Alan Chambers has just published an opinion piece for Christianity Today that confirms what I wrote a couple of weeks ago. The recent controversy surrounding his tenure as President of Exodus International has less to do with his views on homosexuality than it does with his views on salvation. Chambers still affirms a biblical sexual ethic. He simply argues that Christians can ignore that ethic and still be considered Christians.
As I noted two weeks ago, Chambers seems to be advocating the non-lordship view of salvation that was made popular by Zane Hodges back in the 1980’s. This so-called “free grace” view teaches that an ungodly lifestyle need not trouble the assurance of a true “Christian.” According to this view, a Christian can apostatize and still be considered a true Christian.
In the CT piece, Chambers reasserts this view and complains that Christians seem to be singling out homosexual sin as if it were worse than all others. He charges many evangelicals with being inconsistent:
For anyone to point at one group of people with a certain set of proclivities and condemn them for those things while exonerating (or ignoring) another is hypocritical and inconsistent. Can a believer persist in willful pride and still inherit the Kingdom of God? Can a believer persist in willful alcoholism and still inherit the Kingdom of God? Can a believer persist in willful gluttony and still inherit the Kingdom of God? Can a believer persist in willful heterosexual pornography and still inherit the Kingdom of God? If you aren’t consistently and regularly calling all sin sinful, and calling all people (including yourself) to holy living, then how can you do so for those living homosexually? And, if you are unwilling to pronounce the same eternal sanctions on all willful sinning believers as you are on the gay and lesbian willful sinner, how can you justify that? [underline mine]
Chambers seems to imply that the answer to the underlined questions above is yes. But a biblical answer to those questions is clearly no. Those who continue in willful unrepentant sin will not inherit the kingdom of God. Those who say otherwise are simply contradicting the clear teaching of scripture (1 Cor. 6:9-10; Gal. 5:19-21; Eph. 5:5-6).
Chambers says in the CT piece that he doesn’t have the time or the inclination to understand different theological systems. But I would argue in this instance that he really needs to understand this one. He is leading a ministry whose mission is “to minister grace and truth” to homosexuals. Yet he’s embraced a view of salvation that would lead homosexuals to believe that all they need to do is believe in Christ momentarily. After that, they can apostatize without that having any negative impact on their assurance of salvation. (I once heard a “free-grace” proponent argue that a person can believe in Christ for one minute and then worship the Devil for the rest of his life and still be considered a Christian.)
This is a dangerous and damning view of salvation—not just for homosexuals but for sinners in general. It’s why John MacArthur wrote The Gospel according to Jesus so many years ago. Jesus’ gospel warns all professing believers to beware of saying one thing while doing another. Jesus’ gospel has no place for the unrepentant. Jesus’ gospel transforms those it saves. Those who aren’t transformed aren’t saved—no matter what their profession of faith is. That is why Jesus himself would say things like,
“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven; but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven” (Matt. 7:21).
A sinner can call Jesus his “Lord” all he wants, but if he doesn’t do the will of the Lord then he’s not really a Christian. He’s a hypocrite and unbeliever. That applies not merely to homosexuals, but to every sinner—including those other ones that Chambers listed above. That’s what Jesus taught, and that is what’s taught everywhere else in the Bible (e.g., 1 John 2:4).
Chambers chastises Christians for ignoring sins like gluttony and alcohol abuse while focusing unfairly on homosexuals. But I think this misses the point. No one in our churches is arguing about the moral status of gluttony and alcohol abuse. Everybody agrees that those are sins. But that is not the case with homosexuality. There is an active campaign to subvert the Bible’s teaching about homosexuality. There are people both inside and outside our churches urging us to abandon Christ’s teaching on marriage and sexual morality.
The reason for the current controversy is not that Christians have become especially prickly about homosexuality. The reason for the controversy is that the forces of darkness are leveling an attack against the Bible on this point. Faithful Christians are going to have to stand clearly for biblical truth in the midst of this controversy. There is no neutral ground.
Chambers’ non-lordship view enables Christians to be complacent about the war being waged against the Bible’s teaching about sexuality (Chambers calls the arguments “pointless” and “exhausting”). But the biggest danger of Chambers’ non-lordship view is that it enables sinners to be complacent about sin. It enables them to regard holiness as an optional add-on to their Christian faith. Yet the Bible says that without holiness no one will see the Lord (Heb. 12:14). That means that the very homosexuals that Chambers wishes to reach will never see the Lord if they continue in their sin. Even if they claim to be Christians, they won’t inherit eternal life in the end if they’ve spurned Christ’s Lordship in the present.
I really appreciate much of the work that Chambers has done through Exodus. I am very grateful that he clearly affirms a biblical sexual ethic. On that issue, we need more voices like his in the public square. Yet even though Chambers may hold to a biblical sexual ethic, it will be to no avail for those who miss a biblical view of Christ Lordship. Maybe Chambers would reconsider his views on these points. I hope and pray that he will.
Excellent article. I did some volunteer work with Exodus many years ago and I can tell you theology has never been their strong suit. There was a Mormon guy in the group I helped with and the ministry leaders didn’t confront him about the false gospel he believed feeling their place was only to deal with ‘the issue’ as long as he claimed to follow Jesus.
Their theology was, and apparently still is, heavily dependent upon personal experiences with God rather than what’s said in God’s unchanging word. That approach to truth always leads to compromise because apostasy is defined not as deviating from God’s word but daring to question the validity of another’s experiences.
Another important passage on this particular topic is Revelation 2, where the resurrected Christ speaks to the problem of a certain prophetess named or nicknamed “Jezebel”. This woman “seduces my servants into sexual immorality”.
Sound familiar anyone? A leader or self-proclaimed leader who promise a liberated theology and tell people in the church that they don’t need to listen to those old-fashioned apostles and pastors anymore? That’s right, don’t listen to people like Paul who say things like “there should not even be a hint of sexual immorality [among you]”.
When I was younger, I wondered how a woman like this Jezebel could even be allowed into the 1st Church of Thyatira.
I don’t wonder any more.
I agree with you Denny. I am very disturbed by Chambers’ continued defense of his position. But I think any persuasion will have to take into account some nuances of the Biblical position. To argue that those who continue in wilful unrepentant sin will not be saved (or are not saved) will be interpreted by many to support “works salvation”, and this is something that many people rightly run from.
The fact is, as you would agree, that we are saved not by stopping sinning; we are saved by Christ who then works in us to stop sinning. That is a crucial point that, even though careful readers will see in your post, the Alan Chambers of the world will not. It needs to be spelt out really clearly.
Take the Kings of Israel who were considered righteous even though they had not removed the high places; or Samson, the sexually immoral judge, or the Christian slave owners in America’s past. What about the greed of Western Christians (1 Cor 6:10) or the reviling amongst us (also 1 Cor 6:10)? There are sins in our lives where we resist the conviction of the Holy Spirit, and yet we are saved. There are sins that we are unaware of and yet we are saved. Now, those are not quite the same as the sins you were talking about, but they are similar enough to warrant more nuance in arguments, because the Alan Chambers’ of the world (and there are many) will only hear a call to works righteousness through their mental filters.
Enough rambling. At the end of it all, however, I agree with you, Denny.
Yes, the Lordship view is often mischaracterized as salvation by works. But that’s not at all what those biblical passages are teaching. It’s not salvation by works but salvation unto works. A person gets saved by grace alone through faith alone on the basis of Christ’s work alone. But where that salvation has truly taken hold, there will be a change in that person’s life. It doesn’t mean that they become sinless. It just means that there is now a new power and inclination to struggle against sin where such power and inclination didn’t exist before. It’s not an issue of perfection but of direction. True believers have a different course in their lives. The new course doesn’t cause their salvation. It’s the result of their salvation.
I’ve seen many elder men of the church face imminent death in recent years… questioning the Salvation they had… because lesser men in the pulpit did not know the difference between what you call the Lordship view… and straight out Legalism.
Denny… I’m going with Grace… because I can biblically prove it, and there is no other acceptable answer.
Salvation is not an experiment that Theologians, Pastors and Pundits get to play God with.
Ali, beyond what Denny said to explain Lordship Salvation, I think he already addressed part of your concern in the paragraph that starts with “Chambers chastises Christians for ignoring sins like gluttony and alcohol abuse…”. In any event, why are we pointing to other sin problems in the church in order to justify virtual indifference on this topic? How is that helpful to anyone, now, much less at the final judgment?
The bottom line is that Scripture gives grave warnings to those who persist in sin: “if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a fearful expectation of judgment…” (Heb 10) We all need to take that very seriously, not explain it conveniently away under a broad rubric of grace.
I kind of get the impression though that this issue has to do with purpose. Exodus is a parachurch ministry, which in essence is trying to move people from unbelief and secularism into the church and a practice of faith that ought to lead to a changed life. I can understand why he doesn’t want to unnecessarily put up walls that don’t need to be there before gay/lesbian people have actually heard the Gospel message.
Most of us are already in the church, as elders or deacons, trying to safeguard from the inside. Most of us are focused on what to do with people once they ARE in the church, established and agreed to certain doctrines of the faith.
I say let Mr. Chambers cast the net as wide as he can. Once he catches them though, I hope he brings them to the church, so we get to clean em and gut em and keep them from rotting or spoiling…
Pardon… but the cleaning and keeping is the work of the Trinity…
Everything else… agreed.
Derek, I don’t disagree with what you or Denny said. What I am. concerned about is clear communication. I also hope that in our disagreement with Chambers, we ourselves don’t forget nuance. The forgiven, unrepented sins I mentioned before do have a bearing on this issue.
Fair point- perhaps I misunderstood your objection earlier. Your comment does remind me of Psalm 130:3: “If you, Lord, kept a record of sins, Lord, who could stand?” One of the most important things a person can understand is that God is looking at the condition of our heart more than the list of sins or good deeds we have committed.
So it is easy for us to look at a passage like I Cor 6 and think that here is a list of particular sins and see them as different than other sins. But I don’t think Paul gave us this list so we could build a neat list of particular sins as damning nearly so much as he was saying that these are examples of a heart that is in opposition, not submission, to Christ’s Lordship. Much of I John seems to be saying the same thing (e.g. I John 4:20) and the parable of the unmerciful servant In Matt 18 being another example. Alan Chambers and Zane Hodges don’t seem well equipped (with their theology) to understand or internalize or appreciate the meaning of these passages.
Is Inheritance and Salvation… the same thing?
That appears to be what is being argued by some… without examining the words in the book.
You are caught in a web if you say it is… because then it becomes works based Salvation… or works KEPT Salvation… which is no Salvation at all.
Faith without works is dead. There MUST be fruit or there is no life. James said it and it is part of the whole of scripture. Our works never save pre or post salvation, they provide the proof of the life therein.
This is true…
Now… show me the fruit of the Evangelical’s outreach to the Homosexual community or LACK of it for the last 30 years.
Show me the fruit of 70% of Youth walking out the door of your church and never coming back. And 90% for PK’s.
Show me the fruit of a biblically illiterate generation. And I’m talking about the people who are over 50.
Show me the fruit of Seminaries who don’t even teach the Hebrews crossed the Red Sea anymore. (I’ll show you my textbook from the SBC extension service)
If you gave your congregation a Pop Quiz this weekend with ONE SINGLE QUESTION on it… “What is the Gospel?” Would they be able to answer it with anything other than “The Good News”?
I don’t have a single problem with producing good works from a new heart and a new life.
I DO have a problem with Pastors who promote their own brand of legalism because THEY themselves cannot explain “What is the Gospel?”
If you promote a Gospel of Law… than we might as well go worship in the Mosque. It’s from the same exact source.
I accept the challenge…..
For your first point, I don’t have any good answer for the mainstream Evangelical church other than to say I believe they most likely a) treat all un-churched the same, b) shy away from the issue because it makes them uncomfortable, c) lack the intellect, heart and determination to present the gospel in an effective manner. I do not pretend to have all the answers for the latter of the three just presented. However, I do also believe that engaging homosexuals one on one is not and should not be condescending. A relationship over a long period of time must be with an individual that garners trust and respect and a certain degree of friendship is a must. This allows influences and they can see your faith for what it is, non threatening.
Secondly, this has everything to do with a complete lack of understanding of the covenant, the gospel and the work of Christ for the church. Baptizing an infant puts God’s sign to the man, (not man’s sign to the world or God) that the child is His. It is up to the parents to teach them from that point how to love Jesus, what sin really is and how it separates us from God and how repentance works. This is an extremely small nutshell which does great disservice to my view, but it should be sufficient.
The remainder flows from my second response, treating children as if they are outside the covenant, when clearly they SHOULD be included (Acts 2 with special look at 37-39 and EVERY place where the apostles are reprimanded for restricting children access to Christ). When we treat children to PROVE they are in the covenant, we are hypocritical especially when we baptize adult believers and then let them go their merry way without any accountability. God knows the heart, man does not. We as well as infants of believing children are in the covenant until they prove themselves out of the covenant. When we treat our children in a negative way, demanding they conform without teaching them what it means to follow Christ from birth, what should we expect, an apostate and illiterate generation of unbelievers who grow up “under the Church” but not IN then Church, yes?
No, one in my local church would have an issue with the question “What is the gospel” and in fact, even most of the kids could explain it better than adults in other churches.
Steve, I respect you completely. There must be a standard, and Christ laid it out. “If you love me, keep my commandments.” He does not throw out the OT he affirms OT teaching in the NT and it is all about the heart. The only aspect of the “law” that is replaces is the sacrificial system (because Chirst was the final sacrifice), and separation laws designed to teach us how to be in the world but not of the world. We still have the principle to keep ourselves unspotted from the world, but we can eat pig… very tasty I might add….
I hope I have answered some of your questions. It is difficult to do in this setting. Thanks for your time.
Sorry, a huge number of typos in my reply. I hope the meaning was conveyed.
OK Denny… I realize that I am a lowly lay person and not worthy of a response…
But the church puts forth 3 Lies about what the bible says about Homosexuality to suit ITS purposes that are absolutely DEADLY to the people it wants to reach.
Here they are:
1. Sodom was destroyed because of Homosexuality.
2. Romans 1 is a condemnation of Homosexuality.
3. A Homosexual Lifestyle means you can’t inherit Eternal Life. (you said it yourself in this blog post).
All three of these ideas are provably, biblically wrong. Every one of them is a lie. The scripture does not make any of these claims. Yet every Evangelical church promotes these ideas.
Maybe… just MAYBE if we read our bibles a little closer… a little bit stricter… we’d learn something. Maybe we’d actually reach the Homosexual community.
Sodom was destroyed because it was a city given over to wickedness. Homosexuality itself was not the core problem, though it was a clear manifestation of an internal spiritual sickness. As was their chaotic, rampant violence.
You’ve come part way to me… let me come part way to you.
Why are Lot and his two daughters rescued?
For most of my life… I never understood why Lot was even in the book… the guy is a Putz. A loser. He NEVER showed ANY redeemable qualities in any place in scripture…
So why did God rescue him and his two daughters?
Lot is certainly a person most Christians can identify with – there’s no evidence that he was violent or sexually immoral and this is probably because he was God fearing. Yet, he seems also to have struggled with fear, materialism and apathy. I believe God spared him because a) He was merciful and b) he ultimately was a man of faith, though he had many weaknesses (not unlike the others in the hall of faith of Heb 11). Lot and his family did have a final test as they fled the city. It was God’s grace to Lot and his family that a way out of destruction was provided. But they still had to choose to walk through the doors of grace. Lot passed the test of faith, his wife (sadly) did not.
I appreciate the answer.
Its pretty much the standard answer we’ve all been given by others… and I am not saying it is wrong, or wish to denigrate it… but there is another reason.
He’s in the Messianic Ancestry.
That is something that even Solomon cannot claim.
I dont believe Lot is in the lineage of Christ. At least not directly. Lot is the father of the Moabites and the Ammonites. Ruth was a Moabite woman, who is mentioned in the lineage of Christ. Is that what you are referring to?
Steve, it is plausible that this is the reason God chose to open a door of grace to Lot, though Johnny is right that we can only speculate. We do know from Romans 9 that God gives grace to who He wants, when He wants and without regard to our righteousness or unrighteousness. Clearly, those in Christ’s lineage demonstrate that.
2 Peter calls Lot righteous and the story of Sodom was not just judgement upon Sodom for their wickedness, but God rescuing Lot and his family from that judgement. Much like He rescued Noah at the time of the flood.
I want you to remember that YOU brought up Noah…
You’re right… much like he rescued Noah.
You’re exactly right.
Now what were the conditions again that brought about that flood judgement again?…
“Now what were the conditions again that brought about that flood judgement again?…”
Gen 6:5 – Then the LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the land, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.
Plus they were also getting their freak on with angelic beings. Much like what the Sodomites wanted to do.
You’re about to catch on.
“But as the days of Noah were, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be.”
Yes, I agree that it will happen again… if it isn’t already happening.
Derek & Johnny,
Not only is it plausible… I guarantee it.
And Durn tootin’ it’s Ruth I’m referring to… Because the Law Prophesied it.
There are two ways to look at the law… one is for condemnation of transgression… that’s what a Prosecuting Attorney does.
The other way… is to look at the fine print and discover redemption or relief. That’s what a Defense Attorney does.
Jesus told us that the Law would be fulfilled… every jot and tittle.. and he told us that the law IS prophecy.
Go look at Deuteronomy 23: 2 & 3… and read it as a Defense Attorney… a Judge Advocate if you will.
Gentlemen… count to ten.
I want to back up a litte bit for a second. I missed this in your post the first time, but Solomon is in the line of Christ. He is mentioned in the genealogy in Matthew.
Now I like where this discussion, simply because I might learn something new here, but when I count 10 generations from Ruth I get Uzziah from the Matthew genealogy and Joseph from the Luke genealogy. So I am probably missing something here.
There is the question of how one defines a descendant. The Bible almost exclusively uses father as the ancestor and claim to heritage, So would a child by Ruth and Boaz be a descendant of Moab (Ruth) or a descendent of Israel (Boaz) for purposes of the Law? We also know that Boaz and Ruth is a picture of Christ as Redeemer, so would Ruth’s redemption bring her into the family of Israel?
Solomon is in the line of Joseph… which is the Matthew account.
Solomon’s bloodline did not come through Joseph… because Joseph is not the Father of Jesus by blood. Joseph was a legal inheritor of the Davidic Monarchy… BUT…
Solomon’s bloodline had a curse placed on it during the time of Jeconiah. (See Jeremiah 22:30) and in Jeremiah 23… he prophecies about the “Righteous Branch”… meaning… a different branch of David’s family tree… David and Bathsheeba’s third child… Nathan… which is what you’ll find in the Luke account… the Messianic BLOOD line that comes through Mary.
(There’s more to this… a lot more… including a very special and odd procedure of passing inheritance down that was the very last law that God and Moses put on the books… see “The Daughters of Zelophehad”)
Now… for Ruth:
You don’t start the count with Ruth… Ruth is the FULFILLMENT… she IS the 10th Generation.
The way you discover this is… Moab had to have been born within weeks… probably days of Isaac… Count the generations from Isaac… and who do you get at 10? Boaz.
The book of Ruth links the laws of Deut. 23:2-3 together… on purpose. We are SUPPOSED to find this.
Ruth Chapter 4 gives the details of the fulfillment of Deut. 23 verse 2 as it lists the line from Pharez… the offspring of Judah and Tamar (the Harlot by the side of the road), to David… the 10th Generation.
If any of this is confusing… or you want more info… send me an email… I’ll get you the details.
stevenlynch (at symbol) hotmail.com
In the 20th Century it was called “Eugenics” in America…
“The Master Race” in Germany…
Well, these are the logical conclusions/destination/implications to macro evolution. As a worldview; as a pursuit within science; as a means of mankind seeking transcendence/immortality outside of God. One of many reasons why the origins question is of significance.
1. Sodom was destroyed because of Homosexuality.
2. Romans 1 is a condemnation of Homosexuality.
3. A Homosexual Lifestyle means you can’t inherit Eternal Life. (you said it yourself in this blog post).
Please explain how these are “lies”. They seem right to me.
Sodom was destroyed because of homosexuality. (Genesis 19)
Romans 1:22-28 includes a condemnation of Homosexuality.
and I Corinthians 6:9-11 does say that both active and passive homosexuals will not inherit eternal life, the kingdom of God.
Let’s take these in reverse order.
3. Please read the verse you quoted once more. It does NOT say eternal life… It says inherit the Kingdom. Respectfully… those are two ENTIRELY different things.
No where in scripture is Eternal Life equated with inheriting the Kingdom.
2. Romans 1 is a condemnation of cultures that deny the Authorship of Creation to Yahweh/Jehovah God… Homosexuality is the JUDGEMENT.
1. One verse theology is to blame here. Only one verse in the entire scripture gets you “Sodom was destroyed because of Homosexuality”. If you examine the scripture commentary of Peter and Jude (especially Jude)… You are going to see another reason. I’m not going to give you the definitive answer that you want on this one… You will need to search out other commentators… but it is very clear that the Orthodox interpretation of this story has big flaws.
I sincerely appreciate the questioning of my statement and welcome any other questions.
What is the kingdom, and what is eternal life? The two do seem inextricably linked as in many places the kingdom talk is associated with eternal life.
Luke 18:15-19 – This passage is of particular interest because the kingdom of God and eternal life are mentioned one right after the other.
Matthew 25:31-46 – Another passage that equates the kingdom of God and eternal life.
Now I do agree that the judgment of Romans 1 is indeed homosexuality, but it does follow that the judgment of homosexuality makes the act in itself a sin, yes? It is not and cannot be construed to mean it is a righteous act, as it is a result of a refusal of not JUST a culture, but also individuals to deny God and His creation. And then a whole host of other sins are added on for good measure as an added judgment.
Lastly, it seems apparent that Jude simply confirms what Paul says in 1 Cor.6. I think rather than being a bit coy on this last one, it would be helpful to explain how you arrived at this conclusion (the whole Orthodoxy interpretation being flawed and such)
You’re going to have to help me here… because I study scripture in a very precise way… and the Matt 19 scripture is not aiding your point that you’re trying to make with me.
Luke 18… even less.
The Matthew 25 scripture is much more interesting… and probably puts the nail in the coffin of legalism. Notice all the things NOT in that scripture… No mention of accepting Christ as Saviour… no mention of anything the average Evangelical church puts on its members today… Yes… very interesting.
Wade… sorry… I forgot to comment about what you said about Jude.
and Yeah… I’m being “coy”… I will admit that.
There is a reason.
I’ve been studying the issue of Sodom for several years… and examining the scriptures very closely. The thing that really started opening my eyes to what happened at Sodom… was a similar event that happened early in American History… on the Lewis & Clark Expedition.
The more I learned and found out both on my own… and from others, The Homosexual narrative started to crumble. In exchange… a bigger, much more diabolical and biblically provable narrative started to emerge.
There is a pattern to how and why God brings judgement in the Old Testament… when he PERSONALLY gets involved. I came up with 3 simple reasons… and Sodom didn’t fit any of the 3 reasons… at least the Homosexual narrative about Sodom didn’t.
The understanding of why Sodom was destroyed… doesn’t start in Genesis 18 or 19. You’ve gotta go back earlier in scripture to understand. You’ve gotta see who God brought OUT of Sodom… and WHY.
Sodom was not a Judgement. It was an Act of War…
So for 2,000 years Steve the church has misread scripture. All the church fathers, theologians and lay people who took the plain meaning of the passages you cite at face value were wrong. But you’ve figured it out and can now set everyone straight after 2,000 years of error.
I think the one trying to make scripture say what it doesn’t to suit a personal agenda is you my friend.
I appreciate the concern… but I am not alone.
Point # 2 is provable just by reading the text, all you need is to pay attention to whom the condemnation is addressed to.
And 2000 years? No. Try 1600.
What is your view on homosexuality? Is it a sin? What should the Church’s role be in addressing this sin?
It is a sin. It misses the mark… it is not the model, it is not the purpose of the design.
That being said… There is more to this book we call the bible than focusing on one’s behavior.
There is a war going on. When did we forget this?
We have overly focused on the activities inside people’s pants to the detriment of examining what is happening inside their chests.
Homosexuality is not an issue about sex.
Its about the heart. Broken ones at that.
Legalism… the law will not deliver them. Why then do we bang that drum at them so loudly?
I can tell you why.
We’re more scared of a judgement than THEY are. Why is that?
you are right that we are not at war with flesh and blood, but with the powers and principalities.
Now, I dont see Denny banging the drum of legalism. He and many in the evangelical community have been preaching a gospel of grace, but many Christians have been preaching a different gospel. One that says that sin is OK and something that should be accepted. The Gospel requires that we see ourselves as sinners in need of a Savior; a Savior who has redeemed us and delivered us from the penalty of sin.
You are also correct that, at times, Christians focus too much on the sin and forget about the sinner who needs Jesus. We should all be on our knees in prayer fighting for the lost.
Nobody said sin was “OK”
Sin was defeated.
Scott makes some good points about the Lordship position being backdoor legalism (see further down in thread).
I’ve been suspect of the morality movement for a while… It masquerades as being righteous… but the fruit of it is broken Christians.
I liken it to the same thing that Muslims teach about personal Jihad… the struggle over ones own personal sin. That doctrine leads to mental insanity… because you wil NEVER make it. Its what makes martyrdom look so appealing. Martyrdom is the ultimate in Works based Salvation.
I’ve never questioned the veracity of scripture a single time… only man’s interpretation.
There is not always plain meaning in the scripture… when it has been hidden by the Author… waiting for someone to dig it out.
Find a bible that is at least ten years old… with good maps.
Find the location of Mt. Sinai on the most relevant map.
Now… tell me what country does the map have Mt. Sinai located in?
“I find the arguments above exhausting. They are never-ending, one-dimensional, and somewhat pointless in the grand scheme of things….I am not smart enough and don’t have enough time to know how those other labels would fit or serve me or those to whom I have been called to minister.”
How sad! Alan Chambers is the President of the leading homosexual ministry in the world, and he doesn’t have enough time to study theology? Theology matters. What bothers me most isn’t so much that he holds to free-grace, although that is disturbing and not the Gospel. What bothers me most is that he doesn’t seem to think that theology matters, as long as one loves “Jesus.” Wait, who is Jesus? Oh wait, that takes theology. Anti-intellectualism, as well as free-grace, are serious threats to the Gospel. Lets pray and hope for Mr. Chambers change of heart.
You are just wrong.
Matthew 19:16-26 – eternal life, life, heaven, kingdom of heaven, kingdom of God, saved are all parallel and speaking of the same thing.
16 And someone came to Him and said, “Teacher, what good thing shall I do that I may obtain eternal life?”
17 And He said to him, “Why are you asking Me about what is good? There is only One who is good; but if you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments.”
18 Then he *said to Him, “Which ones?” And Jesus said, “ You shall not commit murder; You shall not commit adultery; You shall not steal; You shall not bear false witness;
19 Honor your father and mother; and You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
20 The young man *said to Him, “All these things I have kept; what am I still lacking?”
21 Jesus said to him, “If you wish to be complete, go and sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.”
22 But when the young man heard this statement, he went away grieving; for he was one who owned much property.
23 And Jesus said to His disciples, “Truly I say to you, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven.
24 Again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.”
25 When the disciples heard this, they were very astonished and said, “Then who can be saved?”
26 And looking at them Jesus said to them, “ With people this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”
I notice you left out inheritance.
Also… kingdom of heaven… and Kingdom of God, NOT the same thing. They are not parallel. There are distinctions… otherwise, Matthew would not be the only one to use both terms.
As Matthew is written to the Jews… perhaps you’d do well to have someone Jewish teach you. They are still looking for the promise of a Jewish Kingdom… with a Jewish King.
I realize the small matter of a 1000 year rule of a Jewish King from a throne on Mt. Zion might put a kink in your criticism of my statements…
I’ll get over it.
I’ll just let God speak here…
James 2:14-26 14 What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him? 15 If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, “Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,” but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit? 17 Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.
18 But someone will say, “You have faith, and I have works.” Show me your faith without your[d] works, and I will show you my faith by my[e] works. 19 You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe—and tremble! 20 But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead?[f] 21 Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered Isaac his son on the altar? 22 Do you see that faith was working together with his works, and by works faith was made perfect? 23 And the Scripture was fulfilled which says, “Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.”[g] And he was called the friend of God. 24 You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only.
25 Likewise, was not Rahab the harlot also justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out another way?
26 For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.
Eph 2:1-10 1 And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, 2 in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, 3 among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others.
4 But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, 5 even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), 6 and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly placesin Christ Jesus, 7 that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, 9 not of works, lest anyone should boast. 10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.
I should follow up once more lest you guys throw the Apostate and Heretic label on me and cast me out.
There is no doubt that our efforts are important… My purpose in wrestling with this issue is to point out that we have fallen into a method that puts the cart before the horse…
We expect people to show evidence by their works that they have been transformed by the Gospel…
Then get upset when they don’t have a heart for it.
This was my personal experience…
Until two Rabbis walked me down the Emmaus Road.
Study that story… better yet… study it with me. When is the last time you had a bible study that made YOUR heart… BURN?
Give me a shout out Wade… stevenlynch (at symbol) hotmail.com
Matthew 7:21: “Not everyone who says to me, Lord, Lord, shall enter the Kingdom of Heaven, but he who does the will of my Father in Heaven.”
“At first glance, verse 21 seems to be saying that the decisive difference between those who are excluded and those who are admitted into the Kingdom of Heaven is the difference between empty professors and actual doers of the Word. It is not those who say, Lord, Lord, but those who actually do the will of the Father, who are admitted into Heaven. In verse 21, Jesus seems to be making the same distinction that James makes in 2:14: What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him?
The contrast in James is between a person who says something with his lips, but does not give evidence of his faith by his works. But, unlike James, Jesus does not explicitly mention belief in verse 21; he mentions doing and saying, asserting that doing the will of the Father in Heaven is required to get into the Kingdom of Heaven, but saying Lord, Lord is not enough.
Again, at first glance, verse 21 seems to contradict verses such as Acts 16:31: Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved…. and Romans 3:28: Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith apart from the deeds of the law; and Ephesians 2:8-9: For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast; and scores more verses that deny salvation comes by doing.
This apparent contradiction in the New Testament raises a further difficulty: Does the Bible contradict itself? Many scholars say, Yes, it does. Or if they are coy rather than candid, they say the Scriptures contain tensions, paradoxes, and antinomies. The scholars apparently never consider the possibility that they have misunderstood the Scriptures. They are quick to attribute logical difficulties to the revealed propositions (and they always add that it is pious and humble to do so), but they do not even contemplate the possibility that they might not understand the text. That would be unthinkable! Imagine! Professors and theologians not understanding the text! Impossible! Therefore, the text itself must be paradoxical.
But as Christians we ought to be humble and say, Of course the Scriptures contain no contradictions, no paradoxes, and no tensions. When we come to what seems to be a contradiction in our theology, we must check our premises, return to the propositions of Scripture, and conform our thoughts to what the non-contradictory Scriptures say.
The first glance reading of verse 21 raises still another problem: Does Jesus teach legalism? Here I am using the word legalism in its proper sense: the notion that one can obtain, in whole or in part, salvation by doing, rather than by mere belief. Norman Shepherd appeals to this verse because he believes that Jesus does in fact teach salvation by doing here. The central problem in verse 21 is the
meaning of Jesus’ phrase: he who does the will of my Father in Heaven. He believes that that phrase means works. But that interpretation, of course, implies that the Bible contradicts itself. And that interpretation of the phrase cannot be correct, because of what verse 22 says.
Verse 22: Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in your name, cast out demons in your name, and done many wonders in your name?
Now if we understand verse 21 as Shepherd understands it, what Jesus says in verse 22 is both unexpected and inexplicable. If Jesus’ point in verse 21 were that faith is not enough, that good works, or covenant faithfulness, or obedience is also necessary in order to be sure we are saved, then Jesus should have said something like this in verse 22: Many will say to me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, we trusted in you alone, we had faith in you alone, we believed the Bible and your words.’ But of course Jesus says nothing of the sort. Instead, he reports that many people will appear before him at the Judgment and will talk about their works, not their faith or correct doctrine. But these people-the ones who present works-will be excluded from the Kingdom of Heaven.
Let us examine this verse carefully.
First, Jesus says Many. At first glance, verse 21 suggests that there will be only a few among those who will say, Lord, Lord who will be excluded from the Kingdom of Heaven. Jesus had said, Not everyone, and, sinners that we are, we jumped to the conclusion that he meant almost everyone. But here in verse 22 he says many. Many will come before Christ Jesus and speak to him, saying, Lord, Lord, and they will be excluded from the Kingdom of Heaven.
Jesus in his mercy tells us what many will say to him in that Day: First, they will acknowledge the Lordship of Jesus Christ, addressing him as Lord. Not only will they say it once, they will repeat it: Lord, Lord. Recognizing the gravity of the situation, they will plead for their lives. This repetition of Lord may also suggest that they think they are on familiar terms with Jesus.
Next, they will ask Jesus a series of questions, calling the Christ himself as a witness in their defense. Notice that they will not directly assert that they have done good works. They will speak in
interrogative, not declarative, sentences. Because of this, their defense will actually be much stronger than their own mere declarations would have been: They will call Christ Jesus himself as
their defense witness. They will ask him to testify to the facts of their lives: their prophesying, exorcising, and wonderworking.
Some commentators have tried to dismiss the claims of these defendants by suggesting that they will lie or exaggerate, that they really will not have done what they will claim to have done. There is nothing in the text that supports such an accusation. That misinterpretation is a desperate device to evade what Jesus is telling us in this passage. The defendants will make no direct assertions. They will ask questions. They will address those questions to Jesus, whom they will acknowledge as Lord. They will ask him to testify to the truth of their claims. They actually will have done these things on Earth: prophesying, casting out demons, and performing wonders.
Now the fact that many people will have done these things on Earth implies several things.
First, it implies that these people are not mere professors, without works and without practice, as we may have concluded from our superficial reading of verse 21. They are not pew warmers; they are not spiritual spectators; they are not churchgoers who show up only on Easter and Christmas; they are not those who have no works. These people have many works, and they will call on Jesus himself to testify to their works on Earth. Theirs is not mere lip service; theirs is not an empty profession. They will have been very active in church and in other religious endeavors.
Second, not only are these people active in the churches, they are church leaders. They prophesy, they preach, they proselytize, they teach; they cast out demons, they exorcise; they perform many wonders -not just a few, but many. These are things publicly done, not things done in a corner or in the privacy of one’s own home.
Third, they will do all these works in the name of Jesus Christ. Notice that the defendants will use the phrase “in your name” repeatedly: They will prophesy in Jesus’ name; they will cast out demons in Jesus’ name; they will perform many wonders in Jesus’ name. They will be leaders in professedly Christian churches. They are not Buddhists, performing these things in the name of Buddha. Nor are they Hindus, performing these works in the name of Shiva or some other Hindu god. Nor are they Muslims, doing these things in the names of Allah or Mohammed. Nor are they Jews, doing these things in the name of Abraham. These are not pagans ignorant of the name of Jesus; they are professing Christians who will do all these works in the name of Jesus Christ.
Excellent exegesis Mark. 100% agree.
Mark… I think you may have made my case.
Salvation… and Inheritance… are not the same thing.
That’s the answer to the Paradox.
Salvation is not dependent on works. Its a free Gift of God.
Inheritance… does depend on works. Bad works can lose it… and to achieve it, you must have good works.
They are not the same thing. I’m sorry if it upsets people to realize there are different categories of Saints… but let’s face it… in your church, there are different categories of Saints.
Consider the irony of the exegetical situation. Proponents of assurance by works appeal to this passage in Matthew 7 to support their view that belief alone in the Lord Jesus Christ is not enough for salvation, that we must also practice the Lordship of Christ by faithfully performing works in order to show ourselves that we are saved. Yet this passage clearly teaches that some of those who confess Jesus as Lord and perform amazing works will be excluded from the Kingdom of Heaven.
Therefore, one may acknowledge the Lordship of Christ, perform many wonderful works, and still perish. The passage is not a contrast between mere believers (who are lost) and workers (who are saved), for Jesus himself says that the workers are lost.
Let us turn our attention briefly to the sorts of works these church leaders will have done. They will have prophesied in the name of Jesus; they will have cast out demons in the name of Jesus; they will have performed wonders in the name of Jesus. Now, these are not only works; they are extraordinary and supernatural works. In fact, they are the greatest works done by men and among men, to use John Gill’s phrase. None of us, perhaps a few of us, but certainly not this writer, has done anything remotely as great or as impressive as these works. Our works are ordinary: attending church, being good neighbors, giving money to the church and to the poor, taking care of our families, and so on.
Now here is the question: If none of us has done or will do anything like the works these men will have done, and if these men are lost, then what hope is there for us? If Jesus himself turns these men out of the Kingdom of Heaven-these many men who have performed such great works in the name of Jesus-what hope have we?
The answer is, We have no hope, if, like these men, our assurance of our faith depends on our works. We will have no hope, no matter how faithful our obedience, regardless of whether we act in the name of Jesus, or whether we confess Jesus as Lord. When these church leaders give their defense at the Judgment, they will offer their works as Exhibits A, B, and C. Their plea to Jesus will be their works-works done in the name of Jesus, to be sure, but works nonetheless. And far from lessening their guilt, doing their works in the name of Jesus increases their guilt before God.
Far from teaching a message of works, Jesus warns us that anyone who comes before him at the Judgment and offers his covenant faithfulness as his defense will die the second death. What is wrong with their defense? Jesus tells us plainly: They will plead their own lives and Christian works.
What their defense should be is not their works, but the imputed righteousness of Christ. Those condemned will not mention that they are sinners saved only by the righteousness of the Man Christ Jesus. They will not deny the substitutionary atonement of Jesus Christ for his people, but their assurance will be their own idea of what “doing the will of God” means.
John Robbins, The Trinity Foundation
The big thing that you are missing here is a failure to distinguish between works and genuine fruit that flows out of abiding in Christ. Any unsaved person can perform good works, and unregenerate Saul and Caiphus could be used by the Holy Spirit to prophesy. Any unregenerate person can also say the sinner’s prayer or agree with the doctrines of the Gospel, but that does not mean they are truly saved.
Some “works” arise from regeneration and some may arise from a religious legalist who wrongly believes that good works apart from saving faith will appeal to God. The “works” that God desires from us flow out of a response of obedience, faith, worship and repentance. These components are inseparable from saving faith and if you do separate them, you have a works-righteousness, not a saving faith. At no point are we given hope that an intellectual assent to the Gospel alone is evidence of salvation.
Repentance must accompany intellectual agreement with the Gospel. Obedience and action are inseparable from repentance. It is not merely an intellectual agreement about our sin or sinfulness as some suggest. Genuine faith and obedience flows out of a dependence upon God and total surrender of oneself, as opposed to a self effort/reliance, demonstrated well by the rich young ruler, whose heart was truly not surrendered.
2 Peter 1 describes a list of fruit that we must be growing in, as do other passages. I Corinthians 13 of course gives a great explanation of why works, separated from worship, faith, hope and love is dead – one passage among many, many others that help us understand that Christianity is primarily about a heart that has been set right with God. We cannot embrace a saving faith that eliminates essential ingredients such as these, nor can we embrace a notion of saving faith that dangerously extracts the ingredients of obedience, repentance and practical working out of faith (Phil 2:12, 13).
Derek, I agree with one caveat.
Proof of salvation is not required for baptism. It never was in the NT, and baptism was expanded (from circumcision) to include all who believe, not just the adults, children and strangers (who wished to join Israel).
After baptism we are to evidence the fruit of salvation, but as fallen creatures this is very difficult to ascertain at times. Therefore we SHOULD give the benefit of the doubt to all who name the name of Christ. We must bear with one another in love, and GENTLY hold each other accountable when there is cause for doubt.
I’m not sure where I said that one must show proof of salvation before baptism. Though I would say, speaking as an elder at my church, I wouldn’t be very responsible if I didn’t look for evidence of salvation/regeneration, (which is not the same as proof).
Re: holding one another accountable, we must be gentle, agreed. I’ve seen both ends of the spectrum – abusive leadership that questions and challenges everything and harms the sheep; and passive leadership on the other end that doesn’t practice even the first few steps outlined for us in Matthew 18, much less church discipline. We should practice Matthew 18, which in my view preserves the exact balance we need to have w/r/t accountability. Furthermore, the stakes on this are huge because rare or never found, is the Christian who can persevere a lifetime without the Body holding them accountable. And a robust, fully orbed understanding of salvation cannot be understood apart from the call to persevere until the end. Yes, God is the One who ultimately preserves His saints, but in HIs providence, He chose the Church as a primary mechanism to do so.
What you say is fine as an elder to look for the evidence, but the bar is pretty low. There is not a method set out in the NT for this examination and it is not required, there is no apostolic teaching on the practice that takes place commonly in many churches. People are scrutinized quite handily, with some churches withholding baptism for months, sometimes years….. I know this is an extreme but it happens and it is wrong. One of the legacy problems brought about by the Puritans.
My point is there are places that speak of “Repent and believe..” (where the audience is mainly Jewish in Acts 2.) and other places such as the Philippian jailer (who I think was a gentile…not sure) was told after asking what he must do… believe and you and your household will be saved (paedobaptism loud and clear here). So what do we say with this? There are no contradictions with God’s word, so we must understand that examinations must have a pretty low threshold and baptism should be administered without delay on one who proclaims belief. For infants of believing parents, the parents’ faith is sufficient (as evidenced by the Philippian jailer ref.).
It is indeed a balancing act, but “erring on the side of caution” to keep people out is doing great disservice to the church.
Lastly, understand I don’t accuse you of this Derek, just pointing out it IS a legitimate problem in the church and really needs to be stopped as a practice. I agree with what you say though with regard to accountability. “Grab em by their baptism” so to speak….
I’m not a paedobaptist, but I do understand the Biblical reasoning behind it convinces many good brothers and sisters to practice it. In my own view, the Philippian jailer episode and other passages used to affirm this particular branch of Covenant theology are not enough to nail the carpet to the floor for me, though. Other conclusions are plausible and more convincing to me.
One of the best arguments for paedobaptism, is the argument from silence. Culturally, people “got it” that it was a natural transition from circumcision to baptism, which is why there is no new teaching on who should and should not be baptized in the NT. If there was going to be a restriction to keep children from being baptized there would HAVE to be teaching to change the OT understanding of covenant and circumcision. There is no argument at ALL in the NT, and in fact the apostles are reprimanded by Christ for restricting access of infants and children to Him.
Once I “heard” this argument, it was all over for me. I could not justify thinking that paedopabtism was wrong. I heard this during a debate between RC Sproul and Alistair Begg at a conference in FL many many moons ago….
If anyone in the world could convince me, it would be RC Sproul – I’d definitely be interested in reading or listening to something he’s said on this topic.
Also for further reading I highly recommend R. Booths “Children of the Promise” Randy was a reformed baptist pastor who took up the task of disproving paedobaptism and ended up unable and gives his very well reasoned case in this book.
O.Palmer Robertson’s “Christ of the Covenants” is also a great resource, which laid the foundation for me. I read this one years before I read Randy’s book.
I accept that the threshold should not be unreasonable and in Acts, we clearly see that baptisms are conducted so quickly that a drunkard might not even be technically sober by the time they’re baptised! So your point is a very reasonable one. One reason I would put a pause on someone’s baptism would be if they are demonstrating insobriety (e.g. drugs or alcohol) after conversion; living with an unmarried partner/same sex relationship; demonstrable unforgiveness; evidence of bitterness or hatred. Scripture gives us strong evidence that even if there is a possibility that a person might be saved with these problems, we do damage to the Body when we baptize a person in these conditions. That said, I wouldn’t say to a person something like, “stay sober for 3 months and we’ll baptize you”. I agree with you there.
Agreed as well. I think we are on the same page…in the same book
Again… that legal Camel gets its nose under the tent.
Hey guys… this is nothing new… the First Century Christians wrestled with the exact same problem in Acts 15… the council of Jerusalem.
They didn’t know what kinds of rules and commandments they should put on the new Gentile believers…
Many advocated for them to become Jews first by circumcision…and keep the law.
That is… until Peter steps it up and says… “Neither our Fathers or we could keep the commandments… why do we want to put that burden on them?”
Peter then underlines the validity of their salvation by saying he wanted to be saved JUST LIKE THEY WERE… by GRACE!!
(God I love that verse)
And then what does James do? He gives an edict of rules… 4 rules. In fact… they’re not even rules… their guidelines.
That’s RIGHT… in Acts 15:28-29 they issued… “the 4 suggestions.”
Let’s remember what Galatians and Acts 15 are addressing: Certain Jews were saying the following: “Unless you are circumcised, according to the custom taught by Moses, you cannot be saved.”
This would and should draw a major violation no matter, whether you are a “free grace” or “Lordship salvation” camp. Why? Because they were placing an initiation practice (a “work”) at the very inflection point between unregeneration and regeneration; a prequisite for salvation.
We can’t emphasize too often that salvation is by grace alone, through faith in Christ. But that does not invalidate the warnings addressed to believers to persevere in faith (which necessarily INCLUDES but is NOT LIMITED TO works that flow out of dependence, obedience and repentance e.g. Philippians 2:12,13, James 2:14). Nor does it mean that if a man is flagrantly disobeying Scripture (e.g. I Cor 5, 6), that we should agree as a community or church that the person is saved and allow him to remain among us. In point of fact, it is dangerous to the Body to do so. Now, we also don’t say that the person is not saved because they have not accumulated sufficient brownie points or works; we say that the person demonstrably has not been regenerated; that Scripture has given us specific examples of what false regeneration looks like for a reason; and that there’s even a possibility that this person will lead others into sin and false teachings (see Rev 2 on Thyatira).
And that is really what this whole deal with Alan Chambers really comes to and why this discussion matters.
There premise of that point is not complete. It wasn’t just circumcision that was the focus of the debate… It was the WHOLE of the law.
If it was just circumcision… Peter wouldn’t have said that neither their Fathers or them were able to comply… because they most likely HAD been circumcised.
It was the Law as a WHOLE. Why? Because at that point the Apostles UNDERSTOOD that the Law could ONLY be fulfilled by 1 man… and that man had come and done it.
The powerful realization that they themselves had been in the physical presence of the Creator of the Universe … elevated them from a place of ignorance about why they followed the Law to begin with…
— to being able to positively Identify the Son of God from any and all counterfeits.
These guys KNEW that they KNEW. 100% confidence… not in the Law or following it… but that the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, … had their back.
The Law is not license for Priests & Pastors to determine the Salvation status of a Human Being at their own personal whim or opinion… if it were… there would be no salvation for anyone…. as evidenced by the conversation between you, Steve, Scott and Denny below.
If you guys cannot convince each other that one of you is right about your version of salvation and how a christian should act… then ALL of you are wrong… and Grace wins.
You know why this so-called “free Grace” thing scares so many guys in Ministry? Because if it ever got out… they’d be unemployed.
There is no paedobaptism loud and clear in those verses. Read them again as babies cannot do what the jailer’s household is said to have done.
Show me in scripture where children are specifically restricted from baptism. You won’t find any.
See above my comment above to Derek for further argumentation toward paedobaptism….
An argument from silence is a weak argument and can only possible mean anything when there is an unstated but assumed cultural background by the author. In this case, the background is the Jewish mikveh baths as part of a conversion to Judaism, but no infants did this (either).
One can wash a baby all one wants and it still will not be a baptism. That is because by its nature, baptism is an act of faith; if there is no faith, then it simply cannot be baptism, it is just getting wet.
All, it has been a complete pleasure to read and discuss these issues from all of you. It has been good, lively and most importantly, respectful which is the best of all…
I have to now bow out simply because I am trending toward thievery from my employer.
tchoate67 with the google version mail account.. if you desire to talk further.
Thanks gents and adieu…
I have really been wrestling with this, particularly as it relates to Philippians 2:12-13. What is meant here when Paul writes that we are to “work out your salvation”? Is this a call to Lordship salvation? Is he really saying that your salvation is kept only by your good works?
If that’s what’s being said here, my question is, “How many good works are enough? How much desire to do right before God does it take to prove your salvation?” I know I am a child of God because I believe in Christ as my Savior. My trust is in Him alone for salvation. My works didn’t earn my salvation and my works don’t un-earn my salvation.
Salvation is bought and kept in Christ alone. So, is the real point of all of this to look at our actions and try to discern whether or not we are truly saved? I don’t think so.
We work out our salvation, but we don’t work for our salvation. Paul has already made it clear that he is speaking in Philippians to people who have a relationship with Christ. He is talking to people who are already doing good works. He’s not speaking to lost people at the church in Philippi… He’s talking to people who’ve already been awakened by the grace of God. So, working out your salvation is not meant to make them worried about their position before God as His saved children. It is there for a different purpose. It is there to encourage them to work out what has already been worked in.
The problem that you and others have is that you want to make “Free Grace” proponents out to be people who don’t care about works and think that works have no place in true belief. As Paul would say, “May it never be!” Works matter, but works don’t save you and works don’t keep you saved. You can return to the cesspool of sin even after you’re saved, but why would you want to?
See, the fact of the matter is that most of us live in habitual sin, some of which we may not even be fully aware of, and some of which we aren’t the least bit repentant about. We ignore our own sin regularly because our depravity runs deep. So to conclude that “Even if they claim to be Christians, they won’t inherit eternal life in the end if they’ve spurned Christ’s Lordship in the present” is tricky business. My contention is that we all spurn Christ’s Lordship in the present from time to time. It’s a serious problem, but it infects us all. To deny that is to deny your ongoing need for Christ and be guilty of the very spurning that you so despise.
And to your earlier point about everyone recognizing gluttony as a sin… You might want to rethink that. Baptists are notorious gluttons. They joke about how much they love to eat and have potluck meals. Many pastors and ministers in our churches are obese, but you never so much as hear a peep about it. Are you really saying that an obese pastor who is clearly engaging in an ongoing lifestyle of gluttony is not really a Christian because he fails to deal with his sin and exemplify Christ’s Lordship in this area of weakness? Man, I hope not.
Free Grace is easy to despise when you make it about a guy who’s saved for an hour and then worships the devil the rest of his life. But it’s a lot harder to despise when you make it about an obese pastor who fails to address his gluttony or a prideful pastor who is blind to his arrogance. But if we’re talking about a gay pastor, that’s easy. He must not have ever truly been saved, right?
Regarding Philippians 2:12, 13 – no, we are not saying “salvation is kept only by your good works”. That verse is not about earning God’s approval/salvation by good works. It is essentially a call to persevere in the faith. We are being called to “take hold of that for which Christ Jesus has taken hold of me” (Phil. 3:12). The NT is absolutely chock filled with Scriptures challenging/motivating/encouraging regenerate believers to persevere. This is one of them.
We should ask the question, “why is this?” Why warn truly regenerate people? Why warn about apostasy? We really need to ask this because if we don’t, we will do what some have done, and ignore these warnings and admonishments to persevere in faith – when they are in fact there for a reason. In short, these warnings are a “means of grace” and are intended to keep us in a place of faith that is as natural as breathing, rather than a one time or unique event.
His sheep hear his voice, including his warnings, and they obey them and they persevere because He will see us through from beginning to end. Those who are not his sheep, and who do not truly hear the shepherd’s voice, ignore the warnings and fall away from the faith. They do not persevere. Their response to the warnings is the demonstrable evidence of their “not hearing” and not believing God. “They went out from us, but they did not really belong to us” (I John 2:19).
Where evangelicals have gone off the rails is that we have largely failed to see these warnings as God’s means of grace. From God’s perspective, it is 100% true that once saved, always saved. Our problem is that if you look at Scripture, salvation is spoken of as a future event 9 times out of 10. Evangelicals have flipped the equation. We almost always speak of it as a past event.
What does this mean for us today and for the church? At worst, a “free grace” grid causes us to preach a truncated gospel, where a hearer believes that the mere praying of a prayer or intellectual assent to the Gospel saves them, whether it is described that way or not. The NT command to repent is rarely given because so many are terrified it will be understood as “works based theology”. So the repentance that should have happened and would have happened (because the regenerate person would have repented through the agency of the Holy Spirit, not self-effort), often gets omitted. The best case scenario we could make for our current state of affairs is that no one is ultimately lost as a result of our sub-NT theology, but that the sad impact has been an epic failure of discipleship and loss of rewards for those whose theology was so fragmented and faulty.
RE: gluttons- it is a good example for us to look at. If you can imagine a continuum between “people struggling with weight/eating issues” on one end and “people celebrating their obesity”, where is the person? I would have very serious concerns about a person who was celebrating their obesity and didn’t see any problem reconciling that with their faith, then yes, that is a serious issue. I would want to know if the person understands what the Gospel really means and whether or not they have apprehended it.
And it is a problem in the Church, I agree with you here. But I would argue that much of the reason it is a problem is because of our lack of intentionality in the area of repentance and discipleship. Which is really why the widely held “free grace” grid is sub-Biblical, in my view.
Thanks for the note, brother. I agree with you that we all sin every day in countless ways. The older I get, actually, the worse I feel about the persistence of sinful attitudes and deeds in my own life. Sometimes it feels like I’m getting worse, not better.
I think the issue for me is repentance. It’s not that Christians stop sinning or never backslide. The question is whether or not they ever get to a place where they stop repenting of their sin. I’m a daily sinner and a daily repenter. If I ever get to a point where I’m only a sinner and not a repenter, then I think there would be cause for concern about the reality of my salvation. In the New Testament, church discipline is oriented around this concept. Everybody in the church sins (1 John 1:10), but not everyone gets disciplined. The only people who we are to treat as unbelievers are those who persist in unrepentance when confronted with their sin (Matt. 18:15-17).
I expect Christians to be capable of all kinds of grievous sins. As a pastor, I see it all the time. What I also see among the brethren, however, is repentance. Christians are a band of strugglers. When a so-called Christian quits the struggle, we have to be concerned for his soul.
As far as progress is concerned, I think sanctification happens in fits and starts. The overall trajectory is one of progress, but it won’t necessarily feel that way to the one who is being sanctified. In fact, it will probably be more apparent to others looking on than to the sinner being sanctified. The more mature a sinner becomes, the more aware he becomes of his own sin.
What concerns me about the Zane Hodges brand of “Free Grace” teaching is that it seems to allow for apostates to still be considered Christians. I just don’t think that’s biblical.
Thanks for the conversation!
The issue is not struggling vs celebrating. The issue is doing. According to your view, if you fail to do good works, there’s no proof of your salvation. If you consistently fail to do what’s right in a particular area, whether struggling or celebrating, you are failing to persevere, even if you’re doing good in other areas.
My view is that we all fail to persevere to varying degrees. To what degree must one persevere in order to be truly saved?
According to you, a person can struggle with gluttony and still be a true believer, but if they celebrate gluttony, they are no longer a true believer. I’m saying that the bottom line for both strugglers and celebrators is their actions. Cannot a struggler and a celebrator both be guilty of the same amount of sin? Sin is still sin, even when it’s struggling sin.
So, the problem with your argument is that it determines salvation not by overcoming sin struggles, but by the struggle itself. So, as long as you’re struggling against sin, you must be saved. If you’re celebrating sin, you’re not saved.
I find this argument absurd. I believe that every sin is a celebration of our depravity. We celebrate our desire to rebel each time we sin. So, in this sense, all sin is a celebration. Paul makes this clear in Romans 7. He’s struggling with sin, but he’s sometimes losing that struggle, and his conclusion is that he is wretched. His conclusion is not that he is not saved, or that somehow his salvation has been proven invalid. It is simply that he is wretched and God is merciful and faithful in spite of his wretchedness.
The truth is that those who believe are all wretched sinners saved by grace. Sometimes we struggle with sin and sometimes we celebrate it and ignore it. And sometimes we are convicted and compelled to deal with it. Either way, we don’t keep isalvation or lose it based on our good works, and it is tricky business to try to evaluate someone’s salvation, especially based upon one particular area of conduct (homosexuality, gluttony, etc.).
First of all, I agree with Denny’s last comment. Just an additional comment about Matthew 18. Matthew 18 is remarkably helpful in this respect, because a person who is truly regenerate will almost always respond to one of the steps taken. If a person does fail that test, we still may not know whether the person is regenerate or not. If they are truly regenerate, God will bring the person back into a state of repentance in His own timing. But as we cannot access the Lamb’s book of life directly, nor are we encouraged to channel it, we are to treat the person as an unbeliever until they show signs of life (repentance).
If I heard that a person in my church was telling others “I am a glutton and am ok with that. If you don’t like it, you’ll have to just get over yourself”, I would be the first elder at my church to initiate Matthew 18. If they don’t respond to the steps taken, I would treat them as an unbeliever and I trust the rest of our elders and ultimately, our church, would do the same. This same prescription applies whether we’re talking about unmarried heterosexuals living together, or a person engaged in repeated patterns of deceit, unforgiveness, etc.
One of the primary reasons we don’t practice Matthew 18 is directly tied to free grace theology. We are so afraid of calling new and old believers alike to repentance because we are mortified that it might be interpreted as legalism or works based theology. This results in a sub-par NT church model that many of us find ourselves in.
Thanks for the response. I can appreciate your point. I am Very uncomfortable with the idea that a person can “get saved” and then live like hell. I’m also very uncomfortable with the thought that our works are the cut and dry proof of our salvation, especially when only using a single issue measure as your proof. Please understand that I believe that works matter a great deal, and I’m not advocating any view that fails to compel Christians to do good works. I also firmly and fully believe that homosexuality is a sin.
What I am uncomfortable with is what I am observing a lot lately among young reformed believers who claim grace as the lynchpin of their beliefs, but then run around trying to impose a new law as proof of perseverance.
If you’re not “Radical” like Platt, or if you’re not demonstrating “Crazy Love” like Chan, or if you’re “Wasting Your Life” according to Piper, then you may not really be a Christian. I’m not saying that any of those authors are making those claims, but their followers sure seem to be. There is a danger here of a new kind of legalism, and I find it to actually run contrary to the gospel and contrary to a truly reformed view.
So, that’s probably what I’m reacting against. I tend to lean reformed, but I’m always going to stand on grace. As a great old band used to sing, “My faith is like shifting sand, but I stand on grace.”
“I am Very uncomfortable with the idea that a person can “get saved” and then live like hell.”
If someone lives like hell and claims to be born again, we are not supposed to comfort them with assurance of salvation. To do so is dangerous. Even if they are truly saved. They need to be warned, whether they are truly saved or not. We need to do what Paul said, ask them to “examine themselves, to see if they are in the faith” (2 Cor 13). And that is the time to practice church discipline and to rebuke them in love, not give them a false sense of security.
OK, Derek. I said I was uncomfortable with the idea that someone could be saved and live like hell. That means that I don’t like that idea. That means that I don’t agree with that idea. That means that I’m not a total “Free Grace” guy. I guess you won’t be satisfied until I say that I’m going to start disciplining everyone I run into who’s not living right.
And I worry a little bit about people who seem eager to rebuke and enter into church discipline. I wonder if you’re really as hard core about church discipline as you seem.
Church discipline is necessary, and I am in a church discipline process right now with one of my members. It’s grueling and sad and hard, but it has the potential to be wonderful and redemptive and lasting. I’m committed to it, so that’s probably something that you need to know, because you seem to be assuming that I’m against it. I’m not against it, but I’m not running around looking for opportunities to engage in it.
Anyway, I don’t fully disagree with you, but I don’t fully embrace your views either. I don’t think this is always a simple, cut and dry issue like you guys love to make things. I think calls for repentance and church discipline and condemning people to hell are serious issues that are often complex and nuanced and require lots of prayer and careful consideration. It’s just not as simple as you seem to be making it.
I’m not saying the Bible is not clear about it, but I am saying that the real life application of these clear things can be muddy and messy. That doesn’t mean they should be avoided, just so we’re clear.
OK, that’s all I’ve got. Thanks for the conversation. I need to move on.
I hope the give and take was healthy. This is an important issue for evangelicals. Also, re: Matthew 18 and church discipline – I don’t enjoy it either. I’m of the opinion that if we had a healthier balance on this issue, we’d all be practicing Matthew 18:15 routinely so that we rarely have to escalate to verses 16 and 17. There’d be fewer schisms and gossip. And this topic with Chambers probably wouldn’t have even been an issue that we have to concern ourselves with.
I respectfully request that you undelete my two posts that you rejected and please post them.
Scott, my comments policy requires that commenters use first and last names. Your comments are being moderated for that reason. If you want to tell me your last name, I’ll fish the old ones out of the trash and put your name on them. In future comments, I would ask you to use first and last name. Thanks for taking time to comment!
I respect all views on this, but a key fact might be that the gay Christians I know sincerely believe that the “clobber passages” in the Bible that speak of homosexuality, do not apply to loving committed gay relationships. I know that opinions differ, as do books written on the subject. But if God looks on a person’s heart to see their motivations and intentions, then I at least will not judge their salvation.