Monday, May 2, 2016

Walther to Fonville to Miller - Good fruit comes only from Good Seed...

Thanks to John Fonville for relaying (on Facebook) this great quote from C.F.W. Walther, who
Tinker to Evers to Chance
points us to the good seed of the gospel, Jesus Christ:

"Concern about pure life and not pure doctrine is like a farmer concerned about good fruits but paying no attention to good seed!" - C.F.W. Walther
Walther nails the problem in this one sentence by defining the opposite approaches to battling sin and living unto holiness! In a word, where our concerns are, there will be our focus. 

Some thoughts...
I'm a sinner (unsurpisingly no one objects to his confession). To focus on the task of holy doing, i.e. eradicating impurity in my life (an impossibility for a saved sinner even with the help of grace) in order to live purely is a sure road to either failure and hopelessness or self-righteousness. Why? Because it's based on a wrong belief that in this life I can and should, even with God's help, be able to move beyond the struggle with sin (1 John 1:8). It's not going to happen. To understand that the lack of a 'pure life' in my thoughts, words, and deeds, though self-deflating, is well beyond my earnest efforts to rectify is to acquire a necessary perspective. One that is a reorientation away from focusing on the question, "Why can't I stop temptation and sin in my life?", to one more basic and relevant, "Who will deliver me from this body of death?" (impurities, big and small, do keep popping up!) - Romans 7:24. In other words, the problem of sin is such that until death it will be with us.  Our fallen human effort cannot eradicate it. This humbling desparate epiphany born of the Holy Spirit, that of ourselves we are not master over sin, is that which God uses to divert our gaze, again and again, from efforts at establishing a righteousness of our own, toward Jesus our Righteous sin-bearer, the only remedy given of God for the impure, who by his blood cleanses believers of the very sins that trouble their consciences (Romans 8:1; Hebrews 9:14). 

So then, is that all there is? Are we to be resigned with living as "in-time-sinners" because we're now forgiven - God accepts me as I am? Yes and No. Forgiveness of sins is at the heart of justification. Saved sinners never graduate from needing the assurance of acceptance with God that comes from that wonderful doctrine of comfort for troubled souls. So as sinners, we should indeed joyfully resign ourselves to that truth. Yet there is more. To know God's "in-time forgiveness" poured out in Christ for our "in-time sins" is then to be led to real "in-time-thankfulness" and a renewed "in-time-desire" to turn from sin to obedience and follow our Lord.  Humbled with refreshed faith, we can then choose the doing-fruit part, not to gain the approval we need, but for that and more which Christ has already done and secured for us. This sanctifying change of heart and direction is not of us, but is wrought by the Holy Spirit as a sinner/saint's faith looks to Christ offered in the gospel. It is the Holy Spirit who convicts us of our sin and points us to the forgiveness, cleansing, and righteousness found only in Christ. (John 15:26, 16:8). The 'good seed' Walther refers to and to which we are to focus our attention is Jesus Christ in whom God has accomplished redemption for the ungodly and impure (Romans 4:5), sinners like us. Daily acknowledging our in-time sins and lack of purity with eyes fixed on Christ, God as promised faithfully cleanses troubled and guilty consciences from dead works by the blood of Jesus. He renews a right spirit within us that we might freely choose to walk in a manner worthy of the Savior in this ever-present, ongoing battle. Good fruit comes only by grace through faith in the Good Seed set forth in the gospel (Epesians 2:8-10). How great a salvation - Praise the Lord.

2 comments:

  1. the progressive nature of sanctification does not follow from a change of disposition in the believer. This will be done by first challenging Murray’s grasp of how Christians are no longer under the dominion of sin, and then by offering a more accurate understanding of the freedom in which Paul spoke.
    Murray argues that those who crucified their old self with Christ are no longer under the dominion of sin (Romans 6). He says that “it is wrong to use these texts to support any other view of the victory entailed than that which the Scripture teaches it to be, namely, the radical breach with the power and love of sin which is necessarily the possession of every one who has been united to Christ. Union with Christ is union with him in the efficacy of his death and in virtue of his resurrection – he who thus died and rose again with Christ is freed from sin, and sin will not exercise the dominion” (Murray, 143). Murray further writes, “[the Christian] must reckon himself to be dead indeed unto sin but alive unto God through Jesus Christ his Lord. It is the faith of this fact that provides the basis for, and the incentive to the fulfillment of, the exhortation, ‘Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body…’” (Murray, 146).
    Murray’s usage of Scripture, however, has failed to prove that the indwelling of the Holy Spirit necessarily sanctifies a man in a progressive and ontological sense. His usage of Romans, for instance, is unwarranted for the reason that he assumes that by “the dominion of sin” Paul has an ontological change in mind. However, when Paul wrote “so you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus” (Romans 6:11) the verb he chose to use was logi,zesqe. This verb [logi,zomai] means to “consider”, to “count”, to “credit” or to “reckon”. Such a verb is not used in an ontological sense, but in a positional sense. Paul also uses this very verb to describe the manner in which Abraham was counted righteous by God – by faith (Rom. 4:6, 8-11, 22-24). God accounted, or declared, Abraham righteous even though Abraham ontologically wasn’t. Hence, by his usage of this passage all Murray has done is undermine his own assumptions by reaffirming the positional aspect of God’s blessings.
    The freedom from the dominion of sin, which Paul speaks of, is not the ontological change in holiness, as Murray would suggest. Rather, it is the freedom from the condemnation of sin and from the guilt of falling short of the law’s demands. Whereas Murray would seem to suggest that sanctification is conforming to the law (by the Spirit’s help), Paul’s claim is that “we are released from the law, having died to that which held us captive, so that we serve not under the old written code but in the new life of the Spirit” (Rom. 7:6, ESV, emphasis mine). Paul’s claim is that believers are released from the condemnation of the law’s demand. It is freedom from this captivity that Paul has in mind when he says that Christians are free from the dominion of sin. Whereas Murray would suggest that being freed from the dominion of sin means that the believer has newly attained ability to keep the law, Paul, on the contrary, suggests that such freedom means Christians are absolved from the law’s demands. All the law could do is condemn, kill, and destroy. And it is for this very reason that in Rom. 7:7 Paul anticipates the objection that “doesn’t such a view suggest that the law is sin?” However, the view that the freedom from the dominion of sin only means that the Spirit aids us in obeying the law would never draw one to raise the objection that the law is sin (in fact, quite the contrary). If one were in line with Pauline theology, one would have to expect answer to similar objections in which Paul faced. The fact that Murray does not seems to attract such objections only suggests that he is not reading the Apostle Paul correctly. Wally Tang Steve Yang

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    1. Good analysis by Wally Tarr and Steve Yang.

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