A Message From My Brother Stephen Wilcox * With An Additional Note From Me

The following is a verbatim quote of my brother Stephen Wilcox from a Facebook post he shared with me, with a NOTE after the quote that is from me:

“Brothers and Sisters,

If you are afflicted, squirming in agony at the end of your rope and drowning in the sum of your fears, please prayerfully read this:

“Then Job took a piece of broken pottery and scraped himself with it as he sat among the ashes. His wife said to him, “Are you still maintaining your integrity? Curse God and die!”

Have you been there? Are you there now? Even Jesus Himself cried out: “My God! My God! Why have you abandoned me?”

No mortal has the power within to endure the unendurable. Who but God Himself can rescue you from sitting in your own waste, scrapping off blisters with a broken bottle? I don’t know. Even best friends wax eloquent with sympathy, but bring empty cold comfort only, and change nothing.

Have you ever been so low that Satan sends a messenger, usually a loved one, to tempt you? They scream: “Curse God and Die! Have you ever walked through the dark valley of death in despair and dread of the trap you have fallen into? Right now are you alone and terrified of the future and helpless?

In the same way Job gasped: “I will not give up (my integrity),” we must not turn our back on He who owns our lives. He can spend us, or save us as He wills, according to His purpose. Our years are not ours. If we steal what is His, we will be judged as the wicked servant who buried his talent to avoid risk.

Just like John the Baptist in prison while Jesus is going from victory to victory, or Paul in chains and filth while others sell the gospel on their terms, we must carry our own cross. Crawling up that hill we join untold millions of saints crucified for Christ long before us, and most likely after us.

Remember, God has promised that He will not lay upon us more than we can carry. He will be with us each step of the way. So, we might as well put our back into it, for everyone will carry a cross one way or another, either for Him, or against Him. All die without remedy, and after that comes the judgment.

We all know that calm comes after the storm, and day starts when the sun finally shows up. The Book is filled with promises of redemption, so whatever happens, it will be worth it all. I know that. You know that. We all do. God will be there for us, one way or another, when the fullness of His time has come.

However, that is then, and this is now…

Today, if you are stuck on a stinking heap with a bloody piece of Coke bottle in your hand, please listen to the link below and be encouraged to cry out to God. Believe Him! Trust Him! Reach out for His hand!

Also, please remember to pray for each other and be there when, where and how it counts the most by doing unto them as you would have them do unto you. There lies the way, the truth, and the life…

Be blessed I pray!

Chaplain Stephen Wilcox
Theological Foundations Ministries”

* NOTE: I am not seeking to share theological precision by sharing Stephen Wilcox’s post. I did not include the link that my brother Stephen alludes too. You may access that link on his Facebook page.

What follows, in my NOTE to my beloved brother’s post and thoughts, are those his post engendered in me, by God’s providential will.

Perhaps some will care to dissect my brother’s  comments according to proper doctrine, but that is not what my brother Seven Wilcox’s post, or the words of His post, are about.

What they ARE about, however, is that every person must realize that they must come to the end of their own self reliance, and cast themselves upon the God of all Creation, who so loved those He died to save, that He came, in the Person of His Son, to take upon Himself that which we could never pay, to give unto us that which we could never procure for ourselves.

If you take away anything from this post, take away that there is nothing you can do which will cause God to accept you, but that He will accept you in His Son.

Christ endured more than most can imagine, physically; however, there have been those in God’s redemptive history that have endured more torture than He did (as controversial as that statement is, there are those who have endured more physical torture than that which our Lord endured).

What Job signifies, and what we must take away from this post of my beloved brother Stephen Wilcox, is that the Lord took upon Himself that which we cannot endure: The infinite, eternal, displeasure of God expressed in His wrath upon His Son.

None have endured that wrath of God but Jesus. None can endure that wrath of God other than Jesus, because only He was sinless, and only in His infinite capacity as the Blessed One of God, the God-Man who alone could take away the sins of those He died for, could that wrath be endured.

Yet, if one does not gain from God that regeneration which leads to conversion, they will, indeed, experience that wrath of God which is meet to the end to which it is set, for infinite, eternal holiness engenders a like similitude of such characteristics in the one who would approach God, and be accepted of Him as His child

This means, necessarily, that eternal punishment awaits those who reject the wrath of God which was eternally, infinitely, satisfied in His only Beloved Son alone.

Only our Lord Jesus Christ was given the affirmation of “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am pleased.”

Dare we to be outside such pleasure of the Father given to the only Righteous Man who ever lived, and which the Father is pleased to give to us on His behalf?

We cannot know the agonies of separation our Lord went through when He cried, “My God, My God. why have you forsaken me,” for we never had that fellowship eternal with the Father that the eternal Son enjoyed.

Yet He gives to us that which we cannot attain to – that same eternal link to the Father – and more: He gives us, by His propitiating sacrifice, and imputed righteousness, that state of being with the Father in an eternal state, which we could never have attained unto.

Sinner, if you are joined to Christ, you know this foreign righteousness which Luther spoke of; if you are not, God grant you the grace to know the Second Person of the everlasting Godhead gained for you, if you are one of those He alone died for.

Job expressed it well: “Though He slay me, yet will I hope in Him.”

Hope in Him who saves your eternal soul, sinner. Hope in Him who took upon Himself the eternal punishment you were due.

God grant you the mercy and grace to know that, in this world, and that which is to come, “Yahweh saves, and He alone saves.”

Thank you for your words, my brother Stephen Wilcox.

SDG – Bill

ARE YOU A SINNER? (A Brief Meditation)

Mark 2:13-17 (ESV)
13  He went out again beside the sea, and all the crowd was coming to him, and he was teaching them.
14   And as he passed by, he saw Levi the son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax booth, and he said to him, “Follow me.” And he rose and followed him.
15  And as he reclined at table in his house, many tax collectors and sinners were reclining with Jesus and his disciples, for there were many who followed him.
16  And the scribes of the Pharisees, when they saw that he was eating with sinners and tax collectors, said to his disciples, “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?”
17  And when Jesus heard it, he said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”

I would hope that your answer to the title of this short blog article would be “yes.” I would hope that such is the case because you realize that, no matter how mature you are as a Christian, the call of our Lord and Savior never intended to call any to perfection in this life, but towards perfection in the age to come.

Every day, it is brought home to me how far I fall short of the grace and glory of God. I have some dear brothers and friends on Facebook who incorporate the term “wretch” into their Facebook name, and I can well understand that need to recognize the reality of the remaining corruption of the flesh we must endure, constantly repenting and, by our Lord’s grace, overcoming it, until that time when we will be perfected, not by our own efforts to attain that holiness without which no one will see the Lord, but by the Lord of perfection Himself.

This, however, does not mean we do not strive toward such holiness; rather, it keeps us in the knowledge that what began with the grace of God continues with the grace of God, and will be completed by the grace of God.

It is very tempting to think we have arrived at some semblance of that perfection to which we are called. The reality, however, is that no matter what we attain in this life, none of it is to be considered as having arrived at anything that would make us more acceptable to God than when we first were called into that grace by which we are saved (Philippians 3:12-14).

The works we do now, in the present age, were preordained, not to give us that assurance that God alone bestows upon those who are His, but to give Him glory (praise) in various expression. Yes, we may gain some assurance when we do such good works, but the true assurance is always in the objective promises of our great God and Savior.

Too often, we look to the works of piety for that assurance, and doing such a thing will only end up leading us to that place where we see that we have fallen short of that perfection which is in, of and through God alone, and which we will only see and realize in the age to come. When we turn inward, looking at that which we have attained, we fail to see that all perfections are of that grace which called us, and that we were called as sinners.

The New Testament used frequent and various terms to designate those who have believed in Christ Jesus for salvation: called ones, saints, holy, beloved, etc. However, none of these descriptive terms should ever cause us to cease to know, and wonder at, the fact that our Lord called us as sinners, and that even as we have been saved, are being saved, and will ultimately be saved, at this time, He still calls us as sinners. We are to strive for those things which reflect our ongoing conformity to our Lord Jesus Christ, because these prove that fruit which is from abiding in Him; however, it must not be lost sight of that it is because of what He did, is doing, and will do, that these fruitful works are possible (John 15:1-12; cf. 2 Peter 1:1-10). To view these good works as meritorious in and of themselves is to take out of the equation He who brought us into union with Himself, His Spirit and our heavenly Father, as well as one another (thus, the greatest of the fruits we manifest, after love to God, is love to one another).

Our focus must be outside ourselves, which I have found is not that easy a thing for me, but which I am realizing, more and more, is necessary to experience that peace we have with God. It must focus on, first, He who called us, His perfections and merits, and secondly, those He has put us in covenant union with through His work. When these things of objective view are our focus, we can also see the need of those who have not yet gained that grace-given faith, and appeal to them to be reconciled with He who died to save sinners.

SDG – Bill

WHEN LAW BECOMES GRACE

There are those who will immediately bridle at such a title, who make the distinction that the law of God can never become synonymous with the grace of God. After all, aren’t we told in the gospel of John, “For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ?” And isn’t that a dialectic statement permanently pitting the two aspects of God’s revelation against one another?

The answer to the first question above is yes, we are told that; the answer to the second question, however, is no, and because of the focus on these issues presently going on within the broader confines of what could be called orthodox evangelicalism (for want of a better term), this negative answer to the second of the two questions posed needs some qualification.

While admitting that there are many extremely gifted men of God within what we have labeled orthodox evangelicalism, it is necessary to see where such a distinction that denies the law any part of the grace of God contained therein comes from, and this we will do quite simply. We do not claim to be as gifted in exegesis as many (if not most) of these men (whom we will not name separately for what should be obvious reasons). Not all of these men in these movements that deny the perpetuity of the moral law of God actually advocate lawlessness in living, and often, quite the opposite. The problem lies in their denial of God’s moral law as an extension of His character which was not abrogated, as were the ceremonial and civil laws of the nation Israel, which, in and of itself, can be referred to as “doctrinal antinomianism.”  Antinomianism simply means “against the law,” and doctrinal antinomianism may not lead to practical (practicing) antinomianism, but often, sadly, does that very thing. It is chiefly in denying the perpetuity of God’s moral law, most especially in the Reformed understanding of the third use of the law, that this error propagates itself, and often, it is more those who come after the teachers of doctrinal antinomianism who advocate a practical antinomianism which focuses on God’s grace to the exclusion of good works (the error Paul refers to in Romans 6:1, 15).

For the purposes of this article, we do claim that the understanding of the three-fold use of the law, as understood within Reformed orthodoxy, is the proper biblical understanding of that border where law, indeed, becomes grace, and that it is within the confines of various other camps which deny the perpetuity of the usefulness of God’s law to the believer from which the unnecessary dichotomy, pitting God’s law against His grace, has come.

It must be understood that the term “law,” as used in both the New Testament and the Old, has reference to various things, which are defined within their context. For instance, sometimes it is referring to what theologians call “the law of nature,” while in other places it refers to the fullness of the expression of the rites and ceremonies of the Mosaic Law; in still other places it refers to the Decalogue, which, while written on tablets of stone in the establishment of the Mosaic economy, is said to be written on the hearts of all those who come to know God and Christ savingly. These categorical uses, as already said, are determined largely by context.

There are various schools of thought regarding the abrogation of the law of God as set forth in the Old and New Testaments, where one is pitted against the other, as already mentioned above. Since many great works by many gifted theologians are available to study these matters, it is not the purpose of this article to attempt to go into an in-depth study of these various views, but to promote, in as few words as possible, that which is commonly known, in Reformed theology, as the three-fold use of the law, for it is within such an understanding that the third use of the law is seen as proceeding from grace, rather than being replaced, in any manner, by grace (see, for instance, Romans 3:31).

A few brief definitions will be helpful, at this point.

Since the law, in all its forms, derives from the only true Lawmaker, God, the Scriptures state that in all its forms, “the law is holy, and the commandment is holy, righteous and good…the law is spiritual” (Romans 7:12, 14). To gain further confirmation of the character of the law, a reading of Psalm 119 is highly instructive; in shorter form, Psalm 19:7-11 gives us insight into this character of the law.

In Romans, Paul, right before saying “the law…commandment is holy,” has made reference to the Tenth commandment from the Decalogue, and as with all other partial references to the inscripturated form of God’s moral law from the Decalogue that occur in the New Testament, this should be understood as an affirming of the entirety of the moral character of that law (cf. Romans 13:8-10; Matthew 22:37-40), which is to say, it is not subject to fleshly frailties. Again, in Romans 7:14, when Paul states that the law is spiritual, he compares it diametrically to the character of the flesh: “For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am of the flesh, sold under sin.” This comparison establishes that, like God, the law is spiritual, which is to say moral, and not subject to change, as it derives its spiritual character from He who gives it.

Again, because the essence, or character, of the moral law is of God’s character, it does not change, since He does not change. Where further delineation of the moral law of God is given in various ceremonial and civil commandments, these do not limit the nature of the law, as to its essence, but rather, the limitation is specifically pertaining to its application according to those ceremonial and civil laws as they are given in the covenantal context they occur within. This would mean that the application of the moral law under the economy of the Old Covenant was instituted according to the regulations God instituted which particularly pertain to that economy, and in the New Covenant, likewise, which, while the essence of the moral law can be seen not to change, the implementation of it in the required services to God parallel the specific economy. [1]

Paul again shows that the moral law of God is first seen in its natural setting, which natural setting shows the attributes of God, from whom the law derives:

Romans 1:19-20: For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.

Natural revelation reveals what may be known about God, but due to man’s corrupt nature, this natural revelation is not salvific. Additionally, because what may be known of God is clearly perceived in natural revelation, the moral law of God is likewise clearly perceived, for His attributes are the basis of that moral law. Since God is “holy and good” as well as altogether righteous, merciful, loving, etc. – indeed, since these qualities all derived from God’s very nature – and since the law is defined, throughout Scripture, as having these qualities, every revelation and definition of the law in Scripture may be understood as affirming that which is essential of God’s nature. We already viewed this, above, in Romans 7:12, 14, and Psalm 19.

Simply to view that God is holy and good, in infinite and eternal measure, unchangeably, we can refer to some short statements about God’s nature from Scripture. We have noted, above, that the law is holy, and the commandment is holy, righteous and good…spiritual, and we may also note that God is spoken of as holy, righteous and good, as well as spiritual, in such Scripture citations as 1 Peter 1:16 (cf. Leviticus 19:2, 20:7), Psalm 145:17, 100:5, and John 4:24.  The references could be multiplied, but these will suffice to show the link between God’s moral law and His character. Both are described as spiritual for a very marked reason, which is that both are invisible, eternal, infinite, and unchangeable, since the moral law proceeds from the very character of God.

In reference to the moral law being that which marks out the character of a Christian as the result of the deposit of God’s grace within them, we will simply mention one Scripture and expand upon the meaning.

In 1 Peter 1:16, we are told, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” This is a restatement of that which was spoken to Israel when the law was given through Moses, as we see in Leviticus 19:2 and 20:7. There is a context for the passages in Leviticus, and that context is the ten words, otherwise known as the Ten Commandments, or Decalogue, given in Exodus 20:1-17. It is understood that all of the Ten Commandments are the eternal foundation of every temporary ceremonial and civil statute given to the nation Israel, and therefore these ceremonial and civil laws have sometimes been defined as “the holiness code.” The purpose of the temporal, positive extensions[2] of the Decalogue among the people of the nation of Israel was to set them apart as the covenant people of God, therefore the reference and description “holiness code” (Deuteronomy 4:1-8). Although the ceremonial and civil laws were never intended to be eternal, they set apart the nation of Israel from all other nations on the earth as being the covenant people of God.

In like manner, Peter’s restatement that the eternal reality of God’s holiness is to be mirrored in His people has a context. He contrasts the price paid for those in the New Covenant directly with, first, precious metals, in v. 18, and second, indirectly, with the temporal nature of the ceremonial sacrifices of bulls, goats and other animals which prefigured the eternal sacrifice of the Lamb of God, in v. 19. We see this contrast more prominently in Hebrews 10:1-14.

These two Scripture references from 1 Peter and Hebrews give us the context of both God’s wrath and grace, which two attributes are inherent in His holiness.[3] By Christ’s sacrifice of Himself God’s wrath against sin (unholiness) is forever appeased for those He calls to Himself, and Christ’s righteousness is given to those same people who believe by grace given faith. Perfect obedience to God’s law was necessary, and having obeyed that perfectly, Christ offered Himself with the body God prepared for Him for our sins, which sins include our imperfect obedience. God then raised Him for our justification. Again, both these points are brought out simply in Roman 4:25, so we see that the justification which Christ earned for His people is imputed to them after that which offends God has been put to death. When considered in this way, God’s admonition through Moses, the prophets, Peter (indeed, throughout Scripture) to be holy, for I am holy, is contextually relative to our nature as redeemed children of God. We cannot literally be as holy as God, therefore, we must understand such admonitions to be striving towards that perfection of the imago dei that only exists in our Lord glorified, knowing that God will grant to us this full conformity of His command at the time He graciously completes our salvation in glory. In a practical aspect, it means to set one’s self apart for worshipful service to God because He has set one apart to Him in Christ.

It is in this manner that God’s moral law became grace, in that Christ fulfilled it, and imputed that righteousness which He earned as the firstborn of the new creation to those who place their faith in Him (2 Corinthians 5:21; Romans 8:29; Colossians 1:15, 18). Because our Lord not only paid the penalty for our sins, but fulfilled the righteous requirement of the law of God, we who are joined by faith to Him are also said to fulfill that requirement, and are also constrained to follow after those eternal laws which depend from God’s own being, not for attaining right standing with God, but because in Christ, we have attained right standing with God (Romans 3:31; cf. 2 Peter 1:5-8; Romans 13:8-10; Galatians 5:14). Good works, as spoken of in the Scriptures of the New Testament as those works which are to be performed by the Christian, are not a means of attaining right standing with God, but the result of that right standing attained by faith in Christ through God’s grace, and are indeed ordained. To separate the meaning of the moral law from the meaning of good works which are preordained in Christ for those who have been saved by His grace is to separate out that unique character of being God’s children, and indeed, every list in the New Testament which mentions good works may easily be traced to the Decalogue (Ephesians 2:10; Galatians 5:22-23). This may also be observed in negative prohibitions of those sins which are a violation of the law (Galatians 5:19-21; Ephesians 4:17-32). Any discerning student of the Word of  God will readily acknowledge that both the negative prohibitions and the positive admonitions and commands in such lists harken back to the two tables of the law, respectively.

Therefore, to be holy because God is holy is to behave in a manner consistent with the regenerate life which is being conformed into the image of He who lived perfectly according to that same moral law of God. This is why, in Romans 3:31, the apostle Paul clearly states that our faith upholds or establishes the law. It is an agreement that those who are of the faith of Christ our Lord acknowledge the moral law of God as an accurate expression of His character and a fit meter to measure and further mold our conformity to that character as image bearers being conformed into He who is the ultimate image bearer of God (Colossians 1:15 [4]). Since it (this agreement with and obedience to) stems from grace through God’s decree, it is no more a burden that crushes those who are His in Christ, but a helper which proceeds from that same grace from which the holy character of each believer is being formed into towards that day of completion at the eschaton. Keeping the commandments of God, therefore, is both from that love that God lavished upon us in Christ, and an expression of our reciprocal, grace-dependant love of God (1 John 5:3). Therefore, it could rightly be said that, in the sense of the believer agreeing with the moral law of God, and behaving in accordance with that agreement to His moral law by a new nature imparted (Romans 6:1-4), that that which was before beyond our ability to obey is now a means of measuring our fulfillment of such commands of our God to be holy, as He is holy. That which proceeds from ordained grace is, itself, of that grace, therefore, in this sense, the law (moral) is gracious, and obedience to it is, in itself, a result of and form of that same grace.

Since nature reveals God’s divine attributes, the revelation of nature may be understood to show that which is true of the moral law of God. What can be known about God is clearly perceived; therefore what is properly moral is, likewise, clearly perceived. This representation of God through nature is known as the “natural revelation,” in theology proper (cf. above citation from Romans 1:19-20 with Psalms 19:2-6), and as it reveals the moral law that is consistent with God’s attributes, this natural revelation of the moral law is known as the “law of nature.” [5]

The basic premise of this article is thus established, and that is this: God did not give us to do good works to obtain our salvation, but as the visible fruit, or evidence, of the new nature He alone imparts to those who then exercise faith in Christ, and repentance for their sin.

Rather than being a co-mingling of grace and law, as various opponents of the Reformed definition of the three part use of the law have caricatured it, such living out good works is the  divinely powered outcome of a new life imparted.

The opponents of the Reformed three fold division of the use of the law of God have not, at this point, or at any point in church history, successfully discounted the Scripture which states that good works are ordained by God for those connected by His grace-given faith to Christ, and indwelt by His Spirit to perform, even in part, such good works. Scripture citations which they fail to adequately account for are Matthew 5:17-18, Romans 3:31, Ephesians 2:10, Titus 2:14, and indeed, a plethora of other passages which they either mistranslate, misunderstand, or otherwise seek to explain away. These opponents, although oftentimes well meaning, thus undermine the very expression of the life of Christ within us through teaching that, while not necessarily explicitly maintaining that one live a life of non-conformity to the perpetual moral law of God as revealed throughout Scripture, often results in those who follow their teaching in a manner that ends up, sadly, doing that very thing, and calling it grace (See Romans 6 references above).

God’s grace has, thus, insured that, however haltingly, we abandon lawlessness and live in expression of His perfections in Christ. He has done so by giving us a new nature, and indwelling that new nature with His Spirit to reproduce that conformity to Christ who lived God’s law perfectly. Living in conformity to Christ produces those grace-given good works of His moral law which are a signal evidence of Christ dwelling in us.

SDG –Bill

[1] See Chapter 19, 1689 London Baptist Confession of Faith (hereafter LBCF). Also helpful is Richard A. Muller, Dictionary of Latin and Greek Theological Terms: Drawn Principally from Protestant Scholastic Theology, regarding the various uses of the terms for God’s law and the manifestation of the same.

[2] A discussion of the various functions of the law of God in the Scripture is beyond the scope of this article, however, regarding positive extensions in reference to the Decalogue, which represents the Moral Law of God in inscripturated form, such are said to be positive law(s); that is, they are commanded by God based upon the foundation of His Moral Law, but are not themselves intended to last forever, being temporally connected to their respective covenants. Examples would be circumcision, animal sacrifices, baptism, & etc.

[3] Although it may properly be said that God’s wrath is an attribute which may be described separately, as with all God’s attributes, it may also be properly said that this attribute is not one part of God, and another of His attributes is another part of God; rather, He is the infinite, eternal, immutable sum of His attributes, and His attributes are equally who He is in sum, definitionally speaking. That is to say, His holiness is not simply one part of Him, any more than His love is only a part of Him, but as we say that God is love, we may also say that He is wrath, righteousness, etc. We cannot split off parts of God as if He is a temporal being such as ourselves. He is completely who He is, and each attribute is as much of His essence as the other, which is to say, completely, so that holiness is inextricably interconnected with goodness, love, knowledge, wrath, etc. It should be noted, however, that out of all His attributes, that which most defines Him, in relation to His uniqueness of being as the only God (there are none others like HimIsaiah 45:21-22), is His holiness.

[4] The intent of this passage in Colossians is to show that Christ is deity; it is also to show that He is “the firstborn of all creation,” however, meaning the new creation which began at His resurrection, and will culminate at His return. Although “we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is (1 John 3:2), this being like Him has particular reference to His glorified humanity, not His deity, thus, He is “the firstborn” of the new humanity which will inhabit the new creation of God.

[5] Lex naturalls: natural law; also lex naturae: law of nature; the universal moral law either impressed by God upon the mind of all people or immediately discerned by the reason in its encounter with the order of nature. The natural law was therefore available even to those pagans who did not have the advantage of the Sinaitic revelation and the lex Mosaica (q.v.), with the result that they were left without excuse in their sins, convicted by conscientia (q.v.). The scholastics argue the identity of the lex naturalis with the lex Mosaica or lex moralis quoad substantiam, according to substance, and distinguish them quoad formam, according to form. The lex naturalis is inward, written on the heart and therefore obscure, whereas the lex Mosaica is revealed externally and written on tablets and thus of greater clarity.

Richard A. Muller, Dictionary of Latin and Greek Theological Terms: Drawn Principally from Protestant Scholastic Theology.

Specifics of God’s Calling in Salvation: Romans 8:28-30

Romans 8:28-30

28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. 29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30 And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.

While “and,” at the beginning of v. 28, connects this entire context with what has gone before (as opposed to the negatives regarding those who are not adopted, do not have the Spirit of God, are actively hostile to God, cannot submit to God’s law in Christ, and cannot, at any time, please Him), the subsequent conjunction “for” at the beginning of v. 29 connects it with all preceding and within it, while the connective “and” at the beginning of v. 30 does the same, connecting the three vv. into one seamless whole, which is to say, although the context does not stand alone, it is, in itself, a standalone context, with a complete and comprehensive set of grammatically logical propositions that yield indisputable conclusions. The entire context is regarding the adoption in Christ by those led by and conducting their lives in the power of the Spirit of Christ who indwells them, and applied their adoption in Christ to them; therefore, we submit that this is easily understandable, and so will concentrate on particular aspects of the passage; namely, “called, (according to His purpose)” “foreknew,” “predestined,” “conformed to the image of His Son,” and in v. 30, along with, again, “predestined” and  “called,” “justified,” “glorified” and a bit more observations on the additional connectives at the beginnings of v. 29 and v. 30. We will consider, also, the objects of these grammatical elements, as well as the flow of the apostle’s meaning as to what these things intend for both this present age and the age to come.

First, however, as to the audience of these precious doctrines, we assert Paul is speaking, in the primary sense, to the collective saints in Rome as a singular group, as proven by the verb “we know.” This verb is in a tense which speaks of a past action having continuing results in the present which will continue to be ongoing, regarding the certain and sure knowledge that these things are so for those reading them; by application, since God gave us His Word to know these things, this broadens out to the wider audience of all saints in His church throughout redemptive history since our Lord ascended to glory.

Regarding “called,” this refers “to those who are,” and it is a present, particular, ongoing call, according to the grammar. It is not addressing those who are not called in any manner, nor is it addressing those who are called in a general manner, as is made plain in the text; it is addressing those who are called, specifically, “according to His purpose,” which purpose is made clear in the following words. In this, Paul has moved away from addressing the group as one collective entity, to speaking of specific individuals within that collective entity, noted by the change from the first person singular in “we” to the  plural in the article “those.”

Within v. 28, “those” is in a case that makes these people, individually and collectively, the object of “God;” that is, because they have been called according to His purpose, by Him, particularly, they presently, actively love Him continually. That all things are working together for the good of these called children of God is not to be taken as if no adverse circumstances occur in their lives (which would dismiss the apostle’s own ministry completely), but that the mind of those so chosen will see the sovereign grace of their God at work for their good in even the most adverse of circumstances in every situation (as the following vv. 31-39 spell out in detail).

As mentioned previously, the adverb “for” beginning v. 29 connects the foregoing in v. 28with that which follows. It has the meaning of “for this reason,” or “in view of the fact,” and is linked with the called according to the foreknowledge of God (“those He foreknew”). This is not a passive, but an active foreknowledge, as the verb form shows, and is rooted in the past calling (as the verb form also shows) of God on those His active foreknowledge was set upon for accomplishing all these things from that past time, which is defined as “predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, in order that He might be the firstborn among many brethren.” “Foreknew” also is in the third person, broadening out to the extent that, although still considering individuals, is now regarding all who are being written about, which considers all believers in Christ Jesus who have been called according to this foreknowledge of God.

Predestined” is in the same tense, voice, mood and person as “foreknew,” and is joined with the former through the emphatic adverb “also.”  Therefore, the two (foreknew and predestined) may not be considered apart from one another, but must be considered together, and both are rooted in the active foreknowledge of God, which, it must be noted, being active and joined to the also active predestination, cannot merely mean that God passively took in the knowledge of those whom He would call, or even that He reactively responded to the knowledge of those who would choose Him, but that He actively predestined those who would be called according to His active foreknowledge. Since the meaning of “predestined” here (and everywhere the word is used in the New Testament) is “to choose or select in advance of some other event—‘to choose beforehand, to select in advance,’” the possibility of the one chosen in advance of the particular event for the purposes stated in that choosing is nil [1]

Since the peace of the church has been so disrupted by unnecessary misunderstanding over the meaning of this word, I include this brief but excellent study of the word from The Complete Word Study Dictionary, © 1992 By AMG International, Inc. Chattanooga, TN 37422, U.S.A. Revised edition, 1993,  edited by Spiros Zodhiates, Th.D (numbers in parenthesis reference Strong’s Concordance):

προορίζω
proorízō; fut. proorísō, from pró (G4253), before, and horízō (G3724), to determine. To determine or decree beforehand (Act_4:28; Rom_8:29-30; 1Co_2:7; Eph_1:5, Eph_1:11). The peace of the Christian Church has been disrupted due to the misunderstanding which surrounds this word. It behooves the Church to consider the divinely intended meaning of this word by carefully examining the critical passages where it is used.
In 1Co_2:7 it has a thing as its obj., namely, the wisdom of God. The purpose was our glory, i.e., our benefits of salvation.
In Act_4:28 the verb is followed by the aor. inf. genésthai (gínomai [G1096], to be, become), to be done. The action of Herod and Pontius Pilate in crucifying Jesus Christ is said to have been predetermined or foreordained by the hand and will of God. This indicates that Christ’s mission, especially His death and resurrection, was not ultimately the result of human will but originated in the eternal counsel of God which decreed the event determining all its primary and secondary causes, instruments, agents, and contingencies.
In Rom_8:29-30, predestination is used of God’s actions in eternally decreeing both the objects and goal of His plan of salvation.Proorízō has a personal obj., the pl. relative pron. hoús, whom. This relative pron. refers to those previously mentioned as those whom God foreknew (proégnō [G4267]). The translation is, “For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate.” The objects of predestination are those whom He foreknew. Predestination does not involve a predetermined plan only but also includes the individuals for whom the plan is devised. The goal of predestination is expressed in the phrase, “to be conformed to the image of his Son.”
In Eph_1:5, Eph_1:11 this same purpose of foreordination is termed adoption. Adoption (huiothesía [G5206]) is the placing into sonship or legal heirship of those who are born of God. According to Eph_1:5 the basis of this prior decree is “the good pleasure of His will.” The word rendered “good pleasure” is eudokía (G2107) and means pleasure or satisfaction, that which seems good. Paul is careful to add that it is the good pleasure of God’s will, it is what seems good to God-not man. Similarly, in Eph_1:11 foreordination is based upon “the purpose (próthesis [G4286]) of the One who is working all things ([neut. acc. pl.]  pánta[G3844], an idiom for the entire metaphysical and physical universe) according to the decision of His will” (a.t.). This same thinking is reflected in Rom_8:30 where foreordination is joined successively to foreknowledge. Here it is presented not as a capricious, arbitrary or whimsical exercise of raw will or unreasoned impulse, but as the expression of a deliberate and wise plan which purposes to redeem those undeserving sinners whom God freely favors as the objects of His mercy.
Because it is neither possible nor permissible for us to pry into God’s secret counsel, it is not proper to be fixated with determining who the predestined are. Instead, we should contemplate the glories of what they are predestined to, i.e., salvation, adoption, or glory.

Although this is where many stop their comments regarding v. 29 (being conformed to the image of His Son), this is clearly not where that purpose of God is finished being defined, either as to the objects of His electing will who all are being so conformed, or as to the logical order of this brief but robust teaching of the apostle Paul regarding these aspects of the Ordo Salutis (order of salvation), for the next v. – v. 30 – again begins with a conjunction which logically connects that which has immediately gone before with that which follows.

That which follows is summed up thusly: “Those” refers to the the direct objects of the actions of being “predestined,” “called,” “justified” and “glorified,” as it is in the case that makes those so being addressed the direct objects of the actions of these verb forms, the Author of these actions being, of course, God. Please notice, these verb forms are of the same as that mentioned of “foreknew” and “predestined” in v. 29, which is to say, the actions perpetrated by God upon these objects of His purpose are all grounded in His predetermining, elective (“called”) foreknowledge, and since it is, as stated above, an active foreknowledge based in that same knowledge of God, it is to be taken as preceding from Him to accomplish His purposes, not responsive in any shape, form, or manner, as we trust the definitions of these terms have fully shown. This is to say God does not, in any way, react, but predetermines who will be conformed to the image of His Son, and does so according to that sure knowledge of His which brings about in redemptive history that which He determined to do beforehand, which is to say, before those who are called in (to speak in human terms) eternity past are actually confirmed in this elective calling at that specific time in redemptive history when they are adopted by the Spirit of God into His family.

The results of these actions of God has been seen, in v. 29, to “conform (usinto the image of His Son,” but this conforming is based in the objective reality of His resurrection and glorification, which has present results and realizations, as well as eschatological results; however, in the following verses (31-39), Paul is focused on the practical implications and application of these results, which the verb forms in v. 30 show, since these verb forms speak to the effect that all these things have been accomplished already in Christ; that is, those who are in Christ were predestined to be called, and having been called, are presently (some would say positionallyjustified and glorified, which accords with the ongoing process of being conformed into the image of His Son, which process will have it’s full result in the full redemption of each saint (this is where the eschatological consideration comes in, although it is secondary to the practical implications in the subsequent verses by which we live according to that which is now, and will be then, fully).

SDG –Bill

[1] Louw, J. P., & Nida, E. A. (1996). Vol. 1Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament: Based on semantic domains (electronic ed. of the 2nd edition.) (362). New York: United Bible Societies.

Meditations and Exposition From the Gospel of John, Chapter 7

John 7:30-36: So they were seeking to arrest him, but no one laid a hand on him, because his hour had not yet come. Yet many of the people believed in him. They said, “When the Christ appears, will he do more signs than this man has done?” The Pharisees heard the crowd muttering these things about him, and the chief priests and Pharisees sent officers to arrest him. Jesus then said, “I will be with you a little longer, and then I am going to him who sent me.   You will seek me and you will not find me. Where I am you cannot come.” The Jews said to one another, “Where does this man intend to go that we will not find him? Does he intend to go to the Dispersion among the Greeks and teach the Greeks? What does he mean by saying, ‘You will seek me and you will not find me,’ and, ‘Where I am you cannot come’?”

That many of the people believed in Him is not necessarily a statement that they believed salvifically, but that they had that momentary belief which is not ongoing. As we have stated many times in this study, John uses the various tenses for belief in a manner that is generally quite consistent. The tense used here is of that faith that believes due to things seen at one point in the past (noting that such a past point of time can be indicated by a present exercise of temporary faith). Like the faith expressed in the crowd of five thousand that went away from our Lord when He spoke of His being the true bread from God, and that those who ate His flesh and drank His blood would be partakers of eternal life (John 6:54), these people are exercising that faith that follows as far as it can see, but will not follow to the cross to die, and be raised in newness of life. Looking for the signs of the Savior, they miss the fact of His work to secure the salvation of His people, and so fail at the point where that which He speaks becomes offensive to either their sensibilities or their temporal practice of religion according to that system which He abolishes in His body being broken (Hebrews 10:1-10).

Such temporary faith is conditioned, in some cases, on the carnal provisions (the eating of the bread and fish in chapter 6), or because of the miracles (as in our present case) without understanding that miracles are always revelatory, and point to the purpose of God by which He intends to communicate His glory. The verb tense of the word appears in our text speaks of that which will happen at some point, and can be used to refer to mere possibility; here, since the Jews believed Messiah would come, we take the former sense, but this also tells us that they are holding that He who is before them is not Messiah. They are believing He is a prophet, at most, holding forth truths of God, without understanding that He IS the truth of God, and the only way to eternally enter the kingdom of the Father (John 14:6) by those things that they should have seen in His doctrine, for the purpose of the miracles is, as we said, to revelational. Basically, we may say that the miracles our Lord wrought, in their primary function, were to act as signs to point to His person as that Messiah they awaited, and open their ears to those great, glorious, gracious and merciful truths He spoke.

However, when men fail to see their salvation in the grace, love and mercy of God, there remains revelational truth of the most dire kind. In this case, it is that where our Lord is going – He who is the firstfruits of those who are to be raised after and in the likeness of His resurrection to glory (1 Corinthians 15:22-23) – these others cannot come, for they lack such ears to hear and eyes to see, given only by that mercy and grace of God. The wrath of God is the flip side of the coin of redemptive revelation, which man, without the working of the Spirit of God to give him the new birth, remains under (John 3:16-21 shows us both sides of this dual purpose of revelational truth, as well as other portions of this gospel, which we will get to in their time).God displays His glory in both instances – the giving of that renewal of the inward man which results in salvation to those who believe, and the damnation of those who do not believe. This is not to equate these as equal acts (fallacy of equal ultimacy), for God, though He hardens those who do not believe, merely confirms them in their unbelief, while the gracious power which raises from spiritual death those who have believed is far more glorious, being equated to the raising of our Lord from the grave to His present session in glory (Ephesians 1:18-23, esp. vv. 18-20).

Soli Deo Gloria – Bill

“Just Click”

Certain doctrines should “just click” with those who seek to know God as He has revealed Himself in His special revelation to those who are His people.

For instance, that God is immutable (unchangeable) should preclude any teaching on the Doctrine of God that even comes close to suggesting that He has made Himself mutable (changeable) in any manner. The Scripture is just too clear on the fact that God does not change, period, and any suggested relational or analogical arguments to the contrary are based on a number of philosophies of man that, while seeking to guise themselves in the veneer of being based on the Biblical facts, in fact, ignore the overall context of His Scriptures.

There are some Scripture passages that actually do “stand on their own” (Although I would be one who is quick to assert that although some passages stand on their own, no single passage of Scripture stands alone). Among them are passages we value greatly, to our finite and eternal comfort and standing.

Malachi 3:6:  “For I the LORD do not change; therefore you, O children of Jacob, are not consumed.

How does one circumvent such a passage as this with appeals to isolated anthropomorphisms and/or anthropopathisms, even when such an appeal is to various Scripture references that those so proposing these malleable qualities to our God are multiplied, without consideration of the overall context of Scripture?

The answer is, of course, that such a plain passage cannot, in fact, be circumvented, and no matter the character of those who seek to do so in the pursuit of understanding our relationship with God, there will not come any Scriptural evidence to the contrary that our God, indeed, “does not change.”

Please notice, although a large body of literature by past and present biblical scholars exists, I do not make my appeal to them. It is not that there would not be many more in defense of the classical doctrine of God, or that there are some in defense of various forms of the modified doctrine of God; no, rather, I do not wish to bias the appeal to Scripture at this point with an argument from authority, for I believe (as any unbiased reader of the Scripture must believe, at this point), that there is no ambiguity or verifiable change wrought by the corpus of the entirety of Scripture to this simple statement of our God: “I do not change.”

Wherein, then, inclusive of the entirety of the body of Scripture, are we to understand that our God means, by this unequivocal statement (that He does not change), as to His unique essence, or being, but that He does change as to His relation to His creation? Where is this distinction of ontological meaning given us in the Scripture, if it indeed is given (which I purport it is not)?

As a “for instance,” in Genesis 6:6, we are told, “And the LORD was sorry that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart.” This seems to indicate an actual change in the manner in which God viewed those He created, but in view of His proclamations that we are saved because He does not change, are we to see this statement as if it were indicative of His changing relationally to those He has created? In other words, do we manipulate the Scriptural data in a manner wherein God seemingly contradicts Himself?

Is not the very fact that our God does not change the foundation of our comfort in His promises?

This is not intended to be an exhaustive article on the various anthropomorphisms and anthropopathisms of Scripture; rather, it is an invitation for us to view our God as He has presented Himself within that Scripture, for our comfort and benefit.

What it boils down to is whether or not God changes in His intrinsic character – all arguments from anthropomorphisms or anthropopathisms in Scripture do, and indeed must, not only pale, but become the finite representations of aspects of God which they are intended to be, if God, as He presents Himself in Holy Writ, in reality, declares that He does not change, whether intrinsically (as to His infinite, eternal self), or relationally (as those who argue that the anthropomorphisms and anthropopathisms given to us to describe characteristics of our God insist is the case, thereby differentiating between God’s eternal, infinite character, and the manner in which He relates to His creation after He, in fact, created).

This is, after all, the crux of the matter: if God changes, those who are His cannot expect His infinite, eternal promises to be effectual, regardless of explanations of His relationship with His creation being in flux because He has, indeed, created. The foundation of our hope is that God cannot lie, and cannot fail to keep His promises, in accordance with His character. If, at any time, His attributes can ebb or increase, or He adds new attributes to Himself to relate to us, our foundation has become that which we are: mutable, like the creation, not the Creator.

The plain fact of the matter is that, despite analogical language (wherein God reveals eternal, infinite aspects of Himself to us by use of terminology we understand in relation to ourselves), we have the assurance of Scripture that tells us, quite plainly, our God does not change.

There are those who appeal to the incarnation, wherein God the Son took upon Himself human form, to show that God, prior to the incarnation, after creating, also took upon Himself relational attributes in order to properly communicate Himself to His creation. However, again, going to the Scripture, we have a plain statement, as to the divinity of God the Son:

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday today and forever. (Hebrews 13:8)

That this verse is speaking about our Lord’s divinity is apparent, because even during His incarnation, as to His humanity, He “increased in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man.” (Luke 2:52) This does not presuppose any change to the divine, but rather, the human nature. Our Lord, living as a man, was subject to temptations, suffering, and eventually, death on the cross, as ordained before the world began. All these things establish the fact that our Lord, as to His humanity, was fully human (though without sin), but when we consider His divinity, we are assured that He does not change.

Since this is a short and simple article, at this point, one wonders, why would anyone wish to prove that God, whether the Father, Son or Holy Spirit, indeed does undergo change, in relation to His creation?

One brother whom I respect greatly said that he thought such a modified version of the doctrine of God better explained the biblical data. He then went on to address the passages where God demonstrates aspects of Himself to us in terms which we would use to describe ourselves as proof that such analogical language surely could not be used to simply show us that God does not change, but, in fact, shows us that He does have changes (such as mutable emotions). Passages such as God repenting (being sorry, regretting) that He had made man (Genesis 6:6) and being grieved in His heart for doing so, certainly must mean that God had emotions similar to those we experience, right?

Also, are we not told we can grieve the Holy Spirit of God (Ephesians 4:30)?

We certainly are, and certainly God intends us to understand from such passages that He has emotions (this will be further addressed below), but the question would be, at this point, that although God uses such anthropopathic expressions to define aspects of His eternal, infinite, immutable being to us, are we to assume He intends us to comprehend such as contradicting those other passages which tell us he does not change?

Again, going to the Scripture, we find God stating the difference between Him and His created creatures, through the prophet Balaam:

Numbers 23:19: God is not man, that he should lie, or a son of man, that he should change his mind. Has he said, and will he not do it? Or has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it?

The point of the passage is rather obvious. Although God uses analogical language to describe aspects of His eternal, infinite, unchanging character to His creatures, He is not like His creatures in any aspect or respect. Therefore, when we read again that He is not a man that He should repent (have regret) in 1 Samuel 15:29, and that statement comes after God telling Samuel that He regrets having made Saul king (1 Samuel 15:11), we do not understand this as God having emotions such as those He created experience, nor do we understand it as God contradicting Himself. Consequently, because God states so categorically in His Scriptures that He cannot change, and that He is not like His creatures, we must look for evidence in those Scriptures that inform us what, exactly, He means by using such analogical language to define those aspects of Himself which are definitively not like man’s.

Isaiah 46:9-10Remember the former things of old; for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose.

Psalm 50 is very instructive in showing the difference between God and those He created. After reciting that which is proper before Him, and that which is not, and what He, as the only One who can and will judge the peoples, He makes this statement:

 

Psalm 50:21:  These things you have done, and I have been silent; you thought that I was one like yourself. But now I rebuke you and lay the charge before you.

This is the verdict from God, who is not such a one as those whom He is judging, to those who lived in a manner where they said they served the Lord, yet were themselves liars, spurned His precepts, agreed with and practiced thievery, and spoke evil and slandered all those around them. His judgment is based in who He is, which never changes, and so is righteous, against those who are the epitome of inconstancy.

Furthermore, God declares He has decreed the end from the beginning, and that His counsel will stand. In that counsel, we know that He decreed, at a certain point and time in redemptive history, to have His Son pay the penalty for the sins of His people. Is it so difficult to understand that God expresses those divine emotions He defines in a manner which sounds similar to His creatures according to decreeing so from evermore? Is it so difficult to believe that this God, who has unequivocally told us that He does not change (and that such immutability is the reason that His decreed mercy keeps us from being consumed by His decreed wrath), has purposed, within that eternal counsel, to express divine anger, love, etc. at specific times and points in His creation, towards various of His creatures, in accord with His will?

In this way, we understand that although God expresses emotions, these are not mutable expressions of change in His being, but decreed expressions of His willed intentions towards various of His creatures, and in this way, we may, indeed, understand that He is not like us whom He created. These decreed expressions are, according to His omniscience, given to interact with His creatures at specific times, in specific places, according to that same active foreknowledge of all the events He decreed coming to pass at those intersections of finite time and space, in order to communicate His will and Himself to His finite creatures, to accomplish His willed ends.

This is perfectly in accord with the language of His decreeing the end from the beginning, and makes perfect sense of the biblical data, so that we do not have to seek to accommodate His manner of being, which has no beginning or end, and cannot be acted upon by an outside agent or force, with the finite means of our understanding.

Indeed, with the apostle, all we can do is behold the infinite, eternal, unchanging God with awestruck wonder, and it seems fitting to end this short article with his words:

Romans 11:33-36: Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! “For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor?” “Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid? For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.

SDG – Bill

An Exegesis of “Work Out Your Own Salvation”

The exegsis will be provided from the hand and mind of John Eadie. I rely on the heavenly gifted and heavenly minded minds of such men. However I should make the reader aware that this is an very technical quote from Eadie. However, I will bold the portions that are less technical and more pastoral for the average reader. I do wish to point out a pertinent section where Eadie points out  faulty understanding of working out to be in terms of only more fully realizing the that salvation is fully perfected in Christ (although it is true but not the point of this particular passage). Here is the place where I wish to draw attention- “He does not say He died for sin, or died for us. His reference is to the spirit of His death, and not to its character and results. It is true that His exaltation proved His mission divine, and His mediation effectual. But the apostle does not allude to this, nor does he in this paragraph in any way connect the glory of Jesus with a completed redemption. If he had said—He has died and risen again to save you, the connection could easily be—therefore salvation is perfect, and you are summoned either to receive it, or more fully to realize it. But it is simply of the fact that Christ denied Himself to benefit others that the apostle writes, and the Philippians are to do service to others, and thus evince that the same mind is truly in them which was also in Christ Jesus.”*

Here is the whole context and exegesis of Philippians 2:12-13:

(Ver. 12.) Ὥατε, ἀγαπητοί μου. The particle ὥστε introduces an inferential lesson. 1 Cor. 3:21, 4:5, 10:12; 1 Thess. 4:18, etc. Followed thus by the imperative, this particle which is so often followed by the infinitive, has the sense of itaque—ὡσ-τε. Tittmann, ii. 6; Winer, § 41, 5, 1; Klotz, Devarius, ii. p. 776. It does not reach back in its sweep to all the preceding statements. We cannot, with Wiesinger, give this as its ground—“Christ has attained to His glory only by the path of self-denial,—Wherefore.” We take in the whole picture from the 6th to the 11th verse—“wherefore,” or since such were Christ’s spirit and career, such His self-denial and reward, since such an example is set before you, you are bound by your very profession to “work out.” If He has set it, shall you hesitate to follow it? Will it not endear itself to your imitation as you look upon it—ἀφορῶντες τὸ παράδενγμα? The heart of the apostle warms towards them, his soul is bound up in them, and he calls them “my beloved,” adding a prefatory note—

καθὼς πάντοτε ὑπηκούσατε, μὴ ὡς ἐν τῇ παρουσίᾳ μου μόνον, ἀλλὰ νῦν πολλῷ μᾶλλον ἐν τῇ ἀπουσίᾳ μου—κατεργάζεσθε. The apostle appeals to their uniform obedience rendered in one sense to himself, but primarily to God, having the same object as ὑπήκοος applied to Christ in verse 8. There should be a comma after ὑπηκούσατε, for the next words belong to the concluding clauses, as the use of μή—νῦν seems to indicate. The construction of the verse is peculiar from its very compactness. Two comparisons are inwoven—my presence, my absence—or “not in my presence only, but much more in my absence;” and “as ye have always obeyed,” “so now carry out your salvation.” The fervid heart of the apostle was not fettered by the minutiæ of formal rhetoric; parallel thoughts are intertwined, and ideas that should follow in succession are blended in the familiar haste of epistolary composition. Παρουσία, in contrast with ἀπουσία, is not a future presence, as Wiesinger renders it. 2 Cor. 10:10. It is, indeed, applied especially to a future advent of Christ, a presence not now, but afterwards, to be enjoyed. The apostle uses in this epistle the words παρουσία πάλιν, 1:26. The adverb ὡς does not simply denote comparison, but it indicates a supposed or imagined quality which the apostle, indeed, warns against, and will not believe to exist. Rom. 9:32; 2 Cor. 2:17; Gal. 3:16. The claim of the injunction did not cease with his presence. His absence did not make the obligation less imperative, but it demanded more earnestness and vigilance from them in the discharge of the duty. His voice and person were a guide and stimulant, his addresses and conversations reproved their languor, and excited them to assiduous labour, so that His presence among them wrought like a charm. And now that he was not with them, and they were left to themselves, they were so much the more to double their diligence, and work out salvation. This was to be done μετὰ φόβου καὶ τρόμου—“with fear and trembling.”—See under Eph. 6:5, where the phrase has been explained. 1 Cor. 2:3; 2 Cor. 7:15; Ps. 2:11. The phrase means something more than Jerome’s non cum negligentia. It restricts the feeling described too much to one aspect of it, to suppose it to be awe before an omnipresent God, as do the Greek expositors; or a sense of dependence on God, as does De Wette; or the apprehension that the work is not performed sufficiently, as do Meyer and Wiesinger. In fact, the phrase describes that state of mind which ought ever to characterize believers—distrust of themselves—earnest solicitude in every duty—humble reliance on divine aid, with the abiding consciousness that after all they do come far short of meeting obligation. There does not seem to be any reference, as some suppose, to the spirit of Christ’s δουλεία, but there may be a warning against that pride and vainglory already reprobated by the apostle. In this spirit they are enjoined—

τὴν ἑαυτῶν σωτηρίαν κατεργάζεσθε—“carry out your own salvation.” The compound verb here expresses the idea of carrying out, or making perfect. Fritzsche on Rom. 2:9; also Raphelius, vol. ii. p. 495. This sounder philology opposes the explanation of Chrysostom—οὐκ εἵπεν ἐργάζεσθε, ἀλλὰ κατεργάζεσθε, τουτέστι μετὰ πολλῆς τῆς σπουδῆς, μετὰ πολλῆς της ἐπιμελείας. The verb describes not the spirit in which the work is done, but the aim and issue—“carry through;” while the idea of the Greek Father is only inferential. In the translation—“work out one another’s salvation”—which is that of Pierce, Michaelis, Storr, Flatt, and Matthies, we should at once concur, but for a reason to be immediately stated. The reciprocal meaning given to ἑαυτῶν may be found in Eph. 4:32; Col. 3:16; 1 Pet. 4:8, 10. The context, as van Hengel admits, is in favour of the latter translation which we have given. De Wette contends that the reference in the verse is quite general—an idea which the inferential particle ὥστε does not sanction; and he carries the reference back to 1:27, without any warrant whatever. Rheinwald, Rilliet, and others, uphold the idea that the verse is an inference from the preceding exhibition of Christ’s example. We think that this cannot be doubted, so close and inseparable is the connection. But what is that example intended to illustrate? Might we not say the injunction—“Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others.” If the career of our Lord be introduced to show us what mind was in Him, surely the lesson deduced will be in unison. If he bid them have the mind of Christ, and then go on to show what it is, surely his inference must be that they should, in their own sphere, exhibit the same mind. Now the great truth which the exhibition of Christ’s example illustrates is self-denying generosity—the very charge He has already given them, and the inference is expected to be in harmony with the starting lesson. The command—τὴν ἑαυτῶν σωτηρίαν κατεργάζεσθε—will therefore be synonymous in spirit with the previous one in verses 4, 5. In this way the ὥστε would connect homogeneous ideas. If the words be rendered, “work out your own salvation,” we do not see how it can with the same force be derived as a lesson. The connection brought out by Alford is—“considering the immense sacrifice which Christ has made for you, and the lofty eminence to which God has now raised Him, be ye more than ever earnest, that you miss not your own share in such salvation.” But there is no hint of this connection in the preceding verses: for, in referring to Christ, the apostle does not speak of Him as a Saviour, nor yet of the salvation which He has secured. He does not say He died for sin, or died for us. His reference is to the spirit of His death, and not to its character and results. It is true that His exaltation proved His mission divine, and His mediation effectual. But the apostle does not allude to this, nor does he in this paragraph in any way connect the glory of Jesus with a completed redemption. If he had said—He has died and risen again to save you, the connection could easily be—therefore salvation is perfect, and you are summoned either to receive it, or more fully to realize it. But it is simply of the fact that Christ denied Himself to benefit others that the apostle writes, and the Philippians are to do service to others, and thus evince that the same mind is truly in them which was also in Christ Jesus. Nay more, the connection usually brought out seems also to have this peculiarity, that it seems to make the apostle begin the paragraph with one injunction, and end it by enforcing its opposite. He commences formally—“Look not every man on his own things;” and he ends by saying virtually—“Look every man on his own things—work out your own salvation.” Is he to be understood as either modifying or withdrawing his first injunction, an injunction commended by the example of Christ Jesus.

The only difficulty in the way of this view is philological. The pronoun ἑαυτῶν is used in verse 4th, to signify one’s own things; and in verse 21st it is used with the same meaning, and how should the same word in the intervening verse 12th be used with precisely an opposite signification? We feel the difficulty to be insuperable, while the leading of the context is so decided. And perhaps this may be the idea—carry forward your own salvation with fear and trembling, for with such a work in progress, and such emotions within you, you will possess the mind of Christ; for he who thus carries out his own salvation will sympathize with the toils and labours of others, and look not alone at his own things. Their own salvation being secured and carried out, they would not be so selfish as to be wholly occupied with it, so unlike Him who made Himself of no reputation, as to creep up to heaven in selfish solitude. For the law of the kingdom is, that he who stoops the lowest shall rise the highest—Christ the first, and each after Him in order. This loving and lowly spirit God rejoices in—it is the heart of His Son, and the genius of His gospel. How this duty is to be discharged, the apostle does not say, but he adverts to its spirit—“in fear and trembling.”

(Ver. 13.) Ὁ Θεὸς γάρ ἐστιν ὁ ἐνεργῶν ἐν ὑμῖν καὶ τὸ θέλειν καὶ τὸ ἐνεργεῖν, ὑπὲρ τῆς εὐδοκίας—“For God it is who worketh in you both to will and to work, in consequence of His own good pleasure.” The article of the Received Text before Θεός is omitted in A, B, C, D1, F, G, and K. Its absence fixes attention upon Divinity, as in contrast to that humanity in which He wills and works. The γάρ indicates the connection, not by assigning a reason in the strict sense of the term, but by introducing an explanatory statement:—Engage in this duty; the inducement and the ability to engage in it are inducement and ability alike from God. It is too much to infer that the Philippians were despondent, and that this verse is to be regarded as an encouragement. But that they needed excitement to duty is plain, however, from the statement—“and how much more in my absence”—though certainly Bengel’s filling up is far-fetched—Dcus prœsens vobis, etiam absente me. It is as if he had said—“Work out with fear and trembling, for God it is that worketh in you. Engage in the duty, for God prompts and enables you; engage in it with fear and trembling—emotions which the nature of the work and such a consciousness of the Divine presence and co-operation ought always to produce.” If the impulse sprang from themselves, and drew around it the ability to obey, there might be “strife and vainglory;” but surely if the motive and the strength came alike from God, then only in reliance on Him, and with special humility and self-subduing timidity, could they proceed, in reference to their own salvation, or in offering one another spiritual service.

The position of Θεός shows the emphasis placed upon it by the apostle. God it is who worketh in you—alluding to the inner operation of Divine grace—for ἐν ὑμῖν is not among you. There is special force in the form ἐστιν ὁ ἐνεργῶν. Winer, § 45, 5, note; Fritzsche, ad Roman. vol. ii. p. 212. And the result is twofold—καὶ τὸ θέλειν καὶ τὸ ἐνεργεῖν—“both to will and to work,” first and naturally volition, and then action. Rom. 7:18. The double καί is emphatic. Winer, § 53, 4. The apostle uses ἐνεργεῖν both of cause and effect—ἐνεργῶν—ἐνεργεῖν—whereas the verb denoting the ultimate form of action was κατεργάζεσθε. The difference is very apparent. The latter term, the one employed by the apostle in the exhortation of verse 12th, represents the full and final bringing of an enterprise to a successful issue; whereas ἐνεργεῖν describes action rather in reference to vital power or ability, than form or result. The will and the work are alike from God, or from the operation of His grace and Spirit; not the work without the will—an effect without its cause; not the will without the work—an idle and effortless volition.

The concluding words—ὑπὲρ τῆς εὐδοκίας—have given rise to a good deal of discussion. The phrase has no pronoun, and what then is its reference? The Syriac renders ܡܕܶܡ ܕܨܳܒܷܐ ܐܢ̱ܬܘܽܢ—that which you wish. And so Ambrosiaster, followed partly by Erasmus, Grotius, and Michaelis. But εὐδοκία, as is indicated by the article, belongs here to the subject of the verb. The preposition ὑπέρ is not “according to,” as it is rendered by Luther and Cameron, nor pro, as Beza and Bengel write it. It signifies “on account of.” John 11:4; Acts 5:41; Rom. 15:8; Winer, § 47, 1, (3). It is not very different in result from διʼ εὐδοκίαν—1:15—though the mode of representation somewhat varies—the ὑπέρ giving a reason, not in a logical, but rather in an ethical aspect. See under Eph. 1:5. The noun itself is defined by Suidas—τὸ ἀγαθὸν θέλημα τοῦ Θεοῦ. Suicer, 1:1241. Œcumenius gives the true meaning in his paraphrase—ὑπὲρ τοῦ πληρωθῆναι εἰς ὑμᾶς τὴν εὐδοκίαν καὶ τὴν βουλὴν αὐτοῦ. It is in consequence of, or to follow out His own good pleasure, that He works in believers both to will and to work. He is not an absolute or necessary, but a voluntary or spontaneous cause. He does it because He freely wills it, or because it seems good to Him. His efficacious grace is at His own sovereign disposal. Conybeare joins ὑπὲρ τῆς εὐδοκίας to the following verse, but the connection is neither natural nor warranted.

The sentiments of the preceding verses have been adduced as objections both to Pelagianism and Calvinism. Augustine made good use of them in his day, in defence of the doctrine of divine grace, and in overthrow of that meagre system which is based at once on shallow conceptions of man’s nature, and superficial expositions of Scripture, and which, in denuding the gospel of its mysteries, robs it of its reality and profound adaptations. In later times, commentators on this passage have attacked with it what is usually called Calvinism. “The Calvinistic writers,” says Bloomfield in his Recensio Synoptica, “are exceedingly embarrassed with it;” and after reprehending Doddridge for a paraphrase of the verses, not a whit worse or weaker than his ordinary dilutions, he adds, “When we see so sensible a writer, and so good a man, acting so disingenuous a part, we cannot but perceive the weakness of the system of doctrines he adopts, which drives him to such unwarrantable measures.” Now, if we understand Calvinism at all, these two verses express very definitely its spirit, belief, and practice. Divested of technical points, it is this—profound and unquestioning trust in God, united to the utmost spiritual activity and necessarily leading to it—acting because acted upon, as the apostle here describes. The terms employed by him exclude a vast amount of questions often raised upon the verses—as the injunction is addressed, not to the unbelieving and unregenerate, but “to saints in Christ Jesus,” to those who not only believed in Christ, but had suffered for Him. The allusion is not to man’s laying hold of salvation, or to his first reception of it, and the necessity of gratia prœveniens, and therefore queries as to free-will and grace—their existence or antagonism—are away from the point. The apostle writes to persons who have received salvation, and he bids them carry it out. And who doubts that man’s highest energies are called out in the work—that every faculty and feeling is thrown into earnest operation? What self-denial and vigilance—what wrestling with the Angel of the Covenant—what study of the Lord’s example—what busy and humble obedience—what struggles with temptation—what putting forth of all that is within us—what fervent improvement of all the means of grace—industry as eager and resolute as if no grace had been promised, but as if all depended on itself! The believer’s own conscious and continuous effort in the work of his sanctification, is a very prominent doctrine of Scripture, and the apostle often describes his own unrelaxing diligence. On the other hand, the doctrine of divine influence is caricatured by any such hypothesis as is implied in the phrase—homo convertitur nolens—or, when even under its “Dordracene” representation, it is styled, as by Ellicott, “all but compelling grace.” For in no sense can faith be forced; and the freest act of the human spirit is the surrender of itself under God’s grace to Himself. The rational nature is not violated, the mental mechanism is never shattered or dislocated, and the freedom essential to responsibility is not for a moment disturbed or suppressed. Though God work and work effectually in us “to will,” our will is not passively bent and broken, but it wills as God wills it; and though God work and work effectually in us “to do,” our doing is not a course of action to which we are helplessly driven; but we do, because we have resolved so to do, and because both resolve and action are prompted and shaped by His power that worketh in us—agimur ut agamus. This carrying out of our salvation is a willing action; but the will and the acts, though both of man and by him as agent, are not in their origin from him—the vis from which they spring being non nativa sed dativa. Lazarus came forth from the tomb by his own act, but his life had been already restored by Him in whom is life. The Hebrews walked every weary foot of the distance between Egypt and Canaan, yet to God is justly ascribed their exodus from the one country and their possession of the other. As man’s activities are prompted and developed by Him who works in us both to will and to do, so is it that so many calls and commands are issued, urging him to be laborious and indefatigable; for still he is dealt with as a creature that acts from motive, is deterred by warning, swayed by argument, and bound to obey divine precept. And what an inducement to work out our salvation—God Himself working in us—volition and action prompted and sustained by Him who “knoweth our frame.” It is wrong to say with Chrysostom—“If thou wilt, in that case, He will work in thee to will.” For the existence of such a previous will would imply that God had wrought already. The exposition of Pelagius was, that as there are three things in man, posse, velle, agere, and that as the first is from God, and the other two from ourselves, so the apostle here puts the effect for the cause—Deus operatur velle, id est, posse, quia dat mihi potentiam ut possim velle. Lex et doctrina are with him equivalent to, or are the explanation of, gratia divina. But law and revelation only tell what is to be done, and as Augustine says, qua gratia agitur, non solum ut facienda noverimus, verum etiam ut cognita faciamus.—Opera, vol. x. p. 538, ed. Paris, 1838. The command, “work out your own salvation,” is certainly not in itself opposed to what Ellicott calls the “Dordracene doctrine of irrevocable election;” for the divine purpose does not reduce man to a machine, but works itself out by means in perfect harmony with the freedom and responsibility of his moral nature; so that every action has a motive and character. Were this the place, one might raise other inferential questions—whether this divine operation in the saints can be finally resisted, and whether it may be finally withdrawn? or, in another aspect, whether a man whom God has justified can be at last condemned? or whether the divine life implanted by the Spirit of God may or can die out? But the discussion of such questions belongs not to our province, nor would the mere language of these verses warrant its introduction.”*

*Eadie, J. (1884). A Commentary on the Greek Text of the Epistle of Paul to the Philippians. (W. Young, Ed.) (Second Edition., pp. 130–131). Edinburgh: T&T Clark.

*

Eadie, J. (1884). A Commentary on the Greek Text of the Epistle of Paul to the Philippians. (W. Young, Ed.) (Second Edition., pp. 127–136). Edinburgh: T&T Clark.

Work Out Your Own Salvation?

Yes. Why? To borrow a line from Dr. Mark Jones- “because the Bible says so.” But what does it mean to “work out your own salvation?” Some tend to think that it simply means to focus on the Gospel and what Christ has accomplished for sinners to the glory of God. The idea is to reflect upon that and the Spirit will move the sinner towards obedience. While I agree that any sanctification (progressive) in the pursuit of holiness needs to have a sound understanding of the Gospel, justification by faith alone and must do as the author of Hebrews encourages “looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God” (Heb. 12:2). To be sure, there is no such thing as pursuing holiness in sanctification apart from Hebrews 12:2. Yet I do not believe that is all Paul is saying when he writes ,“Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling,  for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure” (Phil. 2:12).

So what does it mean to work out your own salvation with fear and trembling? Well I believe it looks like what the author of Hebrews writes in Hebrews 12:1- “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,.”  That is to say that personal holiness in the life of believers is a deliberate, willful and conscious effort to eliminate sin in their lives; as empowered by the Holy Spirit, by the grace of God, as justified sinners declared righteous by virtue of Christ’s perfect law-keeping life. It is to “mortify the flesh,” ” to be killing sin,”and to be actively doing as Peter says “…make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, 6 and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness,  and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins” (2 Pe. 1:5-9).

 

At this moment I will now turn it over to Matthew Poole to elaborate on Philippians 2:12-13.

“Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling,  for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.”

Poole writes:

Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed: having confirmed the example of Christ’s admirable condescension and affection from the glorious issue of it, he doth here reassume his exhortation, with a friendly compellation, commending their former sincere endeavours to obey the gospel (so chap. 1:5, and ver. 15 of this) in following Christ, Matt. 11:28, and moving them to persevere in obedience and love to God and man. Not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence; that it might be evident, whether the eye of their pastor were upon them or no, a prevailing love to Christ, and their own souls’ welfare, was prevalent with them; but especially, being he was now detained from them, and might be jealous of some defects in them, James 3:2; 1 John 1:8, did engage them more than any thing to embrace his exhortation, which he enlargeth in other words. Work out your own salvation: he moves them as saints, chap. 1:1, in whom God would perfect his work begun, ver. 6, having given them to believe and suffer, ver. 29, that they would seriously and earnestly busy themselves in those things, which on their parts are necessary to salvation, as John 6:27; Heb. 6:9, and without which it cannot be had, as chap. 1:10; Matt. 24:13; Col. 3:10, 12, &c.; 1 Tim. 1:18, 19; 6:19; 2 Tim. 2:5; 4:7, 8; 2 Pet. 3:17; yea, press on in the way to their own salvation, as he moved, 1 Tim. 4:16, not that they should not be solicitous about others, for that mutual care is implied, as elsewhere required, Heb. 3:13; 10:24; but that every one should strenuously go on towards the mark with a special regard to himself, and the temptations he may meet with, knowing he must bear his own burden, Gal. 6:1, 5, and therefore should take heed lest he fall. The papists’ arguings hence that our actions are sufficient and meritorious causes of salvation, are altogether inconsequent. For the apostle doth not say our actions work out salvation, but, Work out your own salvation, which is much different. It were absurd to say, because the Jews were enjoined to eat the passover with loins girt, that loins girt were eating of the passover. Indeed, what the papists urge is contrary to this doctrine of Paul, who doth elsewhere place blessedness in remission of sins, and shows eternal life is the gift of God, Rom. 4:6, 7; 6:23; and we are saved by grace, not of works, Rom. 3:20, 24, 25; 4:16; Eph. 2:8; Tit. 3:5; and contrary to the main scope of the apostle, which is to beat down pride and conceit of deserving, and persuade to humility. He drives at this, that we should not be idle or lazy in the business of salvation, but work together with God, (yet as instruments, in whom there is no strength which is not derived from him,) that we may evidence we do not receive his grace in vain, 2 Cor. 6:1, 2. But this co-operation doth not respect the acquiring or meriting of salvation, which is proper to Christ alone, and incommunicable to any others, Acts 4:12, who cannot be said to be their own saviours: this co-operation, or working out, respects only the application, not the performing of the payment, which Christ hath abundantly perfected: but the embracing of the perfect payment, is not that which can be the cause and foundation of right for which it is deservedly conferred; but only the way and means by which we come to partake of salvation. With fear and trembling; i. e. with a holy care to do all acceptably: he doth by these two words mean not any servile fear and slavish despondency, arising from doubting, chap. 4:4, but only a serious, filial fear, implying a deep humility and submissiveness of mind, with a reverential awe of the Divine Majesty, and a solicitude to avoid that evil which is offensive to him and separates from him. We find these words used to the like import, Psal. 2:11; Dan. 5:19; 6:26; Rom. 11:20; with 1 Cor. 2:3; 2 Cor. 7:5; Eph. 6:5; connoting that, after the example of Christ, we should be humble, and though we distrust ourselves, yet we are to trust solely to God, (as an infant may be afraid, and yet cling fast to and depend upon, begging help of, the parent, going over a dangerous precipice,) for the accomplishment of our salvation.

13 For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.
That they might not be negligent in working out their salvation with humility, from any conceit or carnal confidence any might have that they could believe and repent when they pleased, imagining their wills to be as pliable to good as evil; the apostle urgeth the effectual grace of God, as a powerful inducement and encouragement to embrace his exhortation. For it is God which worketh in you: they should not despond of any attaining salvation, or think they did labour in vain in the diligent use of means, and should altogether fall under the dominion of sin, considering, though they were free agents, yet the efficiency and sufficiency was of God, Rom. 6:13, 14; 1 Cor. 4:7; 2 Cor. 3:5; who worketh within them powerfully and effectually, carrying on the work through all difficulties and obstacles, with victorious efficacy, till it be wrought, chap. 1:6; Isa. 41:4; Heb. 13:20, 21: God worketh not only by suasion to gain assent, but by a special energy effecting what he would have us to do. Both to will: and not only in a general way, Acts 17:28, but in a special way, making us willing, Psal. 110:3, remotely in regard of the principle, nextly in regard of the act: circumcising the heart, Deut. 30:6; taking away the heart of stone, and giving a heart of flesh, Ezek. 11:19; 36:26, 27; causing light to shine out of darkness, 2 Cor. 4:6; and so renewing the will, to choose that which is savingly good, the natural bent of which, before the influence of this insuperable grace, stands another way, John 8:44, viz. to will and do contrary: yet he doth not necessitate by any compulsion, but powerfully, yet sweetly, and suitably to man’s free faculty, incline the will to that which is good, John 6:37, 44, i. e. to a certain effect. For the will influenced to will that it doth perform, it undoubtedly wills somewhat that is certain, and so is determined by God. And to do; to do that which is savingly good. Whereupon being made willing, it hath not only an inclination, and doth not only exert a woulding, but, being moved by God’s insuperable grace, 1 Cor. 3:7, that will is effectual, and is the very deed, where the command of the will is executed to the glory of God, as the author. As in alms, not only doth God incline the will to relieve the poor, but further contributes special gracious aids to perform what was deliberated, which evinceth that it is from another principle than ourselves. It is not, that ye may be able to will, and may be able to do; but he worketh both to will and to do: which connotes the very act itself; that ye will to believe, obey, pray, persevere, and that ye do believe, obey, pray, persevere: of unwilling, he makes willing; and further, to will and to do. It is true, to will, as it is an act of the will, is ours by creation; and to will well is so far ours, we being made effectually willing by God’s grace: yet not ours, as though of ourselves we begin to will, or go on, but it is of him who worketh in us. Not that we cannot will well, but that of ourselves we cannot will well. The precept therefore requiring our obedience does not show what we can or will of ourselves, but what we ought to will and to do by God’s special help. But though God work in us obedience, yet we obey, we ourselves act, being acted of God. Of his good pleasure; not for any previous disposition in any of us, but of, or according to, his own good pleasure, Luke 10:21; Eph. 1:5, 9, 11; 2:8; 2 Thess. 1:11, with 2 Tim. 1:9. In working out our own salvation, the very beginning in the will, as well as the perfection, is ascribed to the efficacy of God; his good pleasure is the procreating and helping cause of this work on the will, and not the will’s good pleasure.”*

 

*Poole, M. (1853). Annotations upon the Holy Bible (Vol. 3, pp. 691–692). New York: Robert Carter and Brothers.

Was Louis Berkhof an Antinomian? No.

Let’s let Berkhof speak for himself. Here he is specifically speaking on sanctification.  Please note what Berkhof points out about Karl Bath’s views of justification and sanctification. He writes, “And just as man remains a sinner even after justification, so he also remains a sinner in sanctification, even his best deeds continue to be sins. Sanctification does not engender a holy disposition, and does not gradually purify man. It does not put him in possession of any personal holiness, does not make him a saint, but leaves him a sinner. It really becomes a declarative act like justification. McConnachie, who is a very sympathetic interpreter of Barth, says: “Justification and sanctification are, therefore, to Barth, two sides of one act of God upon men. Justification is the pardon of the sinner (justificatio impii), by which God declares the sinner righteous. Sanctification is the sanctification of the sinner (sanctificatio impii), by which God declares the sinner ‘holy’.” However laudable the desire of Barth to destroy every vestige of work-righteousness, he certainly goes to an unwarranted extreme, in which he virtually confuses justification and sanctification, negatives the Christian life, and rules out the possibility of confident assurance.”

Berkhof states that  Barth is trying to prevent  self-righteousness in the believer but goes too far and confounds justification and sanctification. In fact what he criticizes Barth for, in my opinion, can be said of Tullian Tchividjian and his followers.  To be sure Berkhof is no antinomian but neither is he in the same field as Tullian on this topic.

2. IT CONSISTS OF TWO PARTS. The two parts of sanctification are represented in Scripture as:

a. The mortification of the old man, the body of sin. This Scriptural term denotes that act of God whereby the pollution and corruption of human nature that results from sin is gradually removed. It is often represented in the Bible as the crucifying of the old man, and is thus connected with the death of Christ on the cross. The old man is human nature in so far as it is controlled by sin, Rom. 6:6; Gal. 5:24. In the context of the passage of Galatians Paul contrasts the works of the flesh and the works of the Spirit, and then says: “And they who are of Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with the passions and the lusts thereof.” This means that in their case the Spirit has gained predominance.

b. The quickening of the new man, created in Christ Jesus unto good works. While the former part of sanctification is negative in character, this is positive. It is that act of God whereby the holy disposition of the soul is strengthened, holy exercises are increased, and thus a new course of life engendered and promoted. The old structure of sin is gradually torn down, and a new structure of God is reared in its stead. These two parts of sanctification are not successive but contemporaneous. Thank God, the gradual erection of the new building need not wait until the old one is completely demolished. If it had to wait for that, it could never begin in this life. With the gradual dissolution of the old the new makes its appearance. It is like the airing of a house filled with pestiferous odors. As the old air is drawn out, the new rushes in. This positive side of sanctification is often called “a being raised together with Christ,” Rom. 6:4, 5; Col. 2:12; 3:1, 2. The new life to which it leads is called “a life unto God,” Rom. 6:11; Gal. 2:19.

3. IT AFFECTS THE WHOLE MAN: BODY AND SOUL; INTELLECT, AFFECTIONS AND WILL. This follows from the nature of the case, because sanctification takes place in the inner life of man, in the heart, and this cannot be changed without changing the whole organism of man. If the inner man is changed, there is bound to be change also in the periphery of life. Moreover, Scripture clearly and explicitly teaches that it affects both body and soul, 1 Thess. 5:23; 2 Cor. 5:17; Rom. 6:12; 1 Cor. 6:15, 20. The body comes into consideration here as the organ or instrument of the sinful soul, through which the sinful inclinations and habits and passions express themselves. The sanctification of the body takes place especially in the crisis of death and in the resurrection of the dead. Finally, it also appears from Scripture that sanctification affects all the powers or faculties of the soul: the understanding, Jer. 31:34; John 6:45;—the will, Ezek. 36:25–27; Phil. 2:13;—the passions, Gal. 5:24;—and the conscience, Tit. 1:15; Heb. 9:14.

4. IT IS A WORK OF GOD IN WHICH BELIEVERS CO-OPERATE. When it is said that man takes part in the work of sanctification, this does not mean that man is an independent agent in the work, so as to make it partly the work of God and partly the work of man; but merely, that God effects the work in part through the instrumentality of man as a rational being, by requiring of him prayerful and intelligent co-operation with the Spirit. That man must co-operate with the Spirit of God follows: (a) from the repeated warnings against evils and temptations, which clearly imply that man must be active in avoiding the pitfalls of life, Rom. 12:9, 16, 17; 1 Cor. 6:9, 10; Gal. 5:16–23; and (b) from the constant exhortations to holy living. These imply that the believer must be diligent in the employment of the means at his command for the moral and spiritual improvement of his life, Micah 6:8; John 15:2, 8, 16; Rom. 8:12, 13; 12:1, 2, 17; Gal. 6:7, 8, 15.
E. The Characteristics of Sanctification

1. As appears from the immediately preceding, sanctification is a work of which God and not man is the author. Only the advocates of the so-called free will can claim that it is a work of man. Nevertheless, it differs from regeneration in that man can, and is in duty bound to, strive for ever-increasing sanctification by using the means which God has placed at his disposal. This is clearly taught in Scripture, 2 Cor. 7:1; Col. 3:5–14; 1 Pet. 1:22. Consistent Antinomians lose sight of this important truth, and feel no need of carefully avoiding sin, since this affects only the old man which is condemned to death, and not the new man which is holy with the holiness of Christ.

2. Sanctification takes place partly in the subconscious life, and as such is an immediate operation of the Holy Spirit; but also partly in the conscious life, and then depends on the use of certain means, such as the constant exercise of faith, the study of God’s Word, prayer, and association with other believers.

3. Sanctification is usually a lengthy process and never reaches perfection in this life. At the same time there may be cases in which it is completed in a very short time or even in a moment, as, for instance, in cases in which regeneration and conversion are immediately followed by temporal death. If we may proceed on the assumption that the believer’s sanctification is perfect immediately after death—and Scripture seems to teach this as far as the soul is concerned—, then in such cases the sanctification of the soul must be completed almost at once.

4. The sanctification of the believer must, it would seem, be completed either at the very moment of death, or immediately after death, as far as the soul is concerned, and at the resurrection in so far as it pertains to the body. This would seem to follow from that fact that, on the one hand, the Bible teaches that in the present life no one can claim freedom from sin, 1 Kings 8:46; Prov. 20:9; Rom. 3:10, 12; Jas. 3:2; 1 John 1:8; and that, on the other hand, those who have gone before are entirely sanctified. It speaks of them as “the spirits of just men made perfect,” Heb. 12:23, and as “without blemish,” Rev. 14:5. Moreover, we are told that in the heavenly city of God there shall in no wise enter “anything unclean or he that maketh an abomination and a lie,” Rev. 21:27; and that Christ at His coming will “fashion anew the body of our humiliation, that it may be conformed to the body of His glory,” Phil. 3:21.
F. The Author and Means of Sanctification

Sanctification is a work of the triune God, but is ascribed more particularly to the Holy Spirit in Scripture, Rom. 8:11; 15:16; 1 Pet. 1:2. It is particularly important in our day, with its emphasis on the necessity of approaching the study of theology anthropologically and its one-sided call to service in the kingdom of God, to stress the fact that God, and not man, is the author of sanctification. Especially in view of the Activism that is such a characteristic feature of American religious life, and which glorifies the work of man rather than the grace of God, it is necessary to stress the fact over and over again that sanctification is the fruit of justification, that the former is simply impossible without the latter, and that both are the fruits of the grace of God in the redemption of sinners. Though man is privileged to co-operate with the Spirit of God, he can do this only in virtue of the strength which the Spirit imparts to him from day to day. The spiritual development of man is not a human achievement, but a work of divine grace. Man deserves no credit whatsoever for that which he contributes to it instrumentally. In so far as sanctification takes place in the subconscious life, it is effected by the immediate operation of the Holy Spirit. But as a work in the conscious life of believers it is wrought, by several means, which the Holy Spirit employs.

1. THE WORD OF GOD. In opposition to the Church of Rome it should be maintained that the principal means used by the Holy Spirit is the Word of God. The truth in itself certainly has no adequate efficiency to sanctify the believer, yet it is naturally adapted to be the means of sanctification as employed by the Holy Spirit. Scripture presents all the objective conditions for holy exercises and acts. It serves to excite spiritual activity by presenting motives and inducements, and gives direction to it by prohibitions, exhortations, and examples, 1 Pet. 1:22; 2:2; 2 Pet. 1:4.

2. THE SACRAMENTS. These are the means par excellence according to the Church of Rome. Protestants regard them as subordinate to the Word of God, and sometimes even speak of them as the “visible Word.” They symbolize and seal to us the same truths that are verbally expressed in the Word of God, and may be regarded as an acted word, containing a lively representation of the truth, which the Holy Spirit makes the occasion for holy exercises. They are not only subordinate to the Word of God, but cannot exist without it, and are therefore always accompanied by it, Rom. 6:3; 1 Cor. 12:13; Tit. 3:5; 1 Pet. 3:21.

3. PROVIDENTIAL GUIDANCE. God’s providences, both favorable and adverse, are often powerful means of sanctification. In connection with the operation of the Holy Spirit through the Word, they work on our natural affections and thus frequently deepen the impression of religious truth and force it home. It should be borne in mind that the light of God’s revelation is necessary for the interpretation of His providential guidances, Ps. 119:71; Rom. 2:4; Heb. 12:10.
G. Relation of Sanctification to Other Stages in the Ordo Salutis

It is of considerable importance to have a correct conception of the relation between sanctification and some of the other stages in the work of redemption.

1. TO REGENERATION. There is both difference and similarity here. Regeneration is completed at once, for a man cannot be more or less regenerated; he is either dead or alive spiritually. Sanctification is a process, bringing about gradual changes, so that different grades may be distinguished in the resulting holiness. Hence we are admonished to perfect holiness in the fear of the Lord, 2 Cor. 7:1. The Heidelberg Catechism also presupposes that there are degrees of holiness, when it says that even “the holiest men, when in this life, have only a small beginning of this obedience.” At the same time regeneration is the beginning of sanctification. The work of renewal, begun in the former, is continued in the latter, Phil. 1:6. Strong says: “It (sanctification) is distinguished from regeneration as growth from birth, or as the strengthening of a holy disposition from the original impartation of it.”

2. TO JUSTIFICATION. Justification precedes and is basic to sanctification in the covenant of grace. In the covenant of works the order of righteousness and holiness was just the reverse. Adam was created with a holy disposition and inclination to serve God, but on the basis of this holiness he had to work out the righteousness that would entitle him to eternal life. Justification is the judicial basis for sanctification. God has the right to demand of us holiness of life, but because we cannot work out this holiness for ourselves, He freely works it within us through the Holy Spirit on the basis of the righteousness of Jesus Christ, which is imputed to us in justification. The very fact that it is based on justification, in which the free grace of God stands out with the greatest prominence, excludes the idea that we can ever merit anything in sanctification. The Roman Catholic idea that justification enables man to perform meritorious works is contrary to Scripture. Justification as such does not effect a change in our inner being and therefore needs sanctification as its complement. It is not sufficient that the sinner stands righteous before God; he must also be holy in his inmost life. Barth has a rather unusual representation of the relation between justification and sanctification. In order to ward off all self-righteousness, he insists on it that the two always be considered jointly. They go together and should not be considered quantitatively, as if the one followed the other. Justification is not a station which one passes, an accomplished fact on the basis of which one next proceeds to the highway of sanctification. It is not a completed fact to which one can look back with definite assurance, but occurs ever anew whenever man has reached the point of complete despair, and then goes hand in hand with sanctification. And just as man remains a sinner even after justification, so he also remains a sinner in sanctification, even his best deeds continue to be sins. Sanctification does not engender a holy disposition, and does not gradually purify man. It does not put him in possession of any personal holiness, does not make him a saint, but leaves him a sinner. It really becomes a declarative act like justification. McConnachie, who is a very sympathetic interpreter of Barth, says: “Justification and sanctification are, therefore, to Barth, two sides of one act of God upon men. Justification is the pardon of the sinner (justificatio impii), by which God declares the sinner righteous. Sanctification is the sanctification of the sinner (sanctificatio impii), by which God declares the sinner ‘holy’.” However laudable the desire of Barth to destroy every vestige of work-righteousness, he certainly goes to an unwarranted extreme, in which he virtually confuses justification and sanctification, negatives the Christian life, and rules out the possibility of confident assurance.

3. TO FAITH. Faith is the mediate or instrumental cause of sanctification as well as of justification. It does not merit sanctification any more than it does justification, but it unites us to Christ and keeps us in touch with Him as the Head of the new humanity, who is the source of the new life within us, and also of our progressive sanctification, through the operation of the Holy Spirit. The consciousness of the fact that sanctification is based on justification, and is impossible on any other basis, and that the constant exercise of faith is necessary, in order to advance in the way of holiness, will guard us against all self-righteousness in our striving to advance in godliness and holiness of life. It deserves particular attention that, while even the weakest faith mediates a perfest justification, the degree of sanctification is commensurate with the strength of the Christian’s faith and the persistence with which he apprehends Christ.*

*Berkhof, L. (1938). Systematic theology (pp. 533–537). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans publishing co.

A “Marrow” Man on Sanctification

The following is a quote from Thomas Boston, a man involved in the “Marrow” controversy, on sanctification. This quote is fitting in light of the recent controversy on sanctification. It is rather strange that people are trying to lump Tullian Tchividjian with the” Marrow” men. The following quote would seem to be something that Tullian would seem uncomfortable with – exhorting believers to holiness with the use of the Law and also with threats.

This double seal answers to the two parts of the covenant; Jer. 32:40, “And I will make an everlasting covenant with them, that I will not turn away from them to do them good; but I will put my fear in their hearts, that they shall not depart from me.” This covenant shall not fail on God’s part, for it hath this seal, the Lord knoweth them that are his;” nor on the part of the saints, for it hath this seal, “Let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity.” Let us attend,

1. To the seal itself, which, in its general nature, is a command of sanctification; in which consider, to whom it is directed, upon whom this awful charge is laid. They are the Lord’s own words, directed to every one that nameth the name of his Son, that is, to all who profess Christ. And this character of professors serves not only to distinguish them from those without the church, who are incapable of apostacy; but also shows the obligation laid on them to holiness by their profession, the holy name named by them binding them to a holy life. The inconsistency between the holy profession and an unholy life, which, though men join together, God will have separated, sooner or later, for he will strip them either of their fair name, or their foul heart and life, in time or in eternity. Consider, the duty commanded, “to depart from iniquity,” as from a thing one formerly stood to and followed. Iniquity is that thing which we all naturally follow as a master and leader; but there must be a falling off from it, an apostacy, or falling away from sin, as the word imports. And this is the way to prevent apostacy from the Lord; for this does import, that it is some one iniquity or other indulged, and left to reign in the heart, which betrays professors into apostacy, as Judas, Demas, &c. Consider,

2. How this can be a seal to secure the saints and elect ones from apostacy, since it is but a commandment? To this I answer, that the nature of the preceding seal would seem to have required this expression, “And they that are his depart from iniquity.” But it is in form of a command, to show that the saints depart from iniquity by choice, and that they are by the Lord himself powerfully determined to this choice; so that their perseverance is both rational and gracious. It is a command, at the same time it is a powerful and efficacious command of God, like that in Gen. 1:3, “And God said, Let there be light, and there was light;” a command which effects what it requires in all who are his. It is such a command as that in Num. 16:26, (quoted above), which brought away from the tents of Dathan and Abiram, all who were not to be swallowed up with them. And this command is going through wherever the gospel is preached, and will go till the last day; like a brisk wind separating the corn from the chaff, carrying away from the tents of sin all who are ordained to eternal life, though others dwell on in them still. Thus, though the profane and hypocritical, and all who are not the Lord’s, are still held by some one bond of sin or other which is never broken: yet this powerful word looses the bands of all sin, sets them and their sins asunder, and keeps them asunder, who, being sealed with the first seal, are his. And all this God’s efficacious word can do, as well as keep the world from returning into its primitive mass of confusion; Heb. 1:3, “Upholding all things by the word of his power.” And so it is a seal securing them from apostasy.”*
*Boston, T. (1851). The Whole Works of Thomas Boston: A Series of Sermons and the Christian Life Delineated. (S. M‘Millan, Ed.) (Vol. 10, pp. 11–12). Aberdeen: George and Robert King.