Paul's Passing Thoughts

What is the Gospel?

Posted in Uncategorized by Paul M. Dohse Sr. on April 27, 2015

Is the gospel a declaration about the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ? Are people saved because they believe those facts?

Granted, they have to believe those facts to be saved, but they must not only believe that Christ died for our sins and was resurrected three days later, they must also believe something else about those facts:

Salvation is a choice to follow Christ in that same death, burial, and resurrection. He accomplished such so that we can follow Him in it.

Salvation is an intellectual ascent AND a choice. The choice is also referred to as “repentance.” You are not only turning from an indifference to God’s truth, you are turning from who you are to whatever God wants to make you.

This is called the new birth, or the baptism of the Holy Spirit. You can do absolutely nothing to effect this new birth, you can only ask for it. It is the desire to turn from who you are to whatever God makes you. If you understand that, and want that, God has promised it to you if you ask for it.

Being saved encompasses the belief that you have passed from death to life. The Bible then commands us to proceed with life based on certain assumptions. First, we must know that we cannot be condemned for any sin. Secondly, we make it our goal to please God by putting off the former ways and learning the new ways of the Spirit. Spiritual growth is a true colaboring between ourselves and the Spirit. Our focus is putting off the old ways and putting on the new ways of the Spirit. This is the laser focus of discipleship.

A contrary focus on our supposed continued need for the same gospel that saved us, and a focus on how “sinful” we are is a denial that we have passed from death to life. Instead of our goal being love, our goal becomes a deeper and deeper appreciation of why Christ had to die for us. This is functioning on a completely different assumption:

It denies that we have passed from death to life, and makes our greatest sin that of not understanding how sinful we are resulting in a supposed lack of gratitude for Christ’s sacrifice. It assumes that the old us is still alive, and able to supply ample fodder for showing us why Christ had to die for us. Instead of the Bible showing us the new way of the Spirit, it supposedly shows us the old way of sin leading to a greater appreciation of the cross.

This is the theme we hear constantly in the institutional church, on Christian radio, and in contemporary praise music. And unfortunately, it tells us what we really believe about the gospel.

The new birth is redefined as a mere ability to see how sinful we are, and not an ability to be a transformed person—a true kingdom citizen—a true child of God. Transformation is redefined as an increased ability to see how sinful we are and plunge the depths of our total depravity. The idea that we can actually change and better learn Christ is declared to be arrogant, prideful, and… “having a righteousness of your own.”

This is a slick, deliberate play on words that subtly denies the new birth. It takes the reality that righteousness did not originate with us, and makes it tantamount to having NO righteousness that is a part of our true being. We remain unchanged except for an ability to SEE only, and the righteousness of God that comes part and parcel with being born of Him remains apart from us. We are merely vessels that “reflect” God’s righteousness, but it remains separate from our new identity.

In other words, we really don’t perform any love that pleases God, our only goal is to plunge the depths of our own sinfulness that results in God “reflecting” His love on us and others. This coincides with rhetoric we hear in the church constantly such as, “It wasn’t I who did it—it was the Spirit working through me.”

Passages like Galatians 2:20 are then twisted to make the case.

Consequently, instead of a proper dichotomy being drawn between  GIFT and REWARD, salvation ends up as our reward for living a life of faith alone in… “what Jesus HAS done, not anything I do.”

Again, this not only denies the new birth, but makes “Christians” unwitting participants in a damning endeavor to keep ourselves saved by faith alone which is defined as a mere ability to see our need for a savior more and more. “Jumping directly from the commandment to obedience” is supposedly works salvation.

Jesus said, “You must be born again,” and this is exactly why He said it. Water baptism has nothing to do with a church membership found nowhere in the Bible, and it is not only about what Jesus did, it is a testimony that you have followed Christ in a literal death and resurrection.

Salvation is the abandonment of who you are, and trusting what God will do by recreating you into His own child. It is a matter of trust, because…

That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.


The 5 Solas: Worshiping Under the Banners of Heresy

Posted in Uncategorized by Paul M. Dohse Sr. on October 6, 2014

The Banners of Heresy 2

“If justification is completely finished, and NOTHING that we do in sanctification can change that, what do we need an elitist priesthood for? That question strikes fear in the heart of every Calvinist.”      

In another article on the five solas, we looked at sola fide, or faith alone and examined why that is false soteriology. In short, it denies the new birth and redefines it as a mere perpetual death and rebirth experience only. Because the Christian life is merely an extension of the finished work of justification, which is supposedly not finished, one must live their Christian life by faith alone in order to get from beginning justification to final justification.

It also makes law the measure of justification. The Christian life becomes an endeavor to live by sola fide in a way that results in the perfect obedience of Christ being applied to our lives in place of anything that we would do. Hence, if sanctification is not done TO US by Christ instead of us DOING the Christian life—it’s works salvation. We also looked at how this cuts off the believer from the true practice of love.

But, when justification is not a finished work, and sanctification is the progression of justification, EVERYTHING is a work. Even if you are doing nothing so that you are supposedly not involved in finishing justification, you are in fact assuming a role in the process by making sure that you don’t do anything, or closely adhere to prescribed ways of doing things that qualify as doing nothing.

This is how Reformed heresy deceives based on assumption. It is assumed that sola fide concerns justification alone, but it doesn’t. In the same way, it is assumed that solus Christus (Christ Alone) means believing in no other man as a mediator between God and you for salvation. No, solus Christus means literally Christ alone as opposed to the other Trinity members. It also means Christ alone as opposed to anything we would do in what they call “progressive sanctification” which is really progressive justification. This is also known as Christ for us or Christ 100% for us.

It begins with the idea that Christ’s role in salvation was two-fold: he died for our justification, and lived in perfect adherence to the law so that His obedience could then be applied to our Christian lives by faith alone, or sola fide. Therefore, the “believer” must continually revisit the “saving works of Christ in all of the Bible” (sola scriptura) in order to keep themselves saved. It should be called  Bachman Turner Overdrive soteriology because of their famous song “Taking Care of Business.” The main refrain is, “I love to work at nothing all day.” In this case, the Reformed work at nothing in order to keep yourself saved.

This is where we get into the issue of Trinitarianism leading to a role for the believer in sanctification other than sola fide. If  it is the Father’s righteousness imputed to the believer apart from a perfect fulfillment of the law by Christ, that naturally implies a role for the believer in sanctification. That’s a problem for Reformed soteriology on many levels.

If the Holy Spirit is merely a manifestation of what Christ does, that excludes the enablement of believers to participate in kingdom living apart from the finished work of justification. If justification is completely finished, and NOTHING that we do in sanctification can change that, what do we need an elitist priesthood for? That question strikes fear in the heart of every Calvinist.

Protestantism and Catholicism BOTH see justification (salvation) as a PROCESS. BOTH believe in a beginning justification, progressive justification, and a final justification. BOTH are false gospels—the only disagreement is in the details about how you get from point A to point B, and the disagreement is primarily Trinitarian. Catholics traditionally believe that God does a work inside of the believer to help them finish their justification with the help of the Mother Church. Authentic Protestantism believes that NO work is done within the believer because that enables them to participate in the finishing of justification. True classical Protestantism believes that Christians do not DO anything; they only EXPERIENCE the salvific works of Christ—Catholics believe that you actually do something other than believe. It is not sola fide.

Therefore, in regard to Catholicism, they replace a perfect keeping of the law with a set of rituals to make participation in finishing justification plausible. However, remember, since it is the finishing of justification, it requires the same necessity of returning to the same gospel that saved us; viz, the Mass and absolution because sinning as a Christian is no different than sinning as an unbeliever; in both cases, the “Christian” is still under law and not under grace.

In regard to Protestantism, they cry foul because the Catholics distort the law while they uphold the law by making it the standard for justification, but the dirty little secret is that Jesus keeps the law for us via sola fide. This cuts off love from sanctification. One removes the law from sanctification by ritual; the other removes the law from sanctification by making it the sole responsibility of Christ because the perfect keeping of it finishes justification. In both cases, it is not the righteousness of God APART from the law FOR justification. One is a co-laboring with the church to finish justification, the other is “Christ 100% for us” to finish justification.

So, solus Christus means literally  solus Christus…for justification and sanctification both because sanctification is really progressive justification; it isn’t  Christ plus us, and for that matter, not even Christ plus the other members of the Trinity.  One of the foremost authorities and proponents of Reformed soteriology stated it this way:

Luther and Calvin did not simply stress Christ alone over against the Roman Catholic emphasis on works-righteousness. The Reformers also stressed Christ alone over against all—be they Roman Catholics or Protestants—who would point to the inside of the believer as the place where justifying righteousness dwells. Christ alone means literally Christ alone, and not the believer. And for that matter, it does not even mean any other member of the Trinity! (Geoffrey Paxton: The Shaking of Adventism: p. 41).

For all practical purposes, solus Christus is the controversial modulist view of the Trinty. This is the idea that one of the Trinity members is the one, true God, and the other two members are only manifestations of the one true God. This not only makes realm manifestations that are ONLY experienced possible, but it also makes the separation of justification and sanctification impossible. In other words, a modulist view of the Trinity is the necessary companion of progressive justification. This point is reflected in statements by leading Calvinists of our day like John MacArthur Jr.:

As Christians we have one message to declare: “Jesus Christ, and Him  crucified” (1 Corinthians 2:2). “For we do not preach ourselves but  Christ Jesus as Lord, and ourselves as your slaves for Jesus’ sake” (2 Corinthians 4:5; cf. 1 Corinthians 2:2; Galatians 6:14).

Rick Holland understands that truth. This book is an insightful, convicting reminder that no one and nothing other than Christ deserves to be the central theme of the tidings we as Christians proclaim—not only to one another and to the world, but also in the private meditations of our own hearts.

Christ is the perfect image of God (Hebrews 1); the theme of Scripture (Luke 24); the author of salvation (Hebrews 12:2); the one proper  object of saving faith (Romans 10:9-10); and the goal of our sanctification (Romans 8:2). No wonder Scripture describes the amazing growth-strategy of the early church in these terms: “They ceased not to teach and preach Jesus Christ” (Acts 5:42). That is the only blueprint for church ministry that has any sanction from Scripture.

The pastor who makes anything or anyone other than Christ the focus of his message is actually hindering the sanctification of the flock. Second Corinthians 3:18 describes in simple terms how God conforms us to the image of His Son: “And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another” (emphasis added). We don’t “see” Christ literally and physically, of course (1 Peter 1:8). But His glory is on full display in the Word of God, and it is every minister’s duty to make that glory known above all other subjects.

As believers gaze at the glory of their Lord—looking clearly, enduringly, and deeply into the majesty of His person and work—true sanctification  takes place as the Holy Spirit takes that believer whose heart is fixed on Christ and elevates him from one level of glory to the next. This is the ever-increasing reality of progressive sanctification; it happens not because believers wish it or want it or work for it in their own energy, but because the glory of Christ captures their hearts and minds. We are transformed by that glory and we begin to reflect it more and more brightly the more clearly we see it. That’s why the true heart and soul of every pastor’s duty is pointing the flock to Christ, the Great Shepherd.

Notice in this statement that Christians merely “REFLECT” the glory of Christ as a result of meditating on His personhood and works. Notice also that any emphasis at all on anything or ANYBODY  detracts from sanctification. This goes hand in hand with MacArthur’s rejection of eternal sonship as well.  A debate about that issue is not the point here, the point is why they take this view of the Trinity. The point is to show the relationship between this view and their Catholicism-like progressive justification.