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

Thursday, February 02, 2012

A Confusion of Sanctification with Justification: Institute for Nouthetic Studies Blog » Blog Archive » On Preaching the Gospel to Yourself

Unfortunately, The Institute for Nouthetics Studies appears to endorse a view of the Gospel that confuses Gospel with Law and that confuses sanctification with justification. Although the article tries to sidestep the issue, the fact that the author of the article thinks "mature" Christians no longer need to look to the cross for their salvation but rather to their own good works shows that he just does not get it. From the beginning to the end of the Christian life we are imperfect in our subjective experience of sanctification. (Philippians 2:12-13; 3:12; 2 Peter 3:18).

I get weary with having to reiterate the Gospel so often on the blog but when obvious errors like these statements by Lou Priolo over at The Institute for Nouthetic Studies blog are made then I feel compelled to respond:

To my way of thinking, the place of the doctrine of justification in the believer’s life is much like the operating system on a computer. I’m a PC guy. My personal computer operates under a Windows operating system. Windows is always up and running, but most of the time, it runs in the background. I don’t see it. I can go for days without looking at it (although I know it is functioning as long as the other programs are operating properly). Occasionally, I have to go to the control panel to troubleshoot a problem, make some minor adjustments, or defrag my hard drive, but I don’t give it another thought because I have faith that it is doing what it is supposed to do. So it is with my justification. It is always up and running.

Well, so far so good. That does not sound so bad, right? The trouble is that Priolo is taking justification for granted. Like most Pharisees he has forgotten that the objective basis for our faith is the cross, the atoning sacrifice of Christ, not our own level of sanctification or goodness.

The trouble is that taking justification for granted and forgetting about it unless and until we fall into a major sin leads to self-righteousness and an attitude of superiority over those who struggle with sins which are more obvious. How can we counsel others if we have become practical Pharisees?

To show that Priolo has this air of superiority it is not necessary to read very far:

But what about the growing number of those who say that we must (or should or ought to) “preach the Gospel to ourselves every day?” If by Gospel they mean the entire ordo-salutis: effectual calling, regeneration, faith, justification, adoption, sanctification,[1] and glorification—the whole enchilada—there is not a problem (other than the fact that the Bible doesn’t exactly command us to do this). But if, like so many seem to be espousing today, they take a reductionist view of the Gospel—reducing it to justification (or to adoption) alone—there is a problem.

So Priolo has a problem with the Gospel! He is basically saying that sanctification is part of the Gospel, which is to confuse the moral law with the Gospel. It is a confusion of sanctification (infused righteousness and subjective in the heart/mind of the believer) with justification (the objective work of Christ in His sinless life and His substitutionary, atoning death on the cross for the elect). Since the Nouthetics site claims to be Reformed in theology I will respond with the view of the Gospel espoused by the Westminster Standards, the Three Forms of Unity, and the Anglican Formularies.

The Westminster Confession defines the Gospel via the distinction between the covenant of works and the covenant of grace:

2. The first covenant made with man was a covenant of works,1 wherein life was promised to Adam, and in him to his posterity,2 upon condition of perfect and personal obedience.3

See also: WLC 20 | WSC 12
1 Gal. 3:12.
2 Rom. 10:5; Rom. 5:12-20.
3 Gen. 2:17; Gal. 3:10.

3. Man, by his fall, having made himself uncapable of life by that covenant, the Lord was pleased to make a second,1 commonly called the Covenant of Grace, whereby He freely offereth unto sinners life and salvation by Jesus Christ, requiring of them faith in Him, that they may be saved;2 and promising to give unto all those that are ordained unto eternal life His Holy Spirit, to make them willing, and able to believe.3

See also: WLC 30 | WSC 20
1 Gal. 3:21; Rom. 8:3; Rom. 3:20,21; Gen. 3:15; Isa. 42:6.
2 Mark 16:15,16; John 3:16; Rom. 10:6,9; Gal. 3:11.
3 Ezek. 36:26,27; John 6:44,45.

4. This covenant of grace is frequently set forth in the Scripture by the name of a Testament, in reference to the death of Jesus Christ the testator, and to the everlasting inheritance, with all things belonging to it, therein bequeathed.
1 Heb. 9:15,16,17; Heb. 7:22; Luke 22:20; 1 Cor. 11:25.

Westminster Confession of Faith, Chapter 7

Basically, those who depend on their own works are obligated to keep the law with absolute obedience and to justify themselves by law keeping. That is true of the unconverted and of everyone who names the name of Christ. If works are to justify us, then perfect and absolute obedience is necessary (Matthew 5:17-21, 48; Romans 10:1-6). The trouble is that this is impossible since we have all failed from birth onward. (Romans 3:23; Psalm 51:4-5; Romans 3:10-18).

The ordo salutis or "logical order of salvation" begins with unconditional election, not with sanctification. As Ulrich Zwingli noted, unconditional election shows clearly that salvation is absolutely a gift of God, not something that we "choose" when you boil everything down to the bottom line:

Since Paul wishes to show that God’s election is born of his free purpose, and not from those whom he is about to elect, he says that the free purpose is the cause why all things work for good to those who love God. Nothing is ascribed to man’s merit. For he adds: For whom he foreknew (pronunciavit) he also predestinated to be conformed to the image of his Son, etc. I have translated προέγνω by “pronunciavit,” which word has the same force as if you should say predetermined or foreordained. This is then the apostle’s meaning: I said that all will result in good for those who according to God’s purpose are of the called. This I would have understood thus: God freely with himself settles upon, prejudges and foreordains (for by this word the word for “purposing” is expounded) whom he will, even before they are born. Whom he thus foreordains he marks out beforehand, i. e., destines them to be conformed to the image of his Son. As if he should say: No one can be conformed to Christ unless he has been destined for this. ( On Election, Ulrich Zwingli).
Of course, we are free moral agents and we are fully accountable for our actions and choices. But that does not mean that salvation is ultimately based on us or our choices. No, salvation is predestined from before the foundation of the world and we get no credit for our obedience since even that is a gift of God. (Philippians 2:13; Ephesians 2:8-9).

The Thirty-nine Articles of Religion are the confession of the Anglican Communion--albeit very few actually follow its literal and plain teaching today. The Gospel is stated several times in the Articles:

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. . . . (2 Corthinians 1:20).

XI. Of the Justification of Man.
WE are accounted righteous before God, only for the merit of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ by faith, and not for our own works or deservings. Wherefore that we are justified by faith only is a most wholesome doctrine, and very full of comfort; as more largely is expressed in the Homily of Justification.

XII. Of Good Works.
ALBEIT that good works, which are the fruits of faith and follow after justification, cannot put away our sins and endure the severity of God's judgement, yet are they pleasing and acceptable to God in Christ, and do spring out necessarily of a true and lively faith, insomuch that by them a lively faith may be as evidently known as a tree discerned by the fruit.
Obviously, to forget that salvation is a monergistic work of God alone (Soli Gloria Deo!) is to become self-righteous in attitude and in theology (Romans 3:20-22). The Dutch Three Forms of Unity is in agreement with the other two Reformed traditions:
Heidelberg Catechism: Lord's Day 6

Question 18. Who then is that Mediator, who is in one person both very God, and a real righteous man?

Answer: Our Lord Jesus Christ, 5"who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption."6

Question 19. Whence knowest thou this?

Answer: From the holy gospel, which God Himself first revealed in Paradise;7 and afterwards published by the patriarchs and prophets,8 and represented by the sacrifices and other ceremonies of the law;9 and lastly, has fulfilled it by His only begotten Son.10
1 Rom. 5:12, 15;
2 1 Pet. 3:18; Isa. 53:11;

3 1 Pet. 3:18 Acts 2:24; Isa. 53:8;

4 1 John 1:2; Jer. 23:6; 2 Tim. 1:10 John 6:51;

5 Matt. 1:23; 1 Tim. 3:16 Luke 2:11;

6 1 Cor. 1:30

7 Gen. 3:15;

8 Gen. 22:17-18; Gen. 28:14; Rom. 1:2; Heb. 1:1; John 5:46;

9 Heb. 10:7-8;

10 Rom. 10:4; Heb. 13:8;
Basically, the Gospel is not about what "we" have done. It is about the finished work of Jesus Christ and what He has done once and for all! (John 19:30; Hebrews 9:24-28).

Click here to read the post by Lou Priolo at: Institute for Nouthetic Studies Blog » Blog Archive » On Preaching the Gospel to Yourself

See also, Jack Miller's excellent response to this issue:

This broad understanding of the gospel is a potential recipe for weakening faith and increasing works-righteousness as one seeks to measure up in thought, word, and deed to "the good news" he is supposed to be exhibiting. It inserts progressive sanctification into the “gospel proper” by considering everything in the Word (promises, laws, threats, admonitions, works) as the good news of the gospel. Certainly we agree it is “good news” that the Spirit is working in us, conforming us to Christ as God predestined. But that is not part of the good news that the New Testament writers proclaimed. (The World's Ruined: The Gospel, Sanctification, and Faith).


Jack Miller said...

Hi Charlie,
Yes, this is an important issue, reoccurring again and again over the centuries.
A helpful read on the centrality of justification as the always necessary and present foundation of our sanctification is found in John Owen's "Discourse Concerning the Holy Spirit." Regarding sanctification, in Book 4 (especially chapter 5) Owen explains that the blood of Christ is the the meritorious procuring cause employed by the Holy Spirit, who is the principle efficient cause, to purge sin (sanctify) from believer's works. My works are acceptable by the "sprinkled blood" (Heb. 9:21-22). I plan an upcoming post on this. Owen, Calvin, and Cranmer (as shown in Null's book) all make this case. As the instrumental cause, faith/repentance get us in the door (justification) and faith/repentance remain the instrumental cause in our sanctification.


Charlie J. Ray said...

Thanks for commenting, Jack. This is an aside but I just got an e-mail from Knox Seminary, Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Looks like they just hired Dr. Gerald Bray to teach historical theology and biblical exegesis. Not that I plan on attending but it is interesting that they hired an Anglican.


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