If's Kill

My friend Kevin DeYoung has put together a creative dialog with sections of the Westminster Confession of Faith on the role of the law in the life of the Christian. To further this important conversation, I thought I’d repost some thoughts that I posted here just over a year ago. I hope this helps.

One of the problems in the current conversation regarding the relationship between law and gospel is that the term “law” is not always used to mean the same thing. This is understandable since in the Bible “law” does not always mean the same thing.

For example, in Psalm 40:8 we read: “I delight to do your will, O my God; your law is within my heart.” Here the law is synonymous with God’s revealed will. A Christian seeking to express their love for God and neighbor delights in those passages that declare what God’s will is. When, however, Paul tells Christians that they are no longer under the law (Rom. 6:14) he obviously means more by law than the revealed will of God. He’s talking there about Christians being free from the curse of the law-not needing to depend on adherence to the law to establish our relationship to God: “Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes” (Rom. 10:4).

So, it’s not as simple as you might think. For short hand, I think it’s helpful to say that law is anything in the Bible that says “do”, while gospel is anything in the Bible that says “done”; law equals imperative and gospel equals indicative. However, when you begin to parse things out more precisely, you discover some important nuances that should significantly help the conversation forward so that people who are basically saying the same thing aren’t speaking different languages and talking right past one another.

Discussion of the law and it’s three uses (1) usus theologicus (drives us to Christ), (2) usus politicus (the civil use), and (3) usus practicus (revealing of God’s will for living) are helpful. But I’ve discovered that this outline all by itself raises just as many questions to those I talk to as it does provide answers. So, I’d like to offer some brief thoughts that you might find helpful (big shout-out to my friend Jono Linebaugh who has helped me tremendously in thinking these things through).

When, for instance, the Apostle Paul speaks about the law he routinely speaks of it as a command attached to a condition. In other words, law is a demand within a conditional framework. This is why he selects Leviticus 18:5b (both in Gal. 3 and Rom. 10) as a summary of the salvation-structure of the law: “if you keep the commandments, then you will live.” Here, there is a promise of life linked to the condition of doing the commandments and a corresponding threat for not doing them: “cursed is everyone who does not abide in all the things written in the Book of the Law, to do them” (Gal 3.10 citing Deut 27.26). When this conditional word encounters the sinful human, the outcome is inevitable: “the whole world is guilty before God” (Rom 3.19). It is the condition that does the work of condemnation. “Ifs” kill!

Compare this to a couple examples of New Testament imperatives. First, consider Galatians 5.1. After four chapters of passionate insistence that justification is by faith apart from works of the law, Paul issues a couple of strong imperatives: “It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore stand firm (imperative) and do not be subject (imperative) again to the yoke of slavery.” Are these commandments with conditions? No! Are these imperatives equal to Paul’s description of the law? No! The command here is precisely to not return to the law; it is an imperative to stand firm in freedom from the law.

Let’s say you’re a pastor and a college student comes to you for advice. He’s worn out because of the amount of things he’s involved in. He’s in a fraternity, playing basketball, running track, waiting tables, and taking 16 hours of credit. The pressure he feels from his family to “do it all” and “make something of himself” is making him crazy and wearing him down. After explaining his situation to you, you look at him and explain the gospel-that because Jesus paid it all we are free from the need to do it all. Our identity, worth, and value is not anchored in what we can accomplish but in what Jesus accomplished for us. Then you issue an imperative: “Now, quit track and drop one class.” Does he hear this as bad news or good news? Good news, of course. The very idea of knowing he can let something go brings him much needed relief-he can smell freedom. Like Galatians 5:1, the directive you issue to the student is a directive to not submit to the slavery of a command with a condition (law): “if you do more and try harder, you will make something of yourself and therefore find life.” It’s not an imperative of conditional command; it is an invitation to freedom and fullness. This is good news!

Or take another example, John 8.11. Once the accusers of the adulterous women left, Jesus said to her, “Neither do I condemn you. Depart. From now on, sin no more.” Does this final imperative disqualify the words of mercy? Is this a commandment with a condition? No! Otherwise Jesus would have instead said, “If you go and sin no more, then neither will I condemn you.” But Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you. Go and sin no more.” The command is not a condition. “Neither do I condemn you” is categorical and unconditional, it comes with no strings attached. “Neither do I condemn you” creates an unconditional context within which “go and sin no more” is not an “if.” The only “if” the gospel knows is this: “if anyone sins, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the Righteous” (1 John 2.1).

The reason Paul says that Christ is the end of this law is that in the gospel God unconditionally gives the righteousness that the law demands conditionally. So Christ kicks the law out of the conscience by overcoming the voice of condemnation produced by the condition of the law. As I said in my previous post, the conditional voice that says “Do this and live” gets out-volumed by the unconditional voice that says “It is finished.”

When this happens, we are freed from the condemnation of the law’s conditionality (the “law” loses its teeth) and therefore free to hear the law’s content as a description of what a free life looks like. In other words, the gospel ends the law’s role as the regulator of the divine-human relationship and limits the law to being a blueprint for the free life. So, the law serves Christians by showing us what freedom on the ground looks like. But everyday in various ways we disobey and stubbornly ignore the call to be free, “submitting ourselves once again to a yoke of slavery.” And when we do, it is the gospel which brings comfort by reminding us that God’s love for us doesn’t depend on what we do (or fail to do) but on what Christ has done for us. Jesus fulfilled all of God’s holy conditions so that our relationship to God could be wholly unconditional. “There is therefore now no condemnation for those that are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1). The gospel, therefore, always has the last word over a believer. Always!

For Martin Luther, it is within this unconditional context created by the gospel-the reality he called “living by faith”-that the law understood as God’s good commands can be returned to its proper place. Wilfried Joest sums this up beautifully:

The end of the law for faith does not mean the denial of a Christian ethic…. Luther knows a commandment that gives concrete instruction and an obedience of faith that is consistent with the freedom of faith…. This commandment, however, is no longer the lex implenda [the law that must be fulfilled], but rather comes to us as the lex impleta [the law that is already fulfilled]. It does not speak to salvation-less people saying: ‘You must, in order that…’ It speaks to those who have been given the salvation-gift and say, “You may, because…”

Freed from the burden and bondage of attempting to use the law to establish our righteousness before God, Christians are free to look to “imperatives”, not as conditions, but as descriptions and directions as they seek to serve their neighbor. The law, in other words, norms neighbor love-it shows us what to do and how to do it. Once a person is liberated from the commonsense delusion that keeping the rules makes us right with God, and in faith believes the counter-intuitive reality that being made righteous by God’s forgiving and resurrecting word precedes and produces loving action (defined as serving our neighbor), then the justified person is unlocked to love-which is the fulfillment of the law.

My talk from LIBERATE 2013 on God’s two words–law and gospel–for a worn out world may be helpful as well.

Liberate 2013 – Tullian Tchividjian from Coral Ridge | LIBERATE on Vimeo.

  • the Old Adam says:


    “You may…”

    Sometimes we will (on a good day).

  • Joe says:

    Tullian, you incorrectly defined law. Throughout history most theologians have agreed that David refers to the true law of the OT, and Paul is referring to the additional man-made laws created by the Pharisees during the 1st century. In Psalm 119:34, David writes, “Give me understanding, that I may keep your law
    and observe it with my whole heart.” He then says in verse 37, “Turn my eyes from looking at worthless things; and give me life in your ways.” We are called to live by the law, because the law is the way of God. It is a model how to act like God. The curse of the Paul is referring to is not the same law that David yearns for, but rather, the law refereed to by Paul is all of the man made laws that the Pharisees used to try and justify themselves. Like sin, the law Paul is addressing is man made, not God made.

  • mark mcculley says:

    It’s strange to say that the law is simple, and then give a simple definition of law as “anything which says do”. This fails to come to grips with the discontinuity of redemptive history. While there has always been one and only gospel, God has given different covenants and different laws, and all these laws have been “moral” but not all of these laws now continue into the new covenant.

    I certainly agree with you that DeYoung can’t domesticate “law” so as to “use it” without being “killed by it”. But one other thing Deyoung and you both need to do is re-examine the tradition which divides judicial and ceremonial law from “the ten commandments” in a way which ignores the covenantal economies. You might lose infant baptism if you do this, because in practice infant baptism is always a mix of both “promise” and “condition”. (This is not true of the Protestant Reformed “presumptive” argument.)

    It does no good to change the words “challenge” or “duty” to the word “invitation”. “Stand firm and do not subject yourself to slavery” is law, but our salvation (and the assurance of our salvation) is not conditioned on us perfectly obeying that law.

    The only reason we know that salvation is not conditioned on the sinner to be saved from God’s wrath is that we know that Christ only died for elect sinners, and this “union with Christ” by election is the cause and not the effect of these sinners’ faith in Christ.

    Imperatives to Christians do not disqualify Christians from future blessings or rewards. No matter how much we obey or don’t obey those imperatives, nothing we do can bring us extra grace. Romans 6 teaches that all who are legally dead with Christ have as much as grace as they would have, even if we sinned more than we do.

    Lutherans and Arminians who write books on what one must do “to be born again” always have to make imperatives to non-Christians that which qualifies or disqualifies these sinners from becoming Christians.

    “Do not subject yourself to slavery” is not “bondage to our emancipation”. It’s God’s law for those who are now justified.

  • […] Law < Theology < tjmccormick If’s Kill – Tullian Tchividjian My friend Kevin DeYoung has put together a creative dialog with sections of the Westminster […]

  • Randy says:

    So what is the role of the Law with regard to progressive sanctification (assuming you believe in progressive sanctification)?

  • “The law was only a shadow of the good things to come and not the very image…” (Heb. 10:1). The earthly priesthood, temple and sacrifices were “a copy and shadow of the heavenly things.” (Heb. 8). All these things come to their full and final meaning in Christ. “For as many as may be the promises of God, in Him they are yes…” (2 Cor. 1:20).

    Jesus taught an anticipatory-fulfillment view of the Old Testament as pointing toward, looking to, and anticipating fulfillment in him. The Old Testament Scriptures point toward and anticipate fulfillment in the Christ event. In the present age, we look to Jesus and look through Jesus for our understanding and application of the Old Testament.

    This truth about “fulfillment in Jesus” points to the provisional nature of the OT — reminding one of the concessionary nature of regulations for God’s people living in ANE cultures. Evangelicals have not always adequately recognized how the Bible itself reflects the concessionary nature of God’s dealings with humanity (see:

  • Amen Steve Cornell – the law(s) of the Lord is(are) pure, perfect, and holy, and we are not. Therefore the law is at enmity with us when we are dead in sins and trespasses, but in Christ by grace through faith, we are counted as being lawkeepers… AND… we have it written in our new, circumcised hearts where the Holy Spirit produces new obedience! (Ezekiel nails it in 36:25-27).

    So for the Christian, the law is kept by faith in Christ, and the ethic of our life is now found in Christlikeness – and in the outlines of those things throughout the New Testament imperatives. We don’t have to keep the commandments of God – in Christ, we get to. We have the privilege of obeying Him to make Him known. Anyone who practices unrepentant sin does not know Him, for to know Jesus and to face Him in faith is to turn our backs on sin, selfishness, and Satan.

    Thank the Lord.

  • PAUL says:

    Joe said: ” We are called to live by the law, because the law is the way of God. It is a model how to act like God”.
    WOOO! That would be an act worthy of an academy award. Nuff said. God Bless

  • anonymous says:

    it is an invitation to freedom and fullness. This is good news!

    Let the truth resound-by grace we have been saved through faith; and that not of ourselves, it is the gift of God;not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. Eph 2: 8-9

    and let us retain the standard of sound words in the faith and love which are in Christ Jesus and guard, through the Holy Spirit who dwells in us, the treasure which has been entrusted to us. 2 Tim 1: 13-14

    and let us rejoice and be glad and give the glory to Him, for the marriage of the Lamb is coming and His bride has made herself ready. It was given to her to clothe herself in fine linen, bright and clean; for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints. Rev 19:7-8

    and behold, He is coming quickly. Blessed is he who heeds the words of the prophecy of this book. Worship God.
    and let the one who is righteous, still practice righteousness; and the one who is holy, still keep himself holy He who testifies to these things says, “Yes, I am coming quickly.”

    Amen. Come, Lord Jesus. The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all. Amen. Rev 22: 7,9,11,20-21

  • the Old Adam says:

    I never met a Luther who told someone what they ‘must do to become a Christian’, let alone write books on it.

    Here’s the Lutheran party line; “We do nothing to become Christians.” How’s that? Can you beat that?

    Baptism? A work that ‘we do’? Come on now. Christ commanded it, so we do it. But we aren’t the ones who Baptize the person…God Baptizes the person, for Heaven’s sake. We trust in those promises given in our Baptism (in Romans 6).

    Hello? Is this thing still on?

  • Joe says:

    @Paul, your sarcasm is duly noted. I am sorry if you have been fed a diet of “you can’t do it” by a select group of pessimists, but you are called to run the good race and love God. How do we love God? According to Jesus, it is by following his commands (the law). Jesus seems to think we can love him, and he calls us to do just that. Are we capable of Loving God perfectly? Of course not. Will we at times fail? Of course. Are either proof that the law is something we shouldn’t strive to model? Not at all.

    In this fallen world, failure and imperfection are realities. After the Eve ate the apple, God made it clear that we would now have to toil and work hard to do what we were created to do. Part of what we have been created to do is love God.

    David speaks of the law as though it was a gift. What kind of gift simply breaks your legs?

  • Garrett says:

    A good gift (and giver) breaks your legs if you’re about to walk into traffic…

  • Joe says:

    @Garrett, then explain how Adam and Eve walked into the 100 car train without even stubbing their toe. It seems if the Biblical pattern was to break our legs to stop of from sinning, God would have crushed Adam and Eve once he entered the garden.

  • Mitchell Hammonds says:

    Or maybe the “Good Giver” simply promises to use even your walking into traffic to your good rather than breaking your leg.

  • G & N says:

    Hi Garrett –
    Re: “A good gift (and giver) breaks your legs if you’re about to walk into traffic…” what’s the difference then between God and Satan? John 10:10 is clear – “that the thief (the enemy/devil) comes only to steal, kill and destroy but I have come (Christ has) that you/we may have and enjoy your life to the full, until it overflows”. This is the hope and everlasting love we have been given by God, the originator of all life, love and grace (unmerited favour, which He also gave/offered to save when we were yet sinners). He, more than anyone, had the right to destroy us and stay angry w/us because we disbelieved Him/His goodness & went our own way. Instead, He placed that anger and our sin on Christ who took all of it (so, God is now not mad at us as He took it legally) on our behalf by punishing Him. He saved us who believe (even helps us believe!) & saw in us value and hearts that are transformed by His power and we are made into new creations by Him alone.

  • John O says:

    James tells us that if we break one law we are guilty of the entire law (2:10). That fact does not change at conversion. We are still law breakers. We still do things that should send us to hell. We still covet and get angry and lust and still deserve to be cast into the bad place because of it. Most see the living the Christian life as a sliding scale of righteousness, with one end being abject moral filth and the other being small, white washed sins of tiny lies and over eating. That if we only live well, Christ will take care of the rest when we die. We live in a world of people who believe (and I was one of them) that if we only sin once a month God is more pleased with us than if we continue in a sin that has us by the throat and we persist in on a regular basis. If we continue in the same sin over and over then God must hate us. What we need to keep at the forefront of our minds is that no one can ever keep the rules and that even one sin, be it ever so slight, is enough to send us to the nether gloom. We are without hope without Christ.

    So, IS God more happy with you when you keep the law? CAN anyone keep the law? The entire law and the prophets were summarized in two commandments – Love God and love your neighbor. Have you even obeyed those two? Have you really loved God with all your being? I know I haven’t. Have you always (remember a command must always be kept perfectly) loved your neighbor as much as you love yourself? Maybe a better question to ask is have you ever done it? Maybe you’ve loved them pretty well, but as much as you love you? The entire law and the prophets can be summed up in two commandments and you still can’t even keep those?!

    The whole point of the law is to make you see how absurd it is to think that you can keep it. The law is meant for sinners, to drive them to God and not as rules for Christian living. Christ even amped up the law to drive home the point that no man is righteous by the law when he said that if you lust you commit adultery and if you get angry you are guilty of murder. The point is that no one can do it. The lie is, that we think we can. However, if it was possible for man to be declared righteous by following the law then Christ would not have had to die.

    So, what changed at the cross? Simply put, God stopped counting our sins against us (Rom 4:7). Simple as that. Because of the faithfulness of Christ and our Faith IN Christ, God declared us righteous (Rom 5:1) and because of that we have peace with him. This is not a sliding scale of righteousness, brother, where we fall out of righteousness when we sin and back into righteousness when we do good. It’s a firm, unmovable, unchangeable, declaration of righteousness by our God, who does not lie and who is pleased with us because of his son even when we fail.

    The law was nullified at Christ’s death and, because of our participation in that death through our faith in Christ, the law no longer has authority over us (Rom 7) And, because we are not under law God does not count our sin (Rom 5:13).

    Do you need further proof that God is not counting the sin of the Christian? Look at the entire 1John 3 passage and more specifically at 1John 3:6 – “Everyone who resides in him does not sin everyone who sins has neither seen him or known him,” and, further down the passage (1John 3:9)it says “we cannot sin because God’s seed resides in us.” This is NOT a statement of how we are to live,trying hard not to sin, this is a statement of what’s been accomplished. This is a statement of fact not a statement of what your life should look like (sin free). If we are in Christ we don’t sin – it’s simply not being counted.

    Think about it from the other side “…everyone who sins has neither seen him or known him.” Have you sinned as a Christian? Yes. Then, according to this passage you must conclude that you do not know him. Some will argue, as I used to, that it means we must not “continue” in sin. First, it doesn’t say that in the verse, and secondly, If you’ve been a Christian ten years, and happen to sin once a day (I’m being generous here in only saying once) then you will have committed over 3600 sins in that time period. I would definitely call that “continuing” in sin.

    We need to quit straining at the gnat of what is and isn’t the law. We must understand that no man will be declared righteous by the law, any law and that no man can even keep a tiny bit of it perfectly. We need to quit trying to live like the Galatians, where the works of the flesh were evident because of a desire to turn back to the law and we need to turn back to the glorious grace and freedom that can only be found through faith in the completed works of Christ’s death and resurrection. Only through faith in The Lord Jesus Christ and “it is finished” can we be saved from this body of death. Only through Christ can we be truly free.

  • Randy says:

    John O.: Good comments, but not all of us see our deeds as affecting the final decree made at the Cross. Some of us see them as evidence of the new birth, as progressive sanctification as growing deeper in our walk with God.

  • John O says:

    Randy: I don’t disagree. IF, you mean that your deeds come about because of the love of Christ in you. The question I have for you is: what happens if you don’t exhibit good deeds? What if you love Christ, but are a slave to drugs or alcohol? What if you decide for a week to do nothing but indulge yourself in watching the shopping channel and eating Hostess Sno Balls? Does a lack of good deeds change the fact of what Christ has done for you? This was me for many years of my Christian life (not the drugs part) but the lack of evidence part. I knew there was no way God could be pleased with me because I was such a stinky warrior (Nacho Libre quote sorry). I was exhibiting deeds sometimes, but not always. I was trying to be like Jesus by the things I did rather than realizing that good deeds come about because of who I already was in Christ.

    I know personally, I used deeds as “evidence” of my new birth, and, when the deeds went away, so did my assurance. Many people (I’m not including you in this) strive for the deeds instead of remembering who they are in Christ. I sure did. But, I, at least had it backwards. I don’t love to be loved, or forgive to be forgiven, I love because he first loved me and forgive because he first forgave me. All of my actions should come from that knowledge and not from a striving to do good to gain his approval. I gained his approval at the cross through my faith in Christ. The things I do, does not change that fact.

    I’m a pretty simple guy and so maybe missed the fact that we’re probably saying the same thing.

  • Randy says:

    James 2 is clear: Faith without works is dead. I think there are some times where there is more fruit than at other times, just as there are seasons when my time with the Lord is sweeter than others. I don’t correlate the dry times with the Lord as an indication of not being saved based on what He tells me in His word (John 10:29), nor should you.

    Nothing we do or don’t do changes what God has done for us on the Cross.

    Works do not save; only faith saves. I think a “healthy” dose of doubt can be a good thing to help us think about our relationship with God.

    Your assurance should always be based on what God says about you, not on feelings or times when there is less fruit. Does this make sense?

  • Garrett says:

    Joe, Mitchell and G&N, here are my responses:

    Joe, does Jesus seems to think that we can love him? Or is Jesus is 100% confident in the Spirit he gave us to love him? Jesus is 100% confident that, though mixed with much imperfection, his mystical union to us, providing us all the benefits of salvation (including sanctification) would produce in us a love for him, the fruit of his Spirit. That is an important distinction from what you seem to be saying. Especially when you tack on your question at the end, “what kind of gift simply breaks your legs?” Tullian clearly (and excellently in my opinion) laid out the uses of the law. One of those uses is to show us how deep the rabbit hold of sin goes, to break our legs, so to speak. My comment was merely to say that the gift of a broken leg is indeed a good gift, if you are walking toward death. In the realm of metaphor, the broken leg is knowledge of sin that cripples our self righteous path to hell. I’ll take a broken leg, ego, whatever over hell.

    Mitchell, suffice it to say, if i used “walking into traffic” to mean hell, God will not be using that for my good. He will use my imperfection. He will use my sin. But I have never known him to use it without showing it to me for what it is, without breaking the self-righteousness upon which I once stood and walked.

    G & N, the difference (again using the metaphor) is that our enemy would love to toss us head long into traffic, and our loving God would much rather give us inflict a momentary pain that would deliver us into his arms, not eternal ruin.

    Tullian’s explanation of the death of the condition of the law via Christ, is maybe the most succinct and helpful tool I’ve seen on this subject. My comment was merely meant as an echo of the encouragement I found here. I apologize if my use of a metaphor blurred those lines.

  • Ben says:

    I’m going to have to disagree with you on this one. It is pretty simple if you consider that Christ was the Word before He became flesh, in other words, the God of the Old Testament who gave the law. Then in Matthew 5:17 he said that he did not come to destroy the law but magnify it. He established the law, then he came to magnify it. The only thing that changed is that note of debt we were under has been removed because his shed blood paid for our sins, but only if repented of. Law never changes.

  • Randy says:

    The law teaches us about God. The law is not something to trash because Jesus fulfilled the law and therefore it does not apply anymore. Look at the 10 commandments. Look at the imperatives in scripture to be and to do: like the beatitudes and to love your neighbor as yourself. Jesus did not give us the beatitudes as suggestions; they are clear pictures of what He values most.

    Our life is all about faith and dependence on Him to save us and to enable us to live as truly His sons and daughters. God uses that faith and dependence to bless us as we are His ambassadors and as we do His will. Just because we can’t do this perfectly does not mean that we don’t do it at all. And we don’t let the world tell us that performance is the key; we let Scripture tell us that faith is the key (Heb. 11:6).

    Salvation is the cornerstone from which God is building us into a holy temple where He can reside in us through the Holy Spirit. It is high time we accepted the challenges of Scripture, realized our total inability to do any of it on our own, and rely on Him to do it all.

  • John says:

    The law is meant to increase the trespass (Rom 5:20). The law only teaches us about God’s perfect requirements. As James says, if you break one law you’ve broken them all. You have to keep them all perfectly, all the time. There is no sliding scale of perfection. One mistake and you’re out.

    You’re right about Jesus not giving us the Beatitudes as suggestions. He gave them to us as requirements on how to live if we are going to get into heaven. Have you ever lusted? Then you’re an adulterer. Have you ever gotten angry? Then you’re a murderer. There is no room for failure in his words. These are the “What must I do to inherit the kingdom of God questions.” NOW, tell me do you love your neighbor as yourself perfectly, every day and every time (because that’s the requirement) or have you ever loved God with all your being even once?

    The point is, you can’t ever keep any of God’s commands (even the beatitudes) because they weren’t meant for you to keep. For if salvation could come through the law Jesus never would have had to die. They were meant to show you how sinful you really are and increase the awareness in you for how badly you need a savior.

    The law is meant for non-Christians, to show them their need. The rules no longer apply to Christians.

  • Randy says:


    Then II Timothy 3:16&17 is heresy based on your argument. “All scripture is profitable” Just because you cannot obey perfectly does not mean you don’t obey at all. It boils down to your motive for obedience; is it in addition to what Christ did or as a result of what Christ did for you?

    Your argument presupposes that it can only be done in a way that one thinks of it as being necessary for salvation. This is entirely inaccurate.

    The law is a tutor to bring us to God (Gal. 3:24).

    Another passage for you to explain away is John 14:15.

    Anyone who ignores the “rules” cheapens grace.

    Once again, don’t confuse obedience to imperatives in Scripture only as something that everyone thinks is needed for salvation. I don’t believe that and Scripture does not teach it (Eph. 2:8&9).

    See also John 14:15.

  • John says:

    Do you love Jesus? Do you always obey Jesus commands all of the time, every time? That’s what he’s tell them to do. If you don’t all of the time, what does that say about your love of Christ?

    I’m not sure you understand my point, which, I’m sure is my fault for not being able to explain it very well. My point is that you don’t obey the rules in order to gain something from God (peace, righteousness or otherwise). Might there be other motivation to do what the “imperatives” tell us to do? Do you work in order to show your faith? Or do your works come because of your faith? Do you love in order to be loved by Jesus or do you love because you were loved first? Do you forgive in order to be forgiven or do you forgive because he first forgave you? Our motivation should be the spirit within, not the letter without.

    As you said, the law was our guardian before Christ Gal 3:24. Gal 3:23, the verse just before, says that the law held us as prisoners until faith came. You were a prisoner, unable to escape until Christ set you free (for freedom Christ has set you free). Do you really want to go back to being a prisoner of the law. 2Cor 3:6 says that the law kills. The law imprisons and kills but in grace there is freedom.

    Now a question for you: What does Romans 6:14 mean?

  • Randy says:

    We agree that salvation is by faith alone in Christ alone by grace alone. Nothing we can or could ever do is enough. But the law is not our enemy.

    We are not under the law in terms of it being salvific. I think we both agree on that.

    My question to you is this. What do you believe is the purpose of the law after a person has trusted Christ as his/her Lord and Savior? Also, how do you define the law?

  • John says:

    I’ll answer your question, but I still need to know what you think of Romans 6:14.

    My answer:
    Read Romans 7. The law only has authority over a man as long as he lives (we died with Christ). verse six says that we have been released from the law because we have died to what controlled us (imprisoned us) so that we may serve in the new life of the spirit not under the written code.

    Romans 10 says: For Christ is the end of the law, with the result that there is righteousness for everyone who believes.

    Read all of Galatians. They were trying to be justified by the flesh. They were trying to build up that which had been destroyed by Christ.

    2:6 – no one will be justified by the law…. by the works of the law no one will be justfied.
    2:19: I died to the law
    2:21: if righteousness could come through the law then Christ died for nothing
    3:10: all who rely on doing the works of the law are under a curse
    3:11: no one is justified by the law
    3:12: the law is not based on faith
    5:18: if you are led by the spirit you are not under the law

    The law has no place in the Christian’s life.

    I do not define law as old covenant law.

  • Randy says:

    Romans 6:14 – For sin shall no longer be your master, because you are not under the law, but under grace. Continue with Romans 6:15-18 and with the verses leading up to 6:14.

    It means that we are under grace not under the law in terms of salvation. The law is not equivalent to sin.

    Once again, you keep beating the dead horse: Grace alone by faith alone in Christ alone is what saves.

    So why are you negating II Timothy 3:16&17 ALL Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17 so that the servant of God[a] may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.

    What about John 14:15? If the law has no place in the Christian’s life, then you cannot reconcile that reasoning with II Timothy 3:16&17 or John 14:15.

  • John says:

    I completely agree with II Tim 3:16&17. I totally want to be trained and taught and rebuked by my fellow Christians. I want to add to my faith, and increase my goodness and love more and show more kindness. I’m all for growing as a Christian. However, the law does none of this, it only imprisons.

    Read the following passage and tell me how you reconcile saying that the law has any place in the Christian’s life.

    1Tim 1:8. We know that the Law is good if one uses it properly.

    1Timothy 1:9 “We also know that the law is made not for the righteous but for lawbreakers and rebels, the ungodly and sinful, the unholy and irreligious, for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers,for the sexually immoral, for those practicing homosexuality, for slave traders and liars and perjurers–and for whatever else is contrary to the sound doctrine..”

    The law is “not for the righteous.” Romans 5:1 says that we are declared righteous because of our faith in Jesus and because of that we have peace with God. If we are “the righteous” then the law is not for us.

    Grace alone, by faith alone, in Christ alone IS what saves, but he is also our righteousness and our high priest and our access AND the only reason God is pleased with us. Our faith in Christ is what pleases God, not our works or any adherence to the law.

  • Randy says:

    That is not what II Tim. 3:16&17 says; it does not say you be trained, taught, and rebuked by your fellow Christians; it says this is done by All Scripture. If you agree with II Tim. 3:16:17, then how can you exclude the law from all scripture? If you exclude the law from the Christian life, then you are in disagreement with II Tim. 3:16&17 because you are saying that the law contained in Scripture is not profitable.

    The law does not imprison; the law teaches us about God. The law imprisons if you let it imprison. Look at the 1-5 of the 10 commandments: they teach us that we are to worship God only. He is a jealous God, in fact in Scripture there is a reference to God as Jealous (Ex. 34:14). Then 6-10 of the 10 commandments teach us how to treat one another.

    Am I relying on perfectly living them out for anything? Absolutely not. But you are missing out if all you can see them for is legalism, imprisonment, and a big area to ignore.

    You still haven’t addressed the words of Jesus in John 14:15. You can’t just pick and choose passages that go with what you think; you have to look at all of scripture and the context of scripture. The passages you list from I Timothy apply to us as well, unless you believe that after one becomes a Christian you no longer sin.

    What about I John 2:3-6 and Psalm 19:7-11?

    Where you and I differ may be that I see the law as a guideline for living. I do not see it in any way as adding to what Christ has done for me nor am I relying on it for any part of salvation.

    Legalism and imprisonment to the law results when you do not obey out of love for God. When this happens, it becomes a burden rather than a joy.

  • John says:

    tried to reply, but the website won’t take my comment.

  • John says:

    It was really good and persuasive too :)

  • John says:

    This will be my last post. I’ll even give you the last word when you respond.

    1 – Jesus said if you love me you will keep my commands. Do you always keep his commands? He doesn’t qualify this and say “if you keep my commands sometimes.” Have you ever NOT kept his commands. Have you ever been angry at someone? Have you ever lusted? Have you ever let someone strike you again after they’ve already hit you? Have you forgiven 70×7? Man, there are a ton of things that Jesus commanded. If you disobey once a day what does that say about your love for him? What if you willfully and with purpose disobey one of his commands by looking at things you shouldn’t online or harboring anger in your heart or refusing to forgive?

    Just so you don’t think I’m being self righteous. I have never, ever, ever been able to keep his commands perfectly. I am constantly sinning. Even his disciples couldn’t do it. Peter lied to Jesus three times and he clearly loved Jesus. If they couldn’t do it, who walked with him, how can we?

    2 – Is Jesus burden and yoke light to you? He says it should be. If it isn’t easy and light. Why isn’t it? Could it be that you’re trying to obey the wrong things or that your motivation is about doing, rather than trusting that it’s already been done? What about when you willfully disobey one of his commands does the burden seem light then?


    3 – Galatians 3:23 clearly states that the law does imprison. The law was used to keep the jews in custody until faith in Christ set them free.

    4 – 1Tim 1:9 clearly states that the law is NOT meant for the righteous. Since you are righteous (Rom 5:1)you do not need the written code.

    Randy, this has been fun. I’m sure we would get along fine if we met even though we disagree. I definitely hold the minority view in my church and I’ve gone round and round with many people on this topic. I’m not trying to change people, but just trying to plant seeds in hope that they can be free, as I am free. The burden of having to obey the law was like an anchor and the yoke of Christ was very heavy. His yoke is now easy and his burden is so very light. I just want that for everyone.

    One question I often ask people is: do you think God likes you even when you sin. Most answer no and when I ask why? They say, because I don’t do what he says. Many think that God is only pleased with them when they perform for him, without realizing that none of us can perform to the perfect standard that he requires (if we break one law we are guilty of it all). There is a gross misunderstanding of God’s expectation for his children. God is pleased with us because of our faith in his son regardless of what we do or how we act. That’s what grace is all about.

    “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace with whom he is pleased!”

  • Randy says:

    This has not been a dialogue. I address your questions, but you ignore mine. This is my last post.

    Jesus did not ignore questions posed to Him, and neither should we.

    It is clear to me that you don’t want to answer my questions because they present problems with your interpretation of Scripture (see passages in John 14 and I John 2.)

    As I was spending time with God today, He showed me more and more about Himself. I am so glad you referred to Romans 7. Romans 7:7; “What shall we say then? Is the Law sin? May it never be.”

    I am free as well because the law is not a burden; it is a gateway to life, health, and peace in this life. I do not view it as in any way, shape, or form being necessary for salvation. For most people that I meet that believe as you do, it is simply impossible to you folks that someone can love the law and seek to obey the law and yet not rely on it for salvation. I do see it as David puts it (the Law) in Psalm 119; it is my meditation, it is my meditation all the day, Your commandments make me wiser than my enemies; How sweet are Your words to my taste!

    I know the answer, but I will ask the question: How does one who believes as you do grow in your walk with God?
    It saddens me greatly that you will miss out on the blessings (namely of bringing glory to God) of obeying His commandment.

    No one has ever or ever will live a perfect life, except Jesus Christ. But because we can’t be perfect; it does not mean that we ignore the imperatives in Scripture. They tell us what God is like

  • Randy,
    Is it possible that the statements of Jesus that are imperatives–and imperatives that never say try or seek to keep but more gloriously call us to the moral perfection of God in Christ, e.g., be perfect as your Father in heaven is perfect (Matt. 5:48), bear perfect fruit (Matt 7:15ff), love perfectly and be completely free from sin (1John 2:28 – 3:24), and keep (actually really perfectly keep) His commandments in John 14:15—are as Tullian has repeatedly declared to be the mathematics of grace? How much do we have to cheapen law for us Christians to feel comfortable in our sanctification? Why can’t our sanctification be Jesus Christ Himself as Paul declares in 1Cor 1:30? Why can’t growing in the Lord be all about James 1:25 in contest—keeping our eyes on the perfect moral law that brings liberty—an explosion of grace-inspired and grace-filled living? Doesn’t James immediately declare that one who does this will never be a forgetful hearer but rather a doer of the work (which James declares to be unpolluted moral goodness)?

    In reading your interaction with John, I would count that by my understanding of law/gospel you do love perfectly and keep the commandments perfectly and bear perfect fruit as Christ and the apostles absolutely command, demand and require. But as Tullian continuously seems to declare, we saints are continuously tempted to relapse into cheap law where we can be in control of our sanctification and that of others. Could it be that the life, righteousness, goodness, holiness, etc that is revealed of the Father only in Christ are a far simpler seamless whole than we have noticed and maybe is the stupendous point Paul is making in 1Cor 11:3? Could it be that life/love/obedience is evoked by a vision that righteousness is by believing the gospel and sanctification by remembering the gospel? Period. [note: the word gospel needs to be filled with apostolic meaning.] Isn’t this what Tullian continually thunders from the pulpit every Sunday, though not in so many words?

    James Denney, the great theologian in Presbyterian circles 100 years ago, wrote that the difference between Paul and his critics isn’t the gospel per se, but the extent of its application. According to Denney, Paul declares that the gospel goes all the way in explaining everything Christian, whereas his critics saw/see that the gospel was/is insufficient inspiration to live the Christian life joyfully and robustly in all circumstances but rather, his critics say, that additionally some form of direction by law was/is required. Tullian sounds like Denney. I suggest Denney to all thoughtful brothers I can. I.H. Marshall wrote that Denney’s academic works are devotional reading of the highest order. I concur. Start with Studies in Theology, Christian Doctrine of Reconciliation, and then The Death of Christ (which I consider the best book outside the Bible). John Stott wrote in his book The Cross of Christ that Lloyd-Jones’ mind and preaching were revolutionized by his reading of The Death of Christ in 1929. Be warned that reading Denney is like a thirsty man drinking cool water from a fire hose; it takes practice to not get overwhelmed by such high octane law/gospel. But once you get the hang of it you will find your mind exploding with grace and an inspiration to good works way beyond what you could before imagine. In reading Denney you will realize as I did that we saints often use Christian words with little real meaning and are often just speaking in circles.

    My young assistant and I preach all day 40 days yearly in the hot Sun or sometimes in the snow at Utah State University, where 85% of the students are Mormon. We love it and don’t get tired [because our minds are on what Tullian is preaching], but rather energized in discussing the simple gospel of perfect law established in the sin-bearing love of Christ. FYI: We never tell students to stop sinning but rather to give up on their own righteousness and rest in Christ’s finished work. We exhort the Christians to do the same and remember all that Christ is for them.

    Randy, I hope you have been blessed as much as I have by Tullian’s preaching. I would suggest that he seems to have found a diamond that you have not yet seen. Ask him to explain it, and ask clarifying questions until you see it. I didn’t see it for 20+ years in ministry. Could it be that there really is a new reformation coming, back to pure and high octane gospel as Tullian says? May God’s perfect goodness inspire and be reflected in our every thought and action to the glory of His omnipotent grace alone.

    I love you in the righteousness of Christ and will see you at the throne of grace.

  • Randy says:

    Nothing is gained when you talk down to me in your second paragraph.

    No one does anything perfectly in this life.

  • Randy says:

    I am curious. Since you offended me and since Christ died for that, do you just go on without apologizing? I am not trying to be facetious, I am just trying to understand.

  • Randy,

    I am sorry and surprised that you were offended at my second paragraph. Please point out to me exactly my fault. You may have interpreted my words as sarcasm, but such certainly was not in my mind as for 34 years in Christ I have sought, probably successfully, to never use sarcasm as it was a plague to me before Christ saved me. Here is a more clear expression of my meaning in that paragraph.

    From the few posts of yours that I read on this one comment page (all I know of you) I count you as a true brother who believes the gospel. From reading your words coupled with my understanding of the scriptures on fruit–e.g., Matt 7:15ff–I honor that the fruit in your life is 100% consistent and good as required by Christ and the apostles. This is no joke. From my reading of your words and my understanding of scripture, I count that you love the brothers perfectly as I see the apostles require–e.g., John 13-15 and First John 3. This also is no joke. From my reading of your words and my understanding of scripture as to the apostolic teaching of keeping the commandments, I count that you keep Christ’s commandments perfectly–e.g., Matt 7:21-24 (Jesus explains in only one place what doing the will of the Father means), John 13:34-35; 14:15, 21-24; 15:10-17; 1 John 2:29, 3:4-9, 10-17. This is no joke either. In my reading of the scriptures I see that Christ and the apostles command, demand and require perfect love, perfect righteousness and 100% good fruit as judged with Christ as the standard–perfect moral goodness. I see in the scriptures that Christ provides all that He requires in his sin-bearing love at the cross and the great exchange of his life for your death, his righteousness for your sin, etc. I count that you are and have it all.

    There is one typo in the paragraph. I meant to reference 2Cor 11:3 (about gospel) not 1Cor 11:3 (about marriage). That should have made you laugh or scratch your head.

    What Tullian thunders from the pulpit weekly I speak gently and pastors and other Christians still do get offended. For that I hope to stand firm unapologetically (as Tullian seems to) as I see no hint in scripture that God cheapens the moral law for Christians. Perfect love for God and man is the summation of the whole law. God requires perfect love every second every day from every Christian–including me. Christ has taken all of a Christian’s obligation to the moral law and freed him to live inspired solely by the sin-bearing love of Christ that he might feel the full weight of Christ’s sacrifice and be compelled by that sin-bearing love. I speak calmly of sin, righteousness and judgment with hundreds of Mormons and atheists annually and ask them many questions for my own study and curiosity as well as to win as many as possible. All Mormons, atheists and Christians have said that partial obedience is disobedience. [hmmm…. what does that say about how we should think about our obedience?] All but a few old self-righteous Mormons who wouldn’t answer, have answered false to the following question–and atheists are usually quicker than Christians to answer. “True or False: It is good to love your neighbor 99.99% of the time AND abuse your neighbor 0.01% of the time. This is good evidence that God has put deep into every conscience an awareness of the seamless wholeness of moral goodness. The OT is full of statements that reflect James 2:10. It seems that the central point of the law is its seamless wholeness. This point that we Christians argue about, every unbeliever seems to know intuitively in their conscience. I am willing to submit to scripture if you can show me to be in error on this point and that partial obedience is acceptable to God, or that the apostles teach “try” to love or “try” to forgive, etc. For years I had been explaining cheap law without having a simple way to express it. Much thanks to Tullian for providing the phrase “cheap law” last year as it has much simplified and clarified my preaching. Tullian says that there is NO cheap grace problem in the church but there is a HUGE cheap law problem in the church. I wholeheartedly concur. I hope that that is not what offended you.

    I did declare that obedience is evoked by a vision of the sin-bearing love of Christ. This seems to me to be what Paul is talking about in 2Cor 5 and a compulsion by the love of Christ (not a love for Christ). Tullian seems to mention this often in his preaching now. This does appear to minimize the law as a direct aid to sanctification, but actually maximizes it as it touches the Christian now only as glorified in the atonement. A few pastors have told me that they don’t like the idea that sanctification is by remembering the gospel–too simple.

    Again, Randy, please point out my fault and I will be glad to openly apologize here. Christ gladly covered any wrong I may have given you, but that doesn’t trivialize it as it deserves my death, which Christ took.

    I am glad to be with you in the grace of Christ.

  • Randy says:


    First of all, grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

    What was offensive to me are primarily two statements (provided in quotes below).
    1) “In reading your interaction with John, I would count that by my understanding of law/gospel you do love perfectly and keep the commandments perfectly and bear perfect fruit as Christ and the apostles absolutely command, demand and require.”

    My earlier post on 1 July stated this: “No one does anything perfectly in this life.” Please don’t say that you know me. You really don’t know me, nor do I know you. Please don’t say that you do after reading a few posts. For me (maybe not you), the Bible is more than what is demanded/provided for salvation; it is our rule of faith and practice. Apart from general revelation, it is specific revelation provided by God Himself to those who by the Holy Spirit are able to discern spiritual things. I will never do anything perfectly as I seek to walk with Him each day, but I do want to follow Him as His word guides my path in this dark world.

    If as you say “sanctification is by remembering the gospel” is how you live for Christ, then good for you. But this is not the only motivation for living for Christ. Our God is an infinite God who can use an infinite number of ways to encourage us to follow hard after Him.

    2) “But as Tullian continuously seems to declare, we saints are continuously tempted to relapse into cheap law where we can be in control of our sanctification and that of others.”

    I do not find that I am continuously tempted to relapse into cheap law. Again, I learn so much about God through the laws, commandments, and imperatives of scripture in addition to all of Scripture itself.

    I forgive you because He has forgiven me (Eph 4:32).

    A question to you based on all that you have said is this: Do you think that your faith is a perfect faith? If we had perfect faith, would we doubt at any time in any way? God more than makes up for my weakness in faith and in obedience by how His Son lived, died, and was resurrected.

    God knows much better than we ever can that we cannot believe or obey perfectly. That is why He is the one who regenerates our hearts; He gives us the faith to believe in Him. Just as it is His faith in us that enables us to respond to the free gift of eternal life; it is His Spirit in us that enables us to obey.

  • Randy,

    Blessings in Christ who is all of our righteousness, holiness, and redemption. This is a beautiful blessing that the apostle Paul declared to the Corinthian church. Very early in my Christian life I memorized this verse and pondered it much. It was one of my key anchor verses in understanding a Christian’s relationship with God. Through the years I have read and listened to much teaching on righteousness and holiness from many points of view, nearly all of which left something askew for me, as a detailed perfectionist, as it did not honor this blessing of Paul’s. Nearly all I have ever heard or read seemed to have a significant part for me to play as a Christian in God’s view of my righteousness or holiness. This seems to contradict the blessing of Paul. Since Christ is my righteousness and holiness, then I can detect no lack in either of these for me, you, or any other Christian. At our worst moments we are as righteous as Christ because all of our righteousness is a gift and God does not give that in increments with our moral improvement–we have a new identity which is real and not a legal fiction. We truly are righteous. Our righteousness is not a mere check mark in a book in heaven awaiting our arrival to allow our entry. James Denney and Tullian Tchividjian are two of the very few writers/preachers that I remember teaching consistently with this verse. Nearly everyone I hear gives lip service to it, but then seem to get easily distracted from the simplicity of the goodness of Christ to the Christian’s need to try to be a little more holy while the text calls us to be holy in ALL aspects of life with Christ as the standard. The pulpits seem to be full of excuse making, Denney and Tullian the most notable exceptions in my observation.

    To avoid making this post overly long, I will answer your question about my view of my own faith here and give my observation of the teaching of scripture on what Christian maturity is all about. I plan to post again replying to your explanation of my flaws that offended you. I am not avoiding your criticism but do think that this post will provide some clarity.

    Your question whether I think I have perfect faith is a good one. I have simple faith in a perfect object (the death of Christ in my place). Paul uses Abraham as the example of faith “He was fully [perfectly] persuaded that what God had promised God was able also to perform.” Roman 4:21 A person must have pure [perfect] simple faith to enter into Christ. One must come to a vision of being a helpless sinner. Faith is then evoked by a vision of the sin-bearing love of Christ. The best testimony I remember ever hearing is by a simple, uneducated, old Christian woman upon being asked what she would say to saint Peter at heaven’s gate: “I’m a sinner; Jesus died for me; that’s it.” The last phrase is the key that is often overlooked in preaching, but which simple people get. The mathematics of goodness and of grace require moral perfection because God is the source and expression of goodness.

    The second part of your question is probably what you are really getting at: do I think that now as a Christian I have perfect faith. Again I would say that at my conversion I was given, as were all other saints, a pure simple faith. NOW in grace, I am called to grow in maturity in that pure simple faith and told to watch out that I (we) not get corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ (2Cor 11:3). Christian maturity is described in Hebrews 5 as skillfulness in the word of righteousness. It is described as coming by practice resulting in having one’s senses exercised to discern both good and evil. In the book of James we see Christian maturity described with surgical sharpness. Read the first chapter, notice the imperatives and the zero tolerance for erring, filthiness, wickedness, and an uncontrolled tongue. There is the call to be doers of the word and not hearers only. It describes the latter as a man who looks away from a mirror and forgets the image of his face. The former is described as a man who looks into the perfect moral law and keeps looking there–he doesn’t get distracted to a lower expectation for himself or others. It is perfection or nothing, and this is the context leading up to James 2:10. When a man keeps his focus, James declares that he is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work. Good works flow naturally like a mighty river from his heart unpolluted by moral cheapness. Every conscience preaches perfect love. God has made our minds to rest when we bring our minds into harmony with the perfect love our consciences preach. We rest, rejoice, are thankful, and overflow in good works toward others. Perfect law is the door into freedom/grace/generosity. This is not only for salvation but for every moment of the Christian life. When a Christian sets his mind on perfect law his mind fills with grace because that is the way God has made the human mind to function. It cannot be helped.

    Christian immaturity is seen earlier in James one. The immature man wavers, is double minded and is like a sea wave driven and tossed by the wind. Wavers between what? What are the two minds? Immediately James draws the reader into Isaiah 40 and the revelation of the glory of God in the coming messiah, who is coming to reveal the truth of God’s law, die in our place and be our righteousness. Interesting. I suggest that the mind of the immature man easily gets distracted from the command to perfect love and he judges by a lower standard which he actually expects himself and others to meet. People don’t, and he gets irritated, angry, envious, competitive, or even murderous. When he remembers how Christ views him or others he calms down and confesses his sins and rejoices in the cross. This is a vicious cycle for the immature and they wonder why they fail so often when they try so hard.

    Maturity is all about consistency in remembering/pondering/learning/judging by goodness, which includes righteousness, perfect moral law, perfect love, and lavish righteous generosity–which we call grace. All of this is who God is and is all a seamless whole and cannot be subdivided. We are all weak people who are dependent on Christ’s goodness and obedience at the cross. We don’t ever get to stand on our own obedience. God is righteous and calls us to remember and rest in (or stand on) His righteousness every waking second of every day. The fruit of which is the testimony of righteousness and boundless energy to good works. A mature Christian notices sin, judges that it always deserves death, and rejoices that Christ has already gladly covered the person or welcomes him/her to be covered, and thus is patient, tender, peaceful, and conciliatory, even when great pain has been received. This is the natural response WHEN the mind is on sin-bearing love. James 3 declares that this way of thinking (wisdom) frees one from ALL partiality and hypocrisy, and fills one with gentleness, approachableness, and mercy. Colosians 3 declares that this mindset mortifies sin. Romans 6 declares the way of freedom from sin to be freedom from law (being dead to it and not under it) and being now under grace. Denney put it this way, “It is not restraint, but inspiration, which liberates from sin: not Mount Sinai but Mount Calvary which makes saints.”
    Tullian explained it in the following way. After you are righteous by faith you can do what ever you want to. If you want to do what you did before being saved, then you need to hear more gospel not less. You don’t need a governor on grace but a greater vision of grace.

    Randy, do you listen to Tullian’s sermons? Do you think he is going too far with grace? I listen to his sermons like a man panning for gold in a stream, sifting ever so carefully looking to not miss any precious treasure. I think I can honestly say that I hate the balance of law and grace passionately as much as he does.

    Christ was the perfect man, mature in every way. Hebrews 1:9 tells us another angle on this same maturity when it says that He loved righteousness and hated lawlessness. This hatred is like a surgeon’s attitude toward cancer–skillful and very focused on carefully cutting it all out to the blessing of the patient. The Greek word for lawlessness here is anomia and is related to the origin of our word antinomian (against the law). Antinomianism like lawlessness is the dishonor of the law. Most Christians in my observation, including pastors and writers, understand this like Mormons do. Mormons say that one honors the law by seeking to keep it, however imperfectly. Again the heart of the moral law is that it is a seamless whole. Read Deuteronomy and notice how often it describes this. The OT Jews and the Pharisees would not accept this and Isaiah and Jesus repeatedly hammered them for it. Israel was destroyed by God for it. Tullian said recently that the Pharisee not the prostitute is the devil’s masterpiece, because of their unwillingness to honor the law as requiring perfection. The book of James plays itself out when people, especially Christians, think this way. Any thought or word or action on my part that does not honor the law in its flawless, seamless perfection is antinomian. I strive with all the power of my mind to understand and love righteousness and ever so carefully identify and cut out the cancer of lawlessness to the edification of the saints. My young assistant’s pamphlet entitled, “Antinomianism: Will The Real Antinomians Please Stand Up?” can be read at his blog here:

    Only Christ was perfectly consistent. For us saints maturity is a process of being transformed by the renewing of our minds to think ever more consistently as He did about goodness and evil–righteousness and lawlessness–light and darkness. We should be always wary because it is very easy to get distracted from a vision of perfect love to partial obedience–which is what Tullian means by cheap law.

    I know why each and every Christian (including you) in the world sins, no matter what the sin is because the Bible explains it. Sin is the fruit of losing focus on perfect love (Christ himself) as our vision. I teach saints to not trivialize sin but to maximize it and count it as God does, as worthy of death–each and every sin. I teach saints that as they notice sin to declare something like, “she shouldn’t have sinned, she should have been perfect.” Or, “That sin deserved hell, I’m glad Christ died his death.” People who are taking this advice say that they are laughing at themselves as they realize how their minds have been distracted from perfect love (the simplicity that is in Christ). and that their relationships with others are really changing as they are becoming more sensitive to a focus on perfect love.

    In short, my simple faith in a perfect object is maturing as I practice the mathematics of goodness/grace, fixing my eye on the sin-bearing love of Christ, realizing that the spiritual battle (Genesis to Revelation) is all about perfect righteousness versus lawlessness, and becoming evermore sensitive to my mind straying into cheap law or partial obedience. I think that scripture teaches that the only impurity/imperfection in my or any Christian’s faith is cheap law. Christ is all our righteousness. This is the message I hear thundering in Isaiah and James.

    This is a little longer than I had hoped.

    I really am glad to stand in the grace of Christ with you.

  • Randy,

    I did reply to your post and gave answer the question about my view of my faith but it was taken down for moderation. I hope you got to see it first. Maybe it will appear again.

  • Randy says:


    I don’t listen to Tulian’s teachings or sermons. On a public site as this, it would not honor God for me to go into the problems that I have seen with his teachings that have been taken to some congregations.

    While I am happy for you as you have grown in your walk as a result of his teachings and the Lord using that in your life, the message is just not one that resonates with me nor with His Spirit inside me. The message that does resonate with me as a Christian is the focus of our lives to glorify God (I Cor. 6:19-20).

    As you listen to his sermons as a man panning for gold, this is my approach to time in the Word of God. May you see Him lifted high in your life and in your community as you take His love to the fallen world around us.

  • Matthew says:


    I really don’t understand why every time you write on this topic you beat the justification drum relentlessly, as if Deyoung (and others) are crying out for salvation by “law”. That is not the case. Your offering rebuttals to an argument that’s not being made.

    Furthermore, you are fighting against helpful insight that Deyoung is trying to offer. One of the biggest errors in young reformed churches (including mine) is an unhealthy processing of biblical commands. It seems when some encounter a command in scripture they don’t think, “here’s a command, I should obey it”. Instead their thought process goes like this, “here’s a command, here’s why I can’t obey it, but thankfully Jesus obeyed on my behalf.” By utilizing this faulty hermenuetic, every command can be systematically drained of its imperative tone. This kind of thinking has undoubtedly produced apathy among many Christians. Deyoung is merely trying to offer insight to help increase the understanding of those who have adopted such a view. Brother, you are only hurting the cause by fighting against him.

  • Randy says:

    Matthew: Good post. Totally agree.

  • Randy,

    Sorry about the delay in replying as my life has been recently full of interruptions. I do appreciate our conversation as I wholeheartedly embrace what Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote about the beauty of relationship between brothers.

    I honor you for not giving any details of your concerns about Tullian as I can’t possibly be part of any resolution. FYI. Until last year I had been minding my own business in pastoring in Utah and preaching, sin righteousness, and judgment much to atheists and Mormons at the university here. Mormons are masters at defiling God’s law, and perverting the gospel–various nuances of perversion. And they make God into a schizophrenic. We long to get inside their minds and win them not crush them. We don’t yell at them but invite them into robust kind conversation of law and gospel as written deeply into the conscience by God. Romans 1 declares that every person knows that every sin deserves death and we want to help stir up that awareness to shine up the gospel. Mormons mouth gospel words but change the meaning. Their constant trick questions have forced us to deal with our own insufficient answers and have forced us to learn to ask probing questions to get at the issues of the heart. We now ask ourselves these probing questions, because we know that we and no one else sees the gospel as clearly as the apostles did and that it is arrogance to think otherwise. We are straining to apprehend that for which Christ has apprehended us. Someone mentioned hearing that a brother, Tullian, in Florida had also noticed that the Sermon on the Mount was not meant to directly help Christians live well but rather to reveal God’s delight in perfect moral goodness (Isaiah 42:21). I and friends began listening and rejoicing that another brother was preaching in a way that was actually establishing the law and not just pretending to.

    Randy, I want to talk about Tullian’s sin and encourage you to honor the law in your observation of his sin. But first I would like to point out the consistent testimony from all the many atheists and Mormons I and my colleague preach to. This is evidence that God did not do a partial job when he wrote the moral law on every conscience.

    1. True or False:
    It is Good to
    a) love your neighbor 99.99% of the time
    b) abuse your neighbor 0.01% of the time?

    Every single individual has declared with little hesitation and usually rapidly that this is false because goodness can’t have any flaws in it.

    2. True or False:
    Partial obedience is disobedience?

    Every individual answers True, usually quickly. Some have appealed to James 2:10

    3. Is it possible to be a good person and not be a generous person? All have confidently said no. All have described a generous person identically and in a beautiful way that sounds like Christ, though “religion” technically was not the discussion, just the conscience.

    4. Is God generous? All Mormons whose religion aggressively teaches against the meaning of God being generous, said yes. Atheists all said that if there were a God he would have to be generous.

    5. How much do you charge for forgiveness? All but two bitter Mormons said that they didn’t charge because forgiveness was free. One of the two said that it would be wrong for anyone else to speak as he did.

    6. If someone sinned horribly against you 34 times this semester, and then came and apologized for one and made it clear there was no admission of fault for the other 33, could you forgive the person for only that one sin? All (except the other bitter Mormon from #5) said that they would forgive the person for all their sins because a person forgives the other person not the actions and a person cannot forgive partially. Now Mormonism very aggressively teaches that a person is only forgiven by God for the sins that have been stopped, and so why do they tell me that forgiveness is all or nothing and of the person not the sins, unless God has imprinted it so deeply that their brainwashing cannot mask it?

    My point of this is that all these pagans who hate the gift of righteousness and obviously don’t honor the law in their lives, declare that 1) goodness is a seamless whole inseparable from generosity, 2) obedience is all or nothing, and 3) forgiveness is freely given and all or nothing. In other words, goodness and the moral law are only established by continuous moral perfection. Except for Christ, no person established or establishes the law in any of their choices to obey the moral law. [One Shinto/atheist/rabid anti-Christian/now agnostic scientist-friend wrote to me recently that obedience is indivisible, wondering how anyone could possibly think otherwise.] And the pagans I talk to would say that we Christians are fooling ourselves if we think partial obedience is obedience. If in my mind I judge by moral perfection then my mind establishes the law, but if my expectation for myself, wife, you, Tullian, my children, or enemies, is anything less than moral perfection then I do not establish the law and rather defile it. This is about how we relate to goodness both before and after conversion. God and goodness didn’t change when God saved me. He is not schizophrenic.

    Now back to Tullian’s sins. I suspect that you care for Tullian and want to persuade readers to be aware of what you see as errors in his teaching, otherwise why would you bother? Don’t you wish the best for him and pray for him to honestly deal with the sins or theological errors you are concerned about? I would be if I were in your shoes. My question for you is: do you honor the law in your concerns about him? All dishonor of the law (anomia) deserves death. Tullian continuously uses examples from his own life of having thoughts that dishonor the law. He is not hiding that. But do you judge that he deserves death for each and every one of his moral failings that you notice? If you are not at peace noticing his failures of life or theology then your mind is not on the honor of the law but rather some cheap imitation. I know this from experience; it is truly easy to get distracted from looking into the perfect law (James 1:25). James 3:17-18 declares that God’s wisdom (which is the honor of the law) is pure, peaceable, gentle, easily approachable, full of mercy and good fruit, and free of all partiality and hypocrisy. While we are looking into the perfect law this is what our lives look likes. I am always peaceful in observing the failings of others while I am judging by perfect moral goodness. When our minds are here we are approaching our brothers through Christ and are content to let Christ change them in his timing–and this makes the waiting time sweet. Is this your experience in your observations of Tullian’s failings?

    I have offered this word to you–a word I offer to my friends, those I counsel and even to many unbelievers–because as I have read various comments of yours on various of Tullian’s articles, I detected a sense of sadness in the tone of your words. Please consider intensifying your judgment of Tullian’s failings (maximize his sins)–require him to honor the law perfectly and proclaim that his tiniest failing deserves death–and I think you may be surprised to find yourself enjoying your thoughts about him (even as you ponder his failings) because you will be seeing him through the eyes of perfect goodness that Christ revealed to us of the Father–a generous Father who has given us the ultimate blessing of a relationship free from us carrying the weight of any of our sins. Our hearts rest–as God designed them to–when we judge this way. This is my experience and what I find in the scriptures. Search them yourself to see if such is true.

    I still have not responded to your question about my failings and am not avoiding the issue but detected (I hope falsely) in your tone a lack of interest in really pursuing that. Simply write the word and I will address that.

    Be blessed brother in obeying the first imperative in Ephesians (2:11): remember the finished work of Christ, the tragic state it brought you out of and the glorious one it brought you into.

  • Randy says:

    Where does the Bible say to not do something if you cannot do it perfectly?

  • Randy says:


    I have absolutely no desire to listen to Tulian on anything. My source of life is from God’s word alone; He is the source of any life worth living.

    There is no sadness in my life, but joy that since He has saved me, I am freed to an abundant life through His Son’s life and death. I have a relationship with God that nothing can change; I want to grow in that relationship with God. I want to be satisfied with Him, not to seek any satisfaction in this world or in anyone on this world. It is that relationship that powers my life and my days on this earth.

    Matthew on July 10th posted what I continue to see in those who listen to Tulian’s teaching: It seems when some encounter a command in scripture they don’t think, “here’s a command, I should obey it”. Instead their thought process goes like this, “here’s a command, here’s why I can’t obey it, but thankfully Jesus obeyed on my behalf.”

    The end result is “Christians” (in my area of the country who listen to Tulian as if he were a prophet) who profess the perfect life of Christ as paying the debt for their sins, but living as if there is no reason at all to live for Him. There is no difference in their lives than a pagan’s life. Are they a new creature in Christ (II Cor. 5:20)? I don’t know. They drink to excess, sometimes in public. They use language that would make most folks blush. Is that really what Jesus saved us to? A life where we can live it as we want as if the words in the Bible do not apply to us who profess Him.

    What dismays me is the notion that no Christian can feel a tug in his heart to obey without it being legalism or relying on that “deed” for salvation. That is just not true. Just because I want to do things that bring honor and glory to God does not mean that I am working for my salvation. Hopefully, it means that I am working out my salvation.

  • John says:

    I’ve been following the thread and felt a need to jump back in and comment.

    In Paul’s letter to the Romans he is answering the very same accusation that you are leveling against Tullian. Why not continue to do evil that good may come of it as some have accused us of saying. If it’s all about grace then we can continue to sin, and grace will abound. If Paul were not preaching an absolute grace why would he have to answer these charges?

    Do you really believe that Tullian is telling people to sin all they want and Jesus will take care of the rest? Since you have never listened to him, I certainly wouldn’t judge him by those who misunderstand the Gospel. It would be like me condemning Calvin because some of his followers continued in gross sin, relying on their baptism into the covenant, rather than the Gospel, to keep God at peace. Don’t judge free grace by those who misunderstand the message. If you go down that road, you may need to keep the door to the reformed faith locked tightly, lest the skeletons come tumbling out.

    Lastly, why do you get to pick and chose which of Jesus commands to follow? He has told you to pluck out your eyes and cut off your hands if they cause you to sin. I’m sure you have not done either of these things. Have you given away twice as much as people ask of you? Have you given to everyone who asks, even to those you don’t like – and given them more than they asked for? Have you allowed people to strike you multiple times without retaliation? Have you sold everything you have and given it to the poor? Are you perfect? Remember, Jesus didn’t say “try” to be perfect. If you want to obey Jesus, then you need to obey everything he has commanded and not just the ones you consider doable.

    It is hypocritical to say we must obey the commands of Jesus and then not obey them ourselves.


  • Matthew says:

    Sorry John,

    I know this isn’t my conversation, but I take issue with the last part of your post. First of all, when Jesus talked about “plucking out eyes and cutting off hands” he was obviously speaking figuratively. Obedience to that command does not involve self mutilation, however, it does involve removing things from ones life that lead to temptation and sin. And No, nobody obeys that command perfectly, nor any of the other commands you listed. That’s why our lives must be characterized by on going repentance. However, just because we do not obey PERFECTLY, does not mean we can’t obey at all. The Holy Spirit now resides in us, and motivates our obedience to scripture. And because of the Spirit’s work, we can obey out of a right heart, and not some self-salvation project.

    I can honestly say that I have “cut off my hand” with certain sins, and turned the other cheek at times. And it has only led to greater joy, not legalism. Furthermore, guess how I knew to do those things? Because they are commanded in scripture….

    We must remember, as Calvin taught, the law is not only a “mirror” (showing us our sin, and our need for Christ), but it is also a “guide” (teaching how to live out the gospel life). Commands are to be obeyed. Not out of a moralistic attempt at earning righteousness, but stemming from genuine rebirth and love for God.


  • John says:

    Hi Matthew.

    First, you are trivializing Jesus commands and putting your own spin on his words. Using your logic we can say that Jesus really didn’t mean for us to obey any of his commands. We are only to turn the cheek metaphorically speaking and not actually, especially if we didn’t deserve to get hit. He didn’t really mean go an extra mile or give my cloak also, it was a figurative statement meaning we need to be giving. We don’t really murder when we get angry, it was just hyperbole. We don’t really commit adultery when we lust, he was just illustrating how bad lust is. You are just cheapening Law.

    Did Jesus really mean that you are to be perfect as your heavenly father is perfect? He’s the one requiring perfection not me. If you want to get into heaven you must be perfect. Remember partial obedience is not obedience, and it’s certainly not the perfection that Jesus requires.

    I am adamant that ALL law must be obeyed in order for us to be considered perfect. If you are to obey Christ then you are to obey, even when you don’t see how. The problem is that you don’t hold law in high enough esteem. You have cheapened it. You think law can be disobeyed when it’s convenient for you. The law is absolute. It’s not a list of suggestions. It’s a list of things you have to do in order to be saved. If you want to be considered righteous by the law read Galatians and see what Paul thinks of it.

    What happens when you elevate the law to its rightful position? You realize you can never do it. You can never be declared righteous by it. You can NEVER be perfect. But, as you know Christ answers that problem.

    You obey, not because of a command, but because of he who is in you. We love because he first loved us. We forgive because he first forgave us. Christ’s command to be perfect can only be fulfilled this way. We can only be perfect because he is perfect. Only because of his perfection can we be perfect in God’s sight.

    The law brings death, not life. The law is not for the righteous, but for the unrighteous (1Tim). The written law was nothing but a guardian until faith could come. Gal 3:24&25. Now that faith has come we no longer need a guardian.

    Good conversation to have.

  • John says:

    Man, Sorry. I just reread my post and it sounded a bit accusatory and harsh. I jumped on you with both feet. I apologize. I just really like this topic.

  • Matthew says:

    Hey John,

    No problem, these discussions are good to have, so long as we are all learning from them.

    First, in regard to Jesus use of figurative language. I was not suggesting the “law” is figurative (as spelled out in the 10 commandments, or summarized in Jesus’ 2 great commands.) However, Jesus OFTEN made use of common literary tactics such as parables, hyperbole, and other forms of figurative speech. As a rule, we should take the Bible at face value. This means when the clear meaning is literal, we take it literally, and when the clear meaning is figurative, we take it figuratively. Not all scripture is literal. Think about it…Jesus isn’t literally interested in camels passing through the eye of a needle, is he? Was he literally asking his followers to eat his “flesh” and drink his “blood”? In John 15 was he actually suggesting to his followers that he was a literal “vine”, and they were actual branches. There is no question Jesus used figurative speech. When this is the case, our job is to discern the spiritual lessons and principles that underlie Christ’s words.

    As for Law/Gospel, there is NO disagreement about whether we can be saved by law keeping. Let me state it as clearly as possible, so that we don’t keep coming back to this point. Man is sinful, and can never purchase his own salvation by law keeping. Our only hope is Jesus, the perfect Son of God who kept the law on our behalf. Nobody here is arguing salvation by law. Thank God!

    The real question is, what role does the law play in the sanctification process? And I’ll assume we’re all referring to “moral law”, not “civil” and “ceremonial”. To this point Calvin, and Luther both agreed in the 2nd use of the law. This means that the law is not only a “mirror” that shows us our sinfulness (which is historically known as the 1st use). But to the CHRISTIAN it is also a “guide”, instructing us on how to live as believers (which is historically known as the 2nd use). The Westminster Confession is very helpful on this point. It addresses the first use by stating, “It (the law) gives people a clearer sight of the need they have for Christ, and the perfection of his obedience.” The WCF then speaks of the 2nd use by saying, “Although true believers be not under the law, as a covenant of works, to be thereby justified, or condemned; yet is it of great use to them, as well as others.” It further explains this by stating (the law) is the “rule of life informing them of the will of God, and their duty, it directs and binds them to walk accordingly.”

    We may not be in complete disagreement on this, because this is similar to what you are saying in your last paragraph. “Freed from the burden and bondage of attempting to use the law to establish our righteousness before God, Christians are free to look to “imperatives”, not as conditions, but as descriptions and directions as they seek to serve their neighbor.” I say amen to that! Imperatives are a blessing because they give us direction on how to live as Christians. And we are enabled to obey these commands by the Holy Spirit (albeit not perfectly, because we’re still sinful people). So, as Christians when we see imperatives/commands in scripture we should endeavor to obey them, not just take them as reminders of our sinfulness.

    The problem I’ve found with Tullian’s teachings is an issue of imbalance, not heresy. He often reminds people of the 1st use of the law, and the fact the law shows us our sin and reminds us of our need for a savior. This is good, especially when it hits the ears of moralistic/legalistic folks. I personally benefit from reminders that my acceptance is in Christ apart from my works. The problem is that Tullian rarely (and I’ve heard him speak on several occasions) emphasizes the importance of the 2nd use of the law by encouraging Christians to obey the Lord. We have to remember Christians don’t drift toward sanctification or holiness apart from reminders to love and obey. This is why Timothy said, All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for TRAININING IN RIGHTEOUSNESS.


  • Matthew says:

    Sorry, my reference to the “last paragraph” was addressing Tullian’s words. Not yours.

  • John says:

    Thanks for the clarification Matthew. I think we might get along pretty well.

    More clarification please.

    Does a Christian have to obey the law as defined by the 2nd use of the law as defined above? Are there punishments from God for not obeying since the WCF says that it “binds” the Christian to walk accordingly? If it is binding, and there is punishment for it, can you explain to me how it is different that the Mosaic law? If it is not binding then, how can you consider it law?

    Do you keep the sabbath btw?

  • Matthew says:

    Your questions are good, and deep. This will take a little time to answer.

    I’ll answer your question about Mosaic Law first because it will help with put the rest of my post in context. Mosaic Law is a broad term for the “entire” law given through Moses. It helps to divide Mosaic Law into three parts: Civil, Ceremonial, and Moral. The Civil Law consisted of societal laws given by God to govern the nation of Israel. They were unique laws that applied only to Israel as a theocracy. Subsequently, Civil law perished along with the theocratic state of Israel. Civil Law is therefore no longer binding on anyone.

    Ceremonial Laws had to do with religious rituals and prohibitions. This included cleansing rituals, prohibitions against certain foods and clothing, temple practices, etc… Ceremonial Law was fulfilled in Christ and is no longer binding either.

    The last type of law is Moral Law. This has to do with God’s unchanging nature and how he views right and wrong. We can conclude that anything that was morally wrong in the OT is also morally wrong now, because “God changeth not.” Lying , coveting, murder, stealing, etc, were all wrong in the OT and they are wrong in the NT. So the Moral Law is still God’s standard of right and wrong and has great relevance today (as I mentioned when speaking about 1st and 2nd use of the Law in my previous post).

    Now to your first question: The Christian is not bound to obey the (moral) law as a precondition for salvation. Nor can law-keeping ever gain us a more accepted position in Christ. Our justification has been purchased by Jesus, and that’s final. However, while eternity is not at stake, the NT still makes clear that Christians are accountable for their actions, and that our disobedience has consequences. This is why Hebrews 12:6 says, For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.” In fact, even the church has authority to discipline unrepentant sin in the flock (Matthew 18). So the question is not whether we are accountable, both to God and each other, but what is the standard for accountability? The answer is God’s moral law. Anytime we act out in anger, or lust, or dishonesty, then we sin against God by violating his moral law. In doing so we are also violating the two great commandments (love God, and love your neighbor as yourself). It is helpful to remember that the two great commandments are really just the moral law in summary form (Matthew 22:37-40).

    But this is also why Christian repentance is such a beautiful thing…. Even in our spirit filled endeavor to love God and love our neighbor (which is the same as keeping the moral law), we will fail. When this happens, we experience guilt. So we repent, we rest in God’s grace, and continue in our pursuit to obey God’s commands, which all revolve around loving others and loving God.

    So when the WCF says “binds”, it’s merely reminding us that we are accountable to God’s moral law. Not accountable in the sense that we will be sent to hell for disobeying, but accountable in the sense that should repent when we violate it, and disobeying it could ultimately result in fatherly discipline. So yes, the Moral Law still sets a standard for our lives.

    As for the Sabbath, that’s a great question and a new can of worms altogether. In short, Christians who believe Sabbath is Moral Law will stick to it, like white on rice. Christians who believe it’s Ceremonial Law, as I do, will see it as pointing to Christ (as all ceremonial laws do). Jesus always grouped Sabbath keeping with ceremonial laws, and that’s how we see it addressed in other NT books as well. Here’s a great article on the Sabbath and Law…

    God bless!

  • Randy says:


    So exactly how do you see the commands, imperatives, that are in scripture? They don’t only relate to needing to be done for salvation because not all of them are directed to non Christians. So any imperative or command toward a believer is to be ignored? Per Paul, how can this be!!

    When you say that the law brings death, I just don’t see it in Scripture. Don’t get me wrong, I do believe that Jesus has atoned for our sins because we could not obey perfectly. But you cheapen the law when that is the only way you can view the law (in terms of salvation). The law teaches us about God; in fact the verses you cite bear that out – Gal. 3:24&25. They are a tutor that lead us to Christ. How can the tutor be death and evil? It can be death and evil if you only see it in regard to salvation. Are passages like I Cor 13 just nice suggestions?

    Maybe I have been picking on Tulian. Unfortunately, some in my community who have taken his teachings to an extreme continue in sin because 1) Jesus’ blood covers their sin and 2) they can’t obey perfectly so there is no need to obey at all. Plus I think they just like sinning and don’t care what message it sends to the world.

    Matthew: Feel free to jump in any time you want.

    Heb. 13:20&21

  • John says:

    Matthew: Thanks for the lesson on how you see the law. Though, I don’t agree with you, it does help me to better understand how to clarify what I’m saying to the reformed crowd. It is always good to get our terminology ironed out so we can be on the same page, so to speak. I will think about what you’ve said and try to formulate a response in the near future.


    How do you interpret 1cor 3:6, where Paul tells us that the letter (old covenant law) kills, but the spirit gives life?

    Read the next line in after Galatians 3:24: But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian. The law was our guardian. Now it’s not, because of our faith in Christ.

    I had someone accuse me of cheapening the law the other day, and my response was that I hold the law in higher regard than almost anyone I know, because I understand exactly what the law does to everyone who breaks even one of the commandments. If you break one you’ve broken them all. I don’t cheapen the law by “trying” to obey it. I know I can’t do what it requires. I can only fall on my knees before God and thank him that through Jesus I can be justified and sanctified perfectly in his sight. Because he lives, I live.

    What you describe about some of Tullian’s followers is not grace it’s leniency. There is a huge difference. Someone who truly understands the law, their sin, and Christ’s death for it, will not speak or act thus. They will weep before their savior and wash his feet with their tears. If you’ve been forgiven much, you love much.

    There are two types of obedience as I see it. Obedience because you have to and obedience because you want to. The law is a have to, the love of Christ is a want to. Tell your wife that you love her because you have to and see what kind of response you get.

    Lastly, two comments on imperatives. If they truly have to be obeyed, then they are law, and there must be some punishment for not obeying them. If they are law then we are no better off than the jews. I view imperatives from the point of who I am in Christ and what the spirit in me is pointing towards. I obey the imperatives because of who I am in Christ, not because I am required to. These are the natural outpouring of staring into the perfect law of liberty and keeping my eyes fixed there.

    What I’ve found is that when law is invoked, sin increases. Tell someone they can’t do something, or to stop doing something and they will do it all the more, or at least want to. Yet grace, at least in my life, has had the opposite effect. If I keep my eyes fixed on Jesus, the author and finisher of my faith, and focus on the life giving law of liberty, then my desire to sin goes away. When we think about obeying the law, we shine the light on me and what I must do, instead of focusing on Christ and what he did.

    For sin shall have no mastery over me, because I am not under law, but under grace.

    I know we don’t agree, but I truly do appreciate what you have to say. I know we would get along fine. I have many, many friends who believe what you believe and who are dear, close friends (in spite of my belief). I know you are sincere and have a good relationship with our savior. Please don’t think in anyway that I am saying otherwise. I am not in a position to judge another man’s servant. I just really have been freed by grace and am excited to share it.

    On Tullian: I came to this understanding of grace a year before I even heard of Tullian (I still can’t figure out how to say his last name). While I don’t agree with everything he says, most of what he says does resonate with me.


  • Randy says:

    Thanks for your kind words and understanding, John.

    Not sure ICor. 3:6 is the right reference. I think you meant IICor. 3:6. Either way, you have to look at it in context. So looking at verse 5, the context is relying on yourself vs what Christ did. I am not relying on the law or myself for anything with regard to salvation. There truly is nothing I could every do that satisfy God’s wrath for my sin. What concerns me is that the law/imperatives/commands are useful to the believer in His life with Christ. They teach us about our walk with Him and also about Him. They are useful in our relationship with Him. Are they not? Or do you believe they are of no use in the Christian’s life?

    The motive for obedience is the key; it should be love for Him. I agree we are not under the law as a basis for salvation. BTW: Praise God that Jesus came and provided us a way!!!

    Not sure about your version of Gal. 3:24; mine says tutor. A tutor is a guide that brings us to Christ.

    What I have found is that the imperatives have become my desires as I seek to love Him and bring glory to Him.


  • John says:

    Haha. Yes IICor. Thanks for the correction. If my mind ever caught up with my fingers I would be way ahead of the game. As it is I can barely keep the names of my kids in my head. :)

    We’ll have to disagree on the context. I’m okay with that.

    I say Amen to the way!

    I just want to mention a turn of phrase from your above statement, that might give us an insight into how we view things differently.

    I agree that our motivation for obedience is the absolute key. You said: “it should be love for Him.” I would say you have it backwards and that our love for him isn’t what should motivate us, it’s His love for us.

    1John 4:10 – “In this is love: not that we have loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins.”

    My motivation to obey is his great love for me, not my love for him.

    I have a few questions that might spur the conversation in a different direction.

    What does John mean when he says that “if the son sets you free you will be really free?” Is this freedom only freedom from ceremonial and civil law, or, are we set free from all the law? The context is Sin and Sonship. Sin is disobeying the law, as it says in 1John. Is he saying that he is setting us free from disobeying the law?

    Hebrews 4:9 & 10 (I don’t want to talk about the Sabbath btw but rest. I’m a strict Sabbatarian in the sense that I believe everyday is the Sabbath, but that’s a digression) says that a “Sabbath’s rest remains for God’s people. For the one who enters God’s rest has also rested from his works, just as God did from his own works.” Is he talking about a rest from works of the ceremonial and civil law only, or, is he also talking about rest from the moral law?

    Please bring scripture to bear here and not the WCF or non-biblical sources.

    In love.

  • Randy says:

    Ultimately, any love we have for Him originates from Him. Our faith is faith that comes from Him. When we fellowship with Him, it is God in us fellowshipping with Himself.

  • Randy says:

    Sin is not only committed by commission but also by omission.

    To me, the verse in John is saying that I am finally free to be the person that God made me to be (no longer a slave to sin).

    He is talking about how since God rested on the Sabbath, we should rest on the Sabbath also. Having studied Hebrews recently, I suspect that the passage is speaking to the audience at that time and now about relying on God and the sacrifice of His Son for salvation, not the continual sacrifice of burnt offerings and the law for their salvation. The law and works are not evil as long as they are done by God to the glory of God through His servants. The writer of Hebrews also takes great pains to indicate that Jesus is the sacrifice for our sins, not the blood of animals. This was a difficult thing for them to fathom based on how they had lived for so long; it was a part of their culture.

    Why is it that the focus seems to be so much on the law and works for most of the posts here? The focus should be on God. Are you so afraid to do something because you can’t do it perfectly or because you may possibly do it out of legalism?

  • Randy,

    Sorry about the tardiness of my reply to your question about sanctification. I realized that I agree with you fully in principle about the use of the law for sanctification but do disagree with you about its application. I think about the moral law almost continuously and it is a huge inspiration for me to obedience to God. But when I think of the moral law I don’t see it as commands to obey but rather as a wholeness of goodness that God requires me to BE right now every second of every day. Because I think this way I cannot separate the moral law from the person of Christ; and because I think this way I also cannot separate the person of Christ from the finished work of Christ. In fact when the human mind perceives the moral law as a seamless whole it suddenly becomes a person–Jesus Christ. No one else can come to mind–NO ONE. If the law is not a whole it cannot be a person. Christ is the revelation of the Father and we know the Father only through the Son. Jesus said that the moral law can be summarized in a two point statement: To love God with all your heart, all your mind, and all your soul; and to love your neighbor as yourself. And that ALL the law and prophets hang on this dual statement. Isn’t Jesus saying that it is good and natural to love God with all that you are and to love your neighbor with all that you are–all the time you are alive? Jesus honored moral goodness in every thought, word, and deed and in doing this showed us what goodness, law, and love look like. He even filled goodness with gladness–Hebrews 1:10 seems to declare that He was the gladest man who ever lived. His mind was set on the pleasure of the Father and so He seemed to naturally and effortless bless everyone He met–though he did have a little stress in the Garden of Gethsemene. This is what God is like and God calls us to, for only this is goodness. Could God call us to anything less than goodness?

    I take this with dead seriousness for justification and sanctification, but find that most writers and pastors I read or ask don’t seem to. Even your words and Matt’s words about the meaning of Jesus’ heavenly statement here seem schizophrenic to me. You (and almost all Christians I am aware of ) declare clearly to unbelievers that God requires flawless continuous perfection to be righteous before him and enter heaven, with the only hope being the gift of righteousness. Be like Jesus or you don’t make it. God can’t dishonor His law to let someone into heaven. Right? I wholeheartedly agree with these statements. But on the other side of the cross somehow the law isn’t taken with such seriousness. And to not take the law seriously is to dishonor it, which is to dishonor God, whose character it reflects. What authority do you and nearly all dear saints I read or hear have to cheapen Jesus’ words for the saved person? Did the moral law change at salvation? I am unable to detect anywhere in scripture that it did. I find that the theme of the Bible beginning to end is God’s delight to honor the law (read the context of Isaiah 42:21) and the spiritual battle from beginning to the end of the Bible is for the honor of the law (righteousness). Hebrews 1:9 declares that Jesus loved righteousness and hated dishonor of the law (GK is anomia). To think or act in any way that denies the wholeness of the law is anomia, the dishonor of the law. Christ is the only place we can look to see the honor of the law. It was the honor of the law (God’s holiness) that terrified Isaiah in chapter 6, which is declared in John 12 to be the vision of chapter 53: the finished work of Christ.

    In short I am asking you or Matt to give a coherent explanation of how Jesus’ glorious dual statement of the law can be cheapened for sanctification. Quote any theologians you wish but it they disagree with the apostles then the apostles, who lived with the perfect God/man and were inspired, trump them. What I repeatedly hear in your words about sanctification are that nobody is perfect and God wants us to try to keep the moral law, even though we will fail, and that thankfully Christ covers our failures. Have I heard you wrong? It almost seems that you are treating the moral law like a french window rather than a plate glass one. We would never let unbelievers get away with that for justification, so why think it as a Christian for sanctification? It is incoherent and schizophrenic to me. [Note: one of my closest Christian friends is paranoid and schizophrenic and so I think I can speak to that issue.] I am basically asking you to defend your vision of sanctification against my (and I think the scripture’s) charge of cheap law or dishonor of the law (anomia). Because If it is anomia then Jesus hates it. Anomia is not a legitimate option for God’s way of sanctification. I think the scripture is clear in teaching that you as a person are fully blessed by God, but that the teaching you espouse on sanctification is dishonor of the law and thus hated by Christ He died to honor the goodness and wholeness of the law and set us free to live in liberty. But this liberty is not a liberty for motivation by imperfect law.

    The Bible is not a self-help manual, but rather a record of God’s goodness in all His ways with mankind–patience, lovingkindness, justice, generosity, etc. Every person hears the voice of God’s goodness (which includes the moral law) continuously. Every atheist I speak with tells me that this is the voice of his conscience. Is the following statement true or false? “The law of God is not a statute; but an ideal which defines itself through conscience in a form appropriate to each successive moment of our existence; and the obligation of it, as so defined, is never less than unconditional.” -James Denney. I cannot see how a Christian theologian could disagree with this statement as I find it all over the scripture and the human conscience. It this is true then how can we honor law as Christians? Christ took all my obligation to the moral law and I am free to be inspired by feeling the full weight of the cost to Him to free me from all that obligation. For the Christian the moral law only has value now as glorified in the atonement. As I ponder the finished work of Christ, who fully honored the law in my place, I always do good to all people no matter how contrary they are. I don’t need individual commands because I see them as a whole as glorified in Christ. When I see Christ as the embodiment of the moral law, i.e., not cheapening it to some idol (1John 5:21), I fall down and worship (as John wrote) and freely do what pleases the Father. I love because He first propitiated me. I read the law and the gospel much and do notice carefully the imperatives because the goodness of the law is what overflows from a heart gripped by the generosity of God in the finished work of Christ. The scripture’s way of sanctification fully honors the law because it is safeguarded against trying, partial obedience, pride, human effort, human glory. etc.

    That leads me to touch another related subject. Your view of sanctification has led you to agree with Matt in pointing the finger at what I will call lazy born again Christians. You wrote that they may be saved but aren’t taking the commandments seriously and are continuing in their sins. Again, did I read you correctly? Your criticism seems clear and not unkind, but leads me to think that you don’t think that you are in the same boat with them. True? Your repeated criticism of Tullian, (and of course of John and me) is that it is wrong (or at least naive or sadly lacking) to teach that all a Christian needs to do is fix his gaze on the law glorified in the finished work of Christ and the heart will naturally overflow with good works to everyone. You say that this leads saints to lead lives of sin and not take holiness seriously. By the way, how is it going for you and Matt in your way of sanctification? Compared to Jesus those dear saints are lazy–but then so am I. But compared to Jesus aren’t you and Matt lazy too? I can detect no standard in scripture except Christ and so trust that you are using him as the measuring stick. How can you avoid the label of being a hypocrite? A hypocrite is a person who thinks that he is keeping the standard but others aren’t. Only Christ wasn’t lazy. Those you criticize are lazy, you are lazy and so am I–but I admit it and have found what it it all about. Laziness is all about laziness (dullness) in hearing the word of righteousness (Hebrews 5:11 and 6:12 and all of James). James (see 1:25ff and 3:17 in context) and the human conscience tell us that the way of freedom from hypocrisy is to judge by moral perfection. One agnostic philosopher friend said that if one judges by perfection he could not possibly be a hypocrite, but he would have to find a new way to live as one cannot live by that standard. My young assistant then explained the way of living by grace to him.

    In summary I would say that anyone holding your view of sanctification consistently cannot avoid the charge of being a hypocrite or of teaching a view that bears the fruit of hypocrisy. I (and John and Tullian) see God’s call to always judge by moral perfection–the wholeness of goodness, Christ Himself–and when we think this way we cannot be hypocrites–by the definition of the moral categories. But we, like everyone else, are tempted to be lazy hearers of the word of righteousness and so get distracted and then judge by cheap law (or look away from the perfect law that brings liberty, and so become forgetful or lazy hearers, as James puts it). We are no better that you or any other lazy saint. Our view of sanctification simply by definition has power to free us from trying unsuccessfully to keep the commandments and from being hypocrites. We know we fail and we know why we fail–because we took our eyes off the law glorified in the atonement and put it on cheap law expecting someone to meet our non-perfect standards. Of course they don’t and we get upset. I never get upset when I expect someone to be perfect–it is humanly impossible.

    My view of sanctification causes me (when I am thinking of the finished work of Christ) to be drawn to lazy Christians and to long to spend time with them to edify them for they are dearly loved by Christ. My call is to follow Peter’s lead in 2 Peter where he is dead set on making sure the saints have their minds set on the finished work of Christ–even after he dies he still wants them to have a reminder. When my mind is set on the law glorified in the atonement I am also drawn to all my critics and all those I see to be wrong. Is not Christ smiling on those lazy saints and urging them to remember His finished work? I don’t want to be overly critical, but I sense in your words (and in the words of Matt and many saints around me who hold your view of sanctification) a distancing of yourself from the saints your deem to be lazy. Don’t you feel that within yourself even?

    I care much for you brother and wish we could sit across the table and discuss these matters more intimately. I and the Apostles invite you to embrace God’s way of sanctification–a way of thinking that frees one from ALL hypocrisy and partiality and fills one with gentleness, mercy, approachableness and much more. Here it is at the end of James 3: “But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.” -James 3:17-18
    First it is pure (unpolluted). When one gazes on moral goodness unpolluted by partial obedience–either expected or performed–one’s heart opens in grace and the life of Christ flows out like a mighty river. It is true that almost all saints and theologians, new and old, Catholic and Protestant, hold your view, though most don’t have a developed theology of it, they just bumble along trying to do the best they can. The Christian church is filled with much of the horrible descriptions that are also in the book of James–division, coldness, judgmentalism, bitterness, envy, hatred, and worse (between and within denominations, congregations, elder boards, and families). James seem to cry from heaven that religion that doesn’t perfectly control the tongue is vain and teaching that doesn’t control the whole body is false. This is all about a false view of sanctification–one which does not honor the moral law as a seamless whole. Your view of sanctification seems to have ruled the church since shortly after the apostles. The NT is filled with words of the apostles defending the gospel and sanctification from attackers declaring the necessity of some motivation by the law–that the gospel doesn’t go all the way in explaining everything Christian (to use James Denney’s words). The apostolic view is that sanctification is by remembrance of the law glorified in the atonement, the finished work of Christ. Period.

    Again brother, it is not about you or Matt or my pastor friends, or my mentor who agree with you. We are all in the same boat fully welcomed, cleansed and blessed by Christ. The issue is the mind set that Christ has given to every saint and told him or her to use. We all have a choice. We are all told to be transformed by the renewing of our minds, to set our minds in the heavenlies where Christ is, to love fervently with a pure heart that we received when we purified ourselves in believing the gospel. Worldliness (for atheists, Mormons, Muslims, etc) is all about trying to live a good life with the commands provided by the conscience or religious teachings in view . Christian holiness is all about being set apart or different. Different from what? Different from the above motivation. Our motivation is actually an inspiration of infinite power rooted in seeing the goodness of God glorified in the finished work of Christ. Most Christians sound like Mormons: “Now that I am a Mormon it is time to obey God.” versus “Now that I am saved it is time to obey God.” Don’t be fooled. Both say that it is good and necessary to want to obey God.

    In Sept 2001 my doctor (a Jewish surgeon) told me I had cancer and that we needed to move quickly. It turned out to be stage 3 cancer. I have 2 degrees in engineering and have given my life to the study of the Bible and preaching the gospel, knew nothing of medicine and so was oblivious to my condition. But I trusted the surgeon and immediately told him to proceed as quickly as possible. I share this often with unbelievers as a lead in to aggressive law/gospel conversation. I tell them that they have spiritual cancer and don’t even know it. A person is converted by leaving behind spiritual cancer–thinking that goodness can be partial and so seeing the need for some bit of personal righteousness. Most of God’s dear saints and congregations are gripped by going back to that old way of thinking that goodness can be partial and the moral commands of God should be our motivation to do good. Tullian, John and I have joined the voices that are rising here and there in various denominations joyfully declaring that the finished work of Christ is all we need to ponder to live the Christian life well and all that God calls us to consider to inspire us to live the Christian life well.

    Brother, consider my words, and see if God might be calling you to add your voice to that growing chorus of the fresh breeze that will blow much of the division, coldness and apathy our of the church and breathe life into lazy Christians. I may not live to see the new reformation but it is coming and maybe sooner than I think.

    I am glad to be with you forever in the grace of Christ,

  • Randy says:


    While I am sure you wrote some wonderful stuff, I apologize for not reading all that you have written. Simply put, my mission in life now that He has called me to Himself is to know Him and to make Him known. It is not to focus on law or grace as the goal, but to focus on the One who created both of them. For me, to focus on anything other than Him is to make that thing as a god in my life. (I just wonder when I read other comments here if some have not made grace as god in their lives rather than God Himself.)

    If this new fresh vision helps you in seeking Him to not rely on your own performance, good for you. But this constant droning that everyone is like you and needs to embrace this message is just simply not true. (I read this a lot in some of Tulian’s writings where he states that we always default to this way of thinking; I guess I must be the only person in the world that does not default to this way of thinking. Or as one of the local grace zealots has accused me of lying to myself.) Each and every day I rest on what Christ did for me on the cross and by His life giving resurrection. I just don’t have that “bent” that compels me to rest on anything I have done or could ever do as adding to what He has done. And frankly, I come across many people who are like me. So I don’t buy your comment that “most of God’s dear saints are gripped” by this. Maybe all the ones in your area of the country, not where I live. Some “religions” in our society do place too much emphasis on works.

    The real spiritual cancer is not law or grace or works; it is sin. Sin brings death. This is what separates a person from God and what impairs a believer’s fellowship with God (Ps. 51).

    In keeping this brief, James also admonishes that faith without works is dead. Works are not an add-on to what Christ did, but a follow-on of what saving faith does II Cor. 5:17-21.

  • Randy,

    Dear brother, you must be an enigma to yourself. Perfect law and perfect grace are who God is. You can’t know God if you don’t know Him as perfect law. You can’t know God if you don’t know Him as perfect grace. If you say that all you want to do is know Him and make Him known (the theme of the Navigators who led me to Christ 34 years ago), then why do you so freely criticize lazy saints and “grace zealots” and preach sanctification by using the moral law as a guide (but not the moral law as a complete seamless whole)? [Note: Again, in this post I am speaking only about sanctification unless otherwise noted.]

    You are correct in saying that many saints have made an idol of the word grace. But the meaning of grace is righteous generosity. One cannot idolize that. What I hear you, Christians generally, and most preachers I have observation of describe is really the concept (moral category) of leniency or unrighteous mercy—a lowering of the standard of obedience from complete goodness so that partial obedience at some high (but not perfect) or very low level can be honored. The lazy saints you criticize are thinking leniency and you and others in criticizing them are thinking leniency. It is impossible for grace to be used as a license for sin because of the definition of the moral categories. What is used as a license for sin—by the lazy Christians and in your excuse-making words (doing your best, noboby’s perfect, trying)—is leniency. Jude 4 is misinterpreted when used as such a criticism. The Greek word means exchange—like swapping out a hard drive for another hard drive, not using the same hard drive for a wrongful purpose. Righteous generosity (grace) is swapped out for unrighteous mercy (leniency) and bears the ugly fruit of lasciviousness, which Eph 4:19 indicates to be the source of all uncleanness and greediness (not merely sexual sin). Think: laziness, fornication, stealing, judgmentalism, murder, hypocrisy, partiality, etc.

    Also, one cannot use the moral law as a guide to know God for sanctification, because to do so would be to turn it into an idol—some lifeless cheap golden statue. The moral law is alive only when it is whole because then it is God Himself. The moral law is only of value in knowing God when it reflects His true character, which can be known only in Christ—who is moral goodness as a whole. When a person see God’s moral character as a whole (including at least perfect love and finished work at the cross), he falls down and worships and is moved to celebration of the cross and moved to love his brothers without the taint of selfishness. [Please don’t use an excuse word here, but try to follow my reasoning.] When saints think of moral law as a whole, all attitude problems between saints disappear and differences based on tradition don’t separate them. Why? Because we realize that we are all helpless sinners and all accepted into the beloved by the work of Christ. This is true unity. Using the law as a guide is likely the cause of all the sinfulness in the church. I cannot think of an exception but am open to suggestions. One cannot use the law as a guide except by particularizing it and losing its sense of wholeness. This is the gross pollution that at least Isaiah, Jeremiah, James, Peter, and Jesus preach against. If you don’t see it I would be glad to suggest questions that get below our shallow Christian reading of the Bible as a a to do list for the Christian life. We want easy answers about what we need to do now that we are justified by faith. Most of us are afraid to ask hard questions for clarification and instead swallow like a baby robin what ever mama robin (pastors, teachers, Christian books) drop in our mouths. Every verse can be read in two ways, either cheap law/leniency or pure law/righteous generosity. It is very interesting to begin noticing and evaluating this contrast everywhere. Luther wrote that his great temptation was to go back to seeing Christ as a lawgiver. Luther said that Paul’s point is that Christ is no lawgiver. He blamed his Catholic training that trauma.

    One of the horrible results of seeking to use the moral law as a guide for sanctification is hypocrisy. Again, one CANNOT think wholeness and seek this way, because thinking moral wholeness causes the human mind to rest. See Isaiah 6 and 53 which are connected in John 12. God IS dishonored when one does not think wholeness of goodness. To think about the moral law as a guide to sanctification is to swap out Christ in His person and finished work for some partial substitute that we can try to obey and tell others to obey. I explained this in detail in my previous post. Each person and denomination or group makes their own checklist, i.e., a subset of moral law that motivates one to action. If the checklist is moral perfection, it cannot directly motivate to obedience to it, because the conscience knows it is already beyond reach because one sin ruins the whole thing. Comparative obedience becomes the rule and coldness, suspicion, and criticism springs up like weeds. There is very much division among saints in Reformed circles. Add more labels and the divisions multiply. If we would return to the apostolic teaching of Christ as our sanctification, the divisiveness among those who embraced such would disappear overnight.

    Here are three ways your use of the law for sanctification has resulted in hypocrisy in what you say. 1) You say you are doing your best, but yet say that you sin sometimes. Why don’t you take the way of escape that God ALWAYS provides in EVERY temptation? NO temptation is too difficult for you to trust Christ in and not sin. 2) You certainly have sinned in the last week and so are not taking seriously the call to stop sinning. You are just like the “lazy Christians” that you are criticizing, with the only difference being one of degree–they may look like they are sinning more than you are, but neither of you are keeping the apostles commands—as you define them. It is obvious that you don’t think that you are as sinful as those people, otherwise you would not be criticizing them so freely in the way you do. They are at fault but not with your diagnosis—that they are taking advantage of God’s grace. The true diagnosis is that they are dull hearers of the word of righteousness (they lack skillfulness in the word of righteousness) and are forgetful of what righteousness is. This is why they, you and I sin—as I think is clear in scripture, especially see Hebrews 5:11-6:12 and James 1:25 in context. Why do you think you sin? Why do you think they sin? I truly am curious to hear your reason. More importantly, please explain how your level of sinning is acceptable to God and theirs is not. 3) You criticize others for not answering your call to discuss sanctification. I answered it and you wrote that you didn’t have time to read it. This seems to indicate that you aren’t really interested in reasoning about the scriptures but in declaring yourself to be correct and above questioning. Only Christ holds that position. We are called to exhort our brothers. You put your nose in other saints business to exhort them about sanctification. Fine. I assumed that you desired to receive as well, and so have offered you what you requested in vain from others—why your view is not only unnecessary but actually in error.

    If you embraced sanctification by using “moral law glorified in the atonement” as your inspiration, all your hypocrisy would disappear overnight. Again, hypocrisy is thinking one’s obedience is satisfactory and someone else’s isn’t. Therefore no one can be a hypocrite while thinking the way I declare the apostles teach us to think. See James 3:17 in the context all of James. What I am saying is true because of the definition of the moral categories and every thoughtful atheist could tell you so as well because God has written it on every conscience.

    Please consider my words as I urge you to give up these two idols of leniency and “law as a guide for sanctification.” Actually if you give up the latter the former will automatically disappear.

    I care much for you brother and want to see you free to testify of the righteousness of Christ in every conversation about sanctification instead of making excuses for your sins. Sin is dishonor of the law. When one truly honors the law–which is only in the finished work of Christ–, sin disappears and need not be excused. There is a reason I sin: I look away from perfect law (moral law as a seamless whole) to your vision of sanctification by personal obedience for myself or anyone else. Period.

    If you ever make it to Utah, let me know and I will buy you dinner.

    I am glad to stand with you in the lavish righteous generosity of Christ

  • Randy says:

    Please don’t jump to conclusions: “This seems to indicate that you aren’t really interested in reasoning about the scriptures but in declaring yourself to be correct and above questioning.” I hear you say you care, but two paragraphs above you do no speak very lovingly to me, including the sentence in quotes.

    No one gains when you talk down to them. There is a reason that we all sin; it is our sin nature that came to us via Adam. Paul speaks of this battle clearly in Romans 7.

    I am not saying that obedience to the law, commandments, imperatives in Scripture add anything to salvation. But they are a rule for faith and practice.

    Before Paul speaks about the fruit of the Spirit in Gal. 5, he speaks about the characteristics of those who will not inherit the kingdom of God in verses 19-21. Scripture makes it clear to us what to avoid and what to seek after.

    In your way of living, how does one grow in their walk with God?

  • Randy says:


    I think it is time for both of us to move on with the real work of the kingdom.

    God uses many things in our lives to teach us about Himself. One of the main things that He uses in my life is His word. I am not saying that sanctification comes only by obedience to Scripture; it comes by an infinite number of things that God uses in our lives. He is an infinitely holy God who lavishes His blessings on us in many ways.

    BTW, the law can become a guide without becoming an idol. You many not believe it, but it is true. Why else would scripture exhort us to faith and works? The law is not the end game; it is to know Christ and the power of His resurrection Phil. 3:10. Just because Col. 4:2 says “Devote yourselves to prayer, keeping alert in it with an attitude of thanksgiving” does not mean that prayer has become my idol.

    I wish you well as you seek after God. I pray that He will reveal Himself to you in new and different ways everyday. I also pray that you and I will seek to be satisfied with the things of God, not the things of this world.

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