Posts Tagged ‘indwelling of the Spirit’

IMarrow of Modern Divinity  -     By: Edward Fisher
recently wrote a post on Gospel Pardon as part of my interaction with Edward Fisher’s The Marrow of Modern Divinity.  That book is about the errors of both legalism and antinomianism.  In that post I mentioned Andrew Farley’s The Naked Gospel which I had read and reviewed earlier this year ( Part 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 with increasing frustration).  He has what I consider to be extreme views based on a hyper-dispensationalistic hermeneutic.  We engaged in an on-line discussion where it became increasingly clear to me that we were talking past each other as a result of our very different approaches to interpreting Scripture.

While I thought I was ending communication he left one last ginormous comment.  So, I’ll use that comment to have one last installment of our discussion.  If you have questions about the relationship of the OT and NT, law and gospel, and what really is the rule of life for Christians you may find some interesting points made here.  Then again ….

Thanks for this! It’s been fun to dialogue. The ideas you are presenting are familiar to me, but it has been good practice for me to think about which Scriptures to share. In this post, I will clarify that:

1. the New Covenant was put into effect at Jesus’ death (Hebrews 9:16-17)

This is not at issue at all.  What is at issue is the relationship between the Old Covenant and New Covenant.  Both the Old and New Covenants were manifestations of the Covenant of Grace (Live & Do This).  As we will note later, some treated the Old Covenant as if it was the Covenant of Works (Do this & live).  As John Piper notes, “The flesh turns the law into a ladder.”  As people born in Adam (Romans 5), we are under the covenant of works.  As a result the Law works death in us since we are sinners.  But even the Mosaic covenant was given to redeemed people.  It was not given for them to earn life, but to manifest life.  All who believe in the promises of God (keeping in mind the progressive nature of revelation, we know more than Abraham) are under the Covenant of Grace.  This why Hebrews 4:2 says they (the wilderness generation) had the gospel preached to them.  The gospel is not only in the New Covenant.  In fact, Paul often uses OT figures to explain the truth of the gospel.  For instance, Paul quotes Ps. 32 about the bliss of forgiveness/justification in Romans 4.  You’ll note it is not tied to the sacrificial system but his confession of sin as the instrumental means (this after David had been a believer for years- gospel pardon!)

The Old and New Covenants are not identical though.  There was real progress, and the issue in Hebrews was a temptation to leave the newer, better covenant for the Old Covenant, which at that point in the history of redemption (and now) amounts to apostasy.

2. Jesus was born under Law (Galatians 4:4) and his audience was too (Galatians 4:4) and Jesus expanded on the Law (Matthew 5:21-48).

Yes, Jesus redeems all those under the Law as a Covenant of Works.  He does this in 2 ways.  First, he perfectly fulfilled the law as our Substitute.  Second, he suffered the curse of the law as our Substitute (Galatians 3).

3. The Lord’s Prayer teaches a conditional forgiveness (“as we forgive others”) while in contrast Colossians 3:13 and Ephesians 4:32 teach the opposite (unconditional forgiveness) after Jesus’ death and resurrection.

I’m not so sure it teaches conditional forgiveness.  But if it did … think about who is teaching this.  Am I to disregard anything the Eternal Son of God in flesh teaches?  In your hermaneutic, yes.  In a biblical one?  No.  We find no basis for this, unless we do violence to 2 Timothy 3 as you have done by neglecting ALL that Paul says the law is useful for.

In fact, the Great Commission (given AFTER his death & resurrection!!) includes the instruction to “teach them to obey EVERYTHING I have commanded you.”  That would seem to include how to pray from earlier in that same gospel.


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The general ignorance of biblical theology these days have created great misunderstanding about the necessity and nature of sanctification.  J.C. Ryle’s chapter on Sanctification is a powerhouse which I’ll need 3 posts to cover with any integrity.  After 2 chapters, I’m wondering why I was so foolish as to have never read this book in 20 years of Christian living.  Perhaps it was my fear, that I would have to face some facts I don’t want to have to face.  There are still sins, or inordinate desire for good things, that I need to put to death, and areas of obedience I need to put on.  But Ryle’s treatment of this subject is first rate, and convicting to boot.

He begins with the assertion that justification, regeneration and sanctification are necessary for our salvation.  No one is truly a Christian unless they have experienced the first 2 and are undergoing the third.

Some of you are going.. “duh?” but there are people do refuse the notion that sanctification is necessary to salvation.  They think that though distinct, these 2 saving graces can be separated (this happens with some dispensational theologians like Ryrie & Shaefer).  This is essentially a “Reformed Arminian” position- Arminian in all things except for a pale imitation of Preservation/Perseverence of the Saints viewed as “Once Saved, Always Saved” (think Charles Stanley, or Ryrie’s infamous unbelieving believer).

Some Reformed folks are so afraid of the notion of works in justification (which they should be) that they could be guilty of denying the doctrine of sanctification in the process.  I think some of the guys from the Trinity Foundation are dancing on, if not over, this line.

In sanctification, Jesus “separates him from his natural love of sin and the world, puts a new principle in his heart, and makes him practially godly in life.”  He further sums our salvation up this way: “The Lord Jesus has undertaken everything that His people’s souls require; not only to deliver them from the guilt of their sins by His atoning death, but from the dominion of their sins, by placing in their hearts the Holy Spirit; not only to justify them, but also to sanctify them.”

He then begins to define the exact nature of sanctification.

1. “Sanctification… is the invariable result of that vital union with Christ which true faith gives to a Christian.”  Ryle focuses on the “in Christ” idea without lapsing into a passivity that is foreign to Scripture.  Our election is “in Christ” or in union with him.  All he has done, we too have done because of our spiritual union with him (Galatians 2:20 for instance).  “The union with Christ which produces no effect on heart and life is a mere formal union, which is worthless before God.”  This is counterfeit notion of this life-giving, life-transforming union with Christ.

2.  Sanctification is a necessary “outcome and inseparable consequence of regeneration.”  This is something to which John MacArthur would agree, but didn’t seem to find itself into The Gospel According to Jesus.  As such, an otherwise fine book is hindered in its purpose of promoting gospel holiness.

3. “Sanctification … is the only certain evidence of that indwelling of the Holy Spirit which is essential to salvation.”  The Spirit will be at work to produce fruit in our lives; he will be at work to prompt repentance and faith, as well as the putting to death of sin.  John 3 talks about how the Spirit is like the wind (linguistically as well), he cannot be seen directly but only through the effects produced.  Instead of moving trees and flying debris, it is the movement toward holiness. 

4. “Sanctification is the only sure mark of God’s election.”  There can be counterfeit faith, a faith that does not result in sanctification.  So, we cannot point to faith alone, but a faith that is not alone- one that produces obedience by grace.


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