Easy Believy faith is the ONLY faith that produces virtue

What good is forgiveness if it doesn’t ‘work’ when you actually need it?

I raised this question in response to some negative responses to this awesome blog post by David Zahl:
The Subjective Power Of An Objective Gospel

I thought the response was important enough to repost on my own blog, so I’m sorry in advance to anyone who ends up reading this twice.

If the propitiatory blood of Christ is only good for some sins, but not others, if we can only be forgiven smaller sins but not larger ones, then which ones? Only past ones? Why only those, is that a Biblical distinction? Are we forgiven, are we accepted in Christ, or not? What good is forgiveness if it doesn’t ‘work’ when I actually need it? I was always confused that people would seem to teach forgiveness one minute and conditional acceptance the next; now I realize that I was right to be confused. The primary condition for “sanctification” (this word is quickly becoming a meaningless euphemism) is a very firm assurance of the truth of our redemption. We are saved completely and unalterably by ‘easy-believy’ faith in Christ, or else it is not a FREE GIFT. Our assurance is for OUR good, God already knows what will happen; what good is it to be wishy washy and unclear about ‘assurance’? It doesn’t even make sense at all. If your thinking about redemption leaves you unsure, then what is it you think ‘redemption’ is? Can you break your own salvation? Then you are saving yourself, and Christ has no place in it.

I’m not sure I understand how you can be a Christian and remain unclear on these things.

Here is the real question, and it is what Paul is talking about in Romans 6-8. If we are so radically redeemed by such a scandalous grace, that we are accepted by simple belief, can we just sin more? If your understanding of the gospel doesn’t raise this question then you are not understanding the gospel. Notice that for Paul, it raised the question. Are we better than Paul the Apostle? The question should become, having been so richly and cleanly and simply and completely redeemed, how do we now produce virtue? IT IS DIFFERENT. Legalists look at radical grace and see only license to sin, because they are under law in their heart and only love sin; their virtue is a veneer. (Ro 7:5-13) Because they have not believed in true radical grace, they have not died to the flesh as a means of producing virtue. We cannot and no longer need to produce virtue by fear of the punishment of the law! We do it by supernatural means. Virtue as a Christian cannot be stripped of the supernatural, that is what the law tries to do. The Holy Spirit, as someone inevitably points out on every one of these posts, is a crucial party to Christian living. (Ro 8:1-8) An antinomian isn’t someone who believes in radical grace. An antinomian is someone who is still under the coercion of the law but redefines the law to condone what they want to do in the flesh, and thinks God approves of that. They are in the wrong universe altogether.

You will say, “you are mixing up justification and sanctification.” No, you are divorcing these in an unhealthy way. I am saying very strongly that our justification is not contingent upon our ‘sanctification’. Any little hint or twinge of required works on the tail end of Jesus’ sacrifice is evil; just a little drop of pee in your coffee makes it disgusting. If you don’t have a real way to believe in an assuring way, you can’t CHOOSE virtue from the heart. If you want to be more holy, if you want to see your brothers and sisters living holy, if you want sustainable enduring virtue, you have to be clear about radical grace, real free-gift justification. This is the only way anyone is going to truly continue to bear fruit.

Posted in Scandalous Grace and tagged , , , , .

One Comment

  1. Puritans are not sure if You are married yet. If they are consistent and not simply self-righteous, puritans are also not sure if THEY are married yet.

    The more they talk against carnal security and the more they insist on the inevitability of mandatory fruit, the more puritans need to ask themselves: am I the fourth dirt in the parable, or one of the other three?

    I remember the time before I was married. Even up there on the platform before the “I do”, I was still anxious. It was not too late for Linda to open her eyes and see me as I was, and then call the whole thing off. So what I am saying?

    We are married now. We have already been married.Or, as my wife jokes: I already married you. What more do you want?

    I am not here denying that we don’t want more of each other. I am not even denying at this point that what we do now is a condition of staying married. Although I would like to think that’s true, the analogy breaks down between our marriage to each other and God’s love for the justified elect. Right now, I am denying that what we do counts as evidence that we are or are not already married.

    I don’t believe that the justified elect lose their salvation, and therefore I don’t think that Christians have to do stuff to stay in the new covenant. But my point right now is that I am not a puritan, and I don’t believe that the justified elect have to do stuff to prove to themselves or to God that they are real Christians.

    Puritans tend to let you in the front door by faith alone, but then after they allow you a little time, they will let you out the back door if your faith is still alone. In addition to faith, they ask: what have you done for me lately? It would be like my wife saying to me: sure, I married you for love, but now I want to see the big house with the bird nests in the big back yard.

    I am not denying that a husband could do more. I also agree that a husband SHOULD do more. There is always more! But how much does a husband have to do in order to show himself and his wife that he really married the wife? Notice, I am not even talking right now about keeping the wife!

    When I walked down that aisle 33 years ago, what was my thinking? Was it probation, so that I had so much time to prove to Linda’s parents that I was not work-less or worth-less? No. So was my mind thinking: now that I am married, I don’t need to love her? It’s not strictly necessary?

    We need to ask the question: necessary for what? I do NOT say that works are not necessary for justification but that synergism is necessary for “sanctification”, because that difference cannot account for the biblical idea of sanctification by the blood (Hebrews 10:10-14).

    I say that our works are NOT necessary to obtain God’s blessings. Romans 4:4—“To the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due”. The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ has blessed the elect in Christ with every spiritual blessing.

    Wives need their husband to work for them. Husbands need their wives to work for them. Love works. But works are not needed to prove that we are already married.

    when the faith by which we grow is never alone, then that means that faith alone really means with the addition of works.

    I know I don’t deserve to have Linda as my wife. But I also know that I will never ever in the future deserve to have Linda as my wife. And you can redefine “justice” until it becomes less strict and “family-law” and never use the word “merit”, but at the end of the day I will still never deserve to be married to her.

    BUT I AM married to her. I am not like Jacob who had to work seven more years after he got married (and that after seven years and her sister!)

    Married is married. What we do doesn’t get us more married. And what we do doesn’t prove that we are married. There is no cause-effect relationship between our works and our salvation, because the elect are saved by Christ’s work. The justification of the elect is their marriage to Christ.

    Christians share in what Christ has, not because of what they do but because they are now united by justification.

    The puritans tend to say that you are in the house despite of who you are and what you have done, but now that you are in, there is a new covenant which now expects more of you because you could now do more if you wanted to. The subtext is even more threatening and ominous: maybe you are in, and maybe you are not in, and we shall wait and see what you want to do and then what you do, and we will never say it specifically about you, but we will say in a general way—-there are some folks who were never in the house in the first place.

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