Maurice Roberts and the Marrow Controversy

Discussion in 'Calvinism & The Doctrines of Grace' started by Von, Jan 24, 2018.

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  1. Von

    Von Puritan Board Freshman

    I have great respect for Rev. Maurice Roberts. His "Thought of God" has meant A LOT to me over the years.

    A thread from last year got me to listen to this lecture by Roberts on Gurnall's Christian in Complete Armour. At the end of the lecture, he said something to the effect that you cannot be completely sure about your salvation and that salvation depends on being saved through faith in Jesus Christ and working out the Christian life by doing good works (something to that effect). The content of what he said as well as the manner in which he said it prompted someone in the audience to ask him about this. He continued to answer the question, reaffirming that salvation is by faith in the finished work of Christ alone and that you can add nothing else, etc.
    Please give me your opinion as to this.
  2. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    Many Puritans spoke of the evidential value of good works. Of bearing fruit to show what sort of tree you are.
  3. Von

    Von Puritan Board Freshman

    He did mention something along those lines. Also that this evidence is for outsiders. Would you consider this to be only for outsiders or for yourself as well - i.e. as a test to see whether you are saved or not?
  4. KMK

    KMK Administrator Staff Member

    WCF ChapterXVI

    II. These good works, done in obedience to God's commandments, are the fruits and evidences of a true and lively faith:[3] and by them believers manifest their thankfulness,[4] strengthen their assurance,[5] edify their brethren,[6] adorn the profession of the Gospel,[7] stop the mouths of the adversaries,[8] and glorify God,[9] whose workmanship they are, created in Christ Jesus thereunto,[10] that, having their fruit unto holiness, they may have the end, eternal life.[11]

    This is the best summary of what the Puritans thought about Good Works.
  5. Andrew P.C.

    Andrew P.C. Puritan Board Junior

    There is an entire chapter in the WCF (Ch. 18) that refutes this claim.

    All I can say is that this statement is a devastating one and could cause serious damage to the Christian.
  6. Von

    Von Puritan Board Freshman

    Wow! Now that's what I call a good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over! Thank you for that.
  7. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    It is an evidence to ourselves as well.

    Paul says to examine ourselves to see whether we be in the faith. What is it that we examine exactly? Our works and actions and thoughts and fruit play a part in that.

    ...and Ken just kindly posted the WCF proofs of that as well ("strengthen their assurance")...
  8. Von

    Von Puritan Board Freshman

    Show me the error in the following line of thought:

    I think I am saved ->
    Paul says I need to examine myelf ->
    Now I'm looking for the fruit of the Spirit and comparing myself to the first epistle from John, amongst others ->
    One of the fruit of the Spirit is love of the brothers. Christ also says that if you love one another then those outside the church will truly know that you are His disciples. ->
    I love the brothers. ->
    Do I love them enough or for the right reasons? ->
    How would I know this - and therefore how would I know that I am saved?

    And this can be applied to any test/fruit that you set forth for testing whether one is in the faith.

    Sorry, I hope I don't come across as obstinate.
  9. Afterthought

    Afterthought Puritan Board Junior

    I also have a good deal of respect for Rev. Maurice Roberts. "Something to that effect" is not enough for dealing with this subject. Could you point to the exact portions of the audio recording to which you are referring? Or maybe better: could you write out a transcript of what he said on this subject? That may help others see what he was getting at better.
  10. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    Where is your objection?

    We can have a certain measure of assurance, but it is never 100% certain because we are human and we can deceive ourselves. It is good to check our motives or to examine as to whether we are just playing a game for outward respect or if we really love the brethren. I John does, indeed, give us a list of tests and in chapter 5 says that it is so that we may know that we have eternal life.

    Where do you differ with this?
  11. KMK

    KMK Administrator Staff Member

    I have always thought (and I think the Puritans agree) that it is possible to have 100% certainty, but 100% certainty is NOT essential to saving faith.

    Am I wrong on this?
  12. Von

    Von Puritan Board Freshman

    Exactly - the Scriptures seem to point in the same direction. Because if
    then we will never have assurance. Anything less than 100% assurance is not sure. I mean, I want to be 100% sure of being in Christ.
  13. Von

    Von Puritan Board Freshman

    Thank you for the suggestion - I was lazy at first, but you are right:

    Rev Roberts (at about 63 minutes)
    “...I repeat: You and I are not yet in heaven. Who knows if we shall be? There is only one sure way to be absolutely guaranteed a place into heaven. First, that you and I be born again of the Holy Spirit; and second that we fight the good fight all our days until our last breath and Gurnall will tell us we cannot do that unless we put on the whole armour of God. Thank you...”

    Right afterwards, there's time for questions and a certain "Rex" questions him on the statement above:
    “Would you like to say a bit more about the very point you emphasized at the end about not being sure. Because it seems to be...this's just being controversial, this is just salvation by works – it is 'Christ's work is not sufficient' – it's Christ's work with my perseverance afterwards. You can't say as in John I have passed from death to life – you say well, all being well, if I don't fall into sin...” etc.

    Hope that helps!
    I think this is the same question being asked as above.
  14. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    How can anyone be 100% sure of their salvation? Maybe Judas was. If the heart is deceitful above all things and who can know it, then we can all be self-deceived. Assurance doesn't mean 100% sure.

    Assurance is not presumption.
    Last edited: Jan 26, 2018
  15. Von

    Von Puritan Board Freshman

    "The same is true of us. We can, if our lives display a pattern of perseverance and spiritual fruit, have not only a confidence in our present state of grace but also of our future perseverance with God. Yet we cannot have an infallible certitude of our own salvation, as many Protestants will admit. There is the possibility of self-deception (cf. Matt. 7:22-23). As Jeremiah expressed it, "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately corrupt; who can understand it?" (Jer. 17:9). There is also the possibility of falling from grace through mortal sin, and even of falling away from the faith entirely, for as Jesus told us, there are those who "believe for a while and in time of temptation fall away" (Luke 8:13). It is in the light of these warnings and admonitions that we must understand Scripture’s positive statements concerning our ability to know and have confidence in our salvation. Assurance we may have; infallible certitude we may not."
  16. Ben Zartman

    Ben Zartman Puritan Board Sophomore

    Please read chapter 18 of the LBCF, "Of the Assurance of Grace and Salvation". It speaks of the reality of assurance, the means toward it, and the hindrances thereto.
    While self-examination is good, I believe it is not to be obsessively over-indulged--when looking into myself I often want only to despair, and I must look to Christ to know that I am truly saved. You cannot be self-deceived when you are looking outside of yourself and toward the Savior, who was truth incarnate. "Look unto me," He said, "all the ends of the earth, and be saved." If you believe that He saves all who look to Him, you can be 100% assured that in looking to Him alone you have salvation.
    Looking inside of yourself you may doubt whether you really believe enough, or whether you believe truly, or whether you even know what it means to believe. But looking to Christ all that goes away, for it is His work that saves, His hand that holds so that no man can pluck you therefrom.
  17. TylerRay

    TylerRay Puritan Board Senior

    Bear in mind that, as a minister in the Free Church (Continuing), Rev. Roberts has vowed that the Westminster Confession is the confession of his faith. He agrees with it in every point. If he teaches something contrary to it, it is against his vow. If any question arises with his teaching, the first thing to ask is, "how does this fit with the Westminster Confession?"

    That being said, I don't think he's teaching that full assurance is impossible or that works have a role in our justification. Note his statement: "There is only one sure way to be absolutely guaranteed a place into heaven. First, that you and I be born again of the Holy Spirit; and second that we fight the good fight all our days until our last breath and Gurnall will tell us we cannot do that unless we put on the whole armour of God." This is the doctrine of the Confession. Regeneration and sanctification are both necessary parts of our salvation in Christ.

    Note the Confession's doctrine of sanctification, in XIII. I:
    Note also the Confession's doctrine of assurance, in XVIII. i and ii:
  18. TylerRay

    TylerRay Puritan Board Senior

    Your confession of faith speaks of "not a bare conjectural and probable persuasion grounded upon a fallible hope, but an infallible assurance of faith founded on the blood and righteousness of Christ revealed in the Gospel."

    Echoing Ben, I'd encourage you to make a thorough study of Chapter 18 of the LBCF (or the WCF).
  19. JimmyH

    JimmyH Puritan Board Junior

    2 Peter 1
    3According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue: 4Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust. 5And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; 6And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; 7And to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity.8For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9But he that lacketh these things is blind, and cannot see afar off, and hath forgotten that he was purged from his old sins. 10Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall: 11For so an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
  20. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    Read this link:

    "Dr. R. C. Sproul is a very articulate spokesman for the view that assurance is not certainty. A few years back he described his own struggles with assurance, and in so doing he explained his view of assurance:

    There are people in this world who are not saved, but who are convinced that they are. The presence of such people causes genuine Christians to doubt their salvation. After all, we wonder, suppose I am in that category? Suppose I am mistaken about my salvation and am really going to hell? How can I know that I am a real Christian?

    A while back I had one of those moments of acute self-awareness that we have from time to time, and suddenly the question hit me: "R.C., what if you are not one of the redeemed? What if your destiny is not heaven after all, but hell?" Let me tell you that I was flooded in my body with a chill that went from my head to the bottom of my spine. I was terrified.

    I tried to grab hold of myself. I thought, "Well, it's a good sign that I'm worried about this. Only true Christians really care about salvation." But then I began to take stock of my life, and I looked at my performance. My sins came pouring into my mind, and the more I looked at myself, the worse I felt. I thought, "Maybe it's really true. Maybe I'm not saved after all."

    I went to my room and began to read the Bible. On my knees I said, "Well, here I am. I can't point to my obedience. There's nothing I can offer. I can only rely on Your atonement for my sins. I can only throw myself on Your mercy." Even then I knew that some people only flee to the Cross to escape hell, not out of a real turning to God. I could not be sure about my own heart and motivation. Then I remembered John 6:68. Jesus had been giving out hard teaching, and many of His former followers had left Him. When He asked Peter if he was also going to leave, Peter said, "Where else can I go? Only You have the words of eternal life." In other words, Peter was also uncomfortable, but he realized that being uncomfortable with Jesus was better than any other option!

    According to this way of thinking, certainty is not an option. The very best option available is "being uncomfortable with Jesus.""

    And also, Dr Belcher:

    "Dr. Richard Belcher, author of A Layman's Guide to the Lordship Controversy,2 spoke a few years ago on a Dallas radio talk show. I called in and asked a few questions about assurance. The following is a transcript of my questions and his answers:

    BW: Is it possible for any Christian to have 100% certainty that they are saved and that they can't lose it if the quality of my lifestyle has something to do with my assurance? In other words, can I be absolutely sure that I'm saved?

    RB: Well, the question is, can anyone have 150% definite, positive you know [assurance].

    BW: Right, that's my question.

    RB: Well, my question is, can even the one who is walking with the Lord and knows the Lord and is submitted to the Lord and is full of God's Spirit [have such absolute certainty]?--He will have an assurance but that is not to say that there will never be any questions of doubt. But the Spirit of God overcomes the questions of doubt and grants assurance. See, what you're doing is putting assurance in the category of percentages and I don't like to do that.

    BW: Are you 100% completely sure that you are going to Heaven?

    RB: I have an assurance that I am saved, but I am still in this body and I am human and in the passing of time there can be some questions in one's mind, but the Spirit of God witnesses to my spirit that I'm saved.

    BW: Is it possible that you're not saved?

    RB: Well, there are various means whereby I look at my life to see if I give evidence of salvation. Not only the witness of the Holy Spirit, but there are other means whereby I look to see if I'm saved, like Paul says in 2 Corinthians 13: "Examine yourselves whether you're in the faith." And I seek to do that as well as the witness and testimony of the Holy Spirit.

    If good works are indispensable for assurance as Belcher believes, then certainty is indeed impossible. No matter how godly one is today, he is not, as Belcher acknowledges, perfect: "I am still in the body and I am human." We are left with assurance that includes doubts."

    And also John Calvin:

    “We cannot imagine any certainty that is not tinged with doubt, or any assurance that is not assailed by some anxiety. . . . Believers are in perpetual conflict with their own unbelief” (Calvin, Institutes, 3.2.18).

    I agree with Sproul, Belcher, and Calvin.
  21. JimmyH

    JimmyH Puritan Board Junior

    Every morning at 10:30 AM on WCNO, R.C, is on and this morning he preached on Matthew 7:21-27. What I got out of the program was that our obedience to The King determines whether we are building our house on the rock or the sand. R.C. pointed to his previous presentation, By their fruits ye shall know them.
    I know when I was an unbeliever wherein times past I walked, according to the course of this world, according to the spirit that now works in the children of disobedience, I couldn't have cared less who called my profligate lifestyle sin. But I was transformed by a renewing of my mind. By Grace I am saved, and though I don't walk/obey perfectly, I believe God's promise.

    Chapter XVIII
    Of Assurance of Grace and Salvation

    I. Although hypocrites and other unregenerate men may vainly deceive themselves with false hopes and carnal presumptions of being in the favor of God, and estate of salvation[1] (which hope of theirs shall perish):[2] yet such as truly believe in the Lord Jesus, and love Him in sincerity, endeavouring to walk in all good conscience before Him, may, in this life, be certainly assured that they are in the state of grace,[3] and may rejoice in the hope of the glory of God, which hope shall never make them ashamed.[4]

    II. This certainty is not a bare conjectural and probable persuasion grounded upon a fallible hope;[5] but an infallible assurance of faith founded upon the divine truth of the promises of salvation,[6] the inward evidence of those graces unto which these promises are made,[7] the testimony of the Spirit of adoption witnessing with our spirits that we are the children of God,[8] which Spirit is the earnest of our inheritance, whereby we are sealed to the day of redemption.[9]

    III. This infallible assurance does not so belong to the essence of faith, but that a true believer may wait long, and conflict with many difficulties, before he be partaker of it:[10] yet, being enabled by the Spirit to know the things which are freely given him of God, he may, without extraordinary revelation in the right use of ordinary means, attain thereunto.[11] And therefore it is the duty of every one to give all diligence to make his calling and election sure,[12] that thereby his heart may be enlarged in peace and joy in the Holy Ghost, in love and thankfulness to God, and in strength and cheerfulness in the duties of obedience,[13] the proper fruits of this assurance; so far is it from inclining men to looseness.[14]

    IV. True believers may have the assurance of their salvation divers ways shaken, diminished, and intermitted; as, by negligence in preserving of it, by falling into some special sin which wounds the conscience and grieves the Spirit; by some sudden or vehement temptation, by God's withdrawing the light of His countenance, and suffering even such as fear Him to walk in darkness and to have no light:[15] yet are they never so utterly destitute of that seed of God, and life of faith, that love of Christ and the brethren, that sincerity of heart, and conscience of duty, out of which, by the operation of the Spirit, this assurance may, in due time, be revived;[16] and by the which, in the mean time, they are supported from utter despair.[17]
  22. TylerRay

    TylerRay Puritan Board Senior

    I don't see anything in Sproul's or Belcher's words that contradict the Confession. True, Wilkin maintains in his article that Sproul's view is that "certainty is not an option," but Sproul doesn't say anything of the sort.

    As for Calvin, read a bit further:
  23. Contra_Mundum

    Contra_Mundum Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger Staff Member

    Our confidence, our assurance is by-faith-in-Christ. Really, at some level that is ALL that it is. Because it looks unto Jesus, the Author and Finisher of it.

    I take Rev. Roberts to mean: it is persevering faith (that's point 5 of the 5-Points, and often just "tacked on" in people's minds) that is the saving kind. You can have some reasonable confidence that yours is the genuine article, when you keep hanging completely on Christ, and in not-depending on how terrific your advancements have been since the "hour you first believed."

    Frankly, I'm not too interested in when that was for you or for me. I AM saved, for right now I'm clinging to Jesus alone. He's all I have to be confident in. Certainly not in my deeds: the old, new, or future. Can such fruits of faith encourage me? Sure they can, and they should to a degree. But my sanctification (such as it is) is no basis for regarding my justified status.

    By the way, that's exactly what is false about the RomanCatholic conception. They can't distinguish properly or order properly the business of sanctification relative to justification. And, in fact by the very end, the justification of a Romanist is fully dependent on the state of sanctification. So much for God "justifying the ungodly," Rom.4:5....

    I think it is salutary if Rev. Roberts be urging his hearers not to rest in the "evidences" for their faith, but to put their energies into deepening their love of Christ and his finished work for them, certified in an ACT of redemptive regard applied to them through the instrumentality of faith. Then, they will the more appreciate his ongoing WORK in them, and be moved to fight on (in the whole armor of God) and finish their race.

    Assurance is a thing that typically ebbs and flows. It also tends to get stronger over time, especially if that time is constantly nourished by the means of grace, and by a proper (not too much or too little) regard to the fruit of a growing Christian's life of faith, and exercise of faith. The Romanist is wrong when he praises doubt (and they do). The Romanist is wrong when he accuses the assured they must be sinning and have a false confidence, 1Jn.5:13; Eph.1:18.

    Sin is something that will--appropriately--sap the confidence of the Christian. If your sin doesn't sap your assurance, I'd start worrying.
  24. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    I have heard preachers say that sin saps your assurance and then assert that if you don't have assurance you must have sin. But many of those whose assurance ebbs and flows are merely given to less presumption and more scrupulous than others. Good works have an evidential value but many possess a false confidence. And the dearest of saints sometimes doubt their salvation. They do not doubt God or His Word but they sometimes doubt whether they be in the faith or not. Why else would Paul have told the CHURCH to examine themselves.

    After all, Judas ministered all over in many towns and maybe even healed the sick and was part of Christ's inner circle for several years.
  25. TylerRay

    TylerRay Puritan Board Senior

    I add my amen to every word of this, brother. Full assurance (not presumption, note section 18:i) is relatively rare, and comes and goes in many who do attain it. As section iv notes, there are a lot of reasons that assurance is shaken.
  26. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    ok good. So I am not unconfessional on this point?
  27. TylerRay

    TylerRay Puritan Board Senior

    No, not on what you said on post 24. I grew up in circles in which people were taught to ground their assurance on their conversation experiences and sinners' prayers, and any doubt was frowned upon. That is emphatically not the position of the Confession.

    However, the Confession does teach that a full assurance is attainable through the appropriation of the promises of the Lord and the inward testimony of the Holy Spirit. Included in those promises are the conditional promises to those who bear good fruit.
  28. KMK

    KMK Administrator Staff Member

    Excellently stated, Rev Buchannan!

    Perhaps we are equivocating on what it is exactly that we are assured of. The LBC says, "yet such as truly believe in the Lord Jesus, and love him in sincerity, endeavouring to walk in all good conscience before him, may in this life be certainly assured that they are in the state of grace, and may rejoice in the hope of the glory of God, which hope shall never make them ashamed." If the words 'in this life' refer to feelings of grace, joy, and peace in this life, then it is hard to imagine anyone having 100% certainty. Even Jesus asked that the cup would be removed from Him.

    But, if these words refer to our certain assurance of our place on the right side of Jesus on that day, then 100% certainty seems very possible, as it was for so many in the Bible. Even Peter, who denied the Lord thrice said, "Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life."

    That is not to say that 100% certainty is essential to saving faith, only that it is possible.
  29. Von

    Von Puritan Board Freshman

    Thank you for that.
    Sometimes it is good to see Scripture and the Confessions being being applied to someones life. And also to see that we are not alone in our struggles.
  30. Five Solas

    Five Solas Puritan Board Freshman

    A bit late to the conversation, but my two bobs worth. Assurance of salvation is something almost every true Christian will struggle with at some point in their life. I know I certainly have.

    However, God is merciful, and I can say with assurance "I am His, and He is mine". At the very least a minister of the gospel must have some certainty of his salvation. Otherwise who would dare step into the pulpit and play with people's souls if they cannot be sure of their own?
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