Working towards those “good fruits”

This post is courtesy of our friend Larry Hughes in Kentucky. It is actually a comment he made in our discussion of Mormonism.

 He touched upon something that I have oft noticed myself, the similarities in many Evangelicals, Catholics,  Mormons, Lutherans,  and others with respect to the desire to prove their metal.

 Fasten your seatbelts:

 

    Those zealous for working their way to heaven are always good outward workers. The great irony here is that what many think is “fruit” is witness for their perdition.

Numbering, and measuring “fruit” is ALWAYS, without fail, a sign of law and self salvation no matter what “grace” words attend it. This is why “sanctification” as a process is false rather than “getting use to your justification”. That’s what Jesus meant when He said good fruit ONLY comes from the good tree (he/she who is getting use to his/her justification) and thorn trees cannot “make good fruit”.

When Luther was asked if Jesus was coming tomorrow what he would do he replied, “I’d go plant a tree”, that’s faith breathing and living. But to works salvation, whether overt or hidden, that seems to be “no fruit”. When a Christian man or woman eats, sleeps, stands still, does his/her job, is a wife, is a husband, is a child, is etc…he/she exhibits true fruits of the faith (that is no fear of punishment nor hope of reward – false faith). But yet when a zealous man or woman works in the church yard all the time he/she exhibits unbelief, but they will call it “fruit of faith”.

Luther points out that he who actually tries to do the law and performs sanctification as a growth by his/her self appointed works actually despises and hates God’s holy Law. But he who does not, and RESTS firmly in Christ alone with no self appointed works or sanctification = growth in holiness, such that “nothing is left TO DO”, actually loves God’s holy Law and is drawn INTO the love of neighbor and bears his/her cross. So “getting used to one’s justification”, IS the one actually being sanctified.

What drives their “evangelism” is a zeal for themselves and their salvation and their sanctification, which is all of the devil. This is the “form of godliness that denies the power therein”.

What drives true evangelism of the evangel, is NOTHING less than the stunning hilarity of the evangel itself. It is SUCH Good News it cannot BE contained. The Law or man’s laws have NOTHING to do with driving the Gospel, it is as Paul says the “power” the “dynamite” entirely in and of itself OF God. This is the power therein that paradoxically does not look like ‘godliness’ any more than Christ looked like God being crucified as an apparently helpless, impotent man bleeding on the Cross at the hands of mere men.

         –  Larry Hughes

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Did Larry nail it?    Or is he a little off?   How can we seperate our desire to produce good fruit from spilling over into ‘works righteousness’?

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87 Responses

  1. Larry,

    I think you were right on the money with this one.

    I know there will be a lot of disagreement, but that is just the old Adam speaking “D

    I’d be happy to attach your last name to it if you’d like (I don’t think I know it).

    If you’d rather not, that is fine also.

    Nice job, of espousing the theology of the cross!

    Thanks, Larry!

    – Steve

  2. This is a great posting! I agree with Larry. Striving is not actually a part of conveying the Fruit of the Spirit, but rather, resting (in Him) reveals the Power of God at work in you…conveying the Fruit of the Spirit 😉
    Smiles and Blessings,
    ~mp:)

  3. I was recently re-reading sections of C S Lewis’ ‘ The Weight of Glory’ in which he speaks about the genuine Christian being someone fixed upon what he terms ‘trans temporal, transfinite good’, seeing destiny as something which fixes our eyes entirely above what is merely deemed ‘good’ in the here and now ( Lewis notes that such a small,substitutionary vision is entirely fallacious). When we glimpse with John into the new creation in Revelation, we see that all that is of value and weight will stem and flow from the ‘throne of the Lamb, which is in the midst of the city’ and the new earth, and so it must be in all of life – His gifts, His life is what truly gives value to anything, not any word or work which is merely defined as ‘good’ by us.

  4. It is very hard for a LDS/Mormon, or Roman Catholic to understand such matchless grace. I know I spent years trying to wean them of their religion, but they are so terrified of letting go of the old proverbial blanket and trusting in the completed work of Christ. It is almost as if they deem themselves unworthy of eternal life. Priceless, Larry,…Priceless!

  5. Actually, there is a great debate in the evangelical church regarding this issue. I would guess that most of the evangelical church believes in some form “Lordship Salvation” where a real believer will show fruit. When you read passages of scripture, it certainly seems to make sense that a believer would, indeed show fruit as they walk with Christ. But how much fruit does one need to show? How often?

    These same people refer to anything else as “easy believe-ism.” I’m not sure why, but it seems as if they take pride in the fact that salvation is a hard thing and that one cannot get away with just going through the motions. I guess that I understand where they’re coming from, but why do we want it to be so difficult? We struggle with the reality of hell in the bible and yet we don’t want people stumbling into heaven. I have a hard time with a literal hell and yet I believe that it exists.

    Reading the book (it’s only one chapter) of Jude sheds interesting light on this subject. It sounds like a discourse on how important our works are and ends with speaking of some believers who were “snatched out of the fire.”

  6. MistiPearl,

    Resting…not striving, proves the fruits and reveals God Power in you.

    I like it Misti Pearl! I like it a lot!

    Thanks!

    – Steve

  7. “…all that is of value and weight will stem and flow from the ‘throne of the Lamb, which is in the midst of the city’ and the new earth, and so it must be in all of life – His gifts, His life is what truly gives value to anything, not any word or work which is merely defined as ‘good’ by us.”

    Brilliant, Howard!

  8. It is God who produces fruit.

    John 15: Abide in me and you WILL produce MUCH fruit.” Fruit as God measures it.

    Galatians 5 speaks of the fruit of the Spirit. Who is the fruit of? Silly question – the Spirit. He produces the fruit in the life of the believer.

    The problem is when one’s life is fruitless. It should raise some questions – like am I believing? Am I abiding in Christ? NOT how much more do I have to do?

    It might help to know how God defines fruit as well. Jeremiah was simply faithful but never saw fruit. Nonetheless, God produced it, as we can see generations in the life of Daniel.

    I know Larry is probably going to tear me up on this one, “striving to get God to love me” as I am and all, but this seems clear to me from Scripture.

    :0)

    P.S. I would be interested to know how you guys process passages like 1 Cor. 9:24 (“Run in such a way as to get the prize”) or 2 Timothy 2:22 (“Pursue righteousness, faith, love…etc.”), or many others like them… “striving” passages. I just can’t wait to hear what you have to say 🙂

  9. Eric,

    I think you hit upon an important point here, Eric…’fear’.

    People are so afraid to let go and let Jesus handle the justification project.

    Truth be told, that tendency is inside all of us. The old Man/Woman is an inveterate ‘non truster’ of God. And therefore becomes a god unto him/herself and persues a righteousness of his/her own making.

    That is why we need a righteousness that comes from outside ourselves (extra nos) and a person from oustide of ourselves to kill off that ‘inveterate worker’ …that person is of course Jesus, who comes to us in His Word and sacrament.

    Thanks, Eric

    – Steve

  10. Do Lutherans see justification as a process?

  11. Roger,

    Thanks for reminding me about the Book of Jude!

    I read it and , oh boy, that hellfire seemed very hot and getting closer all the time…BUT!

    But then I got to that last paragraph…and…well…I won’t spoil it for people.

    They’ll have to go and read it themselves!

    Like you said, Roger, it’s only one chapter 😀

    Thanks, Roger!

    – Steve

  12. Steve L.,

    I am going to reserve comment and let Larry “tear you up” !

    Just kidding, Steve. You make some valid comments.

    Many places in scripture exhort us to strive and to finish the race and to imitate Christ, etc.

    How are we to reconcile this language with language that tells us that His yoke is easy and to rest in Him?

    Good question.

    Thanks Rev. in the Spirit! (Steve L.) !

    – Steve M.

  13. I think Christ’s exhortation to take His yoke upon us is key. We take His yoke upon us and find REST.

    The paradox, of course, is that a yoke is an instrument of labor.

    It’s subtle, and it’s in subtleties that we can get doctrine wrong if we’re not very careful!

  14. Steve,

    Sure, my last name is Hughes.

    RTS,

    reply coming. I won’t “tear you up”, but pun well taken! It’s much simplier than you think, the old Adam simply gets in the way.

    L

  15. Justification is an “act”; sanctification is a “work”. Justification took place the moment you trusted Christ-you were declared righteous; the guilt was removed. Then God began a work in you that will continue throughout your life. I believe in instantaneous salvation, but sanctification is a lifelong process. In other words, justification is the means; sanctification is the end. Justification is for us; sanctification is in us. Justification declares the sinner righteous; sanctification makes the sinner righteous. Justification removes the guilt and penalty of sin; sanctification removes the growth and the power of sin.

    God is both an exterior and interior decorator. He is an exterior decorator in that He enables us to stand before Him because He has paid the penalty and removed the guilt of sin from us. But He is also an interior decorator. He moves into our hearts and lives by the power of the Holy Spirit to make us the kind of Christians we should be. God does not leave us in sin when He saves us.

    This does not imply that sanctification is a duty that is derived from justification. It is a fact that proceeds from it, or rather, both justification and sanctification flow from being in Christ, crucified and risen. The sinner approppriates Christ by faith for both his salvation and his sanctification. We’re told in 1 Corinthians 1:30, “But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption.”

  16. revolutioninthespirit:

    You wrote:

    “I would be interested to know how you guys process passages like 1 Cor. 9:24 (”Run in such a way as to get the prize”) or 2 Timothy 2:22 (”Pursue righteousness, faith, love…etc.”), or many others like them… “striving” passages. I just can’t wait to hear what you have to say”

    I’m not one of the “you guys” in that I’m not a Lutheran, but there are many who believe (myself included) that this passage is written to believers and that it’s referring to our treasures in heaven.

  17. RTS,

    Reply to the second one is easiest. You asked, “Do Lutherans see justification as a process?”

    Yes and No.

    Yes, simply put “Getting use to your justification”. Earthly e.g.: I’m a very rich king and you are a starving pauper, adopt you unconditionally forever concerning what you do. You sit at the dinner table and eat with the rest of my children/people. At first you are looking suspicious at everyone, you wolf down your food guarding it with your arm because you are USE to everyone taking from you and fighting for it in your former starving land. When someone passes you the potatoes you flinch as if about to be attacked and growl back at them hovering more tightly over your food. So I have my “preachers” instruct you the next Sunday and give you bread and wine to say, “I forgive you, YOU ARE a child of the king”. It sinks in a little maybe, maybe not. Next time at the dinner table your scowl is a bit less tense. And so forth. That’s Christian growth, “getting USE TO your justification = faith more and more realizing the reality already, external, and entirely extra nos. This is why Paul confesses progressively “the greatest of sinners” rather than progress forward.

    No as a progress of movement, in fact this is growing away from Christ and God and holiness – the paradox is deep and rich, the old man cannot see it AT ALL. That is to confound justification and sanctification. For as Forde points out justification finds no where to fit on this line of so called “sanctification”. Justification is a pure once for all time spoken unconditional Word, it is the death and life Word all at once whereby no other Word is spoken, it kills and makes alive all at once. There is NO progress, God KILLS and then calls into being. Justification finds now purpose on this line’s movement along the way. For if justification is the last thing, then sanctification (as defined by Rome, evangelicals, some form of movement) becomes superfluous. And if sanctification is the end goal in this way then justification at the beginning becomes superfluous. Here you have confounded the two and returned to fallen religion.

    Simply put, again, sanctification is nothing other than getting use to your justification which is an ‘already fact’ that CANNOT be lost and requires no such movement called “justification”. This is why Paul glories in Romans 8 at the end so much. The fact that you war against it is the old Adam’s death rattle, it always has been, always will be. This, unconditional justification PERIOD, IS THE VERY offense of the Cross that is foolish to the gentile and a stumbling block to the Jew. It really IS foolish and a stumbling block, we trip all over it all the time and try to reassert law somewhere somehow. When the Scriptures speak of man “not seeking God” it means to say when man is attempting to seek God in ANY form of this progress of holiness and so called sanctification. It need not be called “islam” or “mormon” or “JW”, it can be called “Christian” as Rome, baptist and other evangelicals openly bear witness to.

    I had a complete agnostic/atheist tell me just what you did one time and said concerning free utter unconditional justification, “Well I don’t agree with that”. He was 100% in line with mormons, JWs, Islam and much of that which parades itself around as christian out there today. In principle and essence ALL of these are the exact same religion under differing monikers. He tripped over the stone of stumbling, he tripped on the cross as do mormons, evangelicals, JWs and others and yet is a confessing atheist/agnostic. If we could have drawn a line in the sand in a room and not shown any external monikers (islam, christian, atheist, mormon), name no names and just spoke of principles of “belief” all of those would side against what I just said and one would be on the other side. Once you “name names” then people jump into their boxes but if they just look at the principles of their “religion” they will find it not all that far apart.

    I’ve not forgotten your others just out of time for now.

    Yours,

    Larry

  18. “Jude sheds interesting light on this subject”.

    It surely does!
    How often have you heard about the ‘way of Cain, the error of Balaam and the gainsaying of Korah’ in your study groups or sermons?
    Very apt for the times and the matter of our ‘righteousness’ (‘goodness’) – no wonder it’s a somewhat muted message!

  19. Ike,

    I agree! Good word.

    Roger,

    I see things perhaps in a similar way to you. I’m just curious – genuinely – as to how Lutherans process passages that say things like “strive” or “run” or “pursue”. Steve M. helped me, I think.

    Larry (oh Larry…)

    You said, “had a complete agnostic/atheist tell me just what you did one time and said concerning free utter unconditional justification, “Well I don’t agree with that”.”

    I’m not sure what you’re referring to. I don’t remember not agreeing with something you said about justification. Maybe you could clarify, especially since I’m being lumped in with JW’s Mormons and Catholics 🙂

    My question stemmed from the idea of progressive justification that the Catholics have. I was trying to see how the Lutheran view is different and also how it may differ from the Evangelical/Protestant view, if in fact it does.

    Remember, I am a new student on Lutheran theology, so you gotta cut me a little slack. 🙂

    I do think it’s fascinating the lenses we see through…

    I see Catholic theology in the same category as JW’s or Mormons when it comes to justification – they simply have a false gospel. I group all Protestants together, though we disagree on particulars.

    Larry, it seems you group things as orthodox, heterodox and utterly false, with Lutherans in the first group, Evangelicals and Catholics in the second, and Mormons and JW’s in the third. I would never put Baptist or Presbyterian theology in the same box with Catholic theology. So obviously we are looking through quite a different lens. I am thinking the key is (Protestant) sacramentalism. That is the line in the sand, am I right?

  20. I believe Ike absolutely nailed this topic perfectly

  21. Beautiful description Ike! I think we can all agree that on the “works” side…IT IS ALL GOD!

    On the fruit side we seem to have a problem. Should we expect the fruit to be a natural out come of the new birth…or does it just spring into being when we see Jesus at His return?? I think our answer can be YES! Not only are both possible…they are highly probable, that is why judgment is reserved for the end.

    But, we cannot neglect that we are proclaimed to be witnesses of and for the Glory of God. Surely the angels can see this, but the world must see it as well…The world cannot see those things that are merely spirit…there has to be a natural (visible) quality.

  22. RTS,

    None of these answers are really going to change but I’ll try from differing angles. The issue of Christ being denied rarely comes in “justification” but sanctification, here he is lost by evangelicals.

    And yes baptist, reformed and catholic would all fall under heterodox as Pieper lays out, JWs/Mormons as false. That is correct. You don’t divide that way because we don’t agree. That’s not being harsh just fact, we don’t agree, nor will we – there’s no giving in one to the other on this issue. Again, that’s not harsh just facts.

    That said:

    “John 15: Abide in me and you WILL produce MUCH fruit.”

    Same as before, “getting use to your justification”, not doing. That’s the point in what Christ says that good fruit comes from a good tree, called into being, not a bad tree trying by process. The much fruit is revealed in the “loosening” we find in the Gospel not the constricting we find in the Pharisees. Thus, standing still a breathing air, sleeping, eating, drinking, doing my job, and sneezing are all good fruit and as Luther says when he sins it is quickly forgiven. As Luther reminds us, “You must realize that whenever Scripture tells you to do something it FORBIDS you to do it by yourself”.

    “Galatians 5 speaks of the fruit of the Spirit.”

    Same answer “getting use to your justification”, this is the office of the Spirit communicating God for you in Word, water, bread and wine – stop resisting the Spirit. The statement which I’ve heard in my own former SB circles plenteously, “If there is no fruit then justification didn’t occur”, is 100 percent antichrist, satanic, demonic and the very cursed doctrine and person who has IN FACT not theory cut themselves off from Christ completely.
    “The problem is when one’s life is fruitless. It should raise some questions – like am I believing? Am I abiding in Christ? NOT how much more do I have to do?”
    Faith never measures its fruits, that is false faith. Even so if that is the worry, am I believing, then the Gospel must be pressed even more, not law and not third use and not “try harder”. Because if faith is the issue, nude trust, then all the more unconditional justification. Unconditional justification necessarily means Lordship, that asinine debate between John MacArthur and crew on one side and the others on the other side is simply two antichristic religions beating each others works salvation up: “Grace is cheap” “NO we say grace is not cheap but expensive”. In fact Scripture and Luther say its neither but free, it’s only infinitely expensive on Christ’s side, which is the stumbling block of the Cross and it is utter blaspheme against the Cross of Christ to put a price tag on it. The reality is is that those who think they have fruit are the one’s most likely cut off from Christ. Who trusts the truth, he who whistles a tune while he sweeps the floor or the one piously working in the church yard furiously. The former is of Christ the later the devil, the former loves God’s Law, the later hates it though he says he loves it. This is what Jesus means when He says who does my will he who says he doesn’t but then does or he who says he does but does not. The paradox is invisible and utterly incomprehensible to the Old Adam.
    I would be interested to know how you guys process passages like 1 Cor. 9:24 (”Run in such a way as to get the prize”) or 2 Timothy 2:22 (”Pursue righteousness, faith, love…etc.”), or many others like them… “striving” passages. I just can’t wait to hear what you have to say.

    Surprising the answer is the same every time, “getting use to your justification” that is to “run in such a way as to get the prize”, rejecting sanctification as a “pursuit of holiness” per say, but rather “getting use to your justification”. This is to the “striving” passages and “pursue righteousness, faith, love…etc…”, getting use to your justification. This is why we RETURN to baptism daily, why baptism is a means of grace and work of God, His Name, HIS Word, the LS weekly, HIS body, HIS blood, and the Word of absolution. These Gospels delivered and these alone produce the fruit of faith.

    At last the faith is awakened or better called into being as the hilarity of the Gospel comes clear, he laughs and this is the peace that surpasses all understanding, it lays to waste fallen human reason that says, progress and process, all from the philosophies of fallen men, this is the joy of the Spirit, love, peace, joy, patience, kindness, goodness, etc…all issue from this fountain and this fountain alone, unconditional justification for Christ’s sake, nothing left to do, forgive EVEN if you don’t “get better” – this faith dances and is so vigorously busy that fallen faith and the Old Adam cannot EVEN SEE how it is working and producing faith because the OLD Adam is counting beans and looking at himself and his progress and his fruit (=original sin and blaspheme of the first commandment). The later is not interested in his neighbor but himself though he saves the lives of a billion people, hell is his reward and this is his witness/martyrdom. While the milk maid milking her cow and doing nothing spectacular SCREAMS a witness to the world “Christ died for me and lived for me, Christ and Christ alone”. While the devil’s martyrs SCREAM, “Christ is not NEARLY enough, get busy, get busy and get busy being holy”.

    Yours,

    Larry

  23. Did he nail it? Oh yes, I’d say so.

  24. At least from a Lutheran point of view!

    Thanks, Larry

    I’ll wait for another post for my questions on ELCA vs. LCMS vs. WELS. Or did I just ask them…?

    Seriously, I do want to understand you, and you’re helping.

  25. Larry,

    “You don’t divide that way because we don’t agree. That’s not being harsh just fact, we don’t agree, nor will we – there’s no giving in one to the other on this issue. Again, that’s not harsh just facts.”

    Well put. I don’t see those statements as harsh at all.

  26. Faith without works is dead according to St. James. But the works we do in faith are empowered by the Holy Spirit. If we try to do good works on our own we store no treasure in Heaven: We have recieved our reward.

  27. Funny thing, Luther HATED the book of James and didn’t think it belonged in the canon of scripture. I’m not pointing that out to ruffle any feathers. I’m just having some fun.

    This has been an interesting topic.

  28. I’m wondering why Luther hated James… honestly.

    Did it not fit into his hermeneutic? That is what I would assume, but assuming can get me in trouble.

    If that is in fact the reason, that ought to raise some interesting questions…

  29. I’ve wondering the same thing.

    This should be interesting…

  30. Luther wasn’t too thrilled about James because it wasn’t a strong gospel centered book.

    It was (is) basically law oriented. Now those of us that know better would say that these works are an outcome of faith.

    But many readers and hearers of Jame’s words take away that you HAVE TO DO such and such or you do not have faith.

    The quickest way to pour acid on a group of joyful Christians who have just heard that all their sin is forgiven for Jesus’ sake and that they are now free…is to say, “Yeah…but what about James!?”

    It can be a gospel killer.

    That’s why I think Luther did not like the Book of James.

    Anyone else have a different take, or can expound?

  31. It’s noteworthy that the Holy Spirit chose to have that book inspired, though. There’s a reson it is included.

    I understand the canonical process was esssentially human (though I would argue preserved and protected by God), but I have no doubt that the book of James, like the rest of Scripture, is the inspired word of God.

  32. Steve L.,

    Yeah, it’s in there…but if you are going to weigh the books on their value of proclaiming the gospel to sinners in need of forgiveness…it wouldn’t have the value of Romans, Galatians, Ephesians, the Gospels or some others.

    The Book of Ruth is in there too, but if I had my druthers, I’d pick those others mentioned above over that one too.

  33. Steve L.,

    Some Lutherans would also argue that inspiration is a question, with respect to the Book of James.

    If we’re not sure who wrote it, then we can’t say for sure if it was inspired or not?

    I do not find myself in agreement there, but I mention it in the course of this discussion.

    I believe the whole of scripture to be the infallible word of God, but I do not believe the Bible to be inerrant.

    So, with a view like mine (and many other Lutherans as well) we do not place the same level of value on each line of scripture.

    Luther had his favorite books that were rich in Law and Gospel, and others that he thought that maybe we could live without.

    We do not believe that the Bible was floated down from Heaven with a bow on it (as the Muslims believe of their book of lies).

  34. Just clarifying my last comment a bit.

    I didn’t mean to imply that I believe, or know that James wrote the book, or not. I meant that I was not of the mind that a book is to be discounted solely on the basis of authorship.

  35. Yeah, my view of inspiration is different…

    I believe in verbal plenary inspiration and inerrancy. In other words, I believe the original Greek, Aramaic and Hebrew words were inspired – “God-breathed” (2 Tim 3:16)

    This is not because I’m a Baptist, though many Baptists have the above words in their doctrinal statements. I believe this primarily because of the witness of Scripture itself.

    I also believe it because of the theological battles I have fought, some with myself, and have come to the conclusion that this book is in every way the Word of God and the words of God.

    So I see James as important as Ruth, which is as important as Galatians. Important in different ways and for different reasons, but important nonetheless.

    However, I’m with you on one thing – if I had to choose five books to survive, Ruth and James would not be among them! The gospel really is key. It can become a questionable thing to sit in judgment on Scripture, though…

  36. Okay, so we’re waaay off the subject of your post.

    Sorry 🙂

  37. Revolutioninthespirit,

    Well, once again we have a different view. No problem. it’s good to give our view and hear the view of the other.
    Clarity, rather than agreement is the goal (at least for me)

    No problem veering off topic. If that’s where it goes… then that’s where it goes.

    We are in agreement , though, that different scripture verses carry different value. And that is a good thing.

    Very often, folks that ascribe the same weight to each line of scripture become legalists.

    In Lutheran theology, both Law and Gospel are absoltuely necessary. However, the gospel ALWAYS trumps the law.

    Distinguishing the two and not commingling them is the job of the preacher.

    When this is not done (the seperation) you often end up with a schizophrenic type of Christianity.
    I know I am saved totally by grace…but the preacher says I need to be doing this, this, and that.

    Well, which is it? Am I saved by grace..really? Or do I need to be doing something?

    It can’t be both. It’s one or the other. So which is it?

    It’s grace, through faith…ALONE.

    What was the question? 😀

  38. Hi Steve M.,

    “I believe the whole of scripture to be the infallible word of God, but I do not believe the Bible to be inerrant.”

    Could you please explain what you mean by this? I don’t really understand what you are saying here – I guess I’m not sure what the difference is between “infallible” and “inerrant”.

    Another question: do you think that James is irreconcilable with other passages of Scripture? Is this why Luther was against it? My understanding was that he softened on this later in life – please feel free to correct me if I’m wrong.

    Thanks!
    Dawn

  39. Steve,
    I am calling you on a “gotcha” title for this post. Fruit can’t be worked for at all. What does a tree “do” to produce fruit? It stands there and “be’s” itself, which is terrible English, but a funny pun. The bees and the wind and everything else do the “work” of producing fruit. All the tree does is stand there and live. God is the one who produces fruit in our life. We just stand there “planted in Him” and He does all the rest.

  40. Hello Dawn!

    I don’t know if he sofened his stance on the book of James later in life. That may very well be true. But I don’t know. If anyone knws would you share it with us? Thanks!

    James says faith without works is dead. And Paul says that we are saved by grace through faith, not of works…”

    Will there be works in the life of the believer? Yes.

    Are we saved because of them…No.

    Inerrant means without error. Errorless. Not one single error of any kind.

    Infallible means incapable of erring, or ‘certain’.

    The message of the Bible is infallible. The message is incapable of erring. The message is certain, even though there may be errors in the books.

    The Bible is not ‘a’ single book, but rather a collection of books (66 of them) written by 40 authors over a span of 1,500 years.

    Translators pieced together thousands of bits of manuscripts to come up with one New Testament.

    Sinful, and imperfect men were involved all along the way, from the wrtiting, to canonizing, to the translating.

    This is no barrier to a God that wills to get His Word across to sinners in need of a Savior.

    The early Christians did not have a Bible (they had the Old Testament). But what they did have was the Word. Jesus Christ Himself, received in the sacraments and in preaching and teaching.

    ‘ In the begining was the Bible, and the Bible was with God, and the Bible was God.’

    See what I mean?

  41. Jeff,

    Great insight!

    The fruit is produced by the tree! We are not the tree.

    I knew I couldn’t sneak that one by you!

  42. “The quickest way to pour acid on a group of joyful Christians who have just heard that all their sin is forgiven for Jesus’ sake and that they are now free…is to say, “Yeah…but what about James!?”

    Exactly right Steve, you see how we’ve quickly covered the cross in this very discussion and onto James. Mormons pull James out on you like a gun and I’ve seen more than one SB on a mission trip to Utah get nailed to the wall of silence on this as they, Mormons, pull out James. What is revealing about this is that both Mormons and SB, and generally many other Evangelicals have EXACTLY the same view of sanctification, that is to say a false one. James must be the tiredest battle there is when evangelicals pit the Holy Spirit against the Holy Spirit.

    To clarify Luther on James.

    First, we as usual are so very full of our modern pride and ignorance because we can go down to the local Christian book store and purchase multiple copies of the assembled cannon in about 12 different English varieties. In Luther’s day no such final assembled Cannon existed, not even in Latin. Many books were still up for grabs. Luther, unlike many of us, was actually adhering to the word of God purely and listening to Paul in Galatians, an unquestioned Epistle who said, “IF an another apostle, me or even an angel from heaven brings another Gospel it is a cursed message”. Given the context of the battle at the time, the James was a questionable epistle, early Luther was correct. His question was not doubting the Word of God, but what constitutes it. A battle we can hardly appreciate in our Starbucks and microwave day. He was being a diligent shepherd here not fitting his hermeneutic to James but fitting James to the clear Word of God already revealed. This is why many today are misled. They like the Pharisees of old, “search the Scriptures (like James) and think that by them they have life, but it are these that continually bear witness of Me (Jesus)”.

    Second, Luther later accepted James after better looking at it.

    Third, so many blow James today its NO WONDER Mormons think they are Christian. James’s “works without faith is dead”, in NO WAY is against what has been heretofore spoken of. What James is saying is precisely AGAINST what many here believe sanctification to be, including Mormons for example. “You believe (a faith) that God is one (sovereign, etc…) good (James speaks in GREAT sarcasm – oh no mean old James) you have the faith of a demon”. He’s speaking EXACTLY against that kind of faith that is a “works faith”. For what these were doing was saying, “I have faith”, I confess these articles, I believe. James is saying you present this faith as a work, but true faith, i.e. naked nude passive suffering do nothing – not by my own strength or will but comes to me in word and sacrament (gifts) faith – reveals itself in works (as heretofore laid out – the milk maid milking her cow and doing nothing spectacular SCREAMS a witness to the world “Christ died for me and lived for me, Christ and Christ alone”. While the devil’s, what James is speaking against, SCREAMS, “Christ is not NEARLY enough, get busy, get busy and get busy being holy”. What James is saying is no different than been said, sanctification that which is of TRUE faith, THE LIVING faith is “getting use to your justification” and this true faith is so released by the Gospel it cannot help but have ‘love, peace, joy…etc…’ and it does all that is presented before it. God IS GOD to us again, first commandment through the third, and we are creatures again, fourth through the tenth commandments. The doers of James, the Mormon hermeneutic on it, the standard baptist and evangelical hermeneutic on this is AS USUAL the old Adam lifting out something for himself to do. You see how hard it is for the Old Adam to die, he can ONLY die by hearing the Word of unconditional grace. Does that scare the hell out of you, to let go and die, nothing to do, that really scares the hell out of us. It should the Cross comes this way to kill and the old Adam sees his end, so he squirms to James thinking he’s “found life by searching the scriptures…”, thinking he’s found a bit left to do. Hearing the death word, unconditional justification, he flees from the Cross, the revealed God and runs to James were he thinks he’s “searched out a bit of life for himself” TO DO. “I have to do something don’t I”. But James is no friend to him, James is speaking primarily to him, “faith without works is dead”. That is to say nothing different than the Lord and Paul said, the Good TREE, CREATED, by the unconditional Word, whose sanctification is “getting use to his justification”, that is the living faith that produces good works and these good works are NOT going to be the fire works spiritual things one things (which the old Adam like a ghoul feeding on carrion attempts to suck life out of). James is the WORST enemy to the Mormon and similar such views of sanctification, holiness and progress. James is the ENEMY not of Luther but John Wesley.

    These in James are saying, “I have faith”, but their Pharisaical tightening shows, that is displays that “this faith” is not living faith but that dead works faith, faith itself as a work for they are enumerating it as an item and enumerating their other works puffing themselves up. In modern protestant speech this might be akin to saying, “I believe in justification by faith alone and grace alone” (sans Luther’s grasp of this which is the biblical grasp of it). These who bring their “evidence of faith” as fruit that “they are saved” show themselves to have nothing. But James is saying he who nakedly is fixed in Christ alone so that “nothing is left to do” is he who is humbled that he has nothing and this faith, living breathing faith, manifests itself automatically (as a fish displays naturally fishness) certain works. Indeed and again, the milk maid milking the cow, sitting, sleeping, eating, fixing the neighbors roof, being a father, mother, child, doing one’s job, caring for the children, the widow – these inglorious things – he is the one returned to their neighbor via Christ alone, that is he who trust nakedly in HIM and is “getting use to his justification”.

    But we have to be careful because the old Adam NEVER tires of procuring even these for his works. So he will read James and go out to care for the widows and orphans, because he has heard James say this, but he twists James thought and words and makes examples of the “loosening” the Gospel brings into fresh Pharisaical tightenings and enumerations of “works to do”. He’s trying to live by “searching the scriptures and thinking that by them he has life…” and back to doing. Now he simply incorporates as his enumerated works caring for widows and orphans. Which is helpful to them but damning to him. He STILL has not and refuses to hear “nothing left to do”, which is James’s entire point about living faith. Living faith simply cannot help but exude itself so joyful it is so fixed on Christ and “nothing left to do” and “if I don’t get better”. Why? Because NOW it is not worried about itself or its salvation (violation of the first command and trying to be its own God, all anxiety and worry is linked to that commandment) and it overflows with works high and low and it doesn’t care what they are, all are good that come from the Good Tree, that is as James says, true faith. Yet he who engages what James says into his/her works program (e.g. not seeing sanctification as ‘getting use to your justification’) is falling, ironically, into the false faith James is speaking against and is cut off from Christ.

    Paul, James and Luther are all in harmony.

    Yours,

    Larry

  43. Note how the excuses of the old Adam go, he wishes not to die, like a dying man spitting blood up and trying to live. When he hears “nothing left to do”, “even if I don’t get better”, “God may cause a man, GOD MAY CAUSE a man, to do NO good works whatsoever” – these are utterly incomprehensible to the old man for what does the dead have to do with the living. There is no linking language between Lazarus in the tomb and the call of God ex nihilo.

    When the old Adam hears this, this Gospel, this Cross he is deadly fearful. And rightly so it is his gallows. So he then turns to make excuses thus: “Surely there is something I must do at least after conversion”, “Luther didn’t like James” (note what is implied behind this – Luther was partly wrong. Really it’s not Luther AT ALL that is bothering them, Luther’s just a man. No it IS IN FACT the Gospel message being rejected. So true it is that when men “reject you” it is because they “reject Me (Jesus)”. “But, but, but James says faith without works…”.

    All of this really does reveal the old Adam does it not. Of course it does, holding out for that hidden reality of still wanting to have done something for myself no matter how small or how I caveat it with “by the power of grace” so that whatever it is I hold out in the end is everything above Christ, my own salvation. The old Man is so clever HE KNOWS BETTER than to call it “works salvation” which would be wrong, especially protestants. But EVEN this reveals the reality of really he is doing works salvation, “Works salvation is wrong so I reject it and affirm Christ alone” and THAT confession becomes the new works, but it will not be called “works”. The old Adam sees ALL things in legal language and procures all and everything as something he must do. It is only when the unconditional word of justification is said as FACT even WITHOUT faith does the death of the cross come to us. The old Adam is so much like the first thief, “get us off of this cross”, especially under the persecution and trial of death. Rather than a peaceful in the face of death, “Lord remember me when you get to your kingdom.”

    L

  44. Larry,

    Nice going!

    I like the way you pointed out how the old Adam refuses to die and is constantly looking to take over the holiness project from God and to make himself a god with his denial of the totality of the cross.

    That our old selves are bent to towards the law (from birth -original sin) and that we will naturally gravitate towards that law language, and towards self-justification. We all do it.

    That is why law language must be kept seperate from gospel language. A drop of the law poison in the glass of pure gospel, will spoil the whole glass and make it not fit for drinking.

    Luther was nobody’s fool. He could see what the old Adam would do with James and how it would be used as that poison to despoil the gospel at every turn by the old Man/Woman inside us all.

    This is also the danger in ascribing the same level of value to every line in scripture.

    The Law is needed, but the gospel always trumps the law. Always.

  45. I meant to make another point earlier and forgot to mention it. The thief on the cross is an interesting example of someone that could not produce physical works since he was nailed to a cross and facing immediate death. However, Christ said to him, “Truly I say to you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise.” (Luke 23:43)

  46. Roger,

    Good point, Roger. The Living God is not after good works for His sake.

    What in Heavens name does the Lord need with our good works? He needs them not. He wants them not. “Here, Lord…here is a basket of used up, filthy, smelly rags.”

    Right.

    Our good works are for the sake of our neighbor. They actaully do need them.

    And most of the time, we are just too busy with our own projects.

    (now, there’s a little law for ya)

  47. My neighbor’s really like: 2 Peter 1:5-11

  48. “Thus you will know them by their fruits.’ Matthew 7:20. Good works are evidence of faith. That is why St. James said: “Faith without works is dead”.

  49. “Our good works are for the sake of our neighbor. They actaully do need them. ”

    Wow, Steve! Amen! We agree!

  50. From faith in Christ, whene’er ’tis right,
    Good works are surely flowing;
    The faith is dead that shuns the light,
    No good works ever showing;
    By faith alone the just shall live,
    Good works alone the proof can give
    Of love, which true faith worketh

  51. RTS,

    Yes they do, and that includes changing the babies diaper, frying hamburgers at McDonalds to feed people, sweeping the floor, getting sleep and rest so you can serve well, mowing your lawn, knowing your station/vocation in life and NOT self appointed “good works” and “fruit”. But these are not glorious enough for pietism and thus they hate the Law of God who appoint for themselves things to do for God and things to do in order to “feel saved” or “have assurance”.

    For this God incarnated His son and gave us sacraments SO we will be able to be at peace with Him and KNOW IT IS SO and actually serve not God and ourselves but our neighbors.

    Yours,

    Larry

  52. Jim,

    You are missing the point entirely. These good works are NOT produced by our doing. The folly of this is shown that if those in James are outside of the faith the answer STILL is not, “Get to doing good works”, but the Gospel – which would just send them hell. You make a man clean on the outside but send him to hell, that’s great, that’s a demon’s faith and a demon’s evangel. How much cleaner would you ask a Mormon be than they already are, no one doubts their work ethic it is superior to most Christian or non-christian but hell is where it leads. James’ ENTIRE point is that false faith IS produced by the prodding to do good works in this way. The Gospel and it alone produces the real faith that does the real good works. James is right in that from the outside one can smell one of these do gooders for themselves in order to sanctify themselves and assure themselves they are saved don’t a damn about the one they are doing the “good work” to but using them. If you wish at all to do good works you fix yourself on Christ alone and not your works or fruit as the very passages you quoted and their parallels plainly state.

    There is NO contradiction between Paul, James, Matthew, and Luther on this.

    No verse is MORE abused than Matt. 7:20.

    15″Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. 16By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? 17Likewise every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. 18A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. 19Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.

    It’s context is false prophets, this is SO MISSED by the pietist, who come in sheep’s clothing (look good and clean on the outside, very pious, etc…) who are inwardly ravenous wolves (false doctrine about justification and sanctification making converts twice the sons of hell they themselves are). Then we have Jesus saying all along the same thing in verse 17 the “good tree” bears good fruit (unconditional justification and getting use to that). Thus, the good tree CANNOT bear bad fruit because ALL it does is good great or small (e.g. sweeps the floor, sleeps, eats, breaths, father, mother, child, worker, etc…etc…) – whistles a tune because they REST objectively in CHRIST ALONE SANS WORK AND FRUIT. These in paradox produce the good fruit the huffers and puffers of works, fruit and faith know nothing about. As Luther rightly points out many men will talk much about faith and fruit and actually know absolutely nothing about either. The bad fruit comes from the bad tree because the bad tree is by nature, not acts, acts are secondary, bad and evil. Thus, when he/she saves lives, evangelizes, helps the poor, stands, sits, eats and sleep, etc…etc…ALL that he/she does is unto his/her perdition.

    Then Jesus concludes:
    21″Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ 23Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’

    Where many will say, “Did we not do this and that in your name, lot’s of fruit oh Lord, Lord. Did we not do LOT’s of fruit in your name. Did we not pray ‘I thank you God’ and did we not say ‘by the power of your grace I DO’.” and Jesus will say, “Depart from me you evil doers I never knew you”.

    BUT we find this clarified also in Matt. 25:37-40, 37″Then the righteous will answer Him, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, and feed You, or thirsty, and give You something to drink? 38’And WHEN did we see You a stranger, and invite You in, or naked, and clothe You? 39’WHEN did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ 40″(AL)The King will answer and say to them, ‘Truly I say to you, (AM)to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.’

    When the righteous, that is fixed on Christ alone, faith fixed there and not on its fruits or works but, again, “getting use to one’s justification” they in GREAT surprise say, “Lord when did we do ANYTHING for you…” And the Lord replies, here is the paradox that false faith cannot see because it procures even this for its works/fruit production, “when you did it for these you did it for Me”, meaning you didn’t do it to be sanctifying yourself nor for fear of punishment nor for fear of “not being saved” but because THIS faith is fixed on Christ alone for it’s salvation it says, “To hell with your false fruit God doesn’t need my works, nor do I to be saved, be sanctified, be in the process of growing in the faith, but MY NEIGHBOR DOES.”

    It is like this: If you are doing a good fruit in outward acts to me so you can assure yourself that you are saved, please, don’t bother for you neither love nor God but yourself and are cutting yourself off from Christ.

    Truly blessed is the man who does not see his own fruit so that he may like the Apostle Paul confess daily in returning to baptism, “I am indeed the greatest sinner of all”, “Lord have mercy on me a sinner”.

    Yours,

    Larry

  53. Here’s a link to an article that gives a pretty good overview over Luther’s interpretation of Scripture and his conclusions regarding books like James. You may not agree with the final conclusion but I think the historical part of it is quite accurate:

    http://www.lessonsonline.info/LutherandJames.htm

  54. Some interesting quotes…

    See if you can guess who said them.

    “Some pastors and preachers are lazy and no good. They do not pray; they do not read; they do not search the Scripture… The call is: watch, study, attend to reading. In truth you cannot read too much Scripture; and what you read you cannot read too carefully, and what you read carefully you cannot understand too well, and what you understand well you cannot teach too well, and what you teach well you cannot live too well… The devil… the world… and our flesh are raging and raving against us. Therefore, dear sirs and brothers, pastors and preachers, pray, read, study, be diligent… This evil, shameful time is not the season for being lazy, for sleeping and snoring.”

    “It is a sin and shame not to know our own book or to understand the speech and words of our God… especially in these days when God is offering and giving us men and books and every facility and inducement to this study, and desires his Bible to be an open book. O how happy the dear fathers would have been if they had our opportunity to study the languages and come thus prepared to the Holy Scriptures! What great toil and effort it cost them to gather up a few crumbs, while we with half the labor – yes, almost without any labor at all – can acquire the whole loaf! O how their effort puts our indolence to shame!”

  55. Steve L.,

    Sounds like Luther, to me.

  56. Josh,

    Thanks for the link.

    I’ll check it out.

    – Steve

  57. Bingo!

    You are correct!

    I’m actually quite a fan of Luther.

    Lutherans… I’m still working that one out 🙂

  58. No problem, Steve.

    There are some Lutherans that I’m not all that crazy about.

    And I are one. 😀

  59. Haha…

    Appreciate the dialogue!

  60. 2 Corinthians 5:10, “For we must all appear before the judgement seat of Chrit; that every one may recieve the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be “good” or “bad”.”

    Let me make it very clear that this is not the Great White Throne Judgemet of Revalation 20:11-15 where only the unsaved will stand. If you are a believer, your name is written in the Book of Life. However, you will stand before the “bema”, the judgement seat of Christ, to be judged for rewards. You and I will stand before Him. This should motivate us to serve Him acceptably. Then when we come into His presence, He will be able to say, “Well done, thou good and faitful servant.”

    It sounds to me like “good works” are important to the believer. God doesn’t need any of us to accomplish His work. That will be done with us or without us! The question is……..do we want to be part of His plan? There is no greater “privilege”!!

  61. Ike,

    “However, you will stand before the “bema”, the judgement seat of Christ, to be judged for rewards. You and I will stand before Him. This should motivate us to serve Him acceptably. Then when we come into His presence, He will be able to say, “Well done, thou good and faitful servant.” ”

    Just curious, Ike, how do you think you are doing along these lines?

    – Steve

  62. Steve,

    You know what I like about theology and doctrine, it has to hit the ground of reality again or its just wide eyed fanaticism!

    L

  63. Larry,

    Yes, Larry, that is a good way to put it.

    All I can say is that I surely hope we are right about this theology and doctrine…otherwise I am toast!

    – Steve

  64. Steve,

    You being a theologian of the Cross will appreciate this one, it’s Pastor Cwirla quoting Hal Senkbeil from, “Sanctification – Christ in action.”

    “That Christ, by His perfect active obedience, has already fulfilled your vocation for you and brought it to its glorious telos (perfect completion) in His all-reconciling death (which means there’s no way for you to screw it up except the refusal to be reconciled), that you’re essentially dead, you no longer live but Christ lives in you, so that it is Christ at work who serves your neighbor, and Christ is in your neighbor to serve (“as often as you have done it to the least of these, you’ve done it to me”).

    So the One who receives your ministrations of vocation is also the One who perfected them in His vocation as the embodiment of humanity under the Law, and who gives you His perfection as a free gift that you might enjoy your vocation in His glorious liberty and stop agonizing over whether it’s Law or Gospel.”

    –End Quote

    Larry

  65. Larry,

    That was awesome!

    I’m going to print it out and bring it to church tonight (just now leaving for it).

    Thanks, Larry!

    – Steve

  66. You are welcome Steve, your joy is my joy. I know just how you feel reading that the first time!

    Larry

  67. Hi Steve,

    “The message of the Bible is infallible. The message is incapable of erring. The message is certain, even though there may be errors in the books.”

    I think I see what you’re saying … but how would you apply this to the book of James? I am hesitant to make the call that “well, this or that book is not inspired.” Not all Lutheran theologians find James necessarily irreconcilable with justification by faith alone. The problem is that it is often horribly misused.

    Dawn

  68. Hi Larry,

    It is like this: If you are doing a good fruit in outward acts to me so you can assure yourself that you are saved, please, don’t bother for you neither love nor God but yourself and are cutting yourself off from Christ.

    Truly blessed is the man who does not see his own fruit so that he may like the Apostle Paul confess daily in returning to baptism, “I am indeed the greatest sinner of all”, “Lord have mercy on me a sinner”.

    Very well said! It is true, that when we are focusing on our works we are not focusing on Christ. When we focus on Christ, good works are inevitable, even though we ourselves don’t see them. The more I see my sinfulness and desperate state before God, the more I realize my need for Jesus. If I got to the point where I could say, “Look how good I’m becoming,” then my focus is no longer on Christ, even though I’m really not any less sinful and wretched than I was before.

    Dawn

  69. Hi Steve,

    “All I can say is that I surely hope we are right about this theology and doctrine…otherwise I am toast!”

    If I’m going to be toast, I’d rather risk being toast by not depending on my works, because by depending on my works I’d most certainly be toast! So what have I got to lose by trusting in Jesus alone? I have absolutely no hope apart from Him.

    Blessings,
    Dawn

  70. Dawn K.

    I’d look at James the same way I would look at any other book in the Bible.

    The Bible is like the elements of the sacraments. Not perfect in and of themselves, but they don’t have to be. It is the Word attached to them that makes them perfect.

    It is also like that with Jesus. He was fully man (he had to eat and sleep and go to the bathroom, he was flesh and blood ….but yet He was fully God.

    God uses the ordinary ‘stuff’ of this world to accomplish His purposes.

    The Muslims need a perfect book, without errors of any kind. We do not. They do not live by faith…we do. They walk by sight. We walk by faith.

    That said, we believe that the Bible IS the WORD of GOD! Well…what part of it can be believed if it isn’t perfect and without error?

    ALL OF IT! It is all Word of God!

  71. Dawn Wrote: “I’d rather risk being toast by not depending on my works, because by depending on my works I’d most certainly be toast! So what have I got to lose by trusting in Jesus alone? I have absolutely no hope apart from Him”.

    Just recall what is stated by the Apostle Paul at the end of Romans 8, concluding his unpacking of the central truth of Justification by faith through grace alone –
    Therefore, NOTHING can separate you from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus – that is the imperative, that our ‘house’ is build upon this single foundation, then we shall indeed be viewed as good and faithful, because HE is so. Good works outside of HIS work through us are already toast (filthy rags, fit only for the fire) – so seek only the robe of HIS righteousness.

    From Larry: “That Christ, by His perfect active obedience, has already fulfilled your vocation for you and brought it to its glorious telos (perfect completion) in His all-reconciling death”.

    Spot on, Larry. It is Christ alone that is the hope of glory. We’re here to reveal Him – the savor of truth – to the world, and that is best seen when HE is truly ‘tasted’ in all that we do, not in self-righteous deeds – look at how Jesus taught us to pray, fast, etc – so that others are not even aware of us doing such!

  72. “…Pastor Cwirla quoting Hal Senkbeil from, “Sanctification – Christ in action.””

    I love that quote!

    Thanks Larry…*: )

  73. Nancy,

    You are welcome. Even the title says something doesn’t it.

    L

  74. Steve,

    You will love this one by Paulson if you have not already found and read it. It addresses the speculative third use of the Old Adam and hits on the actual fear of freedom.

    http://www.luthersem.edu/word&world/Archives/21-3_The_Law/21-3_Paulson.pdf

    Yours,

    Larry

  75. Hi Steve
    I think you hit upon an important point here, Eric…’fear’.

    Actually, I think it often not fear but actually false ideas about how to live as a Christian. The Christian religious spirit, seems content to roll around in the mud of St. Paul’s confession, ‘who shall deliver me from this body of death,’ Chapter 7 is followed by Chapter 8, and the law of the Spirit of lIfe in Christ Jesus.

    One life,
    Eric.

  76. Eric,

    That contentedness (is that a word?) that you mention, Eric, is deeply seated in fear. When we will not let go of the religious project (working towards the fruits) it is because we do not trust in God. We do not believe Him when He says, “Father forgive them…” or when He says, “It is finished.” So then fear and unbelief feed the monster which is the old Man/Woman who is all about Law…and ‘doing’.

    I like the way you contrast both Romans 7 and 8. They are differing views of reality, that’s for sure.
    But, in the end, they are both reality. One of the paradoxes in the life of the believer.

    Thank you, Eric.

    – Steve

  77. Larry,

    Like the fearful prisoner who refuses to leave the cell, we often slam the cell door shut on ourselves, The safety an security of what we know, is often preferable to the freedom of living outside in the light.

    Paulson hits a home run with that piece. I too, choose to live in the leper colony with all it’s dangers and pitfalls rather than the church wraped in the safety net of a corrected lifesyle.

    That one is a keeper! And one that may serve as the basis for another post!

    Thanks, Larry.

  78. Steve,

    It hits home on so many levels. We simply fear the freedom the Gospel yields.

    You may have touched on this once so if I’m steeling your thunder I apologize: There’s a tremendous scene in Shawshank Redemption (spelling??) if you will recall that shows this. I cannot remember the characters names but if you recall there’s Morgan Freeman and Tim Robins and then there is this much older prisoner (don’t know the actors name) about to get paroled who had been in prison his entire life. The older man finally gets paroled but all he knows is the highly law structure of the prison system (the law in this way is exactly a prison system to the sinner, Paul’s point in Galatians). He tries to live free for a few days, gets a job bagging groceries and so forth. But he simply cannot live, so he hangs himself. This is endemic of the Old Adam and Judas were such freedom is so much a death sentence to them despair is all that at last is left or back to prison to fight over law. The constructs of sanctification as a “getting better system”, or “fruit inspection systems”, or “third use of the law constructs”, or “fruit as prove or faith formed by love” all these systems are nothing less than attempting to express the “prison” life in the free world, or theologically fallen religions way, the devil’s jail and so forth. The Old Adam so cannot live free, is so DEAD to the Gospel and the utter absolute freedom it brings he attempts like the old man in Shawshank to reconstruct his jail around himself. When he finds it simply cannot hold up structure nor will it be allowed in the free world (the kingdom of God here in part in Word and to come in consummation in fullness), all he can do THEN is despair and like this character or Judas hang himself. Which is where the devil shows himself to be the true murderer of both body and soul at last.

    Morgan Freeman’s character, however, starts down that same path of despair and almost hangs himself, but is in the end renewed into the freedom of post prison life.

    So it is with the religious, they always want to “reign in” the freedom thinking, too much grace will cause all hell to break loose. As IF grace EVER was the cause of sin in the first place. Blind they do not see that it was a false “religious aspiration” to see God in naked majesty and “get away from His revealed Word” by another word given, “hath God really said…” After that God hides Himself so that He cannot be found where men would think to seek Him, and hides Himself so as TO BE FOUND only where His Word is given, Word, water, bread and wine. No where else may He be found in all of creation or speculation except in wrath.

    I look forward to that post!!!

    Yours,

    Larry

  79. Larry,

    “I look forward to that post!!!”

    I think you just wrote it!

    Would you like to post pieces on the old Adam, once in awhile?

    I know I asked you for permission to put this one up, but I thought you might like to post something on a regular basis(?). Maybe once a month, or every other week?

    What do you think, Larry?

    – Steve

  80. Larry,

    BTW, your use of the Shawshank Redemptiom movie to illustrate these principles is right on!

  81. Steve,

    I’d be honored as you’d invite me to do so. I think the folks here debate honestly, even when it is vigorously done.

    Yours,

    Larry

  82. Larry,

    Thank you for accepting my offer.

    You have an open invitation.

    If you have something you’d like me to post, e-mail it to me first. I’ll check it out and then post it. If I have any suggestions, I’ll run them by you before we post it.

    sma9231961@aol.com

    I think the audience here is used to fairly short pieces. If you can include a question or two at the end to promote discussion, that would be great.

    Thanks Larry!

    – Steve

  83. Hi Steve,

    Yes, I can see what you mean. The old man casts long shadows across our pathway, if we do not feed upon the bread and water of life.

    I think ‘content’ was too soft. So many are trapped in their fear of death, of judgement and seek contentment in patching up the sunk ship of the old man, instead of resting in the hands of God.

    Eric.

  84. Larry wrote: “Like the fearful prisoner who refuses to leave the cell, we often slam the cell door shut on ourselves, The safety an security of what we know, is often preferable to the freedom of living outside in the light”.

    It’s so true, especially when we look at our relationship to real life. I remember listening to to Star Trek movie producer Ralph Winter on the White Horse Inn talking about the one group of people who didn’t ‘get’ his calling – Christians at church. As Hans Rookmaarker noted, we have been called to freedom in life and action (- Christ in action – that’s so great) so that this world can truly see, truly encounter the BEAUTY of grace. That needs to be at the very heart of our ‘savoring’ of our time here.

  85. Hi Steve,

    Quick question for you. You write, “I believe the whole of scripture to be the infallible word of God, but I do not believe the Bible to be inerrant.” My question is, how can a book that contains errors be infallible? Is God the author of falsehoods–or did He not inspire the false parts (i.e. the erroneous parts)? Depending on your answer, one more question? By what criteria are we to distinguish truth from error when reading the Bible (assuming it contains error)?

  86. Hi Joey,

    God is not the author of falsehoods but he uses fallible, less than perfect means to accomplish His perfect and infallible will.

    No, I do not believe that God inspires any mistakes, they occur because of man’s role in the process of compiling the Bible.

    The text is not inerrant, but the Word which is contained in the book, is certainly infallible.

    All of Scripture is true, even though there may be some contradictions or errors.

    For instance, when the world is described as flat in Genesis (which it is), that does not detract one bit from the truth contained in the BIble, because the Bible is about God’s Law and His gospel…for sinners, through Jesus Christ.

    Just as when someone reports that the hit and run driver was wearing a brown hat, when in reality he was weraing a blue hat, does not change the truth of the fact of the hit and run accident.

    That the Bible says that the Holy Spirit was given to the disciples at Pentecost AND also in the upper room, does not make the message of the Bible false.

    ‘The finite contains the infinite’, is the principle that we use. The early Church understood this. Why we have so much trouble with this now is beyond me.

    I hoped that helped a little, Joey.

    Thanks!

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