Some Thoughts on William Evans’s Ref21 Piece

Sean Lucas has some good thoughts on his current situation in relationship to what Evans said. I thought it might be worthwhile to chime in as well. It has all the earmarks of a great conversation, irenic, yet to the point. I hope to continue in that manner.

The things I agree with Evans: 1. I agree that one of the main problems facing the church today is what Bonhoeffer calls “cheap grace.” I think there definitely is still legalism present in the church. However, the pressure of culture is far more radically licentious than legalistic. 2. This is one key reason why the law needs to be preached. If people can’t see their need of Jesus by being convicted by the law, then there is no reason to preach the Gospel. 3. I agree with his read of Romans 6, that sanctification flows from union with Christ. I would not, however, want to dismiss justification as constituting any ground of sanctification whatsoever. While our response to justification does not make up all of our motivation for sanctification, it does constitute part of it. The key here is to emphasize the inseparability of justification and sanctification. That justification constitutes part of the ground of sanctification is more due to the inseparability of the two than any kind of temporal priority (although there, too, it must still be acknowledged that justification comes before almost all of our sanctification, the only part of sanctification excepted here is definitive sanctification, which occurs simultaneously with justification). I still think there is a way to reconcile the concerns of WTS and WSC. WTS emphasizes union as being all-embracing (although some things from Horton also emphasize this), whereas WSC emphasizes the priority of justification. Can’t justification have a priority within union?

Questions I would have for Evans: 1. Maybe Tchividjian’s context is different from Evans’s. Could it be that in his congregation, legalism might be more of a threat? This might help explain why Tchividjian speaks the way he does. Different contexts make for very different problems. I would agree with Lucas here in saying that different regions might have different concerns. In the Midwest, the problem I have noticed is the “Midwestern nice.” They will say all kinds of nice things about Christians and Christianity, and they will typically be rather polite even if you go door to door. However, whether they actually need salvation is entirely another matter. They believe they are good enough. They are not very licentious as a general rule (though they are becoming more so). But neither do they believe they are perfect. They believe they are “good enough.” I wonder where that fits on the scale here between antinomianism and legalism? It is a form of antinomianism in this respect: Midwestern nice reduces the demands of the law to a keepable level (antinomianism does this on a theoretical level; legalism also reduces the demands of the law, but does so not in theory but in practice). However, they don’t believe that they can just do whatever they want. So they aren’t antinomian in that respect. 2. Is the Law-Gospel distinction only Lutheran? I believe not. See some of the original sources quoted here, here, and here. Of course, the Law-Gospel distinction only refers to the pedagogical use of the law. The Law is no enemy to the Gospel after the person becomes a believer, but rather becomes the Christian’s guide and friend. The pedagogical use of the law still operates after the believer becomes a Christian, too. However, this is not bringing condemnation, but rather God’s fatherly displeasure.c

Update: Rick Phillips has some very important thoughts here, and so does Jim Cassidy.


  1. Jonathan Bonomo said,

    August 15, 2011 at 12:36 pm

    Well put, Lane.

    From what I’ve been taught at WTS, I can say that it doesn’t seem to me that there’s much room for a priority to justification within the context of union for folks there. The two are distinct yet inseparable benefits of union. But the distinction tends to be parsed out in such a way as to obliterate any possibility of logical priority. There may be a priority in life-experience, but that’s all the priority that will be allowed. At least that’s what I’ve been taught (or my understanding of it, anyway…). But that doesn’t mean that opinions couldn’t conceivably change over time.

    Also, you are manifestly correct that Law/Gospel is not by any means a solely Lutheran distinctive. While it’s true that certain strands of Reformed thought emphasize it more than others, I doubt anyone wants to turn Heidelberg into something other than a Reformed document, and surrender Ursinus to the Lutherans.

    With you, I’m hopeful of rapproachment. But I think for this to happen some rhetoric needs to be toned down a bit.


    Jonathan Bonomo

  2. greenbaggins said,

    August 15, 2011 at 12:43 pm

    I’d agree with your assessment of WTS. That’s what I experienced there as well. I also agree that the rhetoric needs to notch down some levels. The two seminaries need to sit down and talk it out, and with the understanding that there can be MUCH fruitful exploration of this issue, to the vast benefit of the church.

  3. Logan Almy said,

    August 15, 2011 at 1:02 pm

    Thanks for another excellent post. This point is excellent: “The key here is to emphasize the inseparability of justification and sanctification.” I think this separation is one of the major problems in evangelical churches today. In point of fact, I made this one of my introductory points in a recent sermon. I have another thought. In addition to definitive sanctification as logically prior to (or simultaneous with) our justification, I would add regeneration. Regeneration is part of our sanctification and is logically prior to justification (assuming that you believe that regeneration precedes faith, which I know that you do). I am not an expect on the difference between WSC and WTS, but I have noticed some imbalances on those who place the dominant accent on justification, even in the Christian life. Have you read Fesko’s Justification yet? If so, what did you think of his section on the final judgment? IMHO I think it was the weakest point of an excellent book. What is your view of judgment day according to works? I listened to your sermon on “Deuteronomy Revisted” where you explained your view of Romans 2. But what about the other judgment according to works passages? Are they all law from your point of view? I know that some would say that a person denies justification by faith alone if he says that works have any role to play on judgment day, even as demonstration of justified men. I cannot accept this. Also, what about the many passages that speak of the necessity of sanctification for final salvation? Just curious what your thoughts are on this.

  4. August 15, 2011 at 1:05 pm


    If justification and sanctification are inseparable and simultaneously bestowed within the context of union with Christ, why should we argue that justification has priority over sanctification within the context of union? What kind of priority would it have?

    I think it’s noble to try to reconcile some of the differences between WSC and WTS, but it looks to me like WSC isn’t even willing to accept the theses that union, and not justification by faith alone, is the central and most basic theme of Paul’s soteriology.

    A failure to understand this naturally leads to the kind of quasi-antinomianism we’re seeing in guys like Tullian T. If union with Christ is secondary to justification, then sanctification and all other benefits of the ordo must bow the knee to justification and take a secondary and even unimportant place within the ordo salutis.

  5. August 15, 2011 at 1:21 pm

    […] Sean Lucas has offered some thoughts here, and Lane Keister chimes in here. Share […]

  6. Jared O. said,

    August 15, 2011 at 2:03 pm

    Not surprisingly, I think Jordan is right on. I was in the middle of writing something when I was alerted to this: Regarding the Lutheran label, I don’t think it take too much work to look at the quotes from Tipton’s article “Justification and Union with Christ” from Lutheran theologians and see the exact wording and content coming from WSC and Tullian. I’m not putting a pox on any house, but a spade is a spade and I think the conversation should begin by noting the almost identity to Lutheran dogmatics while perhaps later arguing how it fits within the Reformed creeds, confessions, and selective writers.

  7. Allan said,

    August 15, 2011 at 3:00 pm


    Do you think any of this could just be our sinful desire to determine who is and who is not regenerate in our eyes?

    I find it interesting that a classic defintion of antinomianism is: denial of the third use of the law

    I don’t see in that definition an attempt to determine degrees of faithfulness, just an objective statement of doctrine. Technically, aren’t we all antinomian when we commit a sin? Perhaps we are beginning to weigh our imperfect practice/obedience, as observed in others, more heavily than our confession/professions? I mean how are we to determine with certainty that one who confesses the third use of the law to be mandatory is a liar if he seems to sin more than his critic? I think we are beginning to confuse antinomianism with imperfect practice? To what degree must one focus on law in order to not be considered an antinomian? These are obviously rhetorical questions, but i think they make the point that ones position on this issue has real life consequences towards others and is not just theoretical debate.

    In other words, is it possible that some of this debate is some people just applying their degree of perceived faithfulness and law emphasis to others, so that anyone less law focused than them is possibly antinomian? Are we starting to make less and less room for the Holy Spirit to sanctify individuals at different rates and to different degrees?

    What are your thoughts?

  8. Jim Cassidy said,

    August 15, 2011 at 3:00 pm

    I would want to say, and so would the WTS guys, that there is a certain priority of justification over the experience of progressive justification. That should be obvious (as Dr. Gaffin once said in an interview with him at Christ the Center – “its a no-brainer”), but needs to be said.

  9. August 15, 2011 at 4:33 pm


    I take it you meant there is a “certain priority of justification over the experience of progressive SANCTIFICATION”? That is the point that Rick Phillips makes in his 7 affirmations. Justification and definitive sanctification are surely simultaneous benefits of union with Christ. However we can not accept that progressive sanctification, which Phillips defines as “active” has a temporal or logical correlation with justification, else we fall into neo-nominainsm. We must, it seems, acknowledge the both a temporal and logical priority of justification over the progressive element of sanctification.

    It seems to me that another question must be answered especially of those advocating a justification-centred hermeneutic: is there even such a distinction between definitive and progressive sanctification? I believe there is, but the difference in this discussion often lies in the collapsing of definitive and progressive sanctification into the same act of God. If they are without distinction, then one will say that we are “sanctified by faith alone”, in precisely the same manner as we are justified by faith alone – passively and receptively. In which case, there can be no place for any activity in sanctification. Therein lies part of the problem in this discussion, it seems.



  10. Reed Here said,

    August 15, 2011 at 5:49 pm

    Lane: this is an issue for our church, i.e., how the Spirit works in sanctification to grow the Christian Life. It is not an issue of disagreement, but one in which we are experiencing a season of deepening understanding and corresponding growth.

    Given that, I’ve been paying more attention to the comments of guys like Tchvidian and DeYoung. When I read Evans’ blog piece I thought he was inferring a bit more than he was demonstrating. Accordingly I read the collection he references over at The Aquila Report. My opinion after reading that piece is that Evans’ does appear to be responding to caricatures more than substance, at least as documented in this exchange between Tchvidian and DeYoung.

    This aside, I agree with your take here on the differences b/w WTS and WSC. It just doesn’t seem necessary to me. One is talking about the organic grounds of sanctification (WTS, union). The other is talking about the logical grounds of sanctification (WSC, justification). Where is the debate?

  11. August 15, 2011 at 7:29 pm

    Reed et al.,

    The debate as I understand it relates to the definition of sanctification
    and thus the role of activity or good works in the Christian life.

    There is disagreement over the formulation of sanctification, especially as Murray described it in a two fold process of definitive and progressive.

    Are we sanctified by faith alone, in the same way as we are justified by faith alone? If one maintains that one is, then there is no place for good works in the Christian life for, as our works play no part in our justification, neither may they in sanctification. In Murray’s progressive sanctification, it is still God who is working, but we are working also (not meritoriously) in pursuing holiness and the good works that God has prepared for us.

    Therein lies the rub – if you do not accept Murray’s (and others’) two – fold distinction in the WORK of sanctification, then you will, it seems to me, have a different view of the role of law, the preaching of imperatives etc. in the Christian life.

    I think that is what is at the back of much of this debate … though I may be wrong.

  12. Jim Cassidy said,

    August 15, 2011 at 7:59 pm

    Matt, yep, sorry about that! I banged that out in a rush. Thanks!

  13. rfwhite said,

    August 15, 2011 at 9:03 pm

    10 Reed:

    With you and Lane, I’d like to see Bill say more about the WTS and WSC.

    You said that Evans does appear to be responding to caricatures more than substance.

    Could you elaborate on what you have in mind in this comment?

  14. rfwhite said,

    August 15, 2011 at 9:05 pm

    13 should read “the WTS and WSC concerns.”

  15. Reed Here said,

    August 15, 2011 at 9:41 pm

    Dr. White: I had three in mind. The first was what sounded to me like a throw away comment regarding Sonship. I recognize that Sonship is in the broader mix. Yet it appears to me to have little, if anything to do with the conversation DeYoung and Tchvidian were having.

    The second was Evans reference to Tchvidian (supposedly) teaching that sanctification is “caused” by justification, as in sanctification is rooted and in grows out of justification; i.e., an organic relationship. In the underlying conversation between DeYong and Tchvidian, Tchvidian does use the word “cause.” But the context is hardly clear that what he means is “organically caused”. It could just as easily mean nothing more than a logical causal connection. Tchvidian may indeed teach this, yet not in the conversation to which Evans is referring.

    Third, Evans makes the assertion that is sounding more and more like a canard to me, namely that those who are teaching the kind of understanding of sanctification that is found in such things as Sonship (and DeYoung, I might add), produces people who in effect are practical antinomians.

    I’m not that fond of how Tchvidian expresses himself in some of the things I’ve read. Yet I’ll join him on this one and simply observe that I’ve yet to see this antinomian boogey-man. If it is true then it should be readily apparent. And if it is not, than this is yet another example of ill-treatment of brothers.


  16. Reed Here said,

    August 15, 2011 at 9:45 pm

    Matt: I don’t read the debate from the trajectory you are offering. I could be wrong, but I don’t.

  17. Reed Here said,

    August 16, 2011 at 6:42 am

    Rick Phillips has posted a very helpful summary on justification and sanctification at the Ref 21 blog.

  18. Alan D. Strange said,

    August 16, 2011 at 9:06 am

    RIck Phillips has indeed posted a helpful summary. It is one with which many of us can wholeheartedly agree. I certainly do. I have little doubt that Bill Evans and Sean Lucas would agree with it. I also am sure that Lane, our host, would heartily consent.

    But from my conversation with and interaction with some in the Reformed faith, I am equally certain that some woudl demur at several of these points, including definitive sanctification. There are some serious matters about union, justification, and sanctification about which we are not all in agreement as Reformed believers and theologians.

    My hope would be that we could engage this in a spirit of mutual respect, love, and care, recognizing the reality of the “different histories” of which Sean wrote. We need to be able to distinguish a brother with a different emphasis from one with a wrong view that we need to challenge. Truth be told, this sort of discussion challenges us all in the very midst of treating these matters to do so in a way that esteems one another better than ourselves. Such a discussion highlights for me how much I lack in sanctification and how much I need to die more and more to sin and to live more and more to righteousness.

  19. rfwhite said,

    August 16, 2011 at 10:24 am

    18 Allan D. Strange: I appreciate your point about distinguishing between “different emphases” and “wrong views.” Question: what advice would you give on how to distinguish between the two?

    One other thing: as I read through the material cited, it looked to me that, at least at key points, assurance and sanctification were being confused. Just as there’s a need to distinguish justification and sanctification, so assurance and sanctification.

  20. greenbaggins said,

    August 16, 2011 at 10:38 am

    Logan, lots of excellent (and difficult!) questions there. I have read Fesko’s book. I agree that Fesko could possibly have emphasized the evidentiary nature of works in the final judgment a bit more. Of course, they play no part whatsoever in determining our final destination. However, they are the evidence to which God will point when He says to the world that His people were really His saints. And then, though our works are purified also by Christ’s death, they will receive their non-salvific reward. So no, not all “judgment according to works” passages are law. I would agree that sanctification is a necessity for final salvation, but not a causal necessity. Turretin talks about antecedent and consequent necessities, and I would chalk up sanctification to a consequent necessity. I prefer to think of sanctification in terms of inevitability: a person justified WILL BE sanctified throughout life (speaking now of progressive sanctification). It is necessary not in order to cause final salvation, but as an inevitable consequence of regeneration, definitive sanctification, and union with Christ.

    Jordan, justification needs to have a logical priority if only for the reason that forgiveness of sins has as much priority as anything can have (nothing can happen between God and man without the guilt of sin being erased, though, as Logan pointed out, regeneration happens even before forgiveness of sins. Regeneration happens with a view towards faith, which in turn is the instrument of justification). Since justification happens at the inception of the Christian life, and without it sanctification cannot happen, and also justification is instantaneous rather than progressive, there has to be this inseparable connection. This works “both ways,” as it were. On the one hand, it is crucial to maintain that one cannot be justified without also being sanctified. On the other hand, sanctification never happens in a vacuum apart from justification. I would gently suggest that Tchividjian is not being anti-nomian here, even in a quasi sense. He is emphasizing one side of the coin, whereas DeYoung is emphasizing the other side of the coin. Tchividjian is not advocating an unholy life. For me, that is the litmus test of whether someone is antinomian or not. Even Lutherans are not necessary antinomian. I do agree with you, however, that justification does not take priority over union with Christ.

    Allan, definitely some serious food for thought there. I also feel a bit uncomfortable when the “antinomian” word is thrown around. I could agree that a denial of the third use of the law is definitely antinomian, something I’m really not seeing anyone doing here, not even Tchividjian, contra Evans.

    Matthew, I would argue that definitive and progressive sanctification are related in a similar way to justification and progressive sanctification: inseparable, yet distinct. The different between justification and definitive sanctification is that the latter lies within the sphere of sanctification, whereas the former does not. The definitive sanctification is accomplished by God with a view to progressive sanctification. And certainly (contra Peter Leithart), justification and definitive sanctification are not the same thing. Justification happens outside of us, whereas definitive sanctification happens inside of us. There are other distinctions, as well.

  21. Alan D. Strange said,

    August 16, 2011 at 10:42 am


    I suppose that is the crucial question. I think, first of all, that it’s important to recognize that every difference among us does not necessarily indicate error but may involve a different emphasis. I am not so sure, for instance, that we can always paint with such a broad brush and confidently proclaim, “the problem with the church today is ________ “(legalism, antinomianism, etc.). I think that there are ebbs and flows and many congregations have all these problems in differing measures. There is no “one size fits all” approach. This is why we must preach the text carefully (not every text as if the same) and apply it skillfully. Adroit ministry, not ham-handed easy ministry, is what is needed.

    And, then, I think that we need to measure positions against the Scriptures and the Standards. Do the Standards teach definitive sanctification? I strongly affirm it, but this is likely an area where we may legitimately disagree. What about the connection between justification, sanctification, and union? What do the Scriptures and Standards teach?

    And then your point about assurance. Is not assurance something that ordinarily waxes with progressive sanctification? On the other hand, I understand, I think, why you want to make sure that as categories we maintain proper distinctions between assurance and sanctification. I am not suggesting that there are not some real differences here, even including ones that, over time, the church will come to regard as errors and in some way indicate that confessionally.

    This forum, the internet, has not always promoted sober reflection. There are some who are circumspect on the web; many, however, shoot from the hip and in theological conversation, in which fine points need to be made, this is rarely helpful.

  22. rfwhite said,

    August 16, 2011 at 12:27 pm

    21 Allan:

    On distinguishing emphasis vs. error, I agree with both of your main points.

    As far as assurance and (progressive) sanctification, I’m with you in saying that assurance waxes (or wanes) with the progress of our sanctification. If I were to try to distill what I had in mind, I’d ask questions like this, based on what I’ve seen so far: is there agreement among us that mortification is part of sanctification, and, if so, what does mortification involve?

    To bring assurance into the picture, can we agree that sanctification involves mortifying confusion about our state in grace, thus gaining assurance? In affirming this, do we mean to say that sanctification is reducible to mortifying confusion, or that it extends beyond mortifying confusion?

    From what I’ve read so far, I don’t see agreement on the answers to these questions, but I may have missed it or may need to ask different questions.

  23. August 16, 2011 at 1:24 pm


    Thanks for your response. I guess I’ve never understood the logical and experiential priority of justification to sanctification to really figure in as a key factor in these discussions. Like Dr. Gaffin said on Christ Center, logical priority is a “no brainer.”

    What troubles me is not so much the logical priority given to justification by faith alone and the forensic category (I think most of the time that’s taken for granted, but a good qualification nonetheless). What troubles me is the kind of constitutive priority that is given to the forensic over everything else.

    I see that you’ve mentioned Horton as one of the WSC guys who take union with Christ more seriously. I’m sure you’ve read it, but I would commend Dr. Gaffin’s excellent review of Dr. Horton’s “Covenant and Salvation” in which he both commends and critiques Horton’s approach to the relationship between covenant, union, the forensic and existential categories, etc?

    The article can be found here:

    One of Gaffin’s main concerns is that Horton’s covenantal ontology entails a notion of the forensic becoming constitutive of the non-forensic or the forensic causally effecting the non-forensic. In other words, the forensic (justification) is regarded as the fountain or matrix in which the transformative (sanctification) finds significance. I believe Horton describes this as a “forensically charged ontology.” For instance, he says at one point:

    “justification should be seen more clearly not merely as ontologically different from inner renewal, but also as the ontological source of that change (p. 198).”

    While I’m not quite sure how that all works out in the more particular aspects of Horton’s soteriology, I was immediately struck at the outset by how backwards and different that approach is from what we find in Calvin, namely that the existential “in Christ” always precedes and serves as the basis for the forensic “in Christ.”

    As to the whole antinomian thing, I think it’s interesting to note that some of the most notable antinomians in history weren’t so much concerned with the freedom to live an unholy life so much as they were concerned to preserve the primacy of grace over law in the life of the believer. Anne Hutcheson is a good example. While there may have been a more libertine element in her thinking, the primary focus was placed upon the necessity of immediate assurance, the inability of believers to good works since Christ dwells within us, and the transformation that comes through grace and not las, constraints, or moral norms.

    Antinomianism, at least as it’s been advocated historically, has been more concerned with preserving grace than promoting a sinful life. In that sense, there are many out there today who look a lot like Anne Hutcheson and some of the English antinomians of the 17th century.

  24. rfwhite said,

    August 16, 2011 at 1:54 pm

    Alan: in 19 and 22, “Allan” should, of course, be “Alan.” My apologies. Like I said in 22, sometimes I “don’t see” what I should.

  25. pduggie said,

    August 16, 2011 at 9:07 pm

    I thought Evans last post to Lucas was even better than the first, and emphazied the right indicative: the reality of our death to sin in Christ.. That’s missing in Tchividjian, who wants justification to be THE engine.

    I also was amazed at Lucas’ misreading of WCF 19.6 that Evans quoted to him.

    He has trouble even reading that the WCF says the imperatives motivate the action of obedience. “doing good because the law encourages the one” says the imperative is itself motivation.

    I think the definition of saving faith in the WCF is relevant here too. An act of faith is to respond to the word of god appropriately. faith yields obedience to the commands. faith doesn’t get up its motivation to yield first, then consider obeying. it seems to me, anyway

  26. Reed Here said,

    August 17, 2011 at 6:39 am

    Paul: one small quibble with what you said.

    Why can’t “getting up its motivation” be a part of the obedience package that faith does? Calvin describes the emotive force of faith-obedience as love. Surely this is consistent with Scripture: the motivation is including.

    Under the old age, the old realm of sin/death, motivation may/may not yield obedience. Under the new age, the new realm of righteousness/life, there is no disconnect between motivation and obedience.

  27. Reed Here said,

    August 17, 2011 at 6:48 am

    Andrew: and I quibble a bit with DeYoung’s last post a bit too.

    He says, “The question, however, is whether we betray the indicatives by insisting directly and explicitly for Christians to work hard at obeying the imperatives.”

    That is at best unclear. As much as I try to imagine an explanation that fits the discussion, I frankly don’t see this is anyone’s actual position. He may mean something that if he cleared it up I’d say, “oh yeah, I heard so and so say that. You’re right, that’s wrong.”

    Yet without that I’m inclined to read this as more of a caution against a possible inference, but not something that is actually being taught by anyone. If that all DeYoung is doing (warning), then some more on this would help.

    Finally, I think he is unclear here as well, “Or to put it another way, is sanctification by faith alone in our justification by faith alone?”

    If he means in justification faith is passive vs. in sanctification faith is active, yep. But both of these are “by faith faith alone.” Both are receptive of what the Spirit produces in the life of the believer. In justification faith is receptive yielding trust in Christ. In sanctification faith is receptive yielding obedience to Christ.

    I don’t think that DeYoung’s other way of putting it here is all that helpful.

  28. Reed Here said,

    August 17, 2011 at 6:49 am

    Paul: not to defend Tchvidian, but to be fair to him, I’ve not read what you’ve concluded about his position. Anywhere I might see that clearly? Or if this is an inferential argument, might you lay it out?

    No baiting here, just sincerity.

  29. Reed Here said,

    August 17, 2011 at 6:55 am

    I think the side in this debate fearing antinomianism has a valid fear. That being said, I’ve yet to see that it is a present fear. It may be here in some historical contexts (e.g., the Anitnomiam controversy), but I don’t see it anywhere amongst those in this debate.

    Given that, I’d urge those fearing antinomianism not to be too quick to jump the assumption gun. Instead, ask the questions, and the follow up questions, and the follow up questions. In this way helpful clarification will follow.

    Two books I’d recommend (neither of which I’ve finished yet, but already see their value to this topic):

    • Fisher, Edwin, Marrow of Modern Divinity, with Boston’s notes
    • Marshall, Walter, ed. Bruce McRae, The Gospel Mystery of Sanctification
  30. August 17, 2011 at 9:02 am


    The comment by DeYoung which you referenced seems crystal clear to me.

    “Or to put it another way, is sanctification by faith alone in our justification by faith alone?”

    DeYoung seems to be saying exactly what Rick Phillips argued in his article, that justification does not cause sanctification or that looking to our justification doesn’t somehow effect our sanctification. I don’t think his comment has anything to do with whether faith functions both actively and passively in sanctification.

    If you don’t think this kind of “remember your justification” kind of teaching exists, I’d point you in the direction of Horton’s Covenant and Salvation which teaches exactly this kind of forensic ontology and to much of the popular Sonship variety preaching prevalent in many of our churches.

    DeYoung’s point is a good one and one that we all need to think hard about: Are we sanctified by faith in justification by faith alone? Or, given the realities of the New Covenant, can we preach, teach, and glory in the moral imperatives of Scripture since the law of God has been written upon our hearts and the Spirit enables us to obey its commands?

    I thought Rick Phillips hit the nail on the head on this point:

    “Justification does not cause Sanctification. Sanctification, like Justification, is caused by union with Christ through faith (Rom. 6:1-14). Just as Christ justifies, Christ also sanctifies his people (1 Cor. 1:30; Col. 3:12-17). For this reason, the idea that we need only preach justification in order to gain sanctification is contrary to the biblical pattern. Paul, for instance, does not preach justification so that sanctification will occur, but rather he preaches sanctification itself (Rom. 6:12-14; 12:1-2, etc.). Peter also declares “Be holy” (1 Pet. 1:15). This being the case, gospel preaching does not consist merely of preaching Christ for justification, but also consists of preaching Christ for sanctification. “

  31. Reed Here said,

    August 17, 2011 at 10:49 am

    Jordan: you’re right. That criticism does not apply to what DeYoung said. My eyes simply misread what he said, specifically I missed the “in”.

    Yes, I’m familiar with the stream that wants to argue that justification is the source of sanctification. I’ve read Horton on this. Horton is over-emphasizing the forensic priority that logically necessitates sanctification. He is using this logical necessity connection to argue for an ontological relationship that actually applies to union.

    While I disagree with him, I do not think DeYoung’s summary is a fair description of what Horton is saying. Forensic ontology is an error, yet that is not “sanctification by faith alone IN justification by faith alone.” (ala Rom 6:1-8). More, if you are saying “remember your justification” is nothing more than “sanctification by faith alone IN justification by faith alone,” I could not disagree more!

    As to Sonship teaching that remembering your justification has a role in the Christian life, yes I agree. Again, this is particularly found in Rom. 6:1-8. The idea of remembering the past experience of the ordo salutis (including justification) as a part of the Christian life is found in other passages as well (e.g., Eph 2:11-12, ff.; 1Co 15:1-2, ff.; 2Ti 2:11-15, ff; 1Pt 1:2-55.)

    I think however, equating that with DeYoung’s criticism is just a canard.

    Nothing I’ve read from World Harvest Ministries, or anyone else writing in the same stream, disagrees with the Rick Phillips nail head you quote. On the contrary, I’ve found they actually build on it. None of these sources is writing “just preach justification only and sanctification will just automatically happen.”

    I know there has been a lot of heat on this issue. I recognize the critics have valid concerns. Indeed, my own studies started from the perspective of these concerns. However, I’ve yet to see these concerns validated. This is just not what Sonship, is teaching.

    Instead I suggest the critics consider whether or not they are concerned about logical inferences that do not necessarily attach? This is why I STRONLGY recommend to anyone so concerned that they read the two books I listed above. Both were written in a different context than our present one. I think they will help relieve a lot of the concern, and even possibly enable the critics to offer a helpful critique to make better what is otherwise a biblically sound message.

  32. rfwhite said,

    August 17, 2011 at 11:18 am

    For some context to the Gospel Coalition exchange between Kevin D and Tullian T from June 2011, some might find it helpful to read the April 2011 blog post by Tullian T, entitled (shortened form) “Rethinking Progress.”

  33. Allan said,

    August 17, 2011 at 11:26 am

    Just wanted to clarify further rfwhite in #24.

    I am not Alan Strange, just Allan in #7.

  34. Reed Here said,

    August 17, 2011 at 11:32 am

    Here is a helpful quote from Walter Marshall’s book on this subject:

    “”I am telling you to act according to your state in Christ. Obey God and do the works of the law by gospel principles and means. This is the rare and excellent art of godliness, in which every Christian should be a skilled expert. Many people labor for years trying to live a godly life. However, they give it up in shame and confusion because they never understood this holy art. They never tried to attain true godliness in a proper gospel way.”

  35. rfwhite said,

    August 17, 2011 at 11:34 am

    32 Reed:

    You said, I recognize the critics have valid concerns. Indeed, my own studies started from the perspective of these concerns. However, I’ve yet to see these concerns validated.

    Sorry, if I’m being dense, but I’m confused by the sentences above. Which of the critics’ concerns do you consider valid?

  36. rfwhite said,

    August 17, 2011 at 11:38 am

    34 Allan who is not Alan: yes, thanks!

  37. rfwhite said,

    August 17, 2011 at 11:49 am

    34 Reed: not having access to Marshall’s book, how do you compare and contrast Marshall’s description of “true godliness” (i.e., doing the works of the law) with the descriptions you see in Kevin D’s comments? in Tullian T’s comments?

  38. Reed Here said,

    August 17, 2011 at 11:54 am

    Dr. White: the primary concern is antinomianism. Specifically here, the concern is summarized in DeYoung’s statement that Jordan applied: sanctification by faith alone in justification by faith alone. I agree that those may be good inferences.I disagree that they are necessary, let alone what is actually being said.

    On another note: just read Tchvidian’s piece you referenced. This is a good example of why I find him less than helpful on this subject. He says some good stuff, and he says a lot of emotionally laden unfocused stuff.

    Then he concludes with one or two sentences that just add to the confusion. On the face of it, the sentences actually say things that sound completely wrong. Yet we always read things in context. And in the context of what else he said, it is not clear if he means exactly what it sounds like he said.

    E.g., what exactly does the hard work of resting in Jesus mean? (Hopefully a fair summary of Tchvidian’s main point.) Given some of the things he has said, I could easily conclude that all he is talking about is some mystical passivity, a letting go-letting God (a serious error). Yet in the body of this piece he does rightly recognize the connection between indicative and imperative. How does he understand this resting to demonstrate itself, in the diligent use of the means of grace?

    This is why I say I find Tchvidian unhelpful. It requires too much explanation to clear up what he means.

  39. rfwhite said,

    August 17, 2011 at 11:54 am

    35 (not 34) Reed: let me try that again. Since I don’t have access to Marshall’s book, how do you compare and contrast his description of “true godliness” (which I infer can be summarized from his references to obedience and doing the works of the law) with the descriptions you see in Kevin D’s comments? in Tullian T’s comments?

  40. rfwhite said,

    August 17, 2011 at 12:14 pm

    39 Reed: still wanting to understand your take on this … I think, I hope, I’m getting there. You don’t accept as valid the critics’ concern over antinomianism. In other words, their concern over antinominianism is not valid. Right?

    I have another question. You also said, in commenting on Tullian’s comments, that “in the context of what else he said, it is not clear if he means exactly what it sounds like he said.” Okay. I’m with you. I have this question too: to you, what does it sound like he said?

  41. August 17, 2011 at 2:32 pm

    […] also weighs in and gives thoughts on the […]

  42. David R. said,

    August 17, 2011 at 3:03 pm

    Marshall’s book is online:

  43. Reed Here said,

    August 17, 2011 at 3:32 pm

    Dr. White: not enough time to respond in detail. Hopefully this brief summary will suffice for some clarity.

    Using Sonship as the foil, the common accusation against it is that it at least tends toward promoting antinomianism. Specifically the challenge is that Sonship teaches that personal obedience on the part of the Christian is not required. Some critics are simply blunt, others a tad more cautious. None are very nuanced in the criticism, at least in my experience.

    I think this is a valid concern. I.e., I understand and agree with someone who hears something from Sonship and then asks the question, “wait a minute, what about personal obedience?” My observation, however, is that many critics do not ask the question, but assume the negative inference is valid.

    So, to be blunt back if you will, I simply do not see this to be the case. (Sean Lucas in his rejoinder was very helpful in voicing what I’m trying to say here.) I.O.W., the concern is valid, but the fact is that Sonship does not tend toward antinomianism.

  44. Reed Here said,

    August 17, 2011 at 3:33 pm

    Dr. White: what do I hear Tchvidian saying? I think my answer to that question is in no. 39 above.

  45. Reed Here said,

    August 17, 2011 at 3:36 pm

    Dr. White, regarding no. 40: I am unable to answer this question yet as I have not had time to digest the book. What I have read, and some helpful reviews by another (John Fonville) have encouraged me that a careful reading of Marshall is well worth the effort.

    In addition, to make sure I’m getting the full boat here, I am currently digesting Fisher’s Marrow. Nothing really new here, but he is giving me some fuller foundations in how this subject has been discussed. Up as well on my list is Owen on this topic (e.g., sanctification and the Holy Spirit).

  46. PDuggie said,

    August 17, 2011 at 4:11 pm

    @27 I’ll grant my musing on the acts of faith may be a bit muddy. Surely I agree that love in the heart is a motivation for obedience: “If you love me, keep my commandments”

    If TT and others are [over] emphasizing the role of understanding-your-justification as a way of motivating sanctification then it would seem that they are trying to limit the acts of faith only to those principle ones of resting alone on Christ for everything. Being someone who is still ‘dead’, being one who ‘does not work but trusts’, even in sanctification.

    if I’m alive, and loving, that’s a different kind of act of faith then the first acts of faith. In one sense I’ve ‘moved on’. I shouldn’t be trusting Christ to re-enliven me all the time.

  47. PDuggie said,

    August 17, 2011 at 4:32 pm

    @29. To be fair, I’m putting up TT (gotta call him that as I can’t manage to spell his last name right consistently, sorry) as a poster child for a lot of other folks (see below) who I think are making this mistake. So while he may not have explicitly denied that the new birth and death to sin in Christ are key indicatives for obedience, he’s pretty clear that only the ‘gospel’ is. And for him i think the gospel is JBFA, and that the new birth or the Spirit’s work in the lives of Christians can be rivalrous with the initial grace of justification.

    (in one odd sense, if he’d make the gospel into something you could ‘live’ I’d have much less of a quibble, because the gospel would include the good news of our new birth and our death to sin: but I see no evidence he does).

    I’m rather turned off by the mushyness of TTs verbiage in general. “grace” isn’t what God gives us when the Spirit also does a secret work to make us obey: grace is more of a codeword for ‘remembering past justification” Maybe that’s just style, but so much of his language is simple talk about how “my performance just doesn’t matter anymore! Yay!”

    TT: “A taste of wild grace is the best catalyst for real work in our lives: not guilt, not fear, not another list of rules.”

    Murray (and the WCF) was clear that its OK to be afraid of sinning and messing up. and the bible is clear that God’s lists of rules are excellent.

    Here’s another quote from TT where I think is problematic: I’ll intersperse some responses

    TT “As I’ve said before, I once assumed (along with the vast majority of professing Christians) that the gospel was simply what non-Christians must believe in order to be saved, while afterward we advance to deeper theological waters.”

    So he has an insight that is better than the VAST MAJORITY of professing Christians. That should be a warning. He thinks he has a brave new way of thinking that nobody else gets.

    TT “But I’ve come to realize that the gospel isn’t the first step in a stairway of truths, but more like the hub in a wheel of truth”

    But if the “gospel” he’s defining is still the “what non xians need to believe to be saved” (saving faith that leads to justification, then JBFA is the hub.

    On TT as poster child: I’m becoming persuaded that TT and Horton represent a kind of New Covenant Theology in reformed clothing. There have been some studies that show the dependency of NCTs John Zens on the same Paxton/Goldsworthy/Brinsmead guys that influenced Horton. (Hortons’s “dying and doing of Christ” is a quote from Geoffrey Paxton. So is the spokes/hub think TT claims as his own realization)

    Maybe TT and co. are right. So few are challenging them that I’d willing to suspend my deep doubts for now. I just don’t think they can be squared with WCF 19.6 in the place of the law and commands. I’d love to see one of them say the last clause of it somewhere. Lucas couldn’t bring himself too; they keep trying to do so, but failing. I’m hopeful Evans and Patrick Ramsey’s criticisms will get heard.

  48. rfwhite said,

    August 17, 2011 at 11:01 pm

    Reed: I really appreciate your forbearance with my questions.

  49. Reed Here said,

    August 18, 2011 at 7:33 am

    Dr. White: you don’t even need to say it. I’m always grateful for your willingness to engage my thinking.

  50. August 18, 2011 at 6:05 pm

    […] Following with interest the discussions unfolding on Ref21 and GB. […]

  51. John Thomson said,

    August 19, 2011 at 11:51 am

    My sympathies lie with Evans and De Young, that said Tullian himself generally steps back from denying imperatives… he tends rather to ignore them and so undermine them unless really pressed. This is a great pity since so much he says about the gospel is really good (even if he finds it hard to see anything other trhan justification).

    Some of his guest bloggers are not so circumspect. I was appalled by a blog by S Brown ( When I expressed my disapproval fairly forcefully I acknowledge my subsequent comments were blocked.

    Brown’s (Reformed, I believe) post was Lutheran to the core (at least the form of lutheranism I encounter on GCB): exhortations to godliness are a waste of time, we are all frogs (apparently ignorant of a new nature and the empowering Spirit), and we should just point to Jesus (though, presumably not this exhortations to Kingdom living to Kingdom people). To my mind this post was error and fairly serious error at that. It failed to recognise that the frogs have been turned into princes.

    All that being said, it disappoints me that those whom I find myself most in agreement with insist on defining Christian obedience in terms of law-keeping. To my mind the real source of the difficulty lies here. The Lutherans get mixed up because they insist in imputing to all imperatives (which they describe as law) the same limitations that apply to the Mosaic Covenant of Law. The OC was a covanant of works addressed to man in the flesh that said ‘this do and live’. It promised life upon obedience. It did not assume life to be present. As a result it made demands (carrying covenantal curses upon disobedience) but supplied no power and as a result it could only condemn and expose sin. Failing to distinguish between the Law and imperatives in general leads lutherans into imputing the condemnation of the OC to all imperatives.

    On the other hand, my good Reformed brothers who insist on imperatives are happy to describe these as ‘law’ though Paul rarely does. They also are happy to speak of the law as a ‘rule of life’ (the third use of the law) which Paul never does and emphatically opposes. I think it is little wonder that believers get confused and think of judgement and condemnation when they fail if they think of their obedience in terms of law-keeping. By its very nature such an image, if allowed to dominate, creates a ‘slave mentality’ rather than that of a son. I thought it telling that Evans seemed to laud the idea of people coming to church with ‘crushed consciences’. This seems to me far from the gospel ground on which we ought to stand. It is one of the reasons why Paul insists we are not ‘under law’. For indeed law kills and condemns the conscience.

    Yet despite those above prepared to brand my position as antinomian it is anything but. I recognise there are many obligations and imperatives in the Christian life. These are generally framed in Scripture in terms of gospel impllications and Christlikeness. It is the obedience of sons not slaves. Obedience that flows from a new standing with God (sons), a new relationship to God (he is Father), a new nature and life, a new covenant empowering of the Spirit. It is indeed grasping the implications of our union with Christ and living by the Spirit. Of course in so doing we live in such a way that we fulfil the essence (if not the letter) of the law and hear Paul’s words about a Spirit-fruited life – against such there is no law.

  52. August 19, 2011 at 1:09 pm


    Excellent post. I read Steve Brown’s “A Scandalous Freedom” recently, and while he offers some great warnings concerning legalism that we often do not consider, I found his presentation of the gospel very one-sided. He seemed to ignore all the warnings in the gospels about counting the cost, sacrifice, obedience, etc…The only counting the cost passage I found that he cited was Matt 8:22 “Follow me, and leave the dead to bury their own dead.” But his explanation of this text was “When Jesus said that, he was saying that his followers didn’t have to worry about a lot of the `stuff’ pagans have to worry about.” A warning of the costs of being a disciple is sort of turned around to an encouragement of how easy it would be.

    And kudos on not labeling as “law” the NC imperatives. I think the only passage coming close to this is I Cor 9:21, where law of Christ is contrasted with OT law. (James 1:25 another example).

  53. Rick Phillips said,

    August 20, 2011 at 8:06 am

    John (52),

    What is wrong with the idea of God’s law being a guide for believers’ conduct? As Spurgeon put it, we are no longer under the law but the law is under us as a guide for our living. Why shouldn’t a Christian in the workplace say, “I shouldn’t lie for a profit, since lying is contrary to God’s moral character as revealed in the law?” And what do you think Paul is doing, but exhorting us to uphold God’s law, when he says, “For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality, etc…” (1 Thess. 4:3); and “Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands…” (Eph. 4:28).

    Christians are saved to holiness, which is defined morally by conformity to God’s character as set forth in his law. As Paul put it, “God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit” (Rom. 8:3-4). This is not imputed righteousness, since it is “fulfilled in us.” Moreover, Paul here defines the result of walking “according to the Spirit” as fulfilling the law. The law could not itself save us, so God sent Jesus to save us, one result of which is practical obedience to the law. Neither was Jesus talking about imputed righteousness — precious as that doctrine is — when he said in the Sermon on the Mount, “Whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven” (Mt. 5:19).

    Given all this, why is it disappointing for us to “insist on defining Christian obedience in terms of law-keeping”? Brother, I just don’t see what the objection can be to the classic Reformed view of the third use of the law. Thanks for your consideration

  54. Reed Here said,

    August 20, 2011 at 8:57 am

    John and Rick: I am reminded of a distinction in Marrow of Modern Divinity in which Antinomista and Nomista in which they acknowledge and adopt Evangelista’s distinguishing the Law as understood under the Covenant Works vs. as understood under the Covenant of Grace.

    John, would you say your criticism applies to the Law as under the Covenant of Works? Would you say that Rick’s emphasis is appropriate when considering the Law as under the Covenant of Grace?

  55. John Thomson said,

    August 20, 2011 at 10:23 am


    I know you are likely to be well aware of the arguments I am about to rehearse. However, I will lay out a few. Before doing so, although I have only read online extracts and reviews, I get the impression Schreiner’s book ‘$0 questions…law’ is fairly close to the perspective i would say is biblical and may be well worth the read.

    1. My foundation argument is biblical. I think the bible is clear that believers are not under law in any shape or form (in fact gentiles never were). The law is a covenant. It was made with Israel and gentiles were not answerable to it for they were not under it (Roms 2). A covenant, is a covena nt, is a covenant. It must be kept entirely by those bound by it or not at all (Gals 5, Jas 2). Israel was not at liberty to pick and choose which parts to keep and which to discard. It was not at liberty to interpret some parts literally and others symbolically. If Christians are bound by this covenant then they are bound by it as it stands and must keep it all.

    The only way to be freed from covenant obligations (as in marriage) is by death (Roms 7:1-6). Indeed the covenant demanded death for disobedience. This death of course took place at the cross where Christ abolished the covenant (the commandments and ordinances) and so united Jew and gentile since the law separarted them (Eph 2). Christ became not only the sin-bearer who bore the penalty of a broken law but he took us (as people in Adam) into death with him and through death into resurrection.

    Death broke any commitment to the It is a covenant (Rom 7:1-6)that came to end at the cross when a new covenant was put in place. One cannot be answerable to both. One cannot be married to both (Roms 7:1-6). New wine and old wineskins cannot exist. Our authority is not the law but Christ (Roms 7:1-6).

    Now we cannot argue that we are not under the law for justification but are for sanctification. This theological nicety is not taught in Scripture. As I say we are either under the law or not. Scripture presents the law neither as the basis of our justification, nor as the means and measure of our sanctification. Read the NT and see how often it appeals to law as the authority for Christian behaviour.

    Thus my fundamental reason for refusing to make the law a rule of life is this redemptive-historical perspective. All other argguments are subservient to this.

    2. I have no real objection to saying to someone that the moral law given to Israel condemned lying. But what if someone knows enough about the bible to say it also condemned eating pork and prawns. And it also demanded circumcision etc. You are then involved in showing why some laws are universal and some are not. Why not simply start with the universal? Why not say it is wrong to lie because the bible teaches regularly that the God who cannot lie hates lying and indeed our own hearts tell us lying is wrong (Roms 2). The truth is the only aspects of the law that we can insist on are those aspects that are of creational significance. I do not lie, not because the law forbids it, but because I recognise by the new nature and Spirit lying is wrong..

    Note Paul’s words to the Ephesians

    ‘Eph 4:17-32 (ESV)
    Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds. They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart. They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity. But that is not the way you learned Christ!- assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness. Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another. Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil. Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need. Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. ‘

    Paul’s appeal is not to the authority of the law (even as a back-up here, though ‘neighbour’ may allude to the law). His appeal is to the instincts of the new nature and the promptings of the Spirit (who will be grieved by their lying).. In addition he bases it on their mutual standing in the body of Christ. In other words the Christian life is founded on gospel realities (though these are much more than justification which seems to be the only gospel truth that some of a lutheran ilk appear to know).

    Now me sum this point up so that I am not misunderstood. Christians can learn from the law. Just as they can learn from the rest of Scripture. All Scripture is profitable for among other things ‘training in righteousness’. But just as I may learn from Abraham’s offering of Isaac, and Rahab’s hiding of the spies without assuming that I too should aim at infanticide or treason so too with the law. It must pass through a redemptive-historical grid (through the changes of the cross) before it can be used profitably.

    3. Rick, I don’t really agree with your statement, ‘Christians are saved to holiness, which is defined morally by conformity to God’s character as set forth in his law’. I agree of course Christians are saved to holiness but I do not agree that the law is a transcript of the moral character of God. The law doubtless reveals something of God’s character. However, it is really simply God’s demands upon man. Interestingly, Paul never describes the law as a revelation of the righteousness of God, it is the gospel that does this. The law is at best a ‘shadow’. John the Baptist (representing the law and the prophets) recognised he was not the light that lightens men; the light was Christ. He is the image of the invisible God, not the law. He is the radiance of God’s glory. He has fully told him out. He and only he is ‘the Truth’ (and the way and life).. God’s holiness is seen in its glory in Christ. He that has seen Christ (not the law) has seen the Father…. and so on.

    My point is to look at law as the reveltion of God iis to look in an inferior place. To look at the law as the measure of the divine nature of which we partake, and the eternal life we live out is to look at something inferior. Christ is the divine life lived as it shopuld be in humanity. He is the Word become flesh. Moses and the Prophets must disappear and Christ the Son alone left together with the words… this is my beloved son… hear him.

    Thus we are not called to obey the law but to walk as he walked. To remember that even Christ pleased not himself. We are exhorted to let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus… to llok as an example of perseverance to Jesus the author and finisher of faith… to love each other as Christ has loved us… and so on. None of this is law. Indeed the aspect of Christ we are called most to emulate is his death – a death that went far beyond what the law demanded. If anything the law demanded Christ live because of his perfect obedience (though it didn’t give Christ life for Christ had life in himself Jn 5). Christ’s death was not demanded by law. It was an act of pure grace and pure obedience to the will of God for his life which was more demanding than law.

    Christ himself, points out the moral limitations of the law when he comments on the law re divorce. From the beginning it was not so. No, the law was God’s revealed will for man in the flesh and not man in the spirit (Roms 7:1-6; Gals 3:3, 4::21-30,). It was there to imprison men until the arrival of Christ and the new age of the gospel. It was not given to people with divine life that they may live righteously but to people in the flesh that they may gain life if they obeyed – this do and live. Cf 1 Tim 1.

    Incidentally Matt 5 proves too much (“Whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven” (Mt. 5:19). You would not argue that believers should keep all the commandments of the law today. The church never has, else we would all be living as Jews).

    4.Pastorally I think when believers see themselves as law-keepers (and therefore God as the law-Giver) it diminishes and distorts their relationship with Christ: they think of themselves as slaves and not sons (Roms 8); they are like Roman children and not Roman sons. Roman children had little direct contact with their Father they interacted with a Guardian (and disciplinarian) and Father was a distant figure (Gals 4:1-7); they live by rules and not intimacy with the Father in the maturity of full sonship in the Spirit. The more we mingle the old covenant with the new and fulfilment with shadow the more we confuse Christians and rob them of the fredom in Christ.

    But when we walk in the Spirit, and live by conscious dependence on him, learning through him who God is as he reveals Christ to us, learning through him God’s workings in history and our place in that story, then we will live a life that fulfils (not merely keeps) all that the law was really desiring (love for God and neighbour) and in a way that was much more than the law could ever demand or spell out for true love is not revealed in the law it is found in Christ and the gospel; herin is love not that we loved God but that he loved us and gave his son…. by this we know love that he laid down his life for us and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers (1 Jn 3)..

    I recognise that views like this stand against a whole Reformed tradition. I only ask that as you read the NT you give them a fair hearing and see if there is any truth in them.


  56. John Thomson said,

    August 20, 2011 at 10:37 am


    I suspect I have answered this in my comment just written b efore reading yours. The nearest I come to the OC is accepting that through the prism of the redemptive-historical we can learn from it as from all Scripture. However, we are not, in my view, obligated to any of its commands simply because they are enshrined in the covenant. Why? Because we are only obligated to a covenant if we are a partner ‘in’ that covenant. Believers, however, not only are not ‘in’ this covenant, they are not even (by faith and from God’s perspective) ‘in’ the world where that covenant held sway.

    Certainly my comment considers the law as a covenant of works. But that is all it ever was. As members of the new covenant (a covenant of grace) all that that C/Ws ever demanded is fulfilled in us who walk not according to the flesh (and its covenants) but according to the Spirit. As I have said above, I believe the life of NC faith (exemplified in Christ) goes far beyond OC oibligations.

    But more, surely the life of faith and the path of obedience is so much more attractive when we consider it as embodied in Christ rather than a set of rules,,, for remember the OC may have been instruction but it was instruction as ‘rules’ and ge nerally without any reason given other than ‘I say so, says the Lord’. Again it treated people as children and not adults (spiritually).

  57. Reed Here said,

    August 20, 2011 at 11:22 am

    So John, is it fair to read you as saying that the 3rd (2nd?) use of the Law is an invalid application of Scripture? I appreciate your efforts to deny that the believer is not under the Law as the covenant of works, but does the Law not have any role under the covenant of grace?

    Second question, you say the law as a covenant never did apply to anyone other than those under the OT covenant with Moses. I.e., it never did apply to Gentiles you say. Aren’t you though inappropriately narrowing the Law to ONLY be that which was expressed under Moses in all its Old Covenant stipulations. Or, also possible, inappropriately denying that ALL peoples were (still are) born under the obligations of the Covenant of Works, including the application of God’s law? Is this not what the Spirit insists when He makes the comparison between those under Adam and those under Jesus (cf., Rom. 5)?

    I don’t deny the emphases you are stressing. I do think you’re denials are a bit off target. You’re drawing the bulls-eye off the center spot that the Bible draws.

  58. Reed Here said,

    August 20, 2011 at 11:24 am

    John, have you read Marrow of Modern Divinity, by Edwin Fisher? It helpfully addresses itself to a lot of the nuances you’re trying to bring out, and effectively coordinates them with the nuances that Rick is bringing up.

  59. rfwhite said,

    August 20, 2011 at 11:29 am

    John T: please help me understand the following statements you made.

    You said, Because we are only obligated to a covenant if we are a partner ‘in’ that covenant. Believers, however, not only are not ‘in’ this [old] covenant. Do you see believers as partners in the new covenant through the mediation of Christ and, if so, how do you understand the relation of “My law” to the new covenant in Jer 31.33?

    You also said, I believe the life of NC faith (exemplified in Christ) goes far beyond OC [obligations]. How do you understand Jesus’ statement in Matt 22.40 and the commands that he obliges his disciples to obey according to the Upper Room discourse?

  60. John Thomson said,

    August 20, 2011 at 12:29 pm


    Yes, I am limiting the Law to the OC, that is the Mosaic Covenant. I do consider it to be a covenant of works. I consider it a covenant made with a formally but not spiritually redeemed people. It promised life upon obedience but such obedience was naturally impossible. Although its ostensible offer was life upon obedience and although this offer was genuine,this was not the real purpose of the covenant. It had of course a few ‘real’ purposes; to reveal Christ in the Roms 3:21) sense, ie the gospel through its typology etc; to reveal the need of Christ (by exposing, exciting and enlarging, that is, making sin more sinful (2nd use of the law?); to act as a restaint and holding on Israel (like a Guardian or Jailor) until the arrival of Christ..

    God gave ‘the law’ to Israel to prove through them the hopelessness of the race. If a people given every possible advantage could not obey and ‘save itself’ then the moral bankrupcy of the race was evident.

    Rom 3:19-20 (ESV)
    Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God. For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.

    Notice, there are those who are not ‘under the law’. It is this OC that Paul most often means when he discusses law (though clearly not always). Whe Paul says the gentiles who are ‘without law’, that is not under this covenant or responsible to it, have ‘the works of trhe law written on their hearts’ he is pointing to the moral awareness that belongs to all human beings. He does not mean that every command of the law belongs to human moral awareness. But that the law contains creational values (universal values) that align with moral values God has given to man intuitively (through the eating of the tree of good and evil) in the fall.

    However, there is no record of this respnsibility as covenantal, far less a covenant of works. Even less is it a covenant that promised life upon obedience. I may add I see no reason in Scripture to see a covenant of works with Adam that promised life. Adam was responisble to obey TO MAINTAIN life (though not eternal life). Adam was not ‘in death’. There was no promise of ‘life’ (eternal) upon obedience; this is a legend of Covenant Theology. Adam was threatened with death upon disobedience he was not promised anything upon obedience. I may add that Adam (prefall) did not have ‘the ten commandments’. He had one command with a sanction (not to eat of forbidden fruit). That there is only one is an important narratival point; it emphasises the grace of God. Obedience was not difficult. Yet Adam failed to keep ‘one’ law. (a direct command with a sanction).

    Paul makes it clear that the ‘works of the law’ are not in any formal sense ‘law’ in Roms 5 where he tells us there was no ‘law’ beteen Adam and Moses’. Part of Paul’s purpose here (an in Galatians) is to set the OC in historical context so that Jewish believers would grasp it was not as significant as they made it out to be. It was simply an interim’ measure… it was ‘added because of transgressions’ that is, to make disobedience the breaking of a specific covenant command and so a ‘transgression’. Not all those ‘in Adam’ were ‘under law’ seems clear from Roms 5. ‘sin is not counted where there is no law’.

    Reed, what do you think is the bulls-eye?

    I’ve never got round to reading the Marrow. Probably should at some point.

  61. greenbaggins said,

    August 20, 2011 at 12:42 pm

    John, I have several questions for you:

    1. Do you believe the essence of the law TO BE love of God and love of neighbor, as Jesus implies clearly in Matthew 22:34-40? If so, then are you claiming that love of God and love of neighbor are no longer relevant to the Christian?

    2. How do you interpret Matthew 5:17-20, where Jesus connects the Law to the kingdom of heaven (not the old covenant), and where Jesus says “I have not come to abolish the Law?” Surely, He means that the fulfillment He brings is NOT an abolishing fulfillment, correct?

    3. Does the law of God reflect the UNCHANGING character of the Law-giver?

    4. How do you interpret Romans 6:1-4? Is not the very definition of sin a breaking of the law of God? Is not the locus of our freedom therefore to be found in freedom FROM sin TO serve the living God, not freedom from the law itself? Of course we are free from the law as something that condemns us. We are also free from the law as some way to earn heaven. Nor does our salvation hinge on law-keeping, unless one is talking about Christ’s law-keeping. Even our sanctification is grace. But when we are freed, are we not freed TO good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do (Ephesians 2:10)?

  62. John Thomson said,

    August 20, 2011 at 12:58 pm


    As those in Christ we share in the New Covenant. The new covenant is the law written on the heart. I am not quite sure of your point here. I take it you are not suggesting that believers now keep the law in any literal sense. Life in the Spirit is life that never acts in ways that are contrary to the essence of the OC.

    Christ was born under the law. He fulfilled it and made it honourable. When he died he moved outside this world. He was no longer ‘in the world’. In resurrection he did not live in the old world where law applied. He is in heaven today and we are there with him. Our relationship to law today is precisely the same as his in heaven.

    Not quite sure where you are going with Matt 22. I have already expressed my view that the law and prophets were promoiting love for God and neighbour. What the demands of love are change according to relationship. For example, as I said before, the law permitted divorce in ways that were not God’s ideal. Christ called for a higher commitment from children of the Kingdom. Equally in John 14-17 Christ himself says, ‘a new commandment I give to you’ this is implicit contrast to the OC. The new commandment was ‘love’. Yet the law had been about ‘love’. Then how is this new? Christ says, ‘that you love one another as I have loved you’. Here was love that worked at a different level and to a different degree.

    Whatever the complexities we do need to reckon with this increased level of commitment in gospel living. Paul seems to hint at this too when he points out that the law is not for the righteous but the lawless and disobedient for the ungodly and sinners (and Paul is not assuming believers in any of these categories). 1 Tim 1.

    Perhaps I’m missing what you’re driving at rf, if so sorry for being obtuse.

  63. John Thomson said,

    August 20, 2011 at 1:48 pm


    1. Yes, I do believe the essence of law to be a promotion of love for God and neighbour. However, we are not really discussing the essence of what the covenant was aiming at, we are discussing the covenant laws themselves and whether we are bound by these as an expression of love. The answer to that is that we are not (IMO :) ) Of course love is relevant and indeed so too is the OC. It is relevant as the whole of the OT is relevant. However relevance does not mean that we are bound by its laws any more than we are bound by other commands such as ‘build and ark’ or ‘circumcise your sons’ or ‘go to Bethel’. We agree on this I assume for few will demand keeping all the the OC laws as an expression of Christian love.

    2. I do think he abolishes it by fulfilling it. I think this is the message of Hebrews (Hebs 7,8 for example). and Roms 10:4. How he does so is of course complex. He fulfilled it by keeping it; he fulfilled its typology; he fulfilled it by bearing its curse. The OC we are told was ‘added until the seed come’ (Gals 3:19). But actually the point of Scripture is less the end of the law than it is that the believer does not live in the world where law has/had authority.(Roms 7:1-6).

    3. No it does not reflect the unchanging character of God. It is the demands of a covenant God made with Israel – holy, righteous and good according to its conditions and intentions. It certainly does not reflect what God always asks of humanity. We all agree on this. None of us even accept the Ten Commandments as they satnd far less the many other laws. We do not observe the sabbath (a Sunday is not a Sabbath however much we may claim it is so)..

    4. Of course we must serve God and live righteously. I certainly believe we must yield our members as instruments of righteousness.Sin is unrighterousness in Roms 6. Unrighteousness is failure to live according to the demands of a relationship. It is not eating pork or prawns. Had we been under the OC and responsible to maintain its laws it would mean just that. And yes, absolutely, we are saved to good works which God has prepared beforehand but these are emphatically not the works of the law as such. Let me make the point again, if we point to law we are pointing to what is, at least in letter, a minimum righteousness. Even the Ten Commandments are largely negative and forbid things the new heart of the believer should have no desire for. Things we put to death (by the Spirit Roms 8). What do you give to guide a new heart/nature that loves God and wishes .to please him. Do you tell it not to commit adultery? Is that what it (the new nature) needs for guidance? No. It needs to be shown what love, faith, hope, patience etc look like in maturity. It needs the example of Christ. It looks at love that lays down its life for others (the law never demanded this of anyone) but God’s grace in Christ did just this and it is this example we follow. We have within us the life of Christ and our calling is to live out that life… a life that took up a cross and died. A life that lived by every word that came from the mouth of God. All of this is much more than a ‘rule of life’ a mere ‘law’.

    We must not allow our theologies to relativise what Paul makes absolute; we are not under law but grace… we have died to the law…. Only when we begin to grasp abiding in Christ and listening to the voice of the Spirit (a voice we hear clearly in Scripture as a whole and interpreted in its context in redemptive history) will we grow in grace. How do I know which career to follow, whether to go into the ministry or not, whether to visit that sick believer or not… these are not questions that the law answers. There is no ‘rule’ for these. We must in so many areas of life simply seek to ‘keep in step with the Spirit’ by responding to the inclinations of a new nature and the promptings of the Spirit.

    But I’ve already wriiten too much and rabbitting on. Forgive my verbosity. I wish in all these comments I could inject a proper tone of humility and brotherly love. If it comes across as peremptory please excuse me. What I want above all is that our hearts find their focus on Christ in everything. There is our life.

  64. todd said,

    August 20, 2011 at 1:56 pm

    “What do you give to guide a new heart/nature that loves God and wishes .to please him. Do you tell it not to commit adultery? Is that what it (the new nature) needs for guidance? No. It needs to be shown what love, faith, hope, patience etc look like in maturity. It needs the example of Christ.”

    John, you had me until this comment. Just to understand, are you saying believers do not need the negative commands strewn throughout the NT, but simply need the gospel and character of Christ lifted up, or are you saying that both need to be presented in our preaching?

  65. rfwhite said,

    August 20, 2011 at 2:52 pm

    John T: I really don’t think you’re obtuse, but I do think we are looking at different evidence and arriving at disparate conclusions. Certainly, the Reformed guys here join you in wanting to keep Christ preeminent.

  66. John Thomson said,

    August 20, 2011 at 2:54 pm


    No I’m definitely not saying we should not say ‘do not commit adultery’. We need in part to hear this because we have still the flesh in us (old man/nature/indwelling sin etc). We are not ‘in the flesh’ that is ‘in Adam’ and under the authority of sin. We are #in Christ’ and so delivered from the authority of sin just as we are from the authority of law (these were both the entail of the fall – the law assumes sin and the desire to sin). Thus tragically we do need to hear the Spirit saying put to death what is sinful in you (adultery, lying etc). But while we need to hear that that is not guidance to the new life and new nature. Our new nature needs to know how to live for God in a sinful world. It doesn’t need guidance on what not to do but what to do. To live by the Spirit means not only putting to death the old but directing and leading the new. What is the life of love that pleases God? What does it look like?

    Does – you shall not commit adultery help us here? Or does you shall not steal help us? No, it doesn’t. Remember the new nature cannot sin. It is the life of God in the soul. What this nature needs is shown what God’s love incarnate looks like and that is see in Christ. It is in seeing Christ we see the Father. 1 John 1 tells us we share in God’s life revealed in Christ. then it tells us what this God is like – he is light and in him is no darkness at all. To live the life of God is to walk in the light as he is in the light. The ‘he’ is unspecified. It could be the Son or the Father both are antecedents. The truth is it is probably deliberately ambiguous. John wants us to think of the Father and the Son.. But where and what is ‘the light’? Is it the law? No the law was a shadow (in redemptive-historical terms). It was at best the moon reflecting something of the light of the sun. It was certaionly a lesser glory (2 Cor 3). And it was a glory that was so fearful Israel could not look upon the face of its Mediator. The greater glory is that of the new covenant and it is the glory of Christ. And it is a glory we can look at without fear. Unlike Moses who veiled his face to hide the glory, we behold without a veil the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. And how are we made holy? Do we look away from Christ and back to the law? No we behold the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ and are changed into his image (our new nature grows and matures) from one degree of glory to another. Our life in Christ is not nourished by the law but by feeding and drinking from Jesus Christ.

    The law serves us best as we see foreshadowed in it Christ. Christ is our life and ourt life is hid with Christ in God. We are not called to live a life worthy of the law but a life worthy of the Lord (Col 1).. Where does wisdom lie? Are we sent to the law? No we are sent to Christ – in him is hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge (Col 2). And how do we walk? Do we walk by the light of the law? As we have received Christ so we walk in him, rooted in him and built up in him (Col 2). Can we learn from the law – absolutely. Is it our ‘rule of life’ (that is are we under its ethical authority) then the answer must be no. It is a shadow in every sense and the substance belongs to Christ (Col 2). Days, months seasons and Sabbaths have an appearance of wisdom but are of no use in restraining the flesh.

    What have we to do – put on the Lord Jesus Christ and make no provision for the flesh. Putting on Christ, is the growth of the new nature in the way of godliness. What does Paul wish to know – the law? No he wishes to know Christ, the fellowship of his sufferings and the power of his resurrection – this is living way beyond law, surely.

  67. John Thomson said,

    August 20, 2011 at 4:05 pm


    Thanks for comment.

    I think many Christians live in a fairly continuous state of accusation and condemnation and I think a great part of this is fueled by wrong thinking about the law and their standing in Christ. They see God, even Christ, as a Law-Giver and his commands as laws that are all about performance. They sin and they feel condemned. They fear they may be damned. (I am talking now about believers with a sincere commitment. Those who sin with a high hand often feel no such condemnation).

    It seems to me that at root this is an inadequate grasp of the gospel. If we sin we should of course be grieved. We should confess it and turn away from it. We should hate sin in any shape or form and mourn its presence in our lives. But we should not give place to a state of guilt and especially guilt as condemnation and accusation that produces a sense of fear that we may incur God’s wrath. We must live in the gospel. We must see ourselves in Christ and beyond condemnation and accusation. We must insist we are ‘in Christ’, God’s holy ones perfectly accepted in Christ and before God ‘in love’. We should crush sin, not be crushed by it. When we think of obedience in terms of law-keeping we are likely to be crushed by it for that is what law does and if we see obedience through a law-mentality we will find ourselves crushed.

    I hear folks regularly say that they are sinners, or they quote Luther saying we are simultaneously sinners and saints. It sounds right, but I believe it is wrong. We are never encouraged to think of ourselves as sinners (and the law says Paul is for sinners 1 Tim 1) but as saints. Of course it is position and status that Paul has in mind. We sin, but we are not sinners. We are not seeing ourselves by faith as God sees us.

    Christians also despair because they see all the inclinations of the flesh (its works) constantly trying to surface and they say this is the kind of person I am. But again this is a failure to recognise who we are in Christ. We must see that these stem from a nature that is no longer ‘I’. This is the old man/nature/Adam who has been judged,, condemned and put to death. It is as if it did not exist. God no longer identifies us with it. The gospel calls us to agree with God. We are to reckon it dead and put its deeds to death by the Spirit (not by the law).

    I must see myself as a new man, no longer alive in this world, but having a life that is hid with Christ in God. My life at the moment is in heaven. Christ is my life. Thus I set my affections on things above where Christ is. By faith I must place myself there and live as one there. When I think of law-keeping this kind of perspective is impossible. Law was for man on earth and in the flesh. It was about performance or seemed to be. The law was about morality and human righteousness but the life of God in the human soul is about ‘for me to live is Christ’. What pleases God? Christ pleases God. Christ should be the object and shape of my life too. He should be my pursuit, not ethics, or morality a such. Israel missed this. The law should have revealed Christ to them. It did point them to righteousness but it did so by pointing to Christ and they should have reached out for Christ in its revelation. Instead they thought it was about personal righteousness. They stumbled over the stumbling stone. (Roms 9).

    Let me leave some words of another that seem to me to sum up this distinction I am trying to make.

    ‘“Not that I have already obtained or am already perfected, but I pursue…” In Phil. 3:12-14, we see that Paul’s gaze was always fixed on the Christ before. He was diligently pursuing something, but what he was pursuing was not morality, ethics, law-keeping, having his act together, doing things, etc. Rather, the goal of his pursuit was Christ Himself–the unsearchably rich Christ who was his precious Redeemer, his indwelling life and countless other items. Hence, his spiritual advancement and maturity had the savor, aroma, atmosphere and expression of Christ actually living in him and with him, not of his own uprightness, wholeness, integrity, godliness, put-togetherness or “moral profile” of a remote Jesus that he had attained through his effort to keep the law with help from the Spirit.’


  68. Zrim said,

    August 20, 2011 at 5:23 pm

    John, you write: “Can we learn from the law – absolutely. Is it our ‘rule of life’ (that is are we under its ethical authority) then the answer must be no.” If this is the sort of conclusion at which your reasoning arrives I wonder how it comports with the third section of the Heidelberg Catechism (Q/A 86-115) which seems to think that the law is indeed our rule of life. The Catechism is broken into three sections: the first part is man’s misery, the second is of man’s deliverance and the third section of thankfulness and it is taken up with the Decalogue and how thankful people are to now live. Are you suggesting that the Catechism is off the reservation? It seems like you are saying that “keeping in step with the Spirit” is what characterizes the Christian life. But why can’t it be that while the Spirit is indeed the power of our sanctification, the law is still the structure of our sanctification?

    You write, “How do I know which career to follow, whether to go into the ministry or not, whether to visit that sick believer or not… these are not questions that the law answers. There is no ‘rule’ for these. We must in so many areas of life simply seek to ‘keep in step with the Spirit’ by responding to the inclinations of a new nature and the promptings of the Spirit.” Well, while it’s true that the law doesn’t specify answers to so many questions, I wonder if it’s better to say that what one chooses has more to do with liberty of conscience than tapping into the promptings of the Spirit? The former seems consistent with Protestant Reformation ethos, the latter the Radical Reformation.

    By the way, it sounds like you are suggesting that the fourth commandment is no longer binding. If so, should it be the Nine Commandments?

  69. rfwhite said,

    August 20, 2011 at 7:52 pm

    For an examination of “sanctification by faith” and its relation to Sonship, see the following essay:

  70. John Thomson said,

    August 21, 2011 at 3:45 am


    If you read my previous comments I think those will help to make it clear where I am coming from. But my authority base is Scripture and not a confession. Happy to engage with it as truth.

  71. John Thomson said,

    August 21, 2011 at 3:56 am


    I have read this article recently and found it helpful in refuting the drift to a resting and not wrestling view of sanctification that seems to have a growing momentum. Though there are emphases that are good in Sonship theology it is wrong in what it denies. I am not advocating Sonship theology in case any thought otherwise.

  72. Reed Here said,

    August 21, 2011 at 7:26 am

    John: do you agree with this portion of the WCF (19.6)?

    VI. Although true believers be not under the law, as a covenant of works, to be thereby justified, or condemned; yet is it of great use to them, as well as to others; in that, as a rule of life informing them of the will of God, and their duty, it directs and binds them to walk accordingly; discovering also the sinful pollutions of their nature, hearts, and lives; so as, examining themselves thereby, they may come to further conviction of, humiliation for, and hatred against sin, together with a clearer sight of the need they have of Christ, and the perfection of his obedience.

    It is likewise of use to the regenerate, to restrain their corruptions, in that it forbids sin: and the threatenings of it serve to show what even their sins deserve; and what afflictions, in this life, they may expect for them, although freed from the curse thereof threatened in the law. The promises of it, in like manner, show them God’s approbation of obedience, and what blessings they may expect upon the performance thereof: although not as due to them by the law as a covenant of works. So as, a man’s doing good, and refraining from evil, because the law encourageth to the one, and deterreth from the other, is no evidence of his being under the law; and, not under grace.

  73. John Thomson said,

    August 21, 2011 at 8:50 am


    No, actually much of it I disagree with. I think I have made clear that I do not see the law (OC) as a binding rule of life (nor do any believers without severe qualifications). Where in the NT are we encouraged to look at the law that we may hate sin? In fact, hatred of sin arises from contemplation of the gospel not of the law as a rule of life.

    Rom 6:1-2 (ESV)
    What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it?

    1Cor 6:15 (ESV)
    Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? Never!

    1Cor 6:20 (ESV)
    for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.

    Titus 2:11-14 (ESV)
    For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.

    It is the grace of God that teaches us to renounce ungodliness, not the law. Again and again in the NT some aspect of the gospel is pointed to to show the believer the incongruity of sin but not the law. I hate sin because of what it did to Christ and because it grieves the Spirit and because it is contrary to the holiness of God my Saviour.

    I think the second paragraph is even further from the biblical pattern. The blessings and cursings of the law assume the recipient is ‘under law’. We are not. What are ‘the afflictions in this life’ if disobeyed if not part of the curse of the law.

    But Reed, it is this appeal to confessions that worries me. Our authority is the Word. Let’s discuss what it says on this topic.

    Incidentally Roms 7 shows us the futility of the law in restraining sin, even in the believer. He delights in the law of God in the inner man but is powerless to obey it. If the believer lives with a focus on the law he will only feel wretched. It has no power to restrain sin far less promote holiness.

  74. rfwhite said,

    August 21, 2011 at 1:38 pm

    All: a quick clarificaion. The reference to Cal Beisner’s article in comment #70 was provided for any who are interested in a constructive critique of Sonship’s emphasis on “sanctification by faith.” It wasn’t provided to address anything that John T has been saying (though I’m glad to hear, John T, that you find it helpful). The essay was written to sort out the roles of faith in justification and sanctification, thus helping advocates of the Sonship theology and program clarify their views, avoid promoting confusion and error, and make their true insights more helpful to the people of God.

  75. bsuden said,

    August 21, 2011 at 3:41 pm

    Mr. Thompson,

    You are your own worst advocate.
    Sin is a violation of the law.
    Apart from the law, we would not know sin.
    Even worse, you quote Christ’s summary of the law in your quote of Matt. 22:37-40: Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart. . .

    And not only do you deny the confession, you deny Rom. 3:31:

    Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid: yea, we establish the law.

    It’s high time to quit rabbiting and become reformed, sir.

    Thank you.

  76. John Thomson said,

    August 21, 2011 at 3:43 pm

    Some of you may find this passage from Berkof’s systematics interesting in the present wider discussion about gospel and law among some Reformed folks.

    ‘‘Some of the older Reformed theologians represented the law and the gospel as absolute opposites. They thought of the law as embodying all the demands and commandments of Scripture, and of the gospel, as containing no demands whatsoever, but only unconditional promises; and thus excluded from it all requirements. This was partly due to the way in which the two are sometimes contrasted in Scripture, but was also partly the result of a controversy in which they were engaged with the Arminians. The Arminian view, making salvation dependent on faith and evangelical obedience as works of man, caused them to go to the extreme of saying that the covenant of grace does not require anything on the part of man, does not prescribe any duties, does not demand or command anything, not even faith, trust, and hope in the Lord, and so on, but merely conveys to man the promises of what God will do for him. Others, however, correctly maintained that even the law of Moses is not devoid of promises, and that the gospel also contains certain demands. They clearly saw that man is not merely passive, when he is introduced into the covenant of grace, but is called upon to accept the covenant actively with all its privileges, though it is God who works in him the ability to meet the requirements. The promises which man appropriates certainly impose upon him certain duties, and among them the duty to obey the law of God as a rule of life, but also carry with them the assurance that God will work in him “both to will and to do.”

    Berkof Systematics Law and Gospel

  77. John Thomson said,

    August 21, 2011 at 3:47 pm

    Possibly your right BS.

    What do you think Paul is meaning when he says:

    Rom 3:31 (ESV)
    Do we then overthrow the law by this faith? By no means! On the contrary, we uphold the law.

  78. rfwhite said,

    August 21, 2011 at 5:45 pm

    68 John T. —

    Let me try to bring a few thoughts together for your review and response. Perhaps this will clear out some underbrush to help focus the discussion and enable us to identify more consensus.

    Let me do this by summarizing what I understand the position of the moderators of this blog to be. They are certainly free to offer better wording on the summary points that follow.

    1. Like you, none of the moderators would want Christians, or anyone else, to see God, even Christ, as merely a Law-Giver and his commands as merely laws that are all about performance. All of them would agree wholeheartedly that anyone who believes or teaches only such a view of God and his commands has an inadequate grasp on the gospel, not to mention on the Bible’s teaching about the law.

    2. All of the moderators would agree with you that Christians should see themselves by faith as God sees them. That said, the moderators would want to know from you why this would preclude a Christian saying what the apostle Paul said of himself, even as a man saved by grace: “I am the foremost of sinners” (1 Tim 1.15). Is is that important to notice how keenly Paul is convicted of his sin that he confesses “I AM,” not “I WAS,” the foremost sinner of all. Does this not indicate that the “I am” of his continuing knowledge of his sin goes hand in hand with his continuing knowledge of his Savior?

    3. All of the moderators would agree with you that Christians should recognize who they are in Christ, should each see themselves as a new man in Christ, and set their affections on things above where Christ is. At the same time, the moderators would say that Christians should not deny the kind of persons they are in themselves, namely, persons in whom indwelling sin is at war in their members, against which they are powerless in themselves and looking for another who will give them victory. Our moderator friends would also say that it is just to such persons that the law bears witness even of Christ, answering their cries with himself, as he is fully revealed and proclaimed in the gospel.

    4. Like you, all of the moderators would say that it is not enough to say that the law was about morality or human righteousness. No, they would say that the law, properly understood and preached, does not terminate on the sinner, his spiritual inability, and his guilt. The law, properly ministered, also points beyond itself to Christ, to the availability of justification by faith alone in the one righteous Seed of Abraham.

    5. All of the moderators would agree with you in saying that believers are no longer under the yoke of the law (Gal 5:1, 18), but are now under the yoke of the Spirit and grace (Matt 11:28-30; Rom 6:14-15; Gal 5:18). They would add to this, however, that this yoke of the Spirit and grace is not antinomian. Rather, this yoke commands us to walk by the Spirit, the Spirit bearing his fruit in us, fruit against which there is no law and which fulfills the law of love. Moreover, they would add that this yoke also reminds us, the sons and daughters of God in Christ, that we are slaves, though slaves to a new king: “just as you once presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness leading to sanctification” (Rom 6.19).

    Again, I offer the above remarks based on what I understand the position of the moderators of this blog to be. I’d like to think these remarks could move the conversation along and you can help us find where there is consensus and where there is not. Whatever the case, the moderators can speak for themselves and correct my comments as they see the need.

  79. Bill Evans said,

    August 21, 2011 at 8:31 pm

    Since my name has been referenced repeatedly in this discussion, I think it appropriate to respond on a few points.

    First, regarding Lane’s initial two questions, I think I have answered the first (regarding differences of ministry context) here: I just don’t buy the assertion that many congregations are so bruised by the preaching of the law that we need to major on grace and justification almost exclusively. What congregations do need is a balanced presentation of biblical truth. I also think that, whatever the motives of individual ministry practitioners may be, this emphasis happens to fit wonderfully well with the contemporary anti-authoritarian, therapeutic, non-judgmental, relativistic, expectations-are-a-downer Zeitgeist. Meanwhile, the behavior gap between the church and the world continues to narrow. Regarding Lane’s second query, I have no problem with the Law-Gospel distinction. But unlike Lutherans, most Reformed theologians have not made it the center of their hermeneutic, and the union with Christ theme helps to bring out the relatedness of law and gospel while maintaining the distinction (which, I agree, is important).

    Regarding Jared O’s comment above, there are important structural differences between Lutheran and Reformed dogmatics. Union with Christ functions quite differently in these respective contexts. This is recognized on both sides and the literature is extensive on this point. Let’s not paper over legitimate differences.

    Since “Reed Here” has, in essence, accused me of breaking the ninth commandment, I’ll respond. First, I’ll grant that the term “cause” can be slippery. However, I do think that the basic structure of Tullian’s thinking on this matter is pretty clear when you take into account his use of causal language, his definition of the problem sin as unbelief, and his implicit denial of definitive sanctification by viewing Romans 6:1-4 as essentially about justification. Second, those who say that the imperatives of Scripture are not being soft-pedaled in these circles need to explain stuff like this: Third, Reed claims that he sees no evidence that this teaching is producing “practical antinomians.” Well, the jury is still out on that one, but I do think we need to be careful not to conflate theological antinomianism and libertinism–they are not the same thing, although one can lead to the other. Theoretical antinomianism in Reformed circles (from Tobias Crisp to the Sandemanians to Edward Boehl) does not advocate rape and pillage. What antinomianism does do is try to excise anything that its proponents think might conceivably and under any possible circumstances undercut the gratuity of justification. This generally involves a downplay of biblical imperatives as real obligations and a downplaying of a real change in the Christian (witness the recent denials of definitive sanctification in some circles). Instead, everything constantly circles back to justification. Boehl in his The Reformed Doctrine of Justification (Eerdmans, 1946) is probably the most extreme 20th century example of this sort of thing. My initial beef with this stuff is not that it necessarily leads directly to libertinism (though it likely can), but rather that it is both unbiblical and subconfessional, and that it robs us of biblical ministry resources that we need to deploy. In short, balance is important.

    Here’s one final comment from the “for what it’s worth department.” Some of our perplexity on these issues stems from the multiple ways that Paul uses the term nomos (law). Off the top of my head, the Apostle can speak of the “law” as the Mosaic law understood comprehensively, the “law” as the aspects of the Mosaic law that separated Jews and Gentiles, the “law” misunderstood as a way of earning salvation, the “law” as an obligatory guide for the life of the Christian, and probably some others that I can’t remember right now. That’s why prooftexting this issue generally leads to more confusion.

  80. John Thomson said,

    August 22, 2011 at 4:28 am

    79 rf

    Thank you for irenic and clarifying comment. I can happily concur with virtually all said here. I would quibble only with understanding 1 Tim 1:15 as Paul’s assessment of his present position or indeed condition. I think his appraisal of himself as a ‘sinner’ indeed ‘the foremost of sinners’ is firmly based on his preconversion life.

    Paul includes ‘sinners’ in his list describing those who are not ‘just’ and associated with ‘sound doctrine’ (the gospel). Incidentally, it is worth observing that the second use of ‘law’ in the following quotation should not have the definite article. Paul is perhaps broadening out his comment here from specifically the OC to the principle of ‘law’ in general.

    1Tim 1:8-10 (ESV)
    Now we know that the law is good, if one uses it lawfully, understanding this, that the law is not laid down for the just but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who strike their fathers and mothers, for murderers, the sexually immoral, men who practice homosexuality, enslavers, liars, perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound doctrine,

    We are not to understand this list as a description of believers (except in the sense that they once found themselves there prior to embracing the sound doctrine of the gospel) but unbelievers.

    He then proceeds to show how he had been a particularly striking example of such a person in his preconversion days he was a blasphemer etc. His assessment of himself as a ‘sinner’ indeed as ‘the foremost of sinners’ is based on this.

    1Tim 1:12-16 (ESV)
    I thank him who has given me strength, Christ Jesus our Lord, because he judged me faithful, appointing me to his service, though formerly I was a blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent opponent. But I received mercy because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief, and the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost. But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life.

    Note that he views himself as having been these things (I was formerly…). Twice he comments ‘I received mercy’. Now he describes himself as one the Lord judges to be ‘faithful’. Indeed Paul finds hope for all ‘sinners’ in his own experience. If he as ‘chief of sinners’ received (note tense) mercy then none need feel they are beyond the grace of God; no life is so reprobate that the grace of God in the gospel cannot save them.

    What of the present tense ‘I am’. I do not think Paul is saying that his life at that point marks him out as ‘the foremost of sinners’. Ungodly people could not look at Paul’s postconversion life and say ‘he is so sinful that surely if God is accepting him he will accept me… if he is saved, given how he lives, then I can be saved too’. In fact God’s judgement on Paul now is that he is ‘faithful’. No, I believe the comment here is much more abstract; it is simply, Christ saves sinners – folks like me. When he becomes specific to prove his contention he points to his preconversion self.

    Where Paul idiscusses the identity of the believer he places him firmly ‘in Christ’, dead to the old (the world, sin Satan, flesh, and law) and so outside of its authorities. He is a saint and not a sinner (as the introduction of many a letter attests). Faith always views the believer from God’s perspective. All that he ought to be and all that he ought not to be flows from this identity; duties flow from where we are.

    Paul sees the proper purpose of the law as that which judges and condemns the sinner. 1 Tim 1:8-10. Believers ought not to see themselves there. They are not judged, condemned and slain by by the law. By faith, they ought to see that this has happened in the past and they are now beyond its accusation and condemnation. However, often as believers our faith is weak and we allow ourselves to be so condemned, we accept the accusation and branding (as ‘sinners’) of Satan, and when we do we must turn again to the the gospel and rejoice that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; faith must reassert itself. However, that we have moved off gospel indicatives in the first place and heeded the accusations of the law is a failure of faith.

  81. Reed Here said,

    August 22, 2011 at 7:25 am

    Dr. Evans: my name is Reed DePace. Mine critique of your post was with what I noted are inferences in the piece. As such I was not intending to accuse you of bearing false witness. More like I am critiquing you for some unclearness in what you said.

    Please forgive me for not being clearer.

  82. Reed Here said,

    August 22, 2011 at 7:32 am

    Dr. Evans, I appreciate the distinction between theorectical antinomianism and libertinism, and your acknowledgement that the jury is still out on that one. A quibble if you will, in my experience this is not a distinction that critics of Sonship make. Instead the critique goes something like this, “Sonship teaches people they don’t need to worry about obedience.” Their fear is that folks discipled with Sonship will end up freely sinning withou any consideration for the need for holiness – practical antinomianism (that which is present in practice).

    BTW, if you’ll read the rest of my comment here, you’ll note that I’m not writing from a position of opposition to your concerns.

  83. Bill Evans said,

    August 22, 2011 at 8:20 am


    Thanks for the clarification regarding your name and the nature of your concerns. I figured that “Reed Here” was a nom de plume, hence the quotation marks. Also, I appreciate your zeal for God’s Word, even if we may parse some issues a bit differently! For what it’s worth, I do think that if one is going to engage in public critique of somebody else’s theological formulations it needs to be done while sailing under “proper colours.”

    Regarding Sonship, the genetic connections between Jack Miller/New Life Pres in Philly in the 1970s and 1980s and what is going on now are pretty clear. That was not a “throw away comment.” Remember, these are blog posts, not dissertations. And of course, while the Sonship folks are not going to come out and say that people “don’t need to worry about obedience,” given the nature of the human condition some people will draw that conclusion when imperatives are downplayed. It is a danger, and sometimes what we don’t say is just as important as what we explicitly affirm. And as I said, the long-term impact of this line of teaching on the church is not yet fully clear clear, but I’m pessimistic on this score.

  84. Reed Here said,

    August 22, 2011 at 8:43 am

    Dr. Evans, on my way to my office I realized I should have begun my response to you with an apology for not following the excellent pattern you and Dr. Lucas did in your series of blog posts. I should have started my critique with a note affirming our unity in Christ. Forgive me for that failure. Mine is a friendly critique, even if it reads with a bit less maturity and irenic tones.

    Yes,I do get the nature of blogging, even though I’ve failed to abide by that understanding many times.recognize that not all is said/can be said in this format. (I liken blogging to the seminary students getting to sit down with a professor or two over coffee. No one’s going to satisfy all the questions in such a context.) I tried to focus my criticism in ways I thought are fair. I admit my weaknesses to do so, especially in this context.

    I admit that your reference to Sonship in the context of what is essentially a critique of Tchvidian did sound to me like a “throw away comment.” I understand the critique of Sonship as Dr. Miller was teaching it in the 80’s (70’s). Indeed, I’ve sought to read any/every criticism I could find (a necessity regarding my coming into the PCA in 1999).

    My one observation and then question back to you. My experience with the present Sonship material leads me to push back a bit on your caution because rather than finding the downplay of imperatives, I see them actually quite emphasized. Acknowledging that earlier critiques were fair, it leads me to ask, have the Sonship folks listened to their critics and in effect re-worked their materials?

    All that to say, I agree wholeheartedly with the idea that we need indicatives and imperatives if we are going to walk with Jesus. This is my own pattern of preaching and teaching, and one I am grateful to have learned from fathers like yourself.

  85. Reed Here said,

    August 22, 2011 at 8:45 am

    All, NIck Batzig has an excellent devotional in this month’s Table Talk (Sept. 3-4). You will find it relevant to this topic (how sanctification works) and a bit helpful, I think.

  86. Reed Here said,

    August 22, 2011 at 8:48 am

    Also Dr. Evans: I appreciate the final paragraph in your first comment, and believe it is a very important subject for gaining clarity here. The various ways in which Paul uses “law” in Romans alone is enough to bring on a migraine. ;-) Still, working through (still working through it) is helping me immensely. This next Sunday I will be preaching on Rom 6:14. Central to my explanation will be the two fundamentally different ways he considers the law (of God) in this context.

  87. Reed Here said,

    August 22, 2011 at 8:55 am

    John T: sorry brother, but in no. 74 you chide me,

    “But Reed, it is this appeal to confessions that worries me. Our authority is the Word. Let’s discuss what it says on this topic.”

    For my reference to a portion of the Westminster Divines explanation of the Bible’s teaching on God’s law.

    Yet in no. 79 you quote Louis Berkhof’s explanation of the Bible’s teaching on God’s law.

    So what, my use of a theological commentary is an appeal to an authority other than Bible, but your doing the same thing is just helpful discussion? ;-)

    Seriously brother, if we were across the table from one another I’d expect a smile from you right now while you give me a mea culpa. My reference to the Westminster Confession was premised on the same considerations as your reference to Berkhof – a trustworthy source of advice from respected fathers in the faith.

  88. rfwhite said,

    August 22, 2011 at 9:10 am

    John T: Your exegesis of 1 Tim 1.15 is not convincing to me, but I don’t believe that the exegesis of that particular text needs to prevent you (us) from acknowledging that the Bible teaches a distinction between what believers are in Christ and what they are in themselves, and that both are simultaneously true. This teaching is the broader context being invoked by those who cite sayings like Luther’s phrase.

  89. Reed Here said,

    August 22, 2011 at 9:12 am

    John T.: I’ve found your reference from Berkhof under:
    The Doctrine of the Church,
    II. The Word as a means of Grace.
    C. Two Parts of the Word of God Considered as a means of Grace,
    1. The Law and the Gospel in the Word of God.

    Let me ask you to read the rest of this chapter in light of the discussion here. I think you’ll find why I am suggesting you are a bit off target. In particular, note what Berkhof says in this chapter under:

    2. Necessary distinctions regarding the Law and the Gospel,
    c. There is another sense …

    The last sentence there reads, “The law not only demands that we accept the gospel and believe in Jesus Christ, but that also we lead a life of gratitude in harmony with its requirements.” (Berkhof, Systematics, pg 614 in my edition).

    Finally, take a look at Berkhof’s discussion of the three uses of the law (same page, D. The Threefold Use of the Law.)

    My reference to the Westminster Divines on the law was discussing the same biblical considerations, in particular point c. of Berkhof here, A usus didacticus or nomativus. Take a look at Bekrhof’s discussion of “2. The difference between the Lutheran and the Reformed on this point.” You sound a bit like Berkhof’s observations of the Lutheran brothers and their hesitancy to allow for any didacticus/normativus usage of the law.

    I think maybe it is a matter of context and differing exposure. It may sound to you we’re saying that the Law has some necessary antecedent causitive role in salvation. Rather than that we’re arguing that the law has a necessary consequent derivative role in salvation. It does not save me, but the law now provides a guide for my gratitude in my relationship with Christ.

  90. Bill Evans said,

    August 22, 2011 at 11:06 am


    I think you are correct in saying that there has been some movement in what may broadly be termed “Sonship circles,” and it is important to give credit where credit is due. For example, in a recent WTJ article I noted Bryan Chapell’s helpful distinction in his book Holiness by Grace between “the motive for our sanctification (our acceptance by God in justification) and the empowerment of our sanctification (our union with Christ by the power of the Spirit).” If you read that book in context, it is pretty clear that Chapell is responding to criticisms of Sonship.

    Fairness also requires that we recognize that all of these “grace guys” are not necessarily on the same page. Some are considerably more careful and nuanced than others.

    I found Rick Philips’ recent Ref21 blog piece to be a useful summary of the biblical parameters. Rick is a good friend (as well as my pastor) and we see pretty much eye to eye on this question.

    I would be quite happy if we could achieve general agreement in our circles that the primary motivation for sanctification is gratitude for our acceptance by God, that this primary motivation does not exclude other genuinely biblical motivations that are properly referenced in WCF 19.6, that our sanctification flows from and is empowered by our spiritual union with Christ by faith, that a decisive break with the power of sin occurs when a person is united with Christ, and that biblical imperatives are to be proclaimed.

  91. Reed Here said,

    August 22, 2011 at 11:31 am

    Dr. Evans, yes Ricks’ recent summary is very, very helpful.

  92. Reed Here said,

    August 22, 2011 at 3:20 pm

    BTW, here is a link to the section of Berkhof’s Systematic Theology that John Thompson quoted from, and which I referred to in my response. It is a helpful summary of some of the issues here.

  93. todd said,

    August 22, 2011 at 4:27 pm

    John’s original post critiqued the common speak among reformed that though we are not under the law as a means to justification, we are under the law in sanctification as a rule of life. I think John’s point is valid that this is not the best way to describe sanctification, as the NT itself does not seem to go that route. This quote from F.F. Bruce seems to agree, and I’d be curious of some of your thoughts on this.

    “In the reformed tradition derived from Geneva, it has frequently been said that, while the man in Christ is not under law as a means of salvation, he remains under it as a rule of life. In its own right, this distinction may be cogently maintained as a principle of Christian theology and ethics, but it must not be imagined that it has Pauline authority. According to Paul, the believer is not under law as a rule of life–unless one thinks of the law of love, and that is a completely different kind of law, fulfilled not by obedience to a code but by the outworking of an inward power. When Paul says, “sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace” (Romans 6:14), it is the on-going course of Christian life that he has in view, not simply the initial justification by faith–as is plain from the point of the antinomian retort which Paul immediately quotes: “What then? Are we to sin because we are not under law but under grace?” (Romans 6:15). Again, it is sometimes said that Christ is the end of the ceremonial law (including not only the sacrificial cultus but circumcision and the observance of the sacred calendar) but not of the moral law. Once more, this is a perfectly valid, and to some extent an obvious, theological and ethical distinction; but it has no place in Pauline exegesis. It has to be read into Paul, for it is not a distinction that Paul himself makes.”
    PAUL: Apostle of the Heart Set Free (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1977), pp. 192-193.

  94. John Thomson said,

    August 22, 2011 at 4:40 pm


    I felt your comment re WCF was a kind of test of orthodoxy you were setting me. Sorry if I was wrong. My quote from Bekhof was because I had come across it and thought it may be of interest to folks as it summarised the two polarities. Berkof cites the two Reformed perspectives neither of which a you know is mine, though I certainly feel the latter position is nearer the truth. To me Bekhof is not in any sense an authority (though his systematics was one of the first I read in my early twenties. I read it from cover to cover and made lots of notes on it. I learned a lot from it.).

    No, I’m not coming from a lutheran perspective. The lutherans I meet online resist any imperatives. I don’t. I resist calling them ‘law’. I understand where you are coming from but I don’t agree that ‘the law provides a guide for our gratitude in our relationship with Christ’. Or, perhaps more precisely, I would wish to modify or nuance it in ways you may not be happy with. Two principal points of nuancing a) the law is a guide in the sense that the whole OT is a guide, that is in the sense that ‘all Scripture is profitable…’. b) I would severely limit or even do away with the word ‘law’ to describe God’s instruction of his people. ‘Law’ . whether ‘the law’ or ‘law’ in a general sense ‘is not laid down for the just but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane.’. God doesn’t lead/guide/teach his sons by ‘law’.


    We must disagree on this one. Of course we sin but we are not encouraged to think of ourselves as sinners in Scripture. We are constantly, those who have crucified the flesh, those who have put off the old man, those who are no longer in the flesh but in the Spirit and the constant injunction is: be what you are.

  95. paigebritton said,

    August 22, 2011 at 7:19 pm

    Todd —
    Reading that F.F. Bruce quote made me wonder what he does with Romans 7:14-25, which on a traditional read would portray the believer as the one who is “delighting in the law of God, in my inner being” (v.22) and “serving the law of God with my mind” (v.25) but having a rough time doing so. According to the quote you provided from Paul, though, Bruce doesn’t think the apostle authorizes that the Christian be “under the law” (positively or negatively) at all. I was curious as to whether this means that he thinks Rom. 7:14ff. is about Paul (or somebody else) before conversion.

    So I looked it up (in his Romans commentary published by Eerdmans). I’d say his take on the passage is a puzzler. He seems to be saying that it is about a believer’s experience, even perhaps Paul’s at an earlier time (since an unbeliever wouldn’t be expected to struggle) — but he qualifies this reading by adding that the person experiencing the struggle seems to be missing a major element of gospel:

    Here is a picture of life under the law, without the aid of the Spirit, portrayed from the perspective of one who has now experienced the liberating power of life in the Spirit…[Paul] may well have known believers in Christ who were nevertheless living in legal bondage because they had not appreciated or appropriated the fullness of gospel freedom.” (143)

    His final note on 7:25 is most puzzling:

    The mind with which the law of God is served is the mind responsive to the voice of conscience (but scarcely the Spirit-renewed mind of 12:1)…(148)

    Pretty interesting. If I am reading correctly, on the one hand (as per your quote) he insists that Paul does not teach that the believer is “under the law” in any way; and on the other, he can’t read Rom. 7:14ff. as being about an unbeliever. So the result is that he concludes the passage is about a believer who is mixed up about legalism.

    What am I to conclude about F.F. Bruce? :)

    Paige B.

  96. rfwhite said,

    August 22, 2011 at 7:57 pm

    John T: Yes, be what you are in Christ. In my view, you are arguing for a distinction without a difference. I’ll have to leave it there.

  97. Bill Evans said,

    August 22, 2011 at 8:40 pm

    paigebritton wrote:
    What am I to conclude about F.F. Bruce? :)

    That he was Plymouth Brethren.

  98. paigebritton said,

    August 22, 2011 at 8:50 pm

    Er — at least with respect to the law & the believer, apparently! :)

  99. todd said,

    August 22, 2011 at 9:44 pm


    Bruce’s take on Rom 7 is strange to be sure, but I don’t think Rom 7 negates his general point. If per Ridderbos, Moo and others Rom 7 is not about believers, then there is little in the NT that would support the idea that believers are under the OT law (moral) for sanctification. It is interesting that the NT never once quotes the first commandment for example. Now we all end up in the same place as far as Christian living, and of course believing and obeying Jesus is fulfilling the first commandment; and the ethics of the OT law are also found in the NT, but this is more a debate how to best describe our new covenant obedience with the proper terminology. I’m just not sure law-keeping, or being under the law for sanctification but not justification, is the best
    terminology we could use. I think it is confusing.

  100. bsuden said,

    August 23, 2011 at 12:53 am

    78 JT
    So let me get this straight.
    You don’t know what Rom 3:31 means.
    Elsewhere you cite scripture that says believers are to be zealous to maintain good works – but we have no idea what the standard is for the same, much more that the moral law does not represent the character of God.
    And Berkhof is an authority on the level of the WCF?
    Uh huh.
    Put me down as unimpressed.

  101. John Thomson said,

    August 23, 2011 at 2:08 am


    I am with you on this.


    FF Bruce was P Brethren but he could scarcely be accused of being thirled to his tradition. He was firstly a biblical theologian and not a systematician. As Todd points out Moo holds a not dissimilar position as did MLJ – neither Brethren but both determined to grapple with the text on its own terms.


    Roms 7 ‘delighting in the law of God in the inner man’ does indeed sound like a believer’ but unable to do anything but ‘I am of the flesh sold under sin’ does not sound like Paul’s anthropology of a believer (Cf Roms 6). For me, 7:1-6 is the key. Ch 7 describes life married to the law in the old age while ch 8 describes life married to Christ in the new age. If in Roms 6 we are not under sin in Roms 7 neither are we under law.

  102. John Thomson said,

    August 23, 2011 at 2:58 am


    #31 and Horton’s comment

    “justification should be seen more clearly not merely as ontologically different from inner renewal, but also as the ontological source of that change (p. 198).”

    I guess Horton’s point here is really that of Roms 6

    Rom 6:7 (ESV)
    For one who has died has been set free [better, ‘justified’] from sin.

    We were under sin’s authority/power because it had a claim on us, an accusation it could level against us. An analogy like the following may be helpful: a man commits a crime and immediately he is alianated from good society. He finds he must take refuge in a criminal underworld. There of course his crimes increase and he is even more captive to his environment of evil. His only escape is if his crimes can be cleared. If cleared he can step out once again in good society and be freed from the criminal underworld his crimes placed him in.

    Thus justification a legal pronouncement brings with it freedom from the tyranny of sin.

    Of course, this is only an analogy. Scripture uses the analogy of death. It also uses the analogy of sin (a crime) making a man a prisoner Gal 3:22.

    I appreciate there needs to be some kind of ordo salutis but there is a danger for all of us here that we get involved in mere human logic that finds little foundation in Scripture. An even greater danger is when we begin to create whole ‘logical’ theologies on what is often a tenuous basis biblically. We become scholastic rather than biblical.

  103. John Evans said,

    August 23, 2011 at 4:30 am

    I concur with Bill (#91) that it would be a good thing if we all could reach agreement that “the primary motivation for sanctification is gratitude for our acceptance by God,” recognize that there are other solidly biblical motivations, see sanctification as flowing from Union with Christ, and be unstinting in proclaiming the imperatives.

    As a missionary to Africa where the Church is growing at a stunning rate (the center of gravity in world Christianity is shifting south), I’m alarmed if preachers soft-pedal the call to obedient discipleship. It’s not “missional” to downplay “the obedience of faith” (Rom 1:5), for the nations are to be instructed to “obey everything I have commanded you” (Matt 28:20). How many thousands of times has the Great Commission been preached as though it ends with Matt 28:19?

    I do have a question about “gratitude,” though. Doesn’t it seem often to dissipate quickly in our experience? As I read Scripture, it seems that gratitude usually moves toward love for God, and I suggest this is an important theme for the discussion here. “If you love me, you will keep my commandments” (Jn 14:15; cf. vv. 21, 23). I’ve been helped some by reflecting on the old Chalmers sermon, “The Expulsive Power of a New Affection.”

  104. Bill Evans said,

    August 23, 2011 at 6:41 am

    John Thompson wrote:
    FF Bruce was P Brethren but he could scarcely be accused of being thirled to his tradition. He was firstly a biblical theologian and not a systematician. As Todd points out Moo holds a not dissimilar position as did MLJ – neither Brethren but both determined to grapple with the text on its own terms.”

    I’m familiar with FFB’s work (I’ve used his Paul: Apostle of the Heart Set Free as a textbook in the past, and thus I’ve had to explain to students his idiosyncratic view of the law) and I’m quite aware that he was not a doctrinaire PB (he was not a dispensationalist, for example). Nevertheless, I think it would have been difficult for him to function as he did in the Brethren assemblies of Britain if he had held to the law as binding on the Christian.

    Moo’s position is not analogous because Moo follows Ridderbos on this matter. However, Romans 7 is certainly not the only text to point us in the direction of the moral law as being normative for the believer. For example, I recently preached on Romans 13:8-14, where the Apostle speaks of love as the “fulfilling of the law” and in this context he mentions four of the last five of the Ten Words. I really don’t think this extended reference to the Decalogue is casual on Paul’s part. This is a splendid passage for our purposes here in that the third use of the law, the vital importance of charity, eschatology, and union with Christ all come together beautifully!

  105. John Thomson said,

    August 23, 2011 at 7:03 am


    Rom 13:8-10 (ESV)
    Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.

    Notice the phrase ‘and any other commandment’. Paul includes in this much more than the 10 words. His point is simply that which he makes in Gals, that ‘faith working through love’ will inevitably fill out/complete all that the law was concerned to create a heart that loved as God loves. To read this as Paul was sanctioning a hermeneutic that the law (or the Ten commandments as this is what most really mean) is a binding code upon the believer as a rule of life is to miss the point.

    What a heart that loves looks like is much greater than the Ten Commandments. Did the Ten Commandments obligate Christ to die on the cross?

  106. John Thomson said,

    August 23, 2011 at 7:30 am

    John E

    I am largely happy with Bill’s observation that “the primary motivation for sanctification is gratitude for our acceptance by God’. I recognise too that in a comment box we have to strip down to what comes near to being soundbites and cannot make as rounded a picture as we may like. But like Tullian’s ‘the basic sin is unbelief’ it has truth in it but is not the whole truth.

    Israel were redeemed from Egypt and as a result out of gratitude for God’s grace were called to obey. Of course they didn’t for they did not have a renewed heart nor the indwelling Spirit. A renewed heart is one that instinctively loves. In the first instance it needs no motive. Its nature is to love as God loves for it is God’s own nature in our souls. The Holy Spirit in turn empowers this nature to express love according to godly wisdom. For a believer not to love is to act against the instincts of his new life and who he is as one who dwells in God. This is John’s whole emphasis, isn’t it.

    1John 3:14-17 (ESV)
    We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers. Whoever does not love abides in death. Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him. By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him?

    The ‘believer’ has to ‘close his heart’ (act against his renewed instincts) to be loveless.

    Of course, all this leads into a discussion on the influence of the flesh. But my point is that sanctification firstly needs no motivation; it is the life of God in the soul of man. However, there are of course many motivations and incentives to sanctification and its hard to create an umbrella motivation. If we do perhaps Bill’s is as good as any.

  107. John Thomson said,

    August 23, 2011 at 7:45 am


    FF Bruce appears to view this person who delights in the law but is a slave to sin similar to MLJ. MLJ thought this position was similar to someone under conviction of sin and not yet converted. Both are clear it is not proper Christian experience – life in the Spirit (or Roms 8). Ridderbos and Moo are clear on the latter point too though they emphasize more the redemptive historical divide (Moo viewing his position as a modified lutheranism). I may say too that JRW Stott largely follows Moo in his commentary on Romans. So too do younger Reformed scholars like M Bird as far as I can tell.

  108. Bill Evans said,

    August 23, 2011 at 7:49 am

    #106 John:

    There is a real danger, practically speaking, in pitting law against love in that law without love is cold and hard while love without law quickly turns into a monster that destroys lives. And since you mentioned Galatians, I can’t help but note there that Christians are to fulfill the law of Christ and the law of love, which (a) are described as “law” and (b) seem to be pretty much coextensive with the moral law.

    I also think your statement that Paul’s “point is simply that which he makes in Gals, that ‘faith working through love’ will inevitably fill out/complete all that the law was concerned to create a heart that loved as God loves” is a bit naive. If this were the case we would not see the extensive and detailed imperatives nor the pervasive indicative/imperative structure in Paul. The law is crucial in that it tells us what love looks like in real situations (as I tell people in pastoral contexts, love does the right thing; when the wrong thing is done in the name of love you know something is amiss).

    When we read such passages, we need to keep in mind that during his career Paul always has the Jew/Gentile issue festering and so he has to be careful in his use of the term “law” so that “law” is not misread/misheard to mean circumcision and food laws (on this issue, the NPP guys have a point, though where they go with it is very unfortunate).

    Regarding the Ten Commandments, if the OT biblical theology fellows who emphasize the ANE suzerainty treaty background are correct in viewing the Ten Words as as statement of foundational covenant principles which are then fleshed out for the specificity of the Israelite situation in the subsequent Covenant Code, then I have no real objection to viewing (with the weight of the Reformed tradition) the TC as a sort of summary of the law (in that they articulate principles from which the law is derived).

    I really don’t understand this aversion that you seem to have to the Ten Commandments as evidence by this question (“Did the Ten Commandments obligate Christ to die on the cross?”). It seems to me that your question fails to reckon with the nature and role of the TC in context.

    My guess is that we are amicably going to have to agree to disagree on this.

  109. John Thomson said,

    August 23, 2011 at 8:25 am


    We are going to have to disagree amicably. Apart from the issue of seeing obedience in terms of the law as a rule of life I am on your side on the Tullian/Kevin discussion and had further comments blocked when I strongly objected to ‘Can’t teach a frog to fly’. I thought your article was most apposite even if I quibble over a comment or two.

    Some of my reasons (biblical and pastoral as I see them) for being concerned with the law presented as a binding rule of life for the believer I have expressed in previous comments. Let me repeat them in brief.

    1. Biblically it is mistaken. You write

    ‘Paul always has the Jew/Gentile issue festering and so he has to be careful in his use of the term “law” so that “law” is not misread/misheard to mean circumcision and food laws’

    I disagree. Paul’s concern was not merely about food laws and circumcision (though that was the issue for the Judaizers) his concern was the whole law. That is why he says to those who wish to impose circumcision and dietary regulations from the law – if you insist on one area you are obliged to keep them all (Gal 5). For Paul it was ‘all or nothing’ when it came to what was binding in the OC. Which of course makes sense for one cannot decide to unilaterally pick and choose or change and reinterpret a covenant according to taste. Only by being delivered from the OC in entirety was the conscience free.

    2. Pastorally.

    Apart from Sabbath questions really my main issue is the psychology of the believer. I believe the more the life of faith is described in terms of law-keeping the more it is seen as duty, a burden, and the more condemned and accused folks feel in the face of failure. Furthermore, I believe it undermines the whole NT picture of living ‘in Christ’ where Christ becomes the orb of our focus and the source of all our life, including its ethical shape and structure. In some senses the angst of the lutherans is right; if our obedience is law-driven it does condemn and crush.

    I am not saying for a moment we ought not go to the law and correctly interpreting it see what is Christ-like in all its parts. Consider for instance the devotion revealed in the Nazarite vow or the devotion of the slave who loves his master and will not go free. But I consider any approach that sends us to the law as a binding code for life to miss the point. Sorry, I know you will disagree.

    I am definitely not saying we are without authority in our lives as believers. That is what Paul is saying when he says we are ‘under law to Christ’. He is denying the charge of antinomianism. However, as the FF Bruce comment above says, ‘According to Paul, the believer is not under law as a rule of life–unless one thinks of the law of love, and that is a completely different kind of law, fulfilled not by obedience to a code but by the outworking of an inward power.’. The ‘law of Christ’ is the command to ‘love’ (and in the gospels to love as he loved). Again, as I say, this kind of love fulfils the law and then some.

    Anyway. It has been good to discuss.

  110. John Thomson said,

    August 23, 2011 at 8:47 am



    Don’t you think that the extremer reaction of some modern lutherans to any imperatives and the grateful responses that many Reformed folks give to Tullian’s blogs is at least in part an attempt to escape from an law-mentality, engrained through teaching that discourages and threatens them. I live in Scotland and as you will know many good and godly believers in the Islands and North are extremely lacking in assurance. They are reluctant to say they are saved but merely hope (in the non-biblical sense of the word) that they are. They measure their obedience against the law, find it wanting, and feel the whole weight of the law’s condemnation crushing them. They believe the gospel but it is a gospel for some so marinaded and compromised by law they lose their liberty, joy and assuarnce. Perhaps they are an extreme example of what others feel.

    I am sure that there are other reasons at work in the popularity of this ‘trusting and not trying’ message. But I feel a gospel instinct fighting against and oppressive legalistic streak in theology (for what is a binding of law if it is not legalistic) is part of the story.

  111. Bill Evans said,

    August 23, 2011 at 10:21 am


    Glad to hear of your Scottish situation. My son spent a delightful term at Edinburgh last year. As you noted, Highland spirituality has its downside. In fact, it is “interesting” on a number of levels.

    Your comment rightly points to the difficulty that the Reformed tradition has had in achieving balance on these issues. The tendency has often been to veer off in the direction of either legalism or antinomianism. That’s why I keep harping on the question of “balance,” and that’s a major reason why (forgive me for being self-referential) I wrote Imputation and Impartation: Union with Christ in American Reformed Theology (Paternoster, 2008; available in the UK with the really cool Paternoster cover instead of the generic W&S cover!). I remain convinced that the correct pastoral path is not to react against imbalance of one sort by going to the other extreme, but to put things in their proper perspective, and that this means starting soteriological reflection with union with Christ rather than justification or sanctification.

    I disagree that a “binding of the law” is necessarily legalistic, but that is a discussion about which we are (if the above posts are any indication) unlikely to achieve consensus.

  112. John Thomson said,

    August 23, 2011 at 1:10 pm


    Let me say too that one of the formative influence on my life was the preaching of Eric Alexander at the Tron C of S (reformed and presbyterian as you know) and some of the writings of S Ferguson (early books in particular).

    So, I owe much to Reformed theology; if I am at points a critic, I am a friendly critic and an indebted one.

  113. August 23, 2011 at 9:49 pm

    This is a very critical issue in Reformed circles. In fact, the more I really think about it, this is THE issue for Reformed folks to engage and understand. I think we need to be trained to see the Moral Law as an instrument of grace, not the enemy of grace. As paths to justification, Law and Grace are opposites, but grace that justifies then sanctifies and uses the instrument of the Law to do so. Our very human tendency is to either hear the Law as a condemnation and to allow it to be the opportunity for shame and doubt or else to neglect the Law entirely in exchange for more feel-good experiences. What is needed is a healthy view of the partnership between Grace and Law. God’s grace trains us in holiness and uses the Law to do so. (Titus 2:11-14) Maybe one of these Reformed mega-conferences can focus on Sanctification and the Third Use of the Law. I do think we have some in Reformed circles who push us toward legalism and others who push us toward antinomianism and this issue is critical to the purity and unity of the church. I can’t speak for other branches of the church, but I know how critical this remains in the PCA.

  114. August 23, 2011 at 10:30 pm

    We need to love Christ and desire to be made ever more like Him by the power of the Holy Spirit working through the means of grace, including the Law. We need to see the Moral Law as a compelling picture of the character of Christ, who is the embodiment and fulfillment of the Law. The “Expulsive Power of a New Affection” can be fed by the Law as we see Christ in the Law and obedience to the Law as the gracious work of the Spirit to make us more like Christ.

    Where I think we get intop trouble with shame and doubt is when we see obedience to the Law as evidence of our justification. While there is a sense in which sanctification is evidence of justification, it opens us up to subjective self-evaluation as a litmus test for our salvation, leading to either pride or despair. Our salvation is found in our union with Christ by faith and so our eyes need to be fixed on Him and we need to see the Law as a reflection of Him. The Law is a mirror to show us our true condition and need for Christ, but the Law is also a portrait of Christ.

  115. John Thomson said,

    August 24, 2011 at 2:00 am


    While I agree that Christ is the fulfilment of the law and magnified the law and made it honourable, do you really think that the moral law is ‘a compelling picture of the character of Christ’?

    Do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not murder, do not make carved images, remember the sabbath day.

  116. Reed Here said,

    August 24, 2011 at 11:03 am

    John, maybe it is a compelling picture because He kept the law perfectly – AND we don’t. It is in contrast with this picture of Jesus’perfect law keeping that \the glory of both justification’s accomplishment and sanctification’s promise are seen.

  117. greenbaggins said,

    August 24, 2011 at 11:05 am

    John, have you read question 99 of the WLC recently? It seems to me that you are narrowing down the scope of the Ten Commandments. If you take those interpretive guidelines, you will see something completely different in Jesus’ relationship to the law.

  118. John Thomson said,

    August 24, 2011 at 12:52 pm


    I do believe Jesus kept the law and so showed its glory, indeed he fulfilled the law in all its aspects. I guess I just want to keep insisting he did so much more than that. Law, whatever glory it had, was a lesser glory, and far lesser at that. How can a lesser glory reveal perfectly a greater glory?

    As for the Ten Commandments and the character of Christ, I just ask the question where these commands reveal the grace of God, yet Christ’s character is ‘full of grace’ and John is deliberately contrasting that with the Law which came by Moses. Grace is seen in the sacrificial system and feasts but not in the Ten Commandments. Where in the Ten Commandments would we go to find the forgiving heart of Christ?

    Another related question, in what sense is it proper to say Christ is the truth but not the law (though it clearly is truth)? In other words how is Christ uniquely the truth?

    Let me ask another question. Do you preach or hear preached a lot about obeying the law in your church? Or do you point people to Christ and encourage the people of God to live in him and walk like him? Is he the focus of love and admiration? I suspect and hope he is. Maybe in reality the law is not the dominant voice in seeking Christlikeness.

    Let me give an example of how I may be happy to preach. against adultery . I would be happy to say: ‘Don’t you know the law of Moses condemned adultery. Indeed here it was only verbalising and expressing as a law what men universally know in their hearts. But brothers and sisters, unconverted folks need to be reminded adultery is a sin and will bring judgement but for they harden their hearts. But we have the life of God in our souls. That life finds adultery unthinkable. We have been justified in Christ. Why did we seek justification? We did so because we wanted to be cleared of sin. We wanted to finish with it. How then can we allow ourselves to be attracted to that same sin that we died to. How can you abuse your body in this way? Your body is not yours. It is bought with a price and belongs to the Lord. Glorify God with your body do not bring disgrace on his name. Christ’s death was precisely because of the horror and ugliness of adultery. He died that we may be cleansed from sins like this and lives that he may enable us flee them. The Kingdom of God and Christ is a kingdom of righteousness and loyalty and truth and faithfulness. Adultery is the very opposite of this. Don’t you know that no adulterer will inherit the Kingdom of God. And so on…’

    It seems to me this kind of approach is the balance of how the gospel would have us address an issue like this. I suspect we will be in agreement.

    Anyway guys, you have been gracious to me given I am expressing a view you find a bit offensive. I won’t comment again on this post unless a comment is addressed to me and invites a response. Thanks for the dialogue.

  119. Reed Here said,

    August 24, 2011 at 9:56 pm

    John: did you read the rest of the Berkhof chapter I asked about? The one you quoted from? You’ll note what is called the pedagogical usage of the law.

    It sounds like you’re assuming we preach law-keeping is necessary in the Christian life? Nothing could be further from the truth.

    At the same time it sounds like you preach that the law has no role AT ALL once a person is saved (I assume you believe it is of use to bring a person to Christ in the first place).

    All this to say a lot of what you say sounds good, but it is incomplete. You begin well, but end with a strong disconnect. We’re picking up on what we perceive is the disconnect. You think you’re hearing us deny what you’re saying. We’re not. As one professor told me on a subject at seminary, he agreed with everything I did say. His problem was what I was unwilling to also say.

    Again, I strongly urge you to pick up Marrow of Modern Divinity (with Boston’s study notes). It won’t resolve all the problems. You will find a more comprehensive, consistent, and cohesive understanding of how the law serves the gospel purposes of the Lord – through out life.

  120. Reed Here said,

    August 24, 2011 at 10:03 pm

    To use your example:

    Jesus died so I would be forgiven the adultery of my heart, AND
    Jesus died so that the sin of adultery would no longer rule my heart, AND
    Jesus lives so that I will find in Him my only resource to combat the remaining temptations to adultery, AND
    Jesus live so that in me His perfect law keeping will become increasingly my experience, AND …

    I’m sure you and I could add more. The key is to note that the law serves Christ and His ongoing ministry in my life.

    We’re not mere simplistic “Jesus does His part AND I must do my part” preachers. We understand that Jesus is the only hope, pre-conversion, post-conversion, and post-glorification.

    We’re a bit more nuanced maybe than what you’re used to. We’re not, however, law preachers. (Google the Marrow Controversy and read up on it. You’ll find some relevant info. Especially look for a talk from Dr. Sinclair Ferguson on the topic. You’ll find him very balanced.)

  121. Chris Julien said,

    May 12, 2012 at 3:41 pm

    Well I’m quite a few months late on all of this, and I won’t pretend to even be able to weigh in on all that was said. I’m a bit of a lightweight over here compared to all of you and what you’ve read, which is nice and humbling. I also don’t know if anyone still checks this post!

    But, let me express my recommendation for a book that I found to be extremely insightful on these topics, called “When History Teaches us Nothing: The Recent Reformed Sonship Debate in Context” by Tim J.R. Trumper. It really is worth the read, and it’s not too long!

    I am very interested in these things because I go to New Life Philadelphia, aka I have been raised on Sonship (maybe you could call me a first generation Sonshipper!) and yet I have had many, many questions about what I was taught growing up, so that I now fall on the side of DeYoung and I critique Tullian.

    Thanks for the post, and all the thoughtful comments.

    God bless.

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