Condemned by what?

After reading a post quit a long time ago by Michael Patton on his blog (and excellent resource I might add) some time ago and also considering one of the articles in the Canons of Dordt, I continue to think about the believer’s perspective on what we are saved from and by.

What struck me is that we often communicate an entirely wrong set of ideas concerning the forgiveness of sin, both to others believers and even ourselves, and that the result of faulty communication may be to limit assurance and growth. As always, of course, this is from a Reformed perspective, since I can take no other…

In brief, Michael makes the point that we are not condemned primarily by our ongoing sin, but by the sinners that we are as Adam’s seed. Unfortunately, as he points out, we too oft communicate the condemnation of ongoing sin and not the more significant hereditary reason, for our fallen state. This has many nasty consequences. He is so right!

How many times have you heard it said to the unsaved or other believers that they must be saved from ‘their’ sins – past, present and future? It is presented as if those personal sins are what is holding them, and then once saved, as if ongoing sins is a possibly danger to salvation. We may even slip subtly into this thought pattern ourselves.

The result of this scenario is that, whether subtly or overtly, the mind of flesh could be encourage to think that the natural self actually had some input to whether they will be among, or are among, the saints. Since the worldly mind is already bent in this direction, a performance based or maintained salvation is a natural next step. This is true even if it is not presented that way, but how much more so if it is.

When we are regenerated by the spirit, and the righteousness of Christ is imputed to us, what primarily are we saved from? Since the decision about election was made in eternity past, “before the foundations of the world” (Eph 1:6), though we are certainly released from our sins of this life, salvation is not based primarily about them. It is about our nature as Adam’s seed. Thus we are saved from our natural selves, as we were born into the world of flesh carrying that as the principle charge.

Our salvation, then, is from our nature most of all. We are firstly saved from the wrath that was due Adam. The release from any sin that may or may not have been added to our account in this world is significant but peripheral.

You are splitting hairs, you say. Sin is sin. I would not agree.

We are primarily saved from ourselves, who we fundamentally are, as recipients of Adam’s fall. The fact that once we are born into the world we continue to actualize this pattern is merely a result, ugly though it may be. It is interest added to the principle.

Further, once we are saved from our natural selves and made into the new man (that includes you too ladies, by the way) we are saved from the present and future of our old fallen selves which carried the stain of Adam. That is a lot bigger than any sin or sins we could have committed in the present or future in this world.

All interesting you might say, but so what?

Well, it is a very big so what:

First, the grace and mercy that have been freely bestowed up us in the Beloved is far greater that we would appreciate otherwise;

Second, the God who bestowed them is revealed more in His overwhelming glory by the real extent of the forgiveness now seen;

Third, we are brought more to our true place before the infinitely holy God when we see that out imputed sin (not just our puny recent sin) has been pardoned – that true place being on our knees or on our face;

Fourth, our redemption through grace alone is even clearer. We have been redeemed from the stain that was beyond our comprehension. As such, we could not even appreciate the extent of it, let alone dream that we could atone for it by anything of ourselves.

Fifth, since given our situation just described, and having been redeemed from a stain of unimaginable proportions, our foundational dependence upon Father, Son and Spirit is undeniable. Absolute dependence equates to true faith in the one and only source. This clarifies grace through faith for us.

So, as we rejoice in our salvation in the Beloved, let us rejoice in the clear vision of how and from what we have been saved, on our knees before our infinitly Righteous and Holy God.

We have been saved from our nature, inbred and beyond our control. All is forgiven in Him, now and forever. Just as we could not see the totality of our inherited nature, let alone change it ourselves, we have been saved by His mercy and grace alone.

Let us rejoice in and communicate that…


Yes, we have no bananas

You can hear it from the Pulpit of countless churches now “If you are saved you must see the fruits of the spirit actualized in your life” with the implication that is must be clear, continuous and now. It is also heard as church lobby chit chat about whether so and so is a real believer since they haven’t been behaving very well. They are clearly not demonstrating the fruits of the Spirit in a proper (as the speaker sees it) ‘Christian’ manner or not consistently. You have surely heard this in one form or another, right? I have, and for reason that will become clear, it makes steam come out of my ears…

These scenarios naturally lead believers (especially new ones) to ask themselves whether they are truly saved, assuming that they occasionally do not behave as a the perfect believer or they do not at times overtly show the fruits of the spirit particularly prominently.

This is well and clearly addressed in the Canons of Dordt. Remember those? No? Well since they form the foundation and effect virtually all Reformed confessions, you should. However, let us not digress on that for now.

First Head of Doctrine: Divine Election and Reprobation

“Article of faith 12: The Assurance of Election
Assurance of this their eternal and unchangeable election to salvation is given to the chosen in due time, though by various stages and in differing measure. Such assurance comes not by inquisitive searching into the hidden and deep things of God, but by noticing within themselves, with spiritual joy and holy delight, the unmistakable fruits of election pointed out in God’s Word–such as a true faith in Christ, a childlike fear of God, a godly sorrow for their sins, a hunger and thirst for righteousness, and so on.”

And in Scripture we have (as one example of many) in Romans 10:9 ”if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved”

As the Canons imply, the fruits of Spirit do not even enter the equation as more than a side effect, a significant one admittedly, but not a determinant one for salvation.

You were saved by the Gospel message (Romans 10:9 and others). Your knowledge in your own heart of your belief in that message, and thereby belief in Christ, is salvation. All else is after the fact.

To preach otherwise is IMO to do the people of God a great dis-service and produce in those that might buy into it, unnecessary angst and worry. Hence the steam from my ears.


Regulative Principles

A couple of verses that we have discussed before to start…

“And they were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.” Acts 2:42.

Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God.” Colossians 3:16.

And there are numerous others addressing the assembling of the beloved in Christ.

The question is, are these regulative for the gathering of believers now? And what precisely are they describing?

As I stated in another post, my interest in this was initially focused by several articles in the Canons of Dordt. In those sections it is pointed out that the believer can draw great assurance from the fact that they are assured of their standing before God by the very beliefs that saved them – in Christ and Him crucified (1 Corinthians 2:2), and not necessarily in other outward signs. Further, it is pointed out that believers should continue to diligently avail themselves of the ‘Means of Grace” that were provided by the Lord in support of their justification, sanctification and assurance.

In the two verses quoted above we find a Scriptural proscription not only for the assembling of the Saints, but even more for their ongoing life in Christ. I am more and more convicted that these specifications from Scripture are both regulative in nature and exclusive in scope. Moreover, there are no alternatives specified in Scripture.

The obvious counter argument is that these were culturally based, for those times alone, and thereby can be redefined today for modern cultural norms. However, I do not see any specifics of times and culture in these verses or their context that would indicate that. In fact, the terms used are sufficiently general to define a model for life as opposed to some specific actualization of a cultural venue. As such, I reject that argument.

Next, am I implying a narrow reading of the principles that would imply a specific instrumentation (a big issue today) or style of hymnody? Not at all. Although I think that there are some restrictions implied, we are not talking about an RPW (Regulative Principle of Worship) which demands the acapella singing of KJV-only Psalms (to take an extreme but existing example). In its restrictiveness, I think that would defy the regulative principles implied here, just as much as many emergent approaches most certainly do.

I am talking about an ‘attitude’ model as much as anything else, and the actualization falls naturally from that, not the other way around.

What is that model? Well, let me close this post by parsing the verses above for the implied components:

1. devoted to the Apostles’ teachings – for us, the Scriptures
2. fellowship – notice that is fellowship in the teachings
3. breaking of bread (communion, not dinner)
4. prayer
5. Word dwell richly within you, (the Word) teaching and admonishing in
5.1 songs
5.2 hymns
5.3 spiritual songs
all rejoicing in thankfulness to God.

There you have it – a gathering focused upon the Lord in every way, directly and primarily through the Scriptures and things drawn from them – always looking up so to speak. Not a single word about anything at all of man – no mention of programs, books about programs and self-actualization, etc.

These plus a few others that expand upon them embody the sole regulative model in Scripture and thereby the regulative model for God’s people, the beloved in Christ – a model for all time.