Excellent Article On the Current Issues Surrounding Sanctification and Justification

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timmopussycat

Puritan Board Junior
I seem to remember hearing more than one WHI commentator claiming that unless you are accused of being antinomian, you are "probably not" preaching the Gospel.
I don't know if this was their source (it would be mildly ironic, if so), but didn't Lloyd-Jones say something along those lines? Pointing out that it was an accusation made against Paul himself, if I remember correctly.
You are absolutely correct about Lloyd-Jones. He says at great length (Romans, Exposition of chapter 6: The New Man pp. 8-10):

"true preaching of the gospel of salvation by grace alone always leads to the possibility of this charge being brought against it. There is no better test as to whether a man is really preaching the New Testament gospel of salvation than this, that because you are saved by grace alone it does not matte what you do . . . If my preaching and my presentation of the gospel does not expose it to that misunderstanding, then it is not the gospel [that I am preaching. It is this sense] in which the doctrine of justification by faith only is a very dangerous doctrine . . . in the sense it can be misunderstood."

But the Doctor goes on to point out at greater length – the rest of the book–that our being under the reign of grace rather than under sin does not free us from our calling to put to death the sin that remains in our bodies.

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Joshua:

I have not looked at the WLC in forever. Am I correct that the "Moral law" is the 10 commandments, and not the general "mosiac law?" I will look for myself this evening.

Thanks~!
Quite right. If you review WCF 19:1-3 you will see that the Divines defined the term "moral law" as the decalogue alone.
 

CharlieJ

Puritan Board Junior
There is a logical problem at work in some people, though. I do believe that those who preach true doctrine will be called antinomians by some others. However, some people are called antinomians because they are antinomians. So, you cannot take allegations of antinomianism as proof of orthodoxy, since at least some accusations of antinomianism are accurate.

So,

1. If no one would ever accuse you antinomianism, you probably don't aren't preaching truth.

2. Just because someone accuses you of antinomianism doesn't mean you're preaching truth.
 

PuritanCovenanter

Moderator
Staff member
First off I am not so sure that anyone is attaching the name antinomian in a manner that suggests that sanctificaton shouldn't take place. I have had some problems with some teaching concerning the dichotomy of law and gospel but I don't think I have ever called anyone an antinomian. I also believe that we have an incomplete definition of grace when we narrow the teaching down to just unmerited favor as the Greek seems to include much more than just some free pass. Especially in light of clear passages such as Titus 2:11,12 and 2 Corinthians 12:9.


Strongs Greek 5485
especially the divine influence upon the heart, and its reflection in the life;

Harpers Bible Dictionary: Grace; ... Grace in the classical greek applied to art, persons, speech, or athletics, as well as to the good forune, kindness and power bestowed by the gods upon divine men, moving them to miraculous deeds.

(Tit 2:11) For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men,

(Tit 2:12) Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world;
(2Co 12:9) And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.
"God's grace is not a static attribute whereby he passively accepts hardened, unrepentant sinners. God's grace does not change a person's standing before God yet leave his character untouched... Clearly, grace does not grant permission to live in the flesh; it supplies power to live in the Spirit." John MacArthur, Gospel According to Jesus. p. 31

By nature, Grace and law are attached as the Law is also God's words of life. Even for the Christian as we are to live in the Spirit and fulfill them.
(Rom 13:8) Owe no man any thing, but to love one another: for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law.

(Rom 13:9) For this, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not kill, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Thou shalt not covet; and if there be any other commandment, it is briefly comprehended in this saying, namely, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.


(Rom 13:10) Love worketh no ill to his neighbour: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.
Try not walking by this rule of life and see how far you get. So I would say that there are two principles that are true for the christian as well in both the Mosaic and the New Testament. Live and do This. Do this and Live. Both are applicable to the Christian in both the Old and New Covenant and I believe this is actually the teaching of the Reformers as one article I have read points out.

Try not Doing this and living life and see what happens. There is excommunication and deadness that is attributed to not living by this rule. We are truly justified by faith alone but salvation includes more than justification.

Here is a good article on it.
Here is a great thesis on Good Works in the Reformed Tradition. I hope everyone takes some time to look at it. Here are a few small portions of it.

Good Works in the Reformed Tradition | Patrick’s Pensees

Concerning the obedience required or more accurately accepted in the covenant of grace, three distinctions need to be kept in mind. First, we need to distinguish between gospel and legal obedience.[34] Legal obedience is an antecedent condition that merits or causes and so is the ground for blessings or rewards received. Gospel obedience, on the other hand, is from faith and thus by the justified in the power of the Spirit, which is why it is a consequent or subsequent condition. It is not meritorious or legalistic. The good works of believers do not constitute the ground for acceptance before God or any blessing received since all is of grace.[35] Yet, as we have already alluded to and shall discuss more fully in the next section, they are the necessary means and way to obtain, possess and experience salvation both in this life and in the life to come.[36] Thus, when Turretin says that good works are necessary to salvation because according to the covenant of grace obedience is required to partake of the blessings of the covenant, he understands the requirement of obedience in the sense of “the means and way for possessing salvation,” and not in the sense of “merit, causality and efficiency.”[37] This key, yet fine distinction between gospel and legal obedience is what differentiates the role of obedience in the covenant of grace from that in the covenant of works.[38] As John Ball says: “In the Covenant of Nature obedience and workes were commanded as the cause of life and justification: in the Covenant of Grace, Faith is required as the instrumental cause of Remission and Salvation, obedience as the qualification of the party justified, and the way leading to everlasting blessedness.”[39]Second, we need to distinguish between sincere and perfect obedience. No doubt following John Calvin,[40] Ball states that God in the covenant of grace requires perfect obedience, yet in His mercy accepts sincere, imperfect obedience. He writes:

“The Covenant of Grace calleth for perfection, accepteth sincerity, God in mercy pardoning imperfections of our best performances. If perfection was rigidly exacted, no flesh could be saved: if not at all commanded, imperfection should not be sin, nor perfection to be laboured after… In the Covenant man doth promise to repent of his sinnes, and repenting to cleave unto the promise of mercy made in Jesus Christ, and in faith to yield willing, cheerefull and continuall obedience. In contracts amongst men, one may aske more, and the other bid lesse, and yet they may strike agreement: But it is altogether bootlesse, for men to thinke of entering into Covenant with God, if they be not resolved to obey in all things. The practice of all God’s people, who ever made Covenant with his Highness, doth expressely speake thus much, when they solemnly entred into, or renewed their Covenant [Ball then cites Ex. 24:3, 7; Josh. 24:23; 2 Chron. 15:12, 13; 34:31; 2 Kings 23:3; Neh. 10:29; Josh. 22:5].”[41]


That God accepts sincere imperfect good works in the covenant of grace indicates that they are not meritorious and contribute nothing to the acquisition of salvation. It also means that falling into sin is distinct from falling away from Christ and the covenant. A believer may fall into sin, even grievous sin for a time, and yet not fall away from justification and salvation. Perseverance in the faith, which is akin to sincere obedience, is required, while apostasy must at all costs be avoided.[42]

Third, we need to distinguish between the promise of obedience and the promise to obedience. God promises his elect that He will write His law upon their hearts and grant them His Spirit so that they might be careful to keep His commandments. God also promises grace and blessing to those who obey. In other words, the requirement of obedience is both a benefit and a condition of the covenant.[43] God works in us and we work out our salvation. The fact that God enables us to obey does not detract from our duty to pursue holiness and righteousness.

In sum, from the perspective of the covenant, good works are necessary to salvation because they are a condition of the covenant and thus of salvation....

.....

Thomas Boston, in his sermon on Hebrews 4:11, says that there is a five-fold entering into “heaven and life, for which we must labour.”[53] The fourth entering is obedience. God’s commands are called everlasting life because they land the soul in heaven. Indeed, the pathway of obedience is the only one that leads to heaven. Boston writes:

“They that would enter heaven, but not by the way of obedience, must resolve to get in over the walls, but come not in by the door; that is, they shall never see it; ‘for without holiness no man shall see the Lord.’ We must follow the footsteps of our blessed Lord and the flock, who all entered heaven this way; though in different respects, he by, and they in, obedience.”[54]


The southern Presbyterian theologian, James Henley Thornwell, uses a different analogy, a ladder instead of a road: “The successive rounds in the ladder must be passed before we can reach the top.”[55] The point, however, remains the same. Good works are necessary for heaven. Hence, they may properly be called an antecedent condition of glorification.[56]

A similar expression used by some was working for life. The legal principle of the covenant of works was sometimes expressed by the phrase: “Do this and live.” By contrast, the principle of gospel obedience was: “Live and do this.”[57] Stating the difference this way was true enough but incomplete because the legal principle was also used evangelically to articulate the idea that progression in holiness is commensurate with experiencing life. Therefore, we do because we live and we do so that we may live.

Herman Witsius was compelled by the Apostle Paul’s commentary on Leviticus 18:5 in Romans 10 and Galatians 3 to interpret it as a restatement—not a renewal or establishment—of the covenant of works.[58] Nevertheless, other verses in the Pentateuch urging obedience for life (e.g. Deuteronomy 8:1) he interpreted evangelically, concluding that saints are to work for life. Thus, it is not contradictory to say that the principles “Do this and live,” and “Live and do this,” equally apply to the believer. Witsius writes:

“In fine, it is not inconsistent to do something from this principle, because we live, and to the end, that we may live. No man eats but he lives, but he also eats that he may live. We both can and ought to act in a holy manner, because we are quickened by the Spirit of God. But we must also act in the same manner, that that life may be preserved in us, may increase, and at last terminate in an uninterrupted and eternal life.”[59]

This is a great thesis on Good works in the Reformed Tradition.

Good Works in the Reformed Tradition | Patrick’s Pensees
 
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Mushroom

Puritan Board Doctor
So, a comment from the peanut gallery: It appears the consensus here is that salvation is monergistic, but sanctification is synergistic. And it has been correctly stated that the essence of the moral law is contained in the command to love the Lord with all one's heart soul and mind, and to love one's neighbor as oneself.

I would submit that all forms of disobedience derive from a lack of love for the Lord. When one finds that he does not love the Lord as he ought, what then is the solution to this problem? Try harder? Or look to Christ as our substitutionary atonement, our covenant-keeping Elder Brother, our Advocate before the throne, our wisdom from God, our "righteousness and sanctification and redemption"?
 

Philip

Puritan Board Graduate
I would submit that all forms of disobedience derive from a lack of love for the Lord. When one finds that he does not love the Lord as he ought, what then is the solution to this problem? Try harder? Or look to Christ as our substitutionary atonement, our covenant-keeping Elder Brother, our Advocate before the throne, our wisdom from God, our "righteousness and sanctification and redemption"?
Yes---in reverse order.
 

Semper Fidelis

2 Timothy 2:24-25
Staff member
To what degree or percentage do those of the WSC/WHInn "school" have to mention the law as part of sanctification in order for their critics to believe that they are serious about sanctification and the third use of the law?
I don't think it is a "percentage" thing Allan but an issue of what the Law/Gospel distinction is. If you listen to WHI then I'm certain you would agree that they believe that Law=Imperative and Gospel=Indicative in their view. Furthermore, they will regularly note that law does not really sanctify or build up but only the Gospel does. They will regularly note that no imperative carries with it any power to accomplish it but it is only the Gospel, which will do so.
Is there anyone who does not fall into any of these categories that agrees with their critique of the WSC/WHInn "school"?
I'm not sure what the question is here. I do think that the article points out that there is a long-running "debate" within the Reformed tradition on this issue. Mike even noted the same to me personally in dialogue. I'm not bringing this up to tear down WSC but to note that I agree with some of the problems inherent in this school of thinking. It doesn't mean that I throw out or disregard everything good they have to say. We can discuss these things without getting into a party spirit and paint a view in the worst possible light.

What I tried to note earlier about definitive sanctification and union with Christ is something I simply have not heard or read emphasized. The third use of the Law is more than "I am grateful for what Christ has done and so I obey out of a sense of gratitude for what He has already accomplished." This is one important aspect of the equation but, if one studies Romans 6 (and passages like it) there is something much more profound in the Gospel than our gratitude as an "impelling" motive. That is to say that if I stop at the idea that I'm being motivated to obey out of my gratitude then my sense of gratitude is what enables me to more and more obey. Yet Romans 6 teaches us that much more is going on than my gratitude:

1. Christ has put sin as power to death on the Cross for all who are united to Him by faith. We are dead to sin and its enslaving power.
2. Christ was raised again with an indestructible life and I have that life by my union with Him.

There is a fullness to the many things that Paul enjoins upon us to "consider" throughout the Book of Romans and I see the emphasis on the WHI to "consider" a subset of the whole aspect of what we are to "consider" that Christ has done as well as what our union with Him empowers us to accomplish. I do not agree with the notion that "imperative=Law" and that an imperative grants me nothing but only the "Gospel=indicative" which grants power. The Gospel includes imperatives which create the life which they enjoin if we have been transported from this age to the age to come.

Thus, I wouldn't say that WHI has ever been "anti-Law" but it is their definition of Law=imperative and Gospel=indicative or treating the Gospel as limiting itself to Justification or the kerygma that I find problematic. Again, they do much good and I support them financially because I believe they do good, but I'm also troubled by the fact that they tend to treat the historical Reformed distinction of the Gospel ("live and do") as crossing the line into legalism or FV-variants.
 

Semper Fidelis

2 Timothy 2:24-25
Staff member
I would submit that all forms of disobedience derive from a lack of love for the Lord. When one finds that he does not love the Lord as he ought, what then is the solution to this problem? Try harder? Or look to Christ as our substitutionary atonement, our covenant-keeping Elder Brother, our Advocate before the throne, our wisdom from God, our "righteousness and sanctification and redemption"?
Yes, look to Christ and, as Paul enjoins in Romans 6:

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 [1] 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 [2] 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.
Consider:
1. You have died to sin in Him. Sin as power has been crucified with Christ on the Cross.
2. If we have died with Christ, we will also live with him. Consider yourself alive to God in Christ Jesus.

In other words, it is not only a consideration of what Christ has accomplished but also a consideration of yourself as dead to sin and alive to God. It is not merely a consideration that Christ was able to obey but that you will obey because you are united to Christ. This is not perfectionism or a "I'll try harder on my own steam" but a recognition that I need not sin because sin no longer enslaves me and also that obedience to God's commands is not something foreign to us as new creations but is part and parcel of our union with Christ.
 

Jack K

Puritan Board Professor
Consider:
1. You have died to sin in Him. Sin as power has been crucified with Christ on the Cross.
2. If we have died with Christ, we will also live with him. Consider yourself alive to God in Christ Jesus.
Very good and helpful, Rich. And it still fits the description of being gospel-centered, wouldn't you say?
 

Semper Fidelis

2 Timothy 2:24-25
Staff member
Consider:
1. You have died to sin in Him. Sin as power has been crucified with Christ on the Cross.
2. If we have died with Christ, we will also live with him. Consider yourself alive to God in Christ Jesus.
Very good and helpful, Rich. And it still fits the description of being gospel-centered, wouldn't you say?
Absolutely. One of the chief exegetical arguments against any idea that restricts the Gospel to a single aspect of what we enjoy in Christ is how Paul refers to his entire letter to the Romans as "my Gospel". Whether he's speaking about Justification, Sanctification, or any other consequences of the finished and ongoing work of the Savior in this lives of His own, they are all contained under the header of the Gospel.
 

Myshkin

Puritan Board Freshman
Rich-

Thanks for your response. I appreciate your tone. There is a lot here so I will just try to answer with brief points, in number format for a clearer read on the screen.

1. I want to make clear that I mentioned WSC/WHInn only because the original post tied them in as did the article this thread is based on. I do not speak for those mentioned nor pretend to be their defender.

“I don't think it is a "percentage" thing Allan but an issue of what the Law/Gospel distinction is.”

2. Rich, to you it may not be a “percentage” thing, but that is not the impression given by others. Seeking a percentage is not the best way to get an answer, but I thought it would make the point that even though WSC/WHI does speak about following imperatives, they are still accused of being against imperatives. I understand that some think they do not emphasize imperatives enough, but there are those who continue to falsely claim that they do not encourage following the imperatives of God’s law at all. My question was to force others to declare at what point is speaking about imperatives enough proof that one is not anti-imperatives?

3. I personally don’t think it is simply about what the law/gospel distinction is. To me there is a bigger picture behind all of this that dictates how one defines the distinction. I also humbly submit that many do not understand the differences between a confusion, a distinction, and a separation, on this issue. If it was simply about what the distinction actually is, then there would not be insinuations that WSC/WHI are at least opening the door to antinomianism by supposedly denying imperatives.

“If you listen to WHI then I'm certain you would agree that they believe that Law=Imperative and Gospel=Indicative in their view. Furthermore, they will regularly note that law does not really sanctify or build up but only the Gospel does. They will regularly note that no imperative carries with it any power to accomplish it but it is only the Gospel, which will do so.”

4. I do not listen to the WHI at all these days due to availability in my area. When it was available I listened almost every week. I also don’t put much stock into the show (one: because it is edited for time, and two: because it is geared for an “evangelicalism” audience) and have always focused on Modern Reformation, books, internet articles, etc. To your point, I do agree that they teach those things and I agree with them and all of those from the Reformation on who have taught them. I would point out that it is the Holy Spirit who uses law and gospel to accomplish our salvation, not an inherent power in either. And I do not see the problem with saying that even though the law does not build us up, it still nonetheless is required for salvation. The law is our curb, mirror, and guide. I have never heard of the law being in a fourth category/use of empowering obedience. The law certainly works with the gospel and is in harmony with the gospel, but it is not the gospel specifically or gospel generally. They are distinct but always in harmony. The Lutherans pit the two against each other not just in justification, but also in sanctification (even though they confess the third use). I fail to see how WSC/WHI distinguishing law and gospel yet keeping them in harmony is the same thing as Lutherans pitting them against each other.

“ 'Is there anyone who does not fall into any of these categories that agrees with their critique of the WSC/WHInn "school" ?' I'm not sure what the question is here. I do think that the article points out that there is a long-running "debate" within the Reformed tradition on this issue. Mike even noted the same to me personally in dialogue. I'm not bringing this up to tear down WSC but to note that I agree with some of the problems inherent in this school of thinking. It doesn't mean that I throw out or disregard everything good they have to say. We can discuss these things without getting into a party spirit and paint a view in the worst possible light.”

5. Here I was simply asking if there is anyone here on the PB, or elsewhere, that does not fall into one or more of these categories, yet still holds the same criticisms of WSC/WHI? This simply points out where the criticisms are coming from, and that may or may not be relevant to some people. It is not intended to imply a party spirit. I sincerely hope you are not suggesting that’s what I am doing. Of course, I doubt that you are. :D

6. I have met Dr. Horton at a conference and spoke very briefly with him on this issue. I also have an acquaintance that is a former student and a friend of his. Dr. Horton just happens to be one of several who teach the “WSC position”, so I was not referring directly to him. I would prefer to leave individuals out of this discussion

“What I tried to note earlier about definitive sanctification and union with Christ is something I simply have not heard or read emphasized.”

7. From what I understand, there is debate within regarding definitive sanctification. I have virtually no knowledge of this debate other than to say that some question Murray on this issue. So I am not sure of the importance of definitive sanctification on these matters. Regarding union, try some back issues of Modern Reformation, or Horton’s systematic. So you may not have heard or read it, but it is there. And as I am sure you know, there is debate over the place of union and justification. So I am not sure a perceived lack of emphasis on union is cause for concern, unless of course one thinks union is primary over justification.

“The third use of the Law is more than ‘I am grateful for what Christ has done and so I obey out of a sense of gratitude for what He has already accomplished‘.
This is one important aspect of the equation but, if one studies Romans 6 (and passages like it) there is something much more profound in the Gospel than our gratitude as an "impelling" motive. That is to say that if I stop at the idea that I'm being motivated to obey out of my gratitude then my sense of gratitude is what enables me to more and more obey.”

8. I believe this is a total caricature. You would have to show me where they have equated gratitude with the third use itself. They do not say that gratitude is our motivation. The point is that Christ and his work is our motivation to obedience. We obey out of gratitude to Christ, not because we have gratitude. This is basic to the Heidelberg catechism. Can I ask if you think the HC also is deficient in these areas? Is it fair to equate the harmony of motivation and gratitude with operating based on one’s sense of gratitude? I have never heard of anyone teaching this.

“Yet Romans 6 teaches us that much more is going on than my gratitude:
1. Christ has put sin as power to death on the Cross for all who are united to Him by faith. We are dead to sin and its enslaving power.
2. Christ was raised again with an indestructible life and I have that life by my union with Him.
There is a fullness to the many things that Paul enjoins upon us to "consider" throughout the Book of Romans and I see the emphasis on the WHI to "consider" a subset of the whole aspect of what we are to "consider" that Christ has done as well as what our union with Him empowers us to accomplish. I do not agree with the notion that "imperative=Law" and that an imperative grants me nothing but only the "Gospel=indicative" which grants power. The Gospel includes imperatives which create the life which they enjoin if we have been transported from this age to the age to come.”

9. I don’t see how this is different from what you are arguing against. 1 and 2 are indicatives, they are gospel. Again, its not our gratitude that motivates us, it’s the indicatives of all that Christ is and has done, is doing, and will do for us. We are grateful for these indicatives/gospel truths, its not that we are grateful for being grateful. Maybe we just don’t listen to the same episodes or read the same materials ( I have read almost all of them, over and over), but I do see them saying what you are saying, consistently. So it goes back to my earlier question, how much do they need to talk about these things in order for it to be considered an acceptable amount of emphasis?

10. If by gospel including imperatives you mean: commands are in harmony with, alongside of, work with the gospel than I agree with you and I think it would be difficult to find WSC/WHI saying differently. If you mean by gospel, all the indicatives of salvation and/or the CoW, then same as above. But if you mean that the law is gospel, then that is where the controversy is. To say law is gospel is to equate them and confuse them. That is not the same thing as saying the law and the gospel work together despite their total distinction in content. So there is no disagreement that gospel includes law, in that sense.

“Thus, I wouldn't say that WHI has ever been "anti-Law" but it is their definition of Law=imperative and Gospel=indicative or treating the Gospel as limiting itself to Justification or the kerygma that I find problematic. Again, they do much good and I support them financially because I believe they do good, but I'm also troubled by the fact that they tend to treat the historical Reformed distinction of the Gospel ("live and do") as crossing the line into legalism or FV-variants.”

11. Clearly, you do not make the accusation of anti-law, but many others do, and if I am not mistaken that accusation is made on this board often, at least implicitly. Unless I am totally out of my mind, I think it is even stated in this thread.

12. Again, I am not so sure that they limit the gospel to justification in the sense you state here. I must have been taught wrong long ago in the beginning, but I was taught that justification is the gospel. The article on which salvation turns. But I was also taught that all indicatives are gospel even if they are not the gospel. Again, I read WSC/WHI materials often and I fail to see where they limit gospel to only justification. I consistently see them promote all indicatives as gospel, and only limit the gospel to justification. I thought this was pure Reformation basic 101. Perhaps I have missed something after all these years?

13. Thanks for the discussion Rich :up:
 

Semper Fidelis

2 Timothy 2:24-25
Staff member
Allan,

I have so little time to correct all your misunderstanding of what I wrote. I really would encourage you to read more carefully. I think much of your confusion/questions stems from a lack of apprehension of the concern as I could not have stated much more clearly what you clearly misunderstood at times. Please also try to learn to use the quote feature as it is very confusing trying to follow you.

2. Rich, to you it may not be a “percentage” thing, but that is not the impression given by others. Seeking a percentage is not the best way to get an answer, but I thought it would make the point that even though WSC/WHI does speak about following imperatives, they are still accused of being against imperatives. I understand that some think they do not emphasize imperatives enough, but there are those who continue to falsely claim that they do not encourage following the imperatives of God’s law at all. My question was to force others to declare at what point is speaking about imperatives enough proof that one is not anti-imperatives?
But, again, if you don't understand the core issue then you don't understand the criticism. The nature of these kind of debates is that you'll always get parties on either side that will boil things down into unhelpful ways. Some try to boil the issue down against WSC as if they have nothing good to say or are against the Law or do not speak about the Law. Yet, it is not in the caricatures that one should look for the heart of the difference. Your own question about "percentage" is actually an example of an unhelpful way of asking the question. You're boiling down all criticism of WSC on the Law to the idea that all criticism has been of the same sort. Again, you need to study the issue to get through the dross of childish or party-spirit criticism to see where the concern lies from a historical Reformed debate on the issue.

3. I personally don’t think it is simply about what the law/gospel distinction is. To me there is a bigger picture behind all of this that dictates how one defines the distinction. I also humbly submit that many do not understand the differences between a confusion, a distinction, and a separation, on this issue. If it was simply about what the distinction actually is, then there would not be insinuations that WSC/WHI are at least opening the door to antinomianism by supposedly denying imperatives.
I don't think you've been paying much attention to the debate if you're not aware of the discussion on this issue. Even some of WSC's most unfair critics acknowledge that they are distinguishing the Law and Gospel. Again, you are boiling things down in a way that makes all critics pretty unsophisticated if they cannot even tell the difference between a distinction, difference, and separation. Again, one has to spend some time looking at things to see the underlying issue as to why people are disagreeing but the consequences of this distinction create all sorts of consequences for how one emphasizes certain things.

4. I do not listen to the WHI at all these days due to availability in my area. When it was available I listened almost every week. I also don’t put much stock into the show (one: because it is edited for time, and two: because it is geared for an “evangelicalism” audience) and have always focused on Modern Reformation, books, internet articles, etc. To your point, I do agree that they teach those things and I agree with them and all of those from the Reformation on who have taught them. I would point out that it is the Holy Spirit who uses law and gospel to accomplish our salvation, not an inherent power in either. And I do not see the problem with saying that even though the law does not build us up, it still nonetheless is required for salvation. The law is our curb, mirror, and guide. I have never heard of the law being in a fourth category/use of empowering obedience. The law certainly works with the gospel and is in harmony with the gospel, but it is not the gospel specifically or gospel generally. They are distinct but always in harmony. The Lutherans pit the two against each other not just in justification, but also in sanctification (even though they confess the third use). I fail to see how WSC/WHI distinguishing law and gospel yet keeping them in harmony is the same thing as Lutherans pitting them against each other.
I would encourage you to keep studying if you fail to see this. Are you only reading Modern Reformation and material from WSC? I only ask because your questions again are not very penetrating. Whether you agree with the critics or not, it doesn't seem like you can even articulate the concern if you don't know why the Law/Gospel distinction is consequential. You also don't seem to understand the Lutheran distinction if you think they are pitted against each other in their theology.

5. Here I was simply asking if there is anyone here on the PB, or elsewhere, that does not fall into one or more of these categories, yet still holds the same criticisms of WSC/WHI? This simply points out where the criticisms are coming from, and that may or may not be relevant to some people. It is not intended to imply a party spirit. I sincerely hope you are not suggesting that’s what I am doing. Of course, I doubt that you are. :D
Actually, I am now. I think your broad-brushing of criticism has the character of "party spirit". Seriously, any criticism of WSC/WHI most likely falls into one of those categories? I feared that is what you were asking when I asked it and, again, would encourage you to try to learn more about the historic debate on this issue.

7. From what I understand, there is debate within regarding definitive sanctification. I have virtually no knowledge of this debate other than to say that some question Murray on this issue. So I am not sure of the importance of definitive sanctification on these matters. Regarding union, try some back issues of Modern Reformation, or Horton’s systematic. So you may not have heard or read it, but it is there. And as I am sure you know, there is debate over the place of union and justification. So I am not sure a perceived lack of emphasis on union is cause for concern, unless of course one thinks union is primary over justification.
It seems to me, Allan, that you need to get more that "virtually no knowledge" before you start offering any criticism on this point. I would encourage you learn rather than offer opinion and judgment from a place of admitted ignorance.


“The third use of the Law is more than ‘I am grateful for what Christ has done and so I obey out of a sense of gratitude for what He has already accomplished‘.
This is one important aspect of the equation but, if one studies Romans 6 (and passages like it) there is something much more profound in the Gospel than our gratitude as an "impelling" motive. That is to say that if I stop at the idea that I'm being motivated to obey out of my gratitude then my sense of gratitude is what enables me to more and more obey.”

8. I believe this is a total caricature. You would have to show me where they have equated gratitude with the third use itself. They do not say that gratitude is our motivation. The point is that Christ and his work is our motivation to obedience. We obey out of gratitude to Christ, not because we have gratitude. This is basic to the Heidelberg catechism. Can I ask if you think the HC also is deficient in these areas? Is it fair to equate the harmony of motivation and gratitude with operating based on one’s sense of gratitude? I have never heard of anyone teaching this.
Did you read what I wrote before you called it a caricature?

Here's what I said: ‘I am grateful for what Christ has done and so I obey out of a sense of gratitude for what He has already accomplished‘.
Here is what you said: "The point is that Christ and his work is our motivation to obedience. We obey out of gratitude to Christ..."

If I am guilty of caricature then you have just convicted yourself of the thing you accused me of.

I am not denying that they state that gratitude to Christ is our motivation. This is where your admitted ignorance on the issue of sanctification is coming into play.

I continue here describing how there is more to obedience than motivation. There is also the fundamental question of power to carry out what we desire to do:

Semper Fidelis said:
“Yet Romans 6 teaches us that much more is going on than my gratitude:
1. Christ has put sin as power to death on the Cross for all who are united to Him by faith. We are dead to sin and its enslaving power.
2. Christ was raised again with an indestructible life and I have that life by my union with Him.
There is a fullness to the many things that Paul enjoins upon us to "consider" throughout the Book of Romans and I see the emphasis on the WHI to "consider" a subset of the whole aspect of what we are to "consider" that Christ has done as well as what our union with Him empowers us to accomplish. I do not agree with the notion that "imperative=Law" and that an imperative grants me nothing but only the "Gospel=indicative" which grants power. The Gospel includes imperatives which create the life which they enjoin if we have been transported from this age to the age to come.”
You seem to miss the point by responding:
RAS said:
9. I don’t see how this is different from what you are arguing against. 1 and 2 are indicatives, they are gospel. Again, its not our gratitude that motivates us, it’s the indicatives of all that Christ is and has done, is doing, and will do for us. We are grateful for these indicatives/gospel truths, its not that we are grateful for being grateful. Maybe we just don’t listen to the same episodes or read the same materials ( I have read almost all of them, over and over), but I do see them saying what you are saying, consistently. So it goes back to my earlier question, how much do they need to talk about these things in order for it to be considered an acceptable amount of emphasis?
It's not a matter of listening to or reading different things Allen but understanding what you're reading. You didn't understand what I wrote. Again, I didn't state that anyone claims we are grateful for being grateful. I stated that gratitude for Christ's work is what they believe impels us. Read what I wrote again and read it again and then read it again. There is something fundamentally additive to what I wrote than mere gratitude.

Yes, these are indicatives (that's what definitive sanctification is) but they are indicatives not merely about what Christ has accomplished but what I am able to accomplish in Christ. If you do not understand this, Allen, then you do not understand the Gospel and you really need to get definitive sanctification into your bloodstream.

12. Again, I am not so sure that they limit the gospel to justification in the sense you state here. I must have been taught wrong long ago in the beginning, but I was taught that justification is the gospel. The article on which salvation turns. But I was also taught that all indicatives are gospel even if they are not the gospel. Again, I read WSC/WHI materials often and I fail to see where they limit gospel to only justification. I consistently see them promote all indicatives as gospel, and only limit the gospel to justification. I thought this was pure Reformation basic 101. Perhaps I have missed something after all these years?

13. Thanks for the discussion Rich :up:
I think you have missed some things. Don't misunderstand my motives here. I'm really trying to help you out but some of the hardest people to help are those that think they have things worked out already. I noted that you're engaging in a party spirit not to sting you but to point out that your lack of undertanding of these things is leading you to caricature criticism. I don't know if you read my own post too quickly but it is pretty serious when you accuse a person of caricature. Your misapprehension of this very basic point ought to give you some internal caution that you're having some sort of trouble understanding these things. You need to be asking questions and not making charges against others until you understand these issues more clearly.
 

Mushroom

Puritan Board Doctor
Again from the peanut gallery: This is something I've struggled with comprehending. In the past I've seen some folks confuse the concept of union with Christ as a cover for antinomianism; "My life is hid in Christ, so I don't need to repent - it's all covered." That's obviously error, so I can easily reject it.

But I'm unclear on how to incorporate it as a motivation to obey, and perhaps that's my problem. As a temptation approaches, I have a choice as to which path to take, choose the good and eschew the evil, or vice-versa. Too often, my choice is made without any thought, whether gratitude or a consideration of my union with Christ. When I look back on that crossroads and see that I've made the wrong choice, I am disgusted with myself and brokenhearted towards Jesus, that I have failed Him once again. (This sounds as though it is infrequent, but in fact is constant.) In that looking back, I search for the source of my failure; is it that I didn't try hard enough? That I was not grateful enough? Or that I was not remaining cognizant of my union with Christ and deadness to sin? Or all of the above?

Or, from another perspective, what would have had the power to motivate me to choose the good and eschew the evil? Why is it so often not present with me, whatever it is? And is my desire to have it a desire for perfectionism, which if I did find, would be a stumbling block to me? The profundity arrests me.

So, is WHI/WSC attempting to address the looking forward to help find the motivation to choose the good, or is it addressing the looking back - how to understand our failings and press on?

Regardless of which, it a subject I would like to understand properly, both for looking back and for looking forward, in striving against sin.
 

Semper Fidelis

2 Timothy 2:24-25
Staff member
Brad,

I'd almost like to start a new thread because I don't want this to turn into a WSC "bash fest". I'm not anti-WSC and my comments and concerns are addressed to a concern on emphasis and not on the fact that they dismiss these concepts altogether. In some cases they restate the same concepts in different language but I do believe there is a help in understanding the distinctions properly. Let me ignore the issue of how WSC may or may not address the issue and simply answer your concern.

In short, there is sort of a false dichotomy set up between whether I'm reflecting on my union with Christ or not and whether I'm trying hard enough. By this I mean that Paul is calling us to consider certain things so we can appropriate the reality of what we possess.

For instance, if I'm only convinced that I'm a wretch and that Christ has covered all my sins then, when I am tempted, I might be motivated to try to resist but there's sort of a built in idea that resistance is sort of futile. It's like I suit up for the battle but at the first blow I fall down. I also don't study my opponent because he's simply too fierce. I'll go back to Christ and thank Him for the fact that I'm still saved in spite of my many losses but I'm sort of play-acting in the battle because I don't really think of it as a battle but a foregone conclusion that I will fail. Now, let me make clear, that I'm not accusing anyone of directly proposing that this is how the battle is supposed to work but many people practically treat the issue of the battle in this way.

As I read Romans 6, however, Paul is telling a person (who he knows is going to be imperfect, yes): "Look, this battle is not a foregone conclusion. Sin is powerful but Christ has put its power to enslave to death. You can resist." It sort of "pumps up" the Christian going into battle to realize that I have Christ's indestructible life and, in the moment of temptation, I may cry out to Him for rescue. It's sort of like that battle where Elisha helps his scared companion to see the Armies of the Living God and, suddenly, his perspective on the battle may change. It's not a "well I'm going to go into this battle in faith to my certain doom" but I understand the nature of the forces on the side of the King and we will succeed.

Now, Paul does follow up in Romans 7 with an acknowledgment that we fail. Our awareness of spiritual things waxes and wanes. Faith is keeping these things fixed in our thinking and nobody does. Paul, throughout Romans, is telling people to "consider" what Christ's death and resurrection means because we do tend to forget. When we fail, then, Romans 7 speaks to our frustration but he again returns to call us to consider Christ and not spend time in self-flagellation but to turn to Him Who delivers us from this body of sin and death.

Thus, it's not an either I obey or I reflect upon Christ or either I do it on my own steam or Christ does it all. It's always a both-and of the Christian life. In view of what Christ has done I am justified and Christ is iin me, the power of salvation. I go into battle in knowledge of His power and, when I fail, it's a failure of my own but I also remember that Christ saved me and befriended me while I was dead in sins and trespasses and He doesn't cast off those whom He loves.
 

Mushroom

Puritan Board Doctor
Rich,

Thank you. My son and I read through your response, and it engendered a valuable conversation from which we both derived great benefit. This is, I believe, the crux of the matter that has precipitated the discussion in this thread and in the wider Reformed community. In some ways I think the sides are talking past each other, which is often the case when such important subjects are addressed. But I'm not interested in defending or attacking camps - I really need to grasp this because I think it is the fulness of the gospel, and I for one confess that too much of my walk in this faith is hampered by an incomplete comprehension (or apprehension?) of it. So if a new thread would help get to the heart of the matter and avoid division, please do so.

I really do often feel like that guy you describe in your third paragraph, and I fear that it is the example my children are learning from me. Any further discussion will be edifying. To be honest, I don't feel capable of digesting books or long dissertations on this or any subject. Whether it is simple laziness or a depleted mental capacity, I can't say, but my head starts to hurt and my comprehension wanes quickly these days, so short exhortations in simple terms like the one above work best for me, if that's possible. Thanks again.
 
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PuritanCovenanter

Moderator
Staff member
I would also add Romans 8 into the mix as Romans 6, 7, and 8 all deal with this.

(Rom 8:1) THERE is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.

(Rom 8:2) For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death.


(Rom 8:3) For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh:


(Rom 8:4) That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.


(Rom 8:5) For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit.


(Rom 8:6) For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.


(Rom 8:7) Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.


(Rom 8:8) So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God.


(Rom 8:9) But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.


(Rom 8:10) And if Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin; but the Spirit is life because of righteousness.


(Rom 8:11) But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you.


(Rom 8:12) Therefore, brethren, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live after the flesh.


(Rom 8:13) For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live.


(Rom 8:14) For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.


(Rom 8:15) For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father.


(Rom 8:16) The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God:


(Rom 8:17) And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together.
A big part of this discussion for me is seen in this. Some want to make the Christian life a total separation from the law as an inward grace. Some seem to want to make the law a legal obedience only as in a Covenant of Works scheme. The Law is not associated with the Gospel or Covenant of Grace except in some revelatory way concerning what God's will is. It really isn't used in a reconciling way or in a gracious (gospel) way. Some want to make the law in the Mosaic Covenant the same way. It only condemns as in a Covenantal setting. I don't see it like that. The law set up as a legality only leads to bondage and fear. I freely admit that. But we who are in Christ are not in bondage to the condemnation of the law, but to it's discipline. God by His grace uses the Law Graciously to place us in Christ and guide us in Him. In Adam the Law only leads to condemnation. In Christ and the Covenant of Grace it leads to freedom and a life of submission to God as Father. The Law teaches us what love and being loving is. As a Father he guides and disciplines us with it. He doesn't condemn us. He disciplines us. We should fear that discipline. We should fear hurting others and ourselves. As the old saying goes, "He who goes against the grain of God's law shouldn't complain when he gets splinters." But it is in no way a letter that Condemns us who are in Christ. We have been bought and paid for. We now have the Spirit of God and grace. We have a new principle and nature that we didn't have before. But if we do not listen to His wonderful loving gracious voice in the law and if we harden ourselves against His word it only brings death. There are a few places that sin is said to bring death to us. Therefore I would like to say that I affirm there are two principles in the Covenant of Grace and Gospel that apply in our salvation. Live and Do this and Do this and live are both true for the Christian. Some are saying that only the Live and do this is applicable for the Christian. I disagree. Now have I made muddied things up for us? lol We do fulfill the law of righteousness by obeying. I believe it is called gospel obedience. It is a grace and shines God's glorious love and reconciliation of the world to Himself. The Law truly does show his beauty and sacrifice.

The law of the Lord is perfect converting the soul. The testimony of the Lord sure making wise the simple. Psalm 19:7

(Rom 13:8) Owe no man any thing, but to love one another: for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law.

(Rom 13:9) For this, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not kill, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Thou shalt not covet; and if there be any other commandment, it is briefly comprehended in this saying, namely, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.


(Rom 13:10) Love worketh no ill to his neighbour: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.
 

PuritanCovenanter

Moderator
Staff member
Also as a side note. The Law, that some pronounce to be set up in a covenantal works way only, is the thing that pointed me to the goodness of God. If I only saw my sinfulness in it I wouldn't have flown to Christ. For the Law showed me the Grace of Christ also. It showed me his trustworthiness and His beauty and what Love was. So it is much more than some are saying. The Law showed me what goodness was. I wanted it. God used it to pull me toward him. For the goodness of God leads us to repentance as Romans 2:4 states. The Law is gracious in that it reveals God's goodness.
 
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py3ak

They're stalling and plotting against me
Staff member
That is to say that if I stop at the idea that I'm being motivated to obey out of my gratitude then my sense of gratitude is what enables me to more and more obey. Yet Romans 6 teaches us that much more is going on than my gratitude:

1. Christ has put sin as power to death on the Cross for all who are united to Him by faith. We are dead to sin and its enslaving power.
2. Christ was raised again with an indestructible life and I have that life by my union with Him.
It seems that no matter how much gratitude might be emphasized as the motivation for new obedience, experience should force you to recognize that this is not enough. According to Calvin, ingratitude is like an abyss that absorbs all the fulness of God's blessings (on Lamentations 1:7).

So how is it that knowing what Christ has done for me stirs gratitude in my heart? It is because Christ has put the power of ingratitude to death. If sin still reigned, gratitude would never arise, and would have no power against sin.
 

py3ak

They're stalling and plotting against me
Staff member
Therefore I would like to say that I affirm there are two principles in the Covenant of Grace and Gospel that apply in our salvation. Live and Do this and Do this and live are both true for the Christian. Some are saying that only the Live and do this is applicable for the Christian. I disagree. Now have I made muddied things up for us?
This sounds like it depends on an equivocation with regard to the meaning of the word "live". Because if "live, and do this" has come first, then either that life is uncertain, and must be kept by obedience (which is problematic, for obvious reasons) or else "do this and live" really doesn't mean live in quite the same way as "Live, and do this".
 

PuritanCovenanter

Moderator
Staff member
Yes, and I was thinking that I did a poor job of acknowledging that also. But both are tied to the Covenant. The first one is regeneration that causes us to embrace justification by faith alone. The second, 'do this and live,' has to do with abiding in the Covenant of Grace with our Covenant God. It does cling to that life of regeneration. He does bless us for obedience and bring chastisement upon us for disobedience as Galatians states. I really just assumed others read the statement I posted before along with the thesis by Pastor Ramsey which explains it quite more effectively than I do.
http://patrickspensees.wordpress.com/2011/05/02/good-works-in-the-reformed-tradition/

(Gal 6:7) Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.

(Gal 6:8) For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting.


(Gal 6:9) And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.
The Mosaic and the New Covenant are of the same substance. They are purely of the Covenant of Grace in my opinion.
 

MW

Puritanboard Amanuensis
The second, 'do this and live,' has to do with abiding in the Covenant of Grace with our Covenant God.
Randy, dear brother, this is problematic on so many levels I hardly know where to begin to address it. "Doing" has a specific order in the covenant of grace which it does not have in the covenant of works. In the covenant of grace it is the fruit and effect of saving grace. It is never conditional for that grace either in its beginning, continuance, or completion. In the covenant of works "doing" is conditional. It must be conditional under that covenant because that covenant addresses man in a state of integrity with the ability to do. Fallen sinners, however, do not possess an ability to do and must be given life and salvation in order to be able to do. Restored sinners act out of the life they have been given in Christ. Please reflect on John 15 for a little time. That passage will make it plain that not only the beginning but also the continuance of Christian life depends upon union and communion with Christ. The covenant of grace is "live, and do this" from beginning to end. Fruitfulness and perseverance are blessings of the covenant. See Shorter Catechism answer 36. Blessings!
 

steadfast7

Puritan Board Junior
There is something troubling for me that we should need to seek "motivation" through psychological maneuvers like gratitude. In my sinfulness, I simply loose sight of what has been given to me all the time. I take things for granted. Many times I think upon the cross with no tears of sorrow and joy in my eyes. It is the Spirit and daily communion with Him in Christ that ought to draw and propel me to obedience and repentance and not the posturing of my psychological state at all. Mustering gratitude in my heart seems like a work - though not physical, but mental - that I must perform. But then is it all of grace? Any thoughts?
 

Mushroom

Puritan Board Doctor
There is something troubling for me that we should need to seek "motivation" through psychological maneuvers like gratitude. In my sinfulness, I simply loose sight of what has been given to me all the time. I take things for granted. Many times I think upon the cross with no tears of sorrow and joy in my eyes. It is the Spirit and daily communion with Him in Christ that ought to draw and propel me to obedience and repentance and not the posturing of my psychological state at all. Mustering gratitude in my heart seems like a work - though not physical, but mental - that I must perform. But then is it all of grace? Any thoughts?
So, when standing before the fork in the road between obedience and sin, when as you state, you have lost sight of what has been given to you, and you commit sin without forethought, who has failed? You, or the Holy Spirit? Obviously not the Holy Spirit, so in what way have you failed, and why? And a related question is what could you have done, or can you do in the future, to prevent that failure?
 

steadfast7

Puritan Board Junior
There is something troubling for me that we should need to seek "motivation" through psychological maneuvers like gratitude. In my sinfulness, I simply loose sight of what has been given to me all the time. I take things for granted. Many times I think upon the cross with no tears of sorrow and joy in my eyes. It is the Spirit and daily communion with Him in Christ that ought to draw and propel me to obedience and repentance and not the posturing of my psychological state at all. Mustering gratitude in my heart seems like a work - though not physical, but mental - that I must perform. But then is it all of grace? Any thoughts?
So, when standing before the fork in the road between obedience and sin, when as you state, you have lost sight of what has been given to you, and you commit sin without forethought, who has failed? You, or the Holy Spirit? Obviously not the Holy Spirit, so in what way have you failed, and why? And a related question is what could you have done, or can you do in the future, to prevent that failure?
Therein lies the confusion which I need help with. Reformed theology teaches that perfection is impossible in this life, but then we speak of being made alive in Christ and capable of resisting sin. How do we reconcile?
 

Semper Fidelis

2 Timothy 2:24-25
Staff member
Therein lies the confusion which I need help with. Reformed theology teaches that perfection is impossible in this life, but then we speak of being made alive in Christ and capable of resisting sin. How do we reconcile?
To clarify, the Bible teaches that perfection in this life is not possible (1 Joh 1:10, Rom 7:18, Phi 3:12). The Bible teaches that we are capable of resisting sin (Rom 6:14, 1 Joh 5:4).

I believe I stated by what power we are able to obey and that is Christ in us. We also, however, have a war within our members (Rom 7:23) that we are called to do battle with. As already cited, it is revealed to us that we can resist by Christ's pwoer because He has put sin as power to death and so it no longer enslaves us.

I don't know why it seems difficult to reconcile the idea that we are free from sin's enslavement and can obey by Christ's power but are not yet perfected. There is nothing at all contradictory in the idea that we are able to resist sin but that our wills are divided so that we sometimes do not resist it.
 

steadfast7

Puritan Board Junior
Therein lies the confusion which I need help with. Reformed theology teaches that perfection is impossible in this life, but then we speak of being made alive in Christ and capable of resisting sin. How do we reconcile?
To clarify, the Bible teaches that perfection in this life is not possible (1 Joh 1:10, Rom 7:18, Phi 3:12). The Bible teaches that we are capable of resisting sin (Rom 6:14, 1 Joh 5:4).

I believe I stated by what power we are able to obey and that is Christ in us. We also, however, have a war within our members (Rom 7:23) that we are called to do battle with. As already cited, it is revealed to us that we can resist by Christ's pwoer because He has put sin as power to death and so it no longer enslaves us.

I don't know why it seems difficult to reconcile the idea that we are free from sin's enslavement and can obey by Christ's power but are not yet perfected. There is nothing at all contradictory in the idea that we are able to resist sin but that our wills are divided so that we sometimes do not resist it.
I certainly want to stay clear from attributing contradiction to God's holy word. My problem is not on the logic of it, but the practical workings out. If we will never attain perfection, even by the best efforts of living by the Spirit in the victory of Christ, then we cannot say we can resist sin in an absolute sense. When scripture speaks of resisting sin, it must be speaking of the theoretical, moment by moment potential to resist.
 

PuritanCovenanter

Moderator
Staff member
The second, 'do this and live,' has to do with abiding in the Covenant of Grace with our Covenant God.
Randy, dear brother, this is problematic on so many levels I hardly know where to begin to address it. "Doing" has a specific order in the covenant of grace which it does not have in the covenant of works. In the covenant of grace it is the fruit and effect of saving grace. It is never conditional for that grace either in its beginning, continuance, or completion. In the covenant of works "doing" is conditional. It must be conditional under that covenant because that covenant addresses man in a state of integrity with the ability to do. Fallen sinners, however, do not possess an ability to do and must be given life and salvation in order to be able to do. Restored sinners act out of the life they have been given in Christ. Please reflect on John 15 for a little time. That passage will make it plain that not only the beginning but also the continuance of Christian life depends upon union and communion with Christ. The covenant of grace is "live, and do this" from beginning to end. Fruitfulness and perseverance are blessings of the covenant. See Shorter Catechism answer 36. Blessings!
Q. 36. What are the benefits which in this life do accompany or flow from justification, adoption, and sanctification?
A. The benefits which in this life do accompany or flow from justification, Adoption, and sanctification, are, assurance of God's love,[SUP]100[/SUP] peace of conscience,[SUP]101[/SUP] joy in the Holy Ghost,[SUP]102[/SUP] increase of grace,[SUP]103[/SUP] And perseverance therein to the end.[SUP]104[/SUP]
Q. 79. May not true believers, by reason of their imperfections, and the many temptations and sins they are overtaken with, fall away from the state of grace?
A. True believers, by reason of the unchangeable love of God,[SUP]342[/SUP] and his decree and covenant to give them perseverance,[SUP]343[/SUP] their inseparable union with Christ,[SUP]344[/SUP] his continual intercession for them,[SUP]345[/SUP] and the Spirit and seed of God abiding in them,[SUP]346[/SUP] can neither totally nor finally fall away from the state of grace,[SUP]347[/SUP] but are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation.[SUP]348[/SUP]
Thanks Rev. Winzer. I am still working this out. How does this work its way out in our thinking? I acknowledge that the 'Live and Do This' gives us all we need to accomplish and do all that we need. It also supplies and keeps us. It causes perseverance even after we have fallen into gross sin as the confession says we might even partake in. But even our Larger Catechism uses the terms that seem to be saying what I am trying to express. Repentance unto Life is used. Of course it is a grace and from grace. But without it there is no life.

Q. 76. What is repentance unto life?
A. Repentance unto life is a saving grace,[SUP]320[/SUP] wrought in the heart of a sinner by the Spirit[SUP]321[/SUP] and Word of God,[SUP]322[/SUP] whereby, out of the sight and sense, not only of the danger,[SUP]323[/SUP] but also of the filthiness and odiousness of his sins,[SUP]324[/SUP] and upon the apprehension of God’s mercy in Christ to such as are penitent,[SUP]325[/SUP] he so grieves for[SUP]326[/SUP] and hates his sins,[SUP]327[/SUP] as that he turns from them all to God,[SUP]328[/SUP] purposing and endeavouring constantly to walk with him in all the ways of new obedience.[SUP]329[/SUP]
So there is a sense in which 'Do This and Live' springs from Live and do this. At least it seems so from from what I am understanding. Especially in light of what I am seeing and what I wrote above and have quoted below.

Rev. Winzer...
It is never conditional for that grace either in its beginning, continuance, or completion.
I totally agree with you in one sense here Rev. Winzer. But the conditions are different. There are antecedent conditions and consequent or subsequent conditions as the article below states.

There also seems to be a sense where we are called upon not to grieve the Spirit with warning and threatening. Gross disobedience seems to have many warnings even to the point of the Lord threatening removal of the candle stick and warnings even individually concerning the manner of our partaking of the sacraments in a sinful way. So there must be some form of do this and live principle associated in my thinking.


Concerning the obedience required or more accurately accepted in the covenant of grace, three distinctions need to be kept in mind. First, we need to distinguish between gospel and legal obedience.[34] Legal obedience is an antecedent condition that merits or causes and so is the ground for blessings or rewards received. Gospel obedience, on the other hand, is from faith and thus by the justified in the power of the Spirit, which is why it is a consequent or subsequent condition. It is not meritorious or legalistic. The good works of believers do not constitute the ground for acceptance before God or any blessing received since all is of grace.[35] Yet, as we have already alluded to and shall discuss more fully in the next section, they are the necessary means and way to obtain, possess and experience salvation both in this life and in the life to come.[36] Thus, when Turretin says that good works are necessary to salvation because according to the covenant of grace obedience is required to partake of the blessings of the covenant, he understands the requirement of obedience in the sense of “the means and way for possessing salvation,” and not in the sense of “merit, causality and efficiency.”[37] This key, yet fine distinction between gospel and legal obedience is what differentiates the role of obedience in the covenant of grace from that in the covenant of works.[38] As John Ball says: “In the Covenant of Nature obedience and workes were commanded as the cause of life and justification: in the Covenant of Grace, Faith is required as the instrumental cause of Remission and Salvation, obedience as the qualification of the party justified, and the way leading to everlasting blessedness.”[39]Second, we need to distinguish between sincere and perfect obedience. No doubt following John Calvin,[40] Ball states that God in the covenant of grace requires perfect obedience, yet in His mercy accepts sincere, imperfect obedience. He writes:

“The Covenant of Grace calleth for perfection, accepteth sincerity, God in mercy pardoning imperfections of our best performances. If perfection was rigidly exacted, no flesh could be saved: if not at all commanded, imperfection should not be sin, nor perfection to be laboured after… In the Covenant man doth promise to repent of his sinnes, and repenting to cleave unto the promise of mercy made in Jesus Christ, and in faith to yield willing, cheerefull and continuall obedience. In contracts amongst men, one may aske more, and the other bid lesse, and yet they may strike agreement: But it is altogether bootlesse, for men to thinke of entering into Covenant with God, if they be not resolved to obey in all things. The practice of all God’s people, who ever made Covenant with his Highness, doth expressely speake thus much, when they solemnly entred into, or renewed their Covenant [Ball then cites Ex. 24:3, 7; Josh. 24:23; 2 Chron. 15:12, 13; 34:31; 2 Kings 23:3; Neh. 10:29; Josh. 22:5].”[41]


That God accepts sincere imperfect good works in the covenant of grace indicates that they are not meritorious and contribute nothing to the acquisition of salvation. It also means that falling into sin is distinct from falling away from Christ and the covenant. A believer may fall into sin, even grievous sin for a time, and yet not fall away from justification and salvation. Perseverance in the faith, which is akin to sincere obedience, is required, while apostasy must at all costs be avoided.[42]

Third, we need to distinguish between the promise of obedience and the promise to obedience. God promises his elect that He will write His law upon their hearts and grant them His Spirit so that they might be careful to keep His commandments. God also promises grace and blessing to those who obey. In other words, the requirement of obedience is both a benefit and a condition of the covenant.[43] God works in us and we work out our salvation. The fact that God enables us to obey does not detract from our duty to pursue holiness and righteousness.

In sum, from the perspective of the covenant, good works are necessary to salvation because they are a condition of the covenant and thus of salvation....

.....

Thomas Boston, in his sermon on Hebrews 4:11, says that there is a five-fold entering into “heaven and life, for which we must labour.”[53] The fourth entering is obedience. God’s commands are called everlasting life because they land the soul in heaven. Indeed, the pathway of obedience is the only one that leads to heaven. Boston writes:

“They that would enter heaven, but not by the way of obedience, must resolve to get in over the walls, but come not in by the door; that is, they shall never see it; ‘for without holiness no man shall see the Lord.’ We must follow the footsteps of our blessed Lord and the flock, who all entered heaven this way; though in different respects, he by, and they in, obedience.”[54]


The southern Presbyterian theologian, James Henley Thornwell, uses a different analogy, a ladder instead of a road: “The successive rounds in the ladder must be passed before we can reach the top.”[55] The point, however, remains the same. Good works are necessary for heaven. Hence, they may properly be called an antecedent condition of glorification.[56]

A similar expression used by some was working for life. The legal principle of the covenant of works was sometimes expressed by the phrase: “Do this and live.” By contrast, the principle of gospel obedience was: “Live and do this.”[57] Stating the difference this way was true enough but incomplete because the legal principle was also used evangelically to articulate the idea that progression in holiness is commensurate with experiencing life. Therefore, we do because we live and we do so that we may live.

Herman Witsius was compelled by the Apostle Paul’s commentary on Leviticus 18:5 in Romans 10 and Galatians 3 to interpret it as a restatement—not a renewal or establishment—of the covenant of works.[58] Nevertheless, other verses in the Pentateuch urging obedience for life (e.g. Deuteronomy 8:1) he interpreted evangelically, concluding that saints are to work for life. Thus, it is not contradictory to say that the principles “Do this and live,” and “Live and do this,” equally apply to the believer. Witsius writes:

“In fine, it is not inconsistent to do something from this principle, because we live, and to the end, that we may live. No man eats but he lives, but he also eats that he may live. We both can and ought to act in a holy manner, because we are quickened by the Spirit of God. But we must also act in the same manner, that that life may be preserved in us, may increase, and at last terminate in an uninterrupted and eternal life.”[59]
BTW, I am a novice concerning this area of thought so please weigh everything I say with a big grain of salt!
 
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Semper Fidelis

2 Timothy 2:24-25
Staff member
Therein lies the confusion which I need help with. Reformed theology teaches that perfection is impossible in this life, but then we speak of being made alive in Christ and capable of resisting sin. How do we reconcile?
To clarify, the Bible teaches that perfection in this life is not possible (1 Joh 1:10, Rom 7:18, Phi 3:12). The Bible teaches that we are capable of resisting sin (Rom 6:14, 1 Joh 5:4).

I believe I stated by what power we are able to obey and that is Christ in us. We also, however, have a war within our members (Rom 7:23) that we are called to do battle with. As already cited, it is revealed to us that we can resist by Christ's pwoer because He has put sin as power to death and so it no longer enslaves us.

I don't know why it seems difficult to reconcile the idea that we are free from sin's enslavement and can obey by Christ's power but are not yet perfected. There is nothing at all contradictory in the idea that we are able to resist sin but that our wills are divided so that we sometimes do not resist it.
I certainly want to stay clear from attributing contradiction to God's holy word. My problem is not on the logic of it, but the practical workings out. If we will never attain perfection, even by the best efforts of living by the Spirit in the victory of Christ, then we cannot say we can resist sin in an absolute sense. When scripture speaks of resisting sin, it must be speaking of the theoretical, moment by moment potential to resist.
No, it NOT talking about theoretical ability to resist or potential ability to resist but actual ability to resist sin as we are tempted. I will caution you to learn here and not propose un-Biblical concepts. Your use of reason is not only flawed but impious here. The reason for failure is found in our divided hearts. Though we are new creatures, we still have affection for sin. There's nothing theoretical about the fact that we love sin at times more than we love Christ in the moment. The process of sanctification is an ever-killing of our affection for our sin that we might learn to love it less. We can, however, say with the Apostle Paul that we are not slaves to sin and have Christ's indestructible life as our possession. We need not sin. Full stop. Any suggestion that this simply be turned into some sort of syllogism which argues against the Apostle's plain teaching is not from the Word but a cavil against it.
 

steadfast7

Puritan Board Junior
Rich, I'm very willing to work through this in a humble attitude of a learner. Bear with me. As you said,
the Bible teaches that perfection in this life is not possible (1 Joh 1:10, Rom 7:18, Phi 3:12). The Bible teaches that we are capable of resisting sin (Rom 6:14, 1 Joh 5:4).
I ask, What is perfection, if not the sum aggregate of smaller moments in our life of gaining victory over sin? The Bible teaches that Christians will fail in some of those moments. I agree with you, this is not theoretical - it is the war at work in our members, some of the battles of which we will lose. I agree with you that "we need not sin." Having said that, the Bible teaches that we will sin. Logic is not the enemy of Scripture here; we need not throw our hands in despair and cry "mystery!" My proposal is simply that in an absolute sense, all is accomplished in the heavens that purchases our right to not sin. In this life, however, we still do battle and take our share of hits and losses, which will not cease as long as we are in the flesh. This is the principle at work throughout Scripture as it pertains to the eschaton, the kingdom of God, and our sanctification. If there is anything wrong with this proposal, I welcome gentle instruction.
 
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