Grace versus Holiness
On a Christian board, I ran across a couple of statements that I found somewhat alarming.
the main attribute of God is his Holiness, not his grace. He is concerned with HIS GLORY being made known. Grace is simply a bi-product of his Holiness. But then again I think 80% of people in churches are lost, and simply attempting behavior modification to make themselves feel better. (OOO i did not cuss this week…God is pleased)
I do think it is closer to 80% when you look at how the majority of claimed Christians live and the number that stands against any mention of keeping the commands after salvation or teach that people can be saved by accepting Jesus as Savior instead of Lord. Far too many today want a Savior, but not a Lord. They jump at the opportunity to be deceived with a false salvation if they are told that can live in the flesh and receive eternal life.
Repentance is a lost word in many churches or if it is preached at all it is watered down so much that it has become to mean to feel some sort of sorrow for making mistakes as it is called. No longer is it politically correct to demand repentance towards God and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and what is being built is a false church. We are certainly in the falling away that is mentioned.
He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him.
The problem stems from the fact that it seems like that modern church doesn’t know what to do with itself, as it attempts to redefine itself. The Church had been long known to be repressive and controlling, but around the ’60s, at the same time western culture was changing morally, and overthrowing the old society’s mix of moralism and hypocrisy, a segment of the Church also began changing and trying to modernize.
Those favoring the old ways began to react, of course, leading to “contemporary vs traditional” conflicts; the most well known being around music style, and “worship service” techniques such as making it more entertaining. Some churches go as far as stuff such as “moshing” or turning the whole service into some other form of entertainment performance.
So the contemporary “new evangelical” church has been getting badgered from all sides: from the old-line fundamentalists, for “compromise”; and from Reformed types as well, who are concerned they have slipped on classic doctrine, and of course, Calvinist theology.
A doctrine called “Lordship Salvation” is like a cross between both; only it goes as far as to declare up to 80% of professing Christians in the new-evangelical body (including even the fairly conservative Southern Baptist Church) are not really saved, because of the lack of “fruits” in their lives. (Think all the “sin” and “scandal”; divorce, etc. we have heard Christians fall into).
The leading advocate of this doctrine is John MacArthur, and wellknown celebrity Kirk Cameron converted to this form of evangelicalism under a guy named Ray Comfort. Its most fervent preacher is another evangelist named Paul Washer.
They sort of hide their Calvinism, but eventually, it comes out.
So ultimately, if a person perseveres, it’s because they were “elected” to do so, and those who do not persevere are the “reprobates”, who could not repent or persevere, yet are “held responsible” for not doing so.
So with that in mind, if you’re going to say that 80% of Christians are not really saved (on top of the rest of the vast nonChristian world), then God really isn’t “electing” much of anybody!)
Very lethal mix; Calvinism and perfectionsm, I would say!
I believe one of the people quoted above is not a Calvinist, yet still, he is echoing the Lordship sentiment with the questioning of 80% of the Church. It does sound pretty good, at first, when one is concerned about the state of the modern Church.
If the contemporary Church has slipped so much in “holiness” and commitment, then it would seem that the antidote would be a focus on Law and works. This however, seems to go too far, into a total denial of grace, at times. If grace leads to laxity, then perhaps works were really better after all. Works being associated with “holiness”.
First of all, grace and holiness are not in some ranking order competing for “main attribute”. (Some Calvinistic types and fundamentalists tend to do this, particularly in response to objectors to reprobation or Hell in general focusing on God’s “love”). Grace is needed precisely because of God’s holiness, and our inability to meet its standards. They are not at odds!
To split “grace” and “glory” like that and favor one over the other is by every means creating a different “gospel”. “Gospel” means “good news”. “God’s glory” is what we have fallen short of. That’s the bad news, not the good news. Grace, where He does not count our sins against us, is the Good News, and our only hope.
It’s so ironic that all of these people are said to be “lost” because they are just engaging in “behavior modification”, but in the same sentiment being expressed, their problem is not keeping commandments enough. i.e. they need more behavior modification, via “repentance”.
What you’re saying here is the same thing you are accusing them of. So they pride themselves for not “cussing”, and you simply avoid cussing, plus how many of these other commandments you say they are not keeping. Either way, it is works righteousness, and by the works of the Law shall NO flesh be justified.
You have the right idea, in a person not cussing does not justify them, when they have a whole bunch of other sins. But being a bit more obedient or “repentant” in other areas does not make you any better than them. It just makes you a slightly better behaved sinner.
If the church is being judged by the Law, then “Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them.”(Gal 3:10)
It’s not a matter of they keep only one commandment while you try harder, and manage to keep nine. To break one is to break them all, and the legalists of Christ’s day thought they kept most of them pretty well. (e.g. “which one do I lack yet? I have kept all these since youth!”).
Hence, this is why GRACE is so important. There may be a lot of problems and confusion in the modern church, but to essentially revoke grace is not the answer. By trying to assess how many people are saved or not in the church is to really play God, and it distorts the Gospel when it becomes about works.
Ironically, Lordship doctrine is Calvinist, which is supposed to be the one which focuses on grace as opposed to our own efforts, yet this version of it (as preached by Comfort, Washer, etc) outdoes Pelagianism in its works-orientation. Nobody has lived up to the standard, to be declared righteous by their works.
Also, Calvin himself, in a similar vein to this doctrine, said that God gives “reprobates” a false faith, and then takes it away, so that they would “fall away” and be lost.
If that’s true, then this can happen to you. Nobody can know who will “persevere” in the end.
So this doctrine removes all good news, and tries to motivate people to works by fear. But trying to keep the Law out of fear is works-righteousness, and not faith.
People cite passages in James and 1 John: “Faith without works is dead”, and regarding “keeping the commandments”, and “not sinning” (often interpreted as “practicing sin”), and being “righteous”.
For one thing, the word “practice” is not in there. This was added, because people realized that nobody is without sin, so if you really take it that way, one would have to be literally perfect to be saved! Of course, the whole point of grace is that nobody could keep the Law perfectly.
But because it mentions being “born again”, people think this is the key to perfection afterward. All man needs is “the power” to be sinless.
But do you see anyone living sinlessly even then?
So we say, you can sin; just as long as you don’t practice it, and then we will add sin “willfully” from another scripture. What happens then, is it becomes about “trying” not to sin, and being remorseful, and then we look out at all of these Christians doing things we think are sinful, and it doesn’t look like they are trying, or are even remorseful, and thus, they are “practicing” sin, and can judge them as probably not saved.
But then, do we still never do things “willfully”, or do not try as hard as we can? Again, we end up just like the person who thinks because he didn’t curse, he’s doing fine; only we are going a little further than he is.
One argument we get is:
|And lastly the commandments can be kept. We just refuse to do so. All sin is willfull. If you don’t believe that then I would ask you to name one sin in your life you have ever done that you had to do. Just one.|
But it’s not about one single commandment. It’s about ALL. Keeping one at at a time means nothing, when it comes to judgment/justification. That’s the mistake the Israelites made. Like the rich young ruler asking “which one do I lack yet?” Christ then gives him something he never even thought of, and he walks away sorrowful (and apparently unrepentant of it).
So yes, if you EVER sin willfully, then 1 John could be used against you in that same way. What will end up happening, if consistent with that, is that you surmise that you must be going in and out of salvation in a daily basis. (There are some who seem to believe that. Notably the Catholic-leaning types, as well as sabbatarians and Campbellists).
“Sin” (hamartia) means “missing the mark“. The mark is the Law, of course (1 John 3:4). The flipside of this is “righteousness” (dikaiosynē), which is not something we can have in ourselves, but rather is “the condition acceptable to God; …the way in which man may attain a state approved of God”.
The person who trusts Christ, rather than in his own righteousness (with or without the Law) is therefore “reborn” (spirit, rather than his own fleshy nature, including his own efforts), and this will not miss the mark. Because Christ is the one who is always guaranteed to hit the mark!