Thursday, February 6, 2014

Did Jesus Do Everything?!

There are some who always want to answer that question in the negative while affirming that of course we have no part in our justification (Jesus did it all) and yet insisting that our Spirit enabled good works are surely necessary in order to complete our sanctification, increase our heavenly reward and/or ultimately secure our salvation. I know the distinction raised is that these works of ours which we contribute to our salvation are not meritorious, only necessary. Well, I affirm, they are necessary inasmuch as dead trees produce no fruit. Live ones do.

So, good works are necessary in the Christian life as evidence of the existence of a Christian life. The question is why? The reason isn't to just simply show evidence of faith. Simply put, as followers of Christ we are called by him to godly living. We are called to dutifully obey the law he has written on our hearts, which law our inward man now embraces as good. God means to work that law written on our hearts into new godly motives and behaviors. We are called unto good works, to love God and neighbor. And yet though good works are not optional, they add nothing to our salvation (they are evidence of it) - which is by grace alone, through faith alone in Christ alone (Eph. 2:8-10). God's law still requires absolute perfection in our good works. And our good works fall way short of that perfection. They add nothing because each of our works carries with it the remnant of sin. Except for Christ's righteousness imputed to us they would be rejected.
5. We cannot by our best works merit pardon of sin, or eternal life at the hand of God, by reason of the great disproportion that is between them and the glory to come; and the infinite distance that is between us and God, whom, by them, we can neither profit, nor satisfy for the debt of our former sins, but when we have done all we can, we have done but our duty, and are unprofitable servants: and because, as they are good, they proceed from his Spirit; and as they are wrought by us, they are defiled, and mixed with so much weakness and imperfection, that they cannot endure the severity of God's judgment. (WCF 16 - Of Good Works)
We are but unprofitable servants in that what proceeds from us is yet still defiled. But inasmuch as our works are received as good by God, they are deemed as such for the sake of Christ, preceding from his Spirit by grace. In a word - "So Jesus also suffered outside the gate in order to sanctify the people through his own blood" (Heb. 13:12); and as the confession states, "They...are further sanctified, really and personally, through the virtue of Christ's death and resurrection, by his Word and Spirit dwelling in them..." (WCF 13 - Of Sanctification).

J. Gresham Machen adds his two cents:
They [the Judaizers of the Galatian letter], believed, moreover, that faith in Christ was necessary to salvation. But the trouble was, they also believed that something else was also necessary; they believed that what Christ had done needed to be pieced out by the believer's own effort to keep the Law...

Paul saw very clearly that the difference between the Judaizers and himself was the difference between a religion of merit and a religion of grace...

The difference which divided him from the Judaizers was no mere theological subtlety, but concerned the very heart and core of the religion of Christ. "Just as I am without one plea, But that Thy blood was shed for me" - that is what Paul was contending for in Galatia; That hymn would never have been written if the Judaizers had won. And without the thing which that hymn expresses there is no Christianity at all...
If Christ provides only a part of our salvation, leaving us to provide the rest, then we are still hopeless under the load of sin. For no matter how small the gap which must be bridged before salvation can be attained, the awakened conscience sees clearly that our wretched attempt at goodness is insufficient even to bridge that gap. The guilty soul enters again into the hopeless reckoning with God, to determine whether we have really done our part. And thus we groan again under the old bondage of the law. Such an attempt to piece out the work of Christ by our own merit, Paul saw clearly, is the very essence of unbelief; Christ will do everything or nothing, and the only hope is to throw ourselves unreservedly on His mercy and trust Him for all.
(Christianity and Liberalism)


  1. Very good! The why question is always appropriate.

    Necessary for what reason? If we are indeed sanctified by the blood, then the fruit is the result of having been made saints and not the condition.

    I John 3:12We should not be like Cain, who was of the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his own deeds were evil and his brother’s righteous.

    What is an evil deed? What is a righteous deed? Is the evil deed here the murder? No, even though murder is an evil deed, Cain murdered Abel because of Cain’s status as a condemned sinner and unbeliever in God’s gospel.

    Cain was a bad tree who thereby necessarily brought forth fruit which was all bad, all unacceptable. So it’s not a matter of more and more, but of either/or. There are those who abide in God’s gospel and those who do not.

    I John is not comparing morality with immorality. It is not mere morality that the world hates. It was not morality that Cain hated. Cain hated
    Abel’s gospel because that gospel said that even Cain’s best efforts to please God (the best of his fruits, with all sincerity) were an abomination to God.

    Cain’s works were evil, according to God’s gospel, which Abel believed. For this reason, Cain murdered Abel. For this reason, the world hates those who believe the gospel and who have passed out of death into life(3:13).

    But what does I John have to say about gospel imputation? Isn’t I John about one of the “pegs of assurance”?: better morality, without being perfectionist about it? I John 4:16 tells the good news of God’s love for “us”, not for those who “went out from us”.

    I John 4:17 explains that God’s election (love) is “perfected with us, so that we have confidence in the day of judgment, because as He is so also are we in the world.”

    Even though I John 4:17 does not use the word imputation, that is the only way the elect can be as He is in the world. (Check out your commentaries on this: even those who deny that the righteousness of Matthew 5:20 is imputed, even those who deny that the “fine linen” of the saints are by imputation, even most of these commentators agree that God’s love here results in the elect having legal union with Christ’s obedience even to death).

    Now we can make distinctions where we say, yes my ultimate hope is imputed righteousness (not as that which makes up the difference, but as that which is sufficient for the elect), but right now my assurance of that verdict also depends on this new morality with which I have been graced.

    But I John 3 is about the difference between a Nicodemus and a prodigal publican, about the difference between a religious Cain and a religious Abel. Think of the context! The religion of Cain is nothing but evil deeds.

    You don’t have to be effectually called to become ashamed of murder. But the reason Cain murdered was that He wanted to glory in/ rejoice in (Phil 3:3) the deeds done by his false god in his body. Cain refused to put to death those deeds (Rom 8:13), even though “religious and moral” deeds by a unjustified unbeliever are an abomination to God.

    Those deeds were motivated by a mercenary spirit seeking assurance by means of deeds. Cain in the flesh “could not please God” (Rom 8:8), not even with claims of having a better nature on the inside or with his
    religious worship.

    The Cains of this world are ready for a self-examination and contrast in terms of their morality. But they will not come to the light, because they love darkness and the light of the gospel will tell them their deeds are evil, all their deeds, even their moral deeds. (John 3:19)

    Abel “does what is true”. Abel abides in the gospel.

  2. Clair Davis cannot agree with Machen, because Murray and Shepherd have taught him that works of faith are not meritorious, because those works are enabled by union with the resurrected Christ. In this way, faith in what Jesus did alone is never alone because it comes with faith with what the resurrected Jesus will do in us after our union with Christ, which we enter into by not by baptism alone but also with our obedience of fath, which is co-instrumental in justification.

    try out saying justification-and-sanctification, forgiveness-and-change.

    Jesus did it all, so chill out? Enjoy life, tell each other things about Jesus, get used to losing the battle with Satan? That’s called Antinomianism, it’s believing that following Jesus and obeying him, taking up your cross daily, are all just figures of speech.

    there are people who talk nonstop about grace and hardly ever about battling sin

    law and grace...was dispensationalism and sounded very good but it chopped up our Bible and moved toward antinomianism.

  3. Machen, Notes, p 159 “The law . . . led men, by its clear revelation of what God requires, to relinquish all claim to salvation by their own obedience. In that sense, surely, Paul could say that it was through the law that he died to the law. The law made the commands of God so terribly clear that Paul could see plainly that there was no hope for him if he appealed for his salvation to his own obedience to those commands.”

    Machen: “This interpretation yields a truly Pauline thought. But the immediate context suggests another, and an even profounder, meaning for the words.”

    Machen: “The key to the interpretation is probably to be found in the sentences, I have been crucified together with Christ, which almost immediately follows. The law, with its penalty of death upon sins (which penalty Christ bore in our stead) brought Christ to the cross; and when Christ died I died, since he died as my representative.”

    Machen: “The death to the law… the law itself brought about when… Christ died that Since He died that death as our representative, we too have died that death. Thus our death to the law, suffered for us by Christ, far from being contrary to the law, was in fulfillment of the law’s own demands. “