What Can and Cannot Change in Our Relationship with God

Bryan Chapell, in Holiness by Grace: Delighting in the Joy That Is Our Strength (Crossway, 2001), 196, has a helpful chart looking at what does and does not change in the relationship between God and his children (lightly adapted below): What Can Change What Cannot Change our fellowship our sonship our experience of God’s blessing God’s desire for our welfare our assurance of God’s love God’s actual affection for us God’s delight in our actions God’s love for us God’s discipline our destiny our sense of guilt our security (HT: Dane Ortlund) These truths were wonderfully explored by the great Puritan theologian John Owen, who distinguished between our unchanging union with God and our changing communion with God. Kelly Kapic summarizes: It is important to note that Owen maintains an essential distinction between union and communion. Believers are united to Christ in God by the Spirit. This union is a unilateral action by God, in which those who were dead are made alive, those who lived in darkness begin

read more What Can and Cannot Change in Our Relationship with God

The Imitation of Christ

From Desiring God: What would Jesus do? The pop phrase has worn out, but there’s enduring truth in it. “We see in Jesus the best, most practical, most human example of what it means to be holy,” writes Kevin DeYoung in his new book The Hole In Our Holiness: Filling the Gap Between Gospel Passion and the Pursuit of Godliness (Crossway, 2012). We asked Kevin to speak about Jesus as our moral example in the following clip, and we started with a clear definition of sanctification and justification (7 minutes):  

Gospel Fellowship

Dane Ortlund: Silly Peter: ‘Before certain men came from James, he was eating with the Gentiles, but when they came he drew back and separated himself, fearing the circumcision party’ (Gal 2:12). Fellowship broke. Now how does Paul handle this? Certainly, he rebukes Peter—’I opposed him to his face’ (2:11). Yet how does Paul do this? What is his diagnosis?Paul identifies Peter’s error as gospel error. ‘I saw that their conduct was not in step with the truth of the gospel’ (2:14). What was Peter’s mistake? Gospel leakage. But in what way was Peter’s heart leaking out gospel? How specifically was he not believing the gospel?The text tells us: ‘fearing the circumcision party’ (2:12). Fear. That was what drove Peter. To sum up: Paul says Peter feared other men, causing him to not walk in step with the gospel, causing him to introduce all kinds of dysfunction into his relationships with other people. I conclude: the gospel liberates us not only from

read more Gospel Fellowship

Justification

Martyn Lloyd-Jones in The Assurance of Our Salvation: . But this is the amazing message, and this is what is meant by justification – that God tells us that, as the result of the work of the Lord Jesus Christ, because of his life, his death and his resurrection, if we believe on him and trust ourselves solely and entirely to him, God pardons and forgives our sins. Not only that, he declares that we are free from guilt: more than that, justification includes this. He not only declares that we are pardoned and forgiven and that we are guiltless, he also declares that we are positively righteous. He imputes to us, that is, he puts to our account, the righteousness of the Lord Jesus Christ himself, who was entirely without sin, who never failed his Father in any way, and who never broke a Commandment or transgressed any law. God gives to us – puts upon us – the righteousness

read more Justification

Carson and Zaspel: Rest in the Gospel or Strive Unto Holiness?

This really scratches where I itch! From The Gospel Coalition: During the recent Together for the Gospel conference, Kevin DeYoung delivered an excellent message, “Spirit-Powered, Gospel-Driven, Faith-Fueled Effort.” My prolific friend and fellow Council member for The Gospel Coalition also has a book coming out on the subject, The Hole in Our Holiness: Filling the Gap between Gospel Passion and the Pursuit of Godliness. Anyone attuned to the reformed evangelical blogosphere will know that Kevin’s sermon and book spring in part from lively in-house discussions over the last year about the nature of sanctification: its relationship to justification, the gospel, effort, and so on. (If that’s news to you, start here.) Those who have been tracking that ongoing discussion might be interested to know that many of these sanctification-related issues were recently addressed by D. A. Carson and Fred G. Zaspel at Clarus ’12, a TGC regional conference.   In keeping with the conference theme, “The Cross-Shaped Christian Life,” much of the panel discussion was

read more Carson and Zaspel: Rest in the Gospel or Strive Unto Holiness?

Resting in the Righteousness of Christ

“The gospel encourages me to rest in my righteous standing with God, a standing in which Christ Himself has accomplished and always maintains for me. I never have to do a moment’s labor to gain or maintain my justified status before God! Freed from the burden of such a task, I now can put my energies into enjoying God, pursuing holiness, and ministering God’s amazing grace to others. The gospel also reminds me that my righteous standing with God always holds firm regardless of my performance, because my standing is based solely on the work of Jesus and not mine. On my worst days of sin and failure, the gospel encourages me with God’s unrelenting grace toward me. On my best days of victory and usefulness, the gospel keeps me relating to God solely on the basis of Jesus’ righteousness and not mine.” From A Gospel Primer (HT: Todd Pruitt)

The conditions for our righteousness

. This is the scandal of justification: How can God declare us righteous if we are not inherently righteous? Isn’t this a legal fiction? Doesn’t it make God a liar? But that’s like thinking that God cannot say, ‘Let there be light’ unless there is already a sun to give it. God himself creates the conditions necessary for the existence of his work. When he says, ‘Let there be light!’ the sun exists. When he says, ‘Let this ungodly person be righteous,’ ‘this barren woman be pregnant,’ ‘this faithless person embrace my Word,’ it is so. When we really understand justification, we really understand how God works with us in every aspect of our lives before him. Christ lived the purpose-driven life so that we would inherit his righteousness through faith and be promise-driven people in a purpose-driven world. He did gain the everlasting inheritance by obedience to everything God commanded, driven by the purpose of fulfilling the law for us, in perfect love of

read more The conditions for our righteousness

How the New Testament Describes Salvation

Dane Ortlund writes: Here are the more important ones, noting which sphere of life from which they are drawn. Justification – the lawcourt metaphor (Rom 5:1; Titus 3:7) Sanctification – the cultus metaphor (1 Cor 1:2; 1 Thess 4:3) Adoption – the familial metaphor (Rom 8:15; 1 John 3:1–2) Reconciliation – the relational metaphor (Rom 5:1–11; 2 Cor 5:18–20) Washing – the physical cleansing metaphor (1 Cor 6:11; Titus 3:7) Redemption – the slave market metaphor (Eph 1:7; Rev 14:3–4) Purchase – the financial transaction metaphor (1 Cor 6:20; 2 Pet 2:1) Wedding – the marriage metaphor (Eph 5:31-32; Rev 21:2) Liberation – the imprisonment metaphor (Gal 5:1; Rev 1:5) New Birth – the physical generation metaphor (John 3:3–7; 1 Pet 1:3,23) Illumination – the light metaphor (John 12:35–36; 2 Cor 4:4–6) New Creation – the redemptive-historical metaphor (2 Cor 5:17; Gal 6:15) Resurrection – the bodily metaphor (Eph 2:6; Col 3:1) Union with Christ – the organic or spatial metaphor (Rom 6:1–14; 2 Tim 1:9) Inexhaustible richness. Luther was right– If a person

read more How the New Testament Describes Salvation

What Does Justification Have to Do with Social Justice?

This is excellent from Tim Keller: “Those who are all about justification by faith alone are usually not about justice. And those who are all about justice, usually are not about justification by faith alone. I think that is a big mistake.” So opened Tim Keller during the Christ+City post-conference event in Chicago at the TGC 2011 national conference. Keller drew on material from his book Generous Justice, aimed at solving this dilemma. Below you can watch the video [or download the audio] of Keller’s talk.

Akin’s “done” and “to do” in Galatians

I’m grateful to Thabiti Anyabwile for publishing this list of Dr. Danny Akin’s survey of the book of Galatians, where he highlights the 29 indicative statements Paul makes about the gospel and the 13 imperatives that flow from them.  Akin makes it plain that out of the “done” (indicatives – what God has done through Christ) there flows a “do” (imperatives – the believer’s grace inspired and empowered response). 29 Indicatives 1. The gospel is rooted in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ (Gal. 1:1). 2. The gospel delivers us from the present evil age to the glory of Christ (1:3-5). 3. There is only one gospel and to desert it is to be damned (1:6-9). 4. The gospel is ours by divine revelation and not human imagination (1:10-12). 5. The gospel is grounded in a gracious election (1:15). 6. The gospel is constantly in danger of being lost and needs to be defended (2:4-5). 7. The gospel that saves Gentiles

read more Akin’s “done” and “to do” in Galatians

Justification and sanctification in union with Christ

Tullian Tchividjian has posted a series of stimulating blogs (Part One ,Two, Three, and Four), where he is in conversation with Michael Horton. I particularly liked this interaction on Union with Christ from the third blog post of the interview: Tullian – Some say that union with Christ is the integrating structure for both justification and sanctification. In other words, we’re justified “in Christ” AND we’re sanctified “in Christ.”  Sanctification doesn’t depend on justification, but both depend on union with Christ. How would you respond? Michael – There’s a long and noble history of “the marvelous exchange” in patristic and medieval theology that the Reformers picked up. Bernard of Clairvaux had an especially significant impact on Luther and Calvin, and both Reformers gave a lot of space to this theme of union with Christ as an analogy not only for justification but for all of the saving benefits we have in Christ. Like Paul (think especially of the transition from Romans 6 to 7), Calvin emphasized

read more Justification and sanctification in union with Christ

Forgiven and Born Again: Two Things at Once

I love this post by Fred Sanders. Here he points us to John Wesley’s astute understanding of the relationship between justification and regeneration: It’s one thing to be forgiven, and another thing to be born again. Both happen at once, but they are distinct from each other. They have to be distinguished clearly, in order to be united perfectly. It’s hard to know whether it’s more important to distinguish them, or to insist that they go together. John Wesley may have been the most successful at distinguishing and uniting them in his preaching. Nearly everything Wesley taught flowed from his understanding of the new birth, because the new birth (or regeneration) is where the great salvation proclaimed in the gospel actually enters into human experience. It is “a vast inward change, a change wrought in the soul, by the operation of the Holy Ghost.” And it is crucial that we see how Wesley related this doctrine, a doctrine about a change

read more Forgiven and Born Again: Two Things at Once

Justification & Sanctification

Ed Stetzer writes: The following list is taken from C.J. Mahaney’s work, Living the Cross Centered Life (pages 118-119). Mahaney’s comparisons offer a helpful way to look at the two doctrines. Justification is being declared righteous. Sanctification is being made righteous – being conformed to the image of Jesus. Justification is our position before God, a position that becomes permanently ours at the time of our conversion. Sanctification is our practice that continues throughout our life on earth. Justification is immediate and complete upon conversion. You’ll never be more justified that you are the first moment you trust in the Person and finished work of Christ. Sanctification is a progressive process. You’ll be more sanctified as you continue in grace motivated obedience. Justification is objective – Christ’s work for us. Sanctification is subjective – Christ’s work within us. (HT: Rick Ianniello)

Make Every Effort

From Kevin DeYoung: Count the letters carefully: effort is not a four letter word. Even those who believe in blood-bought, Christ-wrought, undeserved, sovereign, gospel grace do not despise effort in the Christian life. How can we? 2 Peter 1:5 tells us to “make every effort.” Of course, anyone familiar with this passage will remember that the effort enjoined by Peter is God-graced effort. Verse 3 says we have divine power through “knowledge of him.” Verse 4 says we can become “partakers of the divine nature” through “his precious and very great promises.” Verse 5 harnesses these twin turbines of Spirit energy when it says “For this very reason, make every effort.” In other words, Peter holds up a pattern of godliness–increasing faith, virtue, knowledge, self-control, steadfastness, godliness, brotherly affection, and love. This pattern relies on gospel power. And the gospel-powered pattern requires effort. It is the consistent witness of the New Testament that growth in godliness requires exertion on the part of

read more Make Every Effort

When Does God Become 100% For Us?

John Piper writes: What the Bible teaches is that God becomes 100% irrevocably for us at the moment of justification, that is, the moment when we see Christ as a beautiful Savior and receive him as our substitute punishment and our substitute perfection. All of God’s wrath, all of the condemnation we deserve, was poured out on Jesus. All of God’s demands for perfect righteousness were fulfilled by Christ. The moment we see (by grace!) this Treasure and receive him in this way his death counts as our death and his condemnation as our condemnation and his righteousness as our righteousness, and God becomes 100% irrevocably for us forever in that instant. Read the entire article or listen to a devotional on the same topic that Pastor John gave to the pastoral staff at Bethlehem Baptist Church.

Acceptance and renewal

Only a fraction of the present body of professing Christians are solidly appropriating the justifying work of Christ in their lives.… In their day-to-day existence they rely on their sanctification for justification.… Few know enough to start each day with a thoroughgoing stand upon Luther’s platform: you are accepted, looking outward in faith and claiming the wholly alien righteousness of Christ as the only ground for acceptance, relaxing in that quality of trust which will produce increasing sanctification as faith is active in love and gratitude. In order for a pure and lasting work of spiritual renewal to take place within the church, multitudes within it must be led to build their lives on this foundation. This means that they must be conducted into the light of a full conscious awareness of God’s holiness, the depth of their sin and the sufficiency of the atoning work of Christ for their acceptance with God, not just at the outset of their Christian lives

read more Acceptance and renewal

A pure and lasting work of spiritual renewal

“Only a fraction of the present body of professing Christians are solidly appropriating the justifying work of Christ in their lives. . . . In their day-to-day existence they rely on their sanctification for justification. . . . Few know enough to start each day with a thoroughgoing stand upon Luther’s platform: you are accepted, looking outward in faith and claiming the wholly alien righteousness of Christ as the only ground for acceptance, relaxing in that quality of trust which will produce increasing sanctification as faith is active in love and gratitude. In order for a pure and lasting work of spiritual renewal to take place within the church, multitudes within it must be led to build their lives on this foundation.  This means that they must be conducted into the light of a full conscious awareness of God’s holiness, the depth of their sin and the sufficiency of the atoning work of Christ for their acceptance with God, not just

read more A pure and lasting work of spiritual renewal

Moo on Justification in Galatians

Crossway has made available Doug Moo’s essay, “Justification in Galatians” (PDF) from Understanding the Times: New Testament Studies in the 21st Century: Essays in Honor of D. A. Carson on the Occasion of His 65th Birthday, ed. Köstenberger and Yarbrough. An excerpt: Paul’s teaching on justification in Galatians strongly endorses the traditional Reformation emphasis on justification by faith alone. In contrast to some recent reconfigurations of this doctrine, the Reformers did not mean by this teaching that a person gains only initial entrance into the state of salvation by faith alone—the ultimate verdict being based on faith plus works. They intended to assert that the eschatological gift of justification, at whatever “time” or in however many stages it might be manifested, came by faith alone. Paul seems to be saying just this in Galatians. Faith is the means not only of entering into relationship with God but also of maintaining that relationship and of confirming that relationship on the day

read more Moo on Justification in Galatians

God’s counterintuitive gift!

Here’s Dane Ortlund‘s attempt to summarise Herman Bavinck’s writings on justification in a single (run-on) sentence. Love it! “Justification, the outstanding blessing of salvation, is the Triune God’s counterintuitive gift of forensic acquittal and right status, an end-time decision announced now in the middle of history, consisting of Christ’s own righteous obedience freely imputed to sinners united to Christ through self-divesting and Christ-riveted faith.”