable of doing good, and in fact does do good, but because he/she has no love for God’s truth, and in fact are indifferent to it, life decisions lead to many-faceted forms of death, and ultimately, eternal death. Unbelievers that live according to conscience will suffer a lesser punishment in this life and the life to come.

Believers can in fact make life and death decisions, but are inclined towards obeying the law because of the new birth. Clearly, the Bible states that there is a reversal of slavery. The believer is enslaved to righteousness, but unfortunately free to sin. But according to Paul, a believer can stupidly enslave themselves to certain sins by obeying the desire that the sin produces. The believer is no longer enslaved to sin, but can be ignorant of this fact. And keep in mind, Protestantism is predicated on the idea that we are still enslaved to sin as believers which goes part and parcel with still being under the law and law continuing to be the standard for justification.

Listen, here is why the home fellowship movement is going to eventually take off: the alternative is Protestantism which defines the believer according to how the Bible defines an unbeliever. Eventually, people are going to figure out that they have been proudly proclaiming themselves as unregenerate in the name of Christ.

Lastly, this is defined by the fact that believers have the freedom to present their bodies as living sacrifices, or in other words, present their members for holy purposes that please God. The body is not inherently evil because it is part of the material world. Whether saved or unsaved, the body can be used for good purposes. However, in the case of an unbeliever, good behavior doesn’t lead to life more abundantly, it just leads to lesser punishment and a more bearable eternal state. For the unbeliever, good behavior merely leads to less death. For the believer, obedient love leads to more life.

Now with all of this in mind, let’s read further in 1John Chapter 3:

4 Everyone who makes a practice of sinning also practices lawlessness; sin is lawlessness. 5 You know that he appeared in order to take away sins, and in him there is no sin. 6 No one who abides in him keeps on sinning; no one who keeps on sinning has either seen him or known him. 7 Little children, let no one deceive you. Whoever practices righteousness is righteous, as he is righteous. 8 Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil. 9 No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God. 10 By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother.

John wrote what he wrote in 1John 3 because of what Paul wrote in Romans 6—it’s saying the same thing. Obeying the law isn’t the issue, a “commitment” to obey the law isn’t the issue, the reality of the new birth is the issue.

1Corinthians 15:1- Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, 2 and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain.

3For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. 6 Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep.

This is, as Paul called it, the gospel of “first importance” or literally “the gospel of first order of importance.” There is way more behind this than a mental ascent to the facts of the gospel. You have to believe that this first happened to Christ in order to believe that it really happened to you spiritually. Repentance is a change of mind in regard to many things concerning your life and the life of Christ.

By the way, there was an evangelical movement for a while that emphasized the new birth. It peaked in the 70’s and was considered to be the most egregious of all false gospels. The Australian Forum, the think tank that gave birth to the present-day return to authentic Reformed soteriology, actually published an article titled, “The False Gospel of the New Birth.”

John continues in chapter 3 to explain one of the characteristics of being born again, love. But let me insert this, and this is VERY important: the characteristics of the new birth are framed in what the Bible refers to as “abiding.” If God’s seed “abides in” us (1John 3:9), other things also abide in us: the fact that we abide in Him also; the truth abides in us; we know the truth; we love the truth; we love fellow Christians; we do not practice sin, but rather practice righteousness as a life direction and pattern; we love God’s law; we submit to need; we obey; we seek to please God; we have a hunger for learning more of God’s word, and many more can be listed.

Let’s read more of John 3 with this in mind:

11 For this is the message that you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another. 12 We should not be like Cain, who was of the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his own deeds were evil and his brother’s righteous. 13 Do not be surprised, brothers, that the world hates you. 14 We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers. Whoever does not love abides in death. 15 Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.

16 By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. 17 But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? 18 Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.

See, the order in which John discusses these things is in no wise disconnected. We need to start thinking about “obedience” in reference to love and the new birth. Really, the Christian life is about love. But listen, any love that flows from you starts with a love for truth. Also, please take note of a more biblical definition of love: love is a submission to need—that’s love. When the Scriptures tell women to submit to their husbands, that’s just another way of telling wives to love their husbands. When the Bible tells men to love their wives, it’s simply telling men to submit to their needs. Look at 1John 3:17 again. How does benevolence get parachuted into that body of text out of nowhere?  John goes from discussing murder to meeting financial need; it seems like he is all over the map, but not really.

Lastly, working out the new birth with love leads to assurance.

19 By this we shall know that we are of the truth and reassure our heart before him; 20 for whenever our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and he knows everything. 21 Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence before God; 22 and whatever we ask we receive from him, because we keep his commandments and do what pleases him. 23 And this is his commandment, that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us. 24 Whoever keeps his commandments abides in God, and God in him. And by this we know that he abides in us, by the Spirit whom he has given us.

Assurance of salvation comes through working out our new birth in fear and trembling. Assurance of salvation is grounded in the ending of the law because the old us died with Christ resulting in no condemnation, while our new relationship to the law leads us in love and life. Now listen, even a casual student of the Bible can begin to hang Bible verses all over this framework.

Next week, we will build on this as we go into chapter 4—let’s go to the phones.

Overcoming Addictions

Posted in Uncategorized by Paul M. Dohse Sr. on February 11, 2015

What is an addiction? It is safe to assume that most addictions are driven by desire. According to Psychology Today:

Addiction is a condition that results when a person ingests a substance (e.g., alcohol, cocaine, nicotine) or engages in an activity (e.g., gambling, sex, shopping) that can be pleasurable but the continued use/act of which becomes compulsive and interferes with ordinary life responsibilities, such as work, relationships, or health. Users may not be aware that their behavior is out of control and causing problems for themselves and others.

Elsewhere:

Addiction is a state characterized by compulsive engagement in rewarding stimuli, despite adverse consequences; it can be thought of as a disease or biological process leading to such behaviors. The two properties that characterize all addictive stimuli are that they are (positively) reinforcing (i.e., they increase the likelihood that a person will seek repeated exposure to them) and intrinsically rewarding (i.e., they activate the brain’s “reward pathways”, and are therefore perceived as being something positive or desirable).

How should the laity help the addicted with Scripture? The Bible describes sin as a “master.” It also describes “flesh” or the “body,” or “members” as being instrumental for holy endeavors or useful to fulfill desires that come from sin; i.e., “sinful desires” or “desires of the flesh.”  When Scripture uses “desires of the flesh” it is not stating that sinful desires come from the flesh per se, but rather sinful desires that sin is using the flesh to fulfill. Remember, at least in regard to the Christian, the “flesh” can be utilized for either good or evil. Sinful desires come from the Sin master.

The Bible also states that sin is empowered by the ability to condemn. If  condemnation is taken away, sin still exists, but its status as master has been revoked. If condemnation is removed, sin is unable to enslave.

1Corithians 15:56 – The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Those who are under law are under condemnation, and the Bible also states that Christ came to end the law. Those who believe in Christ have been “purchased” by His blood, and we no longer belong to the Sin master. The Bible uses the slave/master terminology to describe the transaction. And somehow, sin is stripped of its power to enslave when it can no longer use desires to provoke God through the members of the individual. Here is an example of sin as slavemaster:

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 desires to rule over the individual, and it uses desire to tempt.

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.

Therefore, it is no surprise that the apostle Paul informs us that we become enslaved to whatever we obey. Obeying sinful desires results in being enslaved to the desire. What follows is the whole chapter of Romans 6, and it is a long citation and encompasses all that we have discussed so far.

Romans 6:1 – What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? 2 By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? 3 Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.

5 For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. 6 We know that our old self[a] was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. 7 For one who has died has been set free from sin. 8 Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. 9 We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. 10 For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. 11 So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.

12 Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. 13 Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness. 14 For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.

15 What then? Are we to sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means! 16 Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? 17 But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, 18 and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness. 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.

20 For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. 21 But what fruit were you getting at that time from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death. 22 But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life. 23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

What we read here can also be seen in the introductory citations: the desire enslaves the individual, and that person will continue in the behavior regardless of the fruits which include death-like existence and condemnation. These desires produced by sin can range from annoying habits to the unthinkable. People can have a desire to kill other people, and if they obey that desire, they can become serial killers. That extreme example can be applied to many other sinful desires. Sinful desires coming from covetousness or greed can also cause people to commit sins that make the obtaining of the central desire possible. You get the picture. One could expand this into an in-depth mapping of human behavior.

As we see in Romans 6, born again Christians are able to say no to sinful desires. The desires still occur, but they are not able to dominate us. We are able to say no. Sin is no longer a master, but has been demoted to a pesky stalker. However, eventually, in the believer, these desires can be put to death:

Colossians 3:5 – Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.

Galatians 5:24 – Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.

Romans 8:13 – For if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live.

Galatians 5:16 – So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.

In unbelievers, destructive desires can be kept under control for a better quality of life, but such desires can never be totally put to death. As stated by Alcoholics Anonymous, “Once a drunk always a drunk.” If you think about it, unbelievers have little choice but to label many addictions as medical problems because the desire cannot be put to death, it will continually harass them till the day they die unless they are born again. People saved out of a sordid life will often testify that particular dominate desires vanish immediately, but that is not always the case. But in the least, the desire is manageable through biblical applications and eventually dies.

In the unbeliever, destructive desires can be managed through practical means, even biblical ones, but sinful desires in the believer can actually be put to death.

paul

The Potter’s House: Sunday, January 22, 2013; Romans 6

Posted in Uncategorized by Paul M. Dohse Sr. on January 22, 2013

Romans 6

Not that any part of Romans is more important than the rest, but I can’t help but say that we now enter into a most significant chapter in our day. Why do Christians sin? How can we be declared righteous and holy when our sin haunts us daily? If we are born again, if we are new creatures, why do we still sin? We start finding the answers in Romans chapter six.

Paul has been emphasizing the point over and over again that we are justified apart from the law. We are under grace, not under law. There is no law in justification though the law informs our Christian living. So now, Paul begins a rebuttal of what would seem to be the logical conclusion of what he has taught thus far:

Romans 6:1 – What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound?

The rhetorical question should serve to illustrate how hard Paul has emphasized that Christians are not under the law for justification. He then answers the question as follows:

2 By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it?

How have we died to sin? Answer:

3 Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.

Here we have it in a nutshell. We died with Christ when we were saved, and are raised like Christ to “newness” of life. If we are new in life, the old died. A new life obviously replaced the old one. It happened “in order that”  “we too” might walk in newness of life. “We” (first person plural) is us, as in, Christians. “Too” means that we might walk in newness of life like Jesus walked. “Too” implies that we are the ones walking—Jesus doesn’t walk for us. We are new creatures and able to walk in newness of life—the fact that we are empowered by the Holy Spirit is true, but does not negate the fact that we also walk. Let me remind you that even the unregenerate walk by the power of Christ who sustains all things (Colossians 1:9). That doesn’t mean that the unregenerate aren’t really the ones walking just because they are sustained by Christ. The same must be said for us regardless of the fact that we are empowered and recreated. Water baptism pictures this spiritual reality.

Romans 6:5 – For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. 6 We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. 7 For one who has died has been set free from sin. 8 Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. 9 We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. 10 For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. 11 So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.

Dead to sin, and alive to God. Note verse 6 specifically: the “old self” was crucified with Christ which resulted in us not being any longer “enslaved to sin.” The reason that we can be considered righteous in our present life is because slavery is the issue. The old man is dead, so the life that enslaved him is powerless, but there is a remnant that is left behind or we would not still be walking around in mortal bodies. Nevertheless, his power to enslave to sin has been broken and we are free from the bondage of sin.

This is the case when we died with Christ, and what is also true is that we are now alive WITH Christ. We do not remain dead and the only life in us is Christ, we are also alive. Our resurrection life would be impossible without Christ, but that doesn’t mean we are still dead because we got our life from Him. Like any gift, once it is given, we have possession of it. This would seem evident. The apostle John made it clear that we have the seed of God in us (1John 3:9), so that making us righteous in our present day should not be an issue. The ability to do works that please God should not be an issue either.

According to what we have learned thus far in Romans, this old man that is now dead is also part of a position that we are no longer are a part of; namely, “under the law.” The eternal state is decided by whether one is under law or under grace. Those who are under the law will be judged by the law (Romans 2:12) and the standard is perfection. It will not go well for them. Not only are we considered righteous in our present state, but there is simply no law to judge the sin that presently takes place in the Christian life under the confines of justification. In regard to our justification, the law has no jurisdiction. Even if we were to appear in a court to determine our just state the judge would have no law to judge us by:

Romans 5:13 – for sin indeed was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not counted where there is no law.

The relationship of the law to Christians differs from that of the unbeliever: in regard to our justification the law has no jurisdiction. The jurisdiction of the law now applies to our sanctification. The law no longer informs our justification—we are no longer “under it.” But it does inform our sanctification:

Galatians 4:21 – Tell me, you who desire to be under the law, do you not listen to the law?

There is no need for Christ to keep the law for us in our sanctification as many teach in our day—we are not under it to begin with. The law itself informs us that we are no longer under it for our justification. Moreover, it is the full counsel of God for our sanctified life—it defines the reality thereof. This position is antithetical to being under the law; i.e., “under grace.”

So, we must consider the old man to be dead, and the new man alive. Even though the old man is dead and is no longer able to enslave us to sin, he is able to make an appeal to sin through the emotions:

Romans 5:12 – Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. 13 Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness. 14 For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.

We are not primarily informed of this transformation from death to life experientially. Again, the law informs us that this is the case and we are to act accordingly. Apparently, our mortal bodies, which still includes the mind, can make one whale of a plea to sin through the passions. We don’t have to sin, but it is inevitable because though transformed, we are still imprisoned in our present mortality. Christ stated it this way:

Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak (Matthew 26:41).

The law now informs us on how to present “your members to God as instruments for righteousness.” Elsewhere, Paul states it this way:

1Thessalonians 4:1 – Finally, then, brothers, we ask and urge you in the Lord Jesus, that as you received from us how you ought to walk and to please God, just as you are doing, that you do so more and more. 2 For you know what instructions we gave you through the Lord Jesus. 3 For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality; 4 that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor, 5 not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God;

For the believer, a lot of the law is about, “how you ought to walk.” And we are to do it, “more and more.” And we can do it because we are no longer under the dominion of sin which is synonymous with being “under the law.”

So, as far as obedience in sanctification, why all the fuss? The law can’t touch our eternal destiny, and where there is sin, grace abounds that much more (Romans 5:20). So, why not be relaxed in regard to the law? Paul explains:

Romans 6:15 – What then? Are we to sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means! 16 Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? 17 But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, 18 and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness. 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.

20 For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. 21 But what fruit were you getting at that time from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death. 22 But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life. 23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Paul’s first point is that we show ourselves saved or unsaved by what we are enslaved to:

16 Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness?

This is linked intrinsically to our assurance of salvation. We show ourselves a slave to righteousness or unrighteousness. Everybody born into the world is a slave. Yes, there is a choice; what type of slave do we want to be? A slave to righteousness or unrighteousness? Once again, we learn another powerful concept that can be integrated into our gospel presentations as we go in the way. I am convinced that more would be led to Christ in our day if we were better educated in the law. This is indeed a concept that can even be shared with children at a very young age.

Secondly, Paul makes the point that we become better and better slaves to whatever we are enslaved to—righteousness or unrighteousness. Slaves to unrighteousness sow and reap more and more death upon their lives, and slaves to righteousness sow and reap more and more righteousness upon their lives. Can you see that the difference between saved and unsaved is being defined here? Oh my! What a horrible travesty in our day that such a distinction is blurred! Again, the applications here on this one point are endless. One who doubts their salvation should give attention to their slavery. One who is a slave to sin with indifference should not be given any comfort that they are not under the law.

Third, Paul adds yet another point to why the law should not be lax in sanctification. Even though we are no longer under it for our justification, we were COMMITED to it for our sanctification:

17 But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, 18 and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness.

A commitment (obedience) to the “standard of teaching” (the law) is part and parcel with the transformed heart. We are not saved by the law, but we are sanctified by it (John 17:17). When we profess Christ by faith alone, we are not only signing up for salvation, but for discipleship (Matthew 28:19, 20). Enslavement to sin, becoming a better and better slave to sin, and being under the law which in itself provokes the slave to sin more and more, and moreover will judge him/her in the end, is indicative of the unregenerate. Slavery to righteousness leading to more and more righteousness, and a love for truth (2 Thessalonians 2:10,11) is indicative of the righteous. Hence,

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.

It might be added here that a commitment to no longer be a slave to sin is not in concert with so-called Lordship salvation. Anybody who is presented with the gift of the gospel should certainly be informed that they are not only seeking to escape hell by faith alone, but are also seeking to escape slavery to sin. They should also understand that they are escaping judgment from the law by the same token. Certainly, to understand that they are now a slave to Christ and not unrighteousness is efficacious to a proper understanding of the gospel. Lordship does not have one thing to do with our justification because there is no standard (law) in justification. The “standard” is now in sanctification (the “standard of teaching”) and is merely indicative of who we are. As Christians, we merely experience the reality that the law informs us of—by appropriating it through obedience, or working out what has been worked in. This is essential to our assurance. In order to prevent confusion, you can’t just say, “Lordship salvation.” It must be framed as Lordship justification  or Lordship sanctification. Lordship justification is still under the law and enslaved to sin, Lordship sanctification is under grace.

Romans 6:20 – For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. 21 But what fruit were you getting at that time from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death. 22 But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life. 23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Paul frames this concept with slavery and freedom. The cute little Reformed comeback to the argument for freewill, “Mankind has a freewill alright; free to sin,” is actually backwards. Man is born in slavery to sin, and freedom in regard to righteousness. There is in fact, freewill. Slavery to a direction towards either righteousness or unrighteousness is the crux of the matter, with freedom to do good or evil with either. Note the illustration below:

ROMANS 6

Ultimately, though the unbeliever is enslaved toward evil, he/she has the freedom to do good, and I contend that at times do so accordingly. Even with honorable motives. The good works of the unrighteous have merit—not for justification, but in other matters. One, for what it is worth, is degree of eternal punishment. We also see some measure of freedom in regard to righteousness when Jesus said the following:

Matthew 11:20 – Then he began to denounce the cities where most of his mighty works had been done, because they did not repent. 21 “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. 22 But I tell you, it will be more bearable on the day of judgment for Tyre and Sidon than for you. 23 And you, Capernaum, will you be exalted to heaven? You will be brought down to Hades. For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. 24 But I tell you that it will be more tolerable on the day of judgment for the land of Sodom than for you.”

Let’s now look at the circle on the right: are believers free to do evil? They most certainly are. But this is what Paul states in that regard:

21 But what fruit were you getting at that time from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death. 22 But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life.

Many English translations tend to give the idea that we persevere in doing good and this perseverance ends with eternal life, but that’s not what Paul is saying. If our perseverance ends with eternal life, then we are trying to obtain an end by works. This is Paul’s same point in Galatians 3:1-3;

O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? It was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified. 2 Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith? 3 Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?

Now note how Young’s Literal Translation renders this:

O thoughtless Galatians, who did bewitch you, not to obey the truth — before whose eyes Jesus Christ was described before among you crucified?

2 this only do I wish to learn from you — by works of law the Spirit did ye receive, or by the hearing of faith? 3 so thoughtless are ye! having begun in the Spirit, now in the flesh do ye end?

Paul, in essence is asking, “How do you work towards an end that has already been ended? This of course is in regard to justification. We have already come to an end of our justification before the Earth was even created. Also note that when we believed, we received the Spirit who seals us until the day of redemption (Ephesians 4:30). Paul is making two points here: it’s foolish to work towards an end that has already been finished. It’s foolish to work to keep something that is already sealed by the Holy Spirit’s power.

Rather, Paul is speaking of two directions: one that experiences progressive life and ending in eternal life, and one that experiences progressive death with eternal death as its end. As the arrows in the picture illustrate, we are either moving from less righteousness to more unrighteousness, or from less unrighteousness to more righteousness. It is no wonder that the gospel is often framed in context of repentance—repentance is a change of direction. I believe that the Scripture states that we can be so sure of this paradigm that we can know our present spiritual condition by examining our lives. I believe this is the whole point of 1John. See 1John 2:5 and 5:13 specifically. Peter also wrote of adding to the foundation of our faith in order to obtain a “rich” entry into heaven (2Peter 1:5-11). Can a saved person have poor entry into heaven shrouded with doubt? Yes, I think so.

Christians can experience death in this life through sin, and those experiences don’t lend themselves to a hopeful end. James spoke of singular sinful events that lead to death (James 1:14,15). John spoke of sin that leads to death among Christians (1John 5:16,17) and Paul wrote elsewhere that God puts some to death so that they will not be judged with the world (1Corintians 5:4,5; 11:30,31).

A life of death gives assurance that eternal death will be the end. A life of life gives assurance of eternal life. Being unregenerate is like job wages, the wages of sin is death, but our already finished end is a gift—let us be sure of it by how we walk,

23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Potter H. 1

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