Liberate

Two Approaches To Realizing Radical Obedience: My Response To Jason Hood

Because the Bible has so much to say about it, healthy Christian people have always maintained a deep concern for the pursuit of holiness and the practice of godliness. Obedience to God matters to God and it should, therefore, matter to God’s people. In fact, one way to gauge our love for God is obedience to his commands (John 14:15, 1 John 5:3). Where there is a profession of Christ without a practice of Christlikeness, concern is warranted.

So the issue is not whether obedience, the pursuit of holiness, and the practice of godliness is important. Of course it is. The issue is how do we keep God’s commands? What stimulates and sustains a long obedience in the same direction? Where does the power come from to do God’s will and to follow God’s lead?

Our answer to these questions is determined by our understanding of the distinctive role of God’s law and gospel in the life of a Christian. Therefore, it is crucial that we get this right, biblically and theologically.

When John (or Jesus) talks about keeping God’s commands as a way to know whether you love Jesus or not, he’s not using the law as a way to motivate. He’s simply stating a fact. Those who love God will keep on keeping his commands. As every parent and teacher knows, behavioral compliance to rules without heart change will be shallow and short-lived. But shallow and short-lived is not what God wants (that’s not what it means to “keep God’s commands.”). God wants a sustained obedience from the heart. How is that possible? Long-term, sustained obedience can only come from the grace which flows from what Jesus has already done, not guilt or fear of what we must do. To paraphrase Ray Ortlund, any obedience not grounded in or motivated by the gospel is unsustainable. Or, as I like to put it: imperatives minus indicatives equal impossibilities.

As a pastor, one of my responsibilities is to disciple people into a deeper understanding of obedience—teaching them to say “no” to the things God hates and “yes” to the things God loves. But all too often I have wrongly concluded that the only way to keep licentious people in line is to give them more rules–lay down the law.  The fact is, however, that the only way licentious people start to obey is when they get a taste of God’s radical, unconditional acceptance of sinners. As Mike Horton points out here, in Romans 6:1-4 the Apostle Paul answers antinomianism (lawlessness) not with more law but with more gospel! In other words, licentious people aren’t those who believe the gospel of God’s free grace too much, but too little. “The ultimate antidote to antinomianism”, writes Horton, “is not more imperatives, but the realization that the gospel swallows the tyranny as well as the guilt of sin.” The irony, in other words, of gospel-based sanctification is that those who end up obeying more are those who increasingly realize that their standing with God is not based on their obedience, but Christ’s.

Writing in response to Jason Hood’s recent Christianity Today article where Hood voices concern about the lack of emphasis on personal holiness and radical obedience in this generation of Christians, my friend Dane Ortlund (read Dane’s full, gospel-drenched response here) shows how there are two ways to address this:

One way is to balance gospel grace with exhortations to holiness, as if both need equal air time lest we fall into legalism on one side (neglecting grace) or antinomianism on the other (neglecting holiness).

The other way, which I believe is the right and biblical way, is so to startle this restraint-free culture with the gospel of free justification that the functional justifications of human approval, moral performance, sexual indulgence, or big bank accounts begin to lose their vice-like grip on human hearts and their emptiness is exposed in all its fraudulence. It sounds backward, but the path to holiness is through (not beyond) the grace of the gospel, because only undeserved grace can truly melt and transform the heart. The solution to restraint-free immorality is not morality. The solution to immorality is the free grace of God—grace so free that it will be (mis)heard by some as a license to sin with impunity. The route by which the New Testament exhorts radical obedience is not by tempering grace but by driving it home all the more deeply.

Let’s pursue holiness. (Without it we won’t see God: Matt 5:8; Heb 12:14.) And let’s pursue it centrally through enjoying the gospel, the same gospel that got us in and the same gospel that liberates us afresh each day (1 Cor 15:1–2; Gal 2:14; Col 1:23; 2:6). As G. C. Berkouwer wisely remarked, “The heart of sanctification is the life which feeds on justification.”

Amen!

To some, this will sound like an antinomian (a lawless, obligation free  version of Christianity) cop-out. After all, doesn’t the American church need to be shaken out of its comfort zone? Yes—but you don’t do it by giving them law; you do it, as Dane points out, by giving them gospel. The Apostle Paul never uses the law as a way to motivate obedience; he always uses the gospel. Paul always soaks the obligations of the law in the declarations of the gospel because God is not concerned with just any kind of obedience; he’s concerned with a certain kind of obedience (as Cain and Abel’s sacrifice illustrates). What motivates our obedience determines whether or not it is a sacrifice of praise. The obedience that pleases God is obedience that flows from faith and grace; not fear and guilt.

Now, hear me: The law of God has its rightful place in the life of a Christian. It’s a gift from God. It’s good. It graciously shows Christians what God commands and instructs us in the way of holiness. But nowhere does the Bible say that the law possesses the power to enable us to do what it says. You could put it this way: the law guides but it does not give. The law shows us what a sanctified life looks like and plots our course, but it does not have sanctifying power—the law cannot change a human heart. As John Bunyan memorably put it:

“Run, John, run,” the law demands,
but gives me neither feet nor hands.
Better news the Gospel brings,
It bids me fly and gives me wings.

To say, however, that the law has no power to change us in no way reduces its ongoing role in the life of the Christian. We just have to understand the precise role that it plays for us today: the law serves us by making us thankful for Jesus when we break it and serves us by showing how to love God and others. Only the gospel empowers us to keep the law. And when we fail to keep it, the gospel comforts by reminding us that God’s infinite approval does not depend on our keeping of the law, but Christ’s keeping of the law on our behalf. The gospel serves the Christian every day and in every way by reminding us that God’s love for us does not get bigger when we obey or smaller when we disobey. And guess what? This makes me want to obey him more, not less! As Spurgeon wrote, “When I thought God was hard, I found it easy to sin; but when I found God so kind, so good, so overflowing with compassion, I smote upon my breast to think that I could ever have rebelled against One who loved me so, and sought my good.”

Therefore, it’s the gospel (what Jesus has done) that alone can give God-honoring animation to our obedience. The power to obey comes from being moved and motivated by the completed work of Jesus for us. The fuel to do good flows from what’s already been done. So, while the law directs us, only the gospel can drive us.

A friend of mine recently put it to me this way: the law is like a set of railroad tracks. The tracks provide no power for the train but the train must stay on the tracks in order to function. The law never gives any power to do what it commands. Only the gospel has power, as it were, to move the train.

Recognizing the continual need of the gospel for Christian people as much as the initial need of the gospel for non-Christian people, J. Gresham Machen wrote, “What I need first of all is not exhortation, but a gospel; not directions for saving myself but knowledge of how God has saved me.” The Gospel of amazing grace gets us in, keeps us in, and will eventually get us to the finish line. It’s all of grace!

Now, go and spread this defiant, scandalously liberating, counter-intuitive Word around the world…it’s waiting!

112 Comments
  • william lynch says:

    Well done Tullian, but I still think Dane’s defense was rushed and not necessary. EVERYONE knows you are a holy Guy…just look at all the holes in the jeans you usually wear on Wednesday night :)

  • Amen, brother! This post sings with the Gospel.

  • […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Nathan Gann, Tullian Tchividjian. Tullian Tchividjian said: My (indirect) response to Jason Hood's recent CT article: Two Ways To Realize Radical Obedience. READ: http://t.co/od0gBzC […]

  • Jack Miller says:

    Yes, excellent explanation of Paul’s use of gospel and law. We humans are wired for law… even the so-called “lawless.” More law doesn’t motivate nor change my heart (fire up the engine to move the train), but merely causes me to look to myself instead of away from myself to Christ. You put it well… Paul’s “therefore’s” are therefore’s of obedience born of gratitude in response to the lavish mercy poured out on us in the Beloved and the work of the Holy Spirit in changing (conforming) my heart to desire His ways. So our boast is in the Lord alone for the wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption that is ours in Christ by His doing.

    Greet Jim and Arlene Lane from Jack and Barb! And thank you for your edifying essay.

    Jack

  • Brad says:

    Hi Tullian,

    “One way is to balance gospel grace with exhortations to holiness, as if both need equal air time lest we fall into legalism on one side (neglecting grace) or antinomianism on the other (neglecting holiness).”

    The above quote seems more biblical to me. It seems to be saying: indicatives plus exhortations equals holiness.

    “The other way, which I believe is the right and biblical way, is so to startle this restraint-free culture with the gospel of free justification that the functional justifications of human approval, moral performance, sexual indulgence, or big bank accounts begin to lose their vice-like grip on human hearts and their emptiness is exposed in all its fraudulence.”

    The above quote seems less biblical to me. It seems to be saying: indicatives plus nothing equals holiness.

    I also thought that Chuck Colson had some helpful insights in the comments section of Dane’s article. If I understood Colson correctly, he was saying sanctification is motivated by more than justification (but certainly not less!). That seems to be the correct biblical balance as I survey all of the explicit and implicit motivations for holiness in the New Testament.

    Any thoughts? Or am I way off?

    Brad

  • […] more on this important distinction, please see my friend Tullian Tchividjian’s post and the post of my friend and colleague at WSC, R. Scott Clark. Tags: antinomianism, Law and […]

  • […] Antinomianism, he writes, is “heresy.” Dane Ortlund replies to Hood. Tullian Tchividjian replies to Hood and gets it right.  Mike responds helpfully at the WHI blog, Out of the Horse’s Mouth, reminding us […]

  • Patrick says:

    Westminster Confession of Faith 19.6 says: “So as, a man’s doing good, and refraining from evil, because the law encourageth to the one, and deterreth from the other, is no evidence of his being under the law; and, not under grace.”

    Is this legalistic?

  • Tullian Tchividjian says:

    Hi Patrick!
    No, this section out of the WCF is not legalistic. As I said in the above post, the law is a gift from God. It is good. And, with the WCF, I agree that it encourages good and discourages evil. The law is, after all, a reflection of God’s character. My point above is that the law does not have the power to change you. While it shows us what to do, only the gospel empowers us to do it. Read my railroad track and train illustration above.

    Thanks for the comment and question!

  • Patrick says:

    Thanks for the response. I certainly agree with you that the law does not have the power to change or empower a person. But I am not sure who is saying that it does! I don’t think Hood was saying that in his article.

    The point of the WCF is not merely that the law encourages good and discourages evil; but that a man refrains from evil BECAUSE of what the law says. In other words, it does seem that the WCF is saying that the law motivates. Not the only, or even the primary motivation, to be sure. But a motivation none the less.

    John Murray once said: “Is it proper to be afraid of God? The only proper answer is that it is the essence of impiety not to be afraid of God when there is reason to be afraid . . . The Scripture throughout prescribes the necessity of this fear of God under all the circumstances in which our sinful situation makes us liable to God’s righteous judgment . . . To aver that the fear of God’s wrath and of the judgments which execute his wrath is an improper motive to action is to go counter to all that sound reason would dictate . . . It is quite obvious that the Scripture represents the dread or terror of God’s wrath as belonging to the total concept of the fear of God. Even where there is no sin, and therefore no existent wrath, we cannot eliminate the fear of incurring God’s displeasure as one motive deterrent to the commission of sin” (Principles of Conduct, 233-35).

  • Chuck Colson says:

    Tullian,

    As far as I can tell, you have not responded to the substance of Jason’s article which is unfortunate. The article actually does not accuse anyone specifically of anti-nomianism. He does quote Kevin DeYoung and yourself who used the old Lloyd-Jones line as a criterion for faithful gospel preaching, but this does not accuse you of anti-nomianism. All Jason Hood asks is this: “Is this standard Lloyd-Jones mentioned a good barometer for judging whether a preacher is actually preaching grace?”

    Can you respond to the substance of Jason’s argument? Unfortunately, your “indirect response” focuses mostly on how radical obedience is realized. Without recognizing this, I believe you are dealing with a caricature of Jason’s argument aimed at being helpful within his own theological camp.

    Peace,

    Chuck Colson

  • Steve Fuller says:

    Thanks for this post: I appreciate your passion for deep thought about the Gospel. But it made me think of some passages where Jesus and Paul seem to use conditional elements to motivate sexual purity (Matt 5:27-30; Rom 8:12-13; Gal 5:19-21; 1Th 4:3-7). Are there any conditional elements in Gospel motivation?

    Piper’s *Future Grace* talks about how there are both unconditional and conditional aspects to grace, but that when grace is conditional it’s never earned (pp.12,78,239ff).

  • Scott M says:

    I’ve enjoyed reading both the article by Tullian and the comments. It seems to me that the law is being sold short at some points. Most here appear to be in agreement that the gospel both saves and provides a proper foundation and motivation for holy living. But how about the motivation of the law? It seems that the Scriptures speak of the law in multi-faceted ways, and one of those ways is motivation for holy living. To meditate on the goodness and reviving nature of God’s law (Psalm 19); to look into the perfect law of liberty as encouragement for doing good (James 1 & 2); to delight in the law (Rom 7) that God has written in our minds (Hebrews 10). Isn’t the law capable of motivating Christians towards holy living? The law is considered to be so praiseworthy because it is a reflection of God’s good and glorious design. For a gospel-saved, Spirit-filled believer, meditating on the goodness of God’s design in His perfect law makes for good preaching and good living.

  • Jack Miller says:

    Chuck (I have such admiration for you) Colson,

    From J. Hood’s article: His title – Heresy Is Heresy, Not the Litmus Test of Gospel Preaching… and –
    Tullian Tchividjian borrows from Lloyd-Jones in exhorting preachers to use the antinomian accusation as a self-assessment tool for ministerial fidelity. I’ve heard it used as a litmus test for pastoral search committees and as a rule of thumb for young pastors convinced that the ministerial task does not include the instruction of God’s people in law or righteousness. While the precise wording varies, the common denominator is that accusations of antinomianism are an important barometer useful for determining whether the atmosphere of one’s ministry is adequately pressurized by grace…. An accusation of theological heresy cannot be considered a fool-proof test of fidelity. .. But in these circles antinomianism begins to be seen as something one might need to brush up against, so that the charge of antinomianism is very much welcome, to the point of being a stamp of authenticity, or “a badge of honor,” as Paul Zahl puts it.

    Straw Man?

    Guilt by innuendo and/or association?

    Tullian Tchividjian responds to the essence of the article by not(!) responding to the aforementioned charge. He goes to the heart of the issue. J. Hood misrepresents Lloyd-Jones and by association – Tchividjian. I think the heart of the matter is exactly what the pastor from Ft. Lauderdale writes:

    Therefore, it’s the gospel (what Jesus has done) that alone can give God-honoring animation to our obedience. The power to obey comes from being moved and motivated by the completed work of Jesus for us. The fuel to do good flows from what’s already been done. So, while the law directs us, only the gospel can drive us.

    Why we obey is central… the “intents and purposes of the heart.”

    Respectfully submitted,
    Jack

  • Jim McNeely says:

    I have been pondering these questions for some years now. I think it is important to understand the essential nature of our fallenness – we have an innate desire for the forbidden:

    “When the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was desirable to make one wise, she took from its fruit and ate; and she gave also to her husband with her, and he ate.” Genesis 3:6, NASB.

    Before this, there was no division between moral good and aesthetic good. This is our flaw, our foundational rift. The devil knows this and therefore attacks us on these grounds, just as then. Our desire is the prize, the crown jewels. The redemption which is in Christ seeks to heal this rift – to refashion us so that our desire is for the ‘bidden’, not the forbidden.

    No matter how compelling the call to ‘radical discipleship’ may be, if it consists of pressing obligation upon an unwilling soul, it is law. A person may ignore their desire and be moral, but he is still a sinner. A person may ignore morality and follow their desire, and live truly to their nature. But in both cases, their desire is for the forbidden. Christ seeks to instantiate a new creature, a desire in which the moral and aesthetic good are one. Thus the finder of the treasure sells all from joy. As I’ve said elsewhere, it is the difference between the radical devotion of the musician to his art and the coal miner slaving away in a cave. If we are to behave radically we are called to do so because we love it.

    Temptation is a shadow and a twisting of grace, because the devil understands this much better than many preachers. The law seeks to press the obligation of holy behavior upon an unwilling soul who desires otherwise. The law looks at behavior, not substance. Grace appeals to the desire; it must not press with obligation or the precious commodity of choice disappears. Grace gives us the space to learn to choose the good because we love it.

    We must never bend on these principles, because grace is our only hope for true virtue. Grace is our only hope for not making an idol of our own virtue. Grace is based on love, and under grace the whole of scripture hangs together.

    Sorry this is so long but this is an important topic and it is greatly abbreviated from my other writings!

  • Jim McNeely says:

    Chuck,

    I’m responding to Chuck Colson! Woo Hoo! I love you man! I can’t believe I’m just slightly disagreeing with you!

    I think it is true that this response could be a little more succinct, but I also think that Jason Hood really is accusing Tullian of being antinomian. Here’s a quote:

    “Reformed leaders believe that legalism and moralism are far greater dangers to the church than antinomianism and a lack of holiness.
    Such assessments lead some to apply a slippery slope argument: one should not lay great stress (particularly in pulpit ministry) on the pursuit of holiness and radical descriptions of the requirements of Christian discipleship.”

    Tullian IS a reformed leader who is definitely leaning in the direction of saying that, and Mr. Hood thinks that such an idea is a slippery slope to full blown heresy.

    Also, I have to say, we really should hold our ground on this and say, yes, the grace we preach is so strong that one must ask with Paul if we should sin all the more that grace might increase. If we don’t get that question, if we don’t scandalise the pharisees when we keep declaring forgiveness, if we don’t keep eating with the sinners, we probably are on the wrong side. Those under the law look at grace and see only license. Those under grace see real heartfelt genuine worship and sustainable joyous virtue. I would hope this pressure would never make any of us water down the message.

  • […] 1. Read these articles back to back: CT – “Heresy is Heresy, Not the Litmus Test of Gospel Preaching” and TGC “The Radical Gospel – Defiant and Free”, then Tullian “Two Ways to Realize Radical Obedience” […]

  • […] UPDATE: Tullian Tchividjian (one of the best exponents of the gospel-for-all-of-life type theology I’ve ever encountered) has added some further comment to this discussion. […]

  • […] at The Gospel Coalition: “The Radical Gospel – Defiant and Free”; Tullian Tchvidjian: “Two Ways to Realize Radical Obedience” Hood responds to these counterpoints at The Gospel Coalition: We Who Have The Spirit Have The Power […]

  • Kathy says:

    I have read all three articles at Trevin Wax’s suggestion. As a lay person, I do not have the level of theological training that the authors of the articles (and likely many of the respondents) do; but I have a comment/question that I believe is pertinent (or at least, one to which I would appreciate a response for my own understanding). Why was the Holy Spirit not mentioned once (that I recall) in any of the articles? Yet He is the Source of the power believers need to live the life of grace, truth, obedience to God’s commands, and holiness that we are called to lead. Jesus said it was actually a good thing for His disciples that He would be leaving them, because then they would receive the Holy Spirit (and His power as a result). That power was not given to the disciples (and us) just for evangelism; it is the oxygen we need to breathe in minute by minute in order to be obedient to God’s commands and to pursue holiness.

    I responded to a preacher’s fiery sermon on hell when I was six years old and prayed to receive Christ. I was raised in evangelical churches all my life, yet in my 20s–while attending a Christian college–I was deeply frustrated and guilt ridden over my inability to live consistently in a way that was pleasing to God, despite all my church attendance, Bible reading, prayer, etc. That all changed when someone shared with me that little blue booklet that Campus Crusade puts out about “the wonderful discovery of the Spirit-filled life.” I read it and was dumbfounded. Why had I never heard about this before? I immediately began making it a daily habit to seek to be filled by the Spirit, walk by the Spirit rather than gratify the desires of my flesh, eschew grieving or quenching the Spirit, etc. That realization of my dependency on the Holy Spirit transformed my life and gave me the power–and an ever-increasing desire–to pursue holiness. The gospel (what Jesus has done for us) is of course something we all need to hear and hear again. But we will not be able to keep God’s commands, much less progress in the Christian life to the maturity God intends for us, unless we are depending on the Holy Spirit and allowing ourselves to be filled (present continuous tense) with the Spirit. Since that is the case, why was the third person of the Trinity all but ignored in these articles and discussions? I am quite perplexed and would appreciate an explanation. Thank you.

  • It should be pointed out that Frank Turk has connections to both theonomy and Doug Wilson. That would explain why he thinks traditional Reformed theology is “antinomian” on the one hand and “papist” on the other, i.e. infant baptism.

    Charlie

  • Love the Bunyan poem! Thanks for putting your two cents worth in. I’ve been whining lately that P&R types often have trouble with the kind of clarity that communicates well with laymen without distorting the truth. Your response is evidence that there are at least a few of you out there.

  • jeremiah says:

    “If your preaching of the gospel of God’s free grace in Jesus Christ does not provoke the charge from some of antinomianism, you’re not preaching the gospel of the free grace of God in Jesus Christ.”
    — David Martyn Lloyd-Jones

    I believe that this is true. My question is that isn’t the flip side true as well?

    “If we are preaching the Lordship of Christ through Him purchasing us with His blood does not provoke the charge from some of legalism, you’re not preaching the gospel of the Lordship of Jesus Christ.”

    Is this true?

  • Jonathan says:

    I’m sorry, but God requiring nothing of me doesn’t sound like grace. It sounds silly. I know you’ll say something like, “God requires righteousness, but only because He’s graciously made us righteous in Christ!” But no matter how many times we put statements together that eventually lead to contradictions and call them “mysteries”, they still remain paradoxical in the contradictory way, not the mysterious way.

    If I’m elect and get the imputed righteousness by faith alone, I don’t ever need to be actually righteous, though you say God will produce it in me through the Holy Spirit. Nevertheless, while he might produce it in me, it’s still not really necessary. He doesn’t have to, is all I’m saying, because my righteousness doesn’t matter one bit when all is said and done.

    However, I see actual righteousness as necessary in the scriptures to obtain a favorable judgment on the last day. I can’t seem to get around it.

    However, maybe it’s the kind of righteousness that counts. The Pharisees were not trying to please God with their good works, they were trying to please men because they could give a rip about God. They were not legalistic, they were unbelieving. However, the person who, in faith, actually does try to please God and not man by acting in accordance with what Jesus says in the Sermon on the Mount, has the kind of righteousness that God is looking for, the kind that is better than the Pharisees’ fake righteousness. It is the kind of righteousness that “depends on faith” that is, whether or not one truly believes God is who He says He is and does what He says He does, namely, give grace to the lowly, humble, and contrite and looks favorably upon those who seek him in faith (Heb. 11:6). Its the kind of righteousness that acknowledges sin, trusts in the Savior, is zealous for God, is contrite, is holy, and is above all concerned with what God thinks, not with what man thinks. That kind of righteousness (which yes, is encouraged and aided by the Spirit of God) is what God will judge by. That is the person who is in union with Christ, and it is required, and without that kind of holiness no one will see God.

    [Covers head]

  • @Jonathon

    You assume that sinless perfection is attainable in this life. The fact is our sanctification is always relative and imperfect. God requires absolutely sinless perfect. If you don’t attain that then all your efforts are worthless. Only the vicarious righteousness of Christ imputed to believers can justify us. That’s the part that the entire sanctification crowd ignores.

    Sincerely,

    Charlie

  • MRS says:

    love love love that Hood quoted Paul Zahl, with whom I would pitch my tend any day of the week. Hate to part ways with a man I deeply admire in Charles Colson, but I think Paul Zahl, Ray Ortlund, Dane, Tullian, Mike Horton, Rod Rosenbladt, et al have this right.

  • MRS says:

    That’s “tent,” by the way.

  • Tullian Tchividjian says:

    I normally don’t comment on my blog but I need to clarify that the Chuck Colson who has commented here and also on Dane’s blog is not “the” Chuck Colson (Breakpoint, Prison Fellowship, etc.). The Chuck Colson commenting here is a fellow RTS grad. Just clarifying!

  • Chuck Colson says:

    Yes, let me clarify as well. Sorry for the confusion. By no means, do I want to impute my comments to another. Thanks for the good discussion.

    Peace,

    Chuck “No Not That Chuck” Colson

  • Jonathan says:

    @Charlie

    No, I don’t assume that sinless perfection is attainable in this life. I’m not in the entire sanctification crowd. In fact, I’m not terribly sure God requires sinless perfection in the way you might think. However, this is probably due to the fact that I don’t view the Law as something which needed to be kept to the ‘T’ in order for the Israelites to “live.” They needed faith obedience, not the kind based upon the letter, that is, simply the acts themselves. I’m not a Covenant guy either. I don’t think Adam disobeyed the covenant of works in the Garden and all that jazz.

    Anyway, those are some of my thoughts.

  • Kevin says:

    Chuck, all I can say is that Chuck “No Not That Chuch” Colson could be the greatest nickname I’ve ever heard. Stick with that!

  • @Jonathan

    I guess you get to lower the standard so you can appear to keep it? (Matthew 5:17-21, 48).

    Also, I guess you don’t believe that the fall of Adam brought the curse of sin on all his posterity? (Genesis 3 and 6;Romans 3 and 5).

  • […] good responses to Hood’s article:  The Radical Gospel, Defiant and Free by Dane Ortlund and Two Ways To Realize Radical Obedience: My Indirect Response To Jason Hood by Tullian Tchividjian. I really, really liked portions of Ortlund’s response so I’m […]

  • Recently I’ve been going through 1 Peter in my Bible study and came across this passage:

    “And if you call on him as Father who judges impartially according to each one’s deeds, conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile,” – 1 Peter 1:17

    After studying the passage, it seems to me that Peter is saying his audience should consider God’s ongoing judgment of their deeds and live in fear of them. That would suggest in obeying God I should be motivated by a fear of the punishment of the one who judges without partiality. I am in fact commanded to conduct myself with such fear. How do you see that passage/command consistently with the above line in this post: “The obedience that pleases God is obedience that flows from faith and grace; not fear and guilt.”?

    Am I interpreting this passage wrongly?

  • Borzasi Pal Zoltan says:

    I would like to write a personal email to Tullian Tchividjian. Can anyone share with me his email address, please? Thanks.

  • Steve says:

    Brother Tullian,

    Thanks for a thought-provoking post that points towards grace.

    I feel a second dilemma. I’m with you that the law, the rules I think to make for myself, don’t really change me. But if change comes from God’s grace, not my effort, why hasn’t it already occurred? If change comes from the Gospel, how do I explain that despite trusting in Christ and his grace for years, I still don’t keep his standard of behavior?

    Here’s my thought. God makes many promises, including the ones that we will change or have already changed. We can look at our circumstances and conclude God’s promises can’t be true. Or we can believe in the promises, and ask God to manifest the promises in our circumstances.

    I’ve expanded on this in my blog http://faithcircumstance.blogspot.com/2011/01/grace-law-and-change.html

  • […] ineffective, no matter how sincere the one who holds to  that position is. Anyways, the post is here, enjoy it for what its worth…and ditch the […]

  • Timothy says:

    There are two issues in Jason’s essay that need to be distinguished.
    The first is whether it is a good thing for our preaching to be characterised by the accusation of antinomianism. He feels that some preachers are regarding such accusations almost as badges of honour. Now it must be possible for faithful preaching to provoke such accusations as Paul was so accused. Equally, it must be possible for useless preaching to do the same; I take 2 Tim 4:3 as a place where such are rebuked. Another place might be 1 Cor 6. So how should we react to the accusation?
    First, we should stop and listen to what is really being said. We need to discern if there is something in what is being said, if we do need to change. Secondly, if we discern some truth in the accusation we shall hasten to correct it. Thirdly, if we decide there is no truth in the accusation, we should react as Paul reacted, with horror. And in this I think Jason has very much the best of the argument. If we are faithfully preaching the gospel and some see it as antinomianism, we have a problem, or at least they do and we should not wash our hands of another’s welfare. Somehow we are being terribly, shockingly, blasphemously, misunderstood. If we rest content with the accusation it is as if we are colluding in the blasphemy. But Dane et al have a point when they say that faithful preaching does get misunderstood and this is one common misunderstanding.
    The second issue is the theologically profound one of how do we become holy and blameless at the last day. This is not just a matter of justification but has traditionally been linked to concepts of sanctification. It is a long time since I read Ernest Kevan’s The Grace of Law but in that volume he traces the legalism versus antinomianims arguments that raged among the Puritans in the 17C. From memory, neither side in the argument were into licence, both were into holiness. The dispute was how. It was the more hard line Lutherans and Calvinists who tended towards antinomianism and the Arminians who flirted with legalism. I am sure that neither Jason Hood nor Dane and Tullian wish to be associated with either school but one thing they have in common with both camps, with each other and with the Bible is a desire for holiness. The debate is how. How does the Bible tackle the issue?
    Often Pauline ethics invokes a conundrum first formulated in the 19C and made popular by Bultmann, the indicative and the imperative. Modern ethics actually has great difficulty with such a formulation as in modern ethics it is held that no ‘ought’ can be dericed from an ‘is’. Thus there is no way to link the indicative with the imperative. And this is the problem facing Pauline ethics such as advanced by Jason and Dane and Tullian alike.
    Dane’s solution sounds to me amazingly like that of the 17C antinomians. Ramp up the justification, the indicative if you like, do not focus upon the law and the need to obey it, the imperatives if you like, and sooner or later justification will spill over into holiness of life, which is what we all want (even if like Augustine we are not sure we want it now). One problem with this is obvious; Paul happily ramps up the imperatives. But on a more practical level, it simply does not work. If our gospel does not demand obedience, our gospel will never lead to obedience. This can be seen in evangelical churches all over the world, churches which in terms of practical holiness are frankly dead. And in fact the evangelical churches where there is practical holiness, there is a considerable ramping up of the imperatives, of focussing upon commands, on, whisper it quietly, laws. And many of these are flirting with legalism.
    I am not brave enough to attempt a solution here; it would take too long and is beyond my capabilities anyway. But such an attempt needs to be made. Dane’s solution seems to me to be not so much gospel drenched ans gospel lite.

  • I wonder why some regard legalism and Phariseeism as a badge of honor. It’s easy to preach law. Everyone understands law. The worst sinner understands that he and everyone else is a hypocrite at the root. What they do not understand is grace. Of course, the Gospel cannot be preached apart from preaching the Law. Otherwise there is no command to repent and believe the Gospel and all that follows. But the Gospel is not Law. It is the promise that God will keep covenant with His people. He will never leave nor forsake those who sincerely come to Him for forgiveness and He promises to give them perseverance to the very end. How hard is that to understand?

  • Jim McNeely says:

    Kathy – I think you are right on! You can’t strip the supernatural from Christian virtue. This is why Paul talks about being ‘under law’ as a synonym for ‘the flesh.’ He means, trying to be virtuous without the Holy Spirit. This couldn’t be more clear than in Romans 8. It’s true for me as peronally as well. I believe in radical grace for one thing because I have found great power over addictions and sins this way. It gives the Holy Spirit access.

    Chuck (not that Chuck) – sorry about that!

    AND, wow! This post is getting a lot of action! No one who is a legalist ever comes out and says “I am a legalistic Christian!” Those under the law look at grace and only see license to sin. As a friend told me, just because I said you could cut off your leg and still be saved, doesn’t mean I’m telling everyone to go cut off their legs!

  • Timothy said, “The second issue is the theologically profound one of how do we become holy and blameless at the last day. This is not just a matter of justification but has traditionally been linked to concepts of sanctification.” That is to confuse sanctification with justification. Our standing before God at the beginning of our walk is justification by faith alone. Our standing before God during out walk and by progressive sanctification is founded on justification by faith alone. Our final judgment will be based and founded ONLY on the finished work of Christ, not our works. Your view is the Roman Catholic view where justification is infused in the heart.

    Sorry, but I don’t buy it.

    Sanctification cannot be the ground of our justification. Justification is objective and is a legal declaration. Without that your level of sanctification is unacceptable and irrelevant because God requires absolute sinless perfection. And it would require you to be born free of original sin. We all fail on both counts, which is why Christ alone is our righteousness.

    Sanctification is important since we are to bear witness to our Savior to others and we are to glorify God by living a holy life which is pleasing to Him. But without justification by faith alone nothing we do can please Him.

    The holiness movement leads to pride and another form of antinomianism. It is a denial of the doctrine of depravity, which remains to some degree even in those who have been regenerated. Denying that we have sinned is a sign of not being truly converted:

    If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:8-9 ESV)

    Enter not into judgment with your servant, for no one living is righteous before you. (Psalm 143:2 ESV)

    It is also why the 1662 Book of Common Prayer includes a prayer of confession and gospel absolution in every service. That is, Morning and Even Prayer and the Lord’s Supper. Have you confessed your sins to God today?

    Sincerely yours in Christ,

    Charlie

  • The Holy Spirit regenerates first, then conversion, then faith, then justification. Only after the other graces occur can the process of sanctification begin. And even then no one arrives until glorification. Dead men cannot sin.

    1 John 1:8-9 makes it clear that even the best Christian is compelled by the moral law to regularly confess their sins to God.

    Also, Kathy infers that the Holy Spirit does not work in all Christians. The last I checked unless you have not been born again first you will not see the kingdom of God. Those who are born again are justified solely on the basis of Jesus’ sinless life and His atoning death on the cross. Having some super added level of some gnostic or mystical experience with the Holy Spirit isn’t even mentioned in Scripture.

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

  • Kathy says:

    @Charlie, I don’t think I was inferring “that the Holy Spirit does not work in all Christians.” (At least, that certainly wasn’t my intention.) Far from it. I believe that from the moment of conversion the Holy Spirit is operative in all believers’ lives (except, perhaps, in the unique case of the Samaritan believers in Acts 8). I was only stating my dismay that so little attention is paid to the Person and work of the Holy Spirit in the teaching and preaching that goes on in some evangelical churches. I’m not advocating “some gnostic or mystical experience with the Holy Spirit,” though.

    Also,I agree with Timothy in his post: “If our gospel does not demand obedience, our gospel will never lead to obedience. This can be seen in evangelical churches all over the world, churches which in terms of practical holiness are frankly dead.” We human beings are by nature quite lazy; we will almost always take the path of least resistance. Yet Jesus told his followers repeatedly to count the cost involved in being his disciple. Yes, we are saved by grace alone. Thanks be to God! Sanctification, however, involves our cooperating with the Holy Spirit in actively pursuing godliness (we are told to “make every effort” to supplement our faith–II Peter 1:5). Any expectation that emphasizing grace alone–without also emphasizing the radical cost of discipleship–will somehow result in people desiring and striving for personal holiness does not seem to me to reflect an accurate understanding of human nature.

  • @Kathy, I don’t believe the Reformed position has ever attributed sanctification to anyone other than the Holy Spirit. Regarding your quote from Timothy, “Also,I agree with Timothy in his post: “If our gospel does not demand obedience, our gospel will never lead to obedience,” I have to repeat myself again. The Gospel does not “demand obedience”. The Gospel is Good News. But that being said the Gospel cannot be preached without also preaching the moral Law of God. The Reformed view teaches that the first use of the Law is that it condemns every man and woman as a sinner from birth:

    for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, (Romans 3:23 ESV)
    The wicked are estranged from the womb; they go astray from birth, speaking lies. (Psalm 58:3 ESV)
    For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me. 4 Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you may be justified in your words and blameless in your judgment. (Psalm 51:3-4 ESV)

    The first use of the law still applies to us even AFTER conversion. We are all unworhthy of God’s forgiveness and never merit anything except hell.

    For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 6:23 ESV)

    God does not grade on a curve. Either you are born sinless and live a sinless life OR you’re saved by grace and grace alone. There really is no inbetween. The problem with the perfectionist view is that it has to lower the bar so that man can be accepted by a lower standard. But God does not lower the standards. In fact, in the sermon on the mount Jesus raised the bar higher:

    “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. 18 For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. 19 Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20 For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. 21 “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ (Matthew 5:17-21 ESV)
    You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect. (Matthew 5:48 ESV)

    Jesus is not talking about maturity here. He means what he says. Perfect.

    So that is why justification is imputed by a legal declaration or decree. We are accounted righteous by the sinless life of Jesus and His death in our place.

    Sanctification is infused into the heart and is always imperfect. That is why it can never justify us before God.

    The Gospel is God’s promises to those who “believe”. Sanctification is the grace of God that follows after the Gospel. It is called the 3rd use of the Law. It tells us how we are to live as Christians. But it has no power to change us. It is the promise of God to empower us that does that. We willingly obey out of gratitude and we often fail. That’s why 1 John 1:8-9 tells converted Christians to repent continually:

    If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:8-9 ESV)
    Enter not into judgment with your servant, for no one living is righteous before you. (Psalm 143:2 ESV)

    Basically, if you are a Christian you are to repent daily of your sins. That’s why Archbishop Thomas Cranmer put daily Morning and Evening Prayer into the 1552 Book of Common Prayer. Both of those services has a public confession of sin to be said by the whole church assembled together for prayer. It also includes a Gospel absolution and a prayer that asks God to grant us the grace to do what He commands.

    “Wherefore let us beseech him to grant us true repentance, and his Holy Spirit, that those things may please him, which we do at this present; and that the rest of our life hereafter may be pure, and holy; so that at the last we may come to his eternal joy; through Jesus Christ our Lord.” Morning Prayer

    How anyone could misunderstand the Reformed view as advocating antinomianism after reading the services in the 1662 Book of Common Prayer is beyond me.

    There is a real difference between the Wesleyan Arminian view and the Calvinist and Reformed view. Arminians place all the emphasis on man’s efforts. Cooperative grace does not actually do anything to overcome sin. The Augustinian and Calvinist view is that grace is monergistic. That is, we do not “cooperate” with God’s grace. God’s grace actually does what God sends it to accomplish: it makes us holy. While we continually rebel in the flesh, it is faith that justifies us and changes us, not external commands of the law. Simply because God gave us Law does not mean that we have the ability to obey it. If we did, we wouldn’t need to pray for God’s grace to actually obey. We’re all sinners at heart and only grace can cause us to obey.

    That does not remove our responsibility and accountability for our sins or our failures. We will answer to God for our disobedience. That’s why the warnings are in the Bible.

    Sincerely yours in Christ,

    Charlie

  • Kathy says:

    Charlie, thank you very much for taking the time to share and explain all this to me. I’ve read your latest comments twice now, and I’ll have to read them several more times, I’m sure, to try and grasp all that you’ve written.

    I’ve long been taught that believers do, in fact, “cooperate with God” in sanctification. To double check my own understanding of this (I wondered if perhaps I had misunderstood what I’d read and heard), I went to Desiring God’s website, a source I trust for sound teaching. I found there that Wayne Grudem spoke of a believer’s “cooperation” with God in sanctification at a Children Desiring God conference:

    “3. God and man (God and the child) cooperate in sanctification. (Phil. 2:13)

    “Both God and the redeemed sinner have a role in sanctification. God changes us, gives us the ability to obey. And then we need to be active – we strive and work out our sanctification the strength which He supplies.” http://www.desiringgod.org/blog/posts/cdg-conference-session-3

    (I wasn’t at this conference, so I did not hear him say this; but I trust the accuracy of the transcripts.)

    Well, I have no doubt ventured way past my knowledge (and/or my ability to articulate my beliefs), so I will call it a day and not continue to add my two cents’ worth to this discussion. But I do sincerely thank you for your responses to me. Though raised as a Baptist, I love the Book of Common Prayer and couldn’t agree more that we must confess our sins daily (really, the instant the Holy Spirit makes us aware of our sin).

    Blessings in Christ,

    Kathy

  • Kathy, Desiring God is a Baptist site. While they are calvinistic, they are not Reformed in the full sense of that word. The magisterial Reformation has Confessions of faith that spell out the doctrine of the Bible for believers.

    The Belgic Confession is part of the Three Forms of Unity for the Dutch Reformed Churches. It says:

    “We believe that this true faith, worked in man by the hearing of God’s Word and by the operation of the Holy Spirit,[1] regenerates him and makes him a new man.[2] It makes him live a new life and frees him from the slavery of sin.[3] Therefore it is not true that this justifying faith makes man indifferent to living a good and holy life.[4] On the contrary, without it no one would ever do anything out of love for God,[5] but only out of self-love or fear of being condemned. It is therefore impossible for this holy faith to be inactive in man, for we do not speak of an empty faith but of what Scripture calls faith working through love (Gal 5:6). This faith induces man to apply himself to those works which God has commanded in His Word. These works, proceeding from the good root of faith, are good and acceptable in the sight of God, since they are all sanctified by His grace. Nevertheless, they do not count toward our justification. For through faith in Christ we are justified, even before we do any good works.[6] Otherwise they could not be good any more than the fruit of a tree can be good unless the tree itself is good.[7]” Chapter 24.

    You’ll notice that it says “God works faith” in us. It’s all of God, including our obedience. The quote you pulled from DG says the same:

    “God changes us, gives us the ability to obey.” The Calvinist view is that God works one work in us. Monergism. The Arminian view is that we cooperate in salvation and sanctification. Although we do strive we do not take credit for even our striving and obedience. God grants us grace to do what He commands. The famous line from Augustine is, “God command what You will and grant us what You command.”

    Philippians 2:12-13 end with God’s grace, not our “cooperation”:

    Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, 13 for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure. (Philippians 2:12-13 ESV)

    We get none of the credit even for our progress in sanctification. Without God’s grace working in us we would not even desire to do good. That does not remove our responsibility to obey, though.

    The 1662 Book of Common Prayer reads the 10 commandments in the service for the Lord’s Supper. After each commandment this prayer is said:

    “Lord, have mercy upon us, and incline our hearts to keep this law.” And after all ten are read this prayer is said at the end:

    “Lord, have mercy upon us, and write all these thy laws in our hearts, we beseech thee.” See The Lord’s Supper.

    This is the reflection of Augustinian and Calvinist theology. Basically no one will obey God without God’s grace given specifically to us. That’s why we pray for God to grant us the grace to obey. We do not give ourselves the desire to obey. Only God can give us that desire. Just as we do not give ourselves natural birth, we do not regenerate ourselves or make ourselves born again. Only God can do that. In the same way only God can give us the grace to progress in sanctification. He gets all the glory and we get none. Ephesians 2:8-10 makes the same point:

    For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. (Ephesians 2:8-10 ESV)

    Even our faith is a gift of God.

    Sanctification, like faith, is completely a gift of God.

    That’s why Jesus prayed for us:

    Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. (John 17:17 ESV)

    True sanctification flows out of studying God’s Word and the doctrines of grace. It does not flow out of our experience of the Holy Spirit or anything else mystical or contemplative.

    The best place to start understanding Reformed teaching is to read the Reformed confessions of faith and read all the proof texts with them.

    The Westminster Shorter Catechism makes it plain that sanctification is the gift of God just as repentance itself is a gift of God:

    35. What is sanctification?

    Answer: Sanctification is the work of God’s free grace,1 whereby we are renewed in the whole man after the image of God,2 and are enabled more and more to die unto sin, and live unto righteousness.3

    See also: WCF 13.1 | WLC 75

    ——————————————————————————–

    1 2 Thess. 2:13

    2 Eph. 4:23,24

    3 Rom. 6:4,6; Rom. 8:1

    Charlie

  • When they heard these things they fell silent. And they glorified God, saying, “Then to the Gentiles also God has granted repentance that leads to life.” (Acts 11:18 ESV)

  • Kathy Morse says:

    Kathy,
    I too have noticed lack of reference to the empowerment of the Holy Spirit in the lives of God’s people. It seems to have been replaced with the empowerment of the Gospel. Could someone please explain the difference if any?

  • I do believe that God is one, isn’t He? Does it really matter which person of the Trinity you mention? God “works” sanctification in us.

    What is more Scripture says it is the Spirit who sanctifies us.

    75. What is sanctification?

    Answer: Sanctification is a work of God’s grace, whereby they whom God hath, before the foundation of the world, chosen to be holy, are in time, through the powerful operation of his Spirit 1 applying the death and resurrection of Christ unto them,2 renewed in their whole man after the image of God;3 having the seeds of repentance unto life, and all other saving graces, put into their hearts,4 and those graces so stirred up, increased and strengthened,5 as that they more and more die unto sin, and rise unto newness of life.6

    See also: WCF 13.1 | WSC 35

    ——————————————————————————–

    1 Eph. 1:4; 1 Cor. 6:11; 2 Thess. 2:13

    2 Rom. 6:4-6

    3 Eph. 4:23,24

    4 Acts 11:18; 1 John 3:9

    5 Jude 20; Heb. 6:11,12; Eph. 3:16-19; Col. 1:10,11

    6 Rom. 6:4,6,14; Gal. 5:24

  • even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love (Ephesians 1:4 ESV)

    And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. (1 Corinthians 6:11 ESV)

    But we ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers beloved by the Lord, because God chose you as the firstfruits to be saved, through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth. (2 Thessalonians 2:13 ESV)

  • Kathy said, “Any expectation that emphasizing grace alone–without also emphasizing the radical cost of discipleship–will somehow result in people desiring and striving for personal holiness does not seem to me to reflect an accurate understanding of human nature.”

    Well, the Reformed position is that we are preach the LAW and the Gospel. To confuse Law with Gospel is a serious error from the point of view of the Protestant Reformation. That’s a Roman Catholic view, not a Protestant one.

    Simply because God commands men to do such and such does not imply the ability to do so.

    Only God can grant the grace to actually do what He commands. I know that upsets modern Pelagians and Arminians, but it it is biblical and it is true.

  • Charlie,

    I’m interested in how you understand the WCF and WSC. You said the following in one of your earlier posts:

    ““God changes us, gives us the ability to obey.” The Calvinist view is that God works one work in us. Monergism. The Arminian view is that we cooperate in salvation and sanctification.”

    My impression of traditional reformed teaching has always been that while regeneration is monergistic, sanctification is synergistic. I have the Westminster Shorter Catechism for study classes by G.I. Williamson, certainly a part of the traditional reformed churches. He says in his comments on question 35, page 161 of the book:

    “Finally we note that the work of sanctification is synergistic. Synergistic means a work in which man cooperates with God. It is a work in which both man and God are active.” He still maintains that God deserves all the credit since He is the one who enables us to contribute, but we still must be working as well.

    Again, in Berkhof (no baptist): “Though man is privileged to cooperate with the Spirit of God, he can do this only in virtue of the strength which the Spirit imparts to him from day to day.” Berkhof maintains that man cooperates, but God gets all the glory.

    Do you disagree with these formulations or am I misunderstanding you?

  • Timothy says:

    I ‘do not buy’ the idea that the ground of our justification is sanctification either, Charlie Ray may me relieved to know. But neither is our justification the ground of our sanctification. This is why Calvin could discuss sanctification BEFORE discussing justification. The reason is that BOTH have their ground in union in Christ. If we make justification the ground of our sanctification, sanctification becomes an optional extra. And if optional, when things get hard it is not bothered with. This is the very spirit of the dark side of antinomianism. “Let us not bother as we are justified.”
    But I am ashamed of suggesting that Dane and Tullian were gospel lite. They at least have attempted to show how the holy life can be achieved when I have not even tried to show it. But I still don’t think they have got an answer to the tendency towards antinomianism. Justification without the context of union with Christ, without the concept of the Lordship of Christ, dependent only on the ‘glorious exchange’ of Christ’s righteousness for our own unrighteousness, an exchange which if taken literally would imply we no longer needed Christ once we have obtained from him his righteousness, that kind of justification will not make us holy. And in the end that kind of justification does not justify. Now I know that Charlie Ray and Dane and Tullian are not arguing for that kind of justification. I merely implore them to preach a justification that cannot be confused with that kind of justification.

  • I do disagree. In fact, I would argue that neo-Calvinism is the reason those men have chosen synergistic theology for sanctification. While I would agree with a “compatibilist” understanding of free agency, I disagree that we “cooperate” with grace even in sanctification. Without God’s grace we will not obey, period. That does not mean that we are not fully accountable for what we do. Even the reprobate do not have an excuse since God is not obligated to grant them regeneration or repentance.

    While God is not the author of sin, He is in fully control of even our choices without violating our wills. The Bible makes this plain in several passages. It’s also why the Pelagians got upset with Augustine when he prayed, “Lord, command what You will and grant what you command.”

    The neo-calvinist doctrines of common grace are to blame for this sort of equivocation on the part of Reformed theologians since Kuyper and Bavinck. That would include Charles Hodge, who also equivocated on the extent of the atonement, even saying that Christ “in some sense” died for the reprobate. That theology is inconsistent with Scripture and with classical Augustinian and Calvinist theology.

    The Scriptures say:

    The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the LORD; he turns it wherever he will. (Proverbs 21:1 ESV)
    At the end of the days I, Nebuchadnezzar, lifted my eyes to heaven, and my reason returned to me, and I blessed the Most High, and praised and honored him who lives forever, for his dominion is an everlasting dominion, and his kingdom endures from generation to generation; 35 all the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, and he does according to his will among the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay his hand or say to him, “What have you done?” (Daniel 4:34-35 ESV)

    this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. (Acts 2:23 ESV)
    declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose,’ (Isaiah 46:10 ESV)

    Even the evil acts of evil men in delivering Jesus up to be crucified was absolutely decreed by God–even down to the detail of Judas betraying Jesus. So the idea that we “cooperate” with sanctifying grace is in fact not a Calvinist doctrine but an Arminian doctrine.

    The Canons of Dort in the First Head of Doctrine, Article 7 says:

    Article 7

    Election is the unchangeable purpose of God, whereby, before the foundation of the world, He hath out of mere grace, according to the sovereign good pleasure of His own will, chosen, from the whole human race, which had fallen through their own fault from their primitive state of rectitude into sin and destruction, a certain number of persons to redemption in Christ, whom He from eternity appointed the Mediator and Head of the elect, and the foundation of salvation.

    This elect number, though by nature neither better nor more deserving than others, but with them involved in one common misery, God hath decreed to give to Christ, to be saved by Him, and effectually to call and draw them to His communion by His Word and Spirit, to bestow upon them true faith, justification and sanctification; and having powerfully preserved them in the fellowship of His Son, finally, to glorify them for the demonstration of His mercy and for the praise of His glorious grace, as it is written: “According as He hath chosen us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love: having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, wherein He hath made us accepted in the beloved” (Eph. 1:4-6). And elsewhere: “Whom He did predestinate, them He also called: and whom He called, them He also justified: and whom He justified them He also glorified” (Rom. 8:30).

    The term “synergism” does not apply to sanctification anymore than it applies to regeneration or any of the other graces. God could remove the grace of sanctification for a time and allow the elect person to fall way to humble him and make him realize that it is God who keeps him rather than the believer keeping himself. There are many Scriptures to back that up as well. But it is in the WCF:

    Chapter 17: Of the Perseverance of the Saints

    1. They, whom God hath accepted in His Beloved, effectually called and sanctified by His Spirit, can neither totally nor finally fall away from the state of grace; but shall certainly persevere therein to the end, and be eternally saved.1

    See also: WLC 79

    ——————————————————————————–

    1 Phil. 1:6; 2 Pet. 1:10; John 10:28,29; 1 John 3:9; 1 Pet. 1:5,9.

    2. This perseverance of the saints depends not upon their own free will, but upon the immutability of the decree of election, flowing from the free and unchangeable love of God the Father;1 upon the efficacy of the merit and intercession of Jesus Christ;2 the abiding of the Spirit, and of the seed of God within them;3 and the nature of the covenant of grace:4 from all which ariseth also the certainty and infallibility thereof.5

    See also: WLC 79

    ——————————————————————————–

    1 2 Tim. 2:18,19; Jer. 31:3.

    2 Heb. 10:10,14; Heb. 13:20,21; Heb. 9:12-15; Rom. 8:33-39; John 17:11,24; Luke 22:32; Heb. 7:25.

    3 John 14:16,17; 1 John 2:27; 1 John 3:9.

    4 Jer. 32:40.

    5 John 10:28; 2 Thess. 3:3; 1 John 2:19.

    3. Nevertheless, they may, through the temptations of Satan and of the world, the prevalency of corruption remaining in them, and the neglect of the means of their preservation, fall into grievous sins;1 and, for a time, continue therein:2 whereby they incur God’s displeasure,3 and grieve His Holy Spirit,4 come to be deprived of some measure of their graces and comforts;5 have their hearts hardened,6 and their consciences wounded;7 hurt and scandalize others,8 and bring temporal judgments upon themselves.9

    ——————————————————————————–

    1 Matt. 26:70,72,74.

    2 Ps. 51:[title] , 14.

    3 Isa. 64:5,7,9; 2 Sam. 11:27.

    4 Eph. 4:30.

    5 Ps. 51:8,10.12; Rev. 2:4; Cant. 5:2,3,4,6.

    6 Isa. 63:17; Mark 6:52; Mark 16:14.

    7 Ps. 32:3,4; Ps. 51:8.

    8 2 Sam. 12:14.

    9 Ps. 89:31,32; 1 Cor. 11:32.

    About the only way to view sanctification as “synergistic” is to say that perseverance and all the other graces are “synergistic”. The golden chain begins with election, not faith.

    declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose,’ (Isaiah 46:10 ESV)

    I would highly recommend Gordon H. Clark’s book on predestination if you have not read it.

    Sincerely in Christ,

    Charlie

  • The real clincher against free will even in sanctification and perseverance is Martin Luther’s diatribe against Erasmus in The Bondage of the Will:

    THE SOVEREIGNTY OF GOD.

    Sect. 9.—THIS, therefore, is also essentially necessary and wholesome for Christians to know: That God foreknows nothing by contingency, but that He foresees, purposes, and does all things according to His immutable, eternal, and infallible will. By this thunderbolt, “Free-will” is thrown prostrate, and utterly dashed to pieces. Those, therefore, who would assert “Free-will,” must either deny this thunderbolt, or pretend not to see it, or push it from them.

    The Bondage of the Will: The Sovereignty of God.

    The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the LORD. (Proverbs 16:33 ESV)

    The sovereignty of God brings great comfort to those who are believers. It means that God not only can keep His promises to save us but that He WILL save us. As R.C. Sproul puts it, salvation is guaranteed.

    Charlie

  • Timothy, Calvin discusses justification before sanctification. Book three chapter 11 is justification. My search does not turn up sanctification until chapter 15 or 16.

  • 1. I trust I have now sufficiently shown [04 404 See Institutes, Book 2 chap. 6 and 7, and Book 3 from the commencement to the present chapter.] how man’s only resource for escaping from the curse of the law, and recovering salvation, lies in faith; and also what the nature of faith is, what the benefits which it confers, and the fruits which it produces. The whole may be thus summed up: Christ given to us by the kindness of God is apprehended and possessed by faith, by means of which we obtain in particular a twofold benefit; first, being reconciled by the righteousness of Christ, God becomes, instead of a judge, an indulgent Father; and, secondly, being sanctified by his Spirit, we aspire to integrity and purity of life. This second benefit—viz. regeneration, appears to have been already sufficiently discussed. On the other hand, the subject of justification was discussed more cursorily, because it seemed of more consequence first to explain that the faith by which alone, through the mercy of God, we obtain free justification, is not destitute of good works; and also to show the true nature of these good works on which this question partly turns. The doctrine of Justification is now to be fully discussed, and discussed under the conviction, that as it is the principal ground on which religion must be supported, so it requires greater care and attention. For unless you understand first of all what your position is before God, and what the judgment which he passes upon you, you have no foundation on which your salvation can be laid, or on which piety towards God can be reared. The necessity of thoroughly understanding this subject will become more apparent as we proceed with it.

    Institutes, Book III, chapter 11, section 1.

    It’s clear in that paragraph that Calvin places regeneration before justification by faith and justification before sanctification. Also, he clearly says that justification is primary and sanctification comes after. Without justification by faith ALONE none of our good works are pleasing to God. Justification is the ground of our acceptance before God, not our good works.

    The 39 Articles of Religion say the same thing:

    Article XIII
    Of Works before Justification
    Works done before the grace of Christ and the inspiration of His Spirit, are not pleasant to God, forasmuch as they spring not of faith in Jesus Christ, neither do they make men meet to receive grace, or (as the School authors say) deserve grace of congruity: yea, rather for that they are not done as God hath willed and commanded them to be done, we doubt not but they have the nature of sin.

    See Articles 9-18, 39 Articles of Religion.

    You will also notice that Article 12 says that good works cannot put away God’s wrath against us:

    Article XII
    Of Good Works
    Albeit that good works, which are the fruits of faith and follow after justification, cannot put away our sins and endure the severity of God’s judgement, yet are they pleasing and acceptable to God in Christ, and do spring out necessarily of a true and lively faith, insomuch that by them a lively faith may be as evidently known as a tree discerned by the fruit.

    If you are trusting in good works to justify yourself before God, then you are more Roman Catholic in your beliefs than Protestant. I hope this helps.

    Even Wesley asserted justification by faith alone. He equivocated in other areas but on that point Wesley was solid as a rock. I graduated from a Wesleyan seminary so I have read Wesley’s 52 Standard Sermons.

    In Christ,

    Charlie

  • Kathy Morse says:

    How about summing it up?

  • The short answer is: Salvation is all of God.

    It is all of grace. Glory be to God alone.

    We have no room to boast whatsoever. But that does not remove our responsibility to obey God’s moral law, i.e. the 3rd use of the law.

    None of our good works are pleasing to God apart from faith and faith alone.

    May the peace of God be with you!

    Charlie

  • […] via Two Ways To Realize Radical Obedience: My Indirect Response To Jason Hood – Tullian Tchividjian. […]

  • lander says:

    J.I. Packer, ‘Concise Theology':
    “Regeneration was a momentary monergistic act of quickening the spiritually dead. As such, it was God’s work alone. Sanctification, however, is in one sense synergistic—it is an ongoing cooperative process in which regenerate persons, alive to God and freed from sin’s dominion (Rom. 6:11, 14-18), are required to exert themselves in sustained obedience. God’s method of sanctification is neither activism (self-reliant activity) nor apathy (God-reliant passivity), but God-dependent effort (2 Cor. 7:1; Phil. 3:10-14; Heb. 12:14). Knowing that without Christ’s enabling we can do nothing, morally speaking, as we should, and that he is ready to strengthen us for all that we have to do (Phil. 4:13), we “stay put” (remain, abide) in Christ, asking for his help constantly–and we receive it (Col. 1:11; 1 Tim. 1:12; 2 Tim. 1:7; 2:1).”

  • I’m aware that Packer and others have an Arminian doctrine of sanctification. However, Packer does not trump the Westminster Confession and the Catechisms. I’ve already quoted to you the fact that perseverance does not indicate “free will” even on the part of the elect. It is God who keeps us at every point from the beginning, to the middle and to the end. John Newton’s hymn, Amazing Grace, make that clear as well. Perhaps you should read the verses to that hymn again?

    Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, 25 to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen. (Jude 1:24-25 ESV)
    I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. (John 10:28-29 ESV)
    for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure. (Philippians 2:13 ESV)
    The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the LORD; he turns it wherever he will. (Proverbs 21:1 ESV)

    If God keeps you, you will progress in sanctification. If you think you keep yourself then beware:

    Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall. 13 No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it. (1 Corinthians 10:12-13 ESV)

  • Patrick says:

    “I’m aware that Packer and others have an Arminian doctrine of sanctification.”

    LOL!

  • Jack Miller says:

    From Packer’s intro essay to John Owen’s Death of Death in the Death of Christ:

    The five points of Calvinism, though separately stated, are really inseparable. They hang together; you cannot reject one without rejecting them all, at least in the sense in which the Synod of Dort meant them. For to Calvinism there is really only one point to be made in the field of soteriology [salvation]: the point that God saves sinners. God– the Triune Jehovah, Father, Son and Spirit; three Persons working together in sovereign wisdom, power and love to achieve the salvation of a chosen people, the Father electing, the Son fulfilling the Father’s will by redeeming, the Spirit executing the will of the Father and Son by renewing. Saves– does everything, first to last, that is involved i bringing man from death in sin to life in glory; plans, achieves, and communicates redemption, calls and keeps, justifies, sanctifies, glorifies. Sinners– men as god finds them, guilty, vile, helpless, powerless, unable to lift a finger to do God;s will or better their spiritual lot. God saves sinners– and the force of this confession may not be weakened by disrupting the unity of the work of the Trinity, or by dividing the achievement of salvation between God and man and making the decisive part man’s own, or by soft-pedaling the sinner’s inability so as to allow him to share the praise of his salvation with his Saviour. This is the one point of Calvinistic soteriology which the “five points: are concerned to establish and Arminianism in all its forms to deny: namely, that sinners do not save themselves in any sense at all, but the salvation, first and last, whole and entire, past, present and future, is of the the Lord, to whom be the glory for ever; amen.

  • John Thomson says:

    A more general observation. If by ‘law’ we mean the Mosaic Law believers are obliged to it in no shape or form. It is not simply that this law does not justify (which all evangelicals agree) nor that it has no power to sanctify (which evangelicals increasingly assert) but it is not the rule of life to which believers must adhere (unfortunately a truth that seems many refuse to see).

    In fact the Mosaic Law was never given to any other than Israel. Paul refuses to allow gentile believers be subject to its commands. Tullian rightly says it is never the motivation for holiness he needs to go further and recognise it is never the authoritative standard of holiness either.

    In this strictest sense the gospel is truly antinomian. Though of course although it carries its own imperatives.

  • Paul Dohse says:

    This is the same, worn-out, “I’m not an antinomian” antinomian argument. Obviously, indicatives do not always precede (or “ground”) imperatives in the Bible. It’s just a lame argument. And as Frank Turk aptly notes, Greek moods don’t limit such to an either/or. Furthermore, this whole “gospel centered” movement was concocted by Jack Miller around 1980. It was originally dubbed “Sonship Theology.” Jay Adams wrote an apology against it: “Biblical Sonship: An Evaluation of the Sonship Discipleship Course” (Timeless Text 1999).

  • The Mosaic Law is subdivided into two categories: 1) Civil Law or the Judicial laws applied to the nation of Israel under theocracy; and 2) The Moral Law or the Ten Commandments and all other laws in the Bible from the OT to the NT that command us on some “moral” or “ethical” issue.

    The judicial laws passed away with the passing away of the ancient nation of Israel. The moral law is still binding today regarding their 1st use and 3rd use. The 2nd use in civil law only applies in matters of “general equity” or “natural law”.

    Article VII
    Of the Old Testament

    The Old Testament is not contrary to the New; for both in the Old and New Testament everlasting life is offered to mankind by Christ, who is the only Mediator between God and man, being both God and man. Wherefore they are not to be heard which feign that the old fathers did look only for transitory promises. Although the law given from God by Moses, as touching ceremonies and rites, do not bind Christian men, nor the civil precepts thereof ought of necessity to be received in any commonwealth; yet, notwithstanding, no Christian man whatsoever is free from the obedience of the commandments which are called moral.

    I should add that the ceremonial and sacrificial laws concerning “rites” has also passed away since Christ is the fulfillment of the ceremonial and sacrificial laws. (See Hebrews).

    Sincerely in Christ,

    Charlie

  • @Jack Miller….

    Thanks for the quote from J. I. Packer. It sheds light on his other comment on sanctification, does it not? Although we do in some sense “cooperate” in sanctification it is still ALL of God and not 50% us and 50% God. Sanctification is all of God as well. Monergistic.

    Sincerely in Christ,

    Charlie

  • At the risk of being redundant, let me point out that justification does not just apply at the beginning of the walk, but in the middle and at the end. Sanctification is never at any point a basis or ground for our acceptance before God:

    You will also notice that Article 12 says that good works cannot put away God’s wrath against us:

    Article XII
    Of Good Works
    Albeit that good works, which are the fruits of faith and follow after justification, cannot put away our sins and endure the severity of God’s judgement, yet are they pleasing and acceptable to God in Christ, and do spring out necessarily of a true and lively faith, insomuch that by them a lively faith may be as evidently known as a tree discerned by the fruit.

    Pharisees love to focus on law as if that were the end all and be all for converted sinners. But such a focus actually produces self-righteousness and a basis for boasting in one’s “progress”. Fact is, there is no room for boasting. We all fall short (Romans 3:23; 1 John 1:8-9; Psalm 143:2). Whether we fall short by 5% or by 99.9% the basis of our salvation and acceptance before God now and in the judgment is the objective righteousness of Christ, not how much infused holiness we have in our hearts.

    The Reformed position is neither infused righteousness nor antinomianism. The Bible clearly says we are righteous because of the substitution of Christ in our place in 1) living a sinless life (Romans 6:23; Romans 10:1-4; Philippians 3:9); and 2) taking the penalty for us in our place on the tree (1 Peter 2:24-25).

    Charles Hodge rightly pointed out that righteousness is objective and imputed to us by a legal declaration. Righteousness is therefore perfect. Our sanctification is always and forever imperfect and subjective. It is “infused” in the heart and therefore is relative. That’s why to confuse sanctification with justification is essentially to adopt the Roman Catholic position. Our salvation is grounded in justification, not sanctification. That’s true at every point in our Christian walk. Thus we should preach Gospel and justification by faith at every Sunday service along with the 3rd use of the law. To preach only law and never Gospel leads to self-righteousness and Phariseeism. It also leads to a form of “practical” popery.

    Thus, the Federal Vision and certain theologies, like theonomy, tend to focus on law keeping and infused holiness rather than keeping the right balance between Law and Gospel. That’s why such theologies have more in common with Rome than with Geneva.

    Charlie

    Charlie

  • John Thomson says:

    Charlie

    Sanctification is all of God and all of us.

    Phil 2:12-13 (ESV)
    Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.

  • Tullian Tchividjian says:

    Gentlemen, I’m encouraged by the ongoing discussion here but please keep your comments both civil and short. Thank-you!

  • John Thomson says:

    Charlie

    Quoting confessions don’t make it so. The simple and clear teaching of Scripture is that we are dead to the law – hook, line and sinker. The Law in any shape or form has no rights and authority over the believer. Just as we are dead to sin and it has no rights or authority so we are dead to the law and it has no rights or authority. Roms 7:1-6 is just one example of a number of clear texts on this matter.

  • MRS says:

    Must jump in here and say to Charlie that many scholars on the 39 Articles – Paul Zahl and Ashley Null chief among them – would in all likelihood reject the “third use” approach, and state that Cranmer is squarely with Luther on this matter.

  • John Thomson says:

    Paul

    I am with F Turk to this extent at least, I feel it is unbiblical to represent law as command and gospel as accomplished in the sense that M Horton etc do. That is not to say I am unsympathetic to what M Horton seeks to do.

    However, I think the distinction is more nuanced than the above. It is firstly redemptive-historical. Law is a covenant belonging to a certain era that ended with the coming of Christ. Christ introduced the realised gospel promised in the OT.

    However, I would agree with Horton that Law and gospel involve two different principles. Law is a covenant of works. By that I mean it promises life for the one who keeps it. Gospel on the other hand is a covenant of grace it gives life and the ability to live it.

    Law has obligations but supplies no power; grace has obligations but supplies all enabling.

    Where Horton goes wrong is in equating obligation with law. At the very least this confuses the normal sense of ‘law’ that is, the Mosaic Covenant.

  • @John Thomson

    The moral law does not end with the coming of Christ! In fact, Jesus raised the standards of the moral law HIGHER than Moses did. Read the sermon on the mount again.

    Also, I refer you once again to Article 7 of the 39 Articles of Religion. What you’re advocating is dispensationalism. That’s not the Reformed position at all.

    Charlie

  • @MRS

    That would be a misinterpretation of Luther since Luther did not reject the 3rd use of the Law. That would be odd since Luther includes the Ten Commandments and their application in his catechism.

    Charlie

  • Tullian Tchividjian says:

    I’m proud of you Charlie! Only 5 sentences :) Keep it up!

  • @John Thomson

    Yes, we are “dead” to the Law “as a means of justification”. But that does not mean that the Law is done away with altogether. Jesus came to “fulfill the law” in our place, not to abolish it. (Matthew 5:17-20).

    Also, we still have an obligation to live by the law, even if it an imperfect keeping of God’s commands.

    ” Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. (Galatians 6:2 ESV) “

  • @Tullian

    Sorry if some of my posts were too long…. I realize not everyone knows what the Reformed confessions of faith systematically teach. While Mr. Thomson might not accept the confession of Reformed churches, that is what the Reformed churches “believe” the Bible says.

    Sincerely in Christ,

    Charlie

  • John Thomson says:

    Charlie

    Actually I am not too bothered what label is attached. The issue is simply whether it is biblical or not. I agree it is a view that dispensationalist would hold. It is also a view that NCT would hold. My own position is nearer the latter than the former. However, it is also a position that many of a reformed ilk with a small ‘r’ would hold.

    By the way I did not say the moral law came to an end in Christ, I said ‘the Law’ finds its end in Christ. In him it finds its fulfilment and its finish. Your classifications of the Law have a place in theology but are not part of the biblical lanscape when Paul speaks of ‘the Law’. The Law, is the Law, is the Law. It is an indivisible unity. It is a covenant. We cannot pick and choose the parts of a covenant we would like to keep nor how we would like to keep them. When Paul says we are no longer married to the law but are married to a new husband even Christ, he is not picking and choosing what bits of the law we have died to. We have died to the whole relationship and if we haven’t we can’t be married to Christ. Indeed in Roms 7 the one example of ‘law’ he cites is from the Decalogue and is perhaps the most obviously internal part of it… you shall not covet.

    I invite you to give a fair interpretation of these verses. Give me yours, not some that of some authority.

    Tullian… stretching word count I know. Really shouldn’t get involved in these debates. I guess I hope that one day you will see (concede!) the whole story re law and the believer… you are so close.

  • @ John Thomson

    Since I’m not a Baptist but a confessional and Reformed person, I am committed to the secondary authority of creeds and confessions of faith. Everyone has a creed or confession of what they “think” the Bible teaches. Mine just happens to be the same as that of my church.

    Sola Scriptura does not mean lone ranger theology but theology done within the confines of the creeds and confessions. Only the Scriptures are infallible and inerrant. If you can prove the creeds and confessions are in error so be it. But you have a huge burden of proof since both have a long history and they have stood the test of time thus far.

    I might point out that the 1689 London Baptist Confession of Faith upholds the continuation of the moral law in the 1st and the 3rd use just as does the Westminster Confession upon which it is based.

    Sincerely yours in Christ,

    Charlie

  • John Thomson says:

    Charlie, feel free to call me John.

    Carlie, the ‘law of Christ’ is not the mosaic law. In fact the very reason he calls it this is to distinguish between the mosaic and Christ’s law. That he uses the word’law’ at all to describe Christian obligation is because he isguarding against any antinomian accusations. He wants to underline that while free from the mosaic covenant full stop (Gals 5:1) they are no thereby free from obligation. In the words of Roms 7 again, they are married to ‘another’ Christ; a new relationship, a new husband to whom they will submit. This ‘husband’ will guide through the Spirit and as we follow the Spirit we will discover that all the old law ever really cared about is fulfilled in our lives. Note we fulfil the law through the Spirit we do not keep it. This is not mere semantics (Roms 8:4). Ironically or paradoxically we fulfil the law by dying to the law. Christ is the end of the law for righteousness.

  • Chapter 19, Of the Law of God, 1689 London Baptist Confession, Section 5

    Obedience to the moral law remains for ever binding upon both justified persons and all others, and that in respect of the actual content of the law, and also of the authority of God, the creator, who is its author. In the gospel Christ in no way cancels the necessity for this obedience; on the contrary He greatly stresses our obligation to obey the moral law.

  • John, by definition any “obligation” is the “moral law”. Imperatives are law. Indicatives are promises.

  • John Thomson says:

    Charlie

    It is a great pity to me that your final authority is a confession. Forgive me for saying so but I see little functional difference between this and R Catholicism on the matter of authority. I hear it so often when discussing with Reformed folks. I find many who can quote confessions but have little grasp of Scripture (I am not accusing you of this).

    The trouble is where a confession is a final authority there is no common ground in Scripture upon which to discuss.

    I read confessions and learn from them. However, like the very people who framed them would insist my conscience is not bound by them. The confessions, even reformed ones differ among themselves. There is no such a thing as a ‘Reformed Faith’. The very number of confessions that exist reveal this. These confessions cause controversy among those who profess to follow them how rightly to interpret them and finally the confessions often speak in such a way as to exclude Luther and even Calvin from their tenets.

    All this is a separate discussion, I know. Still it is a pity.

  • John Thomson says:

    Charlie

    I disagree, and it is precisely here I disagree with Horton et al too. Law is a covenant. Law as most often referred to and understood in the NT is a covenant.

    The gospel has commands but they are the commands of a Father to a son. They involve intimacy and warmth. They are commands too that are enabled. The Lord Jesus in John’s gospel speaks of doing the ‘works’ of his father and following his father’s ‘commands’ but the whole relationship is on a different level than law-keeping. It is precisely this distinction that Paul is outlining at th end of gals 3 and the beginning of gals 4.

  • John Thomson says:

    Charlie

    By the way, I do think you put your figure on a very important point that contributes to much of the confusion in this debate: the equating of law and obligation.

  • @ John

    Sola Scriptura does not teach that the creeds and confessions are equal in authority. But it does teach that we are bound by Scripture. Therefore, wherever the Creeds and Confessions are an accurate representation of Scripture we are as bound by consience to them as they draw their warrant from Scripture.

    Taken to the extreme your view would mean that Michael Servetus was justified in denying the trinity. Modern Oneness Pentecostals would likewise be justified in denying the trinty and Jehovah’s Witnesses would be justified in denying the deity of Christ by that argument.

    Since Scripture does in fact teach both the trinity and the deity of Christ we are bound by conscience to accept that. If not, you’re not a Christian but something else.

    The 39 Articles makes clear the Reformed position on this as well:

    Article VI
    Of the sufficiency of the Holy Scripture for Salvation
    Holy Scripture containeth all things necessary to salvation: so that whatsoever is not read therein, nor may be proved thereby, is not to be required of any man, that it should be believed as an article of the faith, or be thought requisite or necessary to salvation.

    In the name of Holy Scripture, we do understand those Canonical books of the Old and New testament, of whose authority was never any doubt in the Church.

    You’re right in one sense. We are not bound to believe anything that cannot be proved by Scripture:)

    But the three ecumenical creeds do not fall into that category:

    Article VIII
    Of the Three Creeds
    The three Creeds, Nicene Creed, Athanasius’ Creed, and that which is commonly called the Apostles’ Creed, ought thoroughly to be received and believed; for they may be proved by most certain warrants of Holy Scripture.

    Articles 1-8

    I certainly would not be bound to believe anything that cannot be proved by the most certain warrants of Holy Scripture. The Reformed Confessions and the 3 creeds can be proved from Scripture. That’s the point I guess.

    Sincerely yours in Christ,

    Charlie

  • Sorry, John. But the fact is your view confuses “law” with Gospel. Anything we should, ought, must, are commanded to “DO” is Law.

    You are basically saying that the Gospel is Law.

    Sorry, but I would ask you to prove that from the Scriptures?

  • John Thomson says:

    Charlie

    I feel you are starting from an assumption. Where do you get the idea all that is ‘ought’ is ‘law’. The ‘ought’ of the gospel is a graciously enabled ought whereas the ‘ought’ of the law is not. That is the real difference.

    I could well ask you for texts that prove all ‘ought’ is gospel? Incidentally the position I have argued is pretty well that presented by Doug Moo in his commentary on Romans and his article on law (which can be found on his website).

    I am surprised you do not see the basic dispensational/administrational/epochal distinction between the era of OT and NT as the controlling paradigm for NT words like Law and Gospel. Someone like H Ridderbos was very clear on this. Most writers outside of a very confessionally reformed camp would see this (though there may be dicussions about moral law). As far as I know, and here I may well be wrong, only WTC folks are likely to argue your particular point that indicative is gospel and imperative inalienably law. As I say this is a theological construct importing meanings to these words not found in Scripture. I would have thought this was the point F Turk was making over at Pyro…

    Some texts.

    Rom 1:5 (ESV)
    through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of his name among all the nations,

    Rom 16:25-26 (ESV)
    Now to him who is able to strengthen you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery that was kept secret for long ages but has now been disclosed and through the prophetic writings has been made known to all nations, according to the command of the eternal God, to bring about the obedience of faith-

    Titus 2:11-14 (ESV)
    For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.

    Gal 6:14-16 (ESV)
    But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. For neither circumcision counts for anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation. And as for all who walk by this rule, peace and mercy be upon them, and upon the Israel of God.

    Gal 5:18-25 (ESV)
    But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit.

  • Jack Miller says:

    Furthermore, this whole “gospel centered” movement was concocted by Jack Miller around 1980. It was originally dubbed “Sonship Theology.”

    For the record… just as the Chuck Colson who earlier posted is not “that” Chuck Colson. This Jack Miller is not the “above” Jack Miller. ;)

    Having studied Thomas Cramner a bit and also having read Ashley Null’s “Thomas Cranmer’s Doctrine of Repentance”, I think it is safe to say Cranmer would accept the third use of the law.
    From Cranmer’s homily on the True and Lively Faith:
    Such is the true faith, that the Scripture doeth so much commend, the which when it seeth and considereth what God hath done for us, is also moved through continual assistance of the Spirit of God, to serve and please him, to keep his favour, to fear his displeasure, to continue his obedient children, showing thankfulness again by observing or keeping his commandments, and that freely, for true love chiefly, and not for dread of punishment, or love of temporal reward, considering how clearly, without deservings we have received his mercy and pardon freely
    You have heard in the second part of this Sermon, that no man should think that he hath that lively faith which Scripture commandeth, when he liveth not obediently to Gods laws, for all good works spring out of that faith…

    The above is all in the context of our sure Justification through faith only in Christ alone, His perfect obedience lived and perfect satisfaction for all our sins.

    best to all,
    Jack

  • John,

    The bible verses you cite are all examples of the 3rd use of the moral law.

    Furthermore, Douglas Moo seems to uphold the doctrine of justification by faith alone apart from the works of the law: Moo’s Commentary on Romans. I think maybe you have misunderstood not only the Reformed position but Moo as well.

    Sincerely,

    Charlie

  • @ the other Jack Miller:

    I concur. The Homilies are mostly written by Cranmer and the 39 Articles are an edited version of the 42 Articles which Cranmer himself wrote. Clearly Article 12 says that a “true and lively” faith produces fruit, a necessary evidence of true faith.

    That is not to say that Christians never fail or that they do not have temporary lapses. But it is to say that the truly elect person will indeed be given the gift of repentance and will endure to the end.

    That’s clearly not antinomian. It’s also clear that we are not under the moral as a means of being justified before God but only as a means of being sanctified before God and as a witness to men.

    We still have an obligation to obey the moral law even if we are not “under” the law.

    Charlie

  • John Thomson says:

    Charlie

    Must keep comments shorter. Here is a few verses.

    Some texts.

    Rom 1:5 (ESV)

    through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of his name among all the nations,

    Rom 16:25-26 (ESV)

    Now to him who is able to strengthen you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery that was kept secret for long ages but has now been disclosed and through the prophetic writings has been made known to all nations, according to the command of the eternal God, to bring about the obedience of faith-

    Titus 2:11-14 (ESV)

    For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.

    Gal 6:14-16 (ESV)

    But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. For neither circumcision counts for anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation. And as for all who walk by this rule, peace and mercy be upon them, and upon the Israel of God.

    Gal 5:18-25 (ESV)

    But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit.

  • John Thomson says:

    Charlie

    I am going to make this may last comment.. we are imposing on the blog.

    Moo believes in justification by faith alone so do I.

    ‘We still have an obligation to obey the moral law even if we are not “under” the law.’

    Charlie, this is a logical and biblical contradiction.

    You have the last word. Thanks for discussion.

  • […] motivates believers to holiness to the gospel alone empowers believers to holiness. For example Tullian writes “The Apostle Paul never uses the law as a way to motivate obedience; he always uses the […]

  • John,

    My last word is that ALL those who stand in the Reformed tradition understand the distinction between Law and Gospel. But they do not reject the 3rd use of the Law, that Christians are obligated to live a Christian life and a moral life. The 1st use of the Law still applies as well. The first use of the Law, to put it bluntly, is: All have sinned and deserve to be damned to hell forever (Romans 3:20-23; Romans 7:7). That use of the law does not cease after conversion. No amount of sanctification can ever make us justified at the courtroom trial in the final judgment. ONLY the righteousness of Christ gives us the verdict of “not guilty”. The Law/Gospel distinction is important because not only does it remind us that we are not under law as a means of salvation, it also reminds that we are given the law as a guideline for Christian living. We are to glorify God and we are to love our neighbor. We fall short on both accounts, which is why we must have faith in Christ alone and His finished work. We are neither Roman Catholic nor are we antinomians. The idea that law is the Gospel has more in common with Rome than with Geneva or Wittenberg or Canterbury.

    Sincerely yours,

    Charlie

  • […] naturally provoked quite a few responses from both confessionalists and New Calvinists, including Tullian Tchividjian, Dane Ortlund, and Scott […]

  • jeremiah says:

    Are there degrees of justification? Can one man be more justified that another? Of course not.
    Are there degrees of sanctification? Can one man be more sanctified, Christ like or mature than another? Yes.

    If a believer has no part in his or her sanctification, then Paul must be rebuked for all of his exhortations to believers throughout the epistles. Walk in the spirit, not in the flesh. Put off the old man, put on Christ. ect. ect. ect. Not to mention the believers exhortation by Christ to repent.

    Is this too simplistic of an understanding?

  • Jeremiah,

    No one is saying that we have no part in our salvation. Of course we are continually commanded by the Law to conform to God’s will.

    My objection is to the idea that sanctification is “synergistic”. I believe Packer qualified that. At any rate, even repentance and faith are “gifts” or graces that God gives us beforehand. It is the same with sanctification. Without God’s working in us we won’t do anything to obey in the first place. That’s why Augustine prayed, “God, command what Thou wilt and grant want thou command.”

    In philosophical terms it’s called “compatibilism”. God is full sovereign over everything we do. Yet we are fully responsible for what we do because “we” are forced to do them but we act in agreement with our sinful nature or with the grace of God and the Holy Spirit working in us. In short, if we fail we get the blame. If we succeed, God gets the credit and the glory since even our sanctification is a gift of God.

    Sincerely in Christ,

    Charlie

  • Lane Keister says:

    Tullian, spot on target, and thanks for this. I’ve always felt that legalism and antinomianism are actually two sides of the same coin. They both devalue the law. Legalism always winds up lowering the standards to a makeable pattern. Antinomianism says that the law doesn’t matter at all. Both lower the force of the law. As a result, they also both devalue the gospel. Legalism doesn’t even preach the gospel, whereas antinomianism preaches only a truncated gospel. It’s time we got back to a healthy balance, such as the Marrow of Modern Divinity by Fisher has.

  • […] Two Ways To Realize Radical Obedience: My Indirect Response To Jason Hood (tags: article thegospelcoalition law gospel response theology antinomianism) […]

  • […] Jason Hood began last week (generating a response from Dane Ortlund, Mike Horton, Scott Clark, and me) was an important and stimulating one. In fact, these are the kinds of good theological discussions […]

  • […] Tullian Tchividjian on Ways to obedience. […]

  • Brad Moore says:

    “Only the gospel empowers us to keep the law.”

    One concern of min: There is not one mention of the Holy Spirit enabling the Christian’s obedience; something I think Jason Hood pointed out. Yet, if in the quote above you are assuming the Holy Spirit to be included in “the gospel” then okay. But not to include the Holy Spirit…that is baffling (see Romans 8:13-14, Galatians 5:22-23, Eze 36:27).

    Yet, maybe remembering one’s prior justification by grace is how the Holy Spirit works His sanctification??

  • D. Broughton Knox: Justification by Faith Alone a Legal Fiction?

    D. Broughton Knox was the principle at Moore Theological College, Sydney, Australia. The Sydney Anglicans were influenced by the Billy Graham Crusade in 1959 in Sydney. Peter and Phillip Jensen were both converted at that Crusade. Peter Jensen is now the Archbishop of Sydney.

    Charlie

  • […] Seminary and a grandson of Billy and Ruth Graham.  In an article for The Gospel Coalition, ‘Two Ways to Realize Radical Obedience: My Indirect Response to Jason Hood’, Dr Tchividjian explains why these accusations of heresy are erroneous. Excerpts follow, emphases […]

  • […] pick a fight in this context, I will say that this understanding of the law is very different from some negative formulations of the law which have recently been popularized and advocated by Reformed….  I understand the desire to keep the cross central, to glory in the indicatives of the gospel, […]

  • […] Tchividjian on the same issue, Two Approaches to Realizing Radical Obedience. Share this:TwitterFacebookLike this:LikeBe the first to like this post. This entry was posted in […]

  • […] to Hood here, Tullian Tchividjian contended that the Apostle Paul does not use the law as motivation for […]

  • […] for simple things, like using “Herself” in a poem or emphasizing the eternal, long-suffering Grace of […]

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