[We are] not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. (Romans 1:16)

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

In regards to the question on the previous post ....

by Rose

If I understand some correctly, they are saying that repentance (stopping sinful behavior) is automatic with salvation and that even if we don't tell potential converts that they must forsake certain sinful behaviors to obtain eternal life in Christ, they will forsake them. Further, if I understand correctly, they purport that even though change away from sinful bahavior is automatic, we still should tell potentail converts that they must or will forsake the bahavior. Here is an example of what it could sound like:

My response to someone who asks, "Will I need to stop doing X sin?" would be "No, but you'll want to."

I do think there is a danger in this approach.

Salvation is by grace alone through faith alone. We are told in the Scriptures that relying upon our own good or lack of sin to obtain eternal life and righteousness is poisonous. This is a given, no? Can we all stipulate to this fact?

We tell a person to whom we are witnessing of their sinful state and standing before God and we preach the remedy - Christ and the gift of God, eternal life. We tell them of all that Christ did to justify sinners who will put their faith in His completed work. We entreat them to receive the gift of God.

Then, (and here is the part I have a problem with) some go on to tell them about stopping sin. This could either be something like: "God will give you a new heart and you will want to stop whoring around, no doubt about it." or "If you really do trust in Christ, you'll stop whoring around." or "Every time you whore around you're telling God that you're not interested in salvation." or "True Christians always repent of the sin of their non-Christain life." or worse "You must stop whoring around or you can't be saved."

At this point, there is a danger. I think it is human nature for a hearer of such a message to zero in on doing rather than faith, rather than believing in what Christ has done. Wouldn't it be tragic for a message like this, while starting beautifully, to end in the hearers trying to fake the supposed "results of salvation," this turning from sin? Wouldn't we rather amplify to the unsaved the gift of God, that Christ has done it all? We should tell them that they can come to Him just as they are and recieve justification and eternal life by doing nothing but believing in Christ and what He has done for them. When we start to describe change in beahavior or a lack of sinful deeds as a part of salvation, I believe that the fleshly nature of many unsaved will try to fake their own transformation and the last state of those people will be worse than the first. This is religion, not eternal life. I think it is a mixed message, even if some are not trying to give people a false message of works salvation, they will inadvertantly do so. It is human nature to try to do things for ourselves.

Now, my answer to the question in the previous post is this:
I think it is fine to preach a turn from sinful deeds to an unsaved person. Say you have a daughter who is whoring around. Of course you want her to stop doing that. It will make her miserable and could even kill her. However, if you have also been telling her of the gospel and entreating her to receive it by faith, you should make it clear that those are two separate messages. "Repent of your whoring to escape disease, sadness and misery, yes! ... but the gift of God -justification and life eternal - can be received by simple faith in what Christ has done for you. Look at Him and see what He has done to satisfy God."

I think it is important to keep those messages separate.

21 Comments:

  • Amen! Unless people can look at our message and raise the same objection as Romans 6:1 then we can't be preaching a gospel of grace! The gospel of grace always gets people asking "does it not promote antinomianism?" and any other gospel simply doesn't get that response because it isn't based upon grace!

    By Blogger Andrew McNeill, at Wednesday, June 06, 2007 8:58:00 AM  

  • Rose,

    Sounds good to me. And whether you agree or not, your answer would be soundly within the Free Grace camp.

    Repentance is a message for everyone. God does not delight in the death of the wicked. He would rather them turn from their sins and live.

    Thinking differently about one's sins and turning from them can definitely be preparatory for believing in Christ.

    Antonio

    By Blogger Antonio, at Wednesday, June 06, 2007 10:24:00 AM  

  • Wise words, Rose.

    By Blogger Dyspraxic Fundamentalist, at Wednesday, June 06, 2007 1:47:00 PM  

  • Hi Rose. That was a great post, but the part about the last state being worse than the first (2 Peter 2:20) applies to believers, not unbelievers. 2 Peter 2:1-17 deals with unsaved false teachers. Verses 18-22 deal with their saved dupes.

    In verse 18, we read about the false teachers entangling those who have escaped from those who live in error. So when you get to verse 20, and read about those who have escaped and are entangled in the pollutions of the world again, you know Peter is talking about the duped believers, not the false teachers.

    Peter is saying that it would have been better for the saved dupes to have remained carnal/immature, then to progress to maturity (way of righteousness) and then turn back to the pollutions of the world. We have three states.

    State 1 - You are a new believer and thus immature.

    State 2 - Escape the pollutions of the world through knowledge of Jesus (knowledge is only used of believers throughout 2 Peter).

    State 3 - Revert back to carnality. Entangled again.

    Message: It would have better not to have known the way of righteousness (maturity/growth), then having matured only to revert back to carnality. Last state (reverting to carnality after being mature) is worse than the first (immature new believer).

    By Anonymous danny, at Wednesday, June 06, 2007 10:28:00 PM  

  • Oh yeah, I agree with Danny about that verse. I missed that bit. Good post, though.

    By Blogger Dyspraxic Fundamentalist, at Thursday, June 07, 2007 12:21:00 AM  

  • Hello Andrew,
    Thank you for reading. You may be right about that antinomianism charge.

    Antonio,
    Thanks for reading! I thought that I had that view in common with FG. I hope you are doing well these days.

    Hi Danny,

    I was actually loosley referring to this verse:
    24 “When an unclean spirit goes out of a man, he goes through dry places, seeking rest; and finding none, he says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came.’ 25 And when he comes, he finds it swept and put in order. 26 Then he goes and takes with him seven other spirits more wicked than himself, and they enter and dwell there; and the last state of that man is worse than the first.” Luke 12

    I had not even thought about 2 Peter, but having just looked at it, I agree completely, that is about believers. I often think about Luke 12 when talking about this subject. In my Scofiled Bible, I think it has a heading that says "the futility of self reformation" or something like that. I don't think this means that an unsaved person can't repent of something, but if they religiously reform and try to acheive self-righteousness, they could end up worse off than at first. Get what I am saying? Is that how you would view Luke 12? Matthew?

    Matthew,
    You look so wise. :~)

    By Blogger Rose~, at Thursday, June 07, 2007 4:47:00 AM  

  • If I give an opinion on that verse somebody will come up with a better one. Scofield's sounds good.

    Some interpretations also hold that this passage has reference to the moral of Israel as well.

    By Blogger Dyspraxic Fundamentalist, at Thursday, June 07, 2007 5:15:00 AM  

  • Rose said,

    "Then, (and here is the part I have a problem with) some go on to tell them about stopping sin. This could either be something like: "God will give you a new heart and you will want to stop whoring around, no doubt about it." or "If you really do trust in Christ, you'll stop whoring around." or "Every time you whore around you're telling God that you're not interested in salvation." or "True Christians always repent of the sin of their non-Christain life." or worse "You must stop whoring around or you can't be saved.""

    This is why I said, "you'll want to" in stead of "you will." I don't care how carnal a Christian tries to be, the fact is that they do have the Holy Spirit indwelling them, and one of His effects on a life is a hatred of sin. To say that the Holy Spirit will work a particular change in someone's life, as opposed to another, is arrogant in the face of the wisdom of God, and His individual dealings with redeemed souls, but I believe it's safe to say that all sin becomes distasteful to a Christian.

    Furthermore, as I tried to explain in my comment, righteousness is the goal of salvation: there is no point in accepting Christ's offer of salvation (from sin) to make you righteous if you don't want to be righteous (i.e., escape from sin).

    Salvation, as you say, is "by grace alone through faith alone," but let us not forget that it is unto righteousness.

    In other words, righteousness isn't a prerequisite for salvation, nor is it, per se, a side-effect: salvation is righteousness.

    I don't see any point in trying to drive a wedge between the two when preaching the gospel.

    By Blogger Tim, at Thursday, June 07, 2007 1:56:00 PM  

  • Tim,

    how would you preach the gospel (or how do you) then?

    Antonio

    By Blogger Antonio, at Thursday, June 07, 2007 2:28:00 PM  

  • Rose, thanks for the clarification . You meant Luke 11, not 12. Yes, I view Luke 11 the same way you do. Glad you agree on 2 Peter. :)

    By Anonymous danny, at Thursday, June 07, 2007 3:54:00 PM  

  • Danny,
    Did I mean Luke 11? Thanks for clarifying that! Between Bible Gateway, my little baby, my job and Blogger, I lost a whole chapter! :~)

    By Blogger Rose~, at Friday, June 08, 2007 4:01:00 AM  

  • Hi Tim,
    I hear ya. I do appreciate that you said "you will" rather than "you must."
    All I am trying to say is that the unsaved don't know about this part of what you refer to:
    I don't care how carnal a Christian tries to be, the fact is that they do have the Holy Spirit indwelling them, and one of His effects on a life is a hatred of sin. To say that the Holy Spirit will work a particular change in someone's life, as opposed to another, is arrogant in the face of the wisdom of God, and His individual dealings with redeemed souls, but I believe it's safe to say that all sin becomes distasteful to a Christian.

    They don't get that. So, why confuse the message with something that might appeal to the desire to contribute to salvation? Don't you see how that could happen? Do you not get the idea in the post I wrote?

    I also see that salvation is unto righteousness. The righteousness I am excited about for those unsaved that I come across is the immediate justification and standing beofre God upon the moment of faith. The practical sanctification, while wonderful, is not nearly as dependable because it has the human element in it. No?

    By Blogger Rose~, at Friday, June 08, 2007 4:19:00 AM  

  • "They don't get that. So, why confuse the message with something that might appeal to the desire to contribute to salvation? Don't you see how that could happen? Do you not get the idea in the post I wrote?"

    A potential for misunderstanding and/or abuse does not guarantee that it will occur. I don't see how telling someone the truth when they specifically ask a question about it rather than dodging the question and pointing to the issue that you think they ought to be focusing on is doing them a disservice. There is no part of the truth that I must hide until someone is saved. It is true that, "a little knowledge is a dangerous thing", but that just means that I must give them a complete enough picture as to avoid that error. Intentionally leaving out part of the picture to avoid a specific pitfall is disingenuous, and demonstrates a lack of faith in the work of the Holy Spirit in bringing sinners to repentance.

    I reject the idea that those on the verge of being saved do not, to some extent, loathe sin, and desire righteousness. In fact, it is exactly this attitude (which can only result from a work of the Holy Spirit in that heart) which enables the human will to choose to accept God's offer of righteousness in Christ.

    "For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure."
    -Philippians 2:13


    "Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we will be. We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is. And everyone who has this hope fixed on Him purifies himself, just as He is pure."
    1 John 3:2-3

    Should the Gideons edit out all of the passages that talk about sanctification before they distribute Bibles to unbelievers? Why then should I not discuss these verses and the concepts that they contain with my unsaved friends?


    "The practical sanctification, while wonderful, is not nearly as dependable because it has the human element in it. No?"

    No. That is incorrect. It is guaranteed by God himself. (1 Thes 5:23-24) It may not become manifest in the particular way you would like it and on your timetable, but 100% practical sanctification will occur for everyone who puts their faith in Christ.

    Sanctification is as much a part of God's offer and plan as positional righteousness: God does not play pretend; He does things for real, and the two are integral parts of the same free gift. If He says that you are a certain way, it is because that is what He has made you be in real and actual fact: real, actual facts that we mortals sometimes arrogantly suppose are too mundane and gritty for the likes of holy omnipotent God: yet He became incarnate (much to our chagrin) because He deals only in reality.

    It is an absolute fact that everyone who puts their faith in Christ will be cleansed of their "whoring about" and all other sinful behaviors: both positionally and practically. Positionally immediately; practically, increasingly as we see Him as through a glass darkly, and completely when we see Him face to face.

    There seems to be an idea afoot that because grace is free, it doesn't have an effect in reality. I submit to you that 'reality' ought to contain more than this present world.

    By Blogger Tim, at Tuesday, June 12, 2007 6:18:00 PM  

  • Tim,
    I am going to post a quote from that comment so we can (and anyone else who wants to) discuss it more at length.

    Thanks for participating on this blog. I appreciate how you explain your views even though I see it differently.

    I do want to corerct you in this:
    You say There is no part of the truth that I must hide until someone is saved.
    I was not promting being disingenuous. I am sorry if I gave that impression.

    I was trying to say that we should be clear that salvation is not by works at all and that we should be careful that we don't appeal to the flesh in our witnessing.

    Thanks again. :~)

    By Blogger Rose~, at Wednesday, June 13, 2007 7:41:00 AM  

  • By "human element" I meant that we have to submit to God for practical sanctification. I am convinced of this. It is not automatic.

    By Blogger Rose~, at Wednesday, June 13, 2007 7:53:00 AM  

  • Rose,

    Thanks for your patience with me. My visceral reaction was not to your inclusion of the "human element" in practical sanctification, but that you somehow concluded that because of the "human element" a part of our salvation could be thought of as "less dependable".

    I get the impression that this aspect of salvation is being down-played, and I see no reason why it should be.

    A proper and complete understanding of the gospel (1) includes practical sanctification and (2) does not lead one to believe that any part of the salvation, including the practical sanctification depends on the sinner who is being saved.

    "I was trying to say that we should be clear that salvation is not by works at all and that we should be careful that we don't appeal to the flesh in our witnessing." ~Rose

    Let us not throw out the baby with the bathwater: "not appealing to the flesh" is not synonymous with "not mentioning the fact that practical sanctification will occur". I think we both know this, but you keep speaking as if it is, or at least, that's what I keep hearing. In other words, there seems to me to be some false assumption that you are making.

    "By "human element" I meant that we have to submit to God for practical sanctification. I am convinced of this. It is not automatic." ~Rose

    I agree: on both points: "we have to submit to God" for it, and it "is not automatic", but it is, nonetheless, guaranteed.

    You or I could lead a proverbial horse to water, but we could not make him drink. God is so good at his proverbial horse-whispering, that He gives a guarantee that any horse that He leads to Water will never thirst again: not because He drowns the horse, but because He intimately knows and loves the horse, and will do whatever it takes to get that horse to be willing to drink, and He knows what it takes, because He designed us each and formed every fiber of our being.

    The Lord will do whatever it takes to get us to be willing to do His will: he will work with us and in us, and He will succeed because the first thing that He did was give us His Spirit as a pledge.

    That Holy Spirit is not only a "guarantee" from our end, but it is also His primary tool in conforming us to Christ's image. Without the Holy Spirit, we are hopelessly lost, but with Him we are irrevocably set on the path (and propelled by Him) to salvation.

    The Father has the skill and wisdom to guide us and draw us; the Spirit is the tool that works in us; The Son is the power that propels us to sanctification.

    By Blogger Tim, at Wednesday, June 13, 2007 11:33:00 PM  

  • To clarify,

    "(2) does not lead one to believe that any part of the salvation, including the practical sanctification depends on the sinner who is being saved."

    When I wrote this, I was using "depends on" in the sense of being the source of power. Sanctification does depend on our will, that is, we must choose to be sanctified on a moment-by-moment basis, and in this sense, our sanctification depends on our will (or one could say, the specifics of our sanctification depend on our will), but in the greater sense, the sense of 'happening' or 'not happening'; in the sense of the one who provides the power to will and to do "of His good pleasure", none of that depends on us: there is no sense in us boasting about something that God coaxed us into doing in His power.

    By Blogger Tim, at Thursday, June 14, 2007 2:07:00 AM  

  • Tim,
    Much of what you said sounds good to me and you say it in a way that is not so canned as I hear coming from some around the blogs. I like your using the horse/horse whisperer illustration.

    Just let me ask you - how does this 100% practical sanctification look?

    Most of the Christians I know are not halfway there! I know of Christian people who give up on the road and sit down. Don't you? What about the guy who wrote "It is well with my soul" - he went mad and died in this state. Others do not resemble 100% practically sanctified and those who do resemble it: I am sure they are wearing a lot of make-up! I have always looked at this as beginning on earth and the level to which we go depends on our willingness to follow Jesus and learn of Him, submitting to the leading of the HS. BUT - when we end this life, God will take us the rest of the way. In this way, I feel the "guarantee" of God, as you put it.

    Am I way off base?

    How can this guarantee be realized now - in what I see as a rag-tag mix of earth-bound saints? Some of us are leaning and growing and some of us are sitting down. Even those of us learning/growing must admit that we are really really falling short, don't you think?

    I don't see it.

    By Blogger Rose~, at Thursday, June 14, 2007 5:02:00 AM  

  • Rose,

    "Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not.

    Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is.

    And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure. "

    ~1 John 3:1-3

    Look at the progression of these verses. The Father has bestowed sonship on us: we are eternally 'saved' and there is an immediate, fundamental change in who we are, but there is an aspect of our salvation that cannot yet be seen in us.

    But we know that we will see it: we know that God is working in us to transform us into Christ's image. When we see Him, that image will be revealed in its completeness, and the old shell of sinful flesh will fall away.

    Whoever has this hope: whoever is longing and expecting to see Him and be like Him will be craning their neck at every opportunity to to see Him and become even now more like Him, so that the image that results will be even more glorious. The more that we see of Him the more of His beauty we can (and will) reflect.

    "But we all, looking on the glory of the Lord, with unveiled face, are transformed according to the same image from glory to glory, even as by [the] Lord [the] Spirit."
    ~2 Corinthians 3:18

    For absolute clarity:

    "Just let me ask you - how does this 100% practical sanctification look?"

    When Christ appears, what remains of our sinful nature will fall away, and the process of our practical sanctification will reach 100% completeness.

    No, you did not offend me by quoting me, I merely found it amusing and instructive what some people did with the quote.

    "Am I way off base?"

    No, you are spot-on, as they say.

    "How can this guarantee be realized now - in what I see as a rag-tag mix of earth-bound saints? Some of us are leaning and growing and some of us are sitting down. Even those of us learning/growing must admit that we are really really falling short, don't you think?

    I don't see it."


    John would agree with you. He didn't see it either, but he knew it was there, and he identified that hope, that knowledge of what we will be in revelation, as precisely the driving force behind propelling us onward to that destination in our current state of obscurity.

    When God created the universe, He did so in 'evenings' and 'mornings'. When Christ came the first time, it was like one of His 'evenings': You couldn't see what was really going on by looking at Him on the surface. There was "no beauty that we should desire him" on the surface, yet that beauty was still there and operating. In the 'morning', God reveals what He has been doing all this time: the creation mornings followed the evenings, and I believe it is exactly the same in the old and new creations. When Christ appears the second time, what was hidden before will be blindingly plain for all to see. It is the same with the new creation in us.

    By Blogger Tim, at Thursday, June 14, 2007 12:48:00 PM  

  • Tim said:
    When Christ appears, what remains of our sinful nature will fall away, and the process of our practical sanctification will reach 100% completeness

    Thanks, Tim. With that, I am in agreement. I am glad I asked you to clarify ... and I am glad you agreed with my assessment of the situation. It seems we actually are onthe same page. I love the way you put this:

    When God created the universe, He did so in 'evenings' and 'mornings'. When Christ came the first time, it was like one of His 'evenings': You couldn't see what was really going on by looking at Him on the surface. There was "no beauty that we should desire him" on the surface, yet that beauty was still there and operating. In the 'morning', God reveals what He has been doing all this time: the creation mornings followed the evenings, and I believe it is exactly the same in the old and new creations. When Christ appears the second time, what was hidden before will be blindingly plain for all to see. It is the same with the new creation in us.

    That right there is just a fine and beautiful piece of literature! Praise the Lord.

    By Blogger Rose~, at Friday, June 15, 2007 4:23:00 AM  

  • Rose,

    Thank you.

    Thank you for your patience as we hashed this out. Too often people think they disagree, when in reality they are simply failing to communicate properly because of prejudice or differing semantics.

    "For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him?"

    Thank God, who has given us the Spirit, which "searcheth all things" so that we can truly be of one mind with Him.

    By Blogger Tim, at Friday, June 15, 2007 3:04:00 PM  

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