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

Give Me Law Or Give Me Death!

Posted By Tullian Tchividjian On December 26, 2012 @ 3:35 pm In Uncategorized | 105 Comments

[1]Last night we went to see Les Miserables. As has already been discussed here [2] and written about here [3], the contrast between law and grace is both pronounced and profound.

For me, the most powerful scene in the movie is Inspector Javert’s song right before he kills himself.

Javert embodies our natural addiction to law and our natural aversion to grace. Committed to the rigorous inflexibility of the law, Javert has been given grace time and time again from the very one he has mercilessly hunted for decades, Jean Valjean. The grace of Valjean haunts and radically disorients Javert.

Javert sings:

Who is this man? What sort of devil is he, to have me caught in a trap and choose to let me go free? It was his hour at last to put the seal on my fate, wipe out the past and wash me clean off the slate! All it would take was a flick of his knife. Vengeance was his and he gave me back my life! Damned if I’ll live in the debt of a thief! Damned if I’ll yield at the end of the chase! I am the Law and the Law is not mocked. I’ll spit his pity right back in his face! There is nothing on Earth that we share! It is either Valjean or Javert!

How can I now allow this man to hold dominion over me? This desperate man whom I have hunted…He gave me my life. He gave me freedom. I should have perished by his hand. It was his right. It was my right to die as well. Instead I live…but live in Hell! And my thoughts fly apart. Can this man be believed? Shall his sins be forgiven? Shall his crimes be reprieved? And must I now begin to doubt, who never doubted all these years? My heart is stone, and still it trembles! The world I have known is lost in shadow. Is he from heaven or from hell? And does he know…that, granting me my life today, this man has killed me, even so? I am reaching…but I fall. And the stars are black and cold, as I stare into the void of a world that cannot hold. I’ll escape now from that world, from the world of Jean Valjean. There is nowhere I can turn, there is no way to go on!

Javert concludes that he would rather die than deal with the disorienting reality of grace…and so he jumps. He chooses death over grace, control over chaos.

For Javert (as with all of us), the logic of law makes sense. We love the “if/then” proposition: “If” you do this, “then” I will do that. We love “what-goes-around-comes-around” conditionality. It makes us feel safe. It’s easy to comprehend. It makes perfect sense to our grace-shy hearts. It’s makes life formulaic. It breeds a sense of manageability. And best of all, it keeps us in control. We get to keep our ledgers and scorecards.

The logic of grace, on the other hand, is incomprehensible to our law-locked hearts. Grace is thickly counter-intuitive. It feels risky and unfair. It’s dangerous and disorderly. It wrestles control out of our hands. It is wild and unsettling. It turns everything that makes sense to us upside-down and inside-out. Law says, “Good people get good stuff; bad people get bad stuff.” Grace says, “The bad get the best; the worst inherit the wealth; the slave becomes a son.” This offends our deepest sense of justice and rightness. We are, by nature, allergic to grace.

As I was watching that scene last night, I couldn’t help but think of the many inside the church who, like Javert, have no idea what to do with the disorientating unconditionality of grace and reflexively fight it at every turn and in every way without even realizing what they are fighting or why.

We are so deeply conditioned against grace because we’ve been told in a thousand different ways that accomplishment precedes approval. So, when we hear, “Of course you don’t deserve it, but I’m giving it to you anyway,” we wonder, “What is this really about? What’s the catch?” Internal bells and alarms start to go off, and we begin saying “wait a minute…this sounds too good to be true.” By nature we’re all wary of grace. We wonder about the ulterior motives of the excessively generous. What’s in it for him? After all, who could trust in or believe something so radically unbelievable?

Life the way we’ve always known it to work doesn’t make sense anymore if grace is true.

Robert Capon articulates brilliantly the prayer of the grace-averse heart:

Lord, please restore to us the comfort of merit and demerit. Show us that there is at least something we can do. Tell us that at the end of the day there will at least be one redeeming card of our very own. Lord, if it is not too much to ask, send us to bed with a few shreds of self-respect upon which we can congratulate ourselves. But whatever you do, do not preach grace. Give us something to do, anything; but spare us the indignity of this indiscriminate acceptance.

As I was falling asleep last night and thinking about Javert’s struggle, I couldn’t help but wonder if the church has too often chosen death over grace. Fearful of what kind of chaos would ensue if we abandoned ourselves wholly to the radicality of grace, we cling to control–we stick with what we know so well, with what comes natural.

It is high time, in my opinion, for the church to embrace sola gratia (grace alone) anew. “For many of us the time has come to abandon once and for all our play-it-safe, toe-dabbling Christianity and dive in” (Dane Ortlund). No more “yes grace, but…”. No more fine print. No more conditions, qualifications, and footnotes. And especially, no more silly cries for “balance.” It is time to get drunk on grace. Two hundred-proof, defiant grace.

It’s scandalous and scary, unnatural and undomesticated…but it’s the only thing that can set us free and light the church on fire.

105 Comments (Open | Close)

105 Comments To "Give Me Law Or Give Me Death!"

#1 Comment By Cookie Groover On December 26, 2012 @ 4:13 pm

Wow! As soon as I read this part of your post…

Javert concludes that he would rather die than deal with the disorienting danger of grace…and so he jumps to his death. He chooses death over grace, control over chaos.

I thought of Judas….and Peter…and of course ourselves…I so agree let it be grace and grace alone!

#2 Comment By John Thomson On December 26, 2012 @ 4:54 pm

A hearty amen.

#3 Comment By John Dunn On December 26, 2012 @ 10:34 pm

Amen! The Law’s glory is no more. It is abolished with the entirety of the Old Covenant administration (Heb 8:13).

2 Corinthians 3:6-11

For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.

Now if the ministry of death (10 Commandments), carved in letters on stone, came with such glory that the Israelites could not gaze at Moses’ face because of its glory, which was being brought to an end,

Will not the ministry of the Spirit have even more glory?

For if there was glory in the ministry of condemnation (Law), the ministry of righteousness (the Spirit) must far exceed it in glory.

Indeed, in this case, what once had glory (Law) has come to have no glory at all, because of the glory (the Spirit) that surpasses it. For if what was being brought to an end (Law) came with glory, much more will what is permanent (the Spirit) have glory.

#4 Comment By Name on His Hand On December 27, 2012 @ 7:09 am

I understand ( and love!) the message of salvation, redemption and sheer beautiful grace as shown in the Les Mis story. But aren’t these messages for the unsaved? I am having a hard time seeing how Javert represents saints within the Church? Or are you referring , again, to those possibly who appear to be ‘saved’ but are possibly weeds growing up among the wheat?
I think this depiction of Javert would more explain the devout Pharisee’s aversion to Christ’s kindness/grace/mercy (“He eats with tax collectors and sinners!”)rather than those of the beloved in the Body?
I think we must be very careful….
This Les Mis message is the gospel, as the priest ‘preaches’ it through his actions to ValJean in the beginning of the story. Valjean then becomes ‘saved’ , repents and lives a lifestyle we would expect of a believer. He then shows the same kind of grace to the unbelievers that God showed to him as an unbeliever.
As believers, our memory of this wonderful grace shown to us should spur us on to give that same grace to others too. Turn the other cheek, etc.
But to depict Javert as a true believer in the Body who is just misguided about grace is not accurate, in my opinion.
Iknow you don’t mean to say that, perhaps, Pastor, but without this disclaimer, [4]
I think the waters get muddied sometimes here…
Just my two cents ….
Great story! May the Church tell such stories in real life to a lost, hurting world who misunderstands God and His Grace as Javert did….

#5 Comment By Chuck Colson On December 27, 2012 @ 8:38 am


The “silly” balance others request of you is not “grace, but . . .”. It makes the request that you not sequester grace to what God does in imputing righteousness to us in Jesus. Grace involves a good deal more than that in the Bible.

Grace & Peace,


#6 Comment By Tullian Tchividjian On December 27, 2012 @ 9:42 am


With all due respect, my friend, this verifiably false accusation (along with its condescending tone) is getting both predictable and old. No where have I ever “sequestered” God’s grace to imputation, either in this post or anywhere else. Seriously.

Grace and Peace to you too.


#7 Comment By anonymous On December 27, 2012 @ 9:42 am

“What’s in it for him?” -the praise of His glory

Eph 16a to the praise of the glory of His grace…12 to the end that we who were the first to hope in Christ would be to the praise of His glory…14b with a view to the redemption of God’s own possession, to the praise of His glory. …the church, 23 which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all.

“Give us something to do, anything;” – the bible guides in this

Eph 2: 10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.

Matt 28:19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

Phil 1:27conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ.. standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel; 29 For to you it has been granted for Christ’s sake, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake 1 Pet 1:7 so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ

#8 Comment By theoldadam On December 27, 2012 @ 9:53 am

Don’t you feel like people will just never get it?

I do.

People just refuse to see themselves for what they REALLY are. They talk a real good game, all the ‘works’ talkers..but they just rock along, living as if they own the place, just like everybody else.

And then then the grace of God is virtually meaningless, because they have got the proper moral high ground.

#9 Comment By Brian Gross On December 27, 2012 @ 10:13 am

I give David Murray less than 48 hours before he’s complaining about your lack of balance. Happy New Year!

#10 Comment By Kandace Rather On December 27, 2012 @ 11:53 am


I lived most of my life afraid to believe the message you preach and write about. It has always been in the Word of God but sadly, I was told that the “unbalanced” grace message would cause me to be careless in my war against sin. The problem was, the message I was under the influence of did not bring any empowerment to overcome sin and come to hate my sin with a passion. It led me to the deepest place of hoplesssness and helplessness. Then GRACE. The more I receive the truth about God’s grace, the more I DESIRE to live a life pleasing to the Lord. Wisdom is vindicated by her children. If your “unbalanced” messages are bearing the fruit of righteousness, I say, “Be unbalanced!”

#11 Comment By theoldadam On December 27, 2012 @ 12:52 pm

Isn’t it great that God puts our sin to death in our Baptism!?

I think it IS great. Now I am free from climbing the ladder. I am free to now “consider myself dead to sin” (even though I still sin and will always sin as long as I am up and taking nourishment.

#12 Comment By Name on His Hand On December 27, 2012 @ 1:04 pm

Hi Kandace,
Thanks for sharing!
I wondered if you might share a bit more about how your life has changed since embracing this teaching?
The only think I have read in the comments one time here is that one of the daughters in a family in this fellowship went against her parents’ wishes concerning travelling alone with a boyfriend and the parents who shared seemed saddened by her response that she was not under ‘law’ but under ‘grace’ and could thus do ‘whatever she wanted’.
This saddened me when I read it here and thought that just that kidn of ‘thing’ was happening for those in the Church who are hearing this kind of teaching.
But I would love to hear other testimonies to the contrary.
You would say you were a believer all those years of hopelessness?
And then you re-heard about ‘grace’ and now what?
Besides feeling better about yourself, have you indeed been able to overcome sin better?
Or does it not really matter?
That is the part that gets confusing to me…
Are all these verses now ‘easier’ in a sense?

Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, (Phil 2:12)

But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; 16 for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.”[a](1 Peter 1:15-16)

make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; 6 and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; 7 and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. 8 For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.(2 Peter 1)

Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.(1 Corinthians 15:58)

For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light 9 (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) 10 and find out what pleases the Lord. 11 Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. 12 It is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret. 13 But everything exposed by the light becomes visible—and everything that is illuminated becomes a light. 14 This is why it is said:

“Wake up, sleeper,
rise from the dead,
and Christ will shine on you.”
15 Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, 16 making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. 17 Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.(Ephesians 5:8-17)

As for other matters, brothers and sisters, we instructed you how to live in order to please God, as in fact you are living. Now we ask you and urge you in the Lord Jesus to do this more and more. 2 For you know what instructions we gave you by the authority of the Lord Jesus. It is God’s will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality; 4 that each of you should learn to control your own body[a] in a way that is holy and honorable,(1 Thessalonians 4:1-4)

Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.(Matthew 5:16)

14 Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.(Titus 2:14)

And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works:(Hebrews 10:24)

If ye love me, keep my commandments.(John 14:15)

For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.(Romans 8)

Put to death therefore what is earthly in you:[a] sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. (col 3)

But as for you, O man of God, flee these things. Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness.
(1 Timothy 6:11)

So flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart.
(2 Timothy 2:22)

Now I am remembering that Pastor shared in one of his sermons this past year ? that a man who had struggled with porn for some time with no succes to overcome it realized through this ‘grace’ message that God loved him no matter what and then…and then he was able to overcome the sin. It makes sense.
I’d just love to hear more testimonies like that if anyone has any?

Thanks for your time.

#13 Comment By theoldadam On December 27, 2012 @ 1:20 pm

I struggle with the many of the same sins that I have carried with me all my life. Gluttony. Selfishness. Not wanting to go out of my way to help others. Not going to the prisons to visit the incarcerated. Not going to nursing homes to visit the sick and elderly. Not inviting my enemies over to dinner. Worrying. And many, many more.

Sin isn’t like so much doggy-stuff that we either avoid or step into. It IS our CONDITION. So many Evangelicals do not get this and treat sin(s), the symptoms, as if they are rurally going to do something about the root problem, the disease.

We are in bondage to sin and cannot free ourselves. This is one of the great gifts (rediscoveries) of the Reformation.

But Christ HAS freed us. Is freeing us. And will yet free us, once and for all.

So live in freedom (freedom from inward navel gazing and religious self-improvement), and live outwardly…for the sake of the neighbor.

#14 Comment By theoldadam On December 27, 2012 @ 1:22 pm

If you want to be religious…then be religious. But please, leave the rest of us who have been freed to enjoy our Christian freedom and God’s freedom to forgive real sinners. The kind we know that we are.


#15 Comment By Justin Garcia On December 27, 2012 @ 1:54 pm

Thank you Tulian for this post. I think what often gets misunderstood in preaching a gospel of grace is the same problem that the Apostle Paul encountered when he said in his letter to the Romans:

“Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, 21 so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” Romans 5:20

Paul then asks the question “What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound?” (Romans 6:1)

This is the anticipated response to grace. The carnal mind cannot comprehend it. It can only be received by faith. And it can only be lived out by a foreign righteousness. I think one thing we have to careful of in accusing others (including how the Apostle Paul was accused) of being Antinomian is to remember that the life saved by grace alone is also a life lived by grace alone. The Apostle Paul elsewhere says “What do we have that we have not received?” The resounding answer is NOTHING! So then why do we try to live as if our own discipline and strength amount to anything but filthy rags?

We were saved by grace alone (through faith) and we can only be righteous by continued grace. That’s why God have given us His Spirit to produce fruits (not merited works) of righteousness. Just as our righteousness at salvation is imputed so is our “personal” righteousness. The fact is if we had any “personal holiness” then what we have is “self-righteousness.” I do not think that the Puritans intended to preach a self-righteous through the mortification of every sin but this kind of thinking has no doubt developed over the last few hundred years as can be seen in American history in the Holiness movement which led many to believe that they can live a sinless life.

We are no more righteous than the day we first believed. This is why the Apostle Paul can say with all sincerity and truth that he is the chef of sinners. If the Apostle Paul who authored Holy Scripture admits this which one of us can dare say that he is any better? Not I!

God calls us to be holy because He is holy. Because HE is holy alone. This is why the doctrine of justification through imputation is so important. If we began in the Spirit how shall we then continue in the flesh? is how Paul puts it in his letter to the Galatians. Because we are covered in the righteousness of Christ and are indwelt by His Spirit who will produce fruits of righteousness in us then how can we boast in anything but the work of Christ? I think this is what Tulian is getting at (correct me if I’m wrong.

Grace defies logic. We cannot understand it just as we cannot even begin to understand just how Holy God really is. It is only by His grace that he has not revealed to us just how sinful we still are. Are flesh hates holiness and just as much as it loves pride. And because we still have are old nature with us until the day of redemption we will continue to find ways to bring about glory for ourselves even boasting in our humility. But who can rescue us from this body of death?

Praise be to God! Jesus Christ.

“Therefore now there is no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus.”

Let us abide in the One who sought us, bought us and will bring about our sanctification because HE is faithful.

#16 Comment By G & N On December 27, 2012 @ 2:45 pm

Romans 6:14
For sin shall not [any longer] exert dominion over you, since now you are not under Law [as slaves], but under grace [as subjects of God’s favor and mercy].
Romans 6:13-15 (in Context) Romans 6 (Whole Chapter) Other Translations

- biblegateway.com

happy New Year everyone! loved reading the article/comments. thanks

#17 Comment By Paul On December 27, 2012 @ 3:12 pm

In my opinion the church and especially pastors are not correctly reading the landscape of North American culture. While rejecting grace is always a condition of the flesh, since the flesh is built on self-justification, I don’t think it is the primary problem in the North American church. The problem is cheap grace, not a rejection of grace (again, I understand we never fully get away from rejecting grace). Dietrich Bonhoeffer guides us well in the first chapter of The Cost of Discipleship (I would encourage anyone to read at least this chapter). There is a group that seeks to “balance grace”, but far more rampant in the church is cheap grace. In pursuit of an unbound grace (which is what grace is of course) our church leaders are growing more afraid of the law, in that, any talk of standards, or what is wise is an attack on grace. This is misinformation, and dangerous for the church. The church in North America is unchanged in her behaviors and I don’t think that church leaders are reading their congregations very well. What is said and what is heard (practiced) are two very different things. I’ve been in these conversations so often I’ve come to expect what is to follow, so, before anyone reading my comments attacks what I’m saying as an attack on grace you are sorely mistaken and uninformed on how the Bible approaches the law and grace.

The destination of the Gospel is love and how do you determine what is love or what it looks like? By the law. There is no grace without radical love:
1. God’s love for you means he worships no other thing. (Commandment 1 and 2)
2. God’s love for you means he never violates the truth (his name). (Commandment 3)
3. God’s love for you means he rests in himself (Father, Son, Spirit). (Commandment 4)
4. God’s love for you means he honors authority (persons of Trinity) and humbles himself. (Commandment 5)
5. God’s love for you means he never unjustly takes life, but always seeks to preserve and honor it. (Commandment 6)
6. God’s love for you means he is always faithful. (Commandment 7)
7. God’s love for you means he always gives generously and never takes unjustly. (Commandment 8)
8. God’s love for you means he never lies, but loves, pursues, and speaks truth always. (Commandment 9)
9. God’s love for you means he never uses you for what he thinks he can get from you. His motives are always pure. (Commandment 10)

A radical grace demands a radical love, and a radical love must be defined by a holy law. If one does not define what love is supposed to look like, then one preaches Cheap Grace.

While the human heart will always proclaim “give me law or give me death”, I see a North American church more readily absorbing the culture of the world (the culture of the Evil One) in the name of grace.

#18 Comment By Cookie Groover On December 27, 2012 @ 3:17 pm

Amen Justin! It is NOTHING WE DO or NOT DO but ONLY what JESUS HAS ALREADY DONE…it really is finished! We need to quit trying to take the cross from Jesus and accept his gift totally…

#19 Comment By jeremiah On December 27, 2012 @ 3:30 pm

There is no need to balance grace, some just want all of grace.

Some within the church fight against the grace that trains the children of God to be godly in their lives and call it legalism and not getting the gospel to desire the obedience of faith.

#20 Comment By Cookie Groover On December 27, 2012 @ 4:03 pm

We are sinners… born sinners all and why we were yet STILL sinners Christ died…Even Peter (who The Lord said the church would be built on) denied him after he walked with him and knew who The Lord was and The Lord told Peter he would deny him to Peters disbelief and shock…As much as we need to change our hearts even the scriptures say our hearts are wicked…what we need is a Savior which is why Jesus came to show us its not in anything we do but what he’s done for us…Forgiven us through unconditional love by God through Jesus it is finished…Accept the gift of forgiveness it may help to be better but its not about that its about forgiveness cause face it even Peter wasn’t any better and he walked with him..And remember we aren’t home yet and this is when we are whole. Anything we can do to show love to one another is great but we also must see when we don’t there’s forgiveness unlimited…Thank God for Jesus

#21 Comment By Chuck Colson On December 27, 2012 @ 4:15 pm


It seems we are talking past one another, and so best to desist. The medium is too limited for discussion, and brevity can appear to be a sharp tone. But, if it is helpful, I don’t think you limit grace to justification. I think you limit the grace that sanctifies us to the grace that God gives in justification. And, I believe this is a mistake. That’s it, brother.

God bless,


#22 Comment By John Dunn On December 27, 2012 @ 4:33 pm

@ Paul

Law does not define Grace. Only Jesus does! The Law served only as a transient “ministry of death” and “ministry of condemnation”, with a soon fading glory (2 Cor 3:7-11). But Jesus came as the grand eschatological realization of the Law’s dim shadow, now revealed to us in a divine Body of human flesh – crucified – risen – and exalted. The Law was but a shadow which merely reflected the true substance, Jesus Christ, but it did not contain any permanent glory of its own (2 Cor 3:10-11, Col 2:17).

Jesus fulfilled the Law in that He alone was both perfect God AND perfect man, contained in one glorious union. And He alone lived out perfect love for God AND perfect love for fallen man . . . in that He died for them, under the full weight of the Law’s penalty, putting every (Old)Covenantal demand to death for us on His cursed tree (Eph 2:15, Col 2:14, Rom 7:4).

In doing so, Jesus established an entirely NEW Covenenant in Himself, in His broken body and blood (Luke 22:20). We are now under 100% pure grace of the New Covenant (Rom 6:14). The old is abolished (Heb 8:13). Our crucified Lord is all the righteousness of God that we need, now revealed completely apart from the Law, althgough the Law and the Prophets bear witness to Him. Jesus alone is the Righteous One, whose very person and work is the incarnated substance of all that the Law typified (Rom 10:4). We are now to be transformed into His heavenly image by the Spirit, not into the Law’s shadowy obsolete image (2 Cor 3:15-18).

Furthermore, the Law was considered as a unit. Commandments from every part were equally important and binding on the life of the Israelite.

For the Jew under the Law, the breaking of one of the dietary laws was just as condemning to his person as lusting or stealing. Because it was disobedience to God’s covenant, period. Law breaking is Law breaking. Covenant breaking is covenant breaking. All disobedience under the Old Covenant demanded death!! All of it! Why?? Because every jot and tittle of it pointed gloriously to the Christ, the incarnate fulfillment of the Covenant, the enfleshment of God’s eschatological Righteousness.

Therefore, the breaking of the Covenant was to rebel against the very shadow of the promised Christ. This is why Israel’s altars flowed rivers of blood day and night. Not a jot or tittle of the Law was of little significance to the Jew, because it all represented Messiah in their midst.

How utterly foolish then of the Covenantalists to “wrongly divide” the Law. Slicing and dicing God’s (old) Covenant into artificial divisions. Attempting to place portions of it into ranks of importance. As if some of God’s Law was dispensable and less significant. As if some of it represented more of Christ and some of it less of Him. As if some of it has been fulfilled by Christ and other parts not. As if Christ’s glorious person, his life and death was not sufficient enough to fulfill ALL of it. As if those “in Christ” must now be placed back under the unfulfilled portions of the Old Covenant that Christ was not worthy enough to accomplish.

How utterly contemptable is the unbiblical doctrine of “continuing use of the Law” to the Christ, who now reigns as the supreme and final fulfillment of the Law’s dim shadow, AND who came as the Lamb of lambs to die for every single one of those weighty Law commands, extinguishing them all, nailing them to his cursed tree. Such doctrine says to Jesus the Righteous One, “You are not sufficient, and your grace is not enough.”

The eschatological New Creation is now here, the old creation and its attending Law has forever passed away (2 Cor 5:17).

Paul’s anathema be upon them who “having begun by the Spirit, think to be perfected (sanctified) by flesh” under the Law (Gal 3:3).

#23 Comment By Tullian Tchividjian On December 27, 2012 @ 6:34 pm


I have to confess, I’m not even sure I understand what you mean. It sounds like you’re making a fancy distinction without a functional difference. To keep it simple, I would say that there is ultimately only one grace/gift: God himself in the self gift of son and spirit. This grace justifies, sanctifies, and glorifies.


#24 Comment By Cookie Groover On December 27, 2012 @ 8:25 pm

Now that is skippy! :) Amen Tullian :)

#25 Comment By John Dunn On December 27, 2012 @ 9:34 pm

The Law does not define Love. The Spirit-wrought Love of Christ fulfills Law. Big difference.

It would be like saying that the Temple, Priesthood, & Sacrifices define Jesus. But He defines and fulfills them! We must make sure we are looking through the correct end of the telescope.

Jesus is the interpretive lens. Look through Him and all will become clear.

#26 Comment By Kandace Rather On December 27, 2012 @ 10:35 pm

Name on His Hand:
I will attempt to break this down in a short, simple and hopefully understandable way. I am not a theologian nor have any formal Biblical studies background, although I have sought God for 30 years through His Word. I had many Biblical/spiritual experiences way before I knew the written Word of God. I ended up in a Baptist church after my parent’s divorce and at the age of 10, responded to a salvation message. I believe at that time the Holy Spirit convicted my heart of my need for a Savior and by grace through faith my heart was drawn unto salvation.

Everything changed for me that day in terms of knowing I had a “Voice” living on the inside of me that I did not have before. I read the Bible with new eyes and ears. I began to experience conviction when I sinned. I had an unusual sensitivity to the pain of others and began a conversational prayer life with the Lord.

Because I was never in church consistently nor had anyone discipling me, I developed a me and Jesus mindset. When I hit my Junior High years, I was introduced to ways to numb the real pain of being sexually abused and going through several step-dads as my mom had divorced and remarried 5 times by the time I left home after high school. I left for college, married a German Lutheran who had no idea what he was getting into when he married me. (Unlike Jesus who knew what He was getting into a still chose to come and wed Himself to a rebellious Bride)

My husband and I ended up in a charismatic church that left me more confused on many levels. Though some of it was truly of God, most of it helped produce a works mentality in my relationship with the Lord. Because of my baggage from the past and not understanding how we “grow in grace” I began to gravitate towards getting attention and approval through doing good works. However, only I knew for many years the depth of my struggle with sin and eventually secret sin that led to deep pain and heartache for my family.

In one of my lowest moments I cried out to God and ended up going through several years of intense counseling. The Lord spared my family divorce and we walked for 12 more years with no “bad behavior.”

Then at a time when I appeared to be going “good,” I fell. In the months before this fall, I would have told you I was standing. I did not see the residual still left in my heart of a works mentality. I did not come into agreement with God about the pride that crept in through ministry success that I appeared to be having. Like Peter, I denied that I would ever betray the Lord in the way I did. But, in the Lord’s great mercy, He exposed my heart and my behavior to myself, my husband and our church.

At 42 years old, I was exhausted, felt hopeless and knew I was helpless. In the middle of my mess, my husband reached out his arms and asked me if I would let him love me even though he felt like he had not loved me as Christ loves the Church in the past. The mercy of Jesus was so strong in him, I crumbled under the weight of a love I had rejected my whole life. My husband saw me and knew me at my worst and he still wanted me. He began looking me in the eyes everyday and saying, “I love you and I delight to offer you mercy.”

Now, take what you want from that and help me figure out what Jesus did to get me to where I am today. I do no public ministry, have lost my reputation, (for a good reason)do not have the approval of man and I am more free than I ever have been. I stumbled upon the Gospel Coalition, read Dallas Willard’s Renovation of the Heart, reading Glorious Ruin, spend every morning in private prayer, worship and study of God’s Word and will soon attend the Liberate conference in Florida.

My heart has been set on fire for the true grace & mercy message. I am deeply loved by my husband who is “as Christ loves the Church” to me. I feel like a newborn baby, completely dependent on my Father but I also have no doubt I was born again at age 10.

I am sure there are countless theologians who could explain away or add to many parts of my testimony but in the end, God is the judge. I trust Him with my sinful heart that has been redeemed by the precious blood of Jesus. The grace message I am hearing today, though does not always make sense, has silenced the accuser of the brethren in my soul. I no longer fear sinning or the lack of doing good works. I wake up each morning expectant to see the goodness of the grace of God in my life to empower me to LOVE righteousness and please the One who pleased His Father perfectly! I wake up everyday breathing in mercy and feel deep gratitude for one more day to learn how to love Jesus in the way He deserves. I don’t do this because I have to, I do this because He is worth it and I love Him the best I know how at this point. I anticipate learning and growing in grace more everyday! I will not sure the painful details of letting go of ministry addiction but when my sin was exposed, although I was told to step down, I also chose to release it all to God. I let it go, let it die and now trust that whatever the Lord would choose to entrust me with in the future would not be wrapped up in my identity. My ministry is first the Lord, then my husband, children and grandchildren. It’s gloriously painful…my journey to grace but I am so thankful for His sustaining and keeping power!!

#27 Comment By Paul On December 27, 2012 @ 11:27 pm

@John Dunn

I never said the law defined grace. I said love is defined by the law. I’m sorry, but without the law you would not know what love is supposed to look like. The law is the character of God and it is why the active side of the 10 Commandments are echoed in 1 Corinthians 13. It is why Jesus said when the Pharisees asked, what is the greatest commandment, and he answered to love god with all your heart, etc. and neighbor, etc. Jesus’ point is that the end of the law is love and love is defined by the law. Therefore, grace should lead to holiness. If you don’t think the law defines love, then you try defining love for me without using any examples. Give me a straight definition of love. Try the dictionary, they can’t do it without using examples. The reason is because love is a person and that person behaves in a certain way and the behavior of that person is called the law. If you do not believe love is defined by the law then what alternative would you use? How would you prove to me, love? How would you express it? How would you live it? Ah, and your greatest example is the cross, and what do you find at the cross? The zenith of the love of God through the passive and active work of Christ which is affirmed by the law. The only way Jesus’ sacrifice was received was because of the law. In other words, his love for you and his father was affirmed, BY THE LAW, and his sacrifice received, BY THE LAW, and that is how grace is passed to you. You don’t have to report your own record because you have the record of the perfect love of Christ…which…is affirmed and defined by the law. If you do not view the relationship between love and the law in this way then you have no argument for absolute truth and you should retire to relativism and take Ecclesiastes to heart because nothing in your life will have meaning.

#28 Comment By theoldadam On December 28, 2012 @ 12:06 am

The law brings death. The gospel brings life.

Paul said that.

He also called the 10 Commandments, “the ministry of death”.

“The law was a tutor until Christ came.” St. Paul said that.

#29 Pingback By Trevin’s Seven – Trevin Wax On December 28, 2012 @ 3:48 am

[...] 6. Give Me Law or Give Me Death! [...]

#30 Comment By John Thomson On December 28, 2012 @ 5:49 am

The controversy here is predicated on the assumption that the law equals obligation; it doesn’t. The law was a covenant, the old covenant. Those who belong to the new covenant have no responsibilities to the old covenant. They have died to it. Their responsibilities are to the new covenant. They are married to Christ. As members of the new covenant we are to walk as he walked. Christ in obedience to death is our model of sanctification. More the new covenant gives us the ability to walk like Christ for in it we have Christ abiding in our hearts by the Spirit. The fruit of the Spirit not the works of the law is the source of Christian holiness. Christ-like living that produces the fruit of the Spirit as we walk in step with him will in turn ‘fulfil the law’ and more (for the new covenant in every respect eclipses the old in its fulfilment of it).

#31 Comment By John Thomson On December 28, 2012 @ 9:43 am


Law does not define love, it demands love. And the love it demands is at the most the love that a relationship requires. It demands that I love my wife because she is my wife. But I may ask where it defines what such love requires? It doesn’t. The gospel however does define and delineate love; I am to love my wife as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.

I would argue further that gospel love goes beyond the mere love demands of relationship. It requires me to love my enemies (something the law did not call for). Further it demands a love that lays down my life for my enemies. The law never called for such love. The love of the law is simply the love that duty demanded, the love of the gospel goes the second mile, loves enemies, forgives seventy times seven etc. It is not a duty-love but the love of the heart of God himself; love that is undeserved, unmerited, and without obligation. It is love that flows from the heart not out of duty but because the heart has been renewed in the likeness of God’s heart; it is a heart that loves for that is its nature.

As I noted above, the law is a shadow (including its demands) that finds fulfilment in Christ but fulfilment by being eclipsed in every way. Who wants the moon when the sun is shining.

#32 Comment By Frank On December 28, 2012 @ 9:55 am

Granted, while New Testament Scripture does contain exhortations to Godly living, the thrust of it all is the Gospel.

The only One Who saves, justifies and sanctifies is Jesus and His resurrection.

And let’s keep the discussion civil.

I see too much angry contention on too many Christian blogs.

#33 Comment By theoldadam On December 28, 2012 @ 10:06 am

We need the law. And we need the gospel. The gospel always trumps the law, but not one jot or tittle of the law will be taken away in this life, Jesus said. It has it’s purposes.

This is just 9 minutes long and it puts it in plain language, easy to understand:


I think you will enjoy it and pass it on.

#34 Comment By Cookie Groover On December 28, 2012 @ 10:58 am

Thank you so much for your story I really love how you chose to tell it through a story (like Jesus did) instead of fancy words or theological explanations just through life and how its affected you. Your story lifted my spirit! Thank you for sharing it. And as far as I am concerned after reading this you are still in the ministry because you truly ministered to me…Peace and Love…Cookie

#35 Comment By Timothy Stewart On December 28, 2012 @ 11:40 am

1 Corinthians 9:21 “To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (not being outside the law of God but under the law of Christ) that I might win those outside the law.”

Like Paul, we are not being outside the law of God but under the LAW OF CHRIST.

For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love.” (Galatians 5:6)

#36 Comment By John Dunn On December 28, 2012 @ 12:21 pm

John Thomson

Very well stated!! The Law could only demand a servile and incomplete obedience. It could do no other. It was an incomplete shadow. And like all shadows, it was incomplete and weak. It was an enslaving instrument of death, a killing letter that pointed to something, to SOMEONE far greater than itself. It was the temporary Old Covenant inscription of righteousness that pointed to Jesus, the incarnate New Covenant who was “given for the people” (Isa 42:6, Isa 49:8) to deliver them from the condemnation of the Law and from service under the it.

Jesus is now the glorious fulfillment of the Law, whose New Covenant redemptive-love and righteousness far outshines the dim and temporary glory of the Old Covenant tablets of stone (2 Cor 3:4-11). Jesus is now the embodiment of the Temple, the Nation, the Priesthood, the Paschal Lamb, etc. He gives the fullest weight of meaning, definition, significance, and substance to ALL the old types and figures which dimly pointed to Him. He fulfills them all and gives them their uber-transcendent meaning.

And it can never be the other way around. Temporary Old Covenant Law (and other shadows) cannot define anything of itself. It points away from itself to Jesus, the true New Covenant substance. He fulfilled AND extinguished the Law’s demand on the cross. And in that one act of dying love, He showed what true heavenly love and righteousness really means . . . self-sacrificing, grace-drenched, Spirit-authored, heavenly love that gives and forgives and heals and lavishes blessings, and never demands.

We are now under Christ our New living Covenant. And not under any portion of the Old, which is now obsolete (Heb 8:13). To that end, we are completely under the dominion of free grace (Rom 6:14-15). We are now to serve in the new way of the Spirit, and not in the old way of the written code (Rom 7:6). The Spirit, inscribed upon the tablets of our hearts, is now the internal “moral compass” who initmately unites us to Christ and regulates all of our New Covenant obedience (2 Cor 3:3-11). We no longer require the demanding, killing tables of stone when we walk by the new way of Spirit (Gal 5:18).

Walk then in the newness of the Spirit! For the New Creation has broken forth, the old has passed away (2 Cor 5:16-17). The eschatological resurrection has already begun in us (John 5:25, Eph 2:1-6, Col 2:12-13, Col 3:1, Gal 2:20, Rom 6:4-11).

Does this sound like an *unbalanced* “over-realized eschatology”??

To many, yes.

But no. It is the faith “like Abraham”, grounded solidly in the unseen realities that have already broken forth in Christ.

Abraham was given promises that seemed of an earthly nature, but he saw beyond them to the true eschatological and Christological realities. Abraham’s faith was solidly fixed upon heavenly things. He too had an “unbalanced” and “over-realized eschatology” that saw beyond his temporary earthly pilgrimage. And God commended him for it!! (Hebrews 11:8-16)

Likewise, we must cast off calls for theological “balance” and remember that the Spirit of the living God indwells us with power! So, boldly believe that we are dead to sin. Dead to the Law. And presently raised to newness of life with Christ, seated with Him in the heavenly places. Dare to believe very BIG *unseen* things about the Gospel of Jesus Christ!

#37 Comment By Kandace On December 28, 2012 @ 1:20 pm

So thankful you were blessed, Cookie. These conversations can make my brain hurt but believe they are needed.

#38 Comment By Todd Christensen On December 28, 2012 @ 1:23 pm

When failure is lingering around your doorstep, and the realization of the sinfulness of your soul is readlity apparent (as it is for me today), the “the indignity of this indiscriminate acceptance” is the only hope I have. The more dignified we believe ourselves to be (even subconsiously), the more trouble we have not being sucpicious of the message of grace. God has his way of humiliating us though, and making us flee to the hope held out in the Gospel. Thanks for this timely reminder.

#39 Comment By John Thomson On December 28, 2012 @ 2:58 pm

The law exposes me as a sinner grace (the gospel) declares I am a saint.
The law condemns me but grace declares me righteous. The law kills but grace is the reign of life.
The law makes me cry ‘wretched’ but grace makes me cry ‘abba’. The law makes me focus inward but grace turns me outward.
The law puts the spotlight on me but grace puts the spotlight on Christ.
The law makes me a slave but grace makes me a son.
The law binds but grace liberates.
The law is fetters but grace is freedom.
The law is intuitive (natural law is written on the heart of all) but grace is counter-intuitive (eye has not seen nor the heart of man imagined the blessings of grace).
The law is unaided demand but grace is constant supply.
The law is the external letter of stone but grace is the internal Spirit.
The law was a code but grace is Christ.
The law was temporary but grace is eternal.

any others?

Standfast in the liberty that is in Christ Jesus.

#40 Comment By Lewrie Harmon On December 28, 2012 @ 2:59 pm

I remember the old Hymn by Philip Bliss, “Free from the Law, O Happy Condition.” After reading this article this hymn rings loud again in my heart. “Free from the law, O happy condition, Jesus hath bled, and there is remission; Cursed by the law and bruised by the fall, Grace hath redeemed us once for all.” ….chorus…” Once for all, O sinner receive it, Once for all, O friend, now believe it; Cling to the cross, the burden will fall, Christ hath redeemed us once for all.” How good to know that the law was fulfilled in the One who gave his life a ransom for many. All glory to Him.

#41 Comment By John Dunn On December 28, 2012 @ 3:12 pm

I would propose that many Christians need to be delivered from the theological “law code” of their enslaving confessions and traditions in order to see radical grace for what it is.

Too many are like Saul, “extremely zealous for the traditions of their fathers” (Gal 1:14), but not so much for the grace revealed in Christ alone, through the Scriptures alone.

#42 Comment By Justin Garcia On December 28, 2012 @ 6:41 pm

I think another way to talk about grace in relation to law is this: If our pursuit of God does not cause us to be more loving to one another, more inclined to be stewards of grace than stewards of justice, more seeking reconciliation than division, then according to the Apostle John “the truth is not in us.” If our Christianity is not marked by a life or servanthood and a gospel concern for others then we do not know Christ because this is what marked his earthly ministry.

Sound God-centered theology should not lead one to simply “know” more but should lead us to “do” more for others because we do know. If we know that we were once lost sinners headed for destruction and “while we were sinners Christ died for us” should not this same attitude mark those who follow after Christ?

One might ask “what does a holy, God-centered, righteous life look like?” Look no further than Jesus Christ. He is the measure and plum-line of the law. Is it essential we keep the letter of the law but try doing this while keeping the Spirit of the law. We can’t. Javert and Valjean can’t. Try loving the Lord God with all your heart, mind and strength. Apart from Christ none of us can. But because of what Christ has done and is doing in the lives of His people we can–by grace alone. There is not a day that goes by that we can do anything righteous save by the Spirit of God. But because we do have His Spirit we can be mediators of God’s grace. We can be kind to others because of the kindness we ourselves received when Christ died our death.

If our lives are marked by Grace then it will show forth that we really do know Christ. However if our lives are marked by a critical spirit then it will show the world that we are frauds. And I believe that this is more evident than people realize. The world knows its own so when there is one marked by humility, love toward God that shows itself by love for others, seasoned with Grace then those outside of the body of Christ will give honor to God because of our good deeds.

#43 Comment By theoldadam On December 28, 2012 @ 8:35 pm

Are you doing enough, Justin? Are you doing all those things that Jesus told us to do?

Have you sold all your possessions? Are you visiting the prisoners and the elderly and the sick and dying? Are you living on a thin margin of income and giving the rest to the poor?

And yet you claim to know Christ? How can this be?

#44 Comment By Tom & Diana Bissig On December 28, 2012 @ 8:56 pm

Just wondering do you know the rating for this movie?

#45 Comment By Name on His Hand On December 28, 2012 @ 9:18 pm

Here is what I read about the movie.
I hope it is helpful.
I have not seen the movie.
Perhaps Pastor can tell us if this review rings true?
The old movie with Liam Nielson is very good.
I have seen that one…

#46 Comment By Cookie Groover On December 28, 2012 @ 9:29 pm

I can’t do it…That’s why Jesus had to go to the cross…

#47 Comment By Name on His Hand On December 28, 2012 @ 9:33 pm

Dear Kandace,
Thank you so much for taking the time to share your story and being so very vulnerable with us. I felt bad, at first, that I had asked for your grace vs law testimony. But it appears that many have already been blessed by your sharing it, so praise be to the Lord our God. He is truly truly glorified in your story.
And your husband is a true hero as well, imitating His merciful, gracious Lord.
Just beautiful.

I wonder if you might be willing to share breifly how your new found ‘grace’ emphasis has helped you to obey the NT imperatives? Have you indeed found it easier to love your neighbor? (not your kind husband per se, though he is indeed your closest neighbor, but other still -irritating ppl, perhaps….or strangers, the homeless, needy, poor, etc? people both within and without the Church).

Also, how has it affected your fight against sin? Do you indeed find it easier (even effortless now?) to fight sin (and the evil one’s temptations)? I am just curious. Remembering, again, when Pastor shared about the fellow addicted to porn and how he couldn’t stop until he understood this message of grace (true unmerited favor) finally and real-ly.

If you have time to expound further.
It is clear from your writing that you have the fruits of the spirit in terms of love, peace, joy etc.
Thanks again so so much for sharing.
I too, believe, that though you don’t maybe have a specific, official ‘title’ that you are ‘in ministry’ your life ministers not only to the few of us here, but I imagine, now, to your husband as well as all who know you. I agreed with the person who said not to diminish your every day ‘ministries’ to all whom you meet even if it is not ‘official’. Jesus praised the old widow who came with her mite. Love that.

#48 Comment By Kandace On December 28, 2012 @ 9:39 pm

We can’t do it to earn salvation but we can do it from our salvation. We can, through an abiding relationship with Him let His life live through us. The same spirit that rose Christ Jesus from the dead dwells in us, giving us the power to love Him and others. Am I missing something here? Aren’t we saved in order to produce eternal fruit throughHis life living in us?

#49 Comment By John Dunn On December 28, 2012 @ 11:00 pm

Many still think that the Law (10 Commandments) must still act as a legal/moral dividing wall to distinguish godly covenant members from the ungodly, serving to define who/what is godly and what is not.

The Law once functioned this way for the typological Jewish nation, separating her from the idolatrous pagan nations which surrounded her (Neh 10:28-31). The Law once defined Israel’s covenantal boundaries under the shadowy Old Covenant administration.

But now Christ is the ultimate standard of righteousness in the place of the Law (Rom 10:4). He has broken down in His flesh the old “dividing wall” of hostility, by abolishing the Law of Commandments (Eph 2:14-15). Jesus and His cross is now the New Covenant “dividing wall” separating the true covenant members (those in Christ) from the ungodly (unbelievers). And *only* Gospel grace now accomplishes what many wrongly believe that the Law must do (Titus 2:11-14).

Therefore, the Law no longer defines the covenant community of God. Faith in Jesus Christ alone does (Gal 3:23-24). He is the sum and substance of the New Covenant (Isa 42:6, Isa 49:8, Luke 22:20). He is now the “sword of division” (Matt 10:34-39) by which true covenant members are separated from the ungodly. He is the new “measuring line” by which all of salvation and judgment is determined (John 3:18-21, 2 Cor 2:15-16, Heb 10:28-29, Heb 12:25-26).

So now that the Old Covenant Law and its “dividing wall” adminstration is now abolished (Heb 8:13), what has come in its place? What is the believer’s new covenantal standard of behaviour if it is no longer found on tablets of stone? It is the indwelling life of Jesus in us, the ministry of the Spirit now written upon the tablets of our hearts (Gal 2:20, 2 Cor 3:3-18, Rom 8:1-4, Gal 5:18).

#50 Comment By Mitchell Hammonds On December 29, 2012 @ 12:42 am

I’m amazed at the statements of how God defines “Love” in His law and the self-justifiers who propose their arguments as though they actually fulfill its description – but of course with the Spirit’s help. It sounds like “Testimony Time” in my old tradition. “God is just enabling me more and more to do what Jesus did.” I find the notion that any of us could actually look at each other’s lives and think, even at its best, it would convey the idea of what God has in mind in His Laws. We don’t even begin to approach what God has in mind… this is the purpose of the Law. Now we need a Savior – not a daily “Pep-rally” to get us all “Pumped up for the Lord.”

#51 Comment By Kandace On December 29, 2012 @ 7:54 am

Mitchel, Would you be so kind to help me understand the Spirit’s function in my life after conversion? It sounds like you know much more than I do and I am hungry to learn the truths of Scripture. Bless you!

#52 Comment By theoldadam On December 29, 2012 @ 10:59 am


(forgive me for jumping in)

Here’s a great sermon on the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives, from start to finish. It’s only about 20 min. long, but explains just how the Holy Spirit “calls, gathers, enlightens, and sanctifies”:


Give it at least 5 minutes.

#53 Comment By jeremiah On December 29, 2012 @ 11:27 am

Kandace, thank you so much for vulnerably sharing.

In response to your question, you would get 5 different answers from 5 different people to your above question. Some would say that by the Spirit we now are made alive to walk in the newness of life that we have in Jesus. Others would say that that is pointing to ourselves and naval gazing and that the Spirit predominately points out our sin.

I believe that we as God’s children live from a place of victory, and we do not live to attain victory. And that this life is indeed salt and light, a great distinction from the non-salt and darkness of the world. And this can only happen through the Spirit working in and through us and is not to be discarded when we are not as salty or as bright as we could be in every circumstance.
Jesus changes people, therefore our hope is always in the powerful working of Christ, through the Spirit. Our new union of being in Christ and walking by the Spirit and having a fruitful life is no legalism but a walk of faith believing the promises of God’s transforming word over us.
This is to be walked out, not in isolation, but in the community of believers who are following Jesus.
Grace and peace

#54 Comment By John Dunn On December 29, 2012 @ 11:39 am


It seems you have no eyes of faith to see the unseen realities of the Kingdom work of the New Creation that is already begun in you (2 Cor 5:17, Gal 6:15). If you are in Christ, you *are* a New Creation. The old has passed away. If you walk by the Spirit, you *are* being transformed into Christ’s glorious image from one degree of glory to another (2 Cor 3:18).

If you have no eyes to see these things, you really must examine your heart to see if you truly are in Christ, or whether you only cling to dead orthodoxy.

It seems you are rather content to oppose the Scriptures by continuing/glorying/wallowing in your old sinful state so that the notion of grace may abound (Rom 6:1-2). It seems that you have allowed sin to define you rather than grace. Rather than the glorious new resurrection-life of Christ in you by the Spirit (Rom 8:11-13).

Our faith is to be a triumphant faith like Abraham’s. We are to see and believe the unseen eschatological, Christ-centred realities that presently exist. This is true faith (2 Cor 4:18, Heb 11:1).

Abraham was given promises that seemed of an earthly nature, but he saw beyond them to the true eschatological and Christological realities. Abraham’s faith was solidly fixed upon heavenly things. He too had an “unbalanced” and “over-realized eschatology” that saw beyond his temporary earthly pilgrimage. And God commended him for it!! (Hebrews 11:8-16)

Likewise, we should not despise the seeming “unbalance” of a triumphant faith grounded in the present realities of Christ. We must remember that the Spirit of the living God indwells us with power!

So, boldly believe that we are dead to sin. Dead to the Law. And presently raised to newness of life, seated with Christ in the heavenly places. Dare to believe very BIG things about the Gospel of Jesus Christ!

#55 Comment By theoldadam On December 29, 2012 @ 12:02 pm

“So, boldly believe that we are dead to sin. Dead to the Law. And presently raised to newness of life, seated with Christ in the heavenly places. Dare to believe very BIG things about the Gospel of Jesus Christ!”

That is exactly what Mitchell believes. I know that because I know him. And we have discussed that very thing.

But Mitchell does not believe in examining “the heart”. We all know what comes from the hearts of men. Go and read what Jesus said about it (google it).

We walk by faith and not by sight. We trust in the external Word and what God has done for us apart from ANYTHING that we do, say, feel, or think.

I do realize that is a very foreign notion to some here on this blog. Freedom from all of that stuff is great. And that’s why we bother to comment here. Not because we think were somehow better, we are not. But because we desire others to also know this great freedom that Christ so dearly won for us on the cross, for the likes of the ungodly. People like you and me.

#56 Comment By Mitchell Hammonds On December 29, 2012 @ 12:09 pm

John Dunn,
Your answer typifies the reason I utterly rejected Baptist doctrine. For the simple fact that in its final analysis it is a theology that only leads one to question the validity of whether one is “in Christ” or not. It never lets one answer the question “Am I in” with any affirmation.

I assure you… I am in Christ. Not by what I see day to day but by the promise Christ made. You and your theology want me to answer the question by “have I proved through works.” Again, I have works… I also have no idea what they are… really don’t care either. It is promised that I will have them.

So what is the function of the Spirit in my life. First, He tells me I’m a sinner and shows me when I do examine myself. Then He confirms to me, through a preacher rather than some mystical 6th sense taught by American Evangelicals (including Baptists), that I am a new creation created in the image of Christ. It is a life by faith based entirely on the fact that God keeps His own word. Promise.

I’m glad you responded the way you did John. You are a prime example of the mystical triumphantism that pervades through the pietistic church of today. I’ll keep my new Lutheran faith that actually lets me live a life knowing this will all end well for me because of God’s promises in Christ… not my “victorious Christian living.”

#57 Comment By Cookie Groover On December 29, 2012 @ 12:36 pm

Mitchell love the end of your post! Isn’t it great that we can REST in Christ cause I was exhausted….Let me say this and its very simple…
My Christianity is not based on anything I do but what Christ did for me…

#58 Comment By jeremiah On December 29, 2012 @ 1:56 pm

Chuck Colson gave a great clear response yesterday but it dodo not show up on here for some reason so I am copying and pasting it. It is a great clarification and I hope that it is interacted with.

It is your passion to communicate that sanctification is God’s work, not our work. To encourage people in that pursuit, you say, “We are justified by grace alone through faith alone in the finished work of Christ alone, and God sanctifies us by constantly bringing us back to the reality of our justification.” In other words, our sanctification happens as we are motivated by the good news of our justification.

I don’t disagree completely. However, it is not enough for real sinners, like us.

Fortunately, Scripture does not limit the grace God gives for our sanctification to “the reality of our justification.” This is what I mean by saying that you sequester grace to justification.

When we are united to Jesus, an entire buffet of indicatives (grace) is available to us. Justification, our being counted right with God, is one of them. But, the apostles rarely, if ever, limit their presentation of the indicative to justification. Rather, they encourage Christians dealing with sin to feast on things like:

1. You have the Spirit (indicative); therefore, keep in step with Him (imperative) – Gal. 5:25.
2. You have died to sin (indicative); therefore, don’t let sin reign (imperative) – Rom. 6:5-12.
3. You are a temple of the Spirit (indicative); therefore, glorify God in your body (imperative) – 1 Cor. 6:19-20.
4. Your life is hidden with Christ (indicative); therefore, put to death what is earthly in you (imperative) – Col. 3:3-5.
5. You are not in the flesh, but the Spirit (indicative); therefore, don’t live as a debtor to the flesh (imperative) – Rom. 8:9-12.

Tullian, this is the grace sinners need in order to experience transformation. This is strong drink that goes beyond affirming people, over and over, of their acceptance before God. And, this is not “grace, but . . .”. It is simply grace.

So, sanctification is by faith. It works as we exercise faith in a set of indicatives broader than our justification. God sanctifies us as we believe that we are no longer enslaved to sin and begin to live – by the power of the Spirit – as if we actually are new creatures, with new affections and new abilities.

#59 Comment By theoldadam On December 29, 2012 @ 2:05 pm

“I don’t disagree completely. However, it is not enough for real sinners, like us.”


There it is. It could have come out of the Pope’s mouth..or even the devil himself.

Christ is just not enough.

Well, He is enough. He is enough.

#60 Comment By Cookie Groover On December 29, 2012 @ 2:29 pm

Yes what Jesus did was enough…Reminds me of when Peter in his human self tries to stop Jesus from carrying out what he came to do and Jesus says “stand behind me satan” so glad it really is finished!

#61 Comment By John Dunn On December 29, 2012 @ 3:36 pm


There is absolutely NO “proving through works” whether one is in Christ or out of Him . . . except for the good works of faith and love produced monergistically in you by the Spirit.

Good works = faith in the Son (John 6:28-29).

Keeping his commandment = belief in the Son and love for one another (1John 3:23).

Good works = love and faith (Rev 2:19).

Mitchell, if you have true faith in the Son, then you will irresistably produce the good works of divine love (Gal 5:6). And this work of divine love is accomplished monergistically by the Spirit of God working powerfully in you (Rom 5:5, Eph 3:16-19).

So if this still sounds too mystical for you, then I would suggest that you are not acquainted with the indwelling life of Christ in you by the Spirit (Rom 8:9, Gal 2:20).

Feel free to continue on in your careless unbelief – “Again, I have works… I also have no idea what they are… really don’t care either.”

Or believe that you are in Christ, and that He is powerfully at work in you, “strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being” (Eph 3:16).

#62 Comment By Mitchell Hammonds On December 29, 2012 @ 3:56 pm

John Dunn,
I have rejected the Baptist understanding you have about the Christian life. As far as I’m concerned it is a ghastly theology that does cause everyone to “YES” prove your saved by what you do: don’t drink, don’t do this don’t do that, walk door to door to evangelize and if you don’t then you’re labeled a functioning universalist or insincere Christian. It is a ghastly brand of Christianity. Feel free to continue in your pietistic understanding of Christianity that questions everyone’s citizenship in the Kingdom in order to get your point across. I understand… you have to go this extreme because you have nothing else to stand on other than to scare the hell out of anyone you come into contact with in order to persuade them. I’m amazed that you would use a blog to call into question the validity of someone’s faith of who you don’t know. Your knowing who is in and who isn’t is none of your business but of God’s alone. I’d watch how you step in this regard John.

#63 Comment By Cookie Groover On December 29, 2012 @ 4:16 pm

Even Peter try to stop Jesus death from being enough…So glad it really is enough…

#64 Comment By John Thomson On December 29, 2012 @ 4:22 pm

There is a lot of ‘same old…same old’ here isn’t there. It is a great pity. I believe fully in salvation through the grace of God. I also believe salvation is by grace through faith and not of works. Rather, we are his (God’s) work created in Christ Jesus for good works.

What is the primary basis of assurance? It is the objective finished work of Christ to which by faith I cling.

BUT, we cannot stop here for Scripture doesn’t. Whether it fits with our theology or not Scripture also gives subjective assurances of salvation.

James makes it abundantly clear that we are justified by works. We may discuss what he means by this but he couldn’t be clearer,

Jas 2:18-26 (ESV2011)
Jas 2:18; But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder! Do you want to be shown, you foolish person, that faith apart from works is useless? Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar? You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works; and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”—and he was called a friend of God. You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone. And in the same way was not also Rahab the prostitute justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way? For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead.’

John tells us,

1John 2:3; And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments.

1John 3:14; We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers. Whoever does not love abides in death.

1John 3:24; Whoever keeps his commandments abides in God, and God in him. And by this we know that he abides in us, by the Spirit whom he has given us.

Obedience and brotherly love give assurance that we are born of God. I simply don’t see how texts like this can be airbrushed from our theology.

Kandace’s question was a good one and unfortunately Mitchell’s answer was a bad one.

‘So what is the function of the Spirit in my life. First, He tells me I’m a sinner and shows me when I do examine myself. Then He confirms to me, through a preacher rather than some mystical 6th sense taught by American Evangelicals (including Baptists), that I am a new creation created in the image of Christ. It is a life by faith based entirely on the fact that God keeps His own word. Promise.’

Firstly, it is not a preacher who confirms me in faith it is the Spirit immediately and directly. To quote from the above text, ‘And by this we know that he abides in us, by the Spirit whom he has given us.’and the converse.’By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit.’ The indwelling Spirit arouses the instinct to cry ‘abba’. He gives us the sense of sonship for he is the Spirit of sonship (Roms 8). The love of God is shed aboad in our hearts by the Spirit (Roms 5). That is the Holy Spirit creates in our hearts a sense that we are loved of God. To be sure, he does this as he impresses upon our heart the objective love of God displayed at the cross, but nevertheless the objective love of history instils a personal sense that we are loved of God as the Spirit applies this love to our hearts.

There is no mention of a preacher in this. In fact, John goes on to say we have no need for any man to teach us the Spirit teaches us all things. This is an experiential assurance the Spirit creates within. It is deeply subjective, experiential and personal. It is pietistic in the best sense of this word.

The key issue is of course the nature of ‘faith’. I am justified by faith. But what kind of faith. The kind that merely believes in some kind of abstract and intellectual sense without any consequent change in life? The kind that has no ‘works’? No. James is clear, such faith is dead. It is unreal and false.

I am sure that Mitchell (and others) has an active doing faith such as we read of in Hebrews 11. It is not a faith that is merely mechanistic and sacramental. It is living and so by definition is experiential for all true life is experiential. I am with him that we do not want a doctrine of law and of law-works (unaided attempts to merit salvation by our own efforts). I just would like if he would concede that there are such things as grace-works (works that flow from a regenerate heart that further confirm to faith that the faith we have is genuine and true and not merely nominal).

#65 Comment By theoldadam On December 29, 2012 @ 4:35 pm

“Even Peter tried to stop Jesus death from being enough…So glad it really is enough…”

I was thinking the exact same thing, Cookie.

And Jesus called Peter, “Satan”, in his rebuke.

#66 Comment By John Thomson On December 29, 2012 @ 4:35 pm

If I may comment further…

Where Paul confronts a legalism that wishes to add to Christ as the basis of salvation he anathematises it as a false gospel. The gospel is that Christ is utterly sufficient to save. Salvation is based on faith in Christ and not by the works of the law.

Yet it is in the book that proclaims this message of grace and faith most forcefully that we also read,

‘Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that al those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God’ (Gal 5:19-21)

Can someone who claims to be a believer yet regularly gets drunk be sure of salvation? Not according to Galatians.

Is someone who claims faith in Christ and is an on-going adulterer a Christian? Not according to Galatians. Paul clearly agrees with James that faith which has no accompanying change of life is no faith at all; such faith is dead.

#67 Comment By Cookie Groover On December 29, 2012 @ 4:40 pm

Jesus came to save sinners which I am…

#68 Comment By Mitchell Hammonds On December 29, 2012 @ 4:50 pm

It is through the preached word (by way of a preacher) that God creates faith. It is sacramental… if it isn’t then one must take John Dunn’s position… known by what you do. It is by pure belief that God gives in the first place. And He promises to finish what He began… It is a freakin’ promise given not proven by what we do. He promises all believers have works… however, it is never told that we will know exactly what those works are. So what now? Go to work… raise the family… be a friend… be a co-worker… go do something you enjoy! Oh and by the way another promise God made is He will meet you and I in a specific way and at a specific place… primarily with other believers where His Word (The Gospel) is announced from those He has called to proclaim it to us. This is really easy… and simplified. The fact that we sin daily proves we aren’t serious about all of this. Now you need a word of forgiveness given again and again (primarily through a preacher) rather than only once. This is the life of a Christian. I know… pretty common and ordinary. Too bad!! Oh yes… and then you’ll die one day rather than raptured out of the Tribulation.

#69 Comment By John Thomson On December 29, 2012 @ 4:53 pm


Do you think you are using this text of Paul’s appropriately? Was Paul who said ‘I have fought the fight, finished the course, kept the faith’ really saying that his post-conversion life if viewed objectively showed him to be the chief of sinners? I don’t believe he was.

Paul’s claim to be the chief of sinners was predicated on his pre-conversion life as one who ‘persecuted the church of God’.

1Tim 1:12-16 (ESV2011)
I thank him who has given me strength, Christ Jesus our Lord, because he judged me faithful, appointing me to his service,though formerly I was a blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent opponent. But I received mercy because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief,and the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost.But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life.

#70 Comment By John Dunn On December 29, 2012 @ 4:59 pm

So Mitchell, let me understand what you are saying . . .

You reject any kind of personal, identifiable, or experiential “knowing” of the Spirit of Christ’s power within you for your daily life of resting in the Vine and producing His fruit. Branding it as ghastly and mystical and scarry.

But you instead, you cling to the mystical power invested in the “sacraments” mediated to you through a priestly/ecclesiastical class.

Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh? (Gal 3:3)

#71 Comment By Cookie Groover On December 29, 2012 @ 5:08 pm

Let me say after the shooting in Conn. my heart was broken for the children and parents involved then something inside me was broken for the 20 year old who would do such a sad thing and for his parents too. Then I was reminded that this was not me but Jesus…That was something I as a human would not normally do, is feel for not just the victims but the criminal…This was not a work by me but of Jesus in me…Reminding me that none of us are without sin…

#72 Comment By John Thomson On December 29, 2012 @ 5:12 pm


You make me smile…’ Oh yes… and then you’ll die one day rather than raptured out of the Tribulation.’. But you assume folks like John and me are dispensationalists. I am not (and I don’t think John is) though I don’t think for a moment all that dispensationalists said was wrong – they provided a badly needed corrective to a flat fairly ahistorical covenant theology; the truth lies in a synthesis of both.

Note too I said, ‘ It is not a faith that is merely mechanistic and sacramental.’ Note the qualifying ‘merely’. Faith normally comes through the word preached (in the first instance at least) and is sustained in great part through the preached word too, I agree. Though of course many other factors play a part in its growth and development. Faith, like our muscles, grows by being exercised. Also it is the thing (message) preached not the preacher that is the object of faith. My faith grows as I observe the face of God in Jesus Christ whether through a preacher, personal reading of Scripture, personal meditation and reflection on the truth of God as revealed in his Son etc. All of which are of course the result of the Spirit in my heart creating a longing to look at Christ and enabling me to see him and know him through the Word. We must avoid being reductionistic here. This short description of faith growing is itself reductionistic and oversimplified. It says nothing of the place of obedience, prayer, Christian fellowship, suffering etc and the place they play in the development of faith.

#73 Comment By John Thomson On December 29, 2012 @ 5:15 pm

But Mitchell,

How do you relate the texts I cited to your theology that so resists the experiential?

#74 Comment By theoldadam On December 29, 2012 @ 5:15 pm

John D.,

You are thinking of the Roman Church or Episcopal or Orthodox Churches, John.

Lutherans don’t have a “priestly class”. We believe, as the Bible says, “the priesthood of all believers”.

For us, the gift of the sacraments is not dependent on certain fingertips. They are pure gospel, from our Lord, to us. You could even preside at the Lord’s Supper with our understanding of it. Because it doesn’t depend on us.

That’s the whole point.

#75 Comment By John Thomson On December 29, 2012 @ 5:25 pm

Neither word or sacrament is of any value unless it is ‘mingled with faith’. There is no mechanical conferring through Word or Visual Word.

For good news came to us just as to them, but the message they heard did not benefit them, because they were not united by faith with those who listened. (Hebs 4:2)

1Cor 10:1-5 (ESV2011)
For I do not want you to be unaware, brothers, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea,and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea,and all ate the same spiritual food,and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank from the spiritual Rock that followed them, and the Rock was Christ.Nevertheless, with most of them God was not pleased, for they were overthrown in the wilderness.

Where faith is present then these (Word and sacrament) bring spiritual blessing, the blessing of the thing they communicate, that is the meaning/message intrinsic.

#76 Comment By John Dunn On December 29, 2012 @ 5:59 pm

The point that seems to be getting confused in this whole conversation is the experience of the Christian life, after the initial moments of the new birth (justification).

Do we continue on in a dormant state of infancy, lamenting our own miserable hopelessness? Or is their a demonstrable growth of faith and love in us, not of our own doing, but by the powerful internal working of Spirit of Christ?

Was the Apostle Paul simply a preacher of Gospel sermons? Or was there more to his ministry that we are overlooking?

Yes, much more . . .

“Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God, who has made us sufficient to be ministers of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit. For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.” 2 Cor 3:5-6

Paul was a minister of the New Covenant! A minister of the Spirit! As such, his was a ministry of life and power that leads the saints into a real, demonstrable transforamtion into Christ’s heavenly image. From one degree of glory to another. This comes from the Lord who is the Spirit! (2 Cor 3:18)

Why have we lost Paul’s view of the New Covenant ministry of the Gospel? Why have we reduced it to a theological formulation of “word and sacrament” and speak so little about the Spirt’s powerful work IN the believer?

#77 Comment By theoldadam On December 29, 2012 @ 6:25 pm

Word and Sacrament is the Spirit. It is the Father. It is the Son. It is God’s gift to us.

Giving to you that which it demands of you. At work in you. Even when it is not readily apparent to you.

There’s nothing wrong with Christian encouragement, or Christian admonishment. But never make the gospel dependent on them.

Christ is at work in us despite what we do, say, feel or think. The gospel Word is done to us and is not dependent on us to finish it off or bring it to completion.

#78 Comment By Mitchell Hammonds On December 29, 2012 @ 8:31 pm

No John Dunn I simply reject your understanding of Biblical things you describe… which is right in line with your Baptist theology. We will use the same language but will most definitely define our terms and ideas much differently. I’ll furthermore reject any tradition that initially finds its roots in the early settling of America… such as the Baptists.

#79 Comment By Mel On December 29, 2012 @ 11:22 pm

Grace does not come in flavors. It is just grace. It is not Baptist or Lutheran. This makes me so sad to see such ignorance, pride and obvious attempt at works while labeling it something else.

As soon as you claim something because you think you comprehend it better than the other guy it seizes to be the free gift of grace. It’s just like the guy that stands up in front of everyone and declares his humility. It just doesn’t exist in that giant black hole.

#80 Comment By theoldadam On December 29, 2012 @ 11:39 pm

Exactly, Mel.

We stand with ANYONE who lifts high the cross of Christ. Anyone.

Anyone who says that we need to just add a little bit to it, will surely hear from us.

#81 Comment By Name on His Hand On December 29, 2012 @ 11:42 pm

“Can someone who claims to be a believer yet regularly gets drunk be sure of salvation? Not according to Galatians”

Thank you for posting this question.This is the question that I still have though I have been reading this blog for some time now and trying to discuss this.

Can someone from the ‘relax! it’s all grace for sanctification too!’ camp comment on this passage in Galatians?
Really take the time to go through it and explain what you mean?
It is my sincerest hope that we are really all saying the same thing and this is just a semantics issue?


#82 Comment By John Dunn On December 29, 2012 @ 11:59 pm


That’s what I feared you would say. High-church sacramentalism is your life, your spirit, your father, your son. You are denying the active and living work of the Spirit “in you”, personally and experientially, and substituting Him for things that are outside of you, namely liturgical ordinances.

But the Son is all, and in all (Col 3:11). Jesus himself is your greatest gift. He is your Life. Not the church. You have direct access to Him through faith (Heb 10:19-22). He does not mediate Himself through an ecclesiastical structure of Gospel liturgy and sacramental formulation, like Israel’s Temple worship in days of old. The church is not like the OT Temple, mediating God’s presence downward to the common laity.

Rather the church IS the Temple, made up of living stones (believers), who possess the living God in their midst, in their hearts (2 Cor 1:22, Gal 4:6). . . and who offer up the acceptable sacrifices of praise and worship (2 Cor 6:16, 1 Peter 2:5).

God has come down to us. To dwell among us. To dwell in us.

Christ alone IS the fullness of deity (Col 1:19, Col 2:9), not the church.

Christ alone IS the full revelation of the Father (John 10:30, John14:8-14), not the church.

Christ alone IS the sender/giver of His Spirit (John 7:39, John 16:7, John 14:15-26, Luke 24:49, Acts 2:33, Titus 3:5-6), not the church.

If you have Jesus Christ, you have the fullness of the triune God revealed to you . . . and living in you.

#83 Comment By theoldadam On December 29, 2012 @ 11:59 pm


You regularly are selfish, are you not? You regularly worry, do you not? Didn’t Jesus tell us not to worry? That is the ultimate sign of a non-trustor in God, is it not?

And yet we regularly do it. We all sin, regularly.

But we are brought to repentance. We are sorry that we do not trust God. we are sorry that we eat too much, or drink too much, or do not go out of our way for our neighbor very much.

And we are forgiven. Over and over and over again.

“The entire life of the Christian is one of repentance” (that is the very 1st of the 95 Theses that Luther nail to the church door)

We need a savior. We have a Savior.

#84 Comment By Name on His Hand On December 30, 2012 @ 12:06 am

But didn’t Jesus say that other will know we are Christians by our love (shown through works no doubt).
And so, others can SEE this in our lives, no?
We don’t look/live/act like the heathen anymore, right?
Or are you saying there is really no difference at all?
Sometimes when you talk it seems you are saying that there is no visible difference interms of lifestyle between teh Christian and the unbeliever.
Please clarify.

#85 Comment By Mitchell Hammonds On December 30, 2012 @ 12:15 am

So why did you comment if opinions do not matter? I’m afraid it does matter otherwise none of us would be wasting our time. I see it as hearty vigorous debate on issues of the faith. In a fallen world I’m actually glad there are denominations that emphasize the Law and Gospel. Ideally, we shouldn’t need them… but I’m not an idealist. I apologize for any offense given… but we’ve all been at this for awhile. We are accustom to the debate.

John T.,
Glad I could put a smile on your face from across “The Pond.”

You’re right, the Augsburg Confessions even mention faith with the sacraments. So it isn’t magic… but God works through them to our benefit. If Paul gives warnings as to taking them ‘unworthily’ I would think it to be intentioned to bring good when taken as they were intended. But again the faith we need… God gives so it isn’t our work and mustering.
You’re right again when you say I assume too much. A hazard of coming out of my former tradition I’m afraid. My apologies John X 2.

As far as Covenant Theology, I’m sure of one thing. Paul addresses 2 separate covenants in Galatians. There are places I’ll agree with the dispensationalist as to what the gospel is. If you want to decipher synthesizing them both I’ll leave that to you. I enjoy my family music and golf too much to take that on.

#86 Comment By theoldadam On December 30, 2012 @ 12:19 am

We believers do have a hope and a joy and a love that others do not have. But it isn’t always expressed very well, is it.

We are sinners in fact, and saints by faith.

We (believers) can be real jerks, at times, can’t we? I know that I can. I know non-believers that do many more loving things than do most believers. What does that mean as far as salvation goes? Nothing really.

This is why we Lutherans do not trust in anything that we do, say, feel, or think, as far as our salvation is concerned but trust in those things that God has done for us. We don’t even have faith in our faith…but rather faith in God.

The wheat and the tares grow together. We don’t know who the real believers are. We give all who profess Christ the benefit of the doubt and trust that Christ is more than capable of making the proper judgement.

The comforting thing that we always should remember is that the one who died for us, will be the same One who will be judging us.


#87 Comment By Mitchell Hammonds On December 30, 2012 @ 12:24 am

Name on His Hand,
Name one thing you can do as a Christian that an unbeliever can’t do. I work with many who I assume to be non-believers and I am sure there are many in my profession who do not believe and yet do extraordinary acts of sacrifice… for those they have never met.

#88 Comment By theoldadam On December 30, 2012 @ 12:25 am

It seems to me that many folks really struggle with the assurance of their salvation. That’s where a lot of these questions stem.

Some of these may be a great help:


I hope so, anyway.

#89 Comment By John Dunn On December 30, 2012 @ 9:06 am

@Name on His Hand

There is much in every way that a Christian does do that an unbeliever absolutely cannot do. Here are a few examples:

An unbeliever is *dead* in their sins (Eph 2:1).
But a Christian has been *made alive*, raised up with Christ and seated with him in heavenly places (Eph 2:5-6).

An unbeliever does not believe in Jesus and rejects Him.
A Christian loves and serves Jesus, and willingly suffers for Him (Phil 1:29).

An unbeliever has no understanding of the “secret and hidden wisdom of God, which God decreed before the ages for our glory” (1 Cor 2:7).
But a Christian does understand spiritual things because he discerns them by the Spirit of God (1 Cor 2:14).

An unbeliever does not possess the Spirit of God.
A Christian does possess the Spirit of God (Rom 8:9-11).

An unbeliever does not produce the fruit of the Spirit.
A Christian who is filled with the Spirit produces abundant heavenly fruit (Gal 5:22-24).

An unbeliever has no Life in him because he is not attached to the Vine.
But a Christian is a branch who is attached to the Vine, and thereby produces “much fruit” (John 15:4-5)

An unbeliever does not have the Love of God poured into his heart by the Holy Spirit (Rom 5:5).
A Christian is filled with the Love of God by the Spirit.

An unbeleiver sees Gospel grace as foolishness.
A Christian sees Gospel grace as wisdom and salvation (1Cor 1:18-31).

An unbeliever is never transformed.
A Christian is transformed by God’s grace, in the face of Jesus (2 Cor 3:18, Titus 2:11-14).
An unbeliever is under condemnation and judgment.
A Christian is saved and has eternal life (John 3:16-19).

An unbeliever attempts to serve God in accordance with law code.
But a Christian is now united to Christ and serves Him in the new way of the Spirit (Rom 7:4-6).

An unbeliever only has “a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries” (Heb 10:27-29).
A Christian has a sure hope of heavenly glory (Col 1:27)

#90 Comment By Mitchell Hammonds On December 30, 2012 @ 10:32 am

Nice abstract answer John. You’re overflowing with God’s love… anyone in the new age movement can claim that. Everything you’ve listed can be assumed by anyone… Mormons make those claims. Mormons, generally speaking, will also outperform me or you in “good works” as well as many atheists who are responsible for vast numbers of philanthropist organizations who “do” very good things for the community and the world.
There is only one reality you’ve listed that fits and that is “belief.” But I would say that even this is a subjective undertaking from our perspective; this is the reason for a sacramental nature of the Church. We believe well one day while another day is marked by a struggle to do so. The great comfort is God keeps His promises – this is how He wants to be validated. Not because we’ve kept our end of the bargain by listing an entire page of “abstract truths” we claim to hold onto. This is why the proclamation of the Gospel is important – it is the power of God to salvation. Hearing the “preached Christ (Word).”

#91 Comment By Cookie Groover On December 30, 2012 @ 11:11 am

“Sometimes the only people who get any better are those who know that God will still love them even if they don’t get any better.”

#92 Comment By jeremiah On December 30, 2012 @ 12:09 pm

Mitchell, John’s answers were not abstract but clear scriptural truth. Here are a few more.

An unbeliever can not worship the Lord in Spirit and in truth.
A believer can.

An unbeliever can not suffer for the sake of the name of Jesus and have joy, peace and grace from the Father in the midst of it.
A believer can.

An unbeliever can not pray with confidence that God hears their prayers.
A believer can.

An unbeliever has no desire or ability to be transformed into the image of Christ.
A believer does, or should.

#93 Comment By John Thomson On December 30, 2012 @ 12:16 pm

An unbeliever does not love God’s truth a believer does.

An unbeliever does not love the church of God a believer does.

An unbeliever does not delight in obedience to God a believer does.

#94 Comment By jeremiah On December 30, 2012 @ 12:20 pm

In fact, Mitchell they are only abstract answers if you have no faith to believe them and that what has been mentioned is not concrete, practical, and impersonal to you. Believe, please believe all that Christ is and has done for you.

#95 Comment By Mitchell Hammonds On December 30, 2012 @ 12:47 pm

I’m not denying that they are true Jeremiah. But they are things that anyone can attest whether they are truly believers or not; this is the point. In fact, anyone can say they believe just as you or I can do. As well as affirm Christ lived and died. I’m not denying the realities that are in Christ what I refuse to concede is they show themselves even consistently in the way we live. Does love break through… sure. What does it look like? Like anyone else doing the same thing… not solely Christians. Your and John’s theology makes Christianity about moral endeavors rather than God who is gracious even in the face of failure. You speak as one who has arrived. I, on the other hand, know full well I have not/nor ever in this life arrive. You read the Bible through the legal scheme rather than grace. This is the difference. I’m done bro. I have to go commit gluttony on a steak.

#96 Comment By Name on His Hand On December 30, 2012 @ 12:55 pm

Thanks for replying.
So, Jesus ONLY gives this command to the disciples (and those that follow them) TO SHOW THEM THEY CAN’T POSSIBLY DO IT?
John 13:34-35
New International Version (NIV)
34 “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

15 “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. 2 He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes[a] so that it will be even more fruitful. 3 You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. 4 Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.

5 “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. 6 If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. 7 If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8 This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.

9 “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. 10 If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. 11 I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. 12 My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command. 15 I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. 16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you. 17 This is my command: Love each other.
John 15

I just want to be clear.
I find this conversation astounding.
I keep thinking that we are all saying the same thing with different words, but it can’t be I guess.

So, if my life does NOT expemplify Christ (ie my actions are not loving) then I can still be a Christian and it is frankly God’s fault that I am not ‘grown’ more b/c it is all up to Him? I just dont’ get it obviously!
And it offends me that you keep acting like those of us who love the Lord and want to obey Him and are sad for those who name the Name but don’t live the Life, are all messed up somehow?
Anyway…..please keep the explanations coming if you have patience for it. (and love, no sarcasm please)
I really do want to understand. I have many friends who are in this ‘camp’ and I just want to ‘get it’ if possible. I really and truly am trying and not just ‘debating’ for the sake of debating.
If you can specifically refer to my questions here and these verses, that woudl be so wonderful!

#97 Comment By Tullian Tchividjian On December 30, 2012 @ 1:00 pm

Ok Gentlemen, I think it’s probably time to exchange emails with one another and take this conversation off-line :) There’s not a whole lot more that can be said in this forum that will serve the greater good.

Grace and Peace,

#98 Comment By Name on His Hand On December 30, 2012 @ 3:38 pm

Thank you, Mr Dunn.
That was beautiful.
So, can you possibly apply that to a Christian’s life then?
How does it look/work in terms of seeing ‘fruit’ in a believer’s life?
Would you say, then, that if this does not APPEAR to be showing forth in a person’s life that then they may not be a Christian at all, though they claim the Name and go to Church and read their bible and pray?
Just wondering.

I guess one thought I had , in thinking again of the parable of the sower, that perhaps what seems to us from our time perspective as a long time (30 some years?) is really not that long to God. So maybe it can APPEAR that a true beleiver is not yet grown up? And thus does not YET exhibit the traits of the Father (and Elder Brother)?

Yet, Jesus said that a tree is known by its fruits.
And He says through Paul that we ought not to be content with milk but press on towards spiritual meat, so??

Thanks so much, again for your time in typing all that out…

#99 Comment By John Thomson On December 30, 2012 @ 5:28 pm

John Dunn, well expressed. To all who have contributed to this discussion and others over the year, to Mitchell and Steve whom I would love to meet for we may find our differences much smaller, to Tullian for hosting the discussion (and inciting it), I wish a good new year when it arrives.

I intend to write a post tomorrow (DV) making the point that while a new year will bring changes (some good and some bad) the eyes of God’s people are on new creation. In consummated new creation God makes everything new in the meantime we live in and experience this newness by faith. May I say (I hope not too mischievously) that I hope we all enter more and more into these new creational realities in this coming year.

#100 Comment By Linda O’Brien On January 1, 2013 @ 8:58 am

Fearful of what kind of chaos would ensue if we abandoned ourselves wholly to the radicality of grace, we cling to control–we stick with what we know so well, with what comes natural. thank you..I am holding onto this …today..

#101 Comment By Todd Van Voorst On January 2, 2013 @ 10:23 am

i am very eager to see this movie. i do not watch much television or attend many movies, but the hype from the christian community from here to the White Horse has really compelled me. i am excited to engage the powerful imagery of law and gospel on the screen. thanks for the synopsis.


#102 Comment By Boris On January 11, 2013 @ 12:29 pm

Ha ha ha ha. You Americans and your wimpy pastors.

#103 Comment By Jack Miller On January 21, 2013 @ 12:28 am

It is high time, in my opinion, for the church to embrace sola gratia (grace alone) anew. “For many of us the time has come to abandon once and for all our play-it-safe, toe-dabbling Christianity and dive in” (Dane Ortlund). No more “yes grace, but…”. No more fine print. No more conditions, qualifications, and footnotes. And especially, no more silly cries for “balance.” It is time to get drunk on grace. Two hundred-proof, defiant grace.

Say it loud and say it proud!

#104 Comment By Greg Williams On February 3, 2013 @ 2:09 pm

Thank you for the fine point you make through this movie (I had no idea that Jackman, Hathaway and Crowe were so accomplished). It is true that the grace, hospitality of God moves upon us like the Spirit over troubled waters. He wants to change our relationship with Him. And so He woos us…. “Come unto ME!” In same way our relationship to God, our righteousness, has never been by our own works and by whatever standard we use to inform our beliefs about what is noble or good. So knew Abel and so eschewed Cain. Our standards, or morality or law is not the issue typically. It is our relationship to those standards. We are naturally idolatrous and we often take good things and make them into gods. Javerts god or standards offers pride and power but not mercy. His pride made him enslaved with conformity… even if it killed him. Sounds pretty OCD and typical for us don’t you think? We still do this as christians it seems with all kinds of standards that we use to accuse or excuse (Ro. 2:15). From how much time we spend in prayer, if we “go to church every sunday”, to all sorts of things. The danger is we end up like the publican who snorted at the tax collector. Thank the LORD that His ways, His law/Torah/Instruction is not cruel like mans, for He has always wanted mercy, good judgement Mt.23:23 and faith Dt.7:9, 32:20. Sola Scripture, Fide, Gratia, Solus Christu, Soli Deo gloria.

#105 Comment By wholesale bags On February 12, 2014 @ 3:00 pm

Give Me Law Or Give Me Death! – Tullian Tchividjian

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

URL to article: http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/tullian/2012/12/26/give-me-law-or-give-me-death/

URLs in this post:

[1] Image: http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/tullian/files/2012/12/HugMis5_144.jpg

[2] here: http://www.whitehorseinn.org/blog/2012/12/20/whi-bonus-law-gospel-les-miserables/

[3] here: http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/tgc/2012/12/20/law-and-grace-in-les-mis/

[4] : http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/tullian/2012/12/10/god-doesnt-need-your-good-works-but-your-neighbor-does/

[5] : http://theoldadam.files.wordpress.com/2008/05/becoming-better-by-addressing-your-sins1.mp3

[6] : http://www.pluggedin.com/movies/intheaters/les-miserables-2012.aspx

[7] : http://theoldadam.files.wordpress.com/2012/01/i-believe-that-i-cannot-believe.mp3

[8] : http://theoldadam.com/category/assurance/

[9] : http://onceforalldelivered.blogspot.com/