- Tullian Tchividjian - http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/tullian -

Sin Remains: My Response To Rick Phillips

Posted By Tullian Tchividjian On December 3, 2012 @ 11:48 am In Uncategorized | 170 Comments

[1]A couple weeks ago I posted a blog asking the question “Are Christians totally depraved?” [2] The point I wanted to make was simple: “Because Christian’s never leave off sinning, they can never leave the Gospel” (Spurgeon).

The reason this is so important is because we will always be suspicious of grace (“yes grace, but…”) until we realize our desperate need for it. Our dire need for God’s grace doesn’t get smaller after God saves us. We never outgrow our need for Christ’s finished work on our behalf-we never graduate beyond our desperate need for Christ’s righteousness and his strong and perfect blood-soaked plea “before the throne of God above.”

But I had to tease out my answer a bit because for centuries theologians have acknowledged that “total depravity” means more than one thing. I wrote:

On the one hand, total depravity means that we are all born “dead in our trespasses and sins” (Ephesians 2:1-3; Colossians 2:13; Romans 3:10-12; Romans 8:7-8), with no spiritual capacity to incline ourselves Godward. We do not come into this world spiritually neutral; we come into this world spiritually dead…In this sense, total depravity means we are “totally unable” to go to God. We will not because we cannot, and we cannot because we’re dead.

I continued:

So, in the sense above, Christians are obviously not totally depraved. We who were dead have been made alive.

But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus…(Ephesians 2:4-6)

But once God regenerates us by his Spirit, draws us to himself, unites us to Christ, raises us from the dead, and grants us status as adopted sons and daughters, is there any sense in which we can speak of Christian’s being totally depraved?

Yes.

Theologians speak of total depravity, not only in terms of “total inability” to come to God on our own because we’re spiritually dead, but also in terms of sin’s effect: sin corrupts us in the “totality” of our being. Our minds are affected by sin. Our hearts are affected by sin. Our wills are affected by sin. Our bodies are affected by sin.

The point is that even after God saves us there is no part of us that becomes sin free-we remain imperfect in all of our capacities, in the “totality” of our being. This is what J.C. Ryle was getting at when he wrote, “Even the best things we do have something in them to be pardoned.”

This is nothing more and nothing less than classic Reformed theology, which is why I was surprised that Rick Phillips [3] wrote a critique of my post.

Rick writes:

Tchividjian asks, “Are Christians Totally Depraved?” and answers, Yes. Regenerate believers in Christ are, he says, totally depraved. It is true, he admits, that Christians differ from unbelievers in that God’s grace has enabled us to believe the gospel, yet total depravity describes both believers and unbelievers with respect to our inability to live so as to please God.

First of all, I clearly answered “yes” and “no”, not just “yes.” To say that I answered only “yes” is either a misunderstanding at best or a misrepresentation at worst.

Second of all, I never said total depravity describes believers and unbelievers with respect to our inability to please God. Never. In fact, nothing I wrote could even be interpreted that way.

For whatever reason, Rick is uncomfortable with the phrase “total depravity” being applied to Christians even though I specified what I did and did not mean by it. However, there have been a great number of Reformed theologians who do not have a problem with the phrase “total depravity” being applied to Christians as a way to describe sin continuing to plague us in the “totality” of our being even after God saves us.

As Ligon Duncan rightly points out in his post on this subject:

We reflect less frequently on the depravity which still infects those who have been saved by grace and reborn of the Spirit. This is a serious omission, for misunderstanding or underestimating the continuing corruption in the believer leaves the Christian unprepared for the warfare of sanctification and leads to a variety of spiritual problems…Depravity is still part of the believer’s reality. We not only fall victim to the depravity of others in this life, we continue to see the fruits of depravity in our own character and conduct. As the Westminster Confession puts it: “The corruption of nature remains in the regenerate during this life, and although it has been pardoned and mortified through Christ, yet both itself and all its tendencies are truly and properly sin” (WCF 6.5).

Identifying this problem was the simple goal of my short post. Nothing more, nothing less.

Reformed creeds, confessions, and catechisms have explicitly made the point I was making. Here’s just a small sampling:

The Heidelberg Catechism #62:

But why cannot our good works be the whole or part of our righteousness before God? Because the righteousness which can stand before the judgment-seat of God must be perfect throughout and wholly conformable to the divine law; whereas even our best works in this life are all imperfect and defiled with sin.

The Heidelberg Catechism #114:

Even the holiest men, while in this life, have only a small beginning of this obedience….

The Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion IX:

Original sin standeth not in the following of Adam, (as the Pelagians do vainly talk;) but it is the fault and corruption of the Nature of every man, that naturally is engendered of the offspring of Adam; whereby man is very far gone from original righteousness, and is of his own nature inclined to evil, so that the flesh lusteth always contrary to the Spirit; and therefore in every person born into this world, it deserveth God’s wrath and damnation. And this infection of nature doth remain, yea in them that are regenerated.

Belgic Confession Article 24:

…we can do no work but what is polluted by our flesh, and also punishable; and although we could perform such works, still the remembrance of one sin is sufficient to make God reject them.

Westminster Confession of Faith 6:5:

The corruption of nature remains in the regenerate during this life, and although it has been pardoned and mortified through Christ, yet both itself and all its tendencies are truly and properly sin.

Westminster Confession of Faith 13:2:

This sanctification is throughout, in the whole man; yet imperfect in this life, there abiding still remnants of corruption in every part….

Westminster Confession of Faith 16:5:

…and as good works are wrought by us [Christians], they are defiled, and mixed with so much weakness and imperfection, that they cannot endure the severity of God’s judgment.

Westminster Larger Catechism #78:

…their [believers'] best works are imperfect and defiled in the sight of God.

Even though Rick gives some theological lip service to the sin that continues to plague the redeemed, his tenor and tone downplay the seriousness of our ongoing corruption and the Christians desperate need of God’s grace. He seems to suffer from an over-realized eschatology when it comes to the the doctrine of sanctification. This is extremely dangerous for the reason that Ligon Duncan points out above: “Misunderstanding or underestimating the continuing corruption in the believer leaves the Christian unprepared for the warfare of sanctification and leads to a variety of spiritual problems.” Missing from Rick’s perspective is the unique dynamic explained here [4].

Furthermore, Rick levels this speculative charge:

One must ask if, under Tchividjian’s scheme, the Christian’s regeneration has any effect other than justification. When a Christian was born again, was this merely a judicial event? Was he changed so that in vitally important ways he is no longer the person he was before? Is there any meaningful transformation of the sinner by the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit? In short, if unbeliever and believer are alike totally depraved, what has union with Christ achieved other than justification?…When it comes to Tchividjian’s application of total depravity to the Christian, the effect is the virtual denial of the transforming effects of regeneration.

No where in my post did I deny the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit or the good works that necessarily flow from saving faith. To insinuate that I did is, again, a misunderstanding at best or a misrepresentation at worst. How Rick concludes that a blog post on remaining sin in Christians leads to “a virtual denial of the transforming effects of regeneration” is baffling. No where in my post did I downplay (or even address) the new nature that marks a Christian and the vitally important ways that Christian’s differ from non-Christians by virtue of their union with Christ–the fact that the Holy Spirit creates a love for the things God loves and a hatred for things God hates; the fact that the regenerating power of the Holy Spirit sets us free from sin and death and sets us free to love God and neighbor. The truth is, as my friend John Dink has said, “Regeneration is not a move away from our total need for grace. It is a rescue from our natural aversion to grace.”

If Rick takes issue with something else I’ve said or written, well, I’m happy to engage with him privately. But as it concerns the particular post I wrote, I’m scratching my head wondering why he (as a Reformed pastor) would write a critique of a blog post where the only point made was that even after God saves us there is no part of us that is sin free and we therefore remain desperately dependent on God’s grace.


170 Comments (Open | Close)

170 Comments To "Sin Remains: My Response To Rick Phillips"

#1 Comment By Derek L. Melton On December 3, 2012 @ 12:33 pm

I agree Pastor Tullian. Your thesis is accurate biblically, and historically. I appreciated your article.

#2 Comment By Jerry Brodie On December 3, 2012 @ 12:50 pm

Thank you for your clarity sir.

#3 Comment By Jesse Gistand On December 3, 2012 @ 1:11 pm

Excellent clarification,

Having first read Phillips commentary and then reading your explanation we have here a classic conflict.

Tullian has been exalting grace for sometime know. And when you do it with an emphasis on the liberating nature of grace in our justification and it’s effect upon the soul and life of the beleiver to assist them out of various forms of legalism

the charge of diminishing sanctification or of bordering on liscentiousness or having a deficient view of grace is expected.

EXPECTED, however by those who do not really understand grace , doctrinally or experientially. NOT by a person who should know better!

PHILlPS sounds like He did not read carefully the article, which is a sin. We all can fall into that trap!

Or He is blinded by a form of sanctification which in some denominational circles pay such lip service to the glorious gospel of justification as to despise it in action and attitude. I hope that latter is not the case.

By Grace alone!

#4 Comment By Chris On December 3, 2012 @ 1:50 pm

Tullian, if your complaint is that RP has ignored/misrepresented what you said, your polemical response is hardly any more free from the same. He doesn’t “disagree with [your] clear thesis that even after God saves us there is no part of us that is sin free.”

He says: “We are certainly still dealing with sin in the totality of our beings…”

Further, the confessions and catechisms you quote are in no way at odds with what RP wrote, yet your current article is presented as though he does. He denies that total depravity describes both the non-Christian and the Christian in the same way, and clearly explains why that is both biblical and important.

The difference between you appears to be one of emphasis. I have to say, your initial article’s conclusion, the ‘punchy summary’ as RP puts it, that believers and unbelievers alike are desperately in need of God’s grace, sounds as though there is no material difference in spiritual state, rather contrary to the fact that the old has gone, the new has come, Christians are new creations. In your article, you do say that that there is a difference, but you seem more concerned to emphasise the continuity of sin and it’s influence in our lives as believers. RP, on the other hand, appear to be emphasising more that there is a radical break. Christians do, by God’s grace, get stronger and stronger, and his point is that believing this doesn’t necessarily result in a belief that we outgrow our need for Christ and His finished work!

RP clearly understands grace, and the doctrine of justification. That he rejects a dichotomy that says “either fall in line with this understanding of grace, or you’re a legalist who limits God’s saving work” does not mean he in any way disagrees with Reformed orthodoxy.

#5 Comment By Tullian Tchividjian On December 3, 2012 @ 2:00 pm

Hi Chris!

You write: “He denies that total depravity describes both the non-Christian and the Christian in the same way.”

So did I.

Which is why his post (as I point out above in his own words) was misleading, insinuating that I affirm TD describes Christians and non-Christians in the same way with no “material difference.”

Thanks for stopping by.

Tullian

#6 Comment By CMA On December 3, 2012 @ 2:08 pm

Paul teaches that the Holy Spirit works in us/energizes us in the sanctification process. And yet, as even Michael Horton admits, we also have a “work” to do in sanctification. So there is at once a work of the Holy Spirit and our work (spiritual disciplines, renewing the mind, etc.).

So within this dynamic lies the confusion. The Holy Spirit resides within us, having given us a heart of flesh from stone, and works in us to become more Christ-like.

In other words, believers are different positionally with respect to Christ than unbelievers, but Paul certainly speaks of more differences than this. The believer is commanded to renew his mind. Presumably this is because he or she, by the Holy Spirit, can now begin to do so. We can grow in the “grace and knowledge” of God.

To speak in terms of “total depravity” in this context does seem in someway to downplay sanctification and the transformation God’s grace had on our hearts.

It leaves one with the impression that the Holy Spirit is a bystander to our depravity instead of the energizer in our sanctification. It leaves one with the impression that we still swim in the waters of depravity instead of the new living waters.

I see both sides here and am glad for the conversation.

#7 Comment By Chris On December 3, 2012 @ 2:11 pm

Hi Tullian,

Thanks for the swift response! I like that the internet allows such quick discussion of important topics, and this is so crucial.

What about the statements of yours, then his, that I put side by side? You imply he takes a position which he doesn’t.

Also, the point about ‘material difference’ was primarily concerning your penultimate statements in the initial article. Perhaps its the fact that total depravity carries such connotations as regards unbelievers that for some it is unhelpful to use the same term to describe believers.

Finally, as I mentioned, I think the difference is one of emphasis. Maybe, it’s because pastorally you have had to deal more with perfectionists, and he has had to deal more with antinomians. But I’d hold that it is not entirely fair to imply RP doesn’t agree with the Reformed confessions listed.

#8 Comment By theoldadam On December 3, 2012 @ 2:19 pm

One little link of the chain still attached to a person, and they are not free.

We DON’T have ANY work to do in our sanctification. It is God’s work…alone. we are DECLARED holy and righteous, for Jesus’ sake.

Now…we are free…do we WANT to do this or that? Maybe we do. Do you?

#9 Comment By Bill Martin On December 3, 2012 @ 2:41 pm

I’m just a nobody, but since I teach some of these things in a local church and try to live them out at that level, I feel burdened to comment.

I hope we (not just Tullian and Rick) can further this discussion without internecine rock-throwing. On the subject of grace and works, it’s really easy to talk past one another, a species of the over-heard Pauline emphasis on grace that prompted James to infallibly respond: “You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone” (James 2:24).

In my estimation, Rick’s remarks reflect not just the stated concern that some are over-correcting Federal Vision theology, but also an unstated response to many young Calvinists’ embrace of a more “Lutheran” (read: Sonship) emphasis on grace as applied justification–passive righteousness–which de-emphasizes the more classically Reformed emphasis on Calvin’s “third use” of God’s law. If that estimation is correct, I think it explains some of Rick’s response to what Tullian feels he didn’t write.

I was surprised, having read Rick’s critique and then Tullian’s post, that Tullian had clearly qualified his remarks on the application of the concept of total depravity to Christians: “So, in the sense above, Christians are obviously NOT totally depraved. We who were dead have been made alive.” Still, I am uncomfortable applying total depravity to Christians in a way that some might feel understates regeneration and its fruits. Sanctification is clearly a work of grace; but it is also clearly cooperative, requiring Gospel-driven obedience (Gal. 5:14; Phil. 2:12).

The confessional language cited above is clearly evidence that Tullian did NOT misapply his theological terminology. Rick’s response leaves the reader open to the inference that he did. On the other hand, the Confession’s chapter on good works strikes a chord which one might say is absent from Tullian’s brief ode:

“These good works, done in obedience to God’s commandments, are the fruits and evidences of a true and lively faith: and by them believers manifest their thankfulness, strengthen their assurance, edify their brethren, adorn the profession of the Gospel, stop the mouths of the adversaries, and glorify God, whose workmanship they are, created in Christ Jesus thereunto, that, having their fruit unto holiness, they may have the end, eternal life” (WCF 16.2).

As I watch my Reformed brothers increasingly dig in over the perennially thorny problem of how to weight grace and good works in the Christian life, I see a rift developing that, for heaven’s sake, does not need to be there. The last thing we need is to create or apply more labels within the Reformed family (i.e. “Progressive,” “Hyper-Calvinist,” “Radical Grace,” “Legalist”. I do think the issues are vitally important. I tend to think those who appear “afraid” of grace mis-hear it as antinomianism, and sometimes “Radical Grace” guys (There you go!) overstate their application of the forensic nature of justification, as Rick correctly observed, which may be taken as “virtual denial of the transforming effects of regeneration.”

So, my plea is NOT, “Can’t we all just get along?” But I do think the skill of listening, and the humble art of giving grace (1 Pet. 5:5) are vitally important disciplines to cultivate in this climate of generational change we are going through in American Reformed Christianity.

#10 Comment By Tullian Tchividjian On December 3, 2012 @ 2:51 pm

Hi Chris!

I think this post from a couple weeks ago might help you better understand some of the left out ingredients (you can’t say everything in one post :)

[4]

Peace,
Tullian

#11 Comment By Chuck Colson On December 3, 2012 @ 3:14 pm

Tullian,

I believe Rick, and others, are responding to the conflation of God’s grace with justification by faith in your writings. For instance, you say:

“The reason this is so important is because we will always be suspicious of grace (“yes grace, but…”) until we realize our desperate need for it. Our dire need for God’s grace doesn’t get smaller after God saves us. We never outgrow our need for Christ’s finished work on our behalf-we never graduate beyond our desperate need for Christ’s righteousness and his strong and perfect blood-soaked plea “before the throne of God above.””

Here, you strongly identify grace with imputed righteousness, and not any other gracious benefits we receive through our union with Jesus. But, the Westminster Shorter Catechism (Q 29-36) states that justification, adoption, and sanctification are acts of God’s free grace. In other words, Westminster affirms that God’s grace freely justifies, and freely accomplishes other things as well.

So, when you identify grace with forgiveness, and not also with power or strength for bearing fruit, it is sensible to expect people to question whether your doctrine of regeneration involves anything beyond judicial categories.

God’s grace is big. It justifies us. But, don’t limit grace to justification. It seems that you are putting us on a diet, leaving us short of all that God’s grace imputes and imparts.

Peace,

Chuck

#12 Comment By Kristopher S. Pierce On December 3, 2012 @ 3:33 pm

Hey Tullian,

I really enjoyed reading your book “Unfashionable” and I frequently read your blog here.

It seems to me that you and Richard Phillips basically have the same convictions, but you emphasize different aspects of the same truth. In many ways, it seems that you and those who have expressed concerns with something you have written(like Richard Phillips and Kevin Deyoung)are talking past each other.

This whole Gospel-centered movement has been refreshing to me. I think that God is stirring this in the hearts of His people. But I do wish that more would be written about the role of obedience in the grace-filled Christian life. Yes, our obedience is always marked by inconsistency. But, as John Piper has said, we “act the miracle”. Obedience to Christ is more than just an intellectual exercise. God’s grace empowers our obedience. God works in us, we work out what God has worked in us with fear and trembling.

I remember R.C. Sproul saying that salvation is monergistic, but sanctification is a partnership between us and God. We have to cooperate with the Spirit of God in our sanctification. Effort is required. Spiritual disciplines are necessary.

If I understand you correctly, I think that you probably don’t disagree with that. Would you ever consider writing a book on Gospel-centered, grace-empowered obedience? It might prove clarifying. Plus, I think that Christians who are really embracing this emphasis on the Gospel of grace will benefit in reading a book that explains how God’s grace transforms our lives and dismatles our idols.

#13 Comment By Robert On December 3, 2012 @ 3:45 pm

In laymen s preachers confession # 777 Justification comes form the love of Christ and Sanctification comes when we love one another.
I find it sad that His Body divides itself over our minds and thoughts. We debate how were saved and we debate how were made like Christ. Good Elders chase false doctrine! Bad Elders chide one another over non essentials. Yea I know this is a health discussion blah blah blah. Healthy Discussions point us closer to Jesus not further away. Unity is found in submission to Jesus just as Jesus submitted to the Father. Isn’t it interesting that Paul refers to it as a mystery that Jesus would live in us? When we get to heaven Ill be refreshed that Doctrinal Wrangling will be gone. If its still there you may not be in Heaven.

#14 Comment By Mitchell Hammonds On December 3, 2012 @ 4:18 pm

It should only take a few seconds of “self-examination” for ANYONE to come up with enough evidence to say “I’m simply not fixed.” And I would say this to be so on our better/best days. Don’t believe me… go stand in line at you local national chain “crafts and hobby lobby” store where one cashier is working. We think that a simple problem of “impatience” isn’t really that big of a problem… but it is. It shows our sad condition. When it comes to sanctification the average person is “concerned” (if you want to call it concerned) that a supposed Christian is going to feel the freedom to “kill, steal, destroy lives, commit some sexual sin”(fill in the blank with whatever your pet sin is you don’t struggle with and gives you the right to automatically disqualify someone else as being Christian) and think they get off scot-free. Well you know what… they do! And furthermore… you do too with your sin that you constantly struggle with. It’s there… you’re simply too busy picking everyone else’s sinful lives apart that you can’t see your own sin.
Then when you cease to struggle with a particular sin… stand-by another will rear it’s head soon enough.
This is all driven by an overinflated view of our ability and condition. That with “God’s help” I can really pull off the Christian life… victorious living. No one is the poster-child of Christianity.

#15 Comment By theoldadam On December 3, 2012 @ 4:25 pm

That’s it, Mitchell.

NO ONE IS UP TO IT!

Least of all those who constantly harp at others, while they refuse to live outwardly and for the neighbor.

Do people really want to be free, in Christ (Galatians 5:1).

It’s pretty obvious that the answer is NO.

#16 Comment By Wendy On December 3, 2012 @ 4:26 pm

Amen! God bless you brother Tullian. May the Lord continue to assists you as you proclaim God’s amazing Grace! You are right on brother!

#17 Comment By jeremiah On December 3, 2012 @ 4:40 pm

Well said Chuck.

#18 Comment By theoldadam On December 3, 2012 @ 4:45 pm

Yes.

And now that you have new life in Christ…don’t forget to breathe. Concentrate on it. Remind others to breathe, as well. You know you can’t have life without breathing. We DO have new life in Jesus. But we HAVE TO breathe! Deep breath in…and then exhale. Good. And again…

#19 Comment By Brad On December 3, 2012 @ 4:59 pm

I can see how someone could read Tullian’s article and say, “So what’s the point, did Christ actually accomplish anything that makes any difference in my life today? Does becoming a Christian make any difference? Does anything change when someone becomes a new creation and has God’s Spirit living inside him/her?”

I can also see how someone could read Rick Phillips’ article and say, “I am a Christian and I am still plagued with sin and failure. Maybe you are living the victorious Christian life, but I am still a sinner and I still sin daily. Why can’t we just all be honest and authentic with where we really are in life?”

I see truth in what both Rick and Tullian are saying; And I can see how both could be misunderstood. I think it is very difficult to be a communicator of God’s Word. I have also notice how often in theological discussions someone thinks they are saying one thing but people believe they are saying something different. I often wonder why this is. I tend to think that the actually words we use can betray the very tone/big point we want to communicate to others.

#20 Comment By Tullian Tchividjian On December 3, 2012 @ 5:13 pm

Hi Chuck (and Jeremiah)!

A couple things quickly:

1) I explain the specific reason for my original post. It was to make one simple point: we do not grow out of our need for God’s grace after we become Christians because sin continues to plague us in the totality of our being. It was not intended to explore all of the benefits that are ours by virtue of our Spirit-wrought union with Christ. I have written about those things at length in other places. In fact, my whole book “Jesus + Nothing = Everything” explores what it means that everything we need in Christ we already possess.

2) You say at the end of your comment: “God’s grace is big. It justifies us. But, don’t limit grace to justification. It seems that you are putting us on a diet, leaving us short of all that God’s grace imputes and imparts.”

No where in my ministry have I limited grace to justification. In fact, my whole ministry is geared to showing how grace, and not law, justifies us, sanctifies us, and eventually glorifies us. As I have said over and over, the law shows us what a sanctified life looks like but only the gospel sanctifies. Our whole LIBERATE conference this year revolves around the theme Grace in Practice–what does God’s grace on the ground look like and what kind of a life does God’s comprehensive grace produce. Hardly a myopic diet.

I am interested in putting people on a diet, though. Just not the one you say. I’m interested in eradicating the spiritual narcissism that we Evangelicals have adopted and called “sanctification.” It’s unarguable that holiness by grace is forgetting about yourself–or as Keller puts it, “Blessed Self-Forgetfulness.”

Cheers,
Tullian

#21 Comment By Dan MacDonald On December 3, 2012 @ 5:38 pm

Chuck,
Greetings my old friend. I was moved to write when I saw your name on this thread.

I think you and I remember an old prof of ours saying;
You can’t say everything when you try to say something.

I think you would be right in your critique of Tullian if all he ever said was in that one blog post of his you quoted. He could fairly be confronted with conflating the gospel based on the paragraph you quoted.

But that is not all he has written on the issue of sanctification. A paragraph in a blog is a small sample from which to judge a man’s theological position. Perhaps you have a wider sample in your mind, but that would be good to say before levelling a charge that a man’s writings seem to conflate justification and sanctification. If I have misread you, I apologize. But unless I am missing something, you are putting a lot of freight into a small paragraph.

And I think Mr Phillips’ critique of Tullian runs into the same issue. He takes a few paragraphs of Tullian’s article and extrapolates much from them – more from them, certainly, than I would ever have. He claims that when Tullian says this:

“Because of total depravity, you and I were desperate for God’s grace before we were saved. Because of total depravity, you and I remain desperate for God’s grace even after we’re saved-”

- That Tullian means this (quoting Phillips):
‘Tchividjian teaches that, apart from our change in legal status through justification, Christians are in the same spiritual condition after regeneration as before.’

I am sorry, but that is reading uncharitably into Tullian’s words. I agree fully with Tullian, while not buying fully into the Sonship model. Desperate still I am for God’s grace, though desperate in a wholly regenerate way. Tullian is using rhetoric in a compelling way, and being punished by people who are interpreting his words overly woodenly, as if he is writing an academic treatise on the issue.

You, I, Tullian and Rev Phillips all believe, I think, in the third use of the law, the empowering obedience of the Holy Spirit, the need to mortify sin, and the classic reformed doctrine that has traditionally been labelled total depravity.

We probably all vary somewhat in how, instrumentally and existentially, we feel a believer should proceed in applying the gospel truths to our task of sanctification. I am not as convinced as I once was that the primary way to grow in sanctification is to keep magnifying and meditating on my justification – but I must also admit that for a season of my life, that method was electrifying, freeing, and powerfully effective. For this present season, not so much.

Tullian, I do think, as others have suggested, that it would be good for you to write more on grace-based obedience, to help reassure those who are unsettled about the relationship between justification and sanctification in your thinking.

Peace all

Dan MacDonald

#22 Comment By Chuck Colson On December 3, 2012 @ 6:50 pm

Tullian,

It may well be the case that your ministry seeks to show how ‘grace, and not law, justifies us, sanctifies us, and eventually glorifies us.’ And, certainly, we can’t say everything when we say anything . . .

That said, can we see more about how grace motivates, enables, empowers, and strengthens obedience? From my casual observation, it seems that you are playing the old Sonship tapes, teaching that the grace of justification motivates our sanctification. This isn’t wrong, it just is insufficient in that it doesn’t cover what the Bible actually says. Just start with Romans 6.

Dan, I wrote to point out a trend in Tullian’s thought, not to condemn his entire theological construct. And, I don’t think I accused Tullian of conflating justification and sanctification (let me know if I am wrong). Rather, I wrote to point out that when Tullian speaks of grace he seems to point only to the grace of justification. Ergo, you are sanctified by meditating on your justification.

Tullian, justification is certainly an indicative worth celebrating, but it is crucial to consider Paul’s wider palate of indicatives that encourage, compel, stimulate, and empower our obedience (for a limited sampling see Romans 6:2; 1 Corinthians 6:19; Colossians 3:3, 9). Paul rarely, if ever, limits his presentation of the indicative to justification. That is the diet I suggest you are imposing.

It becomes clear that Paul does not primarily encourage our obedience “by bringing us back to the reality of our justification.” Paul normally points us to our death to sin in the death of Christ as the grounds for our obedience to Christ sometimes called ‘definitive sanctification.’ Our flesh – the old man under sin’s control – has died with Christ (indicative). Therefore, do not let sin reign (imperative).

That’s the main concern. And, Dan, let’s remember, movements become monsters if they don’t moderate.

All the best,

Chuck

#23 Comment By Ryan Kelly On December 3, 2012 @ 6:58 pm

Tullian,

I wonder if I’m missing something. I’m not sure how your quotes from Duncan or the several confessions proves your point since none of them use the word “total” with regard to depravity in a Christian. My understanding of “total depravity” is that it involves inability, every faculty of the human being unable to obey or even seek, the noetic effects of sin, etc. It seems to me that everything you’re quoting in your defense has to do with remaining sin in a believer, but your sources don’t say anything about total inability to seek, to know, to obey, etc. I think you’d agree that that would be going too far (but that’s what I think some of us are hearing you say).

In short, I took Rick’s post to contend with your use of “total” in regard to a believer. But your reply doesn’t quote anything from the Reformed treasure chest that uses “total” in regard to a believer’s remaining corruption.

Perhaps you’d be willing to clarify what you mean by “total” compared with, say, Dort?

Thanks!

#24 Comment By Ryan Kelly On December 3, 2012 @ 7:08 pm

Sorry, one more suggestion. Q 8 of the Heidelberg could be useful here:

Q. 8: Are we then so corrupt that we are wholly incapable of doing
any good, and inclined to all wickedness?
A. Indeed we are; except we are regenerated by the Spirit of God.

The “except” seems to stand out. Perhaps Olevianus would disagree with the use of “total” in regard to regenerate Christians?

#25 Comment By theoldadam On December 3, 2012 @ 7:08 pm

I have been talking to Romans Catholics over at creedcodecult.com

and it is just like talking to Evangelicals. The same old defenses of ‘what we do’ or ‘what we should be doing’.

Now I know why Luther called them (the Catholics and the Anabaptists , forerunners of today’s Evangelicals) “two wolves tied at the tail”.

Outwardly they can’t stand each other, but basically they hold the same theology of… ‘a lot of God and a little bit of me’.

#26 Comment By Tim On December 3, 2012 @ 7:59 pm

Tullian, your clarification was quite helpful. Thank you.

I think at this point people are criticizing Tullian’s whole way of going about things rather his original post or his clarification. Doesn’t seem very charitable.

It’s starting to sound like a cooking blog. “We want a little more of this, a little less that.”

:)

#27 Comment By Mark G On December 3, 2012 @ 8:49 pm

It seems like it’s a lot to expect people to read someone’s body of blog work in order to get a full orbed understanding of what they’re trying to teach. Although there are places in the New Testament teaching that we should realize our desparate estate APART FROM CHRIST, one thing that seems to be getting short shrift in the discussion is Paul’s indicative/imperative structure. That is because of who we truly ARE in Christ, we must then live like who we truly are; e.g., you are a new man, citizen of heaven, etc., therefore BE a new man, citizen of heaven, etc. Twitter-tweet theology is prone to misunderstanding and confusion.

Also, hooky titles can mislead. Most people when they hear “total depravity” are going to think of the so called five points of Calvinism. This is too often discussed apart from its historical context which is a problem anyway, but then to give it nuanced meaning as a point to address a contempoary concern just risks confusion.

It seems to me much of the problem could have been alleviated by discussing the issue of perfectionism, or actually contra-perfectionism.

#28 Comment By Christopher Gordon On December 3, 2012 @ 9:02 pm

Much of this comes with the implicit charge of antinomianism, and it is wearisome. Have people actually studied Paul’s anticipated objections to free grace in Romans? Strange how the same charges of antinomianism, becoming a “grace-boy”, denying a transformed life, etc., are the very same arguments inspired for us as objections to the doctrine of “without cost” justification. Any correlation here? Whatever the case, perhaps Horton’s comments in the Gospel-Driven life are helpful here: “Christians still hear the law and are called to obey it, but as the reasonable service of their adoption as royal heirs, not as the condition of their receiving it…Good News that announces our justification also announces our death, burial and resurrection with Christ. Paul does not threaten with the fears of purgatorial fires or worse, but simply declares to those who believe in Christ that he is not only the source of their justification but of their deliverance from sin’s all controlling dominion. They still sin, but never in the same way that they did before. Now they love what they hated and hate what they loved. The Gospel not only announces our justification, but our participation in the power of Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection. Therefore we cannot look to Christ at the beginning, for our justification, and then look away from Christ to our own progress and countless manuals that offer formulas for spiritual and moral ascent when it comes to the Christian life (sanctification)… We need to be justified and sanctified on the basis of Christ’s work for us.” Obviously this is true because of the problem of ongoing sin.

#29 Comment By Scott Leonard On December 3, 2012 @ 10:36 pm

Guys, it continues to be astonishing to me that so much discussion on this subject is made with so little on the heart of the passages of full mention, ie, Romans 6-8 (Thanks, Chuck). I do believe an imbalanced emphasis on sin and on justification, at the expense of regeneration and union with Christ, is a big part of the problem. Tullian, you haven’t yet addressed, per my request on your original article, why Paul would say, twice in four verses, “IT IS NO LONGER I WHO SINS.” Or why he would say, “you are not IN the flesh.” I believe there is far more glory and unmined truth in Paul’s lengthy descriptions of the new man than have been showcased by my fellow reformed brethren. The elephant in the room that causes a lot of the trouble is the unanalyzed definition of “the flesh”. Paul makes a HUGE distinction there that few want to embrace. The reality is that you can say I sin and be correct, and you can say I don’t sin, and you better agree with Paul (Rom 7:17,20) that it is correct. We know a lot less here than we pretend to know!

#30 Comment By Mike On December 3, 2012 @ 11:04 pm

Tullian, I thank God for your ministry. I never miss a podcast. You and the WHI guys have been so helpful these last few years.

Old Adam, I agree with your last comment. I’m happily Reformed, but I think the Lutherans are right on this one.

#31 Comment By Chris On December 3, 2012 @ 11:34 pm

Chuck and Tullian,

Thanks for the conversation so far. It really is enlightening and clarifying.

As a second generation Sonship-er (my father, who knew Jack Miller well, is the pastor of New Life Church in Philly), many of these issues matter greatly to me, and I highly recommend the following book to both of you: “When History Teaches Us Nothing: The Recent Reformed Sonship Debate in Context” by Tim J.R. Trumper. It’s a call for a revitalization, or even discovery, of the doctrine of adoption in contemporary times. It contains a helpful critique and evaluation of Sonship theology.

[5]

God bless.

#32 Comment By Mitchell Hammonds On December 4, 2012 @ 12:16 am

It seems to me that everyone is willing to admit they still sin; barring you are not a full blown perfectionist. What I don’t get is adding a statement of qualifier to “I sin but”: 1. Not like I use to… 2. My sins aren’t as bad as they use to be… 3. At least I don’t do “such and such” like someone else. It’s as if our real problem is something to be avoided or swept under the rug.
We are told we should confess our sins and He is faithful to forgive us our sins (1John). This being the case, that we all sin, and need God’s continual forgiveness – Why then all the qualifiers? Why do we attempt to paint ourselves in the best light as possible when it seems that Paul does exactly the opposite and describes himself as the “chief of sinners?” Don’t misunderstand me… I think it is a relatively happy occurrence that we can actually say both – we are Saints and we are also sinners – simultaneously. And I would assume that if it is by “faith” in Christ’s promises that we are justified and made righteous then it would also follow the same faith in Christ would be necessary to assure us we are truly in the Kingdom of God amid a barrage of evidence that is against us.
Again, be it Lutheran, Reformed, Baptist, Methodist etc., I have yet to meet a poster child for the Christian faith. It’s as if I have to say “I thank you God I’m no longer like other men. I’ve finally got it together.” It’s borderline antinomian to say “I’m a sinner but on account of Christ I’m righteous… even though I’m really not right now.” I’m both.

#33 Comment By Dennis On December 4, 2012 @ 12:42 am

Thank you for you ministry Tullian. I’m sorry that you have to take the time to run around in circles trying to defend and clarify yourself. Your teaching has rocked my world because you always points me to Christ. Reading your blog has breathed new life into my walk with Christ. Keep on doing what your doing.

#34 Comment By JeffS On December 4, 2012 @ 12:54 am

It seems to me that using “Total Depravity” in different ways makes a challenging doctrine even more difficult to discuss. I am more familiar with the first definition given so I pretty much flipped out when I heard someone referring to Christians as Totally Depraved. Having read this I now understand the perspective, but the usage of Total Depravity this way concerned me, not because it isn’t a technically correct usage, but becaus it can easily lead to a confusion of what you are saying.

There are already a ton of people confused about this subject who think that Total Depravity is a concept that is harmful; it’s difficult to convince them otherwise when the definitions aren’t even clear.

This conversation seems all about figuring out who has his ducks in a row theology wise, but it seems you both do when it comes right down to what you actually believe. To be honest, it doesn’t matter to me very much who can argue that their post is more inline with the Reformed doctrine you both subscribe to. What does matter to me is when people look at this discussion and think you are selling an idea of cheap grace that allows them to believe they have an entitled position in God’s kingdom while remaining unchanged. Having read the comments I don’t think you believe that, but some people won’t get that far.

#35 Comment By Scott Leonard On December 4, 2012 @ 1:02 am

Tullian, I love what you have done elsewhere to refocus the church on grace vs law–the gospel! But let us remember that the gospel is far more than justification. Paul says in Col 1:27 that the great mystery he was entrusted with is our UNION with Christ (just ordered Con Campbell’s massive new book!). It is all through Romans 6-8. And at the risk of too long a quote, I would like to show you what John MacArthur does when he actually deals with the texts. Here is a tiny part of his messages on the subject. Notice how he actually digs into the technicalities of what Paul is saying. Respectfully I ask, Can we please see a little more of this?…..

MacArthur….The believer and Indwelling Sin, on Romans 7

“But I don’t want you to get confused, he says in verse 17. And let me just clarify this. It isn’t any more really I that do it, but what? Isn’t that important? You see, now he’s giving you a technical distinction. Now..watch this…it is no more I……..When he says “de ouketi,” (grk), a negative adverb of time, from this point on something changed. Now, since Christ has come into my life and I’ve been redeemed, it is no more that deep inner self…in a technical sense, it’s no more I that is doing this, but it is sin that hangs on……You have to understand this in order to understand the character of regeneration. He splits semantic hairs in verse 17, not in 14. In 14 he just makes a general statement, in 17 he clarifies by saying now get it straight. It isn’t really anymore I, it used to be I, when I could say I was carnal and I was sold under sin, and that was really all there was to I. But now it isn’t any more really the new I, it’s just Galatians 2:20 all over again, folks. “For I–that’s the old I– am crucified with Christ, nevertheless I live, yet it’s not I– not the old I–Christ lives in me and the life I live I live by the faith of the Son of God who loved me and gave Himself for me.”

You see, he’s saying it’s me but it’s not me, it’s a new me. And that’s what he’s saying in verse 17. So after salvation, the part of man where sin lies no longer resides in his inner most self, it no longer resides in the ego, it’s no longer there in the very substance of what that man is, that’s recreated to be like Christ. And sin finds its residual dwelling in his flesh, in his humanness. And he says that in verse 18, “In my flesh dwells no good thing.”

From Part 2…..
Now what is the conflict then? The conflict in the life of a believer is a conflict between a new creation which is holy, which is created for eternity, which is the eternal seed, which cannot sin, and that is in you, that is the real you, that is the basic you, the recreated you, the conflict is between that redeemed you and your unredeemed mortality, your unredeemed humanity which is still present. And that’s where his struggle lies. And that’s his lament.”

#36 Comment By Jim McNeely On December 4, 2012 @ 2:01 am

I’m surprised Romans 7 doesn’t come up more in these discussions! Paul has gone on at length aout the free gift of justification and our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand. He says, not that we ought to try to die, but that we have died, and have been raised with Christ. Then he says, the good I know, I don’t do, and the evil I know not to do, I do. I have been crucified with Christ, yet I still sin. Why else would he launch into Romans 8:1, that there is therefore now no condemnation?

He says, it is no longer I who sin, but sin which indwells me (Romans 7:17). This implies that I, the new creature in Christ, still have sin which indwells me, but I am a new creature quite separate from the sin. This is the biblical text, the biblical position from the horse’s mouth.

This is not to mention 1 John 1:5-2:3. If we interpret “keep His comandments” in a fashion which is out of sync with the immediate context which precedes it, we deny the truth of our ongoing sin and we “make Him a liar.” “Keep” means, honor, confess, be cleansed of, not perfectly obey forevermore. It can’t without doing damage to the context of the scripture.

Therefore, we do have sin ongoing as Christians, which would indicate that there is truth to the idea that we remain “depraved” in a theological sense.

That’s my $.02 on the matter. Love the discussion.

#37 Comment By Scott Leonard On December 4, 2012 @ 2:55 am

Let’s state it another way: What striking thing does Paul say about that climactic event we are waiting for–when Christ returns? In Romans 8, after he tells us that we are NOT in the flesh, but IN the Spirit, what insightful related tidbit does he give us? He says we are waiting for that day when Christ returns to set everything right. And here is what he says. Write it down: he says we are waiting for our adoption as sons, that is, the redemption of our BODIES! (Romans 8:23) Now right there he could have said we’re waiting for the perfection of our new nature. Or the purging of the depravity of our inner man! Is that what he says? We know the Holy Spirit is not careless or sloppy with the use of his words. The Holy Spirit says we are waiting for the day when our BODIES will be redeemed. That’s what he says! And perhaps that sheds light on why Paul would have the audacity to say (twice in four verses), “It is NO LONGER I who sins!” Now does that tell us anything about the debate on depravity? Anything at all? I think it does, and we need to be careful that Jesus’ indictment about the pharisees’ traditions making the word of God of none effect….that that indictment doesn’t show up in the hands of a process server knocking at our door.

#38 Comment By Michael Swillner On December 4, 2012 @ 3:18 am

Thanks Tullian for the clarification. I get tired of these public disputes though.

I do think that it would be helpful for people to quote more SCRIPTURE than theologians. I understand why this time you had to do so, to show you are in continuity with previous Reformed theologians, but I suggest you use more Scripture to make your case. After you cite a few verses in the beginning of the article (mostly quotes from your original article) you don’t quote any more verses at all. Your case is not right if the Westminster Catechism or Berkhof agrees. It is only right based on the Word of God.

Granted, some may argue that you’ll quote similar verses with different interpretations (as I’ll do in a moment regarding Romans 7), so we must appeal to church history, but in an article like this, I think it’s best to hold to sola scriptura and remember that creeds and theologians have erred (use Scripture foremost, quote orthodox authorities sparingly).

I wouldn’t use Romans 7 since Moo and other great scholars believe it refers to Paul in his unsaved state, not a depraved saint. But in 1 Tim. 1 (“chief of sinners”) it’s clear that Paul called himself a sinner and other passages (Gal. 5; 1 John 1-2), make the same case, though it needs to be balanced with what the writers of the Bible say about our new nature, our status as “saints” and the power of the Spirit.

Total depravity has been more frequently applied to the lost’s state before salvation (at least in the last century), so I can understand the confusion. It sounds like Christians are “totally” depraved (still as before) despite redemption, regeneration, cleansing, the indwelling Spirit, bearing fruit, etc. so it can be misleading – which is why it’s best to QUOTE SCRIPTURE and not rely too heavily on theological jargon though I know it can be helpful and great shorthand for certain doctrines.

If you simply quoted a few passages about Christians and sin, and didn’t use “total depravity” (a term not found in the Bible, though the concept is there, and “depraved” is there), there would be less confusion.

Bottom line: Throughout our sermons (not just a quote/reading at the beginning) and in our posts, we should saturate them with the WORD OF GOD. Make your case about Christians with Scripture. I love the Westminster Confession, etc. but we’re called to expound Scripture, feed the sheep with the Word, and make our case with the Word of God, not by quoting the Heidelberg. A discerning reader will not believe either of you until they search the Scriptures, not merely hear the Belgic Confession or the 39 Articles. This is not meant to criticize you, but meant to call us all to remember that our faith rests on God’s Word, not theologians or traditions (e.g. the Catholic church got into trouble when they failed to heed this warning and are still reaping the consequences).

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#41 Comment By GeoffC On December 4, 2012 @ 5:30 am

Tullian, (if you’re still reading this thread!) thanks for the post and your comments too. I think your comment that you are “interested in eradicating the spiritual narcissism that we Evangelicals have adopted and called sanctification” is really helpful. I think perhaps because people mistake your attack on this idol for an attack on true sanctification.

We are talking past each other because you are focusing on what sanctification is not, while others are focusing on what it is. This misunderstanding from those who have critiqued your opinion is most notable when your opinion of what sanctification is not seems to conflict with their opinion of what it is.

I don’t know if you’ve fully articulated your doctrine of how sanctification should work somewhere but I think many are wondering if your positive articulation of the doctrine would match up with those found historically in Reformed theology generally (e.g. in Hodge, Systematics III).

My personal opinion is that if Reformed theology had got it exactly right it in the past then there wouldn’t be an ongoing conversation now.

#42 Comment By Jim Sharp On December 4, 2012 @ 7:16 am

were it not for GRACE … the imperitives would be IMPOSSIBILITIES
w/o Him i can do nothing (total depravity) but i can do all things (imperfectly) through Christ who strengthens (graces) me.

#43 Comment By Mike On December 4, 2012 @ 7:33 am

Those who can’t see how depraved they are have likely forgotten just how demanding God’s law truly is. If you think you are doing a good job, if you think sin doesnt stain every decision you make, you aren’t reading what I’m reading in Scripture.

I don’t know anyone who can even keep the first commandment – let alone all ten. I know of no one who is perfect like our Heavenly Father is perfect (M 5:48). I know of no one who loves The Lord with all of there heart.

Tullian is right and it is making the legalistic inside all of us a bit uncomfortable.

All of us, even the seasoned pastor, have fallen short and are in need of God’s grace.

#44 Comment By theoldadam On December 4, 2012 @ 8:19 am

“We are in bondage to sin and CANNOT free ourselves”

We don’t want to. The reason that we don’t stop sinning is that we are willingly bound to it.

We actually need a Savior. And not a self-help guru, or tune-up manual.

#45 Comment By Paul St Jean On December 4, 2012 @ 8:25 am

very interesting.

#46 Comment By Jim McNeely On December 4, 2012 @ 8:46 am

I always appreciate the debate on this blog. As far as Romans 7, that’s why I posted some details about why I think it is an important piece of the puzzle. I know there are people who think that Paul is talking about his own pre-saved state, but in the flow and context of the book, and in the details of the text itself, it seems clear that he is talking about the regenerate Christian. So it is not hard to demonstrate that this other opinion is wrong, and there is no reason to throw the baby out with the bathwater here. Romans 8:1ff “There is therefore now no condemnation…” doesn’t make much sense unless we are talking about believers.

I also think that his wording is very careful. “It is no longer I who sin, but sin which indwells me.” Our new self could be construed as being sinless, but it remains true that there is sin which indwells us, which is no longer our real self but still maintains its influence. So it is splitting hairs, but I think that our regenerate self really is sinless, but our base identity still bears the imprint or echo of the old self to the degree that we still have a strong pull towards sin. We remain in need of a savior, and of daily confession and application of the grace and mercy His blood secured for us.

I have to say that I appreciate all of the historical context which Tullian posted; it isn’t easy to dismiss the careful thought of so many people over the past 500 years on the issue. I’m not even really quite calvinist, but I consider the Westminster confessions and the like to be important and helpful documents, and it is no small thing to dispute with them. I’m not so arrogant to say that I am a better theologian than these people.

#47 Comment By Douglas K. Adu-Boahen On December 4, 2012 @ 12:51 pm

Titus 2:11-15 – grace is not just pardoning but transformative and teaching. Apart from Kevin DeYoung, I can’t say that many in “Gospel-centred” circles are providing me as a young person with any real help in this regard. I have to go and read Owen or Ryle to get the classic, Reformed and ultimately Biblical teaching of the dual reality that we are declared righteous in Jesus for the purpose of becoming like Him. Sad, really.

#48 Comment By theoldadam On December 4, 2012 @ 1:23 pm

He declares that you are in Him!

And He is in you.
That is far better than some self-focused spirituality project of trying to get better and be more like Jesus. There was only one Jesus..and you are you. Be you, and bask in the glory that He has declared you holy and righteous and His son.

That is freedom. Freedom from religiosity…and freedom for the neighbor.

#49 Comment By Scott Leonard On December 4, 2012 @ 3:52 pm

In Romans 8, after he tells us that we are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, what does Paul say? He says we are waiting for that day when Christ returns to set everything right. And here is what he says: he says we are waiting for our adoption as sons, that is, the redemption of our BODIES! (Romans 8:23) He could have said we’re waiting for the perfection of our new nature. Or the purging of the depravity of our inner man! Is that what he says? No, he says we are waiting for the day when our BODIES will be redeemed. Perhaps that sheds light on why Paul would say, “It is NO LONGER I who sins!”

#50 Comment By theoldadam On December 4, 2012 @ 4:17 pm

Right, Scott.

And then we will see why, we will see how it is that “we can consider ourselves dead to sin”…it’s all right there in Romans 6. Where God concretely brings the Cross to bear in our lives. In the waters of baptism, accompanied by His Word of promise.

I just put up a new class (part 1- only 20 min.) on my blog, which deals directly with this.

#51 Comment By Tyler On December 4, 2012 @ 4:30 pm

It helps not to presume, when studying, that there is such a thing as “progressive sanctification” in the sense in which it is most commonly understood (i.e. that we ourselves undergo progressive changes in a path leading to conformity to the image of Christ). We have already undergone complete sanctification when we were baptized by the Spirit of God (not with water) into Christ at the time we believed (Gal. 3:26, 27). This is shown by verses such as 1 Corinthians 1:2, 30; 6:11. We have to submit our understanding to the scriptures in order to understand, even if that means rejecting a commonly held confession, creed, etc.

Our “sanctification” is summarized in Romans 12:1, 2 as the presentation of our bodies and the transformation of our minds. It is not a progressive change of we ourselves, but of how we think and how we use what we’ve learned in God’s word (faith in it) to yield our bodies to God. As Scott Leonard pointed out earlier, our bodies are not “us”. We are “complete in Christ” (Col. 2:10), but our bodies have not attained unto this same status, hence we wait NOT for our personal redemption (which we already have, Eph. 1:7), but the redemption of our bodies (Rom. 8:23).

We are told to “reckon”, or “account as true” the fact that we have already died to sin (once, as Christ did) and are presently and eternally alive to God (as Christ is). Simply believing our position as a new creature in Christ (renewing our minds) is the way we yield our bodies to God as “holy and acceptable”. It is by considering the truth of an already-completed fact (our new identity), that we are able to mortify the deeds of the body.

#52 Comment By Todd Christensen On December 4, 2012 @ 4:49 pm

Tullian, your messages have brought about a turning point in the despair and despondency that rocked my life for a long time. (I’m not giving you much credit by the way, because the shocking radical nature of grace is revealed to us in the scriptures if we will only look. What I really mean to do is thank God for leading you to emphasize something that scripture clearly teaches and we so often forget.) For all of those skeptical of the emphasis on grace in justification, just let me say that the “heart that feeds on justification truly grows in sanctification”. From personal experience I can vouch for the fact that a heavy dose of the law never made me want to obey. Instead it made me constantly look within to try and assess every motive in my heart. Guess what I found, SIN! SIN! SIN! Anyone who looks into their heart and thinks, “you know I’m doing pretty good” is not being honest with God or themselves. It is a great relief to be able to look at Romans 7 and see that Paul was struggling with sin like we do. And don’t tell me he constantly hated sin. If we all hated sin as much as we prate around we wouldn’t do it, plain and simple. The fact is, that while the new nature can taste more and more of the goodness and wisdom of God and in that sense want to obey, the flesh is at the same time weak and at work in our members. The fact that someone feels an inner conflict over the things that they do is a great sign of life, and the mark of continuing sanctification. Can we get better? I sure believe and hope so. Will I ever get that good, really? If I’m honest, probably not. But I can say this, the kind of obedience that God is pleased with comes from a heart of faith, and unless I am justified freely for Christ’s sake and have that rock solid ground of assurance to stand on, there will always be some legality in my works. I need assurance in the finished objective work of Christ on my behalf to motivate me to live as I really am.

#53 Comment By Timothy On December 4, 2012 @ 5:38 pm

Tullian, greetings in the Lord Jesus Christ who was and is and is to come!

I greet you as a lover of Christ’s grace and myself a utter beggar at the feast! I pray that you continue to read these posts as it seems you do.

I would say that having followed these discussions avidly, knowing how the Conspiracy of Silence falls on man so easily (ala Gerhard Forde), there is a missing element to this discussion that no one has brought up. Namely the actual intricacies of the relationship between Justification and Sanctification – how they actually relate.

For this I believe the Reformed orthodox have always been helpful. Francis Turretin describes the relationship in his third volume of Elenctic Theology.

Christ’s imputed righteousness is the legal, material (i.e. meritorious) cause of justification received by faith alone (instrumental cause). There is no formal cause of justification contra Rome/Socinians/Arminians. But this is where it is often left and Sanctification is viewed as our act, something apart from the Spirit of Christ, or if it is something by grace it is according to the transformation within with which we cooperate (i.e. regeneration).

What you are getting at is missing this key factor, how Sanctification is related to this Righteousness now ours by Faith in Christ. Faith in Christ receives both of these gifts by grace alone. Faith through justification receives this righteousness and this self-same iustita aliena is the Formal Cause of Sanctification by the Spirit through Word and Sacrament. This is indeed where it becomes imparted at the moment of Faith though logically proceeding from Faith and justification as the basis.

And yet, Sanctification is indeed based on the meritorious work of Christ and the Declaration of Not Guilty/Perfectly Righteous. The link according to Turretin is Adoption/Eternal Life. This Right To Life as they Called it hangs over justification and sanctification, the righteousness of Christ gives us the reward of eating of the Tree of Life NOW. Justification then mediates faith and sanctification through adoption. In this sense the Reformed have always said Justification Causes Sanctification by free grace.

The declaration of Christ’s righteousness through the means of grace feeds faith, and holds onto Christ for the duplex gratia and thus receives Christ’s righteousness by grace alone for Sanctification. The Proclamation of the Gospel of Christ’s work FOR US becomes the Means by which the Spirit applies it TO US by faith alone. Sanctification is thus a fruit of justifying faith as it holds onto Christ, not because of the inner work of the Spirit, but because of the alien righteousness now ours.

When this logical order is hindered and destroyed, then Arminianism and Romanism rears its ugly head. Legalism is not merely adding to the law of Christ as you have rightly shown but attempting to be sanctified and live as Christians apart from the Righteousness of Christ by faith. It is this reason that your ‘interlocutors’ cannot understand your position. They are indeed falling into this trap which is a form of legalism. They might on paper understand justification sola fide but they do not understand sanctification sola fide. And was this not Paul’s greatest concern in Galatians? Not Justification proper, but that the False understanding of Sanctification leads to a False view of Justification! (Especially 3:3!)

Gal 3:1 O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? It was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified.
Gal 3:2 Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith?
Gal 3:3 Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?
Gal 3:4 Did you suffer so many things in vain–if indeed it was in vain?
Gal 3:5 Does he who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you do so by works of the law, or by hearing with faith–
Gal 3:6 just as Abraham “believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”?
Gal 3:7 Know then that it is those of faith who are the sons of Abraham.

Indeed, Paul is speaking of sanctification here as being received by the Spirit of promise through faith. Faith in Christ from beginning to end, period. Otherwise we do fall into the Covenant Nomist Error of semi-Pelagianism. If we do not recover these very distinctions, we shall surely lose the Gospel in such confusion seen by writings that are so popular in Reformed circles, by men on this website and other ‘Coalitions’.

AA Hodge on this priority: “The second characteristic mark of Protestant soteriology is the principle that the change of relation to the law signalized by the term justification, involving remission of penalty and restoration to favor, necessarily precedes and renders possible the real moral change of character signalized by the terms regeneration and sanctification. The continuance of judicial condemnation excludes the exercise of grace in the heart. Remission of punishment must be preceded by remission of guilt, and must itself precede the work of the Holy Spirit in the heart. Hence it must be entirely unconditioned upon any legal standing, or moral or gracious condition of the subject. We are pardoned in order that we may be good, never made good in order that we may be pardoned. We are freely made co-heirs with Christ in order that we may become willing co-workers with him, but we are never made co-workers in order that we may become co-heirs.

“These principles are of the very essence of Protestant soteriology. To modify, and much more, of course, to ignore or to deny them, destroys absolutely the thing known as Protestantism, and ought to incur the forfeiture of all recognized right to wear the name.”

Faith looks outward, extra nos, even for Christians and thus receives within by the Spirit through Word and Sacrament. This is what I believe you have been getting at, I do appreciate it. We must develop a more robust Christology and Mediatorial understanding of his person and work in order to incorporate soteriology aright.

Our understanding of Eschatology and Christology speak to anthropology before and after the Fall, and thus to soteriology. I believe the views of Definitive Sanctification like commended by Rick Philips and others is one reason this issue has such differences of emphasis (if that is all). The over-realized eschatology given by such a position affects all subsequent discussion. By basing the ongoing sanctification of the sinner in Regeneration rather than in the righteousness of Christ Formally, they err, and so detract from Christ and place in man more power than he ought to be seen as given. Indeed, regeneration renews the faculty of man in order to be enabled to have faith, but this is antecedent only in so far as to receive the gift of Christ and his work which is the formal basis for all inner transformation because the legal guilt has been dealt with in justification.

XIII. Sanctification differs from justification from Compendium Theologiae Christianae by Johannes Wollebius:

I. In genus: the righteousness of sanctification is a quality, that of justification a relation.

II. in form; for (1) in justification faith is regarded as a hand that grasps the righteousness of Christ, in sanctification, as the principle and root of good works; (2) by justification, sin is taken away both as to guilt and as to punishment, by sanctification it is destroyed in its very existence; (3) in justification the righteousness of Christ is imputed to us, in sanctification a new and inherent righteousness is infused into us.

III. In degree; for justification is a single act, individual, complete, and equally affecting all who are justified, whereas sanctification is spread over a period of time, leading to perfection by degrees, and, in accordance with the diversity of the gifts of the Holy Spirit, shining more brightly in some than in others. Cited from John W. Beardslee, ed. Reformed Dogmatics. Pgs. 173-74.

Thank you for your work and passion for the Gospel of Free Grace. I pray that this comment is taken in as a friendly one, in true care for the church which I see in your writings.

God’s Blessings!
Timothy M

#54 Comment By Tyler On December 4, 2012 @ 6:00 pm

My point above being so, Tullian is wrong in saying, “there is no part of us that is sin free” as evidenced by Romans 6:7, which says, “He that is dead is freed from sin.” Have we not died? The first part of Romans 6 is crafted specially to prove without a doubt that we did! We are therefore free from sin.

#55 Comment By Timothy On December 4, 2012 @ 6:02 pm

Indeed, I should add that the power and dominion of sin is not removed in regeneration but in justification and adoption and its effects are mortified in sanctification. Yes, regeneration begins sanctifying work but sanctification is formally caused by the iustitia aliena. To mess up this order is indeed to reverse what the Apostle Paul reflects upon in I Cor 15:

1Co 15:55 “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?”
1Co 15:56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.
1Co 15:57 But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
1Co 15:58 Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.

Paul connects explicitly the guilt of sin to its power. The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. Sin’s corrupting ability is given power because of the law’s condemnation. The law and guilt must be dealt with (justification) and the right to life earned (adoption) in order for the transformative (sanctification) to have any effect. That is why Paul can then say after the victory over the Law’s condemnation in Christ’s Cross-death and Resurrection “Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.”

There is no victory in the Christian life without this legal basis, and Paul declares this to Christians! How wondrous God’s grace.

To reverse this order is to leave the Protestant Faith according to Hodge, Berkhof, Vos, indeed Calvin and the whole Tradition!

God’s Blessings!
Timothy M

#56 Comment By Scott Leonard On December 4, 2012 @ 6:41 pm

Good discussion. The news flash is that no one seems up to the simple challenge of explaining Romans 7:17,20; 8:9,23. The passages that are in the heart of Paul’s teaching about sanctification and about the new man in Christ and His righteousness in Christ (Rom 6-8)….these passages are not at all friendly to the traditional teaching of depravity in the Christian. I vote that we exegete them and proclaim them anyway!

#57 Comment By theoldadam On December 4, 2012 @ 8:42 pm

There are places in Scripture that places the word ‘sanctifies’ before ‘justifies’…they are both His work and His work…alone.

To believe that we have some role in it is to reduce Christ.

He is more than capable of “completing in us the good work which He began.”

St. paul has it right on that score and we ought rest in that fact…or get back into the internal examination, despair or pride game.

#58 Comment By Scott Leonard On December 4, 2012 @ 9:34 pm

Everything we have and everything we ever will have is all by grace through faith in Christ. We can never revisit our justification too many times! You can know intellectually in five seconds that you are justified forever. But God’s desire is that we know that truth intimately from the top of our head to the tips of our toes and rejoice in it with exceeding joy! We have only begun to appreciate what it will be like to stand in God’s presence and know that we have been declared righteous forever, as we watch his judgment poured out against sinners, and we see the delight in his eyes as he looks at us, his precious children!

But that is not what Paul labors over as he painstakingly lays out his argument in Romans six and seven, joyfully moving into chapter eight. In chapter six, Paul says the reason that we can say no to sin is because we died with Christ and the old man was put to death, and therefore legally the power of sin was broken. It is only after he tells us to consider ourselves dead to sin Romans 6:11 that he is able to say, “Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God AS THOSE who HAVE BEEN brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness.” (Romans 6:12, 13 ESV) He is then able to make the plain statement that our hearts have been changed: “But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient FROM THE HEART to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, and, having been set free from sin, HAVE BECOME slaves of righteousness.” (Romans 6:17, 18 ESV) Then after saying in chapter seven that “it is no longer I who sins,” Paul says that it s the Holy Spirit who actually executes the victory won by Christ as WE “put to death the deeds of the body,” (8:13) WE kill sin that daily wants to manifest itself in our flesh, through the Holy Spirit. Let’s be honest with what Paul says in chapter 8: We are new creatures in literal union with the Spirit of Christ, who live in dead, unredeemed bodies! We are waiting for Christ to return and transform our dead, sinful bodies so that we will then be 100% fit for heaven.

Study those chapters and tell me that is not what they say.

#59 Comment By Scott Leonard On December 4, 2012 @ 9:43 pm

All of the activity of the Christian which Paul describes as” let not” and “put to death,” are activities that must be carried out in an attitude of rest, total trust in the indwelling Christ. Galatians 2:20 perfectly summarizes how this works: “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh (body) I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” Christ does it all as I trust and obey on a moment by moment basis. And the more I renew my mind, the more I am able to allow the Holy Spirit to live through me in ever increasing ways of fruitfulness that please God more and more. All of Grace of course, but far more than justification. I am a brand-new creature in union with the Spirit of Christ.

#60 Comment By Paul St Jean On December 5, 2012 @ 4:58 am

Pastor
” Our dire need for Gods Grace doesn’t get smaller as we become Christians” this is true.

#61 Comment By Bec On December 5, 2012 @ 7:55 am

Did I read this right?
Tullian wrote:
“I’m scratching my head wondering why he (as a Reformed pastor) would write a critique of a blog post where the only point made was that even after God saves us there is no part of us that is sin free.”

Really? There is NO part of us sin free?

Romans 6:17 YLT
And thanks to God, that ye were servants of the sin, and — were obedient from the heart to the form of teaching to which ye were delivered up; and having been freed from the sin, ye became servants to the righteousness.

Maybe it would be of benefit to do a study on the word “sin”, specifically in Romans, where with the exception of ONLY 1 time, it is used exclusively as a NOUN. It seems that given a better understanding of “sin” as a noun vs. a verb, the difficulty in reconciling how we ARE INDEED made free from sin (the noun) yet still “sin” (the verb).

How did Paul reconcile the battle between his flesh and his spirit (inward man):
Romans 7:22-25
For I delight in the law of God after the inward man, But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death? I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin.

Jesus will deliver us from this “body of death” that is at war against our true self, our inward man. But to call Christians “totally deprave” and to wonder why anyone would take issue with a statement such as “there is no part of us that is sin free” makes me scratch my head….??? Did Jesus’ death on the cross accomplish anything?

I really used to enjoy reading this blog, and generally found that the posts were “life giving” and always pointed me to Christ.
This post (and the prior original post that sparked all this discussion that followed) has not been “life giving” nor did it cause me to realize a “continual” need for Grace (which I believe was the “hoped for” response).

People will realize their continued need for God’s Grace when you teach/talk on how perfect and COMPLETE Jesus’ work truly was.

Let’s put the focus back on Jesus and not on “theological” principles like “total depravity”….

#62 Comment By anonymous On December 5, 2012 @ 9:28 am

mediating on ‘fruit’ scripture this am (sharing below),knowing it is this blog’s desire to encourage-

Col 1: 6 the word of truth, the gospel is constantly bearing fruit and increasing since the day you heard of it and understood the grace of God in truth

John 15:16a You did not choose Me but I chose you, and appointed you that you would go and bear fruit, and that your fruit would remain.

Ez 36:26 I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. 27 I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will be careful to observe My ordinances.

John 12:24bif it(a grain of wheat) dies,it bears much fruit. 25 He who loves his life loses it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it to life eternal.

Matt 3:8 Therefore bear fruit in keeping with repentance

John 15 2 Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit.. Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me. 5 I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.6 If anyone does not abide in Me, he is thrown away as a branch and dries up; and they gather them, and cast them into the fire and they are burned.

Gal 5: 22 the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.1 Sam 16: 7b the LORD looks at the heart. 1 Tim 1: 5 love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.

John 15:8 My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples.Matt 7:20 So then, you will know them by their fruits.

Rev 22 :2a in the middle of its street on either side of the river was the tree of life, bearing twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit every month

#63 Comment By Jack Miller On December 5, 2012 @ 12:03 pm

Good and necessary debate, one that has been going on for 2,000 years it seems. I find myself identifying with Mitchell Hammonds’ comments. By God’s grace alone is a very upsetting thing.

Dr. R.Scott Clark just put up a relevant post at Heidelblog entitled [6]. He also mentions his next post will be: Simul justus et peccator — the new life and clinging depravity.

the beat goes on…

- not that Jack Miller ;)

#64 Comment By Tyler On December 5, 2012 @ 1:19 pm

Folks, the issue is with the body. In being made “complete in Christ”, we have put off our bodies by the circumcision of Christ (Col. 2:10, 11). So, we have to be mindful that the body is not us. There is a vast difference between the flesh and the Spirit. They war against one another constantly because there is no fellowship between the two. But we are in the Spirit, not the flesh (Rom. 8:9). What remains for us is to understand the will of God, that is, that we should take hold of our bodies and submit them to sanctification and honor (1 Thess. 4:3, 4) rather than to natural tendencies of flesh due to sin within it.

Furthermore, “flesh” according to the Bible is not always used negatively. John said that Christ, the Word, was “made flesh”. “Flesh” simply relates to the natural body as opposed to the spiritual body. It should not be viewed as a “sinful nature”, but as a natural, earthy body in which sin dwells due to us being born from Adam (Romans 5). Viewing it as a nature leads one to assume that we have two natures. We are not simultaneously two identities. We are only one person. Notice that we were justified in the “name” of Jesus Christ (1 Cor. 6:11). Since we are found in Christ, without our own righteousness, we only have one identity–Christ. We are either completely lost (“servants of sin”), or completely saved (“servants of righteousness”). Being a “servant of righteousness” does not necessarily show up in our daily lives–that’s not what is intended by its usage. It is intended to reveal a new identity. One that we can call upon by faith in order to remember who we really are when the sin in our flesh rises up and manifests itself.

The words of Paul are clear. No unrighteous person will inherit the kingdom of God. The works of the flesh are manifest–abundantly clear. Those who do them won’t inherit the kingdom. But, in Christ we do none of those things because we’re not in union with dead flesh just as Christ is not in union with dead flesh.

A person will say, “What? You believe in sinless perfectionism?” I say, “Yes. With explanation.”. For when someone such as myself declares these things to be true, an accuser will most certainly look to the outward man–what we can see with our eyes–and observe a sinful lifestyle of failings abounding. But we’re not to ever examine ourselves with physical eyes, because the physical is not who we are. We’re to “look not at the things which are seen”, but look rather at “the things which are not seen”. Faith alone can behold this reality. It is not about our lifestyle, it’s about who we are.

And the flesh cannot mortify its own deeds. We have to do it through who we are now in Christ (Romans 8:13).

#65 Pingback By Jesus, My Soul’s Deepest Desire? – Reformed Forum On December 5, 2012 @ 2:15 pm

[...] Laura Story’s newish song-hymn, “What a Savior,” presents us with an interesting theological conundrum.  Its a kind of brain-teaser not unlike the one introduced to many confused Christians when they are asked to sing “I Surrender All” in church on Sunday morning.  The riddle is all the more interesting in light of the recent exchange between Tullian Tchividjian and Rick Phillips about whether or not the believer is still totally depraved.  The former’s original post can be found here, and the latter’s two posts here and here. Tchividjian’s most recent reply is here. [...]

#66 Comment By CJ On December 5, 2012 @ 9:49 pm

Some of my thoughts on this whole thing, for what they are worth:

[7]

#67 Comment By Scott Leonard On December 5, 2012 @ 11:34 pm

Tyler is spot on.

This may shed further light. Note a comment made on another site, and my response:

Kevin said:
I see a real continuity and parallel between Romans 7:20 “So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.” and Gal 2:20 “It is no longer I that live but Christ that lives in me” …. sounds to me like clinging depravity and the new life.

Scott said:
Kevin, thanks. I believe if you look at Gal 2:20 and Rom 7:20, they actually dovetail well to show the opposite: Clearly Paul’s use of sarx in Gal 2:20 means, as the NIV happens to translate, “body.” And that is exactly why Paul says it is no longer he who sins. And it is exactly why Paul says in chapter 8 that we are not in the flesh. And it is exactly why Paul says in chapter 8 that what we’re waiting for at Christ’s return is not the purification of our nature, but the redemption of our (what?) body!

#68 Comment By theoldadam On December 6, 2012 @ 6:47 am

“we have put off our bodies by the circumcision of Christ”

How does God accomplish this? What mechanism does He use? How can we trust it (because we still sin)?

Romans 6.

Baptism.

There’s your assurance. From an external Word.

If you want to muck it all up and rob yourself of your assurance…look inward.

#69 Comment By Scott Leonard On December 6, 2012 @ 8:25 am

Underneath and foundational to the question of how sanctification happens is the organic question of where the location of sin is in the believer. The great thing is that Paul shows us throughout Romans 6-8. Here is just one of many. Notice carefully what he says in Romans 7:22-23:

“For I joyfully concur with the law of God in the inner man, but I see a different law in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin which is in my members.”

He is fine in the inner man. The problem lies, where? Go ahead and say it, my brothers. It won’t hurt too badly….the problem lies, “IN MY MEMBERS!” That is why he says “who will deliver me from this BODY of death.” And that is why, when he says “nothing good dwells in me,” he immediately, in the same verse (7:18), issues the caveat, “that is, in my FLESH!”

So then, at the very least, we must say that Paul says the “nothing good” is restricated to the location he calls “the flesh.” The text demands this, and so the $64,000 question (the answer to which will shut many of us up) is, WHAT IS THE FLESH?! I propose that if you will examine the relevant instances in Rom 6-8, you will see Paul use revealing language about his sin problem that answers the question. Look at 6:6,12,13,19; 7:5,18,23,24; 8:9,10,11,13,23. And 8:13 is an example of a passage where he uses “flesh” and “body” in apparent equivalency. (It is in fact the root idea of “sarx”.) So you can glance at the above verses and see Paul uses “body,” “members,” and “flesh” in striking equivalency.

There, I just helped you win $64,000.

#70 Comment By jeremiah On December 6, 2012 @ 9:01 am

Oldadam a question from Rom 6 regarding Baptism you brought up.

Rom 6:4
We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.

Do you now walk in newness of life?
It seems that you are against calling Christians to do so.

thanks

#71 Comment By Mitchell Hammonds On December 6, 2012 @ 10:23 am

Newness of life is just that… a life not your own. A vicarious new life. Does it break through… I hope so. I don’t think the point is to sniff around in self introspection/investigation to find it. You can if you want but any real judgment of it would be disappointing as to how successful we are in relation to what God really expects of us. So why attempt to “walk in newness” then. Simply because it will benefit those around you, not because it pleases God on it’s own merit. Now, since God has given his last word on sin at the cross of Christ, we can actually “live” this life in relative peace knowing He accomplished everything. This is in contrast to what I mostly see posted on the Gospel Coalition… “obey God so you can be worthy/prove yourself worthy of his salvation.”
Digress into your theological categories if you want. In the end it is nothing more than this “You were imperfect before being made new and it showed in your daily life. Now, you are declared righteous and created new, and you still look imperfect and fallen.” How this imperfect fallen state invokes a myriad of adverbs that attempt to paint us as “real” believers, “truly” repentant, “heartily” sorry, etc. is beyond me. I’d rather simply state “I believe” though I’m not sure how much… “I repent” but even my effort at this sucks… “I’m sorry” but I tend to revert to actions that show I’m really not all that sorry. In the final analysis my “newnesss” isn’t something to get all sentimental about. However, I can at times get really worked up about knowing God accomplished everything and He promises to meet me in a specific place… Word and Sacrament. It’s absolutely fantastic. Law and Gospel.

#72 Comment By Scott Leonard On December 6, 2012 @ 3:37 pm

Here is an aspect of the distinction scripture makes: the flesh NEVER gets any better. It is rotten to the core, as Paul says (“nothing good dwells…in the flesh.”) In fact, Eph 4:22 says it is getting worse! As I walk through my day, I am focusing on obeying Christ, but ONLY as I depend completely on his life in me (Gal 2:20). AND, I am never the least bit surprised at what my flesh is capable of thinking or blurting out! It will be just as rotten until the day I die. BUT, I choose to say what Paul says, and I am trusting that you will get to the honest exegesis of these (count ‘em) two verses repeated within four!: “It is no longer I who sins!” I think he said it twice so we could force all the resistant ones to repeat them out loud and admit how glorious the new man is! (I’m not making this up.) Let’s all say that together out loud, both for humility’s and education’s sake: IT IS NO LONGER I WHO SINS!

Do I feel less motivated toward holiness by saying it is no longer I who sins? Absolutely not. (That charge is a straw man erected by confused teachers.) I have the same attitude about that charge that Paul had when he answered those in Romans 6:1,2 who said if you really believe that you cannot out-sin God’s grace, you will just go out and sin up a storm! In fact, the opposite is true.

But if you don’t understand that you are NOT the flesh (nor are you even IN the flesh, according to Rom 8:9 !), you will miss out on the glory of the truth of your union with Christ and the fact that you are truly a new creature where old things passed away. Fall back on a confession if you like, but this is straight scripture and it is not ambiguous.

Now, I believe that Rom 6-8 properly understood show we don’t “have” natures; we “are” someone. Paul says in Eph 2 (one of the only places “nature” is actually used) that we “WERE, by nature, children of wrath.” (Eph 2:3, where also he says we WERE dead, and now we have been made alive.)

Some would say that on the bottom line it doesn’t matter, because no matter what you call it, we still have to deal with sin; it still happens on my watch.There is a measure of truth to that, but I believe that when we understand that we are saints by nature, and not essentially sinners anymore, it gives us a proper identity that expects righteousness, and shoots down excuses we make for our sin like, “That’s just the way I am,” or “it’s because I’m Italian!” or, “after all, I’m just a sinner saved by grace,” or, “I’m a reformed theologian and John Owen makes me keep sinning in that beaetting area!” Guys, Paul ONLY calls us “saints.” Get used to it. Listen to John MacArthur on Romans and Colossians from 25 years ago if you want thorough, verse by verse exposition from one of the best.

#73 Comment By Steve On December 6, 2012 @ 5:14 pm

Great posts, and even better debate. Having grown up in the seats of the church that you now pastor, and never having been able to figure out how I was “dead in my sin” until I was “brought to life” and now I had to somehow prove that I am saved by keeping the law…I am very thankful to the emphasis of grace in many of the PCA pulpits now.
However, I am equally saddened by the growing hostility of those who are considered “the old guard” and how many have handled their disagreements. I was a member at Southwood and watch first hand how so many who would go around talking about our personal need to live a righteous life, while venomously gossiping behind the pastor’s back, going so far as to seek to have him removed. This was my third “rodeo” to be associated with a PCA church with a new pastor and discontented membership, and sadly, none of them has gone well. My take away, the very thing that these old school “lay theologians” (as I call them) were upset over is proved by their own actions…that even our desire to live righteously is often just another source of sinful pride.

Let’s disagree in a manner that draws people to Christ, instead of confusing those who are “of Christ.”

#74 Comment By jeremiah On December 6, 2012 @ 6:32 pm

Scott, it seems that no matter how many times you try to clarify scripture in Rom 6-8 you get no response.
Why is this? You seems to be making very valid points from this passage and yet you get ignored, in that no one is taking you to task with this passage.

Thanks for trying to let the scripture itself speak. Sola scriptura!

#75 Comment By Scott Leonard On December 6, 2012 @ 8:54 pm

Jeremiah, It is a combination of factors. Romans six, seven and the first part of eight are not easy to dissect. I remember in the 70s when I first started digging into Romans six, It seemed like a foreign language. Many pastors and leaders opt to jump over it and hit a few high points and move on, relying on the summaries of others.

Tradition may be the biggest factor. Because of errors in the past such as sinless perfectionism, many people have been afraid to seriously consider anything other than the old party line, even though the textual evidence is overwhelmingly in favor of something different. The fact that in the last couple of blogs by Tullian, no one has attempted to take up the challenge of explaining Romans 7:17,20 or 8:9 is evidence that those and similar verses are not popular in the reformed circle in which I operate. But what is going to eventually happen is that one of the guys with some cred is going to get honest about the issue and there is going to be a change on a broad scale on what is taught on sanctification, identity and union with Christ. Can any good thing come out of Nazareth? They are also going to discover that guys like John MacArthur and D Martyn Lloyd-Jones knew what they were talking about as they taught on those chapters.

Another reason is simple busyness. People only have limited time to read these blogs and they tend to go towards people they have recognized before, and they also may not have the time to do the deep thinking that needs to take place as you analyze the ins and outs of Paul’s elaborate arguments in Romans 6,7&8.

I have to say that it is kind of like the king with no clothes on when you see all the discussion and so little scripture support, and glaring holes in the argument. Many people simply don’t comprehend that when Paul talks about sin that is still present in his life, the sin is in the flesh and is not in him at all. When he says they are not in the flesh, and when he says that the body is dead but the spirit is alive, it goes right over their head. This will change.

#76 Comment By Mitchell Hammonds On December 6, 2012 @ 11:06 pm

Scott and Jeremiah,
I haven’t read and don’t have time to go back and read your issue with the Romans passages you mention. So I’ll start by asking you both how you interpret Romans 7. Is this Paul before or after conversion in your opinion? Romans 6,7,8 are interpretive forks in the road and how one views these chapters says much about their view of the Christian life. I’m aware of the arguments for both sides so you can be brief.

#77 Comment By theoldadam On December 6, 2012 @ 11:16 pm

I just listened to one of the worst sermons that I have ever heard about a week ago, by John MacArthur.

Totally robbing the sinner of ANY assurance they might have in Christ, by turning them inward and telling them that if they are doing the same sins that there’s a good chance they are not really Christians.

Absolutely horrid. As if John Mac isn’t committing the same sins, again and again. I guarantee that he is…along with everyone else in this world.

#78 Comment By Scott Leonard On December 6, 2012 @ 11:27 pm

Mitchell, I believe it describes Paul as a Christian, and he is describing the endless fight we have with the flesh. He couldn’t say what he says about his inner man if it were pre-Christian. Chapter 8 shows what happens as he walks in the Spirit. The deeds of the body/flesh are pit to death.

#79 Comment By theoldadam On December 6, 2012 @ 11:50 pm

Q – Why don’t we just stop sinning?

A – We don’t want to stop. Otherwise, we’d stop.

We are bound to sin and cannot free ourselves. We actually need a Savior. Not a self-improvement project. God isn’t trying to improve us…He’s trying to kill us off!

He did it in our baptism (Romans 6)…and He continues to do it…as we return to our baptisms…as we hear the preached Word…and as we receive the Supper.

And the old sinner just can’t stand that. He/she wants a dog in that fight, too.

#80 Comment By Jack Miller On December 7, 2012 @ 12:45 am

And if we accept that Romans 7 is the testimony of the converted Paul, and thus the normal Christian experience… Then what of this verse? -

“For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out.

Paul, born of the Spirit, had not the ability to carry out and live up to the righteousness of God’s law, i.e. loving God with all his faculties and loving his neighbor as himself. How much worse for me then! What can I do? Where shall I find comfort and hope?

Rom. 8:
1 There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.
2 For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.
3 For 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,
4 in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.

Also WCF XVI:
V. We can not, by our best works, merit pardon of sin, or eternal life, at the hand of God, because of the great disproportion that is between them and the glory to come, and the infinite distance that is between us and God, whom by them we can neither profit, nor satisfy for the debt of our former sins; but when we have done all we can, we have done but our duty, and are unprofitable servants: and because, as they are good, they proceed from his Spirit; and as they are wrought by us, they are defiled and mixed with so much weakness and imperfection that they can not endure the severity of God’s judgment.

VI. Yet notwithstanding, the persons of believers being accepted through Christ, their good works also are accepted in him, not as though they were in this life wholly unblamable and unreprovable in God’s sight; but that he, looking upon them in his Son,is pleased to accept and reward that which is sincere, although accompanied with many weaknesses and imperfections.

#81 Comment By Scott Leonard On December 7, 2012 @ 8:01 am

Hey, OldAdam, I have actually viewed Romans six in two parts. Paul explains 1. You ddont have to sin (.1-.14) and 2. You don’t want to sin (.15-.23). We don’t have to sin because the old man was crucified with Christ and the power of sin in was broken. You don’t want to sin, both because sin brings varying forms of death into your life, and because the real you is now a slave to righteousness at the heart level!

#82 Comment By Paula On December 7, 2012 @ 8:08 am

“One must ask if, under Tchividjian’s scheme, the Christian’s regeneration has any effect other than justification. ”

Once again, I see these people unhinging sanctification from justification in an attempt to ward off “Mr Grace loving Antinomian.” Yes, they are two distinct concepts but inseparably linked, and one is entirely dependent on the other.

These same people will say we are confusing justification and sanctification. While what they are doing is separating the two as if sanctification is not something that necessarily flows from justification. Therefore it is entirely appropriate to go to the root of the problem, which is forgetting about our justification, when ‘greater sanctification’ is called for.

In a sense, THEY are the ones confusing the two ideas.

#83 Comment By Mitchell Hammonds On December 7, 2012 @ 8:43 am

Sanctification is spoken of in 2 manners: 1. As if it has already been accomplished. 2. As something we are to do. Again there is the concept of “Already and not yet” If you want to think you can “not sin” then you are certainly in a dire straight if you find yourself sinning in any way – acts of commission and omission. Paul thought himself to be doing well, “blameless” as he says, until he took the Law seriously. Then it shows him his sin.
In relation to Scott’s issue of who the “I” is that no longer sins I believe Scott is taking a concept of Paul’s to an extreme. For example, Paul also says it is no longer “I” who lives but Christ and yet he will still refer to himself in the first person “I.” He does the same thing with his reference to his sinful nature that remains where he responds “I die daily.” What he is saying is “I defect of any hope other than God’s mercy.”
We make the “Christian life” something more complicated than it really is. It paradoxical to be sure – which gets really complicated if we are trying to understand the real tensions that will always be present this side of eternity.

I see this argument to be either one of “imputation” (which I believe to be the Gospel) or “infused grace” (I have the power of obedience) which would cause one to gaze at their own life in order to know as to whether they are in the Kingdom. Infused grace is definitely not where Paul is trying to take folks.
I don’t know about your experience but mine tells me sin isn’t managed… it’s forgiven… repeatedly. Individual sins, for us mere mortals anyway, are like trying to keep beach balls underwater – we can really only deal with one at a time. But it’s funny – there’s always someone there to tell you which ball (sin) you should be working on. Almost as if they had none of their own to deal with. I think I remember Jesus speaking on this in the Pharisee and the Tax Collector.

#84 Comment By Scott Leonard On December 7, 2012 @ 8:48 am

Sorry, Paula, but that is exactly what Paul does in Roman six. He had people who understood justification so well that they knew that if they kept on sinning, grace would cover it (“shall we continue to sin that grace might increase?”) So he then begins to lay out his grand argument that we are people who by nature no longer are driven to sin. (“How shall we who died to sin still live in it?”) Literally in the Greek, that verse (verse 2) says, “WE? Such ones as WE? How shall we who died to sin…..” He even uses the word sanctification in that verse and says that because our old man was crucified with Christ the power of sin has been broken and we can avoid the deadly consequences of sinning in our daily lives by stepping out in obedience as those who are now alive from the dead. Read the chapter.

#85 Comment By jeremiah On December 7, 2012 @ 8:51 am

Rom. 6:4 We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.

One of the results/purposes of salvation is so that we might walk in the newness of life. This is not legalism but new life living.

Gal. 3:3 Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?

I do believe that Rom 7 is talking about Paul as a Christian. If one reads Rom 7 more carefully you will see that Paul talks about sin being in his flesh,body of death, members and not actually the real him, mind (we have the mind of Christ) and inner being (heart).

Paul rightly rebukes the Galatians here. And yet he is also saying that if we are really born again then we will be perfected/maturing by the Spirit.

#86 Comment By theoldadam On December 7, 2012 @ 8:53 am

Scott Leonard,

Then what is it that keeps you sinning, friend? You have “free” will, don’t you?

__

Maybe you’re talking about Romans 7. Romans 6 deals with Baptism and what God does in it.

#87 Comment By anonymous On December 7, 2012 @ 9:07 am

1 Tim 1:5 the goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith…

a thought having just read [8],
we could pause and ‘take five’ on this 5th day of Advent, and ask the Lord together for our nation (claiming a 246M/78% Christian population)….

“Challenge for Prayer: America’s massive cultural and social influence makes it the world’s greatest force for good and its greatest purveyor of sin. The generosity of aid and development, the defence of human rights and opposition to tyranny, the many breakthroughs in technology and media, the great levellers of education, information and capitalism have all made the world a better place. These are in contrast to the insensitive cultural imperialism, selfish individualism, unbridled corporate greed and exportation of immorality (such as pornography, casual violence and shallow materialism) that are foisted upon the world. America’s appetite for illicit drugs and massive consumption of fossil fuels cause wars abroad, prop up corrupt regimes and inflict suffering on indigenous peoples of other lands. Pray that God might shape this nation to be a greater force for good and destroy the structures of sin that pollute much of the world.”

#88 Comment By Mitchell Hammonds On December 7, 2012 @ 9:39 am

Jeremiah and Scott,
All I can say for you guys is I hope you’re wrong because the reality is “I still sin.” In fact I’m immersed in a condition of being sinful. When I obey, even then, sinfulness touches it. You guys will burn out one day on this. Further discussion on this is nullified by a tee time.

#89 Comment By jeremiah On December 7, 2012 @ 10:50 am

As long as you use your experience to gauge your theology, instead of God’s promises and truth in the scriptures, you will be stuck in the valleys. Hold fast look to Jesus. If one has been born from above then they can be admonished to really put off the old man and to put on the new.

#90 Comment By Scott Leonard On December 7, 2012 @ 11:08 am

Mitchell, of course you still sin. You have the flesh with you until Christ transforms your body one day. The point is that each time you are tempted, have the option of allowing “the deeds of the body” to manifest, or to walk in the Spirit. And you DO have the power to do that at each juncture. When you fail, it is due to ignorance, passivity or willful choice. And that sin was already paid for and it does not affect your standing before God. But as we learn the habit of walking in the power of the Holy Spirit, more and more righteousness is manifested in our daily experience.

#91 Comment By Scott Leonard On December 7, 2012 @ 12:01 pm

That is right, Jeremiah. And that is a very real problem with how many people come up with their theology. They say to themselves, “There is no way that the old man can be dead because of the way I sin. Sorry, Paul, you are wrong. The old man is alive and in fact you are wrong when you say it is no longer I who sins. I know because I sin all the time.” Let God be true and every man a liar!

And here is something very significant: Growth in the Christian life is not about me struggling and striving to make myself better and better. It is really simply about paying attention. It is about paying attention to live like Paul in Galatians 2:20 rather than the way he lived in Romans seven! Once you know who you are and what the flesh is, you know that your flesh will never get any better, but that you can walk in the power of the Spirit moment by moment, and that habit becomes a muscle, and you come to experience what Paul said in Romans 8:13 which is that if ” by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, YOU will LIVE!”

Guys, Let’s stop quoting confessions and Puritans, and let’s live in the Scriptures!

#92 Pingback By Oh to Grace How Great a Debtor — A Reply to Tullian Tchividjian On December 7, 2012 @ 12:06 pm

[...] glad to see some some constructive dialogue in the comments section of Tullian Tchividjian’s reply to my critique of his article on total depravity and Christians. Let me say at this point (even [...]

#93 Comment By Jack Miller On December 7, 2012 @ 12:09 pm

Scott, you wrote-

The point is that each time you are tempted, [you] have the option of allowing “the deeds of the body” to manifest, or to walk in the Spirit. And you DO have the power to do that at each juncture.

Yet Paul states, For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. (Rom. 7:18b). You rightly state, that when we do willfully (by conscious choice) sin we have the provision of Jesus’s atonement before God. But when we choose to do that which is right, is our action or thought or word sin-free? Does it meet 100% the holiness of God (be ye perfect even as your Father…). The answer is “No.” There is still the presence of sin corrupting even our best works.

So, let’s be done with the idea that some here are advocating the separation of justification from sanctification and minimizing good works. Our sanctification, as Mitchell points out, has been accomplished (Rom. 8:30). Christ has sanctified us by his blood (Heb. 10:10,14). And we are being sanctified, i.e. more and more set apart unto righteousness as we do seek to mortify the deeds of the flesh and live unto righteousness. This is the work of the Holy Spirit in us. Yet that second aspect of sanctification has more to do with the Holy Spirit pointing us to Jesus and strengthening our trust and reliance on the full provision of Christ crucified than on any role of our so-called holy or sinless behavior.

Even the Tent of worship in the O.T., the book, the people, altar, and all the holy vessels were purified (made holy, sanctified) by the sprinkling of blood (Heb. 9). In fact the writer states it was necessary for the copies of the heavenly things. How much more are we, who are now holy vessels, now sanctified by the blood of Christ rather than our good works? So yes I, being made a new creature in Christ, do strive to live for God. But never as I ought to and never without blemish. I fall short (and in this life will always fall short) and bring nothing to the table except two empty hands held out to receive again and again, through faith, that mercy of forgiveness and cleansing of Christ Jesus. Every good (yet defective) work of ours is accepted only through the blood of Christ. And it is because we are now in Him (as Steve Martin reminds us – united through baptism), that both our persons and our works are accepted by God.

blessings…

#94 Comment By Scott Leonard On December 7, 2012 @ 12:47 pm

Sorry, Jack, I am not buying that. There is a very real sense in which you need to move out of Romans seven and into Romans eight. As I listen to a lot of the talk on this page, Paul might as well have left out many of the verses in Romans six and in Romans eight. In chapter 7 Paul describes the struggle that we always face throughout the day. But in chapter 8 talks about how we can rise above that struggle and experience victory in our life. The attempt I saw above to try and explain why Paul says” it is no longer I who sins,” was anemic. He says “It is no longer I who sins,” because in fact, His new, inner man, is no longer the source of sin. Please study the passages and be honest about what they are saying. You see, Paul meant it in Romans eight when he said, “you are not in the flesh, but in the spirit.” How long are you going to emasculate the great statements in the word of God about the glorious transformation that has taken place to the man in Christ? Paul says he still lives in a “body of death” But he is in union with Christ and is, in fact, a new creature. We need to get used to it.

#95 Comment By Jack Miller On December 7, 2012 @ 1:12 pm

Whereas I’m emphasizing that we are at all times in this life sinners/saints with the struggle that implies and the comfort of Christ’s finished work, you seem to be saying we are sometimes sinners and then sometimes saints… it’s up to us, our choice. When we choose to sin we turn to Christ. When we choose to by holy (“we have the power to do it”) then we are victorious. Do we not need Christ at that time? If we do, why? Haven’t we acted in a holy manner (i.e. without sin), above it all, victorious?

I think, rather than condescend by exhorting me to get out of Rom. 7 and into Rom. 8 (and 6) you might consider that we are, apparently, understanding things differently. I have been where you are at. And I now find more “victory” in Jesus Christ’s victorious life lived for me and his finished work of the cross than in my “rising above the struggle.” Yours sounds like an over-realized eschatology to me. That being said, I’ll stick with the interpretation of Rom. 6, 7, and 8 that is reflected in the writings of Luther, Calvin, Owen, and so many others throughout the centuries rather than that of Scott.

blessings…

#96 Comment By Scott Leonard On December 7, 2012 @ 2:15 pm

Jack, please forgive me for condescending. Let me ask you this to get clarification: Can you ttell me what you believe Paul means when he says “it is no longer I who sins?”

Also, my life resonates with Paul’s use of the phrase, “…Christ, who IS YOUR LIFE…” (Col 3:4) I am actually IN Him. I believe our union with Christ–what it means to be IN Christ–is so downgraded by the theology expressed above. (I am looking forward to reading Con Campbell’s 500 page work, Paul and Union With Christ, featured on the Desiring God site!) I believe that terms like, “over realized eschatology” and “positional truth” are human fabrications constructed by people who simply can’t believe Paul meant what he said when he made the multitudinous statement such as that in II Cor 5:17. When the Roman Christians of the 1st century heard Paul saying, “You are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit,” they just exercised faith and believed it was true. Read D Martyn Lloyd-Jones on Romans, and you will hear him doing the same thing.

It is all Christ, from first to last. As I walk in the Spirit, “it is no longer I who lives, but Christ lives in me.” And when I fail to do that, it is still his standing before God, and therefore my standing IN Him, that comforts me. And I think I enjoy my Christian life a lot more than those who espouse otherwise, and I have a hunch my wife enjoys my Christian life a lot more, too!

And then maybe we should just back up to what you quoted above, Romans 8:1-4. I am satisfied with rejoicing in what Paul says there. He says that now the requirements of the law CAN be fulfilled in me as I walk in the Spirit. Not perfection, my friend, but ever increasing amounts of this: “But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life.” (Romans 6:22 ESV) This is why God climbed inside my body, and why he placed me in actual union (now) with his wonderful Son!

#97 Comment By Scott Leonard On December 7, 2012 @ 2:28 pm

By the way, I love studying the prayers of Paul, because they give great insight into what are keys to growth! Notice what he prayed for in Eph 1: “that you would KNOW what is the hope of his calling, the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints, AND the exceeding greatness of His power to us who believe…” He knew that the more we are saturated with ALL 3 of those, the more we will thrive in glorifying Christ right now!

#98 Comment By Scott Leonard On December 7, 2012 @ 2:33 pm

I fail all the time, but I don’t feel as often as I used to, and that gives God great delight. He is not focusing on my depravity, but on his son learning to walk in His Spirit! Mostly he is the lighted about the fact that I most joy of simply being in his presence and worshiping Him as I be hold his glory in his word!

#99 Comment By CMA On December 7, 2012 @ 3:17 pm

From Tom Schreiner’s review of Moo’s commentary on Romans:

“”Even more sharply contested is the spiritual status of the person described in 7:14–25. Is the “I” who cannot do what he desires and practices what he hates a Christian? Moo argues effectively that the person in view cannot be a believer, for no believer is a slave to sin (7:14) and held captive under its
power (7:23). Such a conclusion by Moo may surprise some readers since his commentary is Reformed in its orientation. But it is a mark of his objectivity as a scholar that he is willing to consider whether the Augustinian interpretation is correct. As always he is exceedingly fair to those who espouse a different position. Moo rightly emphasizes that it is diffcult to see how Paul could describe believers as slaves to sin and captives to sin. In fact in my own commentary on Romans I argue a view quite similar to Moo’s. If 7:14–25 does not refer to believers, it does not follow that believers live sinlessly perfect lives or have no struggle with sin. Indeed, many Christians are convinced that the latter part of Romans 7 describes them precisely because the
struggle with sin is so ˜erce. Once we see, however, that 7:14–25 portrays the experience of those who are totally defeated by sin—that is, in bondage to sin and captives to sin—then it becomes clear that believers are not in view in this text. Believers struggle with sin and are not free from sin since
they live in the interval between the “already” and the “not yet,” but they are not captives to sin.”"

#100 Comment By Jack Miller On December 7, 2012 @ 3:41 pm

Scott,

To hopefully further clarify things it may be helpful to look at some remarks of Tullian below. He is responding to a reviewer’s criticism of “Jesus + Nothing = Everything” -

The overarching concern you raise is the confusion of justification with sanctification. This is understandable to me because for a long time some have concluded that justification is step one and sanctification is step two and that once we get to step two there’s no reason to go back to step one. Sanctification, in other words, is commonly understood as progress beyond the initial step of justification. But while justification and sanctification are to be clearly separated theologically, the Bible won’t allow us to separate them essentially and functionally.

Sanctification is NOT the process of moving beyond the reality of our justification but rather moving deeper into the reality of our justification. If sanctification could be likened to our responsibility to swim, justification is the pool we swim in. Justification and sanctification go together. As G. C. Berkouwer wisely remarked (and you quoted me quoting him), “The heart of sanctification is the life which feeds on justification.” Sanctification feeds on justification, not the other way around. This is why Luther wrote, “To progress is always to begin again.” Real spiritual progress, in other words, requires a daily going backwards. We are to work at fighting the sin that so easily entangles us and robs us of our freedom by fleeing to the finished work of Christ every day.
Sanctification, as someone once put it, is not something added to justification. It is, rather, the justified life.

And in answer to your question, “Can you ttell me what you believe Paul means when he says “it is no longer I who sins?” ” From Calvin’s Commentary on Romans 7:17-20 –

… but it is a declaration, by which he shows how very far he dissented from his own flesh in his spiritual feeling; for the faithful are carried along in their obedience to God with such fervour of spirit that they deny the flesh…

And here again he confirms the fact, that he did not speak of men in general, but of the faithful, who are divided into two parts — the relics of the flesh, and grace. For why was the modification made, except some part was exempt from depravity, and therefore not flesh? Under the term flesh, he ever includes all that human nature is, everything in man, except the sanctification of the Spirit. In the same manner, by the term spirit, which is commonly opposed to the flesh, he means that part of the soul which the Spirit of God has so re-formed, and purified from corruption, that God’s image shines forth in it. Then both terms, flesh as well as spirit, belong to the soul; but the latter to that part which is renewed, and the former to that which still retains its natural character.

And from the editor’s footnote 227:

he Apostle here is his own interpreter; he explains who the I is that does what the other I disapproved, and who the I is that hates what the other I does. He tells us here that it is not the same I, though announced at first as though it were the same. The one I, he informs us here, was his flesh, his innate sin or Corruption, and the other I, he tells us in Romans 7:22, was “the inner man,” his new nature. The “inner man,” as Calvin will tell us presently, is not the soul as distinguished from the body, but the renewed man as distinguished from the flesh. It is the same as the “new man” as distinguished from “the old man.” See Ephesians 4:22, 24; Romans 6:6; 2 Corinthians 5:17. But “the inward man,” and “the outward man,” in 2 Corinthians 4:16, are the soul and the body; and “the inner man,” in Ephesians 3:16, the same expression as in Romans 7:22, means the soul, as it is evident from the context. The same is meant by “the hidden man of the heart,” in 1 Peter 3:4.” — Ed.

cheers and blessings…

#101 Comment By Jack Miller On December 7, 2012 @ 3:43 pm

Scott,
For some reason I’m having a problem posting my comments. It may be the length. So here it is in two parts, I hope!

For further clarification it may be helpful to look at some remarks of Tullian below. He is responding to a reviewer’s criticism of “Jesus + Nothing = Everything” -

The overarching concern you raise is the confusion of justification with sanctification. This is understandable to me because for a long time some have concluded that justification is step one and sanctification is step two and that once we get to step two there’s no reason to go back to step one. Sanctification, in other words, is commonly understood as progress beyond the initial step of justification. But while justification and sanctification are to be clearly separated theologically, the Bible won’t allow us to separate them essentially and functionally.
Sanctification is NOT the process of moving beyond the reality of our justification but rather moving deeper into the reality of our justification. If sanctification could be likened to our responsibility to swim, justification is the pool we swim in. Justification and sanctification go together. As G. C. Berkouwer wisely remarked (and you quoted me quoting him), “The heart of sanctification is the life which feeds on justification.” Sanctification feeds on justification, not the other way around. This is why Luther wrote, “To progress is always to begin again.” Real spiritual progress, in other words, requires a daily going backwards. We are to work at fighting the sin that so easily entangles us and robs us of our freedom by fleeing to the finished work of Christ every day.
Sanctification, as someone once put it, is not something added to justification. It is, rather, the justified life.

#102 Comment By Jack Miller On December 7, 2012 @ 3:45 pm

Scott, to answer your question – Can you ttell me what you believe Paul means when he says “it is no longer I who sins?” – From Calvin’s Commentary on Romans 7:17-20 –

… but it is a declaration, by which he shows how very far he dissented from his own flesh in his spiritual feeling; for the faithful are carried along in their obedience to God with such fervour of spirit that they deny the flesh…

And here again he confirms the fact, that he did not speak of men in general, but of the faithful, who are divided into two parts — the relics of the flesh, and grace. For why was the modification made, except some part was exempt from depravity, and therefore not flesh? Under the term flesh, he ever includes all that human nature is, everything in man, except the sanctification of the Spirit. In the same manner, by the term spirit, which is commonly opposed to the flesh, he means that part of the soul which the Spirit of God has so re-formed, and purified from corruption, that God’s image shines forth in it. Then both terms, flesh as well as spirit, belong to the soul; but the latter to that part which is renewed, and the former to that which still retains its natural character.

And from the editor’s footnote 227:

he Apostle here is his own interpreter; he explains who the I is that does what the other I disapproved, and who the I is that hates what the other I does. He tells us here that it is not the same I, though announced at first as though it were the same. The one I, he informs us here, was his flesh, his innate sin or Corruption, and the other I, he tells us in Romans 7:22, was “the inner man,” his new nature. The “inner man,” as Calvin will tell us presently, is not the soul as distinguished from the body, but the renewed man as distinguished from the flesh. It is the same as the “new man” as distinguished from “the old man.” See Ephesians 4:22, 24; Romans 6:6; 2 Corinthians 5:17. But “the inward man,” and “the outward man,” in 2 Corinthians 4:16, are the soul and the body; and “the inner man,” in Ephesians 3:16, the same expression as in Romans 7:22, means the soul, as it is evident from the context. The same is meant by “the hidden man of the heart,” in 1 Peter 3:4.” — Ed.

cheers and blessings…

#103 Comment By Jack Miller On December 7, 2012 @ 3:48 pm

Scott, to answer your question – Can you ttell me what you believe Paul means when he says “it is no longer I who sins?” -

From Calvin’s Commentary on Romans 7:17-20 –

… but it is a declaration, by which he shows how very far he dissented from his own flesh in his spiritual feeling; for the faithful are carried along in their obedience to God with such fervour of spirit that they deny the flesh…

And here again he confirms the fact, that he did not speak of men in general, but of the faithful, who are divided into two parts — the relics of the flesh, and grace. For why was the modification made, except some part was exempt from depravity, and therefore not flesh? Under the term flesh, he ever includes all that human nature is, everything in man, except the sanctification of the Spirit. In the same manner, by the term spirit, which is commonly opposed to the flesh, he means that part of the soul which the Spirit of God has so re-formed, and purified from corruption, that God’s image shines forth in it. Then both terms, flesh as well as spirit, belong to the soul; but the latter to that part which is renewed, and the former to that which still retains its natural character.

#104 Comment By Jack Miller On December 7, 2012 @ 4:29 pm

Scott, the editor of that edition of Calvin’s Romans commentary adds the following footnote that I think is helpful:

The Apostle here is his own interpreter; he explains who the I is that does what the other I disapproved, and who the I is that hates what the other I does. He tells us here that it is not the same I, though announced at first as though it were the same. The one I, he informs us here, was his flesh, his innate sin or Corruption, and the other I, he tells us in Romans 7:22, was “the inner man,” his new nature. The “inner man,” as Calvin will tell us presently, is not the soul as distinguished from the body, but the renewed man as distinguished from the flesh. It is the same as the “new man” as distinguished from “the old man.” See Ephesians 4:22, 24; Romans 6:6; 2 Corinthians 5:17. But “the inward man,” and “the outward man,” in 2 Corinthians 4:16, are the soul and the body; and “the inner man,” in Ephesians 3:16, the same expression as in Romans 7:22, means the soul, as it is evident from the context. The same is meant by “the hidden man of the heart,” in 1 Peter 3:4. — Ed.

cheers and blessings…

#105 Comment By Scott Leonard On December 7, 2012 @ 6:44 pm

Jack, I have 2 questions. Do you like that answer by Calvin? and why couldn’t you just put something in your own words? I am NOT asking those questions to be argumentative. I think there are far too many people who cannot discuss the verses themselves. I also think that what you quoted from Calvin does not do justice to the context of those verses. how dare I disagree with Calvin, right? without looking at what you pasted by Calvin, why don’t you tell me what you believe and then also tell me what you believe Paul meant when he said you are not in the flesh , but in the spirit?

#106 Comment By Scott Leonard On December 7, 2012 @ 6:48 pm

I love Calvin, and I am a Calvinist. but I don’t necessarily believe he cornered the market on union with Christ. otherwise, among other things, con Campbell would certainly not have needed to ride a 500 word book on the subject. he could have just said, “See Calvin.”

#107 Comment By Scott Leonard On December 7, 2012 @ 6:49 pm

Sorry, I am doing voice to text and my auto text is not working very well!

#108 Comment By Scott Leonard On December 7, 2012 @ 6:50 pm

But here is a simple question I would like to ask you and anyone else who is reading: do you believe that the third person of the Trinity is literally living inside you?

#109 Comment By Jack Miller On December 7, 2012 @ 7:17 pm

Scott, Yes I like Calvin’s answer. Does he say everything that needs to be said? No. Can I expand and add? Yes. By the way, why so defensive about the quote? Did I suggest that if you disagree with Calvin in this instance that there is something wrong with you? No.
There are a number of people I respect would differ with Calvin here.

I put it forward as a succinct take on your initial question. Tell you what. I’m just about leaving work right now. No time to comment further. Busy tonight, but I’ll get back to you tomorrow. But it seems from you questions (as in the last one) that the assumption is that if someone doesn’t see it your way then they’re writing off portions of the Christian life. No. We may just have different understandings on various doctrines.

By the way, I do believe that the Holy Spirit indwells me and everyone who trusts in Christ for salvation. But again, what does that exactly mean? I knew one minister that claim to know the actual location of where the Spirit dwells within us. Difficult to think one contains the living God of glory… in a literal sense.

#110 Comment By Mark G On December 7, 2012 @ 8:31 pm

I haven’t been following too closely but it seems the way Herman Ridderbos in “Paul: An Outline of His Theology” treats these dichotomous ideas in Paul (Flesh & Spirit, Old Man & New Man, Worldly or Earthly & Heavenly) may be relevant. Ridderbos argues that these concepts in Paul are related to his two age eschatology; i.e., by the HS you have been supernaturally transferred from “this present evil age” to the “age to come.” You are a citizen of heaven, a new creation. This is of course in an inaugurated (all ready) form, but will be eschatalogically realized when Christ returns (not yet). Thus the spirit and the flesh are not two principles (little homunculi) warring within the believer but two antithetical modes of existance, one governed by the HS and the other characterized by Satan & his seed. When Paul tells us that we are a new creation & should therefore be heavenly minded etc. he is telling us to live in accordance with who we are in Christ & BE new creational, BE heavenly minded, operate according to Holy Spirit (i.e., spiritual) principles.

#111 Comment By Scott Leonard On December 7, 2012 @ 8:39 pm

Jack, you misunderstand me. I am a big fan of Calvin, and I am a big fan of Tullian (I have two of his latest books, and gave Jesus+Nothing as a Christmas present last year.) I definitely think that “falls far short. And in Romans eight Paul did not say part of you is in the flesh and the part of you is in the spirit. He said “you are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit”

I have been passionate on this subject and an intense student of it for over 30 years. The word of God is incredibly rich and full on it’s explanation of who we are in Christ and what sanctification is about. What has not been rich and full is many pastors’ and teachers’ exposition of the pertinent passages. My fear is that because careful exegesis of passages like Romans six through eight is very difficult, and because it does not lead many teachers where they want to go, they shy away from it or brush over it, or default to confessions or other writers, rather than Unpacking what is really there. And I know that sounds like they just aren’t unpacking what I have unpacked, but I honestly don’t see many who deal thoroughly with the critical verses.

The reason I asked whether you and others believe that the Holy Spirit actually live inside our body is that if you believe that you have to believe that we actually are in Christ. The reason I say that is because of the many verses where “in Christ” and “Christ in you” are right next to each other like in this verse: “In that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you.” (John 14:20) How much do we have to learn about who and where we really are?!

God bless.

#112 Comment By Mitchell Hammonds On December 7, 2012 @ 10:35 pm

People know good news when they hear it Scott. Your view proposes a fascination with sinning less and less, which is in keeping with a modern day Calvinist understanding. I simply say I’m righteous in Christ and I’m sinful in the flesh. I serve the Law of God with my spirit but with my flesh I’m a slave of sin. Call it an identity crisis, multiple personality disorder or whatever you want. You still sin… I still sin… Jack still sins. It’s also no longer I who lives but Christ IN ME. Start calling me Jesus if that’s who I am… in reality.
Nobody thinks this way. I think your “donkey senses” have been tingling too long on this.

#113 Comment By jeremiah On December 7, 2012 @ 11:18 pm

Paul thought this way, ‘to live is Christ’. I think Scott is in good company.

Col. 3
If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.

#114 Comment By Scott Leonard On December 8, 2012 @ 12:34 am

Mark, I like a lot of what Ridderbos is saying there! Would like to tease that out some.

Jeremiah, that is one of my favorite passages. People say, “What do you mean, I died and rose!? Impossible! I’m still here! I don’t see any differently!” Paul says, Yeh, it’s because you’re hidden. Your real life is hidden, and so is Christ. You’re in him. When you see him one day, you’ll see yourself and know you were there all along.

The one thing I would say to both Mark and Mitchell is that in Rom 8:9, Paul says we are, in fact, NOT in the flesh, and that we ARE in the Spirit. Right now, not later. ARE means now. NOT means NOT, and this all says we are that way right now. We must deal with that. YOU, the true you, are NOT in the flesh, and you ARE in the Spirit. So whatever that is, you better be rejoicing in it, and you better be living in it! If you aren’t, you aren’t living what Paul and the Holy Spirit had in mind!

#115 Comment By theoldadam On December 8, 2012 @ 1:18 am

“So whatever that is, you better be rejoicing in it, and you better be living in it! If you aren’t, you aren’t living what Paul and the Holy Spirit had in mind!”

Good.. luck.

Hey…was that our assurance, and freedom, flying by us and out the window?

By golly…I think it was.

#116 Comment By Scott Leonard On December 8, 2012 @ 1:31 am

OldAdam, I didnt say you aren’t saved if you’re not doing that; I said you aren’t living the life Paul and the Holy Spirit had in mind. You’re not arguing with me, my friend. I just quoted the passage and repeated it a few times. That’s the big problem around here. Scripture will mess up your theology. Argue with this: “However, you are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit.”-Rom 8:9

#117 Comment By theoldadam On December 8, 2012 @ 7:13 am

Scott,

I never said that you said I wasn’t saved.

I said that you rob people of their assurance, and freedom, in the finished work of Christ for real sinners.

#118 Comment By Mark G On December 8, 2012 @ 7:16 am

Another aspect that needs to be considered in the discussion of Paul’s teaching on spirit/flesh, new man/old man, etc. is his primary emphasis on the corporate. Americans tend to think in individualistic terms and miss Paul’s emphasis. One can most easily see this in Paul in the metaphores of the groom & bride, first fruits and harvest, head and body. Christ has one bride. He’s not a polygamist. There is one harvest. Christ is head over one body, not a whole bunch of indvidualistic bodies. When Paul addresses the church he is typically addressing them as the body of believers; for example when he calls them a new creation. Certainly the personal is important when talking about the benefits we have in Christ but in the thought of Paul this is within the context of the corporate.

#119 Comment By Mitchell Hammonds On December 8, 2012 @ 8:22 am

I’m not denying Paul says what you quote Scott. My argument with you is you have a problem with someone saying “I sinned” “I’m a sinner” when in fact Paul refers to himself in these ways. It’s not the only way he refers to himself, I agree. I simply think you are pushing a point beyond what was intended. If you’re right Paul would not have referred to himself as “I’m the chief of sinners” just before his death. Rebuke Paul. I suppose you’d disagree with this statement as well “I, a poor, miserable sinner,
confess unto You all my sins and iniquities with which I have ever offended You and justly deserved Your temporal and eternal punishment. But I am heartily sorry for them and sincerely repent of them, and I pray You of Your boundless mercy and for the sake of the holy, innocent, bitter sufferings and death of Your beloved Son, Jesus Christ, to be gracious and merciful to me, a poor, sinful being.”

#120 Comment By Scott Leonard On December 8, 2012 @ 8:51 am

So 3 quick thoughts. Mitchell, here’s the funny thing, I say that I send all the time! I understand what Paul means, and so I know that when I send like Paul says it’s no longer I that sends but he still said and so do I. it is a matter of understanding my true identity.OldAdam, I and the people I know who believe the same way immensely enjoy our assurance and the fact we sin doesn’t rob us of our joy at all unless we don’t confess it and repent! And Mark, I agree. but it is interesting how when you read passages like Romans 7, Paul uses “I” a lot.

#121 Comment By theoldadam On December 8, 2012 @ 9:12 am

Scott,

The point is not that sinning robs us of assurance…it is people telling us that we may not really be in Christ, if we continue to sin, or if we aren’t living up to some standard.

Do you really want to rely upon your record of repentance (from certain sins) when you stand before the Lord.

I don’t.

#122 Comment By theoldadam On December 8, 2012 @ 9:14 am

Read this:

The great offense of the Christian faith is this: there is no other God than the crucified man Jesus. The meaning of the word God for the Christian faith means one thing and one thing only, the person of Jesus. For human beings Jesus is the final word of self-revelation, self-definition and self-affirmation of God. If God is the subject, the Crucified Jesus is the lone predicate.

The current wild objections to this run all the way back to the jeering bystanders who stood and watched Him die. “If you are the Son of God, come down from the cross!” He didn’t, of course, and this was proof enough for them that all God talk where Jesus was concerned was bunk. It never occurred to them that the deepest, clearest revelation of God for humans was right there in the ripped flesh, blood and death. It also hasn’t occurred to many in the churches.

Much of the onward and upward religion of today has ruled out this stark definition in favor of what people have always clamored for: an onward and upward, positive, uplifting, fulfilling and glory-filled God. Churches everywhere are throwing ladders against the walls of heaven, scrambling to free themselves from the bondage, suffering and confusion of the world, storm the halls of glory and grab a piece of divinity. But all this does is diminish God’s very self-revelation, the place where He wants to be known, and render the cross of Jesus useless.

The Crucified Jesus must be the singular point of contact for us. This because there is no pre-existing point of contact in us, no free will that desires God, no spark of divinity which God fans like a sad ember into a roaring flame of faith. We must be met where we actually are, in the utter deadness of sin with no possibility in ourselves, I repeat, no possibility in ourselves at all to regain life and freedom from the powers of sin and death. God must become sin and death for us in order that He may be life for us.

This means that the Christian life has nothing whatsoever to do with the glory and praise religion of God seeking. In this life there will be no heaven ahead of time. Jesus did not die between two gilded candles on an altar, or in the midst of a hyper-ventilating praise band. He died between two criminals like you and me. That is still where he wants to be found, in the company of real sinners distinguished only by the knowledge of their great need.

For the Gospel of the crucified God grounds the Christian in the real world of hurts and hopes with our eyes wide open to things as they are.

The Gospel of the Crucified God releases us from delusional spiritual pursuits that we may be what we were intended to be; creatures who are content to be engaged in the practical affairs of daily living in that radical cross-carrying faith that is content to entrust the things of God, to God, expecting nothing, as we await with Advent longing the future that God has promised.

( that was by my pastor, Mark Anderson)

#123 Comment By Brandon E On December 8, 2012 @ 10:07 am

I fully agree with pastor Tullian when he says, “we never graduate beyond our desperate need for Christ’s righteousness and his strong and perfect blood-soaked plea ‘before the throne of God above.’”

The sinful flesh never improves, and it will be with us until the glorification of our mortal bodies. So we can never graduate from justification by grace through faith, confession unto the covering of His blood, etc. In fact, even after we are glorified, we will still give glory to the Lamb who died for us (Rev. 22:1, 3); it is not as if we will forget His justifying work simply because we have been made sinless. Our worship, attention, and appreciation of Him is not merely according to our problems or present need but according to who He is and what He has done.

At the same time, Christ and the apostles clearly indicate that grace not only pardons and forgives but empowers and enlivens, for grace is God in Christ Himself indwelling the justified believers. They repeatedly reminded us to recognize this and lay hold of this. The Lord Jesus commanded that we abide in Him and He in us that we would bear much fruit for apart from Him we can do nothing (John 15:4-5). The apostle Paul said to pursue Christ (Phil. 3:7-16), to walk by the Spirit and by no means fulfill the lusts of the flesh (Gal. 5:16, 25), that he is able to do all things through Him who empowers him (Phil. 4:13), etc. Peter speaks of “applying all diligence” to add to our faith, virtue, knowledge, self-control, endurance, godliness, brotherly love, and love, for God has granted us all things related to life and godliness that we would become partakers of the divine nature through the full knowledge of Him (2 Pet. 1:3-11).

I agree with Scott Leonard in the comments when he says that the attitude or atmosphere here is one of rest and trust in the indwelling Christ, rather than the burden of law-keeping. The point is not to “give us something to do” in order to earn justification or the assurance of our salvation, or to prove ourselves to others, or to achieve a state of completed personal righteousness (which is impossible in this life, since the flesh of sin is always with us, and we all sin and fail), but for us to grow in our revelation and experience of Christ in our practical living for the building up of the Body of Christ. Christ is more to us than the One who judicially forgives us our sins or takes care of our assurance problem; He is also our life and He lives in us (Col. 3:4; Gal. 2:20).

#124 Comment By Scott Leonard On December 8, 2012 @ 11:27 am

Old Adam, I said before that I was not questioning anyone’s salvation. I was talking about enjoying the Christian life.

#125 Comment By Mitchell Hammonds On December 8, 2012 @ 11:33 am

Scott,
Again I’m not disagreeing with you in your wording at all. But who is this “We” or “I” rather who confesses and repents. We don’t say “Jesus’ human nature rose from the dead” we simply say “Jesus rose from the dead.” Likewise, we don’t attempt to decipher who the “I” is we simply say “I am righteous in Christ” or “I am a poor miserable sinner.” I think you are attempting to go into the “identity crisis” farther than what Paul intended. You may even be correct (I doubt it though) but we aren’t given more than this: “We are righteous in Christ” and “We are sinful though forgiven.” Simul justus et piccator. So it isn’t that folks are “afraid” to deal with the text with you or Jeremiah but rather they probably don’t have the time to go into it. Or maybe they’re doing ok in their assurance of who they are in Christ and don’t see the need in kicking the thought around – I’m in and out of needing to study this stuff. It’s why I golf so much – I get to shut my brain down for awhile. But I do enjoy the great discussion and challenge more than I let on as well.
Have a great Christmas season my friend!!

#126 Comment By Jack Miller On December 8, 2012 @ 11:48 am

Scott, you wrote: The reason I asked whether you and others believe that the Holy Spirit actually live inside our body is that if you believe that you have to believe that we actually are in Christ.

The issue here is what does the above mean? That is, what does it mean to be in Christ? The issue is not do we both believe actually those truths. But, what does it mean that the Holy Spirit lives in his people and for them to live in Christ? And, what do those two realities mean for our every day living as Christians? I would say that it is in those two truths we find our justification intrinsically linked to our sanctification.

So my question to you is what is your understanding of how our justification is involved, linked, or woven into our sanctification?

By the way, I do plan on addressing your request for more of my thoughts on Romans 7. I may do it on my blog, though, and link to it as it might be a bit lengthy. Additionally, I’m curious as to your understanding of the passage in Hebrews 10 that I commented on earlier regarding our being sanctified by the blood of Christ. What is your understanding of how the blood of Jesus sanctifies (purifies, makes holy) the people of God?

best regards…

#127 Comment By Jack Miller On December 8, 2012 @ 12:55 pm

Scott, another question – When you are living as the “true you,” i.e. “living in the Spirit,” are you, at those moments, living in a sinless state? In other words, when you act “in the Spirit” is your action pure, without any sin?

#128 Comment By J. Dean On December 8, 2012 @ 5:01 pm

You are very right, Pastor T. We do grow, and we do good works, but we never separate from the gospel, nor do we ever abandon Christ’s work as the grounds for our sanctification. And we can hold to this belief without embracing licentiousness or excuses for sinning. Well said.

With all due respect to Mr. Phillips, the “yes grace but…” attitude is more prevalent in churches than some may believe, even among the Reformed. People are coming very close to obscuring the gospel in their zeal for preaching good works (David Platt and Francis Chan come to mind). Antinomianism may be a danger to the church, but so is legalism, and the solution to dealing with a perceived onset of one is not to jump toward the other.

#129 Comment By theoldadam On December 8, 2012 @ 6:18 pm

Scott,

I never thought you were questioning anyone’s salvation.

But law language (the language of what we should, ought, or must be doing, or feeling…is an assurance and a freedom killer. With the best of intentions, Christians all around us are doing it. It come from not knowing how to properly distinguish between the law and the gospel, and it comes from having NO real presence of Christ in Baptism and the Lord’s Supper. That’s where freedom and assurance are found. When you don’t have a proper understanding the sacraments, then everything will, by necessity, turn inward. And then one is off to the spirituality and religious ladder-climbing races.

#130 Comment By Scott Leonard On December 8, 2012 @ 6:31 pm

Jack, it is amazing, isn’t it, that we can talk about such lofty things as being in Christ, and dead to sin, alive to God, and yet we fathom so little of the mystery! I think it is, in fact, important to resist the temptation to go beyond what scripture asserts and explains. I do wonder what the common people in Colossae thought when they read this: “If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.” (Colossians 3:1-4) The words about this mystery were written to them. Did they simply believe that, though they couldn’t see it, their true self was literally risen and hidden with Christ in God?

But when I say we shouldn’t go beyond what scripture says, I also mean we shouldn’t fall short of it. I sin every day, but I should not let that cause me to be out of balance by failing to proclaim and rejoice in the riches I have. (And those riches start with justification, but they go far beyond that! I will NEVER get tired of reminding myself that in spite of my sins, today, I am as righteous as Jesus Christ himself in the court of heaven! But when I am standing in the presence of an “unlovable” co-worker, what I need is to remember the fact that I am regenerated and indwelt by the living Christ, with whom I am in an amazing union, and that He will love that person through me right now as I step out in obedience. Galatians 2:20 in action. And so I don’t believe sanctification is me trying to get better in my flesh, nor is it just remembering I’m justified. It involves recognizing that Christ IN me is my only hope of glorifying God, and that Christ didn’t climb inside my body to be a passenger or simply a justifier. He came in to be my LIFE (He literally is, whether I know it or not!), and He came in to live his life THROUGH me, as I walk by faith. “This I say then, walk IN THE SPIRIT and you will NOT fulfill the lusts of the flesh.” (Gal 5:16)

And again regarding justification, I think it is an insult to the incredible argument and instruction Paul gives in Romans 6 about how to kill sin in your life, to focus so exclusively on justification. When Paul wanted believers to enjoy victory over sin, he didn’t say, “just keep remembering you are justified.” (As important as that is) He said things like, “We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life….We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin….. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness.” (Romans 6:4, 6, 11-13)

All of it is in Christ, and there is so much there for us! But Paul had to say, “Don’t you KNOW?” because so many don’t. They only know about justification and not the mystery of their union with Christ!

#131 Comment By jeremiah On December 8, 2012 @ 6:38 pm

Oldadam, what do you do when you read of Christ and His apostles use the language of what we should, ought, or must be doing, or feeling?

#132 Comment By Scott Leonard On December 8, 2012 @ 7:09 pm

Yes, and we are told, not only to “make our calling and election sure,” and to “Examine yourselves to see if you are in the faith,” but also to”Work out your salvation with fear and trembling.”

#133 Comment By jeremiah On December 8, 2012 @ 7:23 pm

Jer. 6:16,17 Thus says the LORD: “Stand by the roads, and look, and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way is; and walk in it, and find rest for your souls. But they said, ‘We will not walk in it.’ I set watchmen over you, saying, ‘Pay attention to the sound of the trumpet!’ But they said, ‘We will not pay attention.’

God wants us to walk in the Spirit and listen to His voice. Why is this resisted?

In light of God’s forgiveness of us, are we not to forgive others?
In light of God’s love toward us, are we not to love others?
In light of the suffering of Christ, are we not to suffer?
In light of Christ doing the Father’s will, are we not to do the will of the Lord?
In light of the resurrection of Christ, are we not to walk in the newness of life and not in our former manner of life?

The life of Christ is really within and powerful unto His children who are alive.

#134 Comment By Jack Miller On December 8, 2012 @ 7:34 pm

Jeremiah, I’m wondering, who do you have in mind that is resisting walking in the Spirit and listening to His voice?

Scott, I’m also wondering if you might answer the questions I posed to you…

- Cheers

#135 Comment By Mitchell Hammonds On December 8, 2012 @ 7:59 pm

There is nothing more dangerous than an isolated individual with a Bible verse(s).

#136 Comment By jeremiah On December 8, 2012 @ 8:10 pm

Thanks Jack, I have in mind those who resist the call to walk in obedience to Christ in the name of ‘grace’.

#137 Comment By Jack Miller On December 8, 2012 @ 8:17 pm

Thanks, jeremiah. So my question is why are you posting that comment here? It’s a question that presupposes backsliding or lack of faith. To whom is it directed? Or are you simply pontificating in a general sort of way?

#138 Comment By Jack Miller On December 8, 2012 @ 8:25 pm

jeremiah… Got it! Just general pontificating then…

Thanks.

Luke 18: 9-14

#139 Comment By jeremiah On December 8, 2012 @ 8:33 pm

Jack, I thought it was self explanatory. It is directed to those who resist the call to walk in obedience to Christ in the name of ‘grace’.

#140 Comment By Jack Miller On December 8, 2012 @ 8:38 pm

I guess I anticipated your answer…

#141 Comment By Scott Leonard On December 9, 2012 @ 1:11 am

Jack, I got started on answering the Q about whether I think I’m sinless when I walk in the Spirit rather than the flesh. That’s where I think we need to stay within the lines of what scripture says: Paul said he head a clear conscience, yet he didn’t thereby acquit himself. At that level I think he was saying as best he knew, he was living in righteousness, but only God knows the motives. So he implied that he could be blameless in his walk at that point, but only God knew. I think the sense of the verse is that he is not saying, “no way I could be blameless right now, even if I have a clear conscience.” Let’s see the verse: “But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by any human court. In fact, I do not even judge myself. 4For I am not aware of anything against myself, but I am not thereby acquitted. It is the Lord who judges me. 5Therefore do not pronounce judgment before the time, before the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart. Then each one will receive his commendation from God.”–1Cor 4:3-5

I think if Paul says it is no longer I who sins, that is a huge, significant statement, and if he also says in II Cor 5, “From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer. 17Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come,” then I think it does these and similar statements an injustice to spend time focusing on depravity. Paul says that even when he fails to walk in the victory of Romans six and eight, it still isn’t he who sins! So let’s say what he says! When he says in Rom 7 that “nothing good dwells in me,” he finishes the sentence by saying (paraphrase), “well, not really me, it’s my FLESH where nothing good dwells!” So let’s say what Paul says. When he says you are NOT in the flesh, you’re in the Spirit, let’s say what he says!

It is important to distinguish when Paul is making statements about his true identity, versus when he speaks of his performance. When he says he is the chief of sinners, he is talking about his performance and is not contradicting what he said about not being the one who sinned. That is a statement about his inner man, the true Paul, in Christ, in the Spirit. When Paul speaks in Rom 8:9, he doesn’t say “part of you is in the flesh, and part of you is in the Spirit!” He says, “YOU are not in the flesh, but IN THE SPIRIT!” So let’s say what Paul says, and let’s understand whether he is talking about our nature/identity, or about our performance. HUGE distinction that can be made when you are VERY familiar with this chapters.

By the way, do you want to know what is depraved? I won’t interpret it, I’ll just let you read it: “But if Christ is in you, although the BODY is dead because of sin, the SPIRIT is life because of righteousness.”(Rom 8:10)
Here’s another parallel one where he shows where the depravity is and where it isn’t: “I MYSELF serve the law of God…..but with MY FLESH I serve the law of SIN.” (Rom 7:25)

I’m not making this stuff up! Let’s say what Paul says, and stop saying things he doesn’t say!

#142 Comment By JeffB On December 9, 2012 @ 2:38 am

I realize that I’m coming to this discussion very late, but I’d like to ask a question concerning something that Tullian said in one of his comments:

“I am interested in putting people on a diet, though. Just not the one you say. I’m interested in eradicating the spiritual narcissism that we Evangelicals have adopted and called ‘sanctification.’ It’s unarguable that holiness by grace is forgetting about yourself–or as Keller puts it, ‘Blessed Self-Forgetfulness.’”

I’d like to know what is meant by the final sentence. On the face of it, it seems to point to some mystical experience espoused by one or more of the Eastern religions. Is it the only alternative to “spiritual narcissism”? I understand what Scripture means when it says not to make much of ourselves, but self-forgetfulness sounds extreme.

Tullian, if you are still monitoring these comments, would you please explain this or point me to where you have already done so? I’d appreciate the comments of others also.

#143 Comment By theoldadam On December 9, 2012 @ 7:53 am

JeffB,

(pardon me for jumping in here)

At the judgment when Jesus said to them, “Depart from me…for I never knew you.” He was talking to people who were all kinds of works in His name.

Then He came to those who were also ‘doing’ all sorts of works. “When I was naked, you clothed me…when I was hungry you fed me, when I was in jail you visited me…”
“When did we do this?” “When you did it to the least of these you did it to me”

It wasn’t even on their minds that they were doing ‘God pleasing’ works. They were not thinking about themselves and gaining anything for themselves in what they were doing. They just saw a need…and did it. NO thinking about it. Weighing it out. They were un- self-conscious… or they had “the Blessed Self-Fogetfulness”.

This is state is awfully hard to arrive at if one is not truly free. And when people re constantly planting seeds in your head about stuff you ought, or ought not be doing.

#144 Comment By Mitchell Hammonds On December 9, 2012 @ 9:29 am

Scott,
No one has insinuated we are part sinner and part saint. What has been said, and what I believe Paul is getting at, is we are both 100% righteous in Christ, 100% sinful in the flesh. Couple this with our confessing sin in the first person “I” (unless you think a believer confessing their sinful condition is against Scripture) and you have yourself referring to your own self as a sinner “I”… in the flesh. You are attempting to solve a paradox that even Paul isn’t trying to solve. You’re going beyond what is intended for us to understand. Paul refers to himself “I” in the flesh… “but in the flesh I serve the law of sin.” We are both… for now till physical death. We look forward to the redeeming of our bodies in the resurrection.
If it is meant to be as you say we should not be confessing sin because sin has absolutely nothing to do with us. But that is not… not… Paul’s approach. We continue to see our sin and it causes us to worry as to whether we are really “In Christ” to which Paul addresses that issue in Romans 8:1 “There is therefore now no condemnation…” Completely 2 wills at work in the life of believers – The will to obey and the will to sin. So the old Adam is not obliterated when he is put to death but this death to him is a repeated action performed by God himself through the preaching of Law and the new man raised to walk in the Spirit by the proclamation of the Gospel. You’re throwing a wrench into the cogs with this “side saddle” theology man. Of course 30 years from now I could be saying “Where is Scott Leonard… man he was right.” Again, I doubt it though! LOL.

#145 Comment By Scott Leonard On December 9, 2012 @ 10:50 am

JeffB, How about this: instead of creating a phrase, let’s go to where scripture speaks of sanctification. Let’s start with, yes, Romans six…. Romans 6:19

“I am speaking in human terms because of the weakness of your flesh. For just as you presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness, resulting in further lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness, resulting in SANCTIFICATION”

Notice, it is after 18 verses of explaining what it means to be dead to sin, that Paul uses that word. In verse 12 he said,

“Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its lusts”

In 8:13 he will warn that we must be careful (this would not be self-forgetfulness) not to live according to the flesh, but says, “if you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.” The context shows he is talking about our daily walk.

Here’s a familiar verse where Paul uses the word again:

1 Thessalonians 4:3 “For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality”

#146 Comment By theoldadam On December 9, 2012 @ 10:58 am

If you…if you…if you…if you…if you…if you…if you…

That’s not salvation. That’s damnation.

That’s not good news. That’s just more law.

Forget it. You cannot recapture your lost innocence (truth is, you never really had any to begin with).

You have a Savior! Don’t you realize that? You need a Savior! You aren’t up to it. Nobody is up to it. If we were, then the Cross is of no avail.

This is my last try. I’m finally going to take Jesus’ words to heart and move on. Bang my sandals together and look for others that might be ripe to hear the Good News. They are out there you know.

The law is for the proud. The gospel is for the broken hearted.

#147 Comment By theoldadam On December 9, 2012 @ 11:25 am

This’ll be my parting shot:

“We are justified freely, for Christ’s sake, by faith, without the exertion of our own strength, gaining of merit, or doing of works. To the age-old question, ‘What shall I do to be saved?’ the confessional answer is shocking: ‘Nothing! Just be still; shut up and listen for once in your life to what God the Almighty, creator and redeemer, is saying to his world and to you in the death and resurrection of his Son! Listen and believe!’”

(Gerhard O. Forde, Justification by Faith (Philadelphia, 1983), page 22.)

#148 Comment By jeremiah On December 9, 2012 @ 11:45 am

When reading the ‘if you’ passages. Most of them are speaking of sanctification (the progressive part, different than the initial being set apart by the blood.) Once the declaration of justification is made in the court room ( Rom 3:24), we get to walk out of the court room and live in the freedom of life (Rom.6:4) that we have been given freely. We get to abide in the vine and grow (john 15). We are united in Christ (Rom 8:1) and the life of the Spirit calls us to walk in a new way of that Spirit and not in an old way of the written code.(Rom 7:6)

#149 Comment By Scott Leonard On December 9, 2012 @ 12:17 pm

And JeffB, Peter proscribes a process that seems like anything but self-forgetfulness:

II Peter 1:5-11 “For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, 6 and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, 7 and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. 8 For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 For whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins. 10 Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to confirm your calling and election, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall. 11 For in this way there will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”

#150 Comment By Scott Leonard On December 9, 2012 @ 12:20 pm

OldAdam, no one here is arguing the glorious truth of justification by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone!

#151 Comment By Scott Leonard On December 9, 2012 @ 12:58 pm

When I said, above, “instead of creating a phrase,” I was referring to the phrase, “self-forgetfulness.”

#152 Comment By Scott Leonard On December 9, 2012 @ 2:52 pm

Lastly, guys, remember that both Peter and Paul make it clear that all of this happens when we learn, day by day, to really LIVE through Christ, and not in OUR eforts:

“I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I NOW LIVE in the flesh I LIVE BY FAITH in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”-Gal 2:20

In Gal 5, he says it is a conscious (not forgetful) “walk”:

Galatians 5:16

“But I say, WALK BY THE SPIRIT and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.”

So this is what happens when we allow the words of scripture to inform us in the relevant passages. The word is so alive and complete!

#153 Comment By JeffB On December 9, 2012 @ 8:16 pm

Thanks to those who commented about my question about “self-forgetfulness.”

theoldadam (if you’re still reading) – Your first comment was quite helpful. I know from experience that, yes, there are times (not often, unfortunately) when I simply do something that probably qualifies as “good” (though still corrupted with sin) without considering it. “Self-forgetfulness,” though, still seems like one of those words or phrases, like “victorious Christian life,” which is more hurtful than helpful, and can lead to legalism (“Have I forgotten myself enough?”) just as much as a misuse of God’s commands can.

On the other subject: You are critical of the words “if you,” as in Rom. 13. But if Scripture sometimes uses those words in the context of, as Scott Leonard says, “our daily walk,” meaning our sanctification (well-explained, I think, by jeremiah), why do you place them in the context of justification and say that they lead to damnation?

Scott Leonard – I agree, let’s go to Scripture instead of creating a phrase, partly for the reason I give above. Your quotation from 2 Peter is particularly apt.

#154 Comment By JeffB On December 9, 2012 @ 8:34 pm

Well, I thought I posted a comment; instead, it disappeared. A shortened version:

theoldadam – Your first comment was quite helpful. There are times when I do something “good” without first considering it. But I think “self-forgetfulness” can lead to legalism (“Have I forgotten myself enough?”) as surely as misusing God’s commands can.

On the other subject: When “if you” is used (as in Rom 8:13) in the context of, as Scott said, “our daily walk,” meaning sanctification (as, I think, jeremiah explained well), why do you put it in the context of justification and say that it leads to damnation?

Scott – I agree that we should go to Scripture instead of inventing phrases. Your quotation from 2 Pet is particularly apt.

#155 Comment By William (Bill) Phillips On December 10, 2012 @ 3:48 pm

Tullian continues to make a great argument for the Christian’s remaining struggle with the flesh. But to call this “total depravity” is to take a phrase that describes the unbelievers total inability to please God in every part of his being and apply it to the believer who now by God’s grace and indwelling Holy Spirit has the ability to please the Lord. Not perfectly to be sure. But none the less the ability is there whereas it was not before. I AM a new creation in Christ. I AM NOT a slave to sin but a slave to righteousness (Ro.6). I remain unconvinced that the creeds and some of our Reformed forefathers used “total depravity” to describe the remaining sin in believers. For them it described only the unbeliever.

#156 Comment By JeffS On December 10, 2012 @ 4:02 pm

William (Bill) Phillips,

“I remain unconvinced that the creeds and some of our Reformed forefathers used “total depravity” to describe the remaining sin in believers. For them it described only the unbeliever.”

Exactly- and I think this usage adds to confusion rather than bringing clarity.

#157 Comment By JeffB On December 10, 2012 @ 5:00 pm

Agree. And I think it adds to discouragement as well. Especially when wielded by those who use it to manipulate. (And I am NOT referring to Mr. Tchividjian.)

#158 Comment By Scott Leonard On December 10, 2012 @ 5:29 pm

Bill, Here’s part of the problem: Some people think the following verses are only Eschatalogically true, that they are only “positionally” true. If that were the case, vs1 would not say “HOW can…?” It would say, “Why should…..? It’s possible that they think “in Christ” is just religious talk, a nice category, rather than a description of our DNA and our location! Here’s the passage, and it seems to describe a far more monumental identity change for those in Christ than some wish to embrace!

Romans 6:1-2, 4-6…..

“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? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, JUST AS Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, WE TOO might WALK in newness of life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we SHALL CERTAINLY (now) be united with him in a resurrection like his. We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the BODY of sin might be brought to nothing (made powerless), so that we would NO LONGER be enslaved to sin.”

The rest of the chapter builds from there!

#159 Pingback By Tullian Tchividjian, Rick Phillips and Total Depravity « B.C. Askins On December 10, 2012 @ 9:22 pm

[...] post, “Thank God that Christians Are Not Totally Depraved.” Tullian responded with a post which was largely an exercise in missing the point, quoting extensively from various Reformed [...]

#160 Comment By Sandro Polenta On December 11, 2012 @ 3:17 am

The confusion I perceive in some of the answers simply comes from the fact that we (me too) do not realize that in the new birth, the old Adam in us didn’t not get improved. We get something completely new. But as Christ (who is “the way”) had to die to rise with the new life, so do we. All the advices in the New Testament remind us to give up the old Adam, to consider it dead in Christ. The old Adam will remain the same until our death. There is no hope for him, no sanctification, no own efforts and mainly no help of God himself will improve him. Sanctification is just realizing that I have been given something totally new in the new birth. I have to realize this every morning in my life. Now I can live in this new life and I am no more bound to save my old Adam. On the contrary, I am so glad that he died in Christ. If it would not be the case, I still would have to die at judgment. In that sense, getting better is increasingly realize the position of my old Adam. There the word depravity hits me 100%, I have no choice. But I need grace a lot to too see this fact. The reason is that as long as I am in control to save my old Adam, I am fighting for my meaningfulness. Giving the old Adam up is dropping in the meaninglessness (that is what death is) and coming into the total dependence on God; fortunately this God’s design. Then my new life will be flying in Him. This is a process going on daily, it is the “good fight of faith” (1 Tim. 6.12).

#161 Comment By Scott Leonard On December 11, 2012 @ 7:58 am

Amen, Sandro. God meant it in Jeremiah when He said He was going to give us a new heart! This one has NO depravity. The depravity is in the flesh. And when Paul wants to motivate and equip the Romans to walk in progressive freedom from experiential sin, he doesn’t point them to their justification primarily, but to their death and resurrection completed in Christ at the cross. Justification is what we need to be reminded of when we fail at following in the Spirit! (Every day, in my case!)

#162 Comment By B.C. Askins On December 11, 2012 @ 9:17 am

Here’s two more cents on the subject:
[9]

#163 Comment By Sandro Polenta On December 11, 2012 @ 10:18 am

Thank you Scott for your answer, I appreciate. Well, for me simply said, justification is the mega present God gave me in Jesus, he made me alive from dead I was. He saved a wretch like me. As you mention God made me alive through the Spirit and gives me the grace to renounce to the corrupted old Adam through the Spirit. So sanctification is living my justification by letting the new life in me be my life. Justification is the wonder on which all is based in my life.

I should not forget by whom I was saved. If I forget it, everything becomes theoretical. The one who saved me loves me and is God my creator himself. The whole relationship is one of love. So our justification is God’s love declaration to us. Sanctification is our love declaration, it is embracing God for what he did in Jesus. In this relationship of love, I encounter him, I see him. At the same time I see myself like in a mirror, I see how I am. Then I realize that I am always by far worse than I thought. But at the same time God shows me that he loves me far more than I thought.

#164 Comment By Tyler On December 11, 2012 @ 1:29 pm

This will be my final post on this blog. It is my hope that everyone who has contributed thus far, as well as any others, reads this also.

If we want to get into the Greek intricacies of Romans, we should look at Romans 7:17, 20. In v.17, we see the simple declaration of, “It is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me” (by the way, “No more” or “No longer” means that it was one way and now it’s another). But if we look closely at v.20, we see something interesting. He says, “Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me.” Paul says, “Now if I DO that I would not” (i.e. “I’m doing what I wish I wouldn’t do–I’m sinning!”), but notice something very important: he says something that is astounding: not only does he repeat, “It is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me”, the Greek states it as, “It is no more YET I that do it” (i.e. “Even so, STILL, it is no more I”, or, “Despite this being the case, it is no more I”). He lands on his position as a recourse right in the midst of the activity of sinful flesh.

Now, it is assumed by many that what Scott and I are declaring here is that this somehow affects our lifestyle, and that we somehow see no more traces of sin in our life. As we have affirmed continually, however, we are making this one thing clear: who we are in Christ is NOT seen, but our flesh is openly seen, and sin within it is evident. Therefore, when we discuss this new identity we’ve been given in Christ, we’re speaking of the life that is “hid with Christ in God” (Col. 3:3). It is hidden from the view of carnal existence, eyes of flesh, but perfectly visible through this one means: FAITH. For faith is “The substance of things hoped for” as well as “the evidence of things not seen.”

There is no requirement of a change of life for salvation to be valid as many purport. The wonder of our salvation, however, is that in separating us from the flesh, God has given us in Christ the ability to yield our dead, unredeemed bodies as living sacrifices to God! That is the ability of a “slave of righteousness” which we are. But we cannot emphasize enough, with Paul, that the sin in the flesh is not us. We died to sin and are alive to God in Christ. Our flesh is the only visible part of who we are. But God did a magnificent thing when he saved us. He operated invisibly (so that it would be only by faith that we could see), and joined us to his Son. We’re told to reckon this unseen reality as certain. In so doing, we are taught of God how to live.

Dear Sandro, remember this also: you mentioned looking in a mirror and seeing “how you are”. However, if you are in Christ, when you look in the mirror by faith, you see Christ, not you (consider 2 Corinthians 3:18 very carefully).

Do we think it blasphemous to take “in Christ” to its only logical and biblical end? In Ephesians 5, we see that the man that loves his wife loves himself. His point is to expose the mystery: that as the wife’s identity disappears into her husband and they become one flesh, so it is with the church and Christ. Christ is not ashamed to call us, “members of his body, of his flesh and of his bones”. This is a position he GAVE us. Remember, the Satanic ploy is to make yourself like God by your own imagination or effort. But God’s way is to do it for you as a gift, something he had it in mind to do before he even made us. And he has accomplished it already by placing us into the body of Christ. Armed with this knowledge, it’s God’s will for us to take hold of our bodies and yield them to God as holy and acceptable. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. We have eternal life in union with God’s Spirit, why not, in our brief life in the flesh, walk in union with him? Nevertheless, each one must find out who he is in order to find out how to walk. But finding out who we are destroys any notion of having to somehow, through confession or repentance or some other means, “come back into fellowship with God”. Our fellowship is never broken in the slightest.

I hope all of you understand who we, collectively, have become and stand on it by faith. Don’t be afraid to agree with the position you’ve been given at the right hand of God (Ephesians 1:20, 2:6).

#165 Comment By Scott Leonard On December 11, 2012 @ 1:47 pm

What he just said! (With tiny caveat: I believe if we don’t see any desire for righteousness and NO change, that person should eventually be very concerned that they never exercised true saving faith. O think Tyler probably agrees with this at some level.)

#166 Comment By JeffS On December 11, 2012 @ 1:51 pm

Tyler,
I agree with you on the point about being a new creation. However:

“His point is to expose the mystery: that as the wife’s identity disappears into her husband and they become one flesh, so it is with the church and Christ.”

I disagree in the strongest terms with any theology that tells us our “identity disappears” is goal and a good thing. That sounds more like eastern mysticism than Biblical Christianity. We look at scripture and see Jesus empathizing and knowing people. He changes them, heals them, renews them, but he does not remove their identity. The scripture is full of stories of individuals with their own identities that are acknowledged and loved (or hated), not wiped away.

I have been down the road of thinking that the goal of my Christian life is to remove my identity and replace it with Christ- to seek for there to be nothing left of “me”. I’ve also tried that in a marriage (the experiences were linked). This is destructive and in no way can be seen as “new life”. It is agonizing death.

I will submit my life to my Lord Jesus and seek to give all that I have received in service; however, I will remain me and I will know that God made me to be who I am as an individual on purpose at His pleasure.

#167 Comment By Peter Alexei Kutuzov On December 12, 2012 @ 11:56 pm

JeffS: Amen re not losing identity. So destructive (and Eastern pantheistic) to go down that path. It’s fatal to think that all unity implies the collapse of any distinctions. The Trinity is just such a case in point.

An interesting corollary in Scripture is the New Testament ‘mystery’ that the gentiles are able to retain their cultural identity as gentiles within the kingdom rather than needing to lose their identity and become Jews in order to be God’s person.

Ok, probably not entirely the same point. But it was interesting. In my head. *runs*

#168 Comment By Ray Venture On January 3, 2013 @ 9:58 pm

Pastor T. I remember having lunch with your dad Dr. T years ago and one of his favorite favorite sayings was” the more he tried to read and understand something the less he knew with his infectious smile.

If you were not related to Billy Graham would Rick Phillips spend as much time trying to openly ‘CORRECT a brother in Christ” as have others from something else that wrote about?

Seem like a case of Christian being the only species that kills its wounded. I understand there are these deep theological topics. I am simply glad I am saved through the grace of Christ period.

Keep on keeping on! Remember no matter what you do and I have real experience from this from turning around churches with financial difficulties and ” can feel your pain –no matter what you say , do , or write about there will be resistance /criticism even in your own church at times.

Pastors are an endangered species as it is without another Pastor in public trying to chastise a fellow Pastor.

Hang in there and consider your calling above what others may say!!!!!

#169 Pingback By Oh to Grace How Great a Debtor — A Reply to Tullian Tchividjian | Reformed Biblical Truth On July 18, 2013 @ 9:11 am

[...] to see some some constructive dialogue in the comments section of Tullian Tchividjian’s reply to my critique of his article on total depravity and Christians.  Let me say at this point (even [...]

#170 Pingback By Roundup of Another Discussion on Sanctification – Joelws.com | Joelws.com On July 29, 2013 @ 9:27 am

[...] Sin Remains: My Response to Rick Phillips by Tullian Tchividjian [...]


Article printed from Tullian Tchividjian: http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/tullian

URL to article: http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/tullian/2012/12/03/sin-remains-my-response-to-rick-phillips/

URLs in this post:

[1] Image: http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/tullian/files/2012/12/what-hi.png

[2] “Are Christians totally depraved?”: http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/tullian/2012/11/19/are-christians-totally-depraved-2/

[3] Rick Phillips: http://www.reformation21.org/articles/thank-god-that-christians-are-not-totally-depraved.php

[4] here: http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/tullian/2012/11/01/simultaneously-righteous-and-a-sinner/

[5] : http://www.amazon.com/When-History-Teaches-Us-Nothing/dp/1556353030

[6] : http://heidelblog.net/2012/12/brothers-we-are-not-perfectionists-1/

[7] : http://christopherjgordon.blogspot.com/2012/12/what-is-gospel-tullian-tchividjian-rick.html

[8] : http://www.operationworld.org/dec07

[9] : http://bcaskins.wordpress.com/2012/12/10/tullian-tchividjian-rick-phillips-and-total-depravity/