Martyred for the Gospel

Martyred for the Gospel
The burning of Tharchbishop of Cant. D. Tho. Cranmer in the town dich at Oxford, with his hand first thrust into the fyre, wherwith he subscribed before. [Click on the picture to see Cranmer's last words.]

Collect of the Day

The Second Sunday in Lent.

The Collect

ALMIGHTY God, who seest that we have no power of ourselves to help ourselves; Keep us both outwardly in our bodies, and inwardly in our souls; that we may be defended from all adversities which may happen to the body, and from all evil thoughts which may assault and hurt the soul; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

The Collect from the First Day of Lent is to be read every day in Lent after the Collect appointed for the Day.

Daily Bible Verse

Sunday, November 06, 2011

Absolute Sanctification?

The Arrest of Archbishop Thomas Cranmer, martyr of the English Reformation.

I find myself troubled by an issue that keeps raising up in my internet exchanges.  That issue is sanctification.  Too many people today have the idea that sanctification is the basis or deciding factor in salvation.  If that is true then justification is a moot point.  Sanctification by definition is a process of growth in the Christian faith.  That faith includes doctrine (John 17:17; 2 Timothy 3:15; Jude 1:3; Acts 4:12; Acts 6:7).  Even the Athanasian Creed says that belief in the trinity is essential for salvation because that doctrine is likewise taught in Scripture (Matthew 28:18-20; 2 Corinthians 13:14; Colossians 1:19, 2:9).

It is true that the Christian has no license to sin.  The moral law is still binding upon us all.  The Thirty-nine Articles of Religion makes this clear as well:

Article VII

Of the Old Testament

The Old Testament is not contrary to the New; for both in the Old and New Testament everlasting life is offered to mankind by Christ, who is the only Mediator between God and man, being both God and man. Wherefore they are not to be heard which feign that the old fathers did look only for transitory promises. Although the law given from God by Moses, as touching ceremonies and rites, do not bind Christian men, nor the civil precepts thereof ought of necessity to be received in any commonwealth; yet, notwithstanding, no Christian man whatsoever is free from the obedience of the commandments which are called moral.
Be that as it may, the fact of the matter is that both before conversion and after having been regenerated by the Holy Spirit (John 3:3-8; Titus 3:5-7) the Christian is unable to keep perfectly God's moral law.  That is all have sinned (Romans 3:23; 1 John 1:8-9).  The Christian continually falls short of the mark of God's perfect law (Romans 3:23; Romans 7:7; 1 John 1:8-10).  Everyone is obligated to follow God's perfect laws perfectly (Matthew 5:17-21, 48; Psalm 19:7).  The trouble is that the law itself has no power to make anyone perfect (Hebrews 10:1).

There are those who preach "lordship salvation" who contend that good works determine whether or not one enters into heaven.  Then out of the side of their mouths they whisper, "But no one is perfect."  They then continue shouting, "Be ye perfect as I am perfect!  Look how holy I am on the street corner and tithing and giving to the church!"  But when you have done all that you're still lacking.  Do something more!  Go and sell everything you have and give to the poor.   The rich young ruler boasted on himself and Jesus exposed him as someone who covets wealth and material possessions.  (See Luke 18:22).

The English Reformers were well aware of this tendency to self-righteousness in the pious.  That's why the 1662 Book of Common Prayer includes things like the Prayer of Humble Submission in the service for the Lord's Supper:

Then shall the Priest, kneeling down at the Lord's Table, say in the name of all them that shall receive the Communion this Prayer following.

WE do not presume to come to this thy Table, O merciful Lord, trusting in our own righteousness, but in thy manifold and great mercies. We are not worthy so much as to gather up the crumbs under thy Table. But thou art the same Lord, whose property is always to have mercy: Grant us therefore, gracious Lord, so to eat the flesh of thy dear Son Jesus Christ, and to drink his blood, that our sinful bodies may be made clean by his body, and our souls washed through his most precious blood, and that we may evermore dwell in him, and he in us. Amen.  (See:  The Lord's Supper).

The opening sentences or Scripture verses for the Morning and Evening Prayer services also point to this humility and recognition that our personal holiness never rises to the level of making us better than any lost sinner (Psalm 143:2; Psalm 51:9, 17;  Daniel 9:9-10; Jeremiah 10:24).  The only distinguishing factor is faith, not one's level of holiness.  In fact, many other religions have practitioners who do more good works and accomplish many feats of social justice reforms.  But they will not enter into heaven unless they have believed on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ (John 14:6; Acts 4:12; John 3:16-17; Romans 10:9-10, 12).

Our right standing with God or justification is not based on our merits, our good works, or our personal level of holiness.  Rather our position in Christ makes us worthy based on His good works, His atoning sacrifice for our sins, and His mercies toward those who have been chosen before the foundation of the world.  (See Ephesians 2:8-9; Titus 3:5-7; Ephesians 1:4-5; Lamentations 3:22; 2 Corinthians 1:3).

The Westminster Confession of Faith makes this clear as well:

3. Their ability to do good works is not at all of themselves, but wholly from the Spirit of Christ.1 And that they may be enabled thereunto, beside the graces they have already received, there is required an actual influence of the same Holy Spirit to work in them to will and to do of His good pleasure:2 yet are they not hereupon to grow negligent, as if they were not bound to perform any duty unless upon a special motion of the Spirit; but they ought to be diligent in stirring up the grace of God that is in them.3

4. They who, in their obedience, attain to the greatest height which is possible in this life, are so far from being able to supererogate, and to do more than God requires, as that they fall short of much which in the duty they are bound to do.1

1 Luke 17:10; Neh. 13:22; Job 9:2,3; Gal. 5:17.   (Chapter 16:3-4 of the WCF).

The Thirty-nine Articles of Religion, the basis of the Westminster Confession, states the same thing in a different way:

Article XIV

Of Works of Supererogation

Voluntary works besides, over and above, God's commandments which they call Works of Supererogation, cannot be taught without arrogancy and impiety. For by them men do declare that they do not only render unto God as much as they are bound to do, but that they do more for His sake than of bounden duty is required: Whereas Christ saith plainly, When ye have done all that are commanded to you, say, We be unprofitable servants.  (See Luke 17:7-10).

The Westminster Confession says:

5. We cannot, by our best works, merit pardon of sin, or eternal life, at the hand of God, by reason of the great disproportion that is between them and the glory to come, and the infinite distance that is between us and God, whom by them, we can neither profit nor satisfy for the debt of our former sins;1 but when we have done all we can, we have done but our duty, and are unprofitable servants;2 and because, as they are good, they proceed from His Spirit;3 and as they are wrought by us, they are defiled, and mixed with so much weakness and imperfection, that they cannot endure the severity of God's judgment.4
See also: WLC 78

4 Isa. 64:6; Gal. 5:17; Rom. 7:15,18; Ps. 143:2; Ps. 130:3.  (WCF, Chapter 16:5).

Unfortunately some pastors think that personal holiness is more important than doctrinal truth or the teaching of the Gospel.  When I confronted the pastor of Bartow Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church that there was no teaching of the Westminster Larger or Shorter Catechism as a requirement for church membership, he responded that such a thought was legalism.   Odd but he seems to major on the third use of the moral law from week to week--and all without any instruction in God's Gospel promises!  (Joshua 21:45; Romans 9:4; Romans 15:8; 2 Corinthians 1:20; Galatians 3:21; 2 Peter 1:4).

A pastor who refuses to catechize and teach his people the doctrines of sovereign grace is not a Reformed pastor no matter what denominational sign hangs on the front door.  As I posted elsewhere today, catechism is important!

“If the people in a church do not believe the first question and answer to the Heidelberg Catechism, then everything else they may say or do doesn’t matter”. — Bishop Karl Ludwig of the Hungarian Reformed Calvin Synod
 The first question and answer of the Heidelberg Catechism reads:

1. What is your only comfort in life and in death?

That I, with body and soul, both in life and in death,[1] am not my own,[2] but belong to my faithful Savior Jesus Christ,[3] who with His precious blood[4] has fully satisfied for all my sins,[5] and redeemed me from all the power of the devil;[6] and so preserves me[7] that without the will of my Father in heaven not a hair can fall from my head;[8] indeed, that all things must work together for my salvation.[9] Wherefore, by His Holy Spirit, He also assures me of eternal life,[10] and makes me heartily willing and ready from now on to live unto Him.[11]
[1] Rom 14:7-9; [2] 1 Cor 6:19-20 [3] 1 Cor 3:23; Tit 2:14 [4] 1 Pt 1:18-19 [5] 1 Jn 1:7, 2:2; [6] Jn 8:34-36; Heb 2:14-15; 1 Jn 3:8 [7] Jn 6:39-40, 10:27-30; 2 Thes 3:3; 1 Pt 1:5; [8] Mt 10:29-31; Lk 21:16-18; [9] Rom 8:28; [10] Rom 8:15-16; 2 Cor 1:21-22, 5:5, Eph 1:13-14; [11] Rom 8:14
Forgive me if I have overwhelmed you with so many long quotes but I believe that sound doctrine is of the utmost importance and that all believers should be instructed from the Scriptures and from the Reformed Confessions and Catechisms which summarize the Reformed view of the Scriptures and what they teach.  Of course that summary is a fallible summary.  But so is the preaching of the pastor in question.  I would rather trust the collective wisdom of the Reformed tradition from its inception than to trust the opinion of one mere man.

Too many Reformed churches, denominations and congregations are ignorant of the teaching of their own doctrinal standards and have gone the way of broad evangelicalism.  Read here "evangelical liberalism".  (See Luke 13:23-24; Matthew 7:13-14)  For Anglicans that confessional body of teaching is the Anglican Formularies (1662 Book of Common Prayer; Thirty-nine Articles of Religion, and the Ordinal).  The Prayer Book is to be interpreted by Scripture and by the Thirty-nine Articles of Religion, not the other way around.

May the peace of God be with you!



puritancovenanter said...

I believe Pastor Ramsey balances out your thoughts Charlie.


Charlie J. Ray said...

I read the most of the article. However, your Pastor Ramsey is actually teaching the Roman Catholic view. Anyone who says that salvation is conditioned on obedience has more in common with Arminianism than with the doctrines of grace.

Charlie J. Ray said...

What Is Saving Faith? by Gordon H. Clark. Trinity Review.

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