What then shall we say was gained by Abraham, our forefather according to
the flesh? For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast
about, but not before God. For what does the Scripture say? "Abraham
believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness." Now to the one
who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due. And to the
one who does not work but trusts him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is
counted as righteousness ...
Monday, April 28, 2008
Reformed Theology / Lordship Salvation on Trial!
by Antonio da Rosa
John H. Gerstner:
Lordship teaching does not 'add works', as if faith were not sufficient. The 'works' are part of the definition of faith. [Wrongly Dividing the Word of Truth: A Critique of Dispensationalism, p 257]
Let us say that we were in a court of law. Reformed Theology / Lordship Salvation was on trial for requiring works for salvation and Free Grace Theology was prosecuting. During opening statements, Reformed Theology states, "We are clearly within the pale of Reformation Theology. We believe that salvation is by faith alone in Christ alone apart from works."
The prosecution's first witness is John H. Gerstner, and when asked if works are required and necessary for salvation in addition to faith, he states the above quote in defense of the Lordship Salvation position.
In the closing statement by Free Grace theology, their advocate makes this case:
How can it be escaped that Reformed Theology and Lordship Salvation teaches that works are necessary requirements for salvation? If works are part of the definition of faith, and faith alone is required for salvation, then we have works + whatever else takes up the remainder of the definition of faith as required for salvation.
If faith -> salvation and faith = works + (fill in the blank) then works + (fill in the blank) -> salvation
Such speak is manifestly double talk and, in fact, disingenuous. Including works in the definition of faith does not make one's position immune from the charge of works salvation.
If someone said, "This is water, have some." And then I ask him, "That is not water plus any poison, is it?" And He said, "No. It is water alone!" So I drank the water. But after I finished, I began to get sick, and sensed that there was some kind of poison in it. I said, "I thought you said that wasn't water plus poison!" And he answered, "It is just water! The poison is just part of the definition of water!"
What should become of this person who spoke thus about the water? Should he not be found guilty? Of course! There is nothing different between the claim of the man with the water and Mr. Gerstner here!
What is to be the verdict on Reformed Theology / Lordship Salvation?
So often in coversations regarding the future 1000 reign of Jesus Chirst on the earth - the Kingdom that was promised - Amillennialists (those who say there is no 1000 year reign) accuse those who believe in a literal kingdom as being carnal or earthly in our expectations. They claim that the kingdom of God is within the believer now and that it is a purely spiritual thing. To expect that Christ will actually rule physical beings, a physical earth, as the promised Son of David, in a tangible, concrete way is somehow too materialistic. Alva McClain shares a humorous, but quite pointed story in regards to this charge:
During a church banquet a group of preachers were discussing the nature of the kingdom of God. One expressed his adherence to the premillenial view of a literal kingdom... To this a rather belligerent 200 pound preacher snorted, "Ridiculous! Such an idea is nothing but materialism." When asked to state his own view, he replied, "The kingdom is a spiritual matter. The kingdom of God has already been established, and is within you. Don't you gentlmen know that the Kingdom is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Ghost?" And the speaker reached hungrily across the table and speared another enormous piece of fried chicken!... At the risk of being thought tiresome, let me recite the obvious conclusion: If the Kingdom of God can exist now now on earth in a 200 hundred pound preacher full of fried chickien, without any reprehensible materialistic connotations, perhaps it could also exist in the same way among men on earth who will at times be eating and drinking under more perfect conditions in a future millennial kingdom."
For the most part it deals with evidence supporting an interpretation of the "wedding garment" (and other details) found in the parable of the Wedding Feast (Mt 22:1-14).
The following is an excerpt from Zane C. Hodges from his book, Grace in Eclipse concerning this very parable, and I believe that it goes good with my series.
... it is to the wedding supper itself, and not merely to the kingdom as such, that the call is extended. That certainly implies a saving belief in the message about the King's Son. But it involves more that that. It involves also a willingness to be His disciple, to love righteousness and hate wickedness as He did, to take up our own cross as He took up His.
In short, it involves a willingness to enter the kingdom prepared for its special privileges. It means coming to the wedding properly dressed! ...
But when the king came in to see [or, observe] the guests, he saw a man there who did not have on a wedding garment. 12 So he said to him, 'Friend, how did you come in here without a wedding garment?' And he was speechless (Matt 22:11-12).
Naturally, some have thought that the garment lacked by the man in question was a "robe of righteousness" which the king would have given him freely. But the parable itself does not suggest this. Indeed, it seems not to have been the custom in those days [see Joachim Jeremas, The Parables of Jesus, revised ed., p 65]. The invitation to attend was freely given, but the one who accepted the call took it upon himself to obtain and wear suitable attire.
This man, then, had failed to carry out an obligation which his acceptance of the King's invitation placed upon him. It is surely not hard for the Christian reader to detect in the appearance of the king, who then "observes" the assembled guests, another clear reference to the day of accounting which lies ahead for every Christian. In that day our garments -- our life and its works -- will come under God's scrutiny and evaluation.
To be sure, we have also accepted an invitation to live in God's kingdom. That destiny can be ours by simple faith alone and is never subject at all to divine review. But to set foot on the pathway of Christian living is to hear God's call to the highest privileges which eternity affords. It is to respond to the challenge to become joint-heirs with the King and to enter richly into His special joys. But before the celebration begins, there must come the review!
The next words are solemn:
Then the king said to the servants, "Bind him hand and foot, take him away, and cast him into outer darkness; there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth." For many are called, but few are chosen (Matt 22:13-14).
Solemn yes! But not so grim as they are usually made out to be. Most Christian readers identify the "outer darkness" as a description of hell. They would be surprised to learn that the Greek phrase employed here is used only three times, all in Matthew (8:12; 22:13; 25:30), and nowhere else in the New Testament... They might idiomatically be rendered "the darkness outside."
Here one must keep firmly in mind that we are dealing with a parable filled with symbolic elements. The man's hands and feet are bound, the Lord reports. But no one takes this binding literally, even if it is thought that an unsaved man is in view. Indeed, the wedding garment he lacks is not literal, nor for that matter is the wedding supper itself.
The Savior's parable is a magnificent metaphor. It visualizes the kingly joys of God's Son under the familiar Old Testament image of a wedding celebration (see again Psalm 45!). The invited guests are called to participate in these joys, and their wedding garments are symbols of their successful efforts to prepare themselves for these.
But the man who lacked the garment was unprepared for such special privileges. His activities in the kingdom of God thus come under severe restriction as his hands and feet are bound. Like the servant who hid the mina (Luke 19:26), the man is not allowed to be active for his Lord in the experience of joint heirship. The "darkness outside" is a powerful, evocative image for the exclusion he experiences as a result.
There is no suggestion here of punishment or torment. The presence of remorse, in the form of weeping and gnashing of teeth, does not in any way require this inference. Indeed, what we actually see in the image itself is a man soundly "trussed up" out on the darkened grounds of the king's private estate, while the banquet hall glows with light and reverberates with the joys of those inside. That is what we actually see. And that is all!
But that is enough! We do not need to embellish the parable with the lurid colors of eternal damnation. There is no fire and brimstone on the king's handsome estate, no worms of corruption creeping out from under the boulders of his well-kept grounds. This is what has been read into the story. But it isn't there. A parable, after all, has its natural limits and these we must be careful not to breach.
We are not to deduce, either, that the failing Christian will spend an anguished eternity in some dark corner of God's kingdom with nothing meaningful at all to do. That, too, would be a grotesque distortion of our Lord's teaching.
No, it is enough to say that the failing Christian has missed a splendid experience of co-reigning with Christ, with all the multiplied joys which that experience implies. It is enough to affirm that eh undergoes a significant exclusion from the "light and gladness, joy and honor" (see Est 8:16) which the co-heirs experience with Christ. Whatever else eternity holds for him, he has at least missed that!
If he can view such a loss with equanimity now, our Lord makes it clear that he will not view it that way hereafter: "There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth." (The Greek = "Weeping and gnashing of teeth will be there.") The servant who is "tied up" in the darkness outside the wedding hall will be deeply remorseful over the loss he has suffered. In that situation, he weeps and gnashes his teeth.
Therefore, the unfaithful Christian, like the ill-dressed guest, has missed the wedding supper just as surely as did those who spurned the invitation to begin with. So he joins the crowded ranks of the many who are called to co-heirship and misses the elite number of the few who actually attain it. And that is certainly worth weeping about!