Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Obedience By Faith Alone?

Upon believing in Christ does the standard of the Law change? Is the acceptable standard of obedience before the Law still and only perfection? On what basis then are the "good works" of believers acceptable as such before God?
Neonomians allege, that though we cannot fulfil that perfect obedience which the law of works demanded, yet God has been graciously pleased, for Christ’s sake, to give us a new law, according to which, sincere obedience, or faith, repentance, and sincere obedience, are accepted as our justifying righteousness. It may be here remarked, that the Scripture nowhere gives the slightest intimation that a near and milder law has been substituted in place of the law of works originally given to man. Christ came "not to destroy the law, but to fulfil it." The gospel was never designed to teach sinners that God will now accept of a sincere instead of a perfect obedience, but to direct them to Jesus Christ as "the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth." The idea of a new law, adapted to the present condition of human nature, reflects the greatest dishonour both upon the law and the Lawgiver; for it assumes that the Lawgiver is mutable, and that the law first given to man demanded too much.
IX. Of Justification - Robert Shaw, The Reformed Faith: An Exposition of the Westminster Confession of Faith (1845)
So, on what basis are the believer's "good works of sanctification" then deemed acceptable by God?
In short, I affirm, that not by our own merit but by faith alone, are both our persons and works justified; and that the justification of works depends on the justification of the person, as the effect on the cause. (John Calvin, Acts of the Council of Trent with the Antidote)
Yes, believers seek to obey, seek to be faithful, and seek to walk in a manner worthy of their Lord.  Yet the biblical truth is that their Obedience/Sanctification, indeed their entire Salvation, is accomplished only by God's grace through faith alone in Christ alone (Eph. 2: 8-9) that no man may boast.
whereas Christ saith plainly - When ye have done all that are commanded to you, say, 'We are unprofitable servants' (39 Articles, WCF, Luke 17:10).


  1. http://www.blog.christurc.org/2011/02/11/not-by-faith-alone-the-neonomianism-of-richard-baxter/

    Mark Jones (Antinomianism, P and R, 2013) makes many provocative and condescending statements, as if to say that those who disagree with him have not read the historical documents in question. The most irritating claim he makes is that he’s correct because of a better Christology.

    Jones, p 21—”If Christ is our mediator, our union with him means not only that we must be holy (i.e., necessity), but also that we will be able to be like him (i.e., motive)…”

    Jones, p 21— “Whatever grace we receive for our holiness first belonged to the Savior (John 1:16)”.

    Jones, p 24–”There was a perfect synergy involved in Jesus’ human obedience and the Holy Spirit’s influence…Following this pattern, although man is completely passive at the moment of regeneration, he cooperates with God in sanctification.”

    The Christology of Mark Jones consists of equating the justification of Christ with the sanctification of a sinner. Denying the idea of a “covenant of works” in which Christ obeyed law to earn merits, Jones also denies the idea of substitution so that our works are not necessary for salvation. Jones accepts substitution FOR JUSTIFICATION ONLY, but like the Galatian false teachers, Jones equates “living by faith’ with obeying the law, and argues along with Richard Gaffin and Norman Shepherd that our living by faith means our obeying the law.

    On p 22-23, Jones argues from the fact that Christ obtained salvation “bestowed on conditions”, that we too must obtain “sanctification” in the same way, bestowed on conditions. Instead of talking about the merits of Christ, he speaks of Christ’s living by faith, which was obeying the law, to get to the idea of our also living by faith, which then comes to mean our obeying the law.

    On p 24, Jones argues from the fact that Christ “was not left to His own abilities but was enabled by the Spirit” to not only question the language of “covenant of works” but to say that we Christians are enabled by the Spirit “to cooperate with God in sanctification. Except for the emphasis on sanctification instead of justification, the conclusion is no different from that of NT Wrights—don’t be so Christocentric, because the work of the Spirit in us is Christ’s work also for our final justification.

  2. Bill Smith

    (1) Saving Faith. ... If your faith is of the saving variety, it will produce definitive effects in your life. You will find in and about yourself evidences that saving faith is at work changing you. You must examine yourself to see if your faith is transforming, and if you cannot find clear evidence of transformation then your faith may not be of the saving sort. It may be "nothing in my hand I bring" at the beginning, but some things better show up in your hand pretty soon. It may be "just as I am I come" but you better not be what "I am" long or you didn't really come.

    (2) Regeneration. Faith is impossible apart from the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit. Regenerating grace or the new birth precedes faith. But what does regeneration do? Does it awaken the sinner to his true peril and then enable him to trust in Christ, or does it involve a total moral renovation? If it involves moral renovation, then you must look not only for faith that rests in and on Christ, but moral differences of nature, character, and behavior....

    3) Repentance. ....You cannot turn to Christ without turning from sin. But what is this repentance that goes with faith? Is it a change that means you no longer resist God, rely on yourself, and reject Christ? Or is it more? Is it being sorry for your sin, seeking mercy, and longing for the happy day when you will be free of it? Or is it more? ...How much transformation and renovation must there be if you truly repent? How much ceasing from sin is involved in the repentance that is faith's Siamese twin?

    4) Lordship. ... You cannot exercise just the "Savior option" and reject the "Lord option." You cannot hold Christ's Lordship in abeyance while you are a "carnal Christian" and later become a "spiritual Christian" when you put Christ on the throne and rise to a new level of faith, the faith of submission as distinct from the faith of assent. But what does receiving Christ as Lord mean? It is bowing to him as your only hope - putting yourself in his hands and saying, "Lord, I cannot save myself; you must save me"? Or is it a submission that issues in a consistent pattern of obedience? Are you in a new realm where the devil is no longer king but Christ is? Or, are you now so dead to the devil's rule and so alive to Christ's that, as a citizen of His kingdom, there is some but not a whole lot of remaining corruption....

    What is given in justification by faith alone can be taken away by so defining faith that the comfort and hope of justification is removed.