I. INTRODUCTION: The following commentary is a response to the content and comments found in the following blog.
This response is rather long but it is also quite thorough. I will try to be as succinct as possible, letting the abundance of Scripture speak for itself; however, some expounding is necessary. Also, when certain passages are repeated, it is not for the sake of mere redundancy. Numerous passages have key nuances pertaining to specific interrelated arguments. When one is requoted in a subsequent section, it is to emphasize the specific doctrinal aspect(s) in view.
Consider also that no matter what you may think of John MacArthur, or the highly ambiguous term Lordship Salvation (a term that means many different things to many different people… running the gamut from biblical to heretical), the commentary coming from the blog at issue is deeply concerning. I aim to show why below.
II-A. THE QUESTION THAT PROMPTED THIS.
In the comment section of the linked article, the author at issue was asked the following question (paraphrasing):
What if someone fully claims to believe in Christ, the Gospel of free and sovereign grace, and all else that the Lord said about Himself, our state, and our spiritual need; and yet, they proceed to (presumably habitually, unrepentantly) use foul language, verbally abuse their parents, abuse drugs/alcohol, watch pornography, and engage in homosexuality, etc. Is that person still saved?
II-B. THE AUTHOR’S RESPONSE…
His response, broken into parts, is in blue (in a quoted format, with some underlining emphasis added). My reply to each portion of his response will be in regular colour. We’ll start with the first section below:
“The question reveals the confusion that lies behind it. If the only thing you know about sin is that you are guilty and in need of a savior, then you don’t know about sin. Just like if the only thing you know about righteousness is heterosexuality and polite language, then you don’t know about righteousness.“
II-C. MY REPLY: THE FOUNDATION OF THE CHRISTIAN’S RIGHTEOUSNESS BEFORE GOD: I agree wholeheartedly with the author that the righteousness that pertains to the Christian’s legal standing before God is strictly the righteousness of Christ imputed to them. No one can rightly dispute this seeing that for the true children of God, THE LORD IS OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS. We are righteous only in/by/through Him, and apart from Him, we have no righteousness whatsoever. Said another way, we have no righteousness inherent in us, and no righteousness stemming/originating from us. When it comes to “getting saved” or “staying saved,” our only hope and relevant righteousness, is the one grounded solely upon Christ (His Person, His finished salvific work at Calvary), as can be fully evidenced by passages like:
Romans 3:20-22 “Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be JUSTIFIED [note: key word, JUSTIFIED] in His sight: for by the law [is] the knowledge of sin. 21 But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets; 22 Even the righteousness of God [which is] by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference…”
Romans 4:5-8 “But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness. 6 Even as David also describeth the blessedness of the man, unto whom God imputeth righteousness without works, 7 [Saying], Blessed [are] they whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered. 8 Blessed [is] the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin.”
1 Corinthians 1:30-31 “But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption: 31 That, according as it is written, He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord.“
2 Corinthians 5:21 “For He hath made Him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him.“
Romans 5:19-21 “For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous. Moreover the law entered, that the offence might abound. But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound: 21 That as sin hath reigned unto death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord….“
Philippians 3:8-10 “Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ, 9 And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith: 10 That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death…”
2 Peter 1:1 “Simon Peter, a servant and an apostle of Jesus Christ, to them that have obtained like precious faith with us through the righteousness of God and our Saviour Jesus Christ:“
Titus 3:1-5 “Put them in mind to be subject to principalities and powers, to obey magistrates, to be ready to every good work, 2 To speak evil of no man, to be no brawlers, [but] gentle, shewing all meekness unto all men. 3 For we ourselves also WERE sometimes foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving divers lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful, [and] hating one another. 4 But after that the kindness and love of God our Saviour toward man appeared, 5 Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost…“
III-A. However, consider what else the author stated:
“You still see righteousness in terms of self righteous behavior rather than legal status. This is obvious from the inverse of your question. What if someone says they believe in Jesus and they don’t cuss daily, don’t treat their parents like garbage, don’t watch pornography, and don’t commit homosexual acts. Are they really saved? Because if you say yes, then you’re in the camp with Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Scientology, even Gnosticism. They all answer yes.”
III-B. MY REPLY: RIGHT THINKING IS NEEDED ON THE MATTER: The two main problems with this portion of his response consist of (1) a confusion of manifest uprightness (i.e., the working out of our salvation in a godly manner and all that results from it) with self-righteousness; and (2) the use of the Association Fallacy (Guilt by Association).
Firstly, righteousness as a legal status, and righteousness in the sense of an upright walk, are not mutually exclusive for those already made perfectly righteous in Christ. I will touch more on ‘confusing manifest uprightness with self-righteousness” later.
Secondly, the use of the Association Fallacy is intellectually dishonest at best; it serves no edifying purpose. Just because problematic groups agree with someone on a point, or appear to agree on a point, doesn’t make the point itself invalid. You must establish the accuracy of the matter rationally, objectively, and not with over-generalized ad hominems. To assist, note the following
“Guilt by association can sometimes also be a type of ad hominem fallacy, if the argument attacks a person because of the similarity between the views of someone making an argument and other proponents of the argument.
This form of the argument is as follows:
Group A makes a particular claim.
Group B, which is currently viewed negatively by some, makes the same claim as Group A.
Therefore, Group A is viewed as associated with Group B, and is now also viewed negatively.”
Also, consider the portion stating:
“What if someone says they believe in Jesus and they don’t cuss daily, don’t treat their parents like garbage, don’t watch pornography, and don’t commit homosexual acts. Are they really saved? Because if you say yes, then you’re in the camp with Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Scientology, even Gnosticism. They all answer yes.”
Is someone who professes a belief in the true Christ, and the true Gospel, really in the same camp with Mormons, and JW’s, et al., simply for believing that an upright walk, when accompanied by a true Gospel profession, does more to evidence true salvation, than a mere Gospel profession, with either (a) the lack of an upright walk, or (b) a blatantly wicked one? Surely, the accusation is a foolish one. Surely, one’s walk evidences/supports/affirms their profession. If any doubt this, please consider the following two sets of scriptural references. Judge for yourselves whether a profession with an accompanying upright walk is more biblically associated with a true profession, than a profession without such a walk, or more egregiously, with an openly sinful/unrighteous one.
Set One: Passages evidencing that a Gospel profession, combined with a habitual, continual, ongoing, ungodly walk, suggests reprobation, not salvation:
1 Corinthians 5:1-13 “It is reported commonly [that there is] fornication among you, and such fornication as is not so much as named among the Gentiles, that one should have his father’s wife. 2 And ye are puffed up, and have not rather mourned, that he that hath done this deed might be taken away from among you. … 4 In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, when ye are gathered together, and my spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus Christ, 5 To deliver such an one unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit *MAY BE* saved in the day of the Lord Jesus. … 7 PURGE OUT therefore the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump, as ye are unleavened. For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us: … 9 I wrote unto you in an epistle NOT TO COMPANY WITH FORNICATORS: 10 Yet not altogether with the fornicators of this world, or with the covetous, or extortioners, or with idolaters; for then must ye needs go out of the world. 11 But now I have written unto you not to keep company, iIF ANY MAN THAT IS CALLED A BROTHER be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolater, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner; WITH SUCH A ONE NO NOT EAT. 12 For what have I to do to judge them also that are without? do not ye judge them that are within? 13 But them that are without God judgeth. Therefore PUT AWAY FROM ANONG YOURSELVES THAT WICKED PERSON.”
[Note: (1) I will address the language “To deliver such an one unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit *MAY BE* saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.” below. (2) Why were they puffed up? No doubt because they too had false notions concerning (a) mere “mental assent,” (b) licentious conceptions of so-called “Christian liberty,” and (c) the real nature of Christian righteousness (which is not in word, mouth, or on paper only — but lived out, in light of newness of life, and the effectual working of the Holy Spirit).].
Moreover, consider why we are to put away those who profess Christ but live habitually, continuously, unrepentantly like the world? Because:
1 Corinthians 6:9-11 “Know ye not that THE UNRIGHTEOUS SHALL NOT INHERIT the kingdom of God? **BE NOT DECEIVED:** neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, 10 Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And such **WERE** SOME OF YOU: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.”
[Note: This passage is not stating that ‘those who deny that the righteousness of Christ, imputed to His people, is the sole basis for their legal standing before God’ shall not inherit the kingdom of God. Instead, it is clearly stating that those who ‘live/walk unrighteously (as to the course of their professed Christian life)’ shall not inherit the kingdom of God. This has been the right understanding of the passage since the early church, and continues to be rightly understood by all true Christians).].
Galatians 5:19-21 “Now the works of the flesh are MANIFEST, which are [these]; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, 20 Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, 21 Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told [you] in time past, that THEY WHICH DO SUCH THINGS SHALL NOT INHERIT THE KINGDOM OF GOD.”
[Note: Just as the works of the flesh are MANIFEST (lived out, capable of being seen/witnessed), so are the works of the Spirit. The first can be collectively referred to as manifest unrighteousness, the latter as manifest righteousness/uprightness/virtue. The passage teaches that the ones engaging in the former (i.e., who manifest unrighteousness habitually, unrepentantly), shall not inherit the kingdom of God. The reverse implication is that the people of God do not work such things; they do not walk unrighteously as to the course of their walk/profession, despite the fact that they still sin.].
Ephesians 5:1-6 “Be ye therefore followers of God, as dear children; 2 And walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweetsmelling savour. 3 But fornication, and all uncleanness, or covetousness, let it not be once named among you, as becometh saints; 4 Neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor jesting, which are not convenient: but rather giving of thanks. 5 For this ye know, that no whoremonger, nor unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, HATH ANY INHERITANCE IN THE KINGDOM OF CHRIST AND OF GOD. 6 Let no man deceive you with vain words: for because of these things cometh the wrath of God upon the children of disobedience.”
[Note: Concerning unrighteousness, the fact that God Himself states “…let it not be once named among you, as becometh saints,“ confirms that He is teaching us that we not only should not walk in such things, but (in/by/through Him), can abstain from walking in such. We can indeed walk uprightly/righteously. Unto sinless perfection? Of course not. However, by the Holy Spirit, as we progress onward in His strength, we can indeed walk in a manner that is greatly improved over our former, unregenerate walk.].
Revelation 21:8 “But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death.”
2 Peter 2:18-22 “For when they speak great swelling [words] of vanity, they allure through the lusts of the flesh, [through much] wantonness, those that were clean escaped from them who live in error. 19 While they promise them LIBERTY, they themselves are the servants of corruption: for of whom a man is overcome, of the same is he brought in bondage. 20 For if after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, they are again entangled therein, and overcome, the latter end is worse with them than the beginning. 21 For it had been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than, after they have known [it], to turn from the holy commandment delivered unto them. 22 But it is happened unto them according to the true proverb, The dog [is] turned to his own vomit again; and the sow that was washed to her wallowing in the mire.”
Set Two: Passages evidencing that a Gospel profession, combined with a an upright walk, suggests true salvation (true quickening and conversion):
Ephesians 4:17-32 “This I say therefore, and testify in the Lord, that ye henceforth walk not as other Gentiles walk, in the vanity of their mind, 18 Having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart: 19 Who being past feeling have given themselves over unto lasciviousness, to work all uncleanness with greediness. 20 BUT YE HAVE NOT SO LEARNED CHRIST; 21 **IF** SO BE THAT YE HAVE HEARD HIM, and have been taught by him, as the truth is in Jesus: 22 That ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; 23 And be renewed in the spirit of your mind; 24 And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness. 25 Wherefore putting away lying, speak every man truth with his neighbour: for we are members one of another. 26 Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath: 27 Neither give place to the devil. 28 Let him that stole steal no more: but rather let him labour, working with [his] hands the thing which is good, that he may have to give to him that needeth. 29 Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers. 30 And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption. 31 Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: 32 And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.”
John 14:15-21 “If ye love me, keep my commandments… 21 He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him.”
[NOTE: Some erroneously teach that the only two commandments for the Christian today are to (1) believe in Christ and to (2) love Him and His people. However, John 14:15-21 alone proves that this is an inaccurate interpretation.
Imagine reading the above as “If ye love me, ‘have faith in me, love me, and love my people…’ 21 He that hath my ‘have faith in me, love me, and love my people,’ and keepeth [the] ‘have faith in me, love me, and love my people,’ he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him” — it makes no sense, especially in light of the entirety of what the Bible has to say on the matter, as we will see more clearly below.]
1 John 5:1-5 “Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God: and every one that loveth him that begat loveth him also that is begotten of him. 2 By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God, and keep his commandments [PLURAL]. 3 For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments [PLURAL]: and his commandments [PLURAL] are not grievous. 4 For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, [even] our faith. 5 Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God?”
1 John 2:3-6 “And hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments [PLURAL]. 4 He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. 5 But whoso keepeth his word, in him verily is the love of God perfected: hereby know we that we are in him. 6 He that saith he abideth in him ought himself also so to walk, even as he walked.“
Revelations 22:14-15 “Blessed [are] they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city. 15 For without [are] dogs, and sorcerers, and whoremongers, and murderers, and idolaters, and whosoever loveth and maketh a lie.”
2 John 1:5-7 “And now I beseech thee, lady, not as though I wrote a new commandment unto thee, but that which we had from the beginning, that we love one another. 6 And this is love, that we walk after his commandments [PLURAL]. This is the commandment [SINGULAR], That, as ye have heard from the beginning, ye should walk in it. 7 For many deceivers are entered into the world, who confess not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh. This is a deceiver and an antichrist.”
2 Timothy 2:20-22 “But in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and of silver, but also of wood and of earth; and some to honour, and some to dishonour. 21 If a man therefore purge himself from these, he shall be a vessel unto honour, sanctified, and meet for the master’s use, [and] prepared unto every good work. 22 Flee also youthful lusts: but follow righteousness, faith, charity, peace, with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart.”
1 Timothy 6:11-12 “But thou, O man of God, flee these things; and follow after righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, meekness. 12 Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, whereunto thou art also called, and hast professed a good profession before many witnesses.”
Hopefully, given the totality of scriptural references above, it is clear that we have more cause to believe that a professing believer is saved when he/she walks uprightly (abstaining from prolonged, unrepentant sin), than we have to believe that a professing believer is saved, when he/she walks in prolonged, unrepentant, gross sin. The Bible, from Genesis to Revelation, so affirms this truth that I can hardly believe anyone would argue otherwise. We shall know them by their fruit, the Bible declares. What fruit? Is it not the fruit of the corrupt flesh vs. the fruit of the Holy Spirit?
I have already addressed the main problem with your interpretation of passages like 1 Cor. 6:9-11.
(1) This view depends on having a subordinate standard of “righteous living” different from the perfect holiness that the Law actually demands.
(2) This view not take the reality of legal imputation seriously enough, failing to look at the believer through the vicarious death of Christ.
You argue that “the fact that God Himself states ‘…let it not be once named among you, as becometh saints,’ confirms that He is teaching us that we not only should not walk in such things, but (in/by/through Him), can abstain from walking in such. We can indeed walk uprightly/righteously. Unto sinless perfection? Of course not. However, by the Holy Spirit, as we progress onward in His strength, we can indeed walk in a manner that is greatly improved over our former, unregenerate walk.”
I do not deny that believers “can” generally improve in their behavior as they spiritually grow. The argument given here however is faulty, as it tries to prove an indicative from the imperative, and as a result it proves too much, since what God commands here is indeed “sinless perfection” – “let it not be once named among you, as becometh saints”.
Regarding: (1) This view depends on having a subordinate standard of “righteous living” different from the perfect holiness that the Law actually demands.”
My response: I have maintained, and continue to maintain, that the extant, spiritual law of God demands NOTHING of a true believer seeing that a true believer (one quickened and converted) is already perfectly righteous in Christ. The law only makes demands/judgments/condemnations on those who lack the perfect righteousness of Christ imputed to them.
Only the quickened saint can work anything good; only the quicked saint can please God. Whatever obedience the Christian manifests, whatever degree of holiness/godliness/virtue/sanctification can be seen in his/her daily walk, such gifts of God are not judged by the law, they are dead to the law. Why? Because the Christian is dead to the law FOR righteousness, but is alive (in/by/through the Spirit) to manifestly establish/fulfil/serve/obey it. This is the point anomians, antinomians, neo-sandemanians, some neonomians, etc., miss.
Regarding “This view not take the reality of legal imputation seriously enough, failing to look at the believer through the vicarious death of Christ.”
My response: No one is failing any such thing. That is your interpretation, that is the lens through which you view these matters, whereas the clear words of my post, and all that is on my site, clearly refute such an argument.
Regarding, “I do not deny that believers “can” generally improve in their behavior as they spiritually grow. The argument given here however is faulty, as it tries to prove an indicative from the imperative, and as a result it proves too much, since what God commands here is indeed “sinless perfection” – “let it not be once named among you, as becometh saints”.”
My response: I’m not sure of your point here. Suffice to say that God gives His people commands/imperatives to be followed. However, the notion that He demands sinless perfection from those ALREADY PERFECT IN CHRIST is erroneous. He knows we are weak, He knows we are but dust by nature; He knows that the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak, He knows all of these things. He commands “let it not be once named among you, as becometh saints,” because these are serious matters, and He expects serious adherence. However, this doesn’t mean that He expects (providentially) that every Christian, throughout time, will live up to this 100%. We should, we should strive, but Christians stumble and fall. The difference is that God raises them back up, so they get back up, and repent. Again, when people make the argument that the law of God “DEMANDS” from believers, the same as what it demands of the reprobate, they evidence how little they understand about righteousness imputed, justification, satisfaction, etc. God does not expect sinless perfection in His people; He does, however expect progress in virtue/godliness/holiness/sanctification. The fact that some deny/debate this is very telling.
Finally, as for your comments on 1 Corinthians 6:9-11, I will repost my response here:
My response: “First… I, and many others, read 1 Corinthians 6 in light of 1 Corinthians chapters one through five, and in light of the whole of scripture speaking on these matters (so as to obtain a proper context). 1st Corinthians 5 was specifically about the need to judge brethren, real or so-called, walking in gross immorality. They are to be purged from the midst. The whole point of 1 Cor 5 is that the fornicator needs to go, and be accepted back, only upon repentance and turning from their wicked (immoral) ways — hence him being called “that wicked one.”
It is in light of 1 Corinthians 5, that we read in 1 Corinthians 6, about the need for right judgment within the congregation on most all matters. We are to judge /discern uprightly. We then read about more moral misconduct that needs to be addressed (perhaps even purged from their midst), and then we read:
1 Corinthians 6:9-11 “Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, 10 Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God. 11 AND SUCH WERE SOME OF YOU: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.”
Did you notice that? “And such WERE… SOME…. of you…” Some of them were these things, but were washed, justified, and given the spiritual gift of repentance to turn from such sin, upon regeneration and conversion. Others in their midst may have very well remained fornicators, remained adulterers, remained all of the other things (despite their claim to be true Christians), and those needed to be removed. Others may have been of such a secularly moral character that they did none of the mentioned ills, but that is doubtful to me (e.g., who isn’t covetous by nature to one degree or another?). No, the “…SUCH WERE **SOME** OF YOU,” tells us that many within the Corinthian church were saved, but many were not. Many had Gospel life, and others had a mere profession of faith, a mere form of godliness without the power thereof.”
Thanks for your reply. It helps me to understand your position more.
I agree that the believer is already perfectly righteous in Christ and does not fall into condemnation. However, as you are certainly aware, this doesn’t mean they don’t *need* continual forgiveness of their sins, e.g.
Matthew 6:11-12 Give us today our daily bread, and forgive us our debts as we also forgive our debtors.
Rather, it means the debts incurred by their future sins have been “pre-paid” by the atoning death of Christ, so that God *does* continually forgive their sins on account of that atonement, e.g.
1 John 1:7,9 But if we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of His Son Jesus Christ cleanses us from all sin…If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous that He may forgive us the sins, and may cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
However, if there remain *sins* that believers continue to need (as well as receive) *forgiveness* thereof, then there must remain not only a corresponding moral standard that defines these sins, but also a corresponding *moral obligation* binding on the believers to which they incur *debts* as they continue to fall short of that *moral standard*.
Question: what is this moral standard to which believers remain under the moral obligation thereof? Is it sinless perfection, or just a certain level of moral progress?
I think the answer is clearly the former, e.g.
1 Peter 1:15-17 but according to the Holy One who has called you, you also become holy in all conduct; because it has been written, “Be holy,” “because *I am holy*.” And if you call on the Father, the One judging according to the work of each one *without respect of faces*, pass the time of your sojourning in fear…
God demands sinless perfection from everyone, including believers. As explained before, this doesn’t mean the believer will fall into condemnation, because the blood of Christ cleanses [present tense] them from all sin they continue to commit (1 John 1:7).
I stress this fact because you appear to have misunderstood the meaning of “dead to the law (for righteousness)” to be a change in the quality of righteousness that God demands from those whom He called, from sinless perfection to something lesser and (thus) do-able by them.
As a result, you read many apostolic imperatives – and even the “Judgment Day” passages in the book of Revelation – not as simply reiterating God’s *impartial* demand for absolute holiness (to be answered with the blood of Christ alone), but as an expectation of moral progress in the regenerate sinners (to be answered with their fruit of Spirit).
It is crucial to make a proper distinction between Law and Grace in our exegesis. You are trying to make such a distinction by insisting that Law (which demands sinless perfection) is no longer binding on the believer, so that all moral exhortations must be of a “gracious” nature, i.e. they must be actually do-able by the believers (in order to give them confirmation of their state of grace versus the lost).
Unfortunately, this interpretation still ends up mixing Law and Grace, erring in both an “antinomian” direction (denying the believer is still under moral obligation to keep the Law perfectly) and a “neonomian” direction (introducing a de facto new law that one must keep to maintain assurance).
Regarding: “Thanks for your reply. It helps me to understand your position more.”
My response: You’re welcome; better understanding and the opportunity to edifyingly (Lord willing) reason together is my main goal.
Thank you for the dignified, sober, and reasonable manner in which you responded.
Regarding: “I agree that the believer is already perfectly righteous in Christ and does not fall into condemnation. However, as you are certainly aware, this doesn’t mean they don’t *need* continual forgiveness of their sins, e.g…..”
Ny response: We are in total agreement here.
Regarding “However, if there remain *sins* that believers continue to need (as well as receive) *forgiveness* thereof, then there must remain not only a corresponding moral standard that defines these sins, but also a corresponding *moral obligation* binding on the believers to which they incur *debts* as they continue to fall short of that *moral standard*.”
My response: We all sin, daily, throughout the day. However, there is a difference between an inappropriate thought, and acting out that thought. David lusting after Bathsheba was a sin that led to even greater sin. However, the greater (temporal) chastisement was on the act, rather than the initial lust. Moreover, David (like the man in 1 Corinthians) repented, and God-wrought, Christian-manifested repentance plays a vital part in helping to distinguish wheat from tares.
Regarding: “Question: what is this moral standard to which believers remain under the moral obligation thereof? Is it sinless perfection, or just a certain level of moral progress? I think the answer is clearly the former, e.g. 1 Peter 1:15-17 [quoted]…. God demands sinless perfection from everyone, including believers. As explained before, this doesn’t mean the believer will fall into condemnation, because the blood of Christ cleanses [present tense] them from all sin they continue to commit (1 John 1:7).”
My response: Is this substantive or semantic? That is the difficulty. Amongst other things, the word require means “1. To demand; to ask, as of right and by authority. We require a person to do a thing, and we require a thing to be done. 2. To claim; to render necessary; as a duty or any thing indispensable; as, the law of God requires strict obedience.” God definitely requires obedience from us. However, God does not require perfect obedience, sinless perfection in our obedience, for our life to be characterised as obedient. We can obey God and keep His commandments (generally speaking) even though we don’t obey God 100% perfectly, and keep every single commandment, all of the time. If you look at my most recent articles, you will see that a common theme is refuting the error that the Christian cannot obey, cannot do good, because we are not perfect in all of our doings.
My words were not meant to suggest “a change in the quality of righteousness that God demands from those whom He called, from sinless perfection to something lesser and (thus) do-able by them” but rather an experimental reality that has real life consequences. Nonetheless, I very well see the point you are making, and respect it, seeing now why (from my wording) you would see that as a possible intent.
I will put it to you like this, as I have written before, (1) we all still sin; (2) sin (by it’s very definition) is the transgression of the law; (3) the Christian is not free to break a single aspect of the extant/spiritual law of God (“if you love me KEEP MY COMMANDMENTS” / “..if any man obey not our word by this epistle, note that man, and have no company with him, that he may be ashamed.”); and thus, we should absolutely walk with a mind that everything is to be obeyed, nothing set at naught, as part of some “lighter standard.”
HOWEVER, when a Christian sins, He is not adding to His damnation, because (as you noted) the blood of Christ washes Him clean (typifying the everlasting effect of the finished work of Christ). We are to confess our sin, turn from our sin, repent of our sin… all as God ordains and enables (manifestly/experimentally/providentially-speaking). But again, the purpose of my recent articles has been to show the error in the argument that “it is impossible” to obey the law, or keep the commandments, all because God (supposedly) ‘requires sinless perfection to such a degree that if a Christian doesn’t attain to that level, then all of His God-ordained, God-wrought good works are as filthy rags.’ The language becomes that of “I don’t try to keep the commandments, or encourage others to, because there isn’t a single commandment we can keep, we can’t do any good.” It becomes a spiritually defeatist attitude, one that leads to slothfulness and wantonness (Antinomianism/Anomianism really), and it is deadly.
So my argument isn’t that the law has been altered to suit the Christian’s need/infirmity. My argument is that God does not require sinless perfection in His people IN THE SENSE that if their good words, obedience, etc., aren’t 100 percent perfect, then they have no good works at all (as so many claim nowadays).
For example, God declares of Abraham, that he “obeyed My voice, and kept My charge, My commandments, My statutes, and My laws” Genesis 26:5.
The common argument is that Abraham only did this vicarious through Christ’s obedience, because he couldn’t actually do it, because he had no ability whatsoever to ‘obey God’s voice, and keep His charge, His commandments, His statutes, and His laws.” They say keeping such things REQUIRES sinless perfection, and since no one can obey/keep perfectly, this can’t pertain to anything that Abraham actually himself did, and can only pertain to Christ’s personal obedience imputed to him, or else leading to His obedience via justification in light of the cross. This is the nonsense I am trying to refute. I am saying that when God said that Abraham “obeyed My voice, and kept My charge, My commandments, My statutes, and My laws,” ABRAHAM DID IT! It doesn’t say “Abram obeyed My voice unto sinless perfection, and kept My charge without a single lapse, [and] My commandments 100% perfectly, [and] My statutes inerrantly, [and[ My laws without a single flaw.” Yet this is what people teach. They teach if you do not obey perfectly, you can’t obey. If you cannot do perfect good, you can do no good. That’s is the doctrine of demons I strive to refute…
Regarding: “As a result, you read many apostolic imperatives – and even the “Judgment Day” passages in the book of Revelation – not as simply reiterating God’s *impartial* demand for absolute holiness (to be answered with the blood of Christ alone), but as an expectation of moral progress in the regenerate sinners (to be answered with their fruit of Spirit).”
My response: In a real sense I do just that. When I read the following…
“1 Thessalonians 4:3-8 “For this is the will of God, [even] your sanctification, that ye should abstain from fornication: 4 That every one of you should know how to possess his vessel in sanctification and honour; 5 Not in the lust of concupiscence, even as the Gentiles which know not God: 6 That no [man] go beyond and defraud his brother in [any] matter: because that the Lord [is] the avenger of all such, as we also have forewarned you and testified. 7 For God hath not called us unto uncleanness, but unto holiness. 8 He therefore that despiseth, despiseth not man, but God, who hath also given unto us his holy Spirit.”
… I DO NOT read it as “For this is the will of God, [even] your [IMPUTED] sanctification [since nothing you do relates to sanctification since Christ alone is the Christian’s sanctification], that ye should abstain from fornication [which you can’t really do, so you have to look to Christ as the one who did it for you, and not really even strive against such sin]: 4 That every one of you should know how to possess his vessel in sanctification and honour [i.e., in acknowledging your imputed sanctification, or Christ your sanctification, and the honour of Christ, since you can’t do anything pertaining to manifest sanctity and we have no honour]; 5 Not in the lust of concupiscence, even as the Gentiles which know not God: 6 That no [man] go beyond and defraud his brother in [any] matter: because that the Lord [is] the avenger of all such, as we also have forewarned you and testified. 7 For God hath not called us unto uncleanness, but unto [imputed] holiness [which has nothing to do with our character and conduct but only what Christ did for us leading up to the cross, and/or on the cross].”
That is the type of Anomian/Antinomian mindset I encounter often, and speak out against often. The Christian CAN obey God, the Christian CAN keep the commandments, the Christian can grow in (i.e., add to his/her faith…) VIRTUE/GODLINESS/TEMPERANCE/ETC., in real life, manifestly. I’m not saying it’s always a linear progress, there are ups, downs, backsliding, periods of great victories, etc. But we can grow/progress, we can manifest more and more, a distancing from the evils of this world, though we will never be close to 100% free from it. How do we do it? Through working out our salvation with fear and trembling knowing that it is God who works in us BOTH to will and to do of His good pleasure.
Regarding: “You are trying to make such a distinction by insisting that Law (which demands sinless perfection) is no longer binding on the believer…”
My response: The law is binding in the sense that we are to always love/obey/serve it… and after the inner/inward man we do. We should strive to manifest that reality, by God’s grace, in our day to day lives. However, it is not binding on the Christian in the since of accumulating condemnation/wrath/judgment in some eternal sense. There is a difference of interaction in that regard between the quickened elect and the reprobate. Moreover, it is not binding in the sense that to do any good, to be able to please God in any way, to be able to serve the law (as Paul says), or keep the commandments, we have to do it perfectly, or else we do it not at all. When Christ said “if you love me, keep my commandments,” He was NOT saying “if you love me, keep my commandments, but I know you really can’t keep them, so I’m just telling you to keep them, so you can confess your total inability to do so, forcing you to look to me and to my obedience alone, not striving to obey manifestly, or exhorting others to such obedience!”
Regarding “…introducing a de facto new law that one must keep to maintain assurance.”
My response: It is God Himself, not me, who yokes walking in/after/through the Spirit, with assurance. It is example after example in the Bible that shows a lack of assurance after grievous sin. The Holy Spirit works in us to BOTH will and to do of His good pleasure. The Holy Spirit witnesses with our Spirit that we are children of God. When the Spirit of God withdraws His effectual working for a season, and ceases to give that witness for a season, doubts will arise. Many make it sound like “No! the Christian has to muster up that assurance himself, or ‘just have it’ because of the work and promises of Christ, no matter how one lives.” The Bible states that these things are in God’s hands, we must pray for them, and part of the consequences of serious disobedience is a loss of peace/joy/spiritual communion/and yes, assurance. Once again, any person who has “full assurance of faith,” whilst walking openly, prolongedly, unrepentantly in gross sin, has presumption not assurance. Again, David sinned for an extended season, as did the fornicator in 1 Corinthians 5, but both repented (per 2 Corinthians regarding the man in 1 Cor 5), thus evidencing their quickened state. Believers can fall grievously but true believers will not walk brazenly, insolently in open rebellion against God (regarding their character and conduct), never repenting from their error. I see no example of that in Scripture. Moreover, II Peter chapter 2, along with Titus, refute such thinking.