I have much respect for the teachings of Dr. Jack Cottrell. I read his blog often and highly recommend others to do the same. I’ve reposted a small portion of his teaching on soteriology below. I encourage you to visit his blog and read the full article along with his many other great biblical lessons. Enjoy! – Leighton
Justified by Faith, Yet Judged by Works?
We have stressed, as does Paul, that sinners are justified by faith, apart from works of law (Rom. 3:28; 5:1). But the fact is that many Biblical texts specifically say or at least imply that we will all somehow be JUDGED BY WORKS. See for example 2 Chron. 6:30; Job 34:11; Prov. 24:12; Eccl. 12:13-14; Jer. 32:19; Ezek. 33:20; Matt. 12:37; 25:31ff.; Acts 10:34-35; Rom. 14:12; 1 Cor. 3:13; Eph. 6:8; Col. 3:25; James 2:18-26; Rev. 2:23; 20:12-13.
In addition to these, here are some I will quote: Psalm 62:12, “For You recompense a man according to his work.” Isa. 59:18, “According to their deeds, so He will repay.” Jer. 17:10, “I, the LORD, search the heart, I test the mind, even to give to each man according to his ways, according to the results of his deeds.” Matt. 16:27, at his second coming Jesus “will then repay every man according to his deeds.” Rom. 2:6, God “will render to each person according to his deeds.” 2 Cor. 5:10, “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.” 1 Peter 1:17, God “impartially judges according to each one’s work.” Rev. 22:12, “Behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to render to every man according to what he has done.”
How can we reconcile the teaching that we are justified by faith and not by works, with this abundant testimony that we will be judged by works?
I. FALSE ANSWERS TO THIS QUESTION.
One false answer to the question is that when Paul speaks of being justified by faith and not by works, by “works” he is referring to the Law of Moses only. This cannot be the case, though, since Paul’s use of the word “law,” in the crucial passage of Romans 1-5, is not limited to the Mosaic Law. Here he discusses law as it applies to Gentiles (e.g., 1:18-32; 2:14-15), and as it applies to Abraham (e.g., 4:1-5). The non-justifying “works of law” (Rom. 3:20, 28) include everyone’s responses to whatever law code he or she may be under.
Another false answer is the idea that the faith that justifies actually INCLUDES works as part of its very definition. Works are just a part of faith; thus to be judged by works IS to be judged by faith. This claim, however, is simply not so. It is based on a faulty assumption regarding lexical definitions, namely, that if the words for faith (e.g., pistis) according to some (not all) Greek lexicons sometimes means “works,” then whenever these words are used they must always include the connotation of works. This simply is not the way lexicons and lexical definitions work.
Another false answer is the Galatianism discussed in lesson six above, that we are indeed initially(at conversion) justified by faith; but once we become Christians we stay justified by works and are finally judged only by our works. We have already seen, however, that this view is contrary to the very essence of justification by faith.
II. HOW THEN CAN WE EXPLAIN THE “JUDGED BY WORKS” TEXTS?
There are definitely some valid senses in which human beings are judged by works, even though our final destinies are determined by our faith-relationship to Jesus Christ. Here I will summarize a few of them.
First of all, in the OT, sometimes the judgment of which the writers speak is not eternal judgment but earthly judgment, e.g., rewarding Israel for covenant faithfulness or pouring out wrath upon Israel’s enemies (e.g., 2 Chron. 6:28-31; Isa. 59:18).
Secondly, in the final judgment an examination of works is necessary to determine the DEGREE of rewards for individual believers. It seems there are degrees of punishment for the lost (Matt. 10:15; 11:22-24; Luke 10:12; 12:47-48; 20:47; John 19:11). Likewise the quantity and quality of believers’ works will determine the degree of their rewards (e.g., Matt. 5:19; 18:4; Luke 19:12-19; Jas. 3:1). This is especially evident in 1 Cor. 3:12-15, which says the fire of judgment “will test the quality of each man’s work.” Some believers will be rewarded, and some not. This also seems to be the point of 2 Cor. 5:10, which says that every believer will be recompensed for deeds done in this life, good and bad.
A third way works will enter into the final judgment is that they will be cited as EVIDENCE of the presence of faith. Justification is indeed by faith, but the faith that justifies is a faith that WORKS (Rom. 1:5; James 2:14-26). Works thus demonstrate the state of the heart, just as a tree is known by its fruit (Matt. 12:33). The fruit does not determine the kind of tree, but demonstrates it. Likewise our works are the evidence of the presence of faith: John 15:1-8; Gal. 5:6; Eph. 2:10; 1 Thess. 1:3; James 2:17-18.
For the rest of this article and many other great lessons from Dr. Jack Cottrell please CLICK HERE.
64 thoughts on “JUSTIFIED BY FAITH, YET JUDGED BY WORKS?”
A key passage is Galatians 5:6, where Paul tells us that, “The only thing that counts is faith, through love, working (pistis di agapes energoumene).” Love appears to be the key, here. It’s that against which the sheep/goats are measured in Matthew 25, and the first half of James 2 lays it down rather starkly:
James 2:8, 12-13: “If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself,’ you are doing right. … Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom, because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment.”
The law is fulfilled by means of the royal law of freedom: love, which entails an energetic, active, living faith. If you fail to love — and thereby fail Paul’s “faith, through love, working” — James writes, then you will be judged without mercy. This parallels both the Parable of the Unmerciful Servant in Matthew 18, as well as the Romans 2 eschatological threat against the judgmental hypocrites who “store up wrath.” And, indeed, we see in Romans 2, “God will repay each person according to what they have done. … There will be trouble and distress for every human being who does evil… but glory, honor, and peace for everyone who does good.”
Your “second” way in section 2 is almost certainly correct. There are degrees of rewards for those saved from punishment, and there are degrees of punishment for those who need correction. This conforms to Psalm 62:12-13’s climactic definition of God’s righteousness, power, and mercy: “One thing God has spoken, two things I have heard: ‘Power belongs to you, God, and with you, Lord, is unfailing love’; and, ‘You repay everyone according to what they have done.'”
(Pardon; Cottrell’s “second” way, I should say.)
article says: How can we reconcile the teaching that we are justified by faith and not by works, with this abundant testimony that we will be judged by works?
You would think, that meditating on our actions not mattering, since all sin is forgiven, would produce more sin in our lives because sin doesn’t matter as much. If I really think whether I read my Bible or watch TV, makes the actual difference between heaven and hell, I sure would be more powerfully motivated than an easy believism that says that all we get by “laboring and striving” as Paul wrote, is a cherry on top of our sundae. So some people lay their lives down and experience more suffering, more self-sacrifice, more holiness and conformity to Christ? Good for them, but we all get our sundae anyway. That’s an awfully big price for just a cherry.
To the Law and to the Testimony: does the Bible really resolve the tension between commitment and so-called “Lordship Salvation” and sloppy agape, work-free Hyper-Grace? I’m not so sure the Bible makes it super simple or clear either way. That fact alone should concern us. There will be those who say “Lord, Lord” and think their lives conform to the requirements, and they will fail.
I think the point is grace always does a real work inside us, without exception, and it’s always by faith. How can we tell between a cheap counterfeit confession of faith and a faith that does mighty things in us? Justification by faith alone, doesn’t mean nothing changes in our lives. It means that every change that happens, is not one we enact through self-effort or meritorious work—but again, it doesn’t mean NO change at all. All the warnings and exhortations in Scriptures are not just for “cherry Christians.” Even Paul expressed real concern over his spiritual state—Paul the bedrock of all justification by faith alone.
What I see so often, is people from both sides of an issue, really desiring to interpret Scripture in the way they already believe. To me, that’s already a strike against you—and I’ve heard people who believe OSAS yet still say, “Hey, you know what—I’m going to read and preach this Bible verse just as it stands and it really sounds all the world like it contradicts what I believe—but I’m still going to preach it and I’m not sure how those differences are resolved.” I can respect that, at least. But ideally we could continually lay aside our biases and preferences and really get at the message of the text, even if it says something we don’t like.
Cottrell writes, “How can we reconcile the teaching that we are justified by faith and not by works, with this abundant testimony that we will be judged by works?”
Is reconciliation necessary?? A person is justified by faith (salvation) and judged by works (having nothing to do with salvation). The unsaved are judged by their works and thereby are they denied entrance into heaven – thus condemned to eternal death. The saved are judged by works – “If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, his work will be shown for what it is…If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward. If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved,…” (1 Corinthians 3)
We all agree that a person is not saved by works (given that one is not Catholic or Muslim where works play a role in salvation). Why build a strawman to argue a point not contested? What’s the issue?
Good morning Roger! Just a reminder that the site is called soteriology101.com, not anti-Calvinism101.com! 🙂 But if it will make you feel better… The righteousness of Christ (justification) is not received without faith. It is also not received without receiving Jesus. It is not separate from His presence, by the Holy Spirit, being received. His presence is His life! His life comes at the same moment as the new birth, for you cannot have birth without life. THEREFORE… faith has to be present at the moment of the new birth, not after because of birth.
brianwagner writes, “…faith has to be present at the moment of the new birth, not after because of birth.”
The new birth enables a person to “see the kingdom of God” and to “enter the kingdom of God.” (John 3) The issue is whether a person exercises faith after coming to see the kingdom of God or the exercise of faith is a prerequisite to seeing the kingdom of God.
It seems pretty evident that neither one of us has “seen” the kingdom of God yet, nor entered it, because the King has not returned to set up His kingdom on earth yet. And if Jesus is talking about heaven to Nicodemus, the same is true (cf. John 18:36).
That would be Nicodemus’ normal understanding of those words, why can’t it be yours too! Making “kingdom” mean internal salvation is a stretch against the context!
In Luke 8, we read, “[Jesus] said, “The knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of God has been given to you, but to others I speak in parables, so that, ‘though seeing, they may not see; though hearing, they may not understand.’” By seeing the kingdom seems to mean that one comes to see Christ as his savior and thereby to believe the gospel.
That would allow us to read John 3 as “Except a man be born again, he cannot believe the gospel.”
Roger, in Luke 8 Jesus is talking about not understanding the parables about the kingdom when using the words “seeing” and “hearing”. In John 3 it is obvious Jesus is talking about seeing and entering the literal kingdom itself. A hermeneutic like you are using can make the Scriptures mean almost anything to fit one’s theology.
brianwagner writes, “A hermeneutic like you are using can make the Scriptures mean almost anything to fit one’s theology.”
Actually, my hermeneutic is more limiting. You favor the two verses saying two different things. You are a splitter; I am a lumper. My hermeneutic lumps the two verses together and makes them say one thing. Your hermeneutic splits verses apart and makes them say more than one thing. Thus, you are ahead of me already. Following your heremeneutic – splitting verses apart to say more, we should get the Scriptures telling many more things than under my hermeneutic – lumping verses together to say less. Your hermeneutic would allow a person to pick and choose among more options to fit one’s theology thereby allowing for more theologies or variations.
Actually, Roger, I believe it is important to do a full word study of how the Scripture uses a word, such as “kingdom”. But I think you would agree that the breadth of meaning is discovered by finding all the various meanings in all the various contexts. Some verses then can be lumped together after that, but often many should be kept separate.
The kingdom that Jesus was talking to Nick about was one to see and enter, that is a literal one. Israel knew of the promise of such a literal kingdom ruled over by the Messiah. And Jesus spoke of that kingdom also.
But even if Jesus was talking about salvation as the “kingdom” in John 3, the new birth brings immediate entrance into and sight of that kingdom, as you would agree.
What we do not agree on is that the passage does not prove the new birth causes or precedes faith. Nor does it disprove that an opportunity for a personal commitment of faith is provided through God’s enlightenment for every man. And when exercised, God responds by giving (causing) the new birth.
brianwagner writes, “The kingdom that Jesus was talking to Nick about was one to see and enter, that is a literal one.”
We both agree that the kingdom of which Jesus spoke is a “literal” one meaning that it is real and it exists (or will exist). The difference, I think, is that you think of a physical kingdom on earth and I think of a spiritual kingdom in heaven. I think you also might agree that there is a spiritual kingdom in heaven; you also want there to be a physical kingdom on earth. So, what is Jesus talking about? Is He talking about two different kingdoms, one of which is really inconsequential in the face of eternity, or is He talking about one kingdom that makes all the difference in the world? I go with one kingdom that God’s elect see and enter.
I think Roger you answer a portion of my response before reading the whole thing and seeing the context of my points made. I discussed how whether kingdom is physical or spiritual, heavenly or personal, the new birth as defined by reformed theology does not find clear support in Jesus’ words. I think it would be better to read the whole and then discuss important parts. Just a thought. 🙂
brianwagner writes, “… I discussed how whether kingdom is physical or spiritual, heavenly or personal,…”
I know, but you screwed your message up by saying “literal” which applies equally to either physical or spiritual (where “spiritual” in identifying a kingdom is not “spiritualizing;” whatever that brings to mind – or even that you thought in that direction).
Now you say, “heavenly or personal.” What does that even mean?? Do you mean to contrast a heavenly kingdom with a personal kingdom where, in the context of salvation, they seem to be the same? I think you sometimes use words carelessly, as we all can do, and thereby confuse the point you seek to make. Given that the whole is the sum of its parts, creating confusion on any part will confuse the whole.
Then “the new birth as defined by reformed theology does not find clear support in Jesus’ words.”
The reformers say, on the basis of John 3, that the new birth is a work of the Holy Spirit and precedes one’s ability to “see” or “enter” the kingdom of God. The issue is not really the new birth but that which Jesus meant when he used the terms “see” and “enter.” You seem to have the exercise of faith to believe as being prerequisite to one being born again and then having the ability to see or enter the kingdom of God. The reformers saw the ability to “see” the kingdom of God manifesting itself in faith/belief. Just a difference of opinion.
Thank you for asking for clarification, Roger. That is always necessary in good communication between people. The Kingdom of God is defined to include different realms, I think you would agree. Heaven is certainly a realm that is specifically identified as the kingdom of God, as well as our individual lives, submissive to the sovereignty of God. That is the difference I was making.
I do not try to use words carelessly, but I am sure that I do sometimes. I was speaking about the breadth of meaning words have in the Scripture were different contexts maintain different meanings of the same word. I wish you would concede agreement on that idea, even if you do not agree on the meaning I take for kingdom in John 3.
Calvin’s discussion of 3:5, “born of water” is interesting, demonstrating that even he believed traditional meanings should be overturned. His nod to baptism necessary for salvation in regrettable and continued the harm.
Romans 8.13 says: If you live according to the flesh you will die but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body you will live. Life and death are dependent on how we walk (behave). It is not enough for the Christian to have the status ‘righteous’ but the Christian must be walking in the way of righteousness. Paul exhorts his people to do this but also assures them that as Christ’s they have the Spirit so are already walking in the Spirit (v9). This helps to explain how Paul treats the situation in 1 Cor 5 of the man who has his father’s wife. For Paul the man’s salvation is put in jeopardy by his actions. He has clearly stopped walking the way of righteousness and has now gone down a Pagan path. Salvation for the man is dependent upon a change in behaviour.
At the heart of the way of righteousness is the belief that Jesus is Lord and God raised him up. But this does not trump any other considerartion. If we sin egregiously we implicitly deny the Lordship of Jesus for faith without works is dead. At the END the Christian will be judged as one of those who has loved God by believing in his Messiah and walking the hard way that leads to life in the power of Gods Spirit.
Greetings Brian! Welcome to this discussion! I think taking “you” as generic rhetorically, like we commonly do, fits well in Rom 8:13, meaning “if a person.” As preachers we often do this speaking to an audience that we know has professing believers but also probably some not truly possessing believers. But, as I just said to Roger, in justification we receive Christ’s righteousness at the same time we receive His life. Whatever we work out from that moment of regeneration in cooperation with the Spirit by our personal faith, it is never our righteousness.
That righteousness we work out never earns us anything, not even the preservation of our everlasting relationship with Jesus. And God guarantees that His children through His discipline will work out that salvation, or be taken home early. He does not ever hold over His redeemed children’s heads His everlasting rejection if they keep struggling against His discipline! When we are in heaven, and still with free-will of some sort, will He warn us about losing everlasting life?
Even you, I presume, don’t think that’s possible, that is, to lose salvation after we are in heaven. So if He can keep us saved in heaven with our free-will in tact, He can certainly do so while we are still here on earth after being regenerated and given the everlasting life and righteousness of Jesus. Everlasting life and righteousness are guaranteed to remain ours until heaven (cf. Eph 1:13-14).
brianwagner writes, ” I think taking “you” as generic rhetorically, like we commonly do, fits well in Rom 8:13, meaning “if a person.” As preachers we often do this speaking to an audience that we know has professing believers but also probably some not truly possessing believers.”
10 But if Christ is in you, your body is dead because of sin, yet your spirit is alive because of righteousness.
11 And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you.
12 Therefore, brothers, we have an obligation–but it is not to the sinful nature, to live according to it.
13 For if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live,
14 because those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.
15 For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.”
16 The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children.
I read context as “if Christ is in you,…Therefore, brothers,…For if you…” I don’t see how “you” can be separated from the earlier qualifiers (antecedents) and taken to include unbelievers other than that Paul may be addressing those who purport to have confessed Christ – to Paul, the confessions are valid. The difficulty that Paul addresses is the cultural baggage that the Corinthians bring with them that they need to shed (as we today experience) – they do not have the entire NT as we do and are learning new things as fast as Paul, and others, can teach them. They have responded to Paul’s preaching of the gospel; they now need to be taught the word of Christ as the OT has become somewhat inadequate to do this.
You have demonstrated Roger that Paul was aware that his readership probably included unsaved professing Christians when he said, “if Christ is in you” and “if the Spirit… lives in you”. The generic use for “you” in 8:13 legitimate.
I am surprised Roger that you are not more concerned by Brian’s view of forfeiting real salvation.
bianwagner writes, “You have demonstrated Roger that Paul was aware that his readership probably included unsaved professing Christians…”
I don’t think we can be dogmatic about that conclusion. One may use “If..” to emphasize a point. A parent might say to a child, “If you want to buy a car, you need to get a job.” This issue is not whether the child wants a car, the issue is how to get it. So, Paul, “If Christ is in you…” where he doesn’t mean to say that Christ is not in them, but to emphasize certain behavior consistent with Christ. It is possible that Paul does actually think that some are not saved – we cannot just dismiss it out of hand – but his tone is not of that nature in the surrounding context – at least, I don’t see it.
About forfeiting salvation, it’s like arguing omniscience with you. You split verses apart and focus on certain verses that seem to support your view – that should come out clearly as you work on Charnock – we shall see if you respond to his arguments or sidestep them. Those who argue for forfeiting salvation also split verses apart allowing one verse to say one thing and another to suggest the opposite. Not sure I want to get into that discussion.
I am still working on the Charnock critique, Roger, though I am already wondering because of your lack of concession and agreement of any contextual understanding that I present from Scripture. I wonder if my critique of Charnock will also just be summarily dismissed, because your mind is made up.
I get that feeling that you are convinced that his reasoning can not be assailed. Are you really saying that you have not found any weakness in Charnock? Is your trust that firmly fixed in a man that you can not see any flaws that must exist in his reasoning since his work is not inspired?
brianwagner writes, ” I wonder if my critique of Charnock will also just be summarily dismissed, because your mind is made up.”
I think you will need to sidestep/ignore Charnock’s arguments to support your view. Your critique will be most interesting, as is true of many critiques, not just because of what you say but of what you don’t say and the points on which you refuse to engage Charnock.
Rather than being summarily dismissed, I am enthusiastically looking forward to it. I fully expect you to avoid certain issues and that is why I asked if I could be a “reviewer” so as to make comments to direct you to the straight and narrow and away from rabbit trails and strawmen.
I look forward, Roger, to your helpful review. My methodology has been so far to look for the fundamental assumptions that Charnock makes and upon which he builds his arguments and definitions. I have found them.
I hope you agree that this is a good method of critique, for all of us present arguments based on assumptions and definitions that we have chosen based on some authority. Anyone who has done lexical studies realizes fairly quickly that lexicons do not all agree, meaning that one has done a better job that another in defining words within their context.
If that happens in the dictionaries themselves, it certainly happens in commentaries and theological studies. Ultimately, I think you would agree, we are each responsible to try to understand what is being said in Scripture within its various contexts, and that the authority is in the Scripture itself. The more we do our own word studies, the more our dictionary and authority will come from the Holy Spirit and not from man (1John 2:27).
brianwagner writes, “My methodology has been so far to look for the fundamental assumptions that Charnock makes and upon which he builds his arguments and definitions. I have found them.”
Great!! But don’t fell that you have to hurry it.
brianwagner writes, “I think you would agree, we are each responsible to try to understand what is being said in Scripture within its various contexts, and that the authority is in the Scripture itself. The more we do our own word studies, the more our dictionary and authority will come from the Holy Spirit and not from man (1John 2:27).”
“…within its various contexts…” – the door through which many an imaginative philosophy is driven. It often comes down to context (to which I add, consistency- but I forget who I got that from).
Agreed Roger, consistency with context is key. And I think you would agree that the local contextual meaning trumps the bringing of a meaning to a context from another outside one.
I would add, that if the local context is unclear, one can choose a meaning from another context for personal edification, but unless that context is clearly parallel, that choice can not be made dogmatic for others or to define sound doctrine.
A metaphor I find helpful is that of the exodus. When a Christian is baptised he has escaped Egypt and has arrived on the east bank of the Red Sea. Now begins the journey through the wilderness and this is achieved by following the Spirit. Christians are a pilgrim people. We cannot be a Christian without following the Spirit. We have the two choices of going back to Egypt or following the pillars with the people of God. The man in 1 Cor 5 initially chose to go back to his pagan ways and had stopped following the Spirit with the people of God. The direction of his travel was not towards the promised land but away from it. His salvation was in severe jeopardy. As Christians we need to be on the way righteousness or else we are going in the wrong direction. As Jesus said ‘Go and do thou likewise’. i.e. get on the way of righteousness which is of course himself. All is achieved by being in Christ. I think that this is more or less what Calvin taught. (He said some good stuff too!).
Good morning Brian! I hope you will feel free to interact with the main points of things I write to you. I would especially like if you point out where my reasoning from Scriptures might be weak and out of context. I want to be edified to rightly divide the Word. And I definitely do not want to lead others astray from the true meaning of important biblical truths.
Your use of an OT illustration of membership in Israel after the Red Sea to define salvation is, in my view, a good example of how Roman Catholicism has messed up Evangelical thinking and still influences it. Unfortunately many still think RC is the source and authority for our orthodox definitions of Christianity instead of depending only on the normal reading of Scriptures for those definitions. RC appealed often to OT illustrations to try to prove the validity of their false sacramental gospel.
What I am trying to say is that going through the Red Sea did not make everyone a child of God individually with the possession of the imputed righteousness of God, which is only by personal faith in God’s mercy for it. Nor did going into the promise land mean all who entered where also in possession of everlasting life at that moment.Public membership in a corporate body through some ritual does not a Christian make internally. Did Moses lose his salvation because he was refused entrance into the promise land?
This is Paul’s point for church discipline in 1Cor 5. Many have the public membership and are called “brothers”, but demonstrate by their life that they never came into possession of everlasting life and God’s righteousness (1John 2:19). John points out clearly that once a person is born of God they do not, cannot, practice sin (1John 3:9). How do you understand these verses from 1John?
Infant baptism is a harmful doctrine of a false salvation that has aided this false notion of being a true Christian and member of Christ’s body and then losing it through personal “mortal” sin, but then being able to get that salvation back through priestly actions in penance and communion, and maintained through personal practice of personal righteousness. This corrupt, false gospel still influences much of reformed theology and those under its spell!
brianwagner writes, “Many have the public membership and are called “brothers”…”
Which just shows how people in the church can mess things up. As Paul warned in Acts 20, “I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock. Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them.So be on your guard!”
you said: Your use of an OT illustration of membership in Israel after the Red Sea to define salvation is, in my view, a good example of how Roman Catholicism has messed up Evangelical thinking and still influences it
1 Corinthians 10:1 Moreover, brethren, I do not want you to be unaware that all our fathers were under the cloud, all passed through the sea,
2 all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea,
3 all ate the same spiritual food,
4 and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them, and that Rock was Christ.
5 But with most of them God was not well pleased, for their bodies were scattered in the wilderness.
6 Now these things became our examples, to the intent that we should not lust after evil things as they also lusted.
7 And do not become idolaters as were some of them. As it is written, “The people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play.”
8 Nor let us commit sexual immorality, as some of them did, and in one day twenty-three thousand fell;
9 nor let us tempt Christ, as some of them also tempted, and were destroyed by serpents;
10 nor complain, as some of them also complained, and were destroyed by the destroyer.
11 Now all these things happened to them as examples, and they were written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the ages have come.
12 Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall. (1Co 10:1-12 NKJ)
Exactly ! With but not really of…
No idea how your sentence made any sense.
Paul certainly was talking about salvation here, and was not a RC. But yes, exactly. OSAS will have to say “and were destroyed by the destroyer” was just “for the destruction of their flesh that their spirit might be saved.” Notice Paul said “might;” Paul hoped the destruction of the flesh would bring repentance before it was too late. Notice also that Paul clearly says Christ was equivalent to Yahweh, and leads his people in a similar manner.
We’re playing fast and loose with a Holy Text when we tweak and twist it to fit our presupposed pet doctrines.
Hi David, I think it would normal for Paul to warn those professing believers at Corinth that just because they are baptized and take communion doesn’t guarantee they are truly saved. He is saying that using the corresponding example that just because someone was in Israel, that didn’t guarantee they had personal salvation either.
Do you really think “baptized into Moses” meant having a personal possession of salvation? We both would agree that the overt sinning of some of them demonstrated that they weren’t saved. There is nothing in the context that indicates they had it and then lost it, unless you make baptism and communion equivalent to salvation which RC does… and thus the problem I was pointing out.
Following along with true believers is following Christ, but that too doesn’t guarantee personal salvation, only trusting Christ does. See Paul’s warning to the Corinthians in 2Cor 13:5.
Yes, I’ve heard some people explain away the warnings of apostasy as only addressed to those somehow grouped with a covenant people and partaking of their blessings, but not truly saved or in a right relationship with God (the not all Israel is of Israel thing). I realize now (was a bit tired) that’s what you mean by “with but not really of;” that is “with the people of God” but not really the people of God themselves, just hanging around. Thus you can see Biblical warnings as divine sorters merely weeding out the bad guys (which is actually pretty much what Calvinism has to do too, since they embrace a form of OSAS).
It’s kind of a nifty doctrine because as soon as someone who showed all the signs of being a Christian falls away we’ve got the automatic “Aha! With but not really of!” and any apostasy can fall under the catchall of “Well, he was never really a Christian.” Under this understanding too, we have to realize the warnings to apostasy never became actually addressed to Christians but only “with but not really ofs.” This seems quite counter intuitive to the plain meaning, much like determinism seems counter intuitive to making choices. And all Biblical warnings to apostasy become written… to people not even saved. How one can apostatize from just “thinking” one is saved is quite a puzzle. There’s nothing to apostatize from, because you have nothing real (apostatize from the spiritual “blessings” you gain under associating with God’s people?).
And here’s another problem I have with OSAS. You can do all that the Bible commands, but OSAS proponents can turn around and say “Nope! With but not really of! You’re not saved.” That is, kind of like the Word of Faith people can say, you weren’t healed because you just “didn’t have enough faith,” OSAS people can say Christians fell away because “They just didn’t have real faith.” I’ll admit no one can judge the heart, but if someone says they believed and confessed Christ, I’m sorry, but the Bible clearly says they were saved. And if they no longer believe, and no longer confess, the Bible says they are no longer saved. Like forcing determinism into every single passage, it feels like a trump card that’s difficult to exegetically slay.
you say: Do you really think “baptized into Moses” meant having a personal possession of salvation?
I think God promised his people salvation, if they obey. Until the point they disobey, they are partakers of salvation.
you say: We both would agree that the overt sinning of some of them demonstrated that they weren’t saved.
No, I’d disagree here—because I am not under the presumption that “saved” people cannot overtly sin.
you say: There is nothing in the context that indicates they had it and then lost it
They ate the same spiritual food and drank the same spiritual drink. The amount of hermeneutic gymnastics necessary to make this not mean salvation is an Olympian feat I am not willing to undergo. “For they drank of that spiritual Rock… and that Rock was Christ.” I realize you also explain away Hebrews 6 by saying believers can “taste” Christ without salvation. Perhaps you’d posit they can “drink” Christ without salvation too. I can’t synthesize that with Christ’s sermon on the bread and water of life.
you say: Following along with true believers is following Christ, but that too doesn’t guarantee personal salvation, only trusting Christ does.
I’d never disagree with this, but since trust is an internal issue (just as determinism is an invisible issue), this gives OSAS doctrine the easy out of “they never really trusted.” I think we can see from the text indications of real salvation (the same as Hebrews 6).
thank you for your point of view & blessings
Hi David, would you respond to 1John 3:9, Heb 12:5-10, the Matt 13 parables that speak to being influenced by the Word and with God’s people but not really saved, and that OSAS does exist in heaven, so why not now?
You do admit there is such a thing as false profession (1John 1:5-10) and that even a person who loses their salvation, in your view, would keep making a false profession, and would need the warnings of Hebrews, right? I am assuming you don’t think an apostate can never be saved again, or do you think the warning is that God determines them at that point to be lost forever, which is where I lean?
It seems to me that we are looking at the same person as perhaps needing to be warned about being lost forever! You, for some reason, want them to feel like they are truly saved because of their prior obedience… that was the most disturbing thing you said – “God promised His people salvation if they obey”.
Salvation is only through faith, and not tied to works, not even not to rituals that God himself ordains, or to partaking of miraculous gracious events. I had a man tell me that he knew he was saved because God had once miraculously healed him of sickness. That was not a saving trust!
True trust will be seen in consistent obedience, though he will notwill be sinless, until heaven. God’s discipline of His everlasting children will guarantee that. Faithful obedience to baptism and communion should not give anyone the false assurance that they are truly saved, or even born again to begin with! Saving grace is not through obedience!
That was the main point I was making. Jesus will say, “I never knew you” to a lot who we’re in the right groups, where His presence was, even doing the right things. (Matt 7, Luke 13:25f). But He never knew them, and they need to be warned about their lost condition and false assurance based on trusting their membership and obedience with God’s people.
Brian Midmore writes, “A metaphor I find helpful is that of the exodus. When a Christian is baptised he has escaped Egypt and has arrived on the east bank of the Red Sea. Now begins the journey through the wilderness…The direction of his travel was not towards the promised land but away from it. His salvation was in severe jeopardy.”
All right, a metaphor – but you don’t explain what the terms of the metaphor mean. Within your metaphor, what does Egypt, the Red Sea and the wilderness represent? Without explaining that, how can we understand what you are talking about.
You don’t mean to suggest that baptism – going through the Red Sea – produces salvation, do you?
Obviously you do not find the exodus as a metaphor for salvation as helpful as I do! I agree that mediaeval catholicism has influenced protestant thought but this, I maintain, is mainly in protestantism’s reaction against it. As for 1 John 3.9. The man in 1 Cor 5 is exceptional but proves that a Christian needs to walk a righteous path, which generally speaking given 1 John 3.9 and Rom 8.9 a Christian will.
I also question Jack Cottrell’s assertion that when Paul speaks of the law that he means any law code that a person may be under. He cites Rom 1.18-32 for is argument where the law is not mentioned.It is unrighteousness of man which is focus. Now any Jew would consider the actions of the gentiles as unrighteous but this does not imply that they are under the law or any other law. The nations sin whether or not they have any moral code. Next JC cites Rom 2.14-15. This can just as easily be translated as ‘for when the Gentiles who do not have the law by nature, do the things of the law’. i.e shifting the comma from after law to after nature. Thus these Gentiles are Christians who have the law written on their hearts v15 and who are Jews on the inside v29. Rom 4. 1-5 speaks of Abraham’s relationship with works and faith and does not mention the law and Rom 3.19 says the law speaks to those under the law (but does Paul really include Gentiles here?).
Good Morning Brian! I appreciate your desire to discuss specific passages of Scripture. I wish more would do so on this site! You do have me a little confused, however, and I need some clarification.
You said – “This can just as easily be translated as ‘for when the Gentiles who do not have the law by nature, do the things of the law’. i.e shifting the comma from after law to after nature. Thus these Gentiles are Christians who have the law written on their hearts v15”
It appears that you are saying – Gentiles who do not have the law of Moses by nature – are Christians who have the law of Moses written on their hearts. How are saved Gentiles not having the law by nature, in your view, if it is now written on their hearts?
It is obvious that Paul is speaking in the present tense in both 2:14-15. And I think it would be difficult to see the word “law” at the end of verse 14 as pointing to the law of Moses. And wouldn’t you think it is more natural to take “do not have the law” in verse 14 as synonymous of “without law” in verse 12 which begins this paragraph section of chapter 2? Verse 12 is talking about lost people not saved.
And though νομος (law) is not in chapter one, could you agree that “God’s righteous decree” in 1:32 is speaking about a knowledge of divine law, and of its penalty, that God brings to the Gentiles who never heard the Mosaic law? In my view, the normal reading of these first two chapters in Romans is that all are guilty, Jew and Gentile, because God has sufficiently revealed His standard of righteousness to both. Both fall short of His glory and both will be judged as to whether they decided to trust His mercy instead of trusting in the things of the law that they were practicing.
Clear evidence that when Paul speaks of the Law he means Torah is found in Rom 3.28-29. (Do not use the NIV here please!) Paul is saying that if a man is justified by the deeds of the law then God is only the God of the Jews. I.e the deeds of the Law were something the Jews were doing and the Gentiles were not doing. Also in Rom 3.31 Paul talks of fulfilling the Law by faith. This can only mean the Torah. Does a Gentile Christian fulfill his own moral code? (sorry about the multiple posting)
you say: Does a Gentile Christian fulfill his own moral code?
I don’t think any of us live up to our own standards, let alone God’s.
Rom 2.14 is a tricky verse. Do the Gentiles not have the law by nature or do they by nature do the things in law? And what does ‘by nature’ mean. This said I cannot believe that he is speaking about unconverted Gentiles since he uses the phrase ‘law written in their heart’ which is Jeremiahs promise of the new covenant. These people are spoken of again more explicitly in v26-29. The issue for me is ‘when Paul writes law and the deeds of the law what does he mean. In my previous post I argue that he means Torah and the deeds of Torah i.e. those deeds explicitly given by God to Jews which set them apart from the Gentiles. So in Rom 3.28 when Paul says that a man is justified apart from the deeds of the law Paul does not mean that a man is justified apart from his genuine attempt at fulfilling his own moral code, but that a man is justified by faith without need of fulfilling the Torah, and in particular the aspects of the Torah that were peculiar to the Jews e.g. circumcision. OR is he the God of the Jews only.
Hi Brian. Thank you for trying to respond to my questions and to clarify your view further. I do ask that you attempt to find some answers to my specific questions. As I pointed out you are saying Gentiles who DO NOT HAVE the Mosaic law by nature are, in your view, now possessing the law in their hearts. You must interpret that key phrase “by nature” or your whole view that these are saved Gentiles is suspect.
I agree there seems to be a an allusion to the promise of Jer. 31:33, but it easier to explain that this is not an allusion to fulfillment of that promise, since the promise is for the law itself to be written, not just “the work of the law”. And if you answer the question I asked about the meaning of the word “law” at the end of 14, you may see that it cannot be pointing to the Mosaic law in that instance, but to another representation of God’s law, whose work is indeed written on the hearts of all unbelievers.
You also did not answer my questions about this other kind of law as it is seen in words of Rom 1:32. Would you like to try? Nor did you reply to the evidence of how this paragraph started in 2:12, and the natural comparison of the phrase “without law” to the phrase “do not have the law” in verse 14, points to unbelieving Gentiles as the subject being discussed. Would you like to try?
The subjects of chapter 1:26-2:11 are all mankind – both Jew and Gentile. Then Paul focuses specifically on how Gentiles are unsaved without having the Mosaic law 2:12-16, and how the Jews are unsaved even with that law 2:17-28. I think you would benefit from doing a word study of all the ways Paul uses the word “law”. That may help you not default to thinking the Mosaic law is the appropriate meaning in some cases. Look at 2:27 for example as showing that Paul sees various forms of God’s law in that verse.
I’ve heard some Bible teachers like Steve Gregg use this Romans 2:14 passage to teach that Gentiles had the possibility of following their moral conscious and being saved by it. I find that kind of contradictory to Paul’s whole theme and major points. Paul made the conclusion “all have sinned” and “none are righteous no not one.” Except those guys he just talked about that keep the moral law of their conscious? Paul also said “by works of the law no flesh shall be justified.” Paul said “a righteousness apart from Law has now appeared.” Except works done by natural light of the conscious? It seems counter intuitive. James agrees with Paul on this point, actually, because James pictures that Law as one huge pane of glass, that the tiniest crack shatters all. Yet these Gentiles are said to have their moral conscious “bearing witness” and can have a day when their “thoughts” will “excuse them”? Paul’s point was they are a law to themselves, and the law somehow mysterious worked to write itself in their hearts—yet this law only made you just if you are a “doer” of it and not a “hearer” of it. Could the things the Gentiles do in accord with their conscious be comparable with the Jews obeying circumcision? Paul said that circumcision only “counts” if you “keep the law” and cross referencing his other letters it seems that means “keep the whole law,” that is every part. Could that “partial” law keeping that isn’t “profitable” because it still breaks the law in some way be comparable to the things the Gentiles do by nature that are in the law? Will the Gentiles be “without excuse” since in “whatever they judge” they still “condemn themselves” for they “practice the same things”? Could Paul possibly have meant that a man could be justified by a natural law when his point seemed to be that it aligned with Torah law? Could the “knowledge of sin” come by natural law too, since it was in some way comparable to Torah law? Could a Jew also attempt to “excuse” himself on the day when God judges the secrets of men’s hearts by thinking he (at least in part) kept the Torah? When Paul says in verse 12 “for as many as have sinned without law will also perish without law” was he implying no Gentile without Torah could in fact be without sin? bless
i apologize due to lack of sleep and dyslexia i meant to say “conscience” not “conscious” 😛
Good morning David! All those rhetorical questions…😮 As you have correctly pointed out, Romans 1-3 are mostly about defining condemnation. Salvation, by faith alone, comes in 4-5. Paul is making it clear that whatever law God gives you to show you’re a sinner, you’re still under His wrath. And you will be judged by the Gospel not by the law (2:16).
Now how God gets the Gospel to those without Scriptures or knowledge of the redemption story in it… ask Elihu (Job 33:14-30)! All will be without excuse on that day when the secrets of their hearts are judged… Judged, not by how well they practiced God’s law, but by how well they trusted His mercy!
Alright then, you definitely don’t use Romans 2 to bring in a works based salvation.
Hey David, I got a copy of your post on Romans 9 on my phone but when I click on your site it says “the authors have deleted this site”! Ideas?
Sorry I’m a wordpress noob lol. I made two blogs by mistake and moved it to this one: https://dizernerblog.wordpress.com/
I cant respond to all your points partly out of ignorance. Nonetheless I don’t see how Paul has any other meaning for law other than Torah in Rom 2.27. The Gentile Christian is fulfilling the Torah as Paul says he will in Rom 3.31. He is contrasted with the Jew who has external and physical manifestations of the Torah but who fails to keep it in his heart. This is a constant theme of Rom 2-3. I note that like me you do not respond to all my points e.g ‘OR is he the God of the Jews only’ Rom 2.29. I think it is significant that the NIV removes the little word ‘or’ from their translation. The NIV tries to give the sense of the text but in order to do this in 2.29 they have to expurgate ‘or’. The translators are assuming that ‘the deeds of the law’ are something that all mankind are trying (and are required?) to perform in order to be justified. Now there is a change and man is justified by faith. Thus the Gentiles and the Jews are in the same boat. But at the very point when he should be saying this he says something which is very different. By saying ‘or is God the God of the Jews only’ Paul is saying that the deeds of the Law are something peculiar to the Jews and not general to humanity. If justification comes by the deeds of the Law then God is only of the Jews. The NIV translators realised this and so were forced to remove ‘or’ from their translation in order to maintain their preconceived meaning of the text.
Good Morning Brian! My fault…I meant 3:27. Sorry for the confusion. And thank you for letting me know when I have not responded adequately to something. And I appreciate your humility in admitting your inability to respond to some of my questions. I still think you need to consider how weighty the evidence is that I have shown you from the context that undermines your position that these are believing Gentiles that Paul is talking about in 2:12-17. You do agree, don’t you, that it is unbelieving Jews that he is addressing in 2:17-28?
I see you made the same referencing mistake I had. You meant 3:29! 🙂 I am not sure what weight you are putting on the word “or”. But being the God of Jews and Gentiles in that context means not just the God of saved Jews and Gentiles, but the God of all mankind, who justly condemns all for not fulfilling His law, and only justifies those who “obey” His law of faith. The context starts in verse 27 which is the one I was pointing to, showing Paul’s various “laws”. Verse 31, which ends the context, is therefore not clear as to what “law” is being upheld… a law of works, the Mosaic law, or just God’s divine law in whatever form that justly brings condemnation to man.
When studying the various places “law” is used by Paul, it is also important to know that sometimes the definite article is not used in the Greek. Though it is evident that translators thought it should be added sometimes because the context sometimes points to a definite law, like the law of Moses. This is legitimate if the context clearly supports such a choice and the choice is not just being made for theological reasons. There are no articles with the two uses of “law” in 3:31. Check out an interlinear. Biblehub.com is a great site for such.
Finally, Leighton, who started this site, left Calvinism because of two things in my opinion. First, his debate training taught him how to look objectively at evidence from the opposing side and he began to see how weighty the biblical evidence against Calvinism really is. Second, his loyalty to the normal reading of Scripture began to trump his loyalty to his well earned reputation in Calvinism and to its leaders, and to their scholastic reputations. I hope, Brian, that you will consider the implications of his journey for yourself.
Yes sorry I was one chapter out. Have you ever considered reading nomos as Torah throughout? Lets take 3.27. Where is the boasting then it is excluded. By what Torah? of works? No but by the Torah of faith. Paul is saying that the Torah is no longer external deeds that the Jews boast about but a new kind of Torah the one written on the believers heart by faith. As for OR it means what it says. If the a man is justified by the deeds of the Law then God is only God of the Jews, i.e. the deeds of the law are things that Jews do but Gentiles do not.
you say: If the a man is justified by the deeds of the Law then God is only God of the Jews, i.e. the deeds of the law are things that Jews do but Gentiles do not.
Could you unpack this I’m having trouble following your logical train of thought.
Hi Brian! I need you to define Torah! In Hebrew it is just as generic as the word νομος (law) is in Greek. It can mean the Mosaic covenant given to Israel, the first five books of Moses, or even the whole OT or just divine law in general. Was Abraham, before he was circumcised, under condemnation by a “Torah” of God in your view? Did he come to a “Torah” of faith by which he was then justified before God, before he was circumcised? If you say yes to these questions, then I think we are in agreement about the law that brings condemnation to Gentiles.
With online discussion it is not easy to discover where you disagree with someone. I don’t think I ever doubted that the Gentiles where condemned by failure to fulfill God’s law. However I don’t believe that 3.28-29 is addressing that problem. Paul is not saying ‘all have failed to fulfill God’s law so the new way of salvation is by faith. He is saying ‘both Jews and Gentiles are justified by faith and therefore God is the God of both and Abraham is the father of both. Hence his interjection in v29 saying that if justification came by the deeds of the law then God would be the God of the Jews only. Logically (I hope this is clearer Dizerner) then the deeds of the law must refer to something the Jews were doing and the Gentiles were not doing (I cant explain this better I’m afraid).
Yes Torah has a range of meanings and probably Paul has them all in mind, but this range of meanings is very much more narrow that the alternative translation ‘law’ which might mean principle i.e a noncovenantal entity.
See Brian, I thought we were holding to the same gospel! 🙂 And even if you thought 2:12-17 was talking about saved Gentiles, you would have to agree that unsaved Gentiles are condemned for not obeying God’s law! Where we evidently disagree is whether God’s law, as you revealed in your last statement, is a “noncovenantal entity” or not.
I say, “evidently disagree”, though I am not sure. You did not answer my questions about Abraham, who was justified before any covenantal participation by him, besides his personal faith in God’s promise! I would recommend reading Job 33:14-29, and see if you would agree that Elihu is presenting how God deals with every man to get him to accept His righteousness (vs 26).
God’s way of salvation – the law of faith in His righteousness – has never changed. And whatever form His law of works has taken since creation, it has only had the purpose for unsaved man to show him that he is condemned (cf. Rom 1:32). After salvation is received through trusting God for His righteousness, the law of works, in its various forms, only becomes a way of loving God and giving Him thanks for His mercy. It is not a way to keep oneself saved, nor is it for the pursuit of God’s blessing (Gal 3:1-9).
I dont disagree. Nonetheless I was trying to understand what Paul was trying to say in Romans. Paul was a 1st C pharisee and not a 16th C monk. Paul’s concern was not so much ‘how might I be saved and go to heaven when the next bout of plague carries me off’ but rather Israel and the covenant. If we read 3.28 through Luthers eyes we read ‘Once humanity was saved by trying to do the right thing but now it is saved by faith’. A shift from trying to trusting. This way to read 3.28 is not wrong and was essential given the Catholicism of the time. But it wasnt right either. It wasnt right because it generalised ‘works of the law’ to mean the effort that humanity makes to get itself accepted by God’. For Luther ‘works of the Law’ became something inimical to salvation and therefore the idea that we might be judged by works at the End was not acceptable (I am not an expert on Luther so this is just approximate). I maintain the ‘works of the law’ as Paul uses the phrase are peculiar to Israel and her covenant with God. Hence my arguments about OR.
I believe that Romans is less about a shift from trying to trusting but rather a shift from the unfulfilled Torah of works done by circumcised Jews in the flesh to the Torah of faith fulfilled by Jew and Gentile alike by faith in a faithful Messiah, Jesus. This fulfilment is first internal but leads to good works which are judged at the End. Those doing the fulfilled Torah will received eternal life 2.7.
The judgment is according to works. But works alone can never repay the debt; this is the stumbling stone of Romans 9. Without Christ, all would suffer Gehenna; this was the condemnation already expected (John 3:17-20), and broadly understood as purgatorial under Pharisaic Judaism (Jesus’s strain). The Good News is (in part) that through the New Covenant, one may receive a CREDIT of righteousness through faith, and the new law is a “royal law of freedom” to love others — and this fulfills completely (pleroma) the Law.
Romans 11 also uses “completely fulfill” twice (verse 12, and verse 25). The Romans 11 promise taken seriously qualifies every other eschatological Scripture.
You do disagree Brian… In a very important way!
“This only I want to learn from you: Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? 3 Are you so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit, are you now being made perfect by the flesh (Gal 3:2-3)?
Paul was not a 16th century RC monk who became an evangelical sacramentalist, nor was he a 1st century Pharisee, nor was he a 21st century sacramentalist Anglican trying to lead evangelicals back to Roman Catholicism. If I may be so blunt, Paul called his Pharisaic education “concerning the law” – crap and was still “counting” it as such after having written Romans in his ministry to win the lost to the true gospel (Phil 3:1-11).
Jesus was not building His church through RC for 1000 years (the 4th through the 16th). They added to the gospel with their first council and its anathema’s. Their priests were never qualified to be pastors according to Scriptural qualifications clearly listed. And their sacramental gospel is a false gospel! That is why all their so-called “orthodox” definitions have no authority, but all definitions must be tested and built only on Scripture authority.
You still did not answer my questions about Abraham’s non-covenantal faith that led to His everlasting salvation, though I think you were saying that you agreed to it. If Abraham, then why not Elihu, Job, Melchizadek, Jethro, etc? But what was more alarming is that you appear to be undermining Paul’s teaching to a Gentile local church, with Jews in it, about what the true gospel is for both Jews and Gentiles!
Paul was not writing from a Pharisee understanding of the law. That is a harmful teaching that is influencing the church today! Christ did not just get us into the door of salvation and now we make ourselves worthy of holding onto it or of gaining everlasting life by the “works of the law” (even if you hide it under the term “love”). That is a false gospel! It is all by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me!
When normal people read Romans, as hard as some of its passages are (2Pet 3:16), they would never get Wright’s new perspective without being told it! They would not have seen saved Gentiles in 2:12-17 unless they were told it! They would not get Calvinism from it either, unless told it. They would have seen the overall context teaches –
1. All are condemned by their sin (1-3)
2. Salvation is only by faith in Jesus (4-5)
3. Living for Christ is a struggle against sin but not under law but by grace and will end in victory (6-8)
4. God will keep His promise with Israel but is now sovereignly working among all the nations until Jesus returns (9-11)
5. So because of this wonderful complete salvation – serve God and His people as a testimony to a needy world (12-16)
Brian M. what is the practical difference between “a shift from the unfulfilled Torah of work” into “faith in a faithful Messiah” that you say is so much different than “a shift from trying to trusting.” Bizarrely it sounds like you are a making a sharp distinction between identical things, as if I said “you don’t want to run a race—you just want to move your legs really fast.”
I agree Dizerner,
It isnt a completely different theological model and faith (and indeed trust!) is still at the heart of it. However I would say that for Luther faith was set very much against works and this idea has permeated throughout Evangelicalism The topic of discussion is how we are saved by grace and yet judged by works.(In the question grace is set against works as Luther did) In Romans I dont believe Paul is setting faith against works in a new soteriological sheme, but he his explaining that the Gentiles are included by faith in God’s people. This is what he means by when he says that a man is justified by faith apart from the works of the law(see Rom 3.28-30). Now if we can accept this then we might be open to the possibility that works play some role in salvation (Now this is hard if you have been brought up an Evangelical with Luther’s understanding of Romans). But Paul says that God ‘gives eternal life to those who by patient continuance in doing good seek for glory honour and immortality’. 2.7. But these people are God’s people who have ‘kissed the son’ who have the law written on their heart who are fulfilling Torah, They have the Spirit and are led by the Spirit 8.14. and are walking the path of righteousness. All these works are by grace won for us by Jesus’ death and resurrection. This I find more satisfactory than saying that works are judged as an extra. 2.7 makes little sense in this scheme and why is the man’s salvation under threat in 1 Cor 5 because he sinning. Surely if works are judged as a extra then only his reward would be under threat and not the salvation of his soul. This is my best explanation for the question that was asked. It is a poor one no doubt.
I actually agree with some of what you are saying. Evangelicalism has been so frightened of works salvation that they have not seriously considered the judgment of God even in the light of grace. I don’t see a Scripture that implies that because grace exists, there is therefore no longer any judgment for choices that are made. And I think if we can separate choices from meritorious deeds, we have a new system of judgment that is corresponding to choices but not works of law. This would be equivalent to resisting or rejecting the power of grace in one way or another. Christ has taken over judgment from the Father—and thus, those trusting in Christ no longer have to face wrath on a bases of the sin nature in the light of a perfect, holy law—but what is this judgment seat of Christ going to be like? There are some hints it may involve some very painful moments for some believers. And of course, I think it’s Biblically obvious that eternal security is a grave error. Paul the faith in grace man preached the need for such a sobriety that he made a godless ruler Felix too frightened to listen, and we can see the tremendous effort and self-sacrifice Paul constantly demanded from himself. This idea that we throw away all idea of judgment just because we are saved in Jesus seems quite foreign to Scripture, where the fear of the Lord is the key to wisdom. In all this, I’d only caution we never reduce the role of grace; Paul and Christ surely never did. God calls us to do the impossible but then empowers us to do it. Christ’s life does naturally what self-effort could never do. So whatever life Christ imbues in us, that is what I think we are held accountable for. It would make no sense of the parable of the talents, if the one talent man was judged as if he had ten. bless
Where we disagree is your saying that works of the law = meritorious deeds. I believe works of the law are done by Jews inside the old covenant (are they meritorious here? some have argued not). When Paul says ‘a man is justified by faith apart from the law’ Rom 3.28 he is not saying that a man is justified without meritorious deeds (please note I am not arguing for meritorious deeds for justification) but that he is justified by coming within the new covenant (rather than the old which involved the works of law) by faith in a faithful Messiah. As a result God is God of both Jew and Gentile v29-30. But is the Old covenant utterly defunct? NO! The new is the fulfilment of the old v31. The gospel is not set against the Law but is the fulfillment of the Law.
you say: I believe works of the law are done by Jews inside the old covenant (are they meritorious here? some have argued not)
It depends. Many works of the law in the OT were done by the grace of God in Christ; those are not a system of merit, but a system of God’s gracious and free gift of sanctification through the power of the Holy Spirit.
I agree the Law never dies. The Bible says we die to the Law; not that the Law dies. The Law is our old husband married to the sinful nature. It produced fruit for death, says Paul. I agree the New Covenant fulfills the Old; the Old still stands for what it was, but Paul says we have “entered newness of life.” The Old Covenant was a ministry of condemnation unto death, and still is any time we apply it; because it shows us that we need the Cross of Jesus to be applied to our works and our self (a tutor unto Christ). Nothing of the old creation passes that demarcation line where God condemned our flesh in which no good thing dwells, nor is any good thing produced, by nailing his Son to the Cross. The only righteous God ever has accepted or ever will accept is what the life of Christ has wrought by grace in the human heart.
“For it is not those who hear the law who are righteous in God’s sight, but it is those who obey the law who will be declared righteous.” Rom. 2:13 According to what Paul writes you boys is got a major problem.